Tag Archives: Donnie Yen

Big Brother (2018) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Big Brother Review

Director: Ka-Wai Kam
Writer: Tai-lee Chan
Stars: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Kang Yu

When it comes to reality, Big Brother is to education what Star Wars is to space travel. But let’s not hold that against it.

As a longtime teacher in the real world, I speak from experience. In 20+ years, I’ve never said or done anything that makes an entire class of delinquents suddenly think I’m cool. I don’t visit them at home, become their buddy or fix their broken homes. I’m not idolised by the entire student body, nor do they line up to take selfies with me. And I sure as hell haven’t used my considerable martial arts skills to save the entire school from the local mob (this movie’s goofiest subplot).

But who the hell wants a movie showing a dedicated teacher in the act of actual teaching? Or grading papers on weekends? Or attending weekly staff meetings? If said-teacher is played by Donnie Yen, we want him to kick some serious ass in the name of education.

Big Brother is sort-of like Stand and Deliver…with fists. As such, the movie is a lot of fun, even as we’re rolling our eyes over the absurdity of it all. Though he has zero experience, Henry Chen (Yen) manages to land a job as casually as applying at 7-Eleven. In quick order, he manages to whip his kids into academic shape, five of them, in particular (because screw everyone else). No student has an extracurricular problem that can’t be immediately solved by Chen’s wisdom, encouragement and a few roundhouse kicks to the right faces. He even becomes a local celebrity by pummelling a crooked MMA fighter.

You won’t believe – or be surprised by – a single minute of it. But when you’ve got Donnie Yen at the head of the class, who cares? In addition to his considerable physical skills, he’s always been a charismatic actor and is certainly likeable here. So even though most of his actions would have a real educator hauled before a review board, Henry Chen is the guy real teachers dream they could be.

Alas, it’ll have to remain a dream for now. But until that fine day when teachers are unleashed to take education by the balls and beat it into submission, we can experience it vicariously through movies like Big Brother. Though outlandish and completely predictable, it’s the lighter side of Donnie Yen and one of his more entertaining recent films.

Advertisements

Kung Fu Killer (2014) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Kung Fu Killer

Yi ge ren de wu lin (original title)

Director: Teddy Chan
Writers: Teddy Chan (original story), Ho Leung Lau (original story)
Stars: Donnie Yen, Baoqiang Wang, Charlie Yeung

Plot:  A martial arts instructor from the police force gets imprisoned after killing a man by accident. But when a vicious killer starts targeting martial arts masters, the instructor offers to help the police in return for his freedom.

Running Time: 1 hour 40 Minutes

IMDB Score: 6.5

Why I Watched It: I wanted to see this and for whatever reason I didn’t get around to it, it was on Netflix then it left and then I managed to see it on Amazon Prime.

Random Thoughts: So this is a foreign film and yes that means subtitles, it’s in Cantonese, luckily I don’t mind sub-titles.

I’m a fan of Donnie Yen but I don’t think he gets the love or attention he should in North America, he’s a great action star but also a solid actor.

What I liked: Flat out this is just a very well done action/martial arts movie.  Really I don’t need to say more but I will.  The set up is pretty good you have a man not only targeting but also killing Martial Art experts and he’s killing the best in each discipline, the film in a way reminding me of Seven, not as dark but the killer is kind of close.  For me the reason this movie works is the villain cause we know he’ll end up going after Donnie Yen and we know he can hold his own so the bad guy has to not only be opposing but also a very good fighter and Baoqiane Wang does a great job, he’s crazy but he’s driven and he’s a great fighter.

The fighting is top notch and all of the fights have an intensity and a sense of urgency that a lot of action films lack.  Donnie Yen not only anchors the film but also the fight scenes.  Another cool thing about this movie is the closing credits, a lot of the actors even in small parts are legends or stars of martial arts films from the past, Yen does a nice job of making a current film but also to tip his hat to the past.  There is a lot of respect given to Kung Fu here, they do a nice of job of making an entertaining film but also to take the art seriously.

This is a harder edge film than say a lot of other action films, this is serious and not played for fun, the action is hard but not over the top violent.

What I Didn’t Like: Some of the sub-plots were a little clunky and did kind of slow the film down and it does drag a wee bit.  The romance part is very cliched and really adds nothing to the film.

Other than that not to much to complain about I do wish some of the earlier fights were longer, I wish we could have seen the other masters hold their own against Wang, hey I always want more action.

Final Thoughts: If you’re a martial arts fan and or a Donnie Yen fan give this a watch a very well done and performed Kung Fu action film.

Rating: 7/10

XXX:Return Of Xander Cage (2017) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

XXX RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

Director: D.J. Caruso
Writers: Rich Wilkes (based on characters created by), F. Scott Frazier
Stars: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone

Plot: Xander Cage is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.
Running Time: 1 hour 47 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 45%   Audience 38%

Why I Watched it: Well I saw the first two movie and no they weren’t great but B-Action movies is my jam, yes I did just write that and yes you just read that.

Thoughts:Why another XXX movie cause everyone likes franchises, studios, actors and by the box office numbers so do audiences so we go back to see if we can milk a few more dollars or movies from a dead franchise.
The first two movies weren’t very good, the first one was boring and I liked the second one cause it was so silly so the only thing I was interested with this movie was the cast.

What I liked:This is an over the top cheesy silly action movie but you know what get your favorite treat grab a couple of beverages of your choice and enjoy the silliness.  I thought the film had a good energy and it wasn’t as boring as the first one, they tried to make Xander Cage a new age James Bond in the first film this time it looks like they were trying to build a team not unlike ‪The Fast And The Furious‬ franchise and I think this works better.  They went for a slicker and lighter tone here which suits the film, you can’t take this serious, well you can but don’t.

The director is DJ Caruso and he’s made some really good genre movies, I love an underrated film of his called The Salton Sea and it’s sad he’s a gun for hire but good he’s still working.  The good thing here is he knows what he’s making, he’s trying to make a fun action film and he kind of does it.

I like the international cast and if this opens up Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa to a bigger audience I’m cool with that. Oddly the thing I like the most about the film is the team dynamic, I’m a sucker for action films that have a team come together or recruited and even though not everyone works it does throw enough interesting actors at you where at least there’s something for everyone.

I do think it was smart cause Xander Cage on his own is just another bland action hero.  Now Vin Diesel has settled into these roles, he’s not so much acting as he’s just being his persona, it’s fine but to be fair you don’t buy any of the over the top action sequences he’s in.

What I Didn’t Like: We’ve seen this kind of movie done before and better and yes they rely on almost every action cliche they could think of.  Like most so so films they borrow from much better films.  The biggest waste here is the cast, Tony Jaa really has nothing to do and he doesn’t get to show off his amazing fighting skills that much.  I liked Nina Dobrev she brought some energy to the tech role.  Toni Collette is doing her Joan Allen impersonation, I do think she’s in another better film.  Samuel L Jackson is picking up a paycheck and it shows.

The main problem here is you just don’t care, there’s no hook for us, it’s a fine looking film but it doesn’t standout and the whole extreme sport thing doesn’t really carry well to this film, it does seem like a lesser ‪Fast and Furious‬ film, I think the big reason for the cats is Diesel just can’t carry a film on his own, Cage is a blank slate, we know nothing about him, he has no arc and Diesel is content to play cool and macho.

Final Thoughts: It wasn’t as bad as I thought, I got through it and smiled at the silliness of it all, I call these type of films “they are what they are” it delivered on the poster kind of movie.  It was a harmless but generic action movie.

Rating: ‪5/10‬

Ip Man 3 (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

IP MAN 3

Director: Wilson Yip
Writers: Tai-lee Chan (as Tai-Li Chan),  Lai-yin Leung
Stars: Donnie Yen,  Lynn Hung,  Jin Zhang, Mike Tyson

The third instalment of the legend that is “Ip Man” continues after two rather successful movies. This time “Ip Man” is forced to take a stand against a brutal gang led by a crooked property developer named “Frank” (Mike Tyson) who plan to take over the local school.

Donnie Yen makes glorious return as Ip Man, and again doesn’t disappoint. If the first movie dealt with honour and the second movie dealt with acceptance, the third one really delves deep into the meaning of life and is possibly the most emotional storyline of the saga. Donnie Yen by now is such a charismatic actor and elegant fighter you know you are going to be entertained regardless.

In my previous reviews I probably nit picked at certain elements of the previous two instalments, but one thing always kept me watching and that was Donnie Yen. He really was cast so well for the role of Ip Man and especially because he is capable of combining acting and martial arts with grace.

Similar to the previous two instalments “Ip Man 3” is loaded with great martial arts sequences throughout the duration of the movie and in particular the martial arts fighting sequences were done with great care and attention to detail. It was elegant and visually impressive to look at and in particular the fighting scenes with Iron Mike Tyson. These scenes were beautifully choreographed and equally so executed by the actors on the screen.

As always the supporting cast around Donnie Yen was and is a bit ropey with some stand out performances and the occasional duff line or six with “actors” who are clearly more comfortable with their fighting sequences than their dialogue. Unfortunately one of those is the main villain in the movie “Frank” played by Mike Tyson making his first appearance as an action star.

As previously mentioned his fighting skills and scenes with Donnie Yen are some of the best moments in the trilogy but it’s the dialogue, acting and delivery that lets Tyson down as he confusingly floats between English and Cantonese in his lines unconvincingly. Again I’m nitpicking and I should really just see this as an oversight.

It was also a nice to see this series hint at one of Ip Man’s most famous students Bruce Lee. Like previously they hinted with a pre credit scene in the second instalment a young Bruce Lee making an appearance in the movie with Donnie Yen’s character saying come back to me when you are older. Ip Man 3 jumps right into this by the third instalment and now a much older Lee appears at his door to learn Wing Chun. Check out the cigarette scene on You Tube to whet your appetite. Actor Kwok-Kwan Chan did a decent job, although the portrayal of Lee is more a caricature version, but it fun nonetheless.

“Ip Man 3” movie is a definite must watch movie if you enjoy the previous two instalments and enjoy martial arts in general on the big screen. This movie delves into the emotional side of Ip Man and his family and there is truly some heartbreaking scenes throughout. Having now completed a trilogy of reviews on the Ip Man series I am now looking forward to the fourth instalment next year in which will mark a decade since the original. I think it benefits watching the current three back to back and although filmed in 2008, 2010 and 2015, they are seamless in their continuation and storytelling flow. I highly recommend everyone should watch “Ip Man 3”

Ip Man 2 (2010) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

IP MAN 2

Director: Wilson Yip
Writers: Tai-lee Chan (as Tai-Li Chan),  Hiu-Yan Choi
Stars: Donnie Yen,  Xiaoming Huang,  Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Ip Man 2 follows on from where the original movie left us with Ip Man and his family’s migration to Hong Kong. We follow Ip Man now to opening his own new academy to teach Wing Chun on the rooftop of his friend and the news editor’s (Pierre Ngo) apartment. Business is difficult for Ip Man in a strange city where without his reputation he had in Foshan is struggling to find new disciples to his teachings until a young man named Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming) who says he will only pay for lessons if Ip Man can defeat him. Unsurprisingly Ip Man defeats the young man who runs away embarrassed (without paying) but returns a short time afterwards with several friends who try and team up to defeat the master unsuccessfully. The young men realise that Ip Man is the real deal and ask for him to become their master.

Ip Man’s reputation in his new city begins to spread and his class grows. Things begin to look up for Ip Man until Leung is kidnapped and held to ransom by the students of a rival school. Again Ip Man must once again prove his worth, by freeing Leung and beating the rival students. This appears to be the theme throughout the second instalment of the Wing Chun Master’s story as time and time again the scenario is a challenge to over come that results in another challenge related to the previous (and there’s more to come)

By rescuing Leung it brings Ip Man to the attention of master Hung Chun-Nam (Sammo Hung), who runs the local martial arts schools. Ip Man is told he can only continue to teach Wing Chun if he completes the tests against the other masters and yet again, Ip Man has no choice but to show what he is capable of and defeats several masters and matches Hung in a one-on-one.

This scene is probably my best moment in the movie as the fighting sequences are flawless and in some cases very imaginative as the challenge set for Ip Man is to fight these masters on a table without being knocked off. Sammo Hung as Hung Chun-Nam is expectedly impressive in these scenes as he appears a lot older and heavier than Ip Man. But I suppose that is the point of his style of martial arts. Unassuming and effective as he matches the master of Wing Chun.

The first half of Ip Man 2 is largely based on him being accepted by students and masters alike. The second half of the movie shifts towards the main villains of the storyline in the occupational British (under the commonwealth) who to me are more portrayed as pantomime villains rather than as menacing as the Japanese were in the original movie. Besides the over elaborated bad accents the acting at time from the British contingent was questionable and unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong this is minor details in almost a very good film and although noticeable it isn’t distracting.

I was also delighted to see Siu-Wong Fan reprise his role as Jin from the first film and it was equally surprising to see his character as a reformed man who gets to portray a good guy in this sequel who appears to have accepted Ip Man as a superior martial artist. Disappointingly Siu-Wong Fan isn’t in the movie for long and serves his purpose to the story. I felt he should have been in the movie a little longer than he appears.

Ip Man 2 isn’t as good as the original but to be fair still is a solid martial arts movie with great fighting sequences. The finale though reminds me of Rocky IV in the character of Ip Man being perceived by a very hostile crowd and how his skill, honour and dignity wins the day and turns the minds of a very hostile British crowd into admirers of the master of Wing Chun.

I recommend that if you are watching this movie as a fan of martial arts then it will be a very enjoyable movie. Also watch out for a brief cameo at the very end that is cleverly inserted to give you an appetite for the 3rd instalment of the Ip Man series. Highly recommendable.

Ip Man (2008) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

IP MAN

Director: Wilson Yip
Writers: Edmond Wong (screenplay),  Tai-lee Chan (as Tai-Li Chan)
Stars: Donnie Yen,  Simon Yam,  Siu-Wong Fan

When this movie came out almost 10 years ago it had been a while since I sat down and enjoyed a quality martial arts movie. For the previous 10 years I had experienced the beautifully shot “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the “House of the Flying Daggers” much in the same fashion as the previous. I began to get bored of the genre now relying and going back to wire worked fighting sequences that had been long abandoned when Bruce Lee’s “The Big Boss” was released to the world in an explosion of no nonsense fighting and straight to the point combat sequences.

I was aware of the role Ip Man played in Bruce’s development as a world class martial artist but forgive me for leaving this movie until now to analyse and review. I will be reviewing the trilogy and breaking down what I experienced as a movie goer and with the forth instalment hitting the big screen in 2018 I felt it was time to “Movie Burn” this film.

Ip Man is one of the first Wing Chun martial artists credited to have introduced its rising popularity and is portrayed brilliantly in 1930’s Foshan, China,

Foshan is a busy and bustling city where many martial arts schools have set up shop to fuel the craze of kung fu training. Every new school will visit Ip Man (Donnie Yen) for a duel challenge as a mark of respect and is always hosted behind closed doors away from public eye so as not to disrespect or damage the opponents reputation.

It is here we learn of Ip Man’s Respect and humility for others and his style is never violent or aggressive, which often gets assumed and mistaken for being weak and passive. I have to admit although the opening 20-30 minutes of the movie was our introduction to the characters and development of what life was like in Foshan 1937 I did think it was light and not having too much of an element of danger.

The mood certainly changes as the story moves on with the invasion of the Japanese who have seized Fo Shan and a darker tone comes down on the movie like a dark veil. Ip Man’s struggles to make ends meet for his family in a terrible time of adversity. It is at this point we see the true character of Ip Man, who is highly respected throughout Foshan. This is obvious amongt his friends in Chow Ching Chuen (Simon Yam), his son Chow Kong Yiu (Calvin Cheng) and Crazy Lam (Xing Yu).

With supplies in his homestead running out for his Wife and Young Son, Ip Man manages to find employment in manual labour and has to abandon his practice of Wing Chun for a more practical lifestyle of survival. The work force are generally made up of martial arts masters who are offered rice to compete in fights against the Japanese military figures. This is where I felt the movie is becoming darker and more sinister as the Japanese are portrayed as controlling and use this platform to embarrass, brag and humiliate the Chinese community at every opportunity in believing their Martial Arts are far superior and more advanced than their enemies.

After discovering his friend who volunteered the day before doesn’t return to work, Ip Man discovers the volunteers are being beaten to death by the military and this is where the action begins to pick up with Ip Man demanding to enter this almost “rigged” competition and reign fire on everyone who stands in his way. This segment reminded me of Fist of Fury (1972) in which Bruce Lee’s Chen Zhen confronts the Japanese in the same fashion for the atrocities the Chinese people endured in these times.

The sequences that followed were shot beautifully and choreographed to perfection. The Wing Chun style is breathtaking to watch and impressive as well and I do believe that this segment was paying tribute to the 1972 Bruce Lee movie. It has to be said that the fighting sequences were the stand out elements in this movie with a classic and traditional simple storyline of period storytelling.

The characters are developed enough to understand and appreciate their struggle against an invasion on their homelands and sympathise with. The acting at times was perhaps predictable and the dialogue in translation at least wasn’t that brilliant from the supporting cast out with Yen’s portrayal of the main man whose lines where minimum and direct.

I enjoyed watching this movie and I have to agree with Donnie Yen in his description of Ip Man the movie. It isn’t an action film in the sense of all fists erm blazing. The movies pace is rather slow and lighthearted to begin with and reaches its bloody climax in some breathtaking cinematography. I would highly recommend anyone who enjoys the genre to watch “Ip Man” and prepared to be dazzled by the master of Wing Chun.