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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Modern Marvel

SUP?

Welcome to the family, Two Hands.Looks like someone’s going to marathon Damages over the weekend. MOAR ROSE. I am JB Hi-Fi’s bitch.

Oh look, two new acquistions from JB Hi-Fi's awesome sale of DVDs. I will be forever JB Hi-Fi's bitch. Pretty tragic. Also my infatuation with Rose Byrne has to come to an end at some point - it may become a bit too worrisome for some, I fear. Haha. Going to marathon the rest of "Damages" just in time for the arrival of it's fourth season next month and rewatch an old favourite (I used to watch "Two Hands" a lot since it always being played on Foxtel's movie channel, Showtime).

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And now for a quick run down of the week. Don't think next week will be nearly as exciting.

MONDAY: Didn't do much other than have the weekly parma with some friends in the city.

TUESDAY: Stayed in - don't remember doing much anyway.

WEDENSDAY: Had lunch and hung out with two of my friends, Ellen and Eddie, at the Lucky Coq on Chapel Street. They've got blogs too so be sure to check them out if you haven't already. Photos of the day are on Ellen's blog.

THURSDAY: Donated blood again. Some brusing on my left arm now - kinda look like a junkie.

FRIDAY: Stayed in for most of the day and got called out to come hang at Rooftop in the city wit some mates.

SATURDAY: Didn't think I'd go clubbing again anytime soon but some friends convinced me to go out. It was okay, the place I went to this time, Rats, was better than where I was last time.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


Yes, I do realise that I was meant to have seen three films this week but I wasn't able to watch "Shanghai Triad" because the subtitles weren't working and I got lazy with "Farewell, My Concubine". I did however manage to at least watch "Raise the Red Lantern" so read up on that below.


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"Raise the Red Lantern" is set during 1920s China, a young woman is forced to become a concubine and marries a rich nobleman who already has three wives, making her the fourth. Each night, the nobleman chooses which of his four wives to bed and lanterns are subsequently lit to announce who has been "fortunate" enough to spend the night with him. The film is extraordinarily well made with Zhang Yimou's sense of direction being very superfluous all throughout. He extracts great performances from the cast and having the nobleman's face hidden or obscured is a smart decision as we never have to actually feel emotion for the character as it's not his story. Gong Li is a wonder in the film, initially revelling in her position as the new mistress and then eventually succumbing to the fear of loneliness and isolation. The use of the lucious red and blue that bounce off the pale - almost monotonous - colours of the nobleman's estate, coupled with strikingly vivid imagrey create some sumptuous pieces of cinematography but also bring with it a certain sense of eeriness within certain moments in the film - a foreboding presence if you will - that lingers throughout each frame. The slow pacing of the film might seem bothersome to some but it helps to add another layer of depth to the film and to the steady unraveling of Songlian's (Gong Li) experience within the courthouses as the fourth mistress. "Raise The Red Lantern" is a deeply haunting film that festers within your mind after the credits have finished. It's a tragic film full of nuance and is sure to please any fan of arthouse cinema.

I've not provided a trailer because the trailer on YouTube has a lot of spoilers and reveal a lot of the film's defining moments.


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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

A big welcome back to this section of my blog post! It's been MIA for a bit but it's here again so get some dose of film news.

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Variety seems to have confirmed that Jamie Foxx will be Django in Quentin Tarantino's newest feature, "Django Unchained". The film has already lined up Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. Sounds pretty meaty so far. I'm impartial with the decision to cast Foxx.

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We won't get to see Pixar's next feature "Brave" for another year but for now we can enjoy this new teaser poster and this high-res image from Pixar's newest original film. The teaser trailer is apparently attatched to "Cars 2" but it won't be going online from what I hear (at least not anytime soon anyway). I hear talk that the film will be quite Miyazaki-esque.

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Amazingly awesome retro poster.

And just to make sure people go to see "Captain America: The First Avenger", Marvel have released a new theatrical trailer. So if you're interested have a look below.


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And that's all this week. Now I better go start some eating dinner and begin watching "Damages".

End post.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Butterflies and Hurricanes


Howdy ya’ll.
Normally I'd say that this week was pretty average for me but how can I say that when I had the pleasure of seeing Rose Byrne in the flesh on Thursday night!
I said I wouldn’t upload it but doesn’t matter - it’s not like you can see it that clearly anyway. Shitty cameraaaaaaa. :(Had pretty nice seats at least.
I had a pretty bad camera but whatever.
I went to see this week’s major release, “Bridesmaids” at Jam Factory on Thursday night, knowing that she would appear in person along with the film’s leading lady, Kristen Wiig and director Paul Feig. The ushers had to get everyone into the cinema before they could introduce the talent. The three of them came out to a lot of love and joked around for a bit before introducing the film and leaving. They weren’t there for all that long but it was just nice to see them in person. Ah, I’m still on a high over it. It was also the first time I had seen a movie on my own for quite some time (and boy was it quite a surreal experience! A cinema made up of at least 80% women and 20% men!) No one was available to share in my fandom. Oh well.
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You may notice that I’ve changed up the look of my blog a bit. I’d say it’s about time, wouldn’t you agree? It has more of a personal kinda touch with my handwriting being more prominent as well a nice "Game of Thrones" reference in the banner. It’s roughly drawn but I don’t care – I’d rather it look like that cause I prefer sketches.
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I would put something like this in the “What I’ve Been Watching” section but that’s mostly for films. Having said that, I do recommend people try to catch “The Killing”. It’s a show that’s right up my alley (police procedurals) and the pilot episode looks exactly how I imagined my police procedural script from last year! It’s a quality show – trust AMC (the same channel that brings us “Mad Men”, “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead”) to deliver the goods.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING
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Growing up a teenager can be tough, especially when everyone around you seems completely out of the loop. “An Education” is a coming-of-age tale about Jenny (Carey Mulligan) a teenage girl whose life changes when she meets an older gentleman, David (Peter Sarsgaard). The film was nominated for an Academy Award in Best Picture in 2010 and was also the film that broke out Carey Mulligan’s acting career which gave her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress that year as well. The characters of the film are all quite interesting, especially that of Jenny who Mulligan plays with a lot of honesty and naivety. Her Jenny tries as best she can to be an adult yet not knowing what that actually means. She wants to see the world but doesn’t know how she could get there. Naturally American, Sarsagaard’s English accent seems on point and doesn’t distract. The film is simple and paces itself quite well up until the final moments of the film. The final moments prove to be a bit of a cop out but it forces our dear Jenny to reconsider her options and change for the better. After all, she is a teenager – she doesn’t know what she wants, not yet anyway. The film tries to tie up all the loose knots in the end and admittedly it feels forced and too rushed. By no means is “An Education” an amazing film but perhaps just a decent one.
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Another coming-of-age story, “Fish Tank” tells the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a 15 year old girl whose life is interrupted when her mother brings home a new boyfriend. Not exactly breaking new ground here in terms of story (“Fish Tank” and “An Education” almost seem like perfect companions to one another) but what’s interesting about “Fish Tank” is how the film depicts the urban areas of Britain that we’re not used to seeing. As dirty and wretched as some of these places (and people) can be, there’s something refreshing about how these particular aspects of urban life are presented on film. Nonetheless, “Fish Tank” starts off strongly but like “An Education” it also begins to disintegrate by the end of the film. Newcomer, Katie Jarvis, pulls off the angst and turmoil her loner of a character Mia goes through and Michael Fassbender (an actor whose work I’m beginning to admire) does an excellent job as her mum’s new boyfriend who may have motives of his own. One major problem that the film has is the fact that they set these characters up to be likable but end up making them completely unlikable by the end of the film. Andrea Arnold, the film’s writer and director, have done herself a disservice in doing so but her efforts in displaying the troubled youths of low socio-economic backgrounds is largely commendable. Having said that, there are moments in the film that feel far too uncomfortable to watch – like seeing an eight year old smoke and drink beer. I can’t say whether or not this is realistic but seeing this particular scene reminded me if this could happen to a kid who lives in my neighbourhood. If I had to sum up the film, I’d say it’s “An Education” with poor people living in modern times.
