THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA blu-ray review

Germany Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English

DTS-HD master Audio 2.0 German (dub)

Subtitles: German (removable)

IMDB

MOVIE: 10

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

EXTRAS: 0

 

I don’t know how a story could get better than the one in this movie – during World War 2, an Italian town elects the village drunk to become the new mayor of town. He sobers up once he realizes that the nazis are on the way to his town to take all the wine from the village, and he figures out a way to hide a million bottles of wine before they all show up! If you come into this movie without knowing too much, as I did, this film will be a real treat. I love it when Hollywood makes a film that’s more like a European film than a Hollywood one. Santa Vittoria stars an amazing international cast of Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi, Hardy Kruger, and also a young Giancarlo Giannini. I had no idea I was watching Giannini since I’ve only seen him as a middle-aged man in movies. Santa Vittoria is funny, touching, and totally entertaining from beginning to end. It’s one of those films you don’t want to end and you can’t get enough of Anthony Quinn’s Bombolini. Quinn has such a powerful presence and is an amazing actor. I’ve seen him in some bad films, but he’s always amazing to watch, even in his bad films.

The German Region B blu-ray is very good. Don’t expect to be blown away as like with The Sound of Music, but the video and audio quality is very satisfying. Most of the time, the image looks clean, crisp, and bright. Only during night scenes, it won’t be so impressing, but still better than how a night scene would look on a DVD. Towards the end of the movie, some color discoloration and scratches pop up, but it’s so short, it’s not a big deal. The DTS-HD 2.0 is very good too – dialogue is clear and mixed very nicely. Listening to this audio, I felt right in the center of the Santa Vittoria town.

The German subtitles are removable and there aren’t any extras.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria is a totally underrated gem. I have never heard anyone mention this film in my life, even when they talk about films of Anthony Quinn. It’s too bad because this film is a must-see!

SHADOWLESS SWORD blu-ray review

Taiwan Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

Korean: LPCM 5.1, DD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Mandarin

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8.5

EXTRAS: 1

 

SHADOWLESS SWORD is surprisingly a good wuxia/swordplay movie with great action, a decent story and good acting! I was expecting it to be like the awful SHINOBI or fair AZUMI, but I got just the opposite. It’s basically about a female warrior who goes on a journey to find a prince from a falling empire and talk him into becoming the new king. During this journey, they are chased by the bad guys. It’s sort of like THE TWO TOWERS and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS in which they are always on the run, trying to reach a destination, and the prince is dealing with some Aragorn issues a la LORD OF THE RINGS. It’s a simple story, but done very well. What makes this different from the usual wuxia bunch is that the director throws some humor in the film. In the film, there are some low-class scum criminals that are all imitating and look like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN – they all do a great impersonation too! There is also an assortment of interesting villains in the movie. The main villain played by Hyeon-jun Shin (who was the protagonist in BICHENMOO) is quite an interesting actor. Throughout the movie, his subtle style of acting makes it hard to figure out if he is really bad or good – sort of a dark character a la Christian Bale style, like a vigilante, but can’t really tell if his character is going to do something heroic or something totally demented.

The action in this movie is pretty sweet! Although it’s quick cut, it’s done in a tasteful way to appreciate the choreography. The scenes are long enough to build intensity as well. The two best scenes in the movie are a rooftop chase in the dark (sort of like a cross between the cops chasing Trinity at the beginning of MATRIX and the rooftop night chase from CROUTCHING TIGER) and an extremely original scene with the main two characters avoiding the baddies underwater in which the baddies (above ground) are throwing Chinese Stars into the water at such a rapid and massive attack, they probably killed all the fish in the water. It is then followed by a underwater swordfighting scene which I haven’t seen in martial arts movies before. So, there is some pretty cool choreography and some tricky wirework. There was definitely a lot of work put into the moves.

SHADOWLESS SWORD is the fourth best Korean wuxia/swordplay/martial arts movie that I’ve seen. The only other three that I have found to be the only good ones from Korean cinema are BICHENMOO, MUSA, and THE LEGEND OF EVIL LAKE. These four Korean movies have been the most balanced period-piece action movies that actually have a decent story, good acting, and are touching films.

I used to have the Korean DVD of this film (not the USA DVD), and this Taiwanese Region A blu-ray is a big upgrade! The 1080p video is very crisp. There were many night scenes and it looked very nice – just a bit more grainy during night scenes. The movie has a good balance of jumping to very dark claustrophic night scenes to very bright open-spaced day scenes. So it made me appreciate the video quality more since it wasn’t just sticking to one color tone. The Korean LPCM 5.1 is just awesome! There are many scenes with flying daggers, flying swords, flying spears, arrows swishing all over the place. It was a really nice mix. The English subtitles are very solid as well.

Pretty good movie! This director Young-jun Kim, who also did BICHENMOO, might be on his way in becoming the Yimou Zhang of Korea.

SUNRISE blu-ray review

UK Region-free blu-ray

1080p Full Screen 1.2:1 (Movietone version) and 1.33:1 (Czech version)

English: Dolby TrueHD Mono, Dolby Digital 2.0

IMDB

MOVIE: 10

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

EXTRAS: 9

 

I’m not a traditional fan of old movies, but this is by far the best old film I’ve ever seen. Period. There is nothing dated about this 1927 film. This is one of those movies that is like an experience. I can’t believe how such quality was put into this film – the acting, the directing, the story, the editing, the special effects, the sets, and the cinematography. SUNRISE had me in tears by the end of the film. Besides this film being a totally moving and touching film, it’s heart-beating intense from beginning to end – I’ve never experienced that with old films, even with Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd films.

