Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best MAN!!! #1

Let it be known, that the Azn Badger loves him some Mega Man.

If you need any indication of how deep my love for Mega Man runs, bear in mind that one of the first posts on this blog was about Mega Man X.

I’ll just wait here while you look that up…

While I don’t think I’m ready to do a protracted mega-post on the subject of the Blue Bomber, much like the one I did on Ultraman, I think it’s about time I made an attempt to scratch the surface a little.

That being said, today I’m kicking off a new post topic, specifically one that deals with the colorful roster of bosses in the Mega Man universe.

Basically, I’m gonna’ run through each of the Mega Man games in the linear series, (fuck that Gameboy and Genesis bullshit.  Wily Wars my ass…) naming the one boss, or MAN, that stands out as the coolest, most bad-ass, or otherwise, most interesting.

I call this new post topic, The Best MAN!

Pictured: The wedding of the Azn Badger.

With that, let’s get this party started with Mega Man 1.

Now that is some shitty cover art.

To be honest, Mega Man 1 isn’t really my favorite game in the series.

True, it was the first in the series.

True, it was an impressive technical feat for the time.

Unfortunately, as the first game in the series, it lacks some of the polish of later games in the series.

Kind of like this pile. Well, the NES version anyway.

It’s interesting to note that I never got a chance to play Mega Man 1 until much later in life.

My childhood was spent renting and playing Mega Man 2 and 3, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well, maybe I'd change a FEW things...

In the original Mega Man, there were only 6 bosses instead of the now traditional 8,  a hokey score keeping system that never made it past the first game, and in general, the game just needed a little bit more of a push to be considered a true classic in my book.

Honestly, if you look up “greatest leap in quality from one game to the next,” most likely you’ll find a picture of Mega Man 2.

Anyway, that’s enough shitting on Mega Man 1, let’s get down to who’s The Best MAN!

For my money, The Best MAN of the original Mega Man would have to be Cut Man.

CUUUUUTTTTTTTTT MAAAAAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!

Cut Man’s design has a lot of character to it.

His color scheme is simple but iconic.

His head has a strange and distinctive shape and form to it, looking almost like a marionette or something.

Oh yeah, did I mention he’s got fuckin’ scissors comin’ out of his head?

On top of that, his level is very well designed for the time, with the background music being one of the best pieces of music in the game.

True he was a complete pussy by the time you actually got around to fighting him, but even so, the character has a very long and distinguished legacy.

Outside of his appearance in Mega Man 1, Cut Man was also featured, along with Guts Man, as a sort of “Bebop and Rocksteady” duo of dumbasses in the Mega Man cartoon.

Don’t ask me why, but Mega Man’s eyebrows and pecs really pissed me off in that show.

Oh yeah, I think Scott McNeil/Duo Maxwell did Dr. Wily’s voice, along with a few other character on the show.

Man, he really was in EVERYTHING in the 90’s
While I didn’t really watch the cartoon all that much, (fuckin’ goddamn Phantom 2040 kept popping up in it’s early-ass time slot whenever I’d try to tape it) I have to admit that seeing Cut Man, alive and well, in every episode, served to add bias to my positive opinion of him.

Pretty sure I still have this toy somewhere around the house...

Besides the cartoon though, Cut Man also made appearances in wide variety of other Mega Man spin-offs.

I loved cutting the goalie in half with his super-shot in Mega Man Soccer.

His redesign in Mega Man EXE was pretty good.

ARRGHH!!! Silly Japanese, makin' everything so cute... Oh well, better than putting tentacles on/inside it.

But more importantly, he was really fun to fight in Mega Man the Power Battle, and Power Fighters.

Pictured: A very fun videogame.

While you’d fight him, he’d jump around, throw blades at you, and then jump into the background and cut holes in the scenery to teleport around.

Most notable about his appearance in the arcade games, was that they gave him a voice in it.

Like Mega Man, he had a female voice actor, but unlike his voice in the cartoon, that had him sounding sort of like a cross between Frankenstein’s Igor and Ren Höek from Ren and Stimpy, it fit surprisingly well.

Pictured: Boo Berry, Igor, and Cut Man, all rolled into one.

Cut Man’s character is slight of stature, and, when animated and rendered properly as he was in arcade games, very “cute.”

I feel silly admitting it, but whenever I’d hear Cut Man start chopping up the scenery while yelling out “Choki! Choki! Choki!,” I couldn’t help but smile a little.

Tee Hee.

“Choki,” by the way, is the Japanese onomatopoeia for “Slice” or “Cut.”

Anyway, Cut Man is The Best MAN of Mega Man 1.

If you don’t agree, tough shit.

Just don’t try tellin’ me that Ice Man or Elec Man deserves the title, ’cause everybody knows those 2 are wimpy-ass pieces of fuck with shitty background music…

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

I Have Too Many Gundams…

Today, I began the arduous task of cleaning up my room.

Well, maybe not the whole room, but the closet anyway.

Over the past several years, it has become evident that I simply have too much stuff.

There is a running joke in my family, about how my dad is a pack rat.

It’s gotten to be such a prevalent aspect of our family dynamic, that at one point, my mom and brother pasted a newspaper comic on our garage that pretty much sums up what’ll happen when my dad stops coming down for breakfast:

Bubble: Someday son, this "All" will be yours...

Thankfully, my brother has used his experience of growing up surrounded by this behavior as a means by which to avoid copying it all costs.

I, however, was neither as fortunate, nor as intelligent to take such preventative measures.

Turns out, I am indeed my father’s son.

In cleaning out my closet, I stumbled across a great deal of crap, as well as a few hidden treasures, many of which were originally my brother’s.

An example of the latter being Battle Damage T-800 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

"I need yo' clothes, yo' boots, and yo' motah' cycle."

I also found a shit ton of Marvel/Spider-Man action figures.

The Spider-Man cartoon on Fox Kids was kind of a big deal to me way back when.

Anybody Remember Eek! The Cat?

That show was THE SHIT.

From left to right: Jack Nicholson Joker from Batman 1989, Battle Damage Sabretooth, and Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad AKA Gridman.

Among the crap, we’re a pile of Crash Bandicoot action figures.

Honestly, I don’t know why I had these, or ever wanted them for that matter.

Yeah, I was so proud of these, that I took 'em to the Goodwill before I could take pictures of them!

I never played the original Crash Bandicoot, but 2 and Warped were awesome, so I guess that could’ve baited me into wanting the toys, but still, what the fuck was I thinking?

My guess is, it was that goddamn Crash Dance:

I was also fortunate to find my GIGANTIC collection of Megaman X3 gashapon, which has surprisingly managed to remain intact after all these years.

Allow me to be serious for a minute.

From age 9 to 11, I was a sick kid.

I had some sort of inner ear/stomach illness that caused a serious imbalance in my equilibrium, basically making me feel like I was on a boat all the time.

I swear, anybody makes an Andy Samberg joke and ‘imma tear their fuckin’ head off, and shit down their stump.

During this time I would throw up several times a day and generally feel like shit.

I did okay in school, but I was absent a lot.

Because of this, I spent a lot of time at Virginia Mason hospital in downtown Seattle, which was consequently, pretty close to the International District.

Every now and again, my mom would treat me to a gashapon as sort of a “get well” gift.

Even after I got over my illness, I went out of my way to spend my own money on those same gashapon for several years.

The Collection

After negotiating my way around boxes of Star Wars cards and high school logbooks, as well as the occasional rubber band gun, I finally managed to clear a space for my massive tower of plastic bullshit:

Behold, Gundam Tower!

Had I any friends to handle the camera for me, I would’ve stood in the photo to give a sense of scale, but just so you know, that’s about chest high on me.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Gundam Tower has a sequel?

Well, it does.

Low angle money shot, always good for enhancing the package.

That one is what I call Mini Gundam Tower.

The Gundam Towers have horizontal cousins thought, about 3-4 of them I think.

Fuckin' Gundam Seed... Didn't even like the fuckin' show.

Note the massive number of Gundam Wing models... I wonder, did Azn Badger have Cartoon Network in the 90's?

Okay, maybe that’s more like 5-6, but whatever.

Anyway, this has been a truly pointless post, I’m sorry if I wasted any of your time.

I know I wasted mine this time around.

With that, I leave you with this image of Ultraman Towards the Future kickin’ it with a sumotori:

Damn, they should get these guys on HBO. Be a helluva' fight...

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

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VII – Mr. Yen, to the Future and Beyond!

"I want you... to suck my cock."

The year is 2010, and as of last year, Donnie Yen is now the most, or is among the most highly paid actors in Hong Kong.

Since finishing Ip Man in 2008, Donnie Yen has gone on to release 5 films, 3 of which being high-profile blockbusters.

The first of these was Bodyguards and Assassins, an action-drama set in turn-of-the-century Hong Kong.

With an all-star, ensemble cast, the film sported impressive production values, perhaps most notably the set, which consisted of a brick for brick recreation of several blocks of 1906 Hong Kong.

The film is essentially split into two halves, with the first being drama-heavy and ultimately responsible for setting the stakes, and the second being action-heavy, taking all the pre-established pieces of the plot from the first half and running wild them non-stop until the final reel.

While occasionally weighed-down by protracted bouts of melodrama, particularly in the film’s action-heavy second half, the film saves itself by providing an impressive level of characterization to what at first glance would appear to be an overwhelmingly bloated cast of characters.

Despite my ignorance in regards to pronunciation and recognition of Chinese names, I never found myself puzzled as to who was who or how every character related to one another.

Donnie Yen has a small but important role as a down-on-his-luck gambler seeking redemption for his past sins.

The role is minimal, with Donnie Yen being used primarily as an action element among the players, however he does have some truly effective dramatic moments.

The highlight of his performance, and perhaps the entire film however, is of course, a fight:

The above bout between Donnie Yen and former MMA champion, Cung Le, was reportedly re-shot and re-choreographed sometime after filming had officially wrapped.

Apparently Mr. Yen was unhappy with his performance, and thusly organized a reshoot, without supplemental pay or benefits.

The result is a fight that, while inspired, and certainly beyond the norm in terms of choreography, is somewhat uneven and ultimately, unbalanced.

The parkour element of the fight was brief, but effective, with much of the camerawork being downright spectacular, particularly when use of steadicam is used to weave between bystanders.

The sparring between the two players is crisp and on point for the most part, with great sound effects and music to back it up, but the MMA style joint locks and grappling seem largely out of place given the time period.

Perhaps most disappointing though, is the awkward use of wirework.

Though I’ve said before that wuxia isn’t really my thing, the fact of the matter is, that if one is going to incorporate fantastical wirework into a film, it’s implementation should be consistent rather than sporadic.

In all, the fight was a highlight for this film, however it doesn’t rank very high on Donnie Yen’s resume.

And as previously established, it's a pretty long resume. Yes, they boned.

Donnie Yen’s next film, also released in 2009, was the 90’s wuxia throwback, 14 Blades.

I have not seen this film, so I feel I have no right to comment on it in detail, however I will say this:

I have very little desire to see this film anyway.

In fact there are many films Donnie Yen has made, particularly in the 2000’s, that I have almost no interest in seeing.

As I mentioned in previous articles in this blog, Wilson Yip was a blessing on Donnie Yen’s career.

In between the classics that Yip and Yen were cranking out in the late 2000’s, Donnie Yen also released a number of smaller, poorly regarded films, most of which were, you guessed it: wuxia films.

Twins Effect I and II… ‘Nuff said.

Seven Swords seemed overblown and lacked the proper “Yen Quotient.”

An Empress and the Warriors didn’t peak my interest in the least, given the plot and Donnie Yen’s presence as a character who exists for no other reason than to hit people.

And then there’s Painted Skin

Well, Painted Skin just plain looked like ass.

AAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

I haven’t seen any of these films, including 14 Blades, but to my knowledge they have all received poor reviews, and while impressive to look at in some cases, and not terrible films in their own right, they simply don’t offer the Donnie Yen experience I’m looking for.

THIS on the other hand.... No, wait, this sucked too...

