Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Tony Jaa + Sammo Hung = Brilliant

"GIVE ME BACK MY ELEPHANT!!!!!!!!!!"

I’ve never really been a huge Tony Jaa fan.

While I’m a rabid fan of Hong Kong action films, and martial arts flicks in general; Tony Jaa’s films with director Pachya Pinkaew just didn’t have the same appeal to me.

In observing the action choreography of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to BMX or skateboarding demo videos.

Lots of flash, lots of “money shots,” but no real drama or point to the whole experience.

Make no mistake, I’m a firm believer that Mr. Jaa is just about the most physically gifted action performer in the world; however I feel a weakness in his films (aside from their horrible scripts) is the fact that choreographer Panna Rittikrai was all too aware of this fact.

In short, Tony Jaa’s action sequences; while elegantly shot and coordinated, came across as more than a little self-indulgent, while typically consisting of little more than him running up to people and doing things to them.

In other words, watching Tony Jaa in action is just that:

Watching Tony Jaa do horrible things to impotent jobbers that may or may not do a backflip when he knees them in the jaw.

My favorite part of fight choreography has always been the exchanges, the drama of fast paced fights with a palpable sense of momentum and urgency to them.

It’s the lack of these moments that makes me an admirer of Tony Jaa’s physicality; but not a fan of his movies.

That all may change in the near future though, as I happened upon an article on Twitchfilm.net today that made mention of a possible collaboration between Jaa and the legendary Sammo Hung.

That’s like the martial arts film equivalent to Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese.

2 men, at the top of their class; working together on a film.

There’s yet to be any formal announcement of anything surrounding the proposed project, but with Jaa’s raw ability and Sammo’s unbelievable fight crafting prowess, my expectations will be very high.

Based on Jaa’s acting ability, as well as the inherent racism of Hong Kong cinema, I wouldn’t expect the film to offer any more drama or creativity than Jaa’s previous films; but even so, the prospect of seeing the Thai dynamo work from Sammo’s choreography has me giddy with excitement.

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Donnie Yen Says Be A Dude And Help The Japanese

The picture above comes from LoveHKFilm.com, a wonderful Chinese film review site.

I wish I could take credit for it’s awesomeness, I really do; but no, I just found it and “borrowed” it for today’s post.

Anyway, this is me doing my duty as a (half) Japanese and saying “Do what Donnie Yen says, or he’ll find your ass and tear it up.”

I’ve personally taken it upon myself to donate a bit of money, as well as quite a lot of clothing and toys for the orphaned kids over there; so at the very least, even if you don’t have the guilt of the Japanese being “YOUR PEOPLE” hanging over you like I do, I encourage you to please give a little something if you’re at all able.

Anyway, it’s mom’s birthday today; so I’m gonna’ get back to bein’ a good boy.

Well, that and stuff my face full of mochi.

Don’t make Donnie Yen have to come find you…

DONATE HERE

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Thoughts On Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen

Donnie Yen’s butt.

That, my friends; is the one element of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen that I can honestly say I’ve never seen elsewhere.

That one goofy and slightly embarrassing little detail aside, Return of Chen Zhen is a bipolar mess of a film that can only be recommended to the most hardcore of Donnie Yen fans, I.E. me.

The basic plot is as follows:

Picking up after the conclusion of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen) flees China for the French battlefield of WWI.

How he managed to survive charging headlong into a hail of gunfire after the events of Fist of Fury, is never explained.

During the war, one of Chen Zhen’s friends is shot dead, prompting him to go apeshit and kill a bunch of Germans via the combined techniques of parkour and shank-fu.

*Cue shitty rip-off of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme* What? You think I'm kidding?

Much violence and badassery ensues.

With that, Chen Zhen opts to assume his fallen friend’s identity as he sets off for Shanghai; declaring his homeland his new battlefield in fighting against Chinese oppression.

Why he decides to take out his aggression on the occupying Japanese (embodied by the decidedly flacid antagonist played by Kohata Ryu)  instead of the German forces that were directly responsible for his friend’s death, is not explained.

Once in China, Chen Zhen uses his resources to build himself a network of newsies, students, war vets, and cops to serve as his Shadow-esque eyes and ears.

He also invests in a pencil-thin fake mustache, seemingly just because pencil-thin mustaches are pimp.

"Hello, I'm Donnie Yen, and you sir; have just stumbled upon my secret Pimp Party. Prepare to be kicked in the face... Repeatedly."

How Chen Zhen acquires said resources to put together said network, and purchase said mustache, is never explained.

Now firmly established as a wealthy entrepreneur of sorts in Shanghai, Chen Zhen links up with fellow wealthy socialite and nightclub owner, Li Yutian (Anthony Wong) in order to spread his influence… At least that’s what I got out of it anyway.

Li’s nightclub also happens to play host to a foxy singer named Kiki (Shu Qi) whom Chen Zhen quickly becomes attracted to.

Donnie Yen would hit it, but y'know; supermodel wife...

The wikipedia entry for this movie states that Chen Zhen “is romantically attracted to Kiki,” however this is hardly evident in the film.

I know they’re Chinese, and they’re not good at that whole “love” thing, or y’know; talking to each other, but when 2 characters never so much as hold hands throughout a movie, I find it hard to believe they’re “romantically attracted” to each other.

Not only that, but their most intimate moment is actually when Chen Zhen threatens to kill her.

ROMANCE.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell; Kiki really ruined the movie for me.

Usually I kind of like Shu Qi’s bubbly cutesy-ness, as was the case in the delightfully, uh, adequate Jackie Chan flick, Gorgeous; but this time around her role was just plain ugly.

Her character’s arc, much like the flow of the entire film, is predictable; yet somehow all over the place all at the same time.

Not only that, she’s shitfaced for roughly 3 quarters of the film, making her a very difficult character to like.

I’m guessing her character was supposed to be tragic, but in the end; she just brought the whole movie down by needlessly slowing the pace with frequent, and boring dialogue scenes.

Speaking of boring dialogue scenes, Return of Chen Zhen has a fuck ton of ‘em!

In most cases I can deal with inane and extraneous dialogue, but in the case of this movie; I actually found myself muttering the words:

“Jesus fuck man, I DON’T CARE.

Well okay, I didn’t exactly “mutter” those words so much as yell them, but you get the point.

Needless to say, Return of Chen Zhen has some writing issues… And pacing issues…  And it smells funny.

Now, when I said Return of Chen Zhen was a “bipolar” movie, I was of course speaking of it’s up and down pacing, specifically the jarring contrast between it’s action sequences, and the rest of the film.

In short:

Return of Chen Zhen has some pretty spankin’ fight sequences.

Heh heh, I like the part when the one dude gets kicked in the face. That was cool...

While nearly all of it is of the classic, Dynasty Warriors/1 man vs. the world style, most of it is well choreographed, and perhaps more importantly; competently shot.

Make no mistake, while the staging of the fights was indeed very good in Return of Chen Zhen, the editor, and perhaps more importantly; the cinematographer deserve a special pat on the back for their contributions.

While not so great a fight, this shot was pretty enough to redeem it.

Donnie Yen served as action choreographer for this one, and if there’s anything Donnie Yen is good at; it’s making himself look good.

While I heard reports that indicated an excessive use of stunt doubles for this film, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice them.

I’m assuming most of the parkour and stunt work was filmed using doubles, but everything that counts in my book, that is; the punching and kicking of people’s faces, was definitely all Yen.

Trust me, nobody throws kicks like Donnie Yen, nobody.

So… Where are his balls during all of this?

Speaking of which, from an action standpoint, Return of Chen Zhen serves as a sort of “best of” for Donnie Yen’s various trademark moves.

From the leaping spinning back kick above, to the cheesy windmill uppercuts of old, to even some of the joint locks and MMA style moves seen in SPL and Flashpoint; pretty much every cool thing Donnie Yen has done to someone throughout his career is featured, and ably performed in this movie at some point, with satisfyingly brutal results.

Though sadly there’s no breakdance fighting ala Mismatched Couples…

Kung Fu B-Boy Donnie Yen!

Getting back to the movie, seeing as most of the fight sequences in Return of Chen Zhen have Mr. Yen clothed in a Kato-esque mask and suit, the movements and strikes incorporated into the choreography bear a satisfying and altogether appropriate “superhero-y” quality to them.

That is to say:

When people get hit in this movie, they fly across the room and then some.

Yeah, that guy's goin' through a wall... Or 2.

Normally I’m not a fan of wirework in my kung fu movies, but their use in this film was largely used for the simple effect of slamming people into bookcases/windows/walls/platypuses, instead of the more fanciful bullshit as in Dragon Tiger Gate and other such films.

In all, Donnie Yen’s physical performance was nothing short of incredible in Return of Chen Zhen.

Given his relatively advanced age for the genre, (47) dreading the day when Donnie Yen suddenly gets old overnight and can’t perform as well he used to, but goddamnit; Father Time must owe him money or something, ’cause if anything he looked better in this movie than he did 2 years ago.

My guess is, the Ip Man movies actually served to smother Mr. Yen’s performances a bit over the past few years.

Wing Chun is a very practical, and straightforward fighting system; and one that is foreign to Donnie Yen’s martial talents.

As I mentioned earlier, Return of Chen Zhen was choreographed by Donnie Yen, for Donnie Yen, and in getting back to the basics, I think Mr. Yen showed us all that he’s still got it.

Anyway, enough cock-sucking.

In closing, I’d just like to point out a few little tidbits I felt needed mentioning:

Yasuaki Kurata and Shawn Yue have cameos in this movie.

They’re brief, and largely pointless; but it was fun seeing them nonetheless.

Would’ve really liked to have seen Kurata do a bit of fighting, seeing as he seemed relatively spry in Master of Thunder a few years ago, but oh well; take what you can get.

If you didn't see it already, then you probably shouldn't...

The vast majority of the sets for Return of Chen Zhen were very obviously recycled from the one used for Bodyguards and Assassins.

While it’s an incredible set, and definitely worth revisiting, there’s no denying that it was framed with a lot more love in Bodyguards and Assassins, and thusly comes across as kind of cheap looking this time around.

Also, if you’ve seen Bodyguards and Assassins, then it’s kind of surreal looking at little things like staircases and windows and remembering them, very clearly; from their use in that movie, which is peculiar being as Bodyguards and Assassins took place in Hong Kong, while Return of Chen Zhen is set in Shanghai.

I suppose it’s worth noting that, yes; the Japanese are the villains of this movie, and yes; they are portrayed as the most vile, baby boiling, dog kicking sons of bitches you’ve ever met.

Xenophobia has always been marketable in Chinese films, and nothing is ever gonna’ change that.

Regardless of how bad they make my people look, as long as Hong Kong keeps pumping out awesome movies about people kicking each other in the brain, I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, the plot sucked, the characters were boring, the dialogue was excessive and dull… but the fighting was pretty good.

If you love to see Donnie Yen do his thing, see it.

If not, then all you’re really missing is Donnie Yen’s butt.

Can you live without seeing Donnie Yen’s butt?

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Writer’s Block… Time For More Farley.

At the moment I’ve got about 4 articles swimming around in my head, and no motivation to sit down and type them.

I suppose it doesn’t help that Christmas is just around the corner, not to mention I just got my new Donnie Yen movie:  Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen.

In other words:

I’m watching Donnie Yen, so no blog for tonight.

That being said, while I have no reason to celebrate at the moment, here’s another Farley clip to tide you over for tomorrow:

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Azn Badger’s Top 5 Jackie Chan Songs That Keep Him From Stabbing People

Happy Azn Face!

Jackie Chan is a man of many talents.

He’s an actor.

Sad Azn Face...

He’s a stunt man.

Jackie auditioning for the role of Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Despite many broken bones, he didn't get the part...

He’s Mitsubishi’s bitch.

Jackie likes him some Bitsu Mishi...

But the one thing that many of us over here in the ‘states seem to forget from time to time, (or simply be unaware of) is that he’s also a singer.

"War! HOOH! Good God, j'all!"

It’s true, like any good Asian celebrity, Jackie Chan is known to bust out a song or 2 every now and again, seemingly just for the hell of it.

That being said, while I’ve never listened to any of his albums, I have watched a shit ton of his movies, and therefore have heard a shit ton of the theme songs he sang for them.

While I’ll be the first to admit the man will never win any awards for his vocal talents, I gotta’ say; most of his songs are exceptionally well produced, with fun lyrics and wonderfully arranged instrumentation.

I’m not kidding, the man makes some pretty good songs.

Anyway, enough set up, let’s get to the Jackie Chan music!:

#5. Thunderbolt


Let’s get one thing straight, Thunderbolt is not a good Jackie Chan movie.

The movie had a massive budget, and was clearly designed to appeal to an international (read: Japanese) audience; yet it’s overly complicated plot, poorly shot racing scenes, and mediocre fight scenes led to it being a huge letdown for me.

Okay, THIS was pretty cool, but the rest of the movie sucked...

