Tag Archives: money problems

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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Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.