Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Japanese Mono 1.0

Subtitles: English








As a fan of Miyazaki and Takahata, I finally picked up THE LITTLE NORSE PRINCE. This movie is an animation masterpiece. For anyone that hasn’t picked this UK DVD up yet, you should consider seeing it – it’s a really good animated film, especially considering its age. I almost didn’t buy it since it came out in the 60s. And since I wasn’t that impressed with CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, I assumed that one of Miyazaki’s films ten years earlier than CAGLIOSTRO may be inferior. But I was totally wrong. I can’t believe how it does not look dated for a 1968 film. Also, after just watching THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, i’m confused with the quality of animation – THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO looks like it’s ten years behind THE LITTLE NORSE PRINCE. If I didn’t know the dates of those two movies, I would think that CAGLIOSTRO came out in the late 60s and THE LITTLE NORSE PRINCE in the late 1970s. But either way, the animation in THE LITTLE NORSE PRINCE is extremely impressive. It’s sort of a combination of the charming Japanese and Russian animation of the 1970s.

The UK DVD is excellent. The anamorphic video looks very solid for a late 1960s animated flick with some ghosting/combing if you really watch closely, but there is nothing that distracts the viewer. The Japanese mono audio and English subtitles were very good too. There aren’t any extras except for an anamorphic trailer of the film itself and also non-anamorphic trailers for GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES and CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO. I’m so used to not getting any extras on my Miyazaki DVDs (Disney ones), I don’t care anymore. His movies are so good, extras aren’t really needed to rationalize purchasing his films on DVDs. His movies are worth any price.


India Region-free DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

DD 5.1 Hindi

Subtitles: English








Ridley Scott + Shakespeare + India + Samurai = EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD

I don’t know why the EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD movie almost slipped by me. This film is directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the director who did did one of my favorite Bollywood films MISSION KASHMIR (which was one of the first Bollywood films picked up and distributed by an American DVD company, because it was a great Bollywood flick). EKLAVYA was India’s pick for the Academy Awards foreign film submission in 2007. As a surprise, this is actually a great film, regardless of it being from India or not. First off, it’s not really a Bollywood film – it’s got one song in which a character asks a woman to sing a lullaby (not an out-of-the-blue song as they can tend to be in typical Bollywood movies), it’s less than 2 hours, the acting and storyline is like a normal non-Bollywood film (no grading curve for this flick as I curve most Bollywood films), no filler, no wasted scenes, and it’s actually one emotional flick. I’ve only shed tears for very few Bollywood/Indian films – such as Devdas, Dil Se…, Mission Kashmir, Fiza, Monsoon Wedding – and now I add Eklavya The Royal Guard. I’m not going to say whether it’s happy or sad tears…see the movie for yourself and find out!

As I watched this movie, I felt like I was watching Ridley Scott do a film about Indian royalty. The cinematography, excellent use of sound and music (reminded me of the sound design of a Terrence Malick flick as well), lighting, action, and pace all felt like a Ridley Scott flick. This is one eye-candy film and I don’t mean beautiful to look at as in a Bollywood “look-at-all-the-pretty colors/costumes/sets” way but the visuals of the film are more like in the realm of Scott and Malick cinema. On the IMDB site, they show a poster of some critic comparing this film to a lost film of David Lean, which is also also a fair comparison.

EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD is exactly what I expected to see in China’s disappointing THE BANQUET and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. The small amount of action and the Shakespearean drama in this film is much better than those two cold, soul-lacking Chinese flicks. The action in this film is also much more beautifully choreographed than those two Chinese flicks. If you want to see a good Shakespeare-type triangle drama film with some action, go see this film. It’s a quality over quantity film. But overall, EKLYAVYA is a visually exciting, intense film from beginning to end. It doesn’t even matter that the film has few action scenes – those scenes are just a huge bonus to an already intriguing film.

This is also Amitabh Bachchan (India’s Al Pacino) best acting in a film I’ve seen in a long time. He’s been just coasting and winging it in a lot of roles recently in his old age, but in EKLAVYA, he really shows off why he’s a good actor and not just an imposing screen presence. Usually he’s sort of cartoonish to me in all the Bollywood flicks I’ve seen. But in this film, he acts like a quiet samurai on the verge of exploding – it’s one great performance. That’s the thing about all these crappy Bollywood flicks. Most of these Bollywood films are so bad that you start to believe that most of the Bollywood actors are pretty bad. But once you see the rare good Bollywood film and see that these Indian actors can actually act if they are in the right film with a good director, it’s disturbing that they don’t do more good films. These respectable Bollywood actors seem to do three good films for every two hundred films they make.

I bought the Eros Region 1 NTSC DVD version. The anamorphic video is very good. The only annoying thing about the DVD, as on all Bollywood dvds, is that a transparent Eros symbol pops in and out throughout the film at the upper corner of the screen. It’s no big deal if you are used to Bollywood DVDs. The DD 5.1 Hindi is excellent. This movie has a great sound design – with the constant background score and uses of surrounds during the knife throwing scenes and other action scenes. The English subtitles are excellent with no grammar mistakes. And the only extras are some trailers to other films.

I highly recommend anyone seeing this film. I don’t recommend this film as a good “bollywood/Indian” film. I recommend this a good film, period.

THE LEGEND OF WISELY blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Cantonese: Dolby TrueHD 7.1

Mandarin: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (dub)

Subtitles: English


MOVIE: 8.5






The Legend of Wisely is one Hong Kong film from the 1980s that I had never heard of before hearing about this blu-ray release. And what an awesome surprise this film was! The Legend of Wisely is sort of like a better version of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Just replace the alien skull with an alien pearl, and there’s your Chinese Indiana Jones!

The movie flows more like a Hollywood movie (Indiana Jones or James Bond) rather than like a typical Hong Kong film – this is what makes the film so special. While the movie has awesome well-filmed fight scenes and impressive 1980s special effects, the main stars of the movie are the cinematography and all the exotic locations. The acting is overall pretty good except for the cheesy white people villains whom were probably dubbed. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the main actor Samuel Hui in a movie before, but he has an interesting presence. It was nice to watch a totally professionally-made Hong Kong action movie that didn’t star some huge superstar.

I didn’t think that Fortune Star could surprise me after seeing so many of their low-quality blu-rays from their classic Hong Kong film catalog, but I’m happy to report that the blu-ray is the first really impressive blu-ray from Fortune Star. This is the first time where the video quality really looked like a remastered blu-ray for a change. All scenes, including night or dark cave scenes, were excellent quality! Everything in the foreground to the background bursted with color and crispness. The video is totally clean and spotless. The main negative is that the faces may lean towards reddish than more natural colors, but it’s pretty minor considering that the rest of the blu-ray quality is awesome and that the rest of the Fortune Star blu-rays are not such great quality. The video quality on this blu-ray is a lot better than the Armor of God 2 blu-ray by the way (two movies with similar exotic filmed locations).

The Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio is pretty solid. It’s as good as the usual Fortune Star blu-ray audios as long as you don’t mind that it doesn’t include the original audio – it’s just another Fortune Star 1.1 HD soundtrack. The audio is totally clear, with action and subwoofer mixed very well into it. Overall, the audio is a totally pleasing experience – no complaints there.

The English subtitles weren’t as bad as expected. Most Hong Kong home videos have pretty bad English subtitles the further away you get from year 2000. But surprisingly the Chinglish wasn’t as bad as on the other Fortune Star blu-rays for films from the 1980s-1990s.

The only extra is the trailer for the film in 1080p.

The Legend of Wisely is totally entertaining and fast-paced with not a moment of filler. I highly recommend this film and one of Fortune Star’s best blu-rays! I doubt this film will ever get another English-subtitled blu-ray release, so this is the best home video version that exists and that will most likely exist. So here’s your “Criterion blu-ray version” of The Legend of Wisely. Enjoy!

