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Tai Chi Master(1993)
A Ming Dynasty avenger which pits a man and woman againts a former friend who now works for the oppressive Royal Eunuch's forces. However when the man reaches a stalemate with his Tai Chi training that literally makes him crazy, the fiesty woman manages to cover for him until the forces of nature finally offer him insight and his breakthrough enhancement.
For more about Tai Chi Master and the Tai Chi Master Blu-ray release, see Tai Chi Master Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Siu-hou Chin, Fennie Yuen
Director: Woo-ping Yuen
» See full cast & crew
Tai Chi Master Blu-ray Review
There's nothing very challenging about 'Tai Chi Master', but it's a fun and often funny Jet Li showcase.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 26, 2010
With a steady supply of review titles waiting to be gotten to, reviewers often don't have that much free time to actually sit back and watch something for fun. I took a break from a stack of new Dragon Dynasty releases that are in my review queue the other day to catch up with a quasi-martial arts epic I had never gotten to see, namely Curse of the Golden Flower, and despite being gobsmacked by the incredible production design (with some of the most unbelievably well saturated color I've ever experienced on Blu-ray), what really caught my attention in the Chow Yun Fat film was the reference in some of the supplementary material to the film's source being a 1930's era stage melodrama Thunderstorm, by Cao Yu. Though Golden Flower's director Zhang Yimou completely recrafted the stage play's setting and even some of its plot elements, the basic outline of a dysfunctional family brought down by infighting (not to mention something close to incest) had been culled from the stage play.
The reason this so caught my interest is the review title I had just been watching prior to Curse of the Golden Flower was the Jet Li starrer Tai Chi Master (previously released as Twin Warriors) reminded me in its own way of another 1930's-era melodrama, namely the great MGM film Manhattan Melodrama, where William Powell and Clark Gable portray buddies who grow up to be, respectively, a District Attorney and a notorious criminal. (A notorious criminal in his own right, John Dillinger, met his fate shortly after leaving the movie theater where he had been watching Manhattan Melodrama). This trope of friends who grow up to be on opposite sides of the law shows up in various guises, often in Warner Brothers outings, in films like Angels With Dirty Faces and The Roaring Twenties. The interesting thing about Tai Chi Master is that it, like Curse of the Golden Flower, transports this basic idea back to China's distant past. It also somewhat turns the formulation on its head, in that the Jet Li character Junbao is the outlaw while his buddy Tienbo (Chin Siu Ho) becomes a government official, yet it is Junbao who is the "good guy," while Tienbo devolves into a power mad caricature of everything evil and despicable.
Tai Chi Master had come in for some home video notoriety when it was released by Dimension (under the title Twin Warriors) prior to the debut of the third, pretty lamentable, modern Mummy movie, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which featured Master's co-stars Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Fans were up in arms about that release, which was edited and had some feeble subtitle translations. The Dragon Dynasty imprint went back to the drawing board when Dragon Emperor came out, re-releasing the film on home video under its original title, and sourcing it from an original, unedited print with the Cantonese soundtrack intact. It's that version which has been ported over to this new Blu-ray release. The film is a surprisingly comic outing, a sort of martial arts "buddy movie," which follows the exploits of Junbao and Tienbo from their childhood in a Shaolin temple, through their expulsion (due, of course, to no real fault of their own), to their adventures out in the "real world," where Tienbo's ambition leads to him becoming a minion of a notorious warlord governor, while Junbao's perhaps more mundane focus tends to be on the lovely Siu Lin (Michelle Yeoh), as well as joining some rebels who are fighting the taxation without representation fight, which brings him into direct conflict with Tienbo.
