Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Heat

--> The Heat pairs Bridesmaids director Paul Fieg and Melissa McCarthy together again and tells the tale of…oh who cares. Look, I want you to close your eyes. They closed? Now, I want you to picture a buddy comedy from the 1980’s or early 1990’s wherein one cop is an uptight control freak who only does things ‘by the book’ and doesn’t know how to cut loose. You picturing it?  Now, imagine that cop suddenly finds his/herself in a scenario that forces him/her to partner up with someone. Who is that someone going to be? Well, the perfect and only fit for the job is a party animal, loose cannon of a cop that’s a slob and is reckless with the rules but, well, gets results. Eventually the two go from hating each other to embracing each other’s differences. The uptight cop loosens up and the loose cannon starts to follow the rules a bit more and maybe even gets some sort of promotion. Can you see it? Picture the action, picture the actors, the Oscar and Felixness of it all. Well, congratulations, you just pictured The Heat.

Look, it’s not like it’s a bad movie per se. It’s just not anything remotely new. It’s been done on the big and small screen in various forms throughout the decades. Many great actors have done it well and it is a formula that makes for an easy laugh. But, boy oh boy, is it formulaic. That said, McCarthy and Bullock do give the occasional laugh out loud moment and it’s, overall, a fun ride. If you want something that is essentially a bag of M&M’s, then this is your movie. If you want something with more nuance and substance, well, skip it. You’ve seen this movie before. If you want to see it again with new actors, check out The Heat. Instead, may I recommend something in a nice 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Return of the Chinese Boxer

The Japanese are planning to take over China, but first, they need to form alliances with opportunistic and powerful Chinese generals, take the princess hostage and decide which fighting style to use in the coup. Well, they may have planned well, but nothing seems to be able to stop the Chinese superman that is The Chinese Boxer. You know what? The plot doesn’t really matter and it seems pretty darn clear the filmmakers weren’t too concerned with it either. In reality, this sequel to Chinese Boxer is really one excuse after another to get the irreplaceable Jimmy Wang Yu fighting with his boxing style against a colorful array of foes, everything from muay thai boxing to zombies. Yeah, you heard me, the Japanese even try zombies.

Like a lot of Wang Yu’s movies, this one is all about his wacky personality and fight scenes. The rest is really just fluff and filler. As such, it’s predictable, silly and often completely ridiculous. If you’re like me and love watching this sort of crap, then it’s for you, but if things like watching a dude kung fu zombies with 70’s haircuts doesn’t interest you, well, nothing I’m gonna say is going to get you into it. But, if that’s your scene, this is your kind of flick. It’s hilarious, absurd and full of ass kicking. Like Chinese Boxer, it too influenced aspects of Kill Bill and, if you’re a total nerd for Tarantino, it might be worth watching just for that purpose. Remember when the Gordon Liu character jumps up on the tip of Uma’s sword and laughs at her? Yep, that’s in here. So is other stuff.

Jimmy Wang Yu was one of the Shaw Brother’s biggest stars and starred in and directed tons of great chop sake flicks. This one isn’t the best (may I humbly recommend you check out Master of the Flying Guillotine), but it’s fun and funny and worth a watch, but maybe after a plate of edibles, though. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Return of the Chinese Boxer at Hollywood Theater Tomorrow Night Only!

Tomorrow night at 7:30pm, the good folks at Hollywood Theater here in Portland will be showing a rare 35mm print of Return of the Chinese Boxer. It stars Jimmy Wang Yu, was a big influence on Kill Bill and features zombie ninjas. If I need to tell you anymore than that, then we can’t be friends anymore. Did I mention it’s only $8? Did I mention they’re going to be selling t-shirts of the movie? Did I mention the zombie ninjas? Zombie ninjas kids. Zombie. Ninjas.

Go see this.

Ip Man

Ip Man is a 2008 action film that tells a portion of the life story of real life badass Yip Man. Yip was a grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu and people traveled for many miles to study under his tutelage. He was known by Kung Fu aficionados worldwide, but became super famous when one of his star pupils took the stage name Bruce Lee and became the first martial arts film stars, the first Chinese actor to launch a career in the west and…well…became Bruce Lee.  There is Ip Man and Ip Man 2, but only the latter includes Mr. Lee. The former, rather, tells the story of a particularly formative and difficult period in Ip Man’s life. You see, as a Kung Fu grandmaster, considered one of the historical pillars of Kung Fu, Ip Man enjoyed a life of wealth and celebrity. Like modern celebrities, people just gave him shit and he lived the high life with his family in a big palace in Foshan, China and things were peaceful and awesome. Then, the Sino-Japanese War broke out and the Japanese didn’t care about Kung Fu or his status. They threw him in the mines like everyone else and he began to start and truly struggle.
This nearly broke him, but then he began to see how the Japanese soldiers were truly abusing his fellow Chinese brethren and, in classic Clint Eastwood fashion, he just wasn’t going to stand for that.
He heard about how the Japanese actually had plenty of rice for the folks of Foshan, but were holding onto it because they heard Foshan was a famous epicenter of Kung Fu and they wanted to watch the monkeys dance. They gave out meager rations and basically starved the folks of Foshan and said they would give extra rice to any of the so-called Kung Fu practitioners who could defeat their Japanese martial artists. The Japanese guys were trained killers and the Chinese guys were worked all day in the mines and suffering from malnutrition, so, basically, it was a bluff and the Japanese guys were just kicking the shit out of the Chinese guys. Well, when Ip Man heard this was going on, something snapped.
Legend has it that he walks in and says he won’t take on one of their guys, but insists on taking on at least ten. He takes on all comers in that fight and many to follow and takes folks to school left and right, giving the rice out to his starving brothers and sisters. His legend freaking explodes. The movie ends with the end of the war on the cliffhanger of Ip Man winning a big fight but leaving it badly injured. No, it’s not a spoiler. Folks, there’s a sequel.
Just about everything about this movie is fantastic. The production design is beautiful. The sets, settings and intricate detail to the interiors and costumes are out of this world good. The cinematography is also truly fantastic. The fight choreography was done by Kung Fu movie legend Sammo Hung and won all sorts of awards back in China. The fighting is so good that cats were injured left and right during the filming. Dude got kicked in the face full on (a moment they thankfully caught on film and incorporated into the scene) and Donnie Yen, who plays Ip Man, had his left eye sliced open by an axe. An axe y’all! Yen also spent years, that’s right, YEARS, training and undergoing a strict diet just so he could authentically portray the grandmaster. In other words, they do a ton to make it gorgeous and super authentic and it pays off. My sole complaint in the whole thing is that they dwell on the war and destruction stuff a bit much. It should have been trimmed down a bit and seemed to belabor the point. I get it, war is terrible, you made your point, now move on with the story por favor.
 That said, this truly is my only complaint. The rest of the movie is really fantastic. They somehow make it feel modern and traditional at the same time. It’s beautiful to watch and the fight scenes are truly fantastic. So, if you dig on action flicks, skip the Michael Bay crap and pick up Ip Man. Donnie Yen for life!