Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Cowboys & Aliens WILL Kick Ass.

Despite it’s ridiculous title, and dubious connections to the original comic book source material, I’ve got a good feeling about Cowboys and Aliens.

Aside from the inherent possibilities that could emerge from the peanut butter and chocolate combination of cowboys and aliens, I think the biggest thing going for the movie (at least the movie that’s being marketed to us) is it’s serious, but not too serious tone.

Given the goofy title, Cowboys and Aliens could very easily have ended up being a pandering and goofy-as-fuck giggle fest, but based on the visual aesthetic, and “hardened” expressions of most of the cast; it would seem director Jon Favreau has opted to imbue his film with at least some semblance of class and drama.

In addition to this, with a cast consisting of an Onimusha/Devil May Cry 4/Lost Planet/God Hand/EVERY CAPCOM GAME OF THE NEW MILLENIUM gauntlet armed Daniel Craig, the always excellent Sam Rockwell, and an aging and hammy-as-fuck Harrison Ford; the possibility of Cowboys and Aliens being anything less than “fun” are nearly non-existent.

The real reason we're all going to see Cowboys and Aliens: ADAM BEACH.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t always as up on Cowboys and Aliens as I am now.

In fact, when I first heard of the movie, I thought it sounded like a lame joke; another Snakes on a Plane without the loving support of every meme-gobbling fanboy in existence.

Don’t pretend you weren’t one of them.

In other words, I didn’t expect much; and I certainly was planning to see it.

That all changed when I found myself reminiscing about an old Ray Harryhausen movie of my childhood, The Valley of Gwangi:

In case you couldn’t tell from the trailer, The Valley of Gwangi was one of the coolest movies ever, especially to a dinosaur obsessed child like myself.

You could take pretty much any expectations you’d have for a cowboy or dinosaur movie of it’s day and expect to find them met in some way shape or form by Gwangi.

It was an excellent movie that I’ll continue to love for the rest of my days, and will likely see fit to show to my kids whenever I’m fortunate to have them.

That being said, in remembering Gwangi; I realized that, in the case of Cowboys and Aliens, there’s a good chance it could all work.

There’s a good chance Cowboys and Aliens could capture the magic of something like The Valley of Gwangi, and by golly; I’m excited to see if it does.

Come this July, I’ll be heading to the theater for Cowboys and Aliens, not as some internet retard looking for a cheap laugh; but as a wide-eyed man child looking to be blown away by a movie that’s title advertises exactly what I think we’re all hoping for:

FUCKIN’ COWBOYS, fighting FUCKIN’ ALIENS.

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Looking Forward To Sector 7

As anyone who’s read a few posts on this blog is probably aware, I have a weakness for monster movies.

Growing up, Godzilla was my biggest hero, and guys like Ray Harryhausen and Stan Winston’s name listed in the credits of a movie was enough to make me beg my parents to rent it for me.

If there was any genre of film I’d love to see return to the splendor of it’s past, it’d have to be the “Monster on the Loose” sub-genre.

The genre isn’t dead by any means, but mainstream releases are few and far between.

Thankfully, with the release of Cloverfield a few years back, and the impending release of both Super 8 (which may or may not include some sort of monster) and the new American Godzilla movie; it would seem my wish is well on it’s way to coming true.

Nice, but if it ain't got a man in a suit; it ain't Godzilla.

Running parallel to all this, is the curious emergence of South Korea as a major player in the monster movie genre.

Before the 2000’s, the only Korean monster movies I knew of were Pulgasari (which was NORTH Korean) and Yonggary, 2 movies I’m sure the land of Starcraft and Taekwondo would like to forget.

...Though they're probably still kicking themselves in the pants over the remake.

In the past several years though, movies like the uber-hit, The Host, the uber-expensive shit-fest D-War, and even the boar on the loose movie, Chaw have been produced in Korea, contributing some legitimate hits (and misses) to the ongoing renaissance of the South Korean film industry.

Which leads me to the film of the title of this post, Sector 7.

I posted an article awhile back professing my love, not just for monster movies, but more specifically for aquatic monster movies.

Given that Sector 7 takes place on an oil rig, and involves some sort of tentacled and (presumably) man-eating whats-it, it’s hard for me to deny that; even on paper, Sector 7 sounds like a must see for me.

Thankfully, the trailer seems to deliver the goods for the most part, with stellar production values, a neat location, and all without a clear shot of the monster in sight:

Call me crazy, but I’m one of those guys that really likes to be surprised by the big reveal of the monster in a movie.

Hell, I remember struggling, day and night; to avoid all the media hype surrounding Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla movie, just because I didn’t want to have the Big G’s appearance ruined for me.

Pictured: The sight that put the nail in the coffin of my childhood.

What a waste of my motherfuckin’ time that was…

Anyway, I really don’t know a whole lot about Sector 7 at this point, but the concept, neat sets, and promise of a nasty monster on the prowl have me itching in my boots.

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Conan Looks Like Shit…

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but they’ve finally released a theatrical trailer for the new Conan the Barbarian.

For those that are keeping score at home, in previous articles I made mention of the fact that the production stills for the movie had a decent look to them, and that Jason Momoa seemed a capable enough actor to take on the character of Conan.

Then the teaser was released, and suddenly the whole thing started to seem cheap and hokey.

CHEEEEEEAAAAAPPPP.

Despite this, I found myself more than willing to concede that this epic clusterfuck of a poorly conceived teaser trailer was mostly the fault of a lame-ass marketing department, and not a genuine representation of the quality of the actual film.

While that could in fact be the case, and indeed, could still be the case; it’s hard for me to say that the new trailer for Conan looks at all good.

TRAILER HERE

The production values seem decent enough, with some some nice background vistas, practical sets, and (excessively detailed) costumes, but the various action set-pieces the trailer promises are far from noteworthy.

Tentacle beast?

Albino sand people?

Magical claw lady cat fight?

I’m sorry, but none of that really seems like stuff I’d like to see in my Conan movies.

I think the worst comment I can make about this trailer, is the fact that it reminded me of the recent Clash of the Titans remake.

Pictured: Sky Marine hanging out with his Greek Protoss buddy in Medusa's layer. Don't worry, it's an inside joke.

For those who are unaware, Clash of the Titans is a pretty fuckin’ lousy remake, of a beautifully animated; but otherwise mediocre Ray Harryhausen film.

The one saving grace for Conan that is impossible to gauge from the trailer, is the fact that Lionsgate and Millenium Pictures movies have a pretty good reputation for including ridiculous amounts of violence in their films.

That being said, should this new Conan be as bloody and SAVAGE as it’s curiously over-the-top DEAD SERIOUS tone might suggest, there’s a good chance the various fade to black portions of the trailer might be concealing some truly epic bloodshed.

This is definitely a “maybe” for now, and at the end of the day it won’t really make the movie any more worthwhile than it already is; but in my book good action can go a long way towards making a shitty movie I spent $10 to see that much less shitty.

Here’s hoping this one doesn’t suck, ’cause despite all the shit I talked just now, it’s more than likely I’ll end up seeing it in the theater anyway!

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Stop-Motion And The Azn Badger

I love stop-motion animation.

Something about the inherent tangibility of the finished product, the notion that the footage you’re viewing was created from materials you can touch with your own hands; is just so incredibly fascinating to me.

I’ve said many times in the past, that I find Photoshop, digital tablet devices, and other such digital art tools to be unwieldly and far too advanced for my tiny badger brain.

As an artist, I find that I have come to rely on the feeling of my pen streaking across the paper.

Digital art detaches you from your workspace, forcing you to rely on the borders and boundaries of the toolset provided to you, of the program you are working within.

While I am familiar with the most rudimentary of functions that Photoshop has to offer, this simple notion of detachment is what ultimately keeps me married to my pen and paper.

With a pen and paper, I am free to sketch and “work out” the images that I seek to produce.

More often than not, in the act of scrawling pencil hatch marks on my paper, I’ll usually find an accidental stray line or 2 that ends up being the key to solving whatever perspective/rendering issue that I’m having at the moment.

This doesn’t happen for me in the digital medium, as I feel daunted and moreoever; restricted by the tool based nature of the program.

Which brings me to my love of stop-motion.

The first time I can recall seeing stop-motion animation was on a VHS collection of 50’s and 60’s B-movie trailers that my parents gave me for Easter (don’t ask) called Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies.

The tape was prefaced by a short interview with Ray Harryhausen, with a series of clips from King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad playing over his narration.

Known as one of the most famous stop-motion animators of all time, Harryhausen was perhaps best known for his Dynamation technique that matted stop-motion characters over live-action footage, essentially serving as a primitive ancestor to modern digital compositing.

Upon first seeing the clip of the 6-armed Kali statue engaging in a vicious sword fight with a bunch of pirates and sailors, I was absolutely spellbound.

Though the clip was very brief, I remember being absolutely enthralled by the manner in which Kali moved.

I could tell that the motion wasn’t exactly 100% fluid, but even so; the character evident in the expressionless statue’s movements were enough to make me view this as potential plus, even as a child.

Before I could ask “how did they do that?” the tape answered my prayers by having Ray Harryhausen show us a model figure of a gorilla, both with and without it’s skin on; revealing a rigid metal skeleton beneath.

Harryhausen would go on to explain that, in taking a picture, moving the model a fraction of an inch or so, taking another picture, and then displaying the 2 images in sequence, he could create the effect of a once stable object becoming animated.

Though I was very young at the time, this simple explanation served as the start of lifelong fascination with stop-motion.

Not long after watching that tape, I would go on to force my parents to rent all sorts of stop-motion movies, most of which were Harryhausen’s classic works.

To date, Jason and the Argonauts remains my favorite of his, however The Valley of Gwangi is a very close second.

The first time I ever attempted stop-motion for myself, was when I was about 13 years old.

Using a handful of Gundam models I had, I set up the models on my bedroom floor and used the digital camcorder I had just received as a birthday gift to make a brief fight sequence.

Despite my inherent fascination with the technique, I think the reason I decided to try stop-motion back then was because of my lack of resources.

I wanted to make movies with my friends, but we didn’t have any cool props, nor were we all that physical, so most of the movies we wanted to make were ideas that were beyond our capability.

Stop-motion allowed me to side-step a lot of my 13 year old limitations.

It removed the possibility of actors being flaky, it removed budgetary limitations, and it allowed to film for as long as I wanted without anyone whining about it.

In essence, my desire to make films combined with my antisocial tendencies was most likely the catalyst for me trying my hand at stop-motion.

I don’t mind tooting my own horn and saying that I think I did pretty well on my first time out:

Sure, I did the whole thing in-camera, and my hand got into the shot a few times, but for the most part; without even really knowing if what I was doing was going to work, I think I did pretty well.

I took my time with my Gundam battle, staying up late into the night to get it done; and I’ll always be proud of it.

As soon as I made my first stop-motion animation, I went into a year-long period of cranking them out every month or so.

Everything came to a head when I made a 7-minute, partially animated film called “Pimpmastah” that ended up taking me several months to make.

Truth be told, the whole thing was shot over 3 days in total, however there was a several month long pause between each day of filming.

I can’t explain it, but the love for stop-motion that I had in my youth started to fizzle out around the time I was going into high school.

Call it life taking priority over art.

Regardless, I wouldn’t make another stop-motion film for 5-6 years, by which time I was already a year or 2 into college.

Living in a dorm, with very few friends, I found myself psychologically in very much the same place I was when I was 13.

In order to pass the time, as well as show off to my roommates, (some of the guys in the dorm also wanted to be filmmakers) I found myself bringing old action figures from home back with me to the dorm to use for animations.

As sad as it was that I spent a lot of my time in college watching Ultraman and making movies with action figures, I have to say; I had a lot of fun getting back into stop-motion.

It was also fun teaching myself how to edit my films, as up until then I had done everything sequentially and in-camera.

Hell, you can actually see the CD player I was playing into the camera speaker for live sound effects in the background of half the shots in “Pimpmastah.”

While I was using it as little more than a hobby, the extremely open-ended and liberal nature of my college allowed me more than a few opportunities to use stop-motion as a means of fulfilling class assignments.

You can bet I ended up making an animation every time I was asked to do a presentation on one of my writing assignments.

Another factor in why I continued to involve myself in stop-motion, was the fact that I was still plagued with the same limitations as a filmmaker, even in college.

Though I applied for them annually, I never got into a filmmaking class at my college.

Stop-motion became my pen and paper for the world of filmmaking.

Even with no budget, or actors, or even decent equipment, as long as I had some action figures and my old dead-pixel ridden camcorder, I could make movies to my heart’s content.

And I did.

I’ll never say I’m any sort of noteworthy talent in the art of stop-motion, as I know I’m not; but that’s not the point.

The point is:

Stop-motion is something anyone can do with a camera and a lot of patience.

I’m fortunate enough to have had both of those things since the age of 13, and while I’ve never had the organization skills or technical capabilities to put together a real movie; stop-motion has given me a venue to make movies of my own, on my own.

The reason I decided to type up this article tonight, is because I find myself feeling that old urge to get back into stop-motion.

It’s been almost 2 years since the last time I used a camera, and after years of consistent improvement in my technique; I think it’s about time I took another stab at it.

This time around I’m considering using more articulate and challenging models, something that is likely to drive me nuts if I actually attempt it.

Though the licensed one’s are absurdly expensive, I ran across a product line from Hong Kong based Hot Toys called True-Types.

Near as I can tell, they are essentially highly articulated 12-inch GI Joe figures that can be modified and fitted with various clothing and accessories.

One comment about the Azn Badger playing with dolls, and I swear I will find you and ram one of those candiru things that took out Eric Stoltz in Anaconda up your urinary tract.

This, but in your pee hole.

Trust me, you don’t want that.

Anyway, my buddy Macgyver Jr. has a bunch of clothing and equipment for figures of roughly the same proportions, so I figure I can borrow a bunch of props from him to suit my needs.

Here’s a hilariously bad, and totally non-animated collaborative video we made using figures similar to the True-Types in about, oh, 45 minutes:

Not only that, true to his name, Macgyver Jr. also happens to be a woodworking wizard, so any other props or scenery that I’d need would be just a friendly favor away.

Though I can’t really say as to whether or not I’m really gonna’ be making any stop-motion films in the near future, (we all know what happened last time I announced I’d be making a film…) if actually go ahead and try to do it, I’m hoping to put more effort into it than I’ve ever done before.

Most of my stop-motion efforts have boiled down to single day efforts that involve little more than a short battle scene.

While I’ll probably end up doing yet another fight sequence, as that’s what I like to do; I’d like to invest more time in the animation process, as well as maybe do some post-production processing of the frames to make for a more polished film.

Y’know, little things like motion blur, or digital removal of props used to balance the figures.

Who knows, if things turn out well enough, maybe I’ll end up filming a story around the fight.

Anyway, I’m done rambling and speculating about things that may never happen, thanks for reading!

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The Best MAN!!! #7

Afternoon everybody, and welcome back to the 7th installment of The Best MAN!

Today we’re of course going to be exploring the tragically flat, and only 16-bit adventure in the linear Mega Man series, Mega Man 7.

Ah, I see we've reached the mid-90's era of Capcom's American cover art...

Before we delve into the utterly vanilla experience that is Mega Man 7, I feel it important to address one simple issue surrounding the stigma that seems to have arose in regards to this game.

Case in point:

Now, I can’t claim that this video’s (clever) views on the Mega Man series are at all that of the general public, however I feel that it should be said that Mega Man 7 is far from the worst of the Mega Man series.

*Ahem!* By now it should be obvious that that honor belongs to Mega Man 5

Pictured: Mega Man 5.

Anyway, despite Mega Man 7’s apparent reputation for being a shit-fest of epic proportions, the game actually had a decent story.

Not that that counts for anything in a franchise that puts zero emphasis on story.

In short, after Dr. Wily is thrown in jail at the conclusion of Mega Man 6, exactly 6 months later, 4 robots he had hidden in an underground laboratory wake up and blow the shit out of the city to free him.

Essentially, the plot is a carbon copy of the first half of Dragonball Z movie 7.

This was the coolest shit ever when I was in middle school... I'm not even kidding.

Coincidence?  I think not!

Nah, I’m just Joshing yah’, it probably was a coincidence.

Anyway, like any Mega Man game, the changes to the gameplay made in 7 were small, but fairly impactful.

Just not as much as in most other games in the series…

Several new characters were introduced, including Auto, Mega Man’s burly mechanic buddy:

"Pull my finger."

And Bass and Treble, the series’ obligatory evil clone characters:

PIMP.

