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Blood: The Last Vampire (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 11, 2009 by  



“The live action adaptation of the popular 2000 Japanese animated film gets its HD release.  Featuring Asia’s top dramatic actresses Gianna from Korea and Koyuki from Japan, ‘Blood: The Last Vampire’ is an adaptation that manages to capture the essence of the original anime through it’s violent action-packed battles and through the character of Saya.  But as much as I enjoyed the film especially for Gianna’s dramatic performance in giving the character of Saya some depth, the film’s enjoyability is weakened due to campy CG effects, overacting and a convoluted storyline.”

Images courtesy of © 2009 East Wing Holdings Corp. and SAJ. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Blood: The Last Vampire

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, French, English SDH

COMPANY:  East Wing Holdings Corp and SAJ/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Strong Bloody Stylized Violence)

Release Date: October 2o, 2009

Based on the character created by Kenji Kamiyama and Katsuya Terada

Directed by Chris Nahon

Screenplay by Chris Chow

Executive Produced by Luis Zanger

Producer by Bill Kong, Abel Nahmias

Co-Produced by Alice Yeung

Associate Produced by Fernando Altschul, Craig Mitchell, Zhenyan Zhang

Line Producer: Chris Thompson

Action Director: Cory Yuen

Music by Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Poon Hang Sang

Edited by Marco Cave

Costume Design by Constanza Balduzzi, Shandy Lui Fung Shan

Production Designer: Nathan Amondson

Starring:

Gianna (Jun Ji-hyun) as Saya

Allison Miller as Alice McKee

Liam Cunningham as Michael

JJ Field as Luke

Koyuki as Onigen

Yasuaki Kurata as Kato Takatora

Larry Lamb as General Mcke

Andrew Pleavin as Frank Nielsen

Michael Byrne as Elder

Colin Salmon as Powell

Masiela Lusha as Sharon

Ailish O’Connor as Linda

Constantine Gregory as Mr. Henry

From a producer of Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon comes BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, based on the cult hit anime series. Demons have infested Earth, and only one warrior stands between the dark and the light: Saya, a half-human, half-vampire samurai who preys on those who feast on human blood. Joining forces with the shadowy society known as the Council, Saya is dispatched to an American military base, where an intense series of swordfights leads her to the deadliest vampire of all. And now after 400 years, Saya’s greatest hunt is about to begin.

In 2000, the Japanese animated film “Blood: The Last Vampire” from Production I.G. and Aniplex attracted audiences for its digital animation.  The film won many awards, sold many copies on DVD and even received praise by “Titanic” Academy Award winning director James Cameron for its superb animation.

With a manga sequel, a video game and an anime television series titled “Blood+” having been released, in May 2009 the live-action film made its debut.

The plan for a film began in 2006 with Bill Kong, producer of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” leading the forefront for a live action film to be made.  But in the end, Ronny Yu became the producer, French film production company Pathe would be responsible for the production, popular HK martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen would direct the action sequences and Chris Nahon (“Kiss of the Dragon”, “Empire of the Wolves”) would be directing the film and Chris Chow (“Fearless”, “Missing”) would be responsible for the screenplay.  Joining the crew would be composer Clint Mansell (“The Wrestler”, “Doom” and “Sahara”) and cinematography by Hang-Sang Poo (“Fearless”, “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Dry Wood, Fierce Fire”).

The live-action film “Blood: The Last Vampire” revolves around a 400-year old human/vampire named Saya (played by popular Korean actress Gianna/Jeon Ji-Hyun, “”My Sassy Girl”, “Il Mare”, “Windstruck” and “Daisy”) who is motivated by revenge to find the oldest demon known as Onigen who killed her father.  A secret American agency known as “The Council” led by Michael (played by Liam Cunningham, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Emperor”) who utilizes Saya to seek out the vampires and kill them.  Despite her tactics which some of members of “The Council” question, Saya is the last and only vampire that is willing to fight against vampires.

For Saya, her father was a samurai who fought hard against the vampires but since his death due to Onigen (who is played by Japanese actress Koyuki, “The Last Samurai”, “Kitaro”, “Always Sunset on Third Street”), Saya has been raised and trained by her father’s retainer Kato (played by Yasuaki Kurata, “Shinjiku Incident”, “Legend of the Seven Monks”, “Fist of Hero”, “Conman in Tokyo”).  Kato helps keep Saya focused on her goal of avenging her father but most of all, reminding her that she is human and not a monster.

Meanwhile, “The Council” dispatches Saya to a high school where the General’s daughter Alice Mckee (played by Allison Miller, “17 Again”, “Boston Legal”, “Kings”) attends.  Alice is a loner and because her father is the General, many of the high school students think that she gets preferential treatment and thus she is seen as an outcast.  And is often teased by two bullies: Sharon and Linda played by Masiela Lusha (“The George Lopez Show”) and Ailish O’Connor (“Wasted”) who Saya immediately suspects that they are vampires.

When Saya easily defeats the two vampires and saves Alice (who watches Saya killing them), Alice goes nuts and tells her father of what has happened.  With “The Council” way ahead of the US military and doing a quick cleanup of the area, Alice’s father General McKee (Larry Lamb) starts to suspect something is going on at his base that the government are working on and he will do what he can to undercover what is happening behind-the-scenes.

Needless to say, with the General and his men trying to investigate, it causes problems with “The Council” leading to betrayal and tragedy.   This leads to Alice and Saya teaming up to survive against not only the vampires but also any other challenge that come their way and eventually will lead to Saya’s final battle with Onigen.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Blood: The Last Vampire” is featured in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks extremely vibrant at times, with film grain intact.  For the most part, there are scenes that look absolutely beautiful (especially scenes that showcase the lush scenery of Japan) and the set design of Saya fighting over this grungy city in Japan looks very cool.  But what hurts the film is its over reliance towards CG.  Each time Saya strikes a vampire, CG blood splatters.  But unlike a film such as “Zatoichi” which did the same thing but made the blood look artistic, the blood on “Blood: The Last Vampire” looks as if its a black, globular mess.  Even the CG monsters look as if they were created in the early 2000’s, not 2009.   Also, because Gianna is not a martial artist (she’s known for her dramatic acting), the battles use a lot of editing to make things look stylish and artistic but somehow, makes the fight scenes seem disjointed at times.

As for the lossless audio, the film’s soundtrack is presented is presented in English DTS-HD MA.  I was actually impressed because the action sequences utilized not just my surrounds but also rear surrounds and although not reference quality, there is good utilization of audio throughout all channels including LFE usage.  With that being said, many may be wondering how is the English between Korean actress Gianna and Japanese actress Koyuki.  Well, first… this Blu-ray does not include the original track with Koyuki speaking English.  Her English was very difficult to understand in the original cut and thus, her voice was dubbed.  Gianna’s English was fine but her conversation in Japanese with Yasuaki Kurata’s character was OK (I know that this will probably not even bother those who are not familiar with the Japanese language).

Sometimes I do feel that when foreign talent are made to speak English, it sometimes forced and doesn’t work out all that well but for “Blood: The Last Vampire”, I felt that Gianna did a pretty good job and definitely great to see her make her major International debut.

As for subtitles, subtitles are presented in English, French and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Blood the Last Vampire” comes with the following special features (all presented in standard definition and in English stereo):

  • Storyboard Gallery – Exclusive to this Blu-ray release is a storyboard gallery for the Gym Fight Sequence, Powell Chase Sequence and Monk Fight sequence.   Using your remote, you can cycle through the many storyboard images.
  • The Making of Blood: The Last Vampire – (19:06) Interviews with the cast and crew of “Blood the Last Vampire”.  The cast talk about working with each other, working with crew and vice versa.
  • Battling Demons: Behind the Stunts – (16:48) Interviews with Gianna about the extensive training and wirework that she had to undergo and making the action scenes look real. Interviews with action director Cory Yuen and also Allison Miller.  Definitely an interesting featurette as you saw how difficult the work was and showing Gianna getting injured and also in one instance, actually injuring another person during the fighting sequence.  Definitely an eye-opening featurette in realizing how much she had to go through.

I enjoyed “Blood: The Last Vampire” and for a live-action film adaptation from an anime series, considering how other live action films based on an anime series (or even video games) have been, suffice to say that I enjoyed the film way more than the other following 2009-released films “Dragon Ball Evolution” and “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li”.

I loved the film when it focused on Saya but when it focused on Alice Mckee, it just didn’t work for me.  In fact, it seems that some of the other talent, the overacting kind of made the film seem very campy at times.  The screenplay could have been tightened up and characters intentions were best utilized through a few extra scenes with dialogue in order to explain motivation.  Because there are scenes that will easily make one think…WTF?  Also, with the other international release of “Blood: The Last Vampire” having a cool cover featuring both Gianna and Koyuki, I found it interesting that for the US release, for the cover, alongside Gianna, instead of Koyuki they put actress Masiela Lusha (who played Carmen on the “The George Lopez Show”) on the cover and Masiela’s part in the film was very, very short.

Granted, the film has its problems within its screenplay and also its CG utilization but it really helps that the film has Gianna as its lead star because for those familiar with her Korean films, she’s one actress that is known for her dramatic moments.  Despite the film being an action film, it calls upon her to do some major emotional scenes and she pulls it off.

I have to admit that after watching the special feature “Battling Demons: Behind the Stunts Featurette”, I had more appreciation for Gianna’s determination to make the action scenes seem fluid.  Despite her fighting scenes were edited to be like a blur,  as you will see from the special features, she literally took some major bumps (at one time while in the air, ramming her head into the crane) and probably many bruises for this role.  Gianna is not an action-star but she was determined to train and go through a lot of pain while wearing that harness in order to make certain scenes happen.  Needless to say, I’ve appreciated her previous work in “My Sassy Girl”, “Il Mare” and “Windstruck” that to see her determination for the action scenes was wonderful.

But with that being said, with the film featuring a crew that has worked on major Hong Kong action films before, I expected more from the final battle.  I wanted to see a major final battle and I suppose it made me wonder if Koyuki was willing to undergo the same amount of battle training and wire work that Gianna put herself through.

And I think that was part of the problem where Hong Kong films, we are used to seeing a Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi or other actresses willing to brave the challenges of wirework in order to make a final battles seem impressive.   Similar to Gianna, Koyuki is a dramatic actress and as much I love watching her in film and Japanese dramas, I just don’t see her willing to undergo the painful and challenging training for major wirework, Gianna since she is the main character braved the “torturous training” (her words) and was willing to take a few bumps and bruises.  Koyuki is a model/actress known for being attractive continuously in Panasonic and Shiseido commercials which air monthly in Japan.   It was obvious the film was created in attracting International audiences and in Japan, needless to say, Koyuki in an action role definitely raised eyebrows and drew curiosity.

With that being said, I did enjoy the film and when it comes to action anime or even video game adaptations, it’s easy to come to the film with low expectations and just hope somehow, the film was better than you expected.  With the release of “Dragon Ball Evolution” and “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li” not exactly being the best adaptations in 2009, at least with “Blood: The Last Vampire”, the violent essence of the original anime series and the look and feel of the character Saya is retained in this live action adaptation.

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