ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN 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

IMDB

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 6.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 7.5

EXTRAS: 1

As many know, Zu: Warriors From the Magic Mountain is a Hong Kong 1980s classic. If there is one movie to own from Hong Kong 1980s action cinema, this is one of them. The movie has impressive special effects which are more charming than dated, quick-cut scenes edited in the most creative way that is not even close to being compared to the annoying style found in recent MTV-cut Hollywood films, and non-stop energy from beginning to end. All the actors stand out from the small to main roles. The choreography and movement of the actors, action, special effects, and scenes all blend together in a totally wacky creative way without throwing off the film. There is a lot going on in this film, but it’s not as confusing as one might expect after reading other reviews. And Bridget Lin is hot in this film (for a change from playing dudes).

The blu-ray! Guess what? It’s what you expected! Fair video and fair audio! What did you expect – Fortune Star actually remastering the films in their catalog that are considered HK classics? Of course not.

I compared my Hong Kong Legends DVD to this blu-ray and they both have their advantages and disadvantages. I really didn’t see a huge difference between the video quality on both versions. If you want the warmer colored version (skies are blue on the DVD), then buy the Hong Kong Legends blu-ray. If you want the brighter overcast colored version (skies are overcast on the blu-ray), then buy the blu-ray. Zu Warriors From the Mountain also has tons of dark scenes in the film. So you know what to expect with Fortune Star and dark scenes – not too impressive. For anyone that has bought previous Fortune Star blu-rays, we all know that the blu-ray only sort of looks good during day scenes. I looked at backgrounds and foregrounds and closeups and long shots between both versions, and I still didn’t see a great big difference. Sure the blu-ray is more or less clean, but so was the Hong Kong Legends DVD. They both look different but I can’t honestly say which one looks better. It’s sort of like the Predator Ultimate Edition scenario – some people like the old blu-ray with the grain, while others prefer the new Predator blu-ray with the grain-free DNR video. The same goes for this blu-ray of Zu Warriors. I like both the blu-ray and DVD for different reasons. I only have a 37 inch HDTV, so maybe the DVD will look worse on a bigger screen, but on less than 40 inches, they both look similar. I think I prefered the look of the old school special effects on the blu-ray more than the DVD but that’s just a personal preference. The special effects looked good on the DVD too.

The audios on both DVD and blu-ray aren’t that impressive. It’s a tie of mediocrity. They both have a muffled wierdness to them. But it certainly doesn’t distract from enjoying this film on video, and at least the blu-ray audio is mixed well in which I don’t need to deal with the volume control.

Extra-wise, the Hong Kong Legends DVD wins due to the English dub and the audio commentary, while the blu-ray only has a trailer and an interview…. but wait, there’s a big positive surprise on the blu-ray. While I sort of officially swore to stop buying old HK movies put out by Fortune Star due to lousy English subtitles, I took a chance with Zu. On the back cover, it shows Chinglish subtitles that would make your Chinese food delivery man proud, but I still took a chance. I reminded myself that English subtitles on HK DVDs/blu-rays from movies released in the 1960s to late 1970s have good English subtitles. Zu Warriors came out in 1983 so I took the chance that 1983 would round out to 1980 (aka the last year of the 70s) and I gambled well – the English subtitles are very good! The English subtitles are not only smoother and better translated than the wordy Hong Kong Legends DVD, but they look better as well. The subtitles on the blu-ray has regular style font font, while the English subtitles on the Hong Kong Legends DVD are this ugly-looking captalized font that looks like font that’s used for the Fast and the Furious posters. So overall, I prefer to watch the blu-ray mainly because the English subtitles look better and have a more natural translation.

If you already own the Hong Kong Legends DVD, then it’s perfectly fine to stick with that.
If you never owned the Hong Kong Legends DVD, then I recommend the blu-ray mainly for the English subtitles.

Note: I never owned any of the Hong Kong Fortune Star NTSC Region 3 DVDs, so I don’t know how they compare to the Hong Kong Legends PAL DVD.

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ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH ZE MOVEEH dvd review

Philippines NTSC Region-free DVD

Letterboxed Widescreen (non-anamorphic) 1.85:1

Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Tagalog

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 6.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 7

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 5

 

The Philippines are known to make the worst films in the whole wide world. I’ve seen a few films from this country and I have to agree with that belief. So in turn, I only frequent Philippines online DVD stores (for example, www.pinoymovierentals.com) once every 2-3 years. If I see an interesting-looking DVD cover, I’ll IMDB and YouTube the movie for reviews and trailers. Usually, the Filipino film would probably get a score of 3 out 10, and the trailer would look like some kids made a home-made video in a parking lot. That’s what I usually expect from the Philippines. But after checking out the cover and description of ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH and seeing the trailer, I HAD to see this film as soon as possible. Just watch the trailer to this movie and you will understand why.

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is based on a famous Filipino graphic novel created by Carlo Vergaro. It has a huge cult following in the Philippines. It’s even been made into a successful stage musical over there.

I’m happy to report that ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is not only a good, stylishly-filmed, professionally-made Filipino film, but it’s also one of the best original gay films I’ve ever seen! Pretend that DC Comics approached Pedro Almodovar and said “Pedro, I want you to make a Wonder Woman film. You can do anything you want with it.” That’s what ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is – an Almadovar superhero film.

The best gay-oriented films that I’ve ever seen are Amee & Jaguar (lesbian lovers during WW2), Bound (lesbian thriller), The Birdcage (both French and American versions), Forever Enthralled (a Chinese movie about the Peking opera), The Kids Are All Right, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cracks, Philadelphia, Far From Heaven, and The 24th Day (an AIDS thriller). Now, I can add ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH to the list.

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is a genre film that’s more at the same level as an early Sam Raimi (Evil Deads), early John Carpenter film (Big Trouble in Little China), or any of Almodovar’s early comedy films (when I liked him. I don’t like Almodovar’s post-1991 films). The acting is surprisingly very good in this film. The comic relief is played by an ugly cross dresser, but it’s okay that he/she is annoying, because he/she is playing the worst kind of flamboyant drama queen. The actors also switch to English a lot as well. Usually in Asian films, actors speak poor English. But in this film, they speak all their English lines flawlessly. Another great thing about the acting in this movie is that the actors are having fun and are really a part of this film. They don’t seem like people trying to act. So I was totally thrown off by the good theatrical acting in ZSAZSA – totally unexpected since Filipino films usually have embarrassing acting.

The story and characters are all excellent as well, following the pattern of your basic Superman/Spiderman/Wonder Woman type story. Only in this case, the main character is a homosexual cross-dressing beautician that loves a hot dude. And that hot dude loves the homosexual cross-dressing beautician’s super-hero alternate identity ZsaZsa (basically Wonder Woman). The superhero alternate identity ZsaZsa is played by a different actress – a hot Filipino pop star/actress named Zsa Zsa Padilla (ironic that it’s the same first name). And the villainess is played by hot Filipino pop star/actress Pops Fernandez. Both are not only extremely hot, but they are also in their early 40s! They certainly don’t look old. They are both very Monica Belluci-hot. Even though the film has a lot of local humor, most of it can be understood by outsiders. And the humor isn’t annoying. After all, the main characters are two homosexual cross dressers, so any of their flamboyant behavior is totally normal to their characters. I don’t want to say too much about the story, but it’s just a great concept: “What if a flamboyant homosexual man got super powers and turned into a hot superhero lady? How would he/she react with those superpowers and what would he/she do?” This is just great stuff.

The movie has tons of action and great special effects for the movie’s budget (pretend you are watching an old fantasy film from the 80s or 90s. If you are expecting perfect special effects, then you will be disappointed. The director and creative team did an excellent job with what they had. There is nothing wrong with old school special effects as long as they are used in a creative and charming way). This movie is crazy – ZsaZsa fights a giant frog, skeleton warriors, zombies, and hot Amazonian alien babes!

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is more than an hour and a half long, but there is not one wasted shot in here. I hate movies with filler, and this film did not have one ounce of filler. It just chugged along quickly and stuck to the story – very good screenwriting for this kind of genre film. I’m very impressed!

I forgot to add that the film is also a musical! There’s about five or six songs in the film, which get better as the film progresses. The villains had two songs which were awesome catchy songs.

I’ve also seen a lot of Japanese movies that adapt comic books which are pretty bad. I was expecting a lot from Japan’s live-action versions of CUTIE HONEY and YATTERMAN, and those films turned out to really suck. I never read the graphic novel ZsaZsa Zaturnnah (it’s never been translated into English) so I don’t know if it’s a good adaptation, but all I know was that the movie is awesome and it seemed like a great adaptation of a famous comic book.

So if you are interested in seeing an excellent, well-done, action-packed, Wonder Woman-type superhero, musical gay Filipino film, then this film is for you!

There are only two DVD versions for this film:

I bought the Filipino NTSC Region 1 DVD which is non-anamorphic letterboxed and has Dolby Surround audio. The video quality is good enough, but you can’t really zoom in to fill your HDTV because the video will get pixilated. If you buy this version, you have to watch it with a black bar frame (horizontal and vertical black bars). The audio is good as well with very active subwoofer. The English subtitles were excellent. The extras are trailers, deleted scenes, alternate ending, background feature on the original graphic novel, and photos.

After watching and extremely enjoying this film, I discovered that there is also a Thai DVD version of this film which is also non-anamorphic letterboxed, DD 5.1 Tagalog, and has English subtitles. I ordered that Thai DVD as well and it’s the exact same DVD quality as the Filipino NTSC version. The back cover shows “anamorphic, Thai audio and Thai subtitles. But it’s all wrong – still the same letterboxed version with English subs as the Filipino version.

What a totally entertaining genre film and the best Filipino film I’ve ever seen! I especially love the fact that USA would never release a film like this in mainstream movie theaters. Thailand and Philippines may not make the best movies in the world, but the fact that they respect gays and transsexuals, in which they can become popular movie stars, pop stars, and politicians in their society, that’s very progressive and impressive! I’m disappointed that I didn’t hear about this movie earlier since I only came across it accidently.