JAZZMEN blu-ray review

Russia Region-free blu-ray

1080p 1.37:1 Full Screen

Russian DTS-HD 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English









Russia sure knows how to make even an upbeat and energetic film seem depressing – Russia’s JAZZMEN is about a jazz band of four men that struggle to find gigs in Russia during the 1920s. All they want to do is play jazz for the people, but they get resistance everywhere they go. If they are performing for the rich, they are supporting the bourgeois and get put in jail. If they are performing for the poor, they have to censor themselves. Music experts don’t like them. Regular citizens think their music is not traditional. They can’t even find a singer for their band – they try out a female Cuban singer (who’s just a Russian actress in black face). They even want to try out a hot Russian female singer who thinks their band is a joke. And no matter where they go, everyone thinks that they are supporting capitalist America. This movie is basically about a bunch of hard-luck musicians fighting an ignorant society. The depressing aspect of the film is that the only way that this band can gain recognition and have jazz become respectful in Russia is if a top-ranked military officer endorses them. And sadly, that’s how Russia really works even today. It’s a military-obsessed state where it’s the type of place to prefer an endorsement of a general, policeman, or politician rather than someone in the entertainment business.

JAZZMEN is full of catchy tunes so the film does satisfy for the musical lovers. It’s a bit funny that all the actors aren’t really playing their instruments though. They are trying real hard to be in synch with the jazz music (I’m guessing that the director, Karen Shakhnazarov, just dug up some snazzy jazz records and told his actors to pretend to play those songs). The acting is decent. You’ll get a kick out of the leader of the band, the piano player, who looks like a cross between Matt Damon and Mark Hamill. The guitarist has an amazing mustache. The saxophone player is overwhelmingly jolly. And the drummer reminded me of the blond goofball from Trainspotting.

The Russian Region-free blu-ray is not only a solid home video for English speakers but it’s your only choice because the Russian DVD never had English subtitles. If you want to see this movie with English subtitles, voila! The 1080p 1.37:1 is quite solid. The video is crisp, clear, and clean. It’s neither three-dimensional nor is it soft. It’s just an all-around satisfying video experience. I have a feeling that this blu-ray probably looks better than the way it was projected in Russian theaters back in 1984. The DTS-HD 5.1 is very good. Even though the movie was originally recorded in mono, the audio felt very natural and not artificial – dialogue was clear, speaker separation was present in a good way, no hissing was anywhere, and the music in this movie reminded me that I was in fact watching a blu-ray – music enveloped the room in a very satisfying listening experience. The English subtitles were just good too – there were a few grammar mistakes, but overall the translators created respectable English subtitles, especially since this blu-ray sure isn’t marketed outside Russia. There are no extras on this blu-ray.

This bromantic Russian musical is an entertaining watch, but it’s nothing great nor nothing bad – basically a pretty fair flick actually. I have seen many Russian “classics” of the 1970s and 1980s and I just want to remind everyone that Russian classics are usually only classics to Russians, besides Tarkovsky. It’s tough growing up in Russia though, so let them enjoy their fair classics!

JODHAA AKBAR blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Hindi: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English



MOVIE: 9.5






I would first like to say that JODHAA AKBAR was the movie that made me buy a blu-ray player. I was planning to not convert to blu-ray and I was totally happy with the DVD format, but the Indian DVD company UTV absolutely messed up the DVD release of this film. The DVD was some mega 3-disk package and was eagerly awaited by so many fans of the movie. On the back cover, the DVD stated “Anamorphic”. I popped that DVD into the DVD player and, lo and behold, the video was letterboxed non-anamorphic widescreen. If you zoomed in to fill your HDTV, the video would look pixilated and interlaced. UTV’s quality control department forgot to produce this DVD with anamorphic video. That was a sad day for me. So when Big Home Video released a blu-ray of this film, I actually bought the blu-ray even before owning a blu-ray player (knowing the way the Indian home video industry works, I feared that this blu-ray would become out-of-print which is why I snagged it up early). About five months later, I bought a blu-ray player and I could then finally enjoy Jodhaa Akbar as the way it was meant to be seen – crisp and clear, rather than pixilated and blurry. Ironically, i’ve been disappointed with Bollywood’s output over the years but it happened to be an Indian film that made me convert to blu-ray, rather than some Hollywood movie like Transformers or Spider-Man.

If you haven’t seen a Bollywood film since LAGAAN (released 8 years ago), then here’s the next one you should watch – JODHAA AKBAR. This movie is a huge, expensive, epic-type film with awesome battles, intense drama among the Islamic and Hindu kingdoms, and a touching romance between the lead stars. JODHAA AKBAR is basically a prequel to Bollywood’s other most-famous, epic-type film from 1960 – MUGHAL-E-AZAM. The film is a Bollywood-talent all-star film. If there is one Bollywood movie to showcase to the rest of the world, this one is it, because the best of India’s showbiz actors and crew are in this film. Any criticisms that you may have with Bollywood films, you can leave that behind, because JODHAA AKBAR was created by the few real professionals in Bollywood. Ashutosh Gowariker, the same director as LAGAAN, is the director and writer of this film. A.R. Rahman did the music. Perfect cinematography. And the film stars two of the best Bollywood actors in the business – Aishwarya Rai as the Hindi queen and Hrithik Roshan as the Muslim king. They are not only both excellent actors, are extremely easy on the eyes, but they also have a cinematic presence equal to any other respectable actor from around the world. These two actors are at a totally different level than any other Bollywood actors whom tend to stick to their overly dramatic cheese school of acting. It was nice that Aishwarya Rai tried Hollywood with little success (poor movie choices), but I’m still waiting for Hrithik Roshan to make it as an international star. I have a feeling he will never choose to be in a Western movie because he and Amitabh Bachchan (whom narrates at the beginning and end of the film a la Ian McKellen-style) are two Indian actors that have reached God-status in India. The acting in this movie is top-notch all-around. I personally did not like LAGAAN that much – I thought it was overrated, acting not all that, and a ridiculous story about cricket. Too long and only worth seeing once. But JODHAA AKBAR is the real deal. Even though the movie is 209 minutes, it feels very short and can easily be watched over and over again.

The story is the usual royalty-type, Shakespearian story, but there’s nothing wrong with that: Two kingdoms of different religions (Hindi and Islam) try to unite in peace with the Islamic king hooking up with a Hindi princess. Within each kingdom, there are members of the royalty family who support the unification, while there are other royalty members who are corrupt, want war, and want to poison the relationship between the king and queen. We’ve seen this story many times. But that doesn’t matter – I love this type of story. It’s exciting, gripping, touching drama. Great stuff! There are two highly entertaining villains in this film – one’s an evil nanny who’s got serious depth to her character, while the other one is your typical two-dimensional, power-seeking, war-mongering evil dude. The only thing really interesting about him is that he reminds me of an Indian Benicio Del Toro and he really seems kick-ass tough.

I have read other JODHAA AKBAR movie reviews commenting on the action scenes of the film just being “bookends.” I watch a lot of action movies and I’m constantly in search of eye candy films with or without substance. JODHAA AKBAR is a film with both eye candy and substance, and I wouldn’t call these action scenes “bookends” – there are many memorable action scenes in this film that are far better than the non-eye candy action scenes found in many of these recent, epic-type warrior films from USA and Asia. This movie is certainly not a fair action movie with good drama. This is a great dramatic film with great action.

Here are the action eye candy scenes to be amazed by:

1. Barely any CGI! Real people in the armies! Real sets! Real outdoors! A treat that is hard to find in action movies nowadays!

2. Cannon wars!!! This ain’t a “take-your-turn”, “I’ll shoot my one cannon at you, then you shoot your cannon at me.” This is “all-out-holy-shit” tons of two armies shooting loads of cannons at each other. You know the movie trend of armies shooting a sky full of arrows at one another (300, Hero)? Well replace those arrows with cannon balls, and that’s a scene that you get in this film. That was a “holy shit” scene.

3. Elephant wars!! Sure, they aren’t as vicious-looking as the CGI-ed tusk-swinging Elefonts from RETURN OF THE KING, but the real, non-CGI elephants in this film are just as fucked up. They sort of just walk into the opposing army and just casually step on warriors and you see close-ups of warriors getting smooshed to death. It was a “holy shit” scene.

4. Two awesome sword-fighting scenes as intense and well-choreographed as the sword-fighting scenes of Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen in Hero, Michelle Yeoh vs. Ziyi Zhang in Croutching Tiger (their first fight) and the sword-fighting scene of Ziyi Zhang vs. Andy Lau in House of Flying Daggers (their first fight). The same Asian drum music was used as well which certainly built up the intensity of the fights.

5. One fight scene similar and as intense as the Brad Pitt vs. Erik Bana scene from Troy.

6. Furthermore, any one-on-one fights in the movie were not short, went on long enough without living out their welcome, and were all perfectly filmed and well-choreographed.

7. And as most of us know, there is no kissing on the lips in Bollywood films, but Hrithik and Aishwarya do have a steamy love scene. No clothes were shed and no sex was shown. Just two great actors with amazing chemistry can make foreplay hotter than an R-rated sex scene in some other movie. These two actors have such good chemistry together that they turn India’s censorship to their advantage.

8. And there’s an intense scene of Hrithik Roshan taming a wild elephant.

I’m not going to get into the details of breaking down the video and audio quality of the blu-ray because the blu-ray has perfect video, perfect audio and perfect English subtitles. For people who like reference quality blu-rays, here you go – check out this blu-ray. For the people that need English subtitles, this blu-ray is your only choice and it’s an awesome choice. And it’s 1000 thousand times better than the crappy letterboxed DVD. If you want extras, then buy the crappy dvd for the plentiful extras because this blu-ray does not have any.

Overall, Jodhaa Akbar is a great film that needs to be seen to really see the full potential of what Bollywood can do when they put absolute talent in front and behind the camera. I can’t imagine a Hollywood studio not picking this movie up for release. India made a huge mistake of not submitting this film for the Oscars Best Foreign Film category – who knows what other garbage they chose instead. I’m not surprised because the Bollywood industry is totally backwards. If the Bollywood industry started to make decisions that make sense, then something would be strange!

JUMP blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

Mandarin: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (original)

Cantonese: DTS 5.1 (dub)

Thai: DTS 5.1 (dub)








I really enjoyed this film and I usually don’t like contemporary Hong Kong comedy films. Jump moves along at a great pace, has no filler, and is a totally entertaining popcorn flick. It’s a great rags to riches / dance film as well. If you really liked Strictly Ballroom, Step Up 3, Bring It On and other dance-type competition mainstream flicks, then you should enjoy Jump.

The main highlight of the film is Kitty Zhang. I think she believes in the Audrey Tautou school of acting, since she’s very Amelie-ish acting really funny and attractive at the same time. I look forward to her other upcoming films, since she seems like she has a wide range of acting skills.

The dance competition at the end of the film was very well choreographed with some quick editing but not to a point where it was annoying. This movie had no where the level of dance choreography of Step Up 3 (my “Matrix” of dance films), but it was impressive enough.

This Hong Kong All-Region Sony/Columbia blu-ray is good, but not great or excellent as should be expected. The video quality is slightly better than DVD quality. The video quality is a bit smudgy and soft, which is a bit disappointing for a new Hong Kong film but it’s not that distracting. For a high priced Hong Kong blu-ray, it should have received better video quality. But other than that, it’s overall solid with eye-popping colors. And there is no reason to buy the DVD instead because Kitty Zhang is a very attractive actress. Attractive actresses are required to be viewed on blu-ray. The DTS-HD Mandarin audio is really nice and active – no problems in that department. And thankfully, the English subtitles are perfect. No extras on this blu-ray.

This movie was surprisingly good after reading negative to mixed reviews of this film. It’s just a popcorn rags-to-riches dance film done perfectly. If you expect something more, then you’ll be disappointed. And I recommend this film if you want to see a really charming young Chinese actress, Kitty Zhang, do her thing and see why she’s the next up-and-coming actress in Hong Kong.