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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Lee’

Ip Man 4: The Finale — movie review
Today’s review is for the 2019, third sequel and fourth episode of the Ip Man series starring Donnie Yen in the title role.  Ip Man is the semi-legendary sifu (teacher) of Wing Chun kung fu to the martial-artist / movie-TV personality Bruce Lee.  The first three editions showed Ip Man leading up to and through World War II and the invasion of China by Japan.  This “final” episode revolves around Ip Man being diagnosed with Cancer and taking a trip to San Francisco to try to find a school for his teen-age son.
While in San Francisco, Ip Man must deal with Chinese who are prejudiced against white Americans, Immigration and Naturalization Officials who are prejudiced against Chinese and a racist Marine Gunnery Sergeant who is a “master” of Karate.  His black belt level is unstated.
Basically, the story is a father learning to have faith in his son’s choices and learning to be able to express his love to his son.  Of course, being a martial arts movie, most of the plot is to get us from one fight set piece to the next — and there are quite a few set pieces.
As mentioned above, Donnie Yen reprises his lead role from the three earlier films.  Scott Adkins is the racist Marine Sergeant Barton Geddess.  Vanness Wu is the “good-guy Chinese” Staff Sergeant Hartman Wu trying to incorporate Chinese boxing (Kung Fu) into the Marine physical training.  Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan plays Bruce Lee.  Yue Wu plays Wan Zong Hua, the head of the Chinese Benevolent Society and Vanda Margraf plays Wan Yonah (Wan’s daughter).  Yonah experiences a racist attack at school and Ip Man comes to her rescue.  She “teaches” Ip Man how to “correctly” view his own son’s actions / attitudes.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  How about the martial arts / action sequences?  Yes, mostly.  Yes, mostly.  And, pretty good to very good.  I’m not sure why, but a great deal of this movie deals with racism.  Obviously, this is not an “American” issue which has gone away in the fifty-plus years since this period piece movie was placed (1964), but it was not clear to me why this was actually done – except possibly as a reaction to real-time events (2017 to present) of trying to present a heroic Chinese figure versus a racist American bully.  (Gee, I wonder who that might represent? Trump and MAGA, perhaps?)  Anyway, it makes the movie come across as alternatively very emotional and then very flat.  Being perfectly honest, it is really Donnie Yen’s screen presence which has carried the series and he again does the job in this edition.  Is the movie entertaining?  Honestly, (again) only if you like watching martial arts choreography.  The movie does (mostly) get you from fight “A” to fight “B” to fight “Z” and that’s pretty much the bar setting on this type of movie (for me).  Every once in a while you’ll get a “martial arts” movie which is a “Hero” or a “Crouching Tiger”, but they are exceptions rather than the rule.  That is why we remember them.  This is no different from our “Rocky” or “Rambo” or “Terminator” series’.  You’re not going to them to see Oscar worthy performances.
Now, the choreography, though, that’s a different thing altogether.  I would say this sequel is the best since the original.  If you are a “wire” fan, this will not be a “great” movie for you.  I am not a “wire” fan.  I like to see the close-in, hand-to-hand (with some kicks and throws) fighting.  Here, the movie excels because it moves away from the Ip Man fights / defeats 10 or 30 opponents and sticks with classic one-on-one fights with reasonable close and full-body shots when the action warrants. I thoroughly enjoyed the “dances”.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended!  Come for the action, stay for the action.  And, in between, well, mostly flat story line which tries to move you as smoothly as it can between action.
For any historians: I don’t believe any of the four films have much basis in fact.  I doubt Ip Man fought a Japanese General (I), a heavy-weight Western-style professional boxer (II), a Mike Tyson type Western gangster (III) or, if he even made a trip to America (IV) and ended up fighting someone in the U.S. military.  The point is, Ip Man was a master instructor in his style (Wing Chun) and he taught Bruce Lee.  All the rest is pretty much super-hero stuff for it’s entertainment value.  It’s only a movie, folks.  But, this is an enjoyable addition to the series.