Despite all that though, Thunderbolt does have a pretty spankin’ theme song.

Played several times throughout the movie, the song has a very bold and heroic sound to it that really grabs hold of you.

In addition to this, the electronic sampling used in the tune cleverly evoke imagery of automotive or garage tools, effectively creating an association between the song and the racing world that the movie takes place in.

Thunderbolt:  Great song, shitty movie.

#4. Who Am I?


“WAH’ CHADAH’ NAH’ JO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!”

I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled that for no reason.

Such is the power of the theme song of 1998′s Who Am I?

Pictured: A shitty, and tonally inappropriate poster that looks ripped off from a Steven Seagal movie.

Who Am I? was what I tend to consider one of Jackie Chan’s last really good physical performances.

Along with Gorgeous, (which was only an okay movie) Who Am I? represented Jackie Chan at his best, albeit while approaching the end of his physical prime.

In other words, it was these 2 movies that directly preceded his brief, yet image crushing career in Hollywood.

Pictured: That one Brit from Mouse Hunt gets caught assisting Jackie in shitting all over his career.

That being said, I really liked Who Am I?

The movie was fast-paced, had a colorful and exciting plot, and finally, after so many years of Jackie movies that ended with hovercraft chases and Nazi strongholds exploding, gave us a good final fight between Jackie a pair of dudes instead.

The Ear Pull: According to Vulcan Raven it's some sort of sport to the Eskimos.

Seriously, why can’t more movies end like that?

Anyway, Who Am I? is an incredibly catchy song that I’ve tried many thousands of times to sing along to.

Being as I honestly don’t even know what language it’s sung in, (Cantonese and… I don’t know) my attempts have never gotten much further than:

“WAH’ CHADAH’ NAH’ JO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Honestly though, that’s all I need to remember from this song to fuckin’ love the shit out of it.

#3. Kung Fu Fighting Man


The Young Master is one of my favorite movies of the early years of Jackie Chan’s career.

The film showcases Jackie’s juggling skills, and impeccable comedic timing, while at the same time features some especially physical fight scenes for the time, including an especially protracted final battle with Hap Ki Do master Hwang In-Shik.

In case you didn’t get that last part, I shall translate into kung fu movie layman’s terms:

At the end, Jackie fights a Korean guy.  For a really long time.

10 minutes. 10 minutes of watching Jackie get pwned to shit...

Anyway, besides being an excellent film, Young Master also has the benefit of having a really awesome theme song, that also just happens to be the first song Jackie ever did for one of his movies.

Bearing a tune that’s decidedly disco, Kung Fu Fighting Man is sung entirely in English, adding to it’s appeal in the eyes of non-Cantonese speakers such as myself.

The lyrics are cheesy and borderline nonsensical, but in many ways I feel that adds to the appeal of the song.

It’s a silly kung fu song, for a silly kung fu movie about a silly Kung Fu Fighting Man.

What more could you ask for?

#2. I’ll Make A Man Out Of You


That’s right, there’s a Disney song on this list.

Honestly man, If you can’t appreciate Disney movies, then you are the living embodiment of sour puss-ery; ’cause Disney movies were (I don’t know about these days…) the shit.

You see this crab? He's THE SHIT. Got it!?

Anyway, did you know that Jackie Chan performed the Mandarin version of I’ll Make A Man Out Of You?

Well, he did; and quite well at that.

While I’ve found some of Jackie’s Mandarin songs, and indeed his speaking; sometimes seem a little stilted, this song, along with the one he did for Drunken Master 2, are actually quite good.

I suppose it's easy for your singing to sound "stilted" when you're drunk off your gourd.

Make no mistake, I’ll Make A Man Out Of You is a Disney product, so it obviously has some pretty strong lyrics, as well as the backing of a full orchestra.

It’s a powerful and inspiring tune, that curiously enough, sounds to me like it may have been written to accomodate the Mandarin lyrics moreso than the English ones.

Honestly, listen to it both ways and decide for yourself which language flows with the music best:

#1. High Up On High!


Honestly, how could I not put High Up On High at the top of this list?

It’s big, it’s loud, it’s the cheesiest fuckin’ piece of 80′s Chinese trash you’ve ever heard, but goddamnit; High Up On High is the shit.

Armour of God was a weird Jackie Chan movie.

The action quotient was all out of whack, the plot was all over the place, but the whole thing has a distinctive charm to it that just makes it work.

Um... I don't get it.

Truth be told, I liked the sequel, Operation Condor; a lot more, but even so; Armor of God was a good time, in no small part due to the inclusion of songs like High Up On High, and Alan Tam’s equally cheesy Midnight Rider.

That being said, High Up On High is another Jackie Chan song sung entirely in English.

Well, broken English anyway.

There is indeed a Cantonese version of the song, entitled Flight of the Dragon, however I personally prefer High Up On High for it’s bad/good appeal.

Like most of Jackie’s songs, the music is exceptionally well-crafted, with a high energy, over-the-top rock sound to it that is fuckin’ loud and stupid that you just can’t help but love it.

Anyway, that’s the Top 5 Jackie Chan Songs That Keep Me From Stabbing People.

Have a good night, and I’ll see yah’ tomorrow!

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

Even More Ip Man!

Ever since I watched and reviewed Ip Man 2 awhile back, I’ve been left with a distinct lack of martial arts movies in my life.

Sure, The Expendables had some pretty impressive fights in it, but nowhere near the standards of your average high-profile Hong Kong production.

That being said, in addition to Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 2, 2010 saw the release of yet another semi-historical film based around the life of Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man, entitled The Legend is Born: Ip Man.

Directed by the decidedly “meh” Herman Yau, the story follows Ip Man in his earlier days, when he was actually learning Wing Chun, yet by stories’ end, we are of course treated to a scene or 2 of Master Ip busting some Japanese heads.

Never get tired of this scene...

Let it be known, the Chinese have never been shy about promoting nationalism via beating the piss out of the foreign devils.

Despite how silly it may seem at times, I’ve always kind of admired that about Chinese films, as such expressions of patriotism are often met with feelings of cynicism here in the states.

Also, I think we can all agree that any excuse that allows the Chinese to make films about people hitting each other is always a good thing.

Can't say the the same for American movies...

Anyway, despite fair to middling reviews, I’m thinking about giving The Legend is Born a shot.

The film has a strong cast including the always brilliant Yuen Biao, as well as an alarming number of actors that were previously featured in Wilson Yip’s own Ip Man franchise.

Said double-dippers would be Sammo Hung, Fan Siu Wong, and oddly enough, Dennis To as Ip Man.

Dennis To: Star in the Making, or Punching Bag to the Stars #2? (#1 is Xing Yu...)

For those that don’t remember, Dennis To just happens to be the same actor that played Kei, Sammo Hung’s Hung Gar protege in Ip Man 2.

Interestingly enough, he also happens to be a real-life practitioner of Wing Chun, making him well-suited, at least physically, to play a young Ip Man.

Makes you wonder though, why was a Wing Chun disciplined screen-fighter cast as a Hung Gar student?…

Regardless, I wasn’t all that impressed with Dennis To’s physical performance in Ip Man 2, however I’m willing to concede that he may have been held back by his character’s fairly weak standing in the cast, as well as the fact that every fight he was in he was required to lose, or worse yet, make pop stars like Huang Xiaoming look good.

Clearly he also has stylists to help out as well...

He also lacked screen presence in Ip Man 2, but once again, that might’ve had more to do with the restrictions of the script than anything else.

I’m sure his acting is shit, but that’s to be expected from all but absolute cream of the crop in terms of screen fighters.

Whatever the case, I was legitimately impressed by the sparring featured in the trailer, and that’s largely the reason for my interest in this film:

I’ll probably be ordering this one in the next few days, hopefully a spirited review is to follow shortly!

Here’s hoping this one doesn’t suck donkey balls.

It's baaaaaaack....

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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.

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The Best Overkills in Movies: Honorable Mentions

The BFG 9000: A Classic Instrument of Overkill.

Hello all, I decided it would be a good idea to follow-up my list of the Top 10 Best Overkills in Movies with a short list of some of the kills that didn’t quite make the cut.

Hopefully this will preemptively kill some of the nasty comments or disagreements that no doubt will spawn from my choices of the Top 10…

Anyway, the first runner-up I’d like to mention, is one that I really regret omitting.

Said overkill, is Jet Li’s (surprisingly awesome) 2 on 1 handicap match against Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4:

Hah, I still can’t get over how Jet Li just can’t seem to get out of the way of Danny Glover’s girlie punches.
Anyway, outside of that; the fight was great.

This movie was one of the first DVD’s I ever bought.

Not only that, but it was crazy savage watching Jet Lit get impaled with a rebar and then shot to shit with an AK-47, especially considering the relatively tame nature of the violence in the Lethal Weapon series.

I especially love the part of this overkill where Mel Gibson picks up Jet Li via the rusty-ass rebar sticking through his midsection.

*Sigh* The only reason this overkill didn’t make the Top 10, was because of fuckin’ Bonnie and Clyde.

You stylish fucks...

Despite not giving 2 shits about Bonnie and Clyde, I couldn’t help but pay tribute to it’s place in history by giving it a spot on the list somewhere.

Fuckin’ conscience, not letting me make cool lists for the sake of coolness…

Anyway, the second runner-up I’d like to mention, is a scene from a movie that, like Bonnie and Clyde, I have not seen.

The movie in question, is the French film, Irreversible:

Be mindful that this sequence is extrememly graphic and should not be viewed by those with weak stomachs.

LAST WARNING, CLICK HERE

I discovered this film, and in particular, this scene; several years ago when I was browsing the web for the “most violent movies.”

Gimme’ a break, I was like 15 at the time…

Anyway, after watching this scene, and reading some reviews of the film, I came to the conclusion that, while the film is very provocative on many levels, it’s not something I really have all that much desire to see.

I’m sorry, but when reviews for a movie cite a rape sequence as being “the most brutal and realist committed to film,” it’s kind of a turn-off.

Honestly, I think my conscience kept me from posting this as one of the Top 10, as it’s simply too brutal to have a place in a Top 10 list on what is supposed to be a fun and entertaining blog.

Next up is yet another Steven Seagal overkill, this time in the form of his famous dismantling of an (almost) young Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege:

Man, that has gotta’ be one of the best knife fights in movie history…

Anyway, fight-gasm aside, this scene doesn’t really qualify as an overkill in my book.

Sure, the fight is of decent length, and the actual kill has a lot of flesh-wounds building up to it, but for the most part, this is just a standard action movie life-or-death fight.

A fight with stabbing, eye-gouging, and someone getting their head put through a computer monitor….

Okay fine, it’s not just a fight, it’s a Steven Seagal fight, but a fight nonetheless.

Last, but not least, no mention of overkill can be made without mentioning the so-bad-it’s-good kung fu movie, Riki-Oh, a live-action Chinese adaptation of a Japanese manga starring a very young (and buff) Fan Siu Wong.

In short, the final fight in the movie takes the rampant gore and bloodletting of all the previous violent episodes in the film, and puts them to shame:

While this is a superb overkill, an indeed probably the bloodiest I’ve mentioned, I told myself from the outset of things that I was going to omit Riki-Oh, most horror films, as well as any animated films from the list.

I did this to maintain some sense of order and equilibrium on the list, as most of what I decided to exclude from the list are overkills that are exceedingly bloody, and entertaining to bood, but not really worthy of being considered among “the best.”

I also consciously left out the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Mostly because I don’t care much for Monty Python, but also because that scene was played for laughs, and didn’t really gel with the other entries in the Top 10.

Oh fine, I’ll embed the clip for you…

I just don’t get it…

Also, technically that wasn’t an overkill, as the Black Knight never actually died.
Anyway, off the top of my head, that’s all I got.

It needs to be said however, that the “ice” kill in Van Damme’s Timecop,

The "ice" kill in question. Sorry, no clip available...

as well as just about any fight from Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) deserve special mention, as does the theater death scene of a certain fascistic monarch in Inglourious Basterds.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Ip Man 2

*If all you care to read about is the fighting element of the movie, please scroll down to the heading titled “Action.”*

The Story So Far…

In 2008, Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip teamed up for the 4th time to give us Ip Man.

Ip Man was of course the heavily fictionalized biographical account of the Wing Chun grandmaster of the same name.

Goofy lookin' little guy, isn't he?

Taking place in the martial arts hotspot of 1930′s Foshan, the film follows Donnie Yen’s Ip Man as he clashes with rival martial artists, and eventually comes to odds with the Japanese occupying forces.

By "comes to odds with," I mean, "beats the piss out of."

The film had an all-star cast including the likes of Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Fan Siu Wong, and up-and-comer Xing Yu.

Xing Yu: Punching Bag For the Stars

Featuring stunning fight choreography by industry legend Sammo Hung, the film was wildly successful, winning Hong Kong’s best picture and best action director awards.

In all, it was a truly great martial arts film, with intrinsic themes like pride and nationalism figuring heavily into the crowd pleasing nature of the story.

Plot Summary:

Ip Man 2 takes place in 1950, some years after the closing events of the previous film.

The story opens with Ip Man, having recently moved to Hong Kong with his family, desperately trying to eke out a living by teaching Wing Chun on a rooftop garden.

Despite posting flyers all over the neighborhood, Master Ip’s school remains empty for some time, to the point in which he can’t even pay his apartment rent.

As fate would have it though, one day an energetic young man named Wong Shun Leung (Huang Xiao Ming) approaches Ip Man and challenges him to a fight, seemingly for no other reason than to satisfy his own machismo.

BORING.

Master Ip handily defeats Leung, eventually converting the would be challenger, to a trusted and loyal pupil.

With Leung’s help, Ip Man’s Wing Chun begins to gain ground in Hong Kong, with many new students showing up every day.

That's right, bow before he wrecks your shit.

Even so, times are tough for Master Ip and his students, as money is scarce, and many of the pupils are unable to pay their dues from week to week.

Despite this, Leung’s fiery nature gets him into trouble with the local Hung Gar school, resulting in Master Ip having to step in and settle things for him.

With his fists.

Upon meeting the Hung Gar master, Hung Jan Nam, (Sammo Hung) Ip Man is told that the local martial arts union won’t allow his school to remain open unless he agrees participate in an old fashioned martial arts challenge.

Master Ip agrees to the challenge, and manages to pass it.

With his fists.

At some point we are made aware that Hung Jan Nam serves as an ambassador of sorts between the martial arts union and the British officials based in Hong Kong.

The British ask Hung to organize a venue and event for a boxing match involving their champion, Taylor “The Twister” Miller (Darren Shahlavi).

The biggest meathead the world's ever seen...

Throughout their dealings however, the British treat Hung, and in fact, all of the Chinese, as secondary citizens, often refusing to pay them or simply not speak with them.

Despite this disrespect, Hung agrees to continue working with the English, as many people’s lives depend on him for income and job security.

The boxing event goes as planned, however at one point, Twister steps into the ring during a Chinese demonstration of martial arts forms, and starts to beat and humiliate the performers.

With his fists.

This of course leads to Master Hung and Master Ip battling Twister in the name of Chinese pride.

Merry mishaps ensue.  Roll credits.

The end.

Acting:

As with the first film, Ip Man 2 casts Donnie Yen as it’s main character among an ensemble cast.

While Yen’s acting performance doesn’t really occupy that much of the film’s running time, it really doesn’t need to, as it serves to bolster one of the film’s central themes, namely that of unity.

As in Ip Man 1, Donnie Yen’s performance is calm and reserved for the most part.

In the first film, Ip Man was characterized as being a somewhat eccentric character, an outsider in the eyes of most of his more overbearing peers.

This aspect of Donnie Yen’s performance carries over very nicely from the first film, as the calmness in his performance seems even more genuine given the more energetic atmosphere of the film.

Okay, maybe "genuine" wasn't the right word...

While by no means an amazing performance, Yen does well enough to portray the character as the pillar of strength and certainty that the script demands.

I’ve said it before, I’ll probably say it until the day I die, Donnie Yen is not a good actor.

He’s at his best when he has something to hit.

With his fists.

Pallets work pretty good too I guess...

Sammo Hung’s portrayal of Hung Jan Nam is probably the strongest performance in the film.

Even from a purely visual standpoint, the character is bold and striking, with a very distinct wardrobe, a flashy streak of gray going through his slicked back hair, and a physical presence like no other.

Hah, fat baby...

In dialogue with Donnie Yen and other actors, Hung exudes a strength and forcefulness that suit his character perfectly.

Hung Jan Nam is supposed to be an overbearing, “my way or the highway” sort of character, and Sammo Hung captures this beautifully.

From the perpetually accusatory tone of his voice, to the way his eyebrows go nuts every time he opens his mouth, Sammo Hungs performance is wholly complete and, sadly, painfully outclasses Donnie Yen’s limited acting ability.

ACTING.

Huang Xiao Ming’s portrayal of Wong Shun Leung is comparable to his fighting ability.

He does alright, given that he lacks experience, but there’s nothing really there that sets him apart from any of the other popstars turned actors.

I'm lookin' at YOU Nicholas Tse...

Despite this, given the sharpness to his features, and the cocky sense of youthfulness that he exudes, it’s hard to say he wasn’t well cast.

For the most part, he does well, however the role is very small, with only the most basic of “kung fu asshole” lines in the script associated with it.

The point is, he didn’t really leave an impression.

Kind of like this sack of fuck.

Xiong Dai Lin as Ip Man’s wife,  is sadly much less of an element of this film as in Ip Man 1.

In the first film, she was Ip Man’s rock, she was his foundation.

In the early scenes she sort of wore the pants in their relationship, an attitude she was able to portray exceedingly well with her physical stature and rigid body language.

Pants are overrated.

In the latter scenes we got to see the 2 of them suffer together under the tyranny of the Japanese, which she also was able to convincingly.

While she wasn’t at all a major element in Ip Man 1, she felt present for most of the important events in the story.

In the sequel she’s just pregnant scenery.

I wouldn't mind wallpaper that looked like this...

It should be said, that despite having very limited roles, Kent Cheng, Fan Siu Wong, and Simon Yam, all do exceedingly well with what they’re given to work with.

While Kent Cheng and Simon Yam basically play the same cool guys they’ve been playing for years, Fan Siu Wong surprised me yet again with his performance.

The only other movie I’ve seen Wong in was Riki Oh, and while that was fun, it did little to convince me that he had any sort of talent, physical or otherwise.

Then I saw him in Ip Man, as the Northerner Jin Shan Zao, and I was blown away!

Not only could the guy still fight, but his acting was animated and engaging.

In Ip Man 2, Wong is sadly only in a few scenes, none of which contain any fighting, however he leaves an impression with his bold manner of speaking and his wildly expressive face.

Now THAT'S a fuckin' MAN FACE!

One thing worth noting in Ip Man 2, is that the performances for the British characters are downright terrible.

From what I’ve gathered by watching a shit ton of Japanese and Chinese movies over the years, my guess is that actors that speak in English in these films are asked to speak slower than normal so as to allow the theater audience to better understand them or read the subtitles on screen.

Even so, most of the Brits in Ip Man 2, sound both childish and SLOW.

Like, Little Bear slow.

SOOOOOO FUCKING SLOOOOOOWWWWW!!!!

