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  • Journey to the West [Blu-ray] [US Import]
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Journey to the West [Blu-ray] [US Import]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 131 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A truly fractured fairy tale 14 Jun. 2014
By K. Reynolds - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
ONCE UPON a time, a young Buddhist monk – Chen Xuanzhang – traveled the Chinese countryside to rid the people of bloodthirsty demons that plagued their villages. Armed only with a book of “300 Children’s Nursery Rhymes,” Chen wasn’t very good at it, but his heart was pure and his determination boundless. He met other demon hunters along the way; some were phonies and some were genuine, but all were in it for the money – the reward offered by the poor villagers (who could be really nasty once riled up).

Along the way, Chen finds out the demons were once human. But because of terrible, unjust deaths, they were transformed into vengeance-seeking monsters.

The path to enlightenment is full of irony. And in this case, lots of laughs and a few tears.

Director/writer Stephen Chow – “Shaolin Soccer” (2001), “Kung Fu Hustle” (2004) and “CJ7” (2008) – spins the 16th century Chinese literary classic, “Journey to the West,” into a fantastic blend of hilarity and tragedy. He keeps the laughs coming. Ever imagine what it might be like to beat up a life-sized squeaky toy? Chow will demonstrate – although, in a following sequence, you could be swallowing the lump in your throat from a heartbreaking sequence.

How does he do this – balance slapstick with tragedy? Chow’s is a one-of-a-kind, international talent. There’s no predicting what he’ll show us.

The HD picture is exquisite. Visuals blend camera work and CQI into something like a mix of realistic animation. Color is extraordinary, beginning with the turquoise lagoon and golden ochre village of the opening scene. A monster fish – part carp, part tiger, all big-eyes and dragony-teeth – torments the fishermen and their families shades of Spielberg’s “Jaws.” We meet Chen (Zhang Wen, “The Emperor and the White Snake,” 2011) here. The acrobatics come crazy fast as he enlists the help of a very reluctant holy man. But it’s Miss Duan (Qi Shu, “The Transporter,” 2002) who takes the monster out, with her martial arts skills and weapon of choice, the Infinite Flying Rings.

Tomboy-like Miss Duan falls in love with Chen, who protests he’s on a spiritual quest. She becomes more determined, enlisting the help of her sister and, eventually, The Monkey King, the trickster of Chinese legend played with disarming panache by Bo Huang. (Andy Serkis, meet your soul brother!)

Whether the scene is in daylight or night, the picture is clean, detailed and lush with color. Sound is robust, thundering through speakers during fight scenes with a monster fish or a giant boar, pinging and zinging everywhere with Miss Duan’s bracelets. Mandarin – with English subtitles – comes through cleanly along with a delightful musical score. The climatic duel featuring The Monkey King is awesome!

Chow usually acts in his films, but because of the complexity of “Journey to the West,” we see him as the director among the short featurettes – only 12 minutes long in their entirety. Mostly, Chow and his cast and crew try not to crack each other up during filming. But we also get a glimpse of wire-work, green screen sets and stunts in “Stunts and Special Effects,” “Cast & Characters,” “Director Stephen Chow,” “The Laughs,” “Production Design” and “Choreography.”

I won’t spoil anything about this masterpiece. You should discover it all for yourself – and, possibly, some kids. (Sad parts are no more disturbing than those found in “Bambi” or “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.) “Journey to the West” received a 92% rating on, so that tells you something, too.

If you need a great laugh that will also tug your heartstrings, this is it. — Kay Reynolds
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Just. Yes. 10 Mar. 2014
By Rachel E Lilley - Published on
Verified Purchase
If you loved Kung Fu Hustle, and enjoyed Shaolin Soccer, you will love this. It's what I call a "sneaky romantic comedy" - none of the ham-fisted, heartstring pulling that Hollywood is so fond of, but touching and heartfelt all the same. Plus, the action sequences, CGI, and ass-kickery are top-notch. You won't be disappointed.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A good come back 15 Mar. 2014
By Xqqsmeok - Published on
Verified Purchase
If you like stylized martial arts and quirky stories, this is the film for you. Please don't look for a deep meaning; this is a comedy and it stays true to that. Relax and enjoy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not as good as KUNG FU HUSTLE, but still fun 3 Jun. 2014
By Matthew Scott Baker - Published on
Format: DVD
If you’ve never experienced a Stephen Chow movie, then you are truly missing out. Chow has a knack for combining drama with zany comedy while throwing in some nifty martial-arts action alongside. This might sound like a common combination in today’s movie place, but I assure you: Chow’s movies take these genres to the next level. JOURNEY TO THE WEST is his latest release, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have his previous films, it’s still a heck of a good time and worth checking out.

Some reviewers have called Chow ‘visionary’, and I can see why. His directing technique is definitely unique, and the way he tells stories is visceral compared to many. But he is also an acquired taste; some viewers will not like his over-the-top style.

JOURNEY TO THE WEST is shot well and has the same flamboyant flare as Chow’s previous films. Visually, the movie is a feast for the eyes; Chow likes to use CG for backdrops and even showpieces, and as a result, the audience gets an aesthetic overload. This movie does not disappoint at all in this aspect.

The acting is a bit below par for what I would expect from a Chow-caliber movie. There were really no performances that stood out, and a couple of the characters were even a bit annoying (The Monkey King, in particular). This could be in part due to the horrible dub-over that was used for the English version. I’ve heard some bad ones in my time, but wow…this was one of the worst. I would recommend watching this film in its native language.

The special effects are good for the most part, however I feel I have to voice my displeasure of The Monkey King once again, but this time about his make-up. I’ve seen Halloween masks that look more realistic. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it didn’t work for me.

Still, with those complaints aside, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is a fun film, and fans of Chow’s work should be pleased. I liked it for the most part, and I recommend giving it a look so as to decide for yourself. This is definitely one of those films that will prompt conversation afterwards, so make sure you come back here and let us know what you think after you watch it. The film is available now in a variety of formats.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More Chow wackiness 20 Mar. 2014
By Timothy D. Gallagher - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
First let me say to anyone familiar with the story "Journey to the West," this film isn't really that story. This is a sort-of prequel, taking place long after the Buddha imprisoned the Monkey King, and right before the Monkey King joins a young monk on his titular journey. The film is actually an origin story for the monk, which I didn't figure out until the very end. So please don't go into this movie expecting re-enactments of your favorite episodes from the original story.

The movie retains a lot of the wackiness that makes Stephen Chow's films enjoyable, even if he is absent from in front of the camera this time. Many of the scenes are played out like live-action cartoons, but the tone can very quickly (and shockingly) take an evil, horrible turn. Be warned: there are a couple of scenes that would never make it into an American-made movie, and that might actually be frightening to children. One scene that especially comes to mind is a young girl swimming in a river at the beginning of the film. Also be aware that this is not your father's Monkey King: Sun Wukong is very much a monster and a villain in this movie. That might shock some people because he is usually portrayed as a mischievous, but ultimately heroic figure. However, how the Monkey King acts here makes sense in the context of the film. More than that I won't say, because I don't want to give out any spoilers.

Also what makes this film so very enjoyable for me is the presence of the gorgeous Shu Qi. She is typically cast as the romantic interest or femme fatale, but this time she gets to show her action and comedy chops, and it appears that she is having a ball doing so. Many Western film fans only know her from her appearance in the first '"Transporter" film, and the common complaint there was that her English was not very good and her acting appeared wooden. Well, I'm here to say she's a much better actress than that movie would lead you to believe, so give her another chance.

The only reason I'm not giving this movie five stars is because of the jarring shifts in tone. The last 15 minutes of the film, especially, feels like it's straight from a monster/horror movie. This is not a great Stephen Chow film ("Shaolin Soccer," "Kung Fu Hustle"), merely a good Stephen Chow film.
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