Saturday, 28 May 2016

Ip Man 3 Review – Action scenes with spectacle and soul

Donnie Yen once again returns to his iconic role as Wing Chun grandmaster (and Bruce Lee trainer) Yip Man. It's 1959 Hong Kong, and Yip Man is struggling to balance his work and home life. The matter isn't helped when his son's school becomes the target of ruthless American property baron, Frank (Mike Tyson).

When, the headmaster refuses to leave, Frank and his goons turn to violence and Yip Man is forced to intervene. Meanwhile, a jealous Cheung Tin-chi, the father of one of Yip Man's son's schoolmates, sets his sights on Yip Man's legendary title.

This multi-stranded plotting, while simple enough, has more depth of character than one might expect from the third film in a martial arts series. Yen's hero is challenged – not only physically, but emotionally – and, as a result, the threat hits disarmingly close to home.

That's not to say the fight scenes are in any way sidelined. Yen dances his way around huge makeshift arenas, taking on dozens of men at a time. This peaks in a second act fight scene across the wooden beams of a sprawling dockyard. The thoughtful production design present during that sequence extends to even the smallest details, a trait that results in a wonderfully realised rock and roll sense of time and place across the whole film.

Truth be told, the Yen vs. Tyson showdown pushed (understandably) by the marketing department is the least thrilling element of the film. Tyson only appears in the film fleetingly and their passingly entertaining mano a mano remains just that, and it feels unearned when compared with the sincerity on display elsewhere.

Ip Man 3 achieves a wonderful balance of spectacle and soul. The punches fly in brilliantly choreographed set pieces, but the driving force is always Yip Man's love for his family and his community. A film as nimble as its titular hero.


Screener and image courtesy of Fetch Publicity. Thank you!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Momentum Review

"the snazzy costumes and some cool special effects set-up a sci-fi 
inflected world that’s never delivered upon"

My ★ review of Momentum is now live over at New On Netflix UK:

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Review – At least BvS was about something...

X-Men: Apocalypse has many of the individual elements that one would associate with superhero films if explaining the phenomenon to an invading alien race: a group of characters with superhuman abilities, said characters using their powers for "good", said characters using their powers for "bad", a huge smashy finale, a god-like antagonist (also with superpowers) intent on world domination/annihilation, powerless human onlookers, discussions of responsibility, colourful costumes, glossy special effects, characters who have experienced loss...

Image courtesy of Cinema Blend

It also has none of the elements that explain just why these films are so popular: a moral heart, empowering heroes, explorations of unmistakably human problems, a message, thrilling action scenes, inventive visuals, gleeful cameos, quick-witted pulpy rapport between classy actors...

X-Men: Apocalypse is a superhero film totally devoid of any thematic depth. It is about nothing. It is a film that leaves Michael Fassbender to hover above the earth, swirling debris everywhere, for what must be a good twenty minutes: inexcusable.


... the cast/casting are solely responsible for the second star.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review – The point of no return

In an attempt to regain control of the writhing X-Men money machine, Fox brought back Bryan Singer (director of the first, and best, two franchise instalments). Together with screenwriter, Simon Kinberg – and X-Men: First Class scribes, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, on story duties – Singer provides a final contortion to the already tortured X-Men timeline with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Image courtesy of Fat Movie Guy.

In the future, evil Sentinels patrol the skies finishing off any rogue mutants. Our future team (Patrick Stewart’s Xavier, Ian McKellan’s Magneto and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine etc.) have just about survived thanks to a time travel-based warning system. However, the only way to solve this problem for good is to send Wolverine back in time to stop the Sentinels from ever being created. So back he goes to meet up with the past team (James McAvoy’s Xavier, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique etc.) and get the job done before the Sentinels find the future team and end mutant-kind for good. Yeah, that’s the kind of plotting we’re dealing with here…

The impressive assembled cast outmatch pretty much every blockbuster in recent memory, and they all deliver solid performances without any of them ever really shining. Unfortunately, the conglomerate consumes each individual character, leaving the cast to function as an indistinctive, albeit highly efficient, whole.

But, it’s okay, I guess, because we’ll see most of these actors in the freshly released (and poorly received) X-Men: Apocalypse. But, characters like Peter Dinklage’s moustachioed villain, Boliver Trask (great name, right?), are left utterly wasted and lost in the swirling mess of plot lines and exposition-less action.

Even as someone who’d seen four of the six X-Men movies leading up to this, I was utterly baffled by the action onscreen. But, I knew that everything would be fine in the end… because, hey, it’s a comic book movie and that’s how comic book movies work.

Unless Singer has performed miracles with Apocalypse, I fear that Days of Future Past has taken the entire X-Men franchise beyond the point of no return. Convolution after laboured convolution has driven these movies into the ground.