The Flowers of War

This Week in Blu-ray

Brits running for the glory of the Empire, a fourth helping of Pie, an insanely brilliant racing hero and a few absolute bummers. That’s the company we keep This Week in Blu-ray as we take a look through the likes of American Reunion, The Flowers of War, Cherry Bomb, Spawn and Senna making their Blu debuts. It all begins, of course, with our pick of the week. Chariots of Fire Warner Bros. was able to kill two birds with one remaster this year. Not only are we getting this classic story of faith and fitness in a glorious Blu-ray release, but they’re also giving it a renewed theatrical showing in the UK in honor of the 2012 London Olympics. It’s all perfectly timed, as Chariots does tell the story of two Olympians, a Jewish man who runs to battle prejudice and a devoutly Catholic Scottish man who runs despite his dedication to his faith and its missions. Together, they brought glory to Britain in the 1924 Olympics. The result is a timeless convergence of sportsmanship and cinema showmanship, a well-acted, thoroughly emotional experience at the hand of director Hugh Hudson. The score, most notably the synthesizer heavy opening theme, is the stuff of pop culture legend. It will live on long beyond the memory of those who know where it originates, from the Academy Award winning score of Vangelis. The choice to go 80s synth instead of big, sweeping orchestral work for a triumphant story of national heroism in the 1920s was a bold one, […]

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! Lots of solid releases this week including the first season of Adventure Time, Fatso, the latest seasons of The Glades and iCarly and more. Also out today? The obviously terrible American Reunion and the inexplicably lauded Margaret. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Flowers of War The Chinese city of Nanjing has been invaded and occupied by the Japanese, and one of the many traumatic stories unfolding in this crumbling urban jungle involves a group of prostitutes and another of schoolgirls who hole up together in a church for safety. They’re joined by an American (Christian Bale) pretending to be a priest to save his own skin who’s struggling to balance his self interests with the need to protect others. Director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) crafts some stunning battle scenes alongside a truly heartbreaking narrative. Seriously, my eyes may or may not have been leaking profusely at the final scenes. Check out my full review. [Extras: featurettes]

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The title of this post is pretty self explanatory, so no introduction is really needed here. But… I do feel compelled to point out the same thing I point out every year. Nailing foreign releases down to a particular year isn’t an exact science. Obviously every film has an actual date of initial release, but most foreign titles don’t hit our shores until the following year, if at all. I try to go by original release date whenever possible though which means some of my choices have yet to be screened in the US outside of film festivals and import DVDs. That said, here’s a list of my eleven favorite foreign films for 2011 in alphabetical order. (Be sure to check out my lists from 2010, 2009 and 2008 too.) And because I know someone will ask, yes, I did see Certified Copy.

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Director Zhang Yimou is no stranger to epic period films that meld action with artistry to often stunningly beautiful effect, but films like Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower exist far from the real world. They feature their fair share of drama and loss, but wuxia films as a genre also include physical and acrobatic exaggerations that firmly remove it from the realm of reality. The director’s latest film, The Flowers of War, does not allow itself that luxury. It’s 1937, and the Chinese city of Nanjing has fallen to the invading Japanese army. Amid the citizens rushing to escape what will soon become a concrete prison are a group of Catholic schoolgirls who literally missed the boat and are now trying to make it back to their convent. The majority of them survive the run through the city, and they’re soon joined by an American named John Miller (Christian Bale) who had been hired to perform mortician duties on the recently deceased priest in charge of the convent. Miller’s only interest is in getting paid and getting out, but the arrival of a group of local courtesans complicates matters. Japanese soldiers attack the convent and while the prostitutes hide the young girls are chased and assaulted until Miller, unable to ignore the screams echoing through the church, dons the priest’s robes and stands up to the invaders. His actions halt further tragedy, but they only delay the seemingly inevitable. Now Miller, acting as unintended […]

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Would it surprise you to learn that the original title for Christian Bale’s upcoming Chinese epic, The Flowers of War, was actually Blood Mist? It shouldn’t after watching the trailer below which is absolutely filled with the stuff. Also, I’m just making up the bit about it being the original title but there really is a lot of it in this trailer. Bale plays an American named John Haufman who finds himself trapped in the Chinese city of Nanking during the Japanese invasion in 1937. He dons a dead priest’s robe as a way to stay alive and soon finds himself responsible for the safety of a group of schoolgirls and a gaggle of prostitutes when the Japanese soldiers come looking to party. It’s a fact-based story that touches on the despicable acts committed by the invading army and covered with raw power in Iris Chang’s excellent The Rape of Nanking. The film is reportedly China’s most expensive production yet, and it’s easy to see where all the money went after watching the footage below. Director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) has turned his visually adept eye to a slightly more modern time period, and the results look impressively visceral and stylish. Check out the trailer below.

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