While Auto served as little more than window dressing, Bass and Treble engaged the player at several points in the game, initially pretending to be all baby-faced n’shit, only to turn heel and bash Mega Man over the head with a steel chair.

"MY GAWD, WITH THE STEEL CHAIR!!!!"

Gameplay additions to Mega Man 7 included a new equipment store run by Eddie, wherein the player could purchase new items and abilities, and a brand new Rush adapter called “Super Mega Man” that combined the flight and power functions of the adapters from Mega Man 6.

Mega Man, GATTAI!!!!

It was also the first game in the linear series to allow the player to “charge” the weapons of all of the robot masters.

In addition to this, the game also adopted the “Intro Stage before Stage Select” mechanic that had been pioneered in the Mega Man X series, as well as set it’s own precedent by introducing the “Intermission” stage, that is; an unskippable level forced on the player after defeating 4 of the 8 robot masters.

PHARAOH MAN CAMEO!!!

As you can already tell, outside of 16-bit graphics and sound, Mega Man 7 didn’t really bring much to the table in terms of innovation.

In fact, despite the larger sprites and more detailed animations, the games’ musical compositions were actually somewhat weak for the series.

Even so, there were exceptions:

Just goes to show you that technical advancements don’t always mean much in regards to gameplay.

Mega Man 7 was not a horrible game, nor was it the worst Mega Man game, however; due to the hype and expectations surrounding it, the first 16-bit Mega Man game; it ended up being a pretty big letdown.

Even so, the games’ biggest shame is the fact that it is utterly average, serving as nothing more than a mere hiccup in the vast legacy of the Mega Man franchise.

Enough dour bullshit, let’s get down to who’s The Best MAN!

Well kiddo’, that’d have to be…

Shade Man

SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADE MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNN!!!???

This one hurt me.

Physically.

Seriously, Mega Man 7 has a decent roster of robot masters, but I really only like 2 of them.

Turbo Man and Freeze Man, those are the only 2 MEN in the game that come close to being The Best MAN.

ALL THAT IS MAAAAAAAAAAAANNNN!!!!

So why the fuck aren’t either of them The Best MAN in Mega Man 7!?

Well, shut up and I’ll tell you.

Junk Man is the first guy I’d always kill, and c’mon; he’s fuckin’ Junk Man.

More like "Pile of Fail Man."

Cloud Man is a fattie.

Pictured: Cloud Man.

I actually had to look up Burst Man just to figure out what the fuck his gimmick was.

Note: I still don’t know what it is…

Seriously man, what the fuck is his deal?

Slash Man is cool, but uninspired, *cough!* Wolverine *cough!*

I did like the dinosaurs in his stage though...

Spring Man is lame and had one of the most frustrating stages in Mega Man history, right next Astro Man in Mega Man 8.

Pictured: Spring Man.

That leaves us with Turbo Man and Freeze Man, the only 2 MEN that I actually like in Mega Man 7.

Both are my favorite designs in the game, they have pretty cool weapons, pretty fun stages, and are tough cookies when you finally get down to stompin’ a mudhole on their asses.

Despite Shade Man’s relatively crappy design, he trumps both of my boys in every other category, hands down.

He’s got a pimp-ass weapon, he’s tough to fight, and if you hold “B” before selecting his stage, you can play a through his stage with the Ghosts ‘N Gobins intro stage music playing as the stage background music!

Not only that, but his is the only robot master stage that includes a brief story sequence wherein Mega Man runs across an injured Bass and Treble just after they fought, and lost to Shade Man.

Even though it is later revealed that Bass and Treble were in fact working for Dr. Wily, it’s worth noting that Shade Man was considered powerful enough to have believably defeated them.

That’s street cred son, you can’t buy that.

While I don’t really care much for the whole vampire schtick of Shade Man, from a gameplay standpoint, he was a very creative and unique addition to the series.

He had more attacks than most bosses, including a life draining bite and Medusa-like stone gaze.

Clearasil: It's your friend.

More importantly, his weapon, the Noise Crush, was truly awesome, as it would bounce off of walls, growing more powerful as it ricocheted.

Like I said, the thought of declaring Shade Man the best, well, anything, makes me violently ill, however I feel I’d be lying to myself if I elected one of my favorites in his stead.

Just goes to show you, that which you like isn’t necessarily what’s best.

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