Friday, April 26, 2013

So This Just Arrived, Japanese Hard Boiled Blu

UPDATE : To see what I've done to improve the disc click here

The Japanese Paramount blu ray of John Woo's Hard Boiled has just landed at chez A Hero Never Dies. The good news is it's a bit of a looker (with one caveat), the predictable bad news is the disc has no English options. Never one to be be easily deterred, I will be putting that right as quickly as possible and then watching the film in glorious, genuine high definition.

Yes that's right, I said glorious, genuine high definition. What we have here is a blu ray of a classic age Hong Kong movie where the film is transfered from a real HD source, imagine that! This alone makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but could it possibly be that other Japanese releases maybe of a similar high quality? Don't get too giddy just yet, as the same companies release of The Killer is a port of the HK blu, a real shame considering the quality here.

Postcard insert
The caveat I mentioned earlier is the image is way too bright, again though I'll be working on that too, so look out for a couple of posts over the next few days focusing on my new favourite disc!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HKMS : A Better Tomorrow

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover.

Supercool mobster Mark (Chow Yu Fat) is a man of honur in a world of crime.His partner Ho(Ti Lung) is having second thoughts because kid brotheer kit (Leslie Cheung)  is  an ambitious cop.Kitremains blissfullyignorant until Ho is double-crossed, their father is murdered and Ho is Imprisoned.Mark swears  to  avenge  his  friend,but  his  right  leg  is shattered  in  the  ensuing  shoot-out,a  legendary scene of sensationally choreographed gunplay.When HO Leaves the slamer he finds the crippled Mark redu to scrubbing dirt off the gang boss's stretch liomo.Both are determined to go straight,but neither Kit nor the Crimelords are done  With   them yet.Finall,Mark,Ho  and  Kit  must   face    their  destiny in a blazing crossfire of  conflincting loyalties and hot lea.Who will Survive...

Taken from the mainland Chinese Zoke release, this one really took some typing to make sure I got every detail correct! 

You would have thought they would have tried a little harder with such an iconic film, but not a bit of it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2nd Trailer And Poster For Only God Forgives UPDATED With 3rd Trailer

Hot on the heels of the first, comes the second trailer for Refn's Only God Forgives along with the official poster. While it would be easy to get carried away and hype this film beyond all reason, let's just say I'm cautiously optimistic it will deliver!!!

Click here to watch on youtube

Only God Forgives opens the Cannes film festival in May.

Update : Another trailer for the film, presumably for the Cannes festival.

Click here to watch on youtube

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hard Target Presskit

For a few years after first seeing John Woo's The Killer I tried to get my hands on anything and everything I could related to him. It was difficult to find Woo stuff during those pre-internet days, so when he moved to Hollywood and the hype machine began to kick into gear, pleasingly for a fan like me he was suddenly everywhere. Remember the days of "John Woo is God" plastered over everything? I do, and for a while, despite having no specific religious views, I kind of believed it.

Most of the magazines, newspaper articles and the like have long since been thrown out, but some stuff remains including this presskit for Hard Target. I got hold of a few presskits for various different movies but they never really caught on with me, but I kept this one as the still photos are pretty great. The kits I had generally consisted of some kind of folded card sleeve (pictured above and below), production notes about the movie, stars and prominent crew members and a set of B&W stills. Occasionally you may find them with colour slides and other things, but more often than not, the stills are the thing to have.

The stills usually include portrait shots of the film's main stars in character, along with one or two shots from the film itself. Perhaps fittingly for John Woo and Hard Target, this kit goes more for the action shots.

The last one is a nice on set photo of John Woo together with Van Damme, before J.C decided to interfere with the film I presume.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hard Target Workprint

How naive was I back in 1993? Enough to be insanely excited about John Woo going to Hollywood and making his first movie there, Hard Target. Even the presence of Jean Claude Van Damme could do little to dampen my enthusiasm. Inevitably I was disappointed by the film on it's release, not that I thought it was a terrible movie you understand, just that it was more JCVD than John Woo. It felt like Woo had been let down by the producers who had courted him so determinedly. My subsequent viewings have been kinder to the film and in it's released form, it remains Van Damme's best film and a solid action movie.

The released version of Hard Target always felt compromised, and rumours of not only studio interference but Van Damme himself demanding changes were rife. As is usually the case in a situation like this it wasn't long before talk began of a "director's cut" of the film, although I doubt anyone thought we would ever actually get to see it. Now almost twenty years later, I finally got to see it thanks to fellow blogger Ingo.

So how does the "Workprint" (as it's called) compare? Well firstly as you would probably expect the quality isn't great, coming from at a guess, a fourth or even fifth generation VHS copy and riddled with the flaws inherent to the format. Putting quality issues aside, it's fascinating comparing the two versions, the workprint runs approximately 117 minutes against the released cut at 97 minutes (apparently there exists a third variant that runs even longer at 127 minutes, which I haven't seen to compare). The extra footage being a mix of character and plot enhancements and of course extended action sequences, most notably during the finale. The result? Well it certainly has the John Woo signature lacking in the shorter cut, which is extremely welcome, however it isn't all good news as regrettably some of the additions just don't work. Woo went from working with fantastic, charismatic actors like Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung, stars who almost instinctively knew what was required of them, to working with, to put it kindly, more limited performers such as JCVD and Yancy Butler. Factor in communication problems caused by the language barrier and certain scenes were always going to be awkward, love scene I'm looking at you!

The good news are the action sequences. The final warehouse scene in particular is on a wholly different level in terms of intensity and all round mayhem in the longer version, and most definitely worth the effort of tracking this down.

I remember reading an article in the UK magazine Sight and Sound about Hard Target, where the writer called the film "the first art-house action film" or words to that effect, and while the intent may have been there, unfortunately the execution is lacking. In the end neither version is ideal and I would suggest a further variant of something in between these two cuts would be the closest thing to a definitive version. A cut that keeps, for want of a better word, the Woo-ness in terms of the thematics and violence of the workprint, but trims the fat of it's more awkward moments. I guess we're unlikely to ever see that, but it would be nice for Woo to get a chance to deliver his own cut of the movie for everyone to see, and it is the 20th anniversary this year, hint hint...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

John Woo Interview From Chinese TV

I was recently reminded of this Chinese TV interview with John Woo from 1993/4 that featured on the Tartan VHS release of Hard Boiled. A brief search on Youtube didn't find it, so I thought I'd share it. It's interesting rather than revelatory, covering his childhood love of movies, embarking on his journey to being a Hollywood filmmaker, his relationship with Chow Yun Fat and why his films tend to lack a romantic angle. Many would suggest Woo's films do feature love between his characters, just not in a heterosexual form, I don't subscribe to this theory, but that is another matter. As with most shows of this nature there's plenty of padding with clips, but since it's Woo that isn't really much of a hardship. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mail Call : Japanese Spaghetti Western Laserdiscs

On a semi-regular search for Japanese laserdiscs I came across these two beauties for sale, and despite having both films on dvd I just couldn't resist picking them up. Why? Just look at the artwork!

First up is Sergio Corbucci's masterpiece The Great Silence, which I reviewed here.

In addition to the fantastic artwork both discs come with an insert with writing about each film, unsurprisingly this is in Japanese.

The second disc is Giulio Questi's delirious Django Kill! If You Live Shoot. Again beautiful artwork here.

Two perfect examples of why Laserdiscs are still very desirable! More to come soon.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Red Band Trailer For Refn's Only God Forgives UPDATED

Here is the first trailer for the new collaboration between director Nicolas Winding Refn and his Drive star Ryan Gosling. The trailer is red band, although it's surprisingly restrained for the rating, no doubt Refn is holding back the violence for the movie's release. The Thai set film looks stunning and with the lullaby style music only enhancing the intense, other worldly, fairy tale feel Refn got so right in Drive.

Click here to view on Youtube

So, another highly stylised thriller, where Ryan Gosling says very little, with intensity in spades, (potentially) shocking violence and great use of music, count me in! Only God Forgives is released in the US in July, and I'm already counting the days!

Wanna Fight?

UPDATE : 2nd and 3rd Trailers and official poster here

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Made In Hong Kong Collection : A Better Tomorrow III

Tsui Hark's A Better Tomorrow III was released by M.I.H.K in 1995 with the catalogue number HK017. The cover and liner notes are below the text, click to see them full size.

After the fallout between John Woo and Tsui Hark while making A Better Tomorrow II, the two filmmakers went their separate ways. Woo taking his outline for the third Better Tomorrow film and turning it into A Bullet In The Head, and Hark developing another Vietnam set idea to tell the back story of Chow Yun Fat's Mark Gor. Hark's film is a solid drama punctuated with excellent action sequences, which unfortunately seems to be criminally underrated by many fans of Hong Kong cinema. With excellent performances from Chow Yun Fat and the late Anita Mui, what's not to love?

The MIHK tape presents the shorter version of the movie, rather than the extended Taiwanese cut.

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