Two British productions and one from Hong Kong are in this week's DVD column.
As faithful readers must realize by now, I love Hong Kong films and was eager to receive a review copy of Thunderbolt, a Jackie Chan movie made in 1995.
Thunderbolt was made during quite a fertile time for the superstar. He made Rumble in the Bronx in 1995 and Police Story Four: First Strike, the following year. While these films received release here for some reason Thunderbolt never made it to the States until now.
I'm not sure why because it is as good a film as Rumble, though it's not in the top tier of Chan's work. However if you enjoy Chan's brand of fight and stunt sequences as well as some outrageous car racing footage, then Thunderbolt will provide an enjoyable evening of entertainment.
The plot revolves around an international criminal and racecar driver who is beat in a street race by Chan's character, who is a mechanic, kung fu master and part-time racer. From there things get a little predictable as The Cougar wants a re-match and kidnaps Chan's two younger sisters to insure it.
There's precious little of Chan's trademark humor in the film, although the silly performance of Thorston Nickel does provide some unintentional laughs.
There are two martial arts set pieces that are stunners. One is set in a garage, while the other is in a Japanese panchinko parlor.
The DVD offers the film in both widescreen and a full screen version - watch the film in widescreen, please - and has subtitles for those of us who like to hear the actual voices of the actor.
Although it's not a Chan masterwork, it's very entertaining.
For more information, log onto www.newline.com.
My wife is an avid mystery fan and being Scottish had long ago discovered the work of Ian Rankin. Rankin has written a series of gritty mysteries set in Edinburgh and featuring a police detective named Rebus.
The fact that my wife actually enjoys the filmed adaptations of the books has spoken volumes to me, as she generally does not like to watch a movie based on a book she has read.
I've not read any of Rankin's work, but I found the Rebus films - originally seen on BBC America and now in a new three disc DVD set - involving viewing.
John Hannah stars as Rebus and is best known to American audiences as the idiot comic relief in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. There is nothing remotely humorous about his character here. Rebus is a deeply flawed guy. Divorced and living alone, he is a serious drinker. As a police officer, he is willing to do almost anything to achieve his goal of solving a crime and arresting a suspect.
Anyone who likes their crime dramas dark and dirty will enjoy these four Rebus movies in this collection.
And yes, you can understand the actors despite their Scottish accents. Occasionally, there is a bit of slang that might be perplexing, but don't let that stop you from enjoying these mysteries.
There is a documentary on the making of the films that gives people a little background on Rankin, his books and these films.
For more information, log onto www.kochvision.com
At Last The 1948 Show
If you're a Monty Python fan, then you will probably love see At Last The 1948 Show. If you're not, then this fairly obscure 1967 British television series might seem a bit perplexing.
The 1948 Show is one of two British television series that introduced members of Monty Python before that show was conceived. It stars John Cleese and Graham Chapman from Python along with Marty Feldmen and Tim Brooke-Taylor.
This collection has five of the half -hour shows. Like Python, they are a string of sketches that are connected by segments featuring an actress named Aimi MacDonald whose shtick was to think that the show was all about her.
Shot in black and white, the visuals are at as sharp as I would have liked, but the soundtracks are fine. The shows themselves are quite funny and it's a hoot to see Marty Feldmen who remains one of the best but least appreciated British comics from the period.
For more information go to www.tango-entertainment.com.