Azn Badger's Blog

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Get Stingray Production Diary Entry #0

Not long ago, I mentioned on this blog that I was gearing up to make a movie with some friends entitled “Get Stingray.”

Being as this is intended to be a fairly serious endeavor, requiring many hours and weeks of effort to complete, I figure it would be in my best interest to track and log the progression of things on a fairly consistent basis.

Well, being as it’s been about a week since I announced this project, I can honestly say that not a whole lot has changed, which is the reasoning for why this diary entry is labeled #0 instead of #1.

While I have yet formally set aside time to devote to budgeting, choreographing, or pounding out a script for Get Stingray as of yet, (that’s what this weekend is for) I have had random bits of inspiration come me, mostly in terms of the cinematographic style of things.

After years of watching action/kung fu movies, I finally like I have a decent feel what kind of movements are most dynamic, and what kind of camera angles work to “sell” said motions.

While it sucks to have to admit it, it needs to be said that neither myself, nor any of my friends are particularly gifted in terms of physicality or coordination.

That being said, I’m leaning towards using tight focal points in the framing of the shots during the fights, as well as using quick cuts to mask whatever shortcomings myself and the other performers might have in the physical department.

Speaking of quick cuts, as I write this I find myself peering up at the television to watch Matt Damon and Joey Ansah’s spectacular brawl from The Bourne Ultimatum:

Unlike the dreadful stock library sound effects used in this scene though, I intend to do what I can to foley whatever sound I can.

The vision I have for the cinematography during the fights in Get Stingray, is something along the lines of a cross between the Bourne series’ quick cuts, and the more polished on-rails camera movements of Donnie Yen’s work in the past 5 years or so.

Basically, I want to take the calculated artistry of the camera choreography of Hong Kong action films, pair it with the quick cuts of American films, all while keeping the “shaky-cam” to the bare minimum, or at least in a tasteful proportion.

I know it sounds heady and artsy, and very likely far beyond my capabilities as a barely amateur filmmaker, but that’s probably the simplest and most straightforward way one could articulate my intent.

While I’m on the topic of cinematography, I may as well mention that I’m seriously considering investing in a new camera.

I’ve used a DV cam for every film project I’ve ever made, but at my old job as a graphic designer, I was afforded the chance to handle a flash memory HD camcorder.

I really grew to love that camera, with it’s manual focus and 24p shooting mode, and as such; it’s hard for me to consider going back to my 10 year old, dead pixel ridden DV cam.

Anyway, right now I’m looking at the Canon HFS20, and the HFS21, either of which would run me about $1,000.

As it stands, I can definitely afford the expense, but if anyone has any suggestions on a better choice/alternative, it’d be much appreciative.

Anyway, while I haven’t had an opportunity to shoot any test footage (again, that might be on the menu this weekend) I did get a chance to rough-house and block out a few beats of the choreography with my friends last week.

As with my confidence in my ability to deliver in terms of the cinematography of the movie, I feel that I have a pretty good sense of the “flow” or “language” of crafting fight scenes.

In playing around with my friends, I found I was able to effectively reference the temperaments and fighting disciplines of the characters, and logically deduce the attacks or defensive maneuvers that each character would utilize on a contextual basis.

Again, I know it’s a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of a better way to say it.

In many ways, my intent in making Get Stingray is to test myself, to see if I really can do what I’ve always felt I could.

Expect many Stingray updates from now on.

Chances are I’ll have some character bios or something like that next time around.

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VII – Mr. Yen, to the Future and Beyond!

"I want you... to suck my cock."

The year is 2010, and as of last year, Donnie Yen is now the most, or is among the most highly paid actors in Hong Kong.

Since finishing Ip Man in 2008, Donnie Yen has gone on to release 5 films, 3 of which being high-profile blockbusters.

The first of these was Bodyguards and Assassins, an action-drama set in turn-of-the-century Hong Kong.

With an all-star, ensemble cast, the film sported impressive production values, perhaps most notably the set, which consisted of a brick for brick recreation of several blocks of 1906 Hong Kong.

The film is essentially split into two halves, with the first being drama-heavy and ultimately responsible for setting the stakes, and the second being action-heavy, taking all the pre-established pieces of the plot from the first half and running wild them non-stop until the final reel.

While occasionally weighed-down by protracted bouts of melodrama, particularly in the film’s action-heavy second half, the film saves itself by providing an impressive level of characterization to what at first glance would appear to be an overwhelmingly bloated cast of characters.

Despite my ignorance in regards to pronunciation and recognition of Chinese names, I never found myself puzzled as to who was who or how every character related to one another.

Donnie Yen has a small but important role as a down-on-his-luck gambler seeking redemption for his past sins.

The role is minimal, with Donnie Yen being used primarily as an action element among the players, however he does have some truly effective dramatic moments.

The highlight of his performance, and perhaps the entire film however, is of course, a fight:

The above bout between Donnie Yen and former MMA champion, Cung Le, was reportedly re-shot and re-choreographed sometime after filming had officially wrapped.

Apparently Mr. Yen was unhappy with his performance, and thusly organized a reshoot, without supplemental pay or benefits.

The result is a fight that, while inspired, and certainly beyond the norm in terms of choreography, is somewhat uneven and ultimately, unbalanced.

The parkour element of the fight was brief, but effective, with much of the camerawork being downright spectacular, particularly when use of steadicam is used to weave between bystanders.

The sparring between the two players is crisp and on point for the most part, with great sound effects and music to back it up, but the MMA style joint locks and grappling seem largely out of place given the time period.

Perhaps most disappointing though, is the awkward use of wirework.

Though I’ve said before that wuxia isn’t really my thing, the fact of the matter is, that if one is going to incorporate fantastical wirework into a film, it’s implementation should be consistent rather than sporadic.

In all, the fight was a highlight for this film, however it doesn’t rank very high on Donnie Yen’s resume.

And as previously established, it's a pretty long resume. Yes, they boned.

Donnie Yen’s next film, also released in 2009, was the 90’s wuxia throwback, 14 Blades.

I have not seen this film, so I feel I have no right to comment on it in detail, however I will say this:

I have very little desire to see this film anyway.

In fact there are many films Donnie Yen has made, particularly in the 2000’s, that I have almost no interest in seeing.

As I mentioned in previous articles in this blog, Wilson Yip was a blessing on Donnie Yen’s career.

In between the classics that Yip and Yen were cranking out in the late 2000’s, Donnie Yen also released a number of smaller, poorly regarded films, most of which were, you guessed it: wuxia films.

Twins Effect I and II… ‘Nuff said.

Seven Swords seemed overblown and lacked the proper “Yen Quotient.”

An Empress and the Warriors didn’t peak my interest in the least, given the plot and Donnie Yen’s presence as a character who exists for no other reason than to hit people.

And then there’s Painted Skin

Well, Painted Skin just plain looked like ass.

AAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

I haven’t seen any of these films, including 14 Blades, but to my knowledge they have all received poor reviews, and while impressive to look at in some cases, and not terrible films in their own right, they simply don’t offer the Donnie Yen experience I’m looking for.

THIS on the other hand.... No, wait, this sucked too...

Despite being of the relatively advanced age of 46, Mr. Yen remains the top dog in terms of Hong Kong action cinema, with many of his upcoming films having him cast in action-heavy roles.

As I type this, Donnie Yen has more than 3 major films in the works,  not the least of which being Ip Man 2, which was recently released in theaters.

The film reunites nearly all of the principle cast from the previous entry in the series, however this time the story has moved to 1930’s Hong Kong, and includes Sammo Hung in a co-starring role as an overbearing Hung Gar master at odds with Ip Man.

Highlights in the film look to be a long overdue rematch between Yen and Hung following the impressive nature of their brawl in SPL, as well as what appears to be Sammo and Donnie pitting their form based Hung Gar and Wing Chun against English screen-fighter, Darren Shahlavi‘s more fluid Western boxing.

Sadly, from what I’ve read, Fan Siu Wong‘s role in the film is very small, and totally devoid of action.

A shame really, as I was very impressed by his performance in the first film, both as an actor and a combatant.

Although I can't say the same for his performance in this film.

Also on Donnie Yen’s plate for this year, is Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, a truly bizarre semi-sequel to Bruce Lee‘s 1972 classic, Fist of Fury.

I call the film bizarre due to the fact that the protagonist of the first film, Chen Zhen, was supposed to have gone down in a hail of gunfire at the end of Lee’s film, and yet, based on recent teaser footage, the sequel appears to have Yen cast not only as the same character, but as a masked vigilante practitioner of parkour.

Though I can’t say my hopes are up for The Return of Chen Zhen, it’s this continued process of adaptation and innovation that, in my eyes, keeps Mr. Yen’s performances from going stale.

That, and lots and lots of hair spray.

Despite being discovered¬† in the 80’s by one of the great directors and choreographers of our time, Yuen Woo Ping, Donnie Yen would not rise to prominence in the industry until more than a decade later, well after he had already begun to direct and choreograph his own films.

Unlike so many screen-fighters, in particular Jet Li, Donnie Yen has proven himself to be a student of the game.

Beyond being a fantastic martial artist, he has also displayed a remarkable sense of awareness in regards the kinetics of filmmaking.

Truly, particularly in recent years, he has come to embody the role not of screen-fighter, but that of a physical actor.

Some men, when placed into a fight scene, do nothing but hit their marks, keep to the beat, and wow with their physical prowess.

Donnie Yen does all of these things while injecting a sense of dramatic weight to his actions.

You care when he throws his punches and more importantly, you know why he chose to throw the punch the way he did.

Donnie Yen is of the rare breed of men that can not only teach, but also do.

Not only that, he is of the even rarer breed that can do both well.

At 46 I understand that Donnie Yen most likely has maybe 3-4 years left in him to produce truly great physical performances in his career.

Unlike Jackie Chan however, I believe Donnie Yen’s vanity and pride will keep him from stretching his fighting career beyond his means.

It saddens me to know that I was among those that overlooked Mr. Yen until such a late stage in his career, only to find that he was already beginning down the road to the inevitable end of his career.

I guess I should look at it not as me having missed the first 17 years of Yen’s career, but as me having witnessed the past 9, which is more than most can say.

I look forward to whatever the Mr. Yen is able to produce in the coming years.

Here’s hoping we’ll all be “wowed” one last time by the greatness that truly is, Donnie Yen.

Thank you to all who took the time to read this epic tribute of all I know and love about Donnie Yen!

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part I – The Early Years

Okay let’s get one thing straight: Donnie Yen is the man.

Blue Jeans and Donnie Yen... All you'll ever need, baby... All you'll ever need.

Outside of his surgically altered face, and sculpted physique, his perfectionist tendencies and picture perfect form, both in front of and behind the camera, have blessed him with a colorful film career spanning 4 decades… and a super model wife.

Okay, things were cool at first, but now I'm starting to hate this guy a little.

Oh yeah, did I mention that he’s also a concert pianist, as well as a former breakdancer?

Okay, well maybe that whole breakdancing thing didn’t pan out so well, but hey, nobodies’ perfect.

The man is a living legend in the art of cinematic fight crafting and performance, and yet despite this, for most of his career he was regarded as sort of a middle-tier star in Hong Kong cinema.

In some ways its easy to see why though.

At age 46 he is only just now learning how to act, and in the few instances he set out to direct and star in his own films, the results were, how shall we say… ASS.

"Why did I let you convince me to be in this shitty movie? Did you really have to film every fight like it was straight out of Dragonball Z!?"

Combined with the fact that some of his contemporaries just happened to be Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Donnie Yen’s career was largely overlooked early on.

Despite this, he was always busy, turning out solid performances throughout the 80’s and 90’s, in the form of fun flicks like, Mismatched Couples, In the Line of Duty IV, Crystal Hunt, Iron Monkey I and II, and my personal favorite of his 80’s films, Tiger Cage II.

During this time, he often worked under the guidance of the great Yuen Woo Ping, as well as shared the screen with a laundry list of screen legends such as:  Ken Lo, Dick Wei, Billy Chow, Yu Ruong Guang, Michael Wong, Collin Chou, Yuen Biao, Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li, as well as his good friends, John Salvitti, and Michael Woods.

Oh yeah, and he also got to beat Robin Shou’s ass on at least one occasion.

THAT'S RIGHT! GOT YOUR ASS BEAT, LIU KANG!

His pair of battles against Jet Li in Once Upon a Time In China II as the villainous General Lan are often considered the scenes that put him on map among Chinese action film enthusiasts. In fact, the reception for these fights was so high in China, that the public anticipation of a “rematch” between the two figured into the promotion of the film, Hero.

Personally, I felt these fights were technically well crafted, but have never really been considered some of my favorites. Too many camera tricks and fantastical wire gimmickry for my tastes.

As you can probably tell, I’m not really a traditional wuxia enthusiast.

... Although this is pretty fucking cool.

Well, that concludes the introductory segment to my MASSIVE tribute (not innuendo, I swear) to the apex of pimp himself, Donnie Yen.

Check back for “Part II – Director Yen!”

Filed under: Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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