Legendary Weapons of China (8/10)

This is a weird one. It starts off with a display of magical cloaked fighters in which two are made to kill themselves. One fighter (who I swear is a young Jackie Chan) gouges out his eyes, the other gouges out his, um... crotch. You are then shown more magical legions; the first is using voodoo power and the other is trying to block gun shots with a combination of muscle flexing and paper. The set up is crazy and you know it's going to be great, but then it hits the breaks and focuses on an old man who can lift lots of wood.

Half Life: Opposing Force on PC (7/10)

Half Life: Opposing Force

Opposing Force is a welcome improvement over Blue Shift. First off, it's feels like a full game rather than just a bunch of new levels. It's nowhere near as developed as a modern shooter, but there's a little bit of a story to follow. Half Life was much lauded for its story, but, in hindsight, there really wasn't much there. Opposing Force doesn't even have that minimal level of depth, but there's enough there to push you towards your goal which, as always, is to get the hell out of Black Mesa.

Half Life: Blue Shift on PC (6/10)

Blue Shift Screen

I am finally getting around to playing the Half-Life 1 expansion games. As expected, this is more of the same. This time around playing as a security officer who is caught up in the Black Mesa incident. Once again, you are trying to get back to the surface. There aren't any new game play mechanics (that I can see), and aside from a couple of references to Freeman, the story here doesn't really tie into the main narrative.

Star Wars: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by John Williams (7/10)

Format: 
CD

Star Wars kinda soured on me in the early 00's. Yeah, the prequels sucked, but even worse for me was the explosion of fandom and extended universe what-nots. From release of the first movie up until around the time the special editions came out, Star Wars was limited and distilled down mostly to those first three movies. Any trickle of new content was a joy and this soundtrack felt special.

The Deadly Breaking Sword (7/10)

I wasn't sure if he was supposed to be a good guy, but the title character is a swordsman whose calling card is that he breaks of a piece of his sword in the bodies of his foes. You would think by the end of the movie he would be wielding a nub, but the sword never seems to shrink much. The plot is more complicated than most kung-fu pictures and includes a gambling house where dominoes is the game of choice, weird freeze-frame fight moments, a "killer" doctor, and an archetypal annoying jokester hero.

The Shadow Whip (7/10)

This was a decent martial arts film notable for four things: a snowy, wintertime setting; exciting fights with many, many combatants; whip fighting; and Cheng Pei Pei commanding the screen in a modified Santa Claus suit.

Guacamelee! on PC (8/10)

Guacamelee! Screen shot.

This is what the kids call a metroidvania-style platformer (what a horrible term). You run around around a large, open-world and gain access to new areas as you upgrade to new powers. I tried to play Super Metroid on the Wii, but I don't think I had the patience for that older game. Guacamelee! on the other hand was very accessible. The movement is fast and fluid with easy fighting mechanics.

Pulp Fiction by Various Artists (7/10)

Format: 
CD

By 1994, having become bored with most of indie rock I had been listening to as a college student, I had immersed myself into surf rock. I remember sitting in the theater watching Pulp Fiction on opening weekend and being thrilled by all the surf instros I recognized. Really there are only about 4 surf tracks here but it sure felt like more.

A LEGO Brickumentary (7/10)

I've written before on this Web site how there is a standard documentary being produced these days that shows the "community" that has grown around various niche topics. Find a bunch of nerds who like the same thing and then they talk about how awesome it is to get together with other like-minded nerds. Brickumentary does a little bit of that, but there is more of the actual story behind LEGO's history and development.

Dragon Gate Inn (8/10)

Looking back over the string of martial arts films that I have viewed over the past few months, I'd have to say my favorite has been Come Drink With Me. Much of my appreciation is due to the artful direction of King Hu. Dragon Gate Inn is not a Shaw Brothers production and it has a somewhat different feel. There is a purposefulness to the direction and every frame is exquisitely composed. What's missing here are interesting or memorable characters.

The One-Armed Swordsman (8/10)

When I started my immersion into Shaw Brothers kung-fu, I knew I would eventually see this film. It apparently was a mega hit and marked another transition toward slightly more realistic action (the fights are still crazy, just less magic). The thing that appealed to me the most about this movie was the obvious use of indoor sets rather than actual locations. Despite Jimmy Wang Yu seeming to have one facial expression and a general lack of fighting skill, but he does a decent job as the title character and the story builds to a nice conclusion.

Defense Grid 2 on PC (7/10)

Defense Grid 2

The Defense Grid sequel seems more like an expansion than a new game. There are new powers and customizations, but core game remains the same; build towers and watch them mow down a seemingly endless stream of baddies. In fact, with the new upgrades, I think this may be easier than the original. I suppose the challenge really is in the alternate game modes where you a limited to certain spots or specific towers. Given the choice, I think I prefer the first game and its simple character-study story. This one tries to up the narrative ante by adding several voiced characters, but it just gets confusing and incoherent. The game still works as a casual strategy game that can be played in small doses.

Painted Faces (7/10)

I recognized most of the story here from having read Jackie Chan's memoir, I Am Jackie Chan. It's the story of Jackie and Sammo Hung's life as Peking opera students in training. The real Sammo plays the abusive master and gets to whip a younger version of himself. The movie never really gels as a whole but there are many memorable scenes showing the grueling training. I also liked the relationship between master and Cheng Pei Pei. Near the end there is a great sequence, which totally doesn't fit the movie, in which we see behind the scenes of a kung-fu produciton

Return to the 36th Chamber (7/10)

The first follow-up to The 36th Chamber still features Gordon Liu in the lead role, but it's mostly a parody of the original film. The more films I see with Gordon Liu, the more I realize just how great a screen presence he was. He carries this one with both his fighting skill and ability to play for laughs. In fact, outside of the final showdown, there is very little kung-fu fighting.

Patema Inverted (7/10)

I decided to watch this anime on a whim after revisiting The Girl Who Leapt Through Time the other night. The concept is something that probably every kid thought of at one time or another: what would it be like if gravity reversed itself? With it's twisting perspective and constant threat of "falling" into the sky, this film was disorienting and made my stomach turn. As someone with acrophobia, even standing at the base of a skyscraper gives me vertigo so your results may vary.

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