Blu-ray Review: The Warrior’s Way

Hi there…

Genre mash-ups. They seem to be very popular these days. In the next couple of weeks, we get to see if Cowboys & Aliens works for moviegoers, putting together a western with a science-fiction story. Earlier in the year we saw Sucker Punch from director Zach Snyder, and I have to say it didn’t fully work for me, throwing together samurai, steampunk, mobsters, and dragons. On the surface, it was a beautiful film, but it fell apart for me once I started thinking it over.

So what do these movies have to do with The Warrior’s Way? Well, it’s another mash-up that doesn’t quite work, merging a western with a kung-fu movie. It almost works in spots, where it takes a breath and isn’t working so hard to sell itself to the audience… but not enough to keep people in the seats. According to Box Office Mojo, the film cost $42 million to make, but it only made $11 million on screens worldwide. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to work all that well on DVD or Blu-ray to recoup costs either.

Let’s start with the story. If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you might want to skip the next few paragraphs.

**BEGIN SPOILERS**

Yang (Dong-gun Yang) has been working on behalf of his clan to destroy all members of a rival clan of warriors. He kills all but one – a baby girl – and can’t bring himself to kill her. This puts him at odds with his own clan, so he flees to the United States to find a friend of his living in the frontier town of Lode. When he gets there, he finds his friend is dead and the town is paralyzed after a brutal attack by the Colonel (Danny Huston) and his men. In Lode, he meets Eight-Ball (Tony Cox), a small person performer in the carnival that is trying to revive the town; Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a fiery knife-thrower with little skill; and Ron (Geoffrey Rush), a drunk handy-man working to build the ferris wheel.

Lynne has sworn vengeance against the Colonel, who killed her family and assaulted her. She left her mark on him however, splashing his face with a frying pan full of hot oil. Huston isn’t the most attractive actor to start with, but when you partially melt his face he’s downright disturbing. Yang teaches her how to throw knives and fight with swords, but refuses to draw his own special sword that killed all those people when the film started.

You can see where this is going, right? The Colonel comes back to take his revenge, the people rise up, Yang eventually draws his weapon to save the day, and everybody lives happily ever after. Well, not exactly. As soon as Yang draws his sword, his own clan, seeking the baby he didn’t kill, comes to find him. When he won’t kill the baby, they begin attacking the town and Yang and the rest have to fight for their lives.

**END SPOILERS**

So though the story itself is a bit predictable, it might have worked for me except for a couple of things. First, Bosworth’s performance as Lynne for the first half of the film is so over the top that it’s impossible to identify with her character in any way. You want to, of course. But her loud, boisterous, brash caricature of a Western woman just knocks over any kind of connection you might get with her character. About halfway through the film she settles down, but though I like Bosworth, this was not her finest moment.

Yang on the other hand was perfect in his role. He reminded me of Kung Fu, the television series from the 1970s starring David Carradine as a Shaolin priest wandering the west. There is a similar peace to Yang’s actions and his facial expressions and calm manner helped show the character’s development as he grew attached to the baby, Lynne, and the rest of the townspeople.

Blu-Ray Disc logo

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the quiet moments that stick with me after watching, with Yang tending to a small flower garden in town and working in the laundry. But when it tries to get larger than life, it can’t get it together.

Though the film tries very hard to take itself seriously, the merger of wire work and Spaghetti Western just never clicks, so it becomes more humorous than anything else. Director Sngmoo Lee tried to wrangle this mess into something entertaining and almost succeeded in spite of himself. But the whimsy overwhelms the seriousness of some of the Colonel’s (and Yang’s) actions, making it very difficult to stay in the moment for long.

The Blu-ray offers a brilliant 1080p picture, with vibrant colors throughout, and DTS-HD 5.1 audio that captures everything from battle sounds to the whisper of sand in the Western desert beautifully. The use of color in the film is definitely on the garish side at times, emphasizing sunsets and sunrises, as well as the black of night with sparkling stars above.

Beyond the film itself, the first disc also includes a few deleted scenes and a short Behind-the-Scenes featurette that shows the cast having a good time doing stunts on set. None of the deleted scenes really would have added anything to the picture, and I really would have liked to have seen more about how the film was put together. Perhaps a short feature deconstructing one of the battle scenes at the beginning, or more lengthy interviews with the cast and crew would have helped. The second disc offers a digital copy of the film for use on laptops and other portable media players.

I really wanted to like The Warrior’s Way after seeing the trailers last year, but ultimately it doesn’t include enough to warrant a recommendation. If you really want to see it, I recommend you rent it at Red Box for $1 and save your money for better films.

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Infographic: Blood Tells a Story…

Ever since shows like CSI started popping up on television, I have to admit to a certain morbid fascination with blood spatter. I’m not planning on going Dexter any time soon, but the fact that entire tales can be told by the directionality of a drop of blood is amazing…

This infographic told me plenty about how real-life forensic scientists use blood evidence to reconstruct what happened. Check it out!

Bloody Mess
Created by: Forensic Nursing

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DVD Review: Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2

Hi all…

Tom and Jerry have had long and fruitful lives as cartoon characters. The titular cat and mouse began in a series of animated cartoons created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for MGM in 1940 and have evolved several times over the last 70+ years. It’s a familiar recipe for cartoons – take one lovable scoundrel, introduce a second scoundrel to the same environment, and see which scoundrel wins. Last I checked, it’s a dead heat and neither cat nor mouse has gained the upper hand.

I believe I’ve seen most, if not all of the Tom and Jerry cartoons at one time or another. Even in my 40s, I still watch cartoons with my kids and the classics like Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and Scooby-Doo seem to beat most current cartoons hands down. But I’m starting to grow tired of Warner Brother’s current attempts to milk the franchise on DVD for more money with single-DVD collections of the Tom and Jerry shorts. Every few months, there’s a new release.

Now I have to say I’m eagerly anticipating the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection: Volume One when it arrives on Blu-ray in October 2011. Apparently the new collection features the first 37 shorts, restored from the best 35mm originals they could find, in beautiful 1080p HD with Dolby 5.1 sound. And the rumor is that the new collection will show the original cartoons un-edited and un-censored. That collection is currently available for pre-order at Amazon today and I’ve already got my order in.

However, Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2 seems to be a hodgepodge collection of 14 shorts from three very different eras of Tom and Jerry production and the quality of the transfers leaves quite a lot to be desired. My personal favorites are the original Hanna-Barbera shorts from the 1940s & 50s and those from when Chuck Jones was working on them in the mid-1960s, not the shorts from the later series Tom and Jerry Tales.

The DVD includes the following shorts:

  • Tops with Pops (1957 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • Monster Con (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl (1950 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • Of Feline Bondage (1965 – Chuck Jones)
  • Saturday Evening Puss (1950 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • The A-Tom-Inable Snowman (1966 – Chuck Jones)
  • Surf-bored Cat (1967 – Chuck Jones)
  • Snowbody Loves Me (1964 – Chuck Jones)
  • Duel Personality (1966 – Chuck Jones)
  • Is There a Doctor in the Mouse? (1964 – Chuck Jones)
  • The Haunted Mouse (1965 – Chuck Jones)
  • Declaration of Independunce (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Kitty Hawked (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Which Witch (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)

Several of the transfers of the shorts really didn’t come across well at all, with obvious scratches and a jittery picture. It was especially noticeable in some of the shorts from the ’50s and ’60s. The newer Tom and Jerry Tales shorts had a nice, clean transfer with little extra movement beyond what the creators wanted. You do get to see favorites from the original shorts, including Spike and Tyke, Butch, Lightning, and Topsy. Of the classics included, I think “Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl,” “Saturday Evening Puss,” and “The Haunted Mouse” are my favorites.

Unfortunately you also get to see ill-conceived shorts from Tom and Jerry Tales like “Monster Con” which pairs Tom up with Van Helsing as they go monster hunting at a monster convention. Like most of the newer Tom and Jerry cartoons, these seem to be poor, shallow imitations of the earlier era of shorts.

Beyond the Tom and Jerry cartoons themselves, there are no extras except for a few trailers for other Warner Brothers-produced shows such as The Looney Tunes Show (which fails except for the brilliant 3D Road Runner/Coyote cartoons) and a collection of Snoopy’s adventures in Happiness Is… Peanuts: Snoopy’s Adventures.

If you’re a fan of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons, I’d seriously skip Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2 and save your money for the upcoming Tom & Jerry Golden Collection: Volume One to be released in October 2011.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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