Posted August 31, 2010 at 11:34 pm
So, I'm sure a bunch of you have heard of Stephen Chow, the writer/star of Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle and most recently CJ7. (No, we are NOT counting his producer credit on Dragonball Evolution, and we won't speak of it again. Let me be clear that I love DBZ and it was a huge influence for me when I was growing up. So I think you know why I hate the movie. ANYWAY.)

Stephen Chow is Tom Cruise famous in Hong Kong as he has starred in and written numerous high-budget films. FUN FACT: America is only the third most numerous producer of films. #2 is Hong Kong and #1 is India (Bollywood).

So anyway, not knowing much about Chinese film, I downloaded Shaolin Soccer from the internets. Obviously I wasn't going to buy a DVD of a movie I never heard of from a culture I knew nothing about in a language I can't understand. In fact, the version I got didn't even have subtitles! (I don't watch dubs, period. But that's always because of the bad western voice acting. Sailor Moon is the only series I've ever heard with good voice actors.)

So, as I watched this movie, I was instantly enthralled. I could not believe how amazing it was! It was a real superhero movie, so much more real than Spiderman or Superman or anyone in a silly costume. These guys were kung fu heroes wearing sports uniforms (and crude ones at that.) Since I was watching it in Cantonese, (there are two kinds of Chinese. Mandarin spoken mainly the mainland, and Cantonese, spoken mainly in Hong Kong, the Canton region and other areas of southeast Asia.) I could not understand a word of what they were saying. I worked out names for them like Iron Leg, Iron Head (which was right), Fly Guy (not quite so right) and so on.

After being so amazed at this amazing movie, I had to find it with English subtitles. I did just that and watched it a bajillion more times. I went on to buy Kung Fu Hustle, CJ7 and numerous other Chow movies on DVD. That said, let me recommend you first see those movies before you move onto the hard stuff. It's best to work backwards through his filmography. After you've seen the three I've mentioned, it's time to move onto "God of Cookery".

God of Cookery is a highly comical view of the harsh restaurant business, which I find to be just as true in America as it is in Hong Kong. I don't want to reveal much of the plot, but it's full of great twists, and an all-star performance by my favorite actress, Mok Man-Wai. You might know her as Karen Joy Morris, the woman who played the head of the Black Scorpions. She also has a great role in King of Comedy, and a cameo appearance in Shaolin Soccer. One thing I didn't like about this movie was the end. I won't spoil it, but it really broke the rules it had somewhat established, and that's always uncomfortable. Still, I've seen the movie at least ten times, so it didn't ruin it that much.

So now we've gone through the easy stuff. Where do we go from here? Well, from here on out, it's the hard sauce. My favorites include Royal Tramp 1/2, Fight Back to School 1/2/3, God of Gamblers 2/3, King of Beggars, Justice, My Foot!, The Flirting Scholar... the list goes on. 90% of what you choose from this list will be pure entertainment.

Update: Oh my gosh, I forgot my most favorite fight scene in a movie ever, which was one of the main reasons I made this post. The American boxer is just awesome to watch.

But this brings me to my main point. I have a great love for the Chinese culture, especially the mythos. The Monkey King (Sun Wukong/Son Goku) is a fantastic character, and I'm on my second readthrough of the book "Journey to the West" in which the Tang priest, Sun the Novice, Zhu Bajie (Pig) and Sha Wujing (Friar Sand) travel through the treacherous mountains of China and India, using their powerful kung fu to fight demons and reach the thunder monastery. Once you've got that premise down, you're ready for my favorite movie of all time, "A Chinese Odyssey." The effects.. well they're horrible. Every special effect is cringeworthy. I'm getting that out of the way, because this is still the best-written, best acted, funniest and most gut-wrenchingly emotional film I've ever seen. I'm my eyes are welling just thinking of the ending.

This movie is not for the weak of heart, however. It's a two parter, so you will be watching three hours worth of movie. Also, try and keep King Bull's sister and wife separate in your mind, because they look way too much alike, and it's a big deal later on. There's a very good chance you'll will have to see this movie a few times before you really get it. That said, you will WANT to see the movie several times after the first viewing.

The premise of the film is that part way through the monks' journey to the west, Monkey's old demon-like self shone through and assaulted the Purple Fairy and stole her magical Pandora's Box to have as a shiny bauble. (The Monkey King is far too powerful to need the magic of a box.) He was captured and punished, but from what I can tell, was allowed to reincarnate due to the pleas of the Tang priest, who sacrificed his own life for Monkey. You can figure it out from there.

So, if you'd like to buy the DVD, here it is. Part 1 Part 2 (If you have trouble finding them here, you may be able to find them on eBay)

I normally wouldn't do something like this, because it's important to support your great film makers, but this movie is very difficult to find. However, there is an alternative. Hong Kong film often ends up in full on youtube in good quality video separated out into 10 minute segments. I've set up a playlist for my friends to watch it in one sitting with no fumbling for the next video. Please buy the DVD if possible, but if you have trouble, it's not a lost sale, and YouTube is a great alternative.

A Chinese Odyssey Playlist Parts 1 and 2
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