Farewell to 25 Years of red envelopes

Farewell to 25 Years of red envelopes

September 29th marks a very sad day for the remaining one million loyal Netflix DVD subscribers including myself. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the company announced earlier this year to pull the plug and close its DVD rental operations.

Needless to say, the DVD rental business for the company had been dwindling down ever since its streaming services became the primary choice for its subscribers all over the world and disrupted the video and movie industry.

To give you an idea, Netflix’s DVD revenue totaled $60 million for the first six months of 2023. In comparison, Netflix’s streaming revenue in the United States for the same period reached $6.5 billion. In 2022, the DVD business generated $145.7 million, down 20% year-over-year, which represented just 0.5% of its total revenue. That’s just half of one percent!

In their early beginnings in 1998, they couldn’t have chosen a more opportune time to get into the DVD rental business. DVD’s were at the beginning of their popularity. It also was the perfect format to ship and mail off to millions of customers due to its light weight and size. They wouldn’t have been very profitable during the days of VHS and Beta. Could you imagine Netflix stuffings bulky VHS or Beta tapes in the mail to make it in the video rental business to try to make a profit?

Instead of wasting time and gas and driving back and forth to rent and return the movies to brick and mortar video stores, customers only had to deal with their mailboxes with Netflix. They also had the luxury of returning it anytime, without any late fee to any mailbox. To many customers who are habitually late in returning their DVD rentals, it was a blessing.

Netflix was the primary reason why Blockbuster Video went out of business in 2010, along with the many independent mom and pop video stores that was virtually in nearly every neighborhood.

Nowadays, it’s unfathomable to even think that people actually made special trips back and forth to a video store just to rent and return a video.

As a Netflix subscriber, I had two gripes. There was no way to filter down movie titles that were only available in blu-ray when searching thru their inventory. The other issue that I had was trying to figure out what version of the movie that I would get if there was a title that had been released multiple times, I wouldn’t be able to tell which version of the movie I would get. Customer service was useless with those issues.

But, overall, I will miss this wonderful service.

Netflix not only changed our lives forever with the good old “red envelope” rental subscription for a good ten to fifteen years, but also with the introduction of their streaming services in 2007 it changed the world and the way we watched movies.

But is that a good thing?

Sure there are lots of great popular shows that are currently streaming on Netflix, but unfortunately the number of streaming titles in their catalog are very limited and cannot compete with the number of titles in the Netflix DVD catalog. Netflix streams about 4,000 titles at any given time, but during the peak of DVD rentals ten years ago, there were as many as 100,000 titles to choose from when DVD rental subscription peaked with over 20 million subscribers before streaming was even an option.

With their former DVD subscription, it was great to be able to search their vast inventory ranging from not just blockbuster feature films, but TV shows, documentaries, foreign films, and even music performances and videos. In addition, I loved being able to watch the extras and bonus features that were included on the DVD’s.

After mailing over five billion DVD’s and Blu-ray’s envelopes since 1998, Netflix has come to the end of an era for DVD rentals, but it certainly has been a great twenty five year run for Netflix and its appreciative customers, such as myself. It was a major part of my life.

In the future, I hope Netflix will realize that there is a demand for their own titles that should be released to home media. I do see some hope as “The Irishman” did get a release on the Criterion label, but would love to see more Netflix releases, such as “Squid Game” get a release, as well.

If they decide against releasing their movies to retail, they could at least compromise and have more special supplements streamable, like they did for “The Irishman”, with a Q&A session. I still want to know how certain movies were made along with a behind the scenes featurette, and watch interviews and commentaries with the filmmakers.

Now with my Netflix DVD subscription coming to an end, I may be forced to change my viewing habits and subscribe to their streaming services, but I know I will absolutely miss seeing Netflix’s red envelope in my mailbox every few days.

It’s like losing a good friend…

The 2023 Game Developer’s Conference

The 2023 Game Developer’s Conference

You could feel the sheer excitement in the air surrounding San Francisco’s Moscone Center where exhibitor’s and attendees convened at the 2023 Game Developer’s Conference. It recently happened a few weeks ago from March 20th thru the 24th when the Games Developer’s Conference tied its pre-pandemic record of 28,000 attendees in San Francisco that was set in 2019, more than doubling the number of in-person attendees from last year at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center.

It was all about the return of the “in-person” experience, having the strong desire and necessity of connecting with one another. Whether it was at one of the many numerous and inspiring sessions that was going on all week, or in one of the populated halls on the expo floor with some of the biggest names in the gaming world, or at a social mixer networking party with peers and leaders in the games industry; everyone seemed eager to seek and discover connections and to gain insight within their craft.

It seemed as though the conference hadn’t missed a beat since the pandemic.

For those who are unfamiliar with GDC, The Game Developers Conference® (GDC) is the world’s largest professional game industry event with market-defining content for programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers, and others involved in the development of interactive games and immersive experiences. It also is the world’s largest and longest-running event serving professionals dedicated to the art and science of making games

All in all, GDC 2023 featured more than 1,000 speakers and 700+ sessions, workshops, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities. 330+ exhibitors were present to display their newest technologies, programs and services on the GDC Expo Floor, including industry leaders like Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Discord, Google, NEXON and more.

It was also a space for attendees to play and connect with the developers behind new and exciting independent games, including the finalists from the Independent Games Festival (IGF) and the alt.ctrl.GDC exhibit that is home to games that use alternative controllers like toaster ovens, giant oversized hats and others.

When you walk in the entrance on the South Side, some of the biggest name in gaming with attendees waiting in line for a demo as soon as they entered the hall, including Meta and Sony. Unity and Unreal were to the left of them and had even bigger booths with lots of play space. In fact, many of the companies were not signing anyone up for demos because they filled up within the first hour after the expo opened. Sign ups were available the next morning, as soon as they opened at 10 am, but filled up quickly. What I noticed this year compared to previous years is that there are more companies are using VR/AR/MR/XR and smart glasses for immersive gaming.

WELCOME TO THE METAWORLD

At the Meta booth, they had four demos, including Demeo, Ironman, Among Us, and a Mixed Reality Fencing Prototype which is the one I participated in. I requested the demo that would make use of the Meta Quest Pro, their flagship VR goggles. Unfortunately, Meta was having some wi-fi or battery issues and it took awhile to fix, but when it worked, I had a blast in my ten minute slot sword fighting against my opponent on the other side of the wall.

My opponent quickly got up to ten points, and just when I thought it was over, I was quick to go for another ten rounds. I was able to come out victorious. Ironically, after meeting my opponent, I found out he used to fence in Finland. Not sure if I should try the real thing next time I’m in Europe.

A swordfight at the Meta booth. The player on the left actually won, even thought the player on the right was an experience fencer.

A Meta rep also was roaming around the booth and touting their new Meta-Ray Ban glasses. She had me put them on and told me that they can capture what you are seeing in real time. Meta’s first generation of smart glasses have built-in cameras, open-ear audio, and seamless social sharing. Sort of a POV for the user that is sharable to others.

I can imagine that people may not have rush out and shoot with their smartphones any longer, if they wanted to capture something spontaneously by the touch of their finger. I immediately thought that this would be a great way to monitor the world around us and share our experiences together, as it doesn’t necessarily need to be for game sharing purposes. Perhaps, it could cut down on crime, since we might all be wearing these on a daily basis?

NReal booth demos the Air Glasses at GDC2023. Photo by Marcus Siu

AUGMENTED REALITY IS JUST NREAL

Another company that I was happy to see having a nice booth at the Expo Hall was Nreal. I was first introduced to them at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara in 2019 and wrote about them with their impressive augmented reality technology. This time, they were demonstrated their latest “Air” AR Glasses on laptops and smartphones, which reminds me of Google Glass, but has much better promise.

My first impression with these ultra-lightweight Nreal Air glasses, which could easily be confused as regular fashion sunglasses, is an amazing 201″ spatial display that gets casted from your device, whether it’s streaming from a game on the cloud, a compatible smartphone, or a iMac.

It has Micro-OLED panels and it is just has an amazing immersive display. As I put them on, I was looking at floating apps and browsers that I could select with my mouse, and be transported watching videos. Imagine watching Netflix or having a big screen for cloud gaming on the big screen anywhere you go.

A glimpse at the Pico Booth at GDC 2023. Photo by Marcus Siu.

META’S MAIN COMPETITOR?

If there is a Meta competitor on the Expo floor, it would probably be Pico from China who made their debut at GDC. They had a nice booth showing the evolution of their hardware products over they years, much displayed like it would be at a VR museum, if there was one.

The release of their Pico 4 was getting some buzz on the floor, but didn’t get any official announcement when it would actually be released. This is probably due to the fact that their parent company, Bytedance, also owns TikTok, is still trying to settle with the Senate hearings.

What a great time to be a game developer! Here are a slideshow of a few scenes from the Expo floor.

originally published on https://mlsentertainment.wordpress.com/2023/04/21/the-2023-game-developers-conference-future-glimpse-of-the-latest-spectacles/

#OscarsSoAsian – The 95th Annual Academy Awards and Predictions

#OscarsSoAsian – The 95th Annual Academy Awards and Predictions

THE SLAP HEARD AROUND THE WORLD

It’s been nearly a year since Will Smith infamously slapped Oscar host Chris Rock live onstage at last year’s Academy Awards telecast after cracking a “G.I. Jane” joke aimed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. It was indeed a surreal moment as the audience watched Smith laugh initially then turn to his wife who was fuming from the inside, got up from his chair to approach the stage and strike Rock.

Most of the audience thought that it was just “part of the act”, but when Smith returned to his seat and shouted expletives at Rock, they realized it was not.

Though the “teary eyed” and emotional Smith was allowed to return onstage to accept his Best Actor Oscar for “King Richard” after the incident, the Academy of Motion Pictures Sciences (AMPAS) decided a few weeks later that Smith would be barred from attending any Oscar ceremonies for the next ten years.

Months later, Apple TV announced a new movie called “Emancipation” to be released in late Fall starring Will Smith. At first, I thought it was about his documentary regarding his “freedom” from the Academy not having to attend the Oscars for the next ten years. Last weekend, Chris Rock premiered his Netflix special called “Selective Outrage”. “I rooted for Will Smith my whole life,” he said. “The other day, I watched “Emancipation” just so I could watch him getting whipped.”

All kidding aside, it’s a shame that had happened. It was one step forward for diversity, but two steps back. Or is it?

Sure, you can make a case there should have been at least more than two African-American nominees list this year for the acting categories. Viola Davis in “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” come to mind. You can also make a case that their directors from those films, Gina Prince Bythewood or even Chinonye Chukwu should have made the list in their category, even in a very competitive field.

Regardless of these omissions, the Academy is seems to be doing a formidable job of accomplishing its goals of diversifying the Academy since the #OscarsSoWhite movement eight years ago. They are clearly doing its best to continue its efforts in representing all groups, not just African-American filmmakers. If you look at this years nominations, it’s clearly diverse.

With four nominations, more Asian performers were recognized by the Academy in 2023 than in any single year in its history. In addition, Malaysian “Everything Everywhere All At Once” star Michelle Yeoh is only the second Asian best actress nominee in 95 years of Oscars history, with a strong chance of becoming the first winner.

After the embarrassing “Slap Heard Around The World” Oscars telecast like last year, we need a bit of comic relief. You can certainly bet our host for this year’s Oscars, Tonight Show’s own Jimmy Kimmel will prepare a lot of material that should keep us comfortably and uncomfortably laughing during the telecast. I can’t imagine a better host to open up the show and look forward to his monologue.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS

This may be the most difficult year in predicting the Oscars ever, but here are my predictions for the 95th Annual Academy Awards.

BEST PICTURE:

Exactly a year ago, when this “mind bending” independent film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had it’s World Premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 11th, 2022. Since that time, the film went on to become A24’s highest grossing film ever. It was re-released three times due to it’s popularity, including a one-night only at IMAX, and its re-release on January 27th thanks to a resurgence of interest for its leading eleven Academy Award nominations. It has won the top prizes from the Director’s Guild, Producer’s Guild, the Writer’s Guild, and won a record-breaking four awards at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. Though it lost at the BAFTA’s to “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the British Academy Awards, there is too much momentum for this film to lose at this year’s Oscars.

