SONY has released the debut of "CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON," on blu-ray, as part of a trilogy including two previous blu-ray releases, "CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER" and "HOUSE OF HIDDEN DAGGERS." The two previous released films are exactly the same encodes as previously made available. "CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON" is the first major visual spectacle to win over American "art-film" audiences, due to Director Ang Lee's visual style and talent.
Chow Yun-Fat stars as Li Mu Bai, a warrior struggling to deal with the loss of his master, after being killed by the Jade Fox. Having chosen to forgo the rough life he's been used to, Li Mu Bai confesses his love for Yu She Lien and has requested she deliver his sword to Sir Te. However, before this transaction occurs, it's stolen by Jen, a girl apprentice being trained by Jade Fox. However, Jen has an unrequited love she's dealing with as well. She's in love with Lo, an outlaw. Jen, uncertain about the life she should choose to lead, hides her true abilities, incredible as they are, from everyone, including her master, the Jade Fox, as she is confronted with having to make tough decisions before they're made for her.
Confusing? A bit. What is basically a simple tale is made overly complicated with various sub-plots and numerous characters. However, the mere attempt to layer what otherwise could've been a meager storyline, with layers, needs to be applauded. There is substance to "CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON," but Director Lee makes sure there is no shortage of style!
The visual style, effects and choreography are every bit as impressive as they were in the "MATRIX" series, however, the ones debuted here, feel original. The costumes, music, production design and virtually every aspect of this production screams "big" spectacle, but in a great way, backed up with the means to deliver it!
SONY has provided the correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray release. While some scenes appear colder in tone than we'd expected, with a palate that's restrained, the image is filled with depth. Darker scenes, of which there are many, present great clarity and detail. "CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON" never approaches achieving a "vibrant" look, but it still looks terrific!
SONY has provided a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Not only is this a reference quality mix, it's one of the best out there to demonstrate the quality of lossy to anyone wondering about blu-ray potential. From the deep bass and drumbeats making utilized so well within the music, and the subtle discrete effects and bombastic ones, echoing the whiz of arrows, "CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON" is a feast for the senses!
Not nearly the fan of "HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS" that most reviewers were, I'll have to admit that it seemed overrated to me upon my first viewing of it, on a Region 2 dvd, long before it was actually released in the states. However, there were definitely moments that blew me away. One such scene revolved around a dancer in a brothel as drums were beat with incredible visual and aural flair. Other than these types of scenes, of which there were several, the film felt slow, and the story needlessly confusing.
"HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS" is "half" outstanding in its image presentation. Often, the colorful costumes are staggering to observe. The detail of the fabric has never been so fully realized before on "BLU-RAY", however this is also one of the "first" BLU-RAY titles, so we expect the quality to improve even more in the near future. Colors are so incredibly realized and contrast so solid, that it's equally disappointing to find that a sizeable portion of the transfer suffers from compression problems. Detail varies greatly in this presentation, half of it being "outstanding" and half appearing "dvd"-like in quality.
SONY has presented several mixes on this release. A PCM 5.1 mix offers incredible detail in scene after scene, completely immersing the viewer in a 360 degree environment that seldom lets up. While the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, offered in English, French and Spanish, are as good as dvd, the PCM blows these mixes away, and demonstrates what BLU-RAY is capable of with other great releases!
SONY has released "CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER," the latest action drama from the man who gave us "HERO" and "HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS." "CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER" is a much better film than both! While the story is multi-layered, the narrative plot involving a selfish, barbaric ruler, his unfaithful but likeable, beautiful wife and a pending coup, taking place around a special event, is more accessible than the previous films.
Sure, it's hard to take seriously some of the acrobatics taking place while villains swing down like "Spiderman" from ropes, attacking the heroes on horseback, but the film moves along with such sweeping beauty and earnestness, it's easy to overlook minor flaws in reality.
SONY has provided a 1080p/MPEG-4 transfer with the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are lush and detail is flawless throughout!!! This is one of the best blu-ray transfers available! There are so many visually striking moments throughout the film, it's hard to select one as an example, but any time we stopped to examine the image on still-frame, we were amazed! The depth of the image and the intricate details found within the elaborate costumes, is just beautiful to watch!
SONY has provided a PCM 5.1 mix along with other mixes, but the PCM is the best, with an aggressive mix, plenty of surround/discrete effects and dynamic range that's seldom been achieved on other high-def releases thus far. The bass quality is outstanding!
SONY has provided the same extras found on the dvd.
SONY has included great extras! Along with a terrific commentary featuring Ang Lee and writer, James Schamus, featurettes about the production, interviews with Michelle Yeoh and more are also included, albeit, only in standard resolution(480p). BD-LIVE extras are to be expected, and there are various trailers, all in 1080p.