Havoc in Heaven (1964)

Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Havoc in Heaven Movie Review

Havoc in Heaven is a 1964 Chinese animated adventure film directed by Wan Laiming. It is a flawed, yet such an admirable, artistic endeavor.

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I humbly beg your Majesty to bring this monkey fiend to justice

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

It follows Monkey King who rebels against the Jade Emperor of heaven. Now in terms of storytelling, this isn’t the greatest film. Of course I was fascinated by its story and mythology as China has a rich history. I loved those intriguing fights and scenery. But it just didn’t captivate me as much as the visuals did and sometimes it wasn’t that easy to follow and isn’t all that well crafted.

The characterization is solid, but also not particularly remarkable. The characters are good, but not as memorable. Only the Monkey King is a memorable, interesting creation. He is a major figure in Chinese literature and mythology and this incarnation was pretty solid. The voice acting I also found to be pretty good.

The film succeeds as an action-adventure flick because it is so adventurous in its tone and charming while also featuring terrific action sequences. I absolutely loved the fights here as they were tremendously well choreographed, epic and exciting. Those scenes were some of the highlights of the film.

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

But where Havoc in Heaven shines is in the animation. Wow, is this a beautiful movie! The animation here has to be the best that sixties had to offer, at least it is in my opinion. What Chinese animators did here was nothing short of miraculous. They took this great material and did the best they could with it, bringing polished and professional animation to the picture.

The colors are so bright and pleasing here, wonderful to witness. The movements were wonderfully well executed and of course the scenery is just fantastic. Some of the imagery here was actually mesmerizing to behold with the highlights being heaven scenes as well as the fight choreography. Also some of the underwater stuff was great too. This wasn’t the easiest film to animate, but they managed to do a great job which is commendable. Not only that, but I would also call this animation a work of art as it truly felt like a moving picture and a beauty to behold. The animation fascinated and captivated me and I wish that the rest of the movie was as great.

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Havoc in Heaven Movie Review……………………………………………………………….

Havoc in Heaven is pretty well edited and paced, but I watched the shorter version of one and a half hours so I wouldn’t know if the longer, two hour version is better or not. This one was polished, superbly well directed and well paced. The score I also found to be respectable and the sound effects in particular were awesome and realistic. They perfectly accompanied the fight sequences, creating wonderful scenes in the process. But despite its great technicalities, I again found the plot and particularly the dialogue to be lacking as it isn’t as sophisticated as its visuals are. Also, the movie was never particularly entertaining and sometimes it was a bit dull to me. I wish that the characters and the plot were stronger as it would have made this film a classic, but it is still a respectable, sometimes wondrous piece of filmmaking that somewhat deserves its praise as the finest Chinese animation of all time and it deserves the second viewing as I intend to do one day.

Havoc in Heaven is definitely lacking in terms of storytelling and characterization plus it isn’t particularly engaging, but it is a wondrous achievement technically as the sound effects and score are superb and of course the visuals are dazzling. It has such a beautiful, absolutely jaw-dropping stylistic animation that I would absolutely call a work of art. The visuals propel this movie to greater heights making it a respectable, albeit flawed effort.

My Rating – 4

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Happy Together (1997)

Happy Together Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

Happy Together Movie Review

Happy Together is a 1997 Chinese romance film directed by Wong Kar-wai and starring Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung. It is a very good, poignant film.

It follows a Hong Kong couple who visit Argentina hoping to renew their ailing relationship. The two share a very tumultuous relationship full of abuse and breakups. Now frankly this plot is nothing remarkable nor is it original. And we’ve seen relationships and characters like this before in a number of movies. But the film is still very good as it makes the most use of its situations and characters and, thanks to Wong Kar-wai’s direction, it becomes an understated, elegant work.

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Turns out that lonely people are all the same.

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Happy Together Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

If I have to be honest, ‘In the Mood for Love’ is to me a much better crafted movie. I know this is the first movie to be released, but the aforementioned movie has a much more memorable ending which is very similar here, but never as epic. The score is the reason why this movie is inferior as it is never as beautiful as it was there.

But that ending is still strong and this is the first time we see the director tackle with his signature style of mixing romance and moving human drama with powerful landscapes, good music and an otherworldly atmosphere. And he did once again mostly a great job here and did elevate this familiar material in the process. In the hands of a different director, this would have been a standard romance. But in the hands of Wong Kar-wai, it becomes something much more than that.

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Happy Together Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

I loved Happy Together’s theme of loneliness. It beautifully showcases romantic yearning, but also a yearning for home country and both are the strongest forms of loneliness, both very well utilized here. As for the characters, both are typical, yet very well developed and you really feel like you met them. The relationship between the two is so strong and I like that it ended on a sad note as a happy ending here would have been out of place.

The subplot with Chang definitely feels like it is tacked on suddenly as that literally happened because the director had to fill in space because Leslie Cheung was away and couldn’t film during that time. But even though it does feel far from obligatory, it is still very beautiful and this character is so tragic and I just loved the scenes with him and Lai.

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Happy Together Movie Review…………………………………………………………….

Happy Together is exceptionally well filmed and well paced as well. It is another slow, but deliberately slow paced movie from the director, but it is still very involving and never boring to watch which I admired. But even though the cinematography is strong and I loved its use of black and white and found it to be polished and esthetically pleasing, I still had trouble with its presentation of Argentina as it was portrayed as too poor and dirty. The acting is one of the strongest aspects here with everyone doing a great job, but of course Tony Leung steals the show and delivers another great performance. He truly is a great actor. And I liked that the film was very erotic, but never too much and it was more sensual in quality. It isn’t a great movie, but it most certainly is very good and quite respectable at times.

Happy Together does have a familiar story and characters, but Wong Kar-wai lifted this material with an expectedly terrific direction, the film is emotional and very sensual, I really liked its subplot, the ending was satisfying and it deals with tumultuous relationships and loneliness in a very realistic and heartfelt manner. 

My Rating – 4

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The Mermaid (2016)

The Mermaid Movie Review…………………………………………………..

The Mermaid Movie Review

The Mermaid is a 2016 Chinese fantasy film directed by Stephen Chow. It is such a good, really well done blockbuster film.

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But he isn’t the one whom I hate the most.

I hate you, bitch! Why did you shoot me?

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The Mermaid Movie Review…………………………………………………..

It tells the story of a playboy businessman who falls in love with a mermaid who was sent to assassinate him. As my first Chinese blockbuster, The Mermaid was very much satisfying and a great introduction. It definitely deserves its status as the highest-grossing film in China ever. This is the kind of a film that is obviously very familiar in its overall idea and storyline, but so original in many of its plot points and decisions that it becomes original which I appreciated immensely. It is a very interesting, modern retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’.

It succeeds as a fantasy flick despite very cheesy special effects. I don’t know if they did it on purpose or if it was a budgetary concern, but the visual effects sometimes were borderline silly. However, the film is so well crafted and it tells its story so well that the look of it should be forgiven. Not only is the movie well told and detailed, but also filled with a good message and good intentions. It is an environmentally conscious film with a beautiful message, but it is also a movie that is so innocent in most of its characters, plot and tone that it seemed that it came out in another decade. And that is something most Hollywood blockbusters today do not have which is why The Mermaid was such a pleasant diversion.

Liu Xian is a very good character, if a bit typical. The mermaid herself is also typical, but very charming and endearing and their relationship is well portrayed leading to a solid romantic comedy. Octopus is campy and over-the-top, but so funny. The acting here is definitely not great, but it is serviceable nonetheless.

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The Mermaid Movie Review…………………………………………………..

The humor drives this flick. There are a lot of really funny scenes here with the cooking of Octopus being the standout one. That sequence is absolutely hilarious. The same goes for the introductory scene to the mermen and the two protagonists themselves had some really funny moments while mostly having very romantic parts. The film has its too weird or, should I say, odd parts, but most of it is positively wacky and refreshing which is why I’ve had a great time watching it.

The Mermaid has some scenes that are too silly and the special effects are cheesy, but the movie is so positively innocent in its tone, great in its environmental message and so funny in its crazy and over-the-top humor that it was such a refreshing change in pace from American blockbusters.

My Rating – 4

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Hero (2002)

Hero Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

Hero Movie Review

Hero is a 2002 Chinese wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Jet Li, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. It is such a good, visually extraordinary action film.

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How swift thy sword

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Hero Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

It is based on the story of King Ke’s assassination attempt on the king of Qin in 227 BC. The plot itself is serviceable, but is undoubtedly the weakest aspect of Hero as it is a mish-mash of previous ideas. For example, you have the structure of ‘Rashomon‘ as the story is told two times before being told as it happened the third time.

Then you have the action and the flying which is reminiscent of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘. It isn’t too similar, but some scenes are obviously influenced by it. But even though it isn’t original, the story is well told and sometimes quite powerful and emotional, especially in its tragic conclusion. The flashback structure is well utilized and the film serves as a good historical piece as well as a great martial arts picture meaning that it is one fine wuxia movie.

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Hero Movie Reviews……………………………………………………………………..

Jet Li isn’t as memorable, but Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as great as you would expect from these two great actors. I also liked the King of Qin and Moon who was particularly likable. The characters aren’t the strongest, but they are nonetheless pretty good and the performances from its great cast are all terrific.

Hero succeeds due to its technical aspects and action. Let’s first touch upon the action. I loved it. I didn’t really care for the slow-motion moments, some were fine, but most of them were annoying as I really dislike that approach overall. But the action was well choreographed and I loved how everyone had different styles in their fighting and that women were definitely weaker than men physically, but they were more elegant and refined in their style. That was awesome and very realistic. One of the highlights includes that gorgeous fight between the two ladies as the leaves fall down the trees and create an amazing color of yellow first and then red later on to fit in with the blood. So beautiful. Another highlight is the fight on the water as it was the best of the fantasy sequences, beautifully shot and just marvelous to behold.

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Hero Movie Review……………………………………………………………………..

The cinematography is absolutely stunning in Hero. The camera shots are so refined and polished and the action is so well filmed. But the direction from Zhang Yimou is so strong as he is responsible for the overall look of the film and he is quite a visionary director for sure. His use of color is absolutely beautiful and at times even artistic. The various colors here were so well utilized and they ranged from green to red to yellow and were mostly accompanied with appropriately colored clothes as well which I loved as I always enjoy such things. What I also admired is the thematically complex nature of the film as it deals with not only martial arts, but also leadership as well as art and calligraphy while being set in a historical surrounding. The mix is well realized and the film ended up being all the more powerful for it. In the end, it isn’t as great as it could have been, but it’s still one very good Chinese martial film that didn’t disappoint.

Hero isn’t the most original in terms of storytelling as it uses the structure of ‘Rashomon’ and some fantasy elements of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, but what it lacks in originality, it more than compensates with a moving feel to it, a thematically rich storyline, mostly terrific action sequences, many memorable scenes, excellent direction from Zhang Yimou and absolutely gorgeous cinematography with sumptuous costumes and a wonderful use of color.

My Rating – 4

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Enter the Dragon (1973)

Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Enter the Dragon Movie Review

Enter the Dragon is a 1973 Hong Kong-American martial arts film directed by Robert Clouse and starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon and Jim Kelly. It is the quintessential, but far from great genre flick.

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Now, you must remember:

the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives.

Destroy the image and you will break the enemy

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

I liked the plot here and most of all because it involved a martial arts tournament which I love. The story here isn’t particularly original and I’ve seen this countless times before, but it serves its purpose and the execution is quite good. The action is also memorable, the philosophy is solid and the entire third act is a rather great conclusion.

Bruce Lee is of course great here delivering such phenomenal action sequences. His character isn’t particularly likable, but he is the most memorable actor here. As for Roper, he is solid, but rather forgettable. And Williams is an archetypal blaxploitation character. I found the movie’s racism to be very funny, but still extremely ignorant and troublesome. But it is still admirable for having a diverse cast with the main three characters being white, Asian and black and that is certainly commendable for its time.

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

Let’s talk about the action. Enter the Dragon benefits from an awesome fight at the end and that entire mirror sequence is excellent and I loved that he had to use the advice obtained at the beginning of the film in order to beat Han. However, everything that came before it is not that great. There wasn’t enough action before that last fight and all of the previous fights were forgettable. That is one of the reasons why I prefer more contemporary martial arts films to this one and why I find Enter the Dragon to be good, but frankly a bit overrated as it is far from great and it is just influential, but never perfect.

The film is very well filmed and the cinematography and scenery are both great. I loved the structure of the film and the characters are fine, but definitely forgettable and not particularly likable. The script is good, but not at all sophisticated which was a problem to me.

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Enter the Dragon Movie Review…………………………………………………………………………………….

The editing is really good and the film moves at a brisk, but not abrupt pace. It is entertaining and it is definitely engaging to watch. But it is rarely as exciting as I wished for it to have been. Again, that ending is great, but everything that came before was a bit forgettable. The score is solid as are the sound effects and the acting is serviceable. The dialogue is solid, but the tone is somewhat problematic as the film seems to be light at times, but rarely humorous. It should have either gone full light or full serious tone and it would have been much better. I liked the island imagery and I liked the fight choreography, but the film lacked in terms of the sophistication and detail as it is way too simplistic. And it is too much a product of its time with its drug/crime elements being overly abundant and sometimes the film reminded me too much of James Bond. All in all, Enter the Dragon is definitely a good film, but far from a truly great one and its impact is understandable, but overly exaggerated nonetheless.

Enter the Dragon has good action sequences with the last fight being excellent, that entire ending sequence is superb, the plot is solid and the film is very well made and quite entertaining, but it is still a bit overrated as the characters are rather forgettable, the film is too simplistic and some of its parts are very problematic. It’s a good film, but far from a great one.

My Rating – 4

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In the Mood for Love (2000)

In the Mood for Love Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………

In the Mood for Love Movie Review

In the Mood for Love is a 2000 Chinese romance film directed by Wong Kar-wai and starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. It is such an amazing, truly beautiful piece of cinema.

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He remembers those vanished years.

As though looking through a dusty window pane,

the past is something he could see, but not touch.

And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct

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In the Mood for Love Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………

The plot is simplistic, but excellent in its simplicity. I actually loved how simple it was and that subtler and less convoluted structure worked wonders for me as it led to a creation of such a timeless picture. And it truly is a one of a kind experience and a film for ages. It is so well told and so tender and heartwarming that I don’t know how anyone can dislike it.

I loved the time period and how it was brought to live wonderfully and with a great eye for detail. Everything here looks gorgeous, but I will talk about those technical aspects later. Now, let’s deal with the romance. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? In the Mood for Love gives us a romance that lacks in energy, excitement and fireworks, but that is what I liked about it as it gave us a slower, more subtle, but still passionate relationship that was breathtaking to follow.

The movie works wonders as a romance, but it also succeeds as a tragedy and melodrama because its third act is so poignant, but again beautiful. Yes, beautiful is a perfect word for almost everything about this movie as it truly is like that. I just loved that final scene at the ruined monastery site. In fact, it is one of the best endings I’ve seen in quite a while. It perfectly utilized the ancient tradition into its storytelling and consequently contributed to that timeless quality I’ve talked about. It is not only visually arresting, but also poetic in nature as it ends with such beautiful quotes written at the end that just moved me on an emotional level.

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In the Mood for Love Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………

In the Mood for Love starts slower and ends on a heartbreaking note. It unfolds the newfound romantic relationship between the two in such a realistic and absolutely perfect way that I can’t imagine it being better executed. And it succeeds in presenting this relationship as sort of a perversion as it is basically cheating and the filmmakers shows us that really well with the two meeting in secret as the society of the time wouldn’t accept that.

Su and Chow are wonderful to watch together, but also apart, even more so than together as we can see the love they share together on their faces when they aren’t with each other. Those little touches were terrific. But it wouldn’t have succeeded had it not been for the great acting. Wow, these two actors are absolutely magnificent. What Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung did here is nothing short of fantastic as they both gave such pleasantly subtle and natural performance with just superb facial expressions and expressive looks. Watching these two was great as they were so realistic and just amazing. Some of the best acting I’ve seen in a while.

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In the Mood for Love Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………

Wong Kar-wai directed this movie with style and great care. Truly his direction here is top-notch and this is one of the best directed films of its time. It is also the finest film of 2000 that I’ve seen, at least so far. The cinematography is excellent as the film is so well filmed with every shot being spectacular to watch. It also has that artistic vibe to it that never felt pretentious and forced, but rather natural and pleasing.

The tone is great as it shifts from romantic to melodramatic deftly. It has evident emotion and it is eventually heartbreaking while at first being heartwarming and charming. Such a romantic movie. The dialogue is great and the editing is so good. It is so tightly edited and every scene lasts for just the right amount of time. It is visually magnificent as well and some filming choices here were so artistic and authentic with the camera movements being the standout element.

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In the Mood for Love Movie Review………………………………………………………………………………

In the Mood for Love has its problems including the characterization which could have been a bit better, a somewhat inferior first act when compared to the other two and the decision to have many cheating partners is a bit frustrating as the more regular and simpler solution would have been much better overall. But despite those flaws, this film is terrific and one of the best of its time.

In the Mood for Love is not only wonderfully romantic and breathtakingly poignant, but also pleasantly subtle and so well filmed with excellent cinematography and some amazing shots. The direction from Wong Kar-wai is just terrific, the performances from Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are spectacular and the film is imbued with such a great timeless quality to it, excellent simplicity and an evident artistic and poetic nature. In the Mood for Love is beautiful.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Assassin (2015)

The Assassin

The Assassin Review

The Assassin is a 2015 Chinese martial arts film directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It is undoubtedly one of the most overrated and also dullest films of the year.

The film is about a female killer appointed by her master to slay corrupt government officials. The plot itself had potential, but is executed so poorly. This is the kind of film that is made for critics and mostly the conceited ones as I cannot understand how anyone can watch this movie and enjoy it and find it entertaining. Each and every film is supposed to be entertaining, no matter the genre, and this just isn’t.

It has such a slow, unbearably dull pacing that is just ridiculously still. It is filled with countless slow and pointless moments that don’t add anything to the story and just drag the movie and prolong the running time. It isn’t such a long film, but feels much longer how boring it is.

The characterization is also weak and the acting is okay, but not that remarkable. The directing is also weak and the pacing and the structure are poor. But the only positive aspects here are the technical ones as The Assassin admittedly does look good. The imagery is beautiful and detailed and the cinematography is excellent. I really liked the black-and-white cinematography in the beginning and I also liked the colored one later on. It does have a good mood and atmosphere and is well shot and made. Those are the only legitimate reasons to see this movie.

The dialogue is boring and never at all intriguing or interesting. The action is also nothing special and the film is flat in both the character development and the screenplay. The score is solid and the movie does look good, but I was bored from start to finish which is why I found The Assassin to be such a disappointing and overrated movie that just might be the dullest feature of the year.

The Assassin does look good with fine cinematography and good scenery, but everything else is flat with boring characters and story and uninspired action. This is such an overrated movie in my opinion that is so incredibly slow and boring that it also just might be the most tedious film of the year.

My Rating – 2

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man

Ip Man Review

Ip Man is a 2008 Chinese biographical martial arts film directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen. The movie succeeds as both a rousing historical drama and as an action flick.

It follows the life of the titular grandmaster and martial artist and focuses specifically on the Sino-Japanese War and its aftermath. As I said above, the movie succeeds in both genres. Let’s first talk about the historical one. The first half is action and the second is historical. That second half, although vastly different from the previous one, is so wonderfully executed with a lot of emotional heft. I adored its ending and I loved both the conflict at the end and its conclusion and overall explanation of what happened afterwards. It is a typical stuff seen countless times, but I liked this triumphant ending here as it is emotionally satisfying and so uplifting.

But of course the highlight is the kung fu action. I loved the action sequences in Ip Man as they are so beautifully realized. The choreography is amazing, the abundance of style is evident and the execution is almost flawless. I liked that the camera angles are so good here, letting you see all of the action perfectly. All of the styles are well explained and it is vastly entertaining and so riveting to watch. The highlights are the fight between Ip Man and the Japanese general Miura and the fight between the protagonist and Kam Shan-chu. The former is so dramatic and powerful while the latter one is so exhilarating and even comedic in tone. Yes, the humor here is present from time to time and I really enjoyed it as some moments can be quite funny.

The character development isn’t as great as I hoped it would be, but it is still pretty good. Ip Man is naturally the highlight and he is at first a one-note character, but he quickly showed his human side. I loved his family struggles as it shows how he, though such a powerful martial artist, is still a flawed human being. And I loved the dialogue between him and his wife about his inability to find a job. The wife is really good and their relationship is really sweet and touching, but also quite realistic. I loved that in the film. Miura is really good and Kam Shan-chu is so funny and memorable as this redneck brute.

Ip Man is visually a strong picture, but not as mesmerizing as I expected it to be. The scenery is too forgettable and the photography is overly dark, but it is still well shot, some sequences are quite beautiful and the camera angles are terrific during action. Wilson Yip did a fine job in the director’s chair and the acting is superb throughout with Donnie Yen in particular giving a respectable performance.

But there are some problems here and that is mainly the structure of the film. It does succeed in both of its genres, but it does so at the expense of the tone and pacing. The pacing is all over the place and the tonal shift in the middle is so jarring as it literally changes from action to drama out of the blue and with no subtlety whatsoever. Also, the film is predictable and no matter how satisfying to watch, it is still a familiar farce. And I expected more character work and even more emotion than I’ve got from the end product.

Ip Man has a jarring tonal shift, inconsistent structure and pacing and it could have been even better overall, but it is still quite a good film with fantastic action sequences that are so thrilling to watch and impeccably crafted, solid character development, good acting and it is a satisfying flick both as a historical biopic and as martial arts action.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Ip Man

[wppa type=”slide” album=”37″ size=”1200″ align=”center”]Any comment[/wppa]

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