Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Battletoads Ripped-Off Duran Duran!?

A funny thing happened a few months ago.

I was at work, and a song came on the radio.

Based on the sound of the lead singer’s voice, I could tell it was a Duran Duran song; but me being me, I couldn’t really make out any of the lyrics.

You see, I have this weird, uh, “thing”, where I have a lot of trouble understanding and learning the lyrics to songs.

I’m really good with recognizing music, but when it comes to lyrics; I’m pretty epicly slow.

THIS FUCKING SLOOOOOWWWW.

Anyway, the moment I heard the opening chords of the song, long before I knew any lyrics were sung; my mind immediately screamed:

“Holy shit, Battletoads and Double Dragon is on the radio?!”

Now I feel I should mention that I’m not a “radio” guy.

Most of the shit in my music library consists of videogame and movie soundtrack stuff, with a decent amount of 80’s and 90’s rock to round things out.

The point is, the vast majority of my music isn’t aired on the radio; however whenever it is, you can bet I start jumping for joy.

For a few glorious seconds, roaming the pick aisles at the Amazon.com warehouse; I sincerely thought Jack FM was playing a track from Battletoads and Double Dragon on the radio.

Then the vocals kicked in, and I realized I was just listening to Duran Duran, more specifically a song of their’s I hadn’t heard before called “Girls on Film.”

Anyway, I just happened to learn the title of this song a few days; allowing me to present the following comparison to you.

Now remember, only pay attention to the 10 seconds or so of both songs:
BATTLETOADS AND DOUBLE DRAGON (SNES VERSION)

DURAN DURAN

Fuckin’ trippy, right?

They’re nowhere near identical, but even so, it’s hard to deny their similarities.

Anyway, I thought this was kind of fun so I figured I’d share it.

See you tomorrow!

Filed under: Games, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best MAN!!! #8

Click me, I took hours to make...

Well folks, after a week straight of nothing but Mega Man related blogging, we’ve made it to the big finale.

That’s right, today we’re gonna’ be taking a look at the 10th anniversary game of the Mega Man series, Mega Man 8 on the Sony Playstation!

As previously explained Mega Man 8 will be the final installment in The Best MAN series, as I haven’t played Mega Man 9 or 10, and thusly don’t feel qualified to elect a Best MAN for those games.

That being said, let’s dive into Mega Man 8!

8’s story was, much like 7, somewhat more involved than previous entries in the series, largely due to the unprecedented inclusion of hand-drawn anime cutscenes.

At the time of it’s release, Full Motion Video (FMV) was already old hat, however after the release of the Amiga 32CD, Sega CD, 3DO, and other such CD based consoles, many game developers saw fit to include FMV in their games, resulting in the technology being en vogue for much of the 90’s.

Mega Man 8’s FMV sequences were fairly entertaining, and decently well-animated, however the English voice acting was absolutely atrocious.

For real man, Dr. Light sounds like fuckin’ Elmer Fudd after a stroke, no joke.

He also stutters.

Like a fattie.

The end result was a series of fairly entertaining, but often times, all too tempting to skip, cutscenes.

There was 1 scene in particular though that I remember keeping an extra save file (it was a Playstation game, of course you could save!) for just so I could watch it over and over again:

It seems kind of lame now, but when I was 10, that was the coolest thing ever.  Even though my Playstation would freeze during it just about 90% of the time…

Anyway, the story of Mega Man 8 is based around a capsule of “evil energy” that falls to Earth.

EVIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

This energy grants it’s wielder great power, and multiplies by feeding off of it’s host’s evil intent.

Think the Venom symbiote from Spider-Man.

And now, gentleman, for your viewing pleasure: A T-Rex wearing the Venom symbiote.

Dr. Wily of course gets his hands on this evil energy and uses it to power his latest creations to tangle with Mega Man.

In the meantime however, an intrinsically “good” robot from outer space named Duo (the big dude in Dr. Light’s lab during the video) crash lands on Earth, only to awaken halfway through the game to serve as an ally to Mega Man.

That is, not before trying to kill him, of course.

On the side there’s also a very Dragonball Z-esque “Goku and Vejita” dynamic that plays out between Mega Man and Bass.

Basically, Vejita, I mean Bass; has an inferiority complex, which results in him attempting to use the evil energy to grant him the power to defeat Mega Man.

Oh Bass, we do this dance again and again, and yet you just don't seem to learn the steps, do you?

I like Bass, really, I do; but he’s a total pussy in Mega Man 8.

Haha, get it!? "Bass!"

Mega Man 8 was vastly different from any Mega Man that came before it.

From a presentation standpoint, it was easily the most graphically intense iteration of the series, well, pretty much, ever.

The animations were silky smooth, and the music was excellent all-around, with most of the tracks being quite memorable.

Although from a cosmetic standpoint Mega Man 8 was a drastic departure from the norm, and undeniably, an improvement, the gameplay was merely different, and not necessarily for the better.

One of the comments I received on my Mega Man 7 post from yesterday made note of the fact that the game was slower than the NES games in the series.

I failed to address this in my post, and for that I apologize, however it is an incontrovertible fact.

Mega Man 7 was a much slower-paced game than it’s predecessors, and Mega Man 8 followed suit by being even slower.

THIS FUCKING SLOOOOOWWWW.

The sprites in Mega Man 7 were very large, excessively so, and thankfully 8 addressed this by increasing the screen resolution, while at once one-upping their level of detail.

Despite being a sidescroller like every other Mega Man game, 8 was a much more vertically oriented game.

The screen orientation was “taller,” and Mega Man’s jump controls were changed so that he jumped higher than normal, however, due to his much slower walking speed, his horizontal jumping distance was toned down a bit.

While definitely a much slower-paced, and in-fact, much easier game than it’s predecessors, Mega Man 8 was still quite fun.

TONS OF FUN.

New gameplay features in Mega Man 8 were plentiful (for a change).

The shop from Mega Man 7 made a return, though this time around it was run by Mega Man’s sister, Roll, and the currency used there consisted of an extremely finite, and difficult to acquire, supply of bolts scattered throughout the robot master stages.

Items in the shop consisted of equipment to dampen the “knock-back” effects of getting hit, decrease the charge time for a Mega Buster shot, change the function of Mega Buster, and a variety of other things.

Part of the fun of the shop was the fact that not all of the items were all that useful, such as the one that increases your climbing speed, or the one that disables your Mega Buster!

I greatly preferred this shop system, as unlike 7, where all you had to do was “farm” for money by killing enemies, purchases in 8 felt much more strategic.

A Hummer: THE strategic purchase.

In addition to the shop items, there were also a total of 4 Rush items, all granted to the player after defeating minibosses during the robot master stages.

While virtually all of the Rush items were nothing more than novelty items that could net you a nice item or two here and there, I always thought it was a neat idea to turn Rush into a motorcycle and ride him into battle.

PIMP.

But, that’s just me.

In addition to the changes made to the overall pace of the game, Mega Man 8 also featured some truly inspired level designs.

No longer consisting purely of platforming action, 8 contained a several vehicle segments and a few maze-like stages that couldn’t be completed linearly.

While Mega Man 5 was the first in the series to feature on-rails vehicle sequences, in the form of a jet-ski ride during Wave Man’s stage,

Mega Man 8 took this concept and greatly expanded on it.

Frost Man and Dr. Wily’s tower both featured perilous snowboarding sequences wherein the player would have to alternately jump or slide to survive the course.

JUMP.

Tengu Man’s stage featured an extensive on-rails shooting sequence in the skies.

"FUCK YOU, WHALE!"

This sequence was one of my favorites in the game, as it had you riding Rush while shooting numerous enemies, all while gradually recruiting a huge DEATH SQUAD of Mega Man’s buddies to help you out.

The Mega Man Death Squad in all their glory.

Auto, Eddie and Beat all made appearances in this sequence, with Beat finally redeeming himself as the single most powerful ally you could acquire.

I'm lettin' you off easy this time... Chump.

Sword Man and Astro Man’s stages served as the first maze levels in Mega Man history.

While Sword Man’s stage was not really a maze, but rather a series of trials that had to be completed while making use of specific robot master weapons, Astro Man’s stage was one mother of a maze.

ARRRRRGHH!!!

Seriously, I fucking hated Astro Man’s stage…

Well, I think I’ve said more than enough about Mega Man 8, it’s time we got down to deciding who’s The Best MAN, for the very last time.

The Best MAN of Mega Man 8 is…

Frost Man

FROSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST MAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!!!!

Didn’t see that comin’ didja’?

You know why Frost Man’s The Best MAN?

‘Cause Mega Man 8 was the first game in the series to give it’s robot master voices, that’s why.

Okay, okay, that’s not the only reason I picked him, but it had a lot to do with it.

You see, Frost Man’s voice made me laugh as a kid.

His character was supposed to be that of a huge, powerful, dopey idiot, and his voice reflected this very well.

"I will love him, and kiss him, and I will call him George..."

Seriously, when the biggest fuckin’ robot master in the fuckin’ series leaps into the arena, smashing a bunch of Mega Man ice sculptures to show off his strength, only to yell out something retarded like:

“I’m gonna’, crush you! I will…… Beat, you!”

I just can’t help but smile.

Tune to 4:45 for example:

Seriously though, Frost Man has a lot going for him.

His “walking igloo” design is inspired and truly a sight to behold in-game with it’s vivid animations, his weapon, the Ice Wave is fun to use, (although much cooler looking when he uses it) and his stage is lots of fun to play with one of the better background tracks in the game:

If anyone could usurp Frost Man’s position as Best MAN, I’d say it would be Clown Man or Search Man.

Seriously, I actually had to rewrite a big portion of this post on account of me changing my mind about Search Man at the last minute.

The problem with Search Man is that, while he’s got personality up the ying-yang, and a cool weapon to boot, I didn’t care much for his stage.

You see, like Mega Man 7, 8 split up it’s robot masters into 2 groups of 4.

Because I rarely finished the game as a kid, the second group of robot masters were one’s I didn’t end up seeing all that much of.

Sorry Aqua Man, no one likes you...

On top of that, I’ve never actually fought Search Man without having the Flame Sword to pwn his ass with, so I’ve never really gotten to experience a real fight with him firsthand.

Clown Man on the other hand, while one of my favorite designs in any Mega Man game, suffered for exactly the same reason Frost Man was promoted.

His voice annoyed the piss out of me.

EXAMPLE

He had an extensive repertoire of interesting attacks, his stage was cutesy fun, and his weapon was not all that bad, but his voice was just painful to listen to.

Oh yeah, that and he was WAY too fucking easy…

Protip: Sticking your arms into the ground isn't a viable combat tactic. It just gets you shot. In the face.

Well folks, we’ve named our last Best MAN.

Hopefully everyone had fun along the way, I know I did.

See you tomorrow when I (hopefully) think of some other shit to write about…

Filed under: Games, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Track in the Game #5: Top Gear

VRROOOOOOOOOOOMMM!!!

TOP.  FUCKING.  GEAR.

To all those that have played Top Gear, those are the only words one needs to say to get their engines going.

I mean, come on!  Look at this brilliant fucking gameplay!:

Well, okay, that was boring as shit, but hey, back in 1992 that was high-fucking tech for a racing game.

As one of the first racing games released for the Super NES, Top Gear has the distinction of being awesome for exactly the same reasons it sucks donkey balls.

At the time of of it’s launch, games in the Super NES library made extensive use of Mode 7.

In case you’re wondering, Mode 7 is that goofy background scrolling effect used to rapidly move the scenery while the foreground sprites remain in place.

Secret of Mana Mode 7. Yes, Secret of Mana was a better game than Top Gear.

Games like F-Zero and Pilotwings relied so much on the creation of Mode 7, that in many ways, they served like retail tech-demos for it.

The only difference between those games and Top Gear however, was the fact that they were good.

Well, that and Top Gear didn’t actually use Mode 7, but give me a break, I felt like talkin’ Mode 7 for a minute.

Anyway, point is:  most Super NES games were good, whereas Top Gear was decidedly not.

Then why is it that Top Gear holds such a special place in my heart?

The first, and for the most part, only time I ever played Top Gear in my youth, was during my days spent over at my cub scout (Den 123, woot!) friend’s house.

This would be the same friend’s house that I used to play Star Fox at.

And no, we didn't look like this. We weren't old enough to have facial hair...

You see, during sleepovers, I had a habit of staying up way later than whoever I was hanging out with.

Basically, whenever my friends would fall asleep, I would set about playing the single-player games in their library.

At my cub scout buddies’ house, said games consisted of Aladdin, Pilotwings, and Star Fox.

Yup, this was me in Pilotwings, only with a lot less "Skydiving", and helluva' lot more "Falling."

When my buddy was awake however, Top Gear was the order of the day.

Part of the fun of Top Gear, at least for me, was the fact that my buddy and I played it, not as a competitive racer, but as a co-operative one.

Like Super Mario Kart, Top Gear utilized a progressive, point-driven tournament system for deciding each players ranking for each of the country/continent based circuits.

Only, without the fun of chucking red shells and bananas at people.

Ooooooh.... You know somebody's about'sta get pwned...

Essentially, coming in first in every race was not a necessity to win the game, so long as the players managed to earn enough points to qualify for the next circuit.

Because of this, my buddy and I would back each other up during every race, bumping CPU drivers off the road and dropping back to concede a first place win in order to keep our point totals in the black.

I remember there was one CPU driver in particular that pissed off my buddy and I.

His name was Richie.

