"And this is my horse, Fritz!"
While Django Unchained was in its theatrical run, I had the chance to see it twice; release day on Christmas and a few hours after the premiere of my first feature film. I remember on the release day, I left an hour before the first showing and I was stuck in a line and was in that line for ninety minutes and it was at the point where I had to catch the second showing. And I was the third person in a long line for the second showing as I arrived forty-five minutes before it started, to get concessions and such. After being one of the first people sitting down, a large obesse man with his wife sits right next to me in an open theater and says; "Hey, hon! Let's sit next to him! He's got a large bucket of popcorn!"
I proceeded to move over a seat and the movie soon starts. When the film starts and Dr. King shoots the horse, the man proceeds to freak out and say out loud; "He shot that horse!" And his wife quietly responded to him and said; "This is a Tarantino film, honey!" It made me aware who was wearing the pants in this crappy marriage. After the film ended, it was myself and another hippy-ish couple in the theater and the lights come on. As I was the last person walking out, I can hear this guy saying; "This movie won't be playing long in the theater as it will be banned! They said the 'N' nonstop throughout the film!"
Again, the town I live in is full of rocket scientists. I don't live in Europe, not any more, where a government can actually ban films from being sold and purchased. In America, the government does not have that type of power. Despite the fact that the MPAA has nothing better to do than go after illegal downloads, I'm sure that government has better things to do, then again...
Django Unchained tells the story of a slave (Jamie Foxx) is freed by a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz has Django help him track down and collect a bounty on three brothers who helped Django get sold off. After the task is said and done; Schultz learns from Django about his wife, Broomhilde, (Kerry Washington) who was sold off at the same time and that Django wants to find and free her. Schultz and Django learn that his wife was sold to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is a sinister slave owner.
I place Django Unchained in my top three Tarantino directed films, next to Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. He managed to capture this look of what the late 1850's looked like before the Civil War. However, I do think that the you could have named the title character anything else and it would still be as good. I'm sure most are aware that Django was a lone gunslinger played by Franco Nero (who cameos in the film) the 1966 film, Django.
Samuel L. Jackson plays a despicable villain in this film and terrorizes Kerry Washington again, previously in the 2008 film Lakeview Terrace. I think all of the actors shine in this film. Waltz does another great job, this time playing a protagonist in this film. Jamie Foxx as Django also gives appeal and humor to his character whenever Django is interacting with Broomhilde towards the final moments of the film. I give the film a 5/5.
Presented in 2.35:1 and in 1080p, Anchor Bay gives the film the best look it can get. Since the film is pushing three hours and does have a few bonus materials, I think that the transfer could be better as it seems to hang around the low 20's in the Mpbs acording to my PS3. Despite that, it's solid, as we have the overall feel of the theatrical presentations I had seen. Grain is decent and I'm sure it could have been stronger. I give the video presentation a 4/5.
Anchor Bay gives the film a nice DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. We also have the film presented with French and Spanish dub tracks for the feature. The English audio is very nice as we hear sound effects with zoom ins, like when we first see Candie's face and Tarantino has the tight zoom in for the reveal. I think this audio track really helps the experience as you are immersed with Tarantino's vision for this film. I give the audio presentation a 5/5.
While the Blu-ray only has a few extras, we have an extra DVD which includes the cast at Comic-Con in 2012. On the Blu-ray, we have "Remembering J. Michael Riva", the production designer who sadly passed while working on the film. The crew and cast talk about how they were impressed with how he helped managed to capture the look the of the late 1850's. "Horse and Stunts" which talks about using horses and that Jamie Foxx actually used his own horse towards the end of the film as he rides back to Candie-land.
A look at the woman who was the costume designer who helped make all of the characters stand out and not look exactly alike. Tarantino talks about how the one who looked exactly like the sketches was Don Johnson as Big Daddy and how his look leaped from the drawings to the big screen. Promotional trailers for the Django Unchained soundtrack and the highly stupendous Tarantino XX Blu-ray boxset. Problem I have with this boxset is that they do not include From Dusk Till Dawn which is probably one of the most important films that Tarantino wrote and also starred in.
On the bonus Target exclusive DVD, we have a 50+ minute look at the cast and director Quentin Tarantino at Comic-Con 2012. I think this is an interesting bonus, but, ultimately not needed. Also, something else that is not needed with this Blu-ray is a DVD copy, and iTunes and Ultraviolet Digital Copies of the film. I give the bonus features a 5/5.
I'm not a fan of exclusives. Virtually all of the big retail chains, Best Buy; Target; and Wal-Mart had exclusives for this film. These exclusives and combo packs, especially the combo packs are a big waste of production time and money! I loved the film, but DVDs and Digital Copies are a big waste of time for me as a consumer. If you're a fan of Tarantino's work, this will no doubt be in your collection of films. I recommend Django Unchained, despite whatever Blu-ray exclusive you buy. 5/5.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
"Bonjour, je voudrais le loup dans le Gevudan!"
Christophe Gans, the little filmmaker who can. While he has directed only a few films which you can count with the fingers on one hand, he truly is a great director who gets the shaft whenever he wants to make movies. He wanted to do an adaption of Silent Hill 2 after he did Onimusha and was also going to do Rahan; Captain Nemo and the Nautilus; Fantomas; Swedish Knight; and countless other films that died a horrible death. While Onimusha was only a few months shy of filming, Heath Ledger died while filming Dr. Parnassus. This caused the producer, Samuel Hadida, to scramble and shut down every film that was not rolling.
It's a real shame, as French filmmaker Christophe Gans is a master at his craft. With his second, out of three, full length feature; Le Pacte Des Loups, it's based on the true story of the Beast of Gevudan. The beast, which is claimed to be a monstrous wolf or even a werewolf; stalked the French countryside in the 1700's. The beast killed and disfigured countless, unsuspecting women and children; but oddly few men were attacked.
In this film adaption of the true story, a knight named Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan, Frontiere(s)) and his Native American friend (Mark Dacascos, I Am Omega) go to Gevudan to kill the beast by orders of the king of France. They meet the royal family and Fronsac falls for both the daughter, Marianne (Emilie Dequenne); and the mysterious prostitute, played by Monica Bellucci. As Fronsac draws in closer to the lair of the beast, things are not as it seems in this community and the tables soon turn with Fronsac and Mani fighting for their lives.
Vincent Cassell makes an awesome villain in this movie and does a tremendous job. Most of the actors are great and go above and beyond in this film and it puzzles me that we can see Mark Dacascos in this and then see him in other films like, Cradle 2 the Grave and I Am Omega. Monica Bellucci naked is nothing new and is a great treat whenever she shows up on screen. And Samuel Le Bihan is great as the lead protagonist in this film.
I remember being twelve years old whenever this hit DVD, I remember being disappointed that I missed this in theaters. The cut of the film on this Blu-ray is the director's cut which runs almost two-and-a-half-hours long. I feel that the restored scenes in this cut makes Christophe Gans' vision a stronger movie. As we have scenes in which Marianne and Sylvia (Bellucci) interacting in this cut, whereas they have no real knowledge of each other's existance in the American theatrical cut of the film. This movie is one in my top ten films of all time. I give the film 5/5.
Presented in 1080p and in 2.35:1; Studio Canal's transfer of Le Pacte Des Loups might seem a bit dated, but, the video is pretty strong. Grain is pretty strong, however in some spots it seems weak. In darker scenes, especially towards the end of the film, the grain is bright white and it does wash out the image a bit. For the most part, the transfer is good on the eyes. Very beautiful, but, not close to perfection as I wish it could be. I give the video transfer a 4/5.
Note: To access the film with English subtitles, you have to select "UNITED KINGDOM" on the first screen.
Studio Canal presents the film in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 French audio track. Even though this is the only track on the disc, it's booming whenever there's action. And then it's quiet and somber whenever the scenery gets drap or depressing. I'm sure if I had a proper set up, this would be demo audio. I give this audio a 5/5.
Only bonus material on this disc is quite pathetic and brings the disc down. We have a video and audio calibration on the disc. That's it. No trailers or anything. Such a shame. .5/5
While I haven't seen and don't really plan on getting the UK disc, I can recommend the French Blu-ray if you can play Region B locked discs. If not, go for the German Blu-ray which is Region Free, despite the fact it has English dubbing and not English subs if you really want this film. This disc is worth a spin. 3.5/5.
"Give this Job to my Friend. He Loves to Play in the Jungle!"
Piracy! The problem has gotten so bad in Asia and in Russia; and it's gotten to the point in Russia where films will be released in a "vanilla" version about a week or two after the film hits theaters. These will mainly hit DVD and a few will hit Blu-ray, albeit a very few. The Expendables is one of those few that hit on Blu-ray in a combo pack with a DVD copy. All though, I think this plan of having "vanilla" releases has somewhat backfired in terms of fighting piracy. You virtually have perfect video and just Russian audio that bootleggers will sync up English audio from a camera copied source.
The thing is, Russian DVDs and Blu-rays are hard to come by. Almost all of Russian webstores will only ship within Russia. I was luckily able to get one of these elusive Russian Blu-rays from a kind soul in Canada who sold this to me for a good $10.
The Expendables is a rag-tag group of mercenaries, composed of Sylvester Stallone (Rambo & Rocky), Jason Statham (The One & Transporter), Jet Li (The One & Fearless), Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher & Red Scorpion) Mickey Rourke (Angel Heart & Sin City), Terry Crewes (White Chicks & Friday After Next), and Randy Couture (Red Belt & Scorpion King 2). After given a job by a stranger named "Mr. Church", played by Bruce Willis, they are on the path to a small island in South America called Vilena.
The island is ruled by a Castro-esque villain, played by David Zayas, who is being pulled along by an ex-CIA agent (Eric Roberts). Barney (Stallone) and Christmas (Statham) meet and are lead by a beautiful island girl played by Giselle Itie. The military closes in on the trio and as Barney and Christmas escape; they return back to their base to develope a strategy to take down Vilena.
For being a throw back to 80's action films, I enjoyed it. Sure, the acting could be better, but how long has it been since we seen my favorite version of "The Punisher" on the big screen? Statham and Li's third outing together is probably the best one yet. And the cameos by Willis and Schwarzenegger are pretty bad ass. I give the film a 4/5.
Usually these Russian "vanilla" versions have some rough video quality. For an HD transfer, I feel that this one is pretty good. Video is soft in some shots, but grain is present and it's pretty sweet. For a telecine transfer, it's good. 3.5/5
Only audio option we have on the film is a Russian dub in DTS-HD MA 7.1. I don't who mixed this audio track, but, I honestly felt that this was a disappointment. Action was weak, but all of the dubbed dialogue felt over done. The Russian dub would revert to the original Spanish (or is it Portuguese) whenever we cut to David Zayas' character talking and we would have Russian subtitles on the screen; there's a difference in quality whenever it cuts back and forth. I give this a 2/5.
On the disc, we have only two Russian dub trailers for the British film "Centurion"; and the French documentary "Oceans". And then, we have a DVD copy of the film. .5/5.
I cannot recommend this release unless you speak Russian. There's no English at all on this disc. If you are someone like me, who goes after obscure Blu-ray releases, this one is a long stretch. If this was 2010 when the film came out, sure, it'd be worth picking it up. Now, just pick up the U.S. Blu-ray or whichever Blu-ray release is out in your country for the film. 2.5/5.