Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finally. I've spent 20 years trying to find my rosebud, and now, here it is.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fourth street will rock you. The name says it all.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I don't go to the cinema as much as I'd like. I generally lack the time these days, and I really miss the Uptown. But the past few times I've been, the event itself has been so memorable, so inspiring, I couldn't help but feel a need to see everything on the big screen, in a mass group environment. To perhaps give up on DVD (or Bluray or HD-DVD or laserdisc or VCD or EVD or cerebral uploadable films).

My mind first started to wander after the double whammy of Flashpoint and Sukiyaki Western Django at TIFF. Both where awe inspiring films. Don't laugh at me, they really were. I had dreams about Flashpoint that first night. But part of what made that first experience so memorable, and so enjoyable, was the act of seeing the film in that environment. Sukiyaki Western Django ranks amoung one of my top movie going experiences of my life. Seeing Beowulf in 3-D on the Imax and Bladerunner:Final Cut within the span of a week had only solified my belief. I was almost ready to start selling off my collection.

And then I popped in Ju-rei. A typical, low budget J-horror film that uses almost every horror cliche known to modern Japanese cinema, but presents it in an interesting way. Its narrative device was the only thing that saved this from being dreck. That, and my viewing experience. I was home in the middle of the day, sick, alone. I was sprawled out on the futon. I grabbed Ju-rei completely at random. I'd already watched Black House and My Heart is that Eternal Rose. I wasn't really bother what I was about to put in. I was probably slightly delusional. And then it started. Completely shot on video. It looks like crap, but is filled with enough long, haunting shots that it still remains appeasing to the eye. If you watch this on a large screen, it would be aweful. This, like many J-horror films, was meant to be seen on your TV. Visitor Q is one of my favourite movies of all time, but I'm not even sure how that would play out in a theatre. Somethings are better left on the small screen, and some on the big.

I don't think I ever would want to see Beowulf again unless it was in 3-D and on Imax. And I will stand by that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Learning the Bokken is frickin' awesome. I almost feel like a samurai, minus the ritual suicide.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Our dear friend Baxtor has decided to leave us after almost a years worth of sarcastic quips, repeated movie borrowing and never watching, and lightbulb changing. He has decided to embark on what his species, the Gannglaks (or in certain Swedish circles Pfloonfs), call their life's quest. What will become of our fine feathered friend. I do not know young readers, but do not be afraid. Baxtor is known for his supreme willpower and long, gangly limbs (ask Adam). No obstacle is insurmountable for Baxtor!

Look at him dance!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Today I thought about possibly giving up writing, in support of the Writers Guild and their strike. But I don't think I would get very far in a day without having to write something. I'm looking forward to this strike. Maybe it will stop the output of crap, for at least a while. The last writers strike lasted 22 months, so if all goes well, there will be no more Saw sequels for at least 2 years. Here's to hoping.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I visited Chinatown earlier this week, to catch up on my Korean cinema. The women behind the counter went through my movies as she always does, checking that they have subtitles in English. One of my selections, the Japanese fantasy martial arts extravaganza Dororo, did not have subtitles. Here is trailer for it, to give you and idea of the movie I was looking for.

In a rush, as I was suppose to meet Jason at Starbucks, I scanned the shelf, trying to find a replacement movie to complete my selection of 10. I poured over the Japanese shelf, looking for something. Anything. Should I get Devilman or Cutie Honey. Or try my luck with Nana. Before I could decide, the woman behind the counter stepped out and grabbed something from the shelf.

"This is new and very popular" she told me as she handed me the DVD. I grabbed it from her and paid my money, thanking her for the help. It wasn't until I got into the van to head home that I glanced at the DVD.

It was Blind Beast.

Here is a good review of Blind Beast over at Kung Fu Cinema.

Now, I was of course still excited about what I got, because frankly I had wanted to see it, especially after recently watching Flower and Snake and Nampo Noir. What struck me as odd is why the woman at the DVD store thought that I would like this movie. Did she really thing that Blind Beast was a good substitute for anyone wanting to see Dororo? Does she always offer this movie to 30 something white males? Did she remember I bought Flower and Snake from her months ago? Could she sense that I was into something artistically perverse?

Whatever her reason, I thank her, and will shop there again soon. Well, maybe not too soon. I think I need to spend time watching the pile of movies I have still haven't watched.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Things I learned over the weekend.

Just because you directed a music video for 50 Cent doesn't mean you are going to make a good movie. Instead, it means you make a festering pile of crap.

John Baxter will never watch Goonies.

Jet Li shouldn't have stopped taking acting lessons. Jason Statham should start.

Huerta likes to take guys down and wail on them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tartan Video has a label branded "Asian Extreme". Extreme horror, extreme action, extreme passion. Whatever. They release some of the so-called "extreme" asian movies, a term which I wholeheartedly detest. I decided to rent the Benny Chan film Divergence, in hopes that Aaron Kwok, Ekin Chang and Daniel Wu would entertain me for 2 hours. I was wrong. The movie was terrible. It represented everything that is wrong with Hong Kong cinema. Convoluted for the sake of being convoluted, it still somehow managed to be very predictable. And melodramic. Very, very melodramatic. Which is to be expected I guess with pop icons in some of the leading rolls, but really, how much does Ekin Chang have to cry? But what made my viewing experience even more painful was the fact that the subtitles, on a North American DVD, by a supposedly respectable DVD label, were delayed by almost 5 seconds. Granted, I don't think it would have made the film any better, but it certainly made it more frustrating.

Who at Tartan picks what movies they release on their Extreme label? There was nothing extreme about Divergence. Nothing remotely interesting really. Out of all the recent Hong Kong action/thrillers, why choose this one? Something like One Night in Mongkok, also with Daniel Wu, is far more engaging and original. Even the contrived Confessions of Pain was better than Divergence. It was by far one of the worst Hong Kong films I've seen in a while. I'm still not sure about this Benny Chan fella. He's definitely hit and miss.

On a side not, I wasted another 2 hours of my life when I finally watched the pretentious snooze fest Lady in the Water. My god. The self proclaimed master storyteller M. Night Shyamalan has finally gone off the deep end. He treats the audience like morons and then basks in his own glory as the man who will save the world with his obviously important films. He seems to think he is not only the new Hitchcock, but a step above Hitchcock, because his movies will change the world! Or make us slit our wrists.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fuwa. The official mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini. Being the somewhat naive foreigner that I am, I assumed that these 5 mystical looking characters were steeped in ancient mythological lore. Apparently I was wrong. At least somewhat.

You see, the names are structured to sound like an affection childrens name. Each one is suppose to represent a child in a closeknit group of friends. Four of the Fuwa represent popular Chinese animals. The fish, the Tibetan antelope, the panda and the swallow. The final Fuwa represents the Olympic torch. Each one has features of the animal or torch it's suppose to represent. Each Fuwa also symbolizes an element, and the landscapes, dreams and hopes of people from different parts of China. And, if you combine all their names, you get "Beijing huanying ni", or "Welcome to Beijing". So cute its repulsive.
So what at first appeared to be something magical, mystical, almost mysterious, turns out to be nothing more than a marketable advertising ploy. It will sell millions and millions of cute little stuffed toys of Fuwa all around the world. It will also ensure that the same people who buy the Fuwa know that all parts of China, no matter how remote, all minorities groups, know matter how unique, are a commodity. That they are Chinese.
On a side note, an article I wrote is up on my friend Mike's and his partner Matt's webpage It's entitled "the easter egg hunt".

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!