PEKING OPERA BLUES 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

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 7.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 6.5

EXTRAS: 1

 

If Fortune Star’s DVD video/audio quality is considered a C, then this supposedly remastered blu-ray of Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues is like a B-.

Here’s how I would grade the individual parts of this blu-ray (with the grading curve of course, as many people should be aware that it’s a bit tricky for Hong Kong home video companies to make beautiful blu-ray remasters of Hong Kong films from the 1980s-1990s):

A: The blu-ray video is totally clean, spotless, and scratch-free.

A-: The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 is actually surprisingly very impressive if you accept it as a Dolby TrueHD 1.1 audio. It’s one of the best Fortune Star blu-ray audios of an old Hong Kong film that I’ve heard so far. Dialogue is clear, no hissing, not claustrophobic sounding, well-balanced, and action/gun-firing scenes have subwoofer whoomph – basically, a totally solid audio experience.

A-: The film’s video quality is a consistent and pleasurable viewing experience.

B-: The blu-ray video is better-looking, brighter, and has more detail than the Fortune Star DVD.

B-: Close up shots look good, maintaining original grain but don’t be surprised from slightly pasty faces.

C: English subtitles are fair with typical Chinglish. I had an idea what was going on, but those subtitles just don’t make sense as a whole. Watching this blu-ray reminded me of how I perceive watching a movie in my dreams – I think I know what’s going on but I have no idea what’s going on. These companies need to hire normal translators. Those English subtitles make the movie worse! For me, the Chinglish subtitles were the only distraction watching this movie.

C-: Medium shots and long shots of people’s faces and objects sometimes look poor – ranging from slight interlaced lines, fuzziness, and blurriness.

C-: Night/dark shots don’t look that hot. Pretend you are watching a DVD and you won’t get too upset.

D+: Just one extra (the trailer), when the Fortune Star DVD had a few more extras.

Overall:
1. If you don’t have the Fortune Star DVD and if you want to own this movie, buy the blu-ray.
2. If you own the Fortune Star DVD and you don’t have some mega-sized 40+ HDTV or projector, then stick with the DVD.

SIVAJI: THE BOSS blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Tamil: LPCM 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 10

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8

EXTRAS: 0

 

I knew this was going to be an Indian masterpiece when I saw the trailer for this crazy, live-action, political, cartoon movie. Kollywood movies usually suck ass, but if there is one Tamil movie to see, go see SIVAJI THE BOSS! The character Sivaji is played by India Tamil’s biggest star Rajini (equivalent to Jackie Chan of China or Sharuhk Khan of India Hindi), who does one movie once every 2 years (extremely impressive for Bollywood actors whom usually do one movie every week) and he just whoops ass throughout the whole flick. Like all flamboyant Bollywood actors, who think they are cool just because they are aware of current western trends, speak some English, and act like they are so hot, watching Rajini is like watching a serious version of Austin Powers. You can’t help but like him. SAVAJI: THE BOSS can be interpreted as a perfect spoof of a Bollywood film or as a perfect update of the 70s/80s Bollywood action movies which star old, not-so-sexy, hairy moustached Indian dudes in the lead. This totally entertaining three-hour film is about a rich American Software Systems Architect who returns to his homeland India to try to open up free hospitals and free colleges for the people. All he wants to do is to do good, but he is prevented from doing so by corrupt dirty officials. After unsuccessfully struggling to get things done the lawful way, he takes matters in his own hands and kicks the crap out of the corrupt officials to do his good deeds for the nation of India. Along the way, he stalks a 20-year old hot Tamil girl hopefully to become his wife. (wow, “courting a girl” is so passe, but “stalking a girl” really works in India – such slick Cassanovas). The film is also riddled with some great songs created by the famous A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire, Bombay Dreams).

Shankar, the director of SIVAJI, is one of the most ballsy Bollywood directors for consistently criticizing the corrupt Indian government in most of his films (Deepha Mehta and Mira Nair are controversial Indian directors as well, but they ain’t Bollywood). Shankar is also famous for making the biggest budget Bollywood flicks and using the most current special effects that are found in other Western action movies. He made the first Indian martial-arts film – ANNIYAN, as well as the best Indian sci-fi action film ROBO, which I both recommend. He’s still a bit obsessed with the Matrix movies, as many of the action scenes are inspired by those flicks as well as Robert Rodriguez. For a Bollywood film, his movies have pretty sweet action scenes (no comparison to a western film, but he’s getting close). SIVAJI: THE BOSS has tons of well-choreographed action scenes, martial arts scenes, and one pretty damn original and intense car demolition derby scene. The movie is worth it alone just to see this goofy nerdy leading man transform into a goofy version of Matrix’s Morpheus in the climax. Rajini has a stunt double, sometimes obvious in some of the action scenes, but overall Rajini seems to move pretty damn well for a 50-year old.

