I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘Yuen Woo-Ping’

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Okay, so admittedly it’s weird that 17 years after the acclaimed, Academy Award winning CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, The Weinstein Company up and made a sequel without the original director. And filmed it in English. And sold it to Netflix so it was barely released in theaters and may never be available on disc in most countries. It’s not surprising that people seem to have been disappointed, or just confused, or completely unaware of it. But if we think of it in terms of unlikely DTV sequels, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY is in the upper echelon.

No, the director is not Ang Lee, but it’s not nobody either – it’s Yuen Woo-Ping, whose choreography was the life’s blood of the first film. I wouldn’t say he tops it here, but he brings more graceful glides, spinning swords and nimble roof top skips and hops. It’s worth noting that today’s technology is used to create more elaborate magical realism, like when the two leads ride in on horses, block a barrage of spears, leap high into the air, land and begin a sword fight, all in one beautiful shot. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is an important movie to me for a couple reasons. One is personal, but the other is kinda about you guys. I had been writing reviews on my Geocities websight for a bit, but I didn’t really think anybody gave a shit, so I had kind of given it up for a few months when I ran into an old friend who mentioned he liked what I wrote about CROUCHING TIGER and wondered when I was gonna write more reviews. So I did, and then I continued for like 17 years, and here we are. Thank you, Jacob M., for saying that to me that day.

I love CROUCHING TIGER. I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up after all these years. It was such an exciting movie of its time, but it’s been imitated, techniques have evolved, new things have been achieved in martial arts, we’ve changed. And though I still like HULK, the other Ang Lee film I was obsessed with in the early 2000s, it doesn’t quite knock my socks all the way off anymore. Just part way off.

CROUCHING TIGER, I’m happy to discover, still does. And it knocks them off in a deeper, more mature way than it used to. My socks were very impressed.

(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ip Man 3

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

tn_ipman3I’ve watched and enjoyed all the movies made about Ip Man so far, but IP MAN 3 is the first one I’ve seen on the big screen. A really big screen at a multiplex with only four other people in the audience. I feel like I should send AMC a thank you card.

After three years Donnie Yen returns to what has become one of his greatest roles, the real life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous here as a guy who taught Bruce Lee. Director Wilson Yip (SPL/KILL ZONE) and writer Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE) also return, but the great fight choreographer Sammo Hung has been replaced by the also great Yuen Woo Ping. The weird thing about that is that Yuen did Wong Kar Wai’s rival Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER.

Part 2 took place in the early ’50s, with Ip Man and his family moving to Hong Kong, where he set up a Wing Chun school. Now it’s ’59 and he’s still living humbly in a small apartment with his wife (still played by Lynn Hung) and youngest son. We don’t really see him teaching anymore but apparently he is because he still has all his fiercely loyal disciples, and he’s getting into trouble with the wife and the kid’s school (math and reading type school, not fighting) for always working too late.

Once again this story involves a public challenge by another martial arts teacher trying to prove superiority over the local legend. This time it’s not a different style against Wing Chun, it’s a guy saying that he has pure Wing Chun and Ip Man is peddling some bullshit watered down autotune Wing Chun. This guy shouldn’t be fuckin with Ip Man, but he’s a sympathetic enough character that I didn’t initially realize he was gonna be the antagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai

Monday, July 13th, 2015

tn_ouatisAs much as beautiful action sequences are one of the great joys of life, the story really is the important part, it turns out. It can be formulaic and unoriginal – no problem, that can even be a plus sometimes – but it has to be a good engine for the fights and chases, giving us characters with motivations and making us want to see something happen, even something as simple as “I hope he kills that motherfucker” (or “I can’t wait ’til he fights that little guy!” as the guy next to me at THE RAID said). Most of the better Asian martial arts movies are especially story-driven I think, because of their themes of brotherhood, honor, tradition vs. innovation, etc.

So this is unusual but here’s one I’m recommending mostly just for the action. It’s the reverse of so many modern American action movies where I liked it despite the action being weak. I liked it even though I didn’t care much about what was happening until like halfway through.

I mean, there are elements I love here. The hero Ma Yongzhen (Philip Ng, DRAGON SQUAD) has a right fist so powerful his mom made him wear her jade bracelet to remind him not to use it. Donnie Yen’s wife tied a string around his wrist for the same reason in KUNG FU KILLER, but this is a more severe punishment because it’s pretty girly looking. His fist is often shot to look giant, and then we see that gaudy-looking bracelet with a metal charm on it that spins and hums with movement. So every time we see it we remember his vow of punchlessness. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Grandmaster

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

tn_grandmasterNOTE: A couple weeks ago I watched Wong Kar Wai’s long-awaited Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER on an import DVD. I loved it so much I decided not to post a review until the U.S. theatrical release so more people would be able to see it and discuss it.

Then I saw an ad on TV calling the movie “Martin Scorsese presents THE GRANDMASTER,” talking about “THE MAN WHO TAUGHT BRUCE LEE,” and showing a bunch of fight scenes with an aggressive hip hop soundtrack. There’s an even more extreme one online now that uses the theme from THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

These ads gave me a laugh, because as great as the fights are in the movie the emphasis is on characters and metaphors and beautiful imagery, and it’s as much about Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er (a fictional character, I believe) as a biography of Ip Man. I was excitbtisled to see it on the big screen, but dreading the possibility of an audience angry at the long breaks between punching.

What didn’t occur to me is that maybe the breaks aren’t that long anymore. It turns out the U.S. theatrical cut is a Weinsteinized version that’s 22 minutes shorter. David Ehrlich of film.com explains that the new cut was done with the participation of Wong, and details all the things he noticed that were cut out. I won’t spoil whether or not he likes the new version, you’ll just have to read his article Kung Foolish: How The American Cut of ‘The Grandmaster’ Ruins a Masterpiece to find out for yourself.

I still plan to see it, but based on Ehrlich’s list it sounds like half of the themes and scenes I talk about in this review aren’t even in the movie anymore. So fuck it, here is my review of the 130-minutes-including-credits Suitable-For-The-Entire-World-Except-For-America-Because-How-Could-They-Ever-Understand-It Cut. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Eastern Condors

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

There’s alot of big movie anniversaries this summer. Everybody’s celebrating 30 years since the Summer of ’82 shit like E.T., THE THING, BLADE RUNNER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. And I’ve been trying to commemorate the important summer of ’87 ones like PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. Little did I know that there was another movie, originally released July 9th, 1987, worthy of that kind of respect, but that I never saw before.

Geez, man. What have I been doing these last 25 years that was so god damn important I couldn’t be bothered to watch EASTERN CONDORS? Nothin, that’s what. Why did nobody convince me to watch this one before? This is my new favorite movie until further notice. The only legitimate reason to not watch it is if you’re worried that it will be hard to find another action movie to watch after that, because not many hold up to the EASTERN CONDORS standard of fun. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

True Legend

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

tn_truelegendThis year’s TRUE LEGEND is Yuen Woo-Ping’s first directational work since IRON MONKEY 2 in 1996. During that break he’s done some classic fight choreography, including some of the best ever in American movies (the MATRIXes, the KILL BILLs), but just hasn’t put himself in charge of a whole movie. So this is fun because it’s great wushu mythmaking and the master’s trademark fights working with a new pack of stylistic and technological weapons that didn’t exist 14 years ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Fist of Legend

Friday, August 13th, 2010

tn_fistoflegendcountdownlogoYou know how people are always saying “Man, there really oughta be more kung fu movies set in the Shanghai International Settlement during the Second Sino-Japanese War”? Well in 1994 director Gordon Chan and star Jet Li heard your cries. They love a good Second Sino-Japanese War picture as much as anybody so they came up with FIST OF LEGEND, a remake of Bruce Lee’s FIST OF FURY. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Drunken Master

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

tn_drunkenmasterSadly, David Carradine wasn’t the only martial arts star who died yesterday – we also lost Shih Kien, best known as Han in ENTER THE DRAGON. Apparently he’s also in DRUNKEN MASTER but I didn’t realize it at the time so if anybody remembers which character he played let me know.

DRUNKEN MASTER is Jackie Chan and director Yuen Woo Ping circa 1978, still old school kung fu era, when their movies were always period pieces about masters, training, fighting styles and duels. Jackie plays the Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung as a bratty little prick, always fuckin around in class, cheating, getting in fights, stealing. It’s all played for laughs but I think you’re supposed to think it’s charming and lovable. If so I’m not sure it works.

At first he seems kind of heroic because he defends a guy from theft. This guy is selling jade, some asshole tries to rip him off and then breaks the jade and refuses to pay for it. So Fei-Hung duels the asshole and leaves him in a bodycast (his own friend says “he looks like a dumpling.”) (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Unleashed

Friday, May 13th, 2005

(or DANNY THE DOG if you’re in Europe)

This is just your typical martial arts vehicle where the star (in this case Jet Li) has been raised like an animal in a cage and wears a collar and he’s trained by Bob Hoskins so that when the collar comes off he goes ape shit and beats the holy living fuck out of people that owe Bob Hoskins money. But then obviously he meets a blind piano tuner played by a respected Oscar winning actor (in this case Morgan Freeman) who teaches him about music and then the piano tuner’s stepdaughter teaches him to eat ice cream and then she gets her braces taken off so he becomes non-violent and refuses to fight in high stakes death matches.

Actually come to think of it this is not a typical martial arts movie at all, it’s pretty fuckin weird and that’s what I liked about it. Despite HERO I’m still pretty skeptical of new Jet Li movies, especially when he’s speaking the english type language. This is a good not great movie, but it’s a great move for Mr. Li because he plays a distinct character, he really gets to act, he fights in a different style and he even gets to put a sincere anti-violence message in there. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.