Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Finally, A Godzilla Figure With Articulation

The King of the Monsters, in all his glory.

(Photos courtesy Infinitehollywood.com)

As anyone who’s read this blog before already knows, I’m a pretty huge Godzilla fan.

I grew up on his films, I played with his toys before I could even speak; and to date he remains one my biggest heroes in all of cinema.

That being said, in my youth I had the bright idea to try and do a stop-motion Godzilla movie of my own.

I was maybe 11 or 12 at the time, but even then; I had standards for my work in the medium.

… I was kind of a weird kid.

Simply put, I found that, given the resources at my disposal; a Godzilla stop-motion was out of my reach due to the inarticulate nature of virtually every figure of him I owned or knew of.

Pictured: My first Godzilla toy. Pretty sure most kids had one of these at some point.

Given that I’m not much of a craftsman, construction of my own custom figure is, and will likely forever be; an impossibility.

That being said, recently I discovered an article concerning the upcoming release of a brand new, super-articulated Godzilla figure from  Bandai’s superb S.H. Figurearts series.

While Kaiyodo’s much lauded Revoltech series of toys dipped into the Toho universe of characters, after several years of waiting on the release of an actual figure of  the Big G himself; I think it’s safe to say that the licensing rights may have been passed to Bandai.

Anyway, based on the photos I’ve seen, the S.H. Figurearts Godzilla figure, as well as it’s accompanying Heisei Mechagodzilla figure; looks as detailed and poseable as one could ever hope for.

The articulation in the neck and head alone strikes me as being more fully featured than the entirety of perhaps any other Godzilla toy I’ve ever owned.

As good as it gets...

Anyway, I realize this likely isn’t exciting news for all that many of you, but it means a lot to me.

Even though this 6″ beast is more than a little overpriced, the idea of finally being able to fulfill a childhood dream; no matter how childish and inconsequential, is something that I feel would more than justify the expenditure.

I hope…

BWAAAHHHHH!!!!

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Filed under: Movies, Tokusatsu, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Farewell To Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite, 02/07/1946 - 01/02/2011

It’s old news to all those who would care to know, but 2 days ago English actor and thespian Pete Postlethwaite passed away.

While not exactly a headlining star in the film industry, Postlethwaite spent the better part of 3 decades as a go-to supporting actor in a myriad of films and genres.

Possessed of an incredibly powerful, distinct, and versatile speaking voice; Postlethwaite was a deeply respected actor whose presence could serve to legitimize most any production, regardless of his lack of household name status in Hollywood.

The first time I remember seeing Mr. Postlethwaite was in the live-action/stop-motion animated film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.\

Yeah, somebody was on the crack...

The movie was a huge deal at the time, as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas had recently re-energized stop-motion for mainstream audiences; not to mention my elementary school class was right in the middle of a Roald Dahl reading binge around the time of it’s release.

Postlethwaite played a small, but pivotal role in the film; as the mysterious pixie-like man that gave James the glowing worms to free him from his evil aunts.

While I was a little bit too young to appreciate the art of acting at the time, I have to admit; the character of Postlethwaite’s face, and the way he used to it embody the spark of energy and cleverness of his character, made the 9 year old me believe he really could’ve been magical.

Since my first encounter with Postlethwaite, I’ve gone to run across him in films too numerous to count.

I laughed at him in Dragonheart.

 

Man, Postlethwaite spit some sick-ass rhymes in this movie...

I was startled to seem him so meek and pitiable in Alien 3.

 

He's about 2 seconds from getting his head ripped off...

I was saddened to see him make his exit so hastily in the god-awful Clash of the Titans remake.

 

T

*Sigh* If only Pete had been the main character instead of Sam Worthington...

But for my money, the finest and most memorable role I remember seeing Pete Postlethwaite in; was as the great white hunter Roland Tembo in The Lost World.

Hell, I still have his fuckin’ action figure:

Truth be told, it's actually a stunning likeness.

If you read my Top 10 Overkills in Movies post on the Lost World, then chances are you recall my many (hopefully humorous) asides to Postlethwaite’s character in the film.

I did that, because Postlethwaite was THE SHIT in The Lost World, and that was my way of trying to drive that point home.

"When did you last see him?" "I don't know sir, I'm too busy shitting my pants over how fucking epic you are..."

Seriously, of all the quotable quotations in the Jurassic Park films, (well, the first 2 anyway…) Postlethwaite’s Tembo was one of the best.

Rest assured, if ever I’m asked if I found something/something, my response will always be:

“Just the parts they didn’t like…”

Anyway, rest in peace Pete Postlethwaite, your wild-eyed, strong-voiced, almost Obi-Wan-like wise old manliness will be sorely missed.

Here’s hoping you finally get a chance to bag that male/bull T-Rex in the afterlife, hopefully right alongside Bob Peck on his Raptor hunt.

Thanks for the memories guys. Goddamnit, Jeff Goldblum better not be next...

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

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!

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

Azn Badger’s (Hopefully) Makin’ a Movie!

You can thank my good buddy JD for making this image for me. It basically encapsulates everything that is "me." Thanks again buddy.

I love movies.

Not only that, but for most of my life, I’ve wanted to be involved in making movies, as an actor, director, stunt man, pretty much as whatever, so long as I was involved.

The first distinct memory I have of myself wanting to be involved in filmmaking, was when I was very young, probably 8 or 9 years old.

I had a friend over, and we were playing war with Micromasters and my Mega Man X3 gashapons.

We built a fortress out of cardboard blocks for one of the 2 factions, and basically spent the afternoon yelling at each other through the action figures splayed out across the basement floor, occasionally throwing a figure at the fort to simulate a death on the battlefield or an attempted siege.

Oh yeah, for whatever reason, we had Killer Cuts; the soundtrack CD that came packaged with Killer Instinct on the Super NES, blaring from a boombox.

I remember setting Jago’s theme, “Do It Now,” on a loop for the majority of the day:

Whatever man, it was the mid-90’s, America was culturally fucked; and therefore my friend and I were as well.

Still, I’d like to think we turned out okay.

Well, my friend did anyway...

Anyway, at some point during our “play date,” my mom overheard us, and decided to bring down our beefy-ass VHS camcorder to record some of our goofy bullshit.

While my friend and I kept playing as normal, barely even acknowledging my mother’s presence; I distinctly recall several instances where I asked her to film specific aspects of the action, from very specific angles.

While it was basically the equivalent to calling out, “Hey mom, watch me jump!” in many ways, this served as my first experience in playing director.

Over the years I’ve been involved with a number of film projects, mostly in front of the camera; but outside of a handful of stop-motion movies that I made entirely on my own, I feel like I’ve never really directed a movie.

Hell, I made every frame of this movie myself, and somehow I managed to not direct it:

Sure, I’ve been in-charge plenty of times, usually because I was the only person enthusiastic enough about the project to step up and do it,  but I can’t recall an instance where I really took the time to take a step back and focus on getting exactly what I wanted for each shot.

Hell, when it comes to filmmaking, I don’t think I’ve ever taken my time with anything.

At this point in my life, pretty much every movie I’ve made has been an single afternoon/evening affair with my friends, usually amounting to little more than a single scene as opposed to an actual complete thought.

Pretty much every movie I’ve ever made with my local neighborhood buddies has involved guns, fighting, and very little, if any; dialogue.

Needless to say, we never worked from a script.

If that wasn’t ghetto enough, we always reserved all instances of bloodshed for scenes taking place in the bathroom so as to ease the clean-up process.

As silly as it seems, I treasure those memories.

The reason I’m making this post, is because last week I met with my buddies and proposed to them that we get together to make a movie again.

It’s been several years since any of us have made a movie together, and being as I am finally back living in Seattle; I figured now was as good a time as any for a reunion of sorts.

Anyway, we spit-balled a bit, and came to the conclusion that we’d like to remake a past work of ours called “Get Stingray.”

Pictured: The Man That Would Be Stingray...

Basically, it’s a melodramatic and violent revenge movie, with the “Stingray” of the title being the beastly man on whom revenge is sought.

As with any movie I have a hand in from a conceptual standpoint, the plot and characters are pretty much paper-thin, serving as lame excuses to include gunplay and hand-to-hand combat scenes whenever possible.

You remember how exacting and critical I was with my evaluations of the fight choreography in all of my movie reviews?

Well, I’m hoping I can finally bring those perfectionist qualities to the fight work in “Get Stingray.”

What can I say, I know what I like; and this time I really look forward to being happy with the end results.

I hope to spend the next several weeks fleshing out “Get Stingray,” with filming starting ASAP.

Filming will hopefully be an “every weekend” sort of thing, with as many weeks as necessary/possible being utilized in the process.

I’m in no hurry, so long as it gets done.

I’ll keep you guys posted with plot summaries, storyboards (if I make them), production stills, and probably a trailer or 2 if I’m feeling up to it.

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

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