Saturday, June 26, 2010

NYAFF 2010: "Ip Man 2" + "Death Kappa"

* Ip Man 2 (dir. Wilson Yip, 2010, Hong Kong). This sequel to last year's stunner on Ip Man, Wing Chun master and Bruce Lee's teacher, shattered box office records in Hong Kong. And while this one is somewhat less biographical than the original, it most definitely kicks ass, w/ all the rousing virtuous messages that coincide in that. Our hero (Donnie Yen, virtually unflappable) has set up shop in Hong Kong now, forced at the end of part one to relocate there, fleeing Japanese occupation in Foshan in '49. All he wants to do is settle in w/ his stunning wife (Lynn Hung, goodness gracious...) and kid and introduce Wing Chun to Hong Kong. Only he can't do that b/c the martial arts trade is corrupt, ruled by Master Hung (Sammo Hung, unmatchable, the action choreographer of this and Ip Man) who then has to pay the British colonists for permission to even have martial arts schools in the first place. Ip Man finds students anyway, he faces off w/ Master Hung and they earn mutual respect, lots of ass-kicking. But the clincher are the Brits here, headed by a preening, shrill Army officer and this blustering man-mountain boxer named "Twister". There's a Western-style boxing match in town and Master Hung is wrapped up in that, hoping to introduce the Brits to classical Chinese martial arts. Ip Man agrees to participate to get the Wing Chun message out. But Twister is a right bastard, poison-spewing, w/ the body and stature of a Greek god and the face and mouth of a mongoose, and starts picking fights in the ring with the students, Hung steps in to take him on and, blow-to-blow, gets trounced. Then Ip Man challenges Twister. And here's the thing you've got to remember, esp. if you missed Ip Man and/or know nothing about the guy: Ip Man doesn't want to fight you. He will happily pace around, critiquing his students and sipping his tea, then go back home to his stunning wife and kid. You challenge him, he'll smile at you then kick your ass. So Twister, when Ip Man challenges YOU to a fight, brother you know it's going to be a brawl.
Next screening: Sun, Jun 27, 8:45p (Walter Reade Theatre)

* Death Kappa (dir. Tomoo Haraguchi, 2010, Japan). One of the wackiest films I've ever seen at the NYAFF, and that's saying something b/c I saw the circa-70s one w/ the possessed Himalayan cat and the Technicolor workout (Hausu) and the one w/ the perpetual bikini-clad sword-wielding girl who has like 10 lines in the script and only fights in the dark, basically (One-Chanbara). I was tipped off immediately by our sort-of narrator, a nattily dressed white guy speaking scholarly Japanese. Then cut to a train en route to Shirikodama, aka the seashore, and the uber-cute Misato Hirata, aka failed Jpop starlet (and eventual kappa-guardian), which swiftly segues into like three different films at the same time. Shot of the kappa shrine sinking into the ocean — oh wait, that's a fish tank, like a freshwater aquarium tank you'd find in a dentist's office. Shot of Hirata-chan dancing w/ the kappa and some human guys. Then I don't know, a nuclear-type device that summons a Godzilla-esque kaiji to stomp a cardboard Tokyo w/ its thunder-thighs. The military is useless against it! The tank fire and grenade launchers (so what if they're obvs radio-controlled?) are all firecrackers anyway. Though the creature barely attacks, until like 20 minutes after it first appears it seems to realize it can blow fireballs. And just as suddenly: the kappa, now supersized, returns! It bodyslams the monster! The monster clotheslines the kappa! The kappa starts picking up refinery tanks and batting them to the monster like it's a super-sized volleyball. The monster breathes fire again and the super-kappa PUSHES THE FIRE BACK and the monster explodes. Then the kappa, now Death Kappa (like the film title), goes bonkers, and it's only the reappearance of its kind keeper Hirata-chan (who was missing onscreen for like the past 45 minutes) to calm it, and it heads out into the sea to a chorus of children's happy goodbyes. I am making none of this up.
Next screening: Sun, Jul 4, midnite (IFC Center)