After watching and loving CITY GIRL and now SUNRISE, I will definitely buy any other F.W. Murnau movie that gets released on blu-ray. This director is amazing! It’s really so sad that 4 DEVILS is lost, since that looked like a really good movie. I wonder if there are Indiana Jones-type film historians that aggresively search for long-lost films. If a Czech copy of SUNRISE can be found, then there must be somewhere in the world that has the film reels or copies of 4 DEVILS.

The blu-ray of SUNRISE is a perfect package. I watched the closest-to-the-original Movietone version which has video quality slightly not as sharp as the Czech version. The Movietone version is supposedly as good as the video can get, certainly matching the way it was shown in the theaters originally. I haven’t watched the Czech version yet to see how the movie
changed, but I flipped through some scenes and the video quality is better on that version. But it’s known that the Movietone version is the one we are allsupposed to watch to judge SUNRISE as a film. The audio is perfect – well mixed, fresh, and not hissy. The audio to this film is really intense by the way. The included extras are an audio commentary, outtakes, a 40-minute documentary about the lost Murnau film 4 DEVILS, an original theatrical trailer, an original ‘photoplay’ script, and a 20-page booklet.

SUNRISE is a movie in constant motion – it just flows from beginning to end – the way this movie is pieced together is an example of how a movie should flow.

If you love perfect movies, then buy this blu-ray.

SUMMER DAYS WITH COO dvd review

Thailand PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85.1

DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 1

If anyone is interested in a seeing a good Japanese animated movie influenced from Miyazaki/Ghibli films, I highly recommend SUMMER DAYS WITH COO.

SUMMER DAYS WITH COO is sort of like a darker version of E.T. Coo is a cute little water sprite (aka kappa, which is some sort of Japanese mythological nature beast) that has some adventures with a nice family – more or less the same premise as E.T. The movie is well written with an interesting story, is highly entertaining, and is one seriously tear-dripping, touching flick. The animation and editing of the film is beautiful, very reminiscent of a typical Miyazaki/Ghibli film.

Those Japanese kids certainly get some darker stuff than American kids. Even though SUMMER DAYS WITH COO is a family film, the film has one bloody Ninja Scroll-like decaptitation/arm chopping scene and some other dark, violent issues (bullying, suicide, etc.).  I wouldn’t play this for a young kid – maybe more appropriate for a kid older than 10 years old.

After waiting for this film to be released on English-subtitled DVD for two years, it finally has been released on English-subtitled Thai DVD. There’s a Japanese DVD that exists as well but that version doesn’t have English subtitles.

The Thai PAL DVD is anamorphic, Japanese Stereo 2.0, and has excellent English subtitles (unexpected for a Thai DVD). The anamorphic video is excellent. The movie is so pleasantly bright that I was able to watch this movie from midnight to 2:30 AM and not fall asleep (the film is a bit long at over two hours, but it’s okay because the film is so entertaining). There’s a dubbed Thai DD 5.1 audio I didn’t listen to, but the original Japanese 2.0 stereo sounded very nice. The only extras on the film are a couple trailers for the film.

If you are seeking out a good animation film reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki, then check out this DVD of SUMMER DAYS WITH COO.

SNOW WHITE AND RUSSIAN RED dvd review

Poland PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen

DD 5.1 Polish

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8

EXTRAS: 5

 

SNOW WHITE AND RUSSIAN RED is one of the most creative, bizarre, dreamlike, crazy films that I’ve seen from Eastern Europe that’s made more for the mainstream crowd rather than purely being for the art-house crowd. It’s sort of what I expected from the trailer: The adventures of a POLISH PSYCHO and his RULES OF ATTRACTION. The writer of the book is either inspired by Bret Easton Ellis or Hunter S. Thompson or certainly taking the same drugs as they did. The writer of the book, Dorota Masłowska (who also plays herself in the movie), is clearly taking some inspiring drugs as we can see how she is in the movie, how she writes, and how she acts in real life in the featurettes found in  the DVD extras. But that’s okay. There is nothing better than seeing a drugged-up person getting their ideas onto film or novel. The director Xawery Zulawski – who actually looks like and films like Spike Jonze – is an excellent director. I can’t wait to see what he does next. He knows how to piece together a movie!

So what is SNOW WHITE AND RUSSIAN RED about? It’s basically like a live-action cartoon come to life with wacky, dreamlike adventures of a Polish psychopath looking for his girlfriend and meeting crazy drugged-up characters along the way. This movie reminded me of American Psycho, Rules of Attraction, The Neverending Story, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show, and Stranger than Fiction. If you like those types of movies, I highly recommend this film.

The Polish PAL DVD is very good. The anamorphic video and Polish DD 5.1 are very solid, and the English subtitles are good but not great – some missing letters here and there, but nothing that bad. For this type of film, the English subtitles are very important because it’s such a wacky talkative movie. The dialogue shoots out non-stop. It’s good to see an Eastern European movie with so much to say. And I am happy to see that the English translation was not screwed up. The extras are basic stuff, but the majority of them are English subtitled which is a surprise: a photo gallery, a 15 minute making-of-the-film (very interesting), trailers, music videos, and a montage of the characters cursing in some made-up language (very funny).

SNOW WHITE AND RUSSIAN RED is certainly one of the most creative and entertaining Polish movies I’ve ever seen. The movie has a little of everything – action, drama, some seriously funny scenes just worth it to buy the DVD, and some touching scenes. I didn’t totally understand the film, but it’s the type of film that will be clearer after a couple viewings and/or reading the book (which I think is translated into English).

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