Friday, January 28, 2011

Movie Openings: Week of January 28th, 2011 - Ip Man 2

At first glance, Ip Man, sounds like a strange title for a movie. No, it is not the name of a new weird superhero and the pronunciation is much different from what is literally written. Ip Man is actually the name of a well-known (in Asia, at least) Wing Chun kung-fu grandmaster (more specifically, Yip Man) and his life is chronicled in two Ip Man films that starred Donnie Yen. That film was a smash hit and have been universally praised for its explosive martial arts sequences as well as its story. This week, Ip Man 2, the sequel to the first film is coming stateside with a theatrical release, as well as an Anthony Hopkins horror film about exorcisms and yet another high-kicking Jason Statham action flick.

Last weekend, with no competition in sight, the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher rom-com, "No Strings Attached" shot to the top of the box-office chart with a commendable $19.6M, just ahead of "The Green Hornet," which raked in another $17.6M, for a total gross of an underwhelming $63M so far. Rounding up the top 5 are "The Dilemma" ($9.1M), "The King's Speech" ($7.8M) and "True Grit" ($7.3M). With the Oscar nominations announced this week, expect to see a spike in the box office take of nominated films like "The King's Speech," "True Grit," "Black Swan" and "The Fighter." Now on to this week's movie releases:

First up, we have "Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster," the sequel to 2008's martial arts smash hit, Ip Man. It stars internationally-known Hong Kong actors, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam. First released in China and Hong Kong back in April 2010, "Ip Man 2" continues the story of real-life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, the man famously known as Bruce Lee's sifu or teacher. Both Ip Man films are semi-autobiographical, with certain artistic liberties taken with the story. While the first film focused on Ip Man's early life in Foshun, China in the 1930's during the Japanese occupation of China, the sequel continued where the first film ended, shifting the setting to British-ruled Hong Kong in the 1950's. If you are a martial arts fan, both films are must-sees. Donnie Yen does a great job in the title role, as does Wilson Yip, who directed both films. If you missed the first film, it is available on Blu-ray: Ip Man (Collector's Edition). The second film should become available on Blu-ray sometime soon. So far, this film has garnered some good reviews, with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (from 14 reviews). Here is the film's synopsis:

"International megastar Donnie Yen reprises his iconic role as the real-life kung fu grandmaster Ip Man, widely created as the man who brought Wing Chun kung fu to the world with the help of his star pupil- Bruce Lee. Master Ip, a new arrival in British-occupied Hong Kong, wants to open a martial arts academy to teach his unique Wing Chun style. But a corrupt cabal of martial arts masters, led by Master Hung (Sammo Hung) refuses to allow him to teach in peace until he proves himself in a series of fights against the local master, which Ip does, in style.

But even after earning the respect of the local masters, Ip’s troubles are far from over. Hong Kong under British rule is a new world of corruption and conflict between the Chinese locals and the British expats that run the city. When a Western-style boxer named “Twister” (Darren Shahlavi) comes to town to entertain the Brits, he insults Chinese martial arts in a horrifically violent way, and Ip is forced by honor to enter a brutal “King of the Ring” boxing match against Twister- and it’s East versus West in an amazing, knock-down drag-out fight to the finish."

Guess what? Jason Statham is back (yet again) and he is about to kick more bad guy ass than ever before. The action star of The Transporter and Crank film franchises, Statham last starred with a bunch of other tough guys in The Expendables. But here he is, solo again in his latest action flick, "The Mechanic." This is typical Jason Statham territory: a lone assassin (with the usual funny deadpan quips) who lives with a strict moral code and takes sweet revenge on those who have wronged him. "The Mechanic" is just like any other Statham-helmed action films and if you like those, then you'll probably like this one as well. The film is currently rated at 51% on RT.

"Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a 'mechanic' - an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It's a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But when his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed - he wants those responsible dead."

Up next is "The Rite," the first horror film of the year and it stars the creepy-looking Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas, a priest who is an expert in performing exorcisms. The film is based on the book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio and it follows a skeptical priest as he becomes an apprentice to  a Vatican-based exorcist and comes face-to-face with pure evil. Although this is an interesting premise, the execution of the film leaves much to be desired, as evidenced by its poor 15% approval rating on RT. As much as the critics hated the film, eviscerating the generic climax, praise have been heaped on newcomer Colin O'Donoghue's and of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins' performances. As the first horror film of the year, there may be pent-up demand for films of this genre and "The Rite" should do respectably at the box-office this weekend. Here is the synopsis:

"Inspired by true events, "The Rite" follows skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), who reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican. While he's in Rome, Michael meets an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who introduces him to the darker side of his faith, uncovering the devil's reach even to one of the holiest places on Earth."

Finally, opening this week in limited theaters is "Kaboom," a film written and directed by Gregg Araki, who is noted for his gay-themed and sexual awakening films like Totally F***ed UpThe Doom GenerationNowhere,Mysterious Skin and the stoner comedy, Smiley Face with Anna Faris and John Krasinski. "Kaboom" is Araki's latest and is a sci-fi film (believe it or not) centered on the sexual awakenings of a group of college students. It has been described as "delirious and lighthearted" and "a chaotic, trifling and oddly likeable film" and Araki fans should be lining up for this one. Currently running at a commendable 71% on RT, "Kaboom" should become a cult hit when it hits Blu-ray. Here is the synopsis:

"Featuring a gorgeous young cast, Kaboom is a hyper-stylized ”Twin Peaks” for the Coachella Generation and tells the story of Smith (Thomas Dekker), an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman who stumbles upon a monstrous conspiracy in a seemingly idyllic Southern California seaside town. Smith’s everyday life in the dorms - hanging out with his arty, sarcastic best friend Stella (Haley Bennett,) hooking up with a beautiful free spirit named London (Juno Temple,) lusting for his gorgeous but dim surfer roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) – all gets turned upside-down after one fateful, terrifying night."

No comments: