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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

Check out my other column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME - GIVEAWAY

dee-dvd-box-artI had a blast with this film.

Flat out, if you’re as big a fan of Tsui Hark’s earlier work, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and TIME AND TIDE, this movie will entertain as much as it will delight fans of Asian cinema.

A story that marries together historical fact, the female emperor of China, part of the Tang Dynasty circa 689, and fantastical fiction, people are spontaneously combusting, DETECTIVE DEE is a yarn that blends action and character development in a way that I yearn for in my action films as of late.

Where the movie really excels is in the performance of Andy Lau who plays Dee. As he investigates what is behind these combustions there is a heavy emphasis on having a story that twists and turns but giving fans of famed action choreographer Sammo Hung the martial artistry what they want. The colors and fights pop in a way that Hark knows how to capitalize on. It barrel rolls you but then injects love and heart into a story that feels more like a roller coaster you never want to get off of than anything else. One of the greatest compliments for a movie’s worth is its replay factor and you’ll find yourself looking at shots that Hark has composed and wonder at why no one else is taking his lead and making action as fluid and kinetic as he can do it. As well, he makes it known that you can have thunderous violence but also be intelligent about it. Cannot recommend it enough that you check out this movie as soon as you can.

To two of you, though, you won’t have to search far. Just shoot me a line at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and let me know your favorite Hark film and I’ll put you in the running to get one of two DVDs of the movie to check out at your own.

Good luck!

ABOUT THE MOVIE:

“A GRAND-SCALE ADVENTURE” NEW YORK TIMES

“FROM START TO FINISH IS A TERRIFIC ENTERTAINMENT” LOS ANGELES TIMES

Official Selection-Toronto International Film Festival 2010

Nominated- Best Visual Effects- Asian Film Awards 2011

WINNER! HONG KONG FILM AWARDS (Including Best Director and Best Actress)

Famed Director Tsui Hark Takes Audiences On An Epic Adventure

Master genre director, Tusi Hark’s critically acclaimed action adventure masterpiece, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, starring legendary Hong Kong actor, Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs, The House of Flying Daggers), Bingbing Li (Forbidden Kingdom), Carina Lau (2046), and Tony Leung Ka-fai (Bodyguards & Assassins), leaps on to Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and Video on Demand, this December 13 from Indomina Releasing. Critics have called the epic “A Masterpiece” (TIME Magazine), “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Meets Sherlock Holmes, Only A Lot More Fun” (New Your Magazine) and “The Most Purely Entertaining Film Of Our Vanishing Summer” (WALL STREET JOURNAL).

After wowing critics and audiences as an Official Selection at Toronto International Film Festival 2010, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, went on to win at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Director and Best Actress and was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Asian Film Awards in 2011. DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is now armed to knock out action, adventure and mystery fans alike on Blu-ray and DVD, featuring super cool bonus features including four behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Synopsis
A period epic from genre master Tsui Hark (Seven Swords), DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, is an action-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery starring some of China’s top acting talent: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung Ka-fai. Nominated for Best Special Effects at the 2011 Asian Film Awards and stunningly choreographed by master Sammo Hung, this intricately plotted whodunit is set in an exquisitely realized steampunk version of ancient China.

On the eve of her coronation as Empress (Carina Lau, 2046), China’s most powerful woman is haunted by a chilling murder mystery: seven men under her command have burst into flames, leaving behind only black ash and skeletal bones. Recognizing this threat to her power, she turns to the infamous Dee Renjie (Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs, House Of Flying Daggers): a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. As he battles a series of bizarre dangers, he unveils a chilling truth that places his life, and the future of an entire dynasty, in peril.

CAST: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung Ka-fai

DIRECTOR: Tsui Hark

WRITER: Zhang Jialu

LANGUAGE: In Mandarin with English subtitles

BONUS FEATURES:

“The Making of Detective Dee”
“Creating the Characters”
“Weapons, Stunts and Action”
“The World of Dee”
Production Stills Gallery
Behind-the-Scenes Stills Gallery
Poster Gallery
English-Language Dub

English Subtitles
French Subtitles

WEBSITE:
http://releasing.indomina.com/detective-dee/

TWITTER:
@Indomina

THE HELP - DVD REVIEW

the-helpJust watch this for Viola Davis.

I will admit that I am not in the core demo for this film, nor should I be, but I will be honest and say that this is a really fine film. It’s not spectacular by any means but the movie succeeds on the performances of the ladies who make this a movie that is less chick-flick and more Disney in its presentation. To wit, a story that talks about racial stereotypes could be a crucible in which heady topics could be raised to a red hot level but this movie’s ginger tone actually takes the edge off, for better or worse, of a subject that really could have used a little more barbs in its skewering of small minded individuals.

Alas, while I was hoping there would be a little more oomph to a story about a book that rankles the delicate sensibilities of a racially divided Southern town and puts everyone’s metaphorical cards on the table as people shuck and jive their way through trying to either come to an accord or inch back into the dark confines of their bigotry this still is a worthy movie to have in your collection if for no other reason than it could introduce young people to the real issues facing the South in the 60s. It’s a primer, if you were, to the racial divide that some say still exists in some pockets all across the nation.

Again, while it’s not earth shattering it at least shatters some notions of people’s misguided philosophies on race and the performances are uniformally excellent and ought to be seen just for that.

ABOUT THE BLU-RAY:

The Help, the inspirational summer hit film people can’t stop talking about, arrives in homes just in time for the holidays, delivering this powerful story on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, Digital Download and On-Demand, December 6, 2011.

The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the compelling performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard. The Help is a courageous and empowering story about very different and extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project.

“Davis and Spencer are both brilliant” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

The Help Blu-ray Combo Pack provides audiences with the chance to delve deeper into the movie through compelling, never-before-seen bonus features, including “The Making of ‘The Help:’ From Friendship To Film,” an intimate look at how the life-changing experiences of close-knit childhood friends director Tate Taylor and novelist Kathryn Stockett led to the creation of the best-selling novel and its transition to the big screen.

Additional bonus includes “In Their Own Words: A Tribute To the Maids Of Mississippi,” which is an honest observation of life in the South from real-life maids, including director Tate Taylor’s childhood caretaker, Carol Lee; Deleted Scenes; and nine-time Grammy Award®-winning and multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter, Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof”, music video from the film’s end titles.

In continued efforts to provide consumers with multiple viewing choices and unprecedented quality, value and portability in a single purchase, The Help has been packaged as follows:

The 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) =

Exclusive Blu-ray Bonus Features:

* The Making of “The Help:” From Friendship To Film

* In Their Own Words: A Tribute To The Maids Of Mississippi

*Three deleted scenes with introductions by Director Tate Taylor, including ‘Humiliated,’ ‘A Book About Jackson’ and ‘Johnny’s Home’ (which is a Blu-ray exclusive)

DVD Bonus Features:

* Two deleted scenes with introductions by Director Tate Taylor including ‘A Senator’s Son’ and ‘Keep On Walkin’

* “The Living Proof” music video by Mary J. Blige

2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) =

Exclusive Blu-ray Bonus Features:

* The Making of “The Help:” From Friendship To Film

* In Their Own Words: A Tribute To The Maids Of Mississippi

* Three deleted scenes with introductions by Director Tate Taylor including ‘Humiliated,’ ‘A Book About Jackson’ and ‘Johnny’s Home’ (which is a Blu-ray exclusive)

DVD Bonus Features:

* Two deleted scenes with introductions by Director Tate Taylor, including ‘A Senator’s Son’ and ‘Keep On Walkin’

* “The Living Proof” music video by Mary J. Blige

The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the powerful performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast. The Help is an inspirational, courageous and empowering story about very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society’s rules and puts them all at risk. Filled with poignancy, humor and hope — and complete with compelling, never-before-seen bonus features — The Help is a timeless, universal and triumphant story about the ability to create change.

The Help stars Emma Stone as the courageous Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, who goes against the beliefs of her family and friends to find her own voice. The critically praised, emotional performance of Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, a woman who secretly dreams of one day having more than she has been given, offers a deep emotional storyline. The breakthrough performance of Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, whose sass and tough exterior disguise the pain and fear she faces every day, brings both drama and humor to the film. Bryce Dallas Howard breathes life into the catty Jackson socialite Hilly Holbrook and Jessica Chastain brings charm and humor as Celia Foote, a kind housewife living outside of town who longs to fit in. Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney and Ahna O’Reilly also provide vivacious performances that round out this all-star female ensemble.

COWBOYS & ALIENS - GIVEAWAY

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Everyone needs to chill out on this movie.

After watching COWBOYS & ALIENS I was struck by the fact that people should have absolutely been a little struck by the way this movie played out because it feels like it is going to find some fans in the secondary market.

By that I mean for those who spent more than $20 to see the movie were expecting something that they didn’t get while the schmoes like me who saddle up to a Redbox every now and then and pop a dollar into the machine are getting a great return on their investment. This is a movie that will play well with kids, with dudes, people of any background who understand that it’s show business for a reason and sometimes you just have to find the right price point.

A story that takes us from the old west to centuries beyond our own, the movie succeeds once you stop taking it so seriously. I had fun with it for what it is and the effects are more than enough reason to give this one a second chance. To that end, then, I have some copies of the movie to give out.

If you would like a chance to be one of the lucky ones to prove the summer audiences wrong then by all means shoot me a line at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll get you entered to win a copy!

ABOUT THE BLU-RAY:

This summer’s movie event becomes the holiday season’s must-own Blu-ray™ as a lone gunslinger leads an uprising against an alien threat in the explosive, stunningly-imagined film, Cowboys & Aliens. A blazingly original, cross-genre adventure from acclaimed director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) and top moviemakers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Cowboys & Aliens features heart-pumping action, spectacular visuals and a first-rate cast. Arriving in stores December 6th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the Blu-ray™ Combo Pack edition of Cowboys & Aliens bring all of the thrills and fun home with perfect hi-def picture and perfect hi-def sound and includes a never-before-seen extended version of the movie, over two hours of exclusive bonus features, and a DVD and digital copy of the film that can be viewed anywhere, anytime on an array of devices including laptops, tablets, Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes. The Blu-ray™ also boasts an upgraded version of Universal’s Second Screen—a groundbreaking new technology that enhances the viewing experience by allowing viewers to simultaneously control and interact with the film and bonus material on a WiFi-connected tablet or computer as the movie plays on the television screen. The new Flick View Feature will allow fans to interact even more with the movie and be able to move content from their tablet to their TV screen! Cowboys & Aliens is also available on DVD, digital download and On Demand.

Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) and Harrison Ford (the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises) headline as adversaries obliged to join forces against a terrifying enemy, with a supporting cast that includes Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy, The Change-Up), Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2), Ana de la Reguera (Eastbound and Down), Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers), Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), Keith Carradine (Nashville) and Noah Ringer (The Last Airbender). The script for Cowboys & Aliens is by Star Trek’s Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof (television’s Lost), based on Platinum Studios’ graphic novel created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Grazer, Howard, Rosenberg, Kurtzman and Orci produce. Steven Spielberg, Jon Favreau, Denis L. Stewart, Bobby Cohen, Randy Greenberg and Ryan Kavanaugh serve as Executive Producers.

BONUS FEATURES:

IGNITING THE SKY: THE MAKING OF COWBOYS & ALIENS —A comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at the production that invites viewers on set to meet the filmmakers and cast as they create this one-of-a-kind action film. In revealing conversations, Jon Favreau, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, as well as stars Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde, share their insights about the movie. Also featured are visual-effects powerhouses Legacy Effects and ILM, which join forces once again to push the technological envelope beyond anything ever seen before on screen. It includes:

FINDING THE STORY — Cowboys & Aliens, based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, has been in development for over a decade. Filmmakers, writers and cast explain why this particular team of Hollywood heavyweights hit the right note to bring this to the big screen.

THE SCOPE OF THE SPECTACLE —A look at the team behind the camera for the film’s massive New Mexico shoot, as the stars ride horses, shoot guns, jump from explosions, and get yanked 80 feet in the air! Director Jon Favreau stages unforgettable action set-pieces as cameras capture every moment, while legendary stuntman and Cowboys & Aliens’ second unit director Terry Leonard brings a lifetime of experience to the big-screen stunts, from legendary moments in John Wayne classics to doubling for Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

OUTER-SPACE ICON — Take a closer look at the creation of a new, terrifying alien design from Legacy Effects and Industrial Light and Magic.

And exclusive to Blu-ray™ these additional segments:

A CALL TO ACTION — A profile of prolific actor, writer and director Jon Favreau featuring on-set video diaries shot throughout the production.

ABSOLUTION — A look at the practical re-creation of a dusty Old West mining town, the town’s inhabitants and the amazing ensemble of actors who portray them, as well as an exclusive look at the film’s meticulous production and costume designs.

CONVERSATIONS WITH JON FAVREAU – Jon Favreau hosts candid interviews with cast and crew, including:

Daniel Craig

Harrison Ford

Olivia Wilde

Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Damon Lindelof

FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR JON FAVREAU

ADDITIONAL FEATURES EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY:

U-CONTROL: Universal’s exclusive feature that lets the viewer access bonus materials without leaving the movie!

BD-LIVE™: Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to access the latest trailers, exclusive content, and more!

pocket BLU™ App: The popular free pocket BLU™ app for smartphones is now even better with newly updated versions for iPad®, Android™ tablets, PC, and Macintosh computers, with features made especially to take advantage of the devices’ larger screens and high resolution displays.

Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.

Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film.

Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.

Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.

Keyboard: Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard.

And with UNIVERSAL’S SECOND SCREEN, viewers can enjoy an innovative and interactive viewing experience, that allows them to control, interact and explore Cowboys & Aliens with groundbreaking new features right on a networked tablet or computer, in synchronization with the movie on the television screen! While the movie plays, experience features such as:

Flick View: Interact with the movie, move content from the Tablet to the TV screen, and compare storyboards, animatics, and other executing content by “Flicking” them from on their tablet to their TV screen, simply by gesturing their fingers upwards on their tablets.

Scene Explorer: Viewers select various progressions of the same scene including storyboards, pre-visualizations and behind-the-scenes.

Behind the Scenes: Viewers get an all access look at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Storyboards: Viewers will be able to take a closer look at the storyboards created for some of the amazing sequences in the film.

3D Models: Viewers can take a look at the aliens and otherworldly gadgets in Cowboys & Aliens by the touch or swipe of their fingers. You can move the models in a 360 degree view, get tech specs and more.

SYNOPSIS

It’s 1873 when gunslinger Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the Arizona desert with no memory of his past and a mysterious metal shackle encircling his wrist. Stumbling into the nearby town of Absolution, Lonergan discovers a tightly closed community that takes its orders from the iron-fisted Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) — and Dolarhyde has a bone to pick with Lonergan. But the colonel’s influence wanes when the desolate city is attacked by monsters that drop from the sky with blinding force and abduct the helpless townsfolk one by one. As Lonergan’s memory slowly returns, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of mysterious beauty Ella (Olivia Wilde), he assembles a posse comprised of former opponents: townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors. United against a common enemy, they prepare for an epic showdown for survival.

“Rare Exports” an Exceptional Treat by Ray Schillaci

rare_exports_ver4The new Blu-ray Oscilloscope release of “Rare Exports: a Christmas Tale” may not be everybody’s cup of Christmas tea, but it is definitely the most original and delightfully dark holiday tale since Tim Burton’s, “Nightmare before Christmas”. This is the second fantasy film from Norway (the first being Troll Hunter) that has hit our shores and it has all the earmarks of a cult classic and is even better than its predecessor. Several films of late (Super 8, Cowboys and Aliens) have tried to recapture the magic of Spielberg in the 80s and they have fallen short. Director, Jalmeri Helander delivers that magic in spades with an unwavering “R” rating and has us giggling all the way as to how wrong it is.

There is so much wonderment involved in this fantastic tale of the “real” Santa Clause being discovered that I hesitate to provide you any spoilers with this review. The basic idea; pesky Americans have invaded the Korvatunturi mountains, disturbing the local townsfolk with their blasting. Pietari, a mischievous Norwegian boy, and his friend spy on the secretive area and believe Santa Claus has been unearthed. But this is not the jolly old fat man that parents have been talking about for ages. Pietari fears this is truly the demon that was known for stealing children and placing them in boiling water. When the boy’s harsh father accidentally snares a naked old man with a long grey beard suspicions peak and fantasy turns deadly.

Helander captures the magic of the holiday season with the beautiful snow covered landscapes and wide-eyed children. He also manages to keep us in suspense with the reactions of the adults and legends revealed. There are moments of giddy pleasure with the absurdity of it all; a possible unconscious Santa on a butcher block, a child pleading to be spanked for bad behavior for fear of Santa and a herding (it has to be seen to be believed) like no other.

Oscilloscope has delivered a crisp and dynamic Blu-ray presentation with a soundtrack worthy of a big Hollywood budget that never overwhelms or becomes annoying. Subtitles are easy to read. If you are one to avoid subtitled movies, I would strongly suggest giving this one a chance. It is well worth it.

The two disc set is the best way to go with one of the most ingenious packaging displays that is a great conversation piece. Extras include two short prequels “Rare Exports, Inc.” and “Rare Exports, Inc. – Official Safety Guide,” hilarious. The making of this Christmas gem, concept art, animatics and computer effects video comparison, still photo gallery displaying behind the scenes production and the original trailer from Finland is all included. Oscilloscope has also thrown in the camp classic, “Santa Clause Conquers the Martians”. All of this is worth the couple of dollars extra compared to the single disc Blu-ray or the DVD.

The film is so full of surprises throughout its production. All the actors hit their mark, tug at our hearts and make us cringe in fear all at once. But do not mistake this as a simple horror show – it is definitely not, it’s more of a playful creep fest that is full of fun. “Rare Exports” is a cup of spiked Christmas cheer, sit back and enjoy it.

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