Rental Pick: Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (2013)

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When I watched Ip Man earlier this Summer, someone recommended that I watch The Grandmaster, but unfortunately Netflix Streaming doesn’t have it. But thanks to my dear friend Michael from It Rains … You Get Wet for kindly lending me the dvd via mail. If you’re curious which version, it’s the Special Edition 2-Disc version in Chinese with English subtitles.

There are three things that appeal to me about The Grandmaster: Tony Leung Chiu Wai as a protagonist, Wong Kar Wai‘s direction and the story of Ip Man itself. Apparently it took the perfectionist director 10 years to bring this film to live, and from what I’ve seen, seems that most of it is spent on perfecting the visuals of the film. Now, I’m not being sarcastic here as the visuals truly is ah-mazing! My hubby said it’s as if every frame of this film is picture-frame worthy, and the opening sequence of Ip Man fighting a bunch of people in the rain is just glorious!

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This is the first film of Wong Kar Wai that I’ve ever seen, as our plan to watch In The Mood For Love for our Movie Night a couple of years back fell through and I never got around to it since. So I later found out from his IMDb page of the Chinese director’s signature style, i.e. his frequent usage of time-lapse photography, quick freeze-frames in the middle of certain scenes, and the way his characters are often shown having a conversation mostly off-screen or with their faces shown in reflective surfaces, etc. The Grandmaster is certainly a VERY stylish film, there’s a meticulous attention paid down to the last detail which I find really fascinating. I mean, the martial arts master is wearing a white Fedora the entire time he’s fighting in the rain, and the gorgeous Ziyi Zhang’s never without a white flower in her hair even as she does her Kung Fu. If you like martial arts films, you’ll surely enjoy the fight scenes! Tony Leung reportedly trained pretty hard for a whole year in preparation for this role and it shows! He’s quite graceful in his moves, but I think that’s largely how the sequences were shot.

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The thing is, as a character study, which is what I would expect here, the film is lacking a focused narrative. I feel that the strong visuals trumps storytelling and that seems as if it’s a deliberate move on the director’s part. I think it’s interesting that the story of Ip Man is intertwined with Gong Er’s (Zhang Ziyi), both in Foshan and later in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded their city. Their path crossed as Gong Er is seeking vengeance for the death of her father in the hand of her own family member who’s become a Japanese sympathizer. As intriguing as that story is, I struggled to follow the story with the choppy narrative and overwhelming visuals. There is a man named Razor (Chen Chang)that I haven’t got a clue what his relation was to the main characters, despite a fascinating introduction on the train. I had to read about it later to find out who he was. Perhaps this film is intended for people who are already familiar with Ip Man story? I’m not sure but I certainly knew less about the character than what I’ve learned from the 2008 Ip Man film.

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That said, I’m still glad I watched it and got to know Kar Wai’s beautiful cinematic style. I love the minimalist dialog to contrast the rich and tremendous visuals. The lack of spoken words are more than made up by the subtle gestures and delicate glances, enhanced by the Zen-like charisma of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. I could watch both of these actors all day, they’re so mesmerizing! As I’m not as familiar with martial arts films, I’m afraid the metaphors and underlying messages might be lost on me [my brother who’s more into Kung Fu movies might appreciate this more], but it’s still worth a mention. Lastly, I was hoping to see Bruce Lee as he’s clearly Ip Man’s most famous pupil, but I don’t see a scene with him specifically. He might’ve been one of the students shown towards the end and in this photo but not sure which one he is.

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Overall, The Grandmaster is an intriguing film that warrants a recommendation. Even the lack of focused storytelling still makes this a compelling film and a visual feast. It takes a certain level of sensitivity and patience but I do think it’s worth the effort.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on The Grandmaster? I’d love to hear it!

Weekend Roundup… and it’s FlixChatter’s 4th Blog-a-versary!

Hello everyone! I trust that you had a pleasant weekend, well I hope you do anyway. The Summer season is still so very elusive, I mean I still have to wear jacket and it’s June darn it!!

So yeah, watching The Kings of Summer a few days ago was quite frustrating, I mean, as soon as I left the theater, there’s no warm, sunny scenery to match what I’ve just seen on screen 😦 But hey, I’m not gonna be too gloomy about it, after all, FlixChatter hit a milestone this weekend, well today June 9th to be exact. Thanks to WordPress notification, apparently I’ve been blogging for about four years now…

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I was quite unprepared for this blog anniversary, but I do want to take the time to …

ThankYou

Yes, THANKS to each and every one of you who’ve come and visit this week blog. To those loyal visitors and commenters (you know who you are), I’m especially grateful for your constant support.

Special thank you to Kevin a.k.a. Jack Deth and Ted S. for your awesome contributions here. I appreciate every single ‘likes’ and comment, as every blogger would tell you, it’s what makes all the work worthwhile. So keep ’em coming 😀

IpMan_posterWell, this weekend I only managed to see one new film and it was an excellent one. I’ve been wanting to see Ip Man with Donnie Yen, which is a a semi-biographical account of the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun. I was curious about it as the real Ip Man (or Yip Man), in which this film was loosely based on, was credited as one of Bruce Lee’s martial arts instructors!

Someone on Twitter also recommended Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster with Tony Leung in the title role, too bad it’s not on Netflix! Anyway, I’m going to defer my review until I see the sequel, but I highly recommend Ip Man if you like great stories about an inspiring person, whether you’re into Kung Fu or not.

This weekend I’ve also been getting my period drama ‘fix’ if you will, with BBC’s North & South and Sense & Sensibility. Not only are these miniseries are so well-crafted and well-acted all around, both have such mesmerizing-ly beautiful leading men, Richard Armitage as John Thornton and Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, respectively. No doubt both are on my list of favorite period drama heroes 😀

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I’m glad I own both films as they just never get old and every time I need a little pick-me-up, I can just pop ’em in to my Blu-ray player, sit back and indulge in a wonderful story telling and gorgeous scenery.


Anyway, stay tuned for my review of ‘The Kings of Summer’ coming tomorrow. So, what did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

Five for the Fifth: September 2012 Edition

Hello folks, it’s time for the September 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?
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1. With election just a couple months away, the political ads are getting more and more vicious. I’m not generally fond of political movies or documentaries, though at times I’m curious enough to check it out, like I did with 2016: Obama’s America.

I guess I don’t mind them if they have the right cast and that it’s not too much bashing going on from either parties, they just leave a bad taste in my mouth when the filmmakers get too nasty/vindictive about a certain politician. There are only a handful of political-themed movies I’ve enjoyed, among them are the light-hearted ones like The American President, Dave,  as well as well-made thrillers like Enemy of the State and State of Play.

Do you like political movies? If so, which one is your favorite?

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2. There are at least a dozen movies I’m anticipating until the end of the year, not sure I could get to all of them on the big screen but I certainly hope so! Now, just looking at September and October, here are five on my must-see list:

ARGO – October 12

As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

I like the last two of Ben Affleck-directed films, and he seems to be much better in front of the camera when he’s also behind the camera. This trailer looks GRIPPING! Can’t wait to see this one!


The Master – Sept 14

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

Can’t wait to see Joaquin Phoenix’s return to the big screen, and the Scientology-like organization seems timely given what’s been happening with Tom Cruise! Eric from The Warning Sign puts this as his #1 movie of the year so far, and with Phoenix + Philip Seymour Hoffman, no doubt the performances are ace!


Looper – Sept 28

In the year 2042, a man working for a group of killers called “Loopers” (they work for the mob and kill people who are sent blindfolded back in time from the year 2072 by their bosses) recognizes a victim as himself.

Despite the weird makeup on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I do like this cast and this promises to be a time-travel thriller with a twist. So yeah, I’m game!


Chasing Mavericks – October 26

When young Jay Moriarty discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson to train him to survive it.

I’ve posted the first trailer here, but I like the second trailer better. Those waves look spectacular… and Gerry Butler in a wet suit? Yes please 😀 I still wish the kid playing Jay is more interesting, but hey, King Leonidas as surfing instructor? Sign me up!


Cloud Atlas – October 26

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Ok, this could be a spectacular movie or a complete mess. But the trailer makes me curious enough to see it and there are a lot of my fave British/Aussie actors involved: Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, etc., though Tom Hanks and Halle Berry might be the big draw for mainstream audiences. We’ll see if the Wachowskis deliver on this one.

Honorable Mention: The Cold Light of Day – I LOVE Henry Cavill so I’ll definitely try to see this on the big screen, but not sure if this movie is actually getting a wide release.

Now your turn. What’s your five most anticipated movies in the next two months?

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3. After having seen Brandon Lee in The Crow and the Bruce Lee’s biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, my hubby and I have become quite fascinated by the martial art icon.

My brother was very fond of martial arts stuff and so I probably have seen a few of his movies, it’s just not my cup of tea. But it’s no denying that Bruce Lee is not only the greatest and most influential martial artist of all time, but he’s quite a charismatic guy. He’s also quite articulate and philosophical in interviews, too bad there aren’t too many of them out there. Btw, did you know that Bruce Lee is part German? Apparently his mother is of Chinese/German descent and his father was a Chinese Opera singer.

It’s so tragic what happened to him and his equally-gifted son Brandon. Bruce died at a young age of 32, reportedly from an allergic reaction to a headache tablet, and Brandon was only 28 when he was fatally shot in a bizarre filming accident of his last movie, The Crow. Cursed or not, there’s definitely something peculiar about their cause of death. I highly recommend both films if you haven’t seen it, I’ll be reviewing them both at some point.

Thoughts on Bruce Lee and/or martial arts movies? Are you a big fan of that genre?
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4. Happy Birthday Michael Keaton! Last week I read on Castor’s blog that the 61 year-old actor has been cast in the Robocop reboot, replacing Hugh Laurie. I think that’s great news, though I wish Keaton had gotten more leading roles. I’ve always liked Keaton, he’s got screen charisma and he suits both dramatic and comedic roles pretty well.

Though people are split whether he makes a good Batman or not, I do think he’s a great, versatile actor. Whether playing a crazy ghost (Beetlejuice), an overwhelmed dad (Multiplicity, Mr. Mom) or a genius psychopath (Desperate Measures), Keaton is always a joy to watch. I do hope this underrated actor gets more roles, I think he still looks a lot younger than his age!

So, what’s YOUR favorite Michael Keaton role?
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5. One of the classic masterpieces that have eluded me for so long is Lawrence of Arabia. Not sure why that is as it sounds like the kind of epic story I’d enjoy and I know my mom used to have a big crush on Omar Sharif, ahah.

Well, it’s been announced that it’ll be re-released on the big screen on October 4th as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. My hubby and I are definitely going to catch that. Check out the restoration trailer below:

According to this article, Grover Crisp, the EVP at SONY Pictures who’s in charge of the restoration said they wanted to ‘return this film to as pristine a condition as possible’ for the anniversary celebration.

“The original negative was seriously damaged in a number of ways, some problems dating from the original release and some accumulated over the years… But, until now, we did not have the tools available to address these issues. We think fans of the film will be as amazed as we are at the detail and resolution in the imagery captured by cinematographer Freddie Young to compliment David Lean’s immaculate direction.”

Man, I can’t wait to see this in its 70mm glory on the big screen!

Are you a fan of this film? Who else are going to see the big screen release of this one?


Well, that’s it for the September edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