BLU-RAY REVIEW: Dragon Dynasty's Latest Releases
Tai Chi Master, The Legend, Invisible Target and An Empress & the Warrior…
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Dragon Dynasty has become known for bringing to American fans some of the coolest Asian cinema around, including crime hits like The Killer, wuxia like Seven Swords, and more. Now, thanks to Dragon Dynasty, four more films have made their way stateside to appease fan needs, including the Jet Li martial arts favorites Tai Chi Master and The Legend, Donnie Yen’s swordplay film An Empress and the Warrior, and the action crime story Invisible Target. While only the first two may sound familiar to fans of Asian cinema, all four are amazing additions to a home video collection.
Tai Chi Warrior
One of the classic martial arts films from the early 1990s, Tai Chi Warrior stars a much younger Jet Li as Junbao, one of two Shaolin warriors who is kicked out of the temple and must struggle to survive by any means necessary. What makes this film interesting is the astonishing demonstration of masterful martial arts. With action choreography by the legendary Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix films) and Jet Li in the starring role, the martial arts are truly amazing. Likewise, this film features some solid comedy and drama, though it’s not meant to be either type of film. These help develop the characters and move the story as well as compliment the action by giving viewers a break throughout.
The blu-ray, sadly, features a somewhat lackluster video transfer. The film still looks grainy in many places and, while it’s an improvement no doubt over the original source material and the colors do look slightly better than the standard definition DVD, the video is not the quality most will expect from a blu-ray release.
As for bonus material on the disc, fans who own the DVD will find the same features, including a full length feature commentary with Bey Logan, Hong Kong Cinema Expert, who gives his insightful, hilarious, and knowledgeable outlook on the film; a short interview with Chin Siu-Ho called “Nemesis,” which touches on information about the film’s bad guy; a short featurettes entitled “Birthplace of Tai Chi,” which focuses on the film’s main martial art and it’s development; a famous fan short entitled “Meditations on the Master” featuring director Brett Ratner and film critic Elvis Mitchell talking about the legendary action choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping; and another famous fan short entitled “Twin Warriors,” with the same two famous fans discussing the film’s stars Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Sadly, there’s nothing new here compared to the DVD.
Overall, if you already own this film and you think there’s the possibility a true “remastered” version will come out, you’re better off waiting. If you don’t yet own this and you’re Jet Li or martial arts movie fan, give this one a try; there’s a lot of great stuff to enjoy here and it’s not only exciting, but interesting to watch two fan-favorite action stars in roles from nearly 20 years ago…
Another Jet Li classic, this 1993 film featured a script from Jeff Lau and action choreography from Corey Yuen. No doubt aspiring to be Once Upon a Time in China, The Legend features high production values and solid acting, telling the story of Fong Sai Yuk, who’s discovered his family is a part of a revolution that has no real leader. Originally titled Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, you know it’s up to Fong to step up and be the leader this revolution has waited for…but until then, the film remains rambunctious, over-the-top, campy and – simply put – all over the place, none of which really detracts from the overall story or action. Now that’s hard to do…
Like the previously mentioned Tai Chi Warriors, this video transfer too suffers. I’m not sure what Dragon Dynasty is up to with these two releases, but fans who expect beautiful 1080p pictures are going to be disappointed. While it’s no doubt better than the DVD, fans watching on smaller HD TVs won’t notice that much difference. The graininess is still present as is the color issues. Hopefully a better source for transfer is found sometime soon.
As for special features here, the disc includes another full-length feature commentary by Bey Logan, who seemingly rambles from time to time, but still gives some decent insight and info on the film. Other special features include a 20 minute interview with action choreographer Corey Yuen entitled “Hit Hard and Fly High” which info on his work on The Legend as well as his other martial arts films; and a second interview with scribe Jeff Lau entitled “The Pen is Mighter than the Sword.” This interview discusses Lau’s film history and more.
Again, for fans who already own this, wait for a “remastered” copy, but until then, this is still the best there is. And for those who have yet to pick this up or see it, The Legend is well worth a watch, especially considering Li is now considered one of the best action stars of all time. It’s hard not to want to see his films from years and years ago and watch how he’s grown as both an actor and a star.
An Empress and the Warriors
Donnie Yen is synonymous with awesome. Seriously. If you’ve seen any of his movies, to include Blade 2, Hero, Seven Swords, or the masterpiece that is Ip Man, you what I’m talking about. Now, fans can pick up another of his recent impressive films on Blu-ray. An Empress and the Warriors, while maybe not as epic as Hero or as dynamic as Seven Swords, tells an intriguing, dramatic, and action filled story about a warrior who’ll do anything to ensure his empress’s survival and rise to power. Set in the Warring States Period of China’s history, Princess Feier’s father has died and made Muyong Xuehu (Yen) ruler of his vast lands and army. However, Muyong, knowing the army and specifically the deceased ruler’s evil nephew won’t take orders from him, declares Princess Feier ruler. However, not all of her father’s generals (and of course, her evil cousin) think she’s qualified and thus she commits herself to taking up the sword and proving them wrong. With Muyong at her side, the Princess hopes to be able to rise to the challenge.
An interesting tale of deception, dedication, hope, and love, An Empress and the Warriors, while not the most action-oriented of films, features enough swordplay and battles to keep the most manly of men interested while featuring (hopefully) enough drama and romance to keep a few more of the ladies interested. The film includes an impressive 1080p transfer and colors that are well-presented, clear, and clean. Likewise, the audio here – presented in Mandarin 5.1 and English 5.1 – are solid as well.
Special features on the disc once again include feature commentary by Bey Logan as well as a “making of” featurettes which some fans will find worth watching.
Overall, this is another Asian sword film which will probably get lost in the mix of other Asian sword films out there. For those who are fans of Donnie Yen, it’s definitely worth a hard look…especially since the guy has an awesome sword duel near the end that’s one for the ages.
While director Benny Chan’s 2007 action crime film doesn’t really feel that original (you’ll probably think you’ve heard this story before), this is one film that’ll keep action fans super excited, especially if you’re a fan of break-neck speed action and non-stop fighting.
The film follows three policemen who, six month after a armored truck heist, are still pursuing the thieves who have directly affected their lives. Hell-bent for revenge, the three police face off against a gang leader who’s not afraid to wreak havoc and mayhem wherever he goes. What follows are huge explosions, intense martial arts fights, and plenty of plot twists and fun.
The video suffers from a few compression problems, but otherwise features clear, clean, smooth colors and lines. These issues aside, it’s a great watch. Special features are fairly abundant here and include various commentaries, featurettes and interviews. The film features yet again a commentary with Bey Logan, but also actors Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue, and Andy On as well. The disc also features four interviews with actors Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue, Andy On and Wu Jing (the gang leader). Finally, three featurettes are also included: “Fight for Glory: Constructing the Action Sequences for Invisible Target,” “Conception to the Silver Screen: A Look at the Storyboard Concepts of Invisible Target,” and “Orchestrated Mayhem: Then Making of Invisible Target.” Each featurettes helps fans delve a bit deeper into the awesomeness that is Invisible Target.
Overall, while maybe not Infernal Affair or The Killer, Invisible Target will keep both martial arts fans and crime film fans happy with it’s solid helping of each. Likewise, plenty of action fans (especially those who like films like Die Hard), will appreciate what this Hong Kong film has to offer.
Each of these four films is available on Blu-ray on Tues, August 10 wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley