Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VIII – Donnie Yen In The “Post Yip” Era

Finally startin to look his age...

A long time ago I wrote that I felt that director Wilson Yip was probably the best thing to ever happen to Donnie Yen’s career.

First teaming up in 2005 for the cop drama/action flick SPL, the 2 would end up collaborating on 5 consecutive films.

With the sole exception of the somewhat lackluster Dragon Tiger Gate, all of said films were of stellar quality; easily ranking as some of the best in Mr. Yen’s career.

While Yen’s incredible longevity allowed him to effectively outlast the majority of his contemporaries, namely Jet Li and Jackie Chan; and his innovative fighting performance and choreography skills certainly put him ahead of the pack, this writer would argue that Wilson Yip’s cinematographic skills and eye for detail had just as much to do with his rise to prominence as any of the aforementioned factoids.

Besides, any man that makes shit like Bio Zombie clearly knows what theyre doing. No sarcasm intended.

That being said, it’s now 2011; and while he’s been detached from Wilson Yip ever since the production of Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen is still the reigning king of Hong Kong screen fighters.

So, why am I not happy?

I’m just about as big a Donnie Yen fan as you’ll ever meet, but truth be told; as much as I like the man’s work, like most screen fighters he’s made an alarming number of shitty movies.

In fact, if you don’t count Blade 2; a movie he choreographed by held maybe 5 minutes of screen time in, I don’t think I’ve genuinely liked a non-Wilson Yip Donnie Yen movie since Shanghai Affairs back in ’98, and even that kind of sucked.

Sadly, now that Yen doesn’t seem to have any projects lined up with Wilson Yip in the foreseeable future; I’m left feeling like things are going to go back to the way they were, with Donnie Yen steadily churning out crap movies with decent fights.

...Or in the case of the Twins Effect movies, crappy movies with crappy fights. Thats Jackie Chan on the right by the way.

Despite an astoundingly well cut trailer for it’s U.S. release, make no mistake Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zhen, Yen’s first film of the “Post Yip Era”; is most assuredly hot garbage.

I own a Hong Kong blu ray of Legend of the Fist, and while Yen’s physical performance was actually pretty amazing, as detailed here; the movie itself was one of the most boring kung fu movies I’ve seen in a long time.

At present, Mr. Yen has a handful of movies on his plate, most notably a mysterious Peter Chan film called Swordsmen, and 2 other films titled The Lost Bladesman and The Monkey King.

I’ve purposely decided to forego any mention of the most recent All’s Well, Ends Well, as while it does in fact include Donnie Yen in it’s cast; no force on Earth could make me see it as a “Donnie Yen film.”

Yeah, not exactly high on my "must see" list...

Anyway, The Lost Bladesman sees Donnie Yen taking on the role of famed Chinese general and folk hero Guan Yu in a wuxia film.

Trailers for this one have been popping up pretty regularly as of late, with most of the footage doing little to light a fire in my pants.

Sure, it has Donnie Yen.

Sure he’s hitting people while sporting a pimp beard and guan dao.

Even so, the production values seem a little below standard, and the cinematography and choreography seem about on par with the mediocrity of Yen’s own 14 Blades.

For those that may be unaware, any film that draws comparisons to 14 Blades has it’s work cut out for it in terms of not sucking.

Pictured: Donnie Yen squaring off against Captain Jack Sparrow.

That leaves 2012’s The Monkey King as the one Yen movie to bear the weight of making up for the past couple of years of “meh.”

While it’s certainly far off in terms of being released, in all honesty; The Monkey King actually seems like it might be worth the wait.

No footage exists as of yet, but given that the story is a retelling of the Journey to the West, essentially the Chinese myth of myths; and given the incredible assortment of talent involved in the production, I’ve got a good feeling about it.

Sure, it’ll probably be CGI’d to shit and make Donnie Yen look like a complete goof ball; but the art style of the poster and Cheang Pou Soi’s involvement as director will likely make up for it.

I don't know about you, but if you ask me that's a pretty awesome fuckin' poster.

Seriously man, if the same Cheang Pou Soi that made Dog Bite Dog and Shamo shows up for this one, we’re in for one helluva’ ride.

Despite all the pessimism of everything mentioned above, let it be known; I remain hopeful for Donnie Yen’s career.

In many ways, I think my “disappointment” in some of his recent projects spawns from my general lack of enthusiasm for mainland China productions as compared to Hong Kong ones.

Wuxia works when it works, but for the most part it’s not what you’d call my favorite genre.

Whatever the future holds for Mr. Yen, I only hope that whatever crappy or mediocre productions he’s involved in continue to be the fault of writers and directors as opposed to Donnie Yen himself…

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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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Arkham Asylum Stole My Day!

So…

Uh… What the fuck was I gonna’ write?

Oh yeah.

Um, I just spent my entire day playing Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Was that wrong of me?

Damn I feel like an uber-dork right now…

I’m pretty close to the end as far as I can tell, being as the Joker is basically asking me to come up to his doorstep and Bat-Fuck him in the ass.

Even so, I’ve decided to hold off and do a whole lot of that godawful Metroid-ian backtracking that I hate some much.

Turns out I found about 80% of the hidden goodies in the game without using my map, so I figured I’d take a few minutes to, well, bust out my Bat-Map and comb the island for everything I missed.

By “a few minutes” of course, I mean “3 hours of Jerry Seinfeld-esque neuroticism.”

"What's the deal with airplane peanuts?"

That being said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Arkham Asylum thus far.

… Provided you don’t count the 3 hours or so of backtracking I’ve done.

… So far.

It needs to be said though, for completionists like myself; games like this are dangerous.

If not for this blog, I’d probably still be chasing little green question marks on the map.

Anyway, I’m about to go to bed now, being as I’ve got another 50 hour work week IN THE GODDAMN FREEZER to look forward to in the morning.

Damn, this was a hella’ wimpy-ass post…

What more can I say?…

I know!

If you’re at all into Azn movies, I.E. Korean, Japanese, or Chinese ones; Yesasia.com is having a pretty substantial sale of Blu-Rays until January 13th.

Most of the movies are unknown to me, and are thusly either crap or feature no scenes of people hitting each other SAVAGELY, but there are a few good ones I noticed.

There’s a few Bruce Lee movies, Shamo, (which I liked, despite the negative reviews) the mediocre Donnie Yen flick Dragon Tiger Gate, Beast Stalker, Once Upon A Time In China II AKA “The Good One,” Police Story, and for the weeaboos out there that can suck my half-yellow cock, Detroit Metal City.

There, I think that fills the quota for gratuitous tags on this post.

Anyway, just giving you guys a heads up.

See yah’ tomorrow!

 

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

Ip Man 2: Pre-Ordered

Thank God for speedy Hong Kong DVD manufacturing.

That’s right folks, Ip Man 2 comes out on DVD on June 25th, and I am truly psyched.

Take another look at the trailer, maybe it’ll help you get as excited about it as I am:

From what I’ve read over at Love HK Film and Twitch, Ip Man 2 is somewhat of a step down from it’s predecessor, with a second-half plot that is essentially the Hong Kong equivalent to Rocky IV, as is clearly evident from the trailer above.

Am I wrong in claiming that this is the coolest thing ever?

Does that bother me?

Not one bit.

Rocky IV may have been retarded, but it was still a kick ass movie that’s fun to rally behind in a “Yo Joe!” sort of way.

As I mentioned in my EPIC Tribute to Donnie Yen, Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen go together like spiders and the bottom of my shoe.

Spider pictures creep me out, so you get a pic of a beat-up Spider-Man instead.

Scratch that.

That’s actually kind of gross.

Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen = Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Though Donnie Yen would have to be the Peanut Butter, ’cause Peanut Butter kicks Jelly’s ass any day…

Hmm, now that I think of it, I don’t even really like Jelly….

*AHEM!* Whatever, the point is: Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen working together is always a good thing.

In my eyes, the pair honestly can’t make a bad movie.

Dragon Tiger Gate was convoluted and bland, but it was no means bad.

Outside of that one misstep, every other movie the two have worked on together has been a winner in my book.

Hell, Wilson Yip has even managed to make awesome movies WITHOUT Donnie Yen.

The archetypal story of the Chinese being bullied by foreigners and being forced to find redemption through beating the piss out of said foreigners is a story that Hong Kong cinema will never abandon.

It’s simply a result of putting a nationalistic spin on the universal “underdog” story that we all know and love.

It’s cliche yeah, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing when it comes to making movies about people frequently engaging in protracted 5 minutes fist fights?

It worked for Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury.

Bruce, donning his "Who cut a muffin?" face.

It worked for Sylvester Stallone in his Rocky movies.

God bless you Sly. Good luck with The Expendables.

It worked for Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid.

I know he's been 40 since like 1980, but even so, DAMN HE GOT OLD!

Hell, it even worked for Leon and the Jamaicans in Cool Runnings.

Say what you will, Cool Runnings was the shit.

So what if I already know the story coming in?

So what if the villain’s acting performance is supposed to be over-the-top to the point of near Ultimate Warrior levels?

There's epic, and then there's ULTIMATE.

Maybe I like that in my kung fu movies!

Ip Man 2 could have the worst acting and the shittiest plot in the history of Hong Kong cinema, but with Donnie Yen on board, and the promise of excellent fights conducted and performed by the man himself, Sammo Hung, there’s almost no way I won’t like it.

DONNIE FUCKING YEN.


SAMMO FUCKING HUNG.


FIGHTING EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!!


FIGHTING DARREN SHALAVI IN A BOXING MATCH!!!!!!

It doesn’t take much to please me when there’s fighting involved in movies.

I can’t explain it, but for some reason I find it easier to buy into the ceaseless melodrama of Hong Kong films than I do American ones.

Maybe it’s the innate sense of unity and bold-faced patriotism that often permeates most Chinese films that strikes a chord with me, or simply an element of the culture that I appreciate, but either way, when it comes to getting my screen-fighting fix, I know where to look.

Expect a review of the movie in a few weeks.

Here’s to Ip Man 2 being my summer event movie.

Well, until The Expendables comes out anyway.

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