REVIEW: New 20th Century Fox Blu-ray Releases
Season of the Witch and The Warrior's Way hit home video...
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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment continues to release an amazing assortment of films this summer, including two that'll have pop culture fans - and especially fans of sword fights - ready for an evening at home in front of the small screen.
For those with a love of European knights, witches, and the supernatural, Season of the Witch - starring Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman - offers an engaging tale of two holy warriors who must transport a witch to a remote monastery in order to purge her evil from the land. For those with a love of Eastern ninjas and Western Cowboys, the some-what "tongue in cheek" The Warrior's Way - starring Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth, Danny Huston and Korean star Jang Dong Gun - follows the exploits of the world's deadliest fighter, who flees his homeland in order to start a new life in the American West. Both films will appeal to fans of sword fights, action-packed suspense, and some of the coolest visual effects around.
The Warrior's Way
As I previously said in my BOX OFFICE REVIEW, the film isn't going to lead you to higher levels of thinking or plain of existence; The Warrior's Way is pure, mindless entertainment with plenty of spectacular visual special effects the likes of which you'd expect to see in a video game. It's exactly this that makes the film so much fun and I for one know it's because of its wacky story, oddball acting and over-the-top action that I loved it.
For those looking for great visuals in hi-def, look no further. The 1080p video's transfer from 35mm to digital is gorgeous, with bright, bold colors and deep, dark blacks galore. The CGI, while sometimes almost campy, looks great and does exactly what it's supposed to do: set us in an unrealistic, uncharacteristic place the likes of which we've probably seen, but never fully experienced before. It's a good way to make us slightly uncomfortable with the setting while at the same time making it familiar as well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track also impresses and will provide home audiences plenty to enjoy. The battle scenes especially provide plenty of channel-specific effects, be it machine gun fire, swords clashing, and explosions galore.
As for special features, The Warrior's Way blu-ray is light, with only two - a "Behind the Scenes Montage" of special effects work and interviews that's a measly two and a half minutes long and 12 minutes of deleted scenes. Hardly worth watching, I think fans would have appreciated having an audio commentary by writer/director Sngmoo Lee, even if it'd have been subtitled.
All in all, if you don't mind a bit of mindless fun and you love ninja movies about the endless struggles of a warrior on the run, The Warrior's Way is right up your alley and well worth a watch.
The Warrior's Way is rated R for strong bloody violence and is available wherever fine home video is sold.
Season of the Witch
While I wouldn't characterize Season of the Witch as a good, I wouldn't call it all that bad either. There are definitely films that are much worse, which means I consider Season of the Witch stuck somewhere in film purgatory...just like those awful sinners in the film who don't confess. Unfortunately, the film's worst sin is that it tries too hard to be something it's not; namely scary. That's not to say there aren't some great scenes which made me jump and there are in fact a number of scenes which look amazing considering how tight the film's budget was; however, the overall feeling of the film isn't so much adventurous as monotonous.
The subject matter - medieval witches spreading evil throughout the land needing justice at the hands of the church and its holy warriors - is certainly frightening (especially when you consider the historical truth involved). Many a films have indeed done a solid job of delivering engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking tales of witchcraft, especially the recently released Black Death, starring Sean Bean (which I reviewed HERE). Unfortunately, Season of the Witch doesn't quite pull it off. No doubt some fans will enjoy this medieval romp as they watch Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman trek their way through dark mountain passes, haunted castles and villages, and gnarled forests to bring a lovely young woman/witch to the church's justice. And some will not.
While the story itself leaves little to feel inspired about, the acting - especially Cage - seems stale. That said, Ron Perlman is always an interesting man to watch and it's his role as Cage's man-at-arms which truly makes the movie bearable and, for many viewers, worth watching.
As for the video and audio transfers, the 1080p video in 1.78:1 is gorgeous and truly impressive. Be it the sun-soaked battlefields in the Middle East, the dark dingy forests of Europe, or the hellish fires of the monestary, the colors and their sharpness is beautiful. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also impressive. The frights the film does invoke from audiences happens specifically because of the high-quality audio, which pushes different effects through the different channels.
As for special features, the Season of the Witch blu-ray features a decent amount, including an 8 minute "Becoming the Demon," which shows how CGI was used in the film's climax; the 6 minute "On a Crusade," which shows how the opening battle montage was made; a 9 minute alternate ending (which works in similar fashion to the standard ending seen in the film); the film's theatrical trailer; and 10 minutes of deleted scenes which - had they been added to the film - would have made the film stronger.
While I can't recommend Season of the Witch to everyone, I can say fans of supernatural, witch hunt movies will probably enjoy it as will fans of medieval knights and sword and sorcery stories.
Season of the Witch is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence, and disturbing images and is available now on wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley