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Films are a great binding factor, or so the late film critic Roger Ebert would have us believe.
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Review of Malena, Ip Man (Yip Man) and Kick Ass.
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico, Matilde Piana
First things first. Monica Belluci has never looked more ravishing in a film. Now that we've got that out of the way, here are the other reasons Malena works. The film is set in a picturesque Sicilian town during World War II. Renato, a teenaged boy who has a crush on Malena (Belluci), discreetly follows her all over the town.
Malena's husband as well as most of the young men in town have gone to the front, leaving the attractive woman to fend for herself while a line of lecherous old men proposition her and jealous townswomen look down upon her and spread canards. Every stroll Malena takes through town turns into a spectacle, accompanied by the men's lustful looks and their envious wives' gossip. Meanwhile, young Renato keeps a voyeuristic watch over her as a self-appointed guard.
Narrated by Renato, Malena is a heart-rending and captivating story, if you manage to take your eyes off Belluci, that is.
Tornatore, who also gave us the hit Cinema Paradiso years back, is a genius with the camera, bringing to life the old Italian town and all its characters. Giuseppe Sulfaro does a fabulous job as Renato, the horny teenaged stalker who spies on Malena's every move and indulges in erotic fantasies about her. Belluci herself doesn't have much to say in the film, but she has plenty to show. . . and boy does she show it. Overall, a sentimental and mesmerising tale about adolescence and growing up.
Ip Man (Yip Man) (2008)
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Fan Siu-Wong, Xiong Dailin
If you're a Bruce Lee fan, this biopic about Lee's teacher Ip Kai-Man will leave you enthralled. Devoid of all the 'flying' stunts reminiscent of Chinese martial arts films like Hero and Crouching Tiger..., Ip Man brings you the real deal, coated with liberal doses of salt. Ip Man invented a style of Chinese kung fu called 'wing chun' and if the fights in the film are to be believed, it packs a punch, literally.
Set in the 1940s during the Japanese invasion of China, the film shows the kung fu prowess of the Ip Man, a well-respected persona in Foshan (Guangdong).
Time and again Ip Man is sought out by students eager to learn from him (he always declines) and by other masters keen to test their abilities, much to the disappointment of his wife.
Eventually, the Japanese come and the city falls to harsh times. Ip Man's skills come to the notice of a Japanese general and the rest is history (with a little distortion).
Donnie Yen mesmerises with mastery on wing chun, moving smoothly, without breaking a sweat. He has to look good... this is the guy who taught Bruce Lee. While the story is predictable and no doubt exaggerated, the film was popular enough to spur a sequel (Ip Man 2). But if you're a martial arts buff, this one's as good as they come.
Out on DVD
Kick Ass (2010)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, ChloÃ« Moretz
Do you think you can be a superhero? If not, watching Kick Ass may just change your mind. After a spate of superhero films, Kick Ass is as a refreshing look at the world of caped crusaders even as the action-comedy pays homage to comic book heroes.
Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski is the nerdy protagonist who orders a weird bodysuit online to dress up as a superhero and battle crime. But the real star of the film is Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl - a profanity-spewing, gravitydefying 11-year-old superhero who has a fetish for weapons. Also watch out for Nicholas Cage in an understated role as the superhero dad.
Young Chloe's violent, foul-mouthed role generated some controversy in the US. An 11-year-old assassin who has no qualms about giving thugs multiple stab wounds while insulting their mothers may come as a shock, but Mindy aka Hit Girl wins you over with her charm and a purple wig.
The film is a fast-paced barrel of laughs and features some breathtaking action sequences, but it's also a parody of the superhero genre and will leave comic-book lovers thrilled. Keep your ears tuned for the track The Barber of Seville Overture during the first action scene. It gives you goosepimples.
If superheroes aren't your thing, just watch it for the action. This one makes Jackie Chan and Sly Stallone look like amateurs in Disneyland.
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