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Posts Tagged ‘Kung-Fu’

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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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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Yesterday I suffered another bad bout with my kidney stones.  I took advantage of the time off to finish the book: “American Shaolin“, by Matthew Polly (2007©).  This is a story about a young man who drops out of college to travel to the middle of China to spend two years learning about Kung-Fu.  Because he has been raised as a “nerdy” romantic from the mid-west (Kansas), it’s not good enough to just study Kung-Fu in America, he has to go all the way to the Shaolin temple.
The book is more about coming of age and Chinese culture than it is about martial arts.  Kung-Fu is really just the vehicle to carry us through the author’s voyage / passage into adulthood.  The story is a very fast read even though it’s over 350 pages.  Basically, I read it in one full day and one half day.
As per usual, I came upon the motivation to read this book quite by serendipity.  I found the book at Half-Price Books for $2 a couple of months ago, so I picked it up thinking I’ll add it to my martial arts library and maybe get around to reading it eventually.   Well, it turns out one of the blogs I follow has an interview with the author discussing learning – basically, the rule of 10,000.  Since I knew I had the book on my shelf, I thought this is the universe’s way of telling me to read it.  So, “eventually” came sooner than I expected.
If you are at all interested in Chinese culture, you should read this book.  It is a gold mine – a treasure trove.  For example, the Chinese begin bargaining with a cigarette.  It is usually offered by the seller and depending on how quickly you take it (if at all) and how you take it (with humility) and what type you ask for (American – expensive; Chinese – cheaper), you set the tone for the entire negotiation.  This is the kind of real world experience you can only get by spending a fair amount of time living with and reflecting on a particular culture.
There is not much in the book about fighting or Kung-Fu, but that’s okay.  Many times the best books about a culture have nothing to do with the vehicle for examining the culture and everything to do with the view as you travel.  In other words, it is the Chinese people who make this a entertaining and fascinating book.  Not the martial art.  Highly recommended!!
Oh, incidentally, the “rule of 10,000” is that you must practice something 10,000 times before you can become proficient at it.  From there, you can begin to achieve mastery.
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