Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

A Few Thoughts on Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend

Ladies and gentleman, let it be known that when it comes to crafting an Ultraman film, there is such a thing as too much action.

Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend clocks in at a trim, 90 minutes in length, with about all but 10 of those minutes being devoted to over-the-top fights and flashy, green-screened eye-candy.

Like most Ultraman and tokusatsu features, Legend’s dialogue consists almost purely of cliches and “isms” of the genre, none of which is spoken at a volume that could be described as anything less than “epic.”

“If we all try our best, anything is possible!”

“Everyone, distract the final monster with your trademark attacks so the brand new, crazy-overpowered guy can go Super Saiyan and land the final blow!”

*Everyone exchanges nods*

“Un!”

*Final monster is killed*

“NOOOO!!!! THIS CAN’T BE! I’M INVINCIBLE!!!!!”

Go ahead, sit down and watch the film with a checklist. If it’s been said before in a kid’s anime, I guarantee you it’s in there somewhere.

Okay, so we’ve established that the film is action-packed, flashy as fuck, poorly written and acted, but what does that all add up to?

Um, not quite, but it shows your thinking.

Basically, the movie amounts to little more than fanservice, and lights with sound.

Not exactly the best description a movie could hope for, but entertaining in its own right.

While movies like Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen desperately plead for their audience’s attention with scene after scene of unfunny comic relief loosely stringing together scenes of robots fighting, Galaxy Legend takes the road less traveled and delivers an experience virtually devoid of dialogue, comical or otherwise, but is instead packed to the brim with action and fighting.

I’ve heard some people say that the Transformers movies were a let down in the sense that the one thing a movie based on the franchise should’ve been able to promise it’s viewers, was scenes of robots fighting.

Despite this, both films in the series largely dropped the ball in delivering on this promise.

Though Galaxy Legend is not a good film, and is definitely not a whole lot better, if at all, than any of the Transformers movies, I will say this:

The makers deserve a pat on the back for actually delivering on what they promised to give us, even if it wasn’t much.

On the inside cover of the DVD case there is a movie program printed on heavy cardstock.

Inside this program, there is a list of 5 key points that the makers of film outlined as it’s finest acheivements:

(Apologies for mistranslation on my part, my Japanese ain’t so hot)

1. Pitting the Ultra Heroes against 100 monsters.

2. Creating a villain born on the M-78 Nebula, Ultraman Belial.

3. Giving Ultraseven a son, Ultraman Zero.

4. Creating an entry in the Ultra series with state of the art visual effects and “hard” action.

5. Creating a story based exclusively around the Ultra characters and the Land of Light.

Despite the overall quality of the movie being pretty “meh”, the guys at Tsuburaya managed to complete every goal they established for themselves.

Oh yeah, and the effects and fights were easily the finest in franchise history.

Well done gentleman, well done.

Sorry for the late post today, got held up by Iron Man 2 and Mother’s Day stuff!

Stop by tomorrow for a massive, scene-by-scene summary of Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend!

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

Let’s Look at Comics: Dark Reign – The List: Punisher #1

Hey everybody!  Once again, it’s time to look at comics!  Today we’re going to be looking at the Marvel one-shot, Dark Reign – The ListPunisher #1.


A word to the uninitiated, Dark Reign is not a character or book series in the Marvel universe, but rather a company wide story arc.

Specifically, Dark Reign is the period of time in which Norman Osborn AKA the Green Goblin and former dead guy, has control of U.S. national security, an era that is just now coming to an end with the coming Heroic Age.

How did this happen?  Well, the Skrulls (shapeshifting alien douchebags with wrinkly chins) showed up a few years back, and during an event called Secret Invasion, raped our nation’s defense network.

IT'S A FUCKING DONKEY! I MEAN, SKRULL!!!!!

Said defense systems just happened to be manufactured and regulated by Tony Stark AKA Iron Man, who also happens to be the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. following his victory during Civil War, which took place just prior to the Invasion.

Long story short, Norman Osborn lands the killing blow against the Skrull Queen, and is somehow promoted to hero status in the public eye, which he then parlays into usurping Tony Stark’s control of S.H.I.E.L.D.

*Whew!* Now that we’ve gotten all that nonsense out of the way, we can finally get to opening the damn book!

...but not before we get past the Nissan ad.

Right off the bat, our first page is… explanation detailing what happened earlier in the Punisher comics during Dark Reign.

Okay, fine your majesty, I shall summarize:

The Punisher wasn’t too happy about a total nutjob like Norman Osborn taking control of S.H.I.E.L.D., (now changed to the more AMERICAN sounding, H.A.M.M.E.R.) so he did what any concerned citizen would do, and tried to put a couple of bullets in Osborn’s head.

I think it goes without saying that the Punisher missed, no thanks to that golden-haired son-of-a-fuck, The Sentry.

Sentry = This, with a golden costume and oh yeah, RETARDED.

Naturally, Osborn wasn’t too happy about the whole attempted murder thing, and thusly decided to use our tax dollars to send a fleet of space ships and a few hundred soldiers after old man Frank.

I like how this story is a one-shot, usually requiring no prior knowledge of previous storylines to be enjoyed.

One-shot my ass…

Anyway, our story opens with a quote from James Thurber:

Pretty deep for a comic that opens with a Nissan ad.

In case you’re wondering, James Thurber was cartoonist and writer for the New Yorker back in the 20’s.

You can thank Wikipedia for that last bit.

We are then treated to a page of some kid leaving a message on the Punisher’s voicemail while zipping off walls and over peoples’ heads on his hoverboard.

Fortunately he knows better than to take it over water.  Everyone knows you can’t do that; unless you’ve got power.

So sayeth Jason Scott Lee...

Anyway, this kid, named Henry by the way, is apparently trying to get a hold of Frank because he’s been “trolling”  H.A.M.M.E.R.’s networks, and apparently he caught word that Osborn is just about to launch his big push against the Punisher.

I don’t see how posting photos of penises on H.A.M.M.E.R.’s forums would be at all helpful to the Punisher, but oh well, I’m not about to pretend that I give two shits about Henry and what he does with his intersnatch.

Meanwhile, Osborn is floating above New York in his pimp-ass helicarrier, when one of his goons walks over to him to ask for permission to implement operation “Nuke-the-shit-out-of-the Punisher.”

"Sir, may I lick your cock?" "No, you can SUCK my cock."

Our next page opens with the Punisher hanging out in his “Punisher Van,” heating up some cocoa and ignoring Henry’s phone calls like a dude.

This page also serves as our introduction to “Punisher Speak.”

Punisher Speak consists solely of a combination of sentence fragments, gallows humor, and man-isms.

If the text box isn’t black, or the text doesn’t have an ellipses in it, it’s not Punisher Speak.

Interior decorator, he is not.

Despite missing Henry’s call, the “Punisher Van’s” perimeter alarm goes off, tipping our hero off to Osborn’s approach.

Subtle man that he is, Osborn begins his assault by doing this:

The land of the free, and the home of the THWAADOOOOOOMMM!!!!

Despite the fireworks, H.A.M.M.E.R. determines that the Punisher managed to avoid the blast.

Osborns’s first reaction is to sick a shadowy figure named Daken, after the Punisher.

Oh yeah, then he sends EVERY FUCKING MAN HE’S GOT.

... and yet I'm not worried. Maybe it has something to do with their goofy get-ups.

With Osborn’s goons on the way, the Punisher reveals to us just how he managed to survive the explosion that his pimpin’ van could not.

In between a full page ad for Halo: ODST, of course.

...Okay, so his face grew into his crotch, what else is new?

Pym Particles are, in the Marvel universe, a special form of radiation created by Dr. Henry Pym AKA Ant Man/Giant Man/Yellow Jacket/Goliath/The Wasp/Scientist Supreme, that allow one to manipulate the size of objects and living things.

Evidently, the Punisher used them here to shrink himself to an atomic size so as avoid the THWAADOOOOOOMMM!!!!

*Ahem!* SCIENCE.

With this, the Punisher takes off down an alleyway, whereupon he happens upon Henry, still crusin’ around on his hoverboard.

The Punisher greets him as only he can do.

A conversationalist, he is not.

With Henry safely tucked away in a dumpster, the Punisher finds himself set upon by Osborn’s glider troops.

In response, the Punisher, principled man that he is, elects to handle them using non-lethal measures involving, I shit you not:  a bullwhip.

What kind of Indiana Jones bullshit is that!?

He’s got Pym Particles and a fucking “Punisher Van” and he resorts to using a fucking whip?

C’mon now Frank, you can do better than that…

You see, there are two kinds of Punishers in the Marvel universe, the “suit” Punisher, and the “Max” Punisher, from the main Marvel continuity and the Max universe respectively.

The “suit” Punisher is the one with the skin-tight body suit that used all sorts of hokie sci-fi guns designed to make his arsenal seem more “friendly” and more accessible to the kiddies.

The “Max” Punisher walks around in a trench coat and a wife-beater and gets the job done by gutting people and feeding them to animals n’shit.

Just remember, “Max” Punisher’s been to ‘Nam, “suit” Punisher shops at The Sharper Image.

In either case, both drive a fucking awesome van.

Personally, I prefer Max Punisher, but that's just me.

‘Ole Frank manages to evade the glider troops pretty well, walking away with only a single laser wound to his leg, oddly enough, just as he’s reaching for some sort of “Punisher Shield” thingy.

Just a scratch really, no big deal.

Eventually he manages to escape to the sewers, where he proceeds to internally monologue to himself about things… mainly the hole in his leg and how the shit seeping into the wound builds character.

Gallows humor, check. Black text boxes, check. Where's the damn ellipses?

Remember that shadowy guy I mentioned earlier?  Daken?

Well, he decides to use this opportunity to make his big entrance.

Well now, that's just plain impolite, not even saying "hello."

Now you’re probably asking yourself: “Isn’t that Wolverine?”

Well, you’d be close, but you’d also be wrong, dumbass.

Look at the guy’s claws, he’s got two where the ‘Ole Canuckle Head has three.

I know, I'm retarded.

Okay, fine.  Daken does in fact have three claws, the third is housed on the inside of his wrist.

Dork-isms aside, Daken is actually Wolverine’s son from a previous relationship involving a Japanese woman named Itsu.

Long story short, Itsu got killed, Daken had a shitty childhood, and now he hates Wolverine… ’cause I guess he has nothing better to do.

Daken has all of Wolverine’s powers, except his claws are lined with the metal of a cursed sword (don’t ask) called the Muramasa, and he can manipulate his pheromones to the point of granting him limited control over others.

Basically he’s Wolverine, but EEEVVIIIIIILLLLLLL…

Cut to bad-ass fight scene.

"Frank Castle was sadly SHWUNKK'ed today. His last words were "RHGGAA!"

As evil and as vicious as Daken can be however, remember, this is ‘Ole Frank he’s tangling with here.

Surely he’s gonna’ have some sort of crazy bazooka or wicked-ass gadget he can whip out to save the day…

"YEERGGAAHGHH!! I said "No" Frank, not on the first date!"

…but I guess biting works too.

…and shooting.

…yup, shooting still works.

Despite all that GLAZZAT-ing, Daken’s broken-ass healing factor keeps him good and healthy.

In fact the only real damage he seems to have incurred is a side-ache with a little bit of a cough.

Okay, so the whole "swimming in dookie" thing didn't bother you, but the GLAZZAT-ing did? What kind of bullshit is that?

Taking Daken’s fat-kid side-ache as a window of opportunity, Frank hops out of the sewer and up to the surface.

But not without leaving Daken a parting gift, of course.

Uh oh Daken, I think your Tamagotchi's having suicidal thoughts...

Trust me when I tell you, there is an explosion on the next panel.

We then cut back to Frank as he stares down about a hundred or so of Osborn’s glider troops.

Frank’s mind immediately jumps to poop jokes.

A comedian, he is not.

Before the glider troops can have their way with Frank however, Daken suddenly appears behind him.

Daken talks some shit, but before he can get too out of hand, Punisher shuts him up and is all like, “Come’n git’ it son.”

What follows is probably the most violent fight I have ever read in the standard Marvel continuity.

But first…

BUTT.

Yup, they interrupted the most bad-ass fight ever, with butt.

ANYWAY, where were we?

Oh yeah:

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDD

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

Unfortunately, that last hit to the throat seems to slow Frank down a little bit, (that other shit though, that wasn’t nothin’) and Daken starts his shit talkin’ again.

Although unlike some shit talkers, Daken seems to be able to back up his bravado pretty well.

Case in point:

"Don't worry kids, I'm sure Uncle Frank has a way outta' this..."

"...Yup kids, all part of the plan..."

"...All part of the, aw hell, he's fuckin'dead kids."

No wait, just one more:

Just breaks your heart, doesn't it?

It’s funny, I don’t even think the Punisher and Daken had met up to this point in the comics.

You see boys and girls, this is what happens when a “new” writer (Rick Remender) takes charge of a character (The Punisher), while at the same time receiving orders from the higher-ups in the company to “push” a brand new character (Daken).

At least, that’s how they do things in pro-wrestling anyway.

Remember that one time when the WWF tried to “push” Kevin Nash AKA Diesel into replacing Shawn Michaels as the top dog in the industry?

Yeah, that didn’t go so hot.

Kevin Nash, you were fun to play as in WCW vs. NWO, but other than that, you can suck a dick.

I’ve never been a reader of “suit” Punisher stories.

I always found the idea of a PG-13 Punisher a little bit strange given the fact that he generally shoots people to shit every chance he gets.

“Max” Punisher however, is something I read religiously until Garth Ennis left the series.

I bought this comic because, well, IGN gave it a high rating.  That, and I genuinely cared to see how they went about killing off the Punisher, even if it was just the “suit” Punisher.

I can’t say I was impressed by the storytelling in this comic, but I will say this, John Romita Jr. knows how to draw violence.

I’ve always felt that Romita Jr.’s finest moments came almost 20 years ago, (his blocky characters seem a little raggedy nowadays, too much so) but the sheer violence and spectacle of this, a one-shot with a relatively small budget and production timetable, is pretty damn impressive by anyone’s standards.

Anyway, it’s been fun, hopefully it was as good for you as it was for me.

With that, I leave you with this preview image for the first cover to Rick Remender’s follow-up story for the Punisher:  FrankenCastle.

Guess it’s true:

In comics, “No one stays dead except Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben.

Oh wait, out of those three, only Uncle Ben has actually stayed dead.

Oh well, comics are convoluted bullshit, but I love ’em anyway.

Filed under: Comics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Two-Player Simultaneous Gameplay”

Chicks, whips and helicopters, oh my!

My first experience with the Double Dragon series came in the form of playing Double Dragon II: The Revenge with my older brother on the NES.

Our parent’s didn’t really have any objection to the idea of us playing video games, but after I was born, they insisted that a majority of the games they bought us have “two-player simultaneous gameplay.”

I remember my brother and I liked to say that ’cause it made us feel smart.

Anyways, outside of maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game on the NES, Double Dragon II was the first beat-em-up I can recall playing.

I can attest that my experiences with both games are largely responsible for my lifelong passion for side-scrollers.

As a child I largely preferred playing Ninja Turtles over Double Dragon, not because I thought it was a better game, but because I didn’t suck at it.

… And because you got to be one of the Ninja Turtles in it.

C'mon now, are you telling me you'd pick the guy with the pompadour over a Ninja FUCKING Turtle?

You see, even though my brother kept most of the instruction booklets for our video games, I almost never took the time to read them.

As far I could tell though, my brother did, ’cause throughout all of my childhood he seemed to know every game we owned like the back of his hand.

Well, maybe not as well as Batman knows his, but still...

The differences in the complexity of the gameplay and controls between the two games was typically what made me lean towards Ninja Turtles over Double Dragon, that and the overall difficulty.

The depth of Ninja Turtles II’s gameplay consisted of standard attacks, jumping, jump kicking, and the so-key-to-the-game-you-would-be-crazy-to-play-the-game-without-it-SPECIAL ATTACK.

See diagram below:

Double Dragon on the other hand, utilized an intuitive (or counter-intuitive, depending on how you feel about it) control scheme that permanently mapped the two NES face buttons to specific directional attacks, B for left, A for right.

On top of that, both buttons had to be pressed SIMULTANEOUSLY (love that word) to perform a jump, during which one could perform a jump kick with the additional press of either face button, or a spin kick by pressing both buttons at the height of the jump.

You know that last thing, about the spin kick? Yeah, nobody told me about that.

Whenever I’d play Double Dragon with my brother, or any other game for that matter, I would find myself whining to him:

“How do I play!? What’s this button do!? How did you DOOOOOO thaaaaat…?”

Of course, being as he was the older brother, he wouldn’t tell me… or he’d smack me upside the head and not tell me.

On the off chance we were playing a head-to-head, two-player versus game though, he’d school me with whatever move I wanted to know how to do.

Pretty much every match between my brother and I.

Needless to say, in a two-player co-op game like Double Dragon, I was more of a liability than a help to my brother’s progress, especially if we were playing “Game B” AKA “Let’s-forget-about-saving-the-world-and-beat-the-shit-out-of-each-other, ON ACCIDENT” mode.

I could only occasionally pull off the spin kick through mindless button mashing, and almost never pulled off the SUPER UPPERCUT or instant kill SUPER KNEE, (press both face buttons while recovering from a jump landing) but even so, the game was good fun, provided I had my brother there to do the fighting for me.

I remember shrieking in terror whenever we ran across any of the Abobo’s with hair.

Doesn't take a genius to know which one's more powerful.

Yeah, getting cornered and thrown into a fucking hole by a big asshole named Abobo EVERY FUCKING DAY will do that to you.

EVERY. FUCKING. DAY.

I remember late in level 4 there was a sequence where you are trapped in a one way corridor with spikes on the ceiling.

Jumping is obviously a bad idea here, which is unfortunate, seeing as nearly every useful attack in the game can only be executed after standing up or landing a jump.

In most cases this resulted in massive amounts of fail, typically generated by the long-haired Abobo that decides to show up at the last minute.

That is, unless you were a smart person and stood in the one safe spot in the entire corridor and let your enemies walk face-first into your attacks.

Guess which one I was, I dare you.

All in all, my relationship with Double Dragon II as a child was kind of love-hate, very similar to my relationship to Star Fox.

I wasn’t very good at the game, and only rarely reached the later stages, but had fun with it and kept playing it anyway.

To be honest, I believe I beat Double Dragon II only once, with the help of my brother, of course.

The last stage consisted of standard NES cheapness, including instant death spike traps and “clones” of pretty much every boss you faced in the game up to this point

Even these twin ninja fucks.

At the end of the stage you face off with a pair of purplish-black “shadow clones” of the two player characters, Billy and Jimmy Lee.

They were a pain in the ass, but no more so than your average Abobo.  Although I don’t think they could measure up to an Abobo with hair…

Defeating the “shadow clones” normally results in a premature ending to the game, but because my brother always insisted we play on SUPREME WARRIOR mode, AKA hard mode, we were treated to a showdown with the real final boss.

And let me tell you, that last battle was fucking epic.

The whole thing begins in some sort of underground tunnel, where the only person standing before you is a woman that’s supposed to be Billy’s lady friend, Marian.

Kind of a big deal seeing as she was riddled with bullets at the beginning of the game.

Machine Gun Willy used M-16 on wild Marian! It's not very effective...

As soon as you step forward to embrace/punch Marian, the screen goes black, the girl disappears, and out of nowhere some crazy, cape wearing, green-haired fuck appears on a platform in the background!

Look at 'im... Standin' up there... bein' all cool n'shit... Ass.

The background fades up from black to reveal some sort of galactic/astral landscape where the Troll Doll dude apparently has god-like powers, ’cause believe me, he fights like a cheap bitch.

His move set basically consists punches, gravity defying mule kicks, spin punches, and back flips, lots and lots of back flips…

Oh yeah, and most of the time he’s invisible.

Just like this. Except without the red bullshit.

You’d think that as a kid I’d be pretty annoyed by this pig fucker and his broken ass fighting wouldn’t you?

Well, that would be the case, if I hadn’t drained all of my continues during the fight with the “shadow-clones.”

Behold: The extent of my Double Dragon skills circa 1990.

That’s right, the only time I got to see the last boss, and I didn’t even survive to fight him.

But that’s okay, I didn’t mind, so long as I got to stick around and watch.

Knowing me, I probably annoyed the shit out of my him by talking too much and generally being a pain-in-the-ass little brother, but regardless, I was happy just to be sitting in front of the TV with my brother.

Now that's just about the most adorable thing I've ever seen.

My brother fought long and hard, and by that I mean he stood in place and constantly performed the spin kick attack, causing the boss, invisible or not, to repeatedly walk into his attacks.

Okay maybe “epic” wasn’t the best word to describe the final battle, but as a kid, when your older brother is seconds away from beating the game, a game you’ve never seen the ending to; and the music suddenly changes to this*:

Yeah, you get pretty excited.

Ultimately it was these kind of moments that kept me coming back to Double Dragon, as well as most co-op in general.

Back then, video games were not something I devoted any time to outside of playing alongside my brother or my friends.

Somewhere down the road though, I think my attitude towards gaming changed from viewing it as a privilege, a precious experience granted to me by my friends and family, to that of disposable, time killing entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy video games, just on a more superficial level.

However, I used to look forward to playing games.

Nowadays I am only able to, and only do play games when I have some sort of gap to fill in my schedule.

I’m never expecting to, or even really want to be playing games, I just kind of fall back on it when I don’t have enough time to watch a movie, or it’s too cold to go for a walk.

Every now and again though, I’ll have a friend over and we’ll sit down in front of the TV for a quick game.

We don’t play all day like we used to, but it’s still every bit as fun as it was when I was a kid.

Games are fun, but they’re always even better with a friend.

Or a brother.

*Sidenote:  This music track is called “Roar of the Double Dragons” and it is used, with good reason, as the final battle theme in most Double Dragon games.

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

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part V – All Hail Emperor Yen!

2005 was just the beginning of Mr. Yen’s newly established reign in Hong Kong action cinema.

... And he can pull off a skinny tie. Man, it's hella' not fair...

With the exception of 2009, Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen would continue to team up for a film every year after this, leading up to the present.

’06 brought us the forgettable and effects heavy comic book movie, Dragon Tiger Gate, within which Donnie Yen, a complex wire crew, and dozens of CGI artists banded together to make pop stars Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue look like martial arts masters.

Behold: The Original Masters of Emo Fu.

The result was a film that wasn’t bad, just kind of bland.

To their credit, Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue legitimately put some time into the fight work, coming across as competent action stars. In fact, both have remained impressive screen combatants ever since and are sincerely on my “good” list in regards to their performances.

2007, brought us Flash Point, a prequel to SPL.

Needless to say, as soon as the trailers started popping up online, I was psyched.

All the bad ass atmosphere of SPL with a new, brighter color palette, and the promise of even more bone-crunching fights.

Make no mistake though, between SPL and Flash Point, SPL is definitely the better film.

However that’s not to say Flash Point wasn’t special in it’s own right.

On the contrary, it was very special.

Flash Point had no less than 3 fight choreographers involved in the production. Donnie Yen, his longtime friend, John Salvitti, and Japanese choreographer Yuji Shimomura of Versus and Death Trance fame.

Together, the 3 constructed some of the most intense and skillfully crafted fight sequences ever seen, incorporating complex grappling and other MMA based techniques in the process.

The results were, as you can plainly see, magic:

Click here for awesomeness. (Sadly, you can’t plainly see, because the stupid link won’t embed.  Sorry!  I’ll try to get this fixed sometime down the road.)

The brutality of Donnie Yen and Collin Chou’s climactic balls-out, no hold’s barred throw down at the end of Flash Point is matched only by it’s beauty.

