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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different from the last film I saw based on Hamlet
Which was, of course, The Lion King.

I'll touch on the aspect ratio thing which has been mentioned before. I was aware of this before watching the film and expected it to have more impact than it eventually did. You're left aware of what the film should have been once the opening credits roll un-cropped and then fade back into fullscreen. Aside from that if I...
Published on 20 May 2008 by Clever Spud

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Four Star Movie but One Star DVD Presentation
I am not the first person to comment on the fact that this DVD does not present the film in its orginal 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Considering how important the visual aspect of this film is, it is criminal that in Region 2 we have to endure a transfer which does not let us see the whole picture. We get around half of it most of the time. Region 2 viewers should revolt against...
Published on 11 Jun 2008 by Roger Rebec


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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different from the last film I saw based on Hamlet, 20 May 2008
By 
Clever Spud (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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Which was, of course, The Lion King.

I'll touch on the aspect ratio thing which has been mentioned before. I was aware of this before watching the film and expected it to have more impact than it eventually did. You're left aware of what the film should have been once the opening credits roll un-cropped and then fade back into fullscreen. Aside from that if I hadn't known about it I doubt I would have noticed while watching so it wasn't as big a deal to me as I thought it would be.

The emperor is dead, his young widow is being seduced by (or is it the other way around?)the emperor's brother who intends to be crowned emperor himself, while the emperor's son has removed himself from the court, and its intrigues, to study the arts. NOTE: not martial arts but music, primarily. From here things kick off in spectacular fashion.

To be honest this is one of the first of these Chinese epics that I've managed to follow the plot of, obviously because it's based on Shakespeare's Hamlet and is a bit of a classic. Couple this with stunning set pieces (and not just battles) and the spectacular Chinese scenery and you have one extremely compelling film.

The violence is over the top and bloody but nothing that will have you hiding behind a cushion. The fight scenes seem slightly toned down than some I've seen though there's still a bit of aerobatics and you won't be cheated of epic set piece battles. I think the fights are grittier and it works.

You already know by now whether you're a fan of this sort of film and if you are you should get your hands on it. If you've tried previous films like Crouching Tiger, Hero or House of Flying Daggers and found the extended superheroesque blade-walking high flying jousting just a bit too much for you then at least give this a rental because it's more toned down and brutal than those previous epics.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu ray isn't cropped, 4 Sep 2010
By 
P. Kay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a feast of a film - few blu ray reviews here - so a quicky to clarify this isn't like the cropped DVD version that has given this wonderful film such bad reviews. The blu ray sounds and looks wholeheartedly widescreenly magnificent.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Four Star Movie but One Star DVD Presentation, 11 Jun 2008
By 
Roger Rebec "Roger Rebec" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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I am not the first person to comment on the fact that this DVD does not present the film in its orginal 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Considering how important the visual aspect of this film is, it is criminal that in Region 2 we have to endure a transfer which does not let us see the whole picture. We get around half of it most of the time. Region 2 viewers should revolt against this ever-increasing shoddy practice of giving us something less good than our Region 1 cousins.

The film is very good but not quite excellent. It is beautiful to look at. The score is excellent. The thing that lets it down, and it is something I have noticed in several Chinese films, is that the pace seems to sag about three quarters of the way through. What has been riveting suddenly becomes protracted. It is a shame because there is much to enjoy in this film.

The DVD extras don't amount to a great deal. There is a making of documentary which, although it contains some interesting information on the making of the film, is fairly short.

The film is worth seeing. If you want to see this film on DVD, get the Region 1 version. If your DVD player cannot play Region 1 DVD's, see if you hack it or chip it but don't help promote this shabby practice of selling Region 2 viewers a substandard transfer of a film that is available elsewhere as the director intended it to look.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, bizarre and beautiful drama with balletic martial arts, 19 May 2008
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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The Banquet is a stunner. If you enjoyed any of the recent popular martial arts dramas (Crouching Tiger, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, etc), then you're almost certain to revel in the beauty, horror, action and extreme emotions of The Banquet.
Don't be put off by the knowledge that it's based around the plot of Hamlet, because you need no knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy this film. it's also not quite the same story -- and definitely not the same characters! In fact the lead character, torn between ambition, love, desire, hatred and fear isn't the young Prince at all...

You will need to concentrate on the plot to enjoy the fine detail and political intrigue of this Tang Dynasty drama. The Emperor is usurped and his brother takes the throne: the young Crown Prince in is immediate danger (although he can't be killed publicly); the queen must decide whether her future lies with the new Emperor or with her old loyalties, and her old lover.
All this intrigue is set against jaw-dropping backgrounds; scenes of breath-taking beauty and simply stunning action sequences. There are some horribly bloody scenes which serve to underline the brutality of the regieme, while the massed ranks of the court bow and scrape in a corordinated and colourful unison. Everywhere you look on the screen is a riot of intricate detail, much of it with an underlying significance to the plot.
By now you've probably guessed that I really can't praise The Banquet highly enough. It captivated us for two hours, and I'll be happy to watch it again in a couple of months. It's a great shame we couldn't see it at the cinema (all that colour and spectacle would be brilliant on a big screen), but this is a film not to be missed whatever format you can see it in.
9/10
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Banquet, 24 Aug 2009
By 
L. Newman "l_m_n" (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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I have a not-so-secret love for martial arts flicks and this is a welcome addition to the genre. But, as other reviewers have pointed out, the DVD is poor and cropped to the point where I didn't enjoy watching it. What a shame!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, bizarre and beautiful drama; balletic martial arts, 28 Dec 2013
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Banquet [2006] [DVD] (DVD)
The Banquet is a stunner. If you enjoyed the popular martial arts dramas of the last decade (Crouching Tiger, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, etc), then you're almost certain to revel in the beauty, horror, action and extreme emotions of The Banquet.
Don't be put off by the knowledge that it's based around the plot of Hamlet, because you need no knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy this film. it's also not quite the same story -- and definitely not the same characters! In fact the lead character, torn between ambition, love, desire, hatred and fear isn't the young Prince at all...

You will need to concentrate on the plot to enjoy the fine detail and political intrigue of this Tang Dynasty drama. The Emperor is usurped and his brother takes the throne: the young Crown Prince in is immediate danger (although he can't be killed publicly); the queen must decide whether her future lies with the new Emperor or with her old loyalties, and her old lover.
All this intrigue is set against jaw-dropping backgrounds; scenes of breath-taking beauty and simply stunning action sequences. There are some horribly bloody scenes which serve to underline the brutality of the regieme, while the massed ranks of the court bow and scrape in a corordinated and colourful unison. Everywhere you look on the screen is a riot of intricate detail, much of it with an underlying significance to the plot.
By now you've probably guessed that I really can't praise The Banquet highly enough. It captivated us for two hours, and I'll be happy to watch it again in a couple of months. It's a great shame we couldn't see it at the cinema (all that colour and spectacle would be brilliant on a big screen), but this is a film not to be missed whatever format you can see it in.
9/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A retelling of Hamlet, 17 April 2010
By 
Mr. Patrick A. Harrington "doublethink" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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I loved Ran where Akira Kurosawa delivered a Samurai version of King Lear which to my mind ranked as one of the best filmed versions of any Shakespeare play. The Banquet can claim a similar distinction in using the framework of Hamlet.

Zhang Ziyi ("Memoirs of a Geisha," "House of Flying Daggers") as Empress Wan portrays a terrifying and strange portrayal of Shakespeare's Gertrude. This character is given far more emphasis and power than in Hamlet itself. I found that interesting and innovative.

The Banquet is visually beautiful and the story does not disappoint with intrigue, scheming, jealousy and murder.

The Banquet [2006] [DVD]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Banquet (Blu-ray version)..., 25 Jun 2008
By 
Milt Ingarfield "milt_fm" (Arbroath, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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Unlike the DVD incarnation of this 2006 production the Blu-ray is in the proper 2.35 aspect for all of the 2 hour and 10 minute running time that's a full 5 minutes longer than it's DVD counter-part and instead of the choice of digital stereo and 5.1 surround sound Blu-ray has DTS-HD master audio or digital stereo and the signal type is MPEG 4 AVC, which shows this spectacular visual delight in the best light.

Everything about this film is impressive from the lighting to the costume design and all the departments in-between, "Zhang Yimou" the man who gave us "The House of Flying Daggers" and "Hero" comes up trumps again with the Asian take on Shakespeare's play "Hamlet", as with the bard's story this movie is about the complex relationships and passionate characters.

The Banquet in 1080p resolution is a feast for the eyes with mind-boggling ballet like choreographed fight sequences which are interspersed with floods of crimson spatters of blood with deeply satisfying clangs of the swords and other weaponry coming from the surround speakers and dazzling landscapes which using everything from water being splashed by the running horses to the bright colours of the silk costumes to create the atmosphere of the piece.

For those who admire of Zhang's work (I count myself amongst them) the look and feel of "The Banquet" will not disappoint as it maintains the running themes of the previous movies stunning martial arts, spectacular use of landscapes and costumes all this comes together and over loads the senses which looked impressive on DVD but now in its Blu-ray incarnation it tests both your system for sight and sound, not to be missed if you are fan of this director highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Vivid Deceit, 19 Jun 2008
This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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A sumptuous feast of colour, movement, juxtaposition, and beauty. On one level the film is a delight to behold. Landscapes, architecture and space dominate the cast. Costumes become art forms. The intimidation of military design provides nice touches of menace. Everything visual in this film is a treat for the eyes. The cinematography is superb. Unfortunately, despite all that and the sound acting, the pace is slow, the action limited, and the levitational tricks - aerobatic fighting, flying soldiers etc - wore a bit thin after a while. These negative factors detracted from the film, which failed to grip me and left me feeling disappointed. Hence the three stars. My loss!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A visual "feast" but served a little cold..., 6 Jun 2008
By 
Priyan Meewella "Phoenix" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Banquet [DVD] (DVD)
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The Banquet is, awful pun notwithstanding, a visual feast on par with Hero and House of Flying Daggers, although its more natural hues leave it just as colourful but less vibrant. It walks a line between these two films, lacking the former's careful pacing and gravitas, but having far more depth than the latter.

The story is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of "Hamlet", the Shakespearean tragedy translating effortlessly into a historical China setting. The Emperor is killed by his brother Li [Ge You] who attempts to usurp the throne. When the Crown Prince Wu Luan [Daniel Wu] returns to court he finds his step-mother [Zhang Ziyi] wedding her husband's killer. The Prince, more trained in the arts than in war, is slow to take avenge his father. To its credit with just a two hour running time many of the nuances remain intact though some subplots are necessarily lost.

The real change, however, is in the character of the Empress - she is a far stronger woman and thus a more interesting character, able to manipulate and protect those around her. Partly this is achieved by making her younger, and in fact the prince was in love with her before his father chose to marry her himself. Zhang Ziyi's portrayal is wonderful as a woman whose identity has been lost in marriage to a leader, while her first love was taken away and has now returned. Despite this, we never truly feel her desire for power, even by the end.

Unlike the films to which it will undoubtedly be compared, The Banquet is no martial arts epic, but rather a period drama. The combat it contains often transcends finely choreography martial arts into pure dance, particularly an early fight in a theatre where only the aggressors are really combatants. Unlike them it is also not bloodless, with regular, if beautiful, crimson splashes and even graphic beheading. Yet it is sad to note that despite a good transfer, the film's aspect ratio has been significantly cropped. This may have been intentional to "fill" the average HDTV area but the result is clearly not faithful to the theatrical release, something I hoped we had left behind as widescreen televisions become the norm.

The most common criticism is in pacing, though this is an intentionally slow, brooding narative. The motif of masks running throughout is telling, with every character within the court required to hide their true feelings behind a mask of loyalty. Yet such masks make it harder for the audience to engage with the characters. The exception is Quin [Zhou Xun] whose love for the prince is utterly unrequited, but she remains a beacon of innocence and truth within the court, yet we cannot help but view her as naive rather than virtuous.

Those expecting martial arts action over drama will be left disappointed, but the result here is nearly as epic and equally beautiful. Unfortunately its lavishness does not prevent it feeling rather cold and hollow by the time it reaches its conclusion. Nevertheless it has been some time since there has been an interesting or genuinely original adaptation of Shakespeare's work, so it is both pleasant and surprising to find that it should come from China.
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The Banquet [2006] [DVD]
The Banquet [2006] [DVD] by Feng Xiaogang (DVD - 2009)
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