Chinese Film Festival: Ip Man & Ip Man 2

Ip Man

Ip Man

A modern genre classic if ever there was one, 2008’s Ip Man, which simultaneously parallels China’s occupation during WW2 and the titular grandmaster’s rise to folk hero status, has all the elements to satisfy audiences both Eastern and Western. And if you think about it: that’s a bloody rare occurrence!

It’s also, finally, cements Donnie Yen as the world’s premier Ass-kicker. Rightly so, as his performance, physical and otherwise, as the introverted Wing Chun expert is subtle yet evocative and powerful.

The rest of the film stands up equally well, with touching performances, a sympathetic plight, a sweeping narrative and a dozen or so, immaculately crafted fight sequences.


Ip Man 2

As too often is the case with sequels, following a year’s worth of critical and financial success, the inevitable follow-up seems to lose the run of itself completely.

Ip Man 2 isn’t quite that bad, to be honest, it’s rather good, but sadly in comparison to its predecessor, it’s of substantially lower quality. Ironic considering how time should have honed Ip Man’s skills…

The dialogue, the characters, the story and the action, they’re all fine (most of the time) but it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re watching a rushed product that concentrates more on beating you around the head with anti-western propaganda than telling a punchy* tale.

Not that I’m against said propaganda, just it could have been presented with a little more polish.

*(Pun Intended)

Jack McGlynn

The Chinese Film Festival runs from Friday 4th February until Sunday 13th February. For further information visit www.dublin.ie/cny

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The Fighter

The Fighter

DIR: David O. Russell • WRI: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson • PRO: Dorothy Aufiero, David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Paul Tamasy, Mark Wahlberg • DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema • ED: Pamela Martin • DES: Judy Becker • CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

After any decent boxing match, we all like to analyse the performances. Funnily enough that’s what we do with films too. So when it’s a boxing film, better stand back…Because The Fighter comes out swinging, immediately clinching your attention with some heart-felt, energetic performances, before slugging you senseless with realistic, visceral bouts.

Roughly chronically the comeback of real life boxer Mickey Ward, Mark Wahlberg begins his portrayal as a fatigued pugilist, passing his prime and attempting to shake a string of losses and step out from the considerable shadow cast by his older brother, Dickey Eklund.

For any Marky Mark haters out there, take note: the man can act, and carries this film on sculpted shoulders, both metaphorical and literal. His almost bashful quietness betrays a vat of simmering emotion, like when you drop a coke can. A coke can of PASSION! He has help along the way with interesting direction via David O. Russell, who begins the feature as a documentary. Yet, shortly the camera pans, revealing the production crew as part of the arching narrative. This technique allows for the honesty and proximity of the documentary style, yet remains unhindered by its storytelling limitations.

Amy Adams, ever willing to exhibit her considerable acting chops, is more than on form as Mickey’s girlfriend. She shines as a support strut for the loveable fighter, coming to blows, both verbal and in one instance very physical, with his interfering mother and sisters. Also the exploration of their blossoming relationship seems fresh as the pair hook up within the first act. Unfortunately for Adams and Whalberg, if they wanted their acting to stand out, they shouldn’t have starred in a film with Christian Bale.

People seem to have forgotten about Christian Bale. Perhaps it’s due to his temper tantrum in the relatively bland Terminator Salvation? Or being overshadowed by Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight? Either way, people seem to have forgotten that Bale is, without doubt, the finest actor working today. Watch The Fighter and you’ll recall. You may even feel compelled to write a letter of apology to the man for such oversight. Honestly, his performance as crack-riddled, fallen-from-glory, local pride Dickey Eklund, who once knocked down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, is a revelation. Perhaps ‘re-revelation’ is the more precise term, considering his astonishing physical and mental commitment to powerhouse roles in American Psycho, Empire of the Sun, The Machinist, Equilibrium, The Prestige and Rescue Dawn.

Hilarious, upsetting, disgusting, sympathetic and occasionally inspirational, Bale channels all the facets of the storied boxer expertly, and is a joy to watch, even if he’s doing nothing more taxing than asking a passer-by whether or not his dog is a Springer Spaniel.

Spoiler: It was.

Mercifully, Bale’s talents actually amplify the tale’s potency. Sensitive, intelligent direction couple with a cacophony of brutal fights, in and outside of the ring, spoken and otherwise, The Fighter is a boxing film that actually manages the fine balance between entertainment and resonance.

And, if that’s not your thing, dudes get hit in the face real hard and in slow motion. Yes!

Jack McGlynn

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Fighter
is released on 2nd February 2011

The Fighter – Official Website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmq0DtvpqSM[/youtube]

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We Love…. 2010: 'True Legend'

Best of... 2010

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

We start 2010 by looking back at a few of our favourite films of 2010. Throughout January we’ll be adding to the list. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

True Legend

Jack McGlynn

The world seems to have forgotten how to make action films. Considering this, True Legend is easily the most trailblazing film of 2010.In fact, it could be the single greatest action film for the past ten years.

Yuen Woo Ping hasn’t directed a feature since 1996. The world didn’t know what it was missing.
Seamlessly blending wirework, CGI, visual effects, intricate choreography and some good old fashioned stuntmen kicking each other really hard, each of True Legend’s dozen action scenes are symphonies of martial violence, physical grace and property destruction.

People raved about the Anti-Gravity Corridor fight in this summer’s Inception. Imagine that, plus the superhuman close quarters combat of the Matrix, multiplied by the visceral, brutal bludgeoning administered by Jet Li in Unleashed and you might have an action scene half as good as True Legend’s. The film is not perfect, but action has literally never looked so good.

I could rave indefinitely about this film, so instead here’s a selection of awesome things the indomitable protagonist, the Legendary Beggar Su performs for your delectation:

• Dropkicks an opponent in the chest, only to backflip without landing and dropkick a SECOND opponent in the chest
• Stabs a foe in the heart, then kicks the blade clean through his torso
• Stabs some poor unfortunate with a spear, then kicks his corpse through a wall
• Receives a flying head-butt, which knocks him bodily through a brick wall and down some stairs.
• Blocks a spear while simultaneously doing the splits while kicking some dude in his face
• Regularly blocks incoming strikes by intercepting them with kicks
• Fights the GOD OF WHUSHU atop a mountain shaped like a giant Buddah
• Avoids a sucker punch by leaping bodily into the air and kicking his foe in the head thrice before landing
• Smashes a vase on an opponent’s head and kicks him down a well
• Jumps down after him, and head-butts a poisonous cobra into said combatants chest
• Proceeds to punch his opponent up out of the well, before wrapping a chain around his fist and punching the more or less dead enemy in the neck

The world seems to have forgotten how to make action films.

Remind yourself. Watch True Legend.

Then watch it again.

And again.

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We Love… Christmas: ‘The Lion in Winter’

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Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Throughout December we’ll be adding more Christmas films we love – so keep an eye on the website and feel free to add any of your own…

 

The Lion in Winter

Geoff McEvoy

Christmas is normally a time when our capacity for saccharin is tested to breaking point, but The Lion in Winter is a richer seasonal treat, with the pleasing tang of something bitter. Not that it looks that way at the start. The credits roll to a series of pictures of decaying medieval gargoyles (not Christmassy), then the scariest Gregorian chanting you ever heard kicks in (not Christmassy) and it soon become clear that the film has a very low budget (definitely not Christmassy). Or maybe they just spent all their money on casting because they certainly put together a great line up of actors: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and (making their screen debuts) Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton. And as soon as someone speaks all your reservations disappear because they have given these actors a wonderfully sharp and witty script, a perfect combination for some festive fun.

‘What shall we hang, the holly or each other?’

It’s obvious why Aaron Sorkin made this Jed Barlett’s favourite film in The West Wing because, like his writing for that show, The Lion in Winter finds the perfect balance between hilarious quick fire exchanges and powerful emotional drama. Like your first glass of mulled wine it’s a heady brew. Henry II (O’Toole) rules England and most of France and he has decided to bring his feuding family together for a Christmas court to appoint his successor. Among the guests are his three sons Richard (Hopkins), Geoffrey and John, Philip II of France (Dalton), and his estranged wife Eleanor (Hepburn) who he’s had locked up in Salisbury Tower for the past ten years. So things are set for an explosively dysfunctional Christmas.

‘Hush dear, mother’s fighting’

What makes it work so well as a Christmas film is that, despite the fact that they are fighting over the throne, the characters true motives are all so familiar. The youngest son is a spoilt pouting teenager and the middle child is bitterly resentful of the affection lavished on his siblings. At the centre of it all are Henry and Eleanor constantly scheming and manipulating to undermine each other. They’ve been at it so long that they’ve forgotten how to relate to each other any other way, so they torture each other almost out of habit – Eleanor even seems to torture herself – as they try to find the best way to inflict emotional pain. If one member of this family loves another then that love becomes a weapon to be used against them.

“There’s everything in life, but hope.”

So I guess there’s no denying that, even though it is very funny, this is an anti-Christmas film. Henry and Eleanor may understand the value of peace on earth and goodwill towards men, they may even aspire to it, but it’s just not in them. And yet after all the screaming matches and the knife fights, the exchange of threats between rictus grins and the collapse into despair, you’re still left smiling. Because at the end of the day they’re alive and they have each other and for one day that’s enough (very Christmassy).

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