KILLER BEAN FOREVER blu-ray review

Germany Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.78:1

English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

German: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (dub)

Subtitles: German (removable)


MOVIE: 8.5





For anyone interested in independent animation, this film is worth buying! Jeff Lew is amazing. This guy made a full feature, 85 minute animated action film all by himself. He literally made this film all…by…himself! For that alone, you have to check this movie out. The blu-ray is worth buying just for extras alone. In the extras, there is a full in-depth making of the film on how to actually make an affordable animated film all by oneself. And he goes into great detail on what computer programs he used to make the film and how much time to realistically put aside to actually make a film project on their own. And it ain’t easy. While doing side jobs for MATRIX RELOADED and TRANSFORMERS 2, Jeff Lew spent all his time making KILLER BEAN FOREVER for around five years.

KILLER BEAN FOREVER is a simple yet beautifully animated action film starring coffee beans. It has some comedy in it (the mafia boss’ name is Cappuccino), but it’s played as a serious film. And it’s definitely not for kids. It’s totally violent, no blood, and sprinkled with some profanity here and there. If this film was rated, it probably would get a PG-13 rating. Killer Bean is a contract killer working for a secret agency – he has to deal with crooks, mafia, cops, martial arts masters. It’s a very cliched story, but totally entertaining with amazingly animated gun and martial arts action. KILLER BEAN FOREVER reminded me of a violent Pixar-style Toy Story-style animated film directed by Robert Rodriguez or John Woo.

The blu-ray video and audio quality is reference quality. Both the video and audio are perfect!

I haven’t been this impressed by an independent animated film since Alexander Woo’s RED STEELE: NAZI SMASHER. And that was just a short incomplete 10 minute flick. KILLER BEAN FOREVER is a complete feature-length film! I highly recommend the film and this blu-ray!

There is also a NTSC Region 1 DVD that you can order from Jeff Lew’s website which I did before I purchased the blu-ray, but the DVD was not playing well on my DVD player or blu-ray player. It’s basically an independently-made DVD so it’s bound to act fishy on some DVD players.


France Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English








I’ll be short and sweet with my review. If you are wondering why it got mixed reviews after researching the hard-to-find reviews of this film online, just ignore them and do what I did – watch the trailer. If you are intrigued or interested by what you saw in the trailer, then blind-buy this French blu-ray. This film is totally exciting, has a very emotional story, has great acting, has creative costumes and make-up, moves along at a perfect pace, is beautifully filmed, and has gorgeous cinematography. I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but basically AO THE LAST NEANDERTHAL is a cross between Mel Gibson’s APOCALYPTO and Peter Weir’s THE WAY BACK. If you liked either of those films, then you should definitely enjoy AO. The director of the movie Jacques Malaterre has filmed documentaries on neanderthals in the past, so it’s nice to see his passion for the subject be put into a full-length adventure film.

The Region B France blu-ray is practically reference quality. The video quality is so crisp and lively – I felt transported back in time thanks to this beautiful presentation. The French/Neanderthal language DTS-HD 5.1 just envelopes the room with sound and makes you merge with the film – practically perfect! The movie has great translated English subtitles – the characters speak their own language which is sometimes subtitled and sometimes not (a director’s choice), as well as a French narrator at times which is always subtitled. The extras are a making-of (mainly English audio since this film is an international production, no subs), a little documentary about neanderthals (French audio, no subs), a 1080p trailer, and some photos.

I highly recommend this film. Don’t go by the reviews of this film because I almost did not blind buy the blu-ray based on reviews. I judged the film by its trailer which well represented the film. Definitely in my top ten films of 2011!

DOBERMANN dvd review

Russia NTSC Region-free DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

DD 5.1 French and DD 5.1 Russian (dub)

Subtitles: English









Is anyone here in denial that their “guilty pleasure” movies may actually be their favorite movies of all time? I like some movies which may be considered bad or not so critically acclaimed, but no matter how much I think that I like my more respectable films, I can’t stop thinking about or watching my guilty pleasure movies. Does anyone ever come home, stare at your video collection, try to figure out which movie to watch, and all that you can think of is your guilty pleasure movie that you may have watched a couple weeks ago? I feel bad that guilty pleasure films are more like “appetizers” – just something to watch until you figure out the “real film” you want to watch.  While trying to frustratingly decide which film to watch or which film is due to watch according to the rotation, I always go back to my guilty pleasures. No matter how many times I watch them – such as Army of Darkness, Point Break, 300, Return of the Jedi, Temple of Doom, Chasing Amy, DeNiro’s The Fan, The Rock, Knocked Up, or Roberto Benigni’s Johnny Stecchino. I never really thought of these films so much. If someone talks about them, I would just refer them to as “entertaining”, but in actuality, they are better than the films I consider the best films ever. No matter how much you tell yourself that a film may be “mixed reviewed, having no substance, having no story,” you really can’t acknowledge those facts when it comes to a guilty pleasure film.

DOBERMANN is probably my favorite guilty pleasure film from France. I think there are tons of French films which are better – such as Amelie, Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring, Camille Claudel, Queen Margot, French Cancan, L’Appartement, La Femme Nikita, Belle De Jour, Boudu Saved From Drowning – but they need your attention and one is not always in the mood for them. I am always in the mood for DOBERMANN.

DOBERMANN is nothing more than a live-action, ultra-violent anime cartoon. It’s just a cops-versus-criminals action movie. There isn’t any character development and there isn’t much story, but that’s not what the film is about. It’s not trying to be something it’s not – it’s just a cartoon with some extremely entertaining characters and amazingly filmed action, whether it be cliched or not. I don’t even know if the director is trying to spoof this genre of film. It doesn’t matter, because it’s just so entertaining. Jan Kounen is a such a great creative director. I think he’s France’s second most creative, eye candy-type director after Jean-Pierre Jeunet. If you love Vincent Cassell, Monica Bellucci,  Tcheky Karyo, and Romain Duris, then you have to see them in this film!

DOBERMANN came out in 1997 and has been entertaining for as long as I’ve seen it. It’s not dated, and in fact, it’s a lot better than recent action movies which rely heavily on CGI, as it is currently known to hurt most new action movies. People want to see action movies with real sets and less CGI. That’s the thing nowadays. This movie is not only one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen, it’s also the shortest. It’s clocked at 103 minutes, but if you like this type of ultra-violent film, then it feels like a 30 minute movie. One of these days I’m going to list movies in which the actual time of the film feels shorter. DOBERMANN moves along at such a fast pace and intensity that it ends too quickly. It doesn’t feel incomplete – it’s just such a fast, entertaining flick. I would love to see Vincent Cassell and Monica Bellucci team up again for a sequel with Jan Kounen for the future.

DOBERMANN is like France’s FAST & THE FURIOUS, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, THE PATRIOT, MATRIX RELOADED or A KNIGHT’S TALE in the sense that it’s the action movie that France likes to release on multiple DVD releases throughout the years and on different formats. In France, it’s had about three special edition DVD releases, It’s been released on French Sony UMD for the PSP, and released on French Blu-Ray (no English subtitles though). This film is like their “sampler” action movie. If you want to test a movie on some new home theater in France, DOBERMANN is that type of film. And finally, I can enjoy this movie with this new DVD release.

As I’ve collected DVDs and blu-rays for some time now, I always fantasize about finding that unreleased, awesome quality DVD in some other country. I still can’t believe that there is no anamorphic DVD or blu-ray version of THE ABYSS. I really feel that there must be one country in the world that has that anamorphic version. So, as I’ve traveled around the world and researched online, I’m surprised to find certain DVDs that have better quality than their native country DVDs.

