kung fu

The Grandmaster (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

The Grandmaster (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Cinematography (Philippe Le Sourd) and Best Costume Design (William Chang Suk Ping).
Watched May 24, 2014.

I wanted to like The Grandmaster so badly!  I was really unsure what I was getting into when I started watching it, but I roped my husband into it because I knew it was about martial arts.  It is certainly a unique shooting style with a lot of artistry and strong technique, however its plot was so slow moving that it lost my attention multiple times and I found myself caring little for what was going to happen in the end.

The film is the story and history of martial arts, but is specially focused around Ip Man (played by Tony Chiu Wai Leung), a martial arts master who would eventually train Bruce Lee.  Ip Man was a master during the republican era of China in which the dynasty falls.  He is surrounded by greatness and is inspired, patient, and a true believer in the art.  He becomes attracted to the daughter of a master from the north, despite already having a wife and children.  As the dynasty falls and Japan invades, he is forced to Hong Kong in search of work, but is stranded there when the borders close.  Everyone is claiming to be a martial arts master and fights break out everywhere.  There are very few true masters teaching the art and holding to the old ways.  Ip Man is hit on all sides by life, but is able to open a school that will one day attract the likes of Bruce Lee.

The film’s third main character is time.  Ip Man’s relationship with both kung fu and his love interest Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang) are told through a manipulation of time.  Whether the story line is sped up or slowed down, the master is always a presence of calm in the storm.  A calm demeanor, however, does not always mean happiness.  Even the best can be overcome by emotion, especially if the emotion is revenge.  Gong Er’s legacy and family are practically stolen from her, and no matter what it means for herself, she seeks to restore her family honor above all else.  They are wise, but cannot escape time, just like the rest of us.

The cinematography is particularly dark.  When there are joyful times, there is light and color and tradition, but as the invasion happens, everything becomes shrouded in darkness pierced by sharp reds.  The film is truly a piece of art, but its style is a tad over exaggerated and over saturated for my taste.  It becomes so wrapped up in itself (most especially in its over-use of slow motion) that although the kung fu is truly magnificent, it gets lost in its presentation.  Perhaps it is good that it is not flashy and bright, or unrealistic like typical Hollywood.  It is much deeper and more meaningful this way–just very redundant.

If you enjoy films that are more pieces of art than entertainment, this could probably be one you would enjoy.  I don’t think that I will ever seek out The Grandmaster again, and nor do I think it impacted my life, but I don’t regret my time spent watching it either.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Jennifer Yuh).
Watched January 26, 2013.

 

I am a sucker for Pixar, but especially for Kung Fu Panda.  The main character Po reminds me so much of my brother-in-law that he is perhaps the best character ever.  That being said, we all know that sequels, especially of late, are generally prime examples of trying too hard to better one’s self.  The simplicity and wit of the first is lost or overextended and the character arcs take on more and more drastic turns.  The first time I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 when it came out, I was severely under-whelmed.  This time, thankfully, my expectations were lower and thus I enjoyed it much more.

 

Once again we travel to China to see its beauty and its tradition in almost exaggerated ways, thanks in part to Hans Zimmer‘s compositions that play tribute to past kung fu films.  We get to see some of our favourite characters again and watch them, in all their amazingly animated glory, perform incredible feats and fight more beautifully than we can imagine.  We see the characters interact again, and more importantly, we get to learn more about them.

 

The fact that we maintained the old cast from part one and then gathered many more in part two makes the plot a little heavy to begin with.  Po (voiced by Jack Black) and the Fabulous Five are clearly great friends at this point.  Po is having the time of his life being The Dragon Warrior and always seems to pair up with Tigress (Angelina Jolie) to successfully bring down their foe.  Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) continues to guide Po’s training and in this film encourages him to find his inner peace.  It is only then that he can defeat the new villain.

 

Shen (Gary Oldman) is a particularly troubled Peacock who has committed genocide and stolen the throne.  When the Fabulous Five learn that he has killed a great kung fu master and is using a new weapon to destroy all that they hold dear, they immediately set out to bring him to justice.  Through much revelation, heartache, and unbelievable peace, they will bring Shen down or die trying.

 

The character relationships, for the most part, were a bit too friendly in comparison to the first film, in my opinion.  Po and Tigress are suddenly best friends, for example, which is very far from what they were previously.  Shifu has a very small role but stays true to himself, and the development between Po and his father is very touching.  Po, despite what he discovers about himself and his past, seems to have slipped backward a few notches and the humor the writers give him is much more idiotic and slap stick than it was before.

 

If only for the love of the first film, I would suggest Kung Fu Panda 2 for you.  Its animation is outstanding, its cast is phenomenal, and the kung fu is amazing.  If you have low expectations and just want some fun, this would be a good family movie choice.

Sources: WikiaIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies