H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







The Forbidden Kingdom (Two-Disc) [Blu-ray]


(Rob Minkoff, 2008)






Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: LionsGate
Video: Weinstein



Region: A

Feature Runtime: 1:44:26

Chapters: 24

Feature film disc size: 32.2 Gig

One dual-layered, a 2nd disc of the downloadable digital copy

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 9th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG4-AVC


English 7.1 DTS HD Master

Feature: English, Spanish, none


Disc 1

• Commentary with Director Rob Minkoff and writer John Fusco

Previsualization Featurette with Minkoff commentary

Six Deleted Scenes with optional commentary

Blooper Reel
• Featurette: "The Kung Fu Dream Team" (10:37) - in HD!
• Featurette: "Dangerous Beauty" - in HD!

• Featurette: "Discovering China - Locations" (8:06) - in HD!

• Featurette: "Filming in Chinawood - Hengdian World Studio" (7:43) - in HD!

• Featurette: "Monkey King and the Eight Immortals" (9:12) - in HD!

• Featurette: "Storyboards and Previz" - in HD!

BD-Live Features:
Bonus View Picture-in-Picture


Disc 2:
Digital Copy


Product Description: While hunting down bootleg kung-fu DVDs in a Chinatown pawnshop, Jason (Michael Angarano) makes an extraordinary discovery that sends him hurtling back in time to ancient China. There, Jason is charged with a monumental task: he must free the fabled warrior the Monkey King, who has been imprisoned by the evil Jade War Lord. Jason is joined in his quest by wise kung fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and a band of misfit warriors including Silent Monk (Jet Li). But only by learning the true precepts of kung fu can Jason hope to succeed — and find a way to get back home...




The Film:

The Forbidden Kingdom opens not in some distant land but in the bedroom of Jason (Michael Angarano), a friendless high school boy who loves kung fu movies. His favorite place to go is a pawn shop in Chinatown, where he looks for used genre DVDs that he doesn't already own. One day, a local gang bullies him into forcing the owner of the pawn shop to open late for Jason. In the ensuing struggle, the owner is shot and Jason finds himself in possession of a talisman that transports him to a mystical version of ancient China where characters of myth and legend walk the Earth. It may not be Oz, but Jason sure isn't in Kansas, either.



He's almost immediately in trouble, since the staff he carries belongs to the Monkey King (Jet Li), who needs it back to defeat the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Needless to say, the Jade Warlord doesn't want Jason to deliver the staff, so he sends out his soldiers to intercept it. Coming to Jason's rescue is Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), a mysterious drunk who seems anything but inebriated when he goes into battle. They are joined by the taciturn Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu), who refers to herself in the third person, and the Silent Monk (Jet Li), whose life is devoted to delivering the talisman to the Monkey King. Thus begins a journey that ends in a battle royale.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli's Reel Review located HERE

Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

There is extensive use of CGI but the image is very strong in its own right. The, almost hour-and-3/4 film takes up a healthy 32.2 Gig of space on the dual-layered first disc. We can safely assume that this is an improvement over the SD edition simply based on this huge amount of data (at times around 30mb/s). This new Blu-ray looks very good balancing nicely between slight saturation and the brilliancy of the colors with some very strong detail to boot. The only problem I found was more with the effects which probably force the rapid edit-cuts. You can never really focus for too long in one of the numerous fight sequences in The Forbidden Kingdom. There is some magic and people bounce of walls - some flying. I just don't know how far my suspension of disbelief extends. Colors are the most impressive at times - again probably artificially boosted - it's hard to be positive though. In the end, the image is jaw-dropping at times. I don't see any Digital Noise Reduction used to compensate for artefacts but although the image is extremely smooth - minor noise still exists. Resolution, on the other hand, is at a top-shelf level and the transfer could easily be described as 'flawless'. It's quite a visual feast with excessive levels of eye-candy locales and costumes.

















Audio & Music:  
7.1 DTS HD Master (the only option) is, likewise, impressive as heck. It may not be the absolute best or most aggressive I've ever heard, but it's not far off. It has an intense bass and decent mid-range. Your surround speakers definitely get some real action here. Dialogue is translated into English, or Spanish optional subtitles.


Supplements are somewhat excessive (endless, actually) but I thought the Minkoff / Fusco Commentary was pretty good. I was impressed as they both appear articulate and intelligent with some new, salient, information surfacing. There are six deleted scenes with optional commentary by Minkoff - kinda drab but depending on your interest in the film you may enjoy. The "Blooper Reel" was not up to older Jackie Chan film standards with failed stunts and such but more dialogue blunders - nice to see the cast getting a few laughs anyway. There are 6 (or 7?) featurettes running under, around, 10 minutes each and the titles (listed above) give away the content. A nice touch is that they are all in HD although only rehash clips of the film are the only worthy 1080P visuals. I liked a couple of them - "Dangerous Beauty" (female leads talk) and "Filming in Chinawood - Hengdian World Studio" seemed kind of interesting. Overall for them I'd give a thumbs sideways. There are two exclusive-to-Blu-ray features; the Picture-in-Picture was decent with info running along with the film and I didn't test the Molog thingy.



Bottom line:
Well, the film is a bit too family-fantasy driven for my own tastes. Not that I mind fantasy at all but trying to elicit emotions like suspense and fear just don't seem to gel within the same film experience. Li and Chan and great to see together but the effects are so 'plastic' at times I just couldn't buy into much of The Forbidden Kingdom. Perhaps I am just getting jaded in my old age. As for the
Blu-ray - a BIG thumbs up. The image is probably in the top ten of all that I have seen and the audio is not far behind. Extras are probably more for those keener on the film than I. Those who may be leaning to this style of extravaganza certainly won't be disappointed in the Blu-ray transfer which may get mention in our year end roundup. Yes, it's that good.

Gary Tooze

September 3rd, 2008









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