Richie was the CPU driver that would consistently come in first, provided none of the players managed to out-race him.

I always pictured Richie as being some sort of stereotypical blonde Californian asshole, like Ice Man from Top Gun, that one douche in the black SUV in Twister, and, well, let’s just face facts, Richie was Billy Zabka.

Their only weaknesses are: Tornadoes, Kicks to the Face, and Tom Cruise with his shirt off...

Richie was a pain in the ass, but the real source of Top Gear’s difficulty, was definitely the fuel/pit-stop system.

That’s right folks, cars in Top Gear could run out of fuel, and boy I’ll tell yah’, they found a way to make it happen every fuckin’ time.

Eeew.... Wouldn't wanna' get caught in THAT circle jerk...

Pit stops were often times tucked away off the side of the road in such a way so as to make them next to impossible to find.

Or in the case of some people, a little too easy to find.

You see, even though the game offered an onscreen prompt to signal players to the pits, more often than not, players would end up barely missing the turn-off, or barely making it, thusly leaving one in the unsavory position of either being dead on the track, or stuck in the pits at an inopportune time.

The Red Car was lucky enough to make the pits at the RIGHT time. Yeah, I never did that.

I’m pretty sure those bloody pits were the only reason I never beat Top Gear.

From a gameplay standpoint, Top Gear was no Mario Kart.

And that’s saying a lot, seeing as the game was a straightforward racer, with no real complexity to the gameplay outside of the ability to manually shift your car and occasionally use a burst of nitrous oxide for speed boosts.

In fact, probably the deepest part of the gameplay came in the form of picking your car from an assortment of 4.

As a kid, I always played it safe and picked the White Car, ’cause it’s fuel efficiency ensured fewer trips to the dreaded pits.

Nowadays I prefer to pick the Green Car.

That's right, it's fuckin' GREEN! Fuckin' kids, tryin' tuh' tell me it's blue n'shit...

Top Gear’s interface was clunky amid a sea of 90’s clunkiness, with an option screen that required a special touch to properly maneuver, let alone discover.

You press "select" here, just so you know.

Most peculiar was the actual racing interface, as it was perpetually locked in a horizontal split-screen configuration, regardless of the number of players.

During single-player races, the other half of the screen would be occupied by a CPU driver, who, like Richie, would consistently place first unless you beat him to it.

Yup, 'cause that's how I like to play my games. With HALF OF THE FUCKIN' SCREEN devoted to shit that has nothing to do with my car.

Because of the split-screen, slow-down ran rampant throughout Top Gear.

Hell, when going over hills, or through tunnels, the game would chug along at fuckin’ Little Bear speeds.

STILL. FUCKING. SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

Despite these flaws, when I was playing it with my buddy, Top Gear was a no-frills racer that was buckets of fun.

All that business aside, you probably wanna’ know what the music was like in Top Gear, right?

Well, get ready for a shocker, ’cause The Best Track in the Game is…

EVERY. FUCKING. TRACK.

Haha!  Didn’t see that comin’ did’ja?

Top Gear has an awesome fucking soundtrack.

In fact, if you’re not particularly attached to the pants you’re wearing right now, here’s a download for the ENTIRE soundtrack.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you though, Top Gear music has been known to ’cause many a man or woman to splooge their pants.

There’s only a handful of tracks to choose from, but every one of them is awesome in that crazy electronic, sped-up Ace of Base sort of way.

From the Title Theme, to every race BGM that follows it, every track is full of fun and excitement.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that virtually every track in Top Gear is hummable in my book.

Here’s a few standouts, starting with the awesome fuckin’ Title Theme:

Isn’t that just fuckin’ awesome!?
Next up is the “Long” Race Theme:

I call it the “Long” Race Theme because technically none of these tracks have titles, as they are recycled at will throughout the game.
The first time you hear this track is on the San Francisco track, which just happens to be a long ass race, hence, “Long” Race Theme.
Finally, we have the “Night” Race Theme:

It’s technically not used exclusively for night races, but once again, the first time you hear it is in New York, during a night race
Doesn’t it sound remarkably appropriate for a Super NES night race?
Hah, not to spam the Karate Kid references or anything, but I can’t help but draw a comparison between this track and that one song they played during the scene where Johnny and the Cobra Kai show up on the beach riding their dirt bikes.

……Well, now that I’ve heard the whole song, maybe they’re not quite so similar.
But still, that one part, that they used in the movie?  Spot on.

Anyway, that’s Top Gear.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get caught up with my posting tonight so I can get back to making quality posts like this once again!

See yah’ tomorrow folks!

Filed under: Games, The Best Track in the Game, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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