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西遊記101回月光寶盒 (1995)
A Chinese Odyssey Part One - Pandora's Box

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 12/07/2006
Summary: a journey to the weird...

jeff lau takes 'a journey to the west' and transforms it (almost beyond recognition?) into three strange hours of cinema, made up of two films...

after travelling to india to collect some scrolls, the longevity monk (law kar-ying) meets the a goddess, who is ready to punish the monkey king (stephen chow), for being so troublesome, by killing him. longevity monk sacrifices his own life to save the monkey king, who is imprisoned in a small vase.

meanwhile, five hundred years later, jing jing (karen mok) and jeung (yammie nam), two devils, arrive at the camp of the axe gang. the axe gang, led by joker (stephen chow), aren't particularly pleased. but, when joker begins to fall in love with jing jing, he agrees to help them look for the reincarnation of the monkey king and the longevity monk, who's flesh jeung want to eat, whilst jing jing wants to take revenge on the monkey king after he jilted her in the past.

things become further complicated when jealousy between jeung and jing jing flares up, jeung accidentally makes herself pregnant with the axe gang assistant manager's (ng mam-tat) baby, jing jing begins to fall in love with joker and grandpa monk (jeff lau) turns up and reveals to joker, that he is the reincarnation of the monkey king.

confused yet? i haven't even got round to the time travel yet...

now, as odd as it may sound, it's not that confusing, if you keep your wits about you and allow the odd scene to wash over you, it all starts to make sense in the end. using a classic as an inspiration, rather than adapting it, makes things interesting, but jeff lau still manages to to stuff an awful lot into the first 88 mintes, that 'pandora's box' occupies.

stephen chow and ng man tat are as solid as they always are, although (having not seen a lot of chow's ninties fare) i understand this is not your standard chow performance. still, he made me laugh; there's a good mixture of physical, situation and generally goofy humour scattered throughout the film.

the sets, costumes and special effects all look pretty good and ching sui-tung's action sequences work well, considering that he's not really dealing with martial artists.

it's good fun, if you allow it to be, although i can see how it may just be a bit too much for some people to swallow.

what is quite annoying, considering the effort that appears to have gone into producing some really nice packaging (including a fancy photobook) and remastering the audio and video for this set, is that the subtitles are dire. they're by no means the worst i've experienced, far from it, but they are poor; filled with grammatical errors and what appear to be poor translations. now, you can get by, but with these two films, you'd think that they'd have made a bit more of an effort.

decent subtitles would probably inspire the kind of universal love for these films, that appears to be present amongst speakers of cantonese. as they are, i imagine that they will continue to nurture the same mixture of love, hate and indifference, that these films seem to find in wetern audiences.

personally, i like the films, but i'd rather be given the chance to really like them.

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 04/19/2006
Summary: Well Done Comedy/Adventure

Reading the other reviews, it appears that people either love this movie or hate it. I love it.

I'll admit the plot is confusing and I highly recommend a second or even third viewing before forming conclusions. But that's not a fault, it just means you'll get extra mileage out of this one.

The acting is great. Stephen Chow is PERFECT; I've never seen him better. I've often wondered, after watching one of his movies, whether he spends a lot of time practicing his looks and gestures or whether they just come natural to him. Every facial expression, every movement, is just right.

This is one of Karen Mok's earliest films and she's already displaying her solid acting talent. I'm a big fan of hers. She's another one that makes it all look so easy one can't tell whether she's a natural or just works harder than everyone else. And then there's Ng Man Tat with another top notch performance!

This is a well-made movie; very entertaining. I recommend it to Stephen Chow fans and everyone else. (Be warned though, it just ends. It would be best, but not necessary, if you have Part II ready to put into the tray.)

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 02/06/2004
Summary: Exceptional !

Part 1 floored me a few years ago.
An immediate favorite film of his.
Part 2 took 2 viewings to fully
appreciate and now I think it is the
better of the 2.
The final scene is one of the most
poignant of all of his movies. That
final swagger to Athena's lips is
By the way, this entire film and story
is very popular with Asian audiences.
Maybe they understand the story better
than some in the west.
This is a must have.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 06/01/2003
Summary: Confusing and Ambitious

"Confusing" is probably the first word that I would apply to the two Chinese Odyssey films (which were filmed and released back to back and can be considered as one 3 hour film to some degree, though thanks to a bit of time travel part 2 manages to be both a sequel and a prequel to part 1!). Part of the blame for the confusion has to go to the subtitles, which are not very well translated, but most of it is due to Jeff Lau's trademark "everything except the kitchen sink" approach to film making. There's a lot of characters (it's confusing even before they start switching bodies with each other), and the plot keeps darting off in different and unexpected directions, making it hard to follow. It's only loosely based on the Journey To The West story ("inspired by" is probably more appropriate - it shares a similar relation to its source material as ASHES OF TIME does to its).

"Ambitious" is definitely the second word I would apply to the film(s). Jeff Lau's time travelling thread weaving plot tries to bring together many themes and elements to say something profound about humans and their relationships. Due to the confusion factor, I have to say "ambitious" rather than "successful". Despite ripping off most of its soundtrack and a few ideas from Wong Kar Wai's ASHES OF TIME, the film doesn't manage to capture its deep thought and emotion provoking nature. Perhaps if I see it more times, and/or I spoke Cantonese (or a well subtitled version came out) it would have more effect on me though.

Although Stephen Chiau is undoubtedly the star of the films, his trademarked personality and humour are a little to the rear here, making it feel less like "A Stephen Chiau Film" than most of his pictures do. Actually the films aren't all that funny, though the expected nonsense and slapstick does crop up from time to time. I wouldn't consider the film(s) to be primarily a comedy though - especially towards the end, where the tone shifts ever more towards tragedy. Jeff Lau's underlying message is definitely that being a human is hard, even if you're an immortal or a monkey king.

By 1995 the wire-fu boom was well and truly over, and the fantastic style of action that Hong Kong developed was no longer a box office draw. I think this was Stephen Chiau's last wire-fu film, and one of the last produced in Hong Kong in the 90's. Ching Siu-Tung directs the action sequences, which are heavy on the stylised flying and twirling and fluttering style he developed. Maybe he was starting to run out of ideas by this point though, or there were just too many constraints given the nature of the film and the characters, as the action scenes aren't all that impressive. The grand finale features his trademark destruction of scenery on a truly remarkable scale, however.

Whilst I applaud its ambitiousness, the fact that I simply didn't understand a lot of what was going on (especially in part 2) did severely impede my enjoyment of the film. There are some films (many in the early 90's in fact) where not being able to follow the plot doesn't really detract from the enjoyment. Because of the film's ambitiousness it becomes a real issue for the Chinese Odysseys, however, and brings the score down to a 7/10. I suspect if I ever come to understand it more this score would rise quite a bit though.

Reviewed by: honloo
Date: 12/24/2002
Summary: Yammie Lam Kit Ying - Amazing Spider Woman

Stephen Chow's acting was ok, but the most amazing thing was the ever beautiful Yammie Lam Kit Ying acted as the evil spider woman.

Yammie become the admirer of all the bandits and she took control of them easily. Her beauty and acting put other actress at lowest grade including Karen Mok and Athena Chu Yan.

But, being the most beautiful of all, she accidentally had an affair with the ugliest guy on earth - Ng Man Tat.!!

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/14/2002
Summary: bad

Another poor example of Stephen Chow running out of jokes and ideas. I agree with most points made in the last review. I found this one as dull as most of his made at and after this time.

Rating: 2/5

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 01/17/2002
Summary: The worst method of spending 2 hours

Compared to Royal Tramp, King of Beggar and the rest of Chow's period pieces from early 90s, this movie is a total joke. I spent an entire fourty-five minutes watching absolutely nothing. The story developed an inch during the first hour, and finally started moving during the last half.

What (else) really sucks about this film is that it seems to borrow most, if not all, of its music from others. Most notable is transferred from ASHES OF TIME, which just ruined my mood (once again). The slow-moving, traditional (flute) music reminded me of the 60s movies about the Chinese revolution wars. What's more, they reminded me of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Good thing I can't say this movie borrowed music from CTHD (though it seems to have). Good plagerized music, but none original.

The second half contains some pretty good stuff, actually. The effects, for example, isn't all that chessy. The story became more dramatic and everybody more involving. Still, I don't know what it is that made me dispise its diversion from Journey to the West. It's okay to add/change plotlines, but I saw it as a disaster here.

The action is not good either. In fact, it's only comparable to the mediocre, entirely wire-based Semi Gods Demi Devils (Brigitte Lin, Gong Li). I felt the effects and fighting from the Journey to West TV series were more authentic, whereas the fights in this film are completely like those in a wuxia movie (Butterfly Sword), rather than like a fantasy folklore.

For comedy, it's got Stephen Chow's pants falling & people beating the crap out of Chow's balls (& setting it on fire?), just to name a few. Most of the attempts were painfully unfunny to me. However, I discovered that quantity works just as well as quality. When people continued to beat Chow's balls for long enough, it actually became more & more funny. Still, this is NOT a funny movie.

Overall, I was amazed at how bad and disappointing this movie is: Stephen Chow's worst movie I've ever seen so far. He just doesn't work as a HK version of the mainland folklore-based monkey king.


Reviewer Score: 2

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

I waited a long time to see this, mainly because I was waiting for a decent DVD release (which still hasn't happened). This movie is Chow's take on the Chinese classic Journey to the West (recently butchered in the US TV movie The Monkey King). Word of caution: if you aren't familiar with Journey to the West, a lot of this movie won't make much sense (even if you are, much of it doesn't, and the fact that a lot of the subtitles are unreadable doesn't help either...). The movie is a typical wuxia picture (with a Stephen Chow flavor to it), visually stunning, with lots of well-staged action sequences.