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In the year 1997, five billion people died from an unknown virus – at least according to Terry Gilliam’s bizarre film, “12 Monkeys”. The film follows James Cole (Bruce Willis) a man who is sent back into the past to find out who caused the virus and how it could be stopped in order to save the future. A group known as The 12 Monkeys are assumed to be the culprits of this worldwide disaster and through a bizarre two hours, Cole goes through different years and encounters many characters who help him along the way. Of the many characters in the film, people will walk away talking about the craziness of Brad Pitt’s character Jeffrey, a mentally unstable man whose ideals seem suspicious but no one would ever question it because he’s crazy. The film goes back and forth between the future and the past and is largely enjoyable mostly due to its quirkiness. It’s a truly bizarre film, one that’s prime for a cult audience. It’s definitely not for everyone. The cast is great and the nods to the works of Alfred Hitchcock feel more than appropriate (especially the reference to “Vertigo” which has suddenly changed how I felt about that film). The film has a nice blend of humour, suspense, action and drama. Nice little time-travel movie that I’m sure would get much better with repeated viewings. You’ll leave your head scratching a few times but it’s more than worth it to watch this head-trip of a film (that is of course, if you’re into that sort of stuff).
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Another bit of a trippy film although not as much of a head-scratcher as “12 Monkeys”. Alex Proyas’ amazing “Dark City” takes place in a strange city where sunlight is absent and all is not what it appears to be. A man wakes up in a bathtub and without any recollection of who he is or his past and begins to investigate the strange inner workings of the city he’s in. The real star of the film is director Alex Proyas. His previous work on “The Crow” (Brandon Lee’s final film) permeates throughout “Dark City” as it carries a great gothic feel to it, all the while evoking a noir-ish environment for our protagonist, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) to delve into. Proyas, who wrote and directed the film, gives this film incredible depth and vision bringing to life these amazing characters and amazing settings. The film paces itself along quite nicely and never feels dull (despite the depressingly grim tone of the film) and mixes in elements of science-fiction, action and noir in a way that hasn’t been done since “Blade Runner”. There’s a lot to like here with “Dark City”, however, if I had one gripe it was the fact that the ending seemed all too convenient. Yes, it makes sense within the context of the world and its inhabitants but in context of narrative it kind of feels cheap. That isn’t to say that this flaw diminished the quality of this amazing film in any way, but perhaps it could’ve been written differently. “Dark City” is an ambitious film full of vision and wonder – required cult viewing, definitely.
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This might be an unpopular opinion but “Bridesmaids” is one of the funniest films to have come along in a while for me. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a good laugh out loud comedy in some time but with its ensemble cast “Bridesmaids” not only delivers the goods but also changes the female perspective on comedy. The film may look like a “chick flick” and it still gets the female draw in that its equal parts romantic comedy and something the girls can watch together for a laugh and a cry but “Bridesmaids” does not need to be marginalised solely because the film is primarily driven by females. The film follows Annie (Kristen Wiig) whose childhood best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) picks Annie to be her maid of honour at the wedding and along the way she and the group of bridesmaids Lillian has picked for her wedding become embroiled in crazy mishaps that lead up to the big day. The success of this film rides heavily on the amazingly talented cast who all bring their best to this project. Wiig is fantastic as the lovelorn Annie, who worries about the direction her love life and professional life may be heading. Wiig’s brand of dry humour makes for some fantastic scenes and really makes her character all the more likable. On the opposite side of the spectrum though is Rose Byrne’s, Helen, a bitch of a character that tries to drive a wedge between the two childhood best friends and tries desperately to usurp Annie’s title of “Lillian’s best friend”. Following her success in “Get Him to the Greek”, Byrne again plays against type and also puts in a great comedic performance that makes audiences love to hate her. The other supporting roles from the rest of the film’s cast serve to add some great comedic insanity throughout the film, with Jon Hamm and Melissa McCarthy being standouts from the supporting pack. “Bridesmaids” however isn’t that perfect of a film – it does have its blemishes. Some scenes dragged on too long and the point of the joke may have been missed along the way because of it. As a result, the film meanders every now and again and often times it does feel quite long but at the same time, you’re willing to forgive these inconsistencies when you’re laughing all the way through to the credits. It's almost ingenious to concieve of a comedic film that uses the stages leading up to the actual wedding (bridal showers, dress fittings, bachelorette parties etc) as comedic set-pieces. Has it been done before? I'm not too sure, however, this is the first time I'm hearing about it. Much credit must be given to Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumulo for doing so. For my money, “Bridesmaids” is one of the best films to come out this year, so far, and is a film that’s not just for the female crowd. It carries with it a lot of humour and a lot of heart – a film that many can relate to even. “Bridesmaids” comes highly recommended.

