Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.

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Romeo Must Die

In what was considered Jet Li’s breakout American performance, I was a bit disappointed. (I personally though Lethal Weapon 4 really showcased a lot more skills…) The plot is just a crude, urban sampling from Romeo and Juliet. There were minimal stunt/fight scenes. Overall it wasn’t as action packed as the cover had led me to think. I guess I should’ve

An awkward couple?

expected half-assed amounts of martial arts from the director of Exit Wounds, Doom, and Street Fighter. Thanks a lot, Andrzej Bartkowiak…

Let’s just examine the plot to get a what bothers me about this movie. Two warring families. You have the Sing family, led by Ch’u Sing (Henry O). Then you have the black family led by Issak O’Day (Delroy Lindo. He’s that intelligent black man you see in a lot of films as a stock character actor. The smart version of Ving Rhames.) O’Day? What kind of last name is that for a black mafia family? And when have black gangs ever organized like the mafia in the first place? Weird…

This is the second time in a film I’ve seen a guy throwing a girl around…

So yes, I get the two warring families with Jet Li and Aaliyah in the middle. They don’t really love each other at first and you never get that onscreen chemistry from them. Never even a kiss. Just a hug. What I find weird is that they shot the kiss scene (that could’ve been placed anywhere in the film) and they chose to cut it out. Racist anyone? The screeners said it was awkward… Hmm…

Anyways, Jet Li is Han Sing, escaped from a high security prison in Hong Kong. He creatively escapes during one of the cooler fight scenes in the film, but how does he escape the country and make it all the way to Oakland? There is a real lack of police interference in this movie… Aaliyah is a beautiful young actress who (after watching this and The Queen of the Damned) really was taken too quickly from the

It’s all about the shades for Wong.

silver screen. She wasn’t like other R&B actresses onscreen who kinda flaunted their sex appeal. She came across as the cute girl next door you could believe and fall in love with. (Not so much in The Queen of the Damned, but just as good in that movie too.)

A beautiful and tragic young actress.

So Jet Li makes it to Oakland to discover something fishy going on with his father’s gang enterprise. His brother Po (Jon Kit Lee) has been murdered and Han Sing is on the case to find out what happened. (He used to be a police officer. Jackie Chan anyone?) The two star crossed lovers meet (if you can call them lovers) and their families war around them. With some betrayal and only the slightest bit of martial arts, this movie comes to its conclusion: happy ending.

But it wasn’t such a good ride to the happy end. Coming from a 2000 film, the ghetto speak was tired and old. If I had watched it when it had came out, I might be saying something different. But all the dawg’s and yo’s really wore on me… especially when the Chinese gangs used that slang, AND if showed up in

Some of that minimal martial arts.

their subtitle translations for some strange reason… I don’t think they have that kind of slang in the Chinese language…

And how racist this film was! It wasn’t just the speech, it was the music. Sure you have an all star cast doing the R&B hits for all the black gang scenes, but when it comes to cutting over to a scene with Jet Li or someone in the Asian gang, classical oriental music. The clangs and bows of what every person in America hears when they go into a Panda Express. There couldn’t be an infusion or anything more original for both gangs? This movie just seemed like a compare and contrast of races. The only crossover was that some black gang members miraculously knew proper Karate/Wushu form for no reason. Fancy that…

Get your head around that…

The acting was fine and I had no major complaints about that. But for some reason, and I don’t know how to put it into words, Anthony Anderson (co-star of some of the Scary Movies… and Kangaroo Jack…) just rubbed me the wrong way. He wasn’t funny, and seeing him get his ass handed to him by Jet Li just seemed satisfying… Overall though, the whole movie put me in a sour mood. I’ve seen better from Jet Li. This movie is one of those Asian/American films that takes the whole action/martial arts thing for granted. It sickened me a little bit. It was just too dated for me. They should’ve changed the title too… Romeo Must Die? More like A Vague Racist Action Movie About Building A Football Dome. There you go, all fixed. 4.3 out of 10.


Iron Monkey: Martial Arts in Flight

I have to say at first I was a bit skeptical about this movie. From the get go, the Iron Monkey/Robin Hood hero is flying through the air pulling off some ridiculous kicks and spin moves. It reminded me of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but in more of a comical way. And then I let all those inhibitions go and enjoyed the movie for its technique and visual thrill. By the end, I was pumped up, and inspired to go downstairs and try out some moves on my little sister. But it was 2 in the morning, and I was to lazy to beat up on a sleeping person.

Iron Monkey is the epic tale of a man with a hidden, superhero-like identity. Yang Tianchun (Yu Rongguang) is a medical doctor. He treats the poor for no fee and makes the rich pay what they feel is necessary to heal their ailments. Nights, Yang

Donnie Yen, the master.

moonlights as The Iron Monkey. He sneaks into the evil Governor Cheng’s (Jean Wang) chambers and steals from him. He defeats a dozen guards and four Shaolin monks. It is apparent that no one can stand up to the power of The Iron Monkey.

Wrought with despair at having any of his massive plunder taken, Governer Cheng orders the head of his guard, Fox (Yuen Shun-yi) to search and find anyone who could be the Iron Monkey. When a foreign physician/rapist martial artist rolls into town, Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen) and his son/disciple Wong Fei-hung (Angie Tsang) are arrested. Noticing Kei-ying’s power, the Governor enlists him to find the Iron Monkey, or he will leave his son in the dungeons forever. It is up to Donnie Yen in his fight for his son and the well being of a town who benefits from the one man he is trying to capture. Let the chase begin.

Angie Tsang, what amazing things she did with that stick.

After getting over the wire propelled stunts and kicks, I came to really enjoy the characters and the setting for this film. A remake from back in the 1970’s, this movie went farther and more elaborate than I’m sure the other film did. Based on a myth of the Wong father and son’s interaction with an “Iron Monkey” like character, a real mystery is placed around a Batman like character.

All of the fight scenes are dope. Every one is unique and takes place in a different location that utilizes the surroundings to pull off a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. And there are 4 martial artists whose skills are showcased. It’s not all about the Monkey. I

An evil power looms…

found that to be a relief from films that focus on the protagonist and no one else. The Iron Monkey actually had less fight scenes than anyone else!

And here’s another thing that blew my mind. Donnie Yen’s son in the film is actually played by a girl! Angie Tsang is on Hong Kong’s national Wushu martial arts team. She won silver in the Asian Games and Gold in the Wushu Championships. And the whole time I thought she was some malnourished little boy. I’m always thrilled to see a young woman destroying big burly guys on camera with skills she actually can do and will do in order to defend herself and utlimately kick you ass (i.e. Chocolate). A big bravo and props sent Angie’s way.

What a great last fight scene. Get some of that.

With an almost over the top plot with lots of great comic relief and fight scenes, this movie is something I would recommend to a lot of first time martial arts movie watchers. It has the plot in order to draw you in and then blows you back with the martial arts action. Donnie Yen is a martial arts destroyer as usual, and I plan to do a lot more reviews of his movies in the future (most likely his Ip Man films). This movie inspires you to fight for the weak and poor, and rightly so. It is the true way of a master. 8.2 out of 10. 

 


Bodyguards and Assassins: Poetry in Revolution

This foreign film from Hong Kong is a diamond in the rough on Netflix. I really gotta hand it to the foreign film section of Netflix in general. Whenever I wanna go for a movie that I didn’t even know was critically acclaimed, I check that shizz out. This movie surprised me. Me and my roommate Ian (that infamous Ian of my other blog posts) we love foreign martial arts films. We absolutely lose our shit when we watch these. And this one was like, “Okay, I’ll deliver that. But guess what. You’re going to feel like a G.D. revolutionary after you watch this film. Just wait.”

And wait we did. With a sweeping and dramatic 2hr. 20min. dramatic climax into some dramatic action scenes, this movie delivers intellectually and

There's definitely some of this.

emotionally. You may think, “Hm, Bodyguards and Assassins huh? Sounds like a straight ahead martial arts mind destruction machine.” And it should make you think that. Because that does happen. It teases you with a bit about 45 minutes in, but the last hour of the film really gives it to you on a grand scale.  In a historic context (they mention actual people and death dates in the movie, so many non-fiction?) this movie enters Hong Kong in a time of revolution and a call to action. This wonderful film pushes just what it means to sacrifice for your beliefs and what needs to be done to do so.

A time of revolution.

The plot of the film, as me and my friends struggled to understand at first, is that of a man named Sun Wen. This intellectual revolutionary intends to head to Hong Kong and debate on the issue of China’s corrupt Qing dynasty. With no safety and no secure way to get him into the city, a handful of citizens take up the call and arms in order to safeguard their country’s future. Headed by Chen Shaobai (Tony Leung Ka-fai) and Li Yutang (Wang Xueqi), these two older men who finance and head the revolution place their lifelihoods and lives on the line in order to see justice delievered.

The rickshaw driver makes his worth known.

With a unique cast with so many characters from so many parts of this small section of Hong Kong, it can be a hassle to try to keep them all straight. I had trouble myself, but I felt that the individual attention to storylines and amazing costumes and design really individualized each character. With each character came a heartful angle and allows audiences to connect. Not in a sappy way but in a way like… Black Hawk Down. You know they may not all survive, but you have hope and the want for them to do so. Everybody can have their favorite character, and it all works out.

And finally! Here comes a cinematographic film with great fight scenes not

What a picturesque scene.

directed or relating to Ang Lee. And no John Woo doves either. From director Teddy Chan (this guy has been busy since 1981…) and writer Peter Chan and Huang Jianxin (related? Not gonna assume due to racism…) comes a film that was worth the hype I didn’t hear and the Hong Kong Awards I didn’t know it won. 35 nominations and 13 wins from 4 different award affairs? Word. The action scenes though! Leave it to the Asians to make a hooked and metal linked harpoon into a deadly assassin weapon. Some of the fighting may have appeared overdramatic, but it led to a movie I would consider to be worth every minute.

What a great cast. Word.

I can’t talk specifically about the acting, but for most of the cast to be nominated for best actor or best supporting actor, I think, speaks for itself. As in most foreign films, I take the emotions I see through the characters actions and faces to be the true bridge between the gap in language. Another thought goes out to a good subtitled translation. It better sound more poetic than what they’re actually saying to work. If it sounds to corny of colloquial for even an American audience, it won’t cut it.

But this movie is definitely worth the watch. The beginning is slow with development, but it is well worth it by movie’s end. For those who love a good period piece that really has the feeling of the time its set in, check this out. And for those who love a damn good thrashing when it comes to action, be patient. It’s coming. Seeing as this is acclaimed and I loved the shit out of it, 9.3 out of 10 for a movie about Bodyguards and Assassins. Get some. 

Really. Get some.

 

 


Black Blood Brothers: More Vampires

This short little anime is a bit different from what I’ve recently been watching. Black Blood Brothers, better known as, basically, old vampires, is the story of, well, old vampires. Versus basically new vampires. It’s like Blade 2. This is essentially 12 episodes of an instance in the life of Jiro Mochizuki. He’s one of the old blood vampires that quelled the rebellion of the Kowloon Children at Hong Kong. Complicated backstory that is explained throughout the episodes. But this anime is basically about his return to Hong Kong, more specifically, the Special Zone.

Now this Special Zone is “special” because it is a safe haven for vampires. Of all sorts. Well, more vampires that are Kowloon Children. And this anime is about some Kowloon Children getting into the Special Zone. Unfortunately. Jiro is not initially allowed into the Special Zone, but he’s allowed “if” he helps quell a second rebellion. And this time, Jiro has his younger brother in tow. And with the help of a vampire mediator, we’ll

A handful of characters for you.

see what happens.

This vampire anime is a slightly different take on what it means to be a vampire. These vampires hate sun, but don’t necessarily die in it. They don’t like water either, and can die in it. They drink blood to replenish their powers, but won’t kill or turn humans who they suck blood from. Silver kills them for sure. And the humans utilize that to keep them in line. The only way humans (red bloods) can be turned into black bloods (vampires) is if vampires let humans drink a bit of their vampire blood. It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. (Unfortunately not in this anime.)

J. Michael Tatum as Jiro.

But yes, this is the story of Jiro vs. the Kowloon Children. And Jiro is done by quite the voice actor. J. Michael Tatum, a voice actor I met at Anime Boston, voiced Jiro, the Silver Blade. He does quite the good job at an English accent, and that’s due to his speech therapist, an old English hag (Just kidding). Colleen Clinkenbeard voices Mimiko Katsuragi, the mediator between the humans (The Company) and the vampires of the Special Zone. Colleen does great work and voices good female characters, one of the best female voice actors that Funimation provides. Jerry Jewell provides the voice for Zelman Clock, a rather mischievous old blood vampire with an affinity for fire and a vehement tongue, the perfect combo for Jerry Jewell himself. Brina Palencia

Jerry Jewell. Nice.

lends her voice for a few episodes as Yafuri Chao, a direct descendant of the Kowloon King and quite the formidable opponent of Jiro. And, last but never least, Christopher Sabat lends a Piccolo like voice as Cain Warlock, another gruff supporting character of the many anime that Christopher Sabat performs in. And this is just half of a cast the lends itself to a

Oh. And they can walk on walls.

decent performance in a short vampire anime.

Now the animation/art direction isn’t necessarily my cup of tea (or blood, if you prefer), but it does justice for itself in its own way. It’s not shonen, and yet its not seinen (Check Basilisk for the reference.). This line that Black Blood Brothers blurs is where it loses me. And the way in which the anime isn’t long enough either leaves it something that it’s desperately missing. These characters have done things that we only hear about through recall. Not direct interaction. And this is where it should’ve been a longer anime. But, all the same, it’s decent in its scope and the way it deals with vampires. 6.3 out of 10.


Rush Hour 3: And Chris Tucker Rides Out on the Horse He Rode in On

And sadly, the Rush Hour series draws to a close. In Detectives Carter and Lee’s last hurrah, the duo meets up after the untimely assassination attempt of the ambassador from Rush Hour that Detective Lee was assigned to protect. Lee (Jackie Chan) is determined with the help of Carter (the infamous Chris Tucker) to find the people responsible behind this attempt. As usual, another old man is behind it, (Max von Sydow) and there’s another attractive girl for Chris Tucker (Noemie Lenoir). Although not the best of the trilogy (Rush Hour 2 fo life.), this one holds its own as another great Brett Ratner piece.

What has always surprised me about the Rush Hour series is just how great and accurate the locations are that Lee and Carter travel to. We have L.A. in the orig, Hong Kong and Las Vegas in the second, and now L.A. and Paris in

Paris, Biatch!

the third. Just like the Bourne Series, these movies span the world and keep the action coming. (But Matt Damon cannot perform the functions of both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and in that way, lack somewhat.) The B-roll footage all around picturesque Paris is quite cool, including shots of a recreated Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumphe (I hope that’ s how it’s spelled…). The stunts are really notable in this film, and I love how they end the movies with bloopers of Jackie Chan hurting himself doing his own stunts.

Notable actors? There are a few. We have as I mentioned Max von Sydow as the evil old man (quite cantankerous). Most notably I remember him from Minority Report, but he’s been in the biz for a while now.

Not actually brothers.

There’s Hiroyuki Sanada as Kenji, the badass orphan brother of Detective Lee. (They’re not actually brothers at all, they just grew up on the streets together. Which is weird, because Jackie Chan is Chinese and Hiroyuki is Japanese. It’s quite noticeable.) There’s also Yvan Attal, a traditionally French actor who made an appearance in this movie as George, the taxi cab driver. I do like it when they use actual actors from their places of origin in travel movies like these.

Other than that, this movie functions purely as a nice little closing to the Rush Hour series. The Triads are defeated when the list is found, Lee and Carter went through their rough patches and became even closer, it’s all good. It’s just truly a feel good movie. Besides a couple of parts. I would put this on Ross LaManna and Jeff Nathanson, but it might partly be the fault of Chris Tucker’s delivery. There a quite a few racist remarks that are made towards Iranians, French, and even a feel of American supremacy while Lee and Carter parade around France. It’s almost unbearably awkward. I would watch out for it, but at this point, Chris Tucker is untouchable.

 

Chris Tucker. Untouchable

The stunts are good, maybe better than the other two. Brett Ratner again directs the movie to the best of his ability, that’s fine. Chris Tucker is hilarious (to an extent) and there are some hot and steamy scenes in this you won’t wanna miss. I’d give this one an average rating in comparison to the entire series. 6.6 out of 10.


Rush Hour 2: Chris Tucker Returns

So right after watching the first Rush Hour, I was like, “Let’s spark up the next one.” These movies are great and I need to watch them all in pretty rapid order. I mean, come on, it’s Chris Tucker. And you may be postulating, “What if the movie was called Traffic Jam and it starred Jet Li and Chris Rock?” Well I hear what you’re saying friend, but then we’re talking about a movie that’s not funny in which people die quite quickly. Call it Traffic Jam if you’d like, I’ll still go for Rush Hour 1-3.

So, basic plot. Detectives Carter (Chris Tucker) and Lee (Jackie Chan) have teamed up again, except this time, it’s different. (Straight out of the trailer, right?) This time, Detective Carter is on vacation, right where the last one dropped off, in China. Good old Hong Kong. But while there, a bomb goes off on U.S. soil at the local American Embassy, and somebody sinister is to blame. Detective Lee takes on the case, pulling along the constantly, yet hilariously bitching and moaning Carter as they cavort through the streets of Hong Kong (and later Las Vegas) in search of those no good hoodlums.

Now this movie is a step up in acting in comparison from the last movie. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan are golden. We lose Tom Wilkinson as Juntao, but we gain John Lone as Ricky Tan, the triad boss and former friend of Detective Lee’s father (although I would find it hard to believe that Lee and Tan are actually closer in age than would be Lee’s father…) I didn’t realize how great

John Lone

John Lone really was. He’s been in War, (shortly after RH2) The Last Emperor, Year of the Dragon, and even a remake at the start of his career as a bit piece in King Kong (Chinese cook, 1976). Now that’s a great career if you ask me, especially The Last Emperor, that movie’s fantastic.

What surprised me more that I had forgotten about was that Ziyi Zhang is in this film. With all the movies she’s been in, I feel like she must be the pride and joy of China (besides Jackie Chan). But Ziyi is great as Hu Li, the badass woman who takes no crap and destroys Chris Tucker. I actually would love to take a second to recap her amazing career:

Ziyi Zhang. Yes.

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ridiculously good)

2. Rush Hour 2 (Great, reviewing it currently)

3. The Warrior

4. Hero (She’s worked with Jackie Chan AND Jet Li)

5. House of Flying Daggers (SO visually appealing)

6. Memoirs of a Geisha (Award winning)

7. Even TMNT (Voice acting at its finest)

So yeah, I would definitely think that Ziyi Zhang is a big deal. Her fighting is great and she’s really beautiful. Definite Top 10 actresses in my book.

We also have the amazingly gorgeous Roselyn Sanchez, the Puerto Rican goddess who has done her fair share of acting. She plays the sassy, no

Roselyn Sanchez. Puerto Rican Goddess

nonsense undercover agent with a smokin’ body, Isabella Molina. Although she doesn’t come in until later, this woman definitely lights up the screen.

Again, this movie is classic, suave, and full of Chris Tucker in a robe. What more could you want, I’ll throw something your way, sir. Comedy. And Chris Tucker has it all. Black comedy, situational quips and humor, observational comedy, rapport, slapstick. He’s got all that shizz on lockdown. Talk about your A-list comedian. The buck stops here with Chris Tucker.

Only the best.

I really feel like Brett Ratner and Ross LaManna have done it again with the sequel to a great movie. The moves and stunts this time are tighter, faster. Chris Tucker has picked up some moves. The Chinese girls are hot, spicy even. Ziyi Zhang brings a new kind of evil to the screen. The plot thickens and then disperses. And I can’t wait for the next one. 7.7 out of 10.