Uncle Jasper reviews: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2 [葉問2:宗師傳奇] (2010)

Starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Huang Xiao-Ming, Fan Siu-Wong, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Darren Shahlavi, Kent Cheng, Lo Meng

Directed By Wilson Yip


The original Ip Man was a bona fide classic, and a successful attempt at elevating the famous teacher of Wing Chun kung fu to folk hero status. Now he can join the ranks of Wong Fei-Hung, Fong Sai-Yuk, and Hung Si-Kwan by having endless films and cash in attempts made that peddle bogus, fictionalized accounts of his life and rape his good name for some of that good ol’ box office cheddar. I guess those are the perks that are in store for folk hero cardholders. And what better place to begin the shameless plundering than in the original’s much-inferior sequel, Ip Man 2. Ip Man 2 was a little better back when it was known as Rocky IV, and even then it wasn’t that great. We have Donnie Yen returning as Rocky Balboa, Sammo Hung as the aging martyr Apollo Creed, and overacting meathead Darren Shahlavi as the murderous boxer Ivan Drago.

Remember how classy Simon Yam was in the original Ip Man? Looking all Howard Hughes and shit in his fancy dinner jacket and business suits? He even played a big part in saving the Ip family from death by smuggling them into Hong Kong. Well in Ip Man 2, he’s been reduced to a jabbering retard with a voracious appetite for roast duck. In fact, Ip Man 2 is rather good at taking the carefully developed characters of the original and either reducing them to bit parts or tossing them to the wayside all together with brief appearances that are instantly forgotten. I would have preferred to not see them at all this time around if it meant preserving the integrity of the original.

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man [葉問] (2008)

Starring Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Gordon Lam Ka-tung, Chen Zhihui, Fan Siu-Wong, Shibuya Tenma

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High.


Ip Man is a rare breed of kung-fu film. It is the type of film that could easily crossover into mainstream popularity, excellently introducing new viewers to the world of Hong Kong cinema through its stellar fights, performances and high production values. Winner of the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film, Ip Man successfully takes the style of early 90s Hong Kong movies into the 21st century by featuring little to no computer enhancement, instead focusing on and trusting in the skill of its stars. The film succeeds on multiple levels and achieves everything it attempts to convey on-screen. This is a kung-fu epic similar in scope and tone to Once Upon a Time in China, and thoroughly recaptures my interest in the genre.

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Trancers 6: Life After Deth (2002)

Starring Zette Sullivan, Jennifer Capo, Robert Donavan, Timothy Prindle, Jere Jon, Jennifer Cantrell, Ben Bar, James R. Hilton, Kyle O. Ingleman, Gregory Lee Kenyon, Douglas Smith

Directed by Jay Woelfel

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


Trancers 6 is quite the surprising little movie. Instead of simply being the cash-in I expected it to be, it was pretty damn entertaining and loosely fits into the Trancers time line fairly well. Let’s not mince words here though, Trancers 6 is not for the average viewer. Most people will look at this film with disgust and hurl an endless stream of insults at it. This film is not for them though. It is for the tired, the hungry, the huddled masses of Trancer fans who waited eight long years between installments. By all accounts, the series was over and should have never been resurrected, but thanks to Zette Sullivan’s fun performance, a ridiculous story and some incredibly funny special FX, we’ve got a mostly fun movie on our hands.

In the future, a TCL chamber operator sees into the past and witnesses Jack Deth’s daughter getting murdered. Jack Deth has a daughter? Yes, apparently the kid Helen Hunt has with her in Trancers III was Jack’s. Who knew? Anyway, just like in the first couple of Trancer films, the technician sends Jack Deth down the line to inhabit the body of his ancestor/offspring and save her/his life in the process. Tim Thomerson does not reprise his role, but in one of the most audacious scenes in recent memory, the TCL technician converses with Jack via a television screen playing scenes from the previous Trancers films. What makes this so funny is that Jack’s hair noticeably changed throughout the series, so each response from Jack features a new hairstyle and setting. Boy, that Jack Deth sure gets around. It’s shameless, but I loved it.

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The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Expectations: High.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
twohalfstar


The Expendables should have been great. It had so much going for it. I grew up watching 1980s action films and have been patiently awaiting a new release that re-captures some of their glory. When Stallone announced he was going back to the well one last time, and taking a bunch of badasses along for the ride, I was stoked from word one and had to do my best to keep myself from going into a violent frenzy in celebration. Unfortunately, the film is riddled with flaws and would have benefited greatly from a script rewrite and a focus on realistic, physical violence.

Not much back story is given throughout the film, but that’s okay, we all should know the drill by now. In pure 80s form, there’s a dictator doing some evil shit on an island off the coast of somewhere. Stallone and his posse ride in to take his ass down. Sounds good so far. I’m willing to shut down the think tank if they’re willing to put up some awesome action sequences. Unfortunately, like most facets of the picture, the action scenes are more frustrating than anything else. This brings me to my biggest problem with this film.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed By Sylvester Stallone


Oh no! It’s a new Hollywood Blockbuster! Jasper, you goddamned sellout. You soulless fink. Shouldn’t you be tooling along the lower rungs of the cinematic ladder? Shouldn’t you be rolling around in that piss-soaked cesspool digging up old, shitstained Lucha Libre movies nobody cares about? Or how about boring us to tears with yet another Shaw Bros kung fu film? Come on, it’s been four days now and you haven’t mentioned Chang Chieh or Chen Kuan-Tai… you’re losing your touch, bro.

Before you get all James Spader on my ass… bro, let me tell you that The Expendables pays tribute to the golden age of silly ass, testosterone-fused, over the top actioneers of the 80s in glorious fashion. Sure it’s stupid, loud, and full of more lapses in logic than a Bush presidency, but so were Commando, Delta Force, and Cobra. Those films defied their insipid plots and predictable formulas because they were fantastic action films featuring ripped motherfuckers who could actually dominate you in physical combat throwing around grenades and gunfire like it was rice at a wedding. None of these prancing, pencil-necked geeks who pass as action stars nowadays can even hold a candle to these meaty killing machines of the 80’s. The Expendables knows this and instead of going with some scrawny Hollywood cash-machine like Will Smith, decides to man up and bring old genre legends like Dolph Lundgren back to the screen as well as genuinely capable action stars like Jet Li.

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Inception (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: Extremely high. Through the roof even.


I’ve been a big Christopher Nolan fan since the release of Memento several years ago. I patiently wait for each of his films and relish the moment when a new one is unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. Nolan is one of the best working directors right now and with Inception he proves that even without Batman, his films can be successful within the mainstream culture. He is the new superstar director for our age with a firm, virtually unmatched grasp on filmmaking and storytelling. He’s at the top of his game in Inception, skillfully making over two-and-a-half hours fly by at a good pace as I sat on the edge of my seat for most of the film.

I went into Inception only knowing a few minor details about it. I had seen the first trailer released months ago once and then completely avoided everything after. This really works to the film’s advantage as I had almost no idea what was coming next. If you can, see the film as uninformed as possible. As much as I enjoy having readers, I advise you stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film. I’m not going to lay out the plot or anything but I do plan on mentioning a few aspects that would be better off experienced without prior knowledge. You’ve been warned!

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Eighteen Jade Arhats (1978)

The Eighteen Jade Arhats [十八玉羅漢] (1978)
AKA The Eighteen Jade Pearls, Jade Killer, The Eighteen Claws of Shaolin, Jaws of the Black Dragon, Eighteen Deadly Arhats, Bruce Lee – The Flying Dragon

Starring Polly Shang Kuan, Lee Jan-Wa, Lo Lieh, Chang Yi, Phillip Ko Fei, Lung Fei, Ching Kuo-Chung

Directed By Jen Chieh Chang


Oh Eighteen Jade Arhats, you looked so good when we first met. You presented yourself with nothing but class and promises of wonderful times. How my heart fluttered at your awesome box art full of white-eyebrowed old men in dexterous kung fu poses and bizarre multi-limbed training machines. Your plot summary read like a smorgasbord of wu xia thrills and edge of your seat action, a veritable buffet of tasty kung fu goodness. Your opening credit sequence featuring a duo of seasoned martial artists fighting a 20-foot-tall, 14-armed robot statue nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. Oh where did it all go wrong? I thought we had something special. Instead, our love fizzled out in a sea of dizzying confusion and broken promises.

That’s the gist of it. The Eighteen Jade Arhats, in its eager attempt to give you the world, throws a little bit of everything at you at such a frantic, breakneck speed that it ends up playing out like a collection of Shaw Bros. trailers instead of anything resembling a real motion picture. At one moment you have a dizzying, treetop wire-assisted fight scene, and at the next you have a supernatural kung fu zombie thriller. This would of course be acceptable, welcome even, if there was a shred of coherent storytelling holding the funky mish-mash together. But instead we are left scratching our heads as the film carelessly jumps from subplot to subplot like a drunken frog looking for a specific fly in a vast sea of horseshit. Hell, sometimes subplots are discarded or flat-out forgotten altogether. The viewer of course, is so batshit confused by this point that they either won’t notice or simply won’t care.

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