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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Into the Black

WELCOME ALL.

So I had to go back to uni this week. Two month break really flew, I didn't even get to do/finish half the things I said I wanted to! I didn't realise how busy I would be over the holiday break and now that I'm back at university I won't have time to do everything else again until the next holiday break. Actually it wouldn't really be a holiday break since I won't be going back to uni at all (it's assumed that by that point of my life, I should be looking for jobs or something). Scary thought but now's not the time for fear. That comes later.

Already unhappy with this semester cause it feels a lot like my first semester in first year. Two of the four subjects I'm doing are pretty uninteresting and very boring. The only reason I have to do them is so that I can get the credit points needed to graduate. I'm sure I've gone on a tirade about how terrible my course has recently become but I figure I may as well tough it out and finish my degree, especially considering how much time I've put into it. Ugh, let's not dwell on university and talk about something else.  

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If you're planning on going to the Melbourne International Film Festival but are stumped for things to watch, I've compiled a list of things to watch in preparation for the festival. Think of it as a retrospective recommendations list! If you're keen to have a look, read all about it over at Meld.

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Also, Tuesday was Rose Byrne's 33rd birthday! So here's wishing the queen of Australia and the queen of my heart a happy birthday! What? I'm not embarrassing myself at all. Speaking of, anyone watching Damages right now? No? Fine.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING



Earlier in the year, I was blown away by the brute force of The Raid, a film that I thought really redefined what the action movie could be capable of. Immediately after I got home from seeing The Raid, I needed to find if there were any other films by director Gareth Evans and to my surprise, he and The Raid star Iko Uwais in another Indonesian action film, Merantau

Merantau is the story of a young man who goes on a ritualistic journey out of his countryside farm into the inner city where he becomes a man. Once he reaches the city however, he becomes entangled with some bad people and is forced to fight against them. Usually with action films I'm pretty lenient on the story. Yes, story does build drama and tension so that you can actually care for what's happening but in action films, story is more often than not secondary to the stunts. I could go on and say how ridiculous some of the story in this is but I won't. The story serves its purpose to allow for Evans and Uwais to do what they know - controlling and directing action.

The action in this film is nothing short of amazing. It's no where near as jaw-dropping as The Raid but its one of those films where, if you have the time, you'll pop it in, kick back and have fun. And that's Merantau for you, simply fun. The Indonesian martial arts practice, silat, looks fantastic on screen and, more than any other martial art, looks like as though it was designed specifically for the movies. It sounds silly but I feel that their movements are so rooted in theatricality that it makes me wonder why this form of fighting hadn't been used in film before (although I could be wrong in that assessment).

Also look out for the villain in this film. The guy that plays him, Mads Koudal, is fantastic. As cheesy as his acting may be, those of you who pine over villains that overact or seem like larger than life comic book characters are in for a treat cause this guy can get pretty nuts. Merentau really benefited from having him around, truly!

Merantau can be easily placed alongside films like SPL, Ong Bak and Fatal Contact as these films have helped breed a new wave of stellar Asian action films. It's almost a shame that Hollywood can't match these films for adrenaline, energy and excitement. Merantau's a nice action feature but its the entree. The real meat of it all is in Evans/Uwais' main course, The Raid. I wonder what's for dessert? 



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With nothing much to do this week, I figured it was best to get acquainted with the works of American director, Wes Anderson. The only film that I had seen of his up until this week was The Royal Tenenbaums which I enjoyed but didn't particularly feel it was as good as people had made it out to be. Overrated would be a good way of describing that film although I may get on some people's bad side for saying that. With Moonrise Kingdom soon to be released in Australian cinