The Karate Kid movies are still awesome (well, at least the first 2)

So we were channel surfing a week or two back, and lo-and-behold, the first Karate Kid movie was on, and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita was being all awesome and stuff, and it was supremely awesome. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the first Karate Kid movie, but I swear I could watching it once a week and still love it after years on end.

Alright, that might be a bit of an exageration, but it’s such an awesome movie. Even if Ralph Macchio specialised in some pretty rubbish karate, it’s still 126 minutes of inspired awesomeness. I mean, it wasn’t his fault I guess – getting dropped into a six-month crash-course of martial arts training without any prior experience won’t exactly get the most polished results, particularly if you’re a Westerner, so thumbs up to him for not chucking a wobbly and chickening out.

So, continuing in the spirit of awesomeness, Wifey was channel surfing the other day and a choice piece of 80s awesomeness quickly hit the screen – she was about to turn over since the didn’t realise the extremity of awe-inspired film clip-ness that was hitting the TV:

Well, without the subtitles anyways šŸ™‚ Do you realise how many instances of this Peter Cetera’s Glory of Love there are on YouTube, and that this is the only one with the silly film clip? Pure tomfoolery.

Anyhow, it’s awesome, because he’s singing in a dojo.

… I don’t have much else to add to this. The above film clip will do the job I reckon šŸ™‚ If you’re interested, someone’s also added the lessons of Mr Miyagi to YouTube, so you can entertain yourselves/family/friends/coworkers by looking it up and sharing it with them. I know the people I share my office with were just thrilled when I decided it would be a good idea to share “Paint the Fence”:

šŸ˜€ šŸ˜€ šŸ˜€

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Movie time: Enter the Dragon, in high-definition

So, Enter the Dragon is one of those quintessential martial arts flicks that anyone who is into biffo on celluloid has seen at least twice. I first watched the movie years and years ago on late-night TV, and absolutely loved the combination of crazy afros, flares, martial arts biffo, bad dubbing and crazy 70s porno music. I won’t go into the importance this movie played in the grand scheme of East / West martial arts movies in contemporary cinema (which, to be honest, hadn’t been equaled insofar as Eastern influence on Western martial arts film making until The Matrix hit the silver screen in 1999, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog… or two!), as I’m sure IMDB or Wikipedia will have plenty of accessible info on this movie (plus any half-decent Bruce Lee biography will give enough space to discussing it). So, this is about watching the movie, again, and why I still think it’s awesome šŸ™‚

So, I bought the original R4 DVD release when it initially came out and watched it several times; when it got re-released later on with extra features and what-not, I then bought it again! I’m such a sucker for this stuff šŸ˜› And when Wifey and I picked up a PS3 at the end of 2007, once again I fed the money-making machine that is Hollywood and bought it in HD on Blu-Ray a few months later. And I recently convinced Wifey that it would be an awesome idea to watch it, and she (quite surprisingly) agreed!

Watching it again, having studied martial arts for 4-5 years now and having had the opportunity to learn and read more on various styles and their respective histories, it’s still a pretty awesome movie. Surprisingly, there actually wasn’t a lot of fighting in it compared to some of the other Bruce Lee movies, much less than what I remembered. Sure, there are some amazing moments of truly brilliant choreography, and more than its fair share of crazy zooming close-ups of Bruce or one of the other cast striking a crazy pose, but at the end of it, of the time dedicated to the film, there’s plenty of other scenes dedicated to somehow trying to wrap some kind of James Bond-derived spy/thriller action or plot, laced with a bit of sex, watered-down philosophy on martial arts (watered down not because of the late Mr Lee, but to make it palatable to the masses Warner Brothers were marketing the film to; that being said, it was very ahead of its time…) and a bit of token character development. It’s hardly the most striking example of 70s film, but it’s still a damn good ride!

Hmmm, I’ve wandered off-topic… again šŸ˜› Must be from being absent from the blogosphere for so long, will just have to write more posts on my blog and get back into it! Anywho, waxing lyrical aside, it was awesome to take a trip back in time, but this time it was in such high clarity! I know that the film stock would have hardly been of super-high quality, but it was great being able to watch the movie with so much detail compared to the previous DVD releases of the movie. Colour was also reproduced with greater accuracy and depth, and seeing it in 24p was awesome – no 3:2 pulldown or PAL speedup. The audio was certainly a bit clearer, but the production values weren’t exactly high in this regard even in the first instance, so let’s not pretend it’s any different this time šŸ˜‰

So, what new insights came out of the recent viewing that I can appreciate now better than before? John Saxon’s form actually wasn’t too bad when he was being choreographed correctly (he apparently got just shy of his brown belt in karate at one point in the late 50s/early 60s, stumbled across an interesting interview with him here), though he doesn’t get a lot of screen time delivering biffo. Jim Kelly is quite impressive on-set, there’s a certain grace and power to his techniques that’s pretty amazing when you consider Hollywood-produced martial arts films in the 70s and even 80s often lacked grace and flow when depicting martial arts on-screen, though that’s probably more to do with bad choreography than anything else…

And of course there’s Bruce, he really does look awesome delivering all his signature moves and silly close-ups. Still, as much as I love him in this movie, I think for pure biffo, Way of the Dragon wins out (though the fact that Chuck Norris is in that one certainly helps!), and there’s something about the enthusiastic, raw energy in The Big Boss that really appeals to me as well… wasn’t much of a fan of Fists of Fury, so I’ll leave that one out of discussion – it’s good mind, but I prefer the others.

There’s something timeless about Enter the Dragon, and while I’m sure the movie won’t exactly convert anyone to the joy that is martial arts movies, it still makes for an awesome ride and was definitely worth the purchase… again… on Blu-Ray.