Everything Everywhere All at Once with Oscar nominees, Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. Photo Credit: Courtesy of A24.

BEST ACTOR:

After watching Brendan Fraser in his heart-wrenching performance in “The Whale” as a 600 pound recluse, I was certain that was getting the Oscar. Fraser just recently won at the SAG awards, so we know at least a majority of actors loved his performance. However, the Academy didn’t embrace “The Whale” as much as they did “Elvis” with its eight nominations. “The Whale” was nominated for three awards, but wasn’t nominated as Best Picture or even screenplay.

I still keep changing my tune on my prediction for Best Actor even as I write, as picking Elvis starts to make more sense. The Academy loves bio-pics, and it’s rare to have an actor be able to portray someone as iconic as Elvis. Jamie Foxx played Ray Charles, Rami Malek played Freddie Mercury, and Renée  Zellweger played Judy Garland and they all won the Oscar.

The extreme dedication of Butler for three years of his life is exemplary. As a method actor, he not only acted as Elvis, but embodied himself in his role as “The King”. He looked, sang and danced like him by watching tapes and films of him when production was down during COVID. He needed to be able to discern how Elvis talked and walked during certain periods of his career since they needed to shoot scenes out of sequence. He put posters and photos all over his wall during the shutdown when his co-star Tom Hanks, who played the Colonel caught COVID-19.

Even after the movie was done, he could not let go of Elvis, even as he went about promoting his film. He was Elvis 24/7 and still could not leave the King. He didn’t even see his family for three years because he was so focused on his role. What a hound dog!

This will be a tight race, but I think the “King” will live on.

AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

BEST ACTRESS:

Another difficult category to predict is Best Actress, which is really a race between the two-time Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh. Even on a fair playing field, I probably would have leaned for Cate Blanchett for her performance as Lydia Tár, one of the most extraordinary performances that she has ever done, if not the best.

She has proven she can play just about anything, including Spazzatura, the monkey in “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio”. If there is a sequel to “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, the Daniels may want her to play a googly eyed rock, and she may get another nomination.

However, Michelle Yeoh, who gets her second Oscar nomination for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, even with her hot dog fingers, can still just beat anyone up against her…and not just the music exit prompters at the Golden Globes. She is well loved not just in Hollywood, but globally, and the Academy would probably want to honor her the award, rather than give Blanchett a third.

She would also be a fitting tribute to honor the first Asian Best Actress Oscar winner as she has made a tremendous contribution to World Cinema during her lifetime. It would be fitting and iconic.

Maybe the U.S. mint she will issue her own coin one day.

Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is an average Chinese mother who reluctantly becomes a superhero, jumping alternate worlds and absorbing powers to fight an evil villain.
A24

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

When Ke Huy Quan stopped getting roles after being a formidable child star working in movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom alongside with Harrison Ford with Steven Spielberg directing, and a cult timeless movie classic called “The Goonies”, Quan believed the best was over. He stopped getting roles and decided to stop acting and work behind the scenes, notably with Wong Kar Wai as an assistant director. Nearly broke, he told his agent that he needed to work and found a role that he really wanted. The real life story of Quan is inspirational to any actor who was once in the spotlight and wants to return to it.

If there is any category that is the “sure thing”, this is it. He has won nearly every “Best Supporting Actor” award, with the exception of the BAFTA, in which Barry Keoghan won for his role in “The Banshees of the Inisherin”. I highly doubt Keoghan will repeat on American turf.

Hollywood loves a comeback story. Ke Huy Quan is the real deal.

Ke Huy Quan in EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE. ALLYSON RIGGS / A24 / COURTESY EVERETT COLLECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

This could be the category that will be most difficult to predict. Early in the Awards season, Angela Bassett was the frontrunner for “Black Panther – Wakanda Forever”. She won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. However, the momentum shifted. Just recently, Jamie Lee Curtis won the SAG award and Kerry Condon won the BAFTA. I have a feeling that the Academy will split votes between Curtis and Bassett more in recognition for their life work as veteran actors and the Academy would still like to honor “The Banshees of the Inisherin” as an Oscar winner. This is the only possible category that it could potentially win. Condon most likely will take the award, and deservedly so.

Kerry Condon in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

One real mystery remains, however. Now that Will Smith is barred from the Oscars, who will present the Best Actress award to this years recipient?

MLS Entertainment’s Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Actor: Austin Butler, “Elvis”
Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Supporting Actress: Kerry Condon “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Best Director: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Sarah Polley “Women Talking ”
Best Original Screenplay: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Cinematography: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Costume Design: “Elvis”
Best Film Editing: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Whale”
Best Music (Original Score): “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Music (Original Song): “Naatu Naatu”
Best Production Design: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Sound: “Top Gun Maverick”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Best Animated Feature Film: “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Best Foreign Language Film: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Documentary (Feature): “Navalny”
Best Documentary (Short Subject): “Elephant Whisperers”
Best Short Film (Animated): “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”
Best Short Film (Live Action): “An Irish Goodbye”


originally published on
https://wordpress.com/post/mlsentertainment.wordpress.com/8262

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Sony Pictures Classics Releases 30th Anniversary 4K UHD Box Set

Sony Pictures Classics Releases 30th Anniversary 4K UHD Box Set

I vividly remember the first time becoming totally immersed with an “Arthouse film” It was in 1992, in a little dinky hole-in-the-wall cinema in San Francisco. I sat there completely mesmerized watching, and as far as I can tell, a “near-perfect” movie, as every component of it’s filmmaking was simply superior in every aspect. The movie was “Howards End”.

The tiny theater consisted of less than fifty uncomfortable seats, but that didn’t matter much, as I was glued to how the the story moved along with Emma Thompson’s nuanced performance as Margaret Schlegel, a character I would never forget, along with the masterly Sir Anthony Hopkins.

The adapted screenplay written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala of Merchant/Ivory fame resonated with me, that I inspired to seek out the original writings by the author himself, E.M. Forster. When everyone else was collecting Batman memorabilia, I was collecting anything “Howard’s End”.

The film went on the following year to win three Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Thompson. It also happened to be the very first Sony Pictures Classics movie ever released.

Thank you Sony Pictures Classics for not only for introducing me to “Howard’s End”, which was absolutely my “Best Picture” favorite from that year, but also to the countless movies that were released in the last three decades.

Over the years of festival going, I would flip through the programs as an active movie festival goer, always looking for thought provoking films, both domestic and international. If I see the name “Sony Pictures Classics” as the distributor, then I knew right off that it was going to be a high quality film.

I still can’t believe it’s been thirty years.

To commemorate, Sony Pictures Classics just released since their 30th Anniversary 4K UHD set and it’s a beautiful package. It is the perfect gift for that someone who not only collects 4K UHD movies, but who appreciates finely designed packaging.

One of my gripes of buying physical media is that more than 90% of the time, you just get an amaray case along with the paper insert and Blu-ray. I used to love collecting Digi books Blu-Rays in my collection. Here, you have a 24-page booklet, featuring an all-new essay from renowned film critic David Thomson about the history of Sony Pictures Classics, along with information about each of the included films and an introduction from SPC co-presidents Tom Bernard and Michael Barker.

This 11 movie box set includes iconic award-winning masterpieces from world-renowned filmmakers, unforgettable performances from global luminaries, and fan-favorite stories that have resonated across the years: ORLANDO, THE CELLULOID CLOSET, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, RUN LOLA RUN, SLC PUNK, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, VOLVER, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK, STILL ALICE and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. Each film is presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range.

Notably, ten out of the eleven titles have never been released on 4K. (Only Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was released in 4K) Also, the set includes hours of archival special features across the eleven films, plus a few newly added materials, rounding out this set.

It would be a wonderful present for the holidays, even if it’s just for yourself.

ORLANDO

Synopsis: Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane star in this hip, sexy and wickedly funny look at an English nobleman who defies the laws of nature and comes back to life as an English noblewoman.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English 2-Channel Surround DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Audio Commentary with Director Sally Potter and Actress Tilda Swinton
  • Select Scenes Commentary
  • Orlando Goes to Russia
  • Orlando in Uzbekistan
  • Jimmy Was an Angel
  • Venice Film Festival Press Conference
  • An Interview with Sally Potter
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

THE CELLULOID CLOSET

Synopsis: Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this exuberant, eye-opening movie serves up a dazzling hundred-year history of gay men and women on the silver screen.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English 2-Channel Surround DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Lily Tomlin, producer Howard Rosenman, and editor Arnold Glassman
  • Additional Commentary with Author Vito Russo
  • Collection of Outtakes
  • Interview with Vito Russo
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN

Synopsis: From Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of AMELIE and DELICATESSEN, comes a fantastically twisted fairy tale chock-full of curious characters, spectacular stunts and unforgettable visuals.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • French 2-Channel Surround DTS-HD Master Audio
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Actor Ron Perlman
  • Making-Of Featurette
  • “Les Archives de Jean-Pierre Jeunet”
  • Interview With Costume Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier
  • Theatrical Teasers & Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

RUN LOLA RUN

Synopsis: A thrilling post-MTV, roller-coaster ride! Time is running out for Lola (Franka Potente). She’s just received a frantic phone call from her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), who’s lost a small fortune belonging to his mobster boss. If Lola doesn’t replace the money in twenty minutes, Manni will surely suffer severe consequences.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director Tom Tykwer and Editor Mathilde Bonnefoy
  • NEW, Making-Of Featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Director Tom Tykwer and Actor Franka Potente
  • Still Running Featurette
  • Believe” Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

SLC PUNK

Synopsis: It’s 1985 and Stevo is that rare animal: a punk rocker in the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City, Utah. He just graduated from college with honors and now his life is a nutty roller coaster ride of rock shows, stealing cars, beating up rednecks and non-stop partying with his buddy, Heroin Bob, and his girlfriend. But with the scene getting lame and Stevo going nowhere fast, he has to put his punk ideals to the test.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • NEW Revisiting SLC PUNK – a new interview with Director James Merendino
  • Audio Commentary with Director James Merendino and Actors Matthew Lillard & Michael Goorjian
  • Comic Book Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

Synopsis: An epic set against the breathtaking landscapes of ancient China, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon combines the exhilarating martial arts choreography by Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix) with the sensitivity and classical storytelling of an Ang Lee film. The result is something truly unexpected: romantic, emotionally powerful entertainment.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • Mandarin Dolbv Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio Commentary with Director Ang Lee and Writer / Producer James Schamus
  • Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Peter Pau
  • Introduction by Director Ang Lee
  • 7 Deleted Scenes (in 4K HDR)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – A Retrospective
  • The Making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • English “A Love Before Time” Music Video
  • Mandarin “A Love Before Time” Music Video
  • A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE

Synopsis: His father killed in the brutal fighting of the Spanish Civil War, ten-year-old Carlos is sent to live at the desolate Santa Lucia School, now a makeshift shelter for war orphans. Soon after his arrival, Carlos has a series of seemingly supernatural encounters: strange shadows, voices and, most frightening of all, the apparition of a brutalized young boy. Turns out that Carlos is not alone in seeing these strange phenomena, many other children have experienced the “One Who Sighs,” as the entity has come to be called.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro
  • Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro and Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro
  • Guillermo del Toro Introduction
  • Director’s Thumbnails Track
  • Director’s Notebook
  • Que es un fantasma? Featurette
  • 4 Deleted Scenes with Director Commentary
  • Sketch, Storyboard, Screen – 6 Scenes
  • Making-Of Featurette
  • Summoning Spirits Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

VOLVER

Academy Award-winner Pedro Almodóvar (2003, Best Original Screenplay, Talk to Her) comes VOLVER, a comedic and compassionate tribute to women and their resilience in the face of life’s most outrageous tribulations. A luminous Penélope Cruz leads an ensemble of gifted actresses, including Carmen Maura (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). Raimunda (Cruz) and her sister Sole lost their parents in a tragic fire years ago…or did they? Superstitious villagers claim that the girls’ departed mother, Irene (Maura), has been seen wandering around their Aunt Paula’s home. When Irene appears to Sole, she explains that she has returned to set right her daughters’ troubled lives and reveal shocking secrets that will impact everyone!

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio Commentary: Director Pedro Almodóvar and Actor Penélope Cruz
  • Making of Volver Featurette
  • Interview With Pedro Almodóvar
  • Interview with Penélope Cruz
  • Interview With Carmen Maura
  • Tribute to Penélope Cruz
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

Synopsis: From Charlie Kaufman comes a visual and philosophic adventure. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one. Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • The Story of Caden Cotard Featurette
  • NFTS/Script Factory Masterclass
  • Infectious Diseases in Cattle Roundtable
  • In and Around Synecdoche, New York Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

STILL ALICE

Synopsis: Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Also starring Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • 3 Deleted Scenes
  • Directing Alice Featurette
  • Finding Alice Featurette
  • Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Synopsis: Amid the summer splendor of 1980’s Italy, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire that will alter their lives forever.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
  • DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio Commentary with Actors Timothée Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg
  • Snapshots of Italy: The Making of Call Me by Your Name Featurette
  • In Conversation with Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Luca Guadagnino Featurette
  • “Mystery of Love” Music Video by Sufjan Stevens
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
Music Dreams Come True in Original Disney Documentary “Mija”

Music Dreams Come True in Original Disney Documentary “Mija”

Disney Original Documentary’s Mija follows Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt, two daughters of immigrants from Mexico, navigating their careers in the music industry. A moving love letter to immigrants and their children, this intimate debut feature by Isabel Castro captures the emotional and complex stories of Doris and Jacks for whom “making it” isn’t just a dream, it’s a necessity.

A DISNEY FIRST

It’s been a quite a musical journey for 27 year millennial old Doris Muñoz, the subject and protagonist of the latest Disney documentary feature film “Mija”, who appeared at a recent screening at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco along with the films Emmy-nominated director, Isabel Castro, who is also credited as the Director of Photography.

“Mija”, which literally translates to “my darling little daughter” in Spanish, tells the story of Muñoz pursuing her dreams of “making it” in the music industry while trying to sponsor her undocumented immigrant parents to gain legal status in the U.S. enabling them to reunite the entire family together. Her brother was deported back to Mexico six years ago.

“Mija” has the distinct honor of being the first “Disney Original Documentary”, which is “committed to pushing the boundaries in non-fiction storytelling by embracing new creative voices, approaches and styles in cinema”. The film is a sensible first choice as it fits that criteria with the Latino community, an ethnic group whose voice rarely gets heard in the media. On so many different levels, the film takes the audience out on an emotional rollercoaster, especially exposing the racial and cultural barriers of living in this country without having the benefit of being treated as a first-class American citizen.

The film had its premiere at Sundance in January, its theatrical run in August, and will be streaming on Disney Plus starting September 16th.

PERSONAL STORYTELLING

In contrast to her journalistic immigration documentaries that she directed for various media outlets, Castro was given more creative control and was able to shape the narrative storytelling in “Mija” that had limited her so much in the past. “As a teenager, I felt like there was a shortage of stories about what it meant to come of age as an immigrant or as the child of immigrants in the United States. I wanted to tell the kind of story I craved myself, as a Mexican immigrant, when I was figuring out my identity, family, and community.” Castro exclaims.

It’s her most personal film to date, which included and total cooperation and trust from with her subject, Doris Muñoz, along with her entire family and her musical cliental, even through the pandemic, which actually heightened their relationship even more.

“When I met Isabel, we clicked in a way that felt like we’ve known each other for such a long time. And that’s my gut feeling immediately checked out. I was like, already cool, like I could trust her with this, and I think that”, Munoz explained. “I didn’t have Big Sisters growing up and I felt like Isabel kind of really like became a part of our family. Her being a part of such intimate moments. And I felt like I had a big sister all of a sudden, you know, and I, I think quite transparent online.”

