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Tony Khamvongsouk RSS Feed (Frisco, TX)

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Panasonic KX-FA136 Replacement Ribbon for KX-FP200/FM210/220/205, KX-FMC230
Panasonic KX-FA136 Replacement Ribbon for KX-FP200/FM210/220/205, KX-FMC230
Offered by ROMAN SHOP
Price: $33.99
33 used & new from $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic KX-FA136 Transfer Film Ribbon Refill., April 16, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I know, who still uses fax machines, right? Especially an old one from the '90s. Well, oddly enough, we still need one for very rare occasions. And rather than upgrade to whatever fancy schmancy newer version that exists, we stick with ol' reliable, here (Panasonic something or other). Anyway, there's not much to say about this as an actual product. It simply does what it's supposed to: print. The real kicker, though, is finding these ribbons for a great price, 'cause believe me, there are some outrageous ranges out there.

The first time I bought one of these refill boxes was back in 2012, and I paid $19.99 *with* Amazon Prime. So yeah, if you see it for anything more than that, you're not looking hard enough. It's just a matter of finding a good seller with a dependable rating and a great price. So if you still need this model of ribbon refill, ignore those low-star ratings that complain about individual sellers, use a little common sense, find a *good* seller that's advertising a low price, and you'll get what you want.

Panasonic KX-FA136 Film Cartridge
Panasonic KX-FA136 Film Cartridge
Price: $22.95
58 used & new from $5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic KX-FA136 Transfer Film Ribbon Refill., April 16, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I know, who still uses fax machines, right? Especially an old one from the '90s. Well, oddly enough, we still need one for very rare occasions. And rather than upgrade to whatever fancy schmancy newer version that exists, we stick with ol' reliable, here (Panasonic something or other). Anyway, there's not much to say about this as an actual product. It simply does what it's supposed to: print. The real kicker, though, is finding these ribbons for a great price, 'cause believe me, there are some outrageous ranges out there.

The first time I bought one of these refill boxes was back in 2012, and I paid $19.99 *with* Amazon Prime. So yeah, if you see it for anything more than that, you're not looking hard enough. It's just a matter of finding a good seller with a dependable rating and a great price. So if you still need this model of ribbon refill, ignore those low-star ratings that complain about individual sellers, use a little common sense, find a *good* seller that's advertising a low price, and you'll get what you want.

Samsung Galaxy Avant Screen Protector, IQ Shield® LiQuidSkin Full Coverage Screen Protector for Samsung Galaxy Avant HD Clear Anti-Bubble Film - with Lifetime Warranty
Samsung Galaxy Avant Screen Protector, IQ Shield® LiQuidSkin Full Coverage Screen Protector for Samsung Galaxy Avant HD Clear Anti-Bubble Film - with Lifetime Warranty
Offered by IQ Shield
Price: $11.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IQ Shield LiQuidSkin - Samsung Galaxy Avant Screen Protector., January 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Having recently acquired my first-ever smartphone (the Galaxy Avant), I wanted to make sure that I got a good screen protector to guard it from unsightly scratches and smudges. And in looking over various products on Amazon, I decided to give IQ Shield a try, as it seemed like a decent price, and the lifetime guarantee thing sounded pretty good, too.

When I received the screen protector, I followed the written instructions for installation:

1. Remove any protective casing and the battery from the phone.
2. Fill the included installation tub with a light mix of soapy water (and by "soap," I mean the most absolute basic kind without the grease-cutters or antibacterials, good luck finding those).
3. Dunk the protector into the solution.
4. Carefully apply the sticky side of the protector on the screen.
5. Use the included squeegee tool to press out excess water or air pockets.
6. Leave the protector to dry on for, at least, 24 hours (beyond that, an air pocket or two might still be there, but will naturally dissipate over time).

Unfortunately, the soap I had in the house did, in fact, have grease remover in it, resulting in a very filmic look, which downright ruined the protector. However, I sent IQ Shield's Customer Service department an email explaining the situation, and they were very understanding about it and sent me a free replacement screen the very next day. It figures that the spray bottle included in the kit is actually a pre-made mixture of the soapy water they want you to use. This would've been obvious had I actually bothered to watch their Youtube video (the address is written on the instructions), and it was a *much* easier installation than the first time.

So the moral of the story is, watch the Youtube video. The written instructions could've used some better writing (like mentioning that bottle, at all), but the video explains all the instructions much more succinctly and in under 3 minutes. Overall, I was very impressed with their response time for that first snafu and their diligence in getting me my replacement screen within the week. $10 for a good screen protector with a lifetime warranty is a pretty good deal. And I am happy to say that with a quality product and service combined, it's a really great deal. Highly recommended.

X-men: Days Of Future Past [Blu-ray]
X-men: Days Of Future Past [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: $85.99
5 used & new from $84.84

30 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars X-Men: Days of Future Past, May 25, 2014
(Note: I will eventually update/replace this with a Blu-ray review when I eventually acquire the product).

So I might have mentioned this in past reviews, but I spent a good deal of my childhood pretty much worshiping the X-Men franchise: I read a few of the comics (till I got tired of the issues piling up), I watched the animated series religiously, practically bought every action figure I could find, and played any and all video games they ever came out with. Of course, that was purely from an amazement of the art and concept of "cool-looking characters with superpowers." But by the time I was older and a little more mentally mature, Bryan Singer would, then, start a film franchise that would change my perspective on the world of X-Men forever. It wasn't just about "powers," anymore, but also philosophy.

And who better an actor to represent a philosopher than the great Patrick Stewart, playing an older Charles Xavier (basically a telepathic Capt. Pichard in a wheelchair), with another powerhouse actor opposite him via Ian McKellen (long before most people came to know him as Gandalf). Long story short: although the story and character elements weren't quite as close to the canon as they could've been, the big draw for me, personally, were the ideologies. In a world where humans are evolving through genetic mutation, how would this effect co-existence between humans and mutants, or could it even be achieved at all? What of all the questions, fear, and possible intent of wrong-doing based on this revelation?

The result of Singer's first 2 films really brought those quandaries into light and built up some great concepts.. until he left the 3rd one, and the whole franchise turned to crap. Like I said, I've always found Hollywood X-Men to be more about the contrasting views of Xavier and Lensherr than anything else: X1 established that world and set a tone for "war," while X2 escalated things to an even grander, more epic scale. Unfortunately, I feel X3 lost that philosophical edge and basically turned the franchise into something completely superficial (that "cool-looking characters with superpowers" thing I mentioned, only sprinkled with some really bad/cheesy one-liners; eff you for that, Brett Ratner).

Thankfully, though, after that debacle and a less-than-stellar "Wolverine Origins" movie, Singer came back as writer with Matthew Vaughn directing to give us "First Class." And while it was a prequel that only added to the chagrin of hardcore fans and their continuity problems; for me, it was a fascinating re-introduction to the building blocks that were Charles' and Erik's philosophies. In addition, I also feel it added a lot of character depth giving a great glimpse of what makes each of them tick. One, driven by a calm, explorative, almost naive, sense of hope; the other, indoctrinated through fear, hatred, and misfortune; but both with similar goals: peace/freedom for mutant-kind.

When I heard Singer was returning to direct "Days of Future Past" and including the plot element of time travel to fix things (mainly X3), I was excited, to say the least. And with that said, boy did he fix 'em! DoFP essentially resets everything prior to this film, except FC, creating a new continuity and setting up all kinds of possible scenarios for future films. Not only that, though, but the balancing act between its past and present timelines do wonders for even more character-building, particularly in re-establishing Charles' faith in the prospect of humans and mutants someday co-existing with one another. I won't say much else as to not spoil things, but that was my main take and most enjoyable aspect from the film, by far.

On another note, I also wanted to make a few technical comments. I know most people rant that 3D is merely a "gimmick," but I personally believe it can be well-utilized as a sort of aesthetic in and of itself. DoFP was shot in 3D, so I went and saw it as such. In terms of presentation, I would say it's not the most overt 3D (like "Avatar"-level), but it's subtle and still pretty immersive, overall (more like "Prometheus"), with a few action sequences that *really* take advantage of 3D's depth perception (the biggest and best one involving Quicksilver). If you can and have appreciated 3D and its general applicability, I would "make it so."

I wish I could say so much more, but I don't believe in spoiling things, and I don't think most people have the patience for large bodies of text, so let me simply say that I absolutely love the direction these films have gone in (aside from X3 and Origins, but none of that matters, anymore, thanks to good ole time traveling!). This shouldn't be too big a spoiler since it's already been announced as the next film, but get ready for Apocalypse, the greatest, grandest, and most powerful of all villains the X-Men have faced, akin to the likes of Thanos, Darkseid, and whatever other uber-powerful comic book villain you can think of. And yes, stay after the credits to get a quick sneak peek.

Overall rating: an obvious 10/10.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier  (Plus Bonus Features)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Plus Bonus Features)
Price: $19.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captain America: The Winter Soldier, April 13, 2014
Note: I will eventually replace this review with a more concise one about tech specs and extras when I acquire the Blu-ray.

As much as I love watching movies, I admit I actually don't watch too many of 'em in theaters. The crowds can be annoying and I hate driving through the small amounts of traffic just to get there and back. But on semi-rare occasions, I'll *make* the effort to go out of my way for certain films. In this particular case, it was to see the next entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.'

Not sure if this has been mentioned to death already, but, in my opinion, the MCU is a pretty stellar achievement in movie-making. Yeah, they're based on comic books, and comic books probably aren't that special to the general movie-going public (shame on you if you're a part of it). But if you consider the sheer amount of continuity that Marvel has managed to construct since 'Iron Man,' it's amazing how everything has been tied together and continues to do so over half a decade later (with even more on the horizon).

So what's the big draw here? Ever since 'The Avengers' most of the general public (there they go, again) hasn't been as exuberant about any of these Phase 2 movies. 'Iron Man 3' and 'Thor 2' weren't as epic as Avengers; and rightfully so, 'cause why would you want to set expectations so high and just keep surpassing awesomeness? Sure, the films expand on their respective characters. But given the recent moniker, "masters of the waiting game," Marvel did it before by building up worlds and plot reveals with a sprinkle of this and that towards "the bigger picture." Heck, they even managed to create 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' another property that doesn't seem get a lot of love. But guess what? Another payout has been made, and a *huge* one at that.

Firstly, we start off with the expansion of Steve Rogers' character. In Cap 1, we get to see the kind of person he is. In Cap 2, we get to see how his sort of "old-school mentality" adapts to the present day. Working with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the adjustments to the modern world seem okay enough, but there's an obvious tension between ideologies. Gone are the straight-forward days of observation and response. Instead, "protecting the world" has resorted to covert operations and compartmentalization: missions within missions and withheld information for the greater good. This causes Rogers to question the system, maybe even dislike it. And when things get a little crazy (actually, *very* crazy, but I won't spoil it, 'cause it's a pretty cool surprise that plays out), conspiracy abounds, and allegiances are put to the test.

Remember that "big payoff" I mentioned? Well, not only is it a tie-in to AoS, but it's an *absolute* game-changer to the landscape of things from here on out (again, big spoiler that's best to be seen to be believed). Oh yeah, and I haven't even talked about the stupendous action sequences in this film: a hostage rescue mission, a Nick Fury car chase, various encounters with The Winter Soldier, and the grand finale involving a slew of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives. Take those, put 'em together with some sleek production values, crystal-clear digital cinematography, and an adrenaline-inducing score by composer Henry Jackman, and you've got another formula for, arguably, the best Marvel film since Avengers.

I wouldn't say you *had* to be watching AoS to really get the same impact from the big plot reveal, but I think it will certainly help you appreciate both, Cap 2 and AoS, on a much, *much* higher and more intricate level. Again, I'm simply amazed at the continuity established through the TV show and all these wonderful films. To see such great writing portrayed and carried out with such excellent execution has me so excited for, pretty much, anything else Marvel Studios has coming up next. You simply never know what surprises they'll have in store.

A definite 10/10, and my favorite film of the year, so far.

RoboCop [Blu-ray]
RoboCop [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Joel Kinnaman
Offered by The Big Lebowski
Price: $8.49
105 used & new from $2.37

114 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robocop (2014), April 10, 2014
This review is from: RoboCop [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Note: I will eventually update and replace this review when I acquire the Blu-ray.

Had a chance to go see this the other day after a fresher, more recent viewing of the remastered original on Blu-ray (my first time seeing that one since I was a kid). And I have to say I was pretty surprised by how much I liked this remake. When I first saw the trailer, I honestly thought it would turn out to be some kind of shallow action movie that would only be hindered by its PG-13 rating. But what I got was a very well-written film with sleek production values, a good dose of action, and a lot of soul in the story.

For those who might've been stuck under the proverbial "movie rock" and don't know the basic premise of RoboCop, the story follows Detroit police officer (or detective, in this remake) Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) who is so badly injured in the line of duty, that his body is donated and remade into a prototype police cyborg by the conglomerate company, OmniCorp. In becoming cyberized, the contrasting entities of both man and machine are causing Murphy to question his directives and values as both the person he was and the product he has become. But as with any corporation, there's more to this "product" than meets the eye.

Firstly, I have to say that as much as I liked the original movie growing up, after seeing it again, it shows its age. It's an '80s movie and feels every bit like one, mostly in the dialogue and characterizations, but especially the effects. And I still do like it a lot, but probably not as much. As a whole, I see it as an action movie with subtle hints of moral/ethical quandaries about the treatment of human test subjects and as an allegory to corporate corruption for the sake of profit. I get that. I like it. And it feels very ambitious for a movie in '87. But after watching the movie I saw yesterday, it was like a complete 180-flip on the story emphasis. Instead of being an action flick with hints of story, I'm delighted to say it was a very human story with hints of action.

The new RoboCop essentially takes everything the original didn't overtly talk about and puts it in the open. It spends less time showing the ingenuity of the technology itself and, in my opinion, tells a much more humanizing story for the moral/ethical issues that only had its surface scratched in the original. You can see this pretty easily from the moment Murphy wakes up in his new form and as the film progresses with OmniCorp gradually trying to make him more and more of a machine. Whereas the original had him wake up as a machine that gradually became more human.

Also much more pronounced in this remake is the allegory of the all-powerful corporate conglomerate superpower. Instead of being a widely-known American brand, a la the the original, they upped the ante, here, by having OmniCorp also dipping into the military scene. For video game fans, I saw this is as basically being a reference to the Metal Gear universe and the concept of PMCs (Private Military Companies) and that the movie's aesthetic is a dead ringer for Metal Gear Rising (the film's opening scene, in particular, and the fact that the protagonist is a cyborg). Not sure if either are influences for one another, but it's a pretty damn cool coincidence.

That being said, this new RoboCop is pretty entertaining. It re-invents the original concept very well and even manages to throw in some references and one-liners from the old '87 flick. The characterizations are much more fleshed-out, the story much more symbolic, the special effects obviously more updated, the action well-choreographed, and the cinematography is still surprisingly gritty, despite the movie being shot digitally. I know it's cheesy to make one-liner references in a movie review, but.. (grr..) I'd buy *that* for a dollar!

If you're a fan of the original and are hesitant by the mere fact that this is a "remake," please put aside any prejudice or stereotypes you think you know about remakes and give this one a chance. You might actually be surprised at what you find.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2014 9:22 AM PDT

Ranma ½ - Set 1 (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
Ranma ½ - Set 1 (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
6 used & new from $159.94

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ranma 1/2: Season 1 (Limited Edition), March 26, 2014
Movie - 4.0

By this point, most anime/manga fans probably know the name 'Rumiko Takahashi.' Maybe not all of those fans appreciate her work on equal terms, but she's prolific in some sense, nonetheless. And one her most popular franchises is that of 'Ranma 1/2' (most people say "one half," but I simply refer to it as "half" to save the extra syllable); a rather crazy and over-the-top martial arts romantic action dramedy with the occasional supernatural twist. The series follows one Ranma Saotome, a martial artist who "befell" a strange circumstance while training in China with his father, Genma. And during that training, both father and son, literally, fell into the cursed springs of Jusenkyo. The curse was that if you fell into a spring, you'd be transformed into whatever fell in there last (which could be re-activated by cold water and "deactivated" with hot water). So upon cold splashes, Ranma now turns into a girl, and his father a panda. Oh, and it just so happens that Genma made a promise long ago with an old friend to marry one of his three daughters to Ranma. Of the three, Akane Tendo was the "lucky" gal. Unfortunately, she's a bit of a tomboy, and, well.. sort of hates guys.

It's really hard to describe this series for the uninitiated. Yes, it's as crazy as I make it sound: a protagonist with access to instant (albeit, accidental, unwarranted, and definitely troublesome) sex changes, a giant panda occasionally walking around in public, and an arranged marriage between two people that, for the most part, can't stand each other. And yes, love lines, triangles, rhombuses, pentagrams, and maybe even hexagons (if memory serves me right) will eventually develop, collapse, and redevelop themselves from time to time. If I were to use a more contemporary example of comparison, I would liken Ranma to a martial arts version of The Office: it's kind of irrelevant, sort of meanders, doesn't really have a central story, but has so many quirky characters and hilarious moments, that you can't help but find it entertaining. And bear in mind, this is only the first season. There are more characters to be added or that haven't been mentioned (a rival martial artist guy that turns into a pig, an amazon princess girl that turns into a cat, another guy into a duck, the high school rival that falls for the girl version of Ranma) and various other scenarios to unfold. I won't say much else so I don't spoil things. It really is one of those series that you'll either love or hate (much like Takahashi's other works). If you're not an anime fan and are afraid you won't get some of the humor, please rent or borrow this, first. But if you're obviously well- or even decently-versed, on anime culture, don't hesitate to start collecting this classic.

Video - 5.0

- Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
- Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1

A perfect score for a TV series from the late '80s/early '90s? Am I being too generous? Nah, I don't think so. Believe it or not (for all you youngsters out there), animation used to be hand-drawn. Yep, before rendered CG or even digital animation, there was a thing called film. And most anime before the turn of the century used to employ such methods as a means of making really cool moving pictures. Movies and OVAs (Original Video Animations) had higher budgets, which meant better film stock. TV series, which could run anywhere from a dozen to a few *hundred* episodes, had their budget constraints, which usually meant lower quality film stock (and possibly shoddy art/animation from time to time). Most anime around this decade were shot on 16mm, maybe 35mm if they had the money for it, but mostly 16mm. Oh yeah, and they also used to format things in 4:3. That's right, kids. TVs used to be squares, not rectangles! And because of that, some of the older stuff you see, today, might not fill your screens, because cutting stuff off, zooming in, and messing with the colors can be considered a slap to the face for people who actually care about the original format. That's what we call "artistic integrity."

Yes, unlike the recent "efforts" by FUNimation to absolutely screw over Dragon Ball Z and cater to, what I call, the "McAnime fans" (the droves of people who unknowingly pay for cheap/bad quality but think they're getting a good product via corporate trickery) who are willing to accept cropping, zooming, de-graining, and over-saturating their pictures, Viz has clearly 1-up'd FUNi by advertising this new Ranma set as *uncropped.* And with that said, the series looks fantastic! My first exposure to the series was over a decade ago on some bootlegged DVDs (although, I think they were copies of the official R1 releases, which I've since gotten rid of, after discovering what bootlegs actually were). If you scroll down, you'll see that I reference Viz uses the same transfer as the Japanese BDs. And from the looks of it, they did a spectacular job with the cleanup and color correction. The film grain makes for excellent line detail, colors look natural and vibrant, and aside from the occasional specking or inherent softness (again, being a long series means a tighter budget, so I'm more than willing to forgive a few specks or animation shortcuts here and there), this will probably be the best picture you can get for a series this old. There's not artificial sharpening, banding (since there aren't any digital effects, obviously), weird saturation issues, or other video snafus that would, otherwise, lead you to believe this is a FUNimation "remaster."

Audio - 4.0

- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

- English

Viz presents Ranma 1/2 with two DTS-HD MA tracks, the default being the English dub, with the other being the original Japanese. Also part of the norm for most anime series back in the day (and even sometimes in the present), unless the production itself had a really high budget (like movie or OVA-tiered), then the title in question was usually limited to a simple 2-channel mix (or even mono for the really old or low budget series). Some companies like to take the original sound masters and make faux-5.1 tracks (*cough* FUNimation), but you can only do so much matrixing to make a 2-channel design "sound like surround." Fortunately, we get the option to enjoy our preferred language in its most natural 2-channel state. Obviously, its design isn't going to wow any home theater enthusiasts, but it gets the job done and is still better than a hollow/dull lossy stereo or "lossless faux-5.1" mix.

As for my personal take on how the mix performs, I think it sounds quite good. Prior to watching this BD set, I had recently been viewing a lot of recorded TV shows with lossy 5.1 (ranging from 384-448kbps), some older anime DVDs with lossy 2.0 (at 192kbps, ugh!), and the occasional blockbuster BD (with lossless 5.1 or 7.1) just for the heck of it. And after mini-marathoning Ranma, I especially find this 2-channel mix to be very good in comparison to the other stuff I was watching (aside form the blockbuster lossless tracks, obviously). Depth between the voices, sound effects, and music separate very well. There's not a whole lot of traffic in the design itself, per se, but it definitely sounds better than the lossy 2-channel mixes most anime DVDs have. There's none of that inherent ringing or hissing, while high and low ends are pretty well-balanced on, both, the left and right speakers. There's even a very slight presence of LFEs (which will vary, depending on your setup), but don't expect something showcase-worthy. Again, it's a very simple 2-channel mix. But for the purpose it serves, that's good enough for me.

Extras - 3.0

(Note: All the video extras are located on Disc 3)

- NYCC 2013 Ranma 1/2 panel (HD; 33:42)
New York Comic-Con footage of the Viz reps talking about their first encounters with the title, some info about the remastering process of the manga, some comparisons of the manga panels before/after remastering, talk about the Blu-ray boxes for the anime and how they're using the same transfer as the Japanese BDs, then some screencap comparisons for the picture between the DVDs and BDs. I'm very glad they shot this in HD, as you get a really good look at the DVD/BD comparisons to see the differences in picture quality.

- "We love Ranma" Part 1 - Manga Remastering with U.S. editor (HD; 10:02)
An interview with editor Hope Donovan for the newly remastered 2-in-1 omnibus versions of the manga. She talks about how the manga has since gone out of print in the U.S. and how she wanted to fix a lot of the little things with these new re-releases such as: using the original Japanese covers, realigning for the correct reading order (was originally printed in the U.S. reading from left to right, but is now being re-released reading from right to left to retain its "Japanese-ness" like all other manga released in the States) more accurate translations (of sound effects and other things), and keeping the artwork as faithful to its original form as possible.

- NYCC 2013 highlight reel (HD; 2:54)
Just some footage of cosplayers, booths, and random look-arounds of the convention.

- Next episode previews (HD; 7:45)
All the previews from the end of each episode; presented with the original Japanese audio and some really big English subtitles.

- Clean opening and endings (SD; 9:03)
All presented in standard definition.

- Trailers (HD; 1:32)
A couple of trailers for InuYasha: one for the BD movie box set and one for the 'Final Act' TV series. This is actually the first time I've seen any of IY in HD, and it looks pretty awesome. Here's hoping they make BD box sets for that series, too.

- 64-Page booklet
Included in the limited edition release is a booklet containing a sample of the remastered manga. I never read the original U.S. prints, but this looks pretty amazing. The paper is glossy, which gives it an especially clean and sturdy look. Not sure if the actual omnibus re-releases will use glossy paper as well, but I think it's a pretty cool thing to have. The manga sample reads in the Japanese order (right to left) and covers about half the booklet. The other half is an episode guide for the anime with screencaps and synopses and reads in Western order (left to right).

- Art box
The BD case and booklet come housed in a spiffy looking artbox with a profile picture of (Girl) Ranma on the front on top of a red background, and (Panda) Genma on the back on top of a blue background. Both profile pictures are embossed with a light gold trim, giving the box a very high quality feel.

Overall - 4.0

It feels like ages since I've seen Ranma. But knowing what I know now, I can say I really missed the series and enjoy it even more, today, especially with this great release by Viz. The extras on disc are a little ho-hum (wish there were more interviews from the Japanese production side, like Takahashi herself or some of the voice actors), but the manga sample is pretty nice, and the art box has a very elegant feel to it. I'm convinced this is as good as the video will ever look sans a 4K master (which would be absolute overkill, in my opinion), so rejoice. Ranma has never looked (or sounded) better. Start (re-)collecting this gem today, and look forward to more Takahashi zaniness (hopefully in the form of InuYasha BDs someday too?)!

This is the End (Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy)
This is the End (Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ James Franco
Price: $9.99
85 used & new from $2.32

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Is the End (Blu-ray), October 5, 2013
Movie - 4.5

Over the last few years, I've sorta' become divided by the disaster genre. On the one hand, I like seeing the social commentaries within the human interactions, but then it's also kinda' neat to see stuff get destroyed. Regardless of how you put it, though, a lot of these invasion, Apocalypse, or outbreak movies almost always tend to be really serious (unless it was directed by Roland Emmerich). And then I discovered "This Is the End." The story is something of a self-deprecating caricature of these Hollywood actors being over-the-top versions of themselves and follows Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and many others celebs having a housewarming party at Franco's. But when the Apocalypse occurs (yes, the same one that's in the Bible) and things start to go crazy, the lone handful of these surviving actors decide to take shelter within Franco's house in an attempt to live it out. But it's not just the rationing of food and water and the loss of the Internet they have to deal with. They also have to survive.. each other.

If you've seen pretty much any comedy film starring any combination of these guys within the last half-decade or so, you should already know what to expect: raunchy humor, lots of cussing, crass back-and-forth banter, the occasional cutoff or dismembered body part, borderline-annoying personal issues, and possibly some drug-induced humor. It can be pretty hit-or-miss. Although, given each of these actors' recent box office numbers, I guess most people like 'em, anyway, so it really just comes down your own personal preference in humor and how much of these guys' personalities you can stomach. Personally, I like the movie a lot. It's sort of a mashup of Pineapples Express (same writers, most of the main cast, and a buddy comedy), Tropic Thunder (a parody of how egotistical Hollywood personalities deal with catastrophe), and just a little bit of Shaun of the Dead (funny, but occasionally gory and tense). If you know these guys' careers, it's probably safe to say you'll like it. If you're not a fan their brand, keep expectations low, give it a rent, and maybe you'll like it, anyway.

Video - 4.5

- Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
- Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Shot with the Red Epic at a native 5K resolution, the video is dang-near perfect. The director of photography was Brandon Trost whose most recent works I've seen include his collaborations with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Crank: High Voltage. Needless to say, those two movies look amazing, which kinda' surprised me when I learned he'd be the DP for this crazy action-thriller-comedy. And while just about every shot looks extremely sharp, there's only a very minor level of lost detail. A lot of the explanation can be heard in the special features where Trost talks about wanting to give the film a very apparent Apocalyptic vibe, which in turn led to a lot of low-lit shots and an orange/amber color timing. Pretty much the beginning and end of the movie, all of which are outside Franco's house, look pretty good. Otherwise, most of the film has a sort of dingy look with lots of intentional flaring to give it a more dramatic effect (Goldberg and Rogen actually take a small crack at the use of lens flares in the commentary).

Additionally, since this is also a kind of a dramady with a decent amount of dialogue, many of the shots and framing involve a good amount of closeups, meaning what could've been worse in terms of video quality actually isn't that bad because the closeness makes up for some the lack in detail. That being said, there's still a lot of texture in faces and objects (though it *really* depends on the camera angle and lighting) and some pretty good line detail and shadow delineation. There's not a whole of light to work with because of the sets, so the result often looks a tad murky. Skin and flesh tones are pretty normal (again, for pretty much any scene not inside Franco's house), but for the most part have a goldish, orangey-Apocalyptic hue to 'em. Also of surprise, a lot of the film's CG looks quite passable (given the nature of the movie). And I'm happy to report that there's no heavy banding, digital noise, artificial sharpening, or any of those anomalies that can sometimes creep their way into digital photography.

Audio - 5.0

- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English: Dolby Digital 5.1
- French: Dolby Digital 5.1
- English: Dolby Digital 2.0

- English, French

Now here's, where the BD really surprised me. Most action-comedies I've seen that tend to have a lot of.. well, action, on screen never quite reach that level of "reference" on my sound system. Films like Tropic Thunder, The Other Guys, and Pineapple Express sound *really* good for comedies, but tend to lack that extra "oomph" in the LFEs. Okay, I lied. There is *one* movie that is predominantly a comedy that I can think of that has some pretty awesome sound, and that's Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. But other than that, most other action-comedies only sound great (instead of jaw-dropping); not so, here, in This Is the End. Mixed, designed, and edited by Michael Babcock, who previously only did additional work in such blockbusters as War of the Worlds, Transformers, The Dark Knight (and Rises), The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Inception, I think it's safe to say the guy had some great-sounding movies to use for reference in his first big gig as the sound boss.

There's a pretty decent amount of dialogue in the film with only a small portion of action. But wow, do those sequences sound amazing. As usual, the actual dialogue itself is nice and clear from the center channel with no signs of dropout or other volume issues (kinda' hard to screw that up, I would think). And with the amount of record-label music that they play, the mix actually utilizes a good deal of the rears and sub-woofer (Backstreet Boys and Gangnam Style sound particularly good in lossless). The action sequences, however, are the unsung hero, here. When the earth splits open to create sinkholes, when demons come crashing through stuff, or when chaotic situations arise, it's actually a very high-quality and potent mix that I wasn't expecting at all. Rear channels divi up the sound and create great separation. Dynamics handle very well when transitioning from really quiet parts to really loud ones, and LFEs are deceptively deep when things blow up or a monster pops out of nowhere. It's another one of those cases of "quality over quantity," and, boy, is this mix quality!

Extras - 4.5

Note: All of the special features are in HD (aside from the commentary, obviously, which is in lossy 2.0).

Disc 1

- Audio Commentary (Directors Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen)
You'd think for a couple of guys who try so hard to be funny that they wouldn't give that great a commentary. Wrong. This commentary is *full* of very useful information covering all the bases from filming, writing, anecdotes, cracking jokes, and any number of interesting trivia. The commentary itself was actually recorded the day before the movie hit theaters, so it was especially neat to hear them be so confident, yet stay so laid back and just spout out all the stuff that they did. This is an extremely jovial and insightful track that actually raised my appreciation for the film a lot more, and I definitely recommend any of you that liked the movie to really give this a listen. Some of the things they talk about were a lot of the improv from the actors that went into certain scenes, how the entire thing was set in L.A., but actually filmed in New Orleans, some of the subtleties that went into the production, trivial facts about the actors, stories about how this or that event led to what you see on screen, jokes about lens flares, and a lot more.

- Directing Your Friends (6:30)
Talks about how all the main characters know each other, their comfort level in working with/off one another's performances (because of their friendships), and that if they all *weren't* doing it together, that they probably would never have made this movie in the first place.

- Meta-Apocalypse (7:43)
Most of the actors delve into the reasoning they're playing exaggerated versions of themselves, talk a little bit about how they're *not* like that in real life, and kinda' laugh at the "character" versions of themselves and their friends.

- Let's Get Technical (10:44)
As the title implies, this feature talks about the technical aspects of the movie. In particular, it covers the cinematography with DP Brandon Trost, the stunts with coordinator Steven Ritzi, and then takes a look at some of the visual effects (particularly, the guy they lit on fire 9 times in a day).

- Party Time (12:54)
Covers the production and design of Franco's house, the stuff inside (like the art and decor), and takes a detailed look at all the celebrity party guests who cameo'd in the film. Additionally, it then covers some of the special effects for when things start to go bonkers in plot.

- The Cannibal King (4:25)
A kind of outtake reel containing alternate takes of McBride and his pet, Channing Tat-yum, that's simultaneously interspersed with another candid walk-n-talk where McBride and Tatum ad-lib with each other in front of the camera saying they'll be each others' slut anytime they need to.

- The Making of "The Making of Pineapple Express 2" (6:20)
A look at how they made the in-movie trailer for another movie that could very well exist some day, though probably with a different story by then. Contains some deleted material that didn't quite make it into the final version.

- Jay & Seth vs. The Apocalypse -- The Original Short (9:58)
A pretty serious short that the two actors made back in '07. It's a lot darker than what this movie turned out to be and may very well surprise you.

- Line-O-Rama
Some pretty hilarious alternate takes with rapid-fire deliveries that utilize a lot of improv and on-the-fly ad-libbing. I honestly had tears rolling down the corners of my eyes for the second and third scenes. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your sense of humor. The scenes include:

Sleepover (1:14)
We Don't Know You Man! (3:27)
Cum Battle (8:06)

- This is the Gag Reel (6:16)
A modestly funny gag reel of the people goofing off on set.

- Deleted Scenes
Some of these scenes weren't even completed. Although, surprisingly enough, some of them weren't that bad. Scenes include:

Cocaine with Michael Cera (1:03)
The Guys Talk About Kicking Danny Out (2:44)
Being Green (1:18)
Eulogies for the Dead: Live Together, Die Alone (3:41)
Jay and Jonah Talk (3:07)
Michael Likes to Go Dancing (1:53)
Pre Jonah Exorcism (0:48)
The Guys Talk About F#(%ing Each Other (1:18)

- This is the Marketing
Some funny viral videos to promote the movie that they posted around the Internet, on TV, or in theaters:

Marketing Outtakes (6:38)
Aziz Haunts Craig (1:02)
James and Danny Confessional (1:17)
Jonah Confessional (1:16)
Seth and Jay Confessional (0:56)
The Cast (3:43)
Red Band Sizzle Trailer (1:52)

Disc 2 (Best Buy has an exclusive BD bonus disc; this is what's on on it, if you're curious)

- James Franco's House (8:36)
A more in-depth look at how production designer Chris Spellman built Franco's house, which is *not* what his house is really like at all (Franco points out in the interview that he has an apartment in New York in the Lower East Side). However, a lot of the art you see (particularly the paintings) were, in fact, made by Franco, himself.

- The Making of This Is the End (14:28)
A conglomerate of a lotta' the special features already presented on disc 1, but in a different order. It's not that much more insightful. Although, there's a tiny bit of the footage that's actually not rehash. Worth a look every now and then, but not detrimental to really appreciating the film (unlike the stellar commentary).

Overall - 4.5

I really wanted to see this in theaters, but never made the time. However, getting this movie as an almost complete blind-buy was well worth the price. If you like these guys and know what kind of comedy to expect, you'll probably find it an absolutely hilarious time. It's chock full of dirty humor, foul language, and some nice references to other movies. But it's also surprisingly tense and actiony, at times. With near-reference video, definitive-reference audio, and a very enjoyable set of special features, I think it was well-worth the money spent. Highly recommended for fans.

Pacific Rim (3D Blu-ray)
Pacific Rim (3D Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Charlie Hunnam
Offered by Tax Free Rarities
Price: $21.97
43 used & new from $13.12

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pacific Rim (Theatrical)., July 27, 2013
This review is from: Pacific Rim (3D Blu-ray) (Blu-ray)
(Note: I will eventually update this with a Blu-ray review when I get around to it, someday).

I had the absolute pleasure of watching "Pacific Rim a couple of days ago in IMAX 3D. I'd actually been listening to the soundtrack a couple of weeks straight prior to, as I had done with "Star Trek: Into Darkness," since I'm a big enough nerd to really appreciate the unsung hero of a film: its music. And just as it did for Trek, the score by itself was enough to get me hyped up and excited for what I was sure to be another personal all-time favorite.

That being said, PacRim is one-of-a-kind. When I saw Michael Bay's "Transformers," I was amazed at the craftsmanship that went into the design, execution, and scale of the giant robots. Well, with all due respect to Bay and his crew, he's just been outdone by Guillermo Del Toro and *his* crew.

The plot of PacRim is a pretty simple one: kaiju (literally Japanese for "monster" a la Godzilla and that whole monster-movie genre) are attacking humanity. To counter the threat of kaiju, humanity built these equally gigantic two-pilot robots called Jaegers. But when the stupid unified government decides to abandon the Jaeger program, the kaiju threat becomes increasingly greater with only a dwindling number of active Jaegers left to stop them.

Now as an anime fan, I'm pretty sure I've seen all or bits of these plot elements scattered throughout many an incarnation of live-action or animated Japanese media. As I mentioned, the kaiju self-reference to Godzilla should be an obvious influence in itself. And sure, the giant robot (aka "mech") thing was already achieved in Transformers.

However, the big differences to me between PacRim and Transformers is: 1) the sheer scale and size of the kaiju and Jaegers (which I'd estimate to be 3-4 times bigger than Optimus Prime); 2) the magnitude of the fight (two human pilots inside the Jaeger battling a giant monster, as opposed to a bunch of humans watching sentient robots fight each other); and 3) the very clear-cut style of reference to Japanese cinema (and yes, by "cinema" I also mean anime, 'cause I consider it genuine medium of art).

From the creature/robot design to the fight coordination and even to the common anime-esque character archetypes, this is the, by far, one of the coolest things I've ever seen made into live-action. And I'm so glad my first viewing was in IMAX 3D. Seeing such huge monsters and robots on a such a big screen in 3D only made the space depth *that* more gargantuan.

I highly, *highly* recommend this for anime fans (especially if you like mech titles). And while there aren't a lot of big names in terms actors or actresses or that "deep" of a plot (this ain't a psychological character study, so don't go expecting this to be a Christopher Nolan film or something), it's *so* finely crafted from a technical perspective (visually and musically) that I'm sure most anyone can at least appreciate it as the escapist spectacle that it is.

This is easily my favorite film of the year, so far. So go see it, preferably in IMAX 3D, or at least Real 3D.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2013 9:26 AM PST

Iron Man 3 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy)
Iron Man 3 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Price: $32.99
45 used & new from $6.49

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iron Man 3 (Theatrical), May 7, 2013
Note: I will update this review when I eventually get the Blu-ray.

Since the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things have been progressing quite nicely. It all started in 2008 with Tony Stark and his claim to fame as the fabled "Iron Man." But when the universe eventually escalated into something much more massive by 2012's "The Avengers," an interesting philosophical quandary was posed to the genius inventor by one Steve Rogers. Essentially, the question was, "does the man make the suit, or does the suit make the man?" The first film showed us Stark's reason and cause for dawning the armor after he realized his direct/indirect contribution to so much destruction around the world and felt the need to repent. The second film took it slightly further by showing how he dealt with the pressure of being a publicly-known superhero, how it affected him, both, physically and mentally, and asked what kind of legacy he wanted to leave behind. Conversely, it diverges about halfway through the story and, instead, starts to set the dominoes for "bigger and better" things, like S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers. In this third entry, we get the (final?) full-circle journey that, more or less, will come to establish Tony Stark/Iron Man as one or the other.

Some time after the events of "The Avengers" we begin with a very restless Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who just can't seem to get a good night's sleep. As widely-known as he is for being Iron Man, and with all the major villains targeting his back, there exists a man by the name of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who is terrorizing the United States causing all kinds of chaos via public bombings and televised threats. After a dear friend of Stark's is severely injured, he takes the attack personally and issues a decree of vengeance. But in typical Tony Stark fashion, he not only paints himself another target, he even invites the trouble by publicly stating his home address. When his home is attacked, he barely escapes and must regroup in order to fight another day. In the meantime, secrets would be revealed and events would unfold as Stark discovers the truth, not only about his enemies, but also about himself.

So how do you top "The Avengers?" After five excellent prequel films setting up a giant glorious spectacle of quasi-intergalactic proportions, there's nowhere left to go, but higher, right? Well, it depends. If you go by that logic, then you can only go further by making a direct sequel. But what would be the point of exceeding all that successful buildup by not trying to do it again? IM3 marks the beginning of Phase 2 by being less Avengers-centric (aside from a few event references) and by bringing things back down to earth. In doing so, we get to see Tony Stark for the genius, billionaire, playboy (well, not so much since he's with Pepper), philanthropist that he is. At a point in the film, and as obvious by the trailer, his house does, indeed, get blown to smithereens and buried in rubble. And being left with nothing but his ingenuity and resourcefulness, Stark must work his way back up from the ashes to stop a madman from manipulating the world with terror.

And so far, based on the mixed reactions by divisive audiences, your expectations may or may not be met depending on what you're really watching the movie for (character development and storytelling or all-out action) and who you believe the true hero is, Tony Stark or Iron Man. I vehemently support the notion that Tony Stark is, without a doubt, the man that makes the suit. He didn't get however many umpteenth degrees in science and technology or create a mini Arc reactor from a box of scraps in a terrorist cave without showing some signs of intellectual capacity and a knack for building stuff. And for as little time as he spends inside of a suit, I think the film really cements him as a greater character than I would've ever expected. Tony Stark *is* Iron Man. He creates the suits, embraces his role, and finally comes to grips with his past.

On a side note about the technical aspects, I saw this in 2D, as I'm not quite a believer in post-converted 3D films yet, so I can't tell you which version looks better. I will, however, give my compliments to the production crew on another excellent overall effort. The cinematography was pretty breathtaking on a few occasions (particularly when Stark is rescuing people from Air Force One) and and the final battle sequence with all the backup suits. Musically, Brian Tyler does an equally stupendous job driving the film with a mix between Ramin Djawadi's electronic style of the first film and John Debney's traditional orchestral sound of the second. And whether or not they make more IM films, which I think could be overkill at this point, remains to be seen. But I'm confident enough to say Tony Stark is ready for Phase 2 when it happens. Hopefully, the remaining MCU films will do just as great a job at expanding/establishing these characters and continuing to build up for an even more climactic meeting for when things fall into place for "The Avengers 2."

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0

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