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Once Upon A Time In China Region 0 Review

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by Seth Gecko, May 29, 2005.

  1. Seth Gecko

    Seth Gecko
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    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/OnceUponATimeInChina/OnceUponATimeInChinaR3.jpg' ALT='ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA</FONT><br>Reviewed April 2005 by <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?dvdid=Cas Harlow' target='_blank'>Cas Harlow</A>.</P><P><B>The Movie : 7</B></P><P>Ever since Bruce Lee set the standard for exceptional martial arts in distinctively unexceptional movies, I have been a fan of no-brain actioners that showcase some amazing moves. There have been many decent martial artists to grace our scenes since, from the unusual and terribly underused Capoera master Mark Dacascos to the portly and over-the-hill but once remarkable Steven Seagal, yet one who has not only survived the transition to Hollywood blockbuster but also kept his head out of the Direct-to-DVD quagmire, is Jet Li. He is about to grace our screens in the highly-anticipated Unleashed where he stars opposite heavyweights Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins in a tale that might just provide his best role yet, but back in his Asian days, he was famous for his Once Upon a Time in China movies.</p><P>The movie tells the story of Master Wong Fei Hung, one of the Ten Tigers of the Province of Guang Tong, and Chief Trainer of the Black Flag Army, led by Commander Lau. When Lau is dispatched to fight the French Army in Vietnam, Wong is left to look after the area but under a new Commander, who wants to change the old regime. When the English come to do business at the camp a rival gang, led by Shaho, kicks up a fight that further alienates Wong and sees his militia wrongfully arrested. With the threat of Western ships and guns, and railways encroaching on the land, it is a troubled time in this land and Wong has to come to terms with the changes and combat his enemies on all sides with equal aplomb.</p><P>Fans of the excellent Sergio Leone Western, Once Upon a Time in the West, or his DeNiro gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America, or even Rodriguez’s more recent third Mariachi chapter, Once Upon a Time in Mexico will find that this is a very different kettle of fish indeed. It is much more like a Jackie Chan movie – perhaps the first Armour of God movie – or even Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, than any of those epic alternatives. On that level, it is quite enjoyable, with several impressive fight sequences – the ladder fight is particularly clever – and almost all of them showcase Jet Li’s own inimitable Kung Fu style.</p><P>Unfortunately it has little else to offer in the way of substance – it tries very hard but the movie does not quite carry you well enough from one action scene to another. The story does eventually evolve and shape into something of a Western – with duels, rival gangs and ambiguous strangers arriving – but it is almost too little too late. It is also plagued by out-of-place humour, which lends itself more to Chan’s style of filmmaking than Li’s, and detracts from any serious strands that are supposed to be weaved over the overlong two-hour duration. It also does not help that the subtitles don’t quite make complete sense, although I should not really complain – I have seen much worse. Basically, if you like your classic Jet Li – and I certainly can’t fault his masterful use of martial arts – then you should be able to happily scan the movie for suitably well-choreographed action, or even watch it all, but perhaps after a couple of beers.</p><P><B>Picture : 5</B></P><P>Once Upon a Time in China is presented with a disappointingly poor transfer. Purportedly framed in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it takes some adjusting to get it out of the 2.50:1 ‘squashed’ frame that it appears to get stuck in as standard. Quality-wise there are shamefully low levels of detail, with evidence of edge enhancement and other forms of digital artefacts prevalent throughout. There simply seems to be no natural clarity or distinction on shapes, and indeed some of the wider shots exhibit terrible blurring. The colour scheme seems quite varied but drifts between too bright to too dull, seldom looking very realistic. The blacks are quite solid considering the rest of the material, and grain, for the most part, goes unnoticed. Although the movie isn’t really old enough to warrant it, there is a fair amount of print damage in the form of glitches and scratches that populate the frames. This is generally not a great transfer but it is still probably the best shape you are likely to see this movie presented in.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/OnceUponATimeInChina/OnceUponATimeInChinaR3_1.jpg' ALT='ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA'></P><P><B>Sound : 7</B></P><P>There are two Dolby Digital Audio tracks, one Cantonese and one Mandarin, but neither quite in synch with the words being spoken. That said – and considering that they are only two-channel mixes, they are quite vibrant. The dialogue is always prominent, but there is an almost-constant score – which gets less irritating as the movie goes along – s and the fight scenes are suitably punctuated by unnecessary but punchy slapping effects (again a staple of Jackie Chan movies). Sure there’s no bass to speak of, and it is basically a limited frontal affair, but it is a perfectly enjoyable track for the movie.</p> <P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/OnceUponATimeInChina/OnceUponATimeInChinaR3_2.jpg' ALT='ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA'></P><P><B>Extras : 4</B></P><P>Extras? Well, you came to the wrong place. All you get here is the Theatrical Trailer, although I guess you shouldn’t expect too much more considering the age and budget of the picture, and the rest of the presentation. Running at a ludicrous four and a half minute in length, the trailer basically sums up the entire story and showcases some of the great fights, but is set to some of the worst music from the movie – the title track. It does not particularly give away too much, mainly because there are no English subtitles, so that is a plus point.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/OnceUponATimeInChina/OnceUponATimeInChinaR3_3.jpg' ALT='ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA'></P><P><B>Trivia</B><br>For user information we use Bitrate 1.4 to scan the disk for the video bitrate, which also calculates the average bitrate. Below is a graph illustrating the bitrate of the disk, including the average bitrate reading. This disk averaged at 4.36 Mbps</P><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/OnceUponATimeInChina/OnceUponATimeInChinaR3Bitrate.jpg' ALT='ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA'></P><P><B>Verdict : 6</B></P><P>Jet Li is undoubtedly wondrous to watch in full action combat, spinning and kicking and blocking his way through numerous opponents with a cool, calm determination, so it is always great to see what he has to offer. His early days may have meant poorer scripts, acting and overall quality, but the CGI-free stunts are a marvel to behold and the movie is entertaining for those alone. Perhaps not quite worthy of its Once Upon a Time… moniker and with a barely adequate picture are reasonable sound, it is nonetheless a great Kung Fu action movie to add you your high-kicking collection.</p><div ALIGN='CENTER'>Review Disc Supplied by <a href="http://global.yesasia.com/assocred.asp?W7QIPXOV+/en/prdTransfer.aspx/pid-1002871486" target=”_blank”><img src="http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/SuppliersLogos/YesAsia.jpg" Align="absmiddle"></a><br>Please support us by using our review sponsors.</div><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991)</B><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?compare=1625' target='_blank'><IMG SRC='http://www.totaldvd.net/images/comparedvds.gif' WIDTH='121' HEIGHT='18' border='0' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' ALT='Comparison feature coming soon'></A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genre</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></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=TSUI HARK' target='_blank'>TSUI HARK</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=JET LI' target='_blank'>JET LI</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=ROSAMUND KWAN' target='_blank'>ROSAMUND KWAN</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=YUEN BIAO' target='_blank'>YUEN BIAO</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=KENT CHANG' target='_blank'>KENT CHANG</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>0</B> <FONT>(CHINA)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Deltamac (HK). Released Friday 29th August 2003</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>$7.99</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>128 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>6</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic Widescreen 2.50:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0<BR>Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and English</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>Trailer</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>
     

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