Archive: Bloodsport – 80s awesomeness

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 2 May, 2007

Last night the original, uber movie, Bloodsport, was on Foxtel. After the atrocities of Mortal Kombat (shonky) and American Ninja (uber shonky), I was all prepped to giggle at Van Dammmmmmmme’s break-through martial arts flick. Now, ever since I saw Street Fighter, I’ve consistently found the man amusing. True, he could beat my head about by boxing my face with his feets of fury, but he’s fun to pay out. What I wasn’t expecting when I sat down to watch Bloodsport is that I’d admit to actually enjoying it, and not just because I thought I’d giggle like a schoolboy. Last time I watched the movie was about 13 years ago – I was 11 at the time and away on camp; in a stroke of luck, the cabins we were staying in actually had a telly, which of course we were told we couldn’t use by our teachers. However, in our favour, the assigned parent to look after the cabin was actually my Dad, who didn’t seem to mind having the boys staying up late watching a martial arts flick. That’s not surprising though, ’cause my Dad is uber. Needless to say we enjoyed the late night movie, and happily enjoyed watching cartoons the next morning while eating brekky (Captain N and Ren & Stimpy – awesome!!)

Anyway, the point is – its been 13 years since I last saw the movie, and the only thing I remember is that a dude gets kicked in the shin so that a chunk of bone pops out his leg, hence to an 11 year old boy, its an awesome movie. So I was expecting it to be pretty bad, but I was pleasantly surprised. Van Damme couldn’t act and his English is sloppy, but his form is brill, and he’s a real lean fighter, not the muscle-job he became later on (again, I always think – Street Fighter). He also doesn’t say “Do you want go with me?!?!?!” whilst doing a silly army-man speech or have Kylie Minogue in a daramtic acting role by his side, so that probably helps, too. Hmm, gotta find that one cheap on DVD and write a blog on it methinks.

So yeah, really surprised by that one. Was made in 1987 according to the film’s credits, and the choreography was pretty good, the ‘mystical far-east’ factor wasn’t too overwhelming, but thumbs down on the flashbacks and stuff at the beginning of the film – a bit stilted, but oh well – training montages were fun, if a little cliched (but aren’t they all?). Oh, and Stan Bush did the vocals on all songs; fellow geeky people will recall he also sang the vocals for “You’ve Got The Touch” ( … or maybe it’s just “The Touch”) from the 1980-something cartoon, Transformers: The Movie (as opposed to Michael Bay’s extreme, explosions, stuff blows up, attractive women Transformers movie coming out soonish). Props to my Wife – I was so enthralled with the movie I wasn’t exactly the most rivetting company for the evening, and yet she still sat with me and watched the movie all the way through and got up to let the dog out as needed. I think that means I’m due to watch an Elvis movie or something now – that’s our deal, if I put her through the task of watching a (possibly shonky) martial arts flick, she gets to pick an Elvis movie or musical for me to watch with her 🙂

Outside of all the movie-related uberness this week, I’m stoked to say my ankle and stump continue to heal up nicely, and I’ve started doing leg stretches and leg lifts almost every night in prep for karate next week. On the MySpace front, I’ve finished up the code and just have to put the finishing touches on the background. Shouldn’t be far away now!

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Archive: New TMNT – Best.Movie.Ever

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 30 April, 2007

Well, the title says it all, really. I got a very welcome call from Tank’s girlfriend Meru (pseudonyms are fun!) mid-afternoon yesterday asking if Wifey and I were interesting in joining them to see the best movie ever. Well, she didn’t use those words exactly, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant. Anywho, I said that sounded awesome, as I figured I’d be done with my latest post-grad paper by the evening (and even if I wasn’t, I’d be braindead by that point), so agreed, and did the happy dance.

Now, for those living under a big rock of late, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie recently came out. The live actors and silly suits have all been replaced with some absolutely jaw-dropping CG animation, and Imagi thankfully went the way of making all the characters, even the humans, cartoony and not faux-real people, which is what George Lucas would probably do, as he ruins things. Now, the word around the place is that the movie is set following the original movie that came out in ’89 and, coincidently, was relatively close to the original graphic novels Eastman and Laird did in the early 80s. The second movie, which we will all remember fondly for featuring Vanilla Ice and the terrible (and therefore awesome) ‘Ninja Rap’, came out a few years later.  It was also a bit shit, partly because the soccer-mom patrol sanitised it something nasty – the turtles don’t fight with their weapons for the most part, instead resorting to more Power Ranger-esque silliness, complete with sound effects and what-not, to tone down the violence (incidently, the film stock, lighting and post production of the first film feel a little reminiscent of the Power Ranger/Monster-sentai clique; the second [and third] films simply reek of this even more). There was also a new April, which was funny once you stopped bein confused. Then the third movie came out, and we all pretend that never happened, as it was really bad; on the up-side, Corey Feldman returned to do Donatello’s voice, which is awesome. It was set in ancient Japan (which looked like a typical North American forrest with some cleared trees) and was riddled with cliches and no plot and shonky acting… well, shonkier acting than in previous movies. Which says a lot.

Anywho, so the new TMNT takes place after Shredder gets a kick up the bum and stuff (although, the final scene in the movie suggests this may not be the case… or it’s a little tribute to the films that ran before it). The turtles aren’t living in an abandoned subway train thingo, April has returned to her scientist-self (note to everyone – April’s not a reporter, methinks the late-80s TV series’ producers simply wanted an excuse for some G-rated cleavage) and everything is win and awesome. Pros include the utterly superb quality of the animation (and fight choreography), Leonardo isn’t a pain in the arse like he normally is, Raph is awesome and angry, Don & Mikey are funny (Donnie could have used with some Feldman love, though) and Splinter doesn’t make a funny, which is good ’cause it got tired. Oh, and he ninjas other foot clan ninjas. And the foot ninja girl has cool-looking shiny hair. And Kevin Smith does a guest voice. Since it’s the best movie ever, there are no cons or problems with it. I’ve heard some say it was a little sanitised, and I guess that’s fair enough – it had to scrape by with a PG rating to maximise the access to its core market, and I thought it managed to get away pretty well with it (kinda like The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe did – lotsa biff, but no blood and some clever cuts took care of anything Disney Corp. would frown on), and the target demographic are kids (and incidently, those who watched it as kids ^_^), so it’s not going to get bloody and stuff.

However, this still doesn’t detract frorm its incredible awesomeness. It oozes it, awesomeness comes off it in waves of incredible uberness-enhanced goodness. I’m waffling on, but I have to get across – loved it, thought it was awesome, can’t wait for it to come out on DVD. I’m such a big kid 😛 Maybe there’ll be a sequel. That would bbe uber. Unless it sucked like the other live action TMNT movies which were wrong.

In non-best-movie-ever news, my ankle is feeling a lot better and my stump is healing up quite nicely. I’m still behaving myself and I’m not going to jump back into training this week; however, I can probably start doing some cycling and continue my stretching a bit more regularly now. You’ll also notice that the appearance of the main page is randomly changing as well – I’m in the process of trying a different layout to give the page a redesign. So bear with me for the moment while I work it out 🙂 I’ll have something solid up soonish, and hopefully it’ll look nice and stuff. Once I’ve finalised the main page’s formatting, I’ll update the blog’s visual style to mirror that.

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Archive: Latest update

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 24 April, 2007

Well, it’s been a week since I did the sensible thing and rolled my ankle. To be honest, not a lot has happened over this period of time – I’ve been icing my foot and Wifey’s been helping me strap it each morning. The biggest problem I had was that, with the foot a bit stuffed, it put a huge amount of pressure on my stump, and by Wednesday I could feel the blood vessels on the end of my stump get pushed to their limit of how much more abuse they could take, and not surprisingly the bloods vessels burst, bruised the end of my stump and its had to scab over to heal itself up. I’ve been taking the leg off at night, using my suave and sophisticated walking stick during the day at work (though I had to head home early on Wednesday last week – ended up taking the leg off at work because it was so sore and left the office at 2pm), and have tried to get around on crutches without hurting my ankle 😉 It’s been a bit tricky, but in the good news – the ankle is all better, it’s just the outer edge of my foot that took the brunt of the fall and waiting on to heal up, and my stump is almost healed up at the end. This is definitely a good thing – it doesn’t sting when I walk now. I’m hoping to get back to karate next week if my foot’s ready (’cause I’m pretty confident my stump will be fine before the end of the week).

Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been much in terms of training happening. I started again on doing static stretching on Saturday night (splits and stuff) and keep my leg in good shape (plus it helps with my knee as well), and I’ve decided to start focusing ony mental training. In a couple of books I’ve read on karate or martial arts in general, the authors have commented on the benefits of mental training. I’ve found that by taking my leg off I can sit in the Lotus position, so I’ve decided to start concentrating on my breathing and focusing my chi. One of the books I read most recently was one of Jyastin-kun’s, and the author referred to a study where a group of athletes divided their training in varying degrees between mental/physical training, with the former involving picturing the execution of their technique mentally in a meditative manner. Apparently the group that spent 25% time on physical training and 75% time on mental “image” training outperformed those who trained 50-50 75-25 and 0-100 on mental-physical training.

In the book on Japanese fighting arts I recently read, I remember coming across something similar, this time a story of how the great Masutatsu Oyama (founder of the Kyokushin style of karate) experimented with two training regimes on two of his students – one was trained purely in the physical degree of karate, whereas the other was given less physical training but was subject to mental training also. At the conclusion of the experiment, the former was better developed physically than the latter, but when the two of them sparred, there was no comparison – the latter soundly bettered his fellow student.

