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Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Trumpet In My Head

HEY FRIENDS!

So on Thursday I was pretty excited to begin the video shooting aspect of one of my media-based subjects and had fun with it. It's a sort "identity and belonging" kind of thing that I have to do for this subject so I chose to document arcade gamers. A friend of mine just happens to fancy himself as an arcade gamer so I was fortunate enough to have the camera follow him to the Time Out arcade in Box Hill. Got a lot of good shots I reckon. Will be editing it all next week (got 18 minutes worth of footage which is a little too excessive for what I was doing but whatever, as long as I KNOW I can cut that down to a 2 minute piece, I'm happy).

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Artist spotlights! Been listening to a lot from two very different singers this past week. In the red corner, we have Swedish indie darling, Lykke Li. And in the blue corner we have American folk rocker Lissie. Really digging their sounds. Perhaps you guys ought to give them a try and see if they're to you're liking. Just a suggestion.




I love Kid Cudi but I reckon her cover is better than the original. It's her voice.

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Bought the CD to The Last Shadow Puppets' album, "The Age of the Understatement". Seriously a damn good album that needs to be experienced on a nice stereo system for all to hear and enjoy. Quality stuff, guys.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

The following two films were films that I had to watch for my research assignment in one of my cinema subjects at uni. I'm going to have to present it on Monday with my group and it's about films of the Cold War. Quite interesting stuff actually.

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"The Manchurian Candidate" is a 1962 film that sees a former solider in the Korean War become brainwashed by Communists into becoming a political assassin and it's up to one of the men who served under him to save him before he can do harm back home. I guess what makes this film such a classic amongst film-goers is the fact that it's so an incredibly smart political thriller that features a story that not only was enthralling but was also spoke volumes of the American political landscape within that time (which is quite interesting if one were to learn more about it). The performances all around are great although there was something about Frank Sinatra's role that put me off his character a bit. One cannot speak of this movie and not mention the acting prowess of Angela Lansbury in the film. As the manipulative and vindictive mother of Sgt. Robert Shaw (Laurence Harvey) she plays the part with such menace. This is woman that I've grown up to know as kindly and humble so to see her in this against-type role was a wonder. I really enjoyed this film, moreso than I imagined. And I'll tell you now, the ending of this movie is absolutely a shocker - one of the best endings to a film that I've ever seen.



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At first glance, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" may seem like a silly B-grade movie and for all intents and purposes, it kinda is. But it's been highly regarded as a classic not only because it was a crucial commentary on the mass hysteria of American citizens during the Cold War but is also a good straight-up science fiction feature. The film is simple enough in plot and is very easy to follow although, at least for this viewer, the film dabbled in exposition a bit too much in the early stages of the film. However, after that minor hiccup, the film does pace itself quite nicely and works well as a sci-fi thriller all the way through. The other thing that had annoyed me was the ending. It felt too rushed and felt a little cheap but I guess they had to speed things up for the production budget's sake. It's a nice little film, not as serious as "The Manchurian Candidate", but it's science fiction in it it's most purist form.


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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

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We begin this section with some sad news. Hollywood screen legend, Elizabeth Taylor, passed away this week and left behind a legacy and wealth of films. Her passing is a sudden reminder of how beloved the Golden Era of Hollywood was and how the Hollywood-produced films of today don't quite measure up to the timelessness of most of the old classics. I should probably get itno some of Liz Taylor's films...

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The first full theatrical trailer for "Captain America: The First Avenger" does not disappoint. I'm anticipating this much more than Thor now (is it because I have a thing for period pieces too?)



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And rounding up the comic book film news, Juno Temple has now joined the already stacked cast of "The Dark Knight Rises". Okay so let's get things cleared here: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and now Juno Temple are all confirmed for the the third of Nolan's Batman films. Wow.
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And that's it this week. So by now I'm sure you've noticed that it's not deathly red anymore. I got annoyed by it for a long while as did some readers but being the lazy bastard I am, I kept forgetting to change. So yeah, watch this space because I'm gonna change the banner and stuff real soon (currently using an old banner of mine which I actually quite liked).

Anyways take care and be safe.

End post.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Please Mr Postman

Hello friends.

Another short post this week because I've really gotten lazy with writing substantial posts lately. That and I'm also capped (which is kind of impossible for my plan but whatever) which also means it takes a while to load pages for images and videos etc.

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Another fine addition to the Blu-Ray collection with "Summer Wars" being added this week. You may remember this Japanese animated feature as one of my favourite films from last year. I recommend you all check it out if you haven't done so already.

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Handed in my seven page screenplay this week and was extremely dissatisfied with what I wrote (seriously it's quite bad). Let's just see how the assessment goes.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


Yes, I only saw one movie this week. Shocker!

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Battle: Los Angeles is a film that follows a platoon of marines who pretty much try to hold off an invasion of aliens. There's really not much to the film. No real substance or depth in terms of story and characterisation. Characters are cardboard cutouts of already existing archetypes seen in this type of film and the story really has no relevance. Don't even get me started on the constant shaky-cam use (oh look, we're a war film so adding a shaky camera and zooming in a lot makes it seem more realistic and intense!). Still, it's better than last year's alien invasion film, "Skyline". The action at least was handled pretty well and at times felt quite invigorating. The marketing guys did a great job of selling this film. It's a pass.
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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS


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Second full trailer for "Bridesmaids". All the praise I've been hearing about this film has made me quite excited and while the trailers haven't really convinced me (they've made me slightly chuckle but not laugh too much) I'm still looking forward to it.



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Bummer. Darren Aronofsky, director of such films as "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan" has pulled out from the directorial chair of "The Wolverine", sequel to the mediocre "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".

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Meanwhile, David Slade, director of such films as "Hard Candy" (good film) and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" (bad film) has signed on to direct Marvel's reboot of "Daredevil". Here's an unpopular opinion: I'm probably in the minority here but I actually liked the original film with Ben Affleck.

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And in sadder news actor Michael Gough, most famous for portraying the butler, Alfred Pennyworth, throughout Tim Burton's and Joel Shumacher's Batman films, passed away this week. Whenever I think of Alfred, I think of him and while all the actors for Batman have constantly kept switching, his role as Bruce's confidant always remained the same which made him the most familiar to remember. I'd prefer him than Michael Caine any day.
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And that's all this week. You guys like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost? You know, the duo who've starred in such films as "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" as well as the soon to be released in Australia sci-fi/comedy/road trip movie "Paul"? Here's a video of them re-enacting a scene from "Star Wars" with hilarious results.



End post.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Freaks and Geeks

Hello friends.

No substantial blog post this week (hooray). Kinda busy this weekend with homework and stuff so I'll try to keep this short and sweet.

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Got myself a new "Star Wars" poster for the original film (otherwise known as Episode IV - A New Hope). Cause I'm totally cool like that.
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Hung out with fellow blogger, Tran aka applemilk on Tumblr/Pomme on Blogger. Do follow her if her blog(s) is/are of personal interest to you.

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Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover (of "Community" fame), released his new EP this week. Best part? It's free. Dude doesn't need money and doesn't need to sign to a label. He's been releasing tracks for free a while now for everyone to share and love. I recommend everyone check it out because it's damn good. Damn. Good.

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Acquired three new Blu-rays as part of JB Hi-Fi's evil "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" deal. Ta-da.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

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A film projectionist dreams of having detective adventures and puts his amateur skills to the test after a rival steals his girlfriend's father's pocketwatch. Not my first exposure to silent film but was the first silent film I sat through and finished. Surprisingly short coming in at 40 minutes. Extremely hilarious and completely ahead of it's time. Can clearly see the link between Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan. People should take the time to see this film because it's absolutely hilarious and will definitely leave heads scratching at some of the high points of the film.

