Top

Kung Fu Yoga (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Filmmaker Stanley Tong’s long-awaited reunion with Jackie Chan happens to be a co-production between China and India. Featuring a talented cast, cool action scenes, a lot of humor plus Bollywood dance choreography, “Kung Fu Yoga” is entertaining and so much fun!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kung Fu Yoga

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), 16:9 widescreen, Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2017


Directed by Stanley Tong

Written by Stanley Tong

Executive Producers: Jackie Chan, Sailesh Pathak, Joe Tam

Producer: RJonathan Shen, Barbie Tung, Wei Wang

Co-Producers: D Wu, Huixia Zhang, Sunny Sun, Lin Hong, Jili Chen, Cici Chen

Associate Producer: Jia Fu, Mingyu Peng, Hong Qin, Jingwei Wang, Jianhong Yu

Music by Nathan Wang

Cinematography by Wing-Hang Wong

Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong

Casting by Adam Alzoubi

Production Design by Ying-Wah Cheung 

Art Direction by Ying-Wah Cheung, Ranjit Singh

Costume Design by Phoebe Wong


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Jack

Disha Patani as Ashmita

Amyra Dastur as Kura

Aarif Rahman as Jones

Miya Muqi as Nuomin

Sonu Sood as Randall

Paul Philip Clark as Max

Yixing Zhang as Xiaoguang

Yuxian Shang as Circe

Jiang Wen as Jiang Wen

Eric Tsang as Jianghua

Guoli Zhang as Jonathan


Jack (Jackie Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team are on a grand quest to locate a lost ancient Indian treasure when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and save an ancient culture in this breakneck action-comedy that reunites Chan with acclaimed director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop).


In 2017, a collaboration film with Taihe Entertainment and Shinework Pictures featuring a collaboration between China and India.

The film reunites with legendary action star Jackie Chan with director Stanley Tong (“Police Story 4: First Strike”, “Rumble in the Bronx”, “Supercop”) and would star Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur, Aarif Rahman (“Cold War”, “Young Bruce Lee”, “Cold War II”), Miya Muqi (“Tomb Robber”, “The Monkey King 2”, “The Kapil Sharma Show”), Sonu Sood (“Dookudu”, “Happy New Year”, “Dabangg”), EXO-M popstar Yexing Zhang (“Ex-Files 2”, “Go Fighting: Royal Treasure”, “Oh My God”) and Eric Tsang (“Infernal Affairs” films, “The Accidental Spy”).

The film begins with a CG historic tale of how the Magadha treasure was lost in Tibet.

The film then introduces us to Jack (portrayed by Jackie Chan), a well-known professor of archaeology at the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi’an.

He is visited by a young Indian professor Ashmita (portrayed by Disha Patani) who wanted to share with Jack a map that has lived on through her family.  Needing Jack’s help to use the map in hopes to find the treasure, he agrees to help her.

Jack is joined by his assistants Nuomin (portrayed by Miya Muqi) and Xiaoguang (portrayed by Yixing Zhang) and Ashmita with her assistant Kyra (portrayed by Amyra Dastur).  Jack also gets his friend’s son, Jones Lee (portrayed by Aarif Rahman) to join.

But as they start to look for the treasure, so is another man, Randall (portrayed by Sonu Sood).

Can Jack, Ashimita and team prevent the real treasure from getting into the wrong hands?


VIDEO:

“Kung Fu Yoga” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good and some scenes that were quite vibrant with the color pallette. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kung Fu Yoga” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music is crystal clear and surround channels utilize ambiance and action sequences through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kung Fu Yoga” comes with the following special features:

  • Best of Both Worlds – (3:40) A featurette about the China/India film co-production.
  • The Dynamic Duo – (2:38) A featurette of the reunion of filmmaker Stanley Tong and actor Jackie Chan.
  • The Making of – (21:40) A featurette of the making of “Kung Fu Yoga”.  Interviews with cast and crew.
  • Jackie Chan Featurette – (2:34) A featurette showcasing Jackie Chan performing his own stunts and dancing for the film and more.
  • Bloopers – (3:23) The fun that took place in “Kung Fu Yoga” including outtakes.
  • Bollywood Dance Featurette – (3:12) The making of the Bollywood dance scene.
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Kung Fu Yoga” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Jackie Chan has almost done it all.  Action roles, comedy roles, dramatic roles, pop singer, enka singer, you name it, he’s done it or not afraid of giving it a try.

For Stanley Tong’s latest action film “Kung Fu Yoga, we have a co-production between China and India and I think it’s safe to ask, will Jackie Chan do some “Bollywood dancing”?  And with a collaboration of talent from both countries, that is a definite “yes”!

Jackie Chan takes on a Indiana Jones type of character.  Chan as a professor named Jack and his team decides to work together with young Indian professor Ashmita and her assistant to find the lost Magadha treasure in Tibet.

The team manages to find a diamond artifact but a man named Randall (portrayed by popular Indian actor Sonu Sood) is also after the treasure.

And so it’s a race against time but also Jack, Ashmita and team try to get to the treasure and prevent Randall from getting it.  But Ashmita (portrayed by actress Disha Patani) also carries a secret of why she collaborated with Jack.

I have to say that having watched a plethora of Jackie Chan films from his earliest to present, among his present films within the last few years, I ahve to say that “Kung Fu Yoga” is one of the most entertaining and fun films that I have watched.

Sure, a lot of people often wonder if Jackie Chan should be doing martial arts films at 63-years-old but watching “Kung Fu Yoga”, sure you’re not going to see the same Jackie Chan from the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s but he’s still agile, shows that he still has that fighting screen presence and action-star persona today.

In fact, Jackie Chan takes on new action with this latest film which includes him and actress Disha Patani actually having to swim in frigid waters and also having to do numerous Bollywood dance routines.

Is “Kung Fu Yoga” destined to be a classic Jackie Chan film?  Probably not, but considering how Jackie Chan continues to show that at his age, he still can take on action roles but also take on something new and different is quite fantastic.

Especially when the film features a reunion between him and renown martial arts director Stanley Tong and what best than the two to collaborate on this Chinese/Indian co-production shot in several countries.

Dubai royalty was so thrilled with Jackie Chan filming in the country that the royalty allowed for major action sequences (especially a chase scene) to be filmed, so seeing a closure of major roads and the limitless use of expensive cars to be used in the film.

But it’s a film that worked well because of its cast.

The casting of this film does not disappoint!  Up-and-coming Indian film actress Disha Patani plays the main female lead, popular young actress Amyra Dastur, while famous and award-winning Indian film actor Sonu Sood, best known for playing villain roles, plays the primary antagonist.

The film also stars pop star Lay (Yixing Zhang) of EXO-M, actress and famous Yoga instructor Miya Muqi, musician and popular actor Aarif Rahman, who is quickly becoming an action star to probably look out for in the near future.  And of course, what action film would it be without Eric Tsang, who also stars in the film.

And to make sure that the Bollywood dance was authentic, the choreography for the film is courtesy from one of the best film choreographers from India, Farah Khan.

So, this film has a lot of talent, a lot of action scenes, a lot of humor and yes, the Bollywood dancing!  And also, breathtaking scenes from Dubai, Iceland and India.

It’s something you don’t usually see and it’s something new that one will watch to see how Jackie Chan does with the collaboration.  And because this is a Stanley Tong film, one can watch the special features and see these talents really get into their action roles, but also some getting a bit hurt (nothing too bad, that we have been used to seeing at the end credits of a Jackie Chan film).

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and outdoor scenes are vibrant.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music and also surround channels utilize ambiance and action scenes very well.  There are also numerous special features included.

Overall, filmmaker Stanley Tong’s long-awaited reunion with Jackie Chan happens to be a co-production between China and India.  Featuring a talented cast, cool action scenes, a lot of humor plus Bollywood dance choreography, “Kung Fu Yoga” is entertaining and so much fun!

 

Bitcoin Heist (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I love the fact that Well Go USA Entertainment has chosen to release this Vietnamese action film to the US and Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” is an enjoyable action/heist film that I hope paves the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the US.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Old Photo Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bitcoin Heist

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 1116 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Directed by Ham Tran

Story by Anderson Le, Scott Nguyen, Ham Tran

Exec. Produers: Ben Tsiang, Jean Tsien, Chao-wei Chang, Hsiao-ming Hsu

Producer: Ruby Chen

Co-Producers: Guan-ting Yue, Jing Liu

Editors: Jean Tsien, Bob Lee

Music by Tristan Leral

Cinematography by Cong Minh Trang

Edited by Ham Tran


Starring:

Kate Nhung as Dada

Thanh Pham as Phuc

Petey Majik Nguyen as Jack

Suboi as Vi

Jayvee Mai The Hiep as Luhan

Lam Thanh My as Linh

Veronica Ngo as Ky

Teo Yoo as Thomas


Hackers have become the bank robbers in the new world of crypto-currency. In order to catch the most wanted hacker, The Ghost , an Interpol special agent assembles a team of thieves to plan the ultimate heist. But as any good criminal knows, there is no honor among thieves.


Far often, we have seen companies release Asian action films from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and we are seeing an influx of films coming from Indonesia and the Philippines.

But recently we are seeing companies start to look at action cinema from other countries for release in the United States and Well Go USA has chosen to release “Bitcoin Heist” from Vietnam.

Directed by Vietnamese-American director Ham Tran, “Bitcoin Heist” is an action heist film that has Hollywood action flair and top notch quality that will hopefully pave the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the U.S.  The film was written by Anderson Le, Scott Nguyen and Ham Tran.

The film stars Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Petey Majik Nguyen, Suboi, Jayvee Mai The Hiep, Lam Thanh My, Veronica Ngo and Teo Yoo.

For those not familiar with “Bitcoin”, it is a cryptocurrency with a digital payment system.  Transactions take place without any banks or intermediary, and many people have gone to bitcoins to protect their currency from high inflation, taxing or confiscation.  And because of that, while embraced by many companies, many shun it because of its use for illegal activity.

The film begins with a young man named Phuc (portrayed by Thanh Pham) playing chess in the prison courtyard with a gangster and explaining to his opponent of the bitcoin credit system.  Phuc wins against the gangster.

Fastforward and Phuc is being pursued by Vietnamese police led by Dada (portrayed by Kate Nhung), who is trying to take down a ring of international money laundering through bitcoin transactions.

Phuc is being paid by the mysterious Ghost, an IT finance operator managing his bitcoin accounts.  While Phuc and his bodyguard are trying to outrun the police and trying to close on a bitcoin deal, the two split up and Dada pursues Ghost while her boss pursues his bodyguard.

Dada manages to capture Phuc but his bodyguard, trying to get a smartphone with the bitcoin information fixed, walks into a smartphone repair shop owned by Vi (portrayed by Suboi) and her brother Bi.  But when Bi transforms the bitcoin credits from the bodyguard’s phone to his account, he is beaten and shot, and as she is about to shoot vi, police come in time to shoot the bodyguard to death.

Because of the death of an innocent and the failure of the mission, Dada, who happens to be the daughter of the police chief, is forced to resign.  But secretly, she has been taken back on again as an undercover copy whose job is to form a gang of criminals which include Phuc, a thief magician named Jack Magique (portrayed by Peter Majik Nguyen), a thief named Luhan (portrayed by Jayvee Mai The Hiep) and his young daughter Linh (portrayed by Lam Thanh My) and Vi (who wants to avenge her brother, Bi who is laying in a coma) in hopes to bring Ghost down.


VIDEO:

“Bitcoin Heist” is presented in 1080p High Definition. 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:

“Bitcoin Heist” is presented in Vietnamese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music is crystal clear and surround channels utilize ambiance and action sequences through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bitcoin Heist” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Bitcoin Heist” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


While Asian cinema and group heist films are common, there is something to be said about Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” that separates itself from similar, banal heist films.

A Vietnamese film with production flair and stylish presentation, “Bitcoin Heist” features a collection of characters, each quite different from each other but yet manage to capture your attention.

A group of thieves led by undercover police officer Dada, the film features bitcoin thief Phuc and together they find a group of thieves that are quite fun to watch.

You have the magician Jack, a man from Dada’s past, often called “Magic Jack” in which he continuously reminds people it’s “Jack Magic” (for those who don’t understand the joke, “Magic Jack” is a popular voIP device that allows people to make unlimited calls without the phone bills and popular among many people of various Asian ethnicities).

You have Vi, the blue haired young woman who wants revenge for her brother being shot.  But the most interesting characters is the older Luhan, father of the chirpy and young teen, Linh.

It’s an odd group but how they managed to plan their efforts with hopes to pull off a major heist on the mysterious Ghost, is rather fascinating and fun.

But just when you think the film has the humor and action as other similar Asian films, you have a twist that takes the characters out of the humor and fun and putting them in a most dark place that I didn’t see coming, but made the film even more entertaining, as you learn what these characters are doing, is quite risky and their lives may be at stake.

The Blu-ray features wonderful picture quality and great lossless audio but unfortunately no special features, so it’s a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, I love the fact that Well Go USA Entertainment has chosen to release this Vietnamese action film to the US and Ham Tran’s “Bitcoin Heist” is an enjoyable action/heist film that I hope paves the way for more Vietnamese cinema to be released in the US.  Recommended!

 

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!

 

Anatahan (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Josef von Sternberg’s “Anatahan” is his personal and also his final film that looks amazing with the new 2K remaster.  If you are a fan of Josef von Sternberg’s cinematic works, you will no doubt enjoy “Anatahan”.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1976 Meri von Sternberg. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Anatahan

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1953 & 1958 (uncensored version)

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:33:1, Monaraul English with optional English SDH Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Novel by Michiro Maruyama and translated by Younghill Kang

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

Screenplay by Tatsuo Asano, Josef von Sternberg

Produced by Kazuo Takimura

Executive Producer: Nagamasa Kawakita, Yoshio Osawa, Josef von Sternberg

Music by Akira Ifukube

Cinematography by Kozo Okazaki and Josef von Sternberg

Art Direction by Takashi Kono


Starring:

Akemi Negishi as Keiko Kusakabe, the “Queen Bee”

Tadashi Suganuma as Kusakabe, Husband of Keiko

Kisaburo Sawamura as Kuroda

Shoji Nakayama as Nishi

Jun Fujikawa as Yoshisato

Hiroshi Kondo as Yanaginuma

Shozo Miyashita as Sennami

Tsuruemon as Bando

Kikuji Onoe as Kaneda

Rokuriro Kineya as Marui

Daijiro Tamura as Kanzaki

Chizuru Kitagawa

Takeshi Suzuki Takahashi

Shiro Amikura

Narrator: Josef von Sternberg


Inspired by actual events, ANATAHAN explores the conflicting personalities of a dozen Japanese sailors stranded on a remote island in the Pacific during the waning days of World War II. For a time, they maintain their military discipline, but when they discover a young woman (Akemi Negishi) living on the island, the paradisal island becomes a nest of jealousy, violence, and desire. Filmed in Japan on elaborately constructed sets, with non-English-speaking actors, ANATAHAN was a deeply personal project for director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, The Scarlet Empress), and provided a thoroughly unique capstone to his extraordinary career.


Anatahan.  An inhabited island in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean due to its active and violent volcano and frequent typhoons.  But was used for coconut plantations in the 1800’s for the production of copra.

But the island was also the control of the Empire of Japan during World War I and in June 1944 during World War II, 30 survivors from three Japanese shipwrecks reached Anatahan.  But after the surrender of Japan, many of the castaways refused to believe the war had ended and fled to the interior of the island as Japanese holdouts.

But by 1950, it was realized that the holdouts were led by Kazuko Higa, the only woman left on the island and was discovered to live with a harem of five men, eleven who did of unknown circumstances until each surrendered in 1951.

The story of the holdouts inspired the film “Anatahan” (or “The Saga of Anatahan”) in 1953 by filmmaker Josef von Sternberg (“The Blue Angel”, “Dishonored”, “The Last Command”, “Shanghai Express”).

The film would receive an uncensored version, which is Sternberg’s preferred cut of the film.  Both were remastered in 2K and the 1958 version is mastered from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinematheque Francais.

The film begins in 1974 when a Japanese ship is sunk by enemy aircraft.  Survivors who swam from the Mariana’s Trench were able to find an island thought deserted.  One of the survivors found a village and when the survivors go to the village, they meet Kusakabe (portrayed by Tadashi Suganuma), a farmer of the coconut plantation.  While Kusakabe is not thrilled by seeing the men on Anatahan, he first tells them that he is alone.  But out of his home comes the beautiful Keiko (portrayed by Akemi Negishi) and immediately all the men become smitten that a beautiful woman is living on the island.

In truth, Kusakabe has a wife and son and Keiko had a husband, but everyone had evacuated on a boat during the war to Saipan four years earlier and the two were the only ones left alone and became a common law couple.

But as men try to get close to Keiko, she eventually gets close to one of the young survivors.  Kusakabe ends up beating on Keiko and warns the men to not go near his wife.

As the survivors are expecting to be rescued on the island, time goes on longer and longer and what becomes days, becomes months and eventually years.

And as time goes on, each of the men start to feel lustful towards Keiko and wanting her to belong to them.  And eventually, men succumb to savagery as they vie for her.

Will any of them be rescued or will they want to be rescued?


VIDEO:

“Anatahan” is presented in 1080p (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Presented in black and white, the film looks magnificent.  Clarity and sharpness are noticeable, blacks are nice and deep, while the contrast between white and gray levels look fantastic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Anatahan” is presented in English Dolby Digital Monaural. Dialogue and music are crystal clear through the center channel, I didn’t notice any pops or clicks considering the age of the film. The monaural lossless soundtrack is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Anatahan” comes with the following special features:

  • 1953 Theatrical Version – The original censored version of the film without any nudity.
  • Saga: The Making of Anatahan – (15:34) Interview with Nichgolas von Sternberg about his family living in Japan during the filming of “Anatahan”.
  • Visual Essay by Tag Gallagher – (16:16) Tag Gallagher’s visual essay.
  • Outtake Footage– (2:54) Featuring unused (nude) footage shot for the 1958 version of the film.
  • U.S. Navy Footage – (7:52) Actual video footage of the real Japanese holdouts who have surrendered and went home.
  • Comparison of the 1953 and 1958 versions – (8:16) A comparison of scenes and the differences between the 1953 and 1958 version of the film.

When I was younger, I would often hear stories from my family about Japanese soldiers who were still hiding in remote areas and didn’t know World War II had ended.

My parents would talk about the soldier (who turned out to be Hiroo Onda) found 30-years later in the jungles of the Philippines had refused to believe the war was over until his former commanding officer traveled to the Philippines to meet with him.

I have read about Japanese holdouts, those who refused to believe that Japan would surrender.  And that would lead me to read about Kazuko Higa and the group of sailors who were shipwrecked and found their way to the island of Anatahan, which was left uninhabited due to a vicious volcano and terrible typhoons.

The real life story of how these survivors were taken in by the real Kikuichiro Higa (who ran a coconut plantation) and his live-in wife Kazuko.

What is known is that the survivors had lived with Kazuko, a few died and stories came out that the men died as they submitted to savagery for their love for Kazuko.

Needless to say, this story which was big news in the media worldwide and also a novel based on actual events written by one of the survivors, Michiro Maruyana, translated by Younghill Kang, became an inspiration for filmmaker Josef von Sternberg to create a movie based on the true story.

With the Sternberg family living in Japan and having enjoyed their time in the country, Sternberg was able to get funding from Japanese producers and he would create his final film, “Anatahan” in 1953.  While the film did well in Japan, due to anti-Japanese sentiment (as the film was released a few years after World War II), the film didn’t do well in America.

The film was a deeply personal project for Sternberg, as he created the film for his love of Japanese culture but also wanted to create a film that had an anti-war message.  Also, a film that he was involved in ever facet down to directing, writing a screenplay, the set design, camera and more.

And the fact that all actors were Japanese and had no knowledge of English, led Sternberg to find ways to communicate with his actors of what he wanted to achieve through storyboards and creative planning.

While the film was released in 1953, a preferred uncensored cut of the film was released in 1958.  And many decades later, both versions of the film had been remastered in 2K from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinematheque Francaise.  And this remastered version is what is available in the 2017 Blu-ray release of “Anatahan” from Kino Lorber.

Watching this film, it’s not a surprise to see many lonely men being attracted to the only woman on the island with them.  In the film, Keiko Kusakabe (portrayed by actress Akemi Negishi) is attractive and sexual.  She is a common-law wife of Kusakabe, because their own loved ones had evacuated to Saipan during the outbreak of the war and the two were left behind to watch over the plantation on the island of Anatahan.

Not having heard from their loved ones, they had only each other for the next four years.  And eventually, a dozen of shipwrecked sailors now living with them and how it would become a problematic situation for Kusakabe, as he knows nearly every man wants his wife and if anything, she is the person who keeps them all going.

But as days turn to months and months turn to years, these men eventually start to think about whoever has the power (weapons) would be the leader and have the right to be with Keiko.  And this would lead certain men to challenge other men to be with Keiko.

While messages are broadcasted towards the island that Japan has surrendered, none of the soldiers believe it and think that it’s their enemies lying to them.

But while Sternberg made sure to let viewers know that the stories were from one and that actual situations can’t be verified, the story of what happened in Anatahan still remain a mystery.  Fortunately, in 1998, the story was revived by Japanese author, Kaoru Ohno who researched and interviewed a few people who survived or were rescuers and the new information became Ohno’s novel, “Cage on the Sea”.

And the more people read about the story, the real story especially what happened to the “Queen Bee”, Kazuko Hige, was just as tragic.  But many wonder how many people were killed just to be with her?  News reports have it at six.

While there are survivors who know what happened but to respect the dead, will not ever speak about how certain people were murdered.

Kazuko Hige had said that only two died because of her.  One was shot and the other was stabbed to death.  The man who was shot was the man she lived with for three years after her husband died at sea.  She lived with one man, which lasted for 20 days.  And he happened to die while fishing.  She lived with another man for two years but didn’t love him.  So, she was with a fourth man, who was responsible for stabbing man #3.  And she and man #4 lived together until they surrendered to the Americans and had said in an interview, she would go on stage to clear her name and what happened.

But the real life of Kazuko Higa after returning back to Okinawa is that she fell into prostitution and poverty, worked as a garbage collector and died at the age of 51.

Needless to say, this story is quite captivating and it’s no surprise considering the tragedies that transpired and how a lone woman was pinpointed as the person responsible.  May it be unfair, especially for media of portraying the woman they call “Queen Bee” as a tramp.  There is more to this story that we may never know what truly transpired.

But for Josef von Sternberg’s film, he was able to create a film to capture the loss of war, loyalty to one’s country, lust, passion, abuse, anger, happiness, you name it.  With two version of the film presented, I found the 1958 film to be the definitive version and it’s what Sternberg had preferred.  The main difference is that the 1958 had nudity, the 1953 film didn’t.

The 1958 version of the film featured Keiko as a woman who knew that the men are entertained by her.  She enjoyed the attention and these men wanted to see more of her.  May it be her smiling, dancing, happy and sometimes catch her nude.  She was not happy with the men she had been with in the island, he was an abuser, he had control over her and having these other men who made her happy and gave her attention, changed her life on the island.  But her naivety was somewhat of her undoing, not knowing that men would go so low to fight and kill each other for her.  In essence, a few of these men became just as bad as the man she lived with.  They wanted power and with that power, they wanted to control her.

As for the Blu-ray release, this 2K remaster looks magnificent.  The film looks sharp, clarity is much better and amazing contrast within the grays and whites of the film.  While you can hear the Japanese dialogue, the majority of the film is narrated by Josef von Sternberg who narrates over the Japanese dialogue.  But the English narration is crystal clear.  And last, you get a good number of special features included such as the interview with Nicholas von Sternberg (Josef’s son), a visual essay by Tag Gallagher, U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors from Anatahan and a comparison between both 1953 and 1958 films.

While Josef von Sternberg may be known for his earlier films in his oeuvre such as “The Salvation Hunters” (considered to be the first American independent film), his German film “The Blue Angel” which would lead to six U.S. collaborations with actress Marlene Dietrich.  “Anatahan” should be looked at his final, personal film which he wrote, narrated, photographed and directed.  Sure, it had a limited release and was a financial failure due to anti-Japanese sentiment not long after World War II, but I do feel that many who are discovering the film today thanks to Kino Lorber’s remastered Blu-ray release will be captivated by the story.  Considering it was inspired on a real-life story.

Overall, Josef von Sternberg’s “Anatahan” is his personal and also his final film that looks amazing with the new 2K remaster.  If you are a fan of Josef von Sternberg’s cinematic works, you will no doubt enjoy “Anatahan”.  Recommended!

 

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!

 

Next Page »

Bottom