Film and TV

DVDs & Blu-rays: Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Chained and Beatles Stories

The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate stars Jet Li, Mavis Fan, Kwai Lun-mei and Chen Jun; Tsui Hark directs.

Just because you don't have an IMAX theater in your living room, don't pass up the DVD/Blu-ray release of Tsui Hark's The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. The wuxia action film follows a heroic warrior (Jet Li), a pregnant palace maid (Mavis Fan), a skilled female warrior (Zhou Xun), a wild Tartar princess with a tattooed face (Kwai Lun-mei), a female bandit (Li Yuchun), her mild-mannered tagalong and a look-alike imperial eunuch (both played by Chen Kun). Some of these characters are good guys, some are bad guys, most fall somewhere in between. The various fighters barely have time to have tea at the desert inn where they all meet up before a huge sand storm blows in, threatening to drown them all in sand.

Jennifer Lynch's new horror film, Chained, has Vincent D'Onofrio as a cab-driving serial killer who murders a young mother and keeps her eight-year-old son, making the boy into something of a protege. He keeps the boy chained to a bed, with just enough length to move around the house. The film has a NC-17 rating, not so much its explicit physical violence but for its emotional violence.

Lynch has said that when she first got the script, the film was in the torture porn style. The producers gave her the green-light to rework the story. She took out some of the gratuitous violence, and focused not on the murders, but their ramifications.

With the new script in hand, Lynch cast D'Onofrio for the role of Bob, the killer. Eamon Farren plays Rabbit, the boy Bob kidnaps and keeps for years as a captive murderer-in-training. Rabbit has a choice, to follow Bob's lead and become a killer or try one last time to escape.

Shifting gears, we come to the documentary Beatles Stories, which has a definite DIY feel to it. A few years ago Beatle fan Seth Swirsky, himself a singer-songwriter and author, was in Liverpool to perform at The Cavern Club, where the Fab Four had performed back in the day. While he was there he started asking locals about their recollections of the Beatles and recording the stories on a hand-held video camera. From there, he started asking former tour mates, friends, and other fans about their favorite Beatle moment. Those taped memories became Beatles Stories. The variety of people that appear in the film is impressive; Swirsky gets interviews with Jackie DeShannon, Art Garfunkel, Sir George Martin, Jon Voight, Brian Wilson, Henry Winkler and - we kid you not - Luci Baines Johnson. In a phone conversation with Swirsky, Johnson remembers that the Beatles were coming to America soon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Still a teen, she went to her father with what she thought was a brilliant idea - have the Beatles come to the White House and cheer everybody up. Her father, newly in office and with the Vietnam War on his hands, politely declined her request.

Peter Noone, from Herman's Hermits, recalls sharing a bill on the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars. After the show, the 15-year-old Noone followed the group to a club and rode up in the elevator with John Lennon. The club had a two drink minimum. Lennon told Noone, he'd buy two Bacardi's, and told him to buy two cokes. "He gave me a Bacardi, I gave him a Coke, and we were drinking together," gushes Noone. "I was like, 'This is like a movie!'"

Extras on the DVD include additional interviews, commentary by Swirsky and an extended interview with Norman "Hurricane" Smith, the Beatles' first recording engineer.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez