Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell
  • Director: Rupert Sanders
  • Format: Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, Spanish, French
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal
  • Release Date: September 11, 2012
  • Run Time: 127 minutes

  •             This is definitely not the Snow White that I grew up with, either on the page or screen. This version comes with a new brand of visuals and adult themes that seem better fit in a Lord of the Rings film than they do in a classic fairy tale. There are trolls and fairies and even a forest with a hallucinogenic ability, making this an adult reimagining of the classic story. There are many of the familiar elements, although the manner in which they are presented is wholly original. Even the seven dwarfs have seen a makeover in this version.

                Filling the story with war and evil magic, the tale of Snow White and the Huntsman begins with a grieving king drawn into battle with a mysterious army of soldier who shatter like glass when struck. This should be suspicious enough, but when a pretty young woman is found as they magic army’s captive, the king quickly becomes entranced. When he marries her, she becomes Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and takes over the kingdom with dark magical powers and ordinary betrayal.

                The king’s daughter is thrown into a tower to be kept prisoner for years, until Ravenna discovers that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is both the answer to her problem with aging and the inevitable downfall of her reign of terror. After Snow makes a daring escape, Ravenna sends Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) into the dark forest to retrieve and kill the princess. Although there is still the apple, the kiss and even the dwarfs (cast with stars who are shrunk down in size with computer effects), Snow White and the Huntsman then moves on to a finale with a battle and out princess in armor rather than a ballroom dress.

                The Blu-ray combo pack release of Snow White and the Huntsman comes with a Blu-ray disc, DVD, digital copy and Ultraviolet copy. The theatrical version is included, as well as an extended version which is four minutes longer. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc is a second screen option for anyone with a tablet of some sort, as well as a number of great featurettes. The most unique is a 360° interactive tour of the set, though there are also three traditional featurettes, one of which has four parts to it. 

    Spartacus: Vengeance Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Liam McIntyre, Katrina Law, Dustin Clare, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett
  • Producers: Rob Tapert, Steven S. DeKnight, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • Release Date: September 11, 2012
  • Run Time: 572 minutes

  •             The first season of Spartacus was a 300-style visual approach to the classic tale of a gladiator’s uprising, though it left off with the beginnings of the uprising. With the actor in the title role battling disease, the second season became a prequel. A prequel to Spartacus, which is strange considering the title of the series is still “Spartacus” despite having no character by the name. Instead, the second season shows the rise of the House of Batianus before its fall in season one. This includes the beginnings of the gladiator known as Crixus. Season three manages to bring us back to the place where season one left off, though it also creatively blends the characters and plot developments of the prequel season to make Vengeance all the more interesting.

                Liam McIntyre steps into the role of Spartacus as the story develops beyond the gladiator battles and into the battlefield. This season follows the path of the slaves and gladiators as they start to build an army to take down the Roman tyranny. Though there is no denying the fact that the change in cast is noticeable, though the violence seems to have increased as well, making it easy to be distracted. There is a lot going on this season, if only because they have blended characters from the two previous seasons, giving plenty of plot and character development in-between bloody battles and flesh-filled sex scenes. This is still one of the most visually engaging shows on television, with a story that occasionally matches the images.
                 Because the visual quality is increasingly impressive, it is deserving of the high definition presentation that Blu-ray offers. The Blu-ray also has special featurettes that show the post-production efforts as well as many production elements which make this show the visual spectacle that it is. Special features also include bloopers, and a special look at the next and final season in the series. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are audio commentaries and extended versions of select episodes.

    Where Do We Go Now? Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Leyla Hakim, Nadine Labaki, Yvonne Maalouf, Antoinette Noufaily
  • Director: Nadine Labaki
  • Writers: Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Rodney Al Haddid, Sam Mounier, Thomas Bidegain
  • Producers: Abla Khoury, Anne-Dominique Toussaint
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Arabic
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: September 11, 2012
  • Run Time: 110 minutes

  •             Where Do We Go Now? is a modern fable with remarkable relevance while retaining unimaginable whimsy and charm. The subject of religion is one which has long caused wars and devastation, yet this film somehow manages to address these issues in fervor of personalized hope of change. The conflict is localized within the film, but it could retain the same relevance for any number of conflicts around the world.

                Set in a remote Lebanese village where a church and a mosque stand side by side in the center of town, a group of mothers devise a plan to keep the peace. In other parts of the country there are Christians and Muslims fighting and killing each other, but the women of the small village have kept peace with a number of ruses. They realize that as long as the men are ignorant to conflicts elsewhere in the world, they will be able to coexist and even intermingle without conflict. Once a television is brought out for entertainment, however, they incidentally expose their men to news of conflict elsewhere.

                It is interesting to see how the knowledge of a fight in the country instigates a conflict in a village which was otherwise peaceful. Even more compelling is the desperate efforts of the women to keep their men distracted. They hire a group of Ukrainian dancers to flirt with their men and keep them preoccupied. When that doesn’t work, they have a master plan involving drugs, dancing and the ultimate trick.

                The Blu-ray release of Where Do We Go Now? comes with a filmmaker’s commentary with director Nadine Labaki. There is also a featurette with the director, Khaled Mouzanar and Anne-Dominique Toussaint, a making-of featurette and a making the music featurette.

    White Vengeance Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Shaofeng Feng, Leon Lai, Hanyu Zhang
  • Directors: Daniel Lee
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: September 4, 2012
  • Run Time: 135 minutes

  •             White Vengeance is a complex film about the thirst for power and the corruption and deception that comes with it. This is not a typical martial arts epic, where it is clear who the bad guys are and who our hero is. There are characters of certain integrity which we may be drawn to within the storyline, but when the love of one woman and the promise of unimaginable power is brought into the equation there is no telling who can be trusted.

                During the fall of the Qin Dynasty, two friends are brought into a world of changes that alter the course of their relationship with each other. Liu Bang (Leon Lai) and Xiang Fu (Feng Shaofeng) each have their own motives for entering into the bloody battles that would come to be known as the Red Cliff rebellion bringing down the Qin Dynasty. With the infamous battle known as the Feast at Hong Gate as the backdrop, there is also the added complication of a beautiful woman loved by both men.

                There is a great deal of action within White Vengeance, and it is fairly stylized despite the story being based upon facts. Part of this seems to come from director Daniel Lee (3 Kingdoms, Black Mask), who seems to have a penchant for strong visuals. This does not detract from the power of the history behind the story, but it is clear that this is a fictional film set within historical times rather than a historical film using fiction to enhance it.
                The Blu-ray release includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as interviews with the stars and select crew members and a trailer gallery. The highlight, however, seems to be the sound improvements which come from the DTS-HD Master audio, which utilizes the surround sound despite only being 5.1. The battle scenes pop with added audio enhancements.

    Sacrifice DVD review

  • Actors: Xiaoming Huang, You Ge, Xueqi Wang
  • Format: Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Indomina
  • DVD Release Date: September 4, 2012
  • Run Time: 1210 minutes

  •             Sacrifice is a slow burning revenge film of epic proportions, both sweeping in grand scope and emotional precision. It is a lavish martial arts film within a much more complex human drama, and all of this is possible due to the steady hand of director Kaige Chen (Farewell, My Concubine). The film is filled with impressive cinematography and breathtaking fight choreography, but this is still secondary in importance to the characters within the story and the choices that they make. Above all else, this film is about the complexities of loyalty, sacrifice and vengeance.

                The beginning of Sacrifice begins as so many of the martial arts epics do; with ancient China in general turmoil. When a powerful general (Wang Xuegi) seizes the throne at the court of Duke Ling, pinning the crime on the rival Zhao clan. They are all massacred to hide the deception, with only a single baby to survive. This child is snuck out with the help of a loyal doctor (Ge You), who incidentally has a child of his own. When the search for the missing Zhao child brings the general to the doctor’s home, it results in a switching of the children. The Zhao child survives, but at a great cost to the doctor.

                The resulting years have the Zhao child raised in the general’s household; all the while the doctor plans his perfect revenge against the tyrant. The film is more like a game of chess than an action film. Each of these two men know they have an enemy in each other, but they each have full confidence in their own influence on the boy. After years go by, this has not changed. All of the plans made by the doctor and the punishment of the deceitful general lies in the hands of one boy, whose mind must be made up on his own.


    Quick Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Min-ki Lee, Ye-won Kang
  • Directors: Beom-gu Cho
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean, English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • Release Date: September 4, 2012
  • Run Time: 111 minutes

  •             Quick is like the Korean version of the 1990s Hollywood blockbuster, Speed, minus the bad acting from Keanu Reeves. It is also a little bit like Die Hard With a Vengeance, another 90s action classic. Even the back cover of Quick says “It’s Speed on a Motorcycle,” and it is that motorcycle which sets this film apart, if only slightly. Korean cinema has mirrored Hollywood in the 90s for the last decade or so, pumping out entertaining spectacle such as this at a rate that rivals most countries’ national cinema.

                This is not to make Quick seem like a cinematic triumph, because in many ways it is simply sub-par entertainment. There are cheesy elements and some unbelievable action which is accomplished only thanks to computer generated graphics to help the impossible become possible. The difference between a film like this and Premium Rush is the amount of stunts which can actually be accomplished by stunt men and not CGI graphics.

                Beyond the occasionally unbelievable use of special effects, Quick is a solid piece of entertainment which is able to bounce back and forth from comedy to action within the fast-paced storyline. Gi-su was formerly the leader of a motorcycle gang, but after a tragic accident he is living as a bike messenger. When the horrors of that one night come back to haunt him, Gi-su finds himself targeted by a madman who is setting bombs off across the city, and using a very specific bike messenger to do it.

                To complicate issues, Gi-su gives a ride to a pop star and former girlfriend. When she puts on the bike helmet, Gi-su discovers it has been booby-trapped by the mad man, in order to assure each of his bombs are dropped off on time. With each new bomb there is a timer set on the bike helmet, threatening to blow up if the destination is not reached in time.

                The Blu-ray release comes with a making-of featurette, not to mention a featurette on that lovely CGI work. There is also anther featurette on the actual stunt work of the film and one on the making of the poster design.

    New to Blu-ray: Mother's Day

  • Actors: Nancy Hendrickson, Tiana Pierce, Deborah Luce, Frederick Coffin, Michael McCleery
  • Director: Charles Kaufman
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: September 4, 2012
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

  •             Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day was a blatant rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when it was first released, though it seems tame by today’s standards. Or even by the standards of other Troma Team releases, Mother’s Day is fairly controlled. There is still plenty of blood and gore, and a little bit of the deviant sexuality that the studio is known for, but there is simply far less than some of the other vulgar cult classics.

                The story for Mother’s Day is more than a little simple. It involves a group a wilderness dwelling madmen who all happened to be tied by blood and a psychotic mother. This crazed mother has her deranged sons brings victims back, when she isn’t luring them herself, and together they kill innocent victims for pleasure. When three college friends reuniting for a trip away together accidentally stumble on this family, it becomes a struggle for survival.

                The plot somewhat resembles the onslaught of torture porn captivity films, though the violence is much more tame by today’s standards. There are a few great low budget deaths, but most of the film is built upon suspense. This is the way it must be when there are really only three victims to keep the story moving along. The true horror of the film comes from each of the uniquely deranged sons, whether filled with the desire for rape or carnage; they are individually insane in their own way.

                The Blu-ray release of this 1980 horror classic contains an audio commentary, a behind-the-scenes collection of footage and even a quick blurb on the film’s significance by filmmaker and actor Eli Roth. There is also an intro from Kaufman, who now sells bread.

    Modern Family Season Three Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Ed O'Neill, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell
  • Format: AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: September

  •             The mockumentary style of television has become a standard style after the success of “The Office,” though “Modern Family” gives it a suburban household twist. We don’t know why the characters are talking to the camera, but it provides ample opportunity for humor, as does the option of acknowledging the camera’s existence during the action as well. What it all comes down to is the interesting characters, and in this way “Modern Family” also seems to be mimicking the success of “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.”

                The show follows three families which are all tied together and are also conveniently comprised of three types of modern families. There is the traditional family with a wife, husband and their three children. There is also a family with an older man and a second and younger wife and a step-son, and the third family are two gay men and their adopted toddler. These characters are embellished further with extreme personalities and absurd situations.

                Season three brings back more of the same silly fun, along with a plethora of new star cameos. The kids are growing up and changing quickly, except Manny who always acts like he’s the same age, it just never happens to be the age that he is. There is not much at stake in “Modern Family.” Nobody is getting fired and the relationships aren’t ever in real danger. The dynamic hardly ever changes even in the slightest and so the characters seem stagnant also. They are almost caricatures, but that doesn’t stop the show from being humorous. More importantly, it doesn’t stop us from caring about them.  

                The Blu-ray release of the complete third season includes all 24 episodes on the 3-disc set. The special features include some deleted and alternate scenes, a bunch of featurettes and a gag reel. There are plenty of extras to be watched, not to mention the perk of the Blu-ray ‘season play’ feature. Many of the featurettes of this season have to do with the many trips that the cast takes out of the suburbs this year, from Wyoming to Disneyland.