MY SWEET LITTLE VILLAGE dvd review

Czech PAL DVD

Full Screen 4×3

Czech DTS 5.0, DD 5.1, and DD 2.0

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBITITLES: 7.5

EXTRAS: 6

 

The mid-1980s were an exciting time for me when I was a kid.  Even though my parents always took me to foreign films even before I could read, these films didn’t start making total sense until I could finally keep up with the English subtitles at around the age of nine or so. From then on, the foreign movies I saw in the mid-80s probably stuck with me the longest – My Life As A Dog, Babette’s Feast, Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring, Tampopo, and My Sweet Little Village.

Jiri Menzel’s My Sweet Little Village (aka Vesnicko má stredisková) was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1987 but lost to The Assault (never heard of it). Also in contention that year was Betty Blue, The Decline of the American Empire, and ’38. My Sweet Little Village is one of the best Czech movies ever made. It’s one of those films you picture when you think of a typical Eastern European foreign film. I don’t want to tell the story about all the wonderful characters in this film, but My Sweet Little Village is about a Czech village with colorful characters all having highly entertaining interwoven stories.

As far as I know, the Czech DVD is the only existing DVD of this film. Since this is the only DVD available, as well as including English subtitles, I’m pretty happy with the overall quality of this DVD. The Full Screen video quality is a mixed bag. It ranges from very clean and sharp to scratchy scenes that cry out for a digital restoration. The DVD surprisingly offers three audio options – DD 2.0, DD 5.1 and DTS 5.0. I watched the movie with the DTS option which was very impressive for this kind of old film. The music especially sounds immersive and the dialogue sounds solid. The DD 5.1 was good too, it’s just that the DTS is louder and mixed better. I was definitely impressed more with the audio quality than the video quality. The most disappointing element of the DVD is the sloppy English subtitles. It’s riddled with bizarre translations and spelling mistakes but, unlike the sloppy English subtitles found on many Hong Kong and Indian videos, the problematic English subtitles on this DVD were good enough and any witty elements in the screenplay thankfully did not get lost in the translation. It’s also really funny that the Czech translator got her name acknowledged during the beginning credits. I’m not too sure they really want to advertise her translation services! The non-subtitled extras on the DVD are some interviews, a trailer, filmographies, photos, and information of other available Czech DVDs. Please note that this version is a special edition Czech DVD. There was a previous Czech DVD of this film but it only had DD 2.0 audio. I’m not sure if the image quality differs between the two, but the main difference is that the special edition version of this film has DTS and DD 5.1 sound.

My Sweet Little Village is a touching, rewatchable classic Czech comedy that is a wonderful escape from beginning to end. Watching this film made me fantasize about living in Europe during the 1980s!

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS blu-ray review

Germany Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.29:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 (original)

German: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 (dub)

Subtitles: English, German

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 10

AUDIO QUALITY: 10

EXTRAS: 5

 

I never saw this film in the theater or on DVD until blind-buying the German blu-ray when I was in Germany. When I first saw the trailer for this film in 2004, I remember thinking, “there is no way in hell that I would see this film.” I don’t know what changed but after watching some clips of this film on tv, I was actually surprised how entertaining this film was. After watching the whole movie on blu-ray, I was pretty impressed. It’s basically a fun adventure film which is mainly carried by the charms of Jackie Chan and Cecil de France. The only negative about this film is Steve Coogan. I assumed that this film was his big chance to get into Hollywood as a leading man, but he certainly isn’t one after watching this film. He sort of reminds me of Russell Brand actually – good in small bits, but he’s not good enough to carry a whole film on his shoulders. Coogan is not dashing, charming, interesting, or even a good actor in this film. But everything else about the film is good. It’s worth it just to see Arnold’s cameo as a crazy wigged Turkish leader. Another surprise in the film is that the action choreography is excellent – it’s perfectly edited and there are tons of martial arts scenes which I didn’t expect. Before watching this film, I always thought that Jackie Chan would be just a supporting sidekick in this, but he is actually the main star of the film. Karen Mok is excellent as well as the hot villainess. She gets a really great fight scene with Jackie Chan in the climax.

I feel bad for dissing Jackie Chan for a while when he did these Hollywood family action films. But actually, the majority of them aren’t really that bad (Karate Kid, Forbidden Kingdom, Rush Hours, Shanghai Noons, and now Around the Wold in 80 Days) – they are solid entertainers and are pretty much the equivalent of his 1990 HK films which are also family action films with silly stories. I’m almost tempted to see The Medallion, The Tuxedo, and The Spy Next Door now.

The German Region B blu-ray has reference video and audio quality. No problems whatsoever. The film looks beautiful since this is a film that goes from one exotic location to the other. The English audio is perfect as well. There are no forced German subtitles when watching this blu-ray with the original audio.

There’s a couple “making ofs” and a trailer too.

Highly recommended for fans of fun adventure movies and Jackie Chan!

FORBIDDEN CITY COP 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 (dub)

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 7.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 7.5

EXTRAS: 2

 

There are only two really special actors with a soul in mainstream Hong Kong cinema, and they are Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow. I do love Jet Li and Donnie Yen, but they are both mainly glorified two-dimensional action heroes that don’t have any soul in their films. I normally can’t stand Hong Kong comedies, but it’s only Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan that can make great comedy movies that everyone can enjoy.

Stephen Chow’s Forbidden City Cop is a great, fast-paced entertaining flick! I felt like I was watching John Carpenter or Sam Raimi direct Stephen Chow as a cross between Inspector Gadget and James Bond during Ancient China times.

Stephen Chow plays an outcast royal guard of the emperor who spends his days as a doctor, inventor, loving husband, and dreams of joining the royal guard again. He does not have any kung-fu skills, but he’s got serious skills with his gadgets. The other emperor’s royal guards get killed by a cultish organization that want to take over China, so the emperor hires Stephen Chow to go undercover to stop this power-seeking cult. Chow uses his brains and gadgets to outsmart this cult.

This movie is not only extremely funny, but Stephen Chow has some serious chemistry with his wife, played by Carina Lau. So it’s not only a funny action movie, but the romance is excellent and a bit touching for a mainstream Hong Kong film.

The action, editing, and directing is creative and amazing. So if you are seeking a great Hong Kong film with a combination of action, comedy, and romance, Forbidden City Cop is one Hong Kong classic to watch.

Surprisingly for a 90s HK film, the soundtrack is great as well – even spoofing the James Bond theme song throughout the film.

As for the blu-ray, I’m going to state my usual disclaimer about Kam & Ronson HK blu-rays:

Lower your expectations. People say that these blu-rays from this Hong Kong company KAM & RONSON are just upconverted DVDs. Maybe so, but they still look and sound better than previous dvds. If you love any of the movies that KAM & RONSON are making blu-rays into, then buy them. Just expect them to be better than your previous dvds. Don’t expect them to be reference blu-ray examples.

The video quality is better than past Hong Kong DVDs, and the video is clear and crisp, but this company has no desire to clean up scratches and white specs off of the video. The video quality is at its best during any nicely lit day scenes. But night scenes aren’t that great.
The audio is actually very good. The Cantonese Dolby TruHD 7.1 sounds more like a 2.1 soundtrack (as on all Kam & Ronson blu-rays). The dialogue is clear and there is great subwoofer action.

The extras are only a 1080p non-subtitled trailer and a non-subtitled 10-minute making of the film.

The English subtitles are riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, but not bad enough to ruin the movie-watching experience.

If you love Stephen Chow, you are going to love this film!

ASTERIX AND OBELIX: MISSION CLEOPATRA dvd review

UK PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

DD 5.1 French

DD 5.1 English (dub)

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

I have seen many movie adaptations of mainstream or obscure comic books from around the world. I think that the best Hollywood adaptations of graphic novels are Watchmen, Sin City, 300, Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim, and V for Vendetta. Sure, I love the Spiderman and Nolan’s Batman movies, but those aren’t adaptations of any of their particular books. I would say that I’m a casual comic-book fan of American comics, but I take my European comics very seriously (Tintin and Asterix, for example). I don’t like it when movie adaptations of European comic books are messed up. When the first Asterix movie came out – Asterix & Obelix vs. Caesar – I was pretty disappointed because it was just hijacking the title of the original comic book. The movie is nothing like the original comic book – far from being a movie adaptation of the book. But over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate this film once I accepted it as a new Asterix adventure and not being an adaptation of its book. But when Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra came out, now this was the Asterix movie I dreamed of!

Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra is a perfect movie adaptation of the original comic book Asterix and Cleopatra. Alain Chabet, more known as an actor, directed and wrote the screenplay for this film. He also stars in the film playing a really funny Julius Caesar who’s the boyfriend to the hottest Cleopatra put on screen, Monica Bellucci (sorry, Elizabeth Taylor). In their Egyptian palace, the two leaders bicker like a regular couple and just casually make a bet with each other: Cleopatra wants to prove to Caesar that Egyptians are greater people than Romans by building another palace in just three months. So Cleopatra hires the young, up-and-coming architect played by the extremely funny Jamel Debbouze. Cleopatra’s usual architect, who is old and traditional, is jealous because he’s not chosen to do the job, so he does everything possible to prevent the younger architect from succeeding. Knowing that it’s impossible to build a huge palace in just three months, the young architect travels to Gaul to get the help of Getafix the Druid who can make a magic potion that can give anyone superhuman strength. So Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix travel to Egypt to help the young architect complete the palace within 3 months. Along the way, the Gauls have to deal with Romans, the other villainous architect, and even pirates that try to stall their task.

Chabet totally understands Asterix and its humor. The screenplay is so funny and has the exact same type of humor that was in Goscinny and Underzo’s book. I really wish that Chabet could direct any future Asterix sequels. It’s too bad he didn’t get to film the third Asterix film, Asterix at the Olympic Games, which was just a piss-poor film. The acting in Mission Cleopatra is perfect as well. Besides Chabet and Bellucci, it’s a treat to see the chemistry between Gerard Depardieu and Christian Clavier. They have been a funny duo in other French films as well, and they certainly are awesome in this film playing Obelix and Asterix.

If people say that Sin City the movie is like the graphic novel coming to life on film, then so is Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra. This movie is like a live-action comic book – from the flow of the film to the funny characters and to the impressive eye-candy special effects. Watching this film gave me the same pleasure as reading the book, or any Asterix book for that matter.

For people who want English subtitles or an English dub, the only way to go is to find this DVD from the United Kingdom. The DVD quality is excellent. The anamorphic widescreen video quality has sharpness and detail that is quite good. The video appears free of edge enhancement and pixelation, which makes a natural, crisp-looking image as good as it’s going to get for a DVD. The French DD 5.1 is really active as well. This movie is full of action with catapults, kicks, and punches so the audio quality is excellent, with clear dialogue and effects. Bass is strong, deep and tight in the action sequences. The English dub is sort of silly sounding but it’s good enough for kids who can’t read subtitles yet.

There are no extras on this DVD.

This movie was made for blu-ray, but it’s only available in Spain and Germany without English subtitles. It’s pretty strange that the blu-ray isn’t even available in France. But either way, this UK DVD is a perfect way to enjoy this masterpiece adaptation of a French comic book. For fans of the Asterix comic book, it’s a masterpiece. For people who have never read the Asterix comic book, it’s still a pretty entertaining and witty movie. I’m sure the non-Asterix fans would rate this film lower, but I just loved this movie as a film by itself and as an adaptation of the comic book.

7 HUSBANDS FOR HURMUZ blu-ray review

Turkey Region B blu-ray

1080i Widescreen 1.78:1

Turkish: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1,  LPCM Lossless 7.1, DD 5.1 EX

Subtitles: English, Turkish, French, German, Dutch

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 7

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 6

EXTRAS: 2

 

After watching the trailer for this 7 HUSBANDS FOR HURMUZ, I thought it would be a fun, visually entertaining eye candy-type comedy. And I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. What I liked about the film is that the majority of the film showcased extremely hot Turkish ladies. This is one of those movies that proves that if you don’t have an extremely good story, just fill up the screen with a lot of hot actresses. I was even surprised that this movie is also a musical. There were about seven to nine very catchy rewatchable songs in 7 HUSBANDS FOR HURMUZ.

Here’s the kicker – it’s hard to tell if this movie was horribly written or if the English subtitles were awful. I’m leaning towards the subtitles problems. Even though the English subtitles were pretty much grammatically correct with good spelling, the subtitles were not translated well. I really had no idea what was going on in this film. It’s like everyone was double-talking or babbling. While the screenplay may have been witty and funny, there is no way to figure that out if you don’t speak Turkish. I did read other reviews of this film and it did get mixed reviews with people criticizing the screenplay.

From what I could make of the story, I couldn’t figure out if the main girl, Hurmuz, was looking for 7 husbands, had 7 husbands already, was hiding from all 7 husbands, or if she was trying to hook other hot Turkish ladies up with the 7 husbands. I would have to probably watch this movie two more times to figure out the gist of the film. But in the meantime, damn this movie had great music and extremely attractive women.

The Turkish blu-ray is of excellent quality. The 1080i is just awesome. The colors stand out, they pop with amazing clarity. The audio is just about perfect as well – perfectly mixed and really comes alive during the songs.

The only extras are a trailer, teaser and photo gallery.

This mainstream Turkish movie is worth watching for a change from the usual art-house Turkish film that gets exported to other countries. It’s just too bad the English subtitles on this blu-ray sucks.

THE LOVE ETERNE blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Mandarin

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 7.5

 

The Love Eterne is the first emotional Shaw Bros film that I have ever seen. Out of all the many films that I have seen from the Shaw Bros, this film is unexpectedly unique for a film from the 1960s. For anyone that knows a little about this film, the movie is like a Romeo & Juliet Chinese musical, which was hugely popular in its day (as like a Chinese version of The Sound of Music) and is considered a classic, which I definitely agree with. The movie is famous for its Huangmei opera style – a particular style of singing, as well as actors being either played by all boys or all girls.

While I do agree that the music in this film is hypnotic and keeps the movie moving at a very good pace, as well as amazing acting from both of the female leads, this movie can be interpreted in many ways. I had read reviews of this film before watching it, and I found out that Ang Lee has certainly been inspired by this film. I’m happy to have known that because with Crouching Tiger and Brokeback Mountain in the back of my mind, The Love Eterne is a really interesting film if it’s interpreted from a sexual political, women’s rights standpoint. I watched this film thinking that these were two women in love, not a woman and a man (played by a woman) in love. I felt that the movie is more emotionally powerful watching the film like this in which the movie is about two female lovers fighting society’s closed-minded norms, with so many obstacles preventing them to function or love each other during this time period. Watching the film with that in mind, it makes the story in this movie timeless, as these issues are still apparent today. The main female character dresses up as a man so that she can study in college because she’s an individual, she doesn’t want to be stupid, and doesn’t want to follow her parents traditional strict rules of how a woman should be, etc. And as she is in college, the audience sees a whole slew of other women dressed up like men studying that don’t want to be subservient idiots in a sexist society. She then meets another woman at her college who believes she’s a man even though she was born as a woman (my interpretation). So they both create a bromantic relationship as one is pretending to be a man, while the other one thinks she’s a man, and then they fall in love. It’s actually a pretty bizarre film if you watch it as a same-sex romance film. The Love Eterne is sort of like a better version of Boys Don’t Cry practically! You don’t have to watch this as a lesbian film, but I think it works better as one.

Onto the Region A Hong Kong blu-ray:
Oh…baby…Intercontinental Video are professionals. Period. Wow! Who are these guys? Holy crap, this is the first old Hong Kong movie on blu-ray that is a real blu-ray! A real, restored blu-ray! (Kam & Ronson, I like that you are releasing old Chinese movies too, but come on, learn something from Intercontinental!) If you were impressed with the slew of Shaw Bros movies that they remastered onto DVD, wait till you see this blu-ray. The video is basically perfect. I would have given it a perfect 5 out of 5, but the video sometimes had a very, very slight camera shake to it. I’m not sure if that’s how the original film was, or if that’s something they could have fixed, or if it’s just something that my blu-ray player was doing. But either way, damn this blu-ray looks amazing! The video looks three-dimensional, colors are crisp and eye-popping! You can see good skin tone, textures, clear background, clean video, not a scratch, not a hair, not a speck. It just looks amazing!

