Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

April 21, 2005

PSP UMD: House of Flying Daggers - The film Hero should have been...

Off the heels of the PSP buzz, UMD videos are beginning to pop their heads out into the mainstream market, along side DVDs. As a personal gift to myself, I recently purchased both the DVD and UMD versions of the film House of Flying Daggers. First let me tell you that while the quality of the picture and sound of the UMD disc almost surpasses that of the DVD version, the UMD is not without it's drawbacks. While both films have great video, the interface of the DVD version is by far the smoothest, though the UMD version is still fluid in it's own right. Adding insult to injury, the UMD version costs about 5 bucks more than the DVD version, yet the DVD version yeilds it's own share of extras while the UMD version does not. All that aside, I can easily see UMD movies being an occasional purchase for long treks across the province/country. In my own monthly routine, I take frequent bus rides which end up being 3 to 4 hours on occasion. This is the perfect opportunity for me to pop in the UMD and watch a flick before the bus pulls into it's destination port. Is the UMD version good? Hell yes. Is the DVD better? You bet your bottom dollar.

As for the movie itself, it's far and away the best foreign film released in North America, well, ever. It's a spectacle from start to finish. The preliminary 10 minute introduction to the main character Mei (played by the delicious Zhang Ziyi) is worth the price of admission alone. Not only does the movie take the theme of colours and patterns to an all new level, lush scenery encapsulating articulate fight (dance) sequences, are all above every standard ever set. Mei plays a blind dancer who is also a behind the scenes member of the Flying Daggers; a group of freelance mercenaries in opposition to the government. In this film however, the government is corrupt, and we as the viewer want to see the Flying Daggers flourish and live on. As countless battles ensue, you can't help but just sit back and take everything in. Everything is woven together perfectly, and the acting is top notch. Fight sequences are choreographed to the point where they appear to be ancient chinese ballets, yet manage to still appear natural and as some form of martial art. It's everything Hero was, and more...

Hero tried to be different, and terminate the creative juices there. With no real deep or engaging plot, you ended up with a solid 2 hours worth of fight scenes between Moon, Sky, Snow, and Hero (prompting me to shout "Go Captain Planet" every time a fight took off). As confusing as it was, and awe inspiring as it most definitely was, it ended up being a 2 hour bore fest, as there was no real plot to follow. It was an afterthought. This movie tends to amend that problem by offering an intimately deep and provocative story, that follows the fleeing of Mei and her escort Jin/Wind (Jin played by none other than Onimusha 3's Takeshi Kaneshiro, also starring in the recent "Returner"). Hearts flutter, and potential nudity follows suit, and the love triangle between Mei, Jin and a character who will remain nameless is woven together with the fate of the Flying Daggers clan, and the climatic battle that brings the movie to a close. There's no question as to why so many critics called this move the best of the year. It's a masterpiece. Not just cinematically, but artistically, musically, and literally.


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