April 20, 2010

Fist of Legend

Highlight of the Week

Fist of Legend (Alliance) 
Kudos to Dragon Dynasty for dishing out another one of Hong Kong cinema’s all-time greats, just three weeks after unleashing John Woo’s The Killer. Western audiences wowed by the fight sequences in The Matrix and Kill Bill take note: those films owe a lot to their legendary martial-arts choreographer, Yuen Wo-Ping. Thanks to his work, Fist of Legend remains a career high point for Jet Li. Looking mighty fine on bone-breaking Blu-ray, this 1994 chop-socky masterpiece is one to own for anyone who appreciates some of the finest ass kicking ever committed to celluloid. (Consider: blindfolded belt-wielding.) Top-shelf extras include commentary, interviews, fight-school featurette, deleted scenes and insights from Elvis Mitchell and, uh, Brett Ratner. 

Also Available

Crazy Heart (Fox) Interesting that this arrived this week on a certain counter-cultural holiday. After all, it stars The Dude, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. Coincidence aside, Jeff Bridges fully deserved his Oscar win for playing a country musician and aging alcoholic prompted into self-awareness by a much younger love interest (Lady Gyllenhaal). Likewise, soundtrack overseers T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton add much-needed flavour to an occasionally weak sauce. Extras: deleted scenes and alternate music.

The Young Victoria (Alliance) C.R.A.Z.Y. director Jean-Marc Vallée and Gosford Park scribe Julian Fellowes may not be in peak performance this time around, but their product thrives in the acting department. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are fairly scorching as the young Queen and her husband-to-be, Prince Albert (yes, like the piercing). It’s a passionate and convincing romance, and a shame that the rest of the film keeps such a stiff upper lip. Painterly photography and Academy Award–winning costume design look extra ravishing in high-def. Extras: making-of, costumes doc, mini featurettes, deleted scenes. 

The Lovely Bones (Paramount) Peter Jackson’s much-ridiculed adaptation of Alice Sebold’s much-loved 2002 bestseller is not that unlovely, but it’s somewhat laughable. (Mark Wahlberg hasn’t been this unintentionally uproarious sinceThe Happening.) Jackson deservedly took heat for downplaying the novel’s heavier tone in favour of abstract CGI gobbledygook. Non-offenders include Saoirse Ronan as the victim and Academy Award nom Stanley Tucci as the perpetrator. Extras: heaps of diary segments hosted by Jackson.   

New York, I Love You (E1) As an unofficial follow-up to 2007’s plus belle city anthology, Paris, je t’aime, this is considerably second-rate. (Also don’t see: Toronto Stories). Bizarro directors range from Mira Nair to Natalie Portman to Brett Ratner, who (shocker!) crafts one of the film’s more appealing shorts. For few and far between highlights, here’s your evening’s Plan B entertainment, but you’re probably better off revisiting some vintage Woody Allen. Extras include directors’ interviews and two axed segments: one of which marks ScarJo’s directorial debut. (In it, Kevin Bacon buys a hot dog.) 

Harold and Kumar Double Feature (Alliance) 4/20 hit this week, Lost just ended and you don’t know what to watch. A quandary no doubt, but let me ask you this: ever see Neil Patrick Harris? Ever see Neil Patrick Harris… on Blu-ray? Going to White Castleproved to be a much better buzz than escaping from Guantanamo Bay, but both racially charged road trips are worth your toker time. Part two picks up where its predecessor left off — en route to Amsterdam — so there’s a linear perk to watching these films back-to-back. Sweetening the pot is this “high”-def double-bill that will leave you with enough chump change to splurge on whatever Toronto’s equivalent of White Castle is. Extras: none, but who needs ’em.

Surviving Crooked Lake (Mongrel) An ultra minimal mélange of Deliverance and 2004’s under-seen-but-still-pretty-decent Mean Creek, this Canadian creeper in no way revolutionizes the survival genre. The deets: adolescent gals go on canoe trip, disaster strikes, girls are left in the wilderness, not very engaging stuff happens. To its credit, the lo-fi movie provides a couple of dirt-cheap thrills. Extras: did not survive Crooked Lake.