Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged Jennifer Jason Leigh

  • Morgan (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Morgan (2016)

    Director: Luke Scott

    Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Paul Giamatti

    Released by: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Concocted in a secret laboratory, Morgan finds the groundbreaking development of a genetically engineered human (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch) crashing down when a shocking series of events unfolds.  Professionally and emotionally conflicted, her scientific creators must determine whether their advancements outweigh their own livelihoods.  Kate Mara (The Martian), Toby Jones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) and Paul Giamatti (Billions) star.

    Marking the feature-length directorial debut of Luke Scott and produced by father Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), Morgan scratches the very real surface of genetic evolution and the equally troubling questions of playing maker to artificial life.  Following a violent attack on a fellow scientist, risk-assessment specialist Lee Weathers (Mara) is summoned by superiors to the remote location of the incident.  Developed and studied for several years by a core group of researchers, the human hybrid creation known as Morgan is closely monitored following her unexpected outburst as Weathers evaluates the teenage-looking subject and the operation at large.  As the staff find themselves blindsided by their own emotional connection to the experiment they view as kin, Weathers’s judgement remains reserved until a psychological analysis on Morgan finds a provoking doctor brutally killed.  Convinced Morgan and the entire project should be terminated, Weathers finds herself at odds with a disagreeable staff and an unpredictable Morgan, now on the run and exacting revenge on those who stand in her way.  Featuring strong performances from the ensemble cast and a thoroughly thrilling tone, Morgan may not be revolutionary in its narrative yet, keeps viewers invested in its proceedings that deliver with well-done combat choreography and respectably violent bloodshed.  Performing abysmally to box-office expectations, Morgan, possessing noticeable hints of the Scott touch and featuring a pleasing, if not seen before twist of a finale, may not have found its audience theatrically but, suffices as an efficient first stab at science-fiction for the younger Scott.

    20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Morgan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Featuring color grades that range from dim and sterile as seen in the film’s many laboratory scenes and earthy observed throughout the exteriors shot in Northern Ireland, the film impresses with its handling of inky black levels and handsome skin tones that observes Morgan’s powdered complexion very well.  While not an eye-popping but rather effectively subdued presentation, Morgan offers a strong high-definition picture true to its visual aesthetic.  Equipped with a well-constructed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal throughout while, nature ambiance, echoing gunshots in the wilderness and high-speed vehicles all make sturdy statements on this exceptional track.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Luke Scott, Modified Organism: The Science Behind Morgan (19:40) which hosts scientific experts in the field of genetics as well as cast and crew discussing the film’s approach, Deleted Scenes (6:03) with optional audio commentary from Director Luke Scott and Loom (20:27), Scott’s short film that also comes with an optional audio commentary from its maker.  In addition, a Still Gallery (45 in total), Trailers (4:07) and Sneak Peeks (11:08) at a Discover Digital HD Promo, Assassin’s Creed, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Martian and Deadpool round out the on-disc offerings.  Lastly, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A respectably well-paced thriller, Morgan may not be the next great chapter in science-fiction masterpieces in lieu of a concept audiences have seen all too recently yet, its box-office failure is also no indication of its otherwise admirable execution.  With expectations calculated accordingly, Morgan is a dangerous experiment worthy of exploration.  Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ushers the film to high-definition with exacting technical merits and a decent spread of bonus features including Scott’s first short film.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Morgan can be purchased via FoxConnect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Grandview, U.S.A. (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)

    Director: Randal Kleiser

    Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, M. Emmet Walsh & Troy Donahue

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Grease, Grandview, U.S.A. centers on the romantic love triangle between demolition derby owner Michelle “Mike” Cody (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween), her hotshot driver Ernie “Slam” Webster (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing) and high school graduate Tim Pearson (C. Thomas Howell, The Outsiders) in the rural community they call home.  

    Longing to follow his dreams of studying oceanography, recent high school graduate Tim Pearson finds himself bewitched by the beautiful proprietor of Cody’s Speedway Mike Cody after requiring a tow.  Struggling to keep up with repairs to her late father’s business while her star driver Slam Webster discovers his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight) is cheating on him, heartache and confusion settles in for the grease-monkey enthusiasts.  Displeased with his father’s dishonesty to shut down Mike’s business for the town’s own greedy advancements, Tim’s music video styled daydreams about Mike prompts a romantic fling between the two and a demolition derby debut for the former high schooler.  Meanwhile, intoxicated with anger towards his estranged wife and getting even by hilariously bulldozing his former residence, Slam’s own desires for Mike come to light forging an emotionally sensitive crossroad between the trio.  Shot on location in Illinois, Grandview, U.S.A. spotlights an impressive cast of young talent at the peak of their careers, an idyllic small-town American setting and a soundtrack of MTV hits from Air Supply and Robert Ponger & Falco.  Although boasting watchable performances with appealing chemistry plus, brief appearances from Michael Winslow (Police Academy) and the Cusack siblings, Grandview, U.S.A. missteps with an unraveling third act that hosts a business in flames and relationships forged that make Tim’s encounter with Mike all but pointless.  Driving off into the sunset with Slam’s damaged vehicle and his intended future ahead, Grandview, U.S.A. works itself out far too simply with little regard to its promising setup.  Hardly a destructive mess, this three-lane love story runs out of fuel by its conclusion, leaving viewers only decently entertained and mildly disappointed.

    Newly remastered in high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Grandview, U.S.A. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing rather radiant sans minor speckling, colors in costumes are boastful while skin tones are natural and nicely detailed.  Meanwhile, the rural farmland community is lusciously preserved with film grain firmly intact.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently handled with zero cracks or pops sidetracking its presentation.  Music cuts and car crashing effects prominently heard during derby sequences make ample notices on the mix as well.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Unfortunately, no special features of any kind are included on this release.

    With promising ingredients from its homey setting and talented leads, Grandview, U.S.A. takes an unfortunate detour into mediocrity with a finale that puts all its pieces back together haphazardly.  Worthy of a view for its cast assemblage alone, Kino Lorber Studio Classics debuts the film on high-definition with a gorgeously filmic presentation that should easily appease viewers while, the lack of any supplemental offerings remains unfortunate.  Although viewers may not want to remain full-time residents, Grandview, U.S.A. is still cautiously recommended to visit.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Grandview, U.S.A. can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Hateful Eight (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Hateful Eight (2015)

    Director: Quentin Tarantino

    Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen & Bruce Dern

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Director Quentin Tarantino’s (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) eighth epic, The Hateful Eight descends on a wintry post-Civil War landscape where eight mysterious strangers ranging from a bounty hunter, hangman, fugitive and others, are all connected by a deadly circumstance.  The ensemble cast includes Tarantino regulars Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Kurt Russell (The Thing), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), Walton Goggins (Justified), Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and other such talents as Jennifer Jason Leigh (Anomalisa) and Demián Bichir (Weeds).

    Presented in six sprawling chapters, The Hateful Eight commands attention from its inception with breathtaking Colorado vistas substituting for Wyoming locales, gorgeously captured on 65mm film.  Hurtling towards the town of Red Rock with fugitive Daisy Domergue (Leigh) in tow, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell) intends to see his capture hang for her despicable crimes.  Attempting to dodge an impending blizzard, Ruth’s stagecoach encounters respected bounty hunter Major Maquis Warren (Jackson) and Red Rock’s soon-to-be sheriff Chris Mannix (Goggins), cautiously offering them a helping hand.  Overwhelmed by weather conditions, the oddly paired travelers seek refuge at a desolate haberdashery as they are greeted by unfamiliar faces with questionable motives.  Caring for the local business while its owner is away, Bob (Bichir) finds himself in the company of Red Rock’s executioner Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), simple cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen) and elder Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Dern).  With a hefty sum looming over Domergue’s head, suspicion and an eventual connection amongst the stayers spirals wildly out of control, settled only through bloodshed.

    Deservedly earning Composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America) his first Academy Award, The Hateful Eight, although unquestionably epic in scope through its stunning photography, also stands as Tarantino’s most intimately character-driven piece since 1992’s Reservoir Dogs.  With the written word serving as the auteur’s sharpest tool, The Hateful Eight is no exception as Jackson, receiving top-billing for the first time in a Tarantino effort, oozes with monologic swagger as the tough as nails bounty hunter with trigger happy precision and a total disdain for hateful honkies.  In addition, Russell outdoes himself as the justice serving captor of Daisy Domergue who never shies from rearranging his prisoner’s face while, Jennifer Jason Leigh brings fearless insanity to her Academy Award nominated role.  Furthermore, Walton Goggins deserves commendable praise for his gutsy performance that bounces audaciously off of Jackson’s.  For all its many merits, The Hateful Eight loses steam in one of its later chapters with a less than enthralling reveal for Daisy’s conspirators as they overtake Minnie’s Haberdashery and introduce her brother Jody (Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher).  Emerging as a top talent in recent years, Tatum unfortunately feels miscast as Daisy’s delinquent sibling, briefly snapping viewers out of the film’s progression.  Rectifying itself with a blood splattering finale leaving bullet casings and limbs in its wake, The Hateful Eight may not be Tarantino’s finest hour to date but, routinely delivers with its impactful performances and razor-sharp screenplay.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The Hateful Eight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.76:1 aspect ratio.  Photographed in Ultra Panavision 70, the fantastic sights of snowy mountains and rolling hills offer exquisite detail.  While the bulk of the film is set inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, the dimly lit, candle hosting ambiance is well-handled allowing textures in fur coats and other heavily layered attire to be easily read.  In addition, skin tones are marvelously detailed with facial air and aging lines prominently displayed while, the unflattering pigment of Daisy’s knocked out teeth and the film’s many buckets of blood make noticeably strong statements.  Although its remarkable roadshow version may not be fully duplicated, The Hateful Eight makes a filmically flawless high-definition debut.  Equipped with a stirring DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is consistently audible while, Morricone’s scoring queues are strongly enforced against the wailing blizzard-like winds and bombastic gunshots littered throughout the film’s effectively placed sound design.  Surprisingly scant, the disappointing level of special features include, Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the Scenes Look (4:58), a standard EPK with brief cast and crew interviews and Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm (7:49) which is a short yet, educational overview of 70mm presented features and the roadshows of yesteryear.  In addition, a DVD release of the film and a Digital HD UltraViolet Code is also included.  

    Gorgeously shot and making exceptional use of depth in its very centralized shooting location, The Hateful Eight is equal parts visually epic and strikingly intimate.  Arguably containing Samuel L. Jackson’s finest performance alongside the noteworthy efforts of Russell, Leigh and Goggins, Tarantino’s bloody journey through the Wyoming wilderness makes slight miscalculations in its final act yet, never jeopardizes the strength of its expertly crafted dialogue and violently entertaining moments.  Although unfortunately offering little in the supplemental department, Anchor Bay Entertainment dazzles viewers with its phenomenal technical grades.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Anchor Bay Entertainment, The Hateful Eight can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.