September 15, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: The Blind Swordsman, Zatoichi

Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.

Full disclosure: I have not seen many of these titles, and what follows are not necessarily reviews, but opinions based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations are based on my personal interest. In any case, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something you like or a title to point me towards.

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (Blu-ray). It has been some years since I first saw this film, on Region 3 DVD, but it is a wonderful film that I am looking forward to revisiting in high definition. The film revisits a long running series of swordplay films that, I believe, numbers in high twenties, not to mention a long running television series. Takeshi Kitano takes up the mantle made famous by Shintaro Katsu. The character is a blind masseuse who also happens to be a master swordsman. He does not look for trouble, but usually ends up in the middle of it. This film is filled with action, drama, some comedy, and is told in a manner that is fresh and original when the story isn't quite so. This is definitely a film to check out.

The Legend of Drunken Master (Blu-ray). Hands down, this is one of my favorite Jackie Chan films. This one is filled with action and comedy the way only Jackie can deliver. Sadly, it has been awhile since I have seen this one either and specific details escape me. What I do remember are the wild fights, in particular the ones that involve drunken boxing. I am hoping this looks good in high definition.

Iron Monkey (Blu-ray). This was the first time I can remember seeing Donnie Yen and he is amazing here. He is a fantastic martial artist and he acquits himself admirably at the center of this film. It is set at a time when corruption as rampant and the poor had little access to food. Iron Monkey is a Robin Hood-type character who robbed from the rich. Yen plays a famous martial artist pressed into service to capture the outlaw, until he discovers the truth. This is one of the best martial arts films I have ever seen. and the Blu-ray looks pretty darn good. (review is coming)

Hero (Blu-ray). Zhang Yimou directed this Jet Li film, and it is marvelous in its depiction of the era, the use of color, and the beautifully choreographed martial arts action. It is set in pre-unified China and tells the story of a man who defeated three deadly assassins charged with killing a high ranking warlord. This is one to absorb over multiple viewings. I am looking forward to seeing this in high definition.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (also Blu-ray). The more I think of this movie, the less I think of it. The story is a mess, the characters are weak, and it does not really seem to know what it wants to be. The best thing you can do is skip this and rewatch the first two X-Men films.

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Second Season. I came to love the first season and really liked what I saw in the second, but I missed many episodes since CBS did not put full episodes online. Hopefully that will change for season three. In any case, I am looking forward to seeing the geeky comedy of this sophomore season that I missed.

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor. Here is a series I need to catch up on. I missed much of the most recent season. Man, For as much as I watch, I sure do miss a lot! Anyway, this was the 2008 Christmas special and one of the final appearances of David Tennant as the good Doctor.

Sanctuary: The Complete First Season. I saw much of this debut season on and enjoyed it, although I did not find it as engrossing as I had hoped. Amanda Tapping of Stargate SG-1 fame stars in this series that features a number of fantastic creatures. Is it worth owning on DVD? I am not sure.

X-Men: Volume Three, X-Men: Volume Four. I still want to get my hands on the first two volumes. This is the Saturday morning series that ran in the early 1990's. I always liked this take on the characters, it is pretty close to what I liked from the comics.

An Amerian Werewolf in London: Full Moon Edition (Blu-ray). The John Landis classic is coming to high definition. I expect this to be a revelation on Blu-ray. The only versions I have seen have never looked all that good, it will be nice to see this in a god looking format.

Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition (Blu-ray). The third of the Evil Dead movies strays far into comedy territory, but that makes it no less entertaining. Bruce Campbell is the man as Ash, taking on the Deadite hordes of the medieval past. I am looking forward to this one.

My Name is Earl: The Fourth and Final Season. I thought this show had another season or two in it. I always enjoyed the goofiness it brought. Now that it is over, I wonder if Jason Lee will keep the 'stache?

Phantasm II. It took long enough, this horror film finally gets a DVD release. It was not long ago that 1, 3, and 4 were released. I always wondered why 2 was so slow to come. I can only guess that there were some rights issues involved.

Child's Play (Blu-ray). One of the best killer doll movies. Watch this when you're a kid and you will be creeped out by the things for a long time. I still believe that Bride of Chucky is the best of the series, but there is no denying the special place reserved for the original.

Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - Deluxe Edition. The last of the main run for the masked slasher, this is also one of the goofiest. We get to see Jason given new life at the bottom of Crystal Lake and then get to watch him do his business on a boat before making landfall for a little bit more fun.

Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood - Deluxe Edition. This was a pretty good outing for Jason. This sequel features some pretty cool effects and also shows a little A Nightmare on Elm Street influence with a psychic teen.

Grace (also Blu-ray). I do not know much about this film other than it is supposed to be pretty hardcore. With just that bit of knowledge, I'm game.

The Wolfman: Universal Legacy Series. I have the DVD release from the monsters series from a few years back, remember the ones with the busts of he monsters? I don't need this, but if you don't have it, this is sure to be a release to have, especially with the remake sneaking up on us.

Deadgirl: Unrated Director's Cut. Here is another one I have been looking forward to. This zombie film has a couple of teens discovering an undead girl and decide to chain her up and keep her. Sounds like fun!

Next Day Air. This Friday meets Pulp Fiction film sped through theaters and seems to be in the process of being snuck onto DVD. It is not a great film, but it is one that should not be overlooked.


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