Top

Railroad Tigers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films. And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best. For those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Beijing Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Railroad Tigers

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Ding Sheng

Screenplay by Alex Jia, He Keke, Ding Sheng

Produced by Jackie Chan, Zhao Lei, Maofei Zhou

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Qin Hong, Jianhong Qi, Zhong-Lun Ren, Joe Tam

Co-Executive Producer: Lv Peng, Wang Peng

Co-Producer: Yu Liang, Wang Sen

Associate Producer: Zhang Miao, Tianyun Wang

Music by Zai Lao

Cinematography by Yu Ding

Edited by Ding Sheng

Production Design by Ligang Feng

Costume Design by Cao Yangui, Wang Yi


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Ma Yuan

Zitao Huang as Da Hai

Jaycee Chan as Rui Ge

Kai Wang as Fan Chuan

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

Ping Sang as Da Qui

Alan Ng as Xiao Qi

Fan Xu

Darren Wang as Da Guo


In this action-comedy caper harkening back to Jackie Chan s classic Hong Kong films, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.


Filmmaker Ding Sheng has had several collaborations with action legend, Jackie Chan.

From the films “Little Big Soldier” and “Police Story: Lockdown”, Sheng and Chan reunite once again for the action film “Railroad Tigers”.

And now “Railroad Tigers” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film revolves around a group of Chinese resistance fighters during a time when Japan is occupying China.

Ma Yuan (portrayed by Jackie Chan) is responsible for a group of individuals (a.k.a. Railroad Tigers) who cause problems for the Japanese army.  They hijack trains, steal supplies and they don’t have any major purpose but just to steal supplies.

But keeping an eye on Ma Yuan and friends is the the tough and cold-hearted Japanese captain, Yamaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Okeuchi) who is in charge of finding out who has been stealing supplies.

But life for Ma Yuan and friends change when they discover a Chinese soldier named Daguo (portrayed by Darren Wang) who is badly injured.

Ma Yuan hides the soldier from the Japanese and when nursing him, they discover that he has a major mission and that is to blow up a bridge that the Japanese army uses to deliver reinforcements and carry supplies to other locations for the Japanese military.

Ma Yuan and friends decide to assist Daguo in getting the mission accomplished, but they have only four days to do it and it’s not going to be easy while Yamaguchi and a sadistic Japanese assassin after them.


VIDEO:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, trains going on the tracks and action sequences that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with the following special features:

  • Director’s Featurette– 2:52 a sample of the films directed by Ding Sheng and interviews with the filmmaker, Jackie Chan and crew about the film.
  • The Dangers of Shooting – (2:35) With a short amount of time and 300 people on crew to device the sets in -20 celcius weather, the dangers of shooting this kind of film. especially with a train is is high.
  • The Making of – (21:11) Filmmaker Ding Sheng, Jackie Chan and crew discuss the making of the film.  Scenes shot during production and featuring behind-the-film shots.
  • VFX Featurette – (3:50) A featurette about the making of the visual effects to make the film’s action scenes look authentic.
  • The Characters – (3:09)  A featurette about the various characters in the film and how unique they are.  Interviews with the cast.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer and International Trailer versions.

EXTRAS:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


On paper, “Railroad Tigers” sounds like a fascinating film.  A film starring father and son (Jackie Chan and son Jaycee), a film starring former EXO music artist Zitao Huang, a big budget war-era action film and for the most part, an action film starring action legend Jackie Chan, who reunites with filmmaker Ding Sheng.

For the most part, the film should be exciting and entertaining and with a lot of expectations being high for a Jackie Chan action film, unfortunately “Railroad Tigers” is not one of his best, nor one of his most memorable.

If anything, for me, it seems like a big budget film used to showcase father and son together and also showcase pop star Zitao Huang into films.

But should anyone be surprised?  You are not going to get the same Jackie Chan that one saw in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and even the 2000s.  He is a versatile actor that still manages to show us that he can still do action films but similar to other older action stars, may it be Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, etc., there is only so much you can expect Chan to do at age 63.

But even at 63, Chan still shows us that he can still do action and “Railroad Tigers” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to action.

But the pacing and the storyline itself is problematic.  Aside from watching a group of individuals fight against the Japanese army and literally go on a suicide mission to blow up a train to prevent the Japanese from using the trains to transport their army or supplies, the film doesn’t do a good job of utilizing characters outside of Jackie Chan all that well.

The film probably works in bringing together Jackie and his son Jaycee together on the big screen.  Considering that Jaycee Chan’s music and acting career could have been over after being busted for drug possession in 2014 and spent 148 days in detention.  Newspapers in China have been focused on the estranged relationship between the two but the film no doubt is a good sign of reconciliation and the industry giving Jaycee a second chance (which is typically rare).

And the surprise was seeing pop star Zitao Huang in an action film.  Also, being in the public eye for shocking fans by leaving the popular South Korean/Chinese Pop group, EXO, but having bounced back and showing that he can succeed as a music star in China and also as an actor.

So, in some ways, “Railroad Tigers” is like a film of second chances.  But despite the talent-filled roster in this film, it doesn’t make the storyline any better.  Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films.  And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best.

Overall, for those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

 

Sky on Fire (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Skyman Development. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sky on Fire

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Ringo Lam

Written by Ringo Lam

Music by Dave Klotz

Cinematography by Man Lung Choi

Edited by David M. Richardson


Starring:

Hsiao-chuan Chang as Jia

Daniel Wu as Chong Tin-Po

Simon Yam

Amber Kuo as Jane

Zhang Ruoyun as Ziwan

Leon Lai

Ka Tung Kam

Jingchu Zhang as Gao Yu

Fan Guangyao as Wing-cheung


In this driving, non-stop action thriller, the chief security officer at a top-secret medical facility finds himself caught in an explosive battle when a young thief and his accomplices steal a groundbreaking curative medicine. After discovering the true origins of the medicine, the officer must decide whom he can trust to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands and prevent an all-out war from bringing the city to its knees.

Famous for his dedication to realism and his use of practical effects, Ringo Lam is known as one of the most acclaimed action directors of all time. Now, teaming up with emerging superstar Daniel Wu (AMC s Into the Badlands), Lam s latest opus Sky on Fire promises to take the filmmaker s craft to a whole new level, with operatic gunfights and a twisting plot that will be immediately familiar and immensely satisfying to any fan of Hong Kong action cinema.


Filmmaker Ringo Lam is an action director known for martial art films such as “Full Contact”, “Twin Dragons”, “City on Fire”, “Full Alert” and Jean Claude Van Damme films “Maximum Risk” and “Replicant”.

Creating HK action films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Lam would explore comedy and darker storyline in the 2000s.  But with his latest action film “Sky on Fire”, Lam makes his return to the hard-hitting action type of films that he is best known for.

The film stars Daniel Wu (“New Police Story”, “One Night in Mongkok”, “Warcraft: The Beginning”),  Hsiao-chuan Chang (“The Laundryman”, “Prince of Tears”, “Girlfriend Boyfriend”), Amber Kuo (“Au revoir Taipei”, “Love”, “Keeper of Darkness”).

In the film we are introduced to several characters. Tingbo (portrayed by Daniel Wu) is a security guard who is mourning his wife’s death from cancer.   We are also introduced to a trucker named Jia (portrayed by Hisago-chuan Chang) who is trying to help his sick sister Jane (portrayed by Amber Kuo) who traveled to Kowloon in hopes for Jane to get experimental stem-cell cancer treatment.

We are then introduced to a character flashback at the company where Tingbo works and see Professor Lee dying in a fire while a his female counterpart, Ko Yu (portrayed by Zhang Yingchu) is devastated by Lee’s death.  We learn that Tingbo works for Tang (portrayed by Fan-kuang Yao), a man who cares about nothing but profit and wants to use Professor Lee’s research to make money from stem-cell to create a mega drug for big profits.

Tang hires rival security guard Wolf (portrayed by Li Haitao) to prevent Professor Lee’s son Ziwan (portrayed by Zhang Ruo Yun) who is seeking revenge against him for the death of his father.

But when Jia and Jane are refused for a meeting for stem-cell research, they steal a lab van with a scientist and Ziwan joins them on a ride.

And Tingbo, is he a man who will support his crooked boss or the people fighting against him?


VIDEO:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well. Frenetic action throughout the film, “Sky on Fire” has an action-driven lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sky on Fire” comes with no special features but a trailer.


I have enjoyed past Ringo Lam films in the past and while I am thrilled to see the filmmaker’s return for a modern action film, unfortunately this film tries to incorporate a several storylines that involve too many characters and the result, we have a confusing story that is further all over the place due to the film’s action-packed storyline.

I kind of liken the film to a summary film that we see from Asian TV dramas.  As Asian TV dramas will have several episodes, there is sometimes a summary episode which takes bits and pieces from each episode to make one episode to get people caught up.  In this case, “Sky on Fire” feels like we have bits and pieces of people’s lives that we don’t know why certain situations are happening.  This happens to frequently that you may find yourself confused by watching this film.

In some ways, I found the film an ode to older (not so popular) Hong Kong action films with plenty of action and sketchy character development.

Overall, Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

 

Operation Mekong (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Operation Mekong” is popcorn action film that probably cement Dante Lam as the Chinese counterpart for America’s Michael Bay when it comes to heavy hitting action, chase scenes and vehicle destruction.  Inspired by real events, “Operation Mekong” will satisfy viewers who want full on hardcore action and not a deep storyline.  A film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Bona Entertainment Companies. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Operation Mekong

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Directed by Dante Lam

Screenplay by Kang Ki Chu, Dante Lam, Siu Kwan Lau, Eric Lin, Wai Ching Tam

Produced by Jianxin Huang, Candy Leung

Co-Executive Producer: Alvin Chow

Associate Producer: Dong Yu

Music by Julian Chan, Henry Lai, Kwan Fai Lam

Cinematography by Yuen Man Fung

Edited byDavid M. Richardson

Art Direction: Kin-Wai Lee


Starring:

Zhang Hanyu as Gao Gang

Eddie Peng as Fang Xinwu

Feng Wenjuan as Guo Bign “Aphrodite”

Sun Chun as Yu Ping

Chen Baoguo as Minister of Public Security Jiang Haifen

Liu Xianda as Xie Wenfeng “Icarus”

Jonathan Wu Linkai as Kuai Yitong “Hermes”

Zhao Jin as Guo Xu “Poseidon”

Zhan Liguo as Fu Baowei as “Panoptes”

Shi Zhanjie as Jiang Xing “Ares”

Wu Xudong as Wild Bull Team Leader

Carl Ng as Pieere

Pawalit Mongkolpisit as Naw Khar

Vittaya Pansingram as Pshom

Ken Lo as Xing Deng

Ron Weaver as Puja


A band of elite narcotics officers are sent by the Chinese government to uncover the truth behind the ambush of two Chinese commercial vessels traveling down the Mekong River. When it s discovered the drugs seized from the ships had been planted by a notorious drug cartel, a multi-country joint task force is assembled to stop the criminals. The road to justice is, however, paved with dangerous and deadly obstacles.


In October 2011, Chinese were outraged by the news that two Chinese cargo ships were attacked by pirates on a stretch of the Mekong River in the dangers “Golden Triangle” region which borders Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand.  The region has been plagued with crime and is known for an area run by drug smugglers.

All of the 13 crew members on the two ships were killed and dumped onto the river and was the deadliest attack on Chinese nationals abroad in modern times.

While Thai river police in the Chiang Rai province recovered the ships after a gunfight, inside they found 900,000 amphetamine pills worth $3 million.  Planted by drug dealers and police believed the mastermind was Naw Kham, an alleged drug lord and pirate in the Golden Triangle.  In addition, Thailand authorities also implicated nine Thai soldiers of their elite anti-narcotics army unit.

In 2016, a film inspired by the real events called “Operation Mekong” was released in theaters.  The film was directed by Dante Lam (“The Viral Factor”, “The Stool Pigeon”, “That Demon Within”, “Unbeatable”) and the screenplay was written by Lam, Siu Kwan Lau, Eric Lin and Wai Ching Tam.

The film would star Zhang Hanyu (“Sorry Baby”, “A World Without Thieves”, “Big Shot’s Funeral”), Eddie Peng (“Close to You”, “Hear Me”, “Love You You”, “Taichi 0”, “Taichi Hero”) and more.

In the film, a Chinese fishing boat is raided and the Thai government claims that they seized 900,000 amphetamine pills off the Chinese boat that left 13 Chinese fishermen dead.

Chinese narcotics officer Captain Gao Gang (portrayed by Zhang Hanyu) finds evidence from the ship and the dead/bound Chinese fishermen that disputes the Thai government’s findings.

Meanwhile as the news breaks out after the bound bodies of the dead Chinese fishermen started to surface, it’s become a blow for the druglord. And when one of the people involved tries to escape, a gang starts pursuing including one man (who happens to be undercover operative Fang Xinwu, portrayed by Eddie Peng).

After getting the man to talk, it is revealed that the person who hired him was Yan Taung Pha (who works for Naw Khar, portrayed by Pawarith Monkolpisit) and he was sent to plant the amphetamine pills onboard the ship.

As China tried to work out a deal with Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to jointly patrol the river, there was no resolution.

This leads to China to send an elite task force from Captain Gao Gang to go to Burma and capture Naw Khar and protect Chinese citiizens in the Mekong river.  Forcing the other countries governments to take action.


VIDEO:

“Operation Mekong” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Operation Mekong” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well.  Frenetic action throughout the film, “Operation Mekong” has an action-driven lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Operation Mekong” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making Of – Featuring six three-minute making-of featurettes.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer version.

EXTRAS:

“Operation Mekong” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


The “Mekong River Massacre” was no doubt one of the tragic moments in Chinese history that awakened the country to the piracy problems in the Mekong River.  Important for trade but dangerous and overran by drug dealers, it would be an eye opener for countries to join forces in anti-drug cooperation efforts and jointly patrol the river.

