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Birth of the Dragon – The Dope Sheet Movie Review

Release Date:  Aug. 25, 2017
Rating:  PG-13
Run Time:  1 hour 43 min
After Credit Scene:  NO
IMAX Viewing:  NO
3D Viewing:  NO
Reviewer:  Wayne Demers
The Dope Sheet Score:  7.7 out of 10

A non-spoiler review.

“Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to a legend.

What you need to know about Birth of the Dragon:  The movie is based on actual events, but after doing some research, it is unclear how much embellishment Hollywood has done on this story.  Accounts by friends of Lee and friends of Man differ greatly and the narrative of their relationship also differs depending on which camp you speak with.  As near as I can tell, the movie is based on a fight had between the Lee and Man, little of the story told in this movie is true.

What works:  Philip Ng plays the role of Bruce Lee.  Not only does Philip share a likeness to Lee, his fighting style is also very believable to that of Lee.  Yu Xia plays Wong Jack Man, a Shaolin Monk who comes to the US and eventually fights Bruce Lee.  He provides the best performance of the film in both acting and martial arts.  The moments when there is fighting are very well choreographed and very entertaining.  I enjoyed the backdrop of the film and the way in which the story was told.

What doesn’t work:  I did not care for how Bruce Lee was portrayed in the film.  It is as if the director viewed one of Lee’s movies and gave him that persona.  With Lee pointing at people frequently and coming across as brash, cocky, and paranoid I’ve not seen this depiction of Bruce Lee in any biography or documentary done prior to this film.  Billy Magnussen is cast as Steve McKee, a student of Lee and one who acts as a go-between of Lee and Man.  I felt his performance was weak and at times annoying.  His story wasn’t developed enough or in a way to care of his characters outcome.  As I mentioned before, learning of interaction of Lee and Man, I was disappointed that the movie is “based” on true events but much of this story has been Hollywoodized (is that a word?).

Despite what I believe does not work, this movie is very entertaining.  Those who like martial arts and action movies will most likely enjoy this movie.  Bruce Lee is an icon whose story is bound to be told over again for generations to come.  Along the way, I hope Hollywood’s interpretation of who he was doesn’t repaint Lee as a person that he was not.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, I give Birth of the Dragon a 7.7.  Grab some concessions and enjoy some great action.

Did you see the film?  Tell us your opinion below.

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Trailer Snark (August 25, 2017 Theatrical Trailers)

Welcome to Trailer Snark, a weekly column covering trailers for movies that will be released this week with thoughts from our roster of bloggers (Jessica from The Female Perspective, Ken from The Crank File, Jim from The Front Row View, Eric from View from Above, Robert from Cards and Counters, Wayne from The Dope Sheet, and Great Stories founder Chris).  Thanks for reading, and enjoy the previews!

All Saints (Columbia Pictures) – Drama
Rated PG for thematic elements
Tagline: From a seed of faith grows hope.
Starring: John Corbett, Cara Buono
Plot: ALL SAINTS is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.
Running Time: 108 minutes
Chris: Feel good movie and I will certainly check it out in the comforts of my own home.
Wayne: Looks like an inspiring movie, but I’m selling.

Birth of the Dragon (BH Tilt) – Action/Biography/Drama
Rated PG-13 for martial arts violence, language and thematic elements
Tagline: The fight that created a legend.
Starring: Yu Xia, Billy Magnussen, Phillip Ng
Plot: Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to a legend.
Running Time: 103 minutes

Wayne: I love stories about Bruce Lee, but have a feeling that these stories will be very embellished. I’m buying this because I love Lee and Kung Fu movies.
Chris: Fantastic looking film. Hard to believe WWE studios is behind it. I am curious to learn more of Bruce Lee’s past before stardom visited.

Leap! (The Weinstein Company) – Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Rated PG for some impolite humor, and action
Tagline: Never give up on your dreams
Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan
Plot: An orphan girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and flees her rural Brittany for Paris, where she passes for someone else and accedes to the position of pupil at the Grand Opera house.
Running Time: 89 minutes

Chris:  Nobody puts Baby Icarus in the corner.
Wayne: Looks like another inspiring movie, but I’m selling. I’ll check it out but not expecting much.

Beach Rats (Neon) – Drama
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Tagline: None
Starring: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein
Plot: An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.
Running Time: 95 minutes

Wayne: Thought provoking and will be controversial. I’m buying and will check it out.
Chris: Could not be less interested.

Bushwick (RLJ Entertainment) – Action
Not Rated
Tagline: None
Starring: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow
Plot: When a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive.
Running Time: 94 minutes

Chris: When a Texas military force invades Brooklyn? Sounds pretty dumb to me. Skip.
Wayne: I’m selling this, however, I want to see Dave Bautista in this role and it will push his acting abilities. Curious to see if he is growing as an actor.

Tickets Purchased:  Two for Birth of the Dragon