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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Big Trouble in Little China [Blu-ray]

 

(John Carpenter, 1986)

 

Also available from Arrow in a Limited Edition Steelbook:

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Video: 20th Century Fox / Arrow Films (UK)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! / Region 'B'

Runtime: 1:39:47.982 / 1:39:49.817

Disc Size: 36,687,269,933 bytes / 45,523,490,230 bytes

Feature Size: 30,816,215,040 bytes / 33,822,280,896 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.81 Mbps / 32.60 Mbps

Chapters: 44 / 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: August 4th, 2009 / December 16th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3848 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3848 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3699 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3699 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio Russian 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Thai 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3846 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3846 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Isolated Score: DTS-HD Master Audio Undetermined 3698 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3698 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Korean, Portuguese, Russian (commentary and text), Spanish, Thai, none

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell

Deleted Scenes

Extended Ending

• Vintage Featurette

• Music Video

Richard Edlund Interview

• 3 Trailers and TV Spots

Behind the Scenes Gallery

Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter and star Kurt Russell
Return to Little China A brand new interview with John Carpenter (12:16)
Being Jack Burton A brand new interview with Kurt Russell (20:59)
Carpenter and I A brand new interview with cinematographer Dean Cundey (15:40)
A new interview with producer Larry Franco (15:23)

A new interview with Jeff Imada (12:32)
Interview with visual effects producer Richard Edlund (13:27)
Vintage Making-of featurette featuring cast and crew (7:28)
Extended Ending (3:17)
8 Deleted Scenes (some option of work-print or Videotape)
Music Video (3:28)
Gallery of behind-the-scenes images (4:23)
3 original trailers (2:47)
• 6 TV Spots (2:57)
Booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, author of The Films of John Carpenter, a re-print of an article on the effects of the film from American Cinematographer, illustrated with archive stills and posters

 

Bitrate:

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

Description: A cult favorite (and one of director John Carpenter's personal favorites), 'Big Trouble in Little China' is a fantasy-action film that is brilliantly imaginative, funny, and absorbing. Kurt Russell plays hard-boiled truck driver Jack Burton, who gets caught in a bizarre conflict within, and underneath, San Francisco's Chinatown. An ancient Chinese prince and Chinatown crimelord has kidnapped a beautiful green-eyed woman, who is the fiancee to Jack's best friend. Jack must help his friend rescue the girl before the evil Lo Pan uses her to break the ancient curse that keeps him a fleshless and immortal spirit. Carpenter uses all the best elements of martial arts films, 1940s old action serials, Chinese mythology and straight- forward American adventure to make up a tale wild with imagination. Kurt Russell is wonderful as the brash, brave, and reluctant hero Jack Burton, who is hysterically out of place in this world of magic potions, goblins and curses. A visually stunning work that ranks as one of Carpenter's best films.

 

 

The Film:

John Carpenter’s genre-bending (and genre-blending) action/adventure/fantasy/martial arts/comedy, "Big Trouble in Little China," was released in 1986 to mixed, if overall positive, reviews, but failed to bring in audiences in sufficient numbers to cover the mid-range budget (Carpenter's largest at that point in his career), despite a wry, ironic, subversive lead performance by Kurt Russell as an ineffectual action hero who’s (mostly) all talk and no action. The passage of time, however, has been more than kind to "Big Trouble in Little China." Like 1982's "The Thing," a box-office disappointment turned cult classic, "Big Trouble in Little China" has developed a small, devoted fan base. "Big Trouble in Little China" may just be John Carpenter’s most entertaining film, repaying multiple viewings with an over-abundance of narrative and visual pleasures.