Despite being of the relatively advanced age of 46, Mr. Yen remains the top dog in terms of Hong Kong action cinema, with many of his upcoming films having him cast in action-heavy roles.

As I type this, Donnie Yen has more than 3 major films in the works,  not the least of which being Ip Man 2, which was recently released in theaters.

The film reunites nearly all of the principle cast from the previous entry in the series, however this time the story has moved to 1930’s Hong Kong, and includes Sammo Hung in a co-starring role as an overbearing Hung Gar master at odds with Ip Man.

Highlights in the film look to be a long overdue rematch between Yen and Hung following the impressive nature of their brawl in SPL, as well as what appears to be Sammo and Donnie pitting their form based Hung Gar and Wing Chun against English screen-fighter, Darren Shahlavi‘s more fluid Western boxing.

Sadly, from what I’ve read, Fan Siu Wong‘s role in the film is very small, and totally devoid of action.

A shame really, as I was very impressed by his performance in the first film, both as an actor and a combatant.

Although I can't say the same for his performance in this film.

Also on Donnie Yen’s plate for this year, is Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, a truly bizarre semi-sequel to Bruce Lee‘s 1972 classic, Fist of Fury.

I call the film bizarre due to the fact that the protagonist of the first film, Chen Zhen, was supposed to have gone down in a hail of gunfire at the end of Lee’s film, and yet, based on recent teaser footage, the sequel appears to have Yen cast not only as the same character, but as a masked vigilante practitioner of parkour.

Though I can’t say my hopes are up for The Return of Chen Zhen, it’s this continued process of adaptation and innovation that, in my eyes, keeps Mr. Yen’s performances from going stale.

That, and lots and lots of hair spray.

Despite being discovered  in the 80’s by one of the great directors and choreographers of our time, Yuen Woo Ping, Donnie Yen would not rise to prominence in the industry until more than a decade later, well after he had already begun to direct and choreograph his own films.

Unlike so many screen-fighters, in particular Jet Li, Donnie Yen has proven himself to be a student of the game.

Beyond being a fantastic martial artist, he has also displayed a remarkable sense of awareness in regards the kinetics of filmmaking.

Truly, particularly in recent years, he has come to embody the role not of screen-fighter, but that of a physical actor.

Some men, when placed into a fight scene, do nothing but hit their marks, keep to the beat, and wow with their physical prowess.

Donnie Yen does all of these things while injecting a sense of dramatic weight to his actions.

You care when he throws his punches and more importantly, you know why he chose to throw the punch the way he did.

Donnie Yen is of the rare breed of men that can not only teach, but also do.

Not only that, he is of the even rarer breed that can do both well.

At 46 I understand that Donnie Yen most likely has maybe 3-4 years left in him to produce truly great physical performances in his career.

Unlike Jackie Chan however, I believe Donnie Yen’s vanity and pride will keep him from stretching his fighting career beyond his means.

It saddens me to know that I was among those that overlooked Mr. Yen until such a late stage in his career, only to find that he was already beginning down the road to the inevitable end of his career.

I guess I should look at it not as me having missed the first 17 years of Yen’s career, but as me having witnessed the past 9, which is more than most can say.

I look forward to whatever the Mr. Yen is able to produce in the coming years.

Here’s hoping we’ll all be “wowed” one last time by the greatness that truly is, Donnie Yen.

Thank you to all who took the time to read this epic tribute of all I know and love about Donnie Yen!

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

A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VI – Old Man Yen

Allow me to be serious for a moment.

In 2008, Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen gave us the film Ip Man, a heavily fictionalized biographical-account of the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster of the same name.

Donnie Yen was 45 years old.

Throughout his career, Donnie Yen’s acting has been criticized for consisting of little more than him preening, posing, and more often than not, flexing his way through his films.

Yeah, kind of like that.

Ip Man gave us our first glimpse of a more restrained, more mature Donnie Yen.

Gone were the trademark leaping back-kicks. Gone were the cocky, “bring it on” eyebrows.

Even the cheesy windmill uppercut feints failed to make the cut.

Okay, that's not really a feint, but whatever.

Donnie Yen was 45 and finally ready to act his age.

The result was a gorgeous film that earned 2 awards out of 12 nominations at the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards.

One of those awards went to Sammo Hung for Best Action Choreography.

The other went to the production itself, as it just happened to be the award for Best Film.

While much of the film’s success could be attributed to Chinese nationalism (the plot concerns the Japanese occupation of China) and passion for martial arts culture, it’s hard to deny that the film is a solid contribution to the action-drama genre.

Production of Ip Man brought Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung together for the second time in their careers.

The first time was in SPL, where the two would clash onscreen for a climactic battle that, amazingly, matched the intensity of Yen’s alleyway duel with Wu Jing just minutes earlier within the same film. (See “Donnie Yen: Part IV – The Real Donnie Yen”)

This time around however, Hung would serve as fight choreographer, bringing his unerring cinematographic eye and untold years of experience to the production.

The above sequence, from the film in which Sammo Hung directed, choreographed, and co-starred, Wheels on Meals, (the third film to include the Peking Opera Trio of Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao) showcases the first of two epic battles between Jackie Chan, and American kickboxer, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez.  This sequence is widely regarded as one of the finest sequences in screen fighting history, and is a testament to Mr. Hung’s skills behind the camera.

How’s that for credentials?

Seriously, do NOT fuck with this man.

Hung’s attention to detail and penchant for injecting his fights with realistic passion and violence made him perfect for the job.

Ip Man gave Hung the opportunity to explore and put on display a number of different martial arts, most notably, Wing Chun.

The simple fact that he was able to convey each of these styles largely through pure physical expression, rather than superfluous exposition, is a testament to Mr. Hung’s skills as a choreographer.

Donnie Yen’s movements as Ip Man clearly reflect the Wing Chun principles of countering and establishing a “line” with one’s opponent.

Fan Siu Wong’s character, Jin, effectively portrays a practitioner of Northern Kung Fu, relying on solid stances and aggressive circular strikes.

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi’s General Miura, as well as the other Japanese characters, all include the straight punches and mechanical blocking motions of Karate.

Mr. Hung managed to communicate all of this through nothing but body language.

"So... You wanna' like, do it?"

It’s interesting to note that, stylistically speaking, Donnie Yen, while versatile and athletic, is not really the first person that came to my mind in casting a master of Wing Chun.

For one thing, Mr. Yen has never studied Wing Chun, and for another, the fighting style he employed in most of his films prior to this is contrary to the principles of Wing Chun in that it utilizes wide, flashy kicks to the head, techniques Wing Chun places little emphasis on.

But that was the old Donnie Yen, not the old Donnie Yen.

As you can plainly see, Mr. Yen managed to get the hang of Wing Chun pretty handily.

Despite this, another challenge for Mr. Yen, and Mr. Hung for that matter, was in staging and planning the choreography in such a way that it matched the tone of every scene.

The sequence above took place at the end of the first half of the film, during which the tone is bright and lively, and the drama is largely restricted to standard genre fare I.E. squabbles between rival martial arts schools and principles.

The sequence below however, takes place midway through the second half of Ip Man, within which the tone, and color palette for that matter, become engulfed with darkness.  As a result, the choreography becomes harsher, more violent, and altogether more intense.  Even the soundtrack reflects this.

A tip of the hat to Mr. Yen and Mr. Hung…  and a pat on the back to all those who may have been injured during the filming of this sequence.

Regardless of how much praise I shower upon it, Ip Man is not a great film.

It is however, a great kung fu movie.

Every cliche and trope you would expect to find in an entry from the genre is present here in some form, and I think that was the point.

Ip Man doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, it merely tries it’s best to give it a spit shine and more importantly, do it with heart.

Sure, the story can be hokie at times.

Sure, the script was largely forgettable.

I’d sooner accept both of those shortcomings in exchange for a decent film with a handful of scenes where Donnie Yen beats people like a fucking drum.

You know you'd buy it...

End serious moment.

Well okay, maybe that wasn’t all that serious, but hey, I tried.

Check back for the exciting conclusion to my MASSIVE tribute to Donnie Yen, in “Part VII – Mr. Yen to the Future and Beyond!”

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