For some reason, I feel that chatting about DVDs doesn’t warrant as much importance as seeing a film in the cinema, which is slightly prejudiced of me but I never said I was perfect. I don’t know if it’s the delay or the way they arrive in the post, but they shall have to suffice with a few notes on my thoughts.
The Forbidden Kingdom
Two of my favourite martial artists on screen together? That should make for some good wushu cinema, right? Unfortunately, no – the Americanisation destroys any credibility, the teenage lead is really annoying, and Jet Li and Jackie Chan are wasted in this story. There is one fight scene between Li and Chan that borders on the magic I expected, but I got the impression that they weren’t doing all of the overly gymnastic moves, which was very disappointing. The best part was Li as the Monkey King, which he got exactly right.
As someone who grew up watching Enter The Dragon too many times, I knew that Bruce Lee started out doing Wing Chun (before going on to create his own style, Jeet Kune Do). Ip Man was the man who taught him, and this film is a biopic of the time of his comfortable life in southern China before and during the war with Japan, where his life was not so comfortable. I wanted to see this film to see Wing Chun on film, something I don’t think I’ve seen, and this didn’t disappoint: Donnie Yen spent a lot of time training in Wing Chun and it looks great, and Yen is very good. However, the film is a piece of hero worship that unfortunately sours when you find out that it has almost nothing to do with the actual facts of Ip Man’s life (he never stayed in his home town during he occupation, he didn’t leave with his wife – in fact, he escaped to Hong Kong without his wife to avoid reprisals from the Communists because he was a policeman). Still, I can enjoy the fight scenes on their own merits.
The shift in the tone and direction of a film halfway through can be subversive and catch you unaware, as you realise that what you thought you were watching has become something different. However, there are times when a film starts out as one type of film and then jumps jarringly into another type, and it’s the equivalent of a chop shop car: two different things welded together to look like a whole but not actually working underneath. Hancock is such a chimera. It starts out relatively well, as the story of the only superhuman on the planet (Will Smith) who is a reckless drunk, but who tries to rehabilitate himself with the help of Jason Bateman. But then it decides to completely ignore this and become something else entirely; I don’t want to tell you what this is because it is the only reason to see the film, but the decision to do this is a misjudgement on the part of the filmmakers and leaves you shouting ‘Really? Really?’ at the screen.