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And that's all this week. Two things before this finishes up.
1. I may become involved with a video shoot sometime soon. The reason being is because I've never really gone out of my own way to shoot a short just for the fun of it and wanted to just have fun playing around with a camera and editing the footage altogether afterwards. I've only started to realise how much I actaully enjoying the editing process. Anyways, mroe news on that sometime soon, hopefully. But with that said, I shall take my leave.
2. I'm gonna start my Gong Li week this week. Be sure to check back next week if you want to know my thoughts on "Shanghai Triad", "Farewell, My Concubine" and "Raise the Red Lantern" if you want to expand your film vocabulary.
Hope you're all being awesome. Ciao!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Jack's Smirking Revenge


Apologies for the tardiness of my blog post. I’ve been busy… and by busy I mean playing Dragon Age: Origins on my Playstation 3. Like for real, that game is gonna probably consume all of me. All of me! So the following pretty much sums up everything in the last two weeks.
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Check out the swag these amazingly awesome people have got going on.
Officially on winter break now and am majorly looking forward to it because every student loves having a two month break! I don’t have any exams this year which is awesome! While I don’t have anything planned, it’ll be cool that Tokyo Jihen will release their new album during this Winter break and that Dir en grey will release a new single and an album as well. Other things like "Breaking Bad" returning for a fourth season is also sure to delight!
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Spent most of this week in bed watching the coverage from this year’s E3. The press conferences were a bit worse than last year (if that’s even possible) but the games that were on display were magnificent nonetheless. Nintendo pretty much destroyed Sony and Microsoft again with their unveiling of the Wii U, Nintendo’s answer to the powerful Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. It didn’t exactly blow my mind but it was pretty damn interesting and was an idea that I think Nintendo will have a lot of fun with. Man, one of these days I swear I’ll be down at E3 in Los Angeles. That and San Diego for Comic-Con.
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Federation Square was going off last Sunday. I came out from ACMI after my volunteering shift was over to the sexiness of jazz music. Ugh, talk about being “in the mood for love” – night sky, jazz tunes… This group of jazz musicians were performing as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
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Speaking of festivals, I headed on over to the Melbourne International Film Festival’s website last week to check if they had any first glance looks at some of the films they would be showing and to my excitement, “Norwegian Wood” was among the films to be shown at this year’s MIFF! Man, having talked about this film for about two years now, it feels so satisfying to know that I may be able to watch it on the big screen! Two other films of particular interest that I’m feeling up for that have gotten some very strong buzz amongst film festivals and cinephiles are “13 Assassins” and “Submarine”. I believe the full list of films will be released sometime in July. Oh look, another reason to love the winter break!

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I’ve also recently started using Twitter. I opened the account solely to use for one of my university’s subjects but it turns out that that idea didn’t exactly work out for the subject co-ordinator who now will not be marking us on our “participation of Facebook and Twitter”. Never made sense to me anyway but since I opened it, I may as well use it. So with that said, feel free to follow me.
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And look who just added a new poster to his wall. "Taxi Driver" is a fantastic film of fantasticness and deserves a spot on the wall of awesome love.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING
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Last week’s major release was “X-Men: First Class” the prequel/reboot/whatever of the X-Men franchise. Admittedly the franchise hasn’t been all that great these last few years with “The Last Stand” and “Wolverine” being lacklustre films (that did well at the box office regardless of critical and fan reaction). Fortunately enough, it’s safe to say that Matthew Vaughn’s (“Layer Cake”, “Kick-Ass”) take on the series successfully rejuvenates the franchise. The film takes place against the backdrop of the Cold War/Cuban Missile Crisis and follows the relationship of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr who would later adopt the alter egos of Professor X and Magento respectively. The film does a great job of getting down that 60’s vibe, going so far as to make January Jones look like a Bond girl and make Michael Fassbender like a James Bond-esque figure (which brings to mind why Fassbender never got optioned for Bond). With the exception of January Jones -who seems to play a vacant and emotionless woman in nearly everything she’s in - everyone else is on point and does the best with the material. Michael Fassbender and James Macavoy are most noteworthy in the film as they are given a lot of time on screen to flesh out their characters’ friendship, ideals and lifestyles. Given the constraints that Vaughn was under (20th Century Fox basically wanted him to make the film ready by this year and gave him like a few months to shoot it) I’m impressed with how much Vaughn was able to get done but understandably, with all rushed jobs there will be small problems here and there. One of the problems going into the film was the script itself. While the film does a good job of telling the story of Charles and Erik, the problem the film does is that it tries to do a bit too much in terms of plot and when they realise that they have to advance a plot because they were focusing on another plot too much then uh oh – here comes the montage! A lot of strands of storyline are either too rushed or finish without any clear resolution but as it stands the film is largely entertaining and captures the magic of the first two X-Men films while managing to be its own kind of thing. It’s a recommendation for sure, especially when you’re going into a movie with such an amazing cast of top actors.

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An American classic – "Gone with the Wind" is as big of an epic as it’s touted. The film follows the exploits of one, Scarlett O’Hara, a young woman desperate for love amidst the backdrop of the American Civil War. Standing out four hours in length, the film surprisingly moves at quite a brisk pace as every bit of the story is necessary to convey not only the length of the time period but to also cram in as much as we need to know about all the characters involved. Unfortuantely however, the second half lags a little bit what with the reconstruction after the Civil War making things a little less exciting than the first two hours. The costumes are beautiful and the interior set designs look utterly fantastic which makes way for some truly fantastic use of mise-en-scene and cinematography. It’s really a beautiful film to behold all displayed in glorious Technicolour. The “will they, wont they” tension between Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh is well conveyed and nicely handled. The suaveness of Gable should be able to make any girl fluster (I wish I was as dapper and suave as he). And while Vivien Leigh was great in her role as Scarlett, I honestly didn’t like her character all that well. She was just really unlikable for me – annoying even. Aside from that, I can see why it’s such a fantastic film and highly regarded as a classic, however, for me it felt a little overrated. The film definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and I came out thinking that it was nice but not amazing. Perhaps it’s because it’s because I was not born in that generation that saw it and don’t quite understand the legacy it has. I’m still young though, perhaps if I saw it another time it might click with me more. Who knows?
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“Super 8” is J.J Abrams love letter to the sci-fi/adventure films of the 1980s. The film takes place in 1979 and follows a group of young children who happen across a mysterious train wreck while filming a short. After the crash, unexplained disappearances of household objects, car motors and people begin to plague the town which forces the military to take action. Abrams is clearly inspired by the films he grew up loving with clear this film clearly paying homage to Steven Spielberg’s, “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The film has been touted as a bit of a monster movie however the film doesn’t necessarily play up the monster angle as much as you’d think. Was I disappointed? Quite. That’s not to say “Super 8” is a bad film – it’s just not what I was expecting. I came in thinking that the audience would follow these kids as they navigate their way through an extraordinary situation and for the most part – yes it is – but the monster itself is never quite shown off or spoken of in the film. Essentially, the focus of the film isn’t about a town being attacked by an unknown entity, but is rather a story that’s primarily focused on the relationships that the children have with each other and their families and its pretty moving stuff too. The kids are fantastic in the film and each brings their own unique charm to the movie. Dakota Fanning’s younger sister, Elle, is especially captivating in the film and is sure to grow up into a fine actress someday. The score itself seems like something you’d hear straight from the mind of John Williams and really makes one feel like they’re sitting through a film unique to that era. One of the finer moments which has been illustrated in the trailer (although not to maximum effect) is the train crash itself. It’s a true spectacle of wonder and awe – it’s terrifying, it’s beautiful and it’s amazing. Something you’d have to only see in cinemas, I would think. “Super 8” might not be for everyone but at least there’s a bit of originality among the slew of Summer/Winter blockbusters to come out to theatres this year.
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That's all this week. I'll be sure to get into watching more films over the course of these holidays - hopefully good and interesting ones too. Take care everyone.
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