Darren Shahlavi’s acting performance as the villain of the film, Twister, is both embarassing and confusing to watch.

The man seemingly can only speak at one volume, namely shouting at the top of his lungs.

There are times when his character is supposed to be adopting a condescending tone wherein he sounds more like he’s about to cry or throw a tantrum.

Oh yeah, and his resemblance to Hugo Weaving is downright cosmic.

It makes me laugh because the examples pics are horrible, and both guys have the opposite expressions.

In all, pretty much all of the Brits in Ip Man 2 don’t so much as give performances, as they do fulfill every conceivable ugly stereotype of the “foreign white devil.”

Action:

*WARNING, SPOILERS MAY EXIST AHEAD!*

As with the previous film, Ip Man 2 is packed to the hilt with fight scenes of the highest quality.

Unlike the first film however, which took on a darker and more violent tone in it’s second half, thereby causing the choreography to follow suit by making the violence seem more severe, Ip Man 2 remains consistently more vibrant and energetic throughout.

Color Correction: It makes a difference.

In fact, I would feel comfortable in saying that the fight sequences in Ip Man 2 are, in general; better than in the first film.

Much like in the first film, the fights gradually ascend in quality and dramatic relevance as the film progresses.

The first fight in the film, a friendly sparring session between Donnie Yen and Huang Xiao Ming, closely mirrors that of the the opening spar between Ip Man and Chen Zhi Hui’s Master Liao from the first movie.

So when I say "Master Liao" you have no idea who I'm talking about, but when I say "That one guy that got slapped in the throat a shit ton of times" you instantly know? WTF...

Except that the sparring in Ip Man 2 is much faster paced and aggressive in nature.

From the very first fight in Ip Man 2, one can tell that, cinematographically; the choreography is going to be very different from in the first film.

The first Ip Man had a very traditional, “golden age of Hong Kong cinema” kind of style to it.

An example of the differences in cinematography.

Most every fight in the film made liberal use of full body establishing shots and sweeping pans to give a sense of reality and depth to the performances and intensify the drama respectively.

It was straightforward, clean, and every movement was distinct and easy to identify.

Ip Man 2 changes things up quite a bit by stepping up the energy level a few notches and introducing some elements of gimmickry into the mix.

GIMMICKRY.

By “gimmickry” I’m not referring to wires, as those were used to great effect in both films, but rather the use of tighter, and more selective camera angles that typically emphasize specific focal points in the action as opposed to the entire bodies of the combatants.

As a result, many of the fights consist close-up shots of limbs, or chest-up shots that feel a little claustrophobic at times.

The trade-off though, is that most of the fights consist of less posturing, and more balls-out, arms length exchanges.

DREAM COME-FUCKING TRUE.

This is not a bad thing, however it does make for fights where quick cuts are evident, and educated eyes are sometimes required to follow the choreography from punch to punch.

Speaking of punching, the blindingly fast handwork that was used to such stupendous effect in the first film is back and better than ever.

Honestly, to count the number of times Donnie Yen busts out protracted flurries of buzzsaw punches on people in this movie would be like trying to count grains of sand on the beach.

Better pack your sleeping bag kiddo...

Despite this, because of the faster and more elaborate choreography, these flurries seem much more organic, legitimately seeming like part of a larger combination of motions as opposed to a show-stopping finishing move.

In general, the choreography seems to favor motion and activity over individual, flashier strikes.

Example.

It is impressive to note that Huang Xiao Ming, despite being a popstar with virtually no martial arts background, manages to hold his own under the demands of the choreography.

That’s not to say he’s an action star in the making, but among the likes of other fighting popstars like Nicholas Tse, Jay Chou, and Shawn Yue, he did alright.

Despite my praise, Huang exhibits a stiffness that is somewhat unsettling.

Honestly, the man holds his hands up like he’s never done it before, in a mirror or otherwise.

Sammo... How could you let the kid look like such a feeb?

On top of that, his trunk displays little movement, leaving his arms to do all the work for him, causing most of his strikes to seem “hollow” and lacking in power and intent.

He also tends to plant his feet in such a way that it reeks of him being afraid to move and mess up the framing for the cinematographer.

He also seems as times to be trying so hard to remember the steps to the choreography, that he forgets to use his facial expressions to heighten the drama.

He also smells bad.

Nah, I’m just kidding about that last part, I’m sure he smells fine.

Point is, for an untrained screen-fighter, he does just about as well as can be expected, even going so far as to be somewhat impressive during his one-on-one with the Hung Gar student called Kei.

FEEB FIGHT!!!!

Donnie Yen’s fighting performance in Ip Man 2 is nothing short of spectacular.

In the first film, Donnie Yen seemed, in my opinion, to be somewhat uncomfortable with Wing Chun.

I said before, in my EPIC Tribute to Donnie Yen, that Wing Chun uses motions and principles that are contrary to nearly all of Donnie Yen’s previous performances, and in Ip Man 1, this fact was somewhat apparent.

In Ip Man 1, Mr. Yen seemed stiff at times, with some of his blocks and parries coming across as too rigid, and somewhat robotic.

Not only that, but after watching Ip Man 2, his fast hands just plain didn’t seem as fast.

Aw man, that is SO fuckin' slow...

In Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen’s performance is much more fluid and organic, with his repertoire being somewhat bolstered, as necessitated by the faster-paced choreography, and his fast punches coming out in a much more visually impressive circular loop as opposed to the straight punches from the first film.

You can't really see it, but trust me, it's awesome.

Much like in the earlier fights in Ip Man 1, Yen’s movements seem somewhat lax during the first few fights in the film, only to gradually build in momentum until he reaches peak form at the end.

Despite the inherent spectacle involved in watching Donnie Yen fighting 20 men at once in the first half hour of the film, I found his fighting to be in much better form in some of the latter scenes.

The centerpiece of the film is a series of one on one bouts between Donnie Yen, and 3 masters of various martial disciplines, with the last being Sammo Hung.

In addition to this, the fights take place atop a convincingly rickety dinner table surrounded by upturned chairs.

The first of these masters, we’ll call him “Blinks,” utilizes what looks to be some sort of Mantis Style kung fu variant.

His strikes are wild and employ the full force of his body via fancy kicks and aerial maneuvers.

The choreography here is a bit choppy, as Blinks’ movements are a little uncoordinated and not all that convincing when he’s on the wires.

YOU FOOL! How could you let Uncle Cheng back on the wire rig so shortly after his surgery!?

Even so, the fight is bolstered by the use of the table as a prop, as well as a pretty solid piece of music by composer Kenji Kawai backing it.

It should be noted that the soundtrack for Ip Man 2 is spectacular, and really served to dignify the movie despite it’s somewhat silly last half.

Pictured: The silly last half.

The second fight in the table scene is between Donnie Yen and a master that employs what appeared to be some form of Baguazhang.

"Walking the circle"

This particular master’s movements were slicker and more tactile than Blinks’, resulting in a fight conducted at a somewhat slower pace, but with better defined movements.

A highlight of this fight is watching the Bagua fighter show off his limberness and float in and out of stances with an almost otherworldly grace.

"And then, without warning, Uncle decided to up and take a shit, right there on the dinner table..."

Again, the music is great during this scene.

Despite their limited fighting presence in the film, both Blinks and the Bagua fighter come across as extremely animated and well-defined characters that were fun to watch.

“Haha, Sammo Hung gets the big drum.”

That’s what I said the first time Mr. Hung’s music cue sounded and he appeared on screen.

Rest assured, his fighting performance in Ip Man 2 is certainly worthy of the big drum.

Sammo Hung’s first fight is a brief but masterfully choreographed battle with Donnie Yen at the end of the table sequence.

The fight is meant to portray the 2 as being evenly matched, and as such there is no real contact throughout.

Well, aside from maybe this.

The sequence is a prime example of one of my favorite elements of Hong Kong style choreography, namely the complex and fast-paced sparring and handwork.

Nearly every strike launched in this sequence is parried in some way, resulting in intense exchanges within arms reach for nearly entire duration of the fight.

During this sequence, the difference in style between Hung Gar and Wing Chun is evident pretty much from the first punch.

Pictured: The first punch.

Sammo’s strikes are wider, more circular, and ultimately more form based than the relatively straightforward nature of Donnie’s Wing Chun.

In addition to this, Sammo also assumes a number of stances throughout the fight, most notably a horse stance towards the end.

The whole sequence is a delight to watch, with an intense music score, and a balls-out, almost Dragonball Z-esque finale that had me giggling like a 5 year old.

Pictured: The Finale.

The fights in the last half of the movie deal exclusively with Darren Shahlavi’s boxer character fighting against Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen, in that order.

Shahlavi’s performance, as a boxer, is not the best I’ve ever seen.

The man has a pretty good resume for fighting roles in movies, especially in the 90′s, however the only one I know of that cast him as a boxer, was I Spy, which had him facing off against Eddie Murphy.

What, you thought I was fuckin' with you?

The fights in I Spy were a joke.

Sadly, the film was not.

As a boxer in Ip Man 2, Darren Shahlavi’s movements are a little bit off.

His footwork is atrocious, in the sense that he doesn’t really have any.

More importantly though, I think the real problem isn’t any fault of Shahlavi’s, but rather that of Sammo Hung, the choreographer.

Hong Kong style choreography has a look to it, a method to it, that just doesn’t represent boxing very well at all.

It emphasizes wide and showy motions for the sake of making the movements more visible and theatrical, while boxing does exactly the opposite.

Unless of course you're Sakio Bika.

Fast and compact strikes, devoid of wasted motion are the objective in boxing, and as such, it doesn’t translate to choreography very well, Chinese or otherwise.

Not only that, but the parrying and blocking that I love so much in Chinese choreography, is something you just plain don’t see in boxing.

*Sigh* Unless of course you're Winky Wright...

Slipping and ducking are the more common methods of defense in boxing, as opposed to letting your opponent manipulate and displace your hands AKA your only weapons.

Despite his fighting not really having any boxing science to it, Shahlavi’s brawling and overall presence is actually quite impressive.

I felt Shahlavi’s first fight in the film, against Sammo Hung, was actually the better exposition of his skills as a performer.

C-C-C-COUNTER!!!!

The fight is shot in such a way as to spotlight Sammo, however Shahlavi makes a decent impression.

His fighting has a wild intensity to it that’s mostly foreign to Hong Kong movies.

His movements are aggressive and pressuring, with a shit ton of scowling, flexing and grunting thrown in for good measure.

Oh no, he's totally not flexing. Not at all...

His fight with Sammo works, not only because the fighting is good, but mostly because of the drama of the situation.

The idea is that, Sammo does well in the beginning due to his skills, however the inherent physicality of his opponent eventually begins to weigh down on him.

The fight is melodramatic as fuck, but manages to work on a purely visceral level.

Ah wrestling, I can make references to it from just about anything.

The final battle in the film is, of course, a grudge match between Donnie Yen and Darren Shahlavi.

The whole thing is a bloody and melodramatic rollercoaster that leaves you hating the British and loving the fuck out of the Chinese.

Pictured: Why I hate the British.

It’s great fun.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it to see Donnie Yen get his face punched in for a change.

Some screen fighters have a tendency to not take hits with as much zeal as they probably should.

This is typically evident amongst “baby face” screen fighters that rarely, if ever, play villainous roles.

This would include the likes of Jet Li, Steven Seagal, and in rare cases, Donnie Yen.

You see that little cut on his forehead? That's the only fuckin' hit he took in this entire epic fuckin' fight!

Ip Man 1 and 2 represented some of the rare instances in which Mr. Yen didn’t really take hits all that well.

Actually, the real problem was the fact that he never really got hit in both movies.

Do you know how many times Hiroyuki Ikeuchi hit Donnie Yen during the end fight in Ip Man 1?

3 times.

*Gasp!* He's got a bloody lip!

Well, thank God for the end of Ip Man 2, ’cause I tell yah’, Mr. Yen takes a whuppin’.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t take his licks half as good as Sammo Hung.

Then again, nobody does, except for maybe Mick Foley.

Mick Foley on the average Tuesday.

The end fight in Ip Man 2 has a very comfortable sense of ebb and flow to it.

Unlike in Undisputed 3, (see review here) where the final fight felt like it adopted the pace it did because it was convenient to do so, Ip Man 2′s fight seems to have been carried out the way it was because it made sense to.

The whole idea behind the fight, I think, is that the physicality of Shahlavi is a constant advantage, while the technical and innovative skills of Donnie Yen’s Ip Man are supposed to be a brief counter to it.

Um, pretty sure he meant to do that. Yeah....

In other words, Ip Man is technically losing the fight throughout, however, whenever he is able to stymie Twister with new angles and techniques, he can briefly turn the tide until Twister figures him out again.

Yeah, pretty sure that's a new angle.

It’s an interesting and artful way to compose a fight that, thankfully, results in something much more than a Rocky IV-esque slugfest.