The plot is too complicated to summarize other than saying that Stephen plays the Monkey King who has been reincarnated in human form, and using a time-travelling device, he travels back in time 500 years to alter the course of events trying to save a beloved woman played by Karen Mok. In doing so, he learns a few truths about himself, his heart, and what his true destiny is. God, that sounds corny...

If you like wuxia pictures like BWWH, Swordsman Triogy, etc, then don't miss this one.

Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 04/28/2001
Summary: Side-splitting comedy by Chow

Even though this story is told in two separate films, both hold their own. Filled with marvelously fun fighting, comedy, relationships... the entertainment never ends. A definite watch for both sexes. Longevity Monk is a scream and the fight scenes with the Bull King are over-the-top. I laughed hardest at the beginning of the film where Chow (who does not know he is the Monkey King) is running away from a Spider Witch on his hands. It brought tears to the eyes of everyone watching!

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/28/2001
Summary: EXcellent

Chow Sing Chi's BEST!!!
Very funny movie!!
You want MORE after watching this, but like
i was disappointed by Part 2


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: stonemonkey
Date: 01/22/2001
Summary: A must-see movie for everyone!

This movie was such a huge surprise I am still in shock. Movie adaptations almost always end up shaming their namesake. This movie made that shame enjoyable and left you begging for more. Anyone who knows the real story of monkey king and has seen this movie will know what I am talking about when I say this is the greatest bastardized parody ever! I'm not sure if i should call it a parody because it has very little to do with the novel or the series it was based on. All I know is that I have never had so much fun watching a movie.

Stephen Chow was amazing. The story was compelling. This movie captured the essence of Hong Kong cinema. Those are just a few of the good points I can remember. Not without its flaws however. The action sequences could have been better in some areas. Overuse of cheap special effects (I understand and I don't blame them...It was necessary budget-wise and for humor.) Some of the smaller parts were very quirky and were played by annoying actors (Luckily, Stephen Chow is able to take control of every scene.)

Overall this movie is definitely a must-see (I wouldn't write so much if it wasn't worth it.) The first half of the movie was just a great foreplay that leads up to a great climax and eventually sets up for the sequel: "Chinese Odyssey Part Two - Cinderella", which is another great movie that you have to see. These two movies should have been realeased as one movie.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

Using the characters from the classic tale "Journey to the West,"this movie has the Monkey King banished to human form awaiting his master, the Longetivity Monk, to return him to his god-like form. Of course, it just so happens that the expected reunion between the Monkey King and the Longetivity Monk will happen in Stephen Chow's village. When a pair of evil sisters come to the village looking for revenge against the Monkey King, you know Stephen will end up in the middle of it. A fun movie mixing legend and comedy, with some often inspired genius by Stephen and director Jeff Lau. Unfortunately, the second part is a big letdown.

Reviewed by: MadMonkey
Date: 12/09/1999

A Chinese oddity, perhaps--with its recursive, time-bent plot and its twisted interpretation of the Journey to the West legend, ACO is a unique and thrilling spectacle, full of great effects (for HK), spectacular fighting, and some nice costume-period drama. YOU WILL BELIEVE STEPHEN CHOW IS THE MONKEY KING! I don't think that Chow was picked for the role so much as the legend itself was crafted for his embrace by ancient storytellers with an oracular bent; honestly, I've seen dramatic interpretations of this myth before, but never has there been an actor with the kind of preposterous gusto, physical slapdashery, verbal dexterity, and general comfort with monkeyshines that the role of Son Wu K'ung demands...until Stephen Chow, that is. Throw in the fact that Ng Man Tat was clearly born to play Pigsy, the Monkey King's companion on his travels with the Longevity Monk, and you've got a casting coup that will hardly be equaled in the annals of HK cinema. :) The story isn't really explicable, except in general terms: Chow is the reincarnated Monkey King, doomed to wear the form of a human until he is able to complete the original quest of the Journey to the West. Since the Longevity Monk sacrificed himself 500 years ago so that his disobedient simian disciple would not be sentenced to hell, this would seem to be impossible...until a magical treasure, Pandora's Box (why Greek mythology here?), enters the picture, with its ability to send its user back through time...suffice it to say that Chow as Joker, the Monkey King's human reincarnate, finds himself looped back into a time half a millennium away, and is given the opportunity to fix his ancient mistakes, as well as cast away the frailty of human desire. Is the ending a happy one? Bittersweet, perhaps... The tale is funny, by turns moving, exciting, and didactic, full of great comic strokes and brilliant twists of plot; the ending is a bit confusing, but why shouldn't it be? You may not like it, but you MUST watch it.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

What a great film! One of the best efforts of 1995. Whether you like Stephen Chow or not you will like this film. Chow does a great job as the "Monkey King". Karen Mok does a surprisingly good job too (I couldn't picture her in a costume film). A must!

[Reviewed by Martin Sauvageau]