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On This Day In:
2019 Paint-By-Numbers
2018 #45: Still Trying To
Oh, Well…
2017 Two Views Of The Starting Line
2016 Never Had It, Never Will (Donald Trump)
2015 20/20
2014 All Of My Best Ideas Come While Walking…
2013 Learn To Learn
2012 I Remind You
2011 Respect And Prestige
2010 Living Legends (Willie Nelson) and the Gettysburg Address

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Understanding oneself happens through a process of relationships and not through isolation.
   —   Bruce Lee
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On This Day In:
2015 Tripping On Treasure
2014 The Flower Of Light
2013 Eye Catching
2012 The Holstee Manifesto
2011 Three Crooners For The Shower
The Soldier’s Faith
Vacation, Books And Lots Of Movies

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Ip Man 3 –  movie review
Over the weekend I had my first viewing of “Ip Man 3” (2015), starring Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing (Ip Man’s wife), and with a feature role by Mike (“Iron Mike”) Tyson.  Ip Man is a historic Chinese Boxer / martial artist who practiced Wing Chun (a style of Kung Fu) and who achieved secondary fame in the West as being the Sifu (“teacher”) of Bruce Lee.  This movie is set in the late 1950’s.  Ip Man has become a very popular figure in Chinese martial arts movies of late and there are many movies about him which have been released in the last ten years.  I own four of the Ip Man DVDs and I borrowed this one from my brother to view it.
The movie has three main sub-plots: Ip Man protecting Hong Kong from an evil foreign developer (“Frank” played by Mike Tyson); Ip Man defending his status as the primary Sifu of Wing Chun; and, Ip Man’s wife dying from cancer.  Of course, the main point of the movie is that the greatest fighter (Ip Man) is always the one with the purest heart.  As always, the sub-plots are meant to drive the action in the movie – this is, after all, a martial arts film.  And, they more or less do and the action scenes work.  Of the three sub-plots, the only interesting one (for me) is the wife’s cancer and Ip Man’s reaction to it and his love for her as she is dying.  It is poignant and the process of seeing her fade slowly into death is treated with a rare kindness one almost never sees in a martial arts movie (Hollywood or Chinese).  In the end, this is the most memorable part of the movie.
The fight choreography is excellent, as usual, but seems pedestrian after so many versions in the series.  My favorite scene is the weakening wife telling Ip Man that she misses hearing him practice hitting the wooden dummy.  It is emotionally evocative of “this is what you do, and this is a part of what I love about you”, in a way that few movies ever reach.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended.
The Dark Knight Trilogy #3: The Dark Knight Rises  – movie review
This is one of several reviews of this movie I’ve made.  TDKR (2012) is an enjoyable movie which I have rated “Highly” in both of my prior reviews (1010, Catching Up).  This “review” is really more of an additional comment than it is a review – and it is being made post-“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and with the qualifications that I’ve only seen BvS once and that was at the theater.  Generally speaking, I prefer Christian Bale much more than Ben Affleck as an actor in any role.  Even understanding that the role of episode #3 is supposed to be eight years after episode #2 and Batman is supposed to have been gone the whole time, and in BvS is “probably” supposed to be somewhere in that time span, Bale absolutely looks like he could never be (or have been) Batman.  Affleck, on the other hand, perfectly suits an older Bruce Wayne and looks way better in the “normal” (as opposed to the Iron Man) Batman suit.  Particularly in the various shirtless scenes, Bale looks tone-less, not just “less” than super buffed / fit.  I didn’t notice it at the time, or in my prior reviews, but Bale makes Batman look skinny when in the suit.  He seems well proportioned when standing by himself, but next to other people, I kept thinking: “Wow.  He’s skinny.”  And I don’t think of Batman as skinny…  I also don’t think of him as tone-less.  At least I haven’t since the days of Adam West and that was supposed to be a parody (I hope).
Anyway, that’s my only new comment.  I still find the movie solid entertainment and still recommend it highly.
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On This Day In:
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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Empty your mind, be formless.  Shapeless, like water.  If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.  You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle.  You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow or it can crash.  Be water, my friend.
  ―  Bruce Lee
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On This Day In:
2015 Amazing Or Full Of Wonder?
2014 Are You Confused?
2013 But The Odds Are Against It
2012 Far Better Off With Books
2011 Timid And Fainthearted

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I had a few days off last week, so I relaxed by watching a few films: Cash McCall, StarTrek Into Darkness, Fist of Legend, Interstellar, Annapolis and Atlas Shrugged 1, 2 and 3.  Because there are so many, I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this posting.  I hope some of you make it all the way through, though…
Cash McCall (1960)
Wealthy “youngish” industrialist Cash McCall (starring James Garner) makes his money by purchasing unsuccessful businesses, whipping them into shape and then selling them for a profit.  (Shades of Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman“.)  When Cash comes across a small corporation which manufactures plastics, he realizes it might be a gamble to buy the company, but the company’s owner, Grant Austin (played by Dean Jagger – better known as the General in the holiday favorite “White Christmas“), is the father of an old love interest, Lory Austin (played by a young Natalie Wood), he buys the business just to get a second chance at romance.
Well, that’s pretty much the “love story” aspects of the film.  Very predictable and, to be honest, not as funny / humorous as I thought it might be.  Be that as it may, there are a few interesting things about this movie.  First, Woods is absolutely gorgeous in this film.  She plays a “wealthy” daughter and nails the “acts very entitled” role.  The camera loves her.   Strangely, although Garner is only 10yrs older than Woods in this film – in real life that is – he “looks” much older.  Granted he’s still a sexy Hollywood male lead, but to me, the couple didn’t really gel because he “felt” so much older than her.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the movie actually has very little to do with romantic comedy and everything to do with predicting economic reality.  Bear with me on this…  At the end of his second term as President of the U.S. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military / industrial complex.  There is a scene where Cash is explaining his view for the companies he’s consolidating (in the movie) – a plastics and an electronics firm.  The one he already owns is a financial conglomerate – which by the way owns a private security / detective agency and a credit / business checking business.  Anytime someone investigates him, Cash gets a report from both companies.  The second company is interesting because it’s a plastic firm.  If anyone knows anything about films from the mid to late 60’s, you almost certainly know the famous line “One word, son: Plastics”, from “The Graduate“.   Well, in this film, the star is saying (six years before “The Graduate”) you have patents on manufacturing plastics and the patents are worth more than your company because plastics are the future of manufacturing.  He then goes on to say, but that is only a bridge because the long term future is selling electronics (mounted on plastic) to the military and he doesn’t want the electronics company as much as he wants the retired general who is running the company, because he (Cash) wants an inside track with the officers in the Pentagon the retired general can provide access to (because he knows them all personally).  Who knew Hollywood could be so prescient about the future of industry in the U.S. (and the world).
Bottom line: a fairly typical rom-com with a very attractive couple.  If that’s all you’re looking for, this will be okay.  If you make the effort to look at the movie more deeply, there is a whole lot more going on…  Highly recommended!!  (By the way, I am a Jim Garner fan from his “Maverick” TV series days and I make no bones about my lack of objectivity.)
StarTrek Into Darkness (2013)
This is the sequel to the hit reboot of the movie franchise from 2009.  As with the second movie in the original StarTrek movies, this is about one of the series most popular villains: “Khan!!!” – or more accurately: Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan is a product of biological enhancement, essentially a superior man – physically stronger and a genius mentally.  The problem (well, one of them) is that Khan has little to no regard for “normal” humans.  Blah, blah, blah…  Long story, lots of special effects and a very good addition to the StarTrek legend.  This is a second review and you can read my original (and more detailed review) here.   This movie has “legs” and can definitely be re-watched again and again.  (Still) Highly recommended.
Fist of Legend (1994)
This movie is kind of a “classic” in the martial arts genre.  A Chinese martial arts student Chen Zhen (Jet Li) returns home to China to investigate the death of his Sifu.  Chen discovers his master was poisoned and goes about seeking revenge.  If you’ve spent any time watching movie fights on YouTube, you’ve probably seen at least one of the five (yes, count them 5!!) set piece fight scenes in this movie.  Hence my opinion that the film is a classic.  To be honest, although the movie is 20+ years old – and I’d never seen it before (!!!) – I felt as if I’d already seen the entire movie just based on the fights – which I have seen multiple times.  I would rate this movie right up with any of the early Bruce Lee movies (“The Big Boss”, “The Chinese Connection” or “Fist of Fury”) and definitely with any of the more recent Ip Man series.  Jet Li may not have the cinematic charisma of Bruce Lee, but he (Jet Li) certainly plays the part of acrobatic martial artist just as well.
Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!!  Come for the fights, stay for the interesting social commentary about national bigotry (from both the Chinese and the Japanese).
Interstellar (2014)
Now I never saw this movie at the theater, which is probably my loss, but I did not find the cinematic effects in this movie as awesome as everyone else seems to have found them.  Having said this, I feel the movie was a “real” attempt to bring some of modern science to the big screen.  So, kudos for that effort.
In Earth’s not to distant future, a global, unexplained, biological agent produces a crop blight and second Dust Bowl which together are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable – nitrogen is being released and oxygen is not.  A brilliant NASA physicist – Professor Brand (played by Michael Caine), is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth’s population to a new home via a wormhole. First, Brand must send former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and a team of researchers (one of which is his daughter Amelia Brand played by Anne Hathaway) through a recently discovered wormhole near Saturn and across the galaxy to find out which of three planets could be mankind’s new home.  One of the movie’s tag-lines is: “Humanity was born on Earth.  It was never meant to die here.”
Of course there is a “conspiracy” and bad guys.  Hey this is Science Fiction, you know…  No, actually this is less a science fiction movie than it is a cinematic battle of ethics and morality.  In the end, time is malleable and family is everything, so the hero saves the day…  The movie works in a lot of different ways: as science, science fiction, special effects, acting.  The movie was nominated for multiple Oscars and deservedly so.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, but see it on as big a screen as you can find.
Annapolis (2006)
A cross between “An Officer And A Gentleman” and “Rocky“, this movie is about a fish out of water who goes to the U.S. Naval Military Academy at Annapolis.  (And, yes, that’s a bad pun.) The three main characters are:  Jake Huard (the “fish” – I mean star –  played well by James Franco),  Ali (the love interest played well by Jordana Brewster) and Cole (the antagonist played well by Tyrese Gibson).  Basically, Jake is only marginally qualified to be at the Academy and Cole is trying to force him to leave by quitting.  Ali agrees to help coach Jake in boxing for the brigade tournament and life ends happily ever after.
Just a few comments: I am not a big James Franco fan.  I thought he almost personally ruined a couple of the Spiderman movies.  Well, close anyway.  I have never heard of Jordana Brewster, but the camera loved her in this movie.  I had to check the Wiki-background on this actress because I could hardly believe she has done nothing I’ve seen in the eleven years since this movie came out.  She reminds me of a (Latin and younger) Jennifer Connelly.  Anyway, Brewster has worked, but I’ve just not seen any of it (TV or movies).  Finally, I like Tyrese Gibson!  I liked him in the Transformers movie series and I liked him in this role.  He and Brewster have both been in the Fast And Furious movie series, but I haven’t seen any of them so I can’t really comment on them in those roles.  Tyrese is multi-talented, but I wish he was able to focus more on acting.  I think he could be another Denzel Washington – and that’s saying quite a bit.
Final recommendation: better than most movies in this genre – moderate to strong recommendation.
Atlas Shrugged (1, 2 and 3) – (2011, 2012, 2013)
Back in 2012 I reviewed the first movie in this trilogy (see review here).  If anything, each movie in the series got worse.  I picked up I and II on sale for $5 each.  #1 was probably worth it.  #2 was not.  I saw #3 on YouTube.  The quality of the film was not high, but it was still better than anything else about the movie.   Terrible acting, terrible actors, terrible writing and absolutely no explanation of the reasons behind Ayn Rand’s popularity (objectivism or libertarianism).  Use the six hours of your life to do something productive and don’t watch these films.
Final recommendation:  not recommended movie(s).  You’ll get more from reading the book, than you’ll EVER get from watching these three movies.
Again, apologies for the length of this post but that’s four highly recommended, one moderate to strong recommendation and three not recommended.
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On This Day In:
2014 Get Wisdom
2013 Enjoying The View?
2012 Adam’s Rib
2011 I’m Sure I Remember That…
Memorial Day, 2011

 

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This weekend I watched three movies – one DVD and two on-line: “The Jericho Mile” (1979), “Bruce Lee – The Legend” (1977), and “Woman of the Year” (1942).  They are all good movies for very different reasons.
The Jericho Mile” stars Peter Strauss as Rain Murphy, a man serving life for murdering his father.  The movie has multiple themes: crime, racism, friendship, corruption, justice and (mainly) running.  Rain is serving his time by running around the exercise yard of Folsom Prison.  He is fast and it gets noticed.  There are three rival racial factions in the prison: the Whites, the Blacks and the Hispanics.  Rain’s black friend and training partner runs afoul of the White gang and is murdered.  The gang tells the Black gang it was Rain’s fault and the leader of the gang beats up Rain.  Behind the scenes, the warden and the prison psych want to use Rain to inspire other prisoners to rehabilitate themselves and arrange for Rain to get a chance to run against some college runners in the hopes of getting a shot at qualifying for the USA Olympic Team.
My favorite line in the movie belongs to Murphy.  After getting beaten up, he promises to nail the Black gang leader for insulting his friend/brother and the leader asks Rain what he intends to do after that.  Rain, who is badly beaten and struggling to breathe, let alone stand up, replies: “I gotta finish my workout.
It is a terrific movie which I saw in it’s original broadcast back in 1979 (as a “Movie of the Week”).  The final running scene set against the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” instrumental is a cinema classic (as far as I’m concerned”).  The movie just appeared up on YouTube.com, so you better go see it while it’s still up there!  Strauss won an Emmy for this role.  The movie won a total of three.
Bruce Lee – The Legend” is a documentary about the life and art (martial and theatrical) of Bruce Lee.  This is the first time I’ve seen the documentary and it’s a typical promotion of a dead star by the Chinese movie industry.  Having said that, the individual scenes of Bruce getting interviewed for a job and his describing Jeet Kune Do – the martial arts system Bruce created – is truly outstanding.  If you are interested in the background of a martial arts legend, this is a good place to start.  The question will always remain if Bruce was truly a great martial artist or just a handsome and charismatic actor who was also a superior athlete and martial artist.  Because there is no record (at least I’m not aware of any record) of Bruce Lee appearing in a “real” mixed martial art competition, I’m afraid it’s a question which will never be answered.  I watched this movie on HULU.com, which is a pretty good source of current TV shows and
Woman of the Year” stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  The film was their first movie together and their chemistry is obvious.  The movie is a about two competing newspaper writers – one on politics and the other on sports.  They meet.  Fall in love.  Marry.  And then the problems begin.  While the movie has some tremendously funny moments – especially when Hepburn’s character attempts to cook Tracy’s character breakfast, the movie is symptomatic of its time and has an incredibly sexist message that ultimately, every woman, no matter how successful, must ultimately define herself within her role as a wife (and eventual mother).  My daughter Sarah watched the movie with Hil and me and I asked her about this message.  She said she really didn’t see it that way at all and it was “just” a funny, but unrealistic movie.  I asked her why, and she replied, “One, she never would have married that far beneath her; and, two, she wouldn’t be able to stay home and live on only his salary when it was obvious she had a much more important (and well paying) job than he did.”  From the mouth of babes……
As I said, all three are entertaining movies for entirely different reasons, but I recommend all three – particularly “The Jericho Mile“.
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