Ottawa Cinema – July

July 9, 2011

Want to know why there was no post about Ottawa Cinema for June?There simply was not that much good stuff coming out, so yeah, hope you stayed at home. I am happy to report that there are at least two films that I’m excited to see this month. Before revealing what they are, you must prepare to answer the question “What’s better than one Yuen-Woo Ping film?” The answer of course, is two of his films and one isn’t the cut-up Iron Monkey print! Rejoice!

Fist of the Red Dragon Poster True Legend poster

Note: Both films are not covered in thick mist as posters suggest.

After months of discussing and possibly dreading it, True Legend finally debuts in Ottawa. I’ve heard so much mixed reviews on this one but the trailers have me hooked, especially after seeing it on the big screen. As a nice bonus, on July 29th, I’m blessed enough to witness Yuen Woo-Ping’s 1993 film Heroes Among Heroes aka Beggar So aka Fist of the Red Dragon. This is Donnie Yen in his prime and how often do you get the chance to see classic early 90s martial arts films on the big screen? I’m there!

Before I go on, a big thanks to the The Heroic Sisterhood on Facebook for digging up the Heroes Among Heroes poster. In return, I’ve included some more Yuen-Woo Ping posters here for your viewing pleasure. Use tables, plants, and fans as your weapons and feast your eyes on some classic and not-so-classic Yuen-Woo Ping joints.

Drunken Master (1978)
Directed by Yuen-Woo Ping and starring a very young Jackie Chan: Drunken Master is one of the most popular films of either stars. This poster is one of my favourites as the pictured dragons diet is something you should really see close-up. Despite my impression that the dragon appears to have a giant worm lodged between his eyes, this is great poster art.

As for the film, some prefer the 1990s follow-up, Drunken Master II as this seventies film is not as fast paced, but i’d still recommend as the first stop in investigating both Jackie’s and Yuen-Woo Ping’s output from the 1970s.

Magnificent Butcher (1979?)
The history of this film confuses me. Sammo Hung and Yuen-Woo Ping are credited as the directors on the IMDb, but the Hong Kong Film Archives (HKFA) refer to only Yuen as the director. The release date is also troubling as IMDb says 1980, but the Hong Kong Film Archives say it was released on December 12, 1979.

Regardless of production history, Magnificent Butcher is a blast despite it’s low budget. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself. The film’s so tight that I assume Slayer are purposely making direct reference to it in their thrash classic “Angel of Death”.

Eastern Condors (1987)
Directed by Sammo Hung and starring fricking everyone. Even people who aren’t actors. Sammo’s Vietnam war film doesn’t really get as heavy as Woo’s Bullet in the Head, but this is a completely different kind of film boasting a star-studded cast. How star-studded? Even action directors Corey Yuen and Yuen-Woo Ping are popping in to say hello in smaller roles.

To mix it up, I’ve included the bizarre French poster for Eastern Condors. Sammo is actually as thin as he is represented here, but the choice of colors and drawing style make this poster resemble an old Atari game package to me. WEIRD.

Black Mask 2 (2002)
Eugh. Do I have to tell you this is bad? Black Mask 2 is a career low for…everyone involved. Well maybe not everyone, Traci Lords is in this, and I guess she can flip a coin to figure out what her career low can really be. This film had people nearly writing off director Tsui Hark and even Yuen Woo Ping’s action choreography can’t save it here. Some of the WORST CGI you’ll ever see on film.

I’m struggling for words here, but I mean…did you see this poster? What on earth would make you want to sit through this?

That’s enough posters. Yuen-Woo Ping’s career was thankfully not in a slump after Black Mask 2 as he was busy making every other filmmaker in both Hollywood and Hong Kong look like masters of action choreography. With some of his better films mentioned above, I suggest you investigate both of Yuen’s whether or not you can make it to these screenings as Yuen Woo-Ping’s name needs to be spread!


Goodbye Blockbuster! and Bargain Bin Gold

June 21, 2011

As George Harrison says “All Things Must Pass”. This is the Blockbuster that was within walking distance from where I lived during my high school years. All the Blockbusters on the west side of Ottawa have been shut down and are selling off their entire stock. Sounds cool, right? But I remembered the fact that Blockbuster never had that much I wanted in the first place. Regardless, I did get some good items. But even the deals I got at blockbuster don’t match the deals I just dug up in a bargain bin at Zellers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Where to Buy Films in Ottawa #2

May 12, 2011

Before we start, I did a mild site redesign. This include me creating a Facebook fan page. Click on the Like Button on the right-side banner for great joy. In the meantime, enjoy this mostly picture based post.

Invisible Cinema in Ottawa

Let’s start out with the facts. Netflix in Canada is currently kind of crap. Most items I’d like to watch are only available in the United States. Want to watch an episode of Twin Peaks? Well you are out of luck as it’s there, but unavailable for us. Personally, I like supporting things in my town that I enjoy. It’s not fun to go downtown and find that one of your favourite locations has become a Starbucks or torn down to make room for another condo. One example would be that one of my favourite record stores in Ottawa (Birdman Sound) has announced that they’ll be closing their doors in a new year due to rent issues. They plan to continue selling records outside their physical entitiy, but it’s sad to see something interesting replaced with a Shoppers Drugmart or whatever will go there. On that note, let’s be thankful for what we have. Here’s a quick tribute to my favourite rental joint in Ottawa: Invisible Cinema.

Asian films Ottawa
Anyone’s love for Asian cinema is covered. (Click to enlarge)

American action films
Failing that, here’s another collection. Note how only Death Wish 3 is available.

If you like to watch before you buy (which is what I’d recommend), than look no further than this collection here. If I have a small complaint, it’s that I get a bit lost looking for certain things in the collection. Most items in store are sorted by director, while others are by themes. It makes it a bit difficult to try and find if you are looking for Full Contact and wondering if they have a section for Ringo Lam or not. Other sections are sorted by genre. These include areas for films based on comics, French policiers, and Italian Poliziottescos and so on. Basically all your bases are covered.

Of course if you’d rather buy, they have a smaller but still impressive collection of keepers. Some of it is kept under locked glass. That’s fine, except the border on the glass obscures some of the DVDs and blu-rays they have for sale. Hope those are just doubles.

Criterion DiaboliqueSometimes they sell things before you should! As of the date of this post, this copy of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique is not for sale yet officially.

Inglorious Bastards soundtrack
Soundtracks for sale! I wonder if someone will buy this thinking it’s the Tarantino film when they take home the Casterllari soundtrack.

Even the items not behind the glass have a good selection.
Who doesn’t want their own copy of Light Blast?

Invisible Cinema also doubles as an art gallery with new works regularly displayed whenever I revisit. If gas wasn’t so expensive and if I didn’t live so far away, I’d visit more often but I try to support it if I can rent and return within my own schedule. If you live in decent sized city, I encourage you to seek out and support your local independent rental store. Keep your town less boring and remember that films like Light Blast are not available on Netflix.


Ottawa Cinema – May

April 22, 2011

As summer approaches, we get closer to great period when the theaters are flooded with films of the junk-food variety and give far more crap for me to blog about. I’ll try not to overdose on it by talking about every single minute bit and detail about what’s happening in The Avengers film (see one post below). Instead, let’s focus on what’s coming up in the following month. Let’s start with Ottawa specific action films in May.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar!

I’ve blogged about this earlier and I’m a bit more familiar with the film now. What is potentially disappointing is that the film reportedly not as over the top as Noboru Iguchi’s other films like Machine Girl or Mutant Girls Squad. In other words, no more penis-schnozed monsters. On the otherhand, this film boasts Iguchi’s largest budget to date which has peaked my interest. I still think the 1970s television series looks more humorous in a Flash Gordon type of way. This is only playing one night at the Mayfair theater and it’s sadly only a digital video, but I’ll still trek out to see it.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar is part of the Sushi Typhoon studio who seem to be on good measure with the Mayfair as they’ve shown nearly all their films. For me, watching too many of them too close together makes it a blur of goofy gore and action that make them pretty hard to separate from one another. Sushi Typhoon films are best watched in spread apart individual bursts. That’s why I could potentially skip Hell Driver from Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura which is playing the week after. The film does boast a woman with a chainsaw sword though, so we’ll wait and see if I’m curious enough.

The next film coming is one I’ve been putting off watching through an on-demand feature to see if I can get to see it in a theater.

Even the poster is awe-inspiring

Kim Jee-Woon’s film have gained a cult following and it’s understandable why. They are tight, well acted and often gorgeous to look at it. We are thankfully greeted to a 35 mm print of this, opposed to the other films digital projection. Tonight at the Mayfair, another 35 of Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters is playing which I’m afraid I can’t attend as I’m far out of town. This should be a big improvement over the double feature of The Good, The Bad and the Weird and Deathwish 3 a few months back as the first film was sadly just a DVD projected on the big screen. LAME. The Good, The Bad and the Weird is only disappointing in it’s lack of depth, but a blast through and through. For the curious, Deathwish 3 lived up to it’s reputation as a Cannon classic (if you are a fan of Cannon films that is!)

Outside action films there are a few more exciting films coming to Ottawa in May. The ByTowne cinema shows one of the greatest Hong Kong films ever with a 35 mm print of Chungking Express early in April which plays for three days. I’ll be there. No need for a review as it’s obviously awesome. Later in the month, two Westerns also are coming with The Magnificent Seven at the ByTowne while the Mayfair shows Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t reach the heights of it’s inspiration (Seven Samurai) but it does have incredible star power and a much parodied score. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has Sam Peckinpah directing Bob Dylan which is a concept that kind of blows my mind. I wonder what they thought of each other?

This blog is running a bit long, so let’s summarize the films that you can hopefully catch anywhere in Ottawa with a quick chart and summary:

May Action Films

Hobo with a Shotgun is Canada’s stab at Grindhouse which could have mixed results, but I’d feel foolish to miss out on Canada’s attempt to cash-in on this trend. True Legend has not confirmed for any theater I can find in the Ottawa area, but I’m still hoping some theater will show it despite it’s checkered reputation. I’ve placed Kung Fu Panada 2 smack in the middle as I skipped the first one out and am unfamiliar with it’s plot or quality. But this one has Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme in the same film so…should I rent the first one to be ready for this? Would someone who doesn’t really care about the same studio’s Shrek films give this a chance? You tell me as the length of the interest bar might only be stretched due to the film’s title. Lastly we have Thor and Priest. Thor is a film that I only realized is in 3D today so that probably shows how excited I actually am about it. Last and lead is Priest from the director of that movie where black-winged angels had guns or something. Be a good friend to cinema and don’t see Priest.


DVD Hunting in Ottawa’s Chinatown

April 11, 2011

Inspired by this post at the A Hero Never Dies blog, I thought I’d show off what Ottawa’s Chinatown has to offer in terms of Asian DVD selling locations. There are some good places that offer DVDs for those who have decided to not opt into the world of ordering their films online.

Chinatown’s gate was only put in last year, but it’s pretty impressive.
Makes Little Italy‘s look like a joke.

The first place I’d discuss is what I believe is the New Capital Book Store (there’s so many signs here, I don’t know what is called what). Their film section is pretty minimal and I can’t say I’ve actually bought any films there, but they do have decent prices on imports. They also have some film posters there but they are mostly of Asian pop idols. Don’t expect a poster of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin to be waiting for you. I did find that I could’ve got Gallants there instead of ordering it online for a more extravagant price. Ah well, Live and learn.

The store is a bit hidden. The location of it on Google Maps doesn’t exactly show it off to well.

The only picture of the place I have! They are pretty anti-photography there. I suspect secret operations.

The only other place I’d hunt is the curiously titled “Ottopik”. If you could only go to one place in Chinatown for DVDs, I’d recommend this one for some physical film hunting. It’s in walking distance from the other place and you can see it here on Google Maps.

Tons of DVDs (and some blu-rays!) from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea!

They have a fairly decent selection even if some of the stock there is quite old. Some films have been there forever, as I’m pretty sure no one is rushing out to buy a copy of All’s Well that End’s Well ’97. What’s not shown in the photo above is that they even have some VCDs that they are trying to get rid of. They sell them at 4 for $20. Not exactly cheap, but the store is a bit pricey. There’s some unusual choice of films in stock. Next to some erotic themed films there was a copy of Inspector Gadget (?!). Other oddities include imports of some films that do not need to be imported (does anyone need a Hong Kong import of Rush Hour? Didn’t think so!). Other films I have no familiarity with at all. For example:

Happy Naked Christmas DVD
I’m not going to make fun of this as Happy Naked Christmas is potentially a masterpiece.

Ottopik has some blu-rays as well that they will gladly try to sell to you. The last few times I’ve wondered in there, the woman at the counter was quite chatty and has tried to sell me anything I looked at! From Karaoke machines to the blu-ray of Detective D and the Phantom Flame to Korean television series. It’s more amusing than annoying so I’m not bothered by it. She also made sure to mention that if I can’t find what I was looking for, she could order it for me. I’d rather order things myself and avoid the middleman in this case as their orders are just pulling things from Yesasia. Regardless of prices, it’s still fun to browse and see what’s in stock. If you are young or without your own credit card, it’s not a bad alternative to ordering online. It worked for me when I wanted my own copy of Bullet in the Head.

Speaking of Asian films, I remind all Ottawa residents that they should definitely attend the double feature of John Woo’s excellent action flicks Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow at the Mayfair Theater in Ottawa on April 12. The current DVD and Blu-Ray of Hard Boiled has dubtitles and I think A Better Tomorrow is only available through import. It’s definitely worth your $6. So cancel your plans and get your butt to the Mayfair! See you there!