Netflix Streaming an Amazon DVD Movie of the Day : FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS

5elementninjas

FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS (1982)- Some people are a fan of these Shaw brother movies of the 70s and 80s (the company is said to go back as far as 1924), I could never get into them. I’ve seen bits and pieces of them and was never really interested. Most of them filled with broad slapstick, or syrupy soap opera that tends not to translate or interest.

Give me a good modern KUNG FU KILLER or BLOOD AND BONE or JOHN WICK or RAID any day. With few exceptions the period stuff leaves me cold. That said I’m happy to say FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS (a later day Shaw Brothers production, 1982) is now one of those exceptions.

Wow, this is extreme but non-stop exciting from first minute to last. Simple story of a martial art school having to prove itself best, but the twist on this film is the intro of Japanese ninjas against Chinese kung Fu, and the simply insane levels of fight choreography and blood letting on display here. It’s not a short film, but I could not take my eyes off the screen.

Plus the research the film did to integrate weapons and uniforms actually used in that period from the Japanese, I found very interesting. All in all a no-brainer to watch on Netflix, and one worth graduating to buying on DVD.

Grade: Strongly Recommended!

Five Element Ninjas DVD

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DVD / BLU-RAY Review: THE WOLFMAN (2010)


Lawrence Talbot: Are you expecting a war?

Singh: A Sikh is a warrior of God. He must always arm himself against evil.


or


Sir John Talbot: You’ve done terrible things, Lawrence. Terrible Things.

The quotes come from the 2010 Joe Johnston film, WOLFMAN. I was a huge fan of this film when it hit the theaters a couple years ago, see my original review here, and have been meaning to pick up the unrated Blu-ray Director’s Cut for sometime.

I own very few Blu-Rays, I find on a whole it to be only a marginal quality difference to DVD, and all other things being equal, I’m unwilling to shell out more for a Blu-Ray

The exceptions being a movie deserving of the extensive and elaborate special features and dissection/discussion that a Blu-Ray can bring to bear.

I find the WOLFMAN to be one such film. Unlike many I was a huge fan of the film in the theaters, and I’m happy to say the Blu-Ray experience, with the Director’s Cut, only solidifies my enjoyment and praise for this film.

I won’t get into specifics of the film except to say the additional 15 or so minutes of the Unrated Director’s cut helps to make more cohesive and strong a film that did suffer from unevenness and feeling rushed. Particularly Benicio Del Toro’s unfairly maligned portrayal, is expanded and fleshed out, as well as his relationship with his father played by Sir Anthony Hopkins.

They both, in my opinion did well in the theatrical version, and shine in the Unrated Director’s Cut. And all the parts are likewise… raised.


Lawrence Talbot: Why did she do it?

Sir John Talbot: She struggled with life, as we all do. She lost.

The only minor qualm in the Unrated version is, it is less subtle in terms of the villain, for this reason it may be more prudent to see the theatrical version first, then graduate to the Unrated version.

But that minor issue aside, in every other way the Unrated version makes more compelling an already very good film. I’d go so far to say the Unrated version makes it a great film, particularly if you take into account the wealth of extra features.

Now picture wise, the WOLFMAN Blu-Ray is a negligible improvement over DVD, owing much to how it was shot, it’s a muddy, subdued, grainy type of film that does not play to the strengths of Blu-RAy.

But the extra features, interviews with Rick Baker, etc., and some nifty new interactive features makes this well written, beautifully filmed, wonderfully directed, masterfully edited (really effective jump scares, that no matter how many times I see the film… stay scary. That takes talent!) and well performed Horror/Monster film… a fun addition to anyone’s library.

Grade: Recommended! B+.

The Wolfman (Two-Disc Unrated Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray]

MOVIE REVIEW: TOTAL RECALL (2012)

Much delayed Movie Update.

I did see TOTAL RECALL a couple weeks ago and just now getting around to my thoughts on it. Visually it’s a feast, filled with one elaborate, futuristic, mayhem-filled set piece after another. Unfortunately the pieces don’t really fit together into a particularly satisfying or engrossing story.

While visually, the film should be applauded for a world every bit as fantastic and well realized as BLADE RUNNER, the story itself seems very pedestrian when compared with those visuals and grandiose ideas.

So it’s an okay film, but long before the ending I felt myself trying to stay engaged, and not too long after the ending, trying to remember anything really noteworthy about the film.

It’s good performances, solid direction, spectacular effects, but ultimately in service of a script/story that felt more than a bit empty and lackluster.

In summation a great trailer for an okay film; worth a rental, but not a purchase. Grade: B-.

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D

I just got to see the long awaited TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D, and the verdict?

It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s formulaic, it’s often hard for me to decipher one giant robot from another, particularly in battle scenes (whose big idea was it to make the two Primes, the same color scheme?) and, all those failings accepted…

I loved it.

Michael Bay I think gets a lot of undeserved stones cast his way, but he makes exactly the types of films he wants, and they put people in seats.

I think they are always visually dazzling. Now you can argue about depth and reliance on the formulaic, but the formula is the genre in such films, that are part of a long tradition of rousing action yarns, and more of… ballads to sacrifice. DARK OF THE MOON is the 21st century epitome of such ballads, the tale of Grendel, a myth of the hero mated with the monster movie, writ large. Writer Ehren Kruger becoming quickly a name to watch.

Brought to life with Bay’s extraordinary Visual Stylistics, and a level of mating special/practical effects and CGI that can only be called… successful. With no less then 4 visual effects companies, ILM, Digital Domain, Prime focus and Prana Studios, helping to weave their creations into the in camera/live special effects, stunts, and pyrotechnics; it is a massive undertaking.

If there is one thing I would fault the CGI for is perhaps making the Transformers physically too busy and too complex. Even when standing still they are a patchwork mess of colors, and shapes, and dood-dads, it’s hard beyond the generalities of this is a head a torso , two legs, etc… to really know what you’re looking at.

And once they get into fight scenes, forget about it, it is largely just a chaos of moving parts.

Realizing that, Michael bay does kick in the slow motion during crucial scenes.

So, yes, I know the visual effects guys were going for some sort of ‘realism’ in the convoluted design of the Transformers, but I think a bit more simplicity would have made them easier to differentiate, particularly in the battle scenes.

Thankfully the movie moves quick enough that you are not pondering the confusion too much, and the confusion becomes part of the story-telling, but ideally I would have liked less convoluted Transformers.

However, despite that, at no point do you fail to accept the humans and the Transformers inhabiting the same space, instead it is a seamless integration that the audience from first frame to last can just be swept up in.

And was.

The crowd I saw the film with… laughed, applauded, oohed, awed, and in places got teary eyed (I know I did) in what should be no more than an 80’s nostalgia, kid’s toy-line cash-grab. But it is a lot more than that.

Michael Bay creates Blockbuster entertainment, and DARK OF THE MOON is his largest, and surprisingly, his best film to date, edging out his debut film BAD BOYS; which I would have previously given that appellation to.

The shear scale of this monster movie (and ultimately that is what DARK OF THE MOON feels like… a huge monster movie) is awe-inspiring, and IMAX 3D shows you clearly why you should accept no substitutes in terms of 3D.

Bay set out to make the most amazing and immersive 3D film since AVATAR, and he’s done that. It’s a technical marvel, but like AVATAR the 3D never feels like a gimmick or afterthought or superfluous it’s part and parcel of the film he’s crafting for you. That said I’m still no fan of the exorbitant prices that movie chains like AMC are charging for IMAX. I paid $13.50 for a matinee ticket for this showing, a $5.50 surcharge over regular 2D ticket prices!!

Needless to say that’s not an expense I support or am prepared to pay, for the most part. I think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies. Particularly when most Hollywood films screened in IMAX 3D, have not lived up to the potential. Being technically and cinematically not effective uses of 3D.

However the IMAX 3D (and notice I specify a difference, I don’t like the REALD 3D Sony backed 3D process, and definitely would not pay more for that) in DARK OF THE MOON is (and yes I’m going to say it)… awesome. The scene when they go out the helicopter… wow. If the movie wasn’t nearly $15 I could (and would) go see it again, for wonderful scenes like that.

But great 3D in service of a mediocre film, would still be a mediocre film. DARK OF THE MOON is first and foremost a great film, as Michael Bay grounds this tale of titanic battles of building sized transforming machine behemoths, with the vagaries, and courage of the human heart.

As far as the casting, I have to admit to missing Megan Fox a bit. Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is okay, but she’s no Megan Fox. As far as the rest of the cast, I’m no Shia LeBeouf fan, but thought his part was well written here and he did a very good job with it. And everybody else, Duhamel, Turturro, Gibson, McDormand, Dempsey, Malkovich, Tudyk, etc. were all great as well.

Alternately funny, touching, frenetic, sexy, action-packed, dire, epic and courageous, DARK OF THE MOON hits all the requisites of a blockbuster, and more then that all the requisites of a great film. You care.

I wasn’t expecting that, but care I did. There’s a deep vein of sacrifice in this movie, of heroism in the face of crushing odds.

And how that affects you, or if that affects you at all, says a lot about who you are, how you were raised, and what you value.

In a world where heroism, and caring and sacrifice and true liberty… are increasingly endangered concepts, and very few people speak truth to power… I get very sentimental about seeing that hope played out, that dream of dragons… resisted.

You take everything else away from me and what remains is this odd, insane, and totally irrational belief in… heroes.

And DARK OF THE MOON, embraces that ethos of epic and heroism and sacrifice, and is made surprisingly gripping because of it.

Michael Bay has crafted a film of incongruities: a film about machines that talks reverently of humanity, a sequel that improves upon the original, and a summer action flick, that is also just a great and emotional story.

All in all TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is a film worth seeing in IMAX 3D and in the theaters, rather than waiting for DVD. Highly Recommended. GRADE: A-.