RPG METANOIA dvd review

RPG

Philippines NTSC All-Region DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Tagalog Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, Tagalog

IMDB

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

EXTRAS: 7

Video games are pretty damn addicting. From Pac-Man to Super Mario Brothers to Street Fighter 2 to Halo to Minecraft. As addictive as these games may be, nothing is going to stop generation after generation from playing them. Just remember to balance the gaming out by playing outside and doing non-virtual activities with your family and friends! Luis C. Suarez’s animated film RPG Metanoia perfectly captures the essence of both positive and negative sides of the virtual world – the endless, awesome fun that friends can have playing online with each other as well as the dangerous addictive nature of becoming virtual zombies.

I watch a Filipino film about once every 4 years to get a sense of any sort of progress in the usually disappointing Philippine film industry. After vacationing in Cebu recently, I browsed a local video store and saw the RPG Metanoia DVD popping out among the many other amateurish-looking soap opera Pinoy movies released on DVD. Looking at the front and back cover of the DVD case, the photographs of the animation style looked pretty good. As a huge fan of animated films from all over the world – from Ghibli films of Japan to Michel Ocelot of France – I took the chance and blind-bought the RPG Metanoia DVD without even watching a trailer or reading a review. Best video-buying decision I’ve made in ages!

As the first CG-animated film from the Philippines (as well being the first one that played in 3D in local theaters), Luis C. Saurez’s RPG Metanoia is a beautifully animated film for all to be proud of. Period. Reading other reviews online about how the animation style is “not Pixar, not Disney, not Hollywood” is pretty pathetic. Metanoia is a refreshing example that not all animated films have to copy the same exact mold. I may be biased to love hand-drawn animation more since CG-animation has been a bit too focused on bug-eyed, hyperactive, loud characters, but I still like CG-animation or any animated film that breaks away from any typical mold – The Iron Giant, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Mind Game, Kirikou and the Sorceress, The Secret of Kells, etc. The animation style in RPG Metanoia is almost like a combination of stop-action motion and CGI but much smoother. The designs, lighting, and texture of the characters and backgrounds have a soul that many big-budget CG-animated films may be missing. Costing around 2 million US dollars, Saurez and his filmmaking team have created a very impressive work of art. Not only is the animation exciting to watch with its many impressive real-world street scenes of Philippines and fantastic virtual worlds that the characters enter when they play their online video game, the action choreography is as exciting as any Woo Ping Yeun or Tsui Hark film. The musical score is quite intense and epic as well – the filmmakers managed to evoke the best elements of John Williams’s Indiana Jones and Star Wars without copying him.

Beautiful animation, intense score, and exciting action scenes would be worthless had there been an awful screenplay with laughable dialogue. Thankfully, RPG Metanoia has a naturally flowing screenplay with lovable characters and entertaining dialogue that makes this the best written film from the Philippines I’ve ever seen yet. It’s a shame that many may have skipped seeing this film because it’s the type of film that’s marketed to children and teens. RPG Metanoia is an entertaining, touching film for all ages in the same way that millions of adults enjoy Disney, Pixar and Ghibli films.

While the Filipino DVD from Star Home Video does not advertise the technical specs on the back cover, I’m happy to report that this NTSC All-Region DVD is 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Tagalog soundtrack. I don’t know about other new Pinoy DVDs, but this is the best quality DVD from the Philippines I’ve owned yet. The video quality is very good and the DD 5.1 audio option is very active. The English subtitles are perfect, and also includes Tagalog subtitles. Extras are about 15 minutes of making the film, a couple non-finalized deleted scenes, images, music video, trailers, as well as a non-subtitled Tagalog audio commentary for the film.

Besides lovers of Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon, Matrix, Tron, Wreck-It Ralph, and video games, anyone who loves a good animated film should definitely check out RPG Metanoia.

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RIGHTING WRONGS blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

Cantonese: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (original)

Mandarin: Dolby Digital 6.1 EX (dub)

Subtitles: English, Mandarin

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8

EXTRAS: 1

Has anyone seen this movie? I never even heard of Righting Wrongs until I saw the Blu-ray release news. How is Righting Wrongs aka Above the Law not considered a classic Hong Kong action film? After watching a lot of Hong Kong action film classics from the 1980s-1990s, I have noticed that most are missing one important aspect – an equal balance of action, screenplay, and character development.  After watching all these early action movies starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, I don’t remember too much about the stories or about all the characters because the screenplay and depth of characters are just filler for the main attraction – the amazing action. The stories are usually just background to set up the action. The characters are usually just there to be beat up or to be laughed at. Righting Wrongs is probably the first 1980s Hong Kong action film that had a complete balance of action, story, and character depth – with all three working together in harmony to make it an absolute complete film. I have never seen a Hong Kong action film from this time period that totally had an interesting story with characters we care about from beginning to end until watching Righting Wrongs. A classic Hong Kong action film like Rumble in the Bronx isn’t a complete film – I love the movie but the movie is just a showcase for Jackie Chan’s talent. The story and characters are totally pointless, but this film is considered a Hong Kong action film classic. When one watches a Jackie Chan movie, usually you watch the movie because you are in the mood for a Jackie Chan movie.  Righting Wrongs is the type of film you can watch and not be in the mood to watch a “Hong Kong action movie” – this film is just a good movie that does not need to be categorized as just another martial arts film. But I would definitely classify Righting Wrongs now as a Hong Kong action movie classic from the 1980s.

Righting Wrongs is like a blend of Marvel’s Daredevil and L.A. Confidential. In her greatest role, the amazing Cynthia Rothrock stars as a police officer investigating the corruption in Hong Kong. As a police officer who goes by the book sort of like Guy Pierce’s character from L.A. Confidential, she is faced with issues from all sides – her partner is a slobby, sexist goof, her captain (Melvin Wong) is a corrupt cop working for Hong Kong mafia, and she has to deal with a lawyer (Yuen Biao) who brings justice to freed criminals with his fists a la Daredevil.

From the trailer, Righting Wrongs may seem like a typical Hong Kong action movie, but the story is surprisingly interesting from beginning to end. The amazing action scenes with Rothrock, Biao, and Wong are just icing on the cake. The martial arts in this film, directed and choreographed by the great Corey Yeun and Tsui Hark, are astounding. One of the greatest cat fights between Cynthia Rothrock and Karen Sheperd is one surreal experience. With the mixture of their 1980s fashion style and unathletic-looking bodies, watching Rothrock and Sheperd fight is like watching characters from Sex and the City or Real Housewives of New Jersey duke it out kung-fu style. Righting Wrongs may be my favorite Yuen Biao film as well because he gets to showcase decent acting chops as a public prosecutor when he’s not secretly bashing criminal heads.

One surprise in the film is that I can’t believe the scrawny little teenager was played by Siu-Wong Fan, who later starred as Ricky in Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and the intimidating Jin Shan Zhao in Ip Man. There’s no way that one would think this kid would become such a tough and intimidating actor and impressive martial artist.

The CMS Media Limited Blu-ray is better than I expected. The 1080p Widescreen 1.85:1 is clean and is a totally pleasant viewing experience. Those expecting a huge restoration will be disappointed and may feel like they are watching an upconverted DVD, but the picture looks good since most Hong Kong 1980s films don’t look fabulous on Blu-ray. I never watched the many other DVD versions, but I’m assuming the Blu-ray transfer here is a slight upgrade from the best DVD version. As typical of Blu-rays of old Hong Kong films from CMS Media Limited or K & R, the audio sounds like a mono track with subwoofer action. With that in mind, the Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 is a very satisfying 1.1 audio experience. All the thumps, smacks, screeching cars, explosions, and other loud sounds make the subwoofer pretty active. The English subtitles are quite good with smooth translation with some spelling mistakes and missing words here and there, but definitely not Chinglish as on other Hong Kong Blu-rays. The only extra is the original trailer.

Fans of engaging police corruption stories, Cynthia Rothrock, Yuen Biao, and Corey Yuen/Tsui Hark action choreography are going to love this film. I absolutely recommend this Hong Kong action classic and this Blu-ray is one of my best blind-buys I’ve had in a long time!

