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House Of Flying Daggers R3 dts DVD review

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by Sigismund, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. Sigismund

    Sigismund
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    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/HouseOfFlyingDaggers/HouseOfFlyingDaggersR3.jpg' ALT='HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS</FONT><br>Reviewed November 2004 by <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?dvdid=Matt Brown' target='_blank'>Matt Brown</A>.</P><P><B>The Movie : 8</B></P><P>859AD, the incompetent Emperor and corrupted government decline the Tan Dynasty. Rebel Armies are forming: among them, underground alliance “House of Flying Daggers” is the largest and most prestigious. Feng Tian Country’s two local captains, Leo and Jin (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro respectively), are ordered to capture the House leader within ten days. Captain Leo suspects that Mei (Ziyi Zhang), the beautiful new dancer at the Peony Pavilion is actually the daughter of the former leader, and hatches a plan to arrest her and bring her in for questioning. At the same time, Captain Jin will pretend to be a lone warrior, Wind, rescue Mei from prison, earning her trust and escorting her to the secret headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers. The plan works but on their long journey to the House, something unexpected and uncontrollable is forming…</p><P>I’ve never been much of a fan of Asian cinema, with many hyped titles boring me to tears. Maybe it’s the humour, maybe it’s the clunky dialogue, but they’ve never really worked for me. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero and Infernal Affairs have all been exceptions to the rule, but I was inevitably sceptical when I dropped Flying Daggers into the DVD player and pressed play. Thereupon all reservations were dispelled as I came to enjoy a stunning piece of modern cinema that eclipses all that I’ve seen previously from Asian heritage.</p><P>Fans may disagree and be able to quote many titles which better House of Flying Daggers, but this tale of fighting, deception and ultimately love, is expertly crafted. Containing beautiful cinematography, great acting and excellent, gritty fight scenes (over the top they are and often infused with CGI that, to be fair, can be a little patchy), Flying Daggers will appeal to the mainstream as well as the die-hard fans of Asian Cinema. It almost has an enchanting quality about it, with Ziyi Zhang as alluring as ever, and although predictable in parts, you can’t help but fall for the story and be involved in all that happens to the central characters. And even if the ending doesn’t quite match what goes before, it’s still a powerful piece of film-making that should be on every movie lover’s shelf.</p><P>Recommended.</p><P><B>Picture : 6</B></P><P>Two words spring to mind on this anamorphic 2.35:1 print: Oh. Dear. It’s a crying shame, because while the movie is an example of careful craftsmanship, the video transfer is not. Right from the opening moments, some horrendous video compression becomes apparent; in particular, if you pay close attention to the Chinese text as the credits roll, there are artefacts that wouldn’t be uncommon on a pirate DVD, or a backup that’s had something like 40% compression applied to it. Yes, it’s THAT bad, and though never quite as obvious as at the start of the movie, it’s still apparent throughout the running time, and especially on fast pans and busy shots with lots of trees and foliage.</p><P>Another big gripe is the apparent inconsistency in other areas of video quality; for example, chapter 2 sees a crowd of onlookers gather on a balcony to witness the “test”, and there’s a significant level of softness to the image, that shows faces to be blurred with indistinct edges and a noticeable loss of detail. Coupled with the compression issues and with plenty of scratches thrown into the mix, I cannot help but think this is unforgivable for a modern release.</p><P>In other ways, however, the video holds up well. In lots of scenes, images come across as crisp and detailed, with well saturated colours across the whole spectrum, and only a few scenes where the colour balance looks wrong (some of the forest scenes are deeply saturated in green, but I assume this was the film-makers intention). Detail and black levels hold their ground too, and whilst this isn’t the sharpest transfer around, a passing nod is deserved for the absence of edge enhancement. Contrast levels vary widely, with some scenes possessing an almost palpable sense of depth (especially the forest scenes) while others contain overblown levels of contrast that sometimes bleaches the images; I’m not sure here if that’s down to the DVD mastering or because it’s what the director intended.</p><P>
    Overall, this is a bitter disappointment; a wonderful movie and as you’re about to find out, a sublime soundtrack. Shame about the visuals…</p>
    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/HouseOfFlyingDaggers/HouseOfFlyingDaggers_1.jpg' ALT='HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS'></P><P><B>Sound : 10</B></P><P>Well we really are spoilt here, for not only is there is a 448kbps Dolby Digital soundtrack, but also included is a full bitrate (1536kbps) DTS 5.1 track, both in Chinese. And wow…are these corkers!</p><P>I apologise in advance if I start to sound a little gushing about the sound, because this is one of the most satisfying soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time, and certainly different to many others out there. The entire soundstage is fulsome, possessing excellent dynamics and a wonderful, transparent clarity. Imaging across the front is exceptional, with accurate placement of effects and a deeply layered soundtrack that picks up on minute detail. The sound mixers have amplified the smallest of sounds, so that even the smacking of lips as characters eat food, or lightest footfall in a field or forest, are all perfectly audible and presented with such a striking clarity that even without the biggest bangs puts it firmly in the “reference” category, and there’s no sense at all of it sounding overblown.</p><P>High frequencies are rendered with a scintillating fizzle that’ll make every tweeter out there sing, and the swing in dynamics from these highs down to the lowest lows can only be described as stunning. And speaking of lows, whilst never containing the deepest levels of bass out there – it doesn’t quite plummet into the bottom octaves that make most subwoofers cower – the low frequency action is executed with weight and authority, lending a massive sense of scale. Witness chapter 2 – “Blind Dancer’s Test” – where the drums will pound your listening room; the bass here is bass on a big scale, with tremendous depth and power which attacks the room effortlessly, not to mention the eardrums. </p><P>Of note, too, are the surround channels, and in this same chapter the flying pebbles will pepper your whole room, showing how wide and expansive the soundstage is. The surrounds are actually used well throughout, and add effectively to the ambience of the movie.</p><P>As to how the Dolby soundtrack compares to the DTS, well the DTS certainly has more weight about it, and gives the overall impression of more substance. There’s actually not as much in it as you might think, for the Dolby Digital soundtrack is also stunning, with just as much detail present (I played back numerous scenes a dozen times to compare). Either way, you’re not really going to be disappointed.</p><P>Overall, this is a surround sound feast: solid, expansive and as a crisp as cool mountain air, they don’t come much more cinematic as House of Flying Daggers. Reference.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/HouseOfFlyingDaggers/HouseOfFlyingDaggers_2.jpg' ALT='HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS'></P><P><B>Extras : 1</B></P><P>Disappointment is the name of the game here; all we have is a theatrical trailer in 2.0 that sports a poor picture, a photo gallery and a selection of cast and crew Bios. In Chinese. Joy.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/HouseOfFlyingDaggers/HouseOfFlyingDaggers_3.jpg' ALT='HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS'></P><P><B>Verdict : 7</B></P><P>This is one of the most difficult DVD’s I’ve had to rate so far, because while the movie is superb and the sound worthy of the “reference” banner, this Region 3 release suffers from horrendous video problems and a severe lack of extras. Taken as the sum of its parts, the overall score may look low, but if you can live with the flaws as I’ve mentioned, then you should pick up a copy with no hesitation. The film itself is a stunning example of how good Asian cinema can be. Recommended.</p><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004)</B></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genres</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=HONG KONG ACTION' target='_blank'>HONG KONG ACTION</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=DRAMA' target='_blank'>DRAMA</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=ROMANCE' target='_blank'>ROMANCE</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Director</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=director&search_for=YIMOU ZHANG' target='_blank'>YIMOU ZHANG</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Stars</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=TAKESHI KANESHIRO' target='_blank'>TAKESHI KANESHIRO</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=ANDY LAU' target='_blank'>ANDY LAU</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=ZIYI ZHANG' target='_blank'>ZIYI ZHANG</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=DANDAN SONG' target='_blank'>DANDAN SONG</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>3</B> <FONT>(KOREA)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Edko Films. Released Monday 18th October 2004</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>15.99</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Discs</TD><TD><FONT>1</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Format</TD><TD><FONT>DVD9</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Time</TD><TD><FONT>119 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>12</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 448kbps<BR>Chinese <IMG SRC='http://www.totaldvd.net/images/dts.gif' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' border='0' ALT='DTS Soundtrack'> 5.1</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>English</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>Theatrical Trailer<BR>Photo Gallery<BR>Cast & Crew Biographies</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>
     
