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Jodorowsky’s Dune (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

jodorowskysdune

Frank Pavich’s “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a magnificent documentary on possibly the greatest sci-fi film never made.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 The City Film, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Jodorowsky’s Dune

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 90Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For some violent and sexual images)

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Directed by Frank Pavich

Produced by Frank Pabich, Stephen Scarlata, Travis Stevens

Executive Producer: Donald Rosenfeld

Co-Producer: Michel Seydoux

Associate Producer: Alex Ricciardi

Music by Kurt Stenzel

Cinematography by David Cavallo

Edited by Paul Docherty, Alex Ricciardi

Starring:

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Michel Seydoux

H.R. Giger

Chris Foss

Brontis Jodorowsky

Richard Stanley

Devin Faraci

Drew McWeeny

Gary Kurtz

Nicolas Winding Refn

Diane O’Bannon

Christian Vander

Jean-Pierre Vignau

Amanda Lear

Dan O’Bannon

In 1975, director Alejandro Jodorowsky began work on his most ambitious project yet. Starring his own 12-year-old son alongside Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and Salvador Dalí, featuring music by Pink Floyd and art by some of the most provocative talents of the era, including H.R. Giger and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Jodorowsky’s adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel DUNE was poised to change cinema forever. Through interviews with legends and luminaries including H.R. Giger (artist, ALIEN), Gary Kurtz (producer, STAR WARS EPISODES IV ‘ V) and Nicolas Winding Refn (director, DRIVE), and an intimate and honest conversation with Jodorowsky, director Frank Pavich’s film finally unearths the full saga of ‘The Greatest Movie Never Made’.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the welcomed named among cineaste, especially those who have appreciated his works of arts in his oeuvre such as “Fandy y Lis”, “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain”.

Provocative, scandalous, creative and magnificent, there is no doubt that you will see many who are appreciative of Jodorowsky’s work and those who simply don’t get it.

But Jodorowsky was a man that people knew about because his acid western “El Topo” was the first midnight cult film and his surrealist creations would eventually become classics.

But for Alejandro Jodorowsky and many sci-fi films, there was one film of his that was important in helping pave the ways for many of the sci-fi films of today, from “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones” films,  “Aliens”, “Flash Gordon”, “Prometheus” to name a few, and to one’s surprise, Jodorowsky’s film was never made.

Yes, there was the 1984 box office bomb titled as “Dune” which was directed by David Lynch (who literally wanted nothing to do with the film due to producers and execs not giving him any creative control) but if there was one adaptation of Frank Herbert’s popular sci-fi book series, it was Jodorowsky’s vision that would help pave the way for today’s science fiction films.

And now a documentary titled “Jodorowsky’s Dune” featuring interviews with Alejandro Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux and many of those who were cast for the film or knew about greatest sci-fi film never made, chime in on how “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, despite not being made, still leaves its footprints behind in today’s sci-fi cinema.

From how Alejandro Jodorowsky was able to tap into talent such as Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali and also music groups such as Pink Floyd and Magma but also artistic talents of H.R. Giger and Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

And also learning why this film was never made and Alejandro’s feelings when he watched the David Lynch version of “Dune” and more!

For anyone wanting to know more about Jodorowsky’s interpretation of “Dune” will definitely not want to miss out on this insightful, fun and entertaining documentary!

VIDEO:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  As one can expect from a documentary, there is footage from various sources, so not all is pristine. But for the most part, the main footage was shot digitally in HD.  And the documentary as a whole, looks very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear coming from the center and front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – 46:24 – There are nine deleted scenes including the reunion of Jodorowsky and producer Michel Seydoux who have not talked to each other since the cancellation of Jodorowsky’s “Dune”.

EXTRAS:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

When I was younger, I grew up reading Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and when I was in my very early teens, David Lynch’s “Dune” was the version that would play constantly on HBO.

But it was a maddening film for me because unlike “Star Wars” or other sci-fi films that have come out during that time, I couldn’t understand it.  I watched the film so many times and felt the plot was just a mess and perhaps it was reaching out to sci-fi intellectuals that would comprehend and enjoy the film more than me.

Fast forward over a decade later and having become a cineaste and having a keen appreciation of film from the auteurs of the past and today, I started to learn more about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” after I was researching his work for “El Topo” and again for “The Holy Mountain”.

Jodorowsky’s work are considered as surreal masterpiece among cineaste and his films are audacious, mesmerizing and so unique, that there is no comparison to his work.

So, if you have done any research into the work of Jodorowsky, you would learn that he was slated to direct the sci-fi film “Dune” but while you could read online about his involvement, no one delves deeper into the making of the film than filmmaker Frank Pavich for his documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”.

With an extensive interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux and many others who are aware of the work or who were connected to the film that never came to be, the documentary sheds a lot of light of how Jodorowsky was able to get Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, to name a few.  But also how he was able to tap into the talents of Chriss Foss, Jean Giraud (Moebius) and H.R. Giger.

And because Jodorowsky was an artist and his canvas was film, he wanted a film that was unlike anything that has ever been made before.  Unfortunately, Hollywood execs were not too keen with Jodorowsky’s “Dune” especially the duration of the film that the film never came to be.

But those who worked on the film, carried on to bring their designs on other sci-fi films, one memorable would be on the sci-fi films “Aliens” which involved a few of those who were part of Jodorowsky’s “Dune” crew.

But watching “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, you get the sense of emotion, passion and the longing that Jodorowsky had for the making of “Dune” but we get to see how devastating it was for him, to not make it.  How difficult it was for him to watch David Lynch’s version of “Dune” but to see his feeling after he watched the film.  But also how his plans for “Dune” has left a footprint in other sci-fi films such as “Star Wars”, “Aliens”, “Terminator”, “Indiana Jones” to name a few.

The documentary was wonderfully researched and the amount of interviews done for this documentary was well-done.  H.R. Giger, Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn really gave great insight of the greatness of the film and why it was never made, Michel Seydoux gave us a perspective on the production side, film critic Devin Faraci gave us a perspective of a sci-fan and the importance of the making of this film to Amanda Lear discussing the moments when Jodorowsky casted her and Salvador Dali.

Many tidbits that I never knew about what went on in the planning stages of what could have become an epic sci-fi masterpiece.

The Blu-ray features great picture quality and as one can expect from a documentary featuring videos and images from various sources to a clear dialogue-driven lossless soundtrack.  You also get over 45-minutes worth of deleted scenes but one that caught my attention was the reunion between Alejandro Jodrowsky and producer Michel Seydoux, who stopped talking after the film was never greenlit for production.

Overall, Frank Pavich’s “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a magnificent documentary on possibly the greatest sci-fi film never made.  Highly recommended!

 

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

June 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thelunchbox

“The Lunchbox” is an entertaining, warm and captivating epistolary romance film!  A film about how two strangers ease their sadness and loneliness by sending letters to one other through a lunchbox.  Featuring strong performances by Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, filmmaker Ritesh Batra’s feature film debut, “The Lunchbox” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Lunchbox

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, Hindi 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Smoking)

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Written and Directed by Ritesh Batra

Produced by Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Arun Rangachari

Co-Producer: Shahnaab Alam, Marc Baschet, Benny Drechsel, Nina Lath Gupta, Nittin Keni, Cedomir Kolar, Vivek Rangachari, Karsten Stoter, Danis Tanovic

Executive Produced: Ritesh Batra, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Irrfan Khan, Vikramjit Roy

Music by Max Richter

Cinematography by Michael Simmonds

Edited by John F. Lyons

Casting by Seher Latif

Production Design by Shruti Gupte

Set Decoration by Akshi Kapoor

Costume Design by Niharika Khan

Starring:

Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandes

Nimrat Kaur as Ila

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shaikh

Lillete Dubey as Ila’s Mother

Nakul Vaid as Rajeev

Bharati Achrekar as Auntie

A mistaken delivery in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects Ila, a neglected housewife, to Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Through a series of exchanged notes that they pass back and forth through the lunches, Saajan and Ila find comfort in their unexpected friendship. Gradually, their notes become little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears, and even small joys. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams. Still strangers physically, Ila and Saajan become lost in their virtual relationship that could jeopardize both their realities.

Ritesh Batra was one of 2013’s success stories.

Best known for his short films, his 2013 feature romantic film “Dabba” (The Lunchbox) would receive positive reviews from film critics and audiences around the world.

Starring Irrfan Khan (“Life of Pi”, “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”), Nimrat Kaur (“One Night with the King”) and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (“Talaash”, “Kahaani”, “Gangs of Wasseypur”), “The Lunchbox” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Lunchbox” focuses on two unhappy characters.

Saajan Fernandes (portrayed by Irrfan Khan) is an accountant close to retiring and must help the younger Shaikh (portrayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) of how to do his job.  A widowed man who is often seen as anti-social and grumpy, he is also lonely.

Lia (portrayed by Nimrat Kaur) is a married woman with a child.  With the help of her auntie (featuring the voice of Bharati Achrekar), she is trying to make dishes in hopes to win her husband’s affections and feels he is having an affair.

One day, as Lia prepares a dish for her husband, the lunchbox delivery man (Dabbawalas) accidentally delivers the lunchbox to Saajan Fernandes.  When Fernandes tastes the food, he notices how delicious it is.

As for Lia, hoping to hear comments about her cooking and most of all, seeing an improvement in the relationship with her husband, he doesn’t respond at all and is critical about her cooking of cauliflower which she was not responsible for.

Realizing that her food is going to another man, she writes a note to whoever may be eating her food and continues to make food for the lunchbox that is delivered to Fernandes and he responds and it ultimately leads to these two unhappy people to write each other about how they truly feel about their current life.

But what happens when their communication by mail grows to be more than strangers writing each other but a dependent on each other for support during their tough time in their lives?

VIDEO:

“The Lunchbox” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks magnificent on Blu-ray.  Earthy colors, close-ups show great detail and for the most part, no signs of excessive banding or artifact issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Lunchbox” is presented in Hindi DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Audio descriptive track in English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue driven as dialogue is crystal clear through the front channels.  There are use of the surround channels for more ambiance (especially inside the train).  But as a romantic film, the soundtrack is appropriate.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Lunchbox” comes with commentary by writer/director Ritesh Batra.

EXTRAS:

“The Lunchbox” comes both with a Blu-ray and DVD copy of the film.

The concept of accidental messages have been topics in film and television for years.

From “Il Mare/The Lake House” which dealt with mail communication from a man in the past to a woman of the future, to the Japanese TV series “With Love” about a woman who accidentally receives a composition from a music composer and begins an e-mail dialogue or “The Shop Around the Corner” and “You Got Mail” which dealt with two people counting on each other for support but hopefully finding love.

“The Lunchbox” was rather fascinating that while the film could have been another romantic epistolary film, because of the Indian culture, the storyline for “The Lunchbox” is rather different from the films just mentioned.

Similar to these other films, how communication soothes their soul and makes them reflect on their current lives, there is always that time when both agree to meet each other.  Will any romance happen between the older Fernandes and the younger Lia?

One must watch and find out but most importantly, the warmness of the film, its characters and character direction was well-done.

There is no doubt that Ritesh Batra hit a homerun with his feature film debut and thanks to the magnificent acting of Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, one can only hope that the hype that “The Lunchbox” has received worldwide that she churns out another captivating film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is magnificent.  Close-up details are well-done, colors are natural and earthy.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or edge enhancement issues during my viewing of the film.  As for the lossless soundtrack, as one can expect from a romance film, the dialogue is primarily front-channel driven.  While surround channels showcase the ambiance of the character’s surroundings, especially on a train.  You get a single special feature which is a commentary with writer/director Ritesh Batra.

Overall, “The Lunchbox” is an entertaining, warm and captivating epistolary romance film!

A film about how two strangers ease their sadness and loneliness by sending letters to one other through a lunchbox.  Featuring strong performances by Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, filmmaker Ritesh Batra’s feature film debut, “The Lunchbox” is highly recommended!

 

Tim’s Vermeer (a J!-eNT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Tim’s Vermeer is a fascinating and entertaining film in which one brilliant man uses his skills to replicate Johannes Vermeer’s amazing skill with light and to show that possibly, Vermeer may have been using technology to help him achieve such realism.  A wonderful documentary from Penn and Teller!

Images courtesy of © 2013 High Delft Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tim’s Vermeer

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Strong Language)

Release Date: June 10, 2014

Directed by Teller

Produced by Pen Jillette, Farley Ziegler

Executive Producer: Glenn S. Alai, Peter Adam Golden, Tim Jenison, Teller

Music by Conrad Pope

Cinematography by Shane F. Kelly

Edited by Patrick Sheffield

Starring:

Colin Blakemore

David Hockney

Tim Jenison

Penn Jillette

Martin Mull

Philip Steadman

Teller

Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning a decade, Jenison’s adventure takes him to Holland, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and eventually even to Buckingham Palace. The epic research project Jenison embarks on is as extraordinary as what he discovers.

Tim Jenison may not be a well-known name but for those who are familiar with 3D software, especially “Lightwave 3D”, Jenison’s company NewTek, Inc. is well-known for its products .

From VideoToaster to creating DigiPaint for the old Commodore Amiga, Jenison has received the title of “Father of Desktop Video” (from the San Antonio Inventors Hall of Fame) but it’s that technical mind that has led to a new documentary film from comedians Teller and Penn Jillette.   Teller narrates the film, while Penn directs the film with the help of producer Farley Ziegler.

For Tim Jenison, he has been a man appreciative of art and having worked in the video games and video industry, he is very knowledgeable about light and lenses.  And because of that appreciation for art, especially in the work of  Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer, an artist who was able to create his lifelike photos with precision, especially when it came to lighting, Jenison had a theory.

Because mirrors were used during that period of time, what if Johannes Vermeer was able to utilize this technology in order to paint?

What makes things difficult about Johannes Vermeer is that there is not many documentation about his work, only his paintings.  Partly due because for several centuries, his work was not acknowledged until the 19th century and is now considered one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Not an artist, Jenison took it upon himself to design various lenses and see if he can reproduce various pieces of art by painting his father and then taking it to other people, including those who have written about Vermeer’s art and show him his theory.

But of course, in order to fully test out his theory of Vermeer, he would need to paint and try to duplicate the work of Vermeer using technology that Jenison believes was used at the time and was utilized by Vermeer.

And through several painstaking years, Jenison who is not a painter, will learn from his discoveries whether or not his theory of the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer were true.

 

VIDEO:

“Tim’s Vermeer” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  The film was shot digitally and overall colors are very good.  Closeups of Tim’s Vermeer paintings show great detail and for the most part, I didn’t detect any problems with video quality.  No banding, artifacts, etc.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tim’s Vermeer” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  As a documentary, this is a dialogue-driven film and dialogue is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tim’s Vermeer” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director Pen Jillette, Teller, Tim Jenison and Farly Ziegler.
  • Toronto International Film Festival Q&A – (21:21) A post-screening Q&A at TIFF featuring Pen Jillette, Teller, Tim Jenison and Farly Ziegler.
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:45) A total of six deleted scenes.
  • Extended and Alternate Scenes – (2:18:13) Featuring over two hours of five extended and alternate scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:05) Theatrical trailer for “Tim’s Vermeer”.

EXTRAS:

“Tim’s Vermeer” comes both with a Blu-ray and DVD copy of the film.

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There is no doubt that “Tim’s Vermeer” is a documentary that will fascinate and entertain many audiences, especially those who are familiar with Vermeer’s work.  But at the same time, may incite some controversy because the brilliant technology and business owner, Tim Jenison is pretty much showing people that Vermeer’s lighting in his paintings were done using technology.

Of course, art can be appreciated by any person and interpreted their own personal way.  If one is to use Adobe Photoshop for their artwork, does it make their work any less impressive?  Would it be considered as cheating in order to accomplish a desired look.

Some will say no, others may say yes.

And of course, Jenison’s observations and discoveries are very fascinating to the point that it makes you wonder if Jenison’s theory may hurt the work of Vermeer?  I personally think that this is not the case.

Reason being is that Vermeer created these paintings back in the 1600’s and other painters utilized some sort of creativity in order to capture settings and people in his paintings.

And before anyone can say, “it’s not possible”, both Teller and Penn Jillette  with the reproduction work created by Tim Jenison, were able to tap into observations that can only mean that lenses and mirrors may have been utilized.

The film is simple to understand and follow, especially by the film’s second half as we watch the progress of Tim Jenison and see for ourselves how he is able to paint using a lens with great efficacy.  Teller’s narration helped make the film more fun but also doing a great job in setting up each scene.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as one can expect from a documentary shot digitally.  If anything, colors are pleasing, close-ups show great detail and the film looks very good in HD.  Lossless audio is not immersive, considering the film is dialogue-driven.  But there are many special features which include an audio commentary, film festival Q&A, deleted scenes and its extended scenes which are over two hours long.

Overall, “Tim’s Vermeer is a fascinating and entertaining film in which one brilliant man uses his skills to replicate Johannes Vermeer’s amazing skill with light and to show that possibly, Vermeer may have been using technology to help him achieve such realism.  A wonderful documentary from Penn and Teller!

Sony Pictures Classics (a J!-ENT Listing of All Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray and DVD Reviews)

May 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics—an autonomous division of Sony Pictures Entertainment founded in January 1992 (with Marcie Bloom) that distributes, produces and acquires independent films from the United States and around the world.

The team has worked with many of the world’s finest independent filmmakers including Woody Allen, Pedro Almodóvar, Robert Altman, Allison Anders, Hector Babenco, Kenneth Branagh, Ingmar Bergman, John Boorman, Francis Ford Coppola, David Cronenberg, Luc Dardenne, Jonathan Demme, Guillermo del Toro, Atom Egoyan, R.W. Fassbinder, Mike Figgis, Hal Hartley, Agniezska Holland, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory, Jim Jarmusch, Norman Jewison, Neil Jordan, Charlie Kaufman, Akira Kurosawa, Neil LaBute, Ang Lee, Richard Linklater, Louis Malle, David Mamet, Errol Morris, Gary Oldman, Jean-Pierre, Sally Potter, Alan Rudolph, John Sayles, Paul Schrader, Fred Schepisi, Lily Tomlin, François Truffaut, Paul Verhoeven, Wong Kar Wai, Wim Wenders, and Zhang Yimou.

The following is a list of all the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray and DVD’s we have reviewed on J!-ENT thus far.

Note: Reviews are from 1999-Present

A PROPHET (UN PROPHÈTE)

Amour

Animal Kingdom

At Any Price

Austenland

BAGHEAD

Before Midnight

Blue Jasmine

Brick Lane

Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos)

Carnage

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Chicken with Plums

The Children of Huang Shi

The Class (Entre les murs)

Coco Before Chanel (Coco Avant Chanel)

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

The Company You Keep

Damsels in Distress

A Dangerous Method

In Darkness

Dogtown and Z-Boys

Easy Virtue

Fill the Void

Footnote

Foxcatcher

Frozen River

The Gatekeepers

The Guard

Hysteria

The Illusionist

In a Better World

Incendies

Inside Job

The Invisible Woman

I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále)

It Might Get Loud

I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime)

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Kill Your Darlings

Land Ho!

Lebanon

Leviathan

Life, Above All

Love Is All You Need

The Lunchbox

Made in Dagenham

Magic in the Moonlight

Micmacs (Micmacs à tire-larigot)

Midnight in Paris

MOON

Mr. Turner

No

Of Gods and Men

O’HORTEN

Only Lovers Left Alive

Orlando

PARIS 36 (Faubourg 36)

The Past

The Patience Stone

Please Give

The Raid 2

Red Army

Restless

Riding Giants

Rust and Bone

The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos)

A Separation

Smashed

Soul Power

Still Alice

Take Shelter

Third Person

Tim’s Vermeer

To Rome with Love

The Valet

The Wackness

Wadjda

Waltz With Bashir

West of Memphis

Whatever Works

Where Do We Go Now?

Whiplash

The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte)

Wild Grass (Les herbes folles)

Winter in Wartime (Oorlogswinter)

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

The Invisible Woman (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Invisible Woman” is a gorgeous and fascinating film which boasts strong performances, gorgeous cinematography and costume design,.  “The Invisible Woman” is a film that I definitely recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Headline Pictures (Invisible Woman) Limited, British Broadcasting Corporation and British Film Institute. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Invisible Woman

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For some sexual content)

Release Date: April 22, 2014

Directed by Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by Abi Morgan

Based on a Book by Claire Tomalin

Produced by Christian Baute, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Stewart Mackinnon, Gabrielle Tana

Co-Produced by Kevan Van Thompson

Executive Producer: Maya Amsellem, Sharon Harel, Eve Schoukroun

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Nicolas Gaster

Casting by Leo Davis

Production Design by Maria Djurkovic

Art Direction by Nick Dent, Sarah Stuart

Set Decoration by Tatiana Macdonald

Costume Design by Michael O’Connor

Starring:

Felicity Jones as Nelly

Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens

John Kavanagh as Rev. William Benham

Kristin Scott Thomas as Mr. Frances Ternan

Perdita Weeks as Maria Ternan

Gabriel Vick as Mr. Berger

Mark Dexter as Mr. August Egg

Joanne Scanlan as Catherine Dickens

Tom Hollander as Wilkie Collins

Amanda Hale as Fanny Ternan

Nelly (Felicity Jones) is haunted by her past. Her memories take us back in time to follow the story of her exciting but fragile relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes). Dickens – famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success – falls for Nelly. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens’ passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and, for Nelly, a life of “invisibility”.

Charles Dickens will always be known for his literary work.

From “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations” to name a few, considered as a genius for his time, Dickens work continues to entertain generations.

But there is also another side of Dickens that has entertained the masses and that is his alleged affairs.  Back in 1991, Claire Tomlin’s novel “The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens” was among the novels about Dickens affairs.

Dickens who was 45 at the time, allegedly had an affair with 18-year-old Ellen Ternan, a very big fan of his work.  (Note: Dickens refuted any affairs with any women)

One thing that has been featured in writings about Dickens’ life is his lack of approval of his wife Catherine and the worries of his financial situation because he had 10 children.  Also, unlike him, Catherine was seen by him as lazy and as not an intellectual like himself.  Whereas Nelly was an intellect, interested in the arts, literature, theatre, politics and more.

But in Tomlin’s book, in order to avoid any public leaks regarding their affair, Dickens would travel with her using different names and thus, their affair was hidden and Ellen Ternan would become an “invisible woman” during a time where the man can do what he wishes, while the woman is seen as unimportant.

Bringing the film adaptation to the big screen, actor Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List”, “Skyfall”, “Harry Potter” films) had directed only one film titled “Coriolanus” in 2011 and the challenge for his second film was that he would not only direct, but he would also star as Charles Dickens, while actress Felicity Jones (“The Tempest”, “Like Crazy”, “Hysteria”)  was tapped to play the role of Ellen “Nelly” Ternan.

And now “The Invisible Woman” will be released on Blu-ray+DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Invisible Woman” revolves around how Charles Dickens (portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) was first introduced to Nelly (portrayed by Felicity Jones) and her mother Frances (portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas).

The film would begin many years after the death of Charles Dickens death with Ellen Ternan watching a play being planned and a small gathering by her husband Mr. George Wharton Robinson (portrayed by Tom Burke).

For Rev. William Benham (portrayed by John Kavanagh), he is very interested in learning more about Nelly but moreso about her past working with Charles Dickens and the memories of her past with Charles Dickens begins to return.  For William, he feels there is more to the meaning of various characters conveyed in Charles Dickens books and wonders if there are more to these characters and in relation to Nelly.

But her husband Wharton is unaware of why Nelly becomes alarmed and saddened when it comes to discussion of Charles Dickens.

As the past is remembered, Dickens would cast Frances, Nelly and one of her sisters in “The Frozen Deep” and eventually, both Dickens and Nelly would enjoy each other’s company.

We see a relationship between Nelly and Charles Dickens eventually bloom (supported by Nelly’s mother Frances as she sees it as a way for her to enhance her career) but what happens when Catherine receives a bracelet meant for Nelly?  And what happens when Charles Dickens starts to see the public become interested in his public affairs?

But what is more important for Charles Dickens?  Would it be Nelly, his wife and family or the public that he entertains?

VIDEO:

“The Invisible Woman” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The cinematography by Rob Hardy is well-done as Hardy is able to capture the romance, the sadness but all with a cinematic flair that looks gorgeous on Blu-ray.

Outdoor scenes are vibrant and beautiful, skin tones are natural and black levels are good and deep.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Invisible Woman” is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue is crystal clear as with the music by composer Ilan Eshkeri (“The Young Victoria”, “Kick-Ass”, “Stardust”).    While the film is center and front-channel driven, there is a moment during the Staplehurst Disaster in which the lossless soundtrack utilizes the surrround channels and LFE.

The lossless soundtrack is quite adequate for this film and the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear in HD.

Subtitles are in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Invisible Woman” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director/actor Ralph Fiennes and actress Felicity Jones.
  • SAG Foundation Conversations with Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones – (26:33) The Q&A with Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes.
  • On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Premiere– (16:33) tiff behind-the-scenes on the red carpet and at the screening of the event.
  • Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference – (21:00) tiff press conference with Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Invisible Woman”.

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For anyone who grew up reading a Charles Dickens book or even watched a Charles Dickens novel, the story about Dickens is rather interesting.  From his fight against slavery, his fight against piracy of his work and his push for copyright, his criticism of religion (or deviations from Christianity), his fight for the poor and there is no doubt that Dickens was a fascinating man.

Especially because of how his films and how he presented himself as this caring, family man.  The film does show the difference between the public vs. personal Charles Dickens.

And his personal matters surrounding his muse/mistress Ellen “Nelly” Turnan is rather fascinating!

While not surprising, considering that Dickens was a celebrity and one of the well-known celebrities during the early-to-mid 1800’s, it’s hard to believe this burly bearded man, who was 45 at the time, would have a relationship with an 18-year-old young woman.

But this is possibly what Dickens had desired, a woman like himself, an intellect, a person who respects the arts, theatre and a person he can have intellectual discussions and one that would understand what he is saying.

And that one would be Ellen “Nelly” Turnan.

While one can easily read on the Internet about this relationship, especially from the book by Claire Tomalin, the film does bring into context of what kind of relationship the two had especially at that time.

Sure, we are not phased by celebrity affairs in today’s society, in fact, you come to expect it.  But for Charles Dickens, it was a different time because it was more about the needs of the man and a celebrity who had to take action in order to not be found out by any gossip that may harm his name.

And for Ellen Turnan, a young woman, who never really had any major relationship.  Being captivated and then close to the man she idolized, having a mother who was cajoling her towards having a relationship for career purposes and Dickens ways of showing that he was in love by having his wife encounter Ellen, there is part of you that accepts the situation as a sign of the times but another side of you who felt that perhaps, Charles Dickens outside of his literary work was a jerk.

But at the same time, you study other successful men in different industries and you start to learn more about these affairs and relationships that these celebrities or wealthy and well-known individuals had at the time.  As for Dickens, it’s his way of doing or handling things that is left as undesired.

Dickens wife throws Nelly a question about who is more important to Dickens, is it the woman or his public?  The film shows us how this relationship has affected Nelly as the woman in his life that must be invisible to the public, not acknowledged by anyone else but Charles Dickens.

Another memorable scene in the film aside from the numerous gorgeous scenes shot by Rob Hardy is the Staplehurst rail accident, one of the largest train accidents of its time and one that was widely reported because of Charles Dickens, who was riding in the train along with Nelly and her mother, and was able to save them but at the same time, trying to save others who would eventually die of their injuries but also seeing how he was able to cover up his affair with Nelly.

The direction by Ralph Fiennes is well-done, it may be a bit slow for some viewers but the actual building of the relationship in accordance to his career was carefully paced.   But the acting by Fiennes and actress Felicity Jones plus actress Joanna Scanlan was well-done and “The Invisible Woman” is a film that manages to capture the emotional suffering that the women closes to Dickens, must go through.

The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD and the dialogue and music is crystal clear, along with a few special features including audio commentary and footage from the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, “The Invisible Woman” is a gorgeous and fascinating film which boasts strong performances, gorgeous cinematography and costume design,.  “The Invisible Woman” is a film that I definitely recommend!

Kill Your Darlings (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring a wonderful performance by Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, “Kill Your Darlings” is a stylish, dark and entertaining film about the Beat Generation worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2013 KYD Film LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kill Your Darlings

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Czech, Polish VO 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Sexual Content, Language, Drug Use and Brief Violence)

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Directed by John Krokidas

Written by Austin Bunn and John Krokidas

Produced by Michael Benaroya, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas, Christine Vachon

Co-Producer as Rose Ganguzza, James Lejsek, Sierra Nielsen, Missy Papageorge

Associate Producer: Matthew Vose Campbell, David Hinojosa

Executive Producer as Jared Goldman, Joe Jenckes, Randy Manis

Music by Nico Muhly

Cinematography by Reed Morano

Edited by Brian A. Kates

Casting by Lauren Rosenthal

Production Design by Stephen H. Carter

Art Direction by Alexios Chrysikos

Set Decoration by Sarah E. McMillan

Costume Design by Christopher Peterson

Starring:

Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg

Dane Dehaan as Lucien Carr

Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer

Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac

Ben Foster as William Burroughs

David Cross as Louis Ginsberg

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Naomi Ginsberg

Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker

When Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is accepted at Columbia, he finds stuffy tradition clashing with daringly modern ideas and attitudes – embodied by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien is an object of fascination for shy, unsophisticated Allen, and soon he is drawn into Lucien’s hard-drinking, jazz-clubbing circle of friends, including William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who clearly resents Allen’s position as Lucien’s new sidekick. A true story of friendship, love and murder, Kill Your Darlings recounts the pivotal year that changed Allen Ginsberg’s life forever and provided the spark for him to start his creative revolution.

For filmmaker John Krokidas and writer Austin Bunn, both men would be inspired by the work of those who are from the Beat Generation which included famous poet, Alan Ginsberg.

As closet gay young men at the time, the work of Allan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac were inspirational for both men and the true story that revolved around the Beat Generation’s Lucien Carr and the murder of David Kammerer, a former English teacher who was obsessed with Lucian and stalked him wherever he went.

Wanting to focus on the introduction of the Beat Generation and the murder of David Kammerer, years of trying to craft the film, “Kill Your Darlings” was created.

The biographical drama film would star Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter” films), Dane DeHaan (“Lincoln”, “Chronicle”, “Lawless”), Michael C. Hall (“Paycheck”, “Six Feet Under”), “Dexter”), Jack Huston (“American Hustle”, “Outlander”), Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Pandorum”), David Cross (“Eternal Sunshine”, “Arrested Development”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “The Machinist”) and Elizabeth Olsen (“Oldboy”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”).

And “Kill Your Darlings” would go on to receive positive reviews from film critics.  And now the film will be released on Blu-ray+DVD from Sony Pictures Classics.

“Kill Your Darlings” is a film that is set in the early 1940’s and revolves around Allen Ginsberg (portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe), son of writer Louis Ginsberg who is from a troubled home and is trying to get a fresh start in life at his college.

But when he comes across a fellow intellectual named Lucien Carr (portrayed by Dane DeHaan), he is introduced to other writers such as Jack Kerouac (portrayed by Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (portrayed by Ben Foster), and these writers would be known as the Beat Generation, a group of writers that were non-traditional and controversial for their time.  Challenging their professors but also challenging each other, these friends, they inspired each other to push themselves outside of boundaries to experience and experiment.

And as Ginsberg and Carr begin to form a close friendship which would inspire Ginsberg to become a writer, Carr would have to deal with a stalker named David Kammerer, which would one day lead to a murder that would eventually shatter the Beat Generation.

VIDEO:

“Kill Your Darlings” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p High Definition.  The film manages to have this 1950’s look, with the choice of colors that is more cooler and less vibrant.  Closeups of the characters show amazing detail and for the most part, manages to look like a film that was set in the ’40s.  I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Your Darlings” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Greek and Polish VD 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven, which both are crystal clear through the center and front channels.  Some scenes with crowds or parties utilize the surround channels for ambiance, but for the most part, the film is center and front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Your Darlings” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director John Krokidas, actors Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan and writer Austin Bunn.
  • Q&A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn – (1:05:39) An informative Q&A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn.
  • In Conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan – (6:05) Jenelle Riley interviews Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan.
  • On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Film Festival – (7:30) Director John Krokidas, writer Austin Bunn and the cast arriving to the red carpet.
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:26) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:05) Theatrical trailer for “Kill Your Darlings”.

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I know many friends who are influenced by certain groups of the past.  May it be the Cahiers du Cinema writers in France during the French Nouvelle, the early creatives of Weimar-era Berlin, the creatives of Urban Bohemia of early Greenwich Village, to name a few.

But for writers, there are those who are influenced by the Beat Generation, American post-World War II writers of the 1950’s.  The prominent names affiliated with the Beat Generation are Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burrough and Jack Kerouac.

But unlike other groups that were well-respected and loved, the Beat Generation also had their dark years that revolved around a murder involving a an important friend of those in the Beat Generation, Lucien Carr, a man who would be known for his work as an editor at United Press International but in the past, a man known for introducing Ginsberg, Burrough and Kerouac to one another.

I’ve always been fascinated by this story because these young men were wild, free but yet intellectuals, how were these young men involved in something so dark?

And this is where I found myself looking forward to John Krokidas and Austin Bunn’s film “Kill Your Darlings”.  A film that may be highlighted for Daniel Radcliffe’s acting post-Harry Potter, but for me, it was a film that showcased the Beat Generation, in its minimal glory, it’s defiance and sexuality but also the brutality of the murder of stalker, David Krammerer.

What I enjoyed about the film is how it brought out its ensemble cast and not solely focusing on one certain member.  Allen Ginsberg and Louis Carr are the primary talents of the film but the four major players of the Beat Generation are featured.

The portrayal of Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg was a young man from a troubled home who found solace with the members of the Beat Generation.  A young man raised by a father who was a writer but was a literary rebel.  But the film was able to take Radcliffe and use his talent as a thespian, which he has honed in theater and also in other films, trying to break out of the Harry Potter stigma and become Allen Ginsberg, a man trying to discover himself, while being closeted in his sexuality during the 1950’s.

For Ben Foster’s portrayal of postmodernist author William S. Burrough, the portrayal was a man who was born of wealth but also a man who would engage in narcotics which would play a big part in Burrough’s successful work, “Naked Lunch”. It’s important to note that Lucien Carr was not the other black mark on the Beat Generation as William S. Burrough was also convicted for the murder of his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer (both Burrough and Volmer were drunk and she was killed accidentally during a game of “William Tell), the most prominent female member of the Beat Generation.

Jack Huston’s portrayal of novelist and poet Jack Kerouac, a close friend of Lucien Carr and his relationship with Edie Parker (portrayed by Elizabeth Olson) was featured in the film.  Kerouac who is known for his literary work, was also imprisoned for his role in assisting Lucien Carr in the murder.

