Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A martial arts saga reaches its conclusion with 'Ip Man 4: The Finale'

[IP MAN 4: THE FINALE screens Saturday March 14th at 9:40 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

As the title proclaims, IP MAN 4: THE FINALE brings to a conclusion the series of films based (very loosely) on the life of Chinese martial arts master Ip Man. Like all its predecessors, it stars Donnie Yen in the title role and was directed by Wilson Yip, with Edmond Wong and Chain Tai Lee once again serving as screenwriters, this time in collaboration with Dana Fukazawa and Jil Leung Lai Yin.

Set in 1964, for his final adventure in the series Ip (Yen) travels to San Francisco’s Chinatown. There he hopes to find a new school for his son Ip Ching (Jim Liu), who has been kicked out of school in Hong Kong for fighting. Ip also checks in on his former student Bruce Lee (Danny Chan), who has opened a martial arts school that teaches Wing Chun style kung fu to anyone, regardless of race. This doesn’t sit well with the Chinese Benevolent Association, headed by Wan Zong-hua (Wu Yue). Wing and his fellow board members are adamant that Chinese martial arts should only be taught to Chinese people.

A housewife finds control through a strange habit in 'Swallow'

[SWALLOW opens Friday, March 13th at the Atlas Diamond Centre Cinemas 16.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Depicted as the stereotypical upper-class housewife, it would seem as though Hunter (Haley Bennett) has everything she could want from life. She lives in a nice house, has a good looking and seemingly considerate husband in the person of Richie (Austin Stowell), and wants for nothing material.

But in Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s SWALLOW, what some would consider the American dream is far from it. Hunter’s day to day life offers little opportunity for fulfillment beyond decorating her home. And it turns out her seemingly perfect husband is kind of a douche. He’s not physically abusive, but he has little if any interest in his wife’s thoughts and opinions.

The only other people in Hunter’s life are her in-laws, who at best see her as an extension of their son and not as a real person. Richie’s dad (David Rasche) barely acknowledges Hunter’s existence. Richie’s mother (Elizabeth Marvel), on the other hand, makes passive aggressive comments and suggestions to her daughter-in-law. Hunter’s own parents are notable by their absence, and if she has any friends, we don’t see them.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Art and politics make a potent blend in 'The Cordillera of Dreams' (March 5th and 6th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS screens Thursday March 5th at 6:30 pm and Friday March 6th at 9:40pm.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Director Patricio Guzman fled Chile, the country of his birth, in the mid-seventies to escape the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. He remains an expatriate to this date. But although he no longer lives there, he keeps returning to make films, seeking to understand his country and the lasting impact Pinochet continues to exert even after death.

Starting with 2010’s NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, Guzman has made a series of films exploring the intersection of Chile’s past and present. He has done this by focusing on various regions, beginning with the Atacama Desert in NOSTALGIA, moving south to Patagonia in 2015’s THE PEARL BUTTON, and now focusing on the Andes mountain region in his latest film, THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS.