The Grandmaster

The Weinstein Company

Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, smoking and brief drug use

Majestic Costume Drama Chronicles Career Of Legendary Martial Arts Fighter

Yip Oi-Dor (1893-1972), aka Ip Man, was a legendary martial arts teacher perhaps best remembered for some of the prominent protégés who attended his kung fu school, most notably, Bruce Lee. But this influential icon has finally been getting his due in recent years as the subject of several reverential biopics.

The latest, The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar-Wai (In The Mood For Love), is a majestic epic chronicling Ip Man’s life from the womb to the tomb. He’s very capably played by Tony Leung who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to President Obama, for what that’s worth.

At the picture’s point of departure, we learn that Ip hailed from Foshan, a city inGuangdongprovince where he started studying martial arts at an early age. By the time he was a young man, he had already developed a reputation as a formidable fighter, and was enlisted by his region’s elders to represent all of southern China in a match against Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), the best from the North.

Yip prevails in a showdown more mental than physical by employing an innovative combination of his trademarked “Spade,” “Pin” and “Sheath” techniques which prove to be far simpler than the 64 moves relied upon by his aging opponent. Soon thereafter, Gong finds himself dealing with dissension in the Northern ranks, between being betrayed by a disloyal heir apparent (Zhang Jan) and disappointed by his daughter’s (Zhang Ziyi) decision to practice medicine rather than follow in his footsteps.

That enables Yip Man to fill the void and eventually emerge as the greatest grandmaster in all of China. Director Kar-Wai resorts to flying harnesses, slow motion and other state-of-the-art trick photography to showcase his hero’s considerable skills. If you’re familiar with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then you have a decent idea what to expect in terms of gravity defying kick and fisticuffs.

The overly ambitious production’s only flaw rests with its occasionally confusing editing, which unnecessarily resorts to flashbacks in recounting the decades-spanning tale when the movie might have worked just as well if allowed to unfold chronologically. Regardless, this comprehensive combination history lesson, love story and action flick features all the fixin’s necessary to entertain any fan of the martial arts genre.

Yip Man lives!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

In Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese with subtitles

Running time: 108 minutes

 

 

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery To Memphis

Kino Lorber / Kino Classics

Unrated

Oscar-Nominated Documentary Chronicles Career Of Dr. Martin Luther King

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person. Four days later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the recently ordained minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, decided to organize a boycott of the city’s buses.

“When the history books are written in the future,” he predicted that evening, “somebody will have to say, ‘There lived a race of people, of black people, who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights.’” After citing both the Constitution and the Bible as the source of inspiration, the 26-year-old pastor explained to the congregation that embracing a philosophy of non-violent resistance was critical in order to be able to live with white people as brothers “when the day comes that segregation is completely crumbled.”

And with that, the civil rights movement was launched. A wave of Ku Klux Klan bombings simultaneously ensued, but Dr. King remained confident about his prospects for success, even after his own home had been blown up. He did hope, however, that future generations would appreciate “that these new privileges did not come without somebody suffering for them.”

The most powerful, cinematic reminder of those many sacrifices is King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery To Memphis. Produced by Ely Landau and associate Richard Kaplan, this poignant account of Dr. King’s tireless crusade was nominated for an Academy Award in 1971 in the “Best Documentary” category.

The monumental, B&W epic is a compelling collage cobbled together from a mix of newsreels and rare footage of marches, speeches, protests and arrests. This newly-restored, HD version co-produced by the Library Of Congress and the Museum Of Modern Art was narrated by a number of celebrities, including Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, Ruby Dee and Paul Newman, to name a few.

But those luminaries merely played a support role in service of the stirring story of how theBirminghamboycott blossomed into a nationwide effort to end Jim Crow segregation. Whether it’s the sit-ins, freedom rides or voter registration drives, again and again, we witness a determined people undeterred by police dogs, teargas, billy clubs, firemen’s hoses and the constant threat of state-sanctioned, vigilante attacks.

Dr. King’s followers were perhaps comforted by their charismatic leader’s mild-mannered assurances that, “Once you conquer the fear of death, you’re free.” The picture’s high points are invariably his words, whether in a letter written behind bars in a Birmingham jail, in a spellbinding speech delivered before hundreds of thousands at The March On Washington, or in a prophetic address in Memphis on the night before his assassination in 1968.

A timeless tribute to a selfless martyr who led his people to the Promised Land by holding fast to his fervent faith that their willingness to endure suffering along the way would exceed their enemies’ capacity to inflict suffering.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 181 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening September 6, 2013

 

Riddick (R for profanity, nudity, sexuality and graphic violence) Third installment of the otherworldly sci-fi series finds Vin Diesel reprising his role as an alien antihero now left for dead on a desolate planet where he ends up in a struggle for survival after the arrival of bounty hunters searching for him. Cast includes Karl Urban, Bokeem Woodbine and Keri Hilson.

 

99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (R for profanity) Class war documentary chronicles the birth of the Occupy Movement by following a motley assortment of activists camping out in lowerManhattan’sZuccottiPark with hopes of creating a utopian alternative to the status quo.

 

Adore (R for profanity and sexually) Tale of forbidden love based on The Grandmothers, the Doris Lessing novella about a couple of lifelong best friends (Robin Wright and Naomi Watts) who seduce each other’s son (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville). With Bob Mendelsohn, Jessica Tovey and Sophie Lowe.

 

Best Kept Secret (Unrated) Special Ed documentary, set at Newark’s JFK High School, and following the efforts of a dedicated teacher to find jobs for autistic students in the Class of 2012 so that they can be come productive members of society rather than end up institutionalized or on the streets.

 

Fire In The Blood (Unrated) Revealing exposé relating the shocking story of how pharmaceutical companies conspired with Western governments to prevent sub-Saharan African nations from acquiring affordable HIV drugs, thereby leading to over 10 million unnecessary deaths from AIDS. Includes appearances by Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Bill Clinton.

 

Good Ol’ Freda (PG for smoking and mature themes) Beatles documentary featuring the reminiscences about the Fab Four by their longtime secretary, Freda Kelly.

 

Hell Baby (R for sexuality, profanity, drug use, graphic nudity and gory violence) Horror comedy revolving around an expectant couple (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) whose lives unravel after moving into a haunted house in New Orleans. Cast includes Alex Berg, Keegan Michael Key and Robert Ben Garant.

 

Salinger (PG-13 for smoking, mature themes and disturbing images) Skeletons out of the closet biopic offering an inside look at the life and times of J.D. Salinger, the notoriously reclusive author of The Catcher In The Rye. Featuring commentary by 150 luminaries, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, John Cusack and Martin Sheen.

 

A Teacher (Unrated) Jailbait drama, set inAustin,Texas, about a high school teacher (Lindsay Burdge) whose life falls apart after she crosses an ethical line by sleeping with one of her students (Will Brittain). Supporting cast includes Jennifer Prodiger, Julie Dell Phillips and Jonny Mars.

 

Things Never Said (R for sexuality and pervasive profanity) Dysfunctional family drama about a miserably married woman (Shanola Hampton) who uses poetry as an outlet to express her feelings about a miscarriage and about being beaten by her abusive husband (Elimu Nelson). With Omari Hardwick, Tamala Jones and Dorian Missick.

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