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Tai Chi Hero(2012)
No synopsis for Tai Chi Hero.
For more about Tai Chi Hero and the Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray release, see Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 3, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jayden Yuan, Angelababy, Tony Leung, Eddie Peng, Daniel Wu
Director: Stephen Fung
» See full cast & crew
Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray Review
When you start at zero, there's nowhere to go but up.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 3, 2013
The last time we saw Lu Chan (Olympic Gold Medalist Jayden Yuan, who also goes by the name Yuan Xiaochao), the often befuddled but gifted fighter had managed to be grudgingly accepted into the insular village of Chen, a place with its own highly specialized form of martial arts expertise, a form they resolutely refused to share with outsiders. By hook or by crook, Lu Chan was intent on learning this technique, and with the help of a master (Tony Leung) who of course never really seemed to be anything other than an indigent villager, Lu Chan actually achieved his goal—at least in part. Tai Chi Zero was the first film in a proposed trilogy, and it was notable for its rather unusual setting (a sort of late 19th century ambience which the filmmakers described as "steampunk"), as well as for the kind of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World videogame or comic book ethos it exhibited. Tai Chi Zero was full of little gimmicks like supertitles that described events, "thought bubbles" and introductions to various characters (including the actors playing them) that lasted for virtually the entire film. Tai Chi Hero, the second film in the series, continues that pathway more or less unabated, albeit perhaps slightly toned down from the first outing. There's still a cartoonish aspect to the film, but it's a somewhat more serious outing that starts to explore the roiling family dysfunction that was only hinted at in the first film when Lu Chan became attracted to Yunia (Angelbaby) who, as Tai Chi Hero gets underway, is about to marry Lu Chan.
Tai Chi Zero ended with a bit of a cliffhanger, after detailing a war of sorts which saw the "simple" villagers of Chen outwitting a consortium of evil Westerners (led by the wonderful Peter Stormare, who returns in this outing) as well as a former villager named Zijing (Eddie Feng), both of whom were trying to foist a railroad off on Chen which would have ended up more or less destroying the village. Zijing ended up attacking Chen with a massive steam powered tank like object (hence the insistence on "steampunk"), but of course was outsmarted and outfought by the martial arts loving residents of Chen. After the battle ended, two strangers wandered into the immense valley surrounding Chen, and it seemed like a new battle was about to erupt. Who was this duo and what nefarious activities could they be up to? The film ended with an implied if not literal "to be continued".
Tai Chi Hero perhaps defies expectation (at least expectations of those coming directly from Tai Chi Zero) by starting with some views of what looks like a prototype based on one of those old Leonardo Da Vinci drawings of a flying machine. A man is piloting a huge pair of wings with some mechanical attachments, while a narrator tells us this has nothing to do with our story—at least not yet. After that minimal tease, we do get to a quick recap of Tai Chi Zero ending in the arrival of the two strangers, who turn out not to be strangers at all, but the long lost (and badly estranged) eldest son of Master Chen, Zaiyang (Feng Shaofeng), and his mute wife who communicates via a dance like set of sign language. Zaiyang has come back ostensibly to be with his sister on her wedding day, but it turns out he has ulterior motives, including warning the villagers of Chen that the impending nuptials between Lu Chan and Yunia will cause an ancient prophecy forecasting doom for Chen to be fulfilled, since Lu Chan, an outsider, will be exposed to the secret martial arts expertise of the village.
That particular ulterior motive turns out to be only one of several Zaiyang is hiding, and it probably won't come as much of a surprise that his real reason for coming (or at least his initial real reason) is tied in with the conflict which informed much of Tai Chi Zero. It probably also shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the nemeses who were front and center in the first film are back in force here, although in one case at least (the increasingly moody Zijing), looking considerably worse for the wear.
Tai Chi Hero continues to be about as fitfully entertaining as its predecessor, although it has a more serious subtext as the dysfunctional relationship between Zaiyang and his father is explored, albeit not always totally artfully. It seems that Zaiyang has been a tinkerer since childhood, putting together fanciful contraptions that run on steam, including one that gives him almost superhuman martial arts capabilities. It doesn't take much guessing to figure out that that incredibly complex flying machine glimpsed in the film's opening has a bit to do with Zaiyang as the film's end game plays out.
Ultimately Tai Chi Hero rises or falls on the charisma of its stars, and much as with the previous entry, the news is very good. The actors work well together and Yuan especially has a very appealing (intentional) empty headed quality that makes Lu Chan both funny but also strangely wise (as in the first film, Lu Chan tends to react to just about everything with an incredulous "What the hell?"). The film isn't quite as busy as Tai Chi Zero, and that's actually a good thing. The CGI, while perhaps a bit less ubiquitous than in the first film, is also rather nicely done at times, including in one of the big set pieces when the flying machine comes into play. Ultimately, though, Tai Chi Hero tends to play like an overly elaborate parable that doesn't quite have the gravitas to sustain whatever "moral" it's trying to impart. In fact the whole point of the film seems to simply be an overly convoluted epic detailing how tai chi got its name. As a wise fool once asked, "What the hell?"
Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray, Video Quality
Tai Chi Hero is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1, and continues the winning ways established by the first entry in this series, Tai Chi Zero. Once again, the image is beautifully clear and richly detailed, from the fine filigreed patterns on the costumes to some of the immense sets the characters wander through. Colors, which tend to often be skewed toward the amber side of things, are richly saturated and the color grading seldom if ever deprives the image of significant fine detail. This is a somewhat darker entry in the series, both figuratively and literally, but strong contrast helps to establish some rather remarkable depth of field and good shadow detail even in the most dimly lit scenes.
Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Tai Chi Hero follows the tradition set by Tai Chi Zero by offering lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes in both Mandarin and English, with accompanying lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes also offered in each language. This is one of those cases where even if you can't stand reading subtitles, you should at least try to stay far, far away from the English dub, which is pretty sloppily synched at times (this despite the fact that some of the film, as with the first entry, is actually spoken in English). Though I can't state this with absolute certainty, one of the strange things about the Mandarin mix is it sounds like a Chinese actor was hired to dub Stormare—speaking English (his voice is noticeably different in the two languages, at least to my ears). Fidelity is excellent in both the lossless offerings, with excellent and pretty consistent surround activity. Panning effects are nonstop in the action set pieces, and even dialogue is handled directionally quite a bit of the time. Dynamic range is extremely wide.
Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Tai Chi Hero is a step in the right direction for this franchise. It's less manic and less gimmicky, which is not to say that both of those tendencies have been completely eradicated. But there's some significant time spent in this outing on character development, something that helps achieve a bit of human emotion in this otherwise oversized martial arts fantasy epic. This Blu-ray offers excellent video and audio, as well as at least one good in depth supplment, and comes Recommended.
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Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Tai Chi Hero - July 3, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Well Go USA are offering four members a chance to win a copy of Tai Chi Hero. This fanciful martial arts spectacular continues the story begun in Tai Chi Zero. Tai Chi Hero streeted on July 2.
• Tai Chi Hero Blu-ray - April 30, 2013
Texas-based distributors Well Go USA have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray director Stephen Fung's Tai Chi Hero (2012), starring Jayden Yuan, Angelababy, Tony Leung, Eddie Peng, Shu Qi, and Daniel Wu. The release will be available for purchase ...
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