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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 4 September 2010
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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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2008
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 November 2015
I liked this highly original 2006 Chinese adaptation of "Hamlet", even if it has some flaws. I spend a rather pleasant moment watching it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

China, X century, the end of the Tang Dynasty. The Crown Prince, Wu Luan (Daniel Wu) and one of ladies of the imperial court, Little Wan (Zhang Ziyi) are in love - but the Emperor, after seeing Little Wan, takes her as his Empress and orders Wu Luan to marry another woman, lady Qing Nu (Zhou Xun). Wu Luan, deeply hurt, refuses and goes in voluntary exile in the province to devote himself to study music and dance - his extravagant behaviour makes some people believe that he went insane with grief. Soon after, the Emperor is murdered - many think that the killer was his brother Li (Ge You), who inherited the trone. The new Emperor retains Little Wan as his Empress and recalls the Crown Prince from the exile. Soon factions form in the court, one supporting the new Emperor, the other the Crown Prince who is expected to seek revenge for the murder of his father. His return is especially expected by Lady Qing Nu, who, albeit not wanted by Wu Luan, is very much in love with him... And then the film really begins...

From the first minutes of the film it is obvious, that this is NOT exactly the story of "Hamlet", as there are important modifications. Hamlet's mother was replaced by a younger woman, whom he was in love with. The stealing of the bride of the Crown Prince by his older father is in fact an echo of one such very famous incident in Chinese history, when in 738 emperor Xuanzong took from one of his sons his young wife, the archi-famous Yang Guifei. The relationship between Wu Luan and Qing Nu is somehow different than the one between Hamlet and Ophelia. Wu Luan is more assertive and less hesitating than Hamlet. Many elements are added, like court intrigues, fights, escapes and elaborate assassination attempts. Last but not least, the final fate of Wu Luan's evil uncle, Emperor Li, is very different from the one in "Hamlet" - and honestly, that was actually for me the weakest thing in the whole film. On another hand, the ending is in its general lines very Shakespearian...

Visually this film is splendid, actors play very well and Zhang Ziyi is incredibly beautiful. It seems unavoidable that idiotic kung fu and other surrealistic fights must be introduced in almost every Chinese production - in this film martial arts are present, but thanks God not as much as I feared...

Although not really a masterpiece, this is a good, original, very entertaining film. I am very glad that I bought and watched it and I think I will keep the DVD for another viewing. ENJOY!
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on 15 January 2015
You don't often hear the word beautiful to describe
a movie. But, this film is, Beautiful...

This my second favorite Wuxia film, after Red Cliff...
and I can watch it again and again... The plot is based
on Hamlet, but, it is much more than that... All I can say is,
scene after scene, are just beautifully filmed and staged.

a great movie...
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VINE VOICEon 24 August 2009
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 18 May 2008
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
THE BANQUET
[Ye Yan]

(Hong Kong/China - 2006)

DVD aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Theatrical aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Theatrical soundtrack: Dolby Digital

Feng Xiaogang's sumptuous adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' is a triumph of design and cinematography, with top Chinese stars (Zhang Ziyi, Daniel Wu, etc.) and a genuine flair for epic drama, set against a magnificent 10th century landscape. However, like so many historical melodramas (HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO, et al), the results are a little overwhelming, and the 125 minute running time seems excessive, though the film succeeds primarily on the strength of its visuals.

Unfortunately, all of director Feng's good intentions are scuppered by this unfortunate DVD presentation. Projected theatrically at 2.39:1 (necessary to appreciate the beautiful compositions and set designs), the DVD has been cropped to 1.78:1. Worse still, the movie was photographed in Super 35, allowing for the image to be 'opened up' at top and bottom, but this hasn't happened: Instead, a 2.35:1 element has been used, and simply cropped at either side, resulting in visual compromises all the way down the line.

The trailer is framed at 2.35:1, and so are the clips used as illustration in the accompanying 'Making of' featurette. The opening and closing credits are also framed at 2.35:1, but the bulk of the film itself is cropped to 1.78:1. This is absolutely unacceptable for such a major title, and completely undermines the filmmaker's original intentions.

The US DVD, released under the title LEGEND OF THE BLACK SCORPION, is correctly framed at 2.35:1.
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on 25 June 2008
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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, Xiaogang Fengthe man who gave us "A World Without Thieves" and "Assembly" 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 Xiaogang Fengwork (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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