The final “comeback” sequence of the fight is beautifully edited, and yes, set to a wonderful piece of music.

I won’t spoil the details of it here, but I will say this, it may go on just a second or 2 too long, but it makes a fair amount of sense and is fucking awesome to watch, so it gets a thumbs up from me.

Seriously, if I had been in the theater for the big climax of Ip Man 2, I’d probably be yelling, “FUCK YEAH!”

Oh well, why not....

Ip Man 2 is not as good as it’s predecessor.

What begins as a traditional martial arts film, quickly devolves into a shameless rip-off of Rocky IV.

That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable film.

I found most of the performances to be very good, and the fights were downright amazing at times.

The difference between the 2 films, is that Ip Man 1 had a great deal of heart, while it’s sequel attempts to artificially manufacture it by toying with our basest of emotions.

Even so, Chinese melodrama and nationalism has a way of pushing just the right buttons for me, and in the case of Ip Man 2, it worked.

It made me giggle in disbelief at how silly some of it’s dialogue and plot points were, but I bought into it nonetheless.

Even if it’s “heart” is fake, I appreciate that Ip Man 2 at least attempts to have some.

Thanks Ip Man 2, for not being Transformers 2.

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

Fire of Conscience: A Fiery Letdown…

Fire of Conscience was supposed to be the Chinese version of Michael Mann’s Heat.

It was supposed be a rollicking cop drama with hardcore shootouts and pyrotechnics in the busy streets of downtown Hong Kong.

It was supposed to be a movie I was willing to wait 3 months to see.

It opened with one of the most unique sequences seen in commercial film, (but not the medium itself, see here) which effectively drew me in and got me psyched for what was to come.

The plot was derivative of many Hong Kong cop dramas, I.E. bad cop and good cop slam into each other, discover brotherhood/parallels between one another, merry mishaps ensue.

That didn’t bother me though, I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was that Fire of Conscience would take my expectations for it and shit all over them.

My first impression came in the form of a trailer I stumbled across:

When I saw this trailer, I saw a movie that promised action, bullshit Chinese melodrama, and at least one instance of a man exploding.

In truth, Fire of Conscience does in fact contain all of these things, however the balance, the amount of screen time and care devoted to each of these elements; is all out of whack.

Well, except for the exploding man thing. I don’t think any movie should be expected to have any more than one of those, no matter how hardcore it is.

PWNED.

The action in Fire of Conscience is not really “action” per se.

In more dramatic films, “action” usually boils down to something more like straight up “violence” or “tension.”

In the case of Fire of Conscience, I came into it expecting ACTION. After all, the trailer proclaimed the film to be an “action powerhouse.”

There’s really only a pair of true ACTION sequences in the film, and while both are fairly impressive on a visceral level, both suffer from irritating use of the “shaky cam” effect we seem to see everywhere these days.

It’s not that the cinematography ruins these scenes, it’s simply that it feels forced, as if the filmmakers are using it as a cheap trick to fool us into buying the tension, into buying the gritty and grim situation the players find themselves in.

Personally, I prefer action that is staged well over action that is manufactured using simple tricks and nonsense.

I will say this though, the pyrotechnics and stunt work in Fire of Conscience were top-notch and certainly deserve praise.

I liked how subtle wire-work was incorporated into many of the explosions in the film, effectively simulating the concussive effect produced by such an event.

Also, it wouldn’t be a Hong Kong movie without people falling off buildings and being thrown through glass.

It's a common new year's custom in Hong Kong to jump through windows as a celebratory gesture.

In fact, I found myself smirking as Richie Jen got put through a windshield during a curiously low-key beat of a fight scene.

It was almost as if the filmmakers were so completely unimpressed by the prospect of putting someone through glass at that point in the film that they didn’t even bother to properly frame the stunt with a camera.

The drama aspect of Fire of Conscience is sufficient to move the story forward, but like the film’s implementation of the “shaky cam” effect, much of it feels inorganic and forced.

In fact in the earlier stages of the film, much of the plot progression is achieved in the form of dropping new characters into our lap.

This results in a film that gives the viewer a feeling of being perpetually missing something in the narrative until it’s later stages.

I found this to be as much provocative as it was confusing.

The film does a pretty good job with giving it’s characters a significant amount of depth, however I feel it often reaches too far, giving us details on 5-6 fairly important characters, when doing the same for 1-2 major ones would’ve been more appropriate.

Fortunately, the film does manage to deliver in terms of fleshing out it’s 2 main characters, although I will say that Richie Jen’s character was criminally underused for the most part.

Despite this, the film embraces pop-star Leon Lai as it’s main character, and often manages to hit all the right notes when it comes time to explore his “detective with a troubled past” backstory, particularly during quieter and more contemplative scenes.

Lai’s acting however, consists of being vacant and gruff while never moving his face.  It’s not all that effective, and is downright creepy at times.

One thing that surprised me about Fire of Conscience, was the fact that it was directed by Dante Lam.

Lam’s career these days seems to be derived from his 1998 film, Beast Cops.

I name dropped this movie during my Epic Donnie Yen Post, and with good reason.  Beast Cops was a great movie that was filled with energy, drama, violence, and a host of colorful characters that we cared about.

In many ways, it is everything Fire of Conscience tries to be.

Dante Lam doesn’t have a perfect track record by any means, *cough!* Sniper and Twins Effect *cough!* however he usually has the chops to piece together entertaining movies with impressive set-pieces and high-points.

Fire of Conscience has no real high-point.

In fact, though it feels childish of me to say this, one of my biggest objections to the film lies in the fact that the scene from the trailer that I was anticipating most amounts to almost nothing.

Did you catch that brief moment when Leon Lai runs through the streets with a big-ass G3-SG1 in hand?

Hey, if it was a cool enough gun for Ice Man, it's cool enough for me.

That was supposed to be the climax of the film.

That was supposed to be the scene in which Dante Lam aped Michael Mann by staging a massive shootout in the streets of Hong Kong ala Heat.

That scene lasts maybe a minute, and only about 3 shots are fired, all semi-auto.

When that scene in the movie came and went, my heart sunk.

There was maybe 20 minutes left in the film, and I already knew there were no more surprises or set-pieces to look forward to.

In my mind I’d like to believe that that scene was cut-down as a result of filming costs in downtown Hong Kong, after all, I have yet to see another film that truly SHUTS DOWN A FUCKING CITY like Heat did, and Hong Kong budgets aren’t exactly up to standards with Hollywood’s.

Fire of Conscience was ruined by my own expectations for it.

It just goes to show you that, the movie on the screen is no match for the movie in your mind.

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