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Ang Lee
Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen
Writing Credits:
Wang Hui Ling, James Schamus, Tsai Kuo Jung

Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically skilled, adolescent nobleman's daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life.

Box Office:
$17 million.
Opening Weekend
$8,647,295 on 693 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Mandarin Dolby Atmos
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

120 min.
Price: $38.99
Release Date: 10/18/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Ang Lee and Co-Writer James Schamus
• Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Peter Pao
• Deleted Scenes
• “A Retrospective” Featurettes
• “Making Of” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh”
• Photo Gallery
• Music Videos


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [Blu-Ray 4K] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 20, 2016)

On the surface, the US gross of 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon doesn’t seem spectacular. Sure, $128 million was nothing to sneeze at in those days, but that total represented less than half of what the year’s biggest hit - How the Grinch Stole Christmas - earned and it left Dragon in 12th place for the year.

When one considers the film’s origins, though, Dragon looks like a much bigger success. 16 years later, Dragon remains the highest-grossing foreign language film in US history – and by a lot, as its $128 million is more than twice the take of its nearest competitor. The movie also earned 10 Oscar nominations - including Best Picture - and became a genuine cross-cultural smash.

Set in 19th century China, legendary warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) decides to give his fabled sword “Green Destiny” to his friend Sir Te (Sihung Lung). Alas, this goes awry, as Green Destiny soon ends up stolen and potentially in nefarious hands.

This sends Li Mu Bai on a mission to reclaim Green Destiny, and others come along for the adventure – including his former lover Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). They also encounter Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of a nobleman and the one who adds mystery to the journey, as her role takes them down unusual paths.

Given that I’ve never been much of one for martial arts films, I can’t claim I felt enthusiasm for Dragon during its theatrical release. However, the movie got so much positive attention that I felt compelled to give it a shot.

Back in 2001, I came away from Dragon with a shrug. As I recall, I thought the movie offered decent entertainment but it never threatened to enthrall me, and I couldn’t figure out why it inspired so much fuss.

Many years down the road, I wanted to give the movie another look and see if I could figure out what I missed back in 2001. Unfortunately, the years failed to alter my viewpoint, so I continue to see Dragon as a less than enthralling tale.

I take no joy in this attitude, and I admit that I wonder what I’m missing. Some movies receive such relentless, universal praise that if you don’t love them, you can’t help but feel like you suffer from some flaw.

So don’t expect this review to take a Homer Simpson “everyone is stupid except me”. While I don’t get the massive love that Dragon receives, I won’t argue that its fans are wrong. Still, that leaves me in a position where I continue to scratch my head, as I can’t quite understand what aspects of Dragon merit such adoration.

On the positive side, I can say that Dragon offers an appealing visual experience. Peter Pao’s Oscar-winning cinematography consistently adds class and beauty to the project, and the production design remains top-notch as well.

In addition, some of the martial arts sequences work pretty well. The movie uses various fighting techniques in an effective manner, and those manage to occasionally bring the film to life.

But there’s a rub, as the fantasy aspects of Dragon act as an active turn-off for me. When the martial arts scenes remain realistic, they seem bracing and exciting – but then the characters behave in ways that don’t work in the real world, and I lose my connection.

We all have sliding standards for how much we can suspend disbelief. Since I fully except all sorts of fantastic goings-on in other movies, why do the lapses in physics bother me so much here?

I think Dragon puts me into disconnect mode because the rest of the story seems firmly attached to the real world. I can think of little else in the movie that doesn’t come across as fairly believable, so when the characters suddenly go all Peter Pan on us, it appears to violate the film’s own universe.

Even if I ignore my dissatisfaction with the flick’s literal flights of fancy, Dragon fails to enthrall me on a dramatic level. The actors do their best to invest their characters with depth and drama, but they all seem fairly thin to me.

I get that Dragon attempts deeper meaning, especially via its feminist subtext. Though the movie nominally focuses on Li Mu Bai, it really concentrates on Yu Shu Lien, Jen Yu and supposed villainess Jade Fox. While Li Mu Bai remains a fairly static figure, these three women offer arcs that develop.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of them ever become especially involving, and the movie’s various love stories remain lackluster as well. I appreciate that Dragon largely avoids excessive melodrama, but it fails to give us particularly compelling characters or journeys either.

Maybe I’ll watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2031 and finally get why it inspires so love and devotion. In 2016, though, I continue to find it to be a movie with ups and downs that largely leaves me cold.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the image looked good.

Most of the film offered excellent delineation, but a smattering of night shots could look a little soft. Those weren’t a significant concern, though, so the vast majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. Neither moiré effects nor jaggies appeared, and edge haloes failed to become a factor. Print flaws also remained absent.

In terms of palette, Dragon opted for a mix of blues and ambers. Within those parameters, the hues appeared full and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots displayed nice clarity and smoothness. Only the smattering of soft shots turned this usually great image into a “B+”.

I found the movie’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack – which downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on my system – to work fairly well. With its many outdoors locations, various natural elements added involvement to the mix, and the occasional “action moments” conveyed a good sense of events. The various channels brought out the material in a reasonably good manner that created a fine feeling for place.

That said, I thought the mix could seem restrained given the film’s martial arts orientation. Even when the movie emphasized combat, it felt like it didn’t kick into higher gear. The soundscape contributed a nice sense of the material but it didn’t become as involving as I’d expect.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while speech appeared natural and distinctive. Effects came across as accurate and dynamic, with good range and punch. Though good overall, the soundtrack lacked the sizzle to become better than a “B”.

The Blu-ray brings us a nice array of extras, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first involves director Ang Lee and co-writer James Schamus, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion of story, characters and editing, sound design and music, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, stunts and action, effects, and related areas.

For the most part, Schamus does little more than crack jokes, so that leaves the weight on Lee to create an informative commentary. Though the director throws out occasional nuggets, he doesn’t give us a great look at the film. Lee touches on basics but the track feels less substantial than I’d like.

For the second commentary, we hear from cinematographer Peter Pao. He delivers his own running, screen-specific chat that emphasizes cinematography but also looks at sets/locations, cast and performances, effects, design and working with Ang Lee.

Despite the track's semi-limited focus, Pao offers a good conversation. He demonstrates an open, engaging personality as he discusses his craft as well as other production domains. This easily becomes the better of the two commentaries.

Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of seven minutes, 49 seconds. These tend to add exposition, especially in terms of characters. Some of these focus on the leads while others look at supporting roles. A couple of them seem useful but most come across as superfluous.

Under A Retrospective, we get three components and an intro (0:32). These break down into three “In Conversation” pieces; “Ang Lee” (29:58), “Tim Squyres” (25:11) and “James Schamus” (25:59).

Overall, the conversations work pretty well. The piece with Squyres becomes most interesting mainly because we didn’t hear from him earlier, but both Lee and Schamus seem more focused and informative than they did during their commentary.

One annoyance: interviewer Tasha R. Robinson constantly interjects “hmm” and “huh” during the sessions. I get that she wants to demonstrate an invested personality during the chats, but her vocalizations become a real distraction. Despite that factor, the interviews offer good information.

Next comes The Making Of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It runs 19 minutes, two seconds and features Lee, visual effects supervisor Rob Hodgson, senior compositor Travis Baumann, and actors Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun Fat. The show looks at story/characters, cast and performances, stunts and martial arts, and visual effects. A smattering of useful facts emerge but “Making” usually endorses hyperbole and praise.

A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh lasts 13 minutes, 49 seconds. Here the actor discusses aspects of her work on the film. Though fairly promotional in nature, Yeoh produces a decent number of insights.

Two Music Videos appear, both for “A Love Before Time”. Singer CoCo Lee does both, but one offers Mandarin lyrics while the other uses English words. Both are pretty terrible.

Finally, the set includes a Photo Gallery. This shows a running six-minute, 50-second montage of shots that covers pics from the set, movie images and publicity stills. I’m not wild about the format, and because no one reformatted the photos for Blu-ray, they suffer from degraded quality.

When I first saw it in 2001, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon left me cold, and I didn’t find myself more enchanted by it in 2016. Although the movie occasionally shows signs of life, too much of it comes across as slow and dull. The Blu-ray presents generally strong picture and audio along with a reasonably positive set of supplements. Perhaps someday I’ll join the film’s legions of fans, but it won’t be today.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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