DVD Review – The Grandmaster (2014)

The Grandmaster shows us the life of famous Wing Chun martial artist Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) throughout his life and the different obstacles he had to overcome. How he was chosen as the heir of southern style martial arts opposing against the northern style. The only way for Ip Man to be accepted amongst the other martial artists is to spar and outsmart each master.

The heir of the northern style is inherited by Ma Shan (Zhang Jin), a student of Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) – skipping past his daughter Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang) another talented martial artist. Yutian doesn’t want his daughter to follow in his footsteps – he wants her to forget martial arts and focus on medicine.

The story becomes interesting when Ma Shan brings great dishonour against Gong Yutian – Gong Er plans on correcting that mistake.

I’m so glad I finally got to see Wong Kar-Wai’s Ip Man movie – it’s so bizarre that Tony Leungs portrayal of Ip Man wasn’t interesting as his female co-star! It’s the story of Ziyi Zhangs character Gong Er and her family name that stole my imagination. That final battle at the train station? It was amazing! I forgot about Ip Man!

The cinematography is impressive, the lighting, the sets, the music – it’s almost a 100 minute advert for fancy cologne! It’s very warm and rich – it reminded me of In the Mood for Love. Everything seems to be lit with gold, at least in the swanky brothels they are. The rest of the film is washed out with rain water or covered the purest white snow. I expected nothing less from Wong Kar-Wai and surprise cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd.

The UK release of The Grandmaster is revealed to be twenty minutes shorter than the original release. Scenes are briefed with blocks of text explaining the period/situation before we cut to actors.

Sure, we’re missing a subplot or some throw away scenes that we didn’t need – but when it comes to the credits – Tony Leung pops revealing a quick montage of several fight scenes that are quickly cut together and finished with an inspirational quote – I call bullshit, I would have appreciated seeing these extra fight scenes in the film, not tacked on at the end of the credits like it’s a Marvel movie stinger and having Leung pop out these cheesy one liners is just daft, it’s like a shampoo advert level of cringe.

Now I’m also classing this review as just a Movie review, because the DVD includes zero special features which is equally annoying as we are aware that this film is twenty minutes shy of the full Chinese release. Just give us some deleted scenes!

Overall, I’m glad I finally saw it – but I’m a little let down by the version we’ve seen.

2.5/5

Blu-Ray Review – Massacre Gun (1967)

Massacre Gun follows the story of Kuroda (Jô Shishido) a grief stricken mobster who was forced to kill his lover under his boss’s orders. Now over the edge, Kuroda teams up with two wronged brothers from a local dive bar, a young talented boxer – Saburô (Jirô Okazaki) and his short tempered older brother Eiji. Together they start planning on how they can turning the tables on Yakuza.

Massacre Gun is a tale of more victims caught in the world of organised crime – more importantly the Yakuza! Director Yasuharu Hasebe (Retaliation) delivers us this look at the criminal underworld. It’s more or less people running away from the inevitable – they’ve got themselves in too deep, people around them are paying for their sins and it’s not looking good.

Yakuza movies are fascinating and terrifying at the same time. The scene where Saburo is at the beach with his love interest and when they get over the hill they come across half a dozen mobsters coming towards them? It’s amazing scene, the cinematography and the production value – that shot of Jiro running past the burning ship with the look of utter fear across his face! It’s easily one of the most stand out moments of the film – perfectly captured on film.

Blu-Ray Features

We’re given a near twenty minute interview with Jô Shishido he discussed his life leading to films everything from playing with swords and pistols as a child, his inspirations as an actor and of course his experiences starring in Massacre Gun. He is great appreciation for assistant directors who became directors and continued to keep the genres alive. He also reveals his admirations for the westerns, he backs that statement up with a quick draw demonstration joking with crew members off camera proclaiming that “I can shoot you”. It’s a good interview, Shishido is one of these great stars that you could listen to for hours.

Tony Rayn gives us a thirty minute history lesson on the famous Nikkatsu production company. He highlights several directors and their most notable films from the studio. It’s a good jumping off point if you’ve seen both Massacre Gun & Retaliation and you’re wondering where to look next.

We’re also treated to the films trailer and a slideshow photo gallery showing the stills taken during the production of the film – including that shot I mentioned earlier of Sabura running the from mob at the beach.

It’s great to see these seemingly unknown films (in the west) actually get re-released to these British and American audiences. I’m more than happy to welcome any other hidden gems from 1960’s Japanese cinema.

3.5/5

DVD Review – The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush is the story of prospectors in the search for gold in the midst the snowy mountains. One of the prospectors is in the form of the little tramp (Charlie Chaplin), when a blizzard strikes the mountain, the young tramp takes shelter in an old empty cabin on the mountain.

The cabin belongs to Black Larsen (Tom Murray), a fugitive hiding from the law. He attempts to force the young prospector out but he’s subdued when a large prospect by the name Big Jim (Mark Swain) appears and he took looks for shelter from the blizzard.

That’s the first act of The Gold Rush, I don’t want to ramble on about each scene of this excellent little film, I can only wholehearted suggest that everyone should see this! The other acts of the film do show the young tramp develop a love interest, both Big Jim and Black Larsen also reappear throughout the film.

The film is deemed a classic with many famous scenes for example; Chaplin’s day dreaming of his proposed New Year ’s Eve party where he entertains his guests by grabbing two forks and making the rolls dance. I’m particularly fond of the gag where the tramp is standing up to man bullying Georgia, the bully pulls the hat down over the tramps eyes. In response he tries to clock the bully, but accidentally hits the wooden support beam. Whilst everyone is laughing, the clock on the beam falls and strikes the bully! It plays out perfectly.

Another wonderful feature to this film is the narrator! The narration was written and performed by Charlie Chaplin! It’s amazing to think about all the talent he has and he’s got such a powerful voice to his small frame.

I’m just gushing at this point, The Gold Rush is one of my favourite films from Chaplin – it’s something I can watch endlessly.

DVD Special Features

We’re given a twenty five minute feature on the impacts that the Gold Rush has left on the film business. We see footage of a film crew working back in 2002 and the director spoke of Chaplins influences on his work. We’re shown images from begin the scenes, famous photos of Charlie dressing up as the giant chicken and photos of the model cabin hanging from the mountain edge. We’re also given brief interview snippets from Rita Grey and Georgia Hale talking of their experiences working with him.

In the Introduction by David Robinson we’re essentially given a condensed version of the Chaplin Today feature highlighting the same facts and trivia points, but packed into a five minute video package.

The special features are also fleshed out with a few video montage pieces. There’s a feature which is showing highlights from all of the films released in the Curzon Chaplin collection and another titled Chaplin ABC. The Chaplin ABC is a thirty minute highlight reel of Chaplin clips organised around subjects alphabetised. Examples; A is for Animals etc. So que all the hilarious moments of Chaplin working with Animals etc. It’s a creative way to fill the disc, especially with the original source martial coming up for ninety years old.

The Gold Rush also comes with the Charlie Chaplin short silent film; The Visitor. The short is one for thirteen minutes, it almost looks like a home movie of Charlie showing friends around his estate. Dressing up as the tramp and doing his walk, everyone waving to the camera towards the end of each shot – very bizarre. Half way through though it turns into the tramp working behind the desk at a hotel. The clip doesn’t have any written subtitle cues or any music playing in the background – it’s very polarising.

Overall it’s a great film and a health amount of Special features – it’s easily;

5/5