JODHAA AKBAR blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Hindi: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 10

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

I would first like to say that JODHAA AKBAR was the movie that made me buy a blu-ray player. I was planning to not convert to blu-ray and I was totally happy with the DVD format, but the Indian DVD company UTV absolutely messed up the DVD release of this film. The DVD was some mega 3-disk package and was eagerly awaited by so many fans of the movie. On the back cover, the DVD stated “Anamorphic”. I popped that DVD into the DVD player and, lo and behold, the video was letterboxed non-anamorphic widescreen. If you zoomed in to fill your HDTV, the video would look pixilated and interlaced. UTV’s quality control department forgot to produce this DVD with anamorphic video. That was a sad day for me. So when Big Home Video released a blu-ray of this film, I actually bought the blu-ray even before owning a blu-ray player (knowing the way the Indian home video industry works, I feared that this blu-ray would become out-of-print which is why I snagged it up early). About five months later, I bought a blu-ray player and I could then finally enjoy Jodhaa Akbar as the way it was meant to be seen – crisp and clear, rather than pixilated and blurry. Ironically, i’ve been disappointed with Bollywood’s output over the years but it happened to be an Indian film that made me convert to blu-ray, rather than some Hollywood movie like Transformers or Spider-Man.

If you haven’t seen a Bollywood film since LAGAAN (released 8 years ago), then here’s the next one you should watch – JODHAA AKBAR. This movie is a huge, expensive, epic-type film with awesome battles, intense drama among the Islamic and Hindu kingdoms, and a touching romance between the lead stars. JODHAA AKBAR is basically a prequel to Bollywood’s other most-famous, epic-type film from 1960 – MUGHAL-E-AZAM. The film is a Bollywood-talent all-star film. If there is one Bollywood movie to showcase to the rest of the world, this one is it, because the best of India’s showbiz actors and crew are in this film. Any criticisms that you may have with Bollywood films, you can leave that behind, because JODHAA AKBAR was created by the few real professionals in Bollywood. Ashutosh Gowariker, the same director as LAGAAN, is the director and writer of this film. A.R. Rahman did the music. Perfect cinematography. And the film stars two of the best Bollywood actors in the business – Aishwarya Rai as the Hindi queen and Hrithik Roshan as the Muslim king. They are not only both excellent actors, are extremely easy on the eyes, but they also have a cinematic presence equal to any other respectable actor from around the world. These two actors are at a totally different level than any other Bollywood actors whom tend to stick to their overly dramatic cheese school of acting. It was nice that Aishwarya Rai tried Hollywood with little success (poor movie choices), but I’m still waiting for Hrithik Roshan to make it as an international star. I have a feeling he will never choose to be in a Western movie because he and Amitabh Bachchan (whom narrates at the beginning and end of the film a la Ian McKellen-style) are two Indian actors that have reached God-status in India. The acting in this movie is top-notch all-around. I personally did not like LAGAAN that much – I thought it was overrated, acting not all that, and a ridiculous story about cricket. Too long and only worth seeing once. But JODHAA AKBAR is the real deal. Even though the movie is 209 minutes, it feels very short and can easily be watched over and over again.

The story is the usual royalty-type, Shakespearian story, but there’s nothing wrong with that: Two kingdoms of different religions (Hindi and Islam) try to unite in peace with the Islamic king hooking up with a Hindi princess. Within each kingdom, there are members of the royalty family who support the unification, while there are other royalty members who are corrupt, want war, and want to poison the relationship between the king and queen. We’ve seen this story many times. But that doesn’t matter – I love this type of story. It’s exciting, gripping, touching drama. Great stuff! There are two highly entertaining villains in this film – one’s an evil nanny who’s got serious depth to her character, while the other one is your typical two-dimensional, power-seeking, war-mongering evil dude. The only thing really interesting about him is that he reminds me of an Indian Benicio Del Toro and he really seems kick-ass tough.

I have read other JODHAA AKBAR movie reviews commenting on the action scenes of the film just being “bookends.” I watch a lot of action movies and I’m constantly in search of eye candy films with or without substance. JODHAA AKBAR is a film with both eye candy and substance, and I wouldn’t call these action scenes “bookends” – there are many memorable action scenes in this film that are far better than the non-eye candy action scenes found in many of these recent, epic-type warrior films from USA and Asia. This movie is certainly not a fair action movie with good drama. This is a great dramatic film with great action.

Here are the action eye candy scenes to be amazed by:

1. Barely any CGI! Real people in the armies! Real sets! Real outdoors! A treat that is hard to find in action movies nowadays!

2. Cannon wars!!! This ain’t a “take-your-turn”, “I’ll shoot my one cannon at you, then you shoot your cannon at me.” This is “all-out-holy-shit” tons of two armies shooting loads of cannons at each other. You know the movie trend of armies shooting a sky full of arrows at one another (300, Hero)? Well replace those arrows with cannon balls, and that’s a scene that you get in this film. That was a “holy shit” scene.

3. Elephant wars!! Sure, they aren’t as vicious-looking as the CGI-ed tusk-swinging Elefonts from RETURN OF THE KING, but the real, non-CGI elephants in this film are just as fucked up. They sort of just walk into the opposing army and just casually step on warriors and you see close-ups of warriors getting smooshed to death. It was a “holy shit” scene.

4. Two awesome sword-fighting scenes as intense and well-choreographed as the sword-fighting scenes of Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen in Hero, Michelle Yeoh vs. Ziyi Zhang in Croutching Tiger (their first fight) and the sword-fighting scene of Ziyi Zhang vs. Andy Lau in House of Flying Daggers (their first fight). The same Asian drum music was used as well which certainly built up the intensity of the fights.

5. One fight scene similar and as intense as the Brad Pitt vs. Erik Bana scene from Troy.

6. Furthermore, any one-on-one fights in the movie were not short, went on long enough without living out their welcome, and were all perfectly filmed and well-choreographed.

7. And as most of us know, there is no kissing on the lips in Bollywood films, but Hrithik and Aishwarya do have a steamy love scene. No clothes were shed and no sex was shown. Just two great actors with amazing chemistry can make foreplay hotter than an R-rated sex scene in some other movie. These two actors have such good chemistry together that they turn India’s censorship to their advantage.

8. And there’s an intense scene of Hrithik Roshan taming a wild elephant.

I’m not going to get into the details of breaking down the video and audio quality of the blu-ray because the blu-ray has perfect video, perfect audio and perfect English subtitles. For people who like reference quality blu-rays, here you go – check out this blu-ray. For the people that need English subtitles, this blu-ray is your only choice and it’s an awesome choice. And it’s 1000 thousand times better than the crappy letterboxed DVD. If you want extras, then buy the crappy dvd for the plentiful extras because this blu-ray does not have any.

Overall, Jodhaa Akbar is a great film that needs to be seen to really see the full potential of what Bollywood can do when they put absolute talent in front and behind the camera. I can’t imagine a Hollywood studio not picking this movie up for release. India made a huge mistake of not submitting this film for the Oscars Best Foreign Film category – who knows what other garbage they chose instead. I’m not surprised because the Bollywood industry is totally backwards. If the Bollywood industry started to make decisions that make sense, then something would be strange!

Advertisements

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Cantonese: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (original)

Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Mandarin: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (dub)

Subtitles: English, Mandarin (traditional), Mandarin (simplified)

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 6

 

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is the best mainstream Hong Kong film of 2010. I didn’t think it would be as good as my other favorite Hong Kong film of 2010 – Gallants – but it is. Tsui Hark has gone back to what he does best – making extremely creative, fantasy, period-piece action films. After setting the bar for Chinese action movies with Zu Warriors From the Magic Mountain, Once Upon a Time in China 1 & 2, and The Blade, he has added another great film to his resume. Furthermore, he made this movie for something like 13 million dollars when this film looks like it cost 80 million dollars. Tsui Hark is creativity on tap – he knows how to spend his budget!

Detective Dee is a mystery movie so it’s best not to talk about the story, but let me say this – the problem with most Hong Kong mainstream action movies is that they forget to hire a good writer. I don’t think I can take another screenplay of “whoever finds the Golden Dragon Lotus martial arts ancient manual, that person will become the most powerful fighter in the world and will rule forever..different martial arts schools fighting each other to gain respect…etc.” It may be traditional in Hong Kong cinema, but enough is enough – the Shaw Bros. films went a bit overboard with this. It’s called overkill. So it is such a relief to get a Chinese action movie with a good story such as Crouching Tiger, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Kung Fu Hustle, Ip Man, Gallants, and now Detective Dee. Tsui Hark is a smart man – he got a good screenwriter. Detective Dee is a totally entertaining, engrossing mystery movie that moves at such a graceful pace. The non-action scenes are just as intense as the action scenes. There is not one boring scene in this film. The camerawork, cinematography, costumes, sets, editing, acting, and story are all integrated together as a perfect mystery film. People have called this an Agatha Christie-type film. Maybe so, but I was thinking more along the lines of Young Sherlock Holmes (the only good Sherlock Holmes movie) mixed with Ridley Scott’s Legend. Tsui Hark is an amazing filmmaker. Dee may be considered a mainstream film, but this film is much more than that – it’s totally unique.

All the actors in this film are bad-ass as well. Andy Lau has gotten better and better as he ages. He is so believable as Detective Dee – I didn’t see him as an actor – he really was his character. Carina Lau was powerful as the emperor (she’s aged…but in a good way). And Bingbing Li was really impressive – showing an intensity and acting range that I hadn’t expected (certainly didn’t see it in The Forbidden Kingdom). The actor playing the albino was really good as well. All three of these actors have some crazy weaponry in this film. I don’t want to give it away though.

Detective Dee is the first Hong Kong movie I’ve ever seen in which I would want to see sequels. I’ve never craved franchises when watching Chinese movies, so this was the first time I ever had that feeling that I want more – Andy Lau should do one Detective Dee movie per year. His character is so interesting and entertaining, I want to see Tsui Hark do more of these.

The Hong Kong Region A blu-ray video and audio quality is almost perfect. What else is there to say? It’s a great blu-ray. And the English subtitles were excellent! The only extras are a 1080p English-subtitled trailer and teaser, as well as 4 short making ofs (non-subtitled).

Detective Dee is an original, totally entertaining mystery film. I usually don’t like buying mystery films, because they aren’t that exciting the second time around, but this movie is so visually entertaining, it’s totally rewatchable.

SINGING BEHIND SCREENS dvd review

Italy PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Italian DTS 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Italian

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 9.5

EXTRAS: 8

 

Cantando dietro i Paraventi aka Singing Behind Screens is a very special, dreamlike film about Chinese pirates. I know how people like to say that Pirates of the Caribbean are the best pirate movies, but there have been others over the years which are just as entertaining, such as Roman Polanski’s Pirates, The Goonies, Muppet Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Planet, and The Black Pirate. Singing Behind Screens can now be added to any respectable pirate movie list. This film, directed by Ermanno Olmi (famous for Il Posto and The Tree of Wooden Clogs) is basically about a beautiful Chinese woman who becomes one of the most terrifying pirates after her pirate husband gets killed. But that’s just on the surface. Imagine a pirate movie co-directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Yimou Zhang, and Julie Taymor – this is Singing Behind Screens. Over the years I have seen a bunch of movies that try to combine theater into cinema, usually unsuccessfully, but in this film, the theatrical elements blend perfectly. From the opening scene, you know you are watching a unique film. I have never seen anything quite like this film, which could almost be considered an art-house film, but it’s more than that – Singing Behind Screens is like a work of art come to life. Movie directors, such as Terrence Malick, that are good at mixing poetry and visuals into one entertaining, unpretentious way are rare. Ermanno Olmi has created an entertaining pirate movie with a very dreamlike pace, good acting led by Bud Spencer and Jun Ichikawa, unique music, and some intense pirate ship scenes. For anyone that thinks that the coolest ship is the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean, wait till you see the main military ship pimped up with cannonry in this film.

The 2-disc Italian PAL DVD is quite a package. The anamorphic widescreen video quality is really nice –  sharpness and detail are good, with all day and night scenes very well-defined and crisp, with fine details often apparent. The picture otherwise appeared smooth, with no instances of pixelation and a print that appeared in first-rate shape, with no dirt or debris. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones appeared accurate. Although this isn’t a big-budget action movie, you will be impressed with this very active Italian DTS 5.1 mix. Even during dialogue scenes, there is always some type of music creating a great experience for the audience. Surrounds are almost constantly alive with the sounds of water, nature, cannon fire, pirates screaming, and other sound effects. Whether calm or intense, there always seemed to be some background details present in the film’s sound mix. I’ve been spoiled with blu-ray sound for a while, but the DTS 5.1 track on this DVD is as impressive as any DTS-HD 7.1 track of a blu-ray. The movie and extras are all English-friendly – everything English subtitled! The extras are plentiful – with a trailer, interviews, and making ofs. The English subtitles for the film are excellent as well with maybe one spelling mistake. This is a complete package for a very unique film.

Fans of pirates should certainly check out this cool film. While the movie is very poetic, don’t expect to be too moved. The film may be lacking emotion, but it makes up for it by the creative direction and overall dreamlike experience of watching this film.

A CHINESE GHOST STORY blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

Cantonese: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (original)

Mandarin: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (dub)

Subtitles: English, Mandarin (Traditional)

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 7.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 6.5

EXTRAS: 2

 

A Chinese Ghost Story is a well-made fantasy movie that is considered a Hong Kong classic. I like this film, but I prefer more the horror-comedy and/or fantasy Hong Kong films such as Spooky Encounters, Zu Warriors on the Mountain, and Green Snake. This is a highly entertaining and surprisingly charming film thanks to the chemistry and acting skills of Leslie Cheung and Joey Wang. It’s almost sad watching this movie – even though I was never a Leslie Cheung fan, he just seemed like such a nice modest guy and it’s hard to watch him now knowing that he killed himself. The chemistry between Leslie and Joey is really great, it really seemed like they loved each other in this film. This movie is like a wacky romantic, martial arts version of The Evil Dead. I definitely prefer this movie over The Evil Dead though. The special effects are just awesome in this film. The more I see the overkill of CGI and the lack of actually building sets in current movies, the more I appreciate older films with dated special effects. I would have never thought that the “datedness” could be reversed thanks to the technology-reliance overkill in today’s special effect films.

I have never seen previous DVD versions of this film, but this K & R blu-ray seems like the best video version out there with English subtitles. For an old movie from Hong Kong and in comparison to other older Hong Kong movies released on blu-ray, the video quality on this blu-ray ranges from fair to excellent. The day scenes are bright, clean, eye-popping (for a HK blu-ray). Since this movie has a lot of night scenes, I was worried that the video quality would be a distraction, but the dark scenes are handled fair to good. Once in a while, the scenes can be extremely grainy (probably as it originally was) and then jump back to no grain. The video itself is pretty much clean with no scratches or weird hairs popping up (as were on the Forbidden City Cop blu-ray). As I was watching this film, I’m thinking to myself, “yeah, the video quality is excellent if this was a typical well-made DVD,” but then I reminded myself that most DVDs of older Hong Kong films, whether it be a Hong Kong NTSC Region 3 DVD, a cut & dubbed USA NTSC DVD, or a UK Hong Kong Legends PAL DVD, usually had distracting video and audio problems. Once I reminded myself of the way those DVDs used to be, I realized that this K & R blu-ray of A Chinese Ghost Story is great and probably the best it will ever look. If it weren’t for all the dark scenes in this movie, I would rate this equally to the video quality of the K & R blu-ray of Armour of God 2, but it’s probably just a tiny step below that blu-ray. The main thing to remember is that you know you are watching a blu-ray when ever there are close-ups of the beautiful Joey Wang. Her face just glows on this blu-ray. That’s how I can really test the video quality of a blu-ray if I’m not sure about the video quality – be impressed with the detail of a beautiful woman’s face. I never experienced that when watching other attractive actresses in older Hong Kong films on DVD. This blu-ray really flatters Joey Wang. So that’s one way of realizing this blu-ray is a big upgrade! The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio should not disappoint purists, because this blu-ray does sound like a mono soundtrack with subwoofer action aka “1.1 Dolby TrueHD”! I hear “1”, but I’m not sure where those other “6” are coming from for it to equal a 7.1 audio! I don’t think the K & R company has ever studied a Criterion blu-ray. If they did, K & R wouldn’t be so embarrassed with labeling their blu-rays with mono or stereo soundtracks. I’m assuming that it would be shameful for one of their blu-rays to be labeled with a LPCM Mono, a LPCM 2.0, or a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack.
The extras are two interviews and a trailer. The English subtitles on this blu-ray is Chinglish at its finest. It would be nice if Hong Kong hired some native English speakers to do their subtitles already. You can understand the gist of the film, but the English subtitles are the most distracting thing on this blu-ray.

A Chinese Ghost Story is a very cute film for the horror-comedy genre. The love story is actually more exciting than the wacky choreographed violence in this flick. The wackiness is just a bonus that keeps things moving along. So this is another respectable blu-ray of a Hong Kong classic from K & R, the only blu-ray company that actually is doing more positive than negative with older Hong Kong films as compared to other blu-ray companies that release old Hong Kong films on blu-ray.

THE BARBER OF SIBERIA dvd review

Russia Region-free NTSC DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Russian/English DD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Dutch

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 5

 

There are other summaries and reviews online if you want to know what happens throughout this film, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Watch the trailer and you’ll know what to expect. I will say though, that since its release in 1998, The Barber of Siberia is still one of the best contemporary and satisfying epic Russian films I’ve seen. Nikita Mikhalkov, my favorite Russian director, has been considered to be very nationalistic, but I consider him one of Russia’s most accessible directors in which his movies are satisfying for everyone around the world – sort of like the Steven Spielberg of Russia. If Mikhalkov had submitted this film to the Best Foreign Film submission, it would have probably won. He didn’t submit it because he’s got issues with Hollywood (remember, he’s very nationalistic). But that doesn’t stop him from using talented Hollywood actors. For fans of Julia Ormond, this is her film –  her “Gone with the Wind” role. It’s sad that a lot of her fans haven’t seen this film because The Barber of Siberia is her best film. The great late Richard Harris also stars in this film, one of his last great roles. The movie is also full of talented famous Russian actors who get to show off their talent because, in Russia, movie directors rarely get to show off their good actors because the Russian movie industry is still pretty poor. The best Russian actors tend to stick with where their talents are respected – on mafia/criminal/cop tv shows and theater.

The Barber of Siberia has been released on sketchy DVDs over the years. It’s been on a French DVD with forced French subtitles, I think there have been some letterboxed or full-screen Hong Kong or Korean versions. There’s also a UK DVD but I have no idea if it’s anamorphic or not. Fortunately, Russia’s “Criterion-type” DVD company RUSCICO released an NTSC Region-free DVD of this film with anamorphic widescreen video and DD 5.1 Russian/English (much of the movie has English dialogue too). The video quality is generally clear and sharp through out. Colors are soft and muted yet they still stand out, especially with all the changing seasons in this film. It’s an old DVD so don’t expect it to be amazing looking, but it’s a totally pleasing presentation. The DD 5.1 Russian/English is a wonderful active mix – the movie has plenty of scenes which make the audio stand out – from sword-fighting, to trains, to machinery, and to music. Dialogue is clear as well. This audio soundtrack totally compliments the picture quality. The extras, such as an interview with the director and trailers, are not subtitled. The English subtitles on the film are perfect. Please note that there are two RUSCICO dvd versions of this film. One is an English-subtitled version (this one) and the other one does not have English subtitles (and I think the other one may be the PAL version).

If you like sweeping epic-style David Lean/Steven Spielberg films, you’ll love The Barber of Siberia, a perfect combination of drama, humor, romance, and action. It’s too bad this film hasn’t been released on blu-ray yet because this moving masterpiece was created for blu-ray.

KAMPFANSAGE dvd review

Germany PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

German DD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 7.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 9.5

EXTRAS: 9

 

If you like ONG BAK, B13 DISTRICT, and old Shaw Brothers films, you should be pretty entertained by Germany’s first martial arts film – KAMPFANSAGE (The Last Apprentice).  The look and feel of the movie felt like a cross between EQUILIBRIUM and AVALON. For a fantasy/martial arts genre pic, this movie was very good!

The story follows the pattern of a Shaw Bros film, but with a futuristic apocalyptic setting – bad guys kill all the martial arts masters in the country and steal a book about martial arts. They think they kill all the masters and supposedly kill an apprentice Jonas, played by German real-life martial arts expert Mathis Landwehr. Jonas survives his supposed death and plans to avenge his master’s death and get the book back by fighting the bad guys and recruiting and training a bunch of other good guys. In this futuristic apocalyptic time, there are no guns left, so everyone is fighting martial-arts style with fists, sticks, clubs and knives. The villains are an evil incestuous brother and sister duo. The hot femme fatale sister is the only one who has one of the last remaining guns in society. And the brother is a really good martial arts expert. The evil brother uses the martial arts book to train his evil goons. The whole movie is non-stop action with a nice simple non-convoluted story with very likable characters.

KAMPFANSAGE looks like an extremely professionally-made movie on a low budget. I read that the movie was filmed with a type of  home video digital camera. Whatever they did, it looks more than cinematic. The look and cinematography are really beautiful. After watching the extras, it turns out that there was tons of CGI in the movie, but I didn’t even notice it. A lot of CGI was used for the backgrounds and even CGI characters. But when watching the movie, it’s barely noticeable. And when the CGI is noticeable, it’s used in beneficial aesthetic way to enhance the visuals of the film.

The action in this movie is pretty much non-stop. Even though the director films most of his action/martial arts scenes quick cut, it still looks pretty good.  The best scene in the movie is a stick fight scene and hand-to-hand combat scene with Jonas and his German (Turkish possibly) sidekick, which actually doesn’t have a lot of quick cuts. It really shows the true talent of Mathis Landwehr. Even with the quick cuts, it is obvious Mathis Landwehr is truly a talented martial arts expert and not a Jean-Claude Van Damme.

KAMPFANSAGE is a totally re-watchable movie – awesome action, good acting, and even some hot-looking German girls. I thought the movie was going to be laughable-entertaining due to the idea of a “German martial arts movie.” But in fact, it’s just a very good genre film, regardless of what country it’s from – the European vibe of the film even makes the film better . Mathis Landwehr has a very good presence and I look forward to see his other German action movies, which will hopefully all have English subtitles on DVD. I hate to say it, but Mathis Landwehr looks a little like James Vanderbeek, but of course is more talented than Vanderbeek.

The 2-DISK German PAL DVD of KAMPFANSAGE is pretty much perfect. The DVD is an ultimate version, and I don’t think there will be any more releases of this DVD anywhere in the world. I’m surprised that there aren’t even DVD bootlegs of this film because this is the type of  martial arts movie that would be in the martial arts bootleg section of legitimate DVD stores. The anamorphic video quality is excellent. There is nothing wrong with the way the film looks on this DVD. The DD 5.1 German audio is very good too, but not as excellent as the video quality. Sometimes some of the martial arts scenes sound muffled and other times inconsistent. But it’s a low-budget film and the audio still pretty much rocks with the surround sounds. The movie has an excellent trip-hop, hip-hop German soundtrack that even makes the action scenes more intense. The English subtitles are very good. I think I saw only one grammar mistake.

The extras are really plentiful – tons of trailers, deleted scenes, 3 audio commentaries (good if you know German), tons of making-of featurettes, Visual Effects featurette fan art, casting clips,  easter eggs and so on. Surprisingly, some of the making-of featurettes have English subtitles while others do not.

There is also an NTSC Region 1 DVD version under the name The Challenge. I have no idea about the quality of that DVD version.

KAMPFANSAGE is pretty much an unknown gem of an action/martial arts film. Definitely check it out if you like such films!

THE FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL blu-ray review

USA Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.78:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

EXTRAS: 8

 

I was expecting The First Nudie Musical to be one of those “so bad, it’s good” films but actually it’s a pretty solid piece of entertainment and filmmaking. For a movie that was cobbled together for very cheap, it’s surprisingly very professionally made. As I watched this film, I couldn’t help thinking that this would make a great stage play (not sure if it has been transferred to the stage or not?) – this cult movie is the typical type of film that would have a stage play running for many years. A cross between The Producers and South Park, the film is about a struggling filmmaker that has two weeks to complete a film with financial backing, but it has to be a porno musical and it has to be directed by one of the investor’s nephew. The nephew, played by Bruce Kimmel, is actually really awkwardly funny and reminded me of Tom Hulce. The two main leads, played Stephen Nathan and Cindy Williams, have excellent chemistry with each other. Actually, the whole movie is full of positive energy and good chemistry. If the script was more polished, this could have been actually been a great movie. Once again, I see this film being re-written into a great stage play – with better dialogue and longer musical numbers. The story is simple but a really good one. Besides the cheesy dialogue (which really isn’t really that bad as people say), the main negative is that the musical numbers run too short. Every song is catchy and really good, but since it’s a movie within a movie, the songs get cut short most of the time because the movie is about making a porno musical rather than the movie being a porno musical.

The blu-ray is overall very good. I never saw the DVD version so I can’t compare to the blu-ray, but the video quality is a totally pleasing presentation. It has a nice fine layer of grain, but colors really stand out. The picture isn’t soft nor is it crisp – somewhere right in between, which reminds us of that type of film stock in 1970s films. The audio is okay. It definitely sounds like a mono track with just a tiny bit of power, but you will have to turn the volume up to really enjoy the soundtrack. Some of the dialogue sounds muffled at times, but from what I read about the film, I’m sure this blu-ray is as good or even better than how it played in the theaters. The only negative of the blu-ray is that there are no subtitles. It would have been great to play subtitles during the songs to really help remember the funny lyrics.

The blu-ray is pretty loaded with great extras as one would expect from a cult film. You won’t be disappointed in that respect.

The First Nudie Musical is a fun, charming musical that is just slightly dirty and much better than I expected!