But if there was one person who was quite notable for his role in the film was Dane DeHaan’s portrayl of Lucien Carr.  An exceptional student, an intellectual who is seen befriending Allen Ginsberg and introducing him to the other Beat Generation members.    The writing and portrayal of Lucien Carr by writer Austin Bunn was fantastic. In one scene, we see Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg going to a party in which a woman kisses Carr.  When Ginsberg asks Carr if he knew the woman, Carr tells Ginsberg “No, I don’t plan to.  She tasted in imported sophistication of domestic cigarettes”.

But the film would showcase the friendship and the romantic/sexual relationship between Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg (note: Which I have never seen any factual information the two did have a sexual relationship but it is known that Ginsberg was attracted to Carr).

As the film shows Carr’s intelligence, it also shows is weakness and that is his relation to David Kammerer.

While the film showcases Kammerer as a man respected amongst his peers, but a man jealous of Carr’s association with Ginsberg.  But in reality, life for Carr was problematic since the age of 14.  Kammerer who was a family friend of William S. Burrough, became infatuated with Lucien Carr.  So badly that each school that Lucien Carr would move to, Kammerer would follow.

It was probably one of the high-profiled cases of stalking leading to murder in American history but also a murder compounded in conservative America of a story of an obsessed homosexual man trying to go after a young heterosexual man, which was used in Carr’s self-defense.

But “Kill Your Darlings” is a film that managed to do a fine job of showcasing these four individuals, the life they lived during that time but also creating a story with factual elements but also a story with fictional elements regarding the friendship and relationship between Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr.

The acting for the film is well-done, the production design and music for the film was well-done.  But what I enjoyed about the film is the writing and how both John Krokidas and Austin Bunn were able to bring out their characters for this smart and enjoyable film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but it’s not a film that will be seen for being vibrant.  Picture quality is very good, especially during the closeups, lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven but dialogue and music is crystal clear. Special features are also insightful, from the audio commentary but also a Q&A between director John Krokidas and writer Austin Bunn that really goes into the making of the film, but also the challenges they faced.  And how Krokidas was about to quit his filmmaking career because of the challenges he faced until “Kill Your Darlings” became a reality and was made to a feature film.

There  have been a dozen of films about the Beat Generation, and while not completely factual, “Kill Your Darlings” is no doubt one of the better films to depict all four members.  Granted, cineaste will no doubt want to check out David Cronenberg’s 1991 film “Naked Lunch” (based on William S. Burrough’s 1959 novel) and others may enjoy the 2012 adventure film “On the Road” (an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel) directed by Walter Salles. And also the 2012 experimental film “Howl” (which explores Allen Ginsberg’s well-known poem “Howl”) directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

Featuring a wonderful performance by Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, “Kill Your Darlings” is a stylish, dark and entertaining film about the Beat Generation worth checking out!

The Patience Stone (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Patience Stone” is unlike any film that I have ever seen, especially how the film tackles situations that may be considered tabu in the Middle East.  I really enjoyed the film for its bold storyline and wonderful performance.  It may not be for everyone but I definitely recommend this film for those with an open mind!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Razor Film Produktion GmbH, The Film SAS, Arte France Cinema, Corniche Pictures, Jahan-e-Honar Productions and Orange Studio. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Patience Stone

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, Persian/Farsi 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: Engish, English, SDH

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: R (For Sexual Content, Some violence and Language)

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2014

Directed by Atiq Rahimi

Scenario by Jean-Claude Carriere and Atiq Rahimi

Novel by Atiq Rahimi

Produced by Michael Gentile

Co-Produced by Remi Burah, Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul

Executive Producer: Bendeicte Bellocq, Hani Farsi

Associate Producer: Lauraine Heftler, Verona Meier, David Pierret

Cinematography by Theirry Arbogast

Edited by Herve de Luze

Production Design by Erwin Prib

Costume Design by Malek Jahan Khazai

Starring:

Golshifteh Farahan as the Woman

Hamid Djavadan as The Man

Hassina Burgan as The Aunt

Massi Mrowat as The Young Soldier

Mohamed Al Maghraoui as The Mullah

In a country torn apart by war, a young woman watches over her older husband. A bullet in the neck has reduced him to a comatose state. One day, the woman’s vigil changes. She begins to speak truth to her silent husband, telling him about her suffering, her dreams, and secrets. After years of living under his control, with no voice of her own, she says things she could never have spoken before. Her husband has unconsciously become syngué sabour (THE PATIENCE STONE) – a magical black stone that, according to Persian mythology, absorbs the plight of those who confide in it. The woman’s confessions are extraordinary and without restraint. But after weeks of looking after her husband, she begins to act, discovering herself in the relationship she starts with a young soldier. THE PATIENCE STONE is adapted from the best-selling novel by Atiq Rahimi.

In 2008, French-Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi, wrote the critically acclaimed novel titled “The Patience Stone”.

Regarded as an important book giving voice that explores the turmoil and thoughts, no matter how dark, how sexual of a Middle Eastern woman, suffice to say, it’s not a common thing to see a woman portrayed in such a a way.  As women continue to have no voice in the Middle East, and as women fight for their own rights, “The Patience Stone” is a surprising and yet entertaining film that one can enjoy for its unique portrayal of a Middle Eastern woman telling her deepest and darkest thoughts to her deathly sick husband.

It’s audacious and there is no doubt that the story is deserving of the praise and criticism because it’s so daring and so different.

And sure enough, what best than to see such a storyline adapted into a film.

Directed by the original author Atiq Rahimi, “The Patience Stone” would star actress Golshifteh Farahani (“Body of Lies”, “About Elly”), an Iranian model and actress who, like the film, has received praise and criticism for her topless model photoshoots.  A woman who is daring to fight the conservatism of traditional practices, suffice to say, she is the right person to play the protagonist, the woman.

“The Patience Stone” is a reference to a magical black stone in Persian folklore that absorbs the plight of those who confide in it and due to the hardship and pain, the stone blows up and leads to the apocalypse.

For the film, “The Patience Stone” refers to the husband (portrayed by Hamid Djavadan), a war hero, who got into an argument and was shot in the neck.  Now he is near death and comatose but his young wife (portrayed by Golshifteh Farahani) is told by the Mullah that he should be given medicine to keep him alive.

And for the woman, she is determined in taking care of her husband, for her two daughters sake and the fact that all her family have left her.  Her closest confidant, her aunt (portrayed by Hassina Burgan) is all that she has left, but even she has left the war torn area of Afghanistan.

And when the war comes too close to home as the woman’s neighbors are murdered by soldiers, the woman is determined in taking care of her husband but must find her aunt, so she can leave her kids with her temporarily.  We learn that the woman’s aunt is a prostitute who was left behind by her husband because she is unable to have children, and so she was raped by her father-in-law until she killed him.  But the woman’s aunt is her true confidant and one that has helped the woman through her toughest times.

But while the woman tries to take care of her husband by feeding him, soldiers have come in to her home and as one could have raped her, she tells them she is a prostitute and is spat on by the man who is disgraced by the woman for selling her body.

Her aunt tells her that she made the right move because men have no problems raping a virgin but they will never rape a whore.

But as the woman goes back to her husband to feed and care of him, she starts to talk about the difficult life she had with her husband to him.  How she was always stuck at home as he was at war, that during their marriage, his dagger was there in his place.

But the woman is blunt about her emotions. How she feels that men wanted her body, how many masturbated to her, wanted to have sex with her and when she was in the mood around her husband, she wanted to play with herself but because her husband would see it as unnatural, she was made to sleep with the children in the other room.

But one day, after a young soldier (with a severe stuttering problem) tries to pay for services with her, at first she is unnerved about nearly being raped but needing money to take care of her husband and her family, she realizes that perhaps she can make money selling her body.  And also be pleasured sexually, which her husband can’t do.

But the more this woman begins to be lost about her life as a wife and a woman of religion, her taste of freedom and sexual freedom begin to take over her and she begins to have this inner turmoil about whether to pursue her true feelings or to be the traditional wife to watch and care over her husband, no matter how bad things are and the fact that he may never come back to life.

And as the free spirit of the woman begins to emerge, also unleashed are the skeletons in her closet.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Patience Stone” is presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen), Persian/Farsi 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD as the film utilized natural lighting.  The film was shot with Canon 5D Mark II’s and shots were done in Turkey and Afghanistan.

While picture quality is good, the film is pretty much dialogue driven and there are some aspects with bomb blasts that will catch you by surprise thanks to the sound effects of bombs going off.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Patience Stone” features the following special features:

  • Making of “The Patience Stone” – (29:42) Behind-the-scenes making of the Patience Stone
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:01) Theatrical trailer for “The Patience Stone”.

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In every country, you come across films that are audacious and shocking to their culture.

From Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of Senses” which was banned in Japan and even in America with “Deep Throat” which was banned throughout the United States during its release, there are many films that are controversial for various reasons.

“The Patience Stone” is a film that may not be a sexual film in the sense of the two films I just mentioned but its the discussion of private thoughts from a woman, dirty thoughts from a Middle Eastern woman, that is rather intriguing because we are aware that rights for females is restricted.

Women are fighting for equalization, some fight against the culture and its conservatism and with “The Patience Stone”, at first the film plays off a storyline about a young wife trying to take care of her husband who was shot in the neck after an accident and he is near dead, but has been using all her money in order to keep her husband alive and in hopes he will make a full recovery.

And as the film plays out like a woman who will do anything for her man because she loves him, we start to see her discussions start to become bolder and much more antagonistic towards her husband because of the restrictions placed on a woman’s right of freedom or expression.

Having to face a strict lifestyle with her husband, the woman has no choice but to abide by his rules.  Do things by his rules and for her, she wants to explore the thoughts that she has in her head, may it be her feeling towards the war that has led to the deaths of her neighbors and even putting herself in harms way.

But after seeing how men during the war treat woman like they are meat and want to have sex with them without remorse and how women take up a profession of being a whore because they need to make money, we see this woman changing her tone with her discussions with her husband that lies there.  She feels that he must listen to her as he can’t do anything to hurt her and so one-by-one, we start to hear about her fantasies as well as revealing the skeletons in her closet.

Actress Golshifteh Farahan is quite amazing for playing such a role in which all the work falls on her shoulders.  Most of the dialogue in the film is her in conversations with her husband and it was no doubt a stressful role for the actress as she even felt herself falling in the path of madness of her character.  From many pages of dialogue that she had to remember in a short amount of time but to live and breath like this character who goes through a transformation.

It’s a bold film which I never would expect to watch a film in the Middle East featuring women discuss their sex lives and sexual exploits, it just doesn’t happen and the things discussed in the film are no doubt tabu, that I can understand if the film received its tough criticism, especially for those who are religious or came from a traditional upbringing.

The DVD is presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio, while picture quality is good as what one can expect on DVD, audio is presented in Persian/Farsi 5.1 and English subtitles are easy to read.  You also get a making of special feature which shows us how things were behind-the-scenes as they filmed in Turkey and also in Afghanistan.

Overall, “The Patience Stone” is an audacious film in one aspect, but also a wonderful film featuring a fantastic performance by actress Golshifteh Farahan with a role that defies Middle East traditional and conservative practices.  I can see audiences who will praise this film for being non-traditional and bold, while others who are religious, become upset with how the film engages topics that are tabu and a woman going against a culture.

But “The Patience Stone” is unlike any film that I have ever seen, especially how the film tackles situations that may be considered tabu in the Middle East.  I really enjoyed the film for its bold storyline and wonderful performance.  It may not be for everyone but I definitely recommend this film for those with an open mind!

Austenland (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Austenland” is a solid directorial debut for Jerusha Hess and a romantic comedy that is a lot of fun and features a solid cast, but for story, it’s average at best.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Fickle Fish Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Austenland

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 94 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: Engish, English, SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Suggestive Content and Innuendo)

RELEASE DATE: February 11, 2014

Directed by Jerusha Hess

Based on the novel by Shannon Hale

Written by Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale

Producer: Stephanie Meyer, Gina Mingacci

Executive Producer: Robert Fernandez, Dan Levinson

Associate Producer: Jared Hess, Meghan Hibbett

Co-Producer: Jane Hooks

Cinematography by Larry Smith

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Edited by Nick Fenton

Casting by Nicole Daniels, Michelle Guish, Courtney Sheinin

Production Design by James Merifield

Art Direction by Patrick Rolfe

Set Decoration by Jacqueline Abrahams

Costume Design by Annie Hardinge

Starring:

Keri Russell  as Jane Hayes

JJ Feild as Mr. Henry Nobley

Bret McKenzie as Martin

Jennifer Coolidge Miss Elizabeth Charming

James Callis as Colonel Andrews

Georgia King as Lady Amelia Heartwright

Rupert Vansittart as Mr. Wattlesbrook

Ricky Whittle as Captain East

Jane Seymour as Mrs. Wattlesbrook

Ayda Field as Molly

Ruben Crow as Chad

Demetri Goritsas as Jimmy

Jane Hayes’s (Keri Russell) adoration of all things Jane Austen is complicating her love life. Determined to be the heroine of her own story, Jane spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, an eccentric resort where guests experience complete immersion in the Regency era. Armed with her bonnet, corset and needlepoint, Jane strives to avoid spinsterhood … but has a difficult time determining where fantasy ends and real life—and maybe even love—begins. Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde) and Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers) also star in this charming romantic comedy.

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From Jerusha Hess, the writer and producer of the comedies “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Gentlemen Broncos” and “Nacho Libre”, comes her directorial debut, “Austenland”.

The film based on Shannon Hale’s novel of the same title, is a British-American romantic comedy produced by “Twilight” writer Stephanie Meyer and stars Keri Russell (“Felicity”, “Mission: Impossible III”), JJ Feild (“Captain America”, “Centurion”), Bret McKenzie (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, “The Muppets”), Jennifer Coolidge (“American Pie”, “Legally Blonde”), James Callis (“Battlestar Galactica”), “Bridget Jones” films), Jane Seymour (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”, “Wedding Crashers”, “Live and Let Die”), Georgia King (“The Duchess”, “One Day”), Ricky Whittle (“Single Ladies”, “Hollyoaks”) and Rupert Vansittart (“Braveheart”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”).

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and had a limited screening around the United States.  And now, “Austenland” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Austenland” is a film that revolves around Jane Hayes (portrayed by Keri Russell), a 30-year-old woman who has been obsessed with “Pride & Prejudice” and Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy.  Wanting an English man, in hopes of finding her Mr. Darcy, she decides to spend her entire savings on a trip to the Jane Austen-themed resort in England known as “Austenland”.

Ran by Mrs. Wattlesbrook (portrayed by Jane Seymour), Jane meets others who are fans such as the man-hunting Elizabeth Charming (portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge), the suave Mr.Henry Nobley (portrayed by JJ Feild), the servant and bad singing Martin (portrayed by Bret McKenzie), the cold Englishwoman Lady Amelia Heartwright (portrayed by Georgia King) and the often shirtless Captain George East (portrayed by Ricky Whittle).

And as everyone at Austenland tries to live their life as it was back in the early 1800’s, as depicted in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice”, will life for Jane Hayes be as she imagined and will she meet her Mr. Darcy at Austenland?

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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Austenland” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) and English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, you will want to go for the Blu-ray version of the film.

Picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD, the film is pretty much dialogue driven but there is a lot of ’80s music that is played throughout the movie, but for the most part, dialogue and music is clear through the front and center channel.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Austenland” features the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerusha Hess and Stephanie Meyer.
  • Q&A – (32:44) Q&A with Keri Russell, Jennifer coolidge, Janey Seymour, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, JJ Feild, Ricky Whittle and James Callis.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:07) Theatrical trailer for “Austenland”.

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I have to admit that I am a fan of Jerusha Hess films.

The films that she has written are quirky, humorous and just a lot of fun!

So, as a person familiar with Jane Austen novels, let alone knowing people who are fans of her novels and finding out that Jerusha Hess was directing the film adaptation of Sarah Hale’s “Austenland”, suffice to say, I have been looking forward to this film.

First, let’s start off with the positives and what I enjoyed about this film.

It’s great to see Kerri Russell again and to see her playing the role of a Jane Austen fan girl in search of her Mr. Darcy, at first, it may seem too farfetched, but once you see actress Jennifer Coolidge in her role as the typical ditzy, sexy bombshell of a woman that she has played in other films, you know that you are in for a treat!

The idea of a Jane Austen resort is quite fascinating and to see people who want to take part in that world by given the chance to dress like one would in the early 1800’s is rather fascinating.  And I suppose, there was a part of me that wanted to see the quirkiness and the humor that Hess put into her films such as “Nacho Libre” or “Napoleon Dynamite” to also be in “Austenland” but as it turns out, we have a film about three women and four men interacting in the resort.

Jennifer Coolidge’s Elizabeth Charming resembles the style and humor of her character of “Legally Blonde” and if anything, you feel you want to see more of Elizabeth, as Jane is often trying to find her Mr. Darcy with a bad singing Martin (portrayed by Bret McKenzie), the very English Mr. Henry Nobley (portrayed by JJ Feild) and as for the sexually ambiguous Colonel Andrews (portrayed by James Callis), he appears to be more eye candy for Elizabeth Charming’s character.

Meanwhile, Georgia King’s character of Lady Amelia Heartwright seems to be an awkward role that is seen going crazy for the often shirtless Captain George East (portrayed by Ricky Whittle).

While I did enjoy the characters, I was taken aback by the whole romance plot.  It was less of a love triangle and more of a hodgepodge of men that Jane may seem interested in.

And while most of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s will be familiar with the music featured in the film, they often seem out of place because the characters are trying to live in a faux early-1800’s setting.

So, I found the storyline to have a few problems with Jane’s association with various men, I did like the premise of the story because it is unique, crazy and something that is somewhat way out there.  Maybe not as a fun as “Nacho Libre” of socially awkward as “Napoleon Dynamite” but fun in its own way.  Jane Austen die-hards may find the film too over-the-top but I felt this romantic comedy does have it’s share of hilarious moments from beginning to end, especially the Nelly “Hot in Herre” music video by the cast during the ending credits.

As for the DVD, picture quality and audio quality is good on DVD but one may want to look towards the Blu-ray release for even better picture quality and lossless audio.  The special features are very fascinating as the audio commentary features both Jerusha Hess and producer Stephanie Meyer, while the Q&A with the cast is one of the most hilarious Q&A’s post-screening panels I have seen.  Once again, Jennifer Coolidge wins the audience with her humor!

Overall, “Austenland” is a solid directorial debut for Jerusha Hess and a romantic comedy that is a lot of fun and features a solid cast, but for story, it’s average at best.

 

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

February 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Wadjda” is a groundbreaking film for Saudi Arabia but also for Saudi women who want more opportunities of freedom and open a dialogue within society.  An inspiring film from filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, “Wadjda” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Razor Film Produktion GmbH and High Look Communications Group. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wadjda

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio, Arabic, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For Thematic Elements, Brief Mild Language and Smoking)

Release Date: February 11, 2014

Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour

Written by Haifaa Al-Mansour

Produced by Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul

Executive Producer: Bettina Ricklefs, Rena Ronson, Hala Sarhan, Chrstian Granderath, Louise Nemschoff

Music by Max Richter

Cinematography by Lutz Reitemeier

Edited by Andreas Wodraschke

Production Design by Thomas Molt

Art Design by Tarik Saeed

Set Decoration by Maram Algohani

Costume Design by Peter Pohl

Starring:

Reem Abdullah as Mother

Waad Mohammed as Wadjda

Abdullrahman Al Gohani as Abdullah

Ahd as Ms. Hussa

Sultan Al Assaf as Father

Alanoud Sajini as Fatin

Rafa Al Sanea as Fatima

Dana Abdullilah as Salma

A story set in Saudi Arabia and focused on the experiences of a young girl who challenges her country’s traditions.

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For some, filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour may be known for her documentary “Women Without Shadows”, while for others, they may recall her appearance on “The Daily Show with John Stewart”, “HARDtalk” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”.

But if there is one accolade in the oeuvre of Al-Mansour, is her Saudi Arabian-German film titled “Wadjda”.

The film has the distinction to be the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, the first feature-length film to be made by a female Saudi filmmaker and the film would become the first Saudi Arabian film submitted for consideration for “Best Foreign Language Oscar”.

But the reason why many find Haifaa Al-Mansour’s work important but also controversial is that it showcases how women’s life is in Saudi Arabia and the custom of women wearing an abaya (a dressing that women cloak their heads and shoulders).

So controversial that she has received hate mail and criticism and taking on topics which are typically considered taboo for discussion.

Taking five years to make (getting financial backing in Saudi Arabia is difficult due to the fact that there is no film industry and no movie theaters, the reality is that films are looked as lower than television), with the help of the Sundance Institute and German production company Razor Film, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s goal was to create a film with a message about freedom.

But once receiving the funding, the challenge of filmmaking is the fact that women’s place in society is lower than a man,  and since the film was shot in the capital city of Riyadh, the film was often shot behind a van and in accordance to cultural rules, she was not able to mingle with the men in crew and can only communicate via walkie-talkie and observing the actors via a monitor during a shot.

And now Haifaa Al-Mansour’s award winning film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in Feb. 2014.

“Wadjda” introduces us to a 10-year-0ld girl named Wadjda (portrayed by Waad Mohammed).  A free-spirited girl who lives with her mother (portrayed by Reem Abdullah) and her father (portrayed by Sultan Al Assaf).

Quite often, when she travels to school, she races with her friend Abdullah (portrayed by Abdullrahman Algohani), which she often wins but he usually comes back with a bike in which she can’t compete with. So, she vowed that she would ride a bike and beat Abdullah.

Unfortunately, for Saudi girls, it’s not appropriate for girls to ride bikes.  It’s considered a practice that is more for boys.

But Wadjda is different.  She is into rock music, she doesn’t like to wear her abaya and because of her somewhat rebellious nature, she is often watched by the school head mistress Ms. Hussa (portrayed by Ahd Kamel).

She also doesn’t have a normal homelife.  Her mother as a bit of the spunk like her daughter but she is often seen trying to get her husband to stay home and only look towards her, but the truth is that her true distraction is because her husband is intending to take a second wife.

But as her mother won’t buy her a bike and Ms. Hussa wondering if Wadjda will change for the best, Wadjda sets off to find a new way to purchase her bike, by participating in a Qur’an recital competition which the winner can take home around SR1,000 ($270 US).

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VIDEO:

“Wadjda” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and features beautiful picture quality.  Skin tones are natural, scenes are well-lit and for the most part, the cinematography by Lutz Reitemeier was able to capture the emotions of the characters but also the traditional location and the various environments.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wadjda” is presented in Arabic and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is primarily a dialogue driven soundtrack but there are moments where scenes do show a classroom or building room full of children, so there are some use of crowd ambiance for the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wadjda” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director Haifaa Al-Mansour.
  • Making of Wadjda – (33:25) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Wadjda”, from interviews with the the director, the cast and members of the German production team and the challenges of shooting a film in Riyadh.
  • Directors Guild of America Q&A – (38:20) Featuring a Q&A with Haifaa Al-Mansour at a post-screening of “Wadjda” at the Directors Guild of America.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:04) Theatrical trailer for “Wadjda”.

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While I’m not an erudite when it comes to Arabic culture and society, I am aware that women are not seen as equal to men and that women must cover themselves up, nor should they be seen walking or talking with men.  And it’s a part of the culture that extends to children as well.

So, watching Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” is fascinating in the fact that we watch a 10-year-old who tries to live a life to the beat of her own drum, being told about the strict rules of the land and how a girl must behave.

For those of us living in America, the idea of boys and girls not being able to play together, hanging out with each other or riding bikes together is hard to fathom but in other countries, this is how their culture is and these are traditions passed down for many generations and possibly centuries.

But as the world begins to change and as women’s rights become a hot topic in countries where women are seen in a lower level as their male counterparts, there are women who are standing up and daring these older society traditions.

For director Haifaa Al-Mansour, her film “Wadjda” may be seen as overly audacious but she was given the opportunity to be Saudi Arabia’s first filmmaker, let alone creating the country’s first feature film.  While for cinema, it’s an important distinction, in the country that has no theater’s let alone a country that places television entertainment at the highest point and cinema much lower, sometimes one must create something and possibly try to open dialogue among society, even if it means approaching cultural tradition, even if it is seen as a cultural taboo to discuss these traditions, even if it means taking on the inequality of women compared to men.

From respecting cultural tradition when approaching the film, “Wadjda” is fascinating because it is film in the capital city of Riyadh and this young child named Wadjda (portrayed by Waad Mohammed), is a girl that listens to rock music, doesn’t like to wear her abaya and all she wants is to play with her friend Abdullah and ride a bike with him.

But unfortunately, society forbids her to be seen with a boy in public, her behavior of coming to school without her abaya is seen as troublesome and in her school, she is seen as a rebel and what she does is going against’a  girl’s virtue.

Meanwhile, her mother is a mother who also has a bit of spunk in her as well.  But mainly when it comes to her husband, a man who wants to have a son and wants to have a second wife in order to make it happen.  Wadjda’s mother wants to be sexy and do all she can to convince her father to not find another woman but she knows that it’s a difficult situation.

But as mother tries her best to save her marriage and keep her husband at home, she also must deal with her daughter that has more of a rebellious side and it’s tough.

For first time actress, Waad Mohammed, she embodies that rebellious side and watching the special features included in the “Wadjda” Blu-ray, we start to see part of Wadjda in the character of Waad. Meanwhile, learning that the film features television actresses Reem Abdullah and Ahd who give a solid performance, but it’s the performance that the young Waad Mohammed that makes this film much more entertaining and satisfying.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic.  Skintones are natural, lighting is well-done and cinematography by Lutz Reitemeier was well-done.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue-driven but is crystal clear with surround sound usage primarily ambiance.  Special features include a fascinating “making of” featurette and Directors Guild of America Q&A plus an audio commentary with filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour.

Overall, “Wadjda” is a groundbreaking film for Saudi Arabia but also for Saudi women who want more opportunities of freedom and open a dialogue within society.  An inspiring film from filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, “Wadjda” is recommended!

