Archive for the Yuen Woo Ping Category

Review: Ip Man 3 (2015)

Posted in Chao Chen, Donnie Yen, Lo Meng (Turbo Law), Max Zhang, Mike Tyson, Wilson Yip, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , , on April 19, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

02_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_0

Starring Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Max Zhang, Lo Meng, Chao Chen, Sarut Khanwali, Mike Tyson, Kent Cheng

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Wilson Yip

Donnie Yen has recently stated that he is basically retiring from film, that he’s said all he wants to say in regards to martial arts. After seeing Kung Fu Killer, I was inclined to agree. Now that I’ve seen Ip Man 3, it’s a certainty (of course before he retires we get Donnie Yen….IN SPACE! ). It’s customary for the third film of a series to be inferior to the two films that preceded it. There are only a few examples of films whose third film was the equal or better than its predecessors, and Ip Man 3 is one of those films, but I was surprised as to the reason why.

Donnie Yen returns as Ip Man, many years after the events of Ip Man 2, and Ip Man is once again prosperous in 1960’s Hong Kong. His Wing Chun school is thriving, he is well-respected in the community, basically placing him back in the position he was in before the events of the first Ip Man took it all away. Hong Kong also seems like its doing well, but it’s not. There are too few police to handle the growing numbers of people. and crime is running rampant. Fatso (Cheng) tries to keep order, but finds himself once again under the command of a corrupt British commander, who takes his orders from Frank (Tyson) a ruthless property owner who now targets the school Ip Man’s son attends as his next conquest. Ip Man finds himself defending the school from Frank’s goons, while navigating a rickshaw driver (Zhang) who may be as skilled in Wing Chun as Ip Man and looks to start his own school, and Ip Man’s wife Cheung Wing-Sing gets devastating news that will alter their lives forever.

01_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_1

The film is a triumph by Wilson Yip, and the story feels like an organic continuation of the series. The film never forgets the events of the previous films, and does quite a few call backs. Ip Man vs. Ten Men? Sure. To the bad guys, the events of the first Ip Man are nothing more than legend. Surely Ip Man never fought and beat ten black belts? The film even begins how the second film ended: with an adult Bruce Lee looking to train under Ip Man. The film does a great job of resolving Bruce Lee without actually telling that side of the story. Donnie Yen once again does a great job as Ip Man, and his acting has improved, which is needed to as there are quite a few emotional scenes for him. Mike Tyson is adequate as the bad guy Frank, but thankfully you won’t see him very much. Better served is Max Zhang as the rickshaw driver Cheung Tin-chi. He’s a driven,  conflicted man, coming from nothing but has the will to achieve his goals no matter what, and the problem with that is he’s a good man who may have to do bad things in order to achieve his dreams, and Ip Man is the final obstacle standing in his way.

The surprise of the film was Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing. Her story arc drives the final half of the film, and she is excellent. I never really warmed to her character through the first two films, as I never understood how she is always upset when Ip Man either fights or studies his arts, even though those very things have provided her with her lifestyle, and has represented China countless times. This time her story arc recognizes her contradictions, and brings her character full circle by the end of the film as she realizes that Ip Man doesn’t just study Wing Chun, Ip Man IS Wing Chun, as much as the sky is blue and water is wet.

04_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_0

I had thought that Yuen Woo Ping was losing his skills as a fight choreographer, but nope. He’s at his best here, and the fight scenes are plentiful and all of them are excellent. From the Ip Man vs Ten men fight, with a new wrinkle put in, the massive battles with what appears to be Ip Man fighting half of China, to his duel with Mike Tyson, and the bring-down-the-house finale versus Max Zhang in a Wing Chun vs. Wing Chun fight for the ages. Every fight is imaginative, bone-crunching, fast-paced affairs that really outdo the previous films, and that’s not even mentioning the terrific Wing Chun vs Muay Thai elevator fight between Donnie Yen and Sarut Khanwilai. Really, the weakest fight was Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson, in that is was short, and Ip Man already faced this kind of fight with Twister (the late great Darren Shahlavi).

The only thing missing from this film was the late Fung Hak-on as the best friend of Master Law (Lo Meng).

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip bring the Ip Man trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, culminating in one of the best one on one fights in recent memory. Kung Fu cinema fans, it simply doesn’t get better than this!

Advertisements

Review: The Grandmaster (2013)

Posted in Cung Le, Tony Leung, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on October 21, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

grandmaster3

Starring Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Cung Le, Elvis Tsui, Lau Shun, Lo Mang, Yuen Woo-Ping, Zhang Jin

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo-Ping

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

When news came that another Ip Man film not starring Donnie Yen was being made, I had to roll my eyes. Much like Wong Fei-Hung everyone has to have their own take on Ip Man. Most have been okay to really good, but none have come close to the quality of the Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen series. Now toss in Wong Kar Wai, a prolific and one of the most talented filmmakers..well, anywhere, and I thought this was on the road to greatness.

But along the way Wong Kar-Wai decided to take a detour.

The film starts off by showing a rain-soaked fight between Ip Man (Leung) and a legion of gentlemen led by Iron Shoes (Le). After Ip Man tears ass through them we learn of his early years learning Wing Chun, and then his marriage and life with Cheung Wing-Sing. Ip Man’s life seems to be going peacefully until The Northern Boxing GrandMaster Gong Yutian arrives, challenged the southern schools to find their own Grandmaster, as he is retired and has made his son Ma San the Northern Grandmaster. The southern masters agree that Ip Man should represent them, and things get complicated when Gong Yutian’s daughter Gong Er (Ziyi) arrives, and Ip Man finds his heart may be going to her, but arrival of the Japanese and his flight to Hong Kong threatens to undo the perfect life he’s made for himself, and Gong Er must deal with a treacherous brother and ailing father in order to protect her family’s martial arts legacy. But how much is that worth to her?

the grandmaster

My issue with the film, and maybe it is a matter of expectation, is that it’s a little deceptive, and maybe not in a good way. I went into this thinking I was watching a Ip Man film. But from a  narrative perspective that’s not really the case; this film is really about Gong Er and her family. The Grandmaster title isn’t referring to Ip Man, but rather Gong Er. Ip Man is nothing more than a supporting character. This is not to say that Tony Leung doesn’t do a good job, because he does. He’s stoic as Ip Man, but at the same time conflicted. Zhang Ziyi is also excellent as Gong Er, a strong woman who was unfortunate enough to not be born a man, at least in her father’s eyes. The issue here is that the film takes a narrative turn away from Ip Man to follow Gong Er, and then jumps back to Ip Man toward the end, pretending as if the previous hour we had been watching an Ip Man film the entire time. Did Wong Kar-Wai simply decide that Gong Er was a more fascinating character to follow? I felt that there was a whole Ip Man film left on the cutting room floor, and with Wong Kar-Wai’s reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case. I have to admit, however, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It almost looks as if it could have been a black and white film, in the way that the camera plays with the shadows and golden skin tones, contrasted by the opening of the film in a rainstorm that never looked so good.

grandmaster

The fights are solid, though it had more wirework than I was comfortable with, but one was a big notch above the rest: Gong Er versus her brother Ma San at the train station. It was a cinematically gorgeous fight, and with the train passing by it added a layer to the composition of the visuals. Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Jin do excellent work here. Yuen Woo Ping still has a great big bag of tricks in his tool belt, but aside from looking beautiful, it just felt like something was missing.

Wong Kar Wai’s film asks the question “What is Kung-Fu?” but I’m not sure he knows the answer. Maybe that’s the point.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Grandmaster is a gorgeous film to look at, and Zhang Ziyi does a great job as Gong Er, and Tony Leung lights up the screen as Ip Man. If only Wong Kar Wai knew which movie he wanted to make.

Review: Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow (1975)

Posted in Chi Ling Chiu, Fung Hak-On, Hwang Jang Lee, Jackie Chan, Roy Horan, Simon Yuen, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on May 13, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Snake3

Starring Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen, Hwang Jang Lee, Fung Hak-on, Peter Chan, Charlie Chan, Roy Horan, Chi Ling Chiu

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Yuen Woo Ping

Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow represents a turning point in the career of Jackie Chan; he was deemed a failure by Lo Wei after several box office disappointments. The heir to Bruce Lee he was most definitely not; just another stuntman who couldn’t cut the mustard as a star. So when Golden Harvest came calling, Lo Wei had no qualms about lending Jackie to them. Jackie, understanding that the end was near, asked to control his own films, and to do something no one had really thought of: allowing Jackie to be Jackie, and not Bruce. That thinking, along with pulling JC into the orbit of the Yuen family, culminated in this film, which would become the thematic template to the film that will make Jackie Chan a major star, Drunken Master.

So what to make of the Snake?

In this film we find that he Snake Fist school has been under attack by the Eagle Claw school, and that for a school that once boasted over 3000 members now only has a few left (that’s not an attack. That’s war). We find that Mr. Ass Kicker himself Sheng Kuan (Lee) as he takes out another Snake fist master (Fung Hak-On). Next we meet one of the last masters of the form,  Master Pai Cheng Tien (Yuen), who wanders around as a beggar. His travels brings him to the orbit of a kindly young man Chien Fu (Chan) who “trains” at a school that, while the Master is away, is run by two buffoons who ridicule and embarrass him at every turn. Taking a liking to Chien Fu, Pai Cheng Tien decides to teach him the style of Snake Fist, but warns him not to show it. But since this is Jackie Chan, of course he’ll use it! This brings Sheng Kuan and several assassins to attempt to kill the last remaining Snake Fist masters…but Cheng Fu has a surprise waiting for them…

Snake1

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow really shows the comedy that would become a hallmark of Jackie’s early films and career as a whole. Jackie himself, at least this time, is playing a nice young man, rather than the rapscallions he would later play. Even in this early film, it’s easy to see why JC became the superstar that he is. He has a great screen presence, and his kung fu is fun to watch, especially since he fell under the wing of the Yuen family, Speaking of whom, Simon Yuen, the real ODB himself, is as crazy fun to watch as he ever was. Is there any doubt that Simon Yuen was to Jackie Chan in these early films what Bill Tung would be for his later ones? They were both great comedic foils for JC to play off of, and they are both sorely missed.

Hwang Jang Lee is just awesome, this being a warm-up (as it was for everyone) for his role in Drunken Master. Roy Horan is decent as one of the assassins, and his finale…damn! The story itself is simple but hey, that’s the novel joy of it, and Yuen Woo Ping keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the training sequences are standout, as is the scene where JC finally practices the Snake Fist form. Still glad to see films where the hero is not an instant badass who is a kung fu expert right out of the womb.

Snake

This film also answers a trivia question “what’s the worst kill of Jackie Chan’s career?” Roy Horan gets the nod here, and his death by skewered testicles ranks up there with some of the worst as JC just pulls a Sonny Chiba on his unfortunate ballsack. I can’t decide if Horan’s death scene is one of the worst acted or one of the best. It’s just that cruel an ending for him. He could’ve screamed for his mommy at the point and I wouldn’t have blamed him.

The fights are as imaginative as Woo Ping has ever been, but is only a small taste for what’s to come. The final fight with Hwang Jang Lee, Jackie Chan, and Simon Yuen is as great as you would think, but still only a small, small taste of what’s to come. Woo Ping brings out the playfulness in JC, and that’s the thing I think Woo Ping does so well; he matches his fight choreography to the personalities of the actor/fighter.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A great kung-fu film that became Jackie Chan’s first real hit film, and would set the stage for one of the greatest kung fu films of all time! A fun filled spectacle to watch.

Review: Iron Monkey 2 (1996)

Posted in Donnie Yen, Wu Ma, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on April 2, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

ironmonkey2

Starring Donnie Yen, Wu Ma, Billy Chow, Chang Jian-Li, Yuen Man-hing, Lee Hoi-hing

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Chao Lu-Jiang

Iron Monkey is of the best kung fu films, combining a good story with heart and simply amazing fight choreography, and even though I am decidedly NOT a fan of wirework, the work done here is excellent and compliments the action. I was really looking forward to watching Donnie Yen return, as he was so excellent as Wong Kei-Ying.

The film begins as we meet Jade Tiger (Jian-Li) a triad boss who is working with a foreign group to run the town into the ground, and during a chinese opera he’s attending he finds himself under attack by a group of men led by the infamous Iron Monkey (Yen). The attack ultimately fails and Iron Monkey retreats. Meanwhile we meet Jin, a young man from the countryside (Haven’t I said before to watch those country guys? They know some crazy kung-fu!) who travels to town in order to find his father (Ma), who happens to be posing in town as a blind man who works for the local resistance group. Hijinks ensue as Jin meets Xiaochun and Xiaoqian, two young people who spend their day conning others out of their cash, and see a new opportunity to cash in by tricking Jin into posing as the Iron Monkey. Of course this brings him on a deadly trajectory with the real Iron Monkey and Jade Tiger…

IronMonkey22

UGH.

Let me repeat.

UGH.

First off, this is no true sequel to Iron Monkey. This isn’t even the same f***king character as played by Yu Rongguang, so fie on that. Why bother to call it Iron Monkey if has not a damn thing to do with the original? Donnie Yen did well, for the short amount of time he had onscreen. I think he showed up in Blade 2 more. This film spends too much time dealing with Xiaochun and Xiaoquan and their antics with Jin rather than concentrating on the title character. Jade Tiger is a by the book baddie, so it was up to the others to make the film interesting. Well, they failed with flying colors on that, and I found myself marking time until the next fight scene. As if things weren’t bad enough, it looks as if the budget for the film got slashed into half of what the original film’s was. Everything from the costumes to the sets looked shoddy, and the camerawork was just terrible and lacked any style whatsoever.

ironmonkey21

The biggest sin this film commits is one I thought wasn’t possible. The film actually made Yuen Woo Ping, the great man himself, look pedestrian as a fight choreographer. No, really. The fights are completely unimaginative and without any real thrills. It looked like one of Corey Yuen’s “I’m just collecting a paycheck” films ( you know which ones I mean). Even the final fight was dull and no, under cranking the camera so the action seems faster didn’t make the fights any better. In fact they made them look more pitifully awful.

Notice I haven’t said anything at all about Billy Chow and Wu Ma. Yeah, this film is that bad.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 2

A terrible effort, particularly with the talent involved. Save ninety minutes of your life and take up scrapbooking instead of the dreck.

Review: Man Of Tai Chi (2013)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Keanu Reeves, Silvio Simac, Tiger Hu Chen, Yu Hai, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on March 31, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

MOTC2

Starring Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Silvio Simac, Iko Uwais, Yu Hai

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is a polarizing figure. With his eternal surfer-dude voice and his connection to Bill and Ted that will haunt him until the end of time, he’s been a success in Hollywood even though his acting is somewhat monotone in nature (Kevin Costner’s been accused of this as well). The Matrix films featured Keanu doing complex martial arts fighting akin to what was current in Hong Kong kung-fu cinema (thanks to Yuen Woo Ping and his stunt team) and now Woo Ping returns, along with Tiger Chen, a stunt man in the Matrix films that Reeves befriended, and a bevy of martial arts stars to tell the tale of what happens when a good man falls from grace. 

The results are…hmm.

The story begins as we meek Donaka Mark (Reeves) a wealthy owner of a securities firm that is a front for underground fighting. His latest fighter refuses to kill his opponent, and is himself killed by Mark. Always on Mark’s tail is Hong Kong detective Jing Shi (Mok) who always seems a few steps behind Mark. Mark begins a search for a new fighter, which brings him to Tiger Chen (Chen), a Tai Chi fighter who has entered tournaments to prove that Tai Chi is a fighting art as well, to the dismay of his master Yang (Yu Hai). Mark becomes facinated with Tiger, and has him followed, with cameras placed around his apartment and at his parents home. Tiger is a good man who works as a delivery driver, and tries to provide for himself and his mother and father. Mark uses what he finds out to entice Tiger to become his new fighter. Tiger does this, as he has a violent tendency that Mark is able to feed, despite Tiger’s training. Tiger soon enters Mark’s world, and as the fights and stakes pile up, Tiger finds that the good man he is has disappeared, replaced by someone he barely knows. In essence, Tiger goes over to the Dark Side of the Force…

MOTC

The film is fairly straightforward and doesn’t offer any real surprises, and the script here really fails Reeves the Director. The main characters aren’t that interesting except for Simon Yam, and that’s just because he’s Simon Yam. Tiger is decent, but doesn’t really have the intense charisma I was looking for, even though his martial arts was excellent. Karen Mok plays the HK detective plainly, and Reeves acts pretty much as if he were still Neo from The Matrix, except for a few moments when he yells or screams or smiles/laughs maniacally, and those moments have given me nightmares, ‘cause it looks scary as hell–unintentionally. A face that has no emotion and then suddenly shows an extreme outburst of it is…disconcerting to say the least. I was extremely disappointed by the use of Iko Uwais here, and anyone who has seen The Raid, and by now The Raid 2 will agree. This could have been the fight of the film, and instead is a dud of a fight as the story intrudes at the wrong time.

The fighting here is done well, with one large exception. Yuen Woo Ping does a good job, but I can see there are issues with fusing his style with the harder styles of films choreographed by the likes of Panna Rittikrai and Yayan Ruhian. All of the matches Tiger gets into are good to great, the weakest being the fight versus Silvio Simac, a performer I know could have given a far better fight than they gave him. The film was supposed to be using a new motion camera to track the fights, but it wasn’t the game changer it was touted to be. The problem here is that no matter how long the fight is, it has to be edited, so that takes away from the moving 360- degree camera movements. 

MOTC4

The end fight of this film was the real disappointment. Reeves needed to remember that no matter how good he looked in The Matrix, he is NOT a martial artist, and has not been learning long enough to look good when put up against true martial artists. Here, he fights Tiger Chen in a fight that has none of the complexity of the other fights that came earlier in the film, ones that featured real fighters. His kicks were the weakest I’ve ever seen, but his fist work was passable (barely) and this reminded me of Man With The Iron Fists, and my anger at the hubris of the RZA for playing the main character even though he knew no martial arts. That same anger returned here. Reeves the Director could have cast Donaka Mark with Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White (if he has to be from America/Canada) or any number of other Asian actors, someone who would have made the final fight memorable. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

I expected so much more, but there is a hint that Reeves could be a good director, but he has to know when to leave Keanu Reeves the actor at home.

 

Philip Ng kicks ass in Once Upon A Time In Shanghai! (2014)

Posted in Andy On, Chen Kuan-Tai, Philip Ng, Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo Ping on December 6, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Once Shanghai

What can I say? This movie looks like 2014 is gonna get started the right way! With this, Police Story (it’ll be 2014 before we get it in the states) , The Protector 2, The Raid 2: Berandal and perhaps Unlucky Stars (Dennis Ruel, I gotta see this, man! At this point I feel like a junkie looking for his fix!), plus a new film from Michael Jai White, Jeeja Yanin, more Tony Jaa and Jason Statham on the way 2014 is shaping up to be something special, if all expectations are met. Philip Ng is a great martial artist, deserving of stardom that has eluded him, but I think this will get him into the big time. With Sammo Hung, Andy On, and Chen Kuan Tai on hand, and fight choreography by Woo Ping, I think this film will be…awesome.