Director Yuen Woo-Ping is one of the better known chop socky directors, whose contributions to the Matrix films have made him one of a handful of Chinese helmsmen to attain broad renown in the Western world. What may surprise fans of this incredible fight choreographer is the relative dearth of action sequences in Tai Chi Master. This is really more of a character study, imbued with Drunken Master-esque comedic elements, than one might expect. This is not to say there aren't remarkable fight sequences in Tai Chi Master, because there certainly are, including a rather large number featuring smashing tables, chairs and plates, which are often thrown with a deadly force more associated with bowler hats in a James Bond flick. But Tai Chi Master isn't, like a lot of these martial arts epics, a series of lame episodes strung together to get to the next "wow" fight sequence. In fact, it's quite the opposite, an enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, look at two disparate chums who happen to engage in some spectacular battles once in a while.
Tai Chi Master has attained a reputation perhaps not entirely supported by its actual intrinsic worth, as one of the better examples of Jet Li in his prime. Li certainly brings his stalwart presence fully to bear on the project (for which he also served as producer), but he's also willing to share the limelight, and it's Chin Siu Ho's character who really gets the florid acting moments. Yuen Woo-Ping stages the film with effortless artistry, with occasionally showy odd angles and some fun set pieces, including a great battle on a suspended net. But ultimately Tai Chi Master harkens back to, say, those vaunted Warner Brothers programmers of yore: wonderful entertainments which didn't aim extremely high, but which delivered immense enjoyment on their own limited terms. This is certainly nothing approaching a thinking man's martial arts epic, but it never pretends to be. It's unabashed popcorn fare, Beijing style, and on that level, it's a stupendous success.
Tai Chi Master Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dragon Dynasty has had its fair share of issues since launching its Blu-ray releases, with some less than stellar 1080i outings early on that may have soured a lot of potential buyers. Things have improved drastically over the past several releases, but unfortunately Tai Chi Master is hobbled by a problematic source print which has noticeable damage, some at times overabundant grain and an overall softness of image. Despite that, this AVC encoded 1080p transfer (in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1) does sport a decent upgrade in image from the previously released SD-DVD. This is most apparent in the increased saturation of the colors, which, while better than the DVD, still aren't overwhelmingly robust, especially for those used to eye popping high-def imagery. Close-ups fare best in sharpness, with appealing detail. This is one release whose faults I won't attribute directly to any negligence on the part of the Dragon Dynasty imprint, as my hunch is they did the best they could with the source elements available.
Tai Chi Master Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This Dragon Dynasty Blu-ray release restores the original Cantonese mono track (delivered via a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix), as well as providing a repurposed Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Additionally an English Dolby Digital 5.1 dub is included. I always try to opt for the original language track (especially since this particular release has improved subtitles), but unfortunately again the source stems here suffer from some pretty bad distortion and a really noticeable muffled, boxy sound. This is especially apparent in the Cantonese 5.1 track, where the dialogue sounds as if it's being emitted from under a blanket a lot of the time. The Cantonese mono track is marginally better in this regard, but again the source stems just seem narrow and unappealing. Though I'm loathe to recommend this, especially since it features rescored music, the English 5.1 may be your best bet here, at least in terms of audio quality from a strictly sonic standpoint.
Tai Chi Master Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All of the supplements included on the Collector's Edition SD-DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray (in SD). This includes another top notch Commentary by scholar Bey Logan, who manages to be funny, entertaining and incisive all at the same time. Also included are:
Tai Chi Master Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you go into Tai Chi Master with suitable expectations, namely that you're there mostly to just have a good ol' time with Li and Yeoh, you won't be disappointed. This film has absolutely no grandiose ambitions or overt intellectual pretensions, but instead revels in pure entertainment. On that level, it delivers brilliantly. Despite this release having some image and audio issues, it still comes recommended.
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Tai Chi Master Blu-ray, News and Updates
• August Blu-ray Wave from Vivendi - May 20, 2010
In an early announcement to retailers, it has been revealed that, on August 10, Vivendi Visual Entertainment will release four Asian films as part of its Dragon Dynasty collection: An Empress and the Warriors (Kwong saan mei yan, 2008); Invisible Target (Naam yi ...
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