EEGA blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Telugu DTS-HD 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 6.5

EXTRAS: 7

Once you get past the first thirty minutes of the Indian stalker-romance presented in Eega (which translates to “Fly” in Telugu), you will then be rewarded to an hour and half of the most creative revenge scenes put on screen that features a fly versus a man. By the time you reach the credits, you’ll forget that Eega had a cliched beginning and you’ll realize you just watched one of the most entertaining and original Indian films of 2012.

Eega’s first thirty minutes focuses on an annoying good guy who stalks a hot girl who is pretending to not like his creepy advances, but actually his buzzing blabbermouth makes her fall in love with him, even inspiring her to make micro-art necklaces shaped like vaginas. Also stalking this gorgeous girl is a psychotic criminal boss who is wooing her with his creepiness. Even if this evil Fonzie can’t seduce her with his smooth talking, Plan B is to rape her and most likely kill her, possibly not even in that order.  If the whole movie was about two creepy dudes courting this one woman, that would be your typical clichéd Indian romance film. Thankfully, director S.S. Rajamouli turns Eega into an absolutely entertaining movie with creativity that is rarely seen in Indian films. Out of jealousy, the creepy criminal kills the creepy good guy who is then reincarnated into a cute little CGI fly. While the CGI isn’t up to speed and reminds me of the Hollywood computer effects of 2004, the usage is charming and makes exciting cinema. The “birth” of the fly is one of the most beautiful, dreamlike scenes I have ever seen in an Indian film. As the fly pops out of his egg and remembers that he was once a man, we are treated to one of those Marvel superhero moments when the superhero first discovers his powers and practices using them. Instead of Spider-man, we get to watch Fly-man learn how to be a fly – practice using one’s wings, don’t get stepped on, stay away from hungry birds, and try not to fall into the criminal boss’ drink no matter how thirsty you are. I’ve seen a lot of insect documentaries over the years, but this 10-minute scene was certainly effective and I’ll think twice now about killing a poor ol’ stressed-out fly.

Once we see that the main characters are a fly and a villain, the movie instantly shifts into “Original Indian Film” mode. Remember those very satisfying revenge scenes in Jerry Zucker’s Ghost when the Patrick Swayze ghost starts scaring the shit out of Tony Goldwyn and Willie Lopez? Those were great moments in Ghost but those scenes were too short. In Eega, we get the majority of the film with those very satisfying revenge moments. While that may seem like overkill, it’s not, because this director has skills and keeps the story exciting and funny until the end. How can a fly take revenge on the criminal who killed him in his previous life? I’m not going to say – that’s the whole fun of this film.

The tone of Eega is an action comedy with some drama, which probably was a smart move for repeat viewings, but I would have been curious to see this type of film presented as an action drama. Had the first thirty minutes featured a likable leading man who had chemistry with the girl (as Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore had with each other in Ghost), the movie would have been more emotionally powerful. I couldn’t wait for the good guy to get knocked off because he was unrelatable, annoying and creepy, probably which explains why he was reincarnated as a fly. Once he is reincarnated as a fly, he becomes more human and likable. Sure, we root for the fly to cause havoc on the bad guy, but his thirst for revenge would have had a greater emotional impact if the audience actually felt sympathy for the human good guy who was murdered.

The uniqueness found in this Telugu film is not just in the beautifully-filmed action scenes starring a fly but also in the superb performance from actor Sudeep who plays the main villain (who’s also named Sudeep). Besides the rare factor of a villain getting a lot of screen time, Sudeep did some amazing work as he evolves from a cocky, sauve man into a raving lunatic. Sudeep reminded me a lot of Bruce Campbell’s comic and physical acrobatics in Army of Darkness. He had to act with nothing in front of him. The CGI fly was added in post-production. Theatrical and humorous it may be, his performance was not easy – especially since he had to convince the audience that a CGI fly was turning his life into a nightmare.

The Telugu Region-free Blu-ray from Aditya Video is a fair yet satisfying Blu-ray. The 1080p 2.35:1 image quality has quite a few issues – the contrast is quite off at times, which makes some dark scenes lose complete detail. DNR seems high as well but not to the point where faces look plastic. Day scenes and CGI fly scenes are bright and exhibit detail, but to be fair, the Aditya staff certainly needs some professionals to show them how to properly master Blu-ray video. At least this doesn’t look like an upconverted DVD – it just looks like an amateurishly-mastered Blu-ray. I’ve seen worse and I’ve seen quality that was distracting. Fortunately, the video quality did not distract me from enjoying this film. The DTS-HD 5.1 Telugu track however is awesome. Aditya got that right. Eega is action-packed with some cool sound effects since much of the movie is from the perspective of a fly. What bugged me more than the fair video quality is the watermarked company logo that pops up on and off through out the film on the bottom right side of the screen. Even worse are the sloppy English subtitles. A shmuck was hired to create them – it’s not my fault that reading the English subtitles was like listening to a narration of an Indian man negatively portrayed as a taxi driver or 7-Eleven cashier in Hollywood movies. Indian Blu-rays rarely have extras so I was quite surprised to see over two hours of extras on the DVD that comes with this Blu-ray. While not at the same level of extras found on videos from other countries, I was impressed. We get two hours of the making of the film, non-subtitled, but no subtitles are necessary. The audience gets to see how this film was made from many perspectives. Isn’t that a good extra? Also on the DVD is one of the film’s music videos and film trailers. Not bad and all Anamorphic Widescreen!

Director S.S. Rajamouli seems to excel in making movies about reincarnation. With Indian blockbuster Eega added to his resume, his other crowd-pleasing hits – Magadheera and Yamadonga – also dealt with reincarnation – a very cool niche for cinema. I hope he keeps up the good work and inspires more mainstream Indian filmmakers to put original ideas into their films. Eega is a definite must-see!

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EKLAVYA THE ROYAL GUARD dvd review

India Region-free DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

DD 5.1 Hindi

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 1

 

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 EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 8

 

There are tons of respectable French comic books that have existed since the 1930s, but it’s quite surprising that only a few have been adapted into live-action films. I think I’ve seen all of them since I do love my French-Belgium comic books. I only know basic French so I was always thrilled to hear that a new Tintin, Asterix, or Lucky Luke book got an English translation released in the USA or UK. I remember that was one of my highlights of my childhood. I would come home from school to find a new Asterix book on the table – a present from my mom. It felt like a new Franco-Belgium book would come once every three years so each one was like treasure. Sure, I loved Spiderman and Transformers comic books/cartoons/toys, but nothing could compete against getting a brand new comic book from France, which would bring a lifetime amount of entertainment (as these books are still fresh and exciting every time they are re-read).

I didn’t read Jacques Tardi’s comic books till I was older. I remember first seeing his material in an underground comic book when I was a kid and thought they were pretty realistic, creepy, and nightmarish. I certainly was intrigued by his style but I didn’t read Adele Blanc-Sec until I was an adult. His artwork is excellent and he’s one of the best in the business of drawing beautiful women (I’ve seen his work in clothing stores when I’ve been in France and Italy), but I was always put off by the coldness of his style. So basically, I’m generally not a fan of his work or Adele Blanc-Sec. But Luc Besson has created an excellent live-action movie adaptation of two of Tardi’s books – Adèle and the Beast and Mummies on Parade. This film is one of the best live-action adaptations of a French comic book. I not only think that this is an excellent adaptation, I prefer Besson’s movie version over the books. As I said before, Tardi is a bit cold. Besson has given the characters life and energy without compromising Tardi’s work. Those expecting tons of action like Indiana Jones and an army of mummies (as falsely advertised on the back of the UK blu-ray) will be disappointed. Just because Adele Blanc travels to Egypt and steals a mummy from a tomb doesn’t make her Indiana Jones – similar yes, but not Indiana Jones. She’s more like Sherlock Holmes and her comic books are more like Sherlock Holmes graphic novels. If anything, I would compare the movie more to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes than to the Indiana Jones movies – only that this film is 100 times more exciting and more interesting than the Guy Ritchie film.

Luc Besson is one of the most consistently satisfying filmmakers since the early 80s. Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, Anne Parillaud, Milla Jovovich, Marion Cotillard and now Louise Bourgoin can most likely thank Besson for starting up their careers. Louise Bougoin is a very beautiful and talented actress that will go far – she gives Adele Blanc-Sec so much more heart and personality than the comic book version. Even though this film is pretty much rated PG-13 for nudity, it is basically a film for everyone. It is so funny that the movie was slightly marketed that you will see Bougoin’s tits. Yes you do see them, but you will have to be patient. In the trailer, we see her nude taking a bath. As you watch the film, you will look forward to that scene. Especially since the bath scene is teased throughout the film. Adele Blanc-Sec wants to take a bath from the very beginning, but she is interrupted at least 2 times before she can finally be left alone to take a bath later on in the film. I found that really funny and a tease to the male viewers! Besson has a great sense of humor.

In two little trivia nuggets, keep a look out for the Tintin-related cameo! Tintin fans will know it when they see it! And also, this is Louise Bougoin’s second movie from a famous Franco-Belgium comic book writer. Her other was the live-action film Little Nicolas, not a comic book, but written by René Goscinny who is more famous for the comic books – Asterix, Lucky Luke, and Iznogoud.

One of the biggest surprises in the film is that there is a famous French actor playing the villain. Even though I briefly looked at the cast before watching the film, I didn’t realize it was this actor until I watched the making of the film on the blu-ray. We have all seen him and he’s an amazing actor. I just can’t remember his name yet, which is why I was surprised. But he is totally unrecognizable in this film due to the make-up and his acting.
The make-up of the characters by the way are excellent and spot on – matching the characters looks in the comic book. The movie should get some award somewhere for make-up and costume design.

The Limited Edition (yeah, right) Region B Steelbook blu-ray is a great blu-ray. The 1080p 2:35.1 image is beautiful – sharpness and and details are first rate. Actors skin and individual hairs have excellent clarity. Colors are rich and reproduced without flaws. The special effect characters merge pretty well with the rest of the film – the mummies look a lot better than the pterodactyl. The CGI character movement and perspective in relation to the real actors is very impressive. Blacks and whites are pure. Look closely at any scenes with the beautiful Louise Bougoin and you will know this is a very flattering-looking blu-ray. The French DTS-HD 5.1 is totally satisfying as well – the use of surrounds and bass effects for action scenes, backgrounds, and music are pretty much what you would expect from an action film as this. The audio really comes to life with the pterodactyl scenes swooping around and attacking characters all over the place. The extras are pretty good for a French film released on a UK blu-ray – plenty of interviews with actors, featurettes, “making of” which includes the involvement of the comic book creator, Tardi, who approved of this live-action adaption as well, and also a trailer.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is a totally entertaining, original, and exciting film with tons of eye candy, especially Louise Bougoin. You don’t have to be a fan of the comic book to enjoy this film. I know the comic book and I’m not even a fan of the comic book, but the movie is quite good. Overall, these are currently the live-action film adaptations of French comic books from best to worst:

1. Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra
2. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
3. Michel Vaillant
4. Asterix and Oblelix Take on Caesar
5. Iznogoud
6. Immortal
7. Blueberry
8. Lucky Luke
9. Largo Winch
10. Barbarella
11. Sky Fighters
12. The Smurfs (first ten minutes in Smurf Land was excellent though)
13. Asterix and the Olympic Games