Drunken Master


Viewed – 01 August 2021 Blu-ray

As a fan of Jackie Chan, you’d think I’d have seen the movie that had a hand in launching him as a bankable star, after years under the shadow of Bruce Lee. Yet I’d never got around to it until now. This 1978 Kung-fu comedy has Chan as ‘Wong Fei Hung’ (the same Chinese folk hero played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time In China), who as a martial arts student gets disgraced and thrown out of his school after bad behaviour. Soon he comes under the guidance of ‘Beggar Po’, a drunken master who teaches Chan a secret style of Kung Fu, leading him to face a hired killer who threatens his former master.

This energetic, knock about action-comedy is a lot of fun. There is a fight nearly every scene, and they’re all shot expertly and brilliantly choreographed showcasing genuine skill, ability and invention. The story may be simple but this benefits a movie with such a focus on fight after fight, and with famed kicker Hwang Jang-Lee as the central villain, I was having a ball.

The comedy is at times juvenile and only mildly amusing and sometimes can fall flat. Yet with some great martial arts on display, Chan proving a likeable lead and a simple story that just flows … I had a great time with this.

The Blu-Ray from Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema collection boasts a very sharp image that’s nicely detailed. The audio however in mono DTS Master Audio is rather basic with slightly echoey dialogue – but it’s clear enough. Extras include several interviews, one with Jackie Chan himself. There’s also a detailed booklet, commentary, a deleted scene and a trailer. Not too bad.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Good

Zack Snyder’s Justice League


Viewed – 29 May 2021 Blu-ray

This doesn’t happen very often, does it? A movie getting pretty much re-released that isn’t simply a director’s cut but in fact almost an entirely different movie. I feel I was one of the few that enjoyed the original 2018 version of Justice League, and while I could see the flaws, overall it still did its job. So sitting down to this much expanded, 4 hour version was both exciting and a bit intimidating.

Avengers assem… oh, wait.

The story has a megalomaniac villain called Steppenwolf who is searching for three ancient cubes that once brought together will transform our world, destroying all life in the process. So on learning this Bruce Wayne / Batman rushes to form a team of super-powered heroes in hope of stopping Steppenwolf in his tracks.

Zack Snyder, for some reason delivers this version of JL in 4:3 aspect ratio, and despite black bars either side of the screen, after a while I stopped noticing them. His style is so striking here, and with a muted colour pallet compared to the garish tones of JL 2018, this immediately felt more serious and epic. Much of the humour has been toned down, although The Flash’s wise-cracks remain intact. Also, with so much more time there’s far more emphasis on character, especially that of Cyborg, and at times this can feel very much his story, given the most interesting character ark. Superman’s status of being dead and his eventual resurrection is also packed with emotion. The villain’s motives are also better explained, with the addition of one character this time around filling a Palpetine type role to Steppenwolf’s Vader.

The movie may be over 4 hours long but with how it is split into six parts, and spread over two Blu-rays (I watched it over two nights) it didn’t feel bloated or padded and in fact zipped along at a decent pace with several great action scenes. It never gets as powerful as say, Avengers: Endgame, its central plot feels cliched and Steppenwolf isn’t all that interesting. There’s also some unnecessary sequel-bating here and there, with scenes involving Martian Manhunter and even Jared Leto’s Joker needing to be left on the cutting room floor …. but overall this was still an improved, highly entertaining, visually stunning and satisfying experience.

Verdict: Recommended

Memories of Murder


Viewed – 13 May 2021 Blu-ray

I had wanted to see Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 serial killer drama for a while but it had been hard to find on Blu-Ray. However with the recent release of a box set of the director’s movies, I finally got my wish. Based on true events and set in 1986, this follows a group of detectives as they investigate a series of murdered women.

The Police heading the case however seem particularly inept, their methods questionable to say the least; including torturing suspects to get confessions or planting evidence just to close the case. Yet when a more experienced detective from out of town joins the investigation, they begin to follow previously ignored leads. Korean cinema regular Kang Ho-Song is again decent and delivers a convincing portrayal of an arrogant detective clearly overwhelmed by the situation. However for me Kim Sang-kyung as the out of town detective stole the show in a more layered role, especially with how events change him.

Parasite Director Joon-ho delivers a solid drama. It’s not as stylish as he’s known for and more a character piece than anything all that grisly, I watched this twice and certainly got more out of it the second time around. Yet it’s focus on detectives being rather unprofessional and especially how they treat one suspect who has a learning disability seemed to bog down the narrative. So not a must see, but still another decent example of Korean cinema.

Unfortunately the Blu-ray from Curzon Artificial Eye is bare bones. The image quality is only serviceable, looking a bit soft generally and lacking fine detail. Sound fairs better with a punchy DTS 5.1 soundtrack that has clear dialogue and the moments when music kicks in are impactful. There’s only the original Korean language available and no English dub. Extras are non-existent but for a trailer. Disappointing treatment for an intriguing, if light-weight serial killer movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Poor

Update


Well what have I been up to lately? For starters I’m still really enjoying PlayStation 5, and am currently loving Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an unashamed, yet highly polished Breath of the Wild clone, that uses Greek mythology to give the game its own identity outside of comparisons to Nintendo’s masterpiece. I also got my hands on Hitman III, this time for Xbox One X, and had forgotten just how fun and absorbing that franchise can be.

Hitman III

TV-wise, I recently finished Tin Star, the crime drama starring Tim Roth, and although I feel season 1&2 were superior in story and depth, the Liverpool set final season was really enjoyable, rather bizarre ending aside. I’m also still watching The Fall with Gillian Anderson (who, by the way was great as Margaret Thatcher in the latest season of The Crown), and just finished season two. I’m also watching WandaVision, Cobra Kai (TV bliss!) and to a lesser extent The Handmaid’s Tale.

To make future posts a bit more varied, and to increase the movies I am watching without the need to review ‘everything’ … I’ll be grouping some opinions together in updates like this. Two movies I’ve seen recently, are The Philadelphia Story, the 1940’s comedy drama with James Stewart, Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn – a charming comedy of errors, revolving around a wealthy socialite’s impending wedding and how a local magazine want the scoop. The story wasn’t up to much but the banter and chemistry between the leads was fun, and child actress Virginia Weidler often stole the show. Verdict: Good.

The Birds

The other movie I watched recently was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, starring the lovely Tippi Hedren. I’d never seen this but of course I had heard a lot. Well… it was instantly likeable due to the characters and quirky interactions, that although goes on for a good hour before we get any ‘bird action’ … yet when things do occur, Hitchcock’s direction is first class and very effective – especially the climactic bird’s attack on the house. An acclaimed classic worthy of it’s reputation. Verdict: Recommended.

That’s all from me for now.

Craig.

Cat People


Viewed – 22 January 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve had a yearning to watch some older ‘classics’ of late and have been looking to The Criterion Collection to quench my thirst with a few titles that have caught my eye. This 1942 horror themed drama stars somewhat lesser known starlet Simone Simon as Irena, a woman who believes an ancient curse means that any physical intimacy with a man, means she’ll turn into a black panther and devour him. So naturally when she falls for a charming business man (Kent Smith) who convinces her to marry him … Irena fears her animal side will reveal itself.

The beast within…?

A simple tale with an intriguing premise, this flirts back and forth between the notion that Irena may be some carnivorous creature within, or she’s just sexually repressed. It certainly has something to say about female sexuality, which is bold considering when it was made. It’s also shot with atmosphere to spare, and has three enjoyable performances that drew me in. The story focuses on what becomes a love triangle, and the jealousy that builds especially in the final act made for some effective moments (the swimming pool scene). It’s not a horror in a traditional sense, there’s very little violence or creature effects, and is generally subtle and suggestive. Also despite a short run time, it was quite slow going. Yet I still found myself entertained.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection boasts a 2k restoration that’s detailed and pleasing with striking black & white photography, and an uncompressed mono soundtrack has clear dialogue and effective music cues that aid the often eerie mood. However the big bonus here is a lengthy documentary on famed producer Val Lewton which is narrated by Martin Scorsese and goes in-depth on the man’s career. Add to this a commentary from film historian Gregory Mark, interviews, a trailer and a booklet with an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. Quality treatment for a somewhat underrated classic. Worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended