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.

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

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8.5

EXTRAS: 0

 

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!

THE CIRCUS blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Full Screen 1.33:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

EXTRAS: 7

 

Criterion really spoiled us with that Modern Times blu-ray. I watched the Modern Times blu-ray before watching The Circus blu-ray, and there is a huge difference in video quality. The video quality on The Circus is better than previous DVD versions, but it’s not an eye-opening, impressive-looking blu-ray as Modern Times is. The Circus has a vertical scratch in the middle for the majority of the film, which comes and goes. I guess it was too hard to remove? I don’t know. The video quality is very bright, but not as 3-dimensional as the Modern Times blu-ray. I know it may be unfair to compare the two, but I just connect all the Chaplin movies together, so I would assume that if Modern Times can be restored to perfection on blu-ray, then why not his other films? I watched a little bit of The Circus DVD that comes with this blu-ray too. Even though the blu-ray is better than the DVD, I was more impressed with what they did with the DVD than what they did with the blu-ray. I’ll still watch the blu-ray over the DVD though. The DTS-HD on the Circus blu-ray is just amazing. I’m happy that was pretty flawless.

The extras are photo gallery, introduction by some critic, outtakes, and interesting featurettes about the controversy surrounding the movie (Chaplin never writes about The Circus in his autobiography because the movie revolved around his difficult lawsuit divorce. Also, the movie went through a lot of Terry Gilliam-type filming obstacles). It’s amazing that he was able to complete the film and release a perfect film as well. There is also an interesting featurette with Emir Kusturica (my favorite director of all time) on how he’s influenced by Chaplin too.

The Circus is a laugh-out-loud funny movie and totally worth buying on blu-ray. But if Criterion ever releases this film, I probably would upgrade though.

THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Mandarin DTS-HD MA 7.1 (original)

Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (dub)

Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 9.5

EXTRAS: 2

 

I’m glad I ignored all those people who criticized The Sorcerer and the White Snake for having poor CGI special effects. I got excited for this movie when I watched the trailer and was pretty amazed by the special effects. It’s a good thing I reminded myself that a lot of people grade CGI special effects on the effects themselves, regardless how they mix with the movie as a whole. I care about the final product – how everything merges together well. I don’t remember anyone criticizing the Star Wars prequels due to poor special effects. But the Star Wars prequels are the worst kind of awkward mix of CGI special effects and live actors I’ve ever seen. Those movies have three levels – live actors, CGI characters, and green screen backgrounds. None of them work together well and none of them even work well with each other at their own levels – the live actors can’t act with the other live actors. The CGI characters have no chemistry with the other CGI characters. The live actors don’t have any connection to their CGI green screen backgrounds. Make any combination you want – the Star Wars prequels are the best example of awful CGI special effects not working in harmony. To name a few more, think of Sky Captain, The Spirit, or the Spy Kids sequels.  The Sorcerer and the White Snake not only has beautiful special effects (I’ll get to the “quality” of them soon in this review), but it’s another good example of CGI-galore movie that has all those parts – the live actors, the CGI special effects, and the green-screen backgrounds – all working together in harmony, just as in films like Sin City, 300, and Immortals.

Regarding the “quality” of the special effects is something to talk about. The director, Tony Ching Siu-Tung, made this epic fantasy film for twenty-five million dollars. Give the guy a break. Polished special effects for the kind of epic visuals shown in this film would cost over hundred million dollars. He did a fantastic job with the budget he was given. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jet Li got most of the money from that budget. Either way, The Sorcerer and the White Snake has various degrees of CGI quality. It ranges all over the place from excellent to almost cartoonish. But that’s the charm of the movie. The director put most of the money into more visually important scenes. When the two female leads play green and white snakes slithering in a graceful and dreamlike way like mermaids, the effects look good. But when they transform into total creatures, the snakes do tend to look cartoonish. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a distraction. Remember that everything works well together. All the actors are excellent. The CGI characters have great chemistry with the live actors. And the CGI backgrounds seem real to all the characters. Even though I thought some of the CGI special effects looked cartoonish, I was not thinking to myself, “oh, they are just acting in front of a green screen” (which is all I could think of when watching the Star Wars prequels). The CGI special effects also are creatively done. I cherish creativity more than polish.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a totally visually creative and mesmerizing fantasy film based on a famous Chinese folklore. As CGI special effects get better, I’m so happy that China can now make more impressive visually epic fairytale films. For anyone that’s ever read a Chinese fairytale book, they all need to be made into movies. For example, Monkey King is the most famous Chinese fairytale (with tons of movie and tv adaptations the past fifty years). The Sorcerer and the White Snake has three interesting stories going on – a duo of demon busters preventing and catching demons from roaming the Earth, one snake-demon sister who falls in love with a human, and the other snake-demon sister who questions one of the demon busters to why he is even capturing demons at all. The story is exciting, has good acting by all the leads (Jet Li, Shengyi Huang, Raymond Lam, Charlene Choi, and Zhang Wen). The movie definitely belongs to Shengyi Huang, the hot actress who plays the white snake-demon. Although she isn’t the next Zhang Ziyi, her acting skills are quite impressive and she has great chemistry with all the actors she plays off of. It’s a simply fairytale story. It would be a shame to criticize the film for not having depth or substance. First of all, there aren’t too many fantasy films with serious substance from any country. There’s Lord of the Rings and that’s about it. People looking for substance in fantasy films are in denial that most of the highly entertaining fantasy films that have existed for so many years usually have more style and creativity than substance.

I have always loved this director, Tony Ching. He’s my second favorite Hong Kong director after Yimou Zhang. He not only directs entertaining Hong Kong films, he’s also one of the best action choreographers. I prefer his style over Woo Ping Yeun, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Corey Yeun (whom I all like as well).

The K & R Region A blu-ray does not disappoint in the video and audio department. As expected for a Chinese fairytale flick, the video quality is a beautiful tapestry of crisp, bright colors which is clear and sharp. As I said earlier, the CGI effects blend nicely with the live actors – the video quality of this blu-ray shows off how everything merges together nicely. Blacks and contrast come out with impressive results as well. The DTS-HD 7.1 is just about perfect for this type of film. Surrounds are incredibly active, with one of the most impressive audio mixes from a Hong Kong blu-ray this year. The musical score (which at times reminded me a bit of the awesome score from The Fountain) sounds great on this blu-ray too. The English subtitles were practically perfect except for one spelling mistake. The translation was surprisingly good for a Hong Kong blu-ray. I wish K & R used the translators for their older films released on blu (K & R or Fortune Star stick with the old Chinglish subtitles when it comes to their older films released on blu). The only extras were a trailer (English-subtitled and 1080p) and an 18-minute making-of-the-film (also English subtitled).

I’ve been pleased with the few Hong Kong movies I’ve seen in 2011 – if I had to rank them from great to good, I would say, “Detective Dee, Gallants, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, and then Reign of Assassins.” The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a totally entertaining fantasy film with very creative special effects (with varying degrees of quality). The movie is sexy, exciting, and even a bit touching. I needed to see a highly satisfying fantasy film after seeing crap like the new Conan the Barbarian and Priest.

CHICO & RITA blu-ray review

UK Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio, LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 8

 

Chico & Rita is the best animated film (for adults) I’ve seen in 2011. I loved Puss ‘N Boots too but that’s just your typical Hollywood CGI animated film for kids (and I know I will love the upcoming Tintin animated film). Chico & Rita is a unique animated films for adults, so it will not win Best Animated film at the Oscars, but it will also most likely not even get nominated at all. I don’t think the Oscars have nominated an R-rated animated film yet and I think they will stick with “G and PG rated ones” for now with their closed-minded selections.

Chico & Rita, directed by the respectable Spanish director Fernando Trueba (he directed Belle Epoque) is a simple story of two lovers from Cuba. Chico is a piano player. Rita is a singer. They play in jazz clubs in 1948 Cuba and New York, They meet, have sex, fall in love, break up, meet up, have sex (full female nudity), and so on. It’s a simple and touching story because it’s well-written and the movie is full of exciting music with animated cameos of famous musicians such as Chucho Valdes, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo, Tito Puente, Ben Webster, and Thelonious Monk. The movie is also very exciting – it’s not just a bunch of characters playing music all the time. There’s an impressive filmed car chase and, even more impressive, is a catfight with Rita being totally nude. I think it’s the first animated cat fight I have ever seen.

The animation is the star of the film. This is one of the few animated movies I’ve seen that captures the most realistic movement of a woman. There have been tons of animated movies that have tried, but something was always off. The secret to what was done in Chico & Rita was that they actually filmed the movie with real actors and the animators just captured all those realistic movements and expressions – a really amazing job. Another amazing point about the animation is that this movie literally renovated Cuba to its peak times of the late 40s. The filmmakers traveled to Cuba and took tons of photographs of areas of Cuba that were falling apart. In the movie, they renovate all those pictures to the way those areas used to be in the late 1940s. It’s as if the filmmakers totally restored Cuba.

The UK blu-ray is totally satisfying. Colors pop. Detail stands out – the image is as crisp and detailed as the animation can be when put onto the blu-ray format. The Spanish DTS-HD 5.1 (with some English dialogue when the characters go to New York) is practically perfect as well. Dialogue is clear and the music sounds amazing. You will want to play this movie loud! The English subtitles are perfect as well.

The extras are just the ones that we would want – a commentary, a trailer, and an in-depth making of the film. I don’t know what else they could have added? I guess some people would want an English dub for the film but this movie isn’t for kids, so just pretend this film is an R-rated foreign film.

Chico & Rita is not only an original-looking animated film, it’s also a really touching love story with great music. I highly recommend this film!

(UPDATE: Wow, the movie actually got nominated for an Oscar. This was an unexpected surprise!)

POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP blu-ray review

Hong Kong Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.35:1

Cantonese: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (original)

Mandarin: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (dub)

Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (dub)

Subtitles: English, Mandarin, Thai

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 7.5

EXTRAS: 4

 

Police Story 3 aka Supercop is not only a Jackie Chan classic but also a Michelle Yeoh classic. The third film in the trilogy is the most entertaining and the most well-balanced one. Even though the previous two are good, Police Story 3 is the most rewatchable one. This film is a perfect example of Hong Kong film stunt madness in the 1990s.

Skip the USA blu-ray and choose this superior Hong Kong blu-ray version. The USA blu-ray is cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 and only has a dubbed English audio. This Hong Kong blu-ray has the original language, is uncut, has the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and has English subtitles – the blu-ray is worth it just for that! I didn’t have any of the previous DVDs of this film but I was happy with the video and audio quality of this blu-ray. I read the negative reviews of the first Police Story and I assumed it got the same transfer, which maybe it did, but all I can say that this blu-ray looks and sounds good. I had just watched the Iron Monkey blu-ray beforehand and I thought that the video quality was better on this blu-ray than the USA blu-ray of Iron Monkey, so for a 1992 Hong Kong film getting released by a sketchy HK blu-ray company, they did a fine job. The Cantonese: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 was decent as well, with explosions, punching, shooting giving off quite a kick from the subwoofer. But don’t forget to lower your expectations. People say that these blu-rays from this Hong Kong company KAM & RONSON are just upconverted DVDs. Maybe so, but they still look and sound better than previous DVDs even if it’s just a slight upgrade. If you love any of the movies that KAM & RONSON are making blu-rays into, then buy them. Just expect them to be better than your previous DVDs. Don’t expect them to be reference quality blu-rays that have gone through some sort of restoration.

The extras are just a trailer, images, some outtakes, and an English-subtitled interview with the director.

The English subtitles had a bunch of grammar mistakes, but they were good enough to not throw off the film.

LUKE AND LUCY: THE TEXAS RANGERS blu-ray review

USA Region A blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.39:1

English: DTS-HD 5.1, DTS 2.0

French: DTS-HD 5.1, DTS 2.0

IMDB

MOVIE: 7.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

EXTRAS: 1

 

I grew up reading French-Belgian comic books such as Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, and Spike & Suzy (aka “Bob et Bobette” in French and “Willy & Wanda” in the U.S.), so I was pretty excited to hear that a movie was made into the comic book. It’s sort of weird that they changed the names to Luke and Lucy – they could have just gone with the usual English versions of Spike and Suzy or Willy and Wanda. But either way, no big deal – the movie distributor is trying to get this out there, so if they researched that those names would sell better, then what the hell. As long as it’s released in USA with an English dub, I’m happy.

This cinematic adaptation of the famous European artist, Willy Vandersteen, is not that bad. It’s as good as all the other movie adaptations of famous European comic books, which all basically range in the fair category. The movie characters are excellently done – just as they were in the comic books. Lambick (aka Ambrose) the clumsy uncle is just as awesome in this movie as he is in the books. He kicks ass, he loves whisky, and he’s just lovable goofy. The kids sound a bit older than how I pictured them, but they were done well. And the aunt and Jethro were just perfect as well. The filmmakers certainly did a great job translating those characters onto screen.

The story is just like one of their usual adventures – nothing amazing about the story, but entertaining and exciting for a kids-oriented animated film. What I loved about the original comic book were the characters more than the actual adventures. There is no comparison to this comic book to a comic book like Tintin which had both amazing stories and characters. While the Spike & Suzy adventures are fun, I see each of their adventures being a great animated tv episode. While each Tintin adventure could be made into a movie.

The blu-ray video quality is very good, but not perfect – there’s some banding here and there – but overall, a very bright, eye-popping visual presentation.

There are four audio choices with this blu-ray: English DTS-HD 5.1, 2.0 Stereo or French DTS-HD 5.1, 2.0 Stereo. I watched the movie with the English DTS-HD 5.1, which is a very active mix and not problematic whatsoever.

There are no subtitles anywhere on this disk. I would have liked to check out the original French language with English subtitles, but it’s no big deal since I like my animated films dubbed.

The only extra is a trailer.

Luke and Lucy is worth watching for fans of the Spike and Suzy comic book from Europe. If you have never heard of the comic book, then it’s just an entertaining cowboy animated film for kids or for anyone that enjoys a decent CGI-animated film.

KILTRO dvd review

USA Region 1 NTSC dvd

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Spanish DD 5.1, DD 2.0 (original)

English DD 5.1, DD 2.0 (dub)

Subtitles: English

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 7

VIDEO QUALITY: 6.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 6

South American soap operas, Rocky, Kill Bill, Martial Arts, Spaghetti Westerns? If you like this combo, then you’ll like Chile’s KILTRO. This was not only my first Chilean martial-arts film I’ve ever seen, but it was also my first Chilean movie that I’ve seen. After reading many praising reviews of this film, I kept my expectations in check and expected the film to be decent – and it is. KILTRO isn’t an amazing or original film, but the film is worth watching. If this was an American film, I would probably just rent it. But this is a “Chilean Martial-arts flick!” So, it’s worth buying the DVD just on that alone. The direction and acting are pretty top-notch for this type of genre. The main actor, Marko Zaror, is an okay actor, certainly not as charismatic as his movie body double – The Rock. Marko reminds me of a cross between Sly Stallone and an ogre. It’s amazing how fast he can move. He has some fight scenes in the film (about three to four exciting ones), but they are very nicely choreographed and not cut too quickly. During fight scenes, there’s some CGI blood splattered all over the place, which could be annoying to some. Since the story is good – Marko stalking/awkwardly trying to get the main actress to fall in love with him (she looks like Jessica Alba) and also the soap opera love triangle involving a woman involved with two different martial arts school masters – the movie moves along at a swift pace. The soundtrack is pretty interesting too – it rotates between cheesy 1980s love songs to good Ennio Morricone-type spaghetti western music. And the cinematography is great too, with some nice shots of Chile – looks like an exciting place to visit.

The Region 1 NTSC DVD, produced by Magnet, is not bad considering how long people have waited for an English-subtitled DVD. The anamorphic video ranges from eye-popping to looking like ass. Sunny day scenes look razor-sharp, while some indoor/dark scenes look like a tiny step up from a VHS tape – very grainy and blurry. Furthermore,  the video quality looks like it’s shot on HD, while other times, it looks like it’s shot with a home video camera from the 1980s. The audio, on the other hand, is pretty decent sounding – DD 5.1/2.0 Spanish or English, with optional English subtitles. The extras include two pointless deleted scenes, funny bloopers (but not too many), a 7-minute behind the scenes, and the most interesting – storyboards and fight training. Marko Zaror certainly pushes himself to be the best athlete. He’s so bulky, but he moves very fast.

KILTRO is worth seeing, especially for its Chilean flavor. One of these days, I want to do a movie marathon of countries which just made their first martial-arts film, such as: The Challenge (Germany), Divine Intervention (Palestine, well there is one cool ninja scene in the flick), Jade Warrior (Finland), Anniyan (India), and Tongan Ninja (New Zealand).

KRRISH dvd review

India Region-free NTSC DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Hindi DD 5.1, DD 2.0

Subtitles: English, Arabic, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Tamil, Telugu, Malayan

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 7.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8

EXTRAS: 7

 

Since the majority of Bollywood movies suck due to repetitiveness, lack of originality, amateur production, cheesy dialogue, overacting, adolescent representation of male & female relationships, I was happy to see KRRISH, the second superhero movie made in India (the first Indian superhero movie was called MR. INDIA made in 1987).

KRRISH is pretty satisfying and did live up to its hype when it was released in 2006. From 2006 until now, Indian special effects and action choreography has slightly improved so KRRISH feels a bit dated watching it now. If you’ve seen your fair share of Bollywood flicks, this movie is not only a good superhero movie, but for Bollywood standards, it was a  huge step up in the technical production, CGI, special effects, and fight choreography. KRRISH raised the standards for other Bollywood action films. Although Bollywood action movie standards will most likely not change as much as THE MATRIX caused a huge change for Hollywood action film standards, there is no reason for other Bollywood action movie filmmakers to keep on releasing half-assed movie productions with straight-to-video quality.

KRRISH is a sequel to 2003’s Bollywood E.T.-influenced sci-fi movie called KOI MIL GAYA. I was happy to see that KOI MIL GAYA was Bollywood’s stab at sci-fi, which is much appreciated, but that movie was simply awful. It got a lot of respect and good reviews, but it’s a painful movie to watch, unless you think a mentally retarded dude meeting an alien is entertainment. Even when the mentally retarded dude gets powers from the alien and stops acting retarded, he still seems retarded. In KRRISH, that mentally retarded person is the father to the main hero in KRRISH. That father-son connection is the only thing that connects these two movies. At first, I thought it’s a cheap way of connecting the two movies so that the director can make some trilogy out of these movies, but after watching KRRISH, the unrelatedness does make some wacky sense, so now I would be curious to watch KOI MIL GAYA again, but I sold it used for $4 to a DVD store and I ain’t buying that movie again, even if these movies, along with a definite KRISSH 2, will become a trilogy.

KRISSH is a very solid superhero movie. Since Bollywood is usually a decade behind, I was expecting a 1990s style superhero movie – Batman Forever, The Crow, The Punisher, The Shadow. But surprisingly, KRISSH follows in the same successful pattern as in current superhero trends – origin/back story and more drama than action. The first half of KRISSH is all character development and origin story of the superhero named Krissh (his alter ego first name is Krishna). This superhero character has as much or even more development than in Spiderman, Hulk or Batman Begins. The tone throughout the movie is a mixture of drama and very funny humor (I hate Bollywood comedy, but this movie has universal humor), unlike the dry Superman Returns. KRRISH is ten times more entertaining than Superman Returns by the way. Both movies have the drama factor and maybe twenty minutes worth of action, but KRRISH is just so much more entertaining. The action, choreographed by the great Tony Ching Siu Tung of HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO, SHAOLIN SOCCER fame, is pretty tame in this movie, but for a Bollywood movie or even a non-Hong Kong film, the action is still entertaining. The superhero, Krissh, is mainly a fast runner and big leaper, so the wire work is mainly the focus. Hrithik Roshan, starring as Krissh, did an amazing job with the action choreography and wirework – very graceful and not awkward. He trained like mad for this role and it shows. The action is a little bit more than in Superman Returns, but at least in KRISSH, most of the action scenes are memorable, because they are all creatively done even if they have been influenced or knocked-off of other Hollywood movies (Spiderman, Tarzan, Zorro, The Incredibles, Paycheck, The Matrix). Although there is more melodrama than action, the CGI/special effects are still used all throughout the movie in positive subtle ways, and not in a negative in-your-face George Lucas way.

For a superhero movie, it’s even a bit touching. You will really enjoy this movie if the following things don’t bug you:

1. The wind machine is always used in the presence of the superhero and the lead female.

2. Hrithik Roshan has a thumb that breaks off into two mini claw thumbs, which is very distracting to me, but I still think he’s one of Bollywood’s best screen presence. Since he is a superhero, they should have some super beam of light that shoots out his double claw thumb – sort of like a Green Thumb Lantern, instead of a ring.

3. Slow motion action – I personally love it, especially in superhero movies. It just works better. When you have characters dressed in costumes moving at real-time, it just looks silly.

4. I love songs in Bollywood movies, but the songs are just forgettable in this movie – nothing special and the movie would have been better (and a bit shorter) without the three to four songs in this flick.

The NTSC ALL REGION 2-disk DVD is a pretty sweet package. KRISSH is produced by a DVD company called ADLABS, a company known to make top-quality DVDs. The movie is on one disk and the plentiful extras are on the other. The anamorphic video is of excellent quality, especially for a Bollywood DVD – the colors are very vivid and three-dimensional, flattering the film’s excellent cinematography. The DD 5.1 Hindi and DD 2.0 Hindi are very nice as well. Your surrounds and subwoofer get a workout since this is a superhero action movie. There are tons of subtitles options on this DVD – you get English, Arabic, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayan. Strangely, the Germans are left out. That’s weird because Germans love Bollywood. The English subtitles are good enough, with grammar mistakes here and there. There are some really good extras – although not subtitled, the main actors interviewed are all speaking English. There are about four 20-minute “making-of-the-film” clips. The best one is the training that Hrithik Roshan went through. It looked like the same heavy training as the actors in The Matrix went through. During Hrithik Roshan’s training, he wraps up his double claw thumb. I’m curious to why he does that. Is it painful or does it get in the way? There are also a bunch of trailers of bad Bollywood films and there is some “save-the-people” clip about some current genocide in India that the media never talks about. Overall, an excellent DVD package with really nice packaging as well. There is also a blu-ray version available, but I hear it’s a DNR mess, so I’m going to stick with my DVD.

If you like good superhero movies or if you are disappointed with most Bollywood movies, then I totally recommend KRRISH. I hope there will be sequels for this Indian superhero. If the director and producers were smart, they should also market this character into comic books, toys, etc. They should not only financially take advantage of creating a good Bollywood movie, but they should create a whole Indian pop culture out of the character. At least check out the movie for the India’s Monica Bellucci actress – Priyanka Chopra – winner of the Miss India and Miss World beauty pageants in 2000.

PEKING OPERA BLUES 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

VIDEO QUALITY: 7.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 8.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 6.5

EXTRAS: 1

 

If Fortune Star’s DVD video/audio quality is considered a C, then this supposedly remastered blu-ray of Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues is like a B-.

Here’s how I would grade the individual parts of this blu-ray (with the grading curve of course, as many people should be aware that it’s a bit tricky for Hong Kong home video companies to make beautiful blu-ray remasters of Hong Kong films from the 1980s-1990s):

A: The blu-ray video is totally clean, spotless, and scratch-free.

A-: The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 is actually surprisingly very impressive if you accept it as a Dolby TrueHD 1.1 audio. It’s one of the best Fortune Star blu-ray audios of an old Hong Kong film that I’ve heard so far. Dialogue is clear, no hissing, not claustrophobic sounding, well-balanced, and action/gun-firing scenes have subwoofer whoomph – basically, a totally solid audio experience.

A-: The film’s video quality is a consistent and pleasurable viewing experience.

B-: The blu-ray video is better-looking, brighter, and has more detail than the Fortune Star DVD.

B-: Close up shots look good, maintaining original grain but don’t be surprised from slightly pasty faces.

C: English subtitles are fair with typical Chinglish. I had an idea what was going on, but those subtitles just don’t make sense as a whole. Watching this blu-ray reminded me of how I perceive watching a movie in my dreams – I think I know what’s going on but I have no idea what’s going on. These companies need to hire normal translators. Those English subtitles make the movie worse! For me, the Chinglish subtitles were the only distraction watching this movie.

C-: Medium shots and long shots of people’s faces and objects sometimes look poor – ranging from slight interlaced lines, fuzziness, and blurriness.

C-: Night/dark shots don’t look that hot. Pretend you are watching a DVD and you won’t get too upset.

D+: Just one extra (the trailer), when the Fortune Star DVD had a few more extras.

Overall:
1. If you don’t have the Fortune Star DVD and if you want to own this movie, buy the blu-ray.
2. If you own the Fortune Star DVD and you don’t have some mega-sized 40+ HDTV or projector, then stick with the DVD.

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