A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Zhang Yimou is perhaps one of the most well-respected directors in international cinema, and yet you wouldn’t know it from the amount of flack he’s received for his Chinese-language remake of “Blood Simple.” I don’t count myself among the many admirers of the Coen brothers’ 1984 neo-noir – it’s a great debut film, though hardly one of their best – but Yimou obviously does, so it’s strange that his love letter to the film has been met with so much hostility. With the exception of a few tonal changes, his version remains surprisingly faithful, with the story transported to 19th century China and revolving around a noodle shop owner who hires a policeman to kill his cheating wife and her lover when he learns of the affair, only for things go horribly wrong for everyone involved.

Though Yimou’s attempts at including a little screwball comedy to the proceedings fails miserably, the film still works as a slow-burning crime thriller, with Sun Honglei delivering a killer performance (no pun intended) as the quiet assassin. The movie also looks incredible (from the colorful costumes to the gorgeous cinematography), and though it’s never going to replace the original, “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” is still a mostly interesting interpretation that I’d actually like to see done more often.

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A lull, of sorts

You can feel it. After more than a week of Hollywood flacks being in overdrive announcing every comic book-derived, science fiction, fantasy, and horror project they’ve got, things have suddenly gone a little languid as we enter something like the late summer doldrums. That’s highly relative in a business where ADHD sufferers are seriously over-represented, but even Nikki Finke is mostly ignoring movies and has turned her megablog into a detailed celebration of every aspect of the parting of her bete noir TV executive, Ben Silverman.

But that leaves room for a couple of items relating to two filmmakers who are always worthy of attention.

* AICN’s Capone has a chock-full-of-good-stuff interview with Peter Jackson, whose been busier than you might even think considering the number of projects he’s got going, including some really cool sounding short pieces alongside his upcoming return to his “Heavenly Creatures” “small-movie” mode with “The Lovely Bones.” (Capone also raves about the upcoming Jackson-produced feature debut for South African-born director Neill Blomkamp, “District 9” — already notable because of its semi-unavoidable viral marketing campaign.)

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Blu Tuesday: Greedy Studio, Hidden Agenda

In lieu of my weekly Blu-ray column, I wanted to take the opportunity to take a closer look at one of this week’s higher profile releases. Fans of Ang Lee’s martial arts epic, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” have been waiting for an HD version of the film for quite some time now, but no one could have imagined it would happen like this. Instead of being given the update it deserves – complete with new bonus material and a silly subtitle like The Green Dynasty Edition – the film limps onto Blu-ray as part of a three-pack with two other movies it has nothing in common with other than falling under the wuxia subgenre. That’s not a slight against the included Zhang Yimou films (both “House of Flying Daggers” and “The Curse of the Golden Flower” are quite good in their own right), but rather the studio for thinking they could get away with such a heartless scam.

While most fans of “Crouching Tiger” will likely enjoy the other two movies (no doubt Sony’s big selling point), what the studio has failed to consider is that those same people probably bought them on Blu-ray the first time around. An unfortunate oversight or a crafty scheme to force consumers to pay for an added value they don’t want? I’m going to lean towards the latter, especially when the “Crouching Tiger” disc has been treated so poorly. True, the movie looks absolutely stunning in high definition, but there isn’t a single new thing about the release other than the upgraded video and audio. The same three special features have been imported from the DVD, while the addition of access to BD-Live means very little in terms of ever seeing new extras. If you don’t own any of the films, you could certainly spend your money on worse things, but just know that by doing so, you’re only encouraging Sony to do more of the same in the future.

  

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