First, let me just say that I am getting tired of the Blu-Ray vs HD battle already, and I'm sure from a business standpoint it hasn't even heated up. Whether one format or the other or both prevail, I really don't care. I just want hit fast forward and the DVD format competition and get it over with. I ain't buying anything until the dust has settled, and I don't think I'm the only one.
Okay, on to the cool things out this week:
Five Dedicated to Ozu (2004) directed by Abbas Kiarostami
I have to eat a little crow for saying this film would never ever ever come out in the US, because here it is. Let it be known, I was saying this only out of the frustration of not being able to see the film. Alas, it was only a few months ago when I was ecstatic about the realization that this Kiaostami film had been released in France. And off I went spending too much money importing a DVD I was sure would never reach these shores. (I like the cover of the US release.) Thanks to Kino, Americans can relax that this film is finally available here. Some might like to dub this Five Dedicated to Boredom, but for those who like their films more visual than narrative, this is a gem. Poetic and meditative, I found this film very pleasant.
The Host (2006) directed by Bong Joon-ho
The great success story from South Korea. It may not have done so well State-side, but who cares. The Host is part monster movie, part family drama and part social commentary and I enjoyed every second of it. While you are at it, check out Bong's other film Memories of Murder, that focuses on a well known murder investigation (well known in South Korea). What non-South Koreans miss in familiarity with story may be significant, but not essential, in appreciating Bong's very deliberate pacing and style.
Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and To Live (1994) directed by Zhang Yimou
Now available on DVD. Although these films are nothing new and I suspect these DVDs are nothing to write home about, but there probably are a handful of people who haven't seen Zhang's pre-Hero films. If anyone was amazed at the huge amount of extras involved in the battle scenes in The Curse of the Golden Flower should check out the scene of the Red Army coming over the hill in To Live. Wow. These are both awesome films, full of style and substance. My only gripe with these two DVD releases is the weird airbrushed/photoshop covers: that picture on the front of Raise the Red Lantern is like some sort of combination of Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi.
Hard Boiled (1992) and Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979) directed by John Woo
Two more titles from Dragon Dynasty, the Weinstein's distribution company for all the Asian titles they own. These are two great films from John Woo. Last Hurrah for Chivalry perhaps most directly reflects the influence Chang Cheh had on Woo, and Hard Boiled probably best shows how Woo translated Cheh's heroic knight-errant into a style all his own. However, Harvey and Bob Weinstein's are some of the biggest hacks in the business. Don't get me started. Options? Rent it, don't buy it. (Just as an example of how insidious the Weinstein's are, they have blocked the most commonly used importers of Asian DVDs from selling different versions of titles they own. But not this SITE and this SITE; both are retailers I have used and would recommend.)
Renaissance (2006) directed by Christian Volckman
I had almost forgotten about this animation. I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen last year when it played for a week and then vanished. Possibly one of the most stylish animations I have ever seen. The storyline may get a little cheese-ball, but it is totally worth it for the visuals. To top it all off, the lead is voiced by my new favorite Bond man, Daniel Craig.
The Grindhouse Experience 20 Film Set
Now maybe this release was banking on Tarantino and Rodriguez making grindhouse the family favorite genre, but I can not ignore 20 films for 25 bucks. Whether or not these films suck is obviously part of the adventure. If you are a fan of the genre, you can't go wrong.
And one last release that I missed last week:
Turning Gate (2002) directed by Hong Sang-soo
Hong Sang-soo is a tough cookie to crack and a hard director to ask to like with only one viewing. However, Turning Gate may be one of his most accessible films and I would encourage anyone to give it a look. But I would also recommended not giving in if the film leaves you luke-warm: watch another one of his films (Woman is the Future of Man and The Power of Kangwon Province are also available in the US) and I guarantee by the third Hong film, you will be convinced. Hong is one of the most interesting directors making films today.