THE CIRCUS blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Full Screen 1.33:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0



MOVIE: 9.5





Criterion really spoiled us with that Modern Times blu-ray. I watched the Modern Times blu-ray before watching The Circus blu-ray, and there is a huge difference in video quality. The video quality on The Circus is better than previous DVD versions, but it’s not an eye-opening, impressive-looking blu-ray as Modern Times is. The Circus has a vertical scratch in the middle for the majority of the film, which comes and goes. I guess it was too hard to remove? I don’t know. The video quality is very bright, but not as 3-dimensional as the Modern Times blu-ray. I know it may be unfair to compare the two, but I just connect all the Chaplin movies together, so I would assume that if Modern Times can be restored to perfection on blu-ray, then why not his other films? I watched a little bit of The Circus DVD that comes with this blu-ray too. Even though the blu-ray is better than the DVD, I was more impressed with what they did with the DVD than what they did with the blu-ray. I’ll still watch the blu-ray over the DVD though. The DTS-HD on the Circus blu-ray is just amazing. I’m happy that was pretty flawless.

The extras are photo gallery, introduction by some critic, outtakes, and interesting featurettes about the controversy surrounding the movie (Chaplin never writes about The Circus in his autobiography because the movie revolved around his difficult lawsuit divorce. Also, the movie went through a lot of Terry Gilliam-type filming obstacles). It’s amazing that he was able to complete the film and release a perfect film as well. There is also an interesting featurette with Emir Kusturica (my favorite director of all time) on how he’s influenced by Chaplin too.

The Circus is a laugh-out-loud funny movie and totally worth buying on blu-ray. But if Criterion ever releases this film, I probably would upgrade though.


CHICO & RITA blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio, LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English









Chico & Rita is the best animated film (for adults) I’ve seen in 2011. I loved Puss ‘N Boots too but that’s just your typical Hollywood CGI animated film for kids (and I know I will love the upcoming Tintin animated film). Chico & Rita is a unique animated films for adults, so it will not win Best Animated film at the Oscars, but it will also most likely not even get nominated at all. I don’t think the Oscars have nominated an R-rated animated film yet and I think they will stick with “G and PG rated ones” for now with their closed-minded selections.

Chico & Rita, directed by the respectable Spanish director Fernando Trueba (he directed Belle Epoque) is a simple story of two lovers from Cuba. Chico is a piano player. Rita is a singer. They play in jazz clubs in 1948 Cuba and New York, They meet, have sex, fall in love, break up, meet up, have sex (full female nudity), and so on. It’s a simple and touching story because it’s well-written and the movie is full of exciting music with animated cameos of famous musicians such as Chucho Valdes, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo, Tito Puente, Ben Webster, and Thelonious Monk. The movie is also very exciting – it’s not just a bunch of characters playing music all the time. There’s an impressive filmed car chase and, even more impressive, is a catfight with Rita being totally nude. I think it’s the first animated cat fight I have ever seen.

The animation is the star of the film. This is one of the few animated movies I’ve seen that captures the most realistic movement of a woman. There have been tons of animated movies that have tried, but something was always off. The secret to what was done in Chico & Rita was that they actually filmed the movie with real actors and the animators just captured all those realistic movements and expressions – a really amazing job. Another amazing point about the animation is that this movie literally renovated Cuba to its peak times of the late 40s. The filmmakers traveled to Cuba and took tons of photographs of areas of Cuba that were falling apart. In the movie, they renovate all those pictures to the way those areas used to be in the late 1940s. It’s as if the filmmakers totally restored Cuba.

The UK blu-ray is totally satisfying. Colors pop. Detail stands out – the image is as crisp and detailed as the animation can be when put onto the blu-ray format. The Spanish DTS-HD 5.1 (with some English dialogue when the characters go to New York) is practically perfect as well. Dialogue is clear and the music sounds amazing. You will want to play this movie loud! The English subtitles are perfect as well.

The extras are just the ones that we would want – a commentary, a trailer, and an in-depth making of the film. I don’t know what else they could have added? I guess some people would want an English dub for the film but this movie isn’t for kids, so just pretend this film is an R-rated foreign film.

Chico & Rita is not only an original-looking animated film, it’s also a really touching love story with great music. I highly recommend this film!

(UPDATE: Wow, the movie actually got nominated for an Oscar. This was an unexpected surprise!)

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)









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.

COEUR FIDELE blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Full Screen 1.33:1

Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English








I’ve been on a role with old films – City Girl, Boudu Saved From Drowning, French Cancan, and now Sunrise. I was hoping 5th one would be a charm with COEUR FIDELE but unfortunately I wasn’t blown away with this Jean Epstein film. All I can say is that this film is one of the most creative edited and directed old films I’ve ever seen – I give credit to that, as well as the beautiful scenery of good ol’ France. But the story is really not that interesting. This movie is a rather depressive melodrama with a very bland storyline. The whole movie focuses on a dreary woman with amazing eyes, caught between an a-hole who likes her and a nice guy who likes her. The whole movie is just her moping around town. It’s too bad the story was not stronger because it would be so much more rewatchable.

As usual, Eureka did a perfect job of remastering. The video quality is so crisp, clear, and fresh, it’s like watching the movie in 1923. The audio is perfectly mixed too – with a very interesting dark soundtrack. The only extras are an interesting 44-page booklet and photos.

If you want to see an old film with very creative and original direction/editing, then check out this film.


Hong Kong Region 3 DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Cantonese DTS and DD 5.1, Manderin DTS

Subtitles: English








I feared that A CHINESE TALL STORY was going to be a really disappointing Hong Kong fantasy film. Fortunately, this Jeffrey Lau film is an entertaining but flawed movie. Unlike THE PROMISE, the visuals were the best aspect of A CHINESE TALL STORY. The visuals were amazing to look at regardless of the lousy screenplay. The movie probably would have been better to watch without the English subtitles, and just watch the film and figure it out, which I sort of had to do anyway. Most of the time, I had no idea what was going on, because Jeff Lau can’t write. The comedy bits were funny, but the overall screenplay didn’t flow at all. I couldn’t even get through his previous Monkey King movies, A CHINESE ODYSSEY PART 1 & 2 (The subtitles on those remasted DVDs were impossible to follow – but I have a feeling even if the subtitles were good, those movies would still suck). I was sort of able to understnad the gist of the movie – it’s a cross between LEGEND OF ZU, Monkey King fairytales, and SHREK – Some futuristic kingdom gets attacked by evil monsters so the kingdom looks for help from this Shrek-type girl. But the only way for the Shrek girl to stop the monsters is to get Tripitaka (Longevity Monk from the Monkey King fairytale) to fall in love with her. Tripitaka’s boys, Monkey King, Pigsy, and some other guy are kidnapped by the bad guys on the way. That’s the story. When I was a kid, I read the nicely illustrated Monkey King cartoon books, and then when I got older I read the Monkey King adventures. Reading the books, I always fantasized about seeing live-action or animated films of the Monkey King. When I got old enough to became an Asian movie fan, I checked online and looked around in Chinatown to see if there was a good movie/tv adaptation out there. After seeing some of the different movie/tv adaptations that has existed since the 1960s, I’m still pretty disappointed. The Monkey King film/tv adaptations are like the Adam West/Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batmans. I have yet to see a MONKEY KING movie at the level of BATMAN BEGINS. Someone really needs to do one MONKEY KING movie right, whether it be live-action or animation. Even as I write this, there’s another Monkey King live-action film in production. So until that happens, I can only enjoy a Monkey King vibe from only three movies – ZU WARRIORS, LEGEND OF ZU, and now A CHINESE TALL STORY. All three of those movies reminded me of the vast world of the adventures of the Monkey King. The ZU movies aren’t Monkey King movies, but they certainly captured the vast world and creativity of his adventures on earth and in the heavens. All the other Monkey King movies that I’ve seen are claustrophic and amatuerish.

The only real problem I had with A CHINESE TALL STORY was the story, not the special effects. After reading many bad things about the CGI and special effects, they turned out to be pretty solid. Some effects looked like from Playstation 2 effects and some effects were awesome. The characters are in a creative vast fantasy world – it’s okay if there are some video game-looking characters in there (as in France’s IMMORTAL). It didn’t bug me at all and I didn’t feel like I was watching a blue screen movie set as I did with THE PROMISE or any of the STAR WARS prequels.

I got the regular 2-disc NTSC Region 3 DVD version of A CHINESE TALL STORY, not the AVANTE GARDE version with the supposed better DTS. The first disc has the movie with Cantonese DTS and DD 5.1, Manderin DTS, andEnglish subtitles. The anamorphic video was extremely nice. The audio was very active with surrounds going all over the place galore, very appropriate for a wild and crazy fantasy fairytale movie. The extras were quite good too, extremely thoughtful to English speakers. There are audio commentaries which have ENGLISH SUBTITLES!!! That’s amazing and worth a lot of bonus points. There are a bunch of extras – a music video, photo gallery, trailers for this and other movies, anamorphic outtakes, anamorphic deleted scenes, interviews, behind the scenes – all ENGLISH SUBTITLED!

If anyone is a fan of Monkey King, you’ll get a kick out of this film, especially with the amazing scenes with Monkey King’s transforming pole which is actually one of the main reasons to check out this movie.

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