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Currently showing posts tagged Gareth Edwards

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

    Director: Gareth Edwards

    Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen & Forest Whitaker

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    During a time of ruthless Imperial rule, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finds an unlikely band of heroes headed by the daring Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything) and rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, The Terminal) as they plot to steal the coveted plans to the Empire’s most destructive weapon, the Death Star.  Ben Mendelsohn (Una), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange), Alan Tudyk (Frozen), Jiang Wen (The Sun Also Rises) and Forest Whitaker (Arrival) costar.

    Marking the first of many planned stand-alone films in the popular sci-fi saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers an action-packed and emotionally riveting tale based on a crucial footnote, often referred to but never explored in the film universe on such a profound scale.  Following the murder of her mother and capturing of her scientist father (Mikkelsen) fifteen years ago, Jyn Erso, resorting to petty theft and anything else to survive in the war-ravaged world the Empire has fashioned, is rescued from incarceration by rebels with an imperative message from her thought to be dead father, Galen Erso.  Using his brilliance to design the Empire’s most invaluable weapon for total domination, Galen alerts Jyn of the Death Star’s near completion and its sole vulnerability.  Aided by rebel officer Cassian Andor and the series’ most hilariously blunt droid to date, K-2SO (Tudyk), to retrieve the elder Erso in an effort to assist the Alliance, Jyn must scour distant and dangerous worlds, confront old foes and ensure the plans to the Death Star are captured in a mission built entirely on hope and outnumbered by the odds.  

    A far riskier endeavor than its previous Episode-connected installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story forges on with an adventure, visually and thematically, engrained in the spirit of Lucas’ franchise-starting wave of films.  Grittier and focusing on a new breed of unlikely and richly diverse heroes that come together to aid Jyn’s deathly mission, the prequel to A New Hope flourishes with stunning visual effects and a groundbreaking achievement that resurrects the deceased Peter Cushing’s likeness to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin.  As strong and appealing as these new rebels including, the determined Jyn and blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Yen) are individually, their chemistry as a unit lacks and is a far cry from the charming connections seen between the stars of George Lucas’ original trilogy.  While character development issues, also present in his 2014 Godzilla reboot are repeated here, Director Gareth Edwards handles the wealth of the narrative with a steady hand and an obvious appreciation for the detailed universe.  Complimented by a distinct yet familiar score by Michael Giacchino (Tomorrowland, Doctor Strange) that seamlessly taps into John Williams’ beloved themes and featuring the most viciously exciting appearance by Darth Vader on film yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, although leading to an unavoidably predictable finale, is a thrilling journey into the galaxy’s past that stands strongly on its own merits.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Immaculately handled, the digital photography detailing the various planet landscapes and colder color textures seen early in the film make for a flawlessly crisp picture.  Furthermore, skin tones are naturally preserved with the deepest of black levels observed during high-flying space battles, death trooper armor and of course, Darth Vader’s iconic garb.  A picturesque high-definition experience on all fronts, the Force is triumphantly strong with this transfer.  Equipped with a fittingly perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that delivers dialogue with the swiftest of precision, Michael Giacchino’s swelling score boldly supports the spectacular visuals while, the whizzing sounds of TIE fighters, X-wings and explosive laser blasts all make reference-worthy statements on the track.

    Respectably stocked and presented on a separate disc, supplements found under The Stories banner include, A Rogue Idea (9:00) that finds ILM’s John Knoll discussing how he came up with the film’s concept that would ultimately launch the Star Wars stand-alone projects, Jyn: The Rebel (6:16) explores the lead character’s traits and backstory with insight from Actress Felicity Jones, Cassian: The Spy (4:14) hosts Actor Diego Luna as he discusses Cassian’s own complexities being a hero against immeasurable odds, K-2SO: The Droid (7:43) details the technical process bringing the droid to life through Alan Tudyk’s performance, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills (6:20) digs deeper into the characters’ backstories and the Chinese superstars playing them, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary (8:35) finds Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflecting on their very unique roles as an extremist rebel leader and Imperial pilot gone rogue while, The Empire (8:18) gives a revealing look into the film’s antagonists, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One (8:24) explores the production’s challenge with making a film that could visually fit into the realm of the original trilogy’s appearance, The Princess & The Governor (5:49) sheds light on the impressive movie magic that brought a younger Princess Leia and Governor Tarkin back to the big-screen and Epilogue: The Story Continues (4:15) finds the filmmakers and cast reflecting on the experience with footage from the film’s world premiere included.  In addition, Rogue Connections (4:31) points out all the Easter eggs and references to other films in the Star Wars universe found in the film with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code concluding the bonus feature offerings.

    Following up on the momentum of The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story successfully charts a new course in a universe of stand-alone features that overwhelmingly soars on its first flight.  Minor character development hiccups aside, the prequel invites viewers back to a familiar world, this time told via strangers eyes, who win the affections of its audience through compelling performances and mesmerizing visual effects.  While its ultimate destination may be easily foreseen, the journey and near-impossible mission at hand is as exciting as one could hope for from a new chapter in the Star Wars universe.  Unsurprisingly, Disney’s high-definition presentation is a lavish-looking, reference worthy example of excellence with a serviceable amount of supplements bested only by its own Target exclusive release containing additional on-disc content and a 3D presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 4th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Godzilla 2000 (1999) Blu-ray Review

    Godzilla 2000 (1999)

    Director: Takao Okawara

    Starring: Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki & Hiroshi Abe

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as a reboot to the popular franchise, Godzilla 2000 would tear through Japanese theaters before, arriving stateside to rid the stench of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster.  Theatrically ignored again in the U.S. until Director Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 effort, Godzilla 2000 was meant to propel the notorious monster back into the big leagues, amongst Y2K panic.  Continuing their Toho Godzillla Collection banner, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment proudly presents Godzilla 2000, with both its U.S. and Japanese versions.

    Marking his 23rd appearance, Godzilla 2000 finds the King of the Monsters plowing through Tokyo following the arrival of a flying saucer.  Generated by the sun, the alien ship eventually transforms itself into the monster Orga to conduct city destructing battle against Godzilla.

    MOVIE:

    Following the bad taste from the poor U.S. remake, Toho’s crowning star was ripe for a film worthy of his name again.  Severing connection to previous films, Godzilla 2000 serves as a fresh start to an already iconic character.  Focusing on a father/daughter team dedicated to tracking and predicting Godzilla’s whereabouts, Prof. Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata) believes in studying the monster, as opposed to destroying him.  Meanwhile, Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe), head of the Crisis Control Intelligence, and his team discover an ancient UFO located deep in the Japanese waters.  Upon inspection, the alien spacecraft awakens, forcing Japanese military to intervene.  Always known to crash a party, Godzilla arrives to tangle and is quickly defeated by the fossil-shaped ship.  Fueled by the sun and with knowledge of Godzilla’s regenerative power, the fatal flying saucer patiently recharges its energy.  In addition, Prof. Shinoda, with daughter Io (Mayu Suzuki) and nagging reporter Yuki (Naomi Nishida), rush to better understand Godzilla’s power while, the CCI prepare to combat the UFO.

    Relatively simple in its execution, Godzilla 2000 severely misfires by placing Godzilla on the injured list for much of the runtime.  Following his first encounter with the mysterious UFO, Godzilla is sentenced to a temporary underwater grave while, the viewer is guided through the narrative by an unfortunately dull cast.  Visually, Godzilla’s nemesis is as bland as it comes until, the final act arrives and our hero returns for the ultimate showdown.  Overruled once again, the ship absorbs Godzilla’s DNA to become Millennian, essentially a flying saucer with tentacles.  Before long, the ever-changing alien transforms once more into the colossal Orga monster.  Exceptional looking, Godzilla has finally met his match with a monster as strikingly cool as the Tokyo native.  In true monster mashing fashion, the two adversaries destroy skyscrapers and Godzilla unloads his atomic breath, leading to an expected conclusion.  While, the final battle is decent, it sadly feels too little, too late.  Sticking true to its use of miniatures, Godzilla 2000 is also guilty of dated and sometimes laughable computer-generated effects.  Ushering into a new millennium and utilizing cutting-edge technology, the film’s attempts to rid itself of unintentional special-effects humor may have succeeded but, removes the charm and innocence of previous Godzilla installments.  Preferred by Toho for its pacing improvements, the U.S. cut, running 8-minutes shy of its Japanese counterpart, still bores its audience with uninspiring talent and a general lack of screen time for its star attraction.  Not quite the travesty of Roland Emmerich’s remake, Godzilla 2000 does little more than entertain in the fleeting, final battle moments that arrive far too late to care.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Godzilla 2000 arrives in a 1080p transfer with the U.S. cut sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Drenched in thick fog, the film is free of any aging artifacts while, retaining a slightly soft appearance.  The Japanese overcast does little to improve during daytime sequences with black levels appearing decently, considering the nonstop fog-use.  Mostly monochromatic, Godzilla 2000 never bursts with a wide range of colors but maintains natural skin tones with a slight lack of sharpness.  In comparison, the 2.35:1 framed Japanese cut is noticeably darker and a less pleasing viewing experience.  Free of any anomalies but riding modestly soft, Godzilla 2000 is still a decent-looking effort.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Godzilla 2000’s re-worked U.S. sound design is efficient with audible, English dubbing.  Shattering glass, missile explosions and even Godzilla’s iconic roar offer a noticeable increase in pitch but, slightly underwhelm as they never greatly rumble the mix.  Meanwhile, the Japanese version arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix featured in its native tongue.  While, not experienced firsthand, the mix is provided with optional English and French subtitles.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    With the exception of the U.S. (99 minutes) and Japanese (107 minutes) cuts, the bonus content is as follows:

    • Filmmaker and Crew Commentary (English Version Only): Ported over from the previous DVD release, Uncredited U.S. Writer/Producer Michael Schlesinger, Editor Mike Mahoney and Sound Editor Darren Pascal provide unique insight on the different cuts of the film.  Schlesinger mainly commands the track with interesting anecdotes and his insistence on placing the Toho logo before the film as per the fans.

    • Behind the Scenes (2:15): Also ported over, this brief on-set footage captures moments of Godzilla causing destruction amongst miniaturized sets and against green screens.

    • Original Trailer (1:17): In Japanese.

    • Ultraviolet Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:

    Re-establishing the iconic monster for the premillennial world seemed a nobel effort following, the U.S.’s mistreatment of the character.  Starting from scratch, Godzilla 2000 never strays far from the established formula but, backfires by removing the title character from much of the runtime.  Led by a mundane cast and dated computer-effects, Godzilla 2000 only comes alive in its final moments when the gruesome Orga faces off against our hero, before ending too swiftly.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has generously provided both cuts of the film with varying, but mostly satisfactory A/V qualities.  While, light on special features, an informative commentary carried over from the DVD, highlights the package.  Most certainly not as dreadful as the Matthew Broderick starrer, Godzilla 2000 still fails to register as a notable entry in the iconic monster’s filmography.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 9th from Sony Pictures Home EntertainmentGodzilla 2000 can be purchased via Amazon.com