Category Archives: Reviews

Film Review: Ip Man 2

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ip Man 2

Having fled the village of Fo Shan, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) and his family end up in British Hong Kong, where the master plans to open a school to train students. He gets a good deal on a rooftop studio and sets up shop. But no one is coming, and he is finding it hard to make ends meet. To complicate matters, his wife Wing-sing (Lynn Xiong) is pregnant with their second child. Just when things seem bleak indeed, Ip Man begins to acquire students, although they aren’t always able to pay the school fees. But at least it’s a start.

Trouble soon arrives in the form of the other martial arts masters in Hong Kong, led by Master Hung (Sammo Kam-Bo Hung). They summon Ip Man and lay down their rules. First, he needs to prove himself to them through battle. He has to stand on a table and fight all comers until the incense burns down or until he loses. He accepts the challenge and proves himself.

At this time, the Chinese are very much under the thumb of their imperial masters, the British. Some of

them are less than respectful… or honorable. A British boxer known as the Twister (Darren Shahlavi) comes to town to participate in an exhibition of Western-style boxing. But the cocky fighter wants to show the Chinese how superior he is to them, and interrupts the display of the various schools to challenge them. It’s on! But can the Chinese win, with the odds stacked against them, and the crooked police supporting the British masters?

The second film in the series sees Ip Man and his family relocated to Hong Kong and in much more desperate conditions than the first film. Still, he is determined to provide for his family, at the same time maintaining his principles. There is a casualty from the first film, Ip Man’s friend Quan, who was shot in the head by the Japanese and is not the same man. I liked this one as much as the first, great fight scenes, and I love Ip Man’s wife, who doesn’t want to disturb his focus on this very important match just to let him know she has gone into labor. Look at the end for a small cameo by a little guy who will become the real Ip Man’s most famous student! Looking forward to the next film. I’ll give this one 4.5 Stars.

Film Review: Curse of the Golden Flower

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Curse of the Golden Flower


All is not well in the Imperial Palace. The Emperor’s second wife (Gong Li) is ill with what the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) has diagnosed as anemia. For the past ten years, she has been taking prescribed medicine every two hours. But recently, another ingredient has been introduced to her medicine, one that may do her irreparable harm if continued.

Crown Prince Wan (Ye Liu) was born of the Emperor’s late first wife. The new Empress has born two sons of her own, Jai (Jay Chou) and Yu (Junjie Qin). However, Wan has been having an affair with the Empress. He is also interested in Chan (Man Li), the daughter of the Imperial Doctor. The Emperor intends to remove Wan as Crown Prince in favor of Jai, little suspecting that his second son wishes to avenge the wrong being done to his mother. But these secrets are just the tip of the iceberg for these imperial family.

 

This opulent film is set during the Tang Dynasty, a very ostentatious time in Chinese history. A time in which male domination was complete, as can be seen in the way the women in the story are treated, even the Empress. So much deceit, so many lies. This story is a veritable historic soap opera, based on a played called “Thunderstorm”. The sets are incredibly beautiful, with a fantastic eye for detail, including but not limited to the sets and costumes. The action is exciting and well choreographed. Altogether a gripping film. I especdially enjoyed seeing Ye Liu as Crown Prince Wan, as I loved him The Chef, the Actor, and the Scoundrel.  I give this film 4.5 Stars.

Film Review: Ip Man

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ip Man

Fo Shan is a Chinese city renowed for its kung fu masters and their schools. The strongest kung fu master is Ip Man (Donnie Yen), who leads a quiet life with his wife and son and is much respected by the city. Possessing a strong sense of honor, he isn’t one to stand aside when some punks from up north come to town intent on starting their own school and beating up the other kung fu masters. Ip Man quickly teaches the bullies a lesson.

 

But the peace of Fo Shan is destroyed when the Japanese occupy the city, and much of the city’s population is decimated. Those who are left struggle to survive, including Ip Man, whose beautiful home has been confiscated. Having a family to feed, Ip Man goes to work shoveling coal. One day the Japanese arrive with a proposal, their interpreter being Ip Man’s friend Li (Ka-Tung Lam). Those who are willing to fight the Japanese in bouts of kung fu will receive a bag of rice if they win. These fights are for the Japanese general, Miua (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), whose second-in-command, Colonel Sato (Tenma Shibuya) is a sadistic, bloodthirsty man with no regard for human life. When one of Ip Man’s friends, Lin (Xing Yu) suddenly disappears, Ip Man realizes he has been killed by the Japanese. He requests to fight ten men. But when he wins, he doesn’t take the rice, as that was never the reason for him to fight.

 

General Miura wishes Ip Man to fight again, but he is nowhere to be found. And Li says he doesn’t 

know where he is, no matter how much they hurt him. But things come to a head, when Ip Man realizes he has to take a stand. He begins by teaching the factory workers at his friend Quan’s (Simon Yam) cotton mill how to defend themselves. And then he agrees to fight General Miura, although Li warns him that if he should win, Sato will kill him.

This film was recommended to me by a co-worker and I loved it! Everything about the film is good, from acting to story to direction to cinematography. I love the fight scenes! Ip Man is loosely based on an actual kung fu master, one of whose disciples was actor Bruce Lee. There are three more films in this series and I intend to watch and review them all. Ip Man is a great character. I love the scenes with his family, showing that he isn’t necessarily perfect and has room to improve, which of course he does. I highly recommend this film and give it 4.5 Stars.

Book Review: Chainsaw Man, Vol 2 by Tatsuki Fukimoto

Chainsaw Man, Vol 2     

Author: Tatsuki Fujimoto

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Denji agrees to help Power retrieve her cat Meowy from the Bat Devil, for which she has promised him he could touch her breasts. Little did he suspect that she has led him into a trap, and he has been promised to the devil as a snack! But Denji is determined to get his reward, and he’ll do what it takes to defeat this devil! Denji isn’t the only one who was lied to, as Power and Meowy find themselves in dire straits themselves! Denji saves them only to run up against the Bat Devil’s dismayed girlfriend. She tells him to run and leave the other two behind, but he has a goal, one that doesn’t include sacrificing Power.

Afterward, Denji doesn’t hold a grudge, despite Power’s apparent betrayal. But attaining his reward isn’t as fulfilling as he anticipated it would be. What’s up with that? In Aki’s home, recuperating, Denji receives a dressing down from Aki, who reminds him he has to do as he is told. When Makima sends Power to live there too, Aki asks Makima why he gets all the dangerous ones.

Makima asks Denji why he is so down and he confesses that the dream he sought for so long wasn’t what he expected. Then she makes him an unexpected offer – if he can kill the Gun Devil, he can ask anything of her he wants… anything. She will grant him one wish. With motivation like that, how can Denji fail?

Apparently the Gun Devil appeared at the same time as a major terrorist attack in the US… and the death toll was staggering, about 1.2 million people. But the Devil hasn’t been seen since. How are they to find it? Apparently through the pieces of flesh it’s left behind, which if they accumulate enough of them will try to regenerate and through that they will find it. Of course, Denji is totally onboard for this, considering his feelings for Makima. She’s different from Power, as he’s come to realize that not all females are the same.

Aki’s group of devil hunters, including Denji and Power, head off to a local hotel, which has requested a devil be exterminated.

I am enjoying this series so far, and have decided to wait to watch more of the anime until I get further along in the manga. Denji is such a sweet innocent/terrifying devil. He learns a valuable lesson in this volume, namely that not everything you think you want will turn out the way you think it will. I like watching his interactions with the others – Makima, Power, and even Aki, who can’t stand him. Well, he says he doesn’t, I don’t totally believe him. The devil at the hotel was creepy and funny both! Looking forward to seeing more of the hunt for the Gun Devil.

Book Review: Overlord, Vol 3 by Kugana Maruyama

Overlord, Vol 3     

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Publisher: Yen On

American release date:  January 31, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Fantasy Adventure /288 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ainz quickly realizes there is a lot he needs to learn about this world he finds himself in. Not everything is exactly the same as in Yggdrasil. It’s important that he learn about the differences,  to know what or who else is out there, what their strength is and what their intentions are. Also, are any of his fellow guild members possibly out there? He sends out Sebas and Solution and Shalltear on a mission – “capture humans who can use magic or martial arts, but aim for people whose disappearance won’t be an issue, like criminals.”

Capturing a very gullible fish, Shalltear learns the whereabouts of a bandits’ hideout and sends the others back to Nazarick, and moves forward, accompanied by two of her vampire brides. When she arrives at the hideout, everything seems to be straight forward…until it isn’t. And something that should not be possible happens…

Back in Nazarick, Ainz sees to his dismay that on the list of NPCs, Shalltear’s name has gone from white to black. This could mean rebellion, or it could mean mind control. But how can that even be? Why would Shalltear, always so devoted to him, rebel? But conversely, who could possibly control her mind? He has to find out.

Accompanied by Albedo, Ainz returns to E-Rantel at the request of an adventurer’s guild. Seems they have a bit of a vampire problem. Ainz promises to handle the problem himself, since he already knows what is afood, but one of the members, who is clearly jealous of AInz, wants to accompany him. Ainz warns him to come at his own peril. Meanwhile Albedo has found Shalltear, who has indeed been mind-controlled and is now dangerous to Ainz and Nazarick.

This volume is primarily centered on Shalltear’s involuntary rebellion, and the inevitable battle between Ainz and Shalltear – Player vs NPC. Ainz will have to use every skill he knows to win against such a strong being as Shalltear. He has no choice. The battle itself is amazing, watching all the various skills displayed on both sides. Who will win? That would be a spoiler.

Great volume, looking forward to more.

Book Review: The Chinese Bell Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story by Robert van Gulik

The Chinese Bell Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story   

Author: Robert van Gulik

Publisher: Harper Perennial

American release date: August 3, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Detective/262 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Judge Dee has been assigned as the new magistrate in the small village of Poo-Yang. The previous magistrate has left Judge Dee with a case he had not finished, so it is up to Dee to complete adjudication. A young girl, Pure Jade, the daughter of a butcher, was found murdered in her room not far from the family home. Wang Hsien-djoong, a young literature student and Jade’s lover, was arrested for the crime, despite his protestations of innocence. The villagers wish this case to be finished and justice dispensed. However, Judge Dee will not do so without hearing all the evidence for himself. Something he hears causes him to investigate the matter even further, which stirs up the resentment of the villagers that he will not be done with it.

There is something suspicious about the Temple of Boundless Mercy. The temple is renowned as a place where couples who are having difficulty in conceiving a child come to pray to the goddess there. The wife is taken to a small pavilion where she is locked in and sealed, the key given to the husband who sleeps nearby and comes to get his wife in the morning. The monks who run the temple have had a great success rate in helping these unfortunate couples, but some question how a temple which was formerly poor and obscure can now be so prosperous since the arrival of a strange monk.

An elderly widow approaches Judge Dee, requesting justice for her late husband, presenting to him a matter that is some twenty years old which originated in Canton. She has followed the guilty party to Poo-yang and wishes to see him prosecuted. She has previously been dismissed as old and not in her right mind, but Judge Dee is not so sure and decides to look into the matter.

Three more stories of Judge Dee for our delectation, brilliantly entwined and set forth for us to enjoy. Three more mysteries for the Judge and his lieutenants to solve! These are fascinating stories. Judge Dee is undoubtedly brilliant and you have to love him, even if his methods seem odd at first. In this volume, he and his lieutenants come close to losing their lives! Also, the judge goes forth in disguise to investigate matters for himself. Although some of the methods used during the trials are primitive compared to modern day jurisprudence, particularly the torture that is inflicted on some witnesses, the stories are timeless and in the end, good triumphs over evil. If you enjoy mystery novels, you will love the Judge Dee mysteries.

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 5 by Yusei Matsui

Assassination Classroom, Vol 5     

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  August 4, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Action Adventure Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

In the mandatory exhibition matches, the girls of Class 3E have unfortunately lost their basketball game. But they are delighted to discover that the boys are doing well in their baseball game. However, a monkey wrench has been thrown into the works in the form of Principal Asano, who will do whatever it takes to assure his class prevails. Are the boys of 3E up to the challenge?

Despite the fact that Karasuma has intensified his training of the would-be assassins, his lack of immediate results has brought him under scrutiny and the Ministry of Defense has assigned someone else to assist him. His methods are different from Karasuma’s. To make matters worse, Karasuma has been told that Takaoka is now in charge of training the students while Karasuma’s job is to find assassins. Despite his initial kindly appearance, Takaoka’s methods are a terrifying mix of love and fear. He plans to push the students to their limits and doesn’t care about their grades at all, which upsets them greatly. When Karasuma objects, Takaoka offers him a deal – Karasuma can pick one student to attack him with a knife.  If this student succeeds in striking him once, Takaoka will concede that Karasuma is the better teacher and he will leave. However, if the student fails, Karasuma loses the right to criticize Takaoka forever. Karasuma accepts the challenge, and after some deliberation selects the quiet, gentle Nagisa. Does Nagisa have what it takes to bring down this loud-mouth one-time soldier?

Summers are brutal, but the students of Class 3E don’t even have AC in their ramshackle class building. And they can’t use the school pool because it’s located in the main school building, where they aren’t allowed to go. So Koro Sensei does the next best thing – he creates their own pool on top of their mountain. And the students observe that water is a weakness of Koro Sensei. More opportunities for assassination!

I loved the baseball game and seeing the brats on the other team get their comeuppance, and especially Principal Asano, who I can’t stand. I think we are watching Karasuma grow, both as a person and as an instructor, which after all is the goal of writing, to see your characters change and develop. We also see a side of Nagisa you wouldn’t have believed existed before now. Another great volume, looking forward to more!

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 4 by Yusei Matsui

Assassination Classroom, Vol 4     

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  June 2, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Action Adventure Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Ms Vitch has been pronounced lacking by her mentor and considered not fit to continue the assassination assignment. A compromise is reached in which both she and the mentor will attempt to “assassinate” Kurasama. If Irina wins, she can continue to teach there. The battle is on! If she resorts to begging, will she be able to persuade Kurasama to let her “kill” him?

Koro Sensei has plans to see an action movie in Hawaii because the film is being released in the States first and he doesn’t want to wait to see it. Nagisa and Karma beg him to take them along, even if that means traveling at Mach 20 along with him! Will they make an assassination attempt or simply enjoy the outing?

The arrival of the second transfer student is now imminent. This student is preceded by a mysterious white guardian, who introduces himself first and then brings in Itona…who announces that he is Koro Sensei’s brother. What? To say that he is odd would be an understatement, and he instantly earns the ire of his fellow classmates. So Itona and Koro Sensei decide to have a showdown, right there in the classroom…but there have to be rules, naturally. Perhaps the class will learn something by watching these brothers interact.

Since he was sent to Class 3E, Sugino hasn’t been allowed to play on the baseball team, which he misses greatly, since he loves the game. A school sports tournament is being held, but naturally the Class 3E team can’t play. But they’re required to play in the exhibition matches afterward. The boys have to play the Varsity Baseball Team, while the girls have to play the Varsity Basketball Team. Maybe, with Koro Sensei’s help, they can show the rest of the school what they’re really made of. Things are going pretty well for the boys, to the dismay of the Varsity team, when Principal Asano throws a monkey wrench into the works.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. By which I mean Ms. Vitch. She’s come a long way from the woman she was when she first entered Class 3E. She’s proving to be more than a pretty face, and is actually beginning to enjoy her teaching as much as being an assassin.

Itona is very irritating, and I’m glad he left,  but I know we’ll see him again. My favorite part of this volume was the baseball game, because I love to see the students turn the tables on their snobbish schoolmates whenever possible, whether in athletics or academics. Can’t wait to see what the principal does. Hopefully whatever it is, Koro Sensei can overcome it. Another great volume!

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 20 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 20        

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 2, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The fighting intensifies as four of the Hashira battle Muzan’s number one demon, Kokushibo, who was once a demon slayer himself! But things don’t look good for the Hashira. Tokito has been gravely injured and Genya was cut in half – how is he still alive, and drawing on demon blood powers? The Stone and Wind Hashira brothers enter the fray, as they attempt to utilize their strengths against this demon. But will it be enough?

This is such an intense volume, so much going on! A real nail-biter! One of the things I like about the author is that everything is not black and white. He shows that even demons are not entirely bad, as is evidenced here with the story of Kokushibo and his twin brother.

The Demon Slayer story is beginning to draw to an end. If they can get past this demon, their next target will be Muzan. Last seen, Tanjiro was headed toward him. Can’t wait to see how everything plays out!  Great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Chainsaw Man, Vol 1 by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Chainsaw Man, Vol 1   

Author: Tatsuki Fujimoto

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 6, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Denji’s life is a hard one. He’s begun selling body parts just to make ends meet… and to pay off the enormous debt his father accumulated before his death. Denji’s only friend is his dog Poochita, who happens to be a devil. Despite that, they’ve become close. A desperate Denji goes to the man he owes the debt to and requests he hire him as a devil hunter.

Through unfortunate circumstances, Poochita dies, but his last act is to give Denji his heart, so the boy can live, and now he is part devil himself. And that part makes him a living chainsaw man! Then he meets a girl named Makima and falls in love… and is offered the chance to make a new life for himself. Of course, that offer does have a few strings, but what the heck. Denji may actually get to achieve his lifelong dream of touching… well, you’ll see.

The first volume of this series was pretty cool, no lie, and a great supplement to watching the anime. As usual, the manga contains information that is either missing or easy to miss in the anime. Denji is an interesting character, and so are the people he gets to work with, such as Makima and Aki and Power. Looking forward to seeing where these characters’ journeys will take them!