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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Climbing Up The Walls

What the heck did I do this week?.. I don't even remember most of this week except for the events of yesterday night since... it was yesterday. Yesterday night was good since me and my friends hung out at a mate's place enjoying a barbeque at his. Most of my night was spent playing pool at his place and losing my voice in Band Hero many, many times. We pulled an all nighter and as I write this I feel absolutely terrible. I'd sleep but I don't wanna destroy my sleeping patterns... I've taken two naps throughout today so that at least gives me a bit of energy for the time being to power through until the night and take a much deserved sleep then (at the proper time too).

Look at that beast of a rockstar in the red cap!


I still can't get over the fact that he has a pool table in his house. Boss.


We be chillin'.

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Actually now that the words "barbeque" and "friends" is brought up, I also had delicious Korean barbeque this past Monday as well. Myself and three other friends had All You Can Eat Korean Barbeque at Seoul House on Russel Street and stayed there for a good three hours simply buying as much as we could. It was $28 per person which was a pretty good deal, I thought, for Korean Barbeque anyway... =\

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Genius.

Anyone reading this who lives in Melbourne may find this to be useful to them! It was Japanese animation director, Hayao Miyazaki's 70th birthday this week and to celebrate, The Astor Theatre will be running a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective throughout the rest of this month, every Monday at 7.30PM. Each week, there will be a double feature of select Miyazaki films. For more information, click the link above.

10th Jan - Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro
17th Jan - Princess Mononoke, Spirted Away
24th Jan - Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo

I've been fortunate enough to rewatch "Spirited Away" in a cinema enviornment earlier last year for cinema studies and can't stress enough how amazing it feels to watch that particular movie in an actual cinema. I can't wait to see "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle", my two all time favourites from Miyazaki. As for the others, I've yet to watch them so it's a good oppurtunity for me to familiarse with them on the big screen. I'll definitely be hanging out in St Kilda the next couple of weeks, lol.

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Surely you must have heard of Ted "Golden Voice" Williams by now! Through the power of the Internet, this man, went from being a homeless recovering drug and alcohol addict to being the voice of Kraft and recieving offers from everyone wanting to use his talent in the course of two days. What stared out as a viral video became something more and it's amazing how much this man's life has turned around. This made kind of news made me feel good about the world and made me really acknowledge the power of the Internet.

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So I guess, other than having barbques with friends this week, I've had a fairly standard rest of the week. As per usual, I stayed home and watched films. It was good to know that "Modern Family", "How I Met Your Mother" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" returned to airwaves this week though (I hate when shows have to to take a long while off during this time period cause it just means I have nothing to watch). Anyways, this was a good enough segueway into What I've Been Watching, I think.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

What was originally going to be just one film screening this week turned into several. The original plan was to ONLY watch "Three... Extremes" but I realised I had a bunch of Asian films left so I dedicate this week to Asian cinema. I had intended to watch "Drunken Master" and "God of Gamblers" but unfortunately there were some mishaps with those two films so they got lost in the viewings for this week.

So without further adieu, prepare yourself for a major wall of font! Here are my thoughts on the following films!

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"The Longest Night In Shanghai" follows Naoki Mizushima (Masahiro Motoki) a Japanese celebrity stylist who visits Shanghai for a music awards show where he beautifies celebrities backstage. Longing for a break from his repetitve lifestyle, Mizushima decides to impulsively ditch his entourage after the awards show closes and opts to explore the streets of Shanghai alone. Along the way, he befriends Chinese taxi driver, Lin Xi (Vicki Zhao), who, after hitting him with her car, mistakes him for a tourist and offers to drive him around Shanghai. Most people would probably consider this to be an underrated film, and while I can see why they may say that, I'm not sure that I share that same sentiment. While the film may be very formulaic, what works is the chemistry between the two leads. Despite the language barrier between the two characters (neither understand each other and both speak broken English) the two of them share some great on-screen chemistry which is exmplified through their body language and the way in which they speak to each other. The film's cinematography is quite beautiful and really makes one feel very much taken in by the beauty of the city as much as our leading man is. The soundtrack is also quite lovely and fits into the film very well. Unfortunately, while the two leads, cinematography and soundtrack are noteworthy aspects to the film, it's brought down heavily by the script. The film not only follows Lin Xi and Naoki, but it also follows Naoki's entourage and observes how they spend their night in Shanghai. There's far too much happening with way too many things to follow which is disappointing as it only makes the film feel much too long. Oftentimes the film also straddles the line between cliche and downright ridiculous with its subplots which is, again, very disappointing. "The Longest Night In Shanghai" features lovely imagery and is at times quite an enjoyable film but the many subplots brought the quality of the film down, in my opinion. Had the film followed our two leads and one particular subplot, it would've made the film feel a lot better. Just sayin'.



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Forget the spaghetti western and sukiyaki western - the kimchi western is where it's at. "The Good, The Bad, The Weird" is Kim Ji-woon's ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "A Bittersweet Life"), alternate retelling of Sergio Leone's epic, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly". Set in the 1940's in Manchuria the film basically follows a bunch of shady characters - some good, some bad and some just plain weird - who are all out to find one map that will take them to spoils and riches. The film doesn't completely borrow everything from Leone's film and only uses the main plot as a basis for this crazy adventure. I couldn't help but compare this film to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" because it really did have that sense of grand adventure coupled with spectacular set pieces that are sure to leave mouths gaping in awe. While the film lack depth in story and character, it's still far more engaging than most Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, the action here is far better than what most Hollywood action films offer and that's thanks to the great editing and camerawork. The film also features one of the best chase scenes I have ever seen commited to film and features an amazing train robbery scene. Song Kang-ho (The Weird) is utterly hilarious in this film - he's an actor that I've come to admire in Korea. Lee Bying-hun (The Bad) plays his character so well that you just love to hate the guy. Jung Woo-sung (The Good) also does a decent job with his role but he's no Clint Eastwood. "The Good, The Bad The Weird" is just insanely entertaining and downright hilarious - a lot better than Takashi Miike's bizarre, Engurish laden, "Sukiyaki Western Django" (which I actually do like). I have to say that this new wave of Korean directors has really produced some great films over the last decade and that this film has just become one of my new favourite films to recommend.



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I really wanted to like "I Come With The Rain". With an awesome cast and a seemingly great set up for a Hong Kong-based thriller, how could this not be great? Well unfortunately, it falls by the wayside and is really disappointing in my estimation. While most people would regard this as a quiet mediation on the suffering of man, others will find this to be a hugely grotesque and disturbing feature. I fall somewhere in between both camps. I can understand what director Tran Anh Hung was trying to accomplish with the film and it's an admirable enough effort but too much of the film is spent meandering and not getting to the point of things. This is made worse by the fact that two of the film's stars, Takuya Kimura and Shawn Yue, feel completely awkward speaking in English and make the film all the more uncomfortable to deal with. It's an agonising two hours that throws a lot at you and the Christianity symbolism is unrelenting as well. This film really could have been a lot better and it's something that, on paper, I should've liked but I just felt like it was a movie that tried too hard to be edgy and cool. Other than that, I'd have to say that the acting all around was pretty decent, not good, just decent enough to keep me involved with the film. I do think that Josh Hartnett has the potential to be a good actor and it's movies like this that show that he really is being serious about the profession. Though I couldn't help but feel that he did this film just so he could go to Hong Kong and take a trip, haha. The soundtrack, mostly provided by Radiohead, also works really well into the film but at times seems a little too jarring and takes away from what's happening in the scene rather than adding to it.


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With the Park Chan-wook retrospective currently running on SBS throughout the rest of January, I thought it would be nice to check out more of his material. I decided to check out "Three... Extremes", an anthology of short films directed by reknowned "horror" directors (I wouldn't place Park in that title but there's no denying that his work has brought up some rather confrontingly violent and gruesome images).

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The first segment of the anthology, "Dumplings" comes from China and is directed by Fruit Chan. It's about an aging former actress who discovers special dumplings that grants the person eating said dumplings the magic of youth rejuvination. However, the contents of the dumplings aren't as nice as they seem. I thought this was a great short and was, in some ways, kind of fun. The ending is really quite smart too. It's probably the lighest of the three and while not necisarrily scary it's still pretty wicked and disgusting (let's just say, I can't look at dumplings the same way anymore).

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The second segment, "Cut" comes from South Korea and is directed by Park Chan-wook. This short sees a film director being forced to play a game of life and death which also involves his wife. It has Park's style and themes all over it and is the most disturbing of the three which also makes it the strongest as well. I literally had my mouth gaping the entire film and Park's element of dark humour had me laughing as well. Most people would be "comfortable" (I use that term quite loosely) with this film as it looks and feels like a "Saw" movie which is fine. It was my favourite of the three segments, that's for sure.

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The final segment, "Box", comes from Japan and is directed by horror extraordinaire, Takashi Miike. The film follows a woman who is haunted by her past and is constantly having the same dream about being trapped inside a box. This short is a bit of a letdown after watching the previous two which is a shame but there is an element of eerie creepiness to it. Unfortunately, not much else happens in "Box" which is disappointing as it could have been a lot better had it cranked out more of the creept atmosphere that it had going on earlier in the short. It's definitely made me want to check out more of Miike's work though as the only film I recall seeing from him is, "Sukiyaki Western Django".

I'd say give it a shot - the shorts aren't all that creepy or scary but more shocking and confronting which is completely fine and as it works as a collection of horrific stories. I like that you can really tell what the horror genre means to each country and how the three directors have approached it which I think says a lot.


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I'm a small fan of Bong Joon-ho's work - I enjoyed his monster film, "The Host" and absolutely loved "Memories of Murder". This week I watched his first feature film, "Barking Dogs Never Bite" and thought it was interestingly strange. Hear me out. It's interesting in that the story itself is interesting and that it's themes and subject matter are intriguing. What's strange about it is how this story is executed. It's a dark comedy that follows two people - one a struggling would-be college professor who is annooyed by the incessant barking of his neighbour's dog and the other a woman that helps the owners of these dogs who've mysteriously gone missing. I found the whole idea of "chasing sucess" in the film to be quite a powerful thing and I liked it a lot for that. The first half of the film felt long but the second half felt a lot better. I did laugh at some of the jokes in the film but not all as dark humour oftens flies right by my head. Bae Doona, a Korean actress that I've come to recently admire more of (you'll see why soon), includes a great natural performance. Lee Sung-jae also turns in a great performance as a guy who at first, seems very unlikable but would later on become a much more sympathising character that most can relate to. I'd say give this film a pass if you're not into dark humour or slow pacing but give it a try if you want to explore some of Bong Joon-ho's films and if you're good for anything different and unique.


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Another Bae Doona film! This time around though it's "Air Doll" a Japanese production. The film tells the story of an inflatable sex doll that comes to life and explores the city she's kept in. Upon visiting a video rental store, she falls in love with the store's clerk and along the way, learns about life. While this might sound like a film thats atypical of an Asian romantic comedy or even something life affirming, it's far from what this film . What we have is more arthouse and is a rather beautifully told story of heartache and emptiness. The beauty of the film is found in it's tragedy which I thought was orchestrated wonderfully by director, Hirokazu Koreeda (he also directed the heartbreaking "Nobody Knows") At times, the film would look like it's losing the point and straying away from the plot only to return later in subsequent scenes with much deeper meaning. As a Korean working in a Japanese language film, I have to commend Bae Doona not only on her Japanese (which was great) but her performance. It makes complete sense to have her there as her character, much like her, is a fish-out-of-water envionment. Her performance is fantastic in this film. Her eyes are really what make her stand apart from everyone else in the film as they're quite hypnotising and filled with curiousity and child-like wonder. Being that her former life saw her as a model, she really does come off as a precious doll and it's a perfect casting choice in my opinion. Simply put,"Air Doll" is a quiet contemplation on the lonely and suffering in this world.



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CONGRATULATIONS FOR MAKING IT TO THE END OF THIS SECTION!

Seriously, I'd have exited out or skimmed pass everything already (although chances are you probably skimmed it anyway, haha). Next week I'll be having a week dedicated to actress Julianne Moore and will watch a few of the films she's been in. I honestly do think she's a fantastic actress and I think the select films I've chosen to screen will only further cement these thoughts.
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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

emma stone andrew garfield kiss 07

The first photos of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy have surfaced online! The two of them look great together though I can't help but feel as though Garfield has way too much hair. I mean, wouldn't it clump up if he's wearing the Spider-man gear? Oh well, this is them performing a kissing scene. Enjoy the rest of the photos HERE.

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The "Star Wars" Blu-rays were announced this past week at CES 2011 (Consumer Electronics Show) and are slated for a release sometime in September. The Blu-ray transfers of the now immortalised Star Wars series will contain all six Star Wars features along with three extra discs packed with bonuses and special feature. Damn you Lucas, this is just what I needed... Stop tempting me into buying new transfers of your films, it just makes my relationship with you feel so much mroe awkward. Ah man.

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World reknowned film critic, Roger Ebert, announced that 24-year old blogger, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, will be his partner in his new television film critic show, Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies. It's basically a newer incarnation of the old Siskel and Ebert/Ebert and Roeper film critique shows that had to be put on hold due to Ebert's conditions. Lucky man. This is like my dream job, to be a blogger who can at least use his skills online and transfer them into something as meaningful as HOSTING A TELEVISION SHOW WHERE ALL I DO IS TALK ABOUT FILMS! Jealousy and hope emerge from this at the same time.
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Who wants to see how Christian Bale has physcailly transformed himself through some of his films in his career? Here's an infographic show this for anyone interested in the changes this man makes to his body for the art of acting.

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And that's all for this week. And now, here's something from the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World extras that I thought was like woah. Closeups of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers being absolutely desirable. You wouldn't fight seven evil exes to get to her?

fuck-yeah-tumblrs-best-posts: Ramona….

End post.

3 comments:

  1. I do enjoy seeing your film choices,makes me want to watch Three... Extremes, and I may watch Air Doll. I ended up watching Nobody Knows again after I reading this post.
    And I thought I was the only one that thought Andrew Garfield had a lot of hair for being Spider-man. haha

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  2. GEEZUS!!!
    where do you hear about all these movies?
    and where can you get them all?!?!

    and omgosh
    can i go over there just for the miyazaki films?? T____T
    i watched spirited away again last thursday and i forgot how good it was >w<
    i love princess mononoke but the spirit freaked me out >~>

    *******
    i know! i just want you to hold my photos! not tag em, name em, etc etc
    i liked the old design better too :/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks like you had fun last weekend.
    (That has been happening to me quite a lot lately, not remembering what I did during the week haha)
    I like Emma Stone with her red hair more than her natural blonde. :(((

    On average, how many movies do you watch a week?

    ReplyDelete