As Big Trouble in Little China opens, Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), an everyman truck-driver (and the ostensible hero/protagonist) arrives in San Francisco to drop off cargo in Chinatown. At the conclusion of a celebratory evening (and morning) of drinking and gambling where Jack wins big, the other men leave, broke and none too happy with their losses, Jack’s stays behind with his longtime friend, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), a local restaurant owner (as we soon learn, Wang Chi’s a man of many talents). Wang Chi makes Jack an odd wager, a double or nothing bet Wang loses. Jack, eager to collect his winnings and uncomfortable with letting Wang out of his sight, is convinced to accompany Wang to the airport, where Wang's fiancée, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), is about to arrive from China. Miao Yin is the rarest of Chinese women. She has emerald green eyes.

Excerpt from Mel Valentin at eFilmCritic located HERE

 

 


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

Big Trouble in Little China is approaching its 25th birthday. That mid-eighties stock rarely produced a pristine image but this Blu-ray looks pretty solid. The image quality shows some grit and minor grain, but has clarity and smoothes over the the rougher dark patches where noise occasionally surfaces. It's never dynamically sharp but does show some depth at times even around the, sometimes, cheesy visual effects. Colors are bright and consistent and the transfer doesn't appears to have untoward DNR or contrast manipulations. This is dual-layered with the feature over 30 Gig and a strong video bitrate and it avoids the blockiness of DVD incarnations. This Blu-ray has a nice consistent feel producing the best digital representation of the film presently available. It's not up to the caliber of modern films but I really don't have any valid complaints.

No significant differences but there are a few - the Arrow is more robust with a higher bitrate - skin tones cool and we lose a sliver of information but the image may be marginally stretched wider. Essentially, you'd be hard pressed to see a difference unless you were very discerning and projecting it to a large screen.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

(20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP vs. Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM)

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a healthy 3848 kbps reported some decent depth with heavy bass but not an extravagant amount of separation. The audio keeps the film lively with the many action and fight sequences bouncing effects around but I suspect the mix could have brought more to the presentation. The track does suit the film very well with Carpenter and Alan Howarth's original music fitting like boisterously whenever needed although not exhibiting demo depth. There is also an English language 2,0 channel and a number of foreign language DUBs (as well as the advertised 'new 5.1 DTS isolated score' which is surprisingly brisk although I don't know too many who'd bother indulging. There are many optional subtitle choices supporting my Momitsu's findings that this Blu-ray is indeed region FREE capable of being played on new format machines worldwide.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master had no differences at all to my ears but the Arrow adds the option to listen to the isolated, Carpenter and Alan Howarth's, score. The region 'B' Arrow doesn't include the many DUBs of the Fox and only offers English (SDH) subtitles.

 

 

 

Extras :

The supplements appear to duplicate the last DVD edition with the fine Carpenter/Russell commentary. The two get a long so well the discussion is lively and fun with no unnecessary gaps. Carpenter admits the film found it's broadest audience via home video. Now, of course, it has quite a devoted following. After the aforementioned isolated score (this is new) we get the usual deleted scenes, extended ending, vintage featurette - all in very crude SD video quality. There is an interview with the visual effects producer Richard Edlund with a picture-in-picture screen highlighting the effects he describes. We also get 3 trailers and TV Spots and a behind the scenes gallery.

Here is where Arrow vaults ahead - including all from the Fox Blu-ray, including the commentary, and adding over an hour's worth of new interview material with John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, cinematographer Dean Cundey, producer Larry Franco and Jeff Imada. There is also a liner notes booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, author of The Films of John Carpenter, a re-print of an article on the effects of the film from American Cinematographer, illustrated with archive stills and posters.  

 

20th Century Fox - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The film's awkwardness melts into nostalgic atmosphere and charming, fast-paced, fun. This is really the basis of its popularity because if you look to pick holes - you may find too many to count. Big Trouble in Little China has great pace and the Blu-ray is the best way to enjoy it in your home theater. You actually wish it was longer - or there was a sequel. Recommended!

Arrow have gone the extra mile and win out, essentially for the bountiful bonus features and the cool art cases. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

July 23rd, 2009

December 15th, 2013

 

 

Also available from Arrow in a Limited Edition Steelbook:

 


 

About the Reviewer: 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
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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

 

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