Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (2010)

Master, You Really Can Fight Ten Men at Once.

As I come towards the end of my first year of reviews, I came to realize that I had started a few things that I had left unfinished.  The first one I realized was a movie I had reviewed, but had not reviewed the sequel.  And, I coincidentally noticed it because I felt like watching the movie again.  I had reviewed the first movie back in November, and I also raved about it being one of the better martial arts movies in recent history.  Solid storytelling mixed with fantastic fight scenes and some good performances as well.  I had been told about how that one was a great martial arts movie so I decided to give it a watch, but I accidentally watched the lesser prequel instead.  I still liked the prequel so much that I instantly went out and purchased the first movie and today’s movie.  How did that work out for me?  We’ll find out in my review of Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster, written by Edmond Wong, directed by Wilson Yip, and starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Darren Shahlavi, Huang Xiaoming, Lynn Hung, Charles Mayer, Kent Cheng, Fan Siu-wong, To Yu-hang, Ngo Ka-nin, Simon Yam, Calvin Cheng, Lo Mang, Fung Hak-on, and Brian Burrell.

After the events of the first movie, the Wing Chun martial arts master Ip Man (Donnie Yen) moves with his family to Hong Kong to open a school.  At first, it’s slow going, but then a young man named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) comes along and becomes his student, and soon more follow.  And with these new students comes trouble when Wong Leung gets held hostage after getting into a fight with members of another martial arts school.  When Ip Man goes to rescue him, he comes into contact with Hung Chun-nam (Sammo Hung), who tells Ip Man that he must fight the other masters before he can teach in Hong Kong.  Also, a western boxer named Taylor “The Twister” Milos (Darren Shahlavi) is coming to Hong Kong for an exhibition, and that’ll probably turn into something as well.

One could argue that Ip Man 2 suffers from roughly the same problems as most martial arts movies, but it also benefits from the same things they do.  The story is pretty basic.  It’s a fantasy version of Yip Man’s actual life, taking things that are told about the man and amping them up so that they’ll make for an interesting martial arts movie, and it accomplishes that very well.  It boils down to two fairly common stories from martial arts movies put together.  It starts off as the regular old “My Martial Arts is Better Than Your Martial Arts” storyline that is the root of so many martial arts movies.  Then it turns into an equally as common “West vs. East” storyline to round out the movie.  All stuff fans of the genre have seen before.  They have a little bit of a personal story going on with Ip Man and his family, and the threats of his poverty, but none of that’s really mined for emotion.  They do spend enough time with each character that we’re supposed to care about, so I guess they can be lauded for that.

What they really deserve to be lauded for is the martial arts.  I love the fight scenes in the Ip Man series.  They’re all spectacular.  I still think the fight with 10 guys from the first movie is the best fight scene in the series, but there are still plenty quality ones to be found in this movie.  The first big fight in the fish market pretty spectacular because of the number of people involved, but the choreography of the 10 man fight still impressed me more.  The same goes for the fight with the various martial arts masters on the table later in the movie.  Pretty cool, interesting idea, but not quite up to the high bar they already set.  A good contender would be the final fight with “The Twister” Milos.  It was the only fight that it seemed that Ip Man could possibly lose.  Granted, you know he’ll win because he’s the hero, but you need a little danger or emotion to really get a fight up to spectacular status.  It’s still always a pleasure to watch Donnie Yen do that machine gun style punching he does as Ip Man.  I could watch a .gif of that all day long.

The performances all do their parts nicely, but it never really requires that much out of them.  Donnie Yen performs his few moments of emotion very well, but who really cares about that?  He punches faces great.  I had the same problem with Lynn Hung as I had in the first movie in that she was always a bummer and a buzzkill, but she wasn’t around that often.  Sammo Hung is always interesting to me.  He just does not look like a guy that should be a martial arts star, but the guy knows what he’s doing.  He’s really good at directing action as well.  I’ve usually liked his work.  Like in Game of Death when he had a similar fight to the one he has in this one where he’s outmatched by the white dude, but this time it actually had significance to the story.  Darren Shahlavi could be knocked for being over the top in his portrayal of the bad guy, Taylor “The Twister” Milos, but it’s kind of what the role calls for.  We have to hate this guy, and we wouldn’t really hate him too badly if he accidentally killed someone in a fair fight that he had not started.  He’s got to be a sociopath that starts all the fights by randomly hating Chinese people, and then he’s got to beat one to death with his hands and try to cheat later on.  Now we can hate you.  They even have a bit in the end of the movie where a little boy shows up as Bruce Lee, who Yip Man actually trained.  The kid goes a little overboard with the Bruce Lee impersonation, but he does look eerily like I imagine Bruce Lee would at that age.

Ip Man 2 is still a really good martial arts movie.  I’d say that the first movie was probably better, but both of them have solid stories, both of them have solid performances, and both of them offer fantastic fight scenes.  I’d say that the first movie proves itself a little bit better in the fight category, but this one does not disappoint.  If you’re a fan of the martial arts genre, this is a movie you should see.  You could do worse than watching it even if you’re not a fan of the genre.  I have this movie on BluRay, and I’ll let you figure out where you can find it if you want to watch it.  Not like Netflix or RedBox are paying me.  Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster gets “No need to tell me all this.  Let’s just fight” out of “Doesn’t matter.  He’s better than you anyway.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Game of Death (1978)

What Must Be Done is Being Done.

When I reviewed Fist of Fury, my coworker friend Markle felt it was necessary to come to the defense of his fellow Asian Bruce Lee and request a movie that he felt would redeem the man.  He requested today’s movie and I pretty much forgot about it.  But today I had been looking for something that I could watch in my living room so that I could watch the movie while using my stationary bike to increase my sexy and hopefully make Markle leave his lady to get a little piece of the Robert, but I had no movies from Netflix in, and I haven’t seen anything on RedBox I wanted to watch in some time now.  I instead decided to browse through my Netflix instant queue to see if there was any talent within, and I found the movie Markle had requested.  So I decided to review Game of Death, originally written by Bruce Lee, but rewritten by Jan Spears, directed by Robert Clouse with the action choreographed by Sammo Hung, and starring Bruce Lee, Kim Tai-jong, Yuen Biao, Dean Jagger, Gig Young, Colleen Camp, Mel Novak, James Tien, Robert Wall, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chuck Norris, and Sammo Hung.

A criminal syndicate, run by Dr. Land (Dean Jagger), is trying to pressure a martial arts movie star named Billy Lo (Bruce Lee, Kim Tai-jong, or Yuen Biao depending on when you’re looking) into signing a contract with them.  Both Billy and his fiancée Ann Morris (Colleen Camp) refuse, so the pressure is amped up, getting them attacked numerous times.  It reaches its peak when Land’s assassin, Stick (Mel Novak), sneaks onto the set of Billy’s latest film and replaces a blank with a real bullet, hitting Billy in the face.  Working with a reporter friend named Jim Marshall (Gig Young) and the doctor, Billy fakes his death so that he can take the fight to Dr. Land and take them by surprise.

What in the hell is wrong with Markle?  This movie sucked.  But the reason this movie sucked was not because of Bruce Lee.  It was because of the lack of Bruce Lee.  Bruce Lee actually died during the production of this movie, but the director wasn’t about to let that little hiccup slow him down.  He decided to use the 11 minutes that Bruce had filmed of the movie – along with scenes from his other movies and body doubles – to make Bruce appear in the movie anyway.  They seemingly had to hastily rewrite the intended story in order to make it work and explain why you couldn’t often see Bruce Lee’s character, and the story shows it.  But the story itself isn’t really all that bad for a martial arts movie; it was just hard to figure that out when I kept getting distracted by how badly Bruce was substituted.  We’ll get to that in the next paragraph.  I feel like the movie might not have been that bad if someone could go back in and use the technology of today to put Bruce into the whole movie, young Jeff Bridges style.  It’s fairly typical stuff for a martial arts movie.  The bad guy does something to the main character that pisses him off, and he fixes everything with the power of his fists.  Before he’s figured that part out, he wastes a pretty good amount of time going around talking to people about what he should do in this situation.  I too feel that the first places I go when I have a problem are a reporter and a Kabuki actor.  I also thought it was a strange bit of horrible coincidence that a large part of the movie revolves around shooting blanks at Billy but them actually killing him because that same thing would lead to the death of Bruce’s son later on.  But I wasn’t really worried when Billy got shot in the movie.  They had plenty of backup Billy’s apparently, and it would just be an excuse to wrap his face up for a large portion of the movie.  The ending of the movie was also really lackluster.  The bad guy dies.  ALL WRAPPED UP!  Let’s go home, gentlemen.  Good work!

Obviously, the look was my biggest issue with the movie.  More specifically, the shitty way that they patched in Bruce Lee when he wasn’t actually there.  It was always obvious and usually distracting.  If you’d like the best example of how bad it was, it would have to be the part where they literally taped a cardboard cutout of Bruce Lee’s face on a mirror over the face of the substitute.  That is not a joke.  They also were big fans of using their actor and cutting away to a picture of Bruce Lee’s eyes, or his scene from one of his other movies.  He has an entire fight with Chuck Norris in the movie that was just clips from Way of the Dragon.  I guess Chuck Norris is so powerful that he roundhouse kicked that movie and it ended up in this movie.  They also used a lot of stand in work, but they were both obviously not Bruce Lee, and that’s saying a lot since my racism makes me think they all look the same.  I’m pretty sure Markle and my friend TimKim stood in for Bruce Lee at one point in this movie.  The fights involving the non-Bruce people were not that spectacular, but the fights where Bruce Lee was actually there were good.  The bulk of it is in the last 20 minutes of the movie, which is also the only parts of the movie that I would say are worth watching.  Thankfully, you can skip right there with Netflix and get everything you need out of the movie.  Horribly, I was not afforded that luxury.  But the last 20 minutes is good times, while actually not being much more than a series of Bruce Lee fights back to back.  The first one starts as a fight where Bruce puts a Charles Manson style X on the forehead of his enemy with a jade fishing pole, then a standard fight, and the boss battle with a giant black man.

I can’t really say anything about Bruce Lee’s performance in this movie.  He didn’t offer one.  The only scenes he’s in are fights at the end of the movie.  The stand in people are wooden and unconvincing, and the people that dubbed his voice made Bruce Lee’s trademark “WAAAAAAAH”’s in battle sound really goofy.  Dean Jagger was actually an interesting character to me.  I liked that he was a mob boss but didn’t choose to take the standard intimidating guy performance.  He actually seemed likeable.  And it was also nice that he never really discussed their crimes openly with his associates, as if there was a chance he was being recorded at all times.  I actually liked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in this movie.  But he also didn’t really speak.  He was just a gigantic black guy fighting tiny Asian people.  I think it should also serve as a lesson that you should never teach giant black guys martial arts.  They would be too powerful!  It’s bad enough that tiny Asian people can use them against us!  The guy Bruce fought right before him caused me to laugh out loud too because, when they met, he obviously said something, but they muted him.  So he just stands there for about 10 seconds moving his mouth in silence before they start to throw down.

Aside from the last 20 minutes of the movie, Game of Death is a total failure in filmmaking.  The story was pretty basic.  At least I think it was, as I was too distracted through the entire movie with the horrible way they tried to have Bruce Lee in this movie when he wasn’t there.  The fights that they have that Bruce had already recorded were good, but the rest were just bad.  Personally, I think this movie should have died when Bruce did.  There was nothing in the bulk of this movie worth seeing for anything other than an instruction in what not to do.  I recommend the last 20 minutes of this movie for viewing, and the rest of the movie for burning.  Game of Death gets “A venereal disease.  Often terminal” out of “You lose, Carl Miller!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Mr. Nice Guy (1998)

I’m a TV Chef, but I’m Asian so I Also Know Kung Fu.

I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted to watch today.  I definitely didn’t want to keep going with the Batman theme because I didn’t want to oversaturate myself, even with something good.  I finally decided that I was in the mood to watch people punch each other in the face.  A martial arts movie would take care of that.  I also felt like it should be something fun, and there’s only one martial artist that I think of when I think of fun martial arts movies.  That’s Jackie Chan.  So I went to my DVD collection to see if anything stuck out for me.  Then I remembered that most of his movies were basically the same movie as far as I was concerned.  So I randomly grabbed Mr. Nice Guy, written by Edward Tang and Ma Fibe, directed by Sammo Hung, and starring Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Miki Lee, Karen McLymont, Vince Poletto, Barry Otto, Peter Lindsay, Peter Houghton, Rachel Blakely, David No, Sammo Hung, and Emil Chau.

A journalist named Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) records a drug deal between an Italian mob boss named Giancarlo (Richard Norton) and a street gang known as the Demons.  She also records the deal going sour as Giancarlo shoots the leader of the Demons, and then she records them seeing her and her cameraman.  They run away and split up, and Diana runs into a TV chef named Jackie (Jackie Chan), who is Asian and thusly knows kung fu and helps her escape.  While escaping in Jackie’s car, Diana accidentally switches the tape of the drug deal with one of Jackie’s cooking tapes.  When the mob tracks Diana down, they find that she doesn’t have the tape, so they set their sights on Jackie.  But they seem to have forgotten that he is Asian and knows kung fu, and he will defeat them with his fists!

This is certainly the kind of movie I think of when I think of a Jackie Chan movie.  The story is dumb and ridiculous, the performances are lackluster, but the action is fun.  I wouldn’t call this a good movie, but I’d go so far as to say it’s a fine movie to shut off your brain and just enjoy for what it is.  The story is pretty simple and often goofy and nonsensical.  At its core, it’s just about a drug cartel hunting a TV chef, and I’m sure we’ve all seen that story before.  Then they add a couple more ridiculous and improbable things, such as a random biker wedding that Jackie runs through at some point when trying to escape Giancarlo’s men.  But they were in Australia, and I’m sure that kind of thing goes on roughly every day down there.  They certainly have the worst excuse for cops down there, as shown in the scene where Jackie is trying to make a swap with the gang for his girlfriend.  They follow immediately behind him despite his protests, wear obvious earpieces to keep in communication, and even bulletproof vests.  If that doesn’t spell “inconspicuous”, then I don’t know what does.  They also do something that I’ve taken issue with in movies before.  I’ve seen it so many times in movies where someone is watching a tape that is supposedly filmed from one camera and one vantage point, but when they play it back on the TV it’s clearly just the footage from the movie, able to make the close ups and camera angles it needs to.  You’d think they’d be able to see the cameraman sooner with him holding the camera an inch from their face.  The biggest thing that gets to me about the story of so many Jackie Chan movies that I’ve seen is that he quite often plays a character named Jackie.  What’s the story behind that, I wonder.  Can he not remember the name of a character he’s supposed to be portraying, or are the writers just lazy?  Either way, two people in this movie share their names with their character, and it perplexes me.  But the story of this movie is really not meant to impress as best I can tell.  It’s more played for comedy and action.  The comedy rarely sinks in as all that funny to me.  Obviously you’ll have a lot of slapstick and comedy coming up in the fight scenes because that’s how Jackie rolls.  They also got some mileage out of Miki not being able to speak English, but usually having just enough knowledge of the language to understand a few words heard out of context so that she can think Jackie is cheating on her, or that Lakeisha is saying she has small boobs.  A part in the movie I did actually think was funny was Sammo Hung’s whole scene.  He just had a brief part in the movie as a cyclist, and the comedy in the scene was mostly slapstick, but the things he said around it got a chuckle out of me.  I would say I took issues with the ending of the movie as well because not a whole lot really happened.  I would say it was poorly written, but great in the spectacle and action.  Let’s just say it brought the roof down.

That seems like a good opportunity to switch into talking about the action in the movie a little bit.  I am known as the King of the Segway, after all.  There’s a good enough amount of action, but I probably would’ve appreciated a little more fighting and less chase scenes for my action buck.  But, as always, Jackie Chan will find some interesting new things to do.  There was a whole fight scene that took place in a building that was under construction, making the building just a series of concrete walls and improbably placed doors and turning the fight into a Scooby Doo style chase.  There’s also a part where Jackie has his arms and legs tied, and the ropes are being held by Giancarlo’s goons so that Jackie could almost fight and defend himself against Giancarlo, but his hands and feet would never connect.  This was definitely an interesting idea, but probably more complicated than a mob boss who owns a gun would ever set up.  There was also an action scene that took place on and around a giant construction … thing.  It was like a truck or a bulldozer, but didn’t really have a scoop or anything.  I don’t know what it was.  It was enormous and Jackie had to lay down in front of its wheels (that were roughly twice as tall as him) and climb up the wheels to get to the cab while it was still moving.

The performances were all kind of goofy in this movie.  For some reason, even though I think the greater majority of the cast spoke English, they really go over the top with their mouth movements to say each word, as if they had no idea what was coming out of their mouth and were just made to say it phonetically.  Jackie Chan did his part in the movie.  You could find a few occasions when he didn’t say his lines right because he probably had little idea what he was saying, but he does his action very well.  I think I talked about this the last time I reviewed a Jackie Chan movie, but he really seems to love the gag of accidentally grabbing a handful of some actresses boob, and he does that same gag here with Gabrielle Fitzpatrick.  She didn’t have to stretch any acting chops in this movie, but she did run around in her underwear for a bit, and that was alright by me.  I felt like I knew her the entire time I was watching her, but it wasn’t until I got on Rotten Tomatoes that I realized I’ve reviewed a movie she was in before.  She was a minor role in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie!  So that’s a thing.  Richard Norton was occasionally close to being intimidating as Giancarlo, but he completely lost me at one point.  There’s a part in the movie where he is threatening one of his goons and punctuating each word by taking the goon’s tie and slapping him in the neck with it, but he apparently didn’t know how goofy and limp-wristed the movement would make him look until the movie was released.

Mr. Nice Guy was decent enough.  The story was ridiculous and goofy, the performances were all pretty bad, but the action was mostly a lot of fun.  I just think they should’ve focused a little more heavily on Jackie Chan’s fighting skills and not as much on his comedic stunt work.  Either way, it worked out okay and ended up being roughly what I expected it to be.  A fun watch if you like martial arts movies and Jackie Chan, otherwise there’s not a whole lot of reason to watch it.  Mr. Nice Guy gets “Whose dialogue is it?” out of “That’s it.  No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.