Sunday, August 12, 2007

[DVD 2-Disc Limited Special Edition] Eye in the Sky (Gun Chung) (2007)

I made this purchase as a remembrance of the first Hong Kong movie I've caught during my first Hong Kong International Film Festival experience, and also getting that rare opportunity of having a picture snapped with lead actress Kate Tsui, and getting her autograph on the mini poster as well. That happened right after the second screening of the movie after the festival, which was way past midnight, and she was nice enough to oblige, even though she was visibly tired.

But in all honesty, I liked the movie as well, as it had something to do with the day job, and given I had reviewed the movie earlier, I shall not repeat myself, and instead provide the lowdown on the 2 Disc Limited Special Edition DVD from Sundream Motion Pictures. What pushed me to purchase this version instead of the standard 2-disc edition, was the inclusion of a film strip from the movie, which contains 6 frames from the film. I realized that it could be just landscape shots if I was unlucky, but I guess I can't be choosy when mine turned out to have Tony Leung included in all 6 frames. also thrown in 5 exclusive photographs from the movie, and if you're interested to find out more about this edition, you can click on this link for more details.

The Code 3 DVD comes with animated menus, but the menus are in Mandarin/Cantonese only, so if you do not speak/read the language, you'll have to rely on guesswork to know what the menu selection actually means. Audio is available in either the Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 5.1 track, the Cantonese DTS ES 6.1 track, or the dubbed Mandarin Dolby Digital EX 5.1 version. Subtitles are available in traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese or in English. The visual transfer is quite pristine, clear and without any noticeable flaws, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The main gripe here though is the scene selection. While 12 chapters are available, there isn't any indication, either by animated thumbnail scenes or chapter description, to tell you what the chapter's all about. It's just a number, and you'll have to rely on your sense of "guesstimation". Something to improve here.

Disc 1 contains the movie with no extras, and Disc 2 is the special features disc. Being a Hong Kong release, those who do not understand Cantonese will find no help here, given the absence of subtitles in Chinese or English. One thing to note though is the absence of Tony Leung in most of the features, i.e. there's no one-to-one interviews where you come to expect them. During the Hong Kong International Film Fest Gala which I attended, he was unfortunately absent too, so there seems to be a void where fans cannot hear his views on the movie.

First up, there's a dedicated Interviews section with cast and crew, interspersed with scenes from the movie at regular intervals However, there are no subtitles included in the interviews conducted in Cantonese, and for some reason, the background music seem to drown out some of the conversation and the interviewees' voices.

Director Yau Nai Hoi (9:21) talked about the international audience's reaction to the movie's local nuances, given that it had already travelled to festivals overseas. He also shared the most difficult portion of the movie, as well as revealed that the script actually underwent continuous changes during production. He also added that there was some deliberate considerations not to make it seem like a Johnnie To movie (To's one of the producers though), and for the first two days, To was actually on set, but decided not to be around so as not to add pressure to the first time director. Yau explained how the characters for Tony Leung and Simon Yam were designed, and that the scene with the tailing of Lam Suet's Fatman was actually the longest scene to film, given that they only had a narrow window of time each day to film in. This interview gave quite a pretty good insight.

Producer Johnnie To (7:55) also had a segment, and has good words of praise for his protege Yau, with whom he had collaborated for 16 years, and who is now pushed to the forefront of decision making since he's now the director. To also spent some time debunking the myth that he had a hand in the direction of the movie.

Simon Yam (7:57) talked about putting weight for his role (no, that's not a pillow under his shirt, he really was pudgy), and how good natured director Yau is. He also compared the stylistic differences between To and Yau, and told of his good impression of co-stars Kate, and complimented the professionalism of Tony Leung. Yam hoped that should Yau ask him to make another movie together, that it will not involve any changes to his weight! I always thought Simon Yam was an all round nice guy, and watching him give this interview, surely reinforced that thought.

Kate Tsui (clocking at 11:22, the longest of the lot), the new kid on the block, shared her first time experience in given a starring role in a movie, and talked about her first impressions of director Yau, and how she observed he was stressed with his job (he too was a first time director). In preparation for her role, she had actually asked friends in the police force about the Surveillance Unit, but they too did not know much about it, given that it's highly secretive. Being a rookie, she was awed at the presence of the veteran actors, and learnt a lot from Simon, Tony, Maggie Siu, and even Lam Suet, whom she was quite amused with. Kate actually broke down slightly with tears of heartfelt joy when she recounted that expectations for her were high given that she's handed a starring role, and when she'd seen the final cut, she was thankful that her character was not sidelined during editing, and actually was key to the very final scene. She thought that Eye in the Sky was an important film for her, and was extremely thankful to the cast and crew who took good care of her during production.

Rounding off the Interview section was the one with Lam Suet (6:25), who talks about his character eating most of the time when he's not robbing, and shares his thoughts of the movie and some memorable scenes.

A short "Making Of" (6:38) has interviews with the cast like Kate Tsui and Lam Suet, and Simon Yam explained that he took on 30 pounds for the role, and compared to Election, it seemed that Tony Leung and himself had swapped roles and mannerisms, with Tony Leung giving a more stoic performance than the crazed one in Election.

Eye in the Sky had travelled to various Film Festivals, and there's a separate section to include the highlights from each festival, In the Berlinale (4:19), there were interviews with the director, the audience members (on what they expected and who they're here to see), and had full houses for the 3 screenings it had. At the Hong Kong International Film Fest (3:48), there were interviews with the producer Tsui Siu Ming, Johnnie To and actor Simon Yam, and not to mention Lau Ching Wan too. I was there too, and you can read more of the proceedings from this link. The film had also travelled to the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy (3:56), and it included interviews with the audience and coverage of director Yau's opening speech. Eye in the Sky actually received a one minute ovation at the end of the screening, and Patrick Tam, whose movie After This Our Exile was also participating in the same festival, shares a few words too. Lastly, the Shanghai International Film Festival (3:57) had Yau, producer Tsui and Kate Tsui in a press conference, where questions from the press came fast and furious, adding much stress to the trio. Watch them "complain" :-)

The Hong Kong Gala Premiere (10:23) was included in a separate section from the above, and includes lengthy photo poses with various Hong Kong stars who graced the occasion. Short speeches were also given by the director, cast, and producer Tsui Siu Ming, and the guests also shared their thoughts of the movie after the screening.

A Yau Nai Hoi Director Featurette (14:15) consists of an interview with the director at an open air sidewalk cafe. It's quite an insight into the mind of the man who was chief scriptwriter to acclaimed Hong Kong director Johnnie To, with whom he has collaborated for 16 years. He also candidly shares his opinions and his way of doing things, about the stress faced with To when working with him, and his inspiration in joining the movie industry. Also included are interviews with others like To, Lam Suet, Kate Tsui and Simon Yam on their views of Yau. What was interesting in this feature was how Yau plans his action shots using coins and cigarette packs - something you must see to believe.

A short On Location Making Of (2:38) recounts an anecdote where the cast and crew were shooting a robbery scene, and a member of the public thought it was for real, and called in the police. So it was a mingling of the real cops and the reel cops in the scene that made the final cut.

The Trailers section contains a number of short trailer spots - two 20s spots, one 30s and one 40s, with slight variations in each, and a stylishly edited theatrical trailer which runs 2:03. Unfortunately the voiceovers are in Cantonese, and come without subtitles, except for those scenes lifted directly from the movie.

Lastly, there is the complimentary Photo Gallery, where 15 movie stills and 7 posters are included, which are the HK movie posters, and the international release posters for territories in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and China.

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