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02/01/19

MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY (Movie Review)


The story: Wing chun master Cheung Tin Chi (Max Zhang) closes his martial arts academy to lead a simpler life as a grocery store owner. He soon finds himself in trouble with a local gangster (Kevin Cheng) after trying to rescue two women being attacked by him.

For all the criticism that Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen received for his inability to emote in the popular Ip Man movies, the franchise made him a star because he was given so much time to do what he does best - fight.

It was easy to root for Ip as he delivered one thrilling gongfu sequence after another, never mind the improbability of the now iconic scene from the first movie where he had demanded to fight 10 men at once.

In this spin-off movie, however, Chinese actor Zhang will unlikely make the same impact playing Ip's former wing chun opponent Tin Chi - a role he had first played in Ip Man 3 (2015).

It is not entirely Zhang's fault - he is a skilled martial artist and when he gets the chance to show off his moves, he is mesmerising to watch. His final fight with Dave Bautista (in the role of the token evil foreigner) is particularly fun because of the huge difference in their physical size.

Zhang's sharp cheekbones and overall bad boy demeanour should also make his character so much more exciting than the righteous but supremely bland Ip.

But Tin Chi's story is strangely sidelined for a number of unnecessary sub-plots, whether it is the romance between bar girl Nana (Chrissie Chau) and bar owner Jin Hu (Shi Yanneng), or the internal conflict among the Cheung Lok triad members.

It also feels like he will forever live in the shadow of Ip. Yen does not even have a cameo role here, and yet he is constantly referenced in the dialogue as well as through flashback scenes.

The movie may be titled The Ip Man Legacy, but it really should have given Tin Chi the chance to shine on his own.

BUMBLEBEE (Movie Review)


It's right in the thick of the shoulder-padded '80s here on good-ol' planet Earth. On the radio, the British group Tears for Fears belts out "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." But out in deep space on the war-torn planet of Cybertron, that existential musical meditation is concretely real.

In an apocalyptic confrontation, the wicked robotic Decepticons are battling for domination of their mechanized planet, and the opposing Autobot heroes are just barely holding on. In fact, things are so dire on Cybertron that the Autobot's strongest and most courageous leader, Optimus Prime, is ready to throw in the chamois towel on the whole affair.

In the midst of an ongoing explosive maelstrom of blazing lasers and disintegrating steel, Optimus turns to his most loyal lieutenant a yellow robo-battler called B-127 and sends him off to a just-discovered planet full of creatures called humans and oddly non-sentient cars and trucks. B-127 must set up base on this world, protect its inhabitants and wait for the surviving Autobots to eventually arrive.

B-127 takes flight … with a watchful Decepticon not far behind.

Sometime later on that planet called Earth, a San Francisco Bay-area teen named Charlie is in need of a car. She may look like an average, awkward teen girl clad in cool band T-shirts and sporting a head full of disheveled hair, an adolescent working part time at a local hot dog stand, but down deep she's … well, that's exactly who she is. She's nobody special. She's wresting emotionally with the recent death of her beloved dad. She's confused, impatient, and she pretty much feels adrift.

Having a car, however, could change all that. Charlie is sure of it.

So when she finds a beat-up old yellow VW at the local junkyard, and actually gets it to start, her spirits soar. The junkyard's owner even surprises her by giving the battered vehicle to her as a present on her 18th birthday.

It's when Charlie gets the chugging contraption home, however, that the real birthday surprise takes place. While trying to work on the car, it moves … on its own. It then unfolds, rises and transforms. And suddenly there's no longer a slightly damaged VW in her garage, but rather a slightly damaged yellow robot some 10 feet tall, with glowing blue eyes and buzzing circuits.

Charlie always thought that a car would change everything. Little did she know she was more right than she could ever have imagined.

And so Charlie names him … Bumblebee.

AQUAMAN (Movie Review)


Those of us who don't live close to the ocean might consider Aquaman's powers to be a little … impractical.

Hey, it's great to swim fast and all, but that's not very helpful in Arizona. Talking with sea creatures can certainly be helpful on the high seas, but it's of dubious benefit on dry land (where, it must be said, most crime takes place). And let's face it: Chatting up the doomed lobsters in your average seafood restaurant would only make you sad.

So go ahead, you landlubbers. Demean Arthur Curry's superpowers. Let Batman and Wonder Woman steal the terrestrial headlines. Just remember that water takes up two-thirds of the planet's surface, which gives Aquaman a nice, big playground. He doesn't need fame or accolades: He likes to keep a low profile as low a profile as a shirtless, tattooed, towering, bearded Greek sculpture of a man with superhuman powers can reasonably keep, that is.

Arthur can rescue ships, lock down pirates, swim home for supper and still make time for a trip to the pub with his pops. He's making a difference and preserving his quality of life. Now that's superheroing done right.

Frankly, the last thing that Aquaman wants is more responsibility. Like ugh being king of Atlantis.

Oh, he could be a pretty big deal in those briny depths if he wanted, maybe. His mom, Atlanna, was queen of the underwater kingdom, which gives him a better claim to the throne than his younger half-brother, Orm. And lately an underwater princess, Mera, has been pestering him to return. He's told her time and again that he doesn't want to go back. I mean, who wants to sit on a waterlogged throne when you can sit on a beer-stained barstool?

Plus, Arthur's not a pure Atlantean: His dad is a surface dweller a lighthouse keeper named Tom—and Arthur was told that his mother was executed for her terrestrial affair. Given that history, it doesn't seem like Arthur or Atlantis should have much to say to one another.

But Orm isn't that happy with being king of Atlantis, either or, should we say, just being king. Arthur's baby brother wants to reunite the sea's seven kingdoms, claim the title of Ocean Master and wage war on the surface world.

Would these sea-based civilizations win such a war? They've certainly got some impressive, high-tech firepower at their disposal. But a full-scale invasion of the landlubbers might be impractical given, y'know, the attackers' need for gills and all.

But Arthur knows one thing: If Orm and his supporters declare war on humanity, it'll mean the death of billions, both on land and in water.

Maybe the kingdom of Atlantis could use a new king after all.

MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Movie Review)


Quaint, quiet Cherry Tree Lane isn’t what it once was. The familiar spark of magic has left the air, and the Great Depression has settled over London like a thick fog.

Young Michael Banks and his sister, Jane, aren’t so young anymore. A former painter, Mr. Banks has recently traded in his brushes for a more “adult” job: working part time at the local bank. Michael’s wife, Mrs. Banks, has passed away, leaving behind a loving husband, three beautiful children (John, Anabel and Georgie), Jane, and house helper Ellen.

Everyone and everything feels Mrs. Banks' absence. You see, life was simply lighter when Mrs. Banks was alive. Things were simpler. But times have changed—not for the better. And a loan that Michael Banks took out to pay for his family’s expenses is long overdue, putting even more pressure on the grieving family.

And so the loan sharks arrive at Cherry Tree Lane to collect the entire sum, or to repossess the Banks’ family home. They're unyielding in their demands, unwilling to give the new widower a break. Mr. Banks has four days, until Friday at midnight, to come up with the money.

It's an impossible task. Unless, of course, the Banks family can remember where that little paper is. You know, the one with all the information about their shares at the bank. But it’s not in the study, or in the attic or in the—

Wait—what’s that? In the air? Right there! Don’t you see it?

Why, it’s Mary Poppins of course! She’s come to help the Banks family once again. And maybe, just maybe, she can remind them, in her practically perfect way, that nothing is ever completely lost.

ROBIN HOOD (2018) Movie Review


Robin of Loxley is what some might call a toff, a pampered nobleman living in and about the realm of Nottingham, England. He has all he needs, except for, oh bother, a beautiful lady with whom to share it.

But hold on … a buxom female thief soon comes a-crawling through his window one night and fills that particular vacancy quite nicely, thank you.

After just a dash of flirtatious banter, a kiss and a squeeze, Robin and Marian fall in love. Why, she even has a social conscience, of sorts. And she easily transitions from sneaky thief to a fulsome Miss of the Manor who has a heart for the poor. That's the kind of lady Marian is. And theirs is a romance for the ages.

Ah, but the far less-than-noble Sheriff of Nottingham has other non-kissy things in mind for Robin. He wants some space between himself and the local nobles so that he can concoct his plans for an ultimate Death Star … well, a medieval version of something like that, anyway. So the Sheriff drafts young Robin into the army and sends him off to fight, and hopefully die, in the Crusades.

However, Robin proves himself more ethically upright and skilled with a bow than anyone might have guessed. In fact, he's strong and honorable enough to stand up to his superior officer and to fight against that man's torturous ways—a choice that earns him the respect of an Islamic warrior in that far-away Arabian land.

Robin returns home to find all his possessions seized, his manor ransacked and his beloved Marian in the arms of another man. (More on that turn of events below.) And it's all due to the wicked machinations of Nottingham's Sheriff —who, for some reason, has the power of a king though he isn't one.

