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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Fantasy > Mystery > Thriller > Aliens > WWII > Drama > Japanese Imperialism > Battles > Sw > Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977/Columbia/Sony Blu-ray set)/The Emperor In August (2015/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Erik The Conqueror (1961/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Game

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977/Columbia/Sony Blu-ray set)/The Emperor In August (2015/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Erik The Conqueror (1961/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Game Changer (2017/Well Go Blu-ray)/Sea Gypsies: The Far Side Of The World (2016/First Run DVD)/Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars (2017/Sony Blu-ray)/Tokyo Idols (2017/Brakeless/EyeSteelFilm DVD)

Picture: B+/B+/B+ & B-/A-/B-/B+/B Sound: B+/B+/B+ & B-/B/B-/B+/B Extras: B/C/B/D/C/B/D Main Programs: A/B-/B/B+/B/C+/B+

PLEASE NOTE: The Emperor In August Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

This mix of genre finds and a few documentaries are all about going to other worlds...

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg's Sci-Fi Masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is released again in honor of its 40-Year Anniversary on both 4K UHD and Blu-ray (though we only received the Blu to review so far). Hardcore Spielberg fans will note that E.T. was also released on 4K UHD (and is reviewed elsewhere on the site) only a few weeks ago and is also worth picking up yet again in honor of the care that has been taken to restore it.

Now you may be thinking, I've already bought this movie on five different formats... why again? Well, this new release is a must if you have 4K capabilities (so we hear) but if you are still Blu-ray only, this edition is from a brand new restoration, features all new extras (that are pretty great) and all THREE versions of the film newly restored in HD which include...

The 1977 Theatrical Version

The 1980 Special Edition

1997 Director's Cut

This is one of my favorite films of all time and I remember watching the Director's Cut on VHS back in my middle school days, which at the time I thought was stunning. Now that the film is in full HD, it really does look and sound pretty fascinating. Blu-ray quality-wise, however, the transfer isn't that big of an improvement over the one released a few years ago despite the restoration, but you get less grain and slightly better color range.

The classic film stars Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws), Teri Garr (Tootsie), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story) and acclaimed French film director Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows).

Close Encounters was written (roughly adapted from a Paul Schrader script Spielberg thought was the worst) and directed by Spielberg, was nominated for several Academy Awards in contention with the original Star Wars, which was released the same year. What a year for Sci-Fi cinema indeed!

The film centers around our protagonist Roy Neary (Dreyfuss), who has been one of a handful of people who have encountered extraterrestrial beings. After having an incredible experience that even causes his skin to sunburn. As his Wife (Garr) and kids start to think he's listen his mind, Roy grows obsessed and against all odds sets out to prove that his theories on these otherworldly beings are true and that the Government is covering it up, at any cost.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a beautiful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track (the original film was 4,1 Dolby 70mm magnetic stereo surround), the Blu-ray presentation is top notch for the film. As mentioned, it is comparable to the previous Blu-ray release that was out a few years ago, even on the sound level (thus, try the 4K if you have the set up). John Williams' powerful score is front and center and all of the audio tracks are clean and brought to life magnificently. Also on the disc are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and foreign language 5.1 tracks as well. A digital UV copy is also included.

The film is available in a collectible box set as well as standard Blu-ray cases, depending on which version you are after.

Special Features include...

ALL-NEW: "Three Kinds of Close Encounters" Featurette

NEW interview with Director Steven Spielberg on the legacy of the film, as well as new interviews with directors J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) about the impact of Close Encounters.

ALL-NEW: "Steven's Home Movies & Outtakes"

Rare never-before-seen home movies & gags from the set of Close Encounters.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Making-of Documentary

"Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters" Featurette

Deleted Scenes

1977 Featurette "Watch the Skies"

Storyboard to Scene Comparisons

Extensive Photo Gallery

"A View From Above"

Theatrical Trailers

In honor of the film's 40th anniversary, this new release of the classic film is most welcome. If you're feeling froggy and want to see it on the big screen, it had a limited theatrical engagement starting September 1, 2017 which may lead to more big screen dates and was also issued in the 4K format, a version we hope to catch up to soon.

The Emperor In August

The Emperor In August (2015) is an eye popping cinematic look at Japan's surrender at the end of WWII. Sharply written and directed by Masato Harada, the film is available in this deluxe limited edition run with a highly detailed presentation on Blu-ray disc from Twilight Time. It's interesting to see a film of this nature from the nation's side and this important film would be great to show in a classroom or a lecture on the topic for its historical accuracy.

The film stars Koji Yakusho, Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, and Tori Matsuzaka.

On August 14th, 1945, at an Imperial conference, the Showa Emperor, Hirohito (Masahiro Motoki), finally decided to accept the Potsdam Declaration. However, some young firebrand Army officers insisted on continuing the war and conspired to launch a coup, much to their superiors' dismay. Anami (Koji Yakusho), the Minister of War, is pressed to make an extremely difficult decision... but what will the ramifications of his decision be?

Presented in grand fashion with a 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a crystal clear Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless track (and a Japanese 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA track as well), the film looks and sounds fantastic on disc and would be a great candidate for the growing 4K UHD format.

Special Features include...

Theatrical Trailers

Collectible Insert Booklet with illustrations and a great essay by Julie Kirgo

While there have been plenty of WWII films out there, and I'm the first to admit that I'm not a history buff per say, the film is beautiful to watch and tells a compelling story. From a filmmaking standpoint it's impressive, even if some moments tend to drag.

Erik The Conqueror

Director Mario Bava's Erik The Conqueror (1961, also known as Gli invasori) is a huge departure from the Italian Director's usual horror fare and is a very epic "sword and sandal" picture much like Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), although it has a tone and feel that reminds me a little bit of the original Conan the Barbarian film, which of course wouldn't be released until decades later. Definitely worth tracking down for fantasy film fans, Erik The Conqueror is a fun adventure under Bava's visionary lens.

Erik the Conqueror stars Cameron Mitchell, George Ardisson, Alice Kessler, and Ellen Kessler.

Set in the 9th Century, two Viking children, separated since their early childhood with one raised by the British and the other by Vikings, meet after nearly 20 years as rivals as war breaks out between over both sides for control of England. This unusual twist of fate is enriched by action, adventure, and of course romance.

Presented in 1080p high definition and its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio paired with the Original Italian and English mono audio (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc) tracks, the Director's signature red, orange, and green color schemes look startlingly good here with detail not seen in previous releases. This brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative is praise-worthy with only a few scenes suffering from a little too much noise. Also included is the standard definition DVD version of the film with similar but compressed specs like lossy Dolby Digital.

Special Features include...

New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava - All the Colors of the Dark.

Gli imitatori, a comparison between Erik the Conqueror and its unacknowledged source, The Vikings (also on Blu-ray on this site from Twilight Time).

Original ending.

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Kat Ellinger.

The Game Changer

Feng Jie and Zihao escaped from prison together and became hitmen under the most powerful gang in Shanghai. They become brothers, both the left and right hand men of the Triad boss Mr. Tang. Together the help 'clean up' the business of rival gangs that want to take over Mr. Tang's operations. As Mr. Tang stages an elaborate plan to flush out his enemies, however the most dangerous ones are often his closest allies and only those who are willing to kill his own brother will survive in Xixi Gao's The Game Changer (2017).

Feng Jie and Zihao broke out of jail together, while in prison they both became stronger and tougher, but when they worked together, they became an unbeatable team. After getting out, the both ended up in the same gang and became the adoptive sons of the gang leader Mr. Tang. They even both had the love of the boss's beautiful daughter, Qianqian. Through thick and thin, dangers and gun battles Feng Jie and Zihao saved each other countlessly, they were friends, romantic rivals and brother-in-arms, but Zihao was originally part of the 'Association' a group of radicals that assassinated the corrupt in Shanghai. Mr. Tang knows of Zihao past and uses him to get rid of the rival gang leaders. In the end, Feng and Zihao must ultimately face one another.

This movie was set in the early 1930s of Shanghai and a story of the waring gangs struggle for power. It is about how men could rise through the gang through sheer violence and power. There was drama and tragic romance between the characters, tests of loyalty created fearless men and there was a code of honor among the brotherhood.

Looking period-accurate, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image and lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 sound mix are a strong combination playing as well as they can in this format. Extras include trailers.

Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World

A film by Nico Edwards, Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World (2016) displays the harsh reality of life on the sea with this educational and daring look at those who dare to take a chance and dream. We follow a crew of sailors who go against all odds board a hand-built boat from New Zealand to the waters of Patagonia. The film has been a huge hit on the Festival circuit and has even earned praise from National Geographic Adventure.

Earning their name as Sea Gypsies, the cast of characters are from different parts of the world and bring their own unique set of skills to help the adventure move forward. The cast includes Nico Edwards, Clemens Gabriel, Ayack Wanderer, and others.

The narrative theme of the film is to live life to the fullest, see the world, and explore the great resources of the planet. For those who dare to take the trip, or have ever thought about it, then this 77-minute documentary is sure to entertain.

Presented in standard definition with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, the presentation is on average for the format with many compression issues. The score is appropriate and brings the film to life for sure. Featuring a voice over narration from the director Nico for the most part, the documentary has a nice overall sound design with no noticeable bumps in the mix.

Special Features include...

Introducing Ole

Introducing Peter

Introducing Zach

David Bowie sings The Pirate Song

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars

Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997, now issued on a 4K Blu-ray we hope to see soon) and the novel of the same title by Robert A. Heinlein is no doubt classic sci-fi material in this reviewer's eyes. While there have been whisperings of the franchise getting rebooted as an ultra budgeted Hollywood film that was hyped last year, it doesn't seem have moved any further out of development hell.

That being said, It's still nice to see the brand is still alive with the new feature-length animated film, Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017) which has now landed on Blu-ray. Whether or not you'll dig it, will partly depend on your opinion of Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012), which is the predecessor to this film or, most importantly, if you like this kind of animation or not.

Bringing back the original film's star, Casper Van Dien, this CG animated film would have been a million times more interesting as a live action film. Even if the special effects would have been lacking, it still would have been more meaningful for Van Dien's return to be in the flesh and not solely animated form.

Speaking of the animation, you'll start to feel like you're playing a XBox One or PS4 video game about five minutes in... waiting for the gameplay to start. At times, I felt like I should have a game controller in my hand because it just doesn't look that much better than a modern day video game cinematic.

While the characters look realistic, some definitely more than others, the minute they open their mouths the falsity grows more and more clear. Much like the Resident Evil animated films of late (reviewed elsewhere on the site), this form of motion tracking animation hasn't improved all THAT much from Final Fantasy: The Spirited Within or the Animatrix days, both of which were made nearly two decades ago. These types of films never seem to get a wide theatrical release, either, with the exception of that dreadful animated Ninja Turtles cartoon movie from the early 2000s.

Still, the film is R-rated and does feature some cool moments and naughty words, so it's not a total wash.

Another plus is that they kept with the same design of the bugs from the original Verhoeven film so it exists ultimately as a sequel which is nice. They also follow the "would you like to know more?" news segments, which was part of the original film's political commentary. Little touches like these makes it feel a bit closer to Verhoeven's original vision, which works in its favor. However, the overall feel of the film is pretty flat and lifeless, despite its best efforts. They also bring back the character of Diz, who was Van Dien's love interest in the original film.

Like I said, if they would have just used this same screenplay and did with at least the human characters as live action characters much in the same way Sin City or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow tried so may years ago, then they probably would have saved money in the long run and had a more buzz worthy product.

Federation trooper Johnny Rico (Van Dien) returns to the story as he is ordered to work with a group of new group of recruits. They end up on Mars, where (you guessed it) giant bugs have decided to target their next attack. There are wins, losses, and lots of blood splattering.

The film is directed by Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed, other animated Starship Troopers films) and is written by the original writer of Verhoeven's Robocop: Edward Neumeier. The film also features the voice talents of Dina Meyer and DeRay Davis.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and an English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 track, the presentation on disc is clear and up to standards. Ironically, the animation looks its best at scenes that take place during the night, with heavy blues and contrasty blacks.

The film is also available on the new 4K UHD format, which probably makes the animation a bit more impressive, however we are just covering the standard Blu-ray release at this time.

No digital copy.

Special Features include...

Inside the Bugs and Powered Suits

Inside the Story and the Characters

Photo Gallery

Deleted Scene

Expanding the Universe: 20 years and Counting

Expanding the Universe: Continuing the Universe

Expanding the Universe: Traitor of Mars

If you're a big fan of the franchise, as I am, then you can't help but feel a little disappointed by how much better this could have been. However, it's not a complete waste and worth at least checking out once.

Tokyo Idols

Filmmaker Kyoko Miyake takes look into the Tokyo phenomenon of the Idols of Japan. What does it mean to be an idol? Why do so many people love them? But what is the real story of the girls behind posters and pop music? And what does it say about society's ideals of beauty, young female sexuality and social roles?

In Kyoko Miyake's Tokyo Idols (2017), Japanese idols are liken to Western culture's rock 'n' roll stars, actors or models. You find them on magazine covers, in pop music, even fashions. It is cultural phenomenon, they are real life fantasy, for men a fantasy of a beautiful girl they wish could be their friend/girlfriend, for girls a fantasy of the a woman they wish they could be, beautiful and popular. Through the years, it has become an industry, young girls wishing to become stars enter the idol industry (usually a stepping stone onto bigger roles). Having the perfect look, being able to sing, dance and act to entertain and to have fans who worship them, but what is the real truth behind all the make up and fashion? They are just girls, girls who become idols are also in ways trapped by society's ideals of beauty and perfection. Like a shooting star, a life of an idol is fast and they shine bright on stage, but they can also burn out just as fast. The reality of it all is that Idol are never really real, and yet people will still want and love their fantasies.

Anyone who is familiar with Japanese idol culture should be aware of it's fantasy, that's all it is. Even the word 'idol' means the worship of a deity, god(s) or goddess. Young girls dreaming being treated like goddesses, to worshiped by those who follow in life or online. However, behind the idea of the perfect dream girl, people must also remember these girls are also human, they are an illusion in which the entertainment business has shaped them for their audiences.

The an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track are as good as they can look for DVD, which is fine with no Blu-ray out yet. Extras include a trailer.

To order The Emperor In August limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




- Ricky Chiang & James Lockhart (Encounters, Emperor, Erik, Sea, Troopers)



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