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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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A Chinese Odyssey (A Chinese Odyssey: Parts 1 & 2) [Blu-ray]

 

(Jeffrey Lau, 1994)

 

 

 

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Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Media Asia/Hong Kong

Blu-ray: MegaStar (Media Asia/Hong Kong)

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 88 & 10

Chapters: 20

Size: 25 GB

Case: Sturdy gatefold case with slipcover

Release date: September 11, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1; Cantonese Dolby Digital TrueHD 6.1; Mandarin DD EX 5.1

 

Subtitles:

Traditional & Simplified Chinese, English, Korean & Japanese

 

Extras:

• Trailers in HD

• Director interviews in SD (12:41 & 8:02)

 

 

The Film:

A Chinese Odyssey, director Jeff Lau's epic two-part retelling of the legend of the Monkey King, greatly enhanced Stephen Chow's international profile. The role as Monkey King earned Stephen Chow his first acting award, from the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, and further demonstrated the existence of the actor beneath the comedian. The two Chinese Odyssey films, Pandora's Box and Cinderella, blend costume pageantry with gorgeous scenery and some fabulous action sequences from action choreographer Ching Siu Tung (Hero). Stephen Chow turns in a hilarious and emotionally moving performance to offer a costume comedy adventure unlike any you've ever seen! - YesAsia

If you are familiar with Stephen Chow's recent work in Shaolin Soccer or Kung-Fu Hustle then you have some idea of how zany some of his characterizations can be. But such movies pale before the incomparable goofyness of A Chinese Odyssey. We're talking parody that would make Austin Powers jealous. In one scene, Chow's character is relentlessly jumped on by one of his gang in order to put out a fire. Adding injury to insult and back again, the fire is in Chow's pants. In another, Chow beats up an immortal who had turned himself into a bunch of grapes to save Chow, Why does Chow beat him: because he wants his grapes back. Eventually the silliness gives way to an engaging love story. The miracle is that it works.

 

 

 


The Movie: 7
[more from YesAsia:]
A bold reinvention of the classic A Journey to the West, the two films follow the adventure of Joker (Stephen Chow), a scruffy ancient Chinese gang leader who's really the reincarnated form of the Monkey King. Two evil sister demons (Yammie Nam and Karen Mok) nudge Joker in the correct direction and complete the Journey to the West. Part 2 starts with Joker (Stephen Chow) just discovering that he is, in fact, fated to be the Monkey King. But he is much more concerned with traveling forward in time to save his wife, one of the sisters who used to be his enemy, from certain death. Unfortunately, he's indentured to the beautiful, but schizophrenic Zixia (Athena hu), who's bent on becoming Joker's true love! But to finally become the Monkey King, Joker must cast off all human desire. Can he forsake human love to save his Master, the Longevity Monk (Law Kar Ying)?

Excerpt of review from YesAsia editorial located HERE

Image: 7/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

 

 

Two years ago MegaStar came out with a much improved rendering of what was until then a vague and lackluster image on video. The remastered color was great and the picture, at times, reasonably sharp. It's big problem was in the red zone where the monkey King and Longevity Monk live. "Bleeding" is hardly damning enough to describe the result, which was worse yet in the earlier video incarnations. So the big question is: Does the Blu-ray still bleed? The answer is: Not exactly. But the red filter is so pronounced that we are quite overwhelmed by it. In fact, our first impression is that the Blu-ray is identical to the remastered DVD image. But this is only because the Blu-ray is struck from the same remastered, yet compromised, source. In most all other scenes, some strikingly so, the high-def image is quite sharp and shows all the usual and expected improvements.

The production constraints for both Part 1 and Part 2 were the same, so there is no reason to expect one or the other to be any different. Outdoor scenes in the desert suffer most, especially those done with long lenses: they tend to be vague and absent any contrast to speak of. However, all the staged scenes, of which there are many, daytime or night, are superb. Blacks are deep, colors are rich, flesh tones are natural – or not, as required by the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 5/6
Ah, now here's the rub. One of the advantages of subtitles is that we are unlikely to notice poor dialogue sync, which, in this case is pretty brutal. I don’t know if it's that these actors are not trained in post-recording dubbing, or if the engineers who put the loop in place weren't concerned with matching it. Sometimes, so out of sync is the audio, I thought for a moment the actors aren't even speaking the same language as we hear, This is not the fault of MegaStar's blu-ray. In fact it is a rather common fault with Chinese films of this era and older. We don't see this problem much in more recent films from Hong Kong or China.

That said, the audio, for all its uncompressed glory in either DTS HD-MA or Dolby TrueHD, is dynamically constricted to start with, so that, while clear, it lack impact or lusciousness. On the other hand, it is infinitely superior to the Mandarin DD EX 5.1, which is not only very front-loaded and flat, it's in the wrong language. My preference this time was for the Dolby TrueHD mix, which evidenced more body. Surrounds don't get much of workout in any case.

 

 

 

Operations: 7
Each disc of A Chinese Odyssey loads fairly quickly, with just a couple of logos for MegaStar and Media Asia but no promotional theatrical or video previews. My one complaint is that the chapter thumbnails are small. The English translation is the same as for the remastered DVD, which means, except for the prologue, most of plot and situations are clear, despite a great number of grammatical spelling errors. The subtitles are white with black borders making them easy to read regardless of background.

 

Extras: 3
It's best to think of the interviews with Director Jeff Lau, recorded about ten years after A Chinese Odyssey, as a single 20 minute interview (which in fact they are), divided at the point where he begins to speak of his sequel, "A Chinese Tall Story". Lau's discusses his own creative process from the original source novel, A Journey to the West, to how he adapted it for a movie and how he convinced Stephen Chow, known primarily for comedy (as was Lau) to do a love story. Despite the very poor translation (much more difficult than the one for the feature film), it is evident that Lau is a very thoughtful and self-effacing man with some interesting perspectives on his own creative process. In the first interview, be advised he speaks at length about Part 2 and the love quadrangle.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
A Chinese Odyssey is not the place for a Westerner to begin their investigation into Chinese movies, but you should go there sooner or later. The movie is, by turns, goofy, adorable, action-packed and heartfelt. The effects are old-school and very stylized. The Blu-ray image is, for most of its length, solid, sharp and engaging. Less can be said of the audio, though it is definitely clearer than I've ever heard it. Indispensable for fans of the genre.

Leonard Norwitz
October 6th, 2008

 

 

 

 

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

 


 

 

 





 

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