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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Youth Knows No Pain


Okay wow, I can't remember much of what I did this week. It's probably cause I didn't get up too much. Yeah that seems most likely. This week I:
  • Finished editing my video for one of my media classes. Quite proud of it even though I didn't really incorporate the interview/voice-over that I wanted. Will upload once I get the video back.
  • Watched "Never Let Me Go" with Tran on Tuesday at the Nova - thoughts on that film below of course.
  • Bought "Wall-E" on Blu-ray and it's so goddamn beautiful. Gonna buy "Up" next on Blu-ray.
  • Resumed my weekly Friday movie consumption at the cinema with two of my friends. Thoughts on "Sucker Punch" below.
  • Downloaded "Wrestlemania 27" and thought the entire show was really medicore. WWE used to be cool (If you hadn't guessed by now, I used to be a professional wrestling fanboy).

I really wanted to hit up Supernova and see/meet Simon Pegg and Nick Frost today but homework beckoned. Ugh. Could've potentially seen Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter) as well. Melbourne looks like they have the best group this year (it's often Sydney that get the best people) so go us.


This week I decided to go through select films from Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's filmography that I hadn't seen before. This man is one of my all-time favourite actors and brings so much energy and charisma to a lot of his films. So here are my thoughts on some of his films that I saw.


As some of you may know, I've been quietly anticpating the screen adaptation of Haruki Murakami's novel, "Norwegian Wood" (which I hope runs at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival). That film had French-Vietnamese director Anh Tran Hung working on it. Since then I've been curious about some of this reknowned director's little arthouse films. I was disappointed by "I Come With The Rain" and took my time trying to find his other works to watch. I finally was able to get, what some may refer to as "The Vietnam Trilogy", and began watching "Xich lo (Cyclo)" this past week. The film follows three people: a young man who descends into criminality, his sister and his sister's on-again-off-again lover (also a fellow criminal). At times a bit of an odd ball film but it's one that's mostly bound together by great characters and beautiful cinematography. Tran's camera movements come off as being quite expressionist at times which heighten the atmosphere of the film as it is quite a raw and visceral experience. I dare say that it's a true-to-life potrayal of the mean streets of Saigon and one that paints the modern-day struggles of the average Vietnamese person in a very honest yet brutal light. Very gritty. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's character, The Poet (the characters don't have names), is played out with what appears to be a level-headed coolness interspersed a quiet desperation. It's quite an understated performance from Leung that might actually be one of his best, I think. Very rarely does he need to talk (then again, Leung's character here is Vietnamese and Leung doesn't speak a lick of it) and a lot of what he wants to say or needs to say is communicated through his eyes. This idea of acting with one's eyes is made emphatic during a pivotal scene in which The Poet leaves a club to Radiohead's "Creep". Quite powerful. I'd say give it a try if you're wanting to step out of your comfort zone in films. May even be rewarding.


This next film comes from director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). "Lust, Caution" tells the story of a woman who becomes embroiled in an espionage plot to assassinate a powerful political figure/Japanese sympathiser during the Japanese occupation of China during the second World War. This is a film that you'd best NOT watch with your parents because the film contains quite a lot of sex scenes (rather explicit ones at that) that may make things very awkward and uncomfortable. Having said that, the sex scenes themselves are artistically directed in a way that doesn't make it seem pornographic. Here, Leung plays Mr Yee, a man of much respect in the political world who just so happens to also be a sympathiser of the Japanese. He's the target of assassination for a bunch of naive university students who believe in the freedom and liberation of their homeland. The film stands at about two and a half hours long and could have easily been at least two hours had it not been for the rather long-winded first act. There's a lot of exposition which gets tiresome after a while. The actual seduction between Yee and Wong Chia Chi (played with grace by Wei Tang) doesn't even begin until an hour into the film. However, if you can bare with the first act of the film, the rest of it moves along at a rather brisk pace that allows you to really settle in with the whole espionage nature of the film. The actors involved with the film turn in fantastic performances which is a testament to Lee's direction, the music is sublime and I honestly think that after having seen this film that no one can play repressed men as well as Tony Leung. A devastating feature film, do try to check it out if possible.


The final film comes from Hong Kong and is an action epic from John Woo. No I'm not talking about "Red Cliff", I'm talking about "Bullet in the Head". The film follows three best friends who, after the murder of a gang leader, retreat to war-torn Vietnam where their friendship may be torn forever. As expected from action maestro, John Woo, the film features spectacular over-the-top set pieces that are sure to leave viewers in an state of disarray and utter disbelief. However, underneath all the trailblazing gunfire and explosions is a story that's quite moving. The film begins very strangely enough with a somewhat cheery overtone which is immediately destroyed by the sudden appearance of bloodshed and violence which brings up the film's editing. There's quite a lot of strange hiccups in the editing department with scenes that never seem to smoothly cut into the next scene with a seamless transition. With "Bullet in the Head", Woo seems to try to ask the viewer "How far should I go with the violence?". It's almost as if Woo is trying to critique the nature of violence in films and the gun fetishism that these action films have to adhere to. This is portrayed through the POW camp scenes where our three protagonists end up getting captured by the Viet Cong. Their experience in the POW camp is incredibly hard to watch - unflinching and terrifying. In previous films, Woo's characters often killed without thinking of the consequences or collateral damage it may cause but here it's explored to full effect with some rather brutal results. The acting from all three of the leads are fine and Jacky Cheung might seem a little over the top in his acting sometimes but I thought it was absolutely necessary (at least within the context of this film). A really entertaining film that appears to be quite deeper than it actually is (well that's what I got out of it anyway).