RA.ONE blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Hindi: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1 (original)

Tamil Dolby Digital 5.1, Telugu Dolby Digital 5.1 (dubs)

Subtitles: English, Arabic

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 7

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8

EXTRAS: 0

 

Ra.One is currently the most expensive Bollywood ever made costing around 35 million dollars. This sci-fi film is about a video game developer played by Shah Rukh Khan who is perceived to be a loser by his 8-year old son. In order to impress his son, he develops a virtual-reality fighting game which features a super villain named Ra.One with characteristics of the ten most destructive historical bad guys. Khan also adds a superhero character into the game to fight against Ra.One, which looks just like the father, named G.One. The creation of the villain Ra.One gets out of hand, pulls a Tron, escapes the video game world and enters the real world, kills the father, and chases the son around London and Mumbai. In order to protect the boy and stop Ra.One from creating mayhem, one of the other video game developers figures out how to free G.One into the real world too. When G.One is not fighting Ra.One, the son and wife (played by Kareena Kapoor) teach G.One how to be more human in his spare time. Think of this movie as a cross between Tron and Terminator 2. The movie is entertaining but this is just another Bollywood movie that should be called Revenge of the Nerds 34. Almost every other commercial-made, Masala, non-arthouse Indian film is plagued by nerdissism or dorkeritus.

For 35 million bucks, the special effects are fine with some standout action scenes but not as many as I expected for the money that was spent. There are some creative slo-mo punching and intense train scenes, but the rest of the action is pretty forgettable. The problem with this movie is not the story nor the acting, but mainly due to India not hiring the professionals who specialize in wire work and screenwriting. What’s the point of spending so much money on a movie when they don’t put the money where it counts?

First, the fight choreography was actually pretty good in this movie, but it was ruined by poor wire work. If you are going to use wire work, make it smooth. The producers decided to not hire any Hong Kong action choreographers. In turn, actors look like they are just flung around like rag dolls – what a great way to ruin potentially cool-looking action scenes. Slo-motion wire-work flips are scenes that can actually bring people to the theaters. There’s a reason that people want to see Kate Beckinsale do those slo-mo flip kicks in the Underworld movies – she looks hot and she looks natural doing it because the wire-work is perfect. Sloppy wire work makes actors look bad and goofy! Once again, hire Hong Kong action choreographers!

Second, the screenplay written by supposedly rising star Kanika Dhillon is plagued by nerdissism or dorkeritus. She may be young and hot, but she’s no different from any other Indian screenwriter. Indian screenwriters must be the biggest nerds or dorks in the whole wide world because they are obsessed with adding their own insecurities into their screenplays. Could they make it more obvious that they are embarrassed with their own nation? You are embarrassing your country. You are creating a goofy and nerdy stereotype for your country! Here’s a list of no-no’s for you Bollywood screenwriters:

1. Stop trying to have characters that are trying to be cool or hip. Stop saying the word “cool” and “dude” in movies. Stop having dorky characters transform into cool characters because the supposedly cool characters are as dorky and embarrassing as their original nerd characters.

2. Stop throwing in fancy English words into movie dialogue to prove that you are a master of the English language as you are with Hindi. Yes, I understand that you are proud that India knows English as well as Hindi, but it never shows in Bollywood films. You are making India look bad. The more you bring awareness that you are using fancy words, the more forced, awkward, and embarrassing it seems. Bollywood movies would be better if they hired American, British, or Australian screenwriters for the English dialogue at least.

3. Stop perverting the idea of Masala. We all know it’s possible to mix action, drama, romance, music, and comedy into a film in a positive and charming way. Are you really proud of bringing it to the next level by including gory violence, sexism, racism, and homophobia for the children? Such great films for the whole family. Way to go!

The best part of Ra.One is when the movie includes an inside joke cameo of South India’s superstar Rajnikanth playing his character from the other big Indian sci-fi movie Robot (Enthiran). If you’ve seen Robot, you’ll know this was a special moment. It’s like the equivalent of Batman making a cameo in a Superman movie. The best line is also during this scene. Kareena Kapoor tells G.One that “this is India’s number 1 superhero” which is true. Robot is 100 times better than this movie. If you want to see a perfect sci-fi musical with amazing and creative action, watch Robot instead and skip Ra.One. This movie is still entertaining and worth a look to see what all the fuss is about, but my advise is to just buy the Telugu Blu-ray of Robot if you want to see money well spent on an awesome Indian sci-fi musical.

The Eros region-free Blu-ray is pretty good. The video quality is actually excellent with some faults here and there. I don’t know what anyone is talking about when people complain about the video quality of this blu-ray. Sometimes during dark scenes, the video seems to be covered by a light brown filter, but all other scenes look beautiful – clear, crisp, damage-free. There is great depth in faces. No DNR. The video isn’t three-dimensional but overall this is a perfect way to watch this movie. Most picky people will not notice any problems other than the ones I mentioned on this blu-ray. There aren’t any watermarks that pop up during the movie as well, which is a huge plus.

The audio isn’t as impressive as the video quality. It’s a solid audio mix, but there are times where dialogue sounds muffled. There is also a vast difference when dialogue shifts to action. I had to reach for the remote control to lower the volume many times throughout the film. Surrounds and subwoofer are very active on this Blu-ray. For a new action movie, there is no excuse for the audio to have these types of problems. Overall, the DTS-HD 5.1 Hindi is still a positive experience to watch this film. The English subtitles were very good, perfectly translating the dorky dialogue to the non-Hindi speakers.

No extras on this Blu-ray. There are English and Arabic subtitles, as well as Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil DD 5.1 audio tracks.

There is nothing really that wrong with the acting or the storyline in Ra.One and I’m happy that this movie has special effects that are equal to the ones in a Hollywood movie, but it’s a shame that the movie  is ruined by poor wire-work and awkward dialogue. The movie is worth watching, moves along very quickly, and was exciting from beginning to end. Out of the six or seven songs in the movie, there are two very catchy ones. Overall, Ra.One is a nice attempt by Bollywood and worth a look, but definitely check out Shankar’s Robot (Enthiran) instead if you want to see a much more amazing film. For some perspective, Ra.One is at least better than some Hollywood movies such as Iron Man 2 or Spy Kids 4.

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.

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.

ROBO blu-ray review

India Region-free blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Telugu: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 7.5

EXTRAS: 0

Non-Indians may think it’s a bit peculiar that a chubby, bald, out-of-shape, 61 year old Joe Pesci-look-a-like is not only South India’s biggest star but has been cast in huge action films from South India. Why would movie producers not cast a young hot stud in the lead role for India’s most expensive action movie which cost around 30 million dollars? It’s because the star of Robot (“Enthiran” in its original Tamil language and “Robo” in this dubbed Telugu blu-ray version), Ranjikanth, is a real-life transformer. Once he’s on screen, he doesn’t just put on his costume, wig, and make-up, he actually becomes an impressive charismatic leading man – transforming into a cinematic superstar. During his transformation, he becomes a highly entertaining, likable actor and a very believable action hero. I just watch him with a smile on my face being aware of his real-life schlubiness.

I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed by director Shankar’s Robot since I perceive him as the James Cameron of India, and his films have always blown me away. Although a native Indian may disagree, Indian action movie cinema is quite a few steps (or years) behind the standards of what we would expect from a Hollywood or Hong Kong action film. So whenever director Shankar makes a film, he raises the bar for special effects and action choreography in Indian films. Robot has some truly “Holy crap!” Matrix moments, especially during the climax. The creativity (and most of the money) in the climax of this film is totally original – I don’t want to give away any of the movie’s creative scenes, but I thought I was watching a wacky Japanese action movie directed by Takashi Miike during many of the truly visually amazing action scenes. The action choreography not only involved India’s most respectable action choreographer, Peter Hein, but The Robot also involved the master – Woo Ping Yeun – the action choreographer for The Matrix trilogy, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Fist of Legend, Once Upon A Time In China, and Iron Monkey. I don’t know how much of the movie he was involved in, but it showed. Even though the movie cost around 30 million dollars, Shankar didn’t totally balance out the spending. Many action scenes look like money well-spent and at the same level of the effects in a Hollywood action movie (mainly in the climax), while other scenes look like CGI from the early 2000s. For example, there are some baby scenes in this film – one scene has a real baby, another scene has a CGI baby, and in another scene, the baby is totally cartoon (well, it’s not a big deal since this one is from the 3D image of a baby in the womb of a pregnant woman, but it’s still unintentionally funny). Also, there are exoskeleton robot scenes of impressively built robots, great CGI robots, to early 2000s CGI robots, to a dude wearing a tin man suit. Some people may not like that. I personally love that combination – I see these faults as a charming characteristic of the film and a reminder of the way action movies used to be made, instead of being so perfectly clean and sterile, as well as being CGI overkill as in most action movies today.

