Archive for November, 2013

Review: Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit (2011)

Posted in Animation with tags , on November 20, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring (American Voices) Jon Heder, Tom Arnold, Rebecca Black, Michael Clarke Duncan

Fight Choreography by Jing Jianjun

Directed by Lijun Sun

It’s no secret that when Kung Fu Panda and, to a far lesser degree, the Forbidden Kingdom came out, both films celebrating Chinese culture, and it caused no shortage of embarrassment among Chinese filmmakers for being beaten to the punch by Hollywood. This film was created to be an answer to Kung Fu Panda. So the question is does it work?

The film follows the journey or Fu (Heder) a rabbit who owns his own bakery (sounds familiar?) and one day finds Shifu (Arnold), and martial arts master dying in front of his home. Shifu has been betrayed by his former pupil Slash, an evil panda (!).  Fu takes Shifu in, and Shifu transfers his kung-fu knowledge telepathically into Fu’s head, with instructions to take a talisman to his daughter Penny, who runs his school (and, basically the country). Shifu then dies, leaving the not-very-smart Fu to find Penny on his own. Meanwhile, Penny and her friend Biggie return home from their travels to find that Slash has taken over, and that Penny’s father Shifu is dead, leading Penny to exact her revenge against Slash, and soon Fu must dig deep to save Penny and the land from Slash.

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This film just has the feel of “knee-jerk” written all over it, but there are great sins committed in this film. The first of which was Fu, who is an idiot here. Not even a lovable idiot, but just a moron. What’s worse is that, for the majority of the running time of the film, he flounders about, knowing nothing of Kung Fu and getting sidetracked as a waiter for the majority of the film, while Penny is the one who gets the action scenes, but since they are all separate from Fu, it was hard to care about any of them. Fu doesn’t have a single action scene until the final fight with Slash at the end of the film! My biggest problem with the film is that, at least in Kung Fu Panda Po becoming the Dragon Warrior was something he had earned. Here Fu is telepathically given kung-fu knowledge, and never uses it until the end. The animation, however, is lush and beautiful. Not quite as good as Kung Fu Panda, but it has a style of its own that was refreshing to see.

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The fights scenes themselves are quite good, nearly comparable to those in Kung Fu Panda, as each move is clear, regardless of speed. The final fight is well done and pays a good homage to the old school kung-fu films. Several of Penny’s fights are good, but the lack of fighting from the main character brings everything down quite a bit.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

There are a few things to like about Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit, but not enough to recommend it. A film that tries to be like Kung Fu Panda and isn’t anywhere close.

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Review: Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

Posted in Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kenneth Lo, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on November 17, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Xin Xin Xiong, Marvel Chow, Ip Chun, Fung Hak On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Chi Li Chung and Lam Sin Kwok

Directed by Herman Yau

Ip Man first became famous with the original Ip Man film starring Donnie Yen, which started a herd of Ip Man wannabe’s, or so I thought. Even though the series is known for Donnie Yen, curiously enough two unaffiliated films serve to bookend Donnie’s films quite nicely. The first could serve as the prequel, Ip Man: The Legend is Born, with an excellent performance by Dennis To, and this film, as Anthony Wong plays an aging Ip Man.

The film is narrated largely by Ip Chun, who chronicles his father’s stay in Hong Kong while Mrs. Man stays in Foushan, there to look out for their other child in college. While staying with his son, Ip Man starts his kung-fu school, and this story takes place long after Bruce Lee had left him to become a star. Ip Man’s students are a good group, but there is one, a policeman, Wang Dong (Chow) who is taking mob money in order to move up the ranks of the police, but he always respects Master Ip Man, but you know it has to come to a head sooner or later. One evening Ip Man’s students get into a scrap with a rival school led by Master Ng (Eric Tsang) who later befriends Ip Man after a war of politely written words turns into a great martial arts fight. Meanwhile, a young singer becomes infatuated with Ip Man even as he pines to see his wife again, separated by laws the restrict border crossing. Life moves on for Ip Man and his students as the decades pass, but a threat in the form of Dragon, a martial arts master turned mobster, causes Ip Man to fight once more, for the final time, in order to save one of his students…

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Wow. For a film that isn’t affiliated with the Donnie Yen series you wouldn’t know it. The quality is high, and Herman Yau does a fantastic job directing this feature. Anthony Wong is nothing short of a firecracker of a revelation as Ip Man, tortured by the loss of his wife, but motivated to teach others Wing Chun. I honestly must say that Donnie Yen couldn’t have played this version of Ip Man. Anthony Wong brings a world weary yet regal bearing to the role, and owns it the moment you see him onscreen. His performance is nuanced, full of little tics that reveal what he’s really thinking rather than what he says.  Xin Xin Xiong is great as always, able to play heroes and villains with equal measure, and he makes a good foil for Ip Man here.The real treat here is Eric Tsang, veteran of many, many comedies and to see him play a kung-fu master here, and to do so believably, just blew my mind. I didn’t know Eric had it in him, but man did he ever bring the goods here. He has really great chemistry with Anthony Wong in both their fight and their friendship. All of the other actors do a great job as well.

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The fights here are about as good as any you’ll see in a Donnie Yen Ip Man, and considering that Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang know either very little to no martial arts, both men were incredibly convincing. Anthony Wong fought just like Donnie Yen, with many similar movements (yes, it’s the same fighting style, but I mean something in the body language of both men are similar) and his fights with Eric Tsang (!) and Xin Xin Xiong were standout in this film, as were all of the other small skirmishes. The Lion Dance scenes were great, as was the fight afterward. It was also good to see Fung Hak On and Ken Lo get their fights in as well. The fight choreography was spot on and great.

Quality is rampant across this film, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

A great film that features Anthony Wong in one of his best roles ever, bringing the story of Ip Man to a satisfying close, with terrific action, humor and drama that culminates in a  final fight worthy of the legend of Ip Man.

 

Ip Man: The Final Fight is out NOW on Blu-Ray and DVD  from the good folks at WellGo USA!

Review: Jakkalan (aka This Girl is Badass!) (2011)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Panna Rittikrai with tags , , on November 11, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jeeja Yanin, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Akom Preedakul

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao

Jeeja Yanin has been hailed by many as the next Michelle Yeoh, and she may yet be. Chocolate was fantastic, and Raging Phoenix wasn’t nearly as good, but had some good fights. Now Jeeja returns with an action comedy in  Jakkalan, and I must say this wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Jeeja stars as Jakkalan, a bicycle messenger who lives with her Uncle, an old man who owns a legit video rental store, and pines after a woman who lives in his neighborhood by helping her and her daughter for reasons to be revealed later. Jakkalan also has a childhood friend who has a crush on her, but Jakkalan has a crush on a musician who lives in her neighborhood. Of course, these are small stories built around another, which is Jakkalan’s uncaring attitude about who she delivers what to, and in this case she delivers a briefcase of cocaine to a group of local dealers, both of whom believes that the other is trying to screw them over. Jakkalan finds herself smack dab in the middle, trying to avoid getting killed while doing her job, trying to get the boy next door, and make her strange boss happy.

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As a story, Jakkalan is more of an action film than anything else. I think Jeeja does an okay job with it, but there isn’t much to her character, unlike Chocolate and Raging Phoenix. She actually isn’t a likable character, basically a teenager full of herself. Faring much better is her Uncle, and Petchai plays him as a world weary man who hides a terrible secret that’s never really resolved. I think there was a much better film in his story than Jakkalan’s. I’m not that familiar with Thai comedy, but most of it never really worked for me. The baddies were trying to be these Tarantino-odd like guys, but they came off really lame.

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The fight scenes were really disappointing. I expect so much more from Rittikrai, and it really felt by-the-numbers here, rather than trying to push his own envelope. That could be due to the lighter tone of the film compared to many of his others, but the best fight was between Jakkalan and the assassin in the school-girl out fit. They have two bouts, and both are really good. Outside of that, the stuntmen did a good job, but this film felt more like 90’s Jackie Chan than 80’s, if you get my meaning. I wasn’t impressed with the fights in this film and expected so much more from both Yanin and Rittikrai.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Jakkalan is a disappointing comedy featuring great talents wasted in Jeeja Yanin and Panna Rittikrai. The tone of the film veers wildly all over the place. I’d suggest watching Chocolate again while waiting for Chocolate 2 and The Protector 2.

What’s that? Asskickery you want? The Raid 2: Berandal Teaser is here!

Posted in Iko Uwais, Uncategorized, Yayan Ruhian with tags , on November 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Thanks to the good folks at Twitch ( as it should be, since Todd Brown is a Producer on the film) we have our first look at The Raid 2: Berandal, and frankly it looks great.This is truly a teaser of the best kind, and refuses to give away too much for now. The sight of Iko Uwais punching a goddamn brick wall at rapid fire speed while images of the other various characters  including Hammer Girl and Yayan Ruhian as a new character pass by just makes me salivate for the final product. I really wish Roger Ebert was still around. Maybe he and I could’ve gotten into another tiny bit of back and forth as we did for the previous film.

Anyway, watch this thing about a thousand times below! 2014 can’t come fast enough…

LBP Stunts Chicago returns with Retroaction!

Posted in Emmanuel Manzanares, Shawn Bernal on November 2, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

One thing I love about the gang at LBP Stunts Chicago is that they constantly experiment with camera work and fight choreography that they see in other films. Take the film Jack Reacher, for instance. Here is another cool fight scene LBP Stunts Chicago style. I can’t say how much it looks like any of the fights from Jack Reacher, as I haven’t seen it, but who cares? When it’s these guys, it always turns out well. See it for yourself below: