Film Review: MASTER Z- THE IP MAN LEGACY (Hong Kong 2018) ***

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy Poster
Trailer

Director:

Woo-Ping Yuen

Writers:

Edmond Wong (screenplay by), Tai-lee Chan (screenplay by) (as Chan Tai Lee)

The fourth and spin-off of the 2015 IP MAN 3, MASTER Z- THE IP MAN LEGACY still has plenty of bite in the franchise.  The IP MAN films have been a hit, one after the other, because the filmmakers kept to the successful formula while keeping the action and its execution fresh.  Though the stories have been told before, they still come across as fresh and convincing.

MASTER Z can stand alone without anything known about the three IP films.  When the film opens, the protagonist, Cheung Tin Chi (Max Zhang) has lost a bout with IP MAN, not shown, just mentioned.  He retreats with his shy son to Hong Kong where he opens a grocery store, hoping to retire without notice and lead a normal non-fighting life.  A little romance is provided by Julia (Liu Yan) who Tin Chi rescues from a local thug, Kit (Kevin Cheng).  This is the typical story where a hit man wants to come clean or a boxer who wishes to stop fighting, but is then pushed past his limit so that he is forced to complete one final job.  The same in this film.  The local thugs will not leave him alone – burning down his grocery store and house while nearly killing his son.

The film has quite a few innovative action set pieces.  The fights on the scaffoldings and on the signs that cover the top the builds are impressive.

The film has a good cameo from Thai fighter Tony Jaa (those who love martial-arts movies will immediately recognize him) as the hired assassin.  Michelle Yeoh (CRAZY RICH ASIANS, former Bond girl and Martial-arts film regular in Martial-arts films like THE HEROIC TRIO) has a supporting but important role as the local gangster sister and boss who wishes to make all her activities legal despite objections.

The film pokes fun at the white man and the colonized Hong Kong by the British.  The police commissioner is a white man who take bribes from the local gangsters.  The scenes are played funny the way he accepts the bribes and how the Chinese under him are forced to obey his every command.  A scene in the bar that the protagonist works at also shows the way the Chinese kow-tows to white people – something they do outwardly but grudgingly.  Dave Bautista (AVENGERS, STUBER) has a role of Davidson, a bad drug dealer.  The film takes the issue one step further, though done in a cheesy way, with the Chinese subduing their corrupt white authorities.

The segment where the drugs are dealt in public is unrealistic.  Only reason this is likely done is so that Tin Chi can witness the drug deal.

For a Martial-arts film MASTER Z is above average – which is a good compliment considering the number of shitty Martial-Art films Hong Kong used to churn out in the past and also the present.  The fight sequences are expertly executed (director Yuen is martial-arts choreographer who has worked in the MATRIX films) and alone worth the price of the ticket.

The film is available on digital and on DVD/Blu-Ray Tuesday, July 23rd.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqpmvER7a_E

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Film Review: STUBER (USA 2019) ***

Stuber Poster
Trailer

A detective recruits his Uber driver into an unexpected night of adventure.

Director:

Michael Dowse

STUBER is an action buddy comedy involving a blind cop and a Uber driver that the L.A. cop hijacked in order to take down some drug Kung-fu fighting villain.  It is not a high brow film project.  For the promo screening, I could not get anyone to come see the free movie because of its theme.  But if one goes with the lowest of expectations, STUBER will turn put to be surprisingly entertaining.

One would not think of filmmakers like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese directing  STUBER.  But a good choice is London (London, Ontario that is) born Michael Dowse who made the Canadian cult-hit FUBAR and the impressive British feature about a DJ gone blind called IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG.  Coincidentally, the L.A. cop, Vic (Dave Bautista, THE AVENGERS movies) is also going blind.  The Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, THE BIG SICK) acts as his eyes.  If all this sounds pretty corny, it all is.  But the fact that this would pose a challenge to the scriptwriter, Tripper Clancy and director.  It would seem all to easy to dismiss the film as a wasted exercise, but given the fact, Dowse and his scriptwriter has risen above the dauntless task.

The film’s first 15 minutes is all edge of the seat excitement as Vic and his partner, Sara (Karen Gillan) attempt to take down an escaping Korean drug Lord, Oka Teijo (Indonesian Martial-Arts star, Iko Uwais, THE RAID, THE RAID 2, STAR WAR: THE FORCE AWAKENS)

On the negative side, the buddy buddy stuff has been seen before and done better in other buddy cop films.  The difference in characters – Stu is so mild mannered that he cannot express hi love towards his girlfriend while Vic is so stone-hearted cannot communicate with his artistic daughter.  The Ryan Gosling gay joke where Stu believes in brain over brawn is the typical homophobic shit that goes round in male chauvinistic films.  The film is also too male dominated, where females are given just a token nod.  Vic’s female partner is killed off in the film’s first 15 minute, the daughter has to struggle to become a sculptor while the chief villain turns out female.  Stu’s girlfriend is finally revealed as a real bitch who not only not now what she wants but a really floozy.

The buddy chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani works well.  Their fight in the warehouse looks so similar to the Jonathan Winters garage destruction scene in Stanley Kramer’s IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD that I could almost be certain Dowse took his inspiration there. 

The film ends in the Christmas season where the film delivers a few neat surprises.  But the film has so far obtained mixed reviews from critics.  And understandably why as the film is a mixed bag of tricks.  Go see STUBER with as little expectations as possible and you won’t get disappointed.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5l6a5RiR1E

Film Review: HOTEL ARTEMIS

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Hotel Artemis Poster
Trailer

Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.

Director:

Drew Pearce

Writer:

Drew Pearce

 

There is a segment in both the JOHN WICK action movies where Keanu Reeves who plays an assassin takes refuge in a special European Hotel.  One has to be a member of this hotel to enter, of which certain rules must absolutely be followed.  There must be no killings.  Everyone must respect each other. 

 In HOTEL ARTEMIS, Jodie Foster plays the head nurse, Jean Thomas of the hotel.  The only thing is that HOTEL ARTEMIS is not really a hotel but a  hospital run by Thomas where the secret members-only can convalesce if they are shot, wounded or need medical attention.   But when a cop is admitted all hell breaks lose and FREE FIRE occurs.  HOTEL ARTEMIS plays like a cross between FREE FIRE and the JOHN WICK hotel segments.  But the film does not work and interest wanes quickly.

The film tries hard to distinguish itself as being original.  For one, it is set in the end future of a war-torn Los Angeles.  The film begins with a rather violent bank heist, as seen from the robbers points of view.  Some are killed and some are wounded.  Two African Americans survive but one is wounded and has to be brought to the HOTEL ARTEMIS for hospital care, no questions asked.  It is there where the audience is introduced to the no-nonsense head nurse who will not let anyone through the high security gates.  She has a really nasty looking security guy, Everest (Dave Baustista), built like the mountain itself.

HOTEL ARTEMIS does to really work because the script and story have nowhere to go.  No one really cares about any of the riff-raffs that enter hospital, who survives or who dies.  The humour is off, neither black, neither camp, neither satirical and neither funny.  Action segments are well executed, lifting the film a little, though this can hardly be classified as a true action film.

This is Jodie Foster’s first film after a long absence.  She does well, though looking her age.  The cast includes other minor actors including Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Pinto and Sofia Boiutella.

HOTEL ARTEMIS lastly suffers from a slip shod ending, which is expected given that the film’s whole story never leads anywhere.  Do not book your stay at HOTEL ARTEMIS.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqfuKsoEEms

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Film Review: BUSHWICK (USA 2016)

bushwick.jpgWhen a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive.

Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Writers: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Stars: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Christian Navarro

Review by Gilbert Seah
 

 BUSHWICK is a working-class neighbourhood in the northern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The neighbourhood, historically a community of Germanic immigrants and their descendants, has been predominantly Hispanic in the late 20th century. The neighbourhood, formerly Brooklyn’s 18th Ward, is now part of Brooklyn Community Board 4. It has been the scene of extreme looting during the 1977 blackout. This low income working-class venue has been chosen as the setting for directors Murnion and Milott apocalyptic tale of destruction, chaos and survival.

When the film opens, directors Murnion and Milot prompts the audience to evaluate their most dreaded fears. As 20-year old Lucy (Brittany Snow) chides her boyfriend for being scared of being in the dark while leaving the underground (subway), he replies that he should get some incentive for not being scared As they converse, they notice that they see no one else. The place is deserted. Then appears from nowhere a man screaming as he is inflamed. The two run to the street level where the boyfriend is shot and she left alone. Lucy then meets Stupe (Dave Bautista) and the two newly met companions bind together to figure out what is going on. The script does not reveal the answer till half way through the film.

The film, written by Nick Damici and Graham Reznick is well shot by Lyle Vincent with an atmosphere of the end of the world scenario. The trouble is that audiences have seen all this before in a dozen or so films of this nature. With only two main characters, the film becomes not only more minimal but hardly credible. How and why has so much happened in the so few minutes that Lucy is in the underground? Do the audience really care? There is hardly any excitement created as no one really cares about these two characters. Also, any reason for this has been already put together in one movie or other.

The script is devoid of humour. The only funny part appears to be the name of the main character – Stupe. The film is quite violent in terms of wounds see on screen like Lucy’s shot-off finger and Stupe’s wound.

Actors Bautista and Snow do their upmost best to keep their characters interesting. The scene where Stupe has to pull out chard of metal from his leg, with Lucy looking on while burning it with red hot metal for at least 5 seconds to kill the germs, seems to be put there to gross out audiences but still with little effect.

The film is nothing more, than running around, shootings, more running around and even more shootings. More people get killed, then more running around and shootings. The film contains a lot of false hopes One is the search for Father John in a church.

Another appears to be evacuation by helicopters at a park. But when the climax comes, nothing much makes much sense. This film is clearly as the saying goes, a film with no head and no tail.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKvNp0PEkHY

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Film Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (USA 2017)

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guardians2.jpgSet to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Dan Abnett (based on the Marvel comics by) |
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell

Review by Gilbert Seah 

 
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY Volume 2 follows exactly the path of sequels – louder and more of what were found in the original.

If the first film is your cup of tea, is is doubtless that you will enjoy the volume 2 – because it is nothing more than a replica of the same, only with Disney/Marvel going haywire and completely berserk. The best example is the climatic fight scene where during the battle between the hero and villain, the hero suddenly turns into a pixeled chomping Pacman. (Silly but funny!)

The films does boast an awesome soundtrack. Those who love the oldies, might go out and buy the soundtrack, maybe even skip the movie. There are are familiar songs, some seldom heard for a long time and some choice ones I have never heard before. The film is scored, as in the first film by Tyler Bates.

So, who are these Guardians of the Galaxy? The leader is an unchallenged Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who has a romantic fling with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an alien orphan fighting to redeem her past crimes. There is also Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a highly skilled warrior, Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). There is absolutely no explanation why Baby Groot is in this film after a larger Groot died in the original film.

Subplots are thrown in with additional characters like Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s sister. The only other character of importance is Quill’s dad, Ego (Kurt, Russell) who turns out to be the film’s villain.
The plot of the film involves the Guardians of the Galaxy saving the Galaxy from destruction, once at the start of the film and then again. But the guardians are a comical troupe led by no less than a character of the same mould. They obviously get not trouble while saving the galaxy – all these antics supposedly providing fun and reason for millions of cinemagoers around the world to cough up money for an admission ticket or even more to see the film in imax 3-D.

The film contains lots of irrelevant and meaningless quotes that should amuse those easily amused. When Quill’s father turns bad, Quill’s adopted father Yondu (Michael Rooker) tells him: “He might be your father, but he is not your daddy!” Or goes the another saying: “I know who you are, because you are me!”

There is a lot of ego on display here. Not only is the villain named Ego but he is also omnipresent as the entire planet which is also called Ego. There is the egoistic rivalry between the two sisters and more important, the rivalry between the father and son. The father is the personification of ego. He says:’What I have planted is an extension of myself so that eventually, everything is me.”

It is evident that director Gunn has put in a lot of effort to make Volume 2 worth the price of the admission ticket. But take away the special effects and production design, dazzling and expensive though they may be, and what is left is a narrative mess of a tedious convoluted plot littered with irrelevant humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cv2ueYnKjg

_________

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