Showing posts with label Films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Films. Show all posts

Friday, June 23, 2017

Derek Yee's SWORD MASTER is a Beautiful Film in Sonata Form



The wuxia pian is a cinematic genre that wanders in and out of favor among the theater going public, but it is one of the most aesthetically beautiful and emotionally moving genres in film. While there are some basic similarities between wuxia and kung fu films, both often feature wandering warriors, the differences far outweigh the similarities. Chief among these differences is the symphonic nature of wuxia narratives. Where kung fu films tell a story with a central them from beginning to end with all the intervening expository scenes necessary to define the motivations of the characters, the characters in a wuxia pian are the thematic elements. As Stephen Teo writes in Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions about wuxia auteur King Hu, "Hu is the most musical of martial arts directors. He composes his work like a symphonic piece where the recapitulation of a theme is imperative to the enjoyment." The compositional nature of wuxia as a genre is perfectly depicted in Derek Yee's aesthetically beautiful and emotionally powerful 2016 film Sword Master.




Sword Master is a remake of the 1977 Yuen Chor film Death Duel, updated with modern film effects and techniques and directed by Derek Yee who played the role of the lead character in the 1977 production. This is a film where a star performer returns to one of his key roles to direct the film with a new vision. Death Duel was a masterful wuxia film, but Yee's Sword Master has an underlying sorrowful and nostalgic emotional tone that allows it to stand on its own without any real need to be compared to the original save to mention the deeply personal connection the director has with the original film.

On one level Sword Master is a story of how two of the greatest swordsman eventually come to face one another in a fatal duel. How they get there, and their reasons for fighting, are complex. From the opening moments of the film, we know that the skull faced and doomed Yen Shih-San and the legendary Third Master of the Divine Sword Hsieh Shao-Feng must meet in a battle only one will survive. As the film progresses, the audience's emotions range from excitement at the skilled display that awaits to mourning that one of these men must die to accepting that the eventual outcome is not only necessary but beautiful as well. 

Where Sword Master a kung fu film, Yen Shih-San would be pursuing Hsieh Shao-Feng for killing his master or some similar motivation and who the villain and hero is would be cleanly established. That is not the case in this tale told in sonata form, rather than straight forward narrative. 



Following musical compositional stucture, Yen Shih-San represents Death and Swordcraft. From his makeup and music to his character's struggling with an illness of the soul that is killing him as sure as cancer, everything about Yen Shih-San radiates Death. When the film opens Yen Shih-San is on a quest to defeat all of the greatest swordsman in the world in order to secure his legend and to be remembered as the best swordsman of his era. He has forsaken everything in order to attain this end, he has even forsaken his obligation to protect the innocent from those who would oppress them. As a wandering swordsman, he has two obligations. To attain excellence at swordcraft and to defend the innocent. He is only focusing on one of those tasks and this has led to a corruption of his Chi, and his doom. After winning a fight in the opening sequence, he travels to the Divine Sword school in order to challenge their Third Master who is the greatest swordsman of the era. If Yen Shih-San can defeat the Third Master, his journey is complete. Sadly, Yen Shih-San discovers that the Third Master is dead and that everything he has sacrificed is for naught.


Hsieh Shao-Feng represents Humility and Righteousness. When viewers first encounter Hsieh Shao-Feng, he is known only as Ah Chi (or Useless Chi). In Hsieh Shao-Feng's first scene, he spend a night of self destructive excess in which he forsakes all of the material things in life after which he must become the janitor at a brothel in order to pay his debts. Hsieh Shao-Feng has attempted to leave jianghu, the world of martial arts, by forsaking all sense of pride and by abandoning the exercise of martial prowess. We do not know why Hsieh Shao-Feng has chosen this path, we only know that he would rather be beaten near to death than to harm another person. Where Yen Shih-San has chosen combat over Righteousness and Humility, Hsieh Shao-Feng has forsaken swordcraft for Humility and given that he defends the weak at the first opportunity (even though he does so without fighting) we know he has also focused on serving the innocent. 

Each of our warriors is half of a whole. Each represents half of what a swordsman must be. Each leaves the world of martial arts, jianhu, behind at the end of the first act. But one can never leave the world of martial arts, to do so is to be destroyed and to watch those you love suffer. Such are the stakes, and so our two themes must interact in a cinematic equivalent to a developmental section and arrive at a recapitulation of the themes where they are resolved into a single theme and a warrior is made whole.

In order to accomplish this monumental task, there must be an external threat of sufficient scale to bring our heroes back into the world of martial arts and such a threat exists. With the death of the Third Master, the Divine Sword school can no longer keep its place at the top of the martial world. It can no longer protect the weak from the excesses of champions of evil who seek to spread suffering. A new school has risen to challenge the Divine Sword and to spread misery. This school provides the basis for one of multiple relationship triangles in the film. The triangle triangles of conflict include one between our two heroes and the new evil subjugating the masses, a love triangle between Hsieh Shao-Feng, his former fiancee/bride, and his true love, another love triangle between Hsieh Shao-Feng, an admirer of his fiancee, and his fiancee, a triangle representing the struggle between good and evil that contains Hsieh Shao-Feng, Yen Shih-San, and Shao-Feng's father, and another, and another, and another. There are relationship triangles to spare in this film and they each interact in ways that reveal the underlying motivations of the characters.

There is much to write about regarding the intertwining of relationships in Sword Master, but it is much better to watch the interactions of the relationships as they resolve. For in their resolution we unravel the following mysteries: Why did Hsieh Shao-Feng abandon the Divine Sword school and "kill" the Third Master? Why does the new threat exist? Why did Hsieh Shao-Feng abandon his fiancee and how can he have done so while still being a Righteous man? 

All of these questions are answered in a film that is filmed beautifully with wonderful digital matte paintings that transport the audience out of our world and into the fantastic world of rivers and lakes that is the world of martial arts. The high flying swordsmanship is a joy to watch on the screen as the choreography and camera work combine to create vivid imagery that displays great martial prowess without brutality. One may never be able to leave the world of martial arts, but when watching Sword Master one finds that they don't even want to leave. 


Friday, August 12, 2016

Ghost House Pictures' 'Don't Breathe' Reunites Fede Alvarez and Jane Levy



In 2013, Ghost House Pictures rebooted the classic horror comedy series Evil Dead with a new director (Fede Alvarez) and a new star (Jane Levy). The film attempted to balance itself between the two horror/comedy extremes of the Evil Dead franchise. It was less creepy and haunting than the original film and focused less on humor than Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness. In attempting this balance, the film selected a talented comedic actress whose prior work included the short-lived and entertaining series Suburgatory.

The pairing was a success. Rotten Tomatoes ratings show that many critics and audience members found the Alvarez/Levy Evil Dead to be a worthy addition and the film is by a large margin the most successful theatrical release in the series. This success was in no small part due to the cult classic status the movies have attained as they have continued to build audience. The box office success of the 2013 Evil Dead film doesn't in itself answer whether audiences truly liked the new vision or whether the success was due primarily to the power of the brand. The film was polarizing among some of the fan base who thought the film was too gory and lacked sufficient humor. Ghost House Pictures has an opportunity to prove that Alvarez and Levy have appeal outside of a strong brand with this year's Don't Breathe. This film is an original story that features no supernatural elements and promises to focus on suspense rather than gore.

Don't Breathe opens with a premise similar to that of In Cold Blood, but turns the tables on the criminals in a fashion common in horror films like You're Next. The filmic twist in this case is that audiences are supposed to sympathize with one of the home invaders as she realizes that she and her friends have invaded the home of someone who, though blind, is freakishly good at killing people.

The film is slated for wide release on August 26th, right in time for the new school year and a good lead into Halloween.


Friday, April 22, 2016

ID4 Resurgence: I See Your H.G. Wells Clone and Raise You FOOTFALL and ROBOTECH



Independence Day is probably my favorite adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic tale War of the Worlds. It captures the desperation of defending a world against an overwhelming force and does a nice job of updating "microbes" into a computer virus in a way that requires no small amount of suspension of disbelief, but somehow still seems appropriate. One of the best things about the film was that it knew what it was and didn't care to be anything more. It was just a good time bundled into a nice 2 hours and 25 minutes.

It looks like the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, is happy to follow the formula of its predecessor. Just as ID4 borrowed from one of the all-time classic SF stories, arguable THE STORY that established the Invasion narrative plotline that every invasion movie has followed, the new movie looks like it is inspired by a host of classics as well. From the Macross inspired reverse engineering of alien technology in preparation of invasion, to the larger than life "war ending" impact crater of Footfall, this trailer has a little bit of everything.

I cannot wait for this to come out!



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jim Beaver (Supernatural) Discusses Buster Keaton's OUR HOSPITALITY

It's hard to describe in words the brilliance of the comedic stunt work of early Hollywood action-comedians like Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.  Their willingness to risk life and limb to entertain audiences -- even with the safety procedures they did use -- is mind boggling. The best way to use words to describe their endeavors are usually names, names of artists who have attempted similarly insane comedic stunts. You can tell a modern audience that many of Jackie Chan's stunts were inspired by the work of Keaton, and that does a pretty effective job.  But for my generation, who encountered Jackie Chan as he entered the American Market with THE BIG BRAWL, a better comparison is Disney's character Goofy.  Many of the animated stunt comedy shorts that feature Goofy are based on the comedic endeavors of Keaton and Lloyd.

Think about that for a minute. Animation, with its infinite ability to show the unreal, was used to tell stories inspired by the real world stunt work of real world comedians.

Actor Jim Beaver has a column over at IndieWire entitled "Beaver's Lodge," and in his most recent (and second) installment he discusses Buster Keaton's film OUR HOSPITALITY.  Watch his discussion and tell me you don't want to watch this film.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Man of Steel: Still Looking Good

While there are still to many shots "taken" from Richard Donner's two excellent Superman movies in this trailer, there is enough here for me to think that MAN OF STEEL looks promising. Any Superman film has the difficult task of choosing which version of Superman to use -- Gold/Silver/Bronze/Tin/Byrne -- and Snyder seems to have leaned a little in the Byrne direction.  This can be a good thing, but it can also backfire. Too many directors -- I'm looking at you Andrew Stanton -- think that "modern audiences" can't handle white knight characters unless they have a shade of grey. Thing is, authors have been making that mistake for generations. It isn't having "troubled" or "grey" heroes that audiences find compelling. It's having heroes who experience conflict and for whom there are stakes. Donner got that with his Superman, and Burroughs understood that with his John Carter. I hope that Snyder gets it.



Monday, September 03, 2012

Jackie Chan + Street Luge Suit + 101st Film = Win?

It looks like Jackie Chan's 101st film CHINESE ZODIAC is a return to classic Chan-esque action.  The trailer from the film features Jackie Chan performing a series of stunts wearing what can only be called a Street Luge Suit.  While the concept is interesting, and hearkens back to JC classics like ARMOR OF GOD, Chan does seem to be showing his age in the sequence.  I'm excited to see the film, but I think I'll be spending more time than usual worrying if Jackie Chan is going to be seriously injured than I did when he was younger.  Given that he fractured his skull in ARMOR OF GOD, maybe I should have worried more then too.





Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What if Kurt Russell had Landed the Han Solo Part?

Thanks to Geoff Boucher of the invaluable LA Times Hero Complex, I found this intriguing audition where Kurt Russell reads for the part of Han Solo opposite William Katt of Greatest American Hero fame.  Believe it or not, it is a real possibility that Kurt could have landed the Han role.  Thankfully he didn't.  He's a little too Dexter Riley in this reading, and too little Snake Plissken.  I would argue that Russell had so much of the residual fairy dust from his Disney live action films, that he may have made a great Luke.  He has the charm, he just lacks the ruggedness.




I'm a big fan of Russell's, but if I had seen this footage before watching Escape from New York or Tombstone even I would have had a hard time believing that Russell could emote "grimness."

I have also realized another thing after watching these, and other, auditions for Star Wars. I realized that had I been directing the films, the actors may have become frustrated with hearing a single piece of direction uttered by me. That phrase would have been, "FASTER...MORE INTENSE!" It's true of the Harrison Ford audition as much as it is of these. The actors just seem so calm when they are delivering these lines.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

[Film Review] THE TRIP: Commentary and Cuisine

In 2010, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon starred in an award winning BBC sit-com entitled The Trip. The show lasted for six critically acclaimed episodes. The show was nominated for a BAFTA for best situation comedy and Steve Coogan won a BAFTA for best male performance in a comedy role. In 2011, the television series was edited into a feature film distributed in the United States by IFC films.

The movie, like the television series, is a mockumentary about two comedic actors named Steve and Rob whose careers and lives bear a striking resemblance to those of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

The film opens with Steve calling Rob to ask if Rob would be available for a trip critiquing a number of high end restaurants in the north of England.  Steven has accepted a commission from The Observer newspaper to do a travelogue and review column of the locations along the trip.  When he had initially taken the commission Steven had planned to have his gourmand girlfriend Mischa accompany him, but their relationship has been put "on hold" as she has traveled to the United States in the hopes of getting some journalistic commissions of her own.  Steven has run out of options for companions, and so he asks his co-worker of 11 years Rob to join him on the trip.

The movie is a delightfully buddy comedy which takes advantage of the Steven's and Rob's comfortable friendship to create a touching and believable narrative.  While one can enjoy the film just for the buddy comedy that it is, it is also a film that works on two other distinct levels.

First, as a visual representation of the north of England it is beautiful.  The cinematographer captured the moors, mountains, and pastures magnificently and the picturesque representations of bucolic England are one of the best advertisements for a vacation to the country that one could imagine.  Add to the visual beauty food that ranges from the exquisite to the weird, and a nice touch of history, and you have a film that works as a proxy for the travelogue that the Steven character is supposed to be writing.  In making a film depicting a writer journeying to acquire material, the film has managed to visually tell the tale as the character might well be writing.

The second, and more profound, level of the film is the nature of the lives of Steven and Rob and the social commentary contained therein.  Steven represents the urban sophisticate and Rob the bourgeois. 

Steven is the more "internationally famous" actor who has starred in American films and who is seeking more work in America, and who tells his British agent that he doesn't want to do any more British television.  He wants to star in important independent films, and doesn't have time to star as the "baddie" in an upcoming episode of Doctor Who.  Steven is not content with his professional life, and seeks to do something "important." 

Rob's work has mostly been in British television where he is known for his uncanny impressions and for a particular vocal gimmick called "small man trapped in a box."  Before I continue describing Rob's life, you really must experience the small man bit.  It is remarkable, and I couldn't believe it wasn't done with post-production tricks -- but it is something very real.



Rob is portrayed as a working class actor who is quite content with his career and who deeply appreciates the respect and admiration he receives from his fans.  Where Steven is dour, Rob is cheerful -- infectiously so.

It isn't merely creatively that Steven is frustrated.  His personal life is also the shambles.  His girlfriend has just left him, though he is trying to keep a connection to her, and his divorce has had a predictable affect on his relationship with his son -- a son who is rebelling a bit and who is in need of a positive role model.  Steven can't maintain a long term relationship, and he cannot quite keep track of the one night stands he has had.  He is so caught up in the life of the "artiste" and trying to be a kind of tragic artist in personality, that it is hard for him to truly connect with another person.  There is a wonderful moment in the film where he is getting high in a room once used by Coleridge.  Steven is trying his best to affect a kind of moody poetic persona, that it creates a powerful yet muted comedic moment. 

The opposite is true of Rob's life.  He and his wife have only recently had a baby.  They have a strong and delightful relationship filled with laughs.  Where Steven's phone calls end in sighs and "I have to go nows," Rob's conversations don't end on screen.  One can imagine that the playful dialogue between Rob and his wife continues until either they both fall asleep or until the baby awakens in need of some care.  The moments where Rob converses and flirts with his wife on the phone are some of the most personal and magical in the film.

It should be noted that all of Steven's phone calls take place via cell phone, and that his quest for cell phone signals is a humorous sub-plot on its own, while all of Rob's phone calls are on land line.  The cell phone is presented as cold and distant and never really allows the people on either end of the phone to "connect," whereas the land line is portrayed intimately and conversations via land line are akin to cuddling.

Once more the "urban sophisticate" is contrasted to the simpler "bourgeois," a major theme of the film that is portrayed in a number of ways -- always with the "sophistication"/elitism being shown as failing or inappropriate.  Steven rents a Land Rover because "the north has hills," he has accepted a commission to write about food without any real knowledge of food, and so on.

Two of my favorite moments (displayed below) are the very much talked about "Dueling Michael Caines" scene and the "We Rise at Dawn" scene. The "We Rise" scene is maybe one of my favorite comic bits ever. It ranks with "Who's on First" in my mind.

Witty, subtle, beautiful, and rewatchable.  The Trip is one of those rare films that makes a short trip seem like an epic journey, all while never being anything other than a small trip.  It praises family over fame and friendship over facade.







Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sony Pictures THE RAID -- Holy Moly!

I'm not deeply familiar, or even moderately familiar, with the action film scene in Indonesia.  But if this is any indication of what they have been creating, I'm going to have to change that soon.

THE RAID was a selection at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (apparently still the go to festival for all things awesome) and the preview looks remarkable.



The film is the tale of a SWAT raid on a tenement controlled by a Drug Kingpin that has almost every possible thing go wrong.  I can't wait to see this action with real sound effects, and a real score.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Defense of D&D Movies and Some Commentary on Playing Styles


Ever since I purchased a copy of Thousand Suns, I have been a big fan of James Maliszewski. It was obvious from this product, and his excellent Shadow, Sword, & Spell, that he and I share a deep affection for many of the same things. It didn't take me long to enter his name into a search engine and find his excellent blog Grognardia where he shares his love of Old School gaming and pulp fiction with an engaged and passionate audience. I'm a big fan of the site and cannot recommend it -- or the two games mentioned earlier -- highly enough.

Though we share affections, his explorations into pulp and old games usually discuss things found on my book shelves, I don't always agree with his critical opinions of new gaming systems. James is an ardent advocate of not merely "old school games," but also of what he considers "old school play." While I advocate owning and playing older games, I have no preference for old or new style play. James is a knowledgeable critic of the gaming industry, and I am a devoted Pollyanna.

A perfect Case Study for how our hobby opinions differ is his recent post regarding Dungeons and Dragons movies. In a post entitled "The Pointlessness of a D&D Movie," James argues that -- regardless of the quality of a D&D movie -- there is no real point to making a D&D movie since any such film would be D&D in name only. In his opinion, it would be difficult -- if at all possible -- to make a film that truly captured the essence of D&D. He argues that any D&D movie would likely be a "generic" fantasy film as much as it would be a D&D film. Therefore the exercise is largely pointless.

I both agree and disagree with his argument, and I disagree strongly with many of those who posted comments on his site -- especially with regard to what constitutes the "feel" of D&D.

While James is correct that most attempts to create a D&D inspired movie would likely be "merely" generic fantasy films, he would be wrong if he thought it were necessary that a D&D inspired film would be a generic fantasy film. To be fair, James asks his audience to give him an example of what such a film would be like rather than to assert that it is impossible.

In my opinion, a D&D inspired film would take one of two forms.




In the first case, one could create a film inspired by the intellectual properties associated with the D&D brand. One could make a Mystara, Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Birthright, Eberron, Dark Sun, or Planescape movie. To be fair, it would be possible that any film set in these creations might end up defaulting to generic fantasy, but it isn't a necessary condition. A Greyhawk film that focused on Zagyg's quest for immortality, Iuz's plans, or on Mordenkainen and friends would be different enough in character to matter. Similarly a Forgotten Realms film about Drizz't or based on Paul Kemp's "Shadow" series would have as distinct a tone as is possible. As for Eberron, Dark Sun, or Planescape, each of these has a character so unique that they would stand out on their own. These settings are rich for exploration and would also have the marketing potential to bring in new gamers, as they have directly related products.




In the second case, I can imagine a film akin to Andre Norton's Quag Keep, L. Sprague DeCamp's Solomon's Stone, or Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame. In this scenario, players of a D&D game would be transported into a mystical world -- or the actions of players in the real world would be interposed on characters in the fantastic. I also think one could do something like the Gold web series where gaming is used as a setting for a larger story.

From a marketing perspective any of these would be desirable. The purpose of a film is to help build brand and provide revenue and this would be easily possible with any of the above strategies. Which comes down to the crux of it. It isn't pointless from a business perspective to make a D&D film because it can bring revenue for shareholders while providing entertainment -- and employment opportunities -- for stakeholders.

Almost no one reading James' blog approached the question in the above fashion. Looking at the responses from James' readers though, one is taken aback by a couple of things. First, the venom some of his posters had for existing D&D entertainment enterprises. Commenters disparaged the D&D movies, the Dragonlance animated film, and the D&D cartoon that aired in the 80s.

In future posts I will discuss the various D&D movies individually, but let me just put forward the following. I think that everyone involved in making those products wanted to make something entertaining, and many of them were gamers themselves. I agree that the first D&D movie was a disappointment (though it also had moments). I think that the second film was much better, and on a fraction of the budget. I think that the flaws of the Dragonlance movie stem from weaknesses in the first Dragonlance novel (the weakest of the first six books) and that the film is actually a good translation of that book. I deeply enjoy the cartoon series, as do my twin daughters. Lastly, I eagerly await the next D&D film and know that the people working on it want to make a good film. But I will elaborate on all of these in the future.

Another thing that struck me in the posts, in addition to the venom aimed at existing attempts, was the vision many of James' commenters had for what constitutes "D&D narrative."

