HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, February 29, 2008

DISPATCH: ZIMBABWE (Live at Madison Square Garden) -- DVD review by porfle


Watching a concert DVD for a group you've never even heard of can be a daunting prospect. If you don't get into their music right away, then listening to two hours of it is pretty much the exact opposite of fun, especially if it's one of those preachy benefit concerts that gets bogged down by its own solemnity and self-importance. Which is why I was so relieved to discover that DISPATCH: ZIMBABWE, a charity event that sold out Madison Square Garden three nights in a row back in July '07, is a joyous, feelgood rock concert on its own terms. I may have never heard of Dispatch, but it didn't take long for me to start thinking, "Damn, these guys are good!"


I didn't feel quite so out of it after one of the brief documentary segments showed people on the street being asked the question "Have you ever heard of a band called Dispatch?" and everyone said "No." But they have amassed an army of rabid fans through word-of-mouth, touring, and file-sharing, selling over 600,000 copies of their independently-released albums until their farewell performance in 2004 drew more than 110,000 fans from 25 countries. This reunion at Madison Square Garden made them the only independent band ever to sell out that venue.


The power trio hits the ground running with "Here We Go", which introduces us to band members Chad Stokes, Pete Francis, and Brad "Braddigan" Corrigan. The intial configuration consists of Stokes on lead guitar, Francis on bass, and Braddigan on drums, but that doesn't last long. Braddigan often leaves the drumming to guest player Paul Stivitts and straps on a guitar himself, while Stokes and Francis trade lead and bass duties with equal skill. Lead vocals are similarly taken in turn.


These chunky, funky songs are a robust mix of various styles including classic rock, acid rock, grunge, reggae, Latin rhythms, and folk, along with several African-tinged numbers. A hot horn section provides backup, and the group is joined onstage for three songs by the African Children's Choir. You can look forward to something new with each song--at one point they even wheel out their famous tour van, "Wimpy", and perform a couple of high-energy acoustic songs ("Steeples", "Questioned Apocalypse") while sitting on top of it.


One thing's for sure, these guys don't come off like rock stars. During another documentary segment, some local, seen-it-all union stagehands have nothing but good things to say about them. "These guys come in without a record deal and blow out Madison Square Garden 360 for three nights--I've been doing this for a long time and I've never seen anything like it" enthuses one of them, while another adds, "The whole band are great guys, I wish they were stayin' here for a coupla months."


They look and act like the garage band next door, and when they run out amongst their frenzied fans during the furious "Cut It Ya Match It" these three unassuming guys with two cordless microphones and one acoustic guitar manage to enthrall the entire crowd with sheer talent, charisma, and a boundless sense of fun. By the time the Zimbabwean kids return to the stage along with African percussionists Bongo Love for the final three songs, "Elias", "Outloud", and "General", the concert has become an exhilarating, almost blissful communal experience that I couldn't help getting caught up in.


Director Danny Clinch and co-director/editor Pablo Casaverde captured the event beautifully and this 19-song set looks and sounds great on DVD. Bonus features include four extra songs, outtakes, interviews, and a sharply-produced 30-minute documentary about Zimbabwe, "Tree With No Name", which tells us everything we need to know about why Dispatch put this event together in the first place. Also included is a music CD containing ten songs from the concert, plus an access number that allows you to go online and download a bunch of their songs.


I wasn't a Dispatch fan before, but I am now. These guys are just plain fun to watch, and DISPATCH: ZIMBABWE makes me wonder why more people haven't heard of them. They definitely put a smile on my face.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Magnolia's new genre arm, Magnet, secures all rights to "Let The Right One In"

Watch the trailer here

Magnolia’s new genre arm, Magnet, secures all rights to “Let The Right One In”

Munich, February 25, 2008 – Bavaria Film International has sold all rights to its European Film Market hit “Let The Right One In” to Magnet, Magnolia Pictures new genre arm, for North America. Right on the heels of its first market screening negotiations got under way over Thomas Alfredson’s romantic horror film and two times Gothenburg award winner with Magnolia finishing the race.

”Let The Right One In”, based on a best-selling novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, tells the story of a lonely twelve year-old boy and his friendship with a young girl, who appears to be a vampire.

“This modern-day vampire romance proves to have the right amount of poetic art house feel injected into the horror genre and therefore appeals to a wide audience”, says Stefanie Zeitler, Head of Sales with Bavaria Film International. “The cross-over potential is immense and I am very glad that Magnolia sees it the same way. They are the perfect partner as they have proven the right touch for films like this and we look forward to this cooperation”.

“A stand out film in any market or festival, ‘Let The Right One In’ is a master work of horror,“ says Tom Quinn, Senior Vice President at Magnolia. „What Bong Joon Ho’s ‘The Host’ did for monsters, Tomas Alfredson’s ‘Let The Right One In’ will do for vampires.“

“Let The Right One In” is produced by Carl Molinder and John Nordling at EFTI in association with Sandrew Metronome, Filmpool Nord, Sveriges Television, and WAG.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AWAKE -- DVD Review by porfle


Hayden Christensen's character, multi-millionaire business tycoon Clay Beresford, Jr., dies on the operating table in AWAKE (2007). That may sound like a greviously inconsiderate spoiler on my part, but it happens about a minute into the movie. After that, the story is told in flashback by his surgeon and best friend, Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard, CRASH, HART'S WAR).

[digression] You wanna talk spoilers? I just watched the trailer that comes with the DVD, and it contains one of THE major surprises of the whole story. The damn thing should have one of those *SPOILER ALERT!* warnings that people post on forums before they spill the beans about something. It's almost as bad as seeing a trailer for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that has Darth Vader saying...well, you know. So whatever you do, don't watch the trailer before you see the movie! [/digression]

Anyway, Clay seems to have it all--millions of dollars, a wildly successful business that he inherited from his late father, and a lovely young fiancee' named Samantha (Jessica Alba) who's dying to marry him. Only two things keep him from achieving total bliss. One, his domineering, overprotective mother, Lilith (Lena Olin, ROMEO IS BLEEDING, "Alias") who suspects Samantha to be a golddigger and is vehemently against the wedding. Two, the fact that Clay has a bad ticker and is about to undergo a heart transplant.

Oh, and last but not least, three--Clay is that lucky one in 700 patients who experiences "anesthetic awareness", which means that he's wide awake during the surgery even though he can't move. This would have to be a pretty horrific ordeal for someone undergoing a heart transplant, and we suffer with him through every harrowing detail from the first incision to the application of the rib-spreader and beyond. Through it all, we hear Clay's agonized thoughts as he tries to separate himself from the pain and find solace in his memories of Samantha. But before it's over, something totally unexpected happens (I repeat...do NOT watch the trailer first!) which puts an entirely different, disturbingly sinister spin on the whole procedure and turns AWAKE into a corker of a psychological thriller.

You may be one of those people with an uncanny knack for figuring out what happens next, but I didn't see this one coming at all. It's a doozy of a twist, and it won't be the last. For the rest of the movie, we see Clay's disembodied spirit (or astral projection, perhaps) roaming the halls of the hospital, trying to somehow communicate his dire predicament to anyone who might help. We also see him passing through various memories as a spectator and trying to glean information from them that might make sense of what's going on.

Scriptwriter and first-time director Joby Harold fills the early part of the movie with a succession of formal, almost Kubrick-like compositions--at times you can almost see the proscenium arch--that are obviously intended to represent Clay's ordered, structured world. I was pretty sure that this would be contrasted later on with a more free-flowing, off-kilter style as things began to spin out of control, which is exactly what Harold does to good effect. His direction is low-key but visually interesting, serving the story well without drawing attention to itself.

Harold has a fine cast to work with, including old pros like Lena Olin, Arliss "Tough Break For Hand Job" Howard (FULL METAL JACKET) as the much more experienced surgeon whom Clay's mother would prefer to perform the operation ("My hands have been inside presidents," he tells Clay at one point), and familiar face Christopher McDonald as the last-minute replacement gas-passer Dr. Lupin, who's a bit too tipsy to notice that crimp in the tube as he's administering the anesthetic injection. Jessica Alba acquits herself well as Samantha, and Hayden Christensen, unhampered here by George Lucas' awkward dialogue, is allowed to give a more natural performance than as the future Darth Vader. (Even a line as potentially sappy as "You think my new heart will love you as much as my old one?" comes off well.) Terrence Howard is, as always, a solid presence, as is another familiar face, co-producer Fisher Stevens, as Dr. Harper's somewhat hinky surgical assistant.

The DVD's bonus features include a director's commentary, the infamous "trailer that you shouldn't watch first", deleted scenes, a storyboard-to-film comparison that I skipped because I couldn't care less about storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a "making of" featurette. Presented in letterboxed widescreen format with Dolby Digital sound, the movie looks and sounds dandy to me.

The basic premise of a man remaining conscious during a heart transplant was intriguing enough to draw me into this story, and the doubletake-inducing plot twists that popped up unexpectedly along the way really had me going. It's a pretty original story idea that's fully explored and filled with drama and suspense all the way to the exciting conclusion. My typical-movie-reviewer assessment: (Joel Siegel voice) "You're sure to stay AWAKE during this operation!" Just don't watch that trailer first.
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AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION -- DVD Review by porfle

"Every generation has a horror film that defines its culture" says the trailer for AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2006). "This is that film." I don't know if I'd go so far as to agree with this--there are certainly some other noteworthy contenders for that title--but I will say that for a horror film that was shot in nine days for $30,000, it's a dazzling feat of low-budget filmmaking.


Admittedly, the story doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot. It's about a bunch of teenagers whose drunken house party in rural Florida is interrupted by hordes of homicidal, flesh-eating zombies, and their frantic efforts to reach the possible safety of the school while battling the bloodthirsty ghouls every step of the way. Stock characters include a cool guy, Chris (Garrett Jones), his popular girlfriend, Jackie (Juliet Reeves), ditzy blonde cheerleader Simone (Kendra Farner), Lance, the conceited jock (Joel Hebner), a nerdy loser named Tim (Rowan Bousaid), and Scott, the black guy (William Howard Bowman).


As writer/director Steven C. Miller and producers William Clevinger and Mark Thalman tell us in their informative commentary, their goal was to set these elements in place as quickly as possible and get the blood-spurtin', gut-chompin' action going full-blast, which is exactly what they did. This movie doesn't let up once the zombie attacks begin, never slowing down long enough to get boring or let us think about how dumb some of the dialogue is.


The young performers are all good, and while there's no character development to speak of, each gets a chance to display enough genuine emotion here and there to keep the movie from descending to a farcical level. It's also thankfully free of the jokey self-awareness that has become such a cliche' ever since SCREAM came out. AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION has its lighter moments, but it isn't infused with a lot of lame attempts at comedy.


The gore is plentiful and expertly done, as well as being imaginatively staged. This is due in no small part to the participation of Rick Gonzales, who worked with Tom Savini in DAY OF THE DEAD and has many subsequent film credits. There are some awesome set pieces here that would fit right into a more expensive film, including one character getting her jaw ripped off (yowch!) and a startling fetus-removal scene that's pretty jaw-dropping in itself. People get their their throats torn out, their heads and limbs ripped off, and their faces eaten. In turn, the zombies get theirs via hammers, axes, shotguns, chainsaws, and even a golf club here and there. Gorehounds won't be disappointed.


The rural setting in Florida conveys an effective sense of isolation. There's also a sequence early on in which Chris, Scott, and Tim drive to the city to see a rock concert, only to find it empty, and these scenes are very effectively done. Director Steven Miller did a consistently amazing job with such limited time and resources to make a movie that looks a lot better than it cost. His handling of extras is also good, resulting in a zombie army that is always convincing in its wanton lust for blood. Miller directs their attacks in much the same way Zack Snyder did during the opening and closing credits for his DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, with a lot of quick shock cuts and shaky camerawork.


My biggest gripe, in fact, is that Miller's use of shaky-cam often goes way too far in these scenes, often making me want to grab for the Dramamine. If you suffer from motion sickness, the gore in this movie might not be the only thing making you feel like throwing up. Otherwise, though, the direction and cinematography are very capably done.


Aside from the lively commentary track, the DVD's special features include deleted scenes, a couple of cool music videos by Blinded Black and Dancefloor Tragedy, a short film by Miller called "Suffer or Sacrifice", a trailer, and a "making of" featurette that gives us an interesting look at how to make a kickass zombie flick on a shoestring. The movie itself is presented in a matted widescreen format with Dolby Digital sound. As for the picture quality, well...this isn't a Kubrick film. It's shot on digital video, and it looks it.


As in several other films of this nature, we finally discover that the military is to blame for the zombie outbreak--you know, the usual "re-animating the dead for use in warfare" experiments gone awry, and all that--but don't hold your breath waiting to find out what the title means. In fact, don't even wait for an ending, because there isn't one. AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION ends on a cliffhanger with the words "To Be Continued", meaning we won't get to find out what happens to Chris, Jackie, and what's left of the gang until AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION: CONTINGENCY comes out next year. Frustrating? Definitely. Will the sequel be worth waiting for? Well, I wouldn't mind riding this ride again, and finding out what blood-drenched zombie antics these gonzo filmmakers have in store for us next time.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"BELADI, A NIGHT AT THE PYRAMIDS" With Chantal Chamandy


Montreal Singer-Songwriter Chantal Chamandy performs "Beladi, A Night At The Pyramids" on PBS March 4, DVD Release March 25


On a personal mission to promote peace through cultural exchange, Egyptian-born Canadian artist Chantal Chamandy returns to her native country to perform an extraordinary concert at the majestic Pyramids of Giza and Great Sphinx, accompanied by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and her troupe of ten dancers. This marks the first time ever a concert was permitted to be filmed at the base of the Pyramids on the Giza plateau and offers a breathtaking, illuminated view of the last remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


Visually enhanced by striking choreography, elegant staging and a dynamic light show, the concert includes an emotional rendition of "Somewhere" from West Side Story, two traditional Arabic songs ("Salma ya Salama" and "Helwa ya Beladi"), and Chantal's original compositions ("You Want Me", "Peace", "Let's Talk About You" and many others). Filmed September 7, 2007, the performance features guest appearances by the Egyptian National Ballet Company, Tanoura dancers, a Darbouka drum band and an Egyptian marching band.


Chantal Chamandy, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and raised in Montreal, saw the possibility of realizing her dream of singing in her homeland before one of the great wonders of the world. "It's a unique opportunity for me: that's why I had to work with the world's top producers of this type of performance. I'm very proud to showcase the talents and skills of Quebec performers and artistic and technical experts who have worked on world-class productions. This show will be a magical moment in my life," said Ms. Chamandy.


"Beladi, A Night at the Pyramids" will air on PBS March 4 and be released on DVD on March 25. More info to come.

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"AUGUST RUSH" Finds His Muse On Warner Home Video DVD, March 11



There's music in the wind and sky. Can you hear it? And there's hope. Can you feel it? The boy called August Rush can. The music mysteriously draws him, penniless and alone, to New York City in a quest to find - somehow, someway - the parents separated from him years earlier. And along the way he may also find the musical genius hidden within him. Experience the magic of this rhapsodic epic of the heart starring Freddie Highmore (as August), Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard and Robin Williams. "I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales," August says. Open your heart and listen. You'll believe, too.


Actors: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video DVD
Release Date: March 11, 2008
Run Time: 113 minutes

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Warner Bros' "I AM LEGEND" On DVD March 18th


Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable, and man-made. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague -- The Infected -- lurk in the shadows... watching Neville's every move... waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered... and quickly running out of time.


Actors: Will Smith, Salli Richardson, Alice Braga
Format: Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: March 18, 2008
Run Time: 100 minutes


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BBC Warner's "THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL" Makes Its DVD Debut March 4th



An extraordinary tale of sex, passion and royal intrigue. This is the little-known story of Mary Boleyn who was mistress to King Henry VIII before he married her older sister, Anne. Inspired by Philippa Gregory's best selling novel, this film is about great families jockeying for position and using their daughters as pawns in a deadly game. Set during one of the most notorious periods in British regal history, it is a powerful narrative and at its heart is the relationship between two rivals - the Boleyn sisters.


Product Details
Actors: Ron Cook, Philip Glenister, Jane Gurnett, Jared Harris, Steven Mackintosh
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 1
Studio: BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: March 4, 2008
Run Time: 90 minutes


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Dr. Seuss' HORTON HEARS A WHO! On DVD March 4th



WARNER HOME VIDEO RELEASES
DR. SEUSS’ CLASSIC ANIMATED TELEVISION SPECIAL
HORTON HEARS A WHO!
ON DVD, IN AN ALL-NEW, RE-MASTERED DELUXE EDITION
MARCH 4, 2008


The DVD will be Presented in a Dazzling, Specially-Designed Package
Featuring Three Bonus Episodes from the Best of Dr. Seuss, Including
Butter Battle Book, Daisy-Head Mayzie and Horton Hatches the Egg!


BURBANK, CA (January 2, 2007) – The inhabitants of Who-ville will shout with glee, when Warner Home Video (WHV) releases Dr. Seuss’Horton Hears a Who! on DVD. The captivating, Peabody Award-Winning, animated television special produced by legendary animator Chuck Jones will be available in a deluxe, fully re-mastered edition on March 4, 2008 in time for the new theatrical remake. The release will include three bonus episodes from the Best of Dr. Seuss as well as additional bonus features. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! Deluxe Edition will retail for $19.97 SRP. Order due date has been set for January 29, 2008.


Adapted from Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s story book Horton Hears a Who! the half-hour special was directed by Academy Award-winning animator Chuck Jones and first aired on television The special brings to life the delightful story of a charming Elephant named Horton, who while taking a bath "on the 15th of May in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, he was splashing, enjoying the jungle’s great joys, when Horton the elephant heard a small noise."


Horton hears a faint plea for help coming from a tiny speck of dust drifting through the air. The plea comes from Dr. Hoovey, resident professor of science of Who-ville, a tiny planet no bigger than a speck of dust, which is inhabited by the microscopic Whos. Horton happily obliges to take care of the all the teensy Whos in Who-ville, proclaiming "after all, a person is a person, no matter how small," and tenderly rests the tiny speck of dust on a clover blossom. Horton’s jungle companions however claim Horton has "flipped his lid." They enlist the Wickersham brothers to steal the clover from Horton, and arrange to then pass it along to the black-bottomed eagle, who finally drops the clover in a great big patch of clovers over 100 miles wide. Keeping his promise to protect the Whos, Horton searches through the entire field to prevent the Whos from perishing.


"Horton Hears a Who! is such a sweet, tender story. It captures the hearts of viewers no matter what their age. We are delighted to finally give this wonderful special it’s own, well-deserved release," said Amit Desai, WHV Vice President, Family, Animation and Sports Marketing. He added, "This special truly captures the essence of Dr. Seuss’ book. It teaches us wonderful morals and values while at the same time entertaining us with vibrant animation, brilliant narration and imaginative storytelling."



DVD Special Features Include Three Bonus Episodes from the Best of Dr. Seuss:


Butter Battle Book – Tells the story of the battle between two hostile cultures, the Yooks and the Zooks, over buttering bread butter side up versus butter side down.

Daisy-Head Mayzie – Focuses on the story of Mayzie, a school girl who sprouts yellow daisies from her head.

Horton Hatches the Egg! – Another story featuring Horton the elephant, who is convinced by an irresponsible bird named Mayzie, to sit on her egg while she takes a break.


Additional kid-friendly enhanced content will also be featured including a Singalong Music Video, You Can Hear Horton, Horton Can Hear You! and In Search of Dr. Seuss, an Emmy Award-nominated 90-minute documentary hosted by actress Kathy Najimy. The film tells the story of Dr. Seuss’ life through celebrity skits, music and animated clips from his best-loved stories.


The Basics
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, Deluxe Edition
Street Date: March 4, 2008
Order Date: January 29. 2008
DVD SRP: $19.97
UPC: 012569799172
Running Time: 26 min. feature + 55 mins. Bonus Episodes + 20 mins. EC

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Young and Dangerous - Review



In the mid 90’s, Hong Kong’s film industry was not in good shape. With the handover to China imminent, many film makers had relocated to Hollywood, with John Woo of course being the first. One young director was just beginning his career and would, in the coming years, prove to be a trend setter and innovator for Hong Kong cinema. Andrew Lau’s name in recent years has become synonymous with the Infernal Affairs trilogy, the first film of which reinvented the Hong Kong thriller genre. The recent success of the Martin Scorsese Hollywood adaptation of the movie as the Departed has proved the longevity and quality of the original Infernal Affairs. In 1995 Andrew Lau had a few films under his belt including the thriller To Live and Die in Tsim Sha Tsui, but he was yet to have a major hit. The film Young and Dangerous would prove to be a success beyond his wildest dreams. Based on Niu Lo’s graphic novels, it would spawn six sequels and numerous spin offs, mostly centring around the original characters. Though the commercial success of the film cannot be denied, when compared to the cream of Hong Kong gangster cinema from the mid 80s onwards, the quality is sorely lacking. There are many reasons to assert this, but for those of you who are interested in the plotline, here goes.

The film centres around a group of young triad upstarts, led by Nam (Ekin Cheng) under the tutelage of their boss Uncle Bee (Chi Hung Ng). Other members are Chicken (Jordan Chan), Dai Tin Yee (Michael Tse), Chow Pan (Jason Chu) and Pou Pan (Jerry Lamb). They operate through the Hung Hing gang, and are beginning to rise in the ranks. However, when they are assigned an assassination in Macau, things begin to go wrong. Chow Pan is murdered, Chicken is forced in to exile in Taiwan while the rest of the gang are subject to the rules of the triad and are exonerated from the ranks. In the meantime the groups biggest rival Ugly Kwan (Francis Ng) frames Nam and looks to take over leadership from the honourable Mr Chiang (Simon Yam). He succeeds, and this leads to some unsavoury encounters including the murder of Uncle Bee by Kwan. The group decide to wage war on Kwan, and in the messily violent ending get their revenge.

Perhaps the most kinetic and exciting aspect of the film is the plot and narrative, which moves at a breakneck pace, despite comic asides and character development. Hong Kong cinema’s ability in its mature years to create a tight narrative wherein not a second is wasted is second to none among world cinema, and here that is no exception. However comic asides in the film tend to trade creativity for silliness and visual ineptitude. The comic scenes create an incoherence of overall tone, and lack the requisite comedic value to be entertaining. One scene when an extraneous character called the stammerer is forced to eat dozens of pork buns creates a hold up in the action, as do most of the other scenes involving this character do.

The tagline for the movie is ‘A Better Tomorrow for the nineties’, and if there was ever a more inappropriate one this reviewer has yet to hear it. The film lacks all of the things except narrative drive that made A Better Tomorrow such a masterpiece; emotional identification with the characters, charismatic performances and above all aesthetic power. Mawkish sentimentality and pop promo visuals mar the characters moments of bonding, with none of the balanced and enduring imagery and poignancy of emotion on display in A Better Tomorrow. One of the main problems is most of the actors total lack of charisma. In the group only Jordan Chan as Chicken puts in a decent performance, portraying his at first happy go-lucky side melding in to a maturity beyond his character’s years. Ekin Cheng’s wooden and stilted acting style makes you wonder how he became so popular, with only his good looks and cool hairdo carrying anything approaching a performance. It is the older guard who really shine through, with two veterans of the genre showing the youngsters how it’s done. Simon Yam by this time had put in some of the best performances in the action genre, especially in John Woo’s Bullet In the Head. He is sorely underused, and the screen lights up whenever he appears. Francis Ng’s wonderfully laid back but psychotic turn as Kwan, sporting an array of multi coloured suits, is at once comic and tragic. The rest of the cast are disposable and subordinate, with scenes of bonding between the group reduced to drinking games and stupid singalongs.

The biggest disappointment about the movie is the aesthetics. Part pop promo part urban action imagery, the unbalanced feel is irritating. The constantly moving camera in most scenes is disconcerting, and creates a low quality and visually abridged style that probably reflects the way in which the film was shot. Many scenes seem perfunctory and tacked on just to revel in the pop video feeling of the film, such as shots of the group hanging out while tedious proto funk plays on the soundtrack. This contrasts wildly with the lives the characters lead; one of violence and death just around the corner. The filming of such violence is another huge disappointment, with the decision to film action in the jerky-cam style made popular by Wong Kar Wai’s arthouse masterpieces at the time.

It is interesting to compare such scenes with A Better Tomorrow’s poetic ballet and with Wong’s Fallen Angels, a film which came out in the same year as Young and Dangerous. Wong was parodying the typical Woo hero and creating his own style in the action scenes using the jerky-cam. In his scenes despite the visual chaos, framing of the action is constant and built up wonderfully, leaving only a minute of real action which is all that is needed. Young and Dangerous’ appropriation of the technique creates a poor impression of the action and not even a good call for style over content, because the framing is so off in the violent scenes, not allowing for true viewer fulfilment. The end battle is uninventive despite the powerfully tragic death of the films best character, Kwan.

The aspects that help recommend the film are mostly, unfortunately, not given enough screen time. These are the performances of Yam and Ng, and the mildly diverting rock-based soundtrack. Without these it would really be in the doldrums of any age of Hong Kong cinema.The new guard introduced in the film, despite making the sequels and other gangster thrillers, do not compare in any way to the introduction in the 80’s of such icons as Chow Yun Fat. If you want a good representation of mid 90’s Hong Kong cinema reach for those copies of Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, and leave this one on the shelf.

The UK DVD release is by the ever reliable Hong Kong Classics label, released in 1999. The print is in good shape, although it is not restored or remastered, and there is good colour balance. The ratio is 185:1 widescreen, which serves the film well. As for extras, there is the usual from the label: very little. The original theatrical trailer is the only extra.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Warner Brothers Presents Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 2 Specs and Video Clips




Double the Vice…Double the Fun!

TCM Archives:

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 2

Five Restored & Remastered Pre-Code Classics and a New Feature-Length Documentary

Debut as a 3-Disc Set on DVD March 4

~The Divorcee/A Free Soul~

~Three on a Match/Female~

Night Nurse/Thou Shalt not: Sex,

Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood

Burbank, Calif. November 5, 2007 – On March 4, Warner Home Video (WHV) will introduce a second group of sassy and taboo films from Hollywood’s Pre-Production Code era with the DVD debut of Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2. Following the success of last year’s Volume 1, this new 3-disc collection will contain five pre-code sizzlers, with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Disc One spotlights Norma Shearer in her Best Actress Oscar®-winning role as The Divorcee and again in A Free Soul; with Lionel Barrymore and Clark Gable. Disc Two features Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak in Three on a Match paired with the Michael Curtiz-directed comedy Female starring Ruth Chatterton as a no-nonsense CEO. Disc Three features William Wellman’s powerful drama Night Nurse, which stars Barbara Stanwyck with a very young Clark Gable, along with the new documentary feature Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood. The film provides fascinating insight into the American psyche of late 1920s and early 1930s, illustrating why, more than seventy years later, the so-called “Pre-Code” movies remain among the most vital and provocative films ever made.

Each of the features contained in Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2 have been digitally remastered from newly-restored film elements. The collection also contains bonus features such as commentaries and theatrical trailers. The three DVD set, containing the five vintage classics and the new documentary feature will be available as a collection only, selling for $49.92 SRP and orders are due January 29, 2008.

About the Films

The Divorcee (1930)/ A Free Soul (1931)

Based on Ursula Parrott’s spicy 1929 novel “Ex-wife,” the highly controversial The Divorcee was nominated for four Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Norma Shearer won for Best Actress as a woman who confronts the hypocrisy of the double standard after catching her husband in a compromising position and forcing him to confess his infidelities. Her solution to the problem: try to match him tryst for tryst.

In A Free Soul, Lionel Barrymore captured an Oscar for his portrayal of a brilliant alcoholic lawyer Stephen Ashe, who successfully defends dashing gangster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable) on a murder charge only to find that his headstrong daughter, Jan (Norma Shearer), has fallen in love with his client. Jan, a fun-loving socialite seeking freedom from her blue-blood upbringing, is only too eager to dump her aristocratic boyfriend (Leslie Howard) for the no-good gangster. She runs away from her childhood home to become Ace's mistress, embarking on a series of seedy adventures in New York's underbelly. Desperate to save his daughter's tainted reputation, Stephen finds her and makes her a deal: He'll stop drinking if she'll stop seeing Ace. The thrilling conclusion might just tear them apart forever. Shearer and director Clarence Brown also received nominations for their work in this powerful and moving film.

DVD Special Features:

· The Divorcee commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta

Three on a Match (1932)/ Female (1933)

The gangster melodrama, Three on a Match, stars Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak as a trio of school chums – Mary, Ruth and Vivian – meeting for a reunion ten years after high school. Director Mervyn LeRoy crams much plot into the 64 minute run time following each of the women’s lives. Mary is now a chorus girl after a stint in reform school; level-headed Ruth has a job as a secretary; and sexy Vivian is on the verge of deserting her wealthy husband Henry Kirkwood and their baby in favor of a glamorous gangster. The film is also noteworthy for the number of future stars making brief appearances, such as Lyle Talbot, Edward Arnold and, in his first gangster role, Humphrey Bogart as “The Mug.”

In director Michael Curtiz's (Casablanca) romantic comedy Female, Ruth Chatterton plays Alison Drake, the iron-fisted president of a motorcar company. Alison oversees the daily operations of her male employees with a predatory gaze and frequently exercises her right to engage with them in any way she deems fit. She meets her match in an equally strong-minded new employee, Jim Thorne (George Brent), and the two engage in a smoldering, contentious, sexually charged duel. The action of the film--one of the first to depict a female character turning a man's world to her advantage--feeds on the novelty of presenting a woman as a corporate shark and bedroom hound. Though it's obvious the filmmakers thought they were creating a scenario that would never actually happen, Alison's world-smashing exploits make the bulk of the film (before she begins to question her nontraditional lifestyle) a protofeminist romp. Brent and Chatterton were married at the time they made the film, and the natural chemistry between them is abundantly evident. Curtiz packs the screen with extravagant set design and period detail.

DVD Special Features:

· Theatrical trailers for both films

Night Nurse (1931)/ Documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood

William Wellman's (Public Enemy) Night Nurse is a sassy, unsentimental comedy about a private pediatric nurse named Lora Hart (Barbara Stanwyck) who, after applying as an apprentice in a family home, discovers there is a plot afoot to starve her two rich, fat, young charges to death. The culprit is the family’s chauffeur, Nick (Clark Gable), a villain who plans to marry the kids' dissolute mother and make off with their trust fund. It then is up to Hart, her wisecracking nurse friend Maloney (Joan Blondell), and her bootlegger beau Mortie (Ben Lyon) to save them. Director Wellman keeps the jokes humming along with the peril.

This never-before seen documentary, Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood examines the unique collision of events that resulted in one of the most dynamic – and delicious periods in Hollywood history -- a fascinating mix of scandal, big business and social history.

DVD Special Features:

· Night Nurse commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta

· Night Nurse theatrical trailer

About the Production Code

It was not the roaring ‘20s, as is generally believed, but the four years between 1929 and 1934 that was the real era of wide-open sexuality in films. Before Hollywood began enforcing a self-imposed Production Code, many films allowed for extraordinary frankness, including nudity, adultery, premarital sex and prostitution.

Film industry censorship began in 1922, following a trio of scandals that rocked Hollywood: the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle rape/murder trial, the never-solved murder of director William Desmond Taylor and the drug-related death of matinee idol Wallace Reid. In 1930, a new version of the Production Code was drafted to standardize the censorship requirements of various states, since the inception of talking films made it difficult to arbitrarily cut offending scenes.

However, the studios merely paid lip-service to the Code since they were more interested in finding ways to lure dwindling Depression era audiences into theatres.

The Pre-Code era “officially” kicked off with the 1929 release of The Divorcee (included in this collection), starring Norma Shearer, with a startling story of a woman who discovers her husband has had an affair and sets out to “balance the account.” The phenomenal critical and financial success of this picture led other studios to attempt to top it and soon almost every actress in Hollywood was required to sin and repent. The sensational series of films that emerged helped Hollywood survive its economic crisis and moviegoers enjoy the vicarious thrills the films provided.

The era came to an abrupt close beginning July 1, 1934, when Catholic watchdog groups threatened boycotts of all films and the Church established the Legion of Decency to monitor movies. Studio heads bowed to the pressure and the era of censorship began, lasting until the establishment of the industry’s rating system in 1968.

Additional TCM Archives Collections currently available include: The Lon Chaney Collection, The Buster Keaton Collection, The Garbo Silents, The Laurel and Hardy Collection and Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 1.

Other great collections can be found at the www.whvdvd-collections.com website.

Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 2

Street Date: March 4, 2008

Catalog #/UPC: 1000018916/012569795761

Pricing: $49.92 SRP




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SON 1:58

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Best Picture Nominee ATONEMENT Comes to DVD March 18th


Nominated for seven Academy Awards® including Best Picture
Winner of Best Music Score

Winner of two Golden Globe® Awards including
Best Motion Picture- Drama

Winner of two BAFTA® Awards including
Best Film


SYNOPSIS: From the award-winning director of Pride and Prejudice comes a stunning, critically acclaimed epic story of love, betrayal, and all its consequences. When a young girl catches her sister in a passionate embrace with a childhood friend, her jealousy drives her to tell a lie that will irrevocably change the course of all their lives forever. Academy Award® nominee Keira Knightley and James McAvoy lead an all-star cast in the film critics are calling "the year’s best picture" (Thelma Adams, US Weekly).


BONUS FEATURES:
Deleted Scenes
Bringing the Past to Life: The Making of Atonement
Watch the new become old as the filmmakers recreate the English Countryside of 1935, the famous Dunkirk evacuation and the drama of war torn WWII London.
From Novel to Screen: Adapting a Classic


Once again director Joe Wright takes a classic period story and re-invigorates it for a new audience. Re-uniting the director, producer and star of PRIDE & PREJUDICE, we look at how Wright’s modern style of film-making brings these novels to life.
Feature Commentary with Director Joe Wright


TECHNICAL INFORMATION:
Street Date: March 18, 2008
Price: $29.98
Selection Number: 61033285 AWS; 61033286 FF
Running Time: 2 Hours 3 Minutes
Layers: Dual Layers
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1; Full Frame 1.33:1
Rating: R for disturbing war images, language, and some sexuality.
Languages: English SDH/ Spanish/French
Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

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