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Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with Damn you, Kozo!.

Damn You, Koh So! Reviews of IP MAN and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, plus some mumbling about LOVE CONNECTED.

Man, times are tough:

Need Money No Need Stock
Action figures for only US$2

Actually, I have no idea if that’s really the deal at the above store because I have yet to walk in and shop. I should, though, because nothing makes a person feel better in times of economic crisis than adding more useless crap to your apartment. Either way, the sign and its superb Engrish kicks ass.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that we’ve just added a new blog, Ronin on Empty from longtime site reviewer Sanjuro. Now that his blog is here, I’ll let him handle all the personal stories and tangential topics, while I use my blog to cover official site business, e.g. dish on the LoveHKFilm Awards, plus installments of Kozo’s Mailbag and even some minor film-reviewing - some of it from writers who are not me.

This week, I’m featuring two reviews from some guy named Koh So who writes for YesAsia.com. You can find his work on YumCha!, YesAsia.com’s content platform. It’s a place where reviews, news, and other assorted Asian Entertainment goodies can be collected for use by people who use the fancy Internets. Koh So is impossibly more upbeat than I am, so whenever he reviews something, he spins it positive.

Here are a couple of his reviews:

IP MAN

Ip Man

Donnie Yen isn’t just the Man, he’s IP MAN. Hong Kong’s most prolific martial arts actor goes for FEARLESS-type cred in director Wilson Yip’s biopic of the legendary Wing Chun master. The film tells the tale of Ip Man (Yen) during the 1930s and 40s, covering his rise to prominence in 1930s Foshan, plus his involvement with the imperialist Japanese . Noted for its many famous kung-fu masters, Foshan comes under siege from surly kung fu master Jin Shan Zhao (Fan Siu-Wong), who’s looking to rob Foshan’s resident martial arts masters of their fame and face. They’re quick to jump to the challenge, and all are quick to lose - that is, all except Ip Man, who seems to have zero ego and is overflowing with serene modesty. Eventually Ip Man is required to accept Jin’s challenge, but as one would expect, Ip has no problem knocking Jin down to size. However, when the Japanese invade China, even Ip Man’s Wing Chun is of no help.

Or maybe it is. Though IP MAN is billed as a biography of the famed Wing Chun master, it takes massive liberties with actual history. Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen seem to be more concerned with capturing Ip Man’s spirit rather than his actual experiences and exploits. Ergo, his refusal to train the Japanese forces has been adapted to the screen as a framework for some physical one-versus-many battles between Ip Man and the Japanese soldiers, all culminating in a one-on-one match between Ip Man and the honorable, though still somewhat evil General Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi). Can Ip Man beat up Miura and restore the honor of the Chinese people? There are currently two sequels in production to IP MAN, so the answer should be pretty obvious.

However, obvious answers can sometimes make for entertaining film, and that’s exactly what IP MAN is: entertaining. As a biopic, IP MAN doesn’t convince, and is historically inaccurate, not to mention over-the-top in its unflattering portrayal of the Japanese soldiers. However, as an action drama, IP MAN earns its wings, proving rousing and exhilarating, if not sensitive or particularly subtle. Sammo Hung’s action direction is top notch, and the one-versus-many beatdowns possess an entertaining and even emotional edge not seen since the days of FIST OF LEGEND. Donnie Yen brings the film to another level; besides being convincing when he’s whaling away at everyone in sight, Yen is surprisingly subtle, capturing Ip Man’s calm demeanor and also his buried inner emotion. IP MAN may not be the career turning point for Donnie Yen that FEARLESS was for Jet Li, but it’s surely a step in the right direction.

Buy IP MAN here.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD

Good Bad Weird

Director Kim Jee-Woon’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD is one fun movie. This Manchuria-set “Kimchi” Western has action, humor, strong character types and a killer concept. What it doesn’t have is a firm grip on reality, plus it’s a bit too enamored of its own “wow, we’re making an Asian Western” intentions. Those quibbles, however, are incredibly small and pretty much qualify as nitpicking. For fans of Korean cinema, this movie is a must-see, and Asian Cinema genre junkies shouldn’t pass it up either. This is a guy’s film; there’s nothing approximating romance in it - that is, unless you find tough men pursuing other tough men to be your homoerotic cup of tea. The biggest problem with THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD? That enlarged expectations may result in disappointment.

Song Kang-Ho’s Dae-Goo (a.k.a. the “Weird”) is the most entertaining of the title characters; the HOST actor plays a two-bit thief who robs a train, only to make off with the film’s MacGuffin, a treasure map that’s pursued by everyone in Manchuria. On his tail is Lee Byung-Hun’s Chang-Yi (a.k.a. the “Bad”), a menacing bad boy with eyeliner, a perfectly sculpted body and enough smoldering anger for three whole films. Dae-Goo lifted the map before Chiang-Yi could, but there’s another, more personal reason that Chiang-Yi is hot for Dae-Goo’s head. Pursuing both is Jung Woo-Sung’s Do-Won, a super-efficient bounty hunter who’s after money - either the treasure or the bounty on Chiang-Yi’s head will do. There’s also a bounty on Dae-Goo’s head, but it’s so small that it’s beneath Do-Won’s notice. Maybe.

They filmmakers spent a lot of money making THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, and it shows. The film eschews CGI for practical effects, stuntwork and a grand scale that brings the expanse of 1930’s Manchuria to entertaining life. The actors are great in their roles; Song Kang-Ho delivers a strong, deceptive comic turn, and Lee Byung-Hun’s overacting is exceptionally entertaining. By comparison, Jung Woo-Sung suffers, but he cuts an appropriate iconic figure as the film’s so-called “Good”. In the end, his character really isn’t that good, but it’s all in keeping with this entertaining genre exercise. Director Kim Jee-Woon seems to be having a grand ‘ol time, giving his film a black comic edge and a knowing cinema cool that plays to both the stars and the genre. The lively score by Jang Yeo-Gyu seals the deal.

There’s one minor caveat: the film’s action is entertaining, but ultimately a bit over-the-top. Towards the end of the film, Jung Woo-Sung’s “Good” can apparently take on whole armies without getting grazed by a single bullet - which requires a suspension of disbelief that even this exceptionally well-made film can’t completely achieve. Also, there are two cuts of the film: a Korean theatrical cut and an International Cut. The Korean cut features an extra subplot for Jung Woo-Sung’s character and some extra padding at film’s end. The International Cut excises that, going for a leaner film with less star-specific shenanigans. It’s a much stronger version of the film, especially for audiences in the west who care more for a solid genre flick than an extra scene of Jung Woo-Sung drinking tea. The best part about the CJ Entertainment Korean DVD: it includes both versions. Double win.

Buy THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD here.

In case you haven’t figured it out, Koh So is also me - it’s one of my many other Internet aliases, along with twinsRkewl5643, edISonROXORS, IpwnedJOO and ILuvEkinCheng. I also pretend to be other people to leave comments on my blog, thereby inflating my own popularity. About Koh So, I adopted the name two years ago when YumCha! launched, and it was meant to be the handle I use when I review stuff for YesAsia.com.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I’ve contributed precious little to YumCha!. That’s because I’ve been spending my time being a pointy-haired boss, and also because I blow my reviewing wad at some crappy website called LoveHKFilm.com. Currently, I intend on reserving some of my PanAsia reviews for YumCha! Also, when Kevin Ma reviews something on LoveHKFilm.com, I can review it for YesAsia. By that token, I should be writing reviews of LOVE CONNECTED and LOOK FOR A STAR for YesAsia.com under the name Koh So.

Stephy
“Please don’t review my movie, Kozo. I mean, Koh So.”

Fortunately for Stephy, I actually can’t review LOVE CONNECTED at YesAsia because I didn’t really like it that much. I found the movie to be tiresome and disjointed, with unlikeable characters and a couple of terribly annoying performances from I Luv U Boyz. The positives: Miki Yeung as a super-hot Hong Kong girl plus Stephy Tang as a sweet deaf girl. Too bad about Stephy’s acting, however, which was a real step down from anything she did in 2008. I blame Patrick Kong because his “drama” can sometimes be so cringeworthy that I feel like crawling under my seat - even at the Dynasty, where I could probably catch any number of diseases from touching the floor.

I’m actually of the opinion that a movie like LOVE CONNECTED is an important one, because it represents a real local Hong Kong movie, with local concerns, local stars, plus absolutely no plan to make the majority of its money via China, Media Blasters, or Dragon Dynasty. This is the stuff made to attract local audiences, and if it succeeds it will only pave the way for increased production and (hopefully) new filmmakers who possess true talent. The wrench in the works is that LOVE CONNECTED isn’t really a good movie, and Patrick Kong is not a good director. He’s been successful before, but his tricks are pretty obvious now. I hope he tries writing an entirely different film that has nothing to do with back-up lovers, love sucking, or the Cookies wearing short shorts. Actually, I’m okay if he continues to use that last thing.

Anyway, the other reason I can’t review LOVE CONNECTED is that I actually fell asleep at the theater. I nodded off during the important Patrick Kong twists at the end of the film that revealed the whole thing to be A) a clever examination on the duplicity of modern love, or B) a transparent retread of Kong’s earlier work. I’m going with B.

So yeah, not only am I out HK$45, but someone else had to review the movie because I conked out in my seat.

Sammy
“Ha ha! Screw you, Koh So!”

Anyway, if you have the chance, I do hope you stop by YumCha! because there’s other content there worth reading. Besides reviews licensed from popular online websites, some of YesAsia’s Editors contribute their own opinions about Asian movies and music - and much of their work is quite good. Anyway, it’s updated far more regularly than this blog or this website, so that’s a huge plus right there.

One last thing: on March 15th, the LoveHKFilm Awards get announced. I would be excited, but I already know who the winners are.

8 Responses to “Damn You, Koh So! Reviews of IP MAN and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, plus some mumbling about LOVE CONNECTED.”

  1. shaun Says:

    Love that shop at Sham Shui Po, great selection of Star Wars and Transformers figures.

  2. langong Says:

    I need proof with this sentence :
    “IP MAN may not be the career turning point for Donnie Yen that FEARLESS was for Jet Li,…” not with that ghostly emperor role in his latest. BTW I like your reviews better than that old old reviewer :)

  3. V Says:

    Thank you for posting your take on Ip Man.

  4. Webmaster Kozo Says:

    Hi shaun, that store is great. Pity I have too little space to buy everything they have.

    langong, I think after FEARLESS, Jet Li has been really taken seriously as a dramatic actor - so much so that he can actually win acting awards for stuff like that and WARLORDS. ROGUE ASSASSIN and MUMMY 3 are just for paying the bills.

    And yeah, that old old reviewer sucks.

    V, if I don’t review a Hong Kong movie on the regular site, I’ll at least try to post my thoughts here. It may be the best use of this blog I can find.

  5. V Says:

    Glad to see that “The Way We Are” won Best Picture and Best Director at LoveHKFilm Awards. That was the movie I liked the most among the 2008 HK movies I have seen so far.

    My favorite fun category this year is Best Fashion Statement. Given that you frequently talk about wacky hair styles, I would’ve guessed a Best Hair Style award, but Fashion Statement is even better :) The close competition between Kelly Chen and Siu Fei makes me want to watch “Empress and the Warriors” and “Forgive and Forget” soon.

    I have to say, it is quite sad to see a Stephen Chow movie winning negative awards here. No one can blame the jury, because “CJ7″ certainly did not live up to our inflated expectations. “CJ7″ seems to tell us that Stephen Chow wants to spend more time behind the camera, whereas the audience wants the old Chow back on screen full time. The CJ7 alien is adorable, but, to me, Stephen Chow is much more adorable.

  6. Len Says:

    Just want to say: Congratulations on the 14th LoveHKFilm Awards!

    (And I like the figure shop’s banner. The teddy seems happy to be sold.)

  7. 1lau Says:

    “it’s one of my many other Internet aliases, along with twinsRkewl5643, edISonROXORS, IpwnedJOO and ILuvEkinCheng”

    Brilliant again this edition.

  8. RONIN ON EMPTY Says:

    […] planning to write a full-length review of the film (I’m surprised no one has, although Kozo’s alter-ego Koh So seems to have done so. I’m not sure what to make of an alter ego has an alter ego!), so I’ll keep my comments […]

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