Some examples include this one from commenter Johnstone:

A group of adventurers arrives at the mouth of a dungeon. They enter and explore rooms, get around traps, fight monsters, run away from monsters, find gold and treasure, and Black Dougal dies from poison. Then they fight two or three dragons at the end, after which only the fighter and the thief are still alive. The thief backstabs the fighter, grabs (some of/the best of) the treasure and books it. The end.

This one from Reverence Pavane:

Well a good movie about D&D would probably go back and examine the basic tropes of the game, rather than trying to fit a plot to the games. Such as the existence of dungeons. The fact that adventurers form up in small teams of highly egotistical individuals to go down into the dungeon and slay things, loot their victims and furnishings, and then return to the tavern.

This one from Lord Gwydion:

Personally, if I were to write a D&D script, I'd focus on these things:

No big 'save the world' plot.

No 'revenge' plot (although a subplot might involve revenge).

No 'hero's journey' plot.

Those three stances alone mean it would not be made by Hollywood (or they'd hire someone to come in after I was done and add all of those back in).


Each of these, and a couple of other posts, exemplifies a particular view of what constitutes the spirit of D&D play. They also depict a way of playing D&D that I haven't personally experienced since I was in high school. That doesn't mean that this style of play is an "immature" or "childish" way to play the game. In fact, this was a way of playing D&D that was popular among the adults who taught my friends and me how to play the game, but it was one my friends and I abandoned for heroic adventure. It is also a game style that is supported by the rules. One cannot help but to expect a game that gives experience points for how much money you acquire, in addition to how many creatures you kill, will do anything other than foster a "mercenary" style of play.



I call this style of play "D&D as Tomb Raiders," and I don't much like it. I understand that many do, but I think it goes against the grain of what the game is about. I blogged about J. Eric Holmes' opinions regarding game balance and the games spirit last week. To me D&D is a game of "Heroic Journeys," battles against evil, saving the world, and fighting the good fight. It isn't about wandering mercenaries plundering loot -- that's Tunnels and Trolls. D&D is a game that features Paladins battling the hordes of Hell.



In his book Role-Playing Mastery, Gary Gygax writes about how each role playing game rules set has its own "spirit." This spirit cannot often be described in bumper sticker terms, but it is something that will permeate the statistics, mechanics, descriptions included within a game. According to Gary, a game master, and player, is charged with learning more than just the rules of the game, but is also charged with learning the spirit of each game and attempting to play accordingly.

As I mentioned earlier when discussing the recent discussion at Grognardia, one might come to the conclusion that the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons was one of selfish mercenaries, tomb robbers, and skallywags. But this isn't the spirit that Gygax describes. He describes the spirit of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as follows:

I shall attempt to characterize the spirit of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. This is a fantasy RPG predicated on the assumption that the human race, by and large, is made up of good people. Humans, with the help of their demi-human allies (dwarfs, elves, gnomes, etc.), are and should remain the predominant force in the world. They have achieved and continue to hold on to this status, despite the ever-present threat of evil, mainly because of the dedication, honor, and unselfishness of the most heroic humans and demi-humans -- the characters whose roles are taken by the players of the game. Although players can take the roles of "bad guys" if they so choose, and if the game master allows it, evil exists primarily as an obstacle for player characters to overcome...the goal of the forces of good can only be attained through cooperation, so that victory is a group achievement rather than an individual one.

I eagerly watch a D&D movie that embodied Gygax's D&D spirit, and I prefer to play in games that do so as well.

To me "classic D&D" is about saving villagers from ravaging hordes of Giants, only to learn that these Giants were being displaced by Dark Elves, and that the Queen of the Demonweb pits was weaving sophisticated plans that would bring down the forces of good in the world.

That style of play isn't for everyone, but it is a style of play that is fun and would make some good movies.

Of course a dark, brooding, heist film would be pretty good too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

INCEPTION in Real Time

As a strong supporter of Intellectual Property rights, I am often hesitant to post links to videos that might cross the line away from "fair use" of other's IP. This video featuring a "real time" interpretation of the "heist" sequence from INCEPTION is a rare exception. I think that its imaginative use of footage and the way it presents a concept discussed in the film, combined with the fact that it in no way presents an alternative to the original IP make this video a clear example of fair use. This is one of those rare instances where the creator of a derivative property has not only made an interesting work of art, but has added to my affection for the originating IP and reminded me that I need to buy the DVD of INCEPTION as soon as possible.