With “Operation Mekong”, the film is loosely based on the true story in which there was no cooperation and so the Chinese government had to take matters under their own hands by sending a Chinese task force to bring down drug cartels and do whatever is necessary to capture the drug kingpin who was responsible for the deaths of 13 Chinese fisherman.

The film manages to show users the problem of drugs in these countries and how it’s permeating into China.  But also shots of maimed peasants who had an arm or both arms hacked off for refusing to work the drug harvest and also seeing real footage of the child soldier armies as children are seen holding guns and smoking cigarettes.

What begins as an intriguing story suddenly becomes a popcorn action film with intense chase scenes, terrorism and torture.

As the Chinese taskforce are busy trying to capture the drug kingpin who killed the Chinese fisherman, the team have their own troubles trying to protect informants that the drug cartels have sent their own to kill.

To Dante Lam’s credit along with cinematographer Yuen Man Fung and editor David M. Richardson, the action sequences are well-done.  It’s non-stop action that many hardcore action fans will appreciate, especially those who would rather see a task force go into these countries and kick arse and less of a deep story about the victims or the politics.  If anything, the Chinese government made a decision and they go into these countries to halt drug deals in order to force the hand of other countries leaders to take action (as most of these small countries will not dare to cross China).

The film does try to have some dramatic elements, especially when it comes to Fang Xinwu’s background and why he wants revenge against the drug dealers.  But if anything, the action is what dominates the overall storyline and the only two characters that viewers may find themselves sympathizing the most is Captain Gao Gang and his K-9, Bingo.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is fantastic as close-ups show great detail.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the film’s lossless soundtrack, with the large amount of action sequences, the lossless soundtrack utilizes the surround channels very well and dialogue and music are crystal clear.  And you do get a few short “making of” special-features.

Overall, “Operation Mekong” is popcorn action film that probably cement Dante Lam as the Chinese counterpart for America’s Michael Bay when it comes to heavy hitting action, chase scenes and vehicle destruction.  Inspired by real events, “Operation Mekong” will satisfy viewers who want full on hardcore action and not a deep storyline.  A film worth checking out!

 

The Eagle Huntress (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Eagle Huntress, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Eagle Huntress

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2017


Directed by Otto Bell

Produced by Otto Bell, Sharon Chang, Stacy Reiss

Executive Producer: Jeremy Chilnick, Dan Cogan, Barbara Dobkin, Susan MacLaury, Daisy Ridley, Regina Kulik Scully, Marc H. Simon, Morgan Spurlock

Music by Jeff Peters

Cinematography by Simon Niblett

Edited by Pierre Takal


Starring:

Narrated by Daisy Ridley

Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Rys Nurgaiv


THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography every captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.


In 2016, filmmaker Otto Bell would film a Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary titled “The Eagle Huntress”.

Executive-produced by documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Zie Me”, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”) and Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Scrawl”, “Lifesaver”), who also narrates the film.

And now the documentary will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in February 2017.

“The Eagle Huntress” revolves around Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia and is from a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai mountains and during the winter, they live in town.

For seven generations, her family have been eagle hunters and she wants to become one.

While Aisholpan studies hard as she dreams of becoming a doctor but also has learned from her father Nurgaiv, an eagle hunter/trainer, who has won a few Golden Eagle competitions.  She was taught by her father to care for an eagle and train them and dreams of competing in the major competition, but the competition is dominated by male eagle hunters who believe in a males-only tradition.

But Nurgaiv has always believed that males and females are equal and that Aisholpan can compete.

So, one day, Aisholpan with her father climb up a mountain and she is able to capture and train her own eaglet.

But what happens when Aisholpan enters the annual Golden Eagle Festival?


VIDEO:

“The Eagle Huntress” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part vibrant and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The documentary looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Eagle Huntress” is presented in Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English audio description track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with surround channels for natural ambiance (especially with the eagle or birds squawking or chirping in the background).

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Eagle Huntress” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Otto Bell.
  • Capturing the Eagle Huntress – (10:26) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Eagle Huntress”.
  • Theatrical Trailer

What started with a photograph from a photographer, would lead filmmaker Otto Bell to go to western Mongolia to create a film in the least populated rural region of the country.

Observing families and how eagles were living with the humans and sure enough, when Otto Bell and his crew proposed to make a film about 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the daughter of an eagle hunter/trainer, from her catching an eagle to her competing in the annual Golden Eagle Festival.

But also to learn about the challenges that Aisholpan experienced because she was female competing in a competition that was primarily male-dominated.  And no doubt, a gender-breaking opportunity and showing that a female can compete along with the males.

With no money, no budget and shooting on a shoestring budget, with only a few crew (which included using GoPro cameras), the crew were able to get aerial shots with a drone and utilize a RED EPIC camera and lightweight crane to accomplish the film.

The film no doubt was able to be boosted by narration by actress Daisy Ridley but the storyline of “The Eagle Huntress” is made enjoyable with the true-to-life filming of the daily life of young Aisholpan but also the cinematography of Simon Niblett was able to capture the beauty but also showing us the risk that Aisholpan had to accomplish in hunting her first eagle but eventually training it for competition.

“The Eagle Huntress” documentary that is no doubt amazing for the accomplishment of a 13-year-old girl, who many considered not suitable to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival competition but what happens after and to hear the male competitors discuss her win, was no surprise.

While the documentary is inspirational, I was also impressed by what the film crew with hardly any budget was able to accomplish in getting this film made.  And with modern technology, director Otto Bell and cinematographer Simon Niblett were able to document a day in the life of a teenager and a region that many people are not familiar with.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features includes an insightful audio commentary but also a featurette showing the challenges of filming this documentary on a shoestring budget.

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

 

The Handmaiden (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CJ E&M  Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Handmaiden

FILM YEAR: 2015

DURATION: 145 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: January 24, 2017


Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters

Directed by Chan-wook Park

Screenplay by Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park

Produced by Jose Ibanez, Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin

Executive Producer: Jon Kilik, Serge Lobo, Robert S. Wilson

Edited by Affonso Goncalves, Adam Kurnitz


Starring:

Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko

Tae-ri Kim as Sook-Hee

Jung-woo Ha as Count Funiwara

Jin-woong Jo as Uncle Kouzuki

Hae-suk Kim as Miss Sasaki

So-ri Moon as Aunt of Lady Hideko


From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.


In 2002, Sarah Waters wrote the historic crime novel “The Fingersmith”.

Over a decade later, a South Korean erotic psychological thriller inspired by “The Fingersmith” titled “The Handmaiden” and directed by Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”, “Lady Vengeance”, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”) and co-written by Park and Seo-kyeong Jeong (“I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK”, “Thirst”, “Lady Vengeance”).

The film stars Min-hee Kim (“Right Now, Wrong Then”, “No Tears for the Dead”, “Helpless”), Tae-ri Kim (“Moon-young”, “Who Is It?”), Jung-woo Ha (“Chaser”, “The Berlin File”, “The Yellow Sea”), Jin-woong Jo (“The Admiral”, “Assassination”, “Nameless Gangster”), So-ri Moon (“Oasis”, “A Good Lawyer’s Wife”, “Peppermint Candy”) and Hae-suk Kim (“Thirst”, “The Throne”, The Thieves”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and  now will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Handmaiden” is told in three parts and is set during the Japanese occupation in Korea.

We are introduced to Sook-Hee (portrayed by Tae-ri Kim), a thief who is from a family of con artists and Count Fujiwara (portrayed by Jung-woo Ha), also a thief.  Both plan to steal from Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (portrayed by Min-hee Kim), as Sook-Hee was hired to become Lady Hideko’s new maid.  Count Fujiwara’s plan is to marry Lady Hideko but needs Sook-Hee’s help to make it happen and also to find a way to have Lady Hideko committed to an asylum.

We also learn of how Lady Hideko is controlled by her authoritarian Uncle Kouzuki (portrayed by Jin-woong Jo), who is into erotica and uses fear and torture to have control of Lady Hideko, scaring her by reminding that she should not forget the basement.

At first, Sook-Hee was sticking to her plan of getting close and doing her job around Lady Hideko but the more they spend time with each other, both women become attracted towards each other and eventually, become passionate towards each other.

As Sook-Hee’s job is to push Lady Hideko to marry Count Fujiwara, she becomes more jealous and is more reluctant to follow through with the plan.

As Lady Hideko wants to know if she should go through with the marriage, Sook-Hee tells her that she should but it upsets Lady Hideko.

Meanwhile, both Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko are married and Count Fujiwara becomes wealthy.  But as the three travel to the asylum, to Sook-Hee’s shock, they committed her, not Lady Hideko to the asylum.

But everything is not as it seems…


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Handmaiden” is presented in 2:38:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good (as good as it can get on DVD) and I was quite shocked that the film was not available on Blu-ray.  For the most part, cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is fantastic!  Audio is primarily dialogue-driven but surround channels capture the ambiance of the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Handmaiden” comes with no special features.


As I watched “The Handmaiden”, I felt that this sexually-charged erotic thriller gives every viewer the opportunity to see filmmaker Chan-wook Park work his magic in another fantastic film!

The film, which is broken into three parts, no doubt will surprise viewers but also entertain them by its wonderful screenplay but also the cinematography and directorial excellence of Chan-wook Park.

From storyline to cinematography, everything from how everything is orchestrated, planned and written made “The Handmaiden” one of the top films I have watched for 2017.

The acting by Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim and having to perform sex scenes together and make it seem realistic and erotic, definitely will keep viewers on their toes.

Multiple twists, a lot of backstabbing but the story was intelligently written and each scene was well-done.

The first part of the film sets you up for a shocking betrayal, but the next part will shock you because you are surprised about character motivations and how things were thoroughly planned.  Leading to a final part that will shock you but at the same time, after it’s all done, realizing you just watched an amazing film!

As for the DVD, it’s a barebones DVD release unfortunately.  But I hope that doesn’t sway people because it’s a wonderful film.

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

 

Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1” may not be the film that die-hard fans have hoped for.  But for those who have seen many of their favorite comic book stores receive live-action adaptations, deviation from the original source is expected.  The most you can hope is that key elements from Hajime Isayama’s popular manga series is incorporated into the film.  And for the most part, the first part of the film is entertaining and action-packed and while not a great film, it’s a decent popcorn action film.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and France

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Based on the manga by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Shinji Higuchi

Screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Haruma Miura as Eren

Kiko Mizuhara as Mikasa

Kanata Hongo as Armin

Satomi Ishihara as Hange

Nanami Sakuraba as Sasha

Takahiro Miura as Jean

Hiroki Hasegawa as Shikishima

Ayame Misaki as Hiana

Pierre Taki as Souda

Jun Kunimura as Kubal

Shu Watanabe as Fukushi

Satoru Matsuo as Sannagi

Rina Takeda as Lil


When the Titans first attacked, life for mankind was forever changed. Fearing the massive man-eating humanoids, survivors constructed three enormous walls for protection. From that point on, humanity lived safely behind the walls for the time being. A century later, life is peaceful.

Eren and his friends live inside the walls, yearning to explore beyond the borders they’ve always known. But the opportunity comes sooner than expected when a Colossal Titan appears above the wall. With a single kick the barricade is pierced, allowing a swarm of titans to pour in and devour their newly exposed prey. Witnessing the devastation, Eren and his friends vow to destroy the man-eating terrors. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction.


Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and has spawned a popular manga and anime series, three light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs.

In 2015, a live-action film titled “Attack on Titan: The Movie” directed by Shinji Higuchi with a screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama was released in theaters.

The film revolves around Eren Yeager, his foster sister Mikasa Ackerman and their childhood friend Armin Arlert.  As they stand around a undetonated missile and see a picture of the ocean, which Mikasa is fascinated with.

Eren wants to show her how the ocean looks like, so the three sneak past a Garrison outpost and climb towards the base of the wall.  Because it’s windy, Eren gives Mikasa his scarf.

The three live in Shinganshina and are protected with huge walls to protect them from huge titans that killed many people over a hundred years ago.  But now, the surviving humans live in peace within the walls.

But no one has seen a titan and even Eren doesn’t believe they exist.  That is until the three fel the ground shake and a Colossal Titan breaches the wall and let other giant humanoid beings enter the village.  Many lost their families and friends and for Eren, he not only lost his mother, he was separated from Mikasa and think she may have died.

Two years later, we find out that Eren and Armin are now scouts for the military and Eren wants to make sure that he gets his revenge on the titans that killed his mother and Mikasa.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.  And for the most part, CG for the Colossal Titan was good for the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.   While I am more biased towards the Japanese soundtrack, both soundtracks are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Japanese Trailers – Featuring two trailer versions.
  • U.S. Trailer – Featuring the U.S. theatrical trailer version.

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an UltraViolet code.


Having read the manga series and watched anime version of “Attack on Titan”, knowing how most adaptations of manga series for live action are often different, I expected deviation from the manga/anime storyline.

Afterall, I’ve seen it happen also in the United States with superhero films and you just aren’t going to get so much of what is featured in several manga volumes in terms of storyline into one film.  So, I expected the deviation and I expected many fans to get upset by the live-action adaptation.

I did feel that filmmaker Shinji Higuchi had no doubt take on a project that would be scrutinized, I also felt that Higuchi, with his work on the anime series “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water” and the films “Japan Sinks”, “Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess” and “The Floating Castle” had more than enough experience to take on the film, but it would rely on screenwriters Yusuke Watanabe (who worked on the live film adaptations for “Gantz” and “20th Century Boys” films) and Tomohiro Machiyama to bring Hajime Isayama’s popular story to life.

Considering the manga was still ongoing, with two films to write, there was bound to be deviation from the manga series.

But how one felt about the film is subjective.  And because so many people were posting on social media, bashing the film, I didn’t have high expectations and was expecting the worse.

But having watched the film, it’s not terrible, it does deviate from the manga/anime series but it manages to take key events from Hajime Isayama’s story and try to incorporate what it can into a 98-minute film.

Eren is no doubt the focal point in the live-action film and while the friendship between he and Mikasa and Armin are showcased in the film, Eren’s relationship with Mikasa is not as signficant as fans of the manga/anime series would have hoped.

The key points of motivation for Eren wanting to serve in the military and also the political and economic instability was also not prominent in the film.  So, the scout missions and the role of the military prior to Eren joining the military is not as prominent.

So, key elements were stripped away.  Character interactions are changed and so, the adaptation is different.  But again, a lot of live film adaptations deviate from their original source, so I gave Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama the benefit of the doubt.  And in the end, I was expecting a popcorn action film that would entertain me for the 98-minutes.

And that’s what I got, a 98-minute film with a lot of action and surprising situations that left me wanting to watch the second film and see how they would complete the storyline.

Am I disappointed about how the film is different from the manga series?  It’s like asking a person if they are disappointed with how “X-Men”, “The Avengers”, “Fantastic Four”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Spider-Man” films, to other superhero related live-action film adaptations that have been made?

I think by now, many of us can expect deviation from the original source, so with that I’m not disappointed.  But what about how the film is executed?  Having read over a dozen graphic novels, I can’t fathom how difficult it was for Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama but I have seen Watanabe do it with “Gantz”, “20th Century Boys” and also “Gatchman”.  It’s not perfect, but he managed to incorporate enough key elements from the original source but there is way too much story and many characters to fit into one film.  So, I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and with what Shinji Higuchi had to work with, he worked with the screenplay he was given and the budget that he had.

Sure, I know I am lenient more than others who have disliked the film but as a popcorn action film and a live-adaptation of a manga series, it was not the worse I have ever seen, nor was it the great adaptation. To me, it was a popcorn live-action film, nothing more and nothing less.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for the most part is solid and voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks were well-done.  Lossless audio was well-utilized for the major action sequences and as for special features, all you get is the Japanese and U.S. trailers.

Overall, “Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1” may not be the film that die-hard fans have hoped for.  But for those who have seen many of their favorite comic book stores receive live-action adaptations, deviation from the original source is expected.  The most you can hope is that key elements from Hajime Isayama’s popular manga series is incorporated into the film.  And for the most part, the first part of the film is entertaining and action-packed and while not a great film, it’s a decent popcorn action film.

 

Train to Busan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & REDPETER FILM. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Train to Busan

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (16:9), Korean and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Screenplay by Sang-ho Yeon

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Yoo Gong as Seok Woo

Soo-an Kim as Soo-an

Yu-mi Jung as Sung Geyong

Dong-seok Ma as Sang Hwa

Woo-sik Choi as Young Gook

Sohee as Jin-hee

Eui-sung Kim as Yong-Suk

Gwi-hwa Choi as Homeless Man


TRAIN TO BUSAN is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to the Safe Zone…which may or may not still be there.


From filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon, known for directing the animated films “The King of Pigs”, “The Fake” and the zombie infestation animated film “Seoul Station”.

In 2016, the live action zombie apocalypse horror film “Train to Busan” was written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon and stars Yoo Gong (“Silenced”, “The Age of Shadows”), Soo-an Kim (“Gyeongju”, “Mad Sad Bad”), Yu-mi Jung (“Our Sunhi”, “In Another Country”, “Silenced”), Dong-seok Ma (“The Good, The Bad the Weird”, “Nameless Gangster”, “One on One”), Sohee (“Hellcats”), Eui-sung Kim (“Hill of Freedom”, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon”, “Architecture 101”) and Woo-sik Choi (“Set Me Free”, “Big Match”, “Secretly, Greatly”).

Th film was premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and set a record for the film being viewed with over 10 million theatergoers.  Sang-ho Yeon’s animated film “Seoul Station” was released a month after “Train to Busan” and serves as the animated prequel to the film.

And now “Train to Busan” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well go USA Entertainment.

The film revolves around Seok-woo (portrayed by Yoo Gong), a divorced hedge fund manager who is always working and never there for his young daughter, Soo-an (portrayed by Soo-an Kim).  He buys her a Nintendo Wii, but doesn’t realize he bought that gift for her already.

All she wanted is to go to Busan, so she can see her mother.  And each time her father promises, unfortunately his work gets in the way.

But Seok-woo decides to grant his daughter her wish and takes her on the train to Busan.  But right when they are about to leave, a sickly woman enters the train right before it departs.

Also aboard the train is Sang-hwa (portayed by Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (portrayed by Jung Yu-mi), a high school baseball team which includes Young Gook (portrayed by Woo-sik Choi) and the girl that likes him, Sohee (portrayed by Jin-hee), a selfish businessman named Yong-suk and others.

When a train attendant sees the sickly woman and goes to help her, it is revealed that the woman is infected and turns into a zombie.  She bites the attendant and this triggers a zombie train reaction as people that are bitten and infected turn into zombies and now the train becomes a hub of zombie activity and survivors try to survive on the train to Busan.  But will they ever get to Busan?


VIDEO:

“Train to Busan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes inside the train are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Train to Busan” is presented in Korean and English dub 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal clear dialogue and a lot of intense moments of chaos, from fights with the zombie, screaming and crying as ambiance but there are major action sequences with train derailments and more.  The lossless soundtrack is very good for this film.

I also watched the film with its English dub and I have to say, that although I do not watch Asian cinema with English dub tracks, I wanted to see how the voice acting was and if anything improved with English dubbing for Asian cinema and sure enough, it’s one of the better English dubs I’ve listened to and well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Train to Busan” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (13:01) Featuring the Making of “Train to Busan”
  • That’s a Wrap – (4:34) Final scene and interviews with the director and cast.
  • Trailer – “Train to Busan” theatrical trailer

EXTRAS:

“Train to Busan” comes with a slipcover.


I have watched a fair share of zombie apocalypse horror films and you often run into films that feature a protagonist going in hero mode taking on the zombies or pretty much trying to figure out which survivors will make it to the end of the film.

“Train to Busan” is the latter, but instead of being banal like any other zombie film, this film adds an emotional component as the protagonist is a workaholic father who is never there for his daughter, but for her birthday, promises to take her to see her mother in Busan.

And as the father and daughter take the train, all hell breaks loose when an infected woman sneaks aboard and bites the train attendant, who then becomes infect and not long after, the whole train becomes infected with zombies and survivors try to stay alive and outwit the zombies, if at all possible.

You have Yoo Gong in the starring role as Seok Woo, the workaholic father and fund manager who is trying to be there for his daughter but never could make it to any of her classroom festivities or birthday due to his work.  So, for his daughter’s birthday wish of wanting to see her mother, at least he could do that for her and accompany her to Busan by train.

The father and daughter chemistry between Yoo Gong and young actress Soo-an Kim is well-done but most importantly, far too often, you see a young actress who can deliver the most emotional, devastating scenes and Soo-an Kim is a young girl who delivers with pure emotion.

Also, starring in the film is Dong-seok Ma as the big and bulky Sang Hwa.  He may come off abrasive but he is a loving husband to his pregnant wife Sung Geyong (portrayed by Yu-mi Jung).

Sang Hwa is the most athletic of the men in the film and with his hulking presence and sometimes rude and other times humorous, he becomes a character that many want to root for.

But of course, you have your characters who are true jerks and with an apocalyptic horror film, you always have to have the one jerk who cares about no one but themselves and that is Yong-Suk (portrayed by Eui-sung Kim).

Needless to say, there are some decisions made by certain characters that may infuriate the viewer or make them scratch their head of why the character did what they did but every zombie apocalypse storyline always has to have a jerk and bad decision making people in the mix.

But I really enjoyed “Train to Busan” as the film is no doubt one of the best zombie apocalypse films I have watched from Asian cinema. And I have to say that as a zombie film period, it’s full of adrenaline, surprises and you really are captivated by the film and keeping you on the edge of your seat of which person or people survive and make it to the end of the film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant, close-ups are also well-done with great clarity.  Lossless audio is also very good and comes with both a Korean and English lossless track.  And you get two short special features as well.

Overall, the Korean film “Train to Busan” may be one of the better zombie apocalypse horror films ever made in Asian cinema.  Pulse-pounding action, well-written storyline and interesting characters, Sang-ho Yeon’s “Train to Busan” is highly recommended!

 

Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Yinxi Song’s “Amnesia” will entertain those wanting a popcorn action film.  But having reviewed martial arts action films for over 20-years, “Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia” is no doubt one of the most inconsistent, badly written martial arts action film that I have ever watched.

Image courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: January 3, 2017


Directed by Yinxi Song

Written by Xiaoshuai Hu and Yinxi Song

Produced by Yinxi Song, Zhang Shijia

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Jianguo Xu, Yinxi Song

Music by Varqa Buehrer, Tiannan Cai, Huazhang Dai, Zhao Zhao


Starring:

Wang Haixiang (Ocean) as Li Ziwei

Ken Lo

Xingtong Yao as Tong Xin

Ronguang Yu

Lanxin Zhang


Martial-arts legend Jackie Chan presents this pulse-pounding update to his own classic thriller.


In 1998, Jackie Chan co-directed (with Bennie Chan) and starred in the film “Who Am I?” which featured Chan playing an agent who suffers from short-term memory loss and travels the world.

Fast forward 17-years later and Jackie Chan is the executive producer of “Amnesia”, a vehicle to promote his protege and friends in a film that is not a remake or reboot of “Who Am I?”.  And what better to launch their careers than attach a legends name to the project and get people excited of what may be a remake, reboot or update of his 1998 film.

With “Amnesia”, while the film does have Jackie Chan’s name attached to it as an Executive Producer, what we have is an action film co-written and directed by Yinxi Song and a vehicle for new actor Ocean Wang.

And now the film is available on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

“Amnesia” begins with bike courier (but also street racer and also one who likes to take part in parkour) Li Ziwei (portrayed by Ocean Wang) delivering a package.

Unfortunately, he notices something awry and realizes that the two people he meets are involved in a murder scene and want the package that Li Ziwei is delivering.

But during the pursuit, while Ziwei manages to escape, he hits his head on the bridge and tumbles and falls into a river.

Now Li Ziwei is suffering from prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder known as “face blindness” in which one can’t recognize faces including one’s own due to damage to the brain.

As Li Ziwei awakes from being hospitalized, he doesn’t know where he is or his surroundings abut receives a mysterious phone call about his condition and that he must try to protect the package that he has in his position.  He is also reminded of his car racing skills, his parkour and martial arts skills but also the death of his girlfriend.  But also that he is now a wanted man as the death (of the person who was supposed to receive the package) has been attributed to him and now he is a wanted man.

Meanwhile, the murderers who are after the package have discovered Li Ziwei’s identity and are now after him.

As Li Ziwei tries to avoid being captured by the murderers, he is joined by a sassy hitchiker named Tong Xin (portrayed by Xingtong Yao) and he tries to find out why people want the package but also to clear his name.


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Amnesia” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven. Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Amnesia” comes with no special features.


Quite often in sports, you often see in sports news discussing who will be the next legend.

And for martial arts films, there is always discussion of who will be the next Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc.

And while the last 15-years have gave us a glimpse of who may be the next action star, but a lot of them have not become action stars but just film stars.

And when it comes to action films, one way of getting attention is by attaching your name to a project and for martial arts legendary actor Jackie Chan, attaching your name to a film with a title that may make people think it’s an update, remake or reboot of a past film will surely receive hype.

In 2015, Yinxi Song wrote and directed “Amnesia” and as the film would be his introduction as writer and director, young actor Ocean Wang would get a chance to show that he can be the next martial arts star.

Unfortunately, “Amnesia” is a film that would have benefited if there was no relation to Jackie Chan’s 1998 film “Who Am I?” but when it comes to financing a martial arts film, you need all the help you can get it and what best than to utilize Jackie Chan’s name to make an action film.

The problem is, “Amnesia” has nothing to do with actual amnesia like the 1998 film and while an entertaining martial arts popcorn action film, the film’s plot is quite weak.

The film reminds me of a martial arts version of David Koepp’s 2012 action-thriller, “Premium Rush”.  A film about a bicycle messenger who is delivering a package and now is wanted and pursued by a corrupt police officer.

“Amnesia” revolves around a bike courier being pursued by a triad with two murderers who are after a package that the courier, Li Ziwei, has in his possession.

But when the bike courier has brain damage due to hitting his head on a bridge, he now suffers from prospagnosia and is unable to recognize any faces, including his own.

All he knows is through a mysterious call, traces of his past, fragments of memories and is now joined by a sassy hitchhiker that he picks up and realizes there are people out to kill him and police think he’s a criminal.

All Li Ziwei can do is run and fight.

And of course, no matter how far he travels to escape the gang, they always know where he is headed.

While if the film focused on action, it’s muddled due to his fragmented memories of a girlfriend that has died. And he starts thinking the girl he picked up is his girlfriend and she tends to go along with it as she starts to have feelings for him.

The problem with the film is that it tries to teeter with two stories of a man who is wanted and a man who can’t escape the guilt of the past and his girlfriend that died.

To make things worse, we are given an ending that cheats viewers out of any true ending and felt it was put together in haste and that the hour that one has been watching, has been thrown out of the window by giving a finale that really seems it came from another script.

To put it simply, this is one of the worse screenplays that I have seen when it comes to continuity.  How the film is resolved was poorly done and how the film deals with the two murderers that we see pursuing Li Ziwei throughout the film is really stupid.  If they wanted to make up for this monstrosity of a script, they could have explained it with Li Ziwei waking up from his coma or sleep and saying “that was a weird dream”.

The film looks and sounds as good as it can get on DVD and it’s a barebones release, so there are no special features.

Again, just because Jackie Chan’s name is on the title and he is the executive producer should not come into watching this film and expecting a Jackie Chan martial arts film.  Nor does it have anything to do with his 1998 film “Who Am I?”.

Overall, Yinxi Song’s “Amnesia” will entertain those wanting a popcorn action film.  But having reviewed martial arts action films for over 20-years, “Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia” is no doubt one of the most inconsistent, badly written martial arts action film that I have ever watched.

 

The Wailing (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade.  There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying.  And I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wailing

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 157 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment/20th Century Fox

RATED: NR

Release Date: October 4, 2016


Directed by Hong-jin Na

Written by Hong-jin Na

Produced by John Penotti

Cinematography by  Kyung-pyo hong


Starring:

Do-Won Kwak as Jon-Goo

Jun Kunimura as The Stranger

Woo-hee Chun as Moo-Myeong

Jung-min Hwang as Il-Gwang

Kim Hwan-hee as Hyo-jin


In this unbelievably tense supernatural thriller, a foreigner s mysterious appearance in a quiet, rural village causes suspicion among the locals – suspicion which quickly turns to hysteria as the townspeople begin killing each other in brutal outbursts for seemingly no reason. As the investigating officer watches his daughter fall under the same savage spell, he agrees to consult a shaman for answers – unknowingly escalating the situation into something far more dangerous.

Over six years in the making, director Na Hong-jin s meticulously crafted follow-up to the globally acclaimed THE YELLOW SEA and THE CHASER (his third to premiere at the Festival de Cannes) smashed box office records upon its debut in South Korea, where fans are already making return viewings to catch new clues and debate what s sure to be the most talked-about ending of 2016.


From award-winning filmmaker/writer Hong-jin Na (“The Chaser”, “The Yellow Sea”) comes his latest horror thriller film “Goksung” (“The Wailing”).

The film stars Do-won Kwak (“The Man from Nowhere”, “A Company Man”, “The Berlin File”, “Tazza: The Hidden Card”), Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill” films, “Audition”), Jung-min Hwang (“New World”, “Ode to My Father”, “Veteran”) and Woo-he Chun (“Mother”, “Vampire Idol”, “Han Gong-ju”).

The film has received critical acclaim internationally and now “The Wailing” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins with a shot of a little village (in Korean is translated to “Goksung” and the title of the film) bu the lake up in the mountains of South Korea.  We see an older Japan man fishing by the river.

We are introduced to police officer Jong-goo (portrayed by Do-won Kwak) who is called early in the morning of a homicide.  Every morning, his mother, wife and child, Hyo-jin (portrayed by Kim Hwan-hee) are often trying to make sure Jong-goo eats well and is there for his family.

When Jong-goo arrives, he sees a family that is bludgeoned and a man that is handcuffed looking terrible with his eyes glowing red.  When Jong-goo is disgusted by the sight, he sees a Japanese man looking from the distance.

Not long after, the police are called out into area again and this time they discover a husband and wife who look like they are burned and no longer human and their home burned down.  And Jong-goo and other police officers are attacked. As Jong-goo tries to balance the time with his family, especially his daughter but he is spooked by what is happening in the area.

Jong-goo is told by his partner about the story he heard from villagers about a man who discovered a naked man hovering over bodies and eating them.  They then see a woman standing outside of their police building scaring both officers.  When they go out to look, she’s gone.

Another incident happens with the woman (who’s home being burned down) is found hanging from a tree.

As Jong-goo and a few officers check things out, Jong-goo watches over the burned building and discovers a woman in white named Moo-myeong (portrayed by Chun Woo-hee, the name translates to “no name” in Korean).  She tells him to follow her to the burned building and tells him that the Japanese stranger is involved with the deaths.  She tells him to be careful and when he calls his superiors that he found a witness, the woman is gone and he discovers the Japanese man going after him.  Once again, a nightmare that Jong-goo is having.

When Jong-goo talks to another officer about investigating the Japanese man, a Japanese-speaking priest and translator arrives and they all investigate the stranger’s home int he mountain.  While, Jong-goo and the priest try to fight off an angry dog on the premises, the police officer discovers photos of everyone in the village, including Jong-goo and his family and finds Jong-goo’s daughters shoe.

Jong-goo’s family has realized that Hyo-jin is no longer behaving like she usually does, she has become foul-mouthed and talks about killing them.

When Jong-goo confronts his family, his fear is confirmed that she may be possessed.  His mother recommends bringing a shaman, meanwhile, Jong-goo feels he must confront the mysterious Japanese man.

Will Hyo-jin be returned to normal?  Will Jong-goo stop the murders and deaths happening in the small village?


VIDEO:

“The Wailing” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural. Even the mutated humans featured wonderful make-up effects and overall atmosphere to make the film quite chilling.

Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wailing” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film, while primarily dialogue-driven, manages to use sound, environment ambiance to create a chilling, menacing feel throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wailing” comes with the following special features:

  • The Beginning of the Wailing – (1:50) A short featurette of why director Na Hong-Jin created “The Wailing”.
  • Making Of – (4:55) Featuring the cast and crew discussing the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Wailing”.

Far often, horror films are films that are created to scare the hell out of an audience and then there are those that try to incorporate humor and try to balance a horror film with what one expects from banal slashers.

Once in awhile, you come across a horror film that is actually quite deep and a lot of thought went into the film storyline and the development of its characters.

Award-winning filmmaker Na Hong-jin is one of those filmmakers that continually makes horror films that make you think, one that makes you want to watch it multiple times for better comprehension.

And “The Wailing” is a very deep horror film, enjoyable, terrifying and yet one can be satisfied that they watched a rare and impressive horror film.

The film starts out lighthearted, as police officer Jong-goo, could be seen as a goof ball.  Tough at home with his family, kindhearted father always there for his daughter but as a police officer, he’s not brave until he is pushed to the limit when his daughter is possessed and Jong-goo is forced to defend his family.

While horror films in Asia and stories about supernatural or evil forces residing in the mountainous areas, small villages and villagers being possessed are commonplace, what makes “The Wailing” so interesting is how it has Christian overtones, but yet a film’s storyline not really promoting Christianity.

The main character, officer Jong-goo encounters a woman with no-name (Moo-Myeong) who continually warns him.

Dressed in white, seen throwing stones towards Jong-goo which may be inspired by the biblical reference (John 8:7) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

If Moo-Myeong is a biblical reference similar to an angel, the Japanese man is reference to being a demon.  A man who takes the souls of villagers, but is he a biblical reference to satan? Or is this a subtle reference to how Koreans have felt about Japan because of their bitter history involving Japanese occupation?

And there are other situations especially surrounding other characters which many have posted their theories online. May it be biblical undertones or an even deeper message than filmmaker Na Hong-jin was trying to convey.

Needless to say, the film gives viewers a lot to think about after watching the film.

