4K/UltraHD Review: “Super 8”

  • SUPER 8
  • Starring: Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning
  • Directed by: J,J. Abrams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 52 mins
  • Paramount

JJ Abrams directs a love letter to Steven Spielberg about kids and a mysterious alien in 2011’s “Super 8.” . It’s “The Goonies” meets “Close Encounters” meets “E.T.” and very entertaining. It’s also an homage to the cinematic 80s tropes and is a heartwarming tale coping with loss and grief.

“Super 8” is celebrating its 10th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than to indulge in the brand new 4K UHD Blu Ray collection. Since the film is only 10 years old, it benefits from the high definition tremendously, as this is the best the film has ever looked on video. It has been encoded in TrueDolby HD sound, giving it a demo-worthy soundtrack that also incorporates some excellent LFE subwoofer activity that’ll drive your neighbors crazy! 

The story is about a small group of teen misfits encountering a misunderstood extra-terrestrial. There’s much to absorb here though. We have a father and son who must live on without mom. We have an alcoholic father raising a daughter. We have a scientist involved in a government cover up. However the camaraderie of the kids seems to make all of these problems a bit lighter. The fact the kids are all budding filmmakers adds even more comedic flavor to the story. Throw in some of the best special effects of the time (Industrial Light & Magic) and you truly have a unique viewing experience. This film reeks of nostalgia and intentionally has a Spielbergian feel to it as well and that’s okay. It is obviously intended as it is a love letter to Steven Spielberg (the kids are perhaps the biggest indication).

“Super 8” is truly super great and highly recommended in the 4K format. .

EXTRAS

  •  Audio Commentary 
  •  The Dream Behind Super 8
  •  The Search for New Faces 
  •  Meet Joel Courtney 
  •  Rediscovering Steel Town 
  •  The Visitor Lives 
  •  The 8mm Revolution 
  •  Scoring Super 8 
  •  Do You Believe in Magic?
  •  Deconstructing the Train Crash 
  •  Deleted Scenes 

Blu-ray Review: “The Marksman”

  • THE MARKSMAN
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, and Teresa Ruiz
  • Directed by: Robert Lorenz
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 48 mins
  • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jim (Liam Neeson) s a former Marine who lives a solitary life as a rancher along the Arizona-Mexico border. But his peaceful existence soon comes crashing down when he tries to protect a boy on the run from members of a vicious cartel. And that’s pretty much the story here. Though Neeson gives a solid performance, the story may be a bit too formulaic. 

Jim basically has had some rough times. He lost his wife to cancer, and his property is being foreclosed. All of this happens in the beginning of the film, so it’s hardly a spoiler. Jim spends his days sport hunting with his canine companion, Jackson. He’s excellent with a rifle, which earned him a medal in the Marine Corps. Jim reports anything suspicious to his step-daughter, a border patrol agent, whilst hunting on the grounds. A woman and her son are on the run from the Mexican drug cartel and Jim gets involved. What I do appreciate about this film is that it’s a road film. Like Rainman,” most of the film takes place on freeways, highways and small town bi-ways. And with the cartel in hot pursuit, you can rest assured that it’s going to be a helluva commute.

 Now Jim’s life has taken a turn. He’s on the run with a kid (Miguel) who is stunned into silence due to his mother being shot by the cartel. Jim makes a promise to the kid’s mother to take him to her sister in Chicago. Unbeknownst to Jim, the cartel can track his whereabouts every time he uses his debit card with a sophisticated computer system. And so what follows is a series of close calls with the cartel and the bonding of Jim and Miguel.

Much of the film is uninspired as we have seen it before and as I previously mentioned, a bit formulaic. Screenplay is weak but the more interesting scenes are when Jim and Miguel are bonding. As I also mentioned, I personally love  road films and “The Marksman” is a road film indeed. Here Neeson does put on a good performance with what little he’s been given. It’s just Liam fighting the baddies. They are now calling his films “Your yearly Neesoning”. Overall it’s worth a rental but it comes up short in comparison to “Honest Thief” and “The Commuter.”

SPECIAL FEATURES

Making of “The Marksman” featurette.

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Elysium”

  • ELYSIUM
  • Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 49 mins
  • Tri Star Pictures

Neil Blomkamp’s futuristic action popcorn ride is very impressive with visual effects. One thing’s for sure, subtlety has never been an inspiration in Blomkamp’s body of work. “Elysium” addresses a sociopolitical concern, very similar to Blomkamp’s earlier gem, “Districkt 9.:” the policing of a state where the socially unequal, i.e. the poor, suffer grave depravities. “Elysium” takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where the state has separated it’s citizens, with the majority remaining in Los Angeles while the wealthy 1% live free of the world’s anxieties in a halo-like space habitat orbiting Earth called Elysium.


Matt Damon stars as Max, a parolee dying of radiation poisoning who is fighting to be smuggled to Elysium in order to take advantage of the advanced Healthcare system that exists there. He still works at the industrial plant where he got the radiation poisoning and is told that it will kill him in 5 days. The society is partially policed by robots, which Max consistently has unfavorable encounters with. Max realizes he has little time left to live but Elysium has machines that can cure him which motivates him to get to the orbiting station. Max teams up with a rebel group to steal information from a company that can free the citizens of Los Angeles and make everyone a citizen of Elysium. But in order for this to happen, Max has to be tagged with bionic parts to his arms and back while a computer chip needs to be implanted in his brain. This allows him to be more agile in fighting and the chip to his brain will give him access to the company, He also has to get through Defense Secretary Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, who will stop at nothing to keep the citizens of Los Angeles out of Elysium. The results pits the rebels against the state in a battle that is full of great visuals and action.

 
I watched the film on a UHD 4K Blu Ray, and the picture and sound are astounding. A notable upgrade from the previous Blu Ray release where contrast and brightness are improved delivering a sharper image with vivid whites and deeper blacks. Sound is amazing with plenty of activity in the surround fields and lots of LFE activity for the subwoofer. The sub-woofer sound is smooth as the low level sounds will not overextend your speaker. The 2160p picture, which is double that of a Blu Ray picture produces breathtaking imagery, showcasing the visual effects with remarkable clarity. The Elysium station has to been seen to be believed! The orbiting station is a wonderful work of digital effects. And seeing it on 4K Blu Ray will astound you. It took me back to Star Trek Beyond (which I also have on 4K Blu Ray) where the docking station is a mixture of ship technology and citizenry. I had a great time with “Elysium.” It’s films like this that make me glad that I invested in a 4K Blu Ray player.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium 
  • The Hero, The Psychopath, and the Characters of Elysium
  • The Art of the Elysium Miniatures 
  • Bugatti 2154 
  • Theatrical Trailer 1 
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 
  • International Trailer
  • Visions of 2154 Interactive Gallery 
  • Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 1 – Envisioning Elysium ()
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 2 – Capturing Elysium 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 3 – Enhancing Elysium 
  • Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium 
  • The Technology of 2154 
  • In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium 
  • Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky 

4K ULTRA HD/Blu-ray Review: “Big Fish’

  • BIG FISH
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Curdup
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 5 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

There is simply no film like a Tim Burton film! This visually arresting film also has a great story.

. Ewan McGregor is one of those actors that is interesting in anything he’s in. Here he plays a protagonist in a make-believe world. Or is it make-believe? As I watched this, I was reminded of the character of Forrest Gump, a man having adventures in everything he was involved in. 


The story involves Willll Bloom (Billy Crudup), who seems to harbor animosity against his father, Edward (Albert Finney). Will feels that he really doesn’t know his dad, who is noted for telling great stories which seem too far fetched for reality. As Edward tells one story after another, we flashback to his younger self (played by Ewan McGregor) who seems to have adventures that put him at an advantage to his peers.

Edward longs for Sandra, whom he instantly falls in love with despite her already being engaged. Edward soon finds himself joining the circus, simply because Sandra is also part of the same circus. As Edward tries to woo Sandra for her hand in marriage, he must meet conditions that he can only ask Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito) for, learning one thing about Sandra each month. This is to ensure that he knows all about her in his pursuit. This lasts for three years until it is revealed that Amos is secretly a werewolf (I’ll stop here so I will not ruin the film for the viewer).

This is just one example of how the story weaves and the viewer is treated to breathtaking locales and a very interesting plot.

Visually, as usual, Tim Burton is quite amazing. The man shows extreme creativity and his films hold up very well for repeat viewing. There is much to see in “Big Fish,” and you will do this film an injustice by renting it for one viewing. It has to be bought, taken home and enjoyed over and over.

“Big Fish” is a perfect blend of heartfelt sentimentality and visual splendor. In lesser hands, “Big Fish” would’ve gone off the rails as another goofy drama. In the hands of Burton, with John August’s script and with McGregor as the protagonist, it is the perfect blend of storytelling and fantasy. This film has some very colorful characters but that’s Burton’s recipe for a great film. 


The film is now on HDR 4K Blu Ray, with an impressive transfer by Sony. The film is nearly 20 years old but it holds up well with an HDR10 transfer that doesn’t disappoint. The audio is beautiful with a Dolby Atmos track that definitely increases atmosphere in a film that’s already captivating. “Big Fish” is a big winner that is surely presented with that Tim Burton signature that fans have come to expect and love. It’s a masterpiece!

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Speed”

  • SPEED
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper
  • Directed by: Jan de Bont
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”

That’s pretty much the story in this intense action film that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat! After seeing this, you’ll never look at buses the same (much less ride one). LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) was just doing his job when he and his partner (Jeff Daniels) rescued an elevator full of hostages from a mad bomber (Dennis Hopper). They were true heroes of the hour but when the bomber sets another trap on a commuter bus – if the speed of the bus in question drops below 50 MPH it will explode – it’s game on. The bomber demands millions of dollars in ransom. Now Jack must find a way to get on board the bus, rescue the hostages and stop the maniac bomber once and for all.

The story is a combination of thrills that, when added up,equals nerve-wrecking tension. The bus cannot stop whatsoever and there are times when you think “okay how in the world are they going to survive this?” Former cinematographer Jan de Bont’s (“Cujo,” “Ruthless People”) directorial debut comes through a true winner.

For action fans, there’s plenty of it here. Narrative moves at a suspenseful pace where the speedometer on the bus is a factor. I had the privilege of watching Speed on a 4K Blu Ray copy and for a 1994 film, it shines with a great picture and sound, even though the disc does not have a Dolby Atmos track. Still, this film is a great time.

EXTRAS

Disc One (4K)

  •  Audio Commentary by Jan de bont
  •  Audio Commentary – by screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  •  Action Sequences 
  •  Inside Speed
  •  Extended Scenes 
  •  Music Video – “Speed” by Billy Idol.

4K/Blu-ray Review: “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”

  • KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
  • Starring the voices of:  Aaron Paul, Lena Heady and Sean Bean
  • Directed by:  Takeshi Nozue
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
  • SONY Pictures

I’m not much of a fan of films derived from video games, however I do appreciate “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” for its stunning digital art.

Shot in full motion-capture CGI, the film is a visual work of art with some fun voice acting. However, if you’re not familiar with the game or story, you may find it a bit overwhelming. I was not at all familiar with “Final Fantasy” but it was still cool to look at and marvel at its artistry.

Watching on a 4K UHD disc certainly makes the presentation even more amazing and the sound quality is pretty amazing. The beauty of the film is that when you first glance at the characters, they look amazingly real! The full motion capture is astounding.

As for the plot, to break it down lightly, the story takes place on a planet called EOS, which is like a futuristic Earth. There is a Kingdom called Lucis, which houses a magical crystal that was given to the Lucians by gods. The power is used to protect the people and give power to the ruling king and his soldiers, who are known as the Kingsglaive.  With these powers, the Kingsglaive can ward off enemies.

Anything that is magical and promises powers will surely arouse jealousy and create wars and the crystal is no exception. Friends are stabbed in the back, characters are not whom they say they are and mega monsters, demons and spaceships riddle the landscape.  Everything climaxes into one big, epic final battle, which leads up to “Final Fantasy XV,” the video game.  

Once again, the visuals are quite stunning. In fact, this film has some of the best motion capture and CGI work I’ve seen on the big screen with room shaking LFE activity that’ll give the subwoofers a workout. The level of detail is staggering. Hair stubble and skin pores are clearly visible and come to breathtaking life!

Even for the novice, a viewing of “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” will give you a glimpse of the technical achievements of current film technology. It is certainly the next step in motion capture animation.

Special Features

  • A Way With Words – Epic And Intimate Vocals
  • To Capture The Kingsglaive – The Process
  • Fit For A Kingsglaive – Building The World
  • Emotive Music – Scoring The Kingsglaive

Blu-ray Review: “Honest Thief”

  • HONEST THIEF
  • Starring: Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh
  • Directed by: Mark Williams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
  • Universal Home Video

The film opens with Carter (Neeson) pulling off a final heist, in which he is very meticulous in his methods. In fact, he’s been nicknamed “the In & Out Bandit”. Carter then ventures into a storage facility to store personal items and “some of the funds”. He’s wise not to put the money all in one place. But here’s when our protagonist or antagonist, depending on where in the film you’re referring to him, makes his complete 180 degree turn. At the storage facility, Carter meets a woman and falls in love. So now he no longer wants to rob banks and wishes to give back the money and turn himself in. Hence he is now earned his title character, “Honest Thief”.

The film is directed by Mark Williams, who has worked on the television series “Ozark” (which I haven’t seen) and “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck (on both of those projects Williams also served as a producer). Set in Boston, the movie also stars Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick.

In this film Liam Neeson is not the good guy we’re used to seeing. This isn’t Taken nor The Commuter. He’s a bad guy that wants to do good. So Carter informs the FBI of his crimes and they don’t believe him. Who robs banks and now wishes to turn ithemselves in? Someone who has met the right woman. And as one character put it, “that’s got to be some woman.” Carter’s girlfriend is portrayed by Kate Walsh, who is caught up in the chase towards the 9 million dollars that Carter wants to turn in.

The film has some great action scenes including a house explosion that I loved! Carter is also a demolition expert, something he learned in the Armed Forces, which is how he blows the bank vault. Narrative in the film moves at a brisk pace. When Carter is on the run, he gets into some scuffles where I wanted to see the fighting skills Neeson is famous for in other films, but this isn’t “Taken.” He just knows how to blow up things. The baddies in the FBI are atypical. One has a heart change and the other is bent on getting that $9 million. Robert Patrick makes an appearance as an FBI supervisor (you will definitely remember him from Terminator 2 as the villainous T-1000).

I watched the film on Blu Ray where the sound and picture were crisp and clean. “Honest Thief,” to me, was a slight let down at first because my expectations were too high. I was looking for “Taken” or even “The Communter” but that’s okay. It just shows that Neeson is more than one dimensional. He has an amazing range and can play various roles.

There are no extras included in this set.

FILMOLOGY – “Frozen” (2010)

  • FROZEN (2010)
  • Starring: Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore
  • Directed by: Adam Green
  • Anchor Bay Pictures



Certainly not to be confused with Disney’s animated musical, this is easily one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen and guaranteed to stay with you FOR-EVER!

A must see for all horror fans, a weekend ski party at a lodge goes terribly wrong. Look for Kane Hodder, better known as Jason Voorhees, in a cameo, My favorite horror movies are the ones that feel real and that possibly could happen, no matter how unlikely. This movie is raw, nerve-wracking and one of the most gut wrenching films I’ve ever seen!

FILMOLOGY – “Taxi Driver”

  • TAXI DRIVER
  • Starring: Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Martin Scorsese
  • Columbia Pictures

 
You’ll find one helluva cab ride here!

Scorsese’s mesmerizing film is so low-key it might put you to sleep. Not because of boredom though – it’s combination of a soothing jazz score (the final one by the great Bernard Hermann, who died 24 hours after delivering the score to Scorsese) and DeNiro’s narration will definitely relax you.

Travis Bickle has a deep concern. He feels the need to be a hero in a society that’s gone wrong. In fact, he’s just an extraordinary person in normal circumstances.

“You talkin’ to me??”