Mini Reviews: Return of the Living Dead, Django Unchained, Hero.

Having a lot of films to review so please find below some capsule reviews of various titles.

Marks out of 10 for various aspects of the releases.

rotldReturn Of The Living Dead (1985)  Second Sight UK

Starring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa. Directed by: Dan Obannon.

On his first day on the job at an army surplus store, poor Freddy unwittingly releases nerve gas from a secret U.S. military canister, unleashing an unbelievable terror. The gas re-animates a corps of corpses, who arise from their graves with a ravenous hunger for human brains!

Zombie movies are now all the rage but it has always been very difficult getting the balance right between horror and comedy, but Return Of The Living Dead manages it almost perfectly. This release by Second Sight is a special steelbook release and is probably the ultimate version of this title. The re-mastered picture is soft but solid, grain is intrusive at times but its certainly a lot better than any other home video release. Audio is where fans will rejoice because the soundtrack to this film has caused many problems over the years. Songs were replaced and sound effects altered on most home versions but this gives you the opportunity to hear it the way it was originally released in PCM 2.0. You also have a choice of remixed soundtrack in DTS 5.1 Digital Surround. Extra’s are superlative on this special edition with a definitive 2 hour documentary on the making of the film with interviews and behind the scenes footage. Other special features include a conversation with Dan O’bannon,  a look at Return of the Living Dead Parts 2 and 3, filming location as well as other interviews with John A Russo and Steve Pross. Altogether a fab package. REGION B LOCKED.

FILM: 7.5 PICTURE : 7   SOUND : 8  EXTRA’S: 9

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djaNGODjango Unchained (2012)  Sony Pictures UK

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio.  Directed by: Quintin Tarantino.

With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from the brutal Calvin Candie, a cruel Mississippi plantation owner.

Tarantino has always shown a huge interest in Spaghetti Western’s and here is his chance to do one his way with obvious influences from the classics of the genre. With the controversial subject of slavery at the helm, the film is both violent, horrific and funny at the same time. Christoph Waltz is brilliant as the bounty hunter who befriends the slave and helps rescue his wife while making some good money along the way. Tarantino’s superb writing is given breathing space and some of the set pieces are superbly staged. All of the cast give outstanding performances but i do wish Tarantino would not make cameo’s in his own films, he is great behind the camera and that’s where he should stay! The film is a bit too overlong, the final act really was not necessary but overall this is again a class film from one of the best director’s working today.

The Blu ray released by Sony is extremely pleasing to look at. The 1080p transfer is solid, colours are bold and landscapes are crystal clear, very impressive. Sound is again top notch, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is loud with plenty of surround activity, Bass is strong also. Extra’s are disappointing. Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of Django Unchained , The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis and Re-imagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses and Stunts of Django Unchained are all short (12 minute) HD  features which are interesting but it would have been nice to get more info on the films production etc. One nice touch is if you go to scene selection there is an audio option which lets you go to a section of the film that track is playing, it also tells you what film that music was originally from.  ALL REGION.

FILM: 9  PICTURE: 8.5  SOUND: 8.5  EXTRAS: 4

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hero krHero (2002) Content Zone. Korea

Starring: Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen. Directed by: Zhang Yimou.

A nameless warrior  arrives at an emperor’s palace with three weapons, each belonging to a famous assassin who had sworn to kill the emperor. As the nameless man spins out his story- the emperor presents his own interpretation of what might really have happened building to a tense face off.

Hero is a beautiful film no question. The cinematography and colours are fantastic to behold, this is one feast for the eyes  for fans of cinema and martial arts movies everywhere. The action is very well shot and choreographed and Jet Li gives a good, subdued performance as well as Maggie Cheung looking beautiful, seductive but deadly at the same time.

This film was made for HD, but has not been given the best treatment in the West. This  review is of the Korean release and i can report that the transfer is  very good, probably not the best it could be but certainly the best on any home format. Colours as expected are bold, blacks solid, this is a film to show off your new large screen TV! When released on Blu ray in the West, Miramax in all their wisdom decided to give the awful dubbed English track a lossless mix while the original Mandarin a lossy Dolby 5.1. No such problems here, the Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is fabulous, surround activity and Bass are prominent, especially during the many battle scenes. One annoying bug is that the English subtitles are ported over from the Western release and while clear and grammatically correct they seem to be partially for the hard of hearing, so every now and then you get a text description of what sound is happening on screen. Not too distracting but why could they not have had that as a separate subtitle track? Extra’s are basic and the same as other releases, you get a short chat between Jet Li and Quintin Tarantino about the film, Close up of a fight scene and Hero Defined are two more short features which don’t really go into depth about the film enough.  ALL REGION.

FILM: 8  PICTURE: 8.5  SOUND: 9 EXTRAS: 5

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