And now for the two new release films for this week: "Never Let Me Go" and "Sucker Punch".

"Never Let Me Go" is a melodramatic British film that stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as despondent young adults who grow up together and await for the horrible reality that awaits for them as they make the most of the time they have now. The story of the film is a bit of a stretch to put it lightly. It's hard to accept the story at face-value which makes it pretty hard to actually settle yourself into. Aside from the problems with the story (don't want to go too deep into it because it may spoil the film), the acting from our three leads is rather exceptional. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield continue their success and are fast becoming two actors whose careers, I hope, will be filled with much interest and excitement. Mulligan's restraint and poise is wistful and full of grace while Garfield's boyish naivety and charm makes the reality of these characters' situations all the more hurtful. Knightely is also wonderful as a mean (couldn't think of a better adjective, haha) yet lonely and suffering character. Even the younger incarnations of our three leads are just as good (and they look exactly like their older counterparts too!). There are definitely problems with the plotting and story here as well as the rather slow moving pacing of the film, but the actors are the ones that shine here.


I wanted to like "Sucker Punch". I was ready to defend it too after a lot of harsh criticism began circulating about the film being a complete mess. I like Zack Snyder and think he offers up some fantastic visuals on screen. But being that his previous films were all based on existing entities (with decent to good scripts too, no less), this original screenplay and story that Snyder brings to film is one of the most self-indulgent things ever committed film. The only redeemable aspects of the film are the visuals of the film and the opening scenes. The rest? Forget about it. The characters never develop and remain as vapid and uninteresting as they were to begin with. You never care about these girls. Ever. The pacing of the film is extremely sluggish which is not helped at all by Snyder's signature use of gratuitous slow motion (of which gets really bothersome and tiring after awhile). The story is just as uninteresting as the characters and again is made even less interesting by the sluggish pace of the film. What's worse is that the film tries to be cool with it's music and ideas of female empowerment. I wouldn't have an issue with this if Snyder hadn't tried to make this into a bombastic music video of a film. The cover of "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" which is used at the beginning of the film is used quite effectively and the beginning of the film is actually the best part of the movie but the rest of the songs don't add anything to the film whatsoever. It's just loud and pretentious. As for the theme of female empowerment, Snyder barely touches on this and you never get the sense that this film is supposed to make women feel stronger or united. The idea that you could have sexy scantily clad women fight against steampunk Nazis and dragons may seem cool and look cool but in the context of this film, it quickly becomes tiresome and gimmicky. Like 3D. The film is just one hot mess, one of the worst films to have released so far in the year. Incredibly disappointed with this.



Brace yourself. The following are four trailers for some upcoming films and one web-exclusive series.

The first comes from "Hesher" which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a long-haired, heavy-metal loving anarchist who invades the lives of a young boy, his father and a local girl. Co-starring are Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson. Looks pretty awesome.


The next is a documentary (not sure if it's actually been screened in Australia yet although I'll assume it hasn't) that looks incredibly compelling. It's a war documentary that follows a platoon of Danish soldiers who do a six month tour in Afghanistan. There's a shot of a shell-shocked soldier that is absolutely devastatingly haunting here. I'm curious about this documentary now.


"Warrior" looks like your run of the mill sport movie and uses the same music and font as "The Fighter". It looks generic but I'm mostly interested in how Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton will approach this. Both of them are fine actors and I'm wondering how well the film respects MMA (although the trailer shows a powerbomb... a move that is very rarely used in the sport). Oh and I see Kurt Angle, hohoho.


And finally we have a teaser/clip from online web-series "Mortal Kombat: Legacy". Remember when an unknown Mortal Kombat video was posted online that fans went crazy over? Well the story goes that the guy behind that video was given money to turn that into a web series. So yeah, here that is. The series begins April 12 (13 for us Australians).


And that's all this week. Still haven't gotten around to making my new banner but I'm just lazy so whateverrrrrrrrr. You guys have an awesome week. Ciao.

End post.

1 comment:

  1. Lust, Caution looks like an interesting movie.
    I wanted to see Suckerpunch but since everyone is so against it, I guess I won't bother...
    There is also a golf course next to my school and Tom Felton went there to play golf so heaps of girls from my school wagged class to go stalk him on the golf field LOOL!