Book Review “Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon”

Author: Weta Workshop
Series: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Hardcover: 104 pages
Publisher: Harper Design
Release Date: April 1, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” or his new trilogy “The Hobbit”, I simply cannot get enough. I absolutely love these films and I love any type of behind-the-scenes look into the world that he has created. In “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, we got to catch a glimpse of the dragon Smaug. Fans were left wanted more. In “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, we got to go face-to-face with this amazing character in the film and he no question stole the show. Benedit Cumberbatch’s motion capture performance of Smaug was outstanding and left me speechless. This latest book from Harper Design is dedicated only to marvel that is Smaug. We get to go behind-the-scenes and see how this wonderful character was brought to the big screen. If you are a fan of “The Hobbit” films, this is a must own.

Bringing Smaug to live was done by the amazingly talent artists at Weta Workshop. It includes some of the most advanced special effects and computer animation in a film today. I was so excited that Smaug received his own book, but at first clance I was disappointed since it is a rather small book in size but from the minute you open it, it is end to end packed with amazing content. There are brand new exclusive images, concept designs, artwork, photographs and painting for this amazing character. As a fan of the film, I literally could not put this down. You really get to dive into the world of Smaug and see how this amazing beast was created and brought to life.

The first section of the book focuses on how the dragon was imagined and designed. The second section dives deeper into how Weta Design created the character in a more “making of” fashion. There is everything from chapters on models, textures, shading, ADR, animation, lighting, sound design and visual effects. There is a nice focus on the film’s final moments as well with stills, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t like spoilers I would avoid that section. Actually to me seeing Smaug himself is a big spoiler so I would recommend watching the film first. Also the man behind the beast, Benedit Cumberbatch gives a great foreward to the book as well talking about his performance for the dragon, a great way to kick off the book.

Harper Design has been a big supporter of the new “Hobbit” trilogy. They have released three books to date giving fans an outstanding behind-the-scenes look into these films. The first two books are for “The Hobbit: An Unxpected Journey” called “Chronicles – Art & Design” and “Chronicles – Creatures & Characters”. The third is “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles – Art & Design”. The next book from the second film will be “Chronicles – Cloaks & Daggers” coming July 8th. Then we can also expect two more books from the final film as well, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”, so the fun is far from over! Stay tuned and keep them coming Harper Design, these books are amazing!

CD Review: Red Dragon Cartel “Red Dragon Cartel”

Red Dragon Cartel
“Red Dragon Cartel”
Frontier Records
Produced by: Ronnie Mancuso, Jake E. Lee
Tracks: 10

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Red Dragon Cartel is the newest rock/metal group formed by former Ozzy Osbourne/Badlands guitarist Jake E. Lee. Along with Lee the group features Ronnie Mancuso on bass, drummer Jonas Fairly and singer D.J. Smith. Together the group creates a sound that blurs the lines between progressive rock, heavy metal and industrial synth pop. The self-titled debut is being released via Frontier Records and features 10 original tracks produced by Mancuso and Lee and Executive Produced by Kevin Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Ozzy Osbourne).

Having been a subscriber of Guitar World magazine for as long as I can remember I certainly wasn’t stranger to the work Jake E. Lee. From Ozzy’s “Bark at the Moon” and “Ultimate Sin” albums to his recent appearances on VH1’s “That Metal Show” he was a player that was always on my radar. When it was announced he was going to be coming out with a new project I was certainly down for checking it out. “Red Dragon Cartel” is a unique blend of styles that cover a wide spectrum of hard rock and metal. The albums opening track “Deceived” shares a striking resemblance to “Bark at the Moon” while forging new ground both musically and vocally.

The track “Feeder” is a catchy rocker that is the first of several tracks to feature guest appearances with this one featuring Robin Zander of Cheap Trick fame. Other guest performances on the album include Maria Brink of In This Moment, former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno and former Pantera/current Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown to name just a few. Don’t let the long list of guest musicians fool you in to thinking that Red Dragon Cartel can’t stand on their own as singer D.J. Smith and the rest of the members of the band all can certainly hold their as the guest performances act more like the icing on the cake.

Though I found portions of the album sounding a bit dated there was nothing on the album that made me want to stop listening. I think the members of Red Dragon Cartel have made a solid record that showcases a number of different styles and talents and those things alone are makes this album worth checking out.

Track Listing:
1.) Deceived
2.) Shout It Out
3.) Feeder (feat. Robin Zander)
4.) Fall from the Sky
5.) Wasted
6.) Slave
7.) Big Mouth (feat. Maria Brink)
8.) War Machine
9.) Redeem Me
10.) Exquisite Tenderness

Blu-ray Review “Young Detective Dee: Rise of The Sea Dragon”

Actors: Mark Chao, William Feng, Angelababy, Carina Lau, Lin Gengxin
Directors: Tsui Hark
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Run Time: 134 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

When I see a film from Tsui Hark, I don’t care what it is I just immediately add it to my list. I did that with his 2011 film, “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and was so glad that I did since it was amazing. “Young Detective Dee: Rise of The Sea Dragon” is a prequel to that film and really amps up the ante. In fact, the prequel improves not only the story but also the visual effects. I felt like huge-budget epic summer film. Epic is the word that comes to my mind. What I also liked most is that this film is well-balanced and is exciting in the beginning, the middle and ridiculously awesome in the third act. Highly recommend to watch this film (but if possible in 3D, see below)

Official Premise: From legendary action director Tsui Hark and the creators of international smash hit “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” comes the captivating tale of Dee Renjie s beginnings in the Imperial police force. His very first case, investigating reports of a sea monster terrorizing the town, reveals a sinister conspiracy of treachery and betrayal, leading to the highest reaches of the Imperial family.

I am really upset with not being able view this film in its intended 3D format. The film really sets up a lot of its visual effects with the added dimension and I felt like I missing a lot here. This is not the first time that Well-Go has done this either. They released terrible films like “Dino King 3D”, “Sadako 3D” and “Tormented 3D” all with 3D Blu-ray releases, so I have no idea why they have cheaped out on titles like this one, which would have been AMAZING in 3D. Bad move! To top it off there are no special features either. Great movie, terrible Blu-ray. I would try and import this release and get the 7.1 Dolby HD track with 3D Blu-ray.

 

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Blu-ray Review “The Dragon Pearl”

Starring: Sam Neill, Li Lin Jin, Louis Corbett, Jordan Chan, Wang Ji, Robert Mammone
Director: Mario Andreacchio
Distributed by: Ketchup Entertainment
Release Date: June 18, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 95 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1/2 out of 5 stars

I have to admit plain and simple, I am a sucker for anything with Samn Neill.  But this is not really a not the Sam Neill show, as he just pops in for a few scenes. This family film is currently a Wal-Mart Exclusive until Aug 20, 2013.  As entertaining as the cover art looks though with the very pretty dragon, it is quite underwhelming.  The dragon special effects do look sharp but they are sparsely used like Sam Neill in the film. Kids might enjoy but parents be warned this is lame and bit of a bore.

Official Premise: Josh (Louis Corbett) and Ling (Li Lin Jin) thought they were in for a boring vacation with each of their parents (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park and Wang Ji) at an archaeological dig in China. It turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they discover a mournful dragon trapped deep inside a mystical temple. According to ancient legend, the dragon is missing its life force, a sacred pearl that is hidden away in a secret chamber. Josh and Ling must battle evil forces (and some very skeptical parents) in their heart-stopping journey to return the magical pearl to its rightful owner.

Ketchup Entertainment is releasing this film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Vudu Digital Copy.  The film was shot by award-winning Australian DP, Geoffrey Simpson, so I was very impressed with the 1080p transfer. In fact the locations where the film were shot were the best part of watching this. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks sounds good enough with the occasionally weak action scenes and decent score. Like the film itself, the special feature department is extremely lacking. We only get the film’s trailer here, so don’t expect much in the extra department.

 

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Blu-ray Review “Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition”

Actors: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Bob Wall, Shih Kien
Directors: Robert Clouse
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

Bruce Lee is one of our most well-known martial arts icons.  “Enter the Dragon” was one of Bruce Lee’s last films but one that made him the international star that he has become. To celebrate it’s 40th Anniversary, Warner Bros is releasing this Ultimate Collector’s Edition giftset, which includes collectible art cards, lenticular card and an embroidered patch. Top that with a new transfer and some amazing new extras and this release is instant purchase for any martial arts or Bruce Lee fan! It is crazy to believe that this film is actually 40 years old but it still holds up today and has never looked better.

Official Premise: Recruited by an intelligence agency, outstanding martial arts student Bruce Lee participates in a brutal karate tournament hosted by the evil Han. Along with champions Roper and Williams, he uncovers Han’s white slavery and drug trafficking ring located on a secret island fortress. In the exciting climax, hundreds of freed prisoners fight in an epic battle with Lee and Han locked in a deadly duel.

“Enter The Dragon” is not new to Blu-ray as it has been previously released back in 2007 in the early days of Blu-ray.  If you own that release this one is a real improvement.  The new transfer looks much sharper and clear. Really hides the fact that this film is 40 years old. The real star of this release though has to be the audio track which was upgraded from a wimpy Dolby Digital 5.1 last time to a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The track really delivers the punches and the action overall quite well.

The special features are in line with what should be included with an Ultimate Collector’s Edition. There are three new featurette including “No Way As Way”, “The Return to Han’s Island” and “Wing Chun: The Art that Introduced Kung Fu to Bruce Lee”. These are worth the purchase alone of this release. There is a nice commentary track with producer Paul Heller. There is an a few interviews with Lee’s wife, Linda Lee Caldwell compiled together. “Curse of the Dragon” is a excellent extensive documentary looking into Lee’s legacy and death, narrated by George Takai.

“Location: Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon” focuses on the shooting locations. “Blood and Steel: The Making of Enter the Dragon” is a typical behind-the-scenes that runs 30 minutes and dives into the films stuntwork and fight choreography.”Personal Profile Bruce Lee: In His Own Words” is a rare interviews with Lee pieced together with film clips. There is a vintage featurette from 1973 included, which I always enjoy watching.  There is a personal B&W featurette called “Backyard Workout with Bruce Lee”, nice but runs only two minutes. Rounding out the extras are five trailers and seven TV spots.

Enter The Dragon 40th Anniversary is Available on Blu-ray 6/11/2013 at the WB Shop http://bit.ly/ETD-40
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Blu-ray Review “Dragon”

Actors: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei
Directors: Peter Ho-Sun Chan
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When I see that Donnie Yen is in a movie, I immediately add it to my must-see list! I am a big fan and he delivers yet again in “Dragon”. Yen is backed up with the equally amazing Takeshi Kaneshiro, who is known for his roles in “Red Cliff”, “House of Flying Daggers” and “The Warlords”. The action and fight choreography are very stylized and packs some fun wire-work. There is also a fun detective/Sherlock Holmes aspect to the film as well, which I enjoyed the blend of both genres. If you are looking for a very smart and entertaining flick, then do not miss this film!

Official Premise: Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen) is a village craftsman whose quiet life is irrevocably shattered by the arrival of two notorious gangsters in the local general store. When Liu single-handedly saves the shopkeeper’s life, he comes under investigation by detective Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Convinced that Liu’s martial arts mastery belies a hidden history of training by one of the region’s vicious clans, Xu doggedly pursues the shy hero — and draws the attention of China’s criminal underworld in the process.

Anchor Bay delivered a very sharp Blu-ray presentation. The 1080p is very sharp and works great with the film’s consistent action. There are two DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, one for Mandarin and English dub. The obvious choice though is the original language track, as usual. The action is well represented and the dialogue is very clear. The special features are lacking with only two special features included. First up we have “The Making of Dragon” with Donnie Yen, which is a decent look into the production. Lastly, there is a “Lost in Jianghu” music video.

Blu-ray Review "Dragon Ball Z Kai: Seasons One-Four"

Actors: Justin Cook, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland and Colleen Clinkenbeard
Directors: Yasuhiro Nowatari
Rated: Unrated
Studio: FUNimation
DVD Release Date: S1: October 18. 2011, S2: May 22, 2012, S3: September 11, 2012, S4: March 12, 2013
Run Time: Season 1-3: 625 minutes, Season 4: 525 minutes

Seasons: 4 out of 5 stars
Extra: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Dragonball Z” is one of the most recognizable anime series in history. How is “Dragon Ball Z Kai” different? It takes the classic series that aired 1989-1996, which consisted of 291 episodes and complies it into a tighter 98 episodes. This was done to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show and also bring the series closely to Akira Toriyama’s 26 volume “Dragon Ball” manga. I know it is hard to be cool with loosing that much content from your beloved anime series, but I really dig it. All fans of the show know that there was quite a bit of fluff added and pacing issues with the original episodes. “Kai” feels a lot tighter and epic and represented well on Blu-ray, thanks to Funimation.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” really gives “Dragon Ball Z” a feel face lift. If you are a fan of this series, you will bee shocked at how good this series looks. It features high def remasters from Toei Animation’s original source material. They have been really touched up and have never looked better.  But “Dragon Ball Kai” is not just “Dragon Ball Z” remastered for HD, it is a literally a frame by frame digital clean-up, which includes brand new created animation added in which replaces entire segments from the original series. The new segments though are blended perfectly with the original footage and makes the show flow very smoothly.

Season one aka the Saiyans Saga contains episodes 1-26. Here is the official premise: Goku – Earth’s greatest champion – bravely defends humanity against an invading race of warriors known as the Saiyans. When the mighty hero falls, his young son Gohan rises up to face the very villains who murdered his father. The battle rages through space to Planet Namek, where Gohan and his overmatched allies risk their lives to defeat the Saiyan warlord Vegeta – and the monster known as Frieza!

Season two aka the Frieza Saga contains episodes 27-52. Here is the official premise: The nonstop action continues with a furious flurry of flying fists that will leave heads spinning! Krillin and Gohan test out their new powers in a battle with Vegeta, the Ginyu Force shows off their deadly moves, and Goku races through space on a collision course with Frieza! As the epic slugfest approaches a standstill, the Putrid Purple Fiend forever silences Goku‘s closest friend – sending Earth’s hero into a super-saiyan rage that threatens to obliterate them both!

Season three aka the Androids Saga contains episodes 53-77. Here is the official premise: In the aftermath of the battle between Goku and Frieza, both fighters have vanished, and the Earth has a new set of problems. A mysterious stranger known as Trunks has arrived from the future with a warning: The androids are coming – and they’re not alone! The monster known as Cell blazes a trail of death and destruction in pursuit of his horrifyingly perfect form. Should the hideous creature succeed, not even the power of a super Saiyan will be enough to save humanity!

Lastly season four aka the Cell Saga contains episodes 78-98. Here is the official premise: Cell has finally reached his perfect form, and he won’t rest till civilization falls! Only a herculean effort by Earth’s heroes can stop Cell’s rampage, but a superhuman slugfest of unprecedented brutality leads to Goku‘s shocking retirement! Young Gohan alone must now battle the monster and his miniature minions. The outlook appears bleak, but somewhere Goku lurks, waiting to lend his strength to Gohan for one final Kamehameha Wave. Will it be enough to save the world!?

You have to remember that this show originally aired from 1989 – 1996, so this show might not really be screaming high definition. But like I said the HD 1080p transfers for each episode looks fantastic.  The colors are very crisp and pop right off the screen. Also the show’s aspect ratio is also preserved with its original 1.33:1 presentation. The audio presentation for these seasons are just as impressive as the snazzy video upgrade.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” comes with newly recorded tracks for both the Japanese and English versions. Most of the original cast have returned to deliver a very sharp and clear. The Japanese track is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track, decent but I have to say I am a bigger fan of the English tracks here.  The English audio comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track which includes the most accurately translated subtitles to date from the original Japanese scripts.  This is a real update for the show unlike what was done for the English dub in “Dragon Ball Z”, which is always debated. So with these newly recorded voice tracks, I have to say that the English track really take the cake.

As much as I absolutely love these series, I really don’t love the extras on each season. I would have love FUNimation to include a few audio commentary tracks from the new U.S. cast. Also I am sure they could have scrounged up some featurettes or better interviews with the cast/crew on the restoration. But what we get is the Opening theme song (“Dragon Soul” by Takayoshi Tanimoto) and the closing theme song (“Yeah! Break! Care! Break!” also by Takayoshi Tanimoto) for each season. Season three also includes an extra closing theme song “Kokoro no Hane” by Team Dragon from AKB48. Season two attempts an interview extra but it is far too short. “Interviews with members of the US Cast”, cats with Justin Cook, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland and Colleen Clinkenbeard. Lastly there is a collection of trailers for FUNimation releases included with each season.

Dragonball Z is still going strong all these years later. “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods”, which is the 14th “Dragon Ball Z” movie and hits Japanese theaters on March 30, 2013. It has been 18 years since “Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon”, the 13th movie was released in Japan. So this film is a long time coming. So U.S. fans get ready because you know that FUNimation will be bringing this over to us as well. Also “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was suppose to end with this season but it was reported by Krillin‘s Japanese voice actor Mayumi Tanaka last year that the cast is recording new episodes for what would be considered season 5 aka the Majin Buu Saga. So stay tuned.

DVD Review "30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Actors: Kathryn Fiore, Flip Schultz, Olivia Alexander, Arturo del Puerto, Danny Woodburn, French Stewart
Directed By: Craig Moss
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: January 15, 2013
Run Time: 80 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to parody spoof films, it is usually hit or miss (mostly miss).  With a title like “30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” how can they go wrong! I have to admit this one delivers. Nothing is safe here! Besides the film’s in the very long title, many other non-horror including “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The Hunger Games”, “The Artist” and “Black Swan” are ranked on, even TV shows like “The Bachelor”, “The Apprentice” and “Ghost Hunters”. The primary spoof is “Paranormal Activity” and with all the found footage films taken over Hollywood it is nice to see some fun poked at them. Not every joke is a score but there is enough here to make it worth a least one viewing.

Offical Premise: Scream with laughter in this found footage parody- Dana’s father was sent to a psychiatric hospital after he killed the entire cast of The Artist while an exorcism was being performed on him. She continues on with her life -gets married, has kids and moves into the same (haunted) house she grew up in. But now she must battle the demons which haunted her father before her.

Kathryn Fiore is hilarious and steals the show (Here is our interview with her from earlier this year). Writer/director Craig Moss knows how to work parodies and film’s with long titles after their last “The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It”. The only special features included on the DVD is “Behind the Scenes of 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, but it is a nice showcase on the production.  I would have loved to seen a gag reel included.  This film is not perfect but it is worth it for a few good laughs.  If you want more parodies, keep an eye out for “A Haunted House” and “Scary Movie 5” both coming this year.

Win a DVD copy of "30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with The Devil Inside The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" [ENDED]

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Scare yourself silly and scream with laughter at this hilarious spoof of Hollywood’s hottest horror movies. When a young family, who can’t seem to stop filming themselves, moves into a house that turns out to be haunted, they meet up with a host of creepy characters — including a horny vampire-hunting president who wants to emancipate their dragon-tattooed daughter. With help from the hysterically high-energy “Ghost Brothers” the family sets out to solve the mystery of the haunted house.

Written and directed by Craig Moss, 30 Nights… stars Kathryn Fiore, Flip Schultz, Olivia Alexander, Danny Woodburn and French Stewart.

For your chance of winning a DVD copy of 30 Nights…, simply answer the following question and submit your answer by clicking here:

30 Nights’ French Stewart starred in which ‘90s sitcom?
• Friends
• 3rd Rock from the Sun
• That 70s Show

This giveaway will remain open until January 11th. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select TWO winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

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Blu-ray Review “Pete’s Dragon: 35th Anniversary Edition”

Actors: Mickey Rooney, Jim Dale, Sean Marshall, Helen Reddy
Director: Don Chaffey
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Run Time: 128 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Pete’s Dragon” has always been a favorite of mine (and my wife). Disney’s classic musical adventure has some of the most memorable songs, including the Academy Award® nominated “Candle On The Water” and of course “Brazzle Dazzle Day”. This 1977 film was a nice mix of Disney’s tradition animation blended perfectly with live action. This 35th Anniversary Edition of “Pete’s Dragon” boasts an all-new digital restoration and boy does it look and sound great at 35! I look forward to sharing this film with my daughter and singing along with Pete and his green friend Elliot”

Official Premise: When Pete, an orphan, and his best friend Elliott – an invisible green dragon – wander into the seaside village of Passamaquoddy, the townspeople think he’s behind a slew of hilarious mishaps. But after a daring rescue, they change their tune and believe in Pete’s fire-breathing buddy.

Disney does not disappoint with this release. The new 1080p digital restoration high definition release really looks sharp. The animation in film looks aged a bit but still has a lot of charm. The film is presented in widescreen with an 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Like most of the recent Disney Blu-ray releases, this one includes both a Blu-ray and DVD of the film within.

The special features are good but not overly special. They include only a few extras from the 2009 DVD release (not all included, which is strange). “Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney’s Movie Magic” looks into how Elliott was brought into the film. There is a Deleted Storyboard Sequence called “Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott”. Lastly there isn the original song concept for “Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)”. I expect a little bit more from the “35th Anniversary Edition”.

3D Blu-ray Review “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D”

Actors: Jet Li, Kun Chen
Directors: Hark Tsui
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Indomina
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Run Time: 122 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Flying Swords of Dragon Gate 3D” is a re-imagining of 1992’s “New Dragon Gate Inn”. It is a real kick-ass action film, which gives Jet Li a chance to shine. After seeing “The Expendables 2”, his role was so trivial and  I was dying for some real Jet Li action. If that isn’t cool enough this is directed by Tsui Hark. who has directed some of my favorite films like “Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain” and the “Once Upon a Time in China” series, also starring Jet Li. The film was shot entirely in 3D and really looks amazing, thanks to Chuck Comisky, the visual-effects supervisor for James Cameron’s “Avatar”. Highly recommended for all fans of Li or action in general.

Official Synopsis: Three years after the disappearance of the enigmatic innkeeper Jade and the massive fire that consumed the Inn, a new Dragon Inn has risen from the ashes, staffed by a band of marauders. Masquerading as law-abiding citizens by day, they use the cover of night to continue their true calling as fortune hunters. For legend says that the Dragon Inn is the site of a lost city buried in the desert – and a treasure that spans dynasties hidden deep within. As they await a storm strong enough to unearth the hidden fortress, they are surprised by the arrival of a pregnant concubine and her mysterious protector, Ling. They have come seeking the sanctuary of the Inn – as two factions from the Imperial City close in on them to claim her unborn child. Leading the Imperial Assassins is the merciless Eunuch, Yu who hopes to reclaim the Emperor’s child before she can fall into the hands of the righteous General Zhao.

The 1080p transfer is extremely impressive within its 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Besides the 3D action, which is amazing, Cinematographer Choi Sung-fai delivers some beautiful colored landscapes, which real pop. This also goes the same for the 2D version of the film, I just prefer and recommend watching it in 3D. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is perfect but only its original Mandarin language.  The English track is unbearable to listen to and turns the film into a comedy with the voice overs.  The only problem is that I am not a big fan of reading subtitles in 3D but it is really the only way to watch it.

The special features are found on the standard 2D Blu-ray disc and are good but they are also only in SD.  Firstly, there is a two part “Making of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, which both together runs about 15 minutes.  There is a look into some of the film’s production but looks like it was shot on a cell phone.  There is about 20 minutes of interviews with the film’s cast and filmmakers.  There is another 30 minutes feature looking behind-the-scenes, which includes some good detail but has some sound issues.  Lastly there is a trailer included for the film.

DVD Review “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)”

Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Running Time: 158 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is one of the best novels released in the recent years. The series has spanned two sequels, both which have Swedish films already made. This film is a US remake of the Swedish film based on the novel…get all that. I am sure I don’t have to explain though because of America’s wide awareness of this film. Rooney Mara really does an amazing job taking the role of Lisbeth Salander from Noomi Rapace. Although Noomi’s portrayal just feels a little more rigid and brutal. Daniel Craig just a match up job with his role of Mikael Blomkvist. Very impressive job overall from both. The aspect of this film that I loved the most was easily the cinematography, some shots are just downright breathtaking. You really get Fincher’s vision coming through with the film and it adds a lot to the film itself.

My only issue with the film is that it felt a little too much like the Swedish films. I enjoyed them both equally in fact with this film. I really can’t compare the two because they are so a like. In fact, after viewing this film, I spent a lot of time comparing the two and I was able to pick out bits and pieces of each from each film that I really enjoyed. The score is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (known for the Oscar-winning “The Social Network” score) is so stunning, haunting and really intense. “The Immigrant Song” cover by Trent Reznor and Karen O is truly an instant classic and will be used for many years following. It really drives this film and adds a lot of direction. The film is also 158 minutes but easily feels like it is only 90 minutes.

The only special feature available on the DVD is a commentary with David Fischer. It is a great feature in fact but I assume that the Blu-ray will have tons more features covering the film’s production more in depth. Also as I said that the film’s has such amazing shots, which would also looks much better on Blu-ray than DVD. Overall though this film is worth the purchase easily no matter what format you are able to view it on. I really hope that Fincher is able to make the other two books in the series because I would like to see how his vision is portrayed in them as well.

DVD Review “Dragon Age: Redemption”

Directors: Peter Winther
Starring: Felica Day, Adam Rayner, Doug Jones, Marcia Battise
Rated: Unrated
Distributed by: New Video
Running Time: 90 minutes

Film Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This six-part web series is based on the BioWare video game series of the same name. The series is created by Felicia Day, who is known best for her work on “The Guild” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing A-long Blog”. When it comes to web series, when you have her included it is instant magic. If you are fan of this video game series, you will definitely enjoy getting to see this universe coming alive. You can tell that Felicia Day is a fan of this series herself and does not want to let the fans down. The show is definitely low-budget and it shows a little in it’s production but overall it kicks some major ass.

The series follows Tallis (Day), an Elvish assasin, who gets sent on a mission to capture a Qunari mage named Saarebas (Jones) who is wreaking havoc. along the way she meets up with Cairn (Rayner) and Nyree (Battise) to assist her. Even though this is a web series, like I said it has this way bigger feeling. As the six parts only total about an hour, I was left happy but wanting more…sequel in the cards?! Felicia Day is funny, strong and sexy as Tallis. Props also need to go to Doug Jones who always plays a awesome bad guy, just wish he was in it more.

The special features are really the main reason you are buying this DVD, since the episodes are available online. The extras as up to about 45 minutes and are very entertaining. To start there is a great commentary from the series’ director and producer.  There a a bunch of features including “Bringing the Game to Life”, “Costumes”, “Characters” and “Stunts”, which all focus on various aspects of the series’ production. They are very in depth and give great insight. There are a funny blooper reel included, it is a must watch. Also there are trailers for “Dragon Age II and Origins” games and also DLC. All in all, these extras are definitely worth taking the plunge for this DVD purchase.

Film Review “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
Directed by: David Fincher
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 38 minutes
Sony Pictures

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Swedish magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is having a bad day. He’s just been found guilty of libel after publishing a very damning article about one of the country’s largest businessmen. Four hours away a phone conversation is being held. “No note,” is heard before the phone is hung up. Thus begins a tale to rival “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Based on the popular series of novels by Stieg Larsson (three books, over 27 million copies sold), “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has already been made into a well received film (as have the other two novels). But this is not a remake. This is director Fincher’s vision of the story. And, as Fincher has shown in films like “Se7en” and “Zodiac,” that vision is often unflinching. The film is really best described as a play. In Act One we meet, separately, both Mikael as well as computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander (Mara). Hoping to put the libel case behind him, Mikael accepts an offer from business tycoon Henrik Vanger (Plummer) to help him write his autobiography. But the offer is really a front. Vanger is the man whose telephone conversation we overheard. His granddaughter disappeared forty years ago under mysterious circumstances and he wants Mikael to solve the mystery. In coming to the decision to hire Mikael, Vanger’s attorney, Frode (played perfectly by Steven Berkoff) hired the best to investigate Mikael’s background. The best was Lisbeth. When Mikael asks for permission to hire an assistant he is introduced to Lisbeth. After a brief conversation, Mikael describes the task. “I want you to help me catch a killer of women.”

It’s almost hard to describe a film that features Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” during its opening credits and then ends the film with Enya’s “Sail Away.” I’ll start with brilliant. Following the blueprint created by Larsson and adapted by Oscar winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), the film follows both Mikael and Lisbeth and captures them at their most vulnerable. Lisbeth, a slight woman who lives on junk food and McDonalds (she explains that due to her metabolism she can’t put on weight) is a ward of the state. After several unsuccessful placements she seemed to have found a kind guardian. But when he takes ill she is taken advantage of by the attorney who oversees her finances. Mikael, a skilled journalist, is like a fish out of water as he tries to solve a forty year mystery under the guise of literature. As he begins to interview Vangers family members the subject of the missing girl is always brought up. And just as often, it’s dismissed by those who are tired of living in the past. But with Lisbeth’s help the mystery begins to unravel, as piece by piece the puzzle begins to come together.

Though the film is certainly Fincher’s vision, that vision is maintained thanks to a brilliant cast. Craig is solid as Mikael. With an easy tone in his voice he is able to ingratiate himself to anyone he speaks with, gaining their trust and encouraging them to disclose secrets long held. Plummer and Berkoff are equally strong, as is Stellan Skarsgard, who plays Henrik’s brother, Martin. They are brilliantly matched by Mara, who underwent an incredible physical transformation (including having several places on her body pierced) to play the waifish Lisbeth. Her eyes ringed in black and her voice low and deliberate, Lisbeth is only looking for someone to trust. To those who violate that trust, the consequences are severe!

Technically the film is just as powerful. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s cameras capture both the beauty and isolation of the Swedish countryside while the musical score created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross helps paint the on-screen pictures. Both musicians worked with Fincher on “The Social Network” (as did Mara, who portrayed the girl who upset Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of the film) and again they manage to capture the director in their music. The film is not for the faint of heart. Fans of the book know there are some pretty shocking moments and Fincher and cast have not shied away from them. The recently released “Shame” received an NC 17 rating with material not as rough as portrayed here.