Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Movie Talk - More Shaw Brothers Movies

Argh! My insides are falling out-- Ooo! I know! I'll use my clothes for a substitute spleen!

Wow, January went by fast. It only felt like it just started. So far, it’s been fine but not great. I do wish the world of politics was less “Grim Dark-Grim” though. I only hope my crap kickboxing moves can sway a coming storm… yes, I’m being somewhat sarcastic. My kickboxing moves are awesome!

The last post for the month is a return to the Shaw Brothers. If you don’t remember my post from last year, I’ll refresh your memory. Shaw Brothers Ltd. was a movie studio that produced a lot of movies in the 20th century. They were probably best known for cashing in on the kung fu craze of the 70’s as they churned out a ton of kung fu movies. I looked at some of their movies last year. They were quite a surprise and ranged from decent to pretty good. Since I had fun with them last year, here are three more movies from the studio: Five Elements Ninjas, Return Crippled Avengers, and Masked Avengers. Not only was I able to watch some of these on Netflix, but I was also able to find pretty crappy copies of a couple.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"It''s a Video Game!" - Jade Empire

Next up for the month is another video game from my Xbox adventure last year. Back in 2005, Jade Empire, an action RPG, was released on the Xbox. It eventually made its way to the PC. It’s even on mobile platforms too. I had heard about the game back then but couldn’t play it for the obvious reason of I didn’t own an Xbox. I know it’s on PC as well but I’m not much of a PC gamer. I’m more of a politically incorrect gamer anyway… yes, that was a joke. I’ll show my way out now.

Anyway, Bioware developed the game. I guess this was one of the reasons they didn’t develop KOTOR 2 back then. Since I’m pretty much a seeker of anything Bioware-related and kung fu-related, I sought the game out and bought it.  I’m replaying it now to re-familiarize myself with it. From what I’ve read, the game was viewed positively back in the day. Unfortunately, those positives vibes didn’t get a sequel made. Considering what Bioware ultimately went through with franchises like Mass Effect, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Dragon Age, it’s possible they just didn’t have the time. The game also might not had sold well.
Obviously, these guys don't look like me.

Inspired by Chinese culture, Jade Empire takes place in a fictional land in Ancient China. In the game, you play as an orphan (in my playthroughs, “Chan the Endless” and “Stone Cold Larry”) who was adopted and taught by a man named Sun Li. Master Li runs a school in a small village. One day, the village comes under attack by the land’s empire and Master Li is taken. You and another student end up going on a journey to save him. On your journey, you gain more followers to the cause. The land isn’t doing well these days with spirits at unrest and the empire’s Lotus Assassins being shiftier than ever. You also learn skills, take up new weapons, and get stronger. You also have to choose between following two ways: The Way of the Open Palm or the Way of the Closed Fist.
Yes, I had fun doing this sort of thing.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tales from the $3.99 Cent Bin! - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: "City Fall"

I knew it was time to get back to the TMNT in one form or another. I have to say that I haven’t been keeping up with the series which is still going by the way. My interest waned in it and $3.99 per issue is still a lot especially if you’re getting other stuff. I might need to make that price rant one day… Oh well!  Maybe I’ll catch up and see how the heck Splinter ended up leading the Foot Clan. For now, I’ll stick to what I got.

“City Fall” was a seven-part story that went through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #22-#28. It was pretty much the big storyline that most stuff in the series had been building to. Even some of the other mini-series played into building this up like The Secret History of the Foot Clan. Some of their micro-series even tied into the storyline by expanding on certain characters. Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow, and Kevin Eastman handled the story for the arc. The art was primarily done by Mateus Santolouco, the artist who did the Secret History of the Foot mini. Dan Duncan, Ross Campbell , Andy Khun, Ben Bates, Charles Paul Wilson III, and even Kevin Eastman do a couple of pages throughout the arc. So, read about how the Turtles get put through the wringer.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #22-28 - "City Fall"
Story: Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman
Art: Mateus Santolouco, Dan Duncan, Ross Campbell Andy Khun, Ben Bates, Kevin Eastman, and Charles Paul Wilson III
Colors: Rhonda Patterson
Letters: Shawn Lee and Tom B. Long
Editor: Bobby Curnow

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tales From the Library! The Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story

Next up for the month is a return to the character of Iron Fist. Last year, I covered an issue of Spider-Man where he made a guest appearance. Danny Rand’s not a character I’ve ever been too keen on. I don’t know what it is. I doubt it’s his background which now is apparently offensive to some. I didn’t know a white dude knowing kung fu could tick folk off. Maybe it’s the costume which isn’t bad but not exactly great either. I never really started to run into him until Brian Michael Bendis’s run on New Avengers. Back in 2007, Marvel got both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction to write a title called The Immortal Iron Fist.

A few years ago (maybe 2012), I ran across the first few volumes to the series in the library. I was kind of in a Brubaker mode at that time, so I decided to give the first volume a try. Besides, it’s had kung fu in it! Since were in that month and we have a TV show with the guy coming up, I’m gonna talk about this. The trade has the first six issues of the run and a small 8-page side story that tied into Civil War. If you’re wondering why Danny was posing as Daredevil at the time, you’ll find out there. As I said before, Brubaker and Fraction share writing duties. David Aja, a penciller who had worked with Brubaker before, is the main penciller and cover artist. Travel Forman and other artists help with the art duties.

The Immortal Iron Fist: the Last Iron Fist Story
Writers: Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction
Pencils: David Aja, Travel Forman, Russ Heath, and Sal Buscema
Inks: Derek Fridolfs and Matt Palmer,
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Dave Lanphear and Chris Eliopoulos

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Movie Talk -The Ip Man Trilogy

This is a lesson for you gun nuts: never point a loaded gun in someone's face especially if it's Donnie Yen.

Next up for the month is a look at a series of movies starring Donnie Yen. I have to admit one thing though: I wasn’t a fan of Yen really until recently. I had seen him in bit roles over the years in movies like Blade 2, Highlander: Endgame, and Shanghai Knights. Nothing really stood out to me but I did know he had nice moves. I didn’t really appreciate him until I saw his overseas work like Flashpoint, Iron Monkey, and the ones I’ll be talking about today. He has an even bigger reach now that he’s appeared in the recent Star Wars movie, Rogue One.

The Ip Man trilogy has been released over the last few years. I’ve seen them all on Netflix undubbed and dubbed. As the titles suggest, they are about Yip (also called “Ip”) Man. He was a master of the style, Wing Chun, and trained many students. One of these students was a lad by the name of Lee Jun-Fan, aka Bruce Lee. It comes back to him in one way or another, doesn’t it? Anyway, the teacher has been the subject of a lot of things in Chinese media recently. Not only are there Yen’s movies, but there are a few other movies about the man out there. So, let me see what these three movies have to offer.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Talk - Kill Bill

So, Quentin Tarantino… is alright. I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the director but I have liked some of what he’s done. He was even behind getting Iron Monkey released in theaters over here. I’ve really only seen a few of his movies like Django Unchained and most of Pulp Fiction. I still haven’t seen Inglorious Bastards but I have been meaning to. Some of his other movies don’t interest me too much though. One thing that’s obvious is that he’s a fan of the old exploitation movies of the 70’s. It definitely shows in the ones I’ve seen and the two movies I’ll be talking about today.

Kill Bill Volume 1 was released in October of 2003. Its sequel, Kill Bill Volume 2, was released the next year during spring of 2004. They were both filmed at the same time. Originally, the movies were supposed to be one separate movie, but you’re talking four hours worth of movie there. I actually saw Vol. 2 first at my uncle’s house when it was released on DVD. I don’t know where I saw the first one though but I know I saw it somewhere. I actually think it was on a bus band trip. My sister likes the movies, so I’m actually borrowing her copy to revisit this pretty bloody affair.

Volume 1 starts out with The Bride (Uma Thurman) waking up from a four-year coma. She was part of an assassin group called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.  When she wanted to leave and get married, her former friends slaughtered everyone at the wedding rehearsal. She was the only one to survive. After she gets her bearings together, she goes on a revenge spree against her former squad mates and their leader, Bill. She ends up taking on two of her former squad mates, Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).
One of the coolest fight scenes.

Volume 2 starts out right after the first one and concludes the story. The Bride tries to take on the next squad mate, Bud (Michael Madsen), but she ends up getting taken down and captured. During her “imprisonment,” we essentially get her origin. Afterwards, she takes on Elle (Daryl Hannah). Finally, all there is left is Bill (David Caradine). She not only finds Bill, but she finds something much more important. She finds out that the daughter she thought died is actually alive.

This was a blast to watch again. While the series as a whole is pretty much a revenge fest, it’s at least a good one. I thought the story of B____ K____ was well told.  While it sometimes gets a little confusing since Tarantino decides to get all “non-linear” with the story, that’s not a bad thing. You just gotta pay attention. I also liked the comedy in the movie.  It kind of takes place in a world of its own. Just look at the plane the Bride takes to Japan.
That was weird.

The cast sells it all. Uma Thurman completely sold it as the Bride. She had the acting chops and the look down. She pretty much makes it all worth seeing.  The rest of the DVAS all were pretty cool too. They were unique and had nice backstories. Their acting was nice as well. I also liked that the assassins all had some nice moments to shine. I don’t know who from the group would be my favorite since they all were pretty much the same shade of douchebag. I also thought including martial arts actors like Gordon Liu (36th Chamber of Shaolin) and Sonny Chiba was nice. The anime sequence in the first movie that tells O-Ren’s backstory was also well done.
Bill, you got a nice gun, but leave the Superman talk to me, 'kay?

The action was good and intense. The fight choreography was awesome all the way through. Since this is a Tarantino movie, it is pretty bloody. While I’m not a gore-lover, the action makes up for it here. All of the major fight scenes are really good and it would be tough to choose my favorite one. If I had to though, my favorite from Vol. 1 is The Bride vs. Vernita and for Vol. 2 it’ll be the Bride vs. Elle. I also liked the different nods to the whole martial arts film genre.
You know, I haven't checked out any Sonny Chiba movies. I may have to fix that.

Is there anything about the thing as a whole I don’t like? There are some things that didn’t work. Vol. 1 does get a little too heavy with the action. It definitely gets like that with the fight in Japan. While the action was good, it did get taxing after a while. As for Vol. 2, there are times where it gets slow at times. The story’s good but some scenes do get a little long in the tooth. The final “bout” with Bill is definitely an example even though it was a good sequence.  There was also some dialogue in the series that didn’t completely hit. Last, there was some gore that was a little too much but that was a nitpick for me.

Overall, the Kill Bill series is a good one. It gives a nice story, a cool female protagonist, and some awesome action. If you haven’t seen them yet and are okay with gore, check them out. As for what’s next, you’ll find out when I find out. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and don’t trust a woman with an eye patch.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trade Tales! - Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 14: Warriors

Next up for Martial Arts Month is a return to the Ultimate Universe specifically Ultimate Spider-Man. I don’t have any current thoughts about Spider-Man: Homecoming this time. All you need to know is that I’m still not sure if I’m going to see it yet.  Anyway, not only do we get one martial arts hero, we get two: Iron Fist and Shang-Chi. Shang-Chi had already appeared in the Ultimate Universe (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #16-17) while this is Danny Rand’s first appearance. They aren’t the only faces that show up here though since this one is pretty packed as you’ll see.
This is Warriors. Insert any reference to the 1979 cult classic here. As usual, Bendis and Bagley are heading the writing and pencils, respectively. The inks is still being done by Scott Hanna. The trade contains Ultimate Spider-Man #79-85. So, let’s see Spider-Man get overshadowed by a crapton of characters. Just know that Snow, Cleon, Cochise, and Ajax didn’t make the meeting.
Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 14: Warriors
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Movie Talk - Bruceploitation 4: The Spinoff to the Sequel of the Remake of That One Bruce Lee Movie

It's a fake Bruce Lee vs. a fake Muhammad Ali!

Well, if there’s one thing January is going to bring, it’s going to be another trip to the genre know as Bruceploitation (BP). If you don’t know what that is, Wikipedia can help you there. If you don’t like actual research (like me), then here is a quick summation of the genre. BP was a phenomenon where producers tried to make money off the death of martial arts actor, Bruce Lee. Basically, they’d make movies that involved the name of Lee and it was in name only. I don’t think many who actually knew Lee were involved with them. Different martial artists were getting thrown into that “Next Bruce Lee” title and even the movies involved Lee’s name even though he never appeared in them. Some stock footage from previous movies would be used but that’s it.

For the last few years, I’ve gone into this swamp of weirdness and yells. Sometimes, there is some good to be found. You might get a decent movie or two. Then, you might get something so ludicrous that it needs to be seen. These movies can bring laughter in a “so bad it’s good” way. Today’s movies can end up on a scale of decent to “What in God’s Name Did I Watch.” So, sit down and read about how I spent most of my weekend getting to know these “movies.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Favorites - Ten Bruce Lee References in Pop Culture

Well, it’s a new year once more. 2016 brought its mix of good and bad like any year does. Let’s not forget that. Here’s hoping 2017 can be a little better than the previous year. As usual for January, welcome to Martial Arts Month. Yeah, it’s such an original title, I sarcastically say. Every year around this time, I look at the various things in movies, games, or TV that involve the martial arts. I barely know any styles myself but I’ve always had a love for this stuff.

 I thought I’d start the month with the one who started it all for me: Bruce Lee. Yeah, it always comes back to him in one way or another. He was one of the most influential martial artists in that he introduced the wider world to martial arts and Asian culture in general. Even though he left this world too soon, his influence can still be felt today especially in pop culture. He’s been referenced in a lot of places. Heck, he’s even an unlockable character in a UFC video game. So, here are my favorite references or homages to the man himself. They come from everywhere including movies, video games, TV, and more.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Random Thoughts #43 - Here We Go Again

Well, a new year has dawned once again. I stayed at home this year and caught up on some recent X-Men movies. Plus, there was yesterday's post to deal with. Before that, I decided to re-visit a certain RPG called Mass Effect. In saying all of that, it's time for some Random Thoughts.

2016 was... alright. I know folk say that 2016 was pretty horrid and I can't blame them. Stuff happened this year and not all of it was good. In my opinion, it was another year. The good and bad comes along with it. Still, it's been a blessed year even though it hasn't been perfect. I met new folk, ran a 5K, and lost little weight. I actually gain a few pounds since I know I passed the point I didn't want to pass (260, by the way). That's the last time I take an extended break from the YMCA! Luckily, I'm getting  back on that.

So, what's the plan for 2017? One phrase "Go! Get to the choppa!" All sarcasm aside, my resolutions/plans are pretty much the same from last year:
  • Get closer to God and be a better man 
  • Actually lose weight  
  • Find a good woman. I like my free time but it's time.
  • Actually get to do that remodeling (Didn't get it done this year)
  • Get rid of debt 
  • Run another 5K
  • Get a new computer
  • Live life to its fullest and actually do something different.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I recently got to see the newest Star Wars movie with a friend. I thought it was pretty good. It definitely felt a little darker than most Star Wars movies. It showed the other side of that universe which was far from light and friendly to begin with. Even though we knew what happened, it felt like something worth seeing. I liked the characters like Jyn Erso, Chirrut, the droid, and... Apollo? Look, I don't remember Diego Luna's character's name and he looked like he should have been paling around with Dirk Benedict at times. 


The last act of the movie was also amazing especially when a certain Dark Lord shows up. I was also surprised by a few things in the movie. Let's just say some old faces  that aren't with us anymore show up. While I liked it, it could have been a little better at times. I did think that most of our heroes were underdeveloped at times. I also wish it was a little longer. It felt a little short at times. Overall, this is one prequel that kicked some major butt.

Well, that's all I got for now. I may post less this year like last year, but I'll make them all count. Since it's January, you can only guess what's coming next. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and be careful out there.