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: CRAZY RICH ASIANS (USA 2018) ***1/2

Crazy Rich Asians Poster
Trailer

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.

Director:

Jon M. Chu

Writers:

Peter Chiarelli (screenplay by), Adele Lim (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

 

CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a likeable though occasionally cliche-ridden American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name.  The film boasts both to be the first film by a major Hollywood studio  (Warner Bros.) to feature a majority Asian American cast in a modern setting since THE JOY LUCK CLUB (1993) and likely the first film to be mostly shot in ultra-modern Singapore and parts of Malaysia standing in for the Lion City.

The rom-com plot is quite simple.  Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) a NYU Economics Professor is brought back to Singapore by her boyfriend Henry Golding (Nick Young) to meet his family.  Nick Young belongs to the wealthiest family in Singapore, unbeknown to Rachel.  Rachel is put to the test by Henry’s super-strict mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) where proving herself is still not enough for the mother’s approval.  Needless to say, the man gets his girl at the end.

As far as performances go, Wu and Golding are ok as the couple.  It is Michelle Yeoh (Once a Bond girl and martial-arts star) who shines, her every look and speech making a solid impact.  The funniest of the cast is TV’s SUPERSTORE’s Nico Santos who plays Eleanor’s procurer, Oliver who keeps everything in gear and Eleanor happy.

Singapore (nicknamed Asia for Beginners) is a multi-national society that is very different from any other Asian city.  The Government is also very strict that Singapore be always presented in a good light.  Singapore banned, for example Peter Bogdanovich (THE LAST PCITUE SHOW, WHAT’S UP DOC?) and his film SAINT JACK about a ex-British soldier returning after the War to set up a brothel in Singapore.   Bogdanovich submitted a false script, Jack of Diamonds to the Ministry of Culture for approval and shot a totally different film instead.  When boasting about the incident back in the States, the Singapore Government got wind of it and banned him from ever entering Singapore again.  IN CRAZY RICH ASIANS, Singapore is displayed in all its modernity and prosperity from the first scene at Changi International Airport when Nick Young and girlfriend step off the fictitious airline.  The couple is immediately whisked to Newton Hawker’s Centre, where a full display of local food fare is displayed for the audience and for Rachel.  The famous triple towers Marine Bay Sands, the timeless Raffles Hotel with the palm trees in the courtyard and the Merlion (lion with the tail of a mermaid) statue sprouting water, are a few of the famous landmarks on display in the film.

As the film is catered to a North American audience, most of the characters speak English with a western (be it American or British) accent.  Only a few of the cast speak the commonly heard English.  One of Auntie Eleanor’s friends utters one of these when the couple arrive at the house disrupting a Bible Study: Christianity-lah!”  But it is Auntie Neena, Rachel’s best friend’s mother (Koh Chieng Mun) who is given the most lines to speak in Singapore’s pidgin English.  Koh is a total riot with the film poking fun at the way English is spoken by a local.  In Singapore, the most common language spoken is Hokkien, a Chinese dialect.  That is never heard in the film, though the language is referenced in the scene where Rachel plays mah-jong with Eleanor with the other ladies. “They won’t understand us (English), Rachel says, “They only understand Hokkien.”  In another scene, Eleanor explains that Rachel can never be accepted because she is not ‘kah-kee nang’ (a Hokkien phrase meaning ”own people, or ‘same flesh’).  But one glaring omission in the film is the presence of Singapore minority ethnic groups – the Malays and Indians that make up 20% of the population.  Only two Singh guards are shown in the film, guarding the family mansion as security.

Audiences who favour romantic comedies are in for a treat.  A super-Singapore setting, crazy rich and colourful characters, well choreograph set-ups and laugh-out loud humour all make a well paced crowd pleaser with a happy ending.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS has at the time of writing grossed around $150 million based on a $30 million production cost.  The other totally Asian American film SEARCHING starring John Cho (HAROLD AND KUMAR) about a Korean American searching of his missing daughter is also grossing in a huge profit.  The sequel for CRAZY RICH ASIAS has already been announced by Warner Bros.  There is clearly a huge demand for Asian American films that has just been realized.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ-YX-5bAs0

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1997 Movie Review: TOMORROW NEVER DIES, 1997

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TOMORROW NEVER DIES MOVIEGOLDENEYE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher,Joe Don Baker and Judi Dench.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

Elliot Carver is a corrupt media baron out to start a war between the United Kingdom and China. China will not let Carver have exclusive media rights in their country. He uses a GPS system to send a British naval ship off course into the South China Sea where his stealth ship sinks the vessel and steals the missiles. He then blows up a Chinese fighter plane sent to investigate making it seem like the plane and the ship attacked each other. Bond is sent in to investigate Carver after Carver leaked the information before anyone else knew about it. The Chinese send in their own spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) to investigate as well. Bond and Lin team up to stop Carver from firing the British missiles at Beijing and starting a war between their countries, which is already starting to begin.

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REVIEW:

Tomorrow never dies is the most action packed Bond film in the series. It sets up the plot quickly and then it is one action set piece after the other. It is well done for the most part. The plot isn’t as complex as Goldeneye with a forced relationship between Elliot Carver’s wife Paris and Bond. The emotion feels forced within the writing as compared to Goldeneye. Other than that it is a fun ride. Michelle Yeoh is great as a Chinese agent with great martial arts, as always from her. The focus on the power of media is interesting and relevant. Carver uses it to his advantage dreaming of a world by his standards. He proves himself to be a powerful dictator and using the media to deliver his message and shape his world. It is interesting to think of the media and how it could be used for the ultimate good in mankind and the ultimate evil.

There are some great stunts involving Bond driving his car from the backseat using a remote control and being chased by a helicopter handcuffed to Wai Lin on a motorcycle. It is good to see a good evil henchman as well. (Stamper, who is scary and is obsessed with taking Bond down). Its good to know that henchmen are still fun and useful in the future.

Tomorrow Never dies may not be as sophisticated as Goldeneye in terms of an all round great Bond film, but it still does the trick and ups the ante with intricate action scenes. It is also in no way cheesy and I didn’t find myself feeling like anything was that far fetched for what it was. I always pop in Tomorrow Never Dies because it is just a fun action movie. By no means great, but a lot of fun. Michelle Yeoh has my vote for toughest Bond girl, doing all her own stunts and helping the action scenes seem more realistic.

 

TOMORROW NEVER DIES, 1997

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