Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 84
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Chinese Ghost Story
Chinese Ghost Story, A
By Roman Martel
February 07, 2002
Release Date: February 08, 2000
Overall Rating: 3.5
(on a scale of 1-5)
Acting: Cantonese: 4
Hello there, everyone. This time I'm gonna try and do things a little differently. I've seen a few requests to do more content orientated reviews. And, even though I try to do that with every title I review I'm gonna try and do even more this time. Besides, my background is in film and literature and all this technical stuff is still pretty confusing to me. Here's how this will work. I'll spend the first part of the review on the technical side, (picture, sound quality and that stuff). The second half will cover the artistic and content parts of the review. I will not include spoilers in the main body of the review (I might have a section at the end that contains them). Let's see how this works and if you like it better, or worse, or didn't notice a difference. Feel free to send me an E-mail at email@example.com
Now on with the review.
Well, since we have yet another disc from Pioneer we can expect more of the same excellent work. The sound and picture were top notch on my set up. The picture looked especially sharp to me. There were a few nicks and pops here and there, but overall it was really great looking. The menus were fast and functional with nice backgrounds. No motion or music but they work just fine. The overall presentation is very good. The cover catches your attention and has most of the information on it (missing region coding and the fact that film can be watched in Cantonese, Mandarin and English). The goodies are pretty neat. You get the following: character information, the theatrical trailer, and a text interview with Tsui Hark.
I must mention something I noticed while switching languages during my second viewing. The subtitles are timed for the Cantonese voice track. This means that when you watch it in Mandarin the subtitles are slightly off at times. This of course raises questions of an accurate translation. Makes you think, no? Not a bad job overall on the disc from Pioneer. The information on the packaging and the weird sub track are the only problems I see.
A Chinese Ghost Story follows the adventures of Ning, and the Solid Gold
Dancers! Sorry I just had a flashback when he said the name of the dog was Solid Gold. Wow! I just revealed how old I was didn't I? ;-) You see Ning has been dumped by the love of his life. She got tired of never seeing him while he was away making enough money to marry her. So she goes off and finds someone who is prepared to be there for her and is financially ready. Poor Ning is left with his dog (Solid Gold! - Get funky) and his shattered dreams. So now he works to take his mind off his love.
He has taken the job of a debt collector (what if the person decided not to pay Ning? He doesn't look like a repo-man to me!). His job is to go into the wilds of China and collect some outstanding debts. For some reason no one wanted this job. This should have tipped off Ning, but the boy is very simple minded even though he is nice to a fault.
Of course the reason no one wanted the job was because the area is infested with ghosts! Our goofy young hero manages to get himself into one mess after another. Luckily most of the ghosts are just as goofy as he is and so there is no real danger. He does meet a beautiful ghost-girl named Siu Seen. But does she like Ning for himself or for his living soul? Does Ning really care? Not too much.
In the process Ning also encounters 3 exorcists. These guys are more dangerous than the ghosts! So now Ning must protect his new beloved from these guys as well as keeping himself and Solid Gold (Feel the funk y'all) alive.
The animation in this film is kinda strange. This is due mostly to the fact that most of the backgrounds and effects are done with computers. Now this film predates Toy Story, so some of the stuff here looks a little like video game graphics. Now add the hand drawn animation on top of it and the result is just plain weird. You'll either like it or hate it. The part that bothered me was that most of the character animation was very choppy. I think they were hoping that you would be too busy watching the cool CG that wouldn't see the characters moving in a staccato fashion.
Most of the sound design is really cool. The Exorcists have some very cool spells and weapons and the sounds that accompany them are work very well. The opening scene has some really great use of sound and works to pull you in and around the Re-boot-esque creatures. The ghosts also come with their own variety of unique sound design. But I suppose you have to have some great sound to accompany the grand visuals that the CG creates.
The Cantonese voice acting was very good. Looks like they were getting into it and having fun. The dog, Solid Gold (Do a little dance) was voiced by Tsui Hark, the producer. He does a great job. Now the English cast... well... they tried. But the results aren't very pretty. I recognized some voices from Ranma here and there. Now as much as I like them in Ranma, they just didn't work here. One of the goofiest was the voice actor for Redbeard (one of the exorcists) . Now Redbeard looks a lot like Yosemite Sam and the English voice actor may going for that style... You be the judge. But I warn you now it may be too much for you to endure. (For those of you who don't know, I don't mind dubs. I'm pretty open to them.) Looking back on the English dub I think they were going for a young target audience and so they added some vocal color to the acting. In other words they all sound like they are on a sugar high and shout almost all the lines. The music and songs were very good (in Cantonese). They also supported the story and added to the overall feel of the show. Even the music video style of Siu Seen's song wasn't too out of place. Avoid the songs in English. They hurt and should not be exposed to humans at temperatures above -245 degrees... Kelvin.
Now lets move on to the plot. Well the story itself is very simple. But there is one slight problem. You get introduced to a new character every 5 minutes (give or take a couple). Most of these characters aren't fleshed out and some are even dropped completely. It seems to me that this would have made a wonderful multi-episode series or TV show. Instead we get a movie that moves at breakneck speed and characters that aren't too developed. It's amusing and fun, but it just missed the mark. In the end you just sit back and wonder where the time went. This problem is increased in the dub. For some reason I had some trouble following the characters in the dub. It was easier to read the subtitles and figure out what was going on. I'm sure the pain of the dub didn't help.
Overall, it's not bad. It's not great. It just is. There was plenty of potential for some interesting stuff to go on here. You have all the ingredients. I think we are just missing the time to explore them. Heck the movie even feels as if it's several episodes squished together to make a movie. You'll have fun, but I don't know if you want to own it. This one feels like a rental to me folks.
Hitachi GD-2000 DVD ROM, Cinemaster QI DVD Player (application), Dell Model UltraScan D1025HTX Color Monitor, ACS295 Atltec Lansing Speakers (right, left, Subwoofer)