Posted on: April 6th, 2009 From The Vault – The Week of April 6th

Hey Kids, Ryan here taking over From the Vault this week. For this edition, I thought I’d showcase a film I recently watched with one of my all-time favorites; both fantastic additions to any home video collection. So without further ado, here’s this week’s double-feature.

Oldboy

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Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang

Where do I begin how amazing this flick is? Hands down my favorite film to come out of South Korea, if not all of Asia period; a wonderfully executed and brilliant display of technical film-making, acting and master storytelling.

Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su, an average middle-aged businessman who is imprisoned with no reason or explanation for 15 years, with literally no human interaction. One day, Oh Dae-su is released back into the world where he is faced with an even bigger mind-game: does he try to unravel the mystery of his imprisonment, or quench his thirst for revenge?

From the opening frame to the emotional ending, I found myself magnetized to the screen and on the edge of my seat. Director Chan-wook Park created a beautifully haunting thriller that keeps you in the front row of this emotional roller-coaster. We’re taken right beside Oh Dae-su throughout his struggle, feeling every bit of hurt and despair as he tries to put the pieces together. The film is meticulously shot and scored, and Min-sik Choi’s performance is nothing shy of phenomenal. Oldboy features some fairly graphic violence, I wouldn’t say in excess, but the major fight sequence is something to mark in the history books as one of the greatest of all times.

oldboy-hammer-fight-corridor-scene1As for the “twist ending”… well… if M. Night Shyamalan had any sense in his brain he’d watch this flick and realize he can’t write a script to save his life and finally quit. Oldboy sets the bar for the genre and shows just how shockingly often these films really do fail.

If you’re a fan of revenge/thriller/mind-fuck type films, you must add Oldboy to the top of your list.

Special Features:

  1. Director & Cinematographer Commentaries

  2. Interview with the Director

  3. Deleted scenes with optional commentary

  4. Trailer

 

Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate Edition

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Directed by: George A. Romero
Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross

I can honestly say that not only is Dawn of the Dead my favorite film of all time, I also consider it to be not only one of the most important films in the horror genre, but one of the most important social commentaries of all time. If there’s one drawback to being a zombie film in the 70’s, its that the film is typically written off as a cheesy gore-fest. Yes there’s a fair amount of cheese and gore, but I presume this merely serves to entertain the dim and the dull unable to look past this layer and see the satire and subtext. Is Dawn of the Dead a zombie film? I say quite the opposite. If anything it’s a human film.

DotD explores what a small group of humans do to survive in the midst of a zombie outbreak, this group in particular seek refuge in a shopping mall. Zombies and survival themes aside, the film serves to examine consumerism, human reaction and self-indulgence. Dawn of the Dead is in some ways playing on a multitude of human fantasies. Imagine living in your own self-contained world, where money is not an issue and everything is at your fingertips. Your only obstacles are the slower-than-molasses walking undead, who for the most part exist as a way to spend your ammunition and spare time.

dawn_of_the_deadThe film doesn’t waste its opportunity to fully flesh out its story and take the audience through every cycle of emotion. It’s scary. It’s funny. It’s worrisome. And the score, provided by Goblin – the incomparable Italian prog-rock band – is something for the ear to behold.

There’s been a few home video releases for DotD, but this Ultimate Edition is the definitive must own for every fan. This gorgeous little box-set comes with three different versions of the film: the US theatrical version, the Extended version and the European version.

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US Theatrical Version:

127 minutes. The original, unrated cut that was released in theater. George A. Romero has referred to this as his preffered version.

Special Features:

  1. Audio commentaries from George A. Romero and special effects legend Tom Savini

  2. Theatrical trailers

  3. TV spots

  4. Radio spots

  5. Poster and advertising gallery

  6. George A. Romero bio

  7. Comic book preview

 

Extended Version:

139 minutes. Created for the 1978 Cannes Film Festival, this version contains 12 extra minutes of extended scenes and additional gore. This version is often referred to incorrectly as the ‘director’s cut’.

Special Features:

  1. Audio commentary with Producer

  2. Monroeville Mall commercial

  3. Behind-the-scenes photo gallery

  4. Memorabilia gallery

  5. Production stills

 

European Version:

118 minutes. The European release of the film was re-edited by Italian horror film master Dario Argento, with a shorter run-time. This cut’s main difference is its quickened pace and additional music from Goblin.