SIVAJI: THE BOSS is a great film for anyone who has fantasized of a really honest politician or philanthropist taking the law in his own hands to help one’s own nation. It’s sort of like Charles Bronson’s Death Wish only on a more epic scale. It’s a wacky cheesy film of course, so you should know what to expect for anyone who has ever seen a Bollywood flick.

This is one of the best video and audio quality blu-rays I have ever seen. The video looks practically three-dimensional with colors and depth pooping as if this was a three-dimensional film. The LPCM 5.1 audio just rocks – dialogue was clear and the action in this movie used all the speakers and subwoofer perfectly as one would expect from an awesome surround sound movie! No extras on this blu-ray!

Highly entertaining film – two of the best Tamil films are on blu-ray, ROBO and SIVAJI, both starring Rajini too!

ROBOGEISHA blu-ray review

USA Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.78:1

Japanese: Dolby TrueHD 2.0

English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 3

 

What a surprise, RoboGeisha is a good film (good for a genre film with geishas that have machine gun breasts and ass swords)!

I can’t stand these recent crop of cheaply-made Japanese action films with a bunch of bad actors running around the forest trying to kill each other in the most demented way and with a non-existent screenplay – all with a cool trailer and packaged in a tempting looking blu-ray/dvd with an attractive looking Japanese actress on the cover. These films are just boring and disappointing with their overkill action.

Besides Takashi Miike (Dead or Alives, Ichi the Killer, The Great Yokai War), there are aren’t too many other good Japanese over-the-top action directors. There are Kitamura (Versus, Azumi) and Kiriya (Casshern, Goemon) whom are somewhat satisfying, but the rest seem to fall into the painfully amateurish genre even too amateurish for their over-the-top action genre. RoboGeisha’s director, Noboru Iguchi, who also did the highly entertaining The Machine Girl is now two for two with me (I haven’t seen any of his other films), but he’s nowhere at the same level as Takashi Miike yet.

I thought that the trailer would exactly represent the film – I had expected RoboGeisha to have a brief five-minute story and then the rest of the film would have non-stop action (such as Versus) showcasing millions of different killer geishas. Thankfully, that was not so, and there was surprisingly a well-developed story about two sisters, was well paced, and had great action. The special effects are cheesy but in a charming way (not in a bad Troma way). The director balances out the drama and humor perfectly in which the movie is similar to one of Sam Raimi’s comedy horror films (sort of like Army of Darkness or Drag Me To Hell). The characters are two-dimensional of course and the whole movie is just wacky, but there is order to this film’s wackiness. Thankfully, the movie ends when it is supposed to. I wonder if any other critics that gave this film bad reviews have watched all the other over-the-top action movies from Japan with awful young actors running around forests and having yo-yo’s popping out of their swords. I could understand finding more faults in this film if no one else has ever seen these other over-the-top ultra-violent action films, but I’m so used to crap coming out of Japan nowadays, RoboGeisha was extremely satisfying.

The blu-ray quality is excellent. Even though the Japanese soundtrack is only Dolby TrueHD 2.0, it’s a very active soundtrack and their certainly was subwoofer action. I didn’t watch the movie with the Dolby Tru 5.1 English because I don’t like dubs. The video quality was extremely solid as well too. The only extras are a whole bunch of trailers and a little mini movie, which is a continuation of the movie – it’s okay, but you can tell that the director was just having fun with the props and costumes (it had good special effects though).

RoboGeisha is a fun, over-the-top, ultra-violent action movie with a solid-enough story. I hate to say it, but it’s also one of the best geisha movies I’ve seen – better than Memoirs of a Geisha and better than Sakuran.

THE RAIN CHILDREN dvd review

France PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

English DTS 5.1, DD 5.1

French DTS 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: none

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

EXTRAS: 5

 

The animated film industry is very cliquish. If an animated film is not Disney, Miyazaki, Pixar, or Japanese anime, where does that film stand? It stands alone in the corner…ignored. It’s pretty sad because if any country has a popular film industry, it usually means that particular country is also making films for children and teenagers, such as animated films. And guess what? There are many good, unknown animated films out there from other countries that are not getting distributed in other countries. France stands alone in the corner, but they have always made good animated films. It’s just that not too many people can name them. No one outside Europe really knows of Michel Ocelot (France’s version of Walt Disney) or Rene Laloux. Outsiders know a little bit about Sylvain Chomet (director of The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville). But still, who cares about old school two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation? These guys can’t compete against Pixar’s computer-animated animals running around like bug-eyed, hyper maniacs screaming out their dialogue. And from an American perspective, I’ve always loved animated films released by the underdog companies such as Dreamworks and Don Bluth. Even as a kid, I never understood why these films are supposed to be considered inferior to Disney ones. I remember when The Last Unicorn was released when I was young and I remember people saying that it’s a new animated film AND it’s not a Disney film. Who cares what it is not? They are different from Disney, but so what? Why does every recent animated film have to have bug-eyed manic animals running around? They don’t. I like animated films – all kinds and from any country. And France’s Les Enfants de la Pluie (aka The Rain Children) is a great animated film for children and adults.

The Rain Children is based on a book by Serge Brussolo, directed by Philippe Leclerc, and characters designed by Heavy Metal artist Caza. For anyone that has read a Heavy Metal comic book in their life, you should be very pleased with The Rain Children. As in most French fantasy/sci-fi comic books (such as the ones found in Heavy Metal), you will discover creative alien worlds, diverse characters, interesting stories, and your typical balance of drama, romance, humor, action (usually very violent), and sexiness. The Rain Children film is like one of those French fantasy graphic novels come to life. This film was marketed to French kids, so they can deal with a little more uncensored adult stories than little innocent American kids, but if it had to get a rating, it’s like a heavy PG-13 or a light R. The film is lightly sprinkled with decapitations, characters melted by sunlight, arrows shot into people’s heads and hands, limbs chopped off, and a little bit of nudity. The animation is beautiful and the story is interesting from beginning to end. This epic fantasy film has a coherent story that is exciting, has characters with depth, has awesome villains, and the film is even a bit touching. I just want to remind everyone that it’s not so simple for an animated film to get everything right – this is why Disney, Miyazaki, and Pixar are so popular because they focus on all aspects of the film. There are some countries in the world that have a huge animated film industry but forget to give the audience a complete package – I’m pointing my figure to Japan – they love spending years and years animating a film with such great beauty and detail but they tend to forget to hire a screenwriter. The Rain Children is a complete movie! When you watch it, you get pulled into the story which is sort of like a combination of DUNE, AVATAR (Cameron), and AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER (the cartoon). The beautiful hand-drawn animation (by South Korea) and story is accompanied by an amazing score. Even though it may seem like a nicely animated Saturday morning cartoon at a quick glance, the movie is not – it’s much more. Don’t forget that there was a time when two-dimensional, hand-drawn animated films were released in theaters before this CGI Pixar-style overkill.

The France 2-disk PAL DVD is great. The anamorphic widescreen video quality is totally satisfying. The colors are quite impressive, looking rich and deep throughout the picture. The image is consistently clear and crisp, although not quite razor sharp as one would expect to see on a blu-ray of course. I only noticed one quick scene (like 2 seconds) of slight traces of pixelization one dark scene with the camera panning to the right, but other than that, that’s it. Pretty damn good presentation! The DTS 5.1 English, with a pretty good group of voice actors (especially the villains), was powerful and active, alternately going between loud action scenes to softer quiet scenes, capturing the atmosphere perfectly. We feel the sword fighting scenes and all the other cool sound effects in this film. The action scenes and the musical score are wonderfully enveloping. There are no subtitles on this DVD – it’s not like you can listen to the movie with the French audio with English subs. It’s okay because the English soundtrack is very good – I think I liked more of the English voices more than the French voices after flipping back and forth to see how characters sound in different languages. The extras aren’t English-friendly, but still interesting all the same. There’s a documentary on graphic artist Caza, a making of the movie, and some trailers for other movies.

If you like professionally-made, hand-drawn, epic animated fantasy films, then you should check out The Rain Children.