Wednesday, October 16, 2013

75 Years Of Superman History in Two Animated Minutes

Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder and all round living legend Bruce Timm have teamed up to bring us a celebratory, animated look at 75 years of Superman history in a little over two minutes. Absolutely adore the Christopher Reeve shot.

Here for HD

Re-Animator German Blu Ray Mediabook

Last year Image Entertainment were responsible for releasing Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator on blu ray. Unfortunately, they didn't do a very good job of it. On anything but the largest screens it was hard to tell the difference between it and the upscaled standard definition dvd. When news came through of a brand new transfer taken from 35mm film elements, I got all excited again...

This German mediabook is the result, a superbly presented 3 disc edition of one of my favourite films. Consisting of 2 blu rays and a dvd it features 3 different cuts of the film, the original unrated version, the so called intergral version which adds all the extra footage (used to bump up the running time of the R rated version after all the gore and nudity were cut out) into the unrated cut, and lastly the R rated version in SD as an extra. The difference between this new version and the Image release is vast, and it's difficult to imagine Gordon's film could ever look any better, although how many times is that said? Anyway for much more info take a look at Kentai's look at the disc.

To round the package off, the set includes two commentaries, the documentary Re-Animator Ressurectus, interviews, deleted scenes etc, etc, just about everything the fan could ask for really. If you want to pick up this release, you'd better be quick as once the initial run sells out that will be it, future versions will lose the extra blu ray and the fancy packaging. Second Sight will be using this new transfer for their blu ray release in the UK early next year, but it's doubtful it will be as comprehensive a package. A new Spanish release comes as a 5 disc set, consisting of a blu ray, three dvds and a cd of the score, however unconfirmed reports suggest this uses the Image transfer, which was more than enough to put me off, I'll update if I find out differently.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Desperados

Wong Hei Dak's The Desperados belongs to the "Mainland invader" genre of Hong Kong cinema, and mines similar territory to Johnny Mak's classic Long Arm Of The Law. Wong's effort may have arrived four years earlier, but The Desperados lacks both the subtleties and visceral impact of Mak's film.

The film opens with Cheng (Kenny Bee) dodging shark attacks (set to the Jaws theme!) as he and a group of other refugees try to enter Hong Kong illegally. Once past the sharks Cheng finds that was the easy part, as he discovers the grass isn't always greener. He falls for another refugee (Cecilia Wong), who had triad help getting into Hong Kong resulting in ever mounting debts for her family. In need of cash, Cheng and his friends turn to armed robbery, and he ends up in prison. Once out and trying to go straight, Cheng finds things are even tougher, as he's unable to find work, how long before thoughts turn back to crime?

I'm sure the filmmakers had good intentions for The Desperados, trying to highlight the plight of the mainlanders desperate to get into Hong Kong and what becomes of them once they're there. However the lack of subtlety kills any serious intent the film may have had. The script packs in a catalogue of incidents so long that nothing is given chance to breathe and thus resonate. It has the effect of being like a child's storytelling, in a "and then this happened, and then this happened next" way. As amusing as the opening shark sequence is (not only with the Jaws music but some of the worst intercutting of stock footage I've ever seen), the film never quite manages to recover from it enough to be taken seriously. This is in spite of a reasonable performance from Kenny Bee as the naive and easily led Cheng.

By the end of the film my mind had drifted to thinking that either the script writer or the director (who never directed another movie) have serious issues with their mother, as both "mother" characters in the movie are completely and utterly vile. The film only ever really comes to life during it's infrequent moments of violence, which unfortunately aren't enough to raise it into the recommended category, even for fans of the genre.

Viewed via the Ocean Shores vcd, which unusually features two endings one for the Hong Kong audience and the other for Mainland consumption. For some reason the Mainland one comes first, which rather ruins the effect of the Hong Kong ending.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

THE Mullet In HD or Hard Target On Blu Ray

A while ago I posted about the work print version of John Woo's Hollywood debut Hard Target and in it I hoped for a 20th anniversary blu ray edition of the film. Well Universal UK have delivered. Kind of.

The film is now on (region free) blu ray, unfortunately it isn't the feature packed release I was thinking of and hoping for. In fact it is literally just the film, without even a trailer for company. At least it's the uncut theatrical version, rather than the US R rated cut, but even so this is a huge missed opportunity to do something special with the movie. To their credit, Universal haven't tried to jazz up the release with any ballyhoo about it being an anniversary release. The disc has just slipped out as a back catalogue title, destined to be ignored, with buyers most likely thinking it will offer little in the way of an upgrade like many catalogue releases. Surprisingly having sat and watched the disc, I'll say if you're a fan of the film, you owe it to yourself to buy it now, the upgrade over the available dvd is so huge.

Presented in it's original aspect ratio, the 1080p video makes the film look better than I remember seeing it theatrically, with a totally unexpected level of detail, depth and sharpness for a film of this budget and vintage. Considering the master used for the transfer was unlikely to have been recent, this is all the more remarkable. The sharpness and detail varies depending on the scene and shot, which is unsurprising considering Woo's use of multiple cameras for coverage, but the quality on display in the action and night time scenes in particular make the film look almost brand new. I swear you can almost see the product dripping off JCVD's mullet.

The audio is given a DTS-HD MA 5.1 upgrade and again, the result is hugely impressive. Graeme Revell's score sounds simply superb and is masterfully integrated with the audio mayhem surrounding it. Again for a lower budget feature the highly directional and violently aggressive 5.1 mix is truly impressive and involving, without ever threatening to overpower the dialogue. Turn it up loud!

The review for this disc on is quite negative, both about the film and the disc, and at least as far as the disc goes, I honestly can't understand why. I've seen the film a few times in the twenty years since it was released, and while obviously the huge upgrade in quality can't help the script's clunkier moments or Yancy Butler's acting abilities, I've never enjoyed it as much as I did courtesy of this blu ray. The absence of any extras whatsoever, nevermind the work print footage is a real shame but as I said earlier, if you're a fan of Hard Target you need to see this disc!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Normal Service Is Resumed....

As you may have noticed it's been quite a while since my last post. Why? Well as I mentioned on facebook last week, after a long time feeling down and out, I'm back and (relatively) fighting fit, and as the post title suggests ready to resume normal service. After months of limping along trying to update the blog while not in a fit state, I decided a complete break was required for me to get my strength back, so here I am and I'm feeling pretty good for the first time in ages and ready to get back down to some serious blogging! I can't promise the same pace of updates as before, but hopefully lower frequency will equal higher quality. While I'm on the subject I'd just like to thank those of you who took the time out to check in on me, thank you!

While I've been away I've spent many an hour revisiting the giallo movies that helped me get hooked on cinema in the first place, along with plenty of Eurocrime films I hadn't seen before. Top of the pile in that particular category is Fernando Di Leo's Milano Calibro 9 from the Fernando Di Leo box set volume 1. Since first seeing it around six months ago, I've watched it at least another five times so far and it's comfortably my favourite film seen this year, as a result I've developed a real case of man love for Gastone Moschin. In addition, I've equally fallen for Di Leo's Shoot First, Die Later from volume 2, both are highly recommended. Look out for some form of coverage on them soon.

What else do I have planned? Well, I've finally got my hands on the Bullet In The Head festival cut, thanks to one of my supercool readers, so it would be rude not to do something with that. I have an idea for a new occasional series, but the details need ironing out on that one, and I have loads more posters and other goodies to share with you, having finally had all of them out and taken pics of them. I'd love to know what everyone else has been doing, what have you been watching etc???
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