Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reviews: DVDs & Books

DVD: Shanghai Express
A little bit western, mostly Hong Kong action comedy from the legendary Sammo Hung directing and starring with another legend in Yuen Baio and quite a large cast including Rosamund Kwan, Richard Ng, and many other recognizable Hong Kong actors and actresses at the time.

The story follows seveal points that intercept. Sammo Hung's character, Cheng, is a bit of a hustler returning home with big plans. Tsao(Baio) is the newly elected security chief for the village after the last one and several officers robbed the bank, a trio of Japanese carrying an important Chinese map, gangsters after them, and an Interpol agent tracking Cheng. They call come together in the town of Hansui and things get crazy.

If you're into Jackie Chan than you'll probably dig his older and younger "brothers" in Sammo Hung and Yuen Baio. All three were raised and trained in the Peking Opera School and have similar styles with the differences being Sammo Hungs larger and and was considered the most talented martial artist of the school at his time while Yuen Baio was one of the better acrobats. The performances were all really good despite the fact that, as it turns out, many just wanted to be int he film so some scenes and characters had little bearing to the story. The set design for the small town and the fancy hotel are all top notch for their time and period. If you're looking for something that's funny and entertaining, this is a good flick. Its got good laughs, good fight sequence, and a couple crazy stunts like when Yuen Baio hops from the top of a burning apartment to the ground, gets up and runs forward and still nails his lines out. That scene represents one of the big differences between Hong Kong and American action films, that the actors feel superhuman. Its not a great movie by any means, but its extremely fun.

DVD extras include commentary with expert Bey Logan, interviews with some of the cast, trailers, and even deleted scenes. Dragon Dynasty always providing good DVDs for their releases.

Rating: 8/10

DVD: School Rumble Season 2 Part 1
The second season of that crazy romance School Rumble kicks off. Thirteen episodes of romantic misunderstandings, characters too shy to express their feelings, crazy school activities, and the occasional rumble.

This season includes the cultural festival which, for those not into Japanese culture, is a festival put on by a high school featuring plays, shops, and food booths that are opened to the public. There's also the survival game taking place on school grounds that was made to decide which theme the main characters of class 2-C would do. We take a peek at some of the characters part-time jobs, studying for exams, and even the girls basketball club.

Watching this reminds me of how utterly lame the ending to the manga is. These episodes are silly fun with a number of great laughs. The survival game scene is so over-the-top because its mostly played straight. The play 2-C puts together was strange and fun. The basketball portion had a number of great laughs. The star of the show is Harima and he has some great lines. Most the characters are a joy to watch though I tend to like the female lead Tenma less and less with each episodes. I watch the series in dub and I love it. Yes... I love the dub, deal with it anime fans.

Bad point, forty-five dollars for thirteen episodes. Yes, its cheaper then paying the twenty for the 4-5 episode DVDs like they did with the first season but I'd rather that every other month then pay around forty dollars twice in three months for the complete second season. If I'm paying that much I'd like the complete season if possible.

Rating: 8/10

Book: A Gentleman's Game-A Queen & Country Novel
by Greg Rucka

A Gentlemans Game stars Tara Chace, the head of the Special Operations Section and designated Minder One in the SIS. When a several terrorist attacks break out in London the Prime Minister urges quick retaliation against the leader of a Terrorist organization. The job lands with Tara Chace, and not only is it a dangerous one but the results make things even worst.

This is a novel dealing with the world Greg Rucka created in his spy series Queen & Country. A very realistic look into the world of espionage. Now, I wouldn't have bought this book if it wasn't for the fact that in the current Definitive collection the last story takes place in between Gentleman's Game and Private Wars. So I bought it to see what happened.

Now, this was a fast read and not at all boring. I see this because I find most novels to drag on in the beginning or have dull characters that will eventually turn me off. But having known these characters, already been interested in their world, and the pacing of the series it gripped me. I love the comic but the book feels even more in depth into their world than that. Especially following one of the terrorists, Sinan, through his own journey. Of course, the stand out character is Tara Chace and always is Tara Chace. I love tough women and she's one of baddest bitches around. Its fast, action packed, suspenseful, and I urge you to check it out. Though I'd suggest picking up the definitive editions first, skipping the final story in the third volume, and then reading this.

The only down side, of course, is that the recent collection killed the ending to this book for me. Ah well, I'm fine with it. Its my own fault for not heeding the warning.

Rating: 10/10

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