Blu-ray Review “The Great Gatsby”

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher
Directors: Baz Luhrmann
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Run Time: 142 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When I read that Baz Luhrmann was making an adaption of “The Great Gatsby” I had to do a double take. This is the same guy who made the strikenly visual and over-the-top films like “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!”.  I couldn’t wait to see what he will do with his retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel.  I have to admit, I was very impressed.  The film does scream Baz Luhrmann, which for me is a good thing. Everyone on this film including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton look like they are having such a blast with this film and deliver a great ensemble. “The Great Gatsby” is a fun, visual trip with great music and equally impressive performances from the film’s cast.

Official Premise: The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Warner Bros delivered this release as combo pack including a Blu-ray + DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy. The film’s 1080p transfer really works well with the films from very dazzling visual effects and Baz’s vision for this period.  The colors stand out and the details are very sharp. The film was originally released in 3D and I have heard that that presentation is the preferred way to view this but the 2D version is still fun, though you can see very clearly where the extra dimension would have stood out.  Since music is a big part of this film, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers as well. Craig Armstrong’s score is amazing and blends well with the film’s different yet very effective hip hop soundtrack.

The special features are good like the film but I would have loved to see a commentary track, especially with all this great talent included. “The Greatness of Gatsby” features director Baz Luhrmann and cast discussing bringing Fitzgerald novel to the big screen during pre-production. “Within and Without” features Tobey Maguire with his take on the production. Gatsby Revealed” goes in-depth of five key scenes from the film including “Gatsby’s Party,” “Disconcerting Ride,” “Daisy and Gatsby Meet,” “The Plaza” and “Pool Scene”.

“The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby” is a great extra featuring Jay-Z, Beyonce, Fergie,, Lana del Rey, Bryan Ferry, Florence + the Machine, Andre 3000, The XX, Sia, Gotye and others talking about the soundtrack. “The Jazz Age” touches on the other side of the music in the film with the Jazz angle from the ’20s. “Razzle Dazzle” looks into the costume design. “Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry” talk about the visual aspect of the film. There are three deleted scenes and an alternate ending with Luhrmann intros. Lastly there is a vintage “1926 Trailer – The Great Gatsby”, silent film trailer.

The Great Gatsby is available on Blu-Ray 8/27/2013 at the WB Shop

Blu-ray Review “Great White Shark – A Living Legend”

Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Run Time: 50 minutes

Special: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Anything related to shark, count me in.  With Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” right around the corner, “Great White Shark – A Living Legend” arrives at the perfect time. This episode was originally filmed for “Natural World” on BBC. If you can’t get that from the cover art we get to go up close and personal one of our most feared predators in our oceans. I mean who doesn’t love shark.  I am absolutely fascinated and eat up anything I can get on these amazing creatures. My main concern is that this only runs 50-minutes but it is entertaining and there is a bit of knowledge shared here but nothing out of this world.  If would recommend this for hardcore shark fan. Come on in the water!

Official Premise: Get up close and personal with one of the most vicious predators of our oceans, the Great White Shark! We think of great whites as fearsome aquatic killers, but do we know them as well as we think? In this presentation from BBC’s acclaimed Natural History Unit, Mike Rutzen, the world’s foremost great white shark diver, follows great whites as they feed, at proximity never before achieved. Mike’s unique ability to communicate with them using his body language allows him to swim amongst them unscathed. Mike explores why occasionally attack people. He also challenges the view that their feeding is unstructured and frenzied, to prove instead that they obey the subtle rules of a complex form of social hierarchy.

Even though it is short, BBC still delivered a very nice Blu-ray presentation for “Great White Shark: A Living Legend”. The episode looks amazing with its 1080p high definition in 1.78.1 widescreen.  The colors are sharp and the detail is very impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also quite great. Since there is no action in this film, the score and music still delivers  a great surround experience and takes advantage of this track. In the special features department, there is only one extras included, called “Smart Sharks: Swimming With Roboshark”. This 50-minute documentary is narrated by David Attenborough and looks into the life sized mechanical shark designed by Andrew Sneath. This as a good companion to “Great White Shark – A Living Legend”.

World Champion Magician, Lance Burton talks about his work on “Oz The Great and Powerful”

Lance Burton is one of the greatest stage Magicians of the past century. He has starred in numerous TV specials including “Lance Burton Magic Magician: The Legend Begins”, which aired in 1996 on NBC. His show “Lance Burton Master Magician” opened at the brand new Monte Carlo Hotel in the Lance Burton Theatre also in ’96. He has also performed over 15,000 shows throughout his 30-year career in Las Vegas. Today Lance Burton is happily retired and is currently working on a number of documentary and narrative film projects. Lance was also Magic Advisor on Disney’s “Oz The Great and Powerful” and taught magic to James Franco on the film. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lance about his role on the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how did you get involved with the production “Oz the Great and Powerful”?
Lance Burton: I got a call from Grant Curtis, one of the producers on “Oz”, a few years ago and he explained that they were doing. He told me about this character, which was a stage magician and they were looking for someone to help with the magic. So I asked for the script to see what they were talking about. I read it and I just fell in love with the project. I thought it was just fantastic. I flew out to Michigan where they had the operation setup and I met with Grant and Sam Raimi. Sam explain his concept of the film to me and introduced me to all the people involved with the film. From there we just went to work.

MG: How was it working with James Franco and teaching him some tricks?
LB: I met with James for a day or so and worked with him on a couple of slide of hand tricks, a couple of months out and I gave him some homework to do. Then we all moved out to Michigan. The good thing was that we had about two weeks before filming started to practice every day. So we had a regular rehearsal schedule to work on the magic that was going to be throughout the film. So since we had a couple of weeks before filming started, that became very valuable time. James didn’t have any prior education with magic but he is a fantastic actor and that is about 90% of the battle. Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, has said that his classic definition of a magician is “an actor playing the part of a magician”. Sam wanted the magic to be authentic and he wanted James to play the role as a magician. Sam wanted to me to work with him on the way that he carries himself, as well as the magic. The flare of a magician, both on-stage and off-stage. So I worked with him on little flourishes that he can incorporate into different scenes. When I was on-set, I was able to chime in and throw out ideas during shoot, which was great.

MG: For you being the one always having performed the magic; how was it being on the other side of it?
LB: It is a completely different type of satisfaction. When you go out and do a show, whether it is live or a TV show, you do a good job and you feel good. In this case, I wasn’t the one performing it. But again when I saw the finished product, I felt very proud. I felt lucky to be able to contribute to this sure-to-be instant classic, “Oz The Great and Powerful”. It is almost like a pride that a parent feels about a child.

MG: How long would you say you worked on the film?
LB: We had a fun time. It was two weeks in preparation and then I was on the set for about a month during filming. I was there for the scenes in Kansas and then a little bit of when they get to Oz.

MG: What was your most memorable experience from your work on the film?
LB: I will tell you one thing to look for in the film, which was one of my most proudest moments. I had been teaching James how to twirl a cane between his fingers like a baton. I was thinking that this would be something usable that we can work into the film. The first time that he goes into Emerald City, goes into the throne room and sits on the throne, he picks up this scepter. In the script, it says Evanora is sitting there and is enraged. I thought “Ah, what if he twirled that scepter between his fingers?” I thought it would be very disrespectful and could help help get her enraged. So I went to the prop department to see the scepter. I asked them if there was anyway to make it a little longer and they said “Sure”. I talked it over with James and Sam and everyone seemed to like the idea. I wasn’t on the set when they filmed that scene but when I saw the film in theaters. I was very excited to see that twirl in the film.

MG: After this experience, do you see yourself taking on this role again?
LB: It was a very satisfying experience and it was very interesting work. “Oz” was such a huge hit. My prediction is that there is going to be a whole franchise.  So who knows what the future holds.


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Blu-ray Review “Oz The Great and Powerful”

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Spencer, Joey King
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 130 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

After the success of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”, we knew that more films like this weren’t far behind. When I heard Sam Raimi was directing this I also was a little hesitant since I wasn’t thrilled at all with what he did with the “Spider-Man” franchise, especially with all that money. But once I saw the first posters and trailers, I was really drawn in. I felt like they might have actually gotten it right. Well let’s say that I enjoyed the film…wasn’t in love with it but there were parts that I liked. The film is a visual thing of beauty but really falls into the category of looking too fake. When you watch “Avatar” you believe that they are really there but this felt like a giant green screen shoot. You are still able to enjoy the film and it’s many references back to the original “The Wizard of Oz” story, but it just didn’t pack any magic to my viewing. I am on board for the inevitable sequel just hope they make some needed changes.

One of the main things, I had a problem with was the believability of these actors in there respective roles. James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz have all either won or been nominated for Oscars and numerous other awards. Sorry Mila Kunis, “Family Guy” is only a TV show. So I found it a little hard to watch these “great” actors in these less than great roles. Also speaking of Mila Kunis, she doesn’t really have a good angry voice. So when she screamed it just felt like Meg from “Family Guy” screaming at Peter, not very effective. So I was never able to really get behind their roles, I thought it was quite miscast for sure.

Official Premise: Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

Obviously, this film was meant to be seen in 3D, read out review of the 3D Blu-ray here. Disney decided to split this film releases and decided not to include a 3D Blu-ray in this combo pack.  I have to say the film still works (sort of) without being in 3D but missing that pop for me that drew me into the world that they created. The 1080p transfer still is quite impressive and like on the 3D Blu-ray, the colors are extremely vibrant, especially with the switch from black and white to color after the opening 20 minutes. I enjoyed this much more in the 3D version of the film since it packed that extra depth. Disney delivered a very sharp DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and the sound is quite amazing from the twister swinging through Kansas to the flying monkeys flying past your head. I have to also give props to Danny Elfman’s amazing score as well!

This Blu-ray release includes a two-disc set with a Blu-ray and a DVD disc.  There is also a digital copy that you can now redeem with Disney Movie Rewards and will be able to view the film online via your tablets, smartphones, TV etc. This release is also the only way to get special features for this film.  They start off with “The Magic of Oz the Great and Powerful: Second Screen Experience”, which is a great way to get immersived in the world of Oz by using the app on your iPads. “The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz” showcases everyone from Munchkins to flying baboons. “The Sounds of Magical Oz” looks into the film’s sound design. “Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater” looks into Zach Braff voice over work. There is also a music video from Mariah Carey’s “Almost Home”.

“China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief” looks into the life behind China Girl and how went from paper to the screen. “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz” takes a stroll into the visual effects world with Production designer Robert Stromberg. “Mila’s Metamorphosis” looks into how the actress was transformed into her green self with lead makeup artist Howard Berger. “Walt Disney and the Road to Oz” looks into Walt Disney fascination with the Land of Oz and the classic Baum books. “Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions” is an interview with composer Danny Elfman. “My Journey in Oz by James Franco” is a feature with Franco discussing this role and his inside story. Lastly there are Bloopers included.

3D Blu-ray “Oz The Great and Powerful 3D”

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Spencer, Joey King
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 130 minutes

3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A
Overall Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: This review is focusing solely on the 3D release and not on the film itself. If you are looking for more of film review, check out our review for the 2D Blu-ray combo pack here. When I think about “Oz The Great and Powerful”, I think of a really beautiful and visual 3D experience. Disney decided to stray from their usual 5-disc massive Blu-ray combo packs and release the 3D Blu-ray for this film individual from the rest. That means that if you purchase this Blu-ray, you will be no standard 2D Blu-ray or DVD of the film, like usual. That is ok for me since if I am going to watch this film it really would need to be in 3D anyway but I think that this is a really poor choice that Disney has made. To make matters worse, they are then giving you the option to “upgrade” and purchase a 2D Blu-ray for $5.99. Also this 3D Blu-ray isn’t even any cheaper than the 2D Blu-ray combo pack. According to Amazon, they are the exactly the same price.

Now that all of that is out of the way. The film looks absolutely stunning on this 3D Blu-ray. The 3D is some of the best that I have seen recently and literally jumps off the screen. The colors are extremely vibrant and beautiful, especially with the switch from black and white to color after the opening 20 minutes. I think that this move really benefited the film since you are watching it on a 4:3 scale and then it is blown up to 2.40:1 and turned into glorious HD color. As much as I loved the audio track just as much.  Disney delivered a very sharp DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Near Field Audio Mix track! The sound is quite amazing from the twister swinging through Kansas to the flying monkeys flying past your head. My only issue is that the Blu-ray defaults a really basic Dolby Surround 2.0 track, which is mind boggling.  What is going on here? Why not the best track on the Blu-ray?

Official Premise: Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

I should also point out that even though this 3D Blu-ray release doesn’t come with the 2D Blu-ray or DVD, it does at least come with a digital copy.  Finally Disney woke up and smelled the roses with their digital copy releases and joined the rest of the world with cloud streaming. Plus now they don’t have to produce the extra digital copy DVD for each release. So they are not joining board with Ultraviolet service but you can now redeem with Disney Movie Rewards and will be able to view the film online via your tablets, smartphones, TV etc. So at least that is a plus and I hope that then plan on doing that going forward for the rest of their new releases. Lastly to continue to add salt to the wound, there are no special features on this release.  So if you want those you would either need to purchase the 2D Blu-ray combo pack or upgrade to the 2D Blu-ray.  Let’s hope that this is the last release that Disney decided to do this to.


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  • Film Review “The Great Gatsby”

    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan
    Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
    Rated: PG 13
    Running time: 2 hours 23 mins
    Warner Brothers

    Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

    When I was in middle/high school (mid 1970s – yes, I’m old) there were several books we were required to read, among them “The Old Man and The Sea,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Great Gatsby.” Though they had all been made into films, because there was no home video I actually had to read them in order to write a report. Not sure if it’s still required reading but a new version of “The Great Gatsby” has hit the multiplex.

    1929. We meet Mr. Nick Carraway, currently under the care of a local sanitarium. His diagnosis: Morbidly Alcoholic. While speaking with his doctor Nick begins talking of the most influential person he’s ever known. A man he refers to as Gatsby. Gatsby?

    Dazzlingly eye-popping, “The Great Gatsby” is everything you’d expect from the director of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge.” Beautiful people in glamorous settings with an eclectic selection of music that runs the gamut of classical to Jay-Z, all presented in numerous jump-cuts and, this time around, in 3D. Allow me to explain further, old sport.

    Getting into the bond market as the country goes Dow-Jones crazy, Nick (Maguire) finds residence in the abandoned guest house next to an incredible mansion. Nick learns that his neighbor is a mysterious man named Gatsby (DiCaprio). Gatsby? (sorry. For some reason every time someone mentions Gatsby’s name for the first time someone else has to say in questioningly, which to me sounds like a perfect condition for a drinking game). Across the water is the even more opulent Buchanan estate, where Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Mulligan), now resides having married the devilishly handsome Tom (Joel Edgerton). At lunch they all gossip about Gatsby. Among the rumors: he’s a prince…a German spy…he’s killed someone. What isn’t discussed is that, five years ago, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy after a chance meeting, though he knew he could never marry her due to his financial circumstances. Now rich, and learning from Nick that he and Daisy are related, Gatsby invites the both of them to his home, which is normally filled each weekend with hundreds of people partying the night away. Add to this a background of cheating spouses, inebriation and jealousy and you’ve got yourself one heck of a ride.

    The glamour on screen is matched by strong performances from the main cast. DiCaprio is sly and devious, spending most of his time on screen planting the seeds of a story he’s desperate to have known and shared. Maguire is fine as Nick. He spends some of his time narrating the film as the words of Fitzgerald are recited to us by Nick. They also appear on-screen, utilizing the 3D process that sadly doesn’t deliver what being in the hands of Baz Lurhmann promises. There is one brilliant scene here, one which features an elaborate fireworks display over the water cut to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” This one scene hints at the movie that could have been. Maybe it’s the source material or the early 20th Century setting. Either way, a lot of the magic is merely eye candy to a story that often plays like an overproduced episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” If it’s glamour you want you’ve come to the right place. If it’s story, stick to the book.

    Blu-ray Review “BBC Earth: Great Barrier Reef”

    Directors: James Brickwell & Richard Fitzpatrick
    Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
    DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013
    Running Time: 185 minutes

    Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Extras: N/A

    With Earth Day right around the corner, this is the time of the year when I can’t get enough nature documentaries. BBC Earth always puts out the best of the bunch. “Great Barrier Reef” is no different. Also who doesn’t love exploring the ocean. This is something that I have always been fascinated with this topic. What I also love about this film is the length of it. I say when it comes to nature documentaries the longer the better. This one runs over three hours, which is amazing!! The longer the better! Looking for a way to celebrate and support Earth Day? Get ready to into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and look no further?

    Official Premise: Stretching a full 2000 kilometers in length and made up of 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of islands, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is breathtakingly beautiful. Selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981, it is one of the wonders of the natural world. These programs offer a definitive guide to the secrets of the reef — how it was created, how it works, the intricate relationships between its inhabitants and how climate change and other factors might shape its future. Using the latest specialist filming and visual techniques, the series captures the magic of the reef as it has never been seen before.

    BBC Home Entertainment delivers a very impressive Blu-ray here but I am surprised that it is Blu-ray only, unlike the other recent release “One Life”. I would have like this to come in a combo pack with a DVD and Ultraviolet digital copy as well. The 1080p/16:9 transfer looks stunning, like I knew it would. You literally are transported into the reef and get to experience this wonders first hand. The audio track, DTS HD Stereo, is good but not overly impressive. It doesn’t disappoint either, so don’t worry. Also unlike “One Life”, this release does not come with any special features. But don’t forget it is also double the length of “One Life”, so you have to weight that factor as well. I would have loved to see a commentary track or some great behind-the-scenes though to be honest.

    Book Review "The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful"

    Author: Grant Curtis
    Paperback: 256 pages
    Publisher: Disney Editions
    Release Date: March 5, 2013

    Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

    When you watch “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, you literally drool at what a visual marvel this film is.  There is no denying why this film cost over $200 million dollars. So once watching it I knew that Disney would have to make an equally amazing “art of” book like they have so well done with their releases in the past. “The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful” though is a bit underwhelming. The first thing that I thought when I opened it is that is plays out more like a visual companion or “making of” book than it does an “art of” book. In terms of visual, it is quite impressive but in terms of art it falls a bit short overall.

    This release is also a recent first for Disney to publish in paperback only.  The book though runs much cheaper at around $15 dollars but I still would prefer to pay a bit more and get a nice hardcover.  When I think of “Art of” book, I think of a high quality hardcover collectible. After a wonderful film like “Oz” was, I  feel like it really deserved a hardcover binding a little more more TLC, just sayin’. In terms of content though this book is in the right hands.  It is written by Grant Curtis, who is also the film’s executive producer and has worked with Raimi before on numerous other projects. He also authored “The Spider-Man Chronicles”, which was a very sharp book as well (despite how bad “Spider-Man 3” was).  I feel that he does a good job here with delivered interesting content and images but the book suffers from a general lack of love.

    “The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful” focuses mostly on the production of the film and features some never-before-seen film stills, a little bit of concept art, all tied up with some nice interviews with the cast and crew. The artwork included was very environmental including the sets and locations.  Since the film is basically all CGI, I would have expected to be a very large plethora of art created by Disney’s talented artists in order to bring their visions to life.  I am sure there was but it is not represented here to the extent that I was hoping for. If you are looking for a look more into the filming process, then this might be the ticket to explore the wonderful land of Oz. I just felt like it was missing a bit of the magic that the film was filled with.

    Ryan Johnson talks about tagging Great White Sharks and his work with Ocearch

    Ryan Johnson grew up in the island nation of New Zealand and has always been drawn to the sea. Having dreamed being a marine biologist, he moved to Southern Africa in 1998, where he began to work with the ocean’s greatest predator—the great white shark. Ryan joined up with the research group Ocearch as their Chief Scientist and was involved with the television series “Shark Wrangers” last year on History. Ryan took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about working with sharks and the importance of tagging them.

    Mike Gencarelli: How long have you been working with sharks? What was your draw?
    Ryan Johnson: I have been working with sharks since 1998, when I started my M.Sc thesis looking at the impact of white shark cage diving on the behaviour of white sharks, and marine ecology, in the Gansbaai area. My draw was adventure, passion and the chance to learn about an incredibly charismatic animal in my chosen field as a marine biologist.

    MG: What drew you to join the Ocearch as Chief Scientist in 2012?
    RJ: Ocearch NGO approached me a couple of years prior to them arriving in South Africa. Chris Fischer then suggested his ideas and the research potential that his organization could offer the South Africa scientific community. Being a shark biologist from South Africa, I am mandated to produce knowledge to enable the informed management and conservation of sharks in our region. The most powerful tool currently available to produce this data is satellite telemetry work that enables the description of home ranges, critical habitats, and migratory patterns. This knowledge is essential to empower managers and conservationists to guide their action in an effective manner. As a developing country South Africa does not frequently have sufficient resources to dedicate the required logistics and finances to research that will answer these crucial questions. Ocearch producing these resources for the South African shark academic community to use and fulfill our research mandate was what attracted to the opportunity. In addition, on review, the practical skills of the Ocearch team made them a perfect partner to conduct this research with.

    MG: Tell us about Ocearch is planning for Expedition Jacksonville?
    RJ: The Ocearch model is to work with local scientists that will carry on the work once the mother vessel and Ocearch has left. As such, I am not involved with the Jacksonville Expedition, nor am I privy to the planning. My focus is to have the data from the South African expedition processed and published.

    MG: How many sharks have been tagged by the Ocearch?
    RJ: During the South African Expedition, a total of 47 sharks were tagged with various combinations of transmitters consisting of one/some or all of (a) SPOT satellite tags, (b) acoustic transmitters and (c) PAT satellite tags. This included six ragged tooth sharks in addition to the white sharks. Over the years I am unsure of how many sharks in total Ocearch have tagged.

    MG: Tell us about why is it important to tag sharks?
    RJ: Tracking the movements of sharks enable scientists to identify critical habitats, the home range, migratory pathways, reproduction related movements. With this knowledge you can guide management and conservation plans, essentially you empower people to design plans that will enable the effective conservation of the population. For instance, the Oceach program illustrated a that the population range of white shark stock of South Africa extends extensively into the exclusive economic zone of Mozambique. As white sharks are not protected in Mozambique, our national conservation plan is ineffective in its objective to conserve the population. The knowledge produced provides concrete evidence for South Africa’s legislators to take to Mozambique and use as leverage to ensure that Mozambique’s management of white sharks does not compromise our shared resource.

    MG: What have your learned so far from the data collected?
    RJ: That white sharks residing in South Africa spend a large percentage of time outside of out EEZ and in waters where they can legally be fished. Thus giving a possible explanation as to why there has been no population level recovery despite 22 years of national protection.

    MG: Any close calls with the sharks while performing the internal tagging surgery?
    RJ: My only concern is to perform the surgery as quickly and professionally as possible and thereby minimize the stress on the shark. Naturally when sharks have become active on the platform during surgery you can get hit and knocked hard. But following this I need to get back to the surgery, regain my composure and complete it successfully. Afterwards you feel and rub the knocks.

    MG: Have you had the opportunity to name any of the sharks?
    RJ: I named one shark ‘Princess Fi’ after my wife Fiona Ayerst a well known shark conservationists and underwater photographer. After coming up with such a silly name, I was not given too many more chances.

    MG: Can you tell us a little bit about Ocearch Global Shark Tracker – Powered by CAT?
    RJ: The Ocearch Global Tracker is one of the most revolutionary communication tools ever used by the scientific community to include and inform the wider public about a research project and the results of the research. Essentially it gives everyone instant access to the movements of the sharks tagged and enables them to mine the data to gain a personal knowledge on the behaviour of great white sharks around the world. This level of communication and inclusion is a massive education tool for the public to see past the white shark as a one dimensional man eater.

    MG: Can we expect more episodes of “Shark Wrangers” on History this year?
    RJ: I am not sure, Chris Fischer negotiates the television deals and would be best to field this question.

    MG: How is was it blending the reality aspect of the show with your work?
    RJ: I had a lot of respect for the filming and production crew in how they handled the filming. Sure there were elements of sensationalism and building up tension amongst the crew and scientists, however, when it came to the operation with the shark, the production took a total ‘fly on the wall’ approach and did not interfere at all.

    MG: What are you doing when you are not playing with sharks?
    RJ: I am following my second passion of producing and filming wildlife documentaries. It gets me outside and into wild places, and that is where I love to be.

    Film Review "Oz: The Great and Powerful"

    Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams
    Directed by: Sam Raimi
    Rated: PG
    Running time: 2 hrs 10 mins

    Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    It’s one of the most beloved films of all time. When I was a young boy I would see this film on television each year and always know that Easter was close. The film, of course, is the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” And while there have been many different “Oz” stories in many different Medias (books, film, stage) it’s taken almost 75 years for a prequel to come along. May I present “Oz: the Great and Powerful.”

    Kansas. 1905. We’re visiting a traveling circus and have been invited to see the midway show featuring a magician that calls himself “Oz.” Thanks to simple naiveté (and a seemingly endless supply of music boxes), Oz keeps finding new assistants for his act in every town. However, a jealous boyfriend chases him around the grounds into an empty hot air balloon. Just when he seems to have gotten away cleanly Oz and his balloon are sucked into the middle of a tornado and whisked away to a place both magical and frightening. Oz.

    Visually spectacular, “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is a beautifully created film that really takes advantage of both super-sized screens and 3-D. The film is filled with much homage to the original, including the fact that Oz works at the Baum Brothers Circus and that, after beginning in black and white, the film erupts into beautiful, cheerful color. In fact Oz’s first few moments in Oz is a perfect example of technology and creativity working together in harmony.

    As the story takes place before the plot of the 1939 film, there is no Dorothy or Toto. Instead we are introduced to a group of witches. Theadora (Kunis) is young and beautiful. She tells Oz that he is the Wizard that has been prophesized to come to Oz and end the tyranny of the Wicked Witch of the West. Glenda (Williams) is an even more beautiful witch. Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is the third witch and also the overseer of all that the Wizard will inherit. But, as in all good stories, things are not always as they seem. All three actresses are strong in the performances. Fine work is also turned in by Zach Braff, who plays both Oz’s valet in Kansas as well as voices Finley, the flying monkey that Oz saves early in his arrival and who swears his loyalty to him. Fine supporting work as well from Tony Cox and Bill Cobbs. If there is a weak link in the chain it’s Franco. He seems to be unsure on how to project sarcasm or how to be “tongue in cheek.” Instead he ladles on the smarm. I can see why both Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp were director Raimi’s first choices for the role.

    Still, the film has enough imagination to make even the most hard core “Oz” fan happy they returned to the Yellow Brick Road.

    Blu-ray Review “The Great Mouse Detective: Mystery in the Mist Edition”

    Actors: Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Basil Rathbone, Val Bettin, Susanne Pollatschek
    Directors: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, John Musker
    Rated: G (General Audience)
    Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
    Release Date: October 9, 2012
    Run Time: 74 minutes

    Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

    “The Great Mouse Detective” is one of Disney under-appreciated animated titles. It was originally released theatrically in 198 and is a play on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and is based on Eve Titus’s book “Basil of Baker Street”. I have always been a fan of this film since I was a kid but it never really got the respect it deserves. This film packs some great voice talent as well, I mean Vincent Price playing the villain. Can you ask for anything better? Like all Disney releases, this release comes in a combo pack with a Blu-ray and DVD discs of the film. This is a must for Disney fans to add to their collections!

    Official Premise: When the diabolical Professor Ratigan – voiced by the late Vincent Price – kidnaps London’s master toymaker, the brilliant Basil of Baker Street and his trusted sidekick Dawson – voiced by Barrie Ingham and Val Bettin respectively – try to elude the ultimate trap and foil the perfect crime. This family classic on Disney Blu-ray proves big heroes come in small packages.

    The film looks stunning on Blu-ray.  Disney has been releasing a bunch of archive titles and this one is among the best. It’s 1080p transfer looks fantastic and is framed at 1.78:1.  The colors are very sharp and I love seeing the drawing lines on the characters.  I really watched this film on Disney Junior and let me tell you, it looks like VHS compared to this amazing HD upgrade.  The audio on this release included an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.  It delivers for the most part like past Disney archive releases and works wel with the songs.

    The special features are really nothing special.  “So You Think You Can Sleuth?” is a short 5 minute look into the history of the detective. “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” includes sing-along lyrics to sing along with Vincent Price. Lastly there is “The Making of The Great Mouse Detective” is another short behind the scenes look into the film’s production and how it used computers to assist in the animation.

    Blu-ray Review “Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender”

    Actors: Freddie Mercury
    Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
    Release Date: September 25, 2012
    Run Time: 107 minutes

    Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

    Freddie Mercury is one of those musicians that had such an amazing personality and yet also  had this very different side to him besides his persona in Queen.  “Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender” is a rare documentary that really does deep into this career and gets you to know the real Freddie Mercury.  The film is packed with amazing archival interview footage. His interviews are slightly awkward but that just adds to the mystery behind his character.  If you are Queen fan, you don’t need me to tell you how you need to see this. This is highly recommended.

    Official Premise: Created by the same team behind last year’s widely acclaimed “Queen: Days of Our Lives” BBC documentary, “The Great Pretender” in similar vein presents a compelling insight into its subject matter, unearthing previously undiscovered or rarely seen footage and presented for the first time in High Definition. Produced and directed by Rhys Thomas, the programme uses extensive archive footage to reveal more than ever before the inside story of Freddie’s life and career and the solo projects he worked on outside of Queen, including rare interviews with Freddie, concerts, video shoots and personal material, much of it being seen for the first time, along with newly filmed contributions from fellow Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, Queen manager Jim Beach, soprano Montserrat Caballé, composers David Arnold and Mike Moran, lyricist Tim Rice, comedian and lifelong fan Matt Lucas and many more.

    Eagle Rock Entertainment is the company behind this release and behind most great music  releases.  The video quality only is presented with its 1080i transfer, like most Eagle Rock releases.  There are mixed aspect ratios ranging from 1.78:1 and 1.33:1 for the interview  and concert footage. So don’t expect full HD for the archival footage. The audio track included a solid LPCM 2.0 track, which works well with the music and dialogue. The special features included are also decent.  “Freddie Mercury Goes Solo” is from a April 1985 interview discussing first solo album.  There is an extended interview with Montserrat Caballé, with subtitles, about her work with Mercury.  Lastly there is “Making Barcelona: Special Edition 2012” showcases Stuart Morley as he tries to re-created the original album.


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    DVD Review “12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue”

    Directed by: Kieth Merrill
    Actors: Danielle Chuchran, D.B. Sweeney, Sean Patrick Flanery
    Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
    Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    DVD Release Date: October 9, 2012
    Run Time: 102 minutes

    Film: 2 out of 5 stars
    Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

    I saw the first “12 Dogs of Christmas” on TV a few years ago. I wouldn’t really call it a holiday classic but it was cute. I was assuming the same would happen with this sequel. This really has that ABC Family/Lifetime TV movie quality. It is cute but really doesn’t feel like much of a Christmas film until the end, which is a little too late for me. I wish they would have focused more time around the musical event and less on basketball games etc. This is also said to be “song-filled”, that isn’t really the case. To be honest this is best served a rental or just watch on cable TV.

    Synopsis: The dogs of Doverville are in trouble again…but Emma O’Connor (Danielle Churchran) is back to save them in a song-filled, seasonal extravaganza. Mean-spirited mogul Finneas James (Sean Patrick Flaner) plots to shut down the local puppy orphanage, unless Emma can come up with the money to save it. With the help of some friends, she races against time to put together a musical holiday event that might just save the day.

    The special features are not bad for a glorified TV movie. They include five featurettes which go behind-the-scenes and up close with the puppies. The first is ““What’s Your Favorite Dog?” with the cast and crew discuss their personal favorite. ““Behind 12 Dogs of Christmas” looks into the production. ““Working With Writer//Director Kieth Merrill” features the cast chatting about their experience on the film. “The Basketball Game Sequence” and ““The Christmas Finale” go in-depth into how those scenes were done.

    DVD Review “The Great Killing”

    Directed by: Eiichi Kudo
    Starring: Mikijiro Hira, Yoshio Inaba, Toru Abe
    Rated: Unrated
    Studio: Animeigo
    Release Date: July 3, 2012
    Running Time: 118 minutes

    Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

    “The Great Killing” is the second film in Eiichi Kudo’s Samurai Revolution Trilogy. This film is quite intense for a 1964 B&W samurai film, it is graphic and contains an amazing ending battle scene to rival all battle scenes. Similar to “13 Assassins”, the film is a slow burn that really nails its finale. AnimEigo is responsible for releasing this series on DVD. The last film in the series “Eleven Samurai” will also be released later this year. If AnimEigo is reading this, I would like to see a Blu-ray set of these films in the near future.

    “The Great Killing” follows Shogunate Elder who sets out a plan to rule Japan by making the Shogun’s brother Tsunashige, the next Shogun. The best strategist in Japan, Yamaga, leads a plot to stop the Elder, but the plan doesn’t work out and most of the conspirators are captured and tortured. Yamaga and his remaining swordsmen are left to battle through hundreds of guards in order to kill Tsunashige. One of the most amazing fights filmed BTW.

    The DVD quality itself looks very sharp in its widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, especially for a 1964 released film. The B&W print is restored really well. Animeigo released this film in its original Japanese audio with various subtitles to choose from. The extras included are nothing special but include trailers, programs notes, cast & crew bios and image gallery.

    Rich Eisen talks about TNT’s new reality series “The Great Escape”

    A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in communications, Rich Eisen is probably best known to sport fans as the face of the NFL Network, which he joined after seven years at ESPN. He has also added his commentary to several of VH1’s various “I Love the….” decade shows and last year appeared in the very funny short “Field of Dreams 2” on Funny or Die. He can also currently be seen (actually heard) as the marathon announcer in the new film “That’s My Boy.” Eisen’s latest project is as host of the new action/reality show “The Great Escape,” which debuts this Sunday evening on TNT. Rich took some time recently to speak with Media Mikes about his love for football, his reality show skills and how he hopes to follow Dan Patrick to “Sandler Stardom!”

    Mike Smith: How did you get involved with “The Great Escape?”
    Rich Eisen: Charlie Ebersol, who is one of the producers, and his partner, Justin Hochberg…they created the show. They sat me down about a year ago and showed me on his iPhone a demo reel for “The Great Escape” that was constructed by Ron Howard, whose production company he runs with Brian Grazer, Imagine Entertainment, is one of the show’s producers, as well as the creators and producers of “The Amazing Race.” And I decided that if they wanted to bring to life what they just showed me on their iPhone…what was leaping off of that small screen and snapping my lapels back…well, I told them “tell me more!” (laughs) And now here we are, about to show it to the fickle beast that is the American viewing public. I don’t want to jinx it but it’s got everything that appears to appeal to the folks that like to watch this kind of programming. I mean it’s got EVERYTHING in it that will push their buttons. I’m really excited for it.

    MS: With NFL training camps starting up next month with your duties on the show interfere in your NFL Network gig?
    RE: No. We’ll be done shooting this season’s shows by the end of this month (June). I’m ready for the NFL season. I’ll tell you that. It’s a great thing, too. I’m really involved in two of the greatest reality projects around. “The Great Escape,” obviously. And the NFL. THAT’S 22-26 weeks of drama. Each and every week.

    MS: Besides “The Great Escape,” is there a reality show you wouldn’t mind appearing on?
    RE: You know I’d really like to try “The Great Escape.” I’d love to see how I’d handle it. I’d choose Warren Sapp (former Tampa Bay Buccaneer great) to do it with me because he’d be able to handle both the physical and the mental challenges. I’d love to do that. That would be a lot of fun. And when folks see this show that’s going to be their general sense…they’re going to want to do this. It’s going to call to them from the television.

    MS: I caught your work in the new Adam Sandler film “That’s My Boy” earlier this week. Any plans of following your buddy Dan Patrick into bigger roles on the silver screen?
    RS: (laughs) Dan always makes it seem like he’s the gatekeeper but it’s still really Adam Sandler and his producing partner, Jack Garraputo, who call the shots. I’m working my way into the rotation. “That’s My Boy” is a double edged sword because, though I’m involved in the funniest scene in the film, most people don’t hear me because they’re rolling in the aisles! But, that said, I can only aspire to be what Dan is in the Sandler oeuvre’!