I’ve seen my share of the few sci-fi/fantasy films that India has released, such as Mr. India, Anniyan, Krrish, Drona, Love Story 2050, Rudraksh, Kanthaswamy, Aladin, and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Although some of them were good for India standards, the majority of them are not so good for the rest of the world standards when it comes to a well-written sci-fi/fantasy film. But I was totally surprised by the screenplay for this film. Even though Robot is a mainstream bright colorful Masala film (an Indian film that mixes genres in one film, such as action, comedy, drama, romance, melodrama, and music), this movie is crammed with everything that you would want to see in a movie about a robot that gets artificial intelligence. The best characteristics of Wall-E, Terminator 1 & 2, Westworld, Blade Runner, A.I., Isaac Assimov & I Robot, Osamu Tezuka & Astro Boy, and RoboCop are in this film. The screenplay sticks to the basics of how to write an intense, interesting mainstream action movie. Keep the action moving and have no filler whatsoever. The first hour of this film feels like that only 10 minutes went by. I do understand why the whole movie feels like that, because the screenplay has established conflict in every scene – conflict that leads from conflict to conflict to conflict – straight from the opening scene of the movie and all the way to the end credits. That’s how you write a movie. That’s basic quality screenwriting. If no conflict is established, you don’t care for the characters, the movie gets boring and feels long, and you just want the movie to end. Robot is a beautifully written mainstream action sci-fi film. Remember that I just said beautifully written “mainstream” action sci-fi film. Those expecting something deep, dark, and analytical may be disappointed. What’s surprising about this film is that this film ain’t some PG-rated Bicentennial Man film – Robot is as R-rated as it gets. There is violence in this film – bloodygraphic violence in this film.

And by the way, one of the best looking actresses in the world, Aishwarya Rai, is in this film. Even if the main robot character in this film didn’t have artificial intelligence, I’m sure it would still fall in love with her. She has that power.

A.R. Rahman, the greatest contemporary composer out of India, did the music for this film. Regardless of the funny and goofy lyrics, every single song is catchy in Robot. The score is also very impressive during the action scenes, probably the most epic-sounding score I’ve ever heard for action scenes in an Indian film – it’s like a Tony Scott or Michael Bay score with an Indian twist.

The Sri Balaji blu-ray (All-Region Telugu version) is awesome!
The video quality is eye-popping amazing. Colors look good, blacks are spot on. The aspect ratio is correct unlike some rumored cropping (which can only be found on the awful cropped Hindi DVD version). Skin tones looked good. This blu-ray is just another impressive Indian blu-ray. Since I’ve been selective with my Indian blu-rays (owning about 5 Indian blu-rays), I’ve only seen one disappointing blu-ray (Kites), but every other Indian blu-ray I have bought is extremely impressive. The video quality is a huge, huge massive upgrade from the respectable Tamil DVD. The CGI and special effects look amazing on this blu-ray.
The Telugu dubbed DTS-HD 5.1 audio is excellent as well. Since I’m not Indian, I heard practically no difference between the way the dub sounds compared to the original audio on the Tamil DVD. The voices sound exactly the same. If any one is concerned that it’s not in the original language, you have nothing to worry about. And I’m a person that hates dubbed movies. The soundtrack is mixed beautifully, very active and sounds just amazing during quiet scenes, intense action scenes, and during any songs.

The only negatives of this blu-ray are:
1. there is a Sri Balaji logo that very subtly pops up during the beginning of each song. But it’s so small and vague, one can barely notice it. It’s no way as noticeable as the logo that popped up all the time on the Tamil DVD.
2. The English subtitles were good with some awkward translations, but overall, the English is good enough. The Tamil DVD had better English subtitles.
3. No extras
4. If you are a Tamil-speaking Indian, then it sucks that there isn’t a Tamil blu-ray yet. But for anyone happy with reading English subtitles, the audio is amazing and doesn’t sound dubbed (to me).

Robot may not be the best science fiction movie ever made, but it’s pretty safe to say that Robot is the best science fiction musical movie ever made.