On the topic of martial arts flicks, haven’t watched too many of late, but John Woo’s apparently back in awesome form with his new flick (even if it is two films chopped and joined into a single film to please the West [grumble, grumble]), so might have to add that one to the list of movies I should check out. Oh, and Wifey and I recently re-watched Kill Bill vol. 1, might have to suggest vol. 2 soon and post some impressions on them afterwards. I know it’s hardly cutting-edge discourse, but I like rambling on about the occasional movie on this blog, so hopefully it’s likewise appreciated by those reading my random thoughts printed on these pages!

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Nerd moment – original TMNT toys have been re-released???

Spotted this at Target last week-ish:

Original TMNT toys are back???

All the way down to the packaging, it’s an exact replica of the original TMNT toys I used to love playing with when I was a kid!!! Truly crazy/nerdy stuff. I used to love TMNT (in fact, I still do – I’m so tragic :P), I wanted to get a picture of Raphael but I couldn’t find one. Ah well, the above should suffice šŸ™‚ I was also reading that apparently there’s a massive graphic novel compilation of the first x number of issues of the original comics on the way (500+ pages or something??), due out in a couple of months – I have the four coloured graphic novels of the original Eastman/Laird comics lying around the place, but the prospect of seeing more of the story and art sounds really, really awesome.

Aaaand, apparently the original TMNT movies and the new CG one are Blu-Ray box set bound some time this year. Probably a waste of moolah/HD capabilities, but I’ll totally pick them up. TMNT is so awesome.

Okay, I’ll end this nerd post here. Just thought I’d share the retro love šŸ™‚

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I’m on a boat

Last week Wifey and I popped up to Noosa to catch up with her family. Now, my father-in-law and Hamez (brother-in-law, look up some of the archives as I’ve dragged him along to karate in the past) are particularly keen fishermen, so in due course I went out with them in their boat to do some fishing. Not having fished since I was a wee tacker, this was all very new and interesting for me; granted I was a bit rubbish at it, but it was awesome fun.

Where I want to go with this, though, is how being on the water on a small boat works on your balance. Between the three of us sitting down, standing up, casting, drinking beer (well, my father-in-law and I, Hamez is still under 18 and was our driver since he now has his boat license) and motoring around the river, there are plenty of opportunities to fall over and mangle yourself (and I’m quite adept at both of these generally). I’m sure with two legs its tricky working out your balance, but I had a bit of trouble adjusting given the lack of a knee on my left leg šŸ˜› What I eventually found out was that I had to adjust my whole method of standing or moving on the boat… it’s hard to describe, but the best way I could put is that you have to learn to be far more flexible with how you control your walking/standing motions to go with the flow of the boat and the water, rather than resisting the natural flow of movement with a sense of rigidity. Once I got this sorted, I found I was having a much easier time moving around the boat without stumbling so much. Sure, I was never game to stand on the bow, but I was reasonably confident standing in the recessed areas by the time we ended up leaving to come back home.

It actually reminded me of the montage scene in The Karate Kid (aka greatest movie of all time), where Daniel is standing on the bow of the boat practicing his forms. Except I didn’t do any karate, because I probably would have looked like a bit of a tosser with all the other fishermen around šŸ˜›

You know what? I think this calls for a (widescreen) trailer to the original Karate Kid movie:

Awesome. Note the boat scene around 1:03. The only way that movie could have been better is if Chuck Norris was in it as a referee or something, like his awesome cameo in Dodgeball.

Anyway, the principle of this is the same for martial arts – be flexible, learn to move with your scenario and don’t oppose it with unnecessary, strict rigidity – as the mighty Bruce said, “be like water”. Even beyond the principle there’s the question of using the boat as a tool for teaching you to have good balance, which is an essential technique in any committed martial artist.

If nothing else, it’s definitely something to think about.

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Movie double part 2 – Kuro-Obi (Black Belt) (2007)

If there’s one thing I’ve continually come to love about Japanese cinema, it’s how they can create something utterly poetic of what many see as a static, mundane or spent medium. Whether it be animation (and let’s pick every Western film critic’s favourite buzz-names, Mamoru Oshii or Hayao Miyazaki [nothing against either director BTW, but there are plenty of other brilliant examples of Japanese animation out there that deserve some love and attention]), or live action martial arts (again, I’ll go mainstream with citing Kurosawa here, again, with no disrespect to him, as his movies are brilliant), outside the awesome fluff and pop-art execution, there are some amazing gems that just come out of nowhere. While the West was late to the party with Kuro-Obi /Black Belt (including yours truly), it is such a beautiful and almost poetic vision of traditional karate during Japan’s shift to totalitarianism that it deserves all the attention it keeps on receiving. For those interested, here’s a trailer:

I’ll leave the discourse to the IMDB entry on it (click here), and while I’d love to fire across a Wikipedia link, I can’t seem to find it in the English version (found it in the Japanese version though). Where I will wax lyrical is in the absolutely stunning form of the three main karate-ka.

My god, words can’t do justice how superb their form is, or of the beauty of the karate in action. There are no wire tricks, CG or other random silliness. The film’s is quiet, reflective and stoic, not unlike the process of learning and performing your favourite kata. The lead actors are actually martial artists first and foremost (and if the IMDB entry is to be taken as accurate, very high ranking ones at that), and thankfully the film is centered around this precept well – the characters don’t have a whole lot of dialogue, and they leave the acting to the supporting cast.

I highly, highly recommend you give this one a look. While I’m not sure about availability of this film in other countries, in Australia Madman Entertainment have it available via their website under their Eastern Eye label, and most good DVD retailers should be able to get it in for you. As far as I know, it hasn’t been murdered with a terrible English language dub at this stage, so you’ll have to do the right thing watch it in Japanese with English subtitles, as you should be anyway šŸ˜‰

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