To see how this film gently builds to a chilling transition is very interesting and in no way, was it even possible to predict this film.  Where many horror films are predictable, “The Wailing” bucks the trend of being banal and being a film that wants to scare you,but also wants to be a film that makes you think.  It’s a deep horror film and those are words I rarely have used for a horror film review.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and while the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there are moments of using screams, using thunder, using a shaman’s dance routines to really make the atmosphere quite dark and menacing.  The Blu-ray release features a few special features such as “The Beginning of Wailing” and a making of featurette.

Overall, Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade.  There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying.  And I highly recommend it!

 

Sherpa (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014. “Sherpa” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Felix Media Ply Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Sherpa

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 11, 2016


Directed by Jennifer Peedom

Written by Jennifer Peedom

Produced by Bridget Ikin, John Smithson

Executive Producer: John Maynard, David Griffin, David Gross

Music by Antony Partos

Cinematography by Renan Ozturk, Hugh Miller, Ken Sauls

Edited by Christian Gazal


Every year, Western mountain climbers make news ascending Mount Everest. But the compelling stories of the Sherpas, the Nepalese guides who risk their lives to provide for their families, have gone untold — until now. SHERPA chronicles a fateful 2014 expedition and the tragic avalanche that spurred the Sherpas to make a stand for human rights and respect. SHERPA will forever change the way you look at the world’s most famous mountain — and the brave guides who navigate it.


Sherpa.  They are an ethnic group in eastern Nepal and are the guides that have helped climbers accomplish their Mount Everest expeditions.

The importance of the Sherpa people as guides have been well-documented on film, including the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory to Eric Valli’s documentary “Himalaya” about the life of villagers in the area.

We know that life is difficult, making money is difficult in Nepal.  But while many large expeditions every year on Mount Everest has led to multi-million dollar industry, the government makes the money, while the Sherpa risk their lives by being guides to those on an expedition.

In 2013, the Serpa people showed how they were not subservient people to the foreigners as a fight had broken out.  But what one would not expected is the deadly 2014 expedition due to a tragic avalanche and what came after the fatal expedition.

Documenting events that have happened in the area from 2013-2014, filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew were there to document the expeditions of 2013 and 2014 for her 2015 film, “Sherpa”.

“Sherpa” is a film that follows Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who has made 21 Mount Everest ascents and is trying to go for the world record.  His family dislikes Phurba taking on this risky job, fearing that he will never come back, but Phurba enjoys it and feels its the only way to make good money.

His latest job is for New Zealand’s Russel Brice who runs one of the more reputable expedition company’s for Mt. Everest, Himex.

Phurba gathers a team of Sherpas to take these foreign climbers up Mt. Everest, but what they are not aware or prepared for is a major ice avalanche which would kill over a dozen Sherpas.

As Brice and his crew feel the expedition must go-on and feels that mountaineering has its risks, for business, he wants to continue with the expedition.

Meanwhile, after the deaths of their own people, the Sherpas stage a protest and in solidarity, want to hit back at the government for their unfair treatment of Sherpa guides who hardly make money versus the government who are pocketing millions from these expeditions.

Will this expedition continue?  Or will there be a resolution among the Sherpa people and their government?


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sherpa” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

If anything, I wish this documentary was released on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sherpa” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sherpa – (11:49) Interviews with filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew especially filming a traumatic moment.
  • Deleted Scenes

EXTRAS:

“Sherpa” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital code.


I have watched films, read many articles about the importance of the Sherpa guides in expeditions to Mount Everest.

From the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory which was the first film to document an expedition to Mount Everest, the film would feature a major tragedy.

Fastforward to 2016 and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” not only shows us how expeditions have become big business in Nepal and tensions have grown between westerners and Sherpa.  Peedom’s crew wanted to document this and what she got was more than she expected, with the tragic avalanche of 2014.

Far often, what we read are the challenges of climbing Mount Everest.  The challenges of altitude and finding experienced Sherpas.

But while we have read the communal respect of climbers and the Sherpa, things changed in 2013, which had been detailed in various news sources and publications (read this interview from National Geographic).  And situations became hostile, as customs and miscommunication reared its ugly head.

While, “Sherpa” goes into that and the avalanche tragedy of 2014, this is not a film about how much of a mess things have become due to commercialization and money.  But filmmaker Jennifer Peedom also goes into detail of showing us Nepal culture but paying respect to people such as Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.  And also, now retired, Sherpa mountaineer Phurba Tashi Sherpa Mendewa (who was featured in the 2009 Discovery Channel series, “Everest: Beyond the Limit”) and learning of the challenges he faces as a father, who’s family wants him to quit being a mountaineer.  But also knowing that when it comes to being a Sherpa guide, it’s the only job that pays well.

The film also features Russel Brice, owner of Himex guide firm responsible for organizing expeditions to Mount Everest.  And the challenges he feels as the middleman of having to work with the Sherpa, especially after the 2014 tragedy and within days, knowing the troubles that surround the Sherpa as many want to continue with the expedition, but were threatened by other Sherpa that if they do so, they would be beaten.

It’s obvious that watching “Sherpa”, there has been lingering tensions as the need of Sherpa guides have grown exponentially and has been a huge business for organizers of expeditions and the Nepal government.  Because of the big money involved, there is a lot of competition, a lot of anger and tensions over lack of pay, lack of government willingness to pay compensation to victims families.

So much has changed and I never knew the extent of tensions and how competitive things are until I watched this documentary.  And the thing is, you can put yourself in the shoes of the Sherpa, Phurba Tashi, Russel Brice or his clients and you can understand what they are going through.

The Sherpa guides are doing a high risk business where there are a number of casualties and they know how much each client pays to be part of an expedition (as of 2016, the estimated range is $60,000 – You can see a financial breakdown here.).  Phurba Tashi is a man who wants to provide for his family and has a passion for the mountains. Russel Brice is a man with a business and his business survives on expeditions but having to please both the Sherpas and his clients.  And the clients, for many, Mount Everest is their dream.  Many save up and sacrifice their job, leave their families for two months to pursue this expensive dream.

You can read about the tensions, but nothing really compares to when you see the tensions up front and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” does a magnificent job of showing us how bad things have gotten in 2013 and 2014.  To make matters worse, in April 2015 was the Nepal Earthquake which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000.  On Mount Everest, the earthquake would trigger an avalanche that would kill 21.  And to this day, aftershocks in different areas of Nepal have continued.

While how things will go for Mount Everest Expeditions from 2016 and on, no one knows.  But there are obvious issues that have been slowly burning, almost similar to a situation of gentrification in inner cities, between the haves and have nots, things are much more complicated as exhibition organizers want to build a business but work with the Sherpa and their clients.  Clients want to accomplish a dream of climbing Mount Everest and while the government pockets from these expeditions and more Sherpa guides are wanted, thus bringing a new and unknown set of people without experience into the mix, it’s hard to not think that while tensions were elevated in 2013, there is a boiling point that has not yet been fully reached.

And that can be scary.

Overall, Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014.

“Sherpa” is recommended!

 

 

Next Page »

Bottom