Saturday, April 28, 2007

This is the best website ever. While printing up character sheets for our new Eberron characters for our semi-defunct "Pat's D&D birthday cottage weekend", I came across this page. Granted, I have enough people to play with because I'm a semi-cool nerd, but I had to check it out. Here are some of the books I recently played with.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I thought my eyes deceived me. As I watched "Warriors Two" last weekend, the first time in many many years, I realized that the setting looked rather familiar. Rather Korean. And then it dawned on me. They weren't in China at all, but Gyeongbokgung. In Seoul, Korea!
I knew some kung fu films were filmed in Korea. Bruce Lee had originally used a temple in Korea (I forgot which one) as the location for "Game of Death". King Hu shot some of "Legend of the Mountain" on what appears to be Bukhansan. And many players in the industry in the 70's where in fact Korean, such as Casanova Wong and Jeong Chang-Hwa (director of "King Boxer" aka "Five Fingers of Death"), but I never realized how much of a role the small country played in the development of kung fu films.

It only make sense. After Mao had everything that looked remotely "feudal" burned to the ground, there weren't any places left too film. And that's if you could film on the mainland. Chances are you had to film in Hong Kong, choosing between the vast but still repetitive looking Shaw Brothers Studios, the occasional set built in what I imagine was the New Territories or the city streets themselves. Some, like King Hu, shot in Taiwan. And Korea, it seems, was a third option. Without access to studios like Heng Dian in Zhejiang that had yet to be built or the Forbidden city itself, Gyeongbokgung was probably one of the only large scale structures in that vicinity (at least to my knowledge, and I have been known to be wrong. This whole blog could be wrong). And in the 70's, Korea was still recovering from the Korean war, so the trade of locations for money was probably a pliable option. So why not shoot there?
My only real complaint I guess, is that knowing what it is now, sort of takes away from the movie. I mean, why is Sammo Hung practicing Wing Chun in what is obviously a Korean palace from the Joseon Dynasty. Did the Hong Kong people not care? Or, with the lack of any access to real structures of that kind (at least at that point), did they not know the difference. Then again, I didn't know the difference until I actually visited Gyeongbokgung.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I guess it was only a matter of time before someone began drawing comparisons between South Korean films and Cho Seung Hui, the gunman at Virginia Tech.

After reading the article written by Stephen Hunter, I couldn't help but wonder if he really understood or even saw any of the films he mentions. Although he only marginally condemns "Oldboy" for its graphic content, despite the fact that the movie is about the futility of vengeance, he cuts deep into John Woo, one of my greatest influences. Yes, his films are violent. Yes, they feature people with two guns. But, above all, they are films about brotherhood, something Cho Seung Hui didn't understand. I find it hard to condemn a film when it was clearly misinterpreted, regardless of the influence it may or may not have had on Cho.

For one, most of Hunters arguments are flawed. Cho used two guns. So do people in Woo's films, which he carried over from his love of Westerns such as "The Wild Bunch" which so clearly influenced his cinematic style. Should we be blaming Sam Peckinpah for the events that unfolded last week? Hunter references the shoot-out at the beginning of "The Killer", claiming the events in Virgina probably unfolded in a similar fashion, offering no reference, just a wild claim. Cho walked into a room and shot some people. Chow Yun-Fat walked into a room and shot some people in a John Woo movie. Therefore, Cho obviously was influenced by this movie. Brilliant deduction Mr. Hunter. I can understand why someone like you gets paid to write lopsided articles that contain no facts, just completely fabricated arguments.

I don't think John Woo is the problem here. The man doesn't condone violence. Do I think violence in the media affected Cho. Yes. But does violence in the media affect anyone with a vast amount of mental issues? Yes. The problem is, Cho, someone who had been a known stalker, who had serious psychological issues, was able to buy guns. If he was never able to buy the guns, this wouldn't have happened. Plain and simple. Once again, the media becomes a scapegoat because parents don't want to sit down with their kids each night and take the time to monitor what they view and explain to them what is right and what is wrong.

I remember the first time I saw the JFK assassination on TV, and myself and my brother watched as his brains were blasted out the back of his head. We jumped up and down, jubilant about what we were watching. We were screaming. "Look at his brains, that's awesome!" My dad came charging down the stairs and ripped into us. He yelled at us and told us that it wasn't funny. It wasn't something to laugh it. It was horrific. It was sad. And that is what a parent should do.

We are a social species. We need human contact. Cho didn't know how to interact with the world around him. His family in Korea thought he was autistic because he rarely talked. When you spend your life in front of a computer screen or a TV, it doesn't matter what you watch. You could watch reruns of "Golden Girls" and it's still going to fuck you up. We need human interaction. Which brings us back to "Oldboy", a movie about a man locked up for 15 years (not 20 as Hunter stated), who has no human contact, only a TV. And when he finally escapes and goes on his barbaric rampage of vengeance, he doesn't know how to interact with the world around him. So if anything, "Oldboy" was not an influence on the events at Virginia Tech, but a warning.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

TMNT changed my life. After my first introduction at a comic book store in downtown Georgetown, I began obsessively reading all the comics and graphic novels. I built a vast network of sewers for myself and my brother to play in with his TMNT action figures. We had repeat viewings of all the movies (well, maybe not so much part 3) and had all the cartoon episodes on tape. My art club project in grade 8 was a climactic rooftop battle between the Turtles, Shredder and his Footclan cronies. "TMNT and other Strangeness" was my first foray into RPG's, which would eventually affect my life profoundly and deeply. It introduced me to the world of "Dungeons & Dragons", leading to "Dragonlance" and then finally culminating with "Darksun" (the greatest fantasy gaming world ever created, although I am now falling for "Eberron"). Needless to say, the Turtles filled a large portion of my life, and they are dear to my heart.

Fastforward to last week. I was more than ecstatic about seeing the latest TMNT movie. It had been more than 15 years since I saw a Turtles movie on the big screen, so I was more than eager to see it. And then days before, an anonymous friend told me he had got his hands on a DVD with 300, TMNT, Pan's Labyrinth and the Roast of William Shattner. I was torn. What to do? Should I watch the movie? An actual pirated movie? Should I condone this illegal act, putting our friends in the stuntworld out of work, as we learned from those happy PSAs at the local movie theatre. Piracy IS stealing, or so I've been told.

I finally reached a compromise. I mean, really, Bob the stuntman isn't going to lose any money because I watched a pirated DVD, unless, somehow, he is getting a cut of the profits. And unless he's Tom Cruise, I don't think he is. So, I decided, out of sheer curiosity, just to watch the first 10 minutes or so of TMNT, to help me work up a healthy appetite for my green-skinned friends. To ensure that the money I was about to spend was a wise decision. Unfortunately, I spent the next hour and a half watching utter and complete crap.

I won't waste my time writing a critique of a movie that destroyed part of my childhood (yes, I am taking this personally, but hey, I'm a nerd). So what is my point you may be asking yourself. Well, I'll tell you. I try to avoid piracy. I don't see the point, unless there are circumstances beyond your control stopping you from seeing the movie. This was the reason we acquired so many DVD's while living in China, because it was the only way to see these movies since the Chinese government bars all but 20 or so foreign movies per year. That and the fact they cost so little. Who would not buy a 3 disc edition of "Happy Together" for $5?

TMNT was the first time, here, in Canada, that I watched a pirated movie and was actually happy I did. I was glad I supported piracy. It saved me $15. Why would I want to pay the studio and the theatre a sum of money, which, for a trip to the theatre (the "Scotiabank theatre" to be exact, since everyone loves theatres named after banks) is quite ridiculous, only to watch them butcher something I have held dear to my heart for almost 20 years. Why would I want to support crap. Crap that, quite frankly, will both insult and impair our children's intelligence, beating them over the head with "the moral of the story." It made me cringe. It almost made me sick. I now support piracy, at least on the grounds of testing out movies you aren't so sure of. Yes, if I like the film, I will still buy the DVD, or I will still go the theatres to watch it, since nothing compares to actually seeing a film in a theatre.

But for now, I condone piracy. Good on you China and Canada for your lax piracy laws!