What is poor Robin to do?

Well, remember that Islamic warrior? He somehow follows Robin back to England and offers to train him to be truly skilled with the bow, truly evasive, truly clever. Together, they can then upend the Sheriff and his evil ways.

Robin will play the role of the simpering Robin of Loxley by day and steal by night as … Zorro!

No wait, that's wrong. He'll dress up as … the Green Arrow.

Hold it, that's not right either. It's a green hood … and he's a thief, uh, yeah! He'll be Robin … Hood!

Boy, this fighting for justice stuff can be difficult to get right.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Movie Review)


Everybody used to think of Wreck-It Ralph as a bad guy, the big, lumbering fellow who always destroyed everybody’s arcade-gaming fun. But when he became best buds with Vanellope, a feisty little cutie from the racing game Sugar Rush, it changed everything.

Since then, life as a video game character in Mr. Litwak’s Family Fun Center has been good. Well, for Ralph, anyway. I mean, he would be satisfied if things just trundled along like they always have ‘til the end of time. You do your job in your own arcade game by day, and you meet your pals for a cheery root beer at Tappers by night.

Vanellope, however, isn’t so content. Maybe it’s her sugar-fueled lifestyle. She loves Ralph and the gang and all, but … she sure wishes there could be something new in her racing game once in a while. She knows every track, she’s mastered every turn. If only there could be more.

Of course, when your BFF tells you she wants something new, naturally, you wanna help. So Ralph takes his big old sledge hammer fists into Sugar Rush to mix things up a bit. And … things don’t go so well. In fact, his actions end up breaking the game.

And a broken arcade game will get unplugged.

And an unplugged game means really bad things for that games’ racing residents.

And there’s only so much time before a glitching Vanellope might just glitch her way out of existence.

Ralph has to fix this problem, pronto. Fortunately, Mr. Litwak recently installed something called WiFi in the arcade. That may sound like a game about arranged marriage—it did to Ralph—but it’s really an open door to a fantastic place called the internet. And Ralph has heard that you can get anything in there, even an old part for an ancient arcade game. How hard can it possibly be?

Soon, he and Vanellope set off together for this virtual utopia, in search of the proper part. All they have to do along the way is figure out how to get their hands on something called money.

That shouldn’t be too hard in a wondiferous, wish-fulfilling wonderland like the World Wide Web.

Right?

OVERLORD (Movie Review)


Nazis are just the worst.

No revelation there, of course. Not in June of 1944, either, what with some 73,000 Americans on their way to France for D-Day. Nazi Germany had been waging war on much of the world for years at that point (with a little help from its Axis friends). But now the tide seemed to be turning. The Americans and their allies were about to push the fight into Nazi-held France—beginning the long, costly trek to Berlin.

Private Boyce is proud to do his part. Sure he's scared: Sitting in the back of that plane, parachute strapped on and orange-red flowers of fire blooming all around him, who wouldn't be?

And if we're being honest, he's not even much of a soldier. When his commanding officer, Sgt. Rensin, told him to kill a mouse that was leaving little, um, gifts in the barracks, he couldn't even do that—much less pull the trigger on a human being. But Boyce understands what the war's about. He understands what's at stake. And if he can help the Allies finish things off that much quicker, and get everyone home alive that much sooner, he'll do whatever is asked of him.

In fact, the plane's full of soldiers like Boyce—American boys and men proud and scared, wanting to stay alive but willing to do their duty. And they've got an important duty to do: to take down a radio tower the Nazis have installed on a church down below. (Why a church? Because Nazis are terrible, Rensin says in so many words.) They'll be working with munitions expert Cpl. Ford, and Rensin tells his men to follow Ford's orders like they would Rensin's own. It's an important mission—not easy, but doable, with plenty of men on hand to help.

Alas, war is notoriously hard on both men and missions. Their plane gets hit, and some soldiers are sucked into a fiery maw that was once its tail. Others die before their feet ever touch terra firma, dangling from trees like ghastly ornaments. Only five arrive at the rendezvous point, and just four make it to the French town near the church: A tiny squad to be sure, but enough, maybe, to do their mission.

But while Ford and his skeleton crew have their eyes fixed on the tower, the Nazis are focused on what's in the church basement: The makeshift operating tables, the syringes filled with strange orange serum. And the … things, locked up and monitored, the walking horrors unspeakable.

Yup, Nazis. They're the worst.

Especially if they're Nazi zombies.

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