It’s always difficult to differentiate fact from fiction, so that’s why I’m giving this technique a go. I’d talked in a previous blog about the difference my breathing and focusing my chi has made in the past, so since there isn’t a lot that I can do physically at the moment, I thought it would be a good time to work on this side of my training. For the moment, I’m going through my kata in my head while I focus on my breathing, and will continue the same training with going through my regular techniques in my head also. As always, I’ll post up what I find comes about from this. I know there has got to be a way to develop that incredible inner power and technique masters of the martial arts develop despite their height or size; given I’m short and of medium build, I’d say this might be that extra something that helps me become a better martial artist. I hope 🙂

Oh, before I close off – I watched the truly woeful American Ninja on Foxtel last night:

It was soooooooooo funny, I’m not sure if the lead guy actually has any martial arts training – he spent more time rolling around like a stunt man than anything else 😉 And everything blew up, it was cool. Because it was so, so bad. I love 80s action flicks – they’re so shonky! And yes, I subjected Wifey to it – she had trouble breathing when the evil French guy was showing off his army of ninjas training in fluro yellow, orange and blue ninja gis, just randomly jumping and diving and falling around this uber dodgy obstacle course. And I loved how these guys in ninja outfits come running out of the jungle in broad daylight. Because, y’know, ninjas really blend into the jungle scenery in the middle of the day. If the movie had a dodgy pash/shag scene, it would have completed the atypical 80s ninja/martial arts action flick mould. Ah well, I’m sure there’ll be more opportunities for dodgy flicks as we go – Bloodsport is on later this month, and there’s always room for a blog on Showdown in Little Tokyo 🙂

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Shonky martial arts movies – round 1

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 13 April, 2007

Dodgy martial arts movies are a part of the movie scene. What of course contributes to their inherent dodginess will often depend on their country of origin. Hong Kong and Japan have a knack of producing some of te best in the world, whether they be littered with relatively unnecessary dialogue and little plot (Hong Kong) or melodramatic and long winded (Japan). This broad generalisation of course eliminates the movies emerging from, say, Thailand, China, Korea or other regions in East Asia; I only offer my tongue-in-cheek generalisation on Japan and China because I’ve seen more movies from there than anywhere else. While I’m certainly not taking a swipe at either country’s respective martial arts films (as I love them dearly), even the most ardent fan must see the cliches that riddle the genre. I personally wouldn’t have them any other way, as I believe that these idiosyncracies are what makes them special. I’m also a firm believer in keeping them in their original language – there’s nothing like gung-ho Johnny America voicing Jackie Chan to ruin a movie. Thank you DVD – dual languages and English subtitles, gotta love ’em. Though as a footnote, I have to say that some of the R3 discs I’ve watched have left me a little worried – I preferred the HK and Japanese martial arts films without the cheap digital effects. I’m not talking about the gorgeously lavish film were the effects are actually meaningful (like, say, Hero or something), but the cheap stuff with particle effects, 3D rendering… I dunno, kinda like Volcano High (which was awesome, but the CG was a little superflous) or Anna in Kung Fu Land (though the title should have been fair warning on that one).

But I digress. For the purpose of today’s short blog on wrongness, I’m going to touch on US martial arts films. I don’t know what it is, but until very recently, whenever Hollywood or anyone in the US pulled out a martial arts film, it was plagued by crap choreography, stupid one-liners, crap direction and was edited by someone afraid of letting the camera linger on a single shot for more than a few seconds. I mean, as much as its fun to pay out Van Damme, Steven Segal or what-not, they’re skills as a martial artist may not be too shabby (they’d be able to beat the stuffing out of me and run away with my leg, for example), but everything else… argh, the horror! And before anyone brings up The Matrix flicks, let’s get something straight – Keanu Reeve’s kung fu was shit. Check out the second Matrix film – Jet Li must have giggled when he had to fight a living Wooden Dummy. What The Matrix (and its craptacular but visually spiffing sequels) did right was to bring in the right guys to choreograph and film the fighting so it actually looked really good. Then, to the amazement of anyone who has ever seen an awesome piece of East Asian martial art movie goodness, Hollywood got hooked and kept on implementing the faux-HK choreography style that proved popular with The Matrix’s audience. Note I say faux-HK, because as much as the fighting action love has improved, it still has nothing on what the talent from HK or Japan has produced, and I would argue that HK style has definitely become more popular than Japanese martial arts choreography in Hollywood movies.

With all that pretext out the way, let me take you on a journey, back to 1995, and the year the world was graced with the latest in a series of poorly made movies based on video games. Despite a legacy of The Wizard (90 minute Nintendo commercial made awesomeness by starring Fred Savage, Christian Slater and one of the Bridges… and they play Nintendo), Super Mario Bros (Bob Hoskin’s musta needed the money. Or was drunk), Double Dragon (Scott Wolf! hahahaha! Didn’t catch it yet, might have to track it down for a laugh), Street Fighter (oh dear god no! A travesty that will necessitate a future blog methinks), and other acts of random stupidity (kinda like the movie based on DoA, starring the slutty girl from Neighbours, but of course is more recent, and not relevant to this rant), then somewhat-less-rich New Line Cinema (y’know, Lord of the Rings, anyone?) brought us… Mortal Kombat: The Movie!

Now, I’ll avoid video game history and trivia, as I’m a geeky boy and could wax lyrical about the state of gaming circa 1994/1995 for the purpose of background info; the only thing needed to be said is that Mortal Kombat was the more indie-answer to Street Fighter 2 (or, in movie land, Street Fighter: The Movie). The games were more brutal, there was blood and stuff, people could get chopped in half. In short – awesomeness in a can for prubescent young men. So it was with high hopes that Mortal Kombat was expected, especially following the piece of shit that was Street Fighter the Movie.

To its credit, it was far better as a fighting-action movie than Street Fighter – people actually fought. Y’know, a bit of biff and all that. And they did their signature cheesey special moves. With new-fangled CG effects (CG effects, being very new in 1995, were very much considered awesome even if they really weren’t necessary or looked a bit arse). And there was mid-90s doof-doof dance music that, when listened to now, either sounds like it should be played in a night club where men wear arseless chaps, or gritty underground like a dirty club in Manchester, both circa 90s.

The casting was better, and amusingly, much cheaper than Street Fighter. It also didn’t feature Van Damme being a silly army man, or Kylie Minogue under the pretense she was part of an elite group of British agents (if it was an elite group of attractive, arse-wiggling pop stars, then yes, she’s would have made a good choice. But she wasn’t, so she loses). There were a cast of nobodies, but at least they looked comfortable executing choice biff against the faceless bad guys. Except for Bridgette Wilson (aka Sonya Blade). She was crap. Amusingly crap even – watching her execute some biff proved a highlight when I watched the movie with Wifey last weekend. To the film’s credit, Christopher Lambert played Raiden, and he’s always awesome even if a movie’s crap (Highlander 2) or uber (the orginal Highlander). Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays Shang Tsung and pulls funny faces and spends most of the movie over-acting, but that’s okay, because that’s how he plays everyone, which is in turn golden. Robin Shou is awesome by default; he can’t really act, but his technique is good, and by all that’s uber, his boofy hair was a true highlight of the film. The dude who played Johnny Cage didn’t have too bad form when they filmed him during the Scorpion fight, so kudos to him. And then there was this guy in a crazy suit with four arms, Goro. It looks like the reason he beat everyone up was because they were afraid to lay into the costume, probably in fear of breaking something. Nowadays he’d probably be CG and still look arse, but in a CG-fake kinda way; unlike Kelsey Grammar in X-Men 3, who excuded Frasier-gone-animal, and pulled it off. Nice fighting there.

Now, where Mortal Kombat fall down is that the plot is wafer thin, the acting is pretty bad, the one-liners get old fast, the sets are pretty funny because a lot of the time they look cheap, and the music’s kinda funny. It’s full of cliches, and again, Bridgette Wilson looks so bad when she tries to fight. Not as bad as Keanu Reeves – at least a wooden dummy has form 😛 But to be honest, that’s why its awesome – its so cheesy, but at least the cheese is budget and cheap. It’s not trying to be awesome, it knows its place, and for a videogame licence, it wasn’t too bad. The fighting (bar Bridgette Wilson… though maybe her craptacularness could be a highlight ’cause its funny) wasn’t too shabby, but it still suffered from average choreography (above average for Hollywood at the time, though), pretty crap editing, and looked slow. Again, some of these guys were trained and had more in there, and the way it was filmed let it down.

But, let’s not get too critical here – it’s trashy cinema. It’s cheap. It’s dodgy. And hence it’s awesome. Kinda like Rapid Fire. The only thing it needed was Dustin Nguyen from 21 Jump Street, That would have been awesome. He could have played Robin Shou’s character’s brother. And they could have shown him sparring with him and being awesome. But then you’d have to round it out and have Holly Robinson and Peter DeLuise. Maybe the Captain from the latter-half of Season 1 could have been in there as well. Maybe Family Guy should come up with an excuse to parody or reference 21 Jump Street. That would be uber golden.

Okay, I’ve gotten sidetracked. I do that. So, thus ends my first rant on martial arts movies. I hope you enjoyed watching the funny trailer as I did looking it up on YouTube whilst at work trying to look terribly productive. I’ll bring more goodies over the weekend – I’m going to try to dig up some cool stuff on YouTube and Google Video 🙂

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