The audio is very good too. The Mandarin DTS-HD 5.1 does the job well done. It still has a slight hollow claustrophobic sound to it, but what do you expect – 98 percent of the movie was most likely filmed on an indoor set. The audio is solid – it’s clear and sounds excellent during the songs. It’s an audio recorded from the 1960s, not from 2011. It’s perfectly fine and does what expected. It certainly sounds better than any of the audio choices on the K&R blu-rays.

I really, really like Intercontinental for one main reason – the English subtitles! The English subtitles on the Love Eterne blu-ray are practically perfect! Wow, why can’t the rest of Chinese blu-ray companies do that? I can’t take another Hong Kong movie with Chinglish. As I remember now, the Shaw Bros movies released on DVD by Intercontinental always had decent English subtitles. Me likey!

The extras are very nice too – two trailers for The Love Eterne (one original trailer and one 2003 trailer which was probably created for their DVD version), and also trailers for their other blu-rays – The Kingdom and the Beauty and The Three Smiles. There are also two trailers for the One-Armed Swordsman and the New One-Armed Swordsman, which I assume will be their next two blu-ray releases since they are getting advertised on this blu-ray. There is also an interesting English-subtitled documentary about Huangmei opera which runs for about 15 minutes.

The Love Eterne is a very interesting film with a surprising epic climax. I now have two favorite Shaw Bros. films – Come Drink With Me and The Love Eterne. I highly recommend this Shaw Bros. classic and this amazing quality blu-ray!

THE RAINBOW THIEF blu-ray review

Germany Region B blu-ray

1080i Widescreen 1.78:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (original)

German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (dub)

IMDB

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

EXTRAS: 1

 

I’ve never seen The Rainbow Thief until blind-binding this German blu-ray, and it’s surprisingly an exciting movie starring a bunch of old timers! If no one had told me this was an Alexandro Jodorowsky film, I would have thought it was a Terry Gilliam film.

One of my all-time favorite films is The Holy Mountain, so I was expecting some outrageous weirdness that would need to be interpreted after many viewings. Just the opposite, I felt like I was watching a better version of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, minus the CGI fantasy scenes. The movie is just a nice, slightly wacky Dickens-type story about the adventures of a thief, played with serious intensity by Omar Sharif. Peter O’Toole is good as his usual weird flamboyant self, and Christopher Lee is great in his short crazy role at the beginning of the movie.

The Rainbow Thief is filmed so well and it’s surprisingly one of my favorite edited films now, because Omar Sharif was chugging all over the place as if he was 20 years old. The directing and editing was just amazing because it was really impossible to tell the stunt man from Omar. That’s great editing. If this movie had cast a younger thief copying the style of Omar Sharif’s intense acting, I was thinking that the role could have been played by Robert Downey Jr.

The music was also excellent, great gypsy and classical infused with the funny visuals in the film.

I remember how exciting it was to see DeNiro and Pacino reunite for their Michael Man film, Heat. Well, I feel the same for the reuniting of Sharif and O’Toole in this film, since they played so well together in Lawrence of Arabia. It’s sort of sad watching them old in this film since they were so young in Lawrence of Arabia. But their age does not slow them around in this film – they are just a bunch of old timers chugging around as if on speed. It’s amazing how O’Toole and Sharif still look the same as well – for the past 30 years, they have always looked like they are 65 years old!

I now rank The Rainbow Thief right under The Holy Mountain, then El Topo, and then Santa Sangre. The movie is certainly worth it for the amazingly-filmed rainstorm/flood scene in the climax of the film – it was something like out of a Rolland Emmerich or James Cameron film.

The German blu-ray has perfect video and audio quality. For such an obscure title, Ascot Elite Home Entertainment gave this film a very generous make-over. The well-lit and dark scenes all look equally crisp and clear. Great colors, no DNR – just a perfect video presentation. The English DTS-HD 2.0 is very impressive, especially during the climactic flood scenes. The subwoofer was certainly active in the film, which was a nice surprise. The only extra is the trailer with original English audio.

Very nice film – it’s just a crime that Jodorowsky hasn’t directed more films, because he is a masterful director. It’s too bad he doesn’t direct any of those Euro sci-fi comics he had written over the years. And I can’t wait till The Holy Mountain gets a blu-ray release somewhere in the world.