  2. Richard Barham

    Richard Barham
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    Can anyone comment on whether the R2 release suffers the same video quality issues?

    Many thanks
     
  3. Seth Gecko

    Seth Gecko
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  4. Richard Barham

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    Thanks for the pointer.

    The DTS-ES is the version they have at cd-wow, so I think I'll go for that.

    Cheers.
     
  5. philbam

    philbam
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    Watched Region 2 version last night.
    Glad to say picture clarity amazing, the sound is awesome and probably one of the best yet on DVD!!! Both dolby digital and DTS soundtracks included on the region 2 version.I only listened to the DTS track but found the clarity,depth of soundfield and use of the surround speakers to be first class.
    Would highly recommend this movie to all viewers,irrespective of whether they like Asian cinema or not.
     
  6. philbam

    philbam
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    Sorry. Meant to add that this is a Two disc collectors edition with hours of extra material on the second disc, none of which I have watched yet.
     
  7. Will Scarlet

    Will Scarlet
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    That's the PAL R2 version and is in DTS 5.1. It is not the DTS-ES version. I have a DTS-ES 2-disc version and it is R3, released by EDKO. I believe the PAL R2 still has a full-bitrate DTS soundtrack though.

    P.S.
    This post was a reply to a post now removed. Just in case you thought I was replying to you philbam. Talk about confusing.;)
     
  8. pioneerman

    pioneerman
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    just checked - r2 dts is full bitrate but not 6.1 es if that helps i have the r3 edko and the dts track sounds awsome
     
  9. Kilian

    Kilian
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    Having read the review above the other day I decided to rewatch the DVD (R3 EDKO one disc version).

    To put things into context, the DVD video quality in Hong Kong and mainland Chinese films have been rather low (more like VCD) until recently. This film is actually very good VQ by comparison. The scrolling text in the end credits is quite clear and much better than the average.

    The opening scenes (with a lot of colours in the background) including the balcony shots would not really benefit from higher bitrates as they're already well above 8Mbs . I've not noticed any obvious motion artefacts.

    This EDKO disc is a Hong Kong (also R3) DVD release so releasing the extra feature (artist bibilography) in Chinese text is entirely understandable.

    I think the comment about humour and dialogue in Asian films in general is a little harsh as inevitably different cultures have different kinds of humour. Also bear in mind that the English subtitles are usually poorly translated from the original. The film's titles in Chinese and English are completely different.

    The sound effects are very good but I find them generally too loud in relation to the spoken dialogue and therefore exaggerated, i.e. lacking in subtlety.

    The ending seems to be a bit too violent with too much blood around. I'm not sure what the heavy snow means except to highlight the blood even more.

    The three main characters have quite different accents. Zhang is from mainland China, Takeshi Kaneshiro grows up in Taiwan and Lau is from Hong Kong and Mandarin is not his mother tongue. It might be a minor point to most viewers.
     

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