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A lowly soldier captures the commanding general of the opposing army and traverses from the battlefield back to his homeland in hopes that the general's surrender would give the lowly soldier a chance of freedom... and a farm. Jackie Chan is fun to watch and enjoyable in this film and has a role that does good by his age. Not as serious as "Shinjuku Incident". Fairly predictable story but the buddy relationship between Chan and Wang Leehom is entertaining. It's okay.



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A father, stricken with a terminal cancer, does not have long to live and does the best he can to try and prepare his autistic 22 year old son for the real world. Jet Li's first dramatic role and it's a damn good one. A bit of overacting on part of Li's autistic son in some instances. Guaranteed tearjerker, no joke. Somewhat depressing but carries with it a very strong and humane message. Do watch.



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A chameleon travels to Dirt where he is appointed sheriff after accidentally slaying a hawk but soon learns that there is a conspiracy running within the town that revolves around water. Very referential film and owes a lot to Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" in terms of plot and character as well as paying homage to the Western genre. Bizarre, crazy, entertaining. Will definitely surprise you on how good the film actually is. Pixar should watch out. I would write a longer "review" but not today.



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Was meant to have seen a lot more films this week but could not because returning to Uni has drained the life out of me. Oh well.
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Here's the brand new full length trailer to "Super 8". Watch it because it's amazingly awesome. Seriously.



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The Extended Editions of "The Lord of the Rings" Blu-Ray were revealed this past week and I for one am majorly excited. No concrete date has been set for the release but I'm just glad I didn't buy the theatrical cuts first and waited for this.
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That's all this week. Thanks for reading. Now go. :)

End post.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Hand Covers Bruise

First week back at uni was pretty good I have to say. Very much looking forward to all my classes this semester but I'm almost a bit intimidated by the work involved as some of them will require me to show my work publicly to my classmates and to people on the Internet. Although the positive thing to come out of this is that I'll get to work with video for the first time. I think I have to do some kind of journalistic story on sub-cultures and such which should be fun. Might even share it on this blog once I do it.

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Yes, I am disappointed that "The Social Network" didn't get as much recognition as it should've at the Academy Awards but I'm just happy that the film even exists cause it's extraordinary. The home releases of "The Social Network" released this past week and I bought the Blu-ray of it. It's so beautiful.


This be the inside covers of the Blu-ray.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

This week was a highlight of Asian cinema from different regions and different genres. This theme of Asian cinema will continue through next week as well. While I was meant to have seen "Reign of Assassins" this week, I decided to put that down for some other time and instead focused on two Wong Kar-wai films, "Happy Together" and "Ashes of Time Redux"; an existential drama from Thailand, "Last Life In The Universe"; a bullet-ridden action film from Hong Kong, "The Killer"; and a strange yet magnificent four hour film that could only be made in Japan, "Love Exposure".

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Of all the Wong Kar-wai films, this film felt the most modern to me. Yes, I do know that "As Tears Go By", "Chungking Express" and "Fallen Angels" are all films set in modern times but this particular one just felt like it was made yesterday. I don't know why, it just does. "Happy Together" follows two gay Chinese men and documents the ups and downs of their tumultuous relationship while they reside in Argentina. The signature hallmark themes that dominate Wong's work is once again present here but, in a way, show them in a more devastating light. This is attributed to the commanding performances from both Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung. My biggest gripe with the film, however, was the complete lack of story. It's a very character-driven piece of film but without some resemblance of a story, it just makes things hard to follow and hard to understand why a character would feel ambivalence towards someone or something. However, as per usual with Wong Kar-wai, expect a fantastic looking picture with tragic characters. In my opinion, this isn't one of his best as many pundits out there would like to argue but I guess that's the beauty of film and art - everything is subjective.



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"Ashes of Time Redux" is the director's cut of Wong Kar-wai's wuxia epic and while it is a mildly ambitious film on Wong's part, I felt that it was rather disappointing. Again, all the familiar themes that dominate Wong's films are present but are instead shown through the wuxia genre. The most disappointing thing just so happens to be the genre in which the film associates itself with. There are expectations that audiences have as soon as they enter a genre film. And while Wong's film had some familiar tropes of other wuxia films, the film didn't feel like it had the energy or soul of a wuxia film. I guess I was expecting something else entirely. This could be due to Wong's stress in the post-production stage of "Ashes of Time" as during this time, he went off to make a quick, small movie called, "Chungking Express", which absolutely overshadowed his larger film. "Happy Together" had great characters but no story and "Ashes of Time Redux" had story but not many developed characters. I did like how it had a kind of Western feel to it though.



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I forgot how I originally came across this film but I guess it was through IMDB searches of one of these three people: Takashi Miike, Tadanobu Asano or Christopher Doyle. Whoever it may have been these three people were involved with the making of "Last Life In The Universe" a Thai film that's dark yet quite poignant. The film tells the story of a suicidal, obsessive-compulsive Japanese librarian who is forced to hide out with a pot-smoking Thai woman after the murder of his brother and his brother's killer is committed in his home. Fans of Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" will enjoy this film as well as both are very similar to one another. Both films see characters, distant and lost, who come together to form a unique relationship with one another. However, unlike Coppola's 2003 film, this film is a lot more darker, atmospheric and deals with the loneliness of human beings in a more different scope. The Thai dubbing over the Japanese characters is pretty bad, I'll admit, but the physical acting that Tadanobu Asano brings to his character, Kenji, makes us feel completely interested in this multi-faceted character. The film looks amazing and has a completely different look in terms of cinematography than Wong Kar-wai's films (with whom reknowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle regularly collaborates with). It's a really moving film that delves deep into the core of our humanity. A real gem of a film and I think people who are fortunate enough to watch this (and hopefully you do feel compelled to check it out after reading this) would be very much rewarded and satisfied.



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This poster is so badass.

John Woo's action epic, "The Killer" tells a familiar tale and mixes it in with some flavour from Hong Kong. An assassin inadvertently blinds a singer during his getaway from an assassination and accepts one final offer in hopes of using that money to restore her vision. The film starts off a bit quickly and almost in cliche fashion as well but as the film progresses, the action and even the drama intensify. Of course, a John Woo action film is incomplete without some nice dosage of double handed gunplay coupled with near-ridiculous amounts of fantastical shootings and the film delivers. "The Killer" is also able to mix in some genuine drama into the mix which is good as it makes our hero, an otherwise unlikable one-dimensional guy, a little bit of depth and gives audiences someone to root for. And for the most part, the film comes off as a little "cheesy" at times but you'll be able to look over these shortcomings, you'll find here a commercially accessible film that tickles the gun fetishists in all of us. I prefer "Hard Boiled" over this because the insanity in that film cannot be beaten.



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I was supposed to have seen this film a long time ago. I've had it in my possession ever since the end of 2009 and never got around to it despite all of the praise and buzz I had read about it during the film's release (it even ran during the Melbourne Film Festival in 2009, I may have documented this on my blog two years previous). The four hour running time is what probably put me off but I was determined to watch it this week (finally). "Love Exposure" is an epic film that one cannot put into words as far as narrative is concerned so I won't do that (but I'll let the trailer do it's best to convince you to watch it). Yes, it's a highly ambitious film, one that no film studio in America would have ever made, especially with it's subject matter, but it's a film that - if you have the time for - is one that can be for everyone. It's funny, it's heartwarming, it's dark and it's depressing. And with a four hour runtime length, there really is no excuse for lack of plot and story which thankfully this delivers on. The characters are fully realised and fleshed out throughout the course of the film and are convincingly brought to the screen but their respective actors who all do an outstanding a job. I know Japanese acting tends to be over-the-top and exaggerated a lot of the time but the actors here find a nice balance between actual acting and exaggeration (which is only ever really exemplified throughout the comedic parts of the film). And for all it's lunacy and crazy cast of characters, this four hour epic doesn't ever miss a beat and paces itself quite nicely that you never really notice that you've just spent four hours on it. There's something here for everyone, I feel, and that there is quite a lot that one can take away from the film. "Love Exposure" manages to commentate and even deconstruct aspects of life, love, religion, cults and alienation through it's four hour run length. It's a moving, breathtaking picture that's quite the experience and is one that all film-goers should at least be a witness to once in their life.


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Hollywood's night of nights - the Oscars!
So everything went as expected at the 83rd Academy Awards except did anyone ever count on "Alice in Wonderland" being an Academy Award winning film (lolololololol)? I know I didn't. Has a really weird ring to it - Academy Award winning film, "Alice in Wonderland".

I'm glad that "Inception" took home four awards (especially in the cinematography department, like wow - did not see that coming) but unfortunately for Christopher Nolan he gets overlooked for Best Original Screenplay. Fans couldn't have been happy about that.

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But the biggest "WTF" moment for me was seeing Tom Hooper get named Best Director. Like really? Okay, let's get this out of the way first - his direction on "The King's Speech" was fantastic and he did a good job on that. However, David Fincher, I believe, is long overdue for an Academy Award (definitely should've got recognition for it for "Fight Club" but it was a crime to let "Zodiac" go by unnoticed). Not only that but he's built up an incredibly stellar resume of films throughout his career and "The Social Network", a film that was initially thought of as a joke which ended up becoming something that was smart and carried some value to it. Tom Hooper got lucky and made like one good film compared to Fincher's impressive list of modern classics. Oh well. Now we'll have to see how Hooper follows this up because it'll be a tough to outdo himself and maintain a pedigree of quality.

Other than that, I'd have to say that everyone else that won was well-deserved. I'm so glad to see that Batman has finally gotten recognition. Anne Hathaway and James "Troll Face" Franco did a good job hosting (especially Anne who showed so much enthusiasm). Was Franco high? Probably. And yes, we couldn't understand Kirk Douglas but I'm sure it was his intention to pretty much make a memorable Oscar moment that provided some humour. Full list of winners and their nominees below.

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As mentioned last week, Woody and the gang will be making an appearance in "Cars 2" this year in a short titled, "Hawaiian Vacation" which, in Pixar tradition, will show before the film starts. A clip/teaser was released this week and there it is below for viewing pleasure.


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L-R: Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, Kou Shibasaki, director Carl Erik Rinsch.

Interesting news to me, dunno about everyone else. A western take on a famous Japanese story, "47 Ronin", is currently in the works and already has a director and a headlining star in Keanu Reeves. Now of course, it would be silly to make a Japanese story be told with a completely white cast. Reeves, in this case, is the exception as he is partly Asian and is a familiar enough name to draw in audiences. Thankfully, Hollywood studios have decided to go with authentic Japanese actors (with actual credentials, no less) and have casted Tadanobu Asano ("Ichi The Killer", "Mongol"), Hiroyuki Sanada ("Sunshine", "The Twilight Samurai"), Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel", "Norwegian Wood") and Kou Shibasaki ("Battle Royale") in the film. Interested in seeing how this will turn out. There have been numerous revisions of this story on film but this is the first time it's being told by a western studio.

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That right there is Hugo Weaving as Red Skull in the upcoming "Captain America: The First Avenger". Wow.

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And finally, a film that I've been hearing about for the longest time is finally getting distrubuted. Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler and Kevin Bacon, "Super" tells the story of a man who, after being dumped by his wife for a drug dealer, creates a costumed alter-ego to fight crime with the help of a girl from the local comic book store. So it's basically "Kick-Ass" but with less production value and independent vibe. Awesome.


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And that's all this week. You guys like to play games? Here's one I've got for you. It's called Famous Objects from Famous Movies. It's a hangman style game where you're given a minimalistic design of an object and you're made to guess the movie in three lives or less. It's quite fun. CLICK HERE to try it out.

End post.