Special Features:

  1. Audio commentary with the cast

  2. International trailers

  3. UK televison spots

  4. International lobby card gallery

  5. International poster and advertising gallery

  6. Pressbook gallery

  7. Home video and soundtrack artwork

  8. Dario Argento bio

 

Bonus Documentaries Disc:

  1. The Dead Will Walk – A 75 minute documentary featuring the cast and crew.

  2. Document of the Dead – The original feature documentary filmed during the making of Dawn of the Dead.

  3. On-Set Home Movies

  4. Monroevill Mall Tour with Ken Foree

Posted on: March 30th, 2009 From The Vault – The Week of March 30th

Watchmen: Tales of The Black Freighter Review

Watchmen Tales of the Black Freighter Cover

Bringing the comic book to life, literally…

When I heard about them doing this DVD for Watchmen I thought wow, this could be really cool. As a big fan already for the book I thought this was a great idea, but why didn’t they just include it in the movie. As we all found out that it would just be too long, it was a shame because this would have really brought together the story in a different way I think. Maybe even give the movie more of the same feel of the comic book then it already has.

Let’s start first with the animated film Tales of The Black Freighter. I personally really enjoyed it. The animation was great and wasn’t done as just some cheap put together to get this out there. With Gerard Butler doing the voice for the film it definitely brought something to the table. I had read somewhere, and I can’t remember the source, but Gerard Butler really wanted a part in the Watchmen movie, and after working with Zack Snyder on 300, he had asked if he could have one. Well Zack told Gerard that he would see what he could do, but nothing came of that. Then when Zack Snyder put forward the idea to Warner Brothers for this animated short, he automatically brought Gerard into the picture. Which I thought was great. At times as you are watching it you can hear 300 Gerard, and at others you can hear RockNRolla Gerard, but most of the time the voice in unrecognizable and that’s a good thing. The voice by the end becomes its own and really works.

Although the animated short is not shot for shot, word for word, it is pretty damn close. I really enjoyed it for what it was, but for some reason it really didn’t connect to me like the story in the Watchmen comic did. So I’m very curious to see how the extended directors cut will come out with this animated version laced through the original film.

Now I heard of the Under The Hood bonus feature and although it sounded interesting, I didn’t really get too excited about it. Well interesting enough, I actually enjoyed that more than the animated short. It was really great and kept my attention for the whole thirty something minutes. I actually felt like the Watchmen world was really alive and that this was a real documentary. It was too cool. I mean they interviewed all the actually actors from the film, which what more can you ask for. Plus characters that we got such a little glimpse of in the movie, got full parts in this documentary. It was great to hear from Bernard the news vendor, Edgar Jacob aka Moloch the Mystic, and Wally Weaver to name a few. Then even having Hollis Mason doing the whole Under The Hood thing, and Silhouette making such a big appearance really made this better than I could’ve ever imagined.

watchmen-tales-clipThe first time I read through Watchmen I have to admit that all the extra book clips and what not at the end of each chapter really didn’t catch my interest. Don’t get me wrong, I read them, but after reading them the third or fourth time after reading the actual story three or four times, I really got into it. The opening chapter in Under The Hood is one of the best written pieces I think in the Watchmen book all together (I admit, most of the writing in that book was the best, but this was just one of many.) So to see these few chapters from Under The Hood brought to life was really great. I just enjoyed believing for thirty something minutes that all this stuff whether it be the book of the movie, could somehow be real.

For extras it includes Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen, which is a documentary of the making of both Tales of the Black Freighter and Under The Hood. It’s cool and definitely worth watching. Also in has the Watchmen Motion Comic Chapter One, which if you haven’t already seen it, worth checking out. Last is a First Look at Green Lantern which is very cool and worth a watch.

So as you can tell by this, and my Watchmen movie review, I love anything Watchmen. I’m not the type to nitpick and bring it down, I just really like to enjoy what we get served. If you’ve seen the movies, let me know what you think, or any questions or comments just post them. Hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.

Quantum of Solace

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Quantum of Solace… has anyone figured out what that means yet? As the first true sequel of a James Bond film, it’s the follow up of what most claim to be the best bond film ever, Casino Royale. So how do you go from the best and make it better? Well in this case, you don’t. While Casino Royale was an action movie, it was still layered with character growth and relationships that shaped a character that we all know and love today. Casino Royale really gave us the feeling that we know where James Bond is from and why he is the way he is. Quantum of Solace just lacked all of this and was just a straight action film.

Not that there’s anything wrong with action, quite the contrary. I really do love great action sequences and explosions and shoot outs just as much as the next action junkie, but the fact that Casino Royale was so damn good, Quantum of Solace just felt lacking in the story department. Marc Foster who directed it did an amazing job with what he had. Shot for shot it was great. The opening sequence of the car chase with the Aston Martin was the most edge of your seat experience I’ve had in a long time. The opening chase with Bond and the double agent during the interrogation was great. And the boat sequence was something you have to see to believe. But then where did this all go wrong? Well like I said it lacked any emotional attachment to the characters. Especially when I heard that Marc Foster was doing this I thought great, this is the guy that brought us The Kite Runner and Monsters Ball, both great character building pieces where you are able to invest your feelings into the characters. Boy was I wrong.

He did try to develop the relationship with Bond and Camille, who like Bond, is seeking revenge, but it never pans through. Bond is so disconnected after losing Vesper in the first one that he has no feelings for anyone and has become a cold hard killer. What I thought was interesting is that the trailer made it look like there was going to be so much more to it, but again, just seemed to lack.

quantum-of-solace-clipAs for the DVD itself it looked great. I really felt that the colors were bright and the transfer from the big screen was spot on. And if you have a nice sound system, turn up the base, trust me, it’s worth it. For extras they pack in a few. It has its trailers, two to be exact and a music video called Die Another Day which is worth one watch at least. Then it has a feature that is called Bond on Location which are really cool videos of where all the locations were and watching the stunts being performed is really cool. Start of Shooting is a feature that is a short documentary styled video of the cast and crew talking about their parts in making the film. Then there’s On Location which is another short docu style of the camera set ups and the difficulty behind them. Last of the Bond on Location features is Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase which is a cool short on how they shot just that, the boat chase. Another short video is called Director Marc Foster Featurette which is another interesting short video with some cool info. The Music Featurette is a short video on the composer David Arnold who I thought did an amazing job of working on the music. Last is something called Crew Files which is the longest of the features and offers some great outtakes.

Now after beating up the movie so much I come to this. I really did enjoy it, I know I complained about the lack of character development, but that’s the screenwriter side of me lashing out for something that bothered me. The film junkie side who loves everything movies did really love this movie. I thought overall it was a great ride that keeps you going from beginning to end with fast paced action that is a ride that I really think everyone should get on board once. If you’re a Bond fan do yourself a favor and see it. If you just want a good action movie to sit down and watch then definitely consider this. Let me know what you think.

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 From The Vault – The Week of March 23, 2009

Welcome to week two of From the Vault. This weeks edition features my favorite Western and Comic book character with western origins. This week it was hard to decide what films to put in here my initial choices I could not use. But after some feedback and recommendations I narrowed it down to these two you see before you. So lets get to it.

Tombstone

“You going to do something or stand there and bleed?”
-Wyatt Earp 

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Stars: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliot
Director: George P. Cosmatos (Rambo II, The Beloved)

There are many genres of film I will watch, Film Noir, Sci-Fi, action and even animated. But one genre I do not watch regularly is The Western. It was one genre that never fully captivated my interests. But there are a few that I will watch and have amongst my collection such as 3:10 to Yuma (the remake), Unforgiven and Tombstone. In my opinion Tombstone si the best one, though it is a very close race.

Tombstone depicts the events that occurred prior to and after the shootout at the OK coral involving the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday and the Cowboy gang. The Earp brothers are made up of Wyatt (Russell), Virgil (Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton). I found this film to very entertaining, a very manly movie, it contains all the right ingredients, gunfights, tough men and a love affair just for the ladies. I will admit that there a few cheesy lines of dialogue, delivered for the most part by Russell, in particular the river gun battle when he yells no in super slow motion, it really took away from a pretty good movie up to that point. But it did manage to bring me back shortly after.

Tombstone has a pretty solid cast, as well as some fairly good cameos from Billy Bob Thornton, Charleton Heston , Jason Preistley, Billy Zane and Thomas Hayden Church. The standout performance has to be Val Kilmer, in what I believe to be his best role to date, as Doc Holliday. He delivers a sophisticated and suave gunman and Professional Gambler, many of my favorite lines were delivered by Doc. Powers Boothe and Michael Biehn provide us with some excellent contrast to Doc and Wyatt, as Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo respectively. Sam Elliot, as always, provides us with some great support. Kurt Russell was just ok, I found that he was playing the same role that he typically plays, “the tough bad ass, who does not take crap from nobody, hell bent on revenge.” The most disappointing acting came from Bill Paxton. He came across as out of place and looked like he struggled with his part as Morgan Earp, I typically enjoy most of Paxtons roles, just not this one.

I highly recommend viewing Tombstone if you have not, it is action packed with some real good quips from Val Kilmer.

Versions:
1) Single disk with the theatrical version. (Available in WS and FS)
2) Two Disk Vista Series Directors Cut. (Available in WS only)

Special Features:

Single Disk:
1)Theatrical Trailers.

Two Disk Vista Series Directors Cut:
1) Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
2) 3 Part The Making of Tombstone series
i) An Ensemble Cast
ii) Making an Authentic Western
iii) The Gunfight at the OK Coral
3) Audio Commentary by director George P. Costmatos
4) Interactive Tombstone Timeline.
5) Directors original storyboards: OK Coral sequence.
6) The Tombstone Epitaph: Actual newspaper account.
7) Faro at The Oriental: Game of Chance (DVD ROM Feature)
8 ) Collectible Tombstone Map.

I find that that Making of featurettes are hit or miss, depending on the film, for Tombstone I found the making of features to be quite good and well worth watching, in particular the “An Ensemble Cast” part, it was interesting seeing how each actor cast prepared for their roles and researched their character. As well the comparisons done to their counterparts. “The Gunfight at the OK Coral” was also worth watching, just to see how it was all set up and done. Also checkout the interactive Tombstone Timeline, as it gives you a better understanding on the story and gives small insights as well. The rest of the features are pretty good for a one time viewing. As for the differences between the directors cut and the theatrical version, I can not say since I have only ever watched the directors cut, but if I had to guess, it would maybe some extended scenes and some more blood and violence.

Ghost Rider

“Yeah, I’m good. I feel like my skull is on fire, but I’m good”
- Johnny Blaze

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When it comes to comic book films not every one meets the expectations of the comic book readers, It’s a fickle market, where few have treaded gently and many have trampled. Studios try and cash on in a name that everyone recognizes, regardless if it stays close to the source material. There have been some great adaptations and not so good, Ghost Rider, in my opinion fits somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed the film for good block of actions and a seeing one of my favorite comic book characters materialize on the big screen. But it lacked on so many levels, which made it a disappointment.

What made it disappointing was the lack of story and character depth. Everyone and everything came off as one dimensional and just there for show. The acting was deplorable in all aspects, there were no outstanding or great performance from any of the cast. Nicolas Cage looked like he was reading off a teleprompter and looked constipated during some of the more emotional scenes. Eva Mendes was disinterested and flat. Even Sam Elliot and Peter Fonda were terrible by comparison to other roles they have had. The saving grace, at least for me, was the excellent graphics, especially when it came to Ghost Rider himself. The story was predictable and really fell short, but almost made up for it in some pretty cool fight and action sequences.

You should enjoy Ghost Rider for what it is, not what it was suppose to be, an enjoyable popcorn flick. If you go in expecting it to be a great comic book film, will sadly be disappointed. Watch it with lowered expectations and you will end up alright.

Versions:
1) Single disk contains theatrical version. (Available in FS and WS)
2) Two disk extended cut. (Available in WS only)

Special Features:

Single Disk:
1) Trailers and TV Spots
2) Audio Commentary.

Two Disk Extended Cut:
1) Trailers and TV Spots
2) Audio Commentary
3) 3 Making of Featurettes:
i) Spirit of Vengeance
ii) Spirit of Adventure
iii) Spirit of execution
4) Sin and Salvation: Chronicling Forty years of Comic Book History
5) Animatics

I had bought the two disk extended cut because with a large portion of comic book based films, the special feature are pretty darn good and well worth the extra cash. Ghost Rider fell through the cracks. Aside from the animatics feature and the Sin and Salvation features, they all are rather boring and thrown together. The Animatics, goes through the process of turning Cage into Ghost Rider. Sin and Salvation goes through the entire Ghost Rider canon of history which I found quite entertaining. Again I have only seen the extended cut of the film, and I do not know what difference there are.