The choreography is intentionally “ugly”, with many of the movements and strikes being executed with a clear emphasis on displaying power and ferocity, as opposed to the more elegant motions found in traditional kung fu movies.

In addition to this, Donnie Yen and his crew managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible by incorporating grappling and holds while maintaining a constant level of energy throughout. Even though the action does in fact come to a stop during some of these moments, they never once break the rhythm of the fight.

In stark contrast to the hard-edged choreography, the cinematography throughout this sequence is smooth and focused. Combined with the bright greens of the background foliage, as well as the hanging glass bottle props, many of the crane shots are just plain breathtaking, in particular the one that kicks off the fight immediately after the fall from the roof.

Kudos to whoever managed to choreograph the camera work amid the various pillars and obstacles.

Flash Point was the movie that solidified Wilson Yip’s role as Donnie Yen’s go-to director, as well as cemented Mr. Yen’s position as the guy in Hong Kong action cinema.

But of course we knew that already now, didn’t we?

Check back for the second to last post in my MASSIVE tribute to Donnie Yen, “Part VI – Old Man Yen!”

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

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part IV – The Real Donnie Yen

A funny thing happened in the 2000’s.

Jackie Chan got old.

Jet Li was tied up doing movies with rappers.

Guess who stepped forward into the spotlight?

Close, but not quite.

That’s right, Donnie Yen, and he was bringing the sexy back!

2005 marked the first collaboration between Donnie Yen and Bio Zombie director Wilson Yip.

The film was called Sha Po Lang, (S.P.L.) and it kicked some serious ass.

See that baton? It's goin' right up your ass.

In the late-90’s one of my brother’s videophile friends screened for me a laser disc of John Woo’s The Killer.

With Jackie Chan having just become the next big thing in the states with the domestic release of Rumble in the Bronx, the climate was just right for me to get into Hong Kong cop and robber movies.

Needless to say, Tiger Cage, Hard Boiled and Beast Cops were old hat in my book by the time I was in high school.

SPL was a throwback to the Hong Kong “hard boiled cop” movies of the 80’s and 90’s, and it accomplished what very few Donnie Yen films had done before it.

With a star studded cast including the likes of Sammo Hung and Simon Yam, SPL presented us with an emotional and dramatic story, populated with characters we cared about, and did it all with a smaller than expected dose of action.

However nobody said that what fighting was there wasn’t some of the best of Mr. Yen’s career.

This brutal fight, between Donnie Yen and, then, up-and-comer Wu Jing, is what I proudly refer to as “The Best Weapon-Based Fight Scene of All Time.”

No fooling, I’ve watched it dozens of times and I’ve never once felt any doubt in my sentiments.

I love how you can read the intent behind every move in the fight just by looking at the intensity in both men’s facial expressions.

I love how the pace of the choreography has a natural and realistic sense of progression and crescendo to it.

I love the energy of the camera work and how it darts in and out like a fencer on the sidelines, hinting to us the perceived openings in each man’s guard from each fighter’s perspective.

I love this movie, and I’m glad it was the one that finally introduced me to the real Donnie Yen.

It was well worth the wait.

Check back for “Part V – All Hail Emperor Yen!”

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A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part II – Director Yen

Around 1997, Donnie Yen began directing his own films.

As I mentioned previously, the results were far from stellar.

In most cases, the storylines of Yen’s films were muddled, confusing, and often times just plain tedious, even by Hong Kong action movie standards.

Being as Donnie Yen was, at this point, already a supremely talented performer and fight choreographer, you would think he would put his best work on display in the films he directed, right?

Sadly this was not the case, just look at this example from Legend of the Wolf:

Yikes.

I don’t know how much coke they were on when they edited this, but I know someone had one hell of a time dubbing in the audio.

To be fair, the fight isn’t actually all that bad.

The fight is conducted at an incredibly frenetic pace, and some of the sparring is modestly complex, but the excessive use of confusing close-up shots and exaggerated undercranking result in a sequence that is just plain off-balance.

Although I do have to admit that the numerous “arm fencing” sequences are just plain fun.

Cinematography: It's what's for dinner.

The use of strange and experimental cinematography was rampant throughout most Donnie Yen directed films.

From the strangely artistic colored lighting in Ballistic Kiss, to the over-the-top undercranking in Legend of the Wolf, Yen was not a man afraid to deviate from the norms of Hong Kong cinema.

When you think about it, that’s actually a pretty admirable feat.

Though most of his movies were mediocre at best, (I personally thought Shanghai Affairs was his best, and even then it kind of sucked) they were always different, and never solely relied on his physical prowess to carry the show.

... Although it probably could anyway.

Check back later for “Part III – My Relationship with Mr. Yen!”

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Long time no see Ultraman

I miss Ultraman.

Ultraman has been absent from the airwaves since 2007, replaced by the Pokémon-esque, Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle… and the follow-up series, Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey.

While Galaxy is a decent enough show, with a fun concept and plenty of kaiju battles, the acting and production values feel decidedly below average for an Ultra series. This, coupled with a distinct lack of Ultraman blowing the shit out of monsters has led me to give up on Galaxy for the most part.

Let me put things into perspective for you:

I grew up watching Ultraman.

Not only that, the first show I ever watched was the outsourced, Australian iteration, Ultraman Towards the Future, which is universally regarded as one of the worst Ultra series of all time, second only to the American Ultraman Powered.

Despite this, as a child I loved it! I remember waking up at obscene hours of the morning to to catch one of the 13 episodes every weekend, (kind of like how we all used to watch the same 2 or 3 Ren & Stimpy episodes every weekend) and loving every minute of it. To this day, I still have some of the action figures, the playset, and even the terrible Super NES game.

Whatever, this stuff was the shit when I was 5.

As a child Ultraman died to me the day he started airing at 5 AM on TNT.

I remember getting psyched after seeing a commercial for Ultraseven, where a giant ape man shot blue lasers out of his eyes, and Ultraseven struck a pose and yelled: “YAH! YAH! YAH! YAHHH!!!!”

With Ultraman Towards the Future still fresh in my mind, I tried to wake up to see Ultraseven at 5 in the fucking morning.

No simple task for a 6 year old with no alarm clock.

Naturally, I never got to see Ultraseven.

For about a month straight, I remember getting out of bed, running out into the living room and flipping on the TV, only to find that Ultraseven was not on.

A few times I remember seeing some scary shit on in that time slot, I remember some movie about creepy old Native American ladies with bleeding eyes scared me back to sleep one time.

Knowing me, I probably just mixed up the time slot for the show, but unfortunately I never got to see that awesome commercial again, so I never found out.

Haha! Yeah, that's the one!

Following this, I abandoned my love for Ultraman for a very long time.

I remember Ultraman Tiga aired on Fox Kids when I was in middle school. Unfortunately, I was 12, and was thusly too “cool” for Ultraman. Guess I was too busy failing at swearing (“Shit balls! Damn, fuck-sauce!”) and being fat to care about Ultraman.

Then a funny thing happened.

Flash forward to 2005: I’m in college. I’m bored. I’m finally getting old enough to the point where looking back on life holds meaning. I’m finally old enough to admit that I miss Ultraman.

So what do I do?

I learn about this new fangled invention called “torrenting” and type in “Ultraman” as my first query.

Much like my experiences in the 90’s with the Heisei Godzilla series, I was very much surprised to find that Ultraman had carried on just fine without me.

Ultraman Max served as my ambassador back into the world of Ultraman. Max was good fun. Every episode was colorfully executed with obvious enthusiasm. The cast was smaller than most Ultra shows, but in many ways I feel that was its strength. Every character was well defined and seemed to serve some purpose, even that haole guy, Sean.

One of these things is different...

I loved how schizophrenic the show could be at times.

Directors and storylines rarely lasted more than 1 or 2 episodes, resulting in a show that changed identities and mood from week to week, and quite successfully at that.

I remember being genuinely impressed by both of Takashi Miike’s episodes: “Miracle of the Third Planet” and “Who am I?”, the former being one of the most dramatic episodes in the series, and the latter being the funniest.

Most impressive to me is the fact that I don’t even like Takashi Miike, I’ve always thought of him as being seriously overrated.

I never finished Max, but it remains one of the my favorite series.

Unlike this 'merch hawking whore...

After I was done with Max, I took a step back and decided to watch the much heralded Ultraman Nexus from the previous year.

Nexus was a revelation. It did all the things Ultra series don’t do.

It worked from a single continuous storyline.

It was consistently serious in tone.

It had monsters that took entire story arcs to defeat.

It had a budget and was spectacular from beginning to end.

Nexus represented a great experiment in trying to tweak the format of the Ultraman series. From what I’ve heard, it’s deviation from the status quo caused it to lose a lot of fans, but for an older, wiser Azn Badger, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Good God, someone get that child away from there!

Around this time I started following the Ultra movie series with the release of Ultraman: The Next.

It was pretty good, with exceptional effects work, great suit designs, and a killer soundtrack by the lead guitarist of B’Z, Tak Matsumoto.

There was some hokiness to it in the form of lame homages to the Top Gun anthem on the soundtrack, and an oddly placed freeze frame moment, (“MAKI!!!!!!) but for the most part it was a good time.

Oh yeah, and it tied into Nexus, so yeah, brownie points there.

Skip to 5:08 for “MAKI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Ultraman Moebius (yes I know the Japanese phonetics have it as “Mebius“, but fuck that noise) represented another falling out between Ultraman and I.

I don’t know if it’s because I got too old, or was fatigued from all of the Sentai and Kamen Rider I was watching at the time, (Den-Ou! WOOT!) but something just didn’t click for me.

I remember liking the feel of the show, and how it paid homage to the Ultra shows of old through its use of sound effects and intentional use of outdated special effects (even more low tech than usual), but as a whole, the show just kind of felt, well, lame.

The characters were varied and well-defined, but for the most part it just felt like a bunch of airhead pop-stars with an absurd amount of inane high school drama and baggage that somehow tied into finding the methodology necessary to defeat the monster of the week.

Yes, I am aware that I just summarized pretty much every Sentai or Ultraman show ever, but what I mean to say, is that this felt particularly pronounced in the 14 or 15 episodes of Moebius I managed to watch.

You see what you missed out on? Moebius punching Birdon in his chin balls, that's what!

I think part of why I didn’t really care much for Moebius, is that the action felt kind of tame in comparison to Max, Nexus, or even Gaia.

The camera work was typical of an Ultra series, with lots of on-rails camera movement, and lots of zooms to highlight the action, but for the most part the choreography felt less complex and somewhat slow.

Nexus contained some really visceral and intense fight sequences throughout, largely highlighted by the Ultra on Ultra fights with Dark Mephisto and to a lesser extent, Dark Faust.

Max on the other hand, featured choreography with a lot of character to it.  The fighting was conducted at essentially the same pace as in Nexus, but given the quirkiness of the storylines, and the overall light tone of the series, much of the choreography allowed the suit actors to do a lot of pantomime that really added to the fun.

Whoever the suit actor for Max was, I’d like to shake their hand.

Although I would be even more honored to shake this man's hand. No, the guy on the right, dumbass.

Despite my general dissatisfaction with the series, Moebius proved popular enough with the kiddies to have a few movie tie-ins, the first of which being Ultraman Moebius & The Ultra Brothers.

I felt it was actually very good, good enough for me to own without feeling shame.

The second one however, Superior Ultra 8 Brothers, was not so hot. Aside from some splashy effects work, I felt like the story was a little bit too fantastical and far fetched, even for little kids.

Oh yeah, and as good as the effects could be at times, the fight between Moebius and King Gesura was embarrassingly hideous to look at. *Shudder* Gives me the willies just thinking about it…

In short, Ultraman Moebius was alright, probably worth watching for most fans, but not really my favorite. Which leads us to a series that I did finish, but really wish I hadn’t…

Ultraseven X was the last “proper” Ultra series, and in my opinion, it’s spectacularly epic shittiness was most likely the reason we haven’t seen an Ultra series since 2007.

It was a miniseries, it tried to be “edgy” and “different”, and for the most part it sucked a big, fat, Blackanese cock.

When I first saw the production stills for the show, I was mightily impressed by the suit design for the title character… and little else. The characters were bland and needlessly quirky, (tough girl with chocolate addiction, huh?) and the theme song was truly terrible ENGLISH J-Rock song that was as forgettable as it was skippable.

From the first trailer it was clear that the show was attempting to create a mood of sorts, unfortunately the costumes, props, and sets were a far cry from the standard set by GARO (FUCK YEAH!) the year before, and thusly, it came across as a pale imitation.

In case you couldn’t tell, Ultraseven X was a fucking disaster.

For an example of pretty much everything shitty about Ultraseven X, click below:

The action was sparse and uninspired and story was convoluted and full of holes despite the condensed length of the series.

Oh yeah, and the soundtrack, often times a highlight of any tokusatsu or Ultraman experience, was composed of minimalist, electronic turd-fuckery.

To be fair, Ultraseven X could’ve been alright had it been shot as an Ultra Q series and omitted any traces of Ultraseven or kaiju battles in general, but as it so happened I was left with a seriously sour taste in my mouth after watching it and desperately needed something to cleanse my palette.

Unfortunately, it’s been 3 years and my palette has yet to be cleansed.

Until now.

Now THAT'S a poster!

Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend THE MOVIE or….. MMBUGLTHM… for short.

Galaxy Legend THE MOVIE came out on DVD today and I am ready to be wowed. Reviews are positive, tickets sales were exceptional, Ultraman Belial looks like Carnage from Spider-Man, and the trailer looks FUCKING SWEET.


Yeah, don’t forget to change your undies cowboy.

I’m sure it’s not the best movie ever.

I’m sure it’s going to drag at points and have a shitty script.

Despite all this, I am excited for to see this movie because deep down, I want to like it.

I don’t want to be a cynical adult that shamefully picks apart the things he loves, I want an excuse to get back into Ultraman and be that kid waking up at 5 AM all over again.

It’s a wonderful feeling, having something to look forward to.

Outside of a brand new Ultra show featuring one of the original Ultras, (an idea I think would be a lot of fun) I can’t think anything that would make me happier than a rip-roaring, epic Ultra movie.

Here’s to fandom. I’ll let you know how the movie was in a few weeks.

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