Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Sometimes Spoilers Are A Good Thing…

Evaluating an opinion on a movie purely based on pre-release materials is tricky business.

Inevitably, one’s decision making process ends up relying on one’s knowledge of the various actors and director’s track records, but at the end of the day; sometimes a really good (or really bad) preview can end up shaping one’s opinion quite handily.

Take for instance Green Lantern.

I’m a big fan of the Green Lantern comic, however up until about last week; my opinion of the upcoming live-action film was largely negative.

Early pre-release footage for the movie had it seeming silly, narrow, and very hard to take seriously.

Truth be told, the one thing that kept me from turning my back on Green Lantern in the early goings, was the presence of director Martin Campbell.

Seriously man, the guy made Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale.

... Then again, he also directed THESE.

Despite some spotty pieces in his filmography, the man has proven that he knows how to make awesome movies, and in that sense; I never completely lost confidence in the possibility of Green Lantern upsetting it’s poor marketing campaign and turning out to be legitimately good.

In the case of Green Lantern, and as you’ll later read, Donnie Yen’s recently released film, Wu Xia; my apprehension about the film’s integrity was culled through viewing a brief preview clip of the film in it’s unedited state.

Though it’s uncharacteristic of me, I sat down and watched a (publicly available HERE) 1 minute clip of Green Lantern in hopes of finding a reason to go see it.

Said clip involved Hal Jordan desperately attempting to fend off what I’m guessing is supposed to be Parallax (who doesn’t seem nearly as “bug-like” as he did in the comics).

THAT'S fuckin' Parallax!

The action in this clip was nowhere near mindblowing, but unlike in the trailers; it at least seemed like how it plays out in the comics.

Green Lantern has always been a story about “space cops,” though in recent years the scale and severity of the violence in the comic has evolved to something more along the lines of “space soldiers.”

In short, sprawling splash pages of Lanterns hurling variously colored constructs at each other en masse are quite common in Green Lantern comics these days.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

Green Lantern combat isn’t about guys throwing progressively bigger and more elaborate constructs at each other; it’s about speed, precision, and who gets their shit off first.

In other words, it’s more like a hectic galactic gun fight as opposed to something overblown or drawn out like Dragonball fighting.

I saw a hint of this in the clip I watched, and as such; my opinion of Green Lantern has changed from “skeptical” to “somewhat optimistic.”

Which brings me to the recently released Peter Chan directed Donnie Yen vehicle, Wu Xia.

Hmm, SOMEBODY had a degree in graphic design...

Given that Wu Xia stars Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro, one can assume I was psyched for this one from day 1, right?

WRONG.

When I first saw the teaser for Wu Xia, my initial reaction was basically to let out one big-ass, slightly pompous sigh.

Okay, maybe “slightly” pompous isn’t the right word.

More like “IMMENSELY.”

I’m not big on Mandarin films, and for whatever reason; the teaser for Wu Xia just didn’t do it for me.

Then I watched an 8 minute clip of the movie that popped up on Twitchfilm.com, and suddenly I found myself intrigued.

By the way, if you go by Twitchfilm, and see all the Legend of the Fist ads; don’t buy into the hype.

Aside from literally, a few good fights, Legend of the Fist sucked some serious balls.

Well, at least this part was kind of funny... In the "good/bad" sort of way.

Anyway, said clip of Wu Xia revealed it as being kind of like Rashomon or Hero in the sense that it’s a story potentially told from an unreliable viewpoint.

Though I don’t understand Mandarin, the visuals of the clip were very clear in establishing that Donnie Yen’s character, while portrayed as feeble, but lucky; in one instance, may actually be a martial arts master hiding in plain sight.

While I didn’t care much for this storytelling device in Hero, (nor did I care much for the movie itself) it’s cleverness combined with Peter Chan’s beautiful cinematography leads me to believe Wu Xia could be a lot of fun.

I don’t expect Donnie Yen’s “Donnie Yen-ness” to be front and center, but the story seems to have legs; and Takeshi Kaneshiro is pimp-as-fuck, so I’m fairly optimistic.

PIMP. AS. FUCK. Too bad he's basically full-time Chinese now...

So there you have.

2 instances where an otherwise skeptical moviegoer had their opinion reshaped through spoiler clips.

I guess I’ve come a long way from being the fat little 10 year old that shunned all media outlets in hopes of seeing the American Godzilla movie in theaters before having the monster’s appearance spoiled for him..

Yeah, that worked out jusssssssst fine….

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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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I Saw Ip Man 2 IN THEATERS! Why Haven’t You?

I saw Ip Man 2 in theaters today.

While I’ve owned the movie for some time now, and indeed have seen it several times already; I’ve gotta’ say, seeing Donnie Yen cut loose on the big screen was an experience I will never forget.

Maybe it was just the bigger screen, and the more powerful sound system, but seeing a Ip Man 2 in theaters actually served to make for a far superior Donnie Yen experience than I was initially anticipating.

I suppose it also helps that I just happened to get to see the movie with a couple of really good friends, something I can honestly say I haven’t had the opportunity to do with many good movies.

Anyway, seeing a Donnie Yen movie in theaters pretty much counts as a an entry on my bucket list, so I guess I can die happy now.

In case you have stumbled across this post, without prior knowledge of my Donnie Yen fanboy-isms, I direct you to this lengthy and drawn out review for Ip Man 2 I wrote awhile back, not to mention the MASSIVE tribute to the man that I made as pretty much my first major post on this blog.

I suppose it’s also worth noting that the theater I saw the movie in just happened to screen a trailer for the US theatrical release of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen.

For those that are fortunate to have seen Ip Man, and are hopeful for future Donnie Yen movies to tickle their kung fu fancy; I direct you to my scathing review of the utterly flat and unimpressive Legend of the Fist.

Seriously man, even a fanboy like me can admit that Legend of the Fist was a pretty shitty movie…

Anyway, I saw Donnie Yen on the big screen.

I’m happy.

Unless you have an issue with happiness or some shit, do yourself a favor and go see Ip Man this weekend.

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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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My Kingdom For A New Kung Fu Movie…

Is it just me, or is there a serious shortage of kung fu/fighting movies these days?

Back when I first started this blog, the genre was swimming with new titles to choose from.

Ip Man 2 and True Legend had just come out in theaters, and Undisputed 3 was out on video around the same time, not to mention a host of other (trashy) fight movies such as Coweb and Bad Blood were making the rounds as well.

 

Pictured: Industry veteran, Kane Kosugi locks arms with up-and-coming prospect, Jiang Lui Xia. Keep an eye on her, she's pretty talented for an internet star...

While Hong Kong recently saw the release of The Legend is Born: Ip Man, the pile of shit known as City Under Siege, and Donnie Yen’s Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, as far as I’ve heard (and in the case of The Legend is Born: experienced firsthand) not one of these movies turned out to be worth the wait.

City Under Siege: 80% chance of it being "good-bad."

Damn, a lot of “Legend” movies came out in the past year…

Regardless, what happened to all the good fighting movies!?

Even though all of the movies that I just mentioned were released in the past year or so, I think the main reason for my concern/discouragement, is the fact that I may in fact have already waded my way through the vast majority of the kung fu/fighting movies I want to see, leaving me only new releases to look forward to seeing.

You see, quality Kung fu movies are like big budget action films.

At first glance it may seem like there’s a never ending supply of them, however when you take a step and really examine the history of the genre, it becomes all too clear that there really aren’t too many of them.

 

Did I mention that only about 2% of big budget action films are at all worthy your time? Pictured is a prime example of the other 98%.

In the case of big budget action films, this stems from the fact that the blockbuster action film has really only been around for 35-40 years, not to mention the fact that only so many producers exist on the planet to fund such massive monetary endeavors from year to year.

 

Hey Bruckheimer, give it a rest, 'k?

In the case of quality kung fu movies though, the main issue comes in the form of there being only a handful of outstanding performers capable of headlining entire films.

Athleticism and martial arts skills are one thing, but the ability to perform convincingly and dynamically on camera is a totally different beast.

 

Take for example, Randy Couture. Great fighter in real life, TERRIBLE on-screen performer. Acting included.

That being said, there really aren’t that many must-see kung fu/fighting movies, and in my case; I’ve reached a point where I’m running out of new movies to experience.

Sure, there’s the occasional classic that I may have missed and probably should see, (such as the early Sammo Hung flick: The Victim) not to mention there are a few rare and/or elusive films that I have yet to see, (I’m lookin’ at you Merantau and The Broken Path!) but for the most part, I’ve seen the one’s I really wanted to see.

Maybe I was spoiled by Donnie Yen’s blitz of Hong Kong cinema over the past 6 years, but goddamnit; I want a new kung fu movie to get excited about!

Here’s hoping something special happens in the world of kung fu cinema in the next few months, otherwise I swear I’m gonna’ have bust out some faux kung fu moves on some helpless pedestrian just to keep from going into withdrawals…

RANDOM, YET AWESOME, PIC OF BRUCE LEE KILLING CHUCK NORRIS!

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