MUSIC AS A CAREER CHOICE

The film begins with Muñoz, buying party supplies at a local store in San Bernardino, which we later find out is for her own 26th birthday party that she plans to throw for herself. She explains that she is the “birthday queen” as we are shown footage of early family home videos from when she was a baby to where she is now. Lovingly raised alongside her brother by her immigrant parents and extremely proud of their Latina heritage, we see her singing at home, in church, and even playing the saxophone and the violin in high school. Through these clips, it becomes obvious that music was going to be her chosen path.

After graduating USC with a degree in music theater, Muñoz questions her unorthodox career choice of being a music manager. We see her trying to persuade her supportive but unconvinced parents that she is heading in the right direction career-wise to financially support herself. At the same time, we feel the conflict and tension in her voice as she tries to reason with her parents on the phone, as she now has to make critical adult decisions on her own that will shape her life and eventually her family from this point on.

A CAREER IN MUSIC MANAGEMENT

It soon pays off for Muñoz, as she began to reach out to other Latino artists using social media, such as Twitter and YouTube. She gets her big break with becoming the music manager for Cuco, a young teenage Chicano singer-songwriter music artist from Hawthorne, California. Within a year, Muñoz helped Cuco playing backyard BBQ shows to major music festivals, such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, eventually becoming an international sensation.

In one memorable scene, Cuco mesmerizes his Latino audience, who are also singing along to his lyrics as he seductively performs to them. The camera perfectly captures the mood with its colors magically blending its universe and adding to the ethereal quality of the moment, as well as showing us the power and intensity of those of the artist and audience that are reserved usually only to the musical elite.

From that point on, Muñoz never looked back as her career flourished with a new lifestyle that she never imagined; five star hotels, restaurants, travel all around the world, but most of all, financial independence…all for something she loved doing.

After Cuco and Doris parted ways, due to the pandemic that forced cancelling tours, she decided to create her own company, named “Mija Management”. She reached out to Jacks Haupt for who she also saw on social media. Like Muñoz, she was also an immigrant who wanted nothing more than to succeed as an artist with no turning back. Even with Muñoz being six years her senior, the two became like-sisters, with both having the same guilt of being the only U.S. citizen in their own family.

Just as the importance in a relationship between a documentary subject and the documentary director is to the film, the same could be said between the artist and the music manager when it comes to music. It’s all about gaining trust. Just like Muñoz has a trusting relationship with her family, she also does with the artists that she manages. With her growing reputation and success as a music manager, musical talent now pursues her instead of it being the other way around.

Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt lay on a multicolored blanket in the grass. (Credit: ©2022 Disney)

A CAREER AS A MUSIC ARTIST

Though she had the talent to be a singer herself when she attended USC, Muñoz preferred not to be in the spotlight but to be behind the scenes. It wasn’t until she had the opportunity to sing with Ed Sheeran, who asked her onstage to sing along to his hit single “Lego House” at a radio event during her sophomore year in college, that she ever did consider to become a singer and launch a solo career.

As soon as she started posting videos of herself performing on YouTube, they went viral. Even her musical heroes responded and gave her much encouragement and praise. Even more amazing is that it hasn’t even been yet a year since Muñoz decided to change career paths from being a music manager to a singer. It was a life transformation for her.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It was like when I finally made the decision, it felt like my angels, my ancestors, my guide, take everyone who’s been rooting for me up and around me”, Munoz continued, “they made the way, and like every door has been opening since”.

Now she is going by the stage name, Doris Anahí, she has her music on all the streaming platforms and already has a few Vevo music videos playing on YouTube. There will also be a soundtrack available for “Mija’, as well.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When asked during a Q&A at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco about her future plans, Castro answered, “I don’t know. I’ll give you a medium answer ’cause I can stay up here for two hours. Kind of unpacking my existential crisis.” Castro paused. “I’m constantly just navigating the different challenges that come along with storytelling spaces. I think I moved out of journalism to try to, you know, go into documentary. And now I’m kind of thinking about fiction”, Castro concluded. “I’m a mess”, as the audience roared into laughter.

With the overly enthusiastic audience and ovation at the end of the film, I believe we will all greatly anticipate and embrace her next film project, whatever it may be documentary or fiction.