Shaolin (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 17-May-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 131:05
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Benny Chan
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Andy Lau
Nicholas Tse
Bingbing Fan
Jackie Chan
Jacky Wu
Yu Xing
Xin Xin Xiong
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $49.95 Music Nicolas Errèra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     There have been many martial arts films over the years with the word Shaolin in the title or with a story about Shaolin monks. This new film (only released to the cinema in 2011) is the first to just be called Shaolin to my knowledge. It is also, according to what I read, the first to be given the approval of the Abbot of the Shaolin Monastery in 25 years. In fact, quite a few of the extras and fighters are actually Shaolin monks, including a group of young boys who feature in a scene with Jackie Chan.

     This film is set in the early part of the twentieth century during the days of the Chinese Republic in the era known as the Warlord period, when many warlords ruled various parts of China. The film does not quote a specific year but it is probably set somewhere in the 1920s. A warlord, General Hou Chieh (Andy Lau) is attacking the town of Dengfeng which includes the Shaolin Monastery. He is trying to defeat a rival warlord and has him on the run. The rival warlord decides to hide in the monastery and as is their custom the monks look after him, much to the annoyance of Hou and his second in charge, Tsao (Nicholas Tse). This starts some fighting between the soldiers and the martial arts proficient monks. General Hou, meanwhile, has an allegiance to General Sung, another warlord, and they agree that their children should get betrothed. However, Hou (pushed by Tsao) becomes concerned that Sung is actually out to double cross him and decides to have him assassinated. Little does he know that Tsao will actually double cross them both and take over himself. In the following fight and chase, Hou's daughter is killed and his wife leaves him. He decides to leave his life as a warlord behind and joins the monastery. Will he find redemption in the life of a monk? Will Tsao allow him to live on as a monk or try to exact more revenge?

     The other well known actor in this film is Jackie Chan who plays the cook, Wudoa. He was previously a young martial arts trainee at the monastery but found it too hard and is happy being the cook, avoiding the outside world.

     This is a quite dramatic film with significant amounts of politics, interpersonal drama and Zen philosophy interspersed between various action scenes, both fights and chases. It is certainly interesting and many of the fight scenes are of high quality (especially the staff work). As usual, Andy Lau turns in a dramatic and emotional performance as the warlord struggling with his conscience and the destruction of his family. There is some marvellous cinematography and a quality score. However, despite these positives, the film has some significant issues as well. Firstly, the screenplay seems to have had too many hands involved and lacks clarity at times. The film is also a little too long for its relatively simple plot. The acting, besides Lau, is somewhat variable with Nicholas Tse chewing scenery like a master and suddenly turning up part way through the story with a completely different hair style (which adds to the confusion). There is also a completely laughable English speaking actor, playing someone called Sir Peter, who is very wooden, has an American accent and the worst false beard I have seen for some time (I actually thought he was one of the stone throwing women from Life of Brian when I first saw him!). Also, some of the action scenes are so dark that it is very hard to keep track of what is going on, especially early in the film. Jackie Chan has one featured scene which really doesn't fit with the rest of the film, as it is in his normal style, with comedy relief and martial arts style trickery. It's a fun scene (the only light scene in the film) but it feels like it is from a different film.

     On balance, this is quite a good film but it has too many problems to really rise to the level of the best films in this genre, like Red Cliff or The Warlords.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality is pretty good but not quite up to the best of Blu-ray. The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 1080p encoded using AVC.

     The picture was very clear and sharp throughout. The shadow detail was average as I mentioned above, making some scenes such as the chariot chase hard to follow. The colour was very good, however somewhat dull in some scenes compared to other Blu-rays. This may have been due to the source material which looks like it may have been colour graded post production as the same scenes in the making of featurette are much brighter. Having said that the explosions were very vivid. There were no obvious artefacts.

     There are subtitles in English which are burned into the print. These contain quite a few errors in spelling and grammar.

     There are no obvious layer changes during playback.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is excellent. This disc contains a Mandarin soundtrack in DTS-HD MA 5.1. It is coded as English.

     Dialogue seemed very clear and easy to hear but my Mandarin is rusty.

     The music by French composer Nicolas Errera is high quality and is suitably dramatic and haunting as appropriate.

     The surround speakers were in constant use throughout with lots of action, explosions, gunfire, crackling electricity and much more.

     The subwoofer was also well used for explosions, thumps, thuds, fire and music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Only one extra.

Menu

     The menu included music and motion.

Making of Shaolin (23:05)

     A good quality making of featuring interviews with cast and crew, discussion of the story and characters, behind the scenes footage, challenges during filming, actors’ training, use of the monks as extras and how the stunts were done. Well worth watching. Presented in 1080i and Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This film is available on Region A Blu-ray in two versions, one from Hong Kong and one from Taiwan. Both seem to include English subtitles. The Hong Kong version comes with an extra disc (on DVD) including featurettes, deleted scenes, Poster and Photos and more. It also includes a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as an option. The Taiwanese version seems similar but is quoted on YesAsia as being 1.78:1. A UK version is scheduled for later in the year. The Hong Kong version is probably the best available now.

Summary

     An interesting but flawed martial arts/historical drama set in China in the 1920s.

    The video quality is pretty good. The audio quality is excellent. The only extra is a making of featurette.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, June 04, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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