This NTSC Region-Free DVD is the real deal. It’s not a bootleg – it’s an official DVD from the Ukrainian DVD company AMALGAMA that is distributed for the Russian folk that live in North America. If you ever go to Russian neighborhoods in USA, such as in Brooklyn for me, you will find legitimate NTSC Region-Free DVDs as plentiful as their PAL DVD counterparts.

This DVD just has the basics but the basics are pretty much perfect. And I just want to remind others of all the other poor DVD versions of DOBERMANN over the years:

1. Hong Kong/Taiwanese NTSC DVD: awful full screen video with bad English subtitles.

2. United Kingdom PAL DVD: worse than VHS video quality, awful sound, fair English titles that I could barely read.

3. old Russian PAL DVD: interlaced anamorphic video quality was fair, sound was great, but NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES.

4. French PAL DVDs: great quality video and audio, but NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES.

I’ve got to say that this new DVD of DOBERMANN looks the same as the French anamorphic DVD counterparts. The progressive anamorphic 2.35:1 video quality is pretty damn awesome! The colors pop, the darks in the movie seem fine, the video shines and is crisp. This DVD looks amazing after what I’ve seen over the years with this DVD.

The DVD has the original French audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s a great mix for home theaters. Like I said before, this is a French DVD sampler movie. Wait till you play the ass-kicking shoot-outs in this film. The surround sounds and subwoofer get a good work-out! This DOBERMANN DVD is my new home theater audio sampler that I will use along with GLADIATOR, MATRIX RELOADED, and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. There is also a Russian DD 5.1 dub which I didn’t listen to.

The English subtitles on the Hong Kong/Taiwan and UK DVDs were awful and I remember being pissed off with them, either due to hardly being able to see them and/or because they just sucked. All that has changed with the English subtitles on this DVD – The English subtitles are clear to see, grammatically correct, and are not an issue as on the previous poor quality DVDs. The reason that the English subtitles are so good on this DVD is because I translated and edited the English subtitles for this company.

The extra is only a letterboxed non-anamorphic trailer of the movie (non-subtitled).

Upon starting the DVD, you have the choice of a Russian menu or an English menu which is nice.

Finally, finally, finally! An awesome movie finally released on a great DVD! An impressive DVD mastering by DVD company AMALGAMA! This movie ain’t THE DEPARTED or HEAT – It’s not trying to be that type of film. DOBERMANN is basically one of the best live-action cartoon movies I have ever seen. If you are grossed out by extreme cartoonish violence, then don’t watch this film! If you like watching movies that glorifies brutality in a stylishly-filmed way, then this DVD is an easy buy!

VEERA blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Telugu: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English









Ravi Teja’s VEERA: If you are good, he’ll cuddle with you. If you are bad, he’ll chop off your legs.

I don’t know if anyone has ever experienced watching a movie in a dream. It happens to me all the time. In my dream, I go into a movie theater and walk into a film which makes no sense and has no order but is entertaining nonetheless. When I wake up, I try to remember really hard what I had watched in my dream, but all I can remember are entertaining bits of pieces. Watching Veera gave me that dream experience. I was afraid I was going to be bored silly watching this film after reading all the horrible reviews, but overall it’s like any other typical “time-pass” film from India but what amazed me with this film is that Veera is a very dream-like film.

Veera can be certainly classified as a chaotic mess with a story with no focus, but I thought it was pretty interesting how the director shuffled two films into one film. There’s one film with an interesting, exciting story about a tough officer protecting a family from two very scary charasmatic villains, with good acting by the leads – such as the character ACP Shyamsunder (I don’t know the actor’s name) who is a lookalike and similar to the good German actor Moritz Bleibtreu, as well as good acting from the villains. And then there’s another story that was shuffled into the good film – a non-funny slapsticky comedy film about an officer who has to deal with family members that he’s protecting. In this film, the acting is awful and the story is not interesting. This shuffle is really bizarre with highly emotional or violent moments jumping to some happy, cheerful song or scene – it’s quite funny actually (especially with the scene change to the final Veera theme song). I know that this is expected in a masala film, but in Veera, it does feel bizzare and out of place. If Veera’s director had learned about cutting a movie, it would have been wiser to have just cut out all the comedy filler scenes to make this movie a more serious action movie, which it almost was. There was a good base there. It could have been very similar to a movie like LEON or Korea’s THE MAN FROM NOWHERE had it focused on a bad-ass officer (Ravi Teja) protecting a child from two crazed villains. If the movie had been written well, the movie could have focused more on Ravi Teja’s relationship with the child, but instead we get Ravi Teja cuddling and goofing around with his fat non-funny friend most of the time. The two villains are actually awesome. We get a really creepy Indian Robert Davi-type criminal. And then later on in the film, we get a seriously bad-ass holy man villain, who also is bossed around by his Arundhati-nutcase of a wife.

There are some positives in this film though:

The first positive in this schizophrenic film is that the direction is pretty good, even with its quick-cut editing. If I had to compare, Ramesh Varma does seem to be inspired by the Hollywood director Tony Scott, which isn’t a bad thing. The action in the beginning, middle, and end is quite entertaining. The climax of the film is so violent and over-the-top, it’s actually worth the 150 minute running time. There are protagonists that get slaughtered which was very satisfying since they were so annoying in the comedy filler scenes. Unfortunately, the two most annoying actors in this film, Veera’s sister and Veera’s fat comic friend survive the slaughter. I was really hoping for Veera’s sister to get her head chopped off by the bad guys because she’s one of the most obnoxious female characters I have ever seen in an Indian film. The climax is very Shaw Brothers by the way – from the final action scene all the way to the ending.

The second positive is that the movie co-stars the beautiful and talented Kajal Agarwal. I was getting worried as I was watching this film because she doesn’t show up until half way through. But when she shows up, she steals every scene she’s in, because she is a real movie star. I think she’s the most likable and hot actress in Telugu cinema today, especially after becoming a fan of hers after seeing her in MAGADHEERA.

The third positive in the film are the songs. They are all catchy and highly entertaining. I have no understanding of the poor reviews I read about the laziness of these songs.

Is Ravi Teja the fourth positive in the film? I don’t know. He’s a likable guy, but I know this isn’t the movie to judge him. This is the first time I’ve watched him, so I just don’t know what to make of him yet. To me, he seems like a cross between a young Amitabh Bachchan and Borat. I like him. I just don’t love him. He’s certainly a hundred times better than Ashkay Kumar!

The 2-disk Blu-ray/DVD combo produced by Bhavani is pretty much perfect for an Indian blu-ray. Veera is a beautiful-looking film and the blu-ray transfer does it justice. It’s as attractive as its stars, bright, crytal-clear and with exceptional amounts of detail.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Telugu audio track is just as good, with obvious use of surrounds, and a crisp, clear soundstage that makes use of all five channels during the action and song scenes.
The film may not be that great, but this Bhavani blu-ray is certainly demo-worthy.
The extras on the DVD version were actually pretty impressive – it’s basically a good 90-minute home video of the process of shooting songs and other scenes. It’s quite interesting and a reminder of what a pain in the butt it is to make a film.

The only negatives of the blu-ray are:
1. The English subtitles are grammatically incorrect and full of awkward translations most of the times. Sure, we can understand the gist of the film, but the English subtitles should have been better.
2. The Bhavani logo pops up during songs. It’s not so distracting and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that watches Indian blu-rays and DVDs, but there is no need for logos popping up on blu-rays as we all know.

Overall, Veera could have been a really good exciting action drama, but an awful comedy has been randomly shuffled in with the good scenes. I don’t know if it’s worth watching, but it’s certainly an entertaining movie. The night before I just rented the Hollywood film Priest and fell asleep to it. Eventhough that film was polished and slick, the story in that film was so generic and boring, I fell asleep. As messy as Veera was, I had no urge to close my eyes and I was totally entertained! But make no mistake, Veera is not a good film!