Blue Jasmine (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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An intelligent film that is possibly the most tragic of Woody Allen movies and featuring a Oscar-winning performance by Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” is unlike any Woody Allen film that you will ever see and one that is also thought-provoking at the same time.   And for a filmmaker and writer who has continued to direct a new  original film nearly every year, for over fifty years, “Blue Jasmine” is another film that makes us feel happy due to its unpredictable nature and ending but also showing is that Woody Allen still has that magic that has captivated generations for many decades.  “Blue Jasmine” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Gravier Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Blue Jasmine

MOVIE RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 98 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: January 21, 2014

Directed by Woody Allen

Written by Woody Allen

Executive Producer: Leroy Schecter, Adam B. Stern

Co-Executive Producer: Jack Rollins

Producer: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Co-Producer: Helen Robin

Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe

Edited by Alisa Lepselter

Casting by Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Juliet Taylor

Production Design by Santo Loquasto

Art Direction: Michael E. Goldman, Doug Huszti

Set Decoration by Kris Boxell, Regina Graves

Costume Design by Suzy Benzinger

Starring:

Cate Blanchett as Jasmine

Alec Baldwin as Hal

Sally Hawkins as Ginger

Andrew Dice Clay as Augie

Bobby Cannavale as Chili

Max Casella as Eddie

Ali Fedotowsky as Melanie

Louis C.K. as Al

Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight

Poignant, romantic, and mesmerizing, writer/director Woody Allen’s latest masterpiece centers around Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), a former New York socialite teetering on an emotional tightrope, balancing between her troubled east coast past and a fresh start in San Francisco. Having moved into her sister’s humble apartment, Jasmine ricochets between the tumultuous acceptance of her new limitations, and the dreams of reclaiming her past life’s glamour. Join a powerful cast for an intimate portrayal of the battle between fantasy and reality which rages within us all.

Each year, we can always expect a Woody Allen film.

And with each film, many often wonder if Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Midnight in Paris”)  can retain the brilliance that he has brought to the big screen since the late ’60s.

One of the few living directors in America who has been able to released marketable films but also one of the few filmmakers to be able to release a film nearly every year  (since 1971, the only years he did not release a film was in 1971, 1974 and 1981), in 2013, Woody Allen released his 45th film “Blue Jasmine”, a film which he wrote and directed.

Starring Cate Blanchett (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Elizabeth”), Alec Baldwin (“Beetlejuice”, “The Departed”, “30 Rock”), Sally Hawkins (“Made in Dagenham”, “Happy Go-Lucky”, “Layer Cake”), Bobby Cannavale (“Win Win”, “The Bone Collector”, “Parker”, “The Station Agent”), Louis C.K. (“Louie”, “Down to Earth”), Andrew Dice Clay (“Pretty in Pink”, “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane”), Max Cassella (“Doogie Howser, M.D.”, “Ed Wood”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Flightplan”, “Green Lantern”, “Jarhead”), the film would receive critical praise from critics worldwide.

And now “Blue Jasmine” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Jan. 2014.

“Blue Jasmine” revolves around a woman named Jasmine (portrayed by Cate Blanchett) who was once a wealthy woman married to Hal (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) who embezzled, spent and lost a lot of the money of investors.

Divorced, poor and suffering anxiety issues, Jasmine is unable to continue her lifestyle and moves to San Francisco and live with her step-sister Ginger (portrayed by Sally Hawkins), a single of mother of two who is now engaged to a mechanic named Chili (portrayed by Bobby Cannavale).

While we are given flashbacks of Jasmine and Ginger’s life in the past.

Jasmine who lived a life of luxury and being vain, but yet believed in her husband Hal, who is messing around with other women behind her back.

Meanwhile, Ginger was married to Augie (portrayed by Andrew Dice Clay) and we learn how Ginger and Augie went to New York City after winning the lottery, Ginger’s first time visiting her step-sister in many years and trying to get financial advice of what to do with the money.  Augie wants to invest it into a construction business but Jasmine tells her sister and Augie to invest their money with her husband Hal.

As Jasmine doesn’t want Ginger and Augie to be around them (as they are not the type to be around the upperclass), she still tries to help them enjoy their trip to New York City and books a limousine tour around the city and that is where Ginger spots Hal making out with another woman, a woman who is good friends with Jasmine.

But we are also given a glimpse of how Hal was looked at a successful financial businessman, philanthropist and popular businessman, especially by their son Danny (portrayed by Aiden Ehrenreich), who is treated with respect at Harvard.  But then after the arrest of Hal, we see the disintegration of the family and how their son was so embarrassed by his father’s crime that he had to quit Harvard.

Jasmine tries to learn how to get a job and learn how to use a computer via an online class and become an interior designer.  But to afford the class, she takes a job as a secretary for Dr. Flicker (portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg), a man who is smitten with Jasmine.

But life for Jasmine has been challenging and as we see her past life and the present, we see how Jasmine was during her best times married to Hal, the worst times after he was arrested but also during the time he confronts him about his affairs and how Hal was arrested for his crime.

But to see if Jasmine will be able to move on with her life after Hal.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Blue Jasmine” is presented in 2:40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and audio is presented in English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital with Subtitles in English, English SDH and French.

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality of this film, the Blu-ray release of “Blue Jasmine” is the way to go!  But as for the DVD itself, picture quality is good on DVD, I didn’t notice any major artifacts or any issues with overall PQ.

As for audio, “Blue Jasmine” features clear dialogue and an enjoyable musical soundtrack.  The film is primarily dialogue-driven and if anything, it’s an appropriate center and front-channel driven soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blue Jasmine” comes with the following special features:

  • Notes from the Red Carpet(5:53) Interviews with the cast of “Blue Jasmine” about their character and working with Woody Allen.
  • Blue Jasmine Cast Press Conference – (24:58) Los Angeles Press Conference with Andrew Dice Clay, Cate Blanchett and Peter Sarsgaard.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:51) Theatrical trailer for “Blue Jasmine”.

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Many people criticize Woody Allen’s film each and every year, some who say he is a man who has lost his brilliance, others who say that a certain film harkens to his most wonderful work.

Suffice to say, everyone has an opinion on a Woody Allen film but many people still want to see each year of what kind of film he is going to make.  Typically romantic comedies with intelligent writing, witty humor and wonderful jazz music, his films have been for the most part, delightful and upbeat despite troubled relationships here and there.

But with “Blue Jasmine”, Allen’s film maintains the intelligent writing, the witty humor and a wonderful performance from actress Cate Blanchett, but is more of tragic film than a hopeful, upbeat film which will once again, bring out many critics who will praise Woody Allen for stepping outside of the box and doing something different, while others who feel the storyline is too real and dramatic and not as accessible.

The fact is that this film takes a story from front page news ala Bernie Madoff or similar type of storyline of investors who bilked their clients money and lost it all.

We know from various news reports about the families of those responsible have been destroyed, not knowing of how far of a destructive and callous lifestyle their loved one was living.  Thinking that the wealth and lifestyle they lived on was on hard work, but instead finding out that these financial frauds who orchestrated these schemes were downright rotten to the core.

For the protagonist Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the character with such efficacy that I do believe is deserving of an Oscar nomination.  Portraying an anxiety-ridden, broken woman that needs stability and a support system, which unfortunately she is not going to get with her current attitude.  But there is no doubt that losing her husband, losing her wealth and losing all things important to her has left her a broken woman.

Jasmine is a character that part of you feels bad for her but also part of you despises her.  She is a person who is vain, who lived a life of privilege with wealth and aside from her social circle, she looked down upon her sister Ginger and her first husband Augie.

And then you see her with nothing.  No longer part of that social circle, broke and in need of desperate help but she pushes her sister away because she wants to feel better than her.  Her belief that she is better than not so wealthy people because of where she lived previously but to everyone else, including her sister and new fiance.  The wealthy environment that she is from is built upon the money that her husband had scammed from others.

Also, another fascinating part of this film is how Woody Allen took these characters and put them in different situations.  Bobby Cannavale’s role as Chili, is very abrasive.  While Andrew Dice Clay’s character is serious and for the most part, a character unlike anything he has played before.  We see a surprising performance from the comedian and we also see a different side of Louis C.K. in this film, more reserved and not at all like his comedic side nor any character he had played before.

Alec Baldwin also does a good job playing as the deceitful husband, Sally Hawkins as the step-sister Ginger, who had always wanted to be like Jasmine but in an interesting role reversal, which sister is actually happy?  Which sister came out doing well for herself as an adult?

As for the DVD, it’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality of this film, then you will want to purchase the Blu-ray release of “Blue Jasmine”.  Otherwise, the film looks good on DVD and surprisingly, another Woody Allen film to be released on Blu-ray and DVD that has several special features.

But overall, “Blue Jasmine” is a Woody Allen film from aesthetics to music and wit, but there is no doubt that Allen wanted to try something different this time around.  No shooting in Europe, no young love and instead of focusing on love, we get the opposite with “Blue Jasmine”.

An intelligent film that is possibly the most tragic of Woody Allen movies and featuring a Oscar-winning performance by Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” is unlike any Woody Allen film that you will ever see and one that is also thought-provoking at the same time.   And for a filmmaker and writer who has continued to direct a new  original film nearly every year, for over fifty years, “Blue Jasmine” is another film that makes us feel happy due to its unpredictable nature and ending but also showing is that Woody Allen still has that magic that has captivated generations for many decades.

“Blue Jasmine” is recommended!

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