Azn Badger's Blog

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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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Jack O’ Lanterns, Azn Badger Style!

Tonight was pumpkin carving night at the house of the Azn Badger.

I’ve been “a little too old” for Jack O’ Lanterns for probably 5 years now, but as long as my mother insists on keeping the tradition alive; I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

That being said, this year my dad “acquired” (don’t ask…) about 6 big ass pumpkins, leaving me, my mother, my brother and his girlfriend with our work cut out for us.

As far as annual pumpkin carvings go, this one was a lot of fun.

Not only that, but as you’ll see below, the pumpkins ended up pretty awesome.

We’ll start off with the Azn Badger’s:

Don’t mind the smudged mess in the top-left corner. That’s just my brother…

BOO-YAH-KA-SHA!!

That’s what I call a mother-fuckin’ pumpkin!

In case you couldn’t tell, the face was somewhat influenced by the Predator of the franchise of the same name.

Oh yeah, and the eyes came from Venom from Spider-Man…

Yeah, I have no original thoughts whatsoever.

ANYWAY, next up is my brother’s pumpkin:

The first word that came to mind when I saw my brother’s pumpkin was “cute.”

That’s right, I called a man’s pumpkin “cute.”

I’m not a fairy or anything, I’m just calling it like it is.

Also, don’t go make any assumptions about my brother just ’cause his pumpkin’s cute n’shit.

My brother’s a fuckin’ PIMP, and don’t you forget it, son.

Not ghey.

Next up is my brother’s girlfriend’s pumpkin:

Described by it’s creator as looking vaguely like a “confused baby,” this pumpkin has as much capacity to inspire as it does terrify those that gaze upon it.

Honestly, looking at this thing gives me the willies.

It’s like one of those faceless white masks that that one breakdance troupe wore awhile back.

You know it’s a face, you know it’s female; but you haven’t the slightest clue what it wants from you/wants to do to you.

That being said, let’s move on to my mom’s pumpkin before I die a horrible The Ring-esque death as a result of looking at this pumpkin for too long:

My mom is… “Artistic”… Yeah, we’ll go with that…

This was another “cute” pumpkin, though “odd” would probably fit just as well too.

The construction of it is actually kind of interesting, as the massive “nose” of the pumpkin is actually attached to the lid portion of the top of the pumpkin, which causes the whole thing to look kind of like a Spartan helmet.

Again, I have no original thoughts of my own.  All I know is taken from movies and videogames.

*Ahem!* Anyway, my mom always goes out of her way to make fun and decidedly original pumpkins every year, and this time around was no exception.

Anyway, just thought I’d share some photos and save myself an evening of writing.

Take care this Halloween!

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Azn Badger’s Top 5 Songs That Keep Him From Stabbing People (Japanese Edition)

In light of my ongoing blood feud with my virus infected laptop, I figured it would be a good idea for me to take the time type up an article (or 2) regarding a therapeutic topic.

In this case, said topic would be songs that keep me from stabbing people AKA songs that, for whatever reason; make me feel happy.

Being as I am indeed an Azn Badger, with relatively Azn interests; much of my song library consists of Azn tunes.

That being said, I foresee this post being part of a series, so I’ve thusly labeled this one the “Japanese Edition” of this particular Top 5 list.

Anyway, the only requirements for entry on this list, are that the track must indeed be a song; meaning it must have lyrics, and in this case, it must also be Japanese.

Expect other versions of this post for the next couple of days.

Apologies in advance to those that truly don’t give a shit about music, much less of the Azn variety…

Anyway, let’s make with the list!:

*PLEASE NOTE, I DID NOT WATCH ANY OF THE VIDEOS BELOW, SO DON’T COMPLAIN TO ME IF THEY’RE OBNOXIOUS, STUPID, ANNOYING, OR ALL OF THE ABOVE.*

5. Sanpo (A Walk) – Azumi Inoue


That’s right folks, #5 on my list of Japanese songs that keep me from stabbing people is the opening song from My Neighbor Totoro.

Honestly though, you can’t mention “happy” without including Totoro, can you?

This song brought me much joy as a child, both in English and Japanese, and it continues to put a smile on my face to this day.

Hell, being as it’s written for kids, it’s one of the few songs on this list that I can actually understand 100% of.

Azumi Inoue has a wonderfully sweet voice that’s perfectly suited for the Blue’s Clues-y, Wiggles-esque, sugar-coated pre-schooler nursery rhyme feel of the song.

The only other song I’ve heard her perform was Chiisa Na Inori (Tiny Prayer) from the Guyver Image Album, (yeah, I actually went and bought it…) and I’ve gotta’ say, the woman’s got some pipes.

Not necessarily of the “strong” or “booming” variety, but I think “sweet” describes her sound pretty well.

4. Yume De Aeta Nara (If We Met In A Dream) – 175R


DISCO POP = FUCK YES.

Yume De Aeta Nara was a song featured in the first film in the Kamen Rider Den-Ou series.

Around the time the movie came out, I was knees deep in my own personal period of “Tokusatsu Revival.”

Just a year or 2 before, I had rediscovered Ultraman and Kamen Rider; and so when the movie came out, I was really fuckin’ excited.

Like, REALLY excited.

Anyway, while Den-Ou was perhaps one of the best Tokusatsu series I can recall, the first movie of course turned out to be kind of “meh,” leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth until fairly recently when the Den-Ou franchise miraculously resurfaced.

That’s a story for another day though…

So anyway, the movie sucked, but the one awesome thing I took away from it, was this song, Yume De Aeta Nara, by 175R.

I’ve never heard any other songs by the group, but honestly I don’t feel I need to, as this one has since provided me with more than enough enjoyment.

Like I said man, disco pop is THE SHIT.

When it comes to making an Azn Badger happy, few things do it better than a disco beat and nostalgic ties to Kamen Rider.

3. Yuke! Tiger Mask! (Go! Tiger Mask!) – Hiroshi Nitta


Tiger Mask is the fuckin’ MAN.

Initially starting as a manga, and then later serving as the inspiration for countless videogame characters, an anime series (or 2), and even a legacy of real-life pro-wrestlers, Tiger Mask is brilliant to the point in which I’m actually jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea.

Really, I ask you, who the fuck wouldn’t enjoy a story about a man in a tiger mask wrestling the shit out of dudes, while protecting the children of the world from an evil Illuminati-esque organization?

Anyway, the song I chose for this list comes from the 1980’s anime series, and as such, it’s sound bears the remnants of the enka style of vocalization that was popular in the post-war period.

By the way, enka is THE SHIT.

That being said, the enka style of the lyrics, combined with the almost spaghetti western-like music, make for a wonderfully cheesy and over-the-top theme song to a cheesy and over-the-top hero.

By the way, I should’ve included this song on my list of ways I keep sane at work; ’cause I have a tendency to sing it when I’m on the shipping line…

I’m not retarded.

I swear.

2. My Lonely Town (Mai Roneri Taun) – B’z


Oh B’z, how the fuck did I live without you?

Seriously, B’z is a Japanese band that’s been around FOREVER, but me being me, I didn’t find out about them until 2004 when their lead guitarist, Tak Matsumoto; composed the soundtrack for the movie Ultraman: The Next.

Come to think of it though, news of stupid-ass movies about dudes in rubber monster suits duking it out seems to be how I get most of my news from Japan, so I guess that makes a fair amount of sense…

Anyway, I was really impressed with the soundtrack for that movie, (another one that I eventually bought) so I looked up the composer, which led me to B’z, which led me to finding a mega-awesome band that I hope will continue being awesome for years to come.

My Lonely Town is an unbelievably awesome song from B’z(‘s?) most recent album, Magic.

When I first put this song on, I was reading the Wolverine comic, Old Man Logan; and I gotta’ tell yah’, it just fit too fuckin’ well.

Seriously, My Lonely Town has a big, loud, Bon Jovi-esque rock sound to it, but at the same time it also has some amazing string work that gives it an epic, again, almost spaghetti Western-like feel.

It was a brilliant case of right song, right book, right time.

1. Let It Go – Yuna Ito


This one is special.

I can’t really put my finger on it why, but for whatever reason; Let It Go has been my favorite song for almost a year now.

I don’t have “favorite” songs.

I have songs I like, but never “favorites.”

This song is one of the few exceptions I can name off the top of my head.

Songs from Transformers: The Movie and the Rocky series don’t count, ’cause those are built in.

Seriously, I didn’t “choose” to love those songs, they chose me.

*Ahem!* Anyway, Let It Go is sung by Yuna Ito.

While it lends no credence as to why I like the song so much, it’s interesting to note that she’s a hapa girl.

That is, she’s half Korean, half Japanese, raised in Honolulu.

Way to represent the local people… By leaving the country and making music in a foreign country.

All kidding aside, while the music is definitely the biggest selling point for me in this song, with it’s beautiful, and surprisingly almost country-esque string work coupled with an unrelentingly upbeat tune, I have to say Ms. Ito’s voice is pretty fuckin’ good.

I’ve never really paid much attention to vocals in songs.

Like I’ve said in previous posts, I was a “hummer” as a kid; and thusly kept music in my head rather than songs.

That is to say, while the other kids annoyed their parents by singing “Under the Sea” at the top of their lungs everyday, I was busy pissing off my folks by incessantly humming music from Snow Bros. and Mega Man 2.

I can’t explain it, but for some reason I have a lot of trouble understanding the lyrics to songs, regardless of language.

Despite this, from what I know of Japanese pop music, Yuna Ito is a rare talent.

Near as I can tell, most Jpop stars are, like our own American ones, studio musicians I.E. pretty people that can do just enough of everything to appeal to the core demographic.

They have flat voices, and more often than not; hide behind backup dancers, high production value music and voice modulation.

Ms. Ito, while most likely guilty of all of the above, actually seems to have a genuinely strong singing voice.

While I’m probably wrong, my first thought process was that it may be a cultural difference.

She may be fluent in Japanese, and indeed have lived there most of her life for all I know, but being raised in Hawaii, as an American; would most likely lend some boldness to her style of singing.

It seemed to be the case for Utada Hikaru, who was from New York; so I don’t exactly feel dumb for making this assumption.

Anyway, if ever the Azn Badger seems primed for a stabbing session, just remember to put on Let It Go, or any of the above mentioned Japanese songs, and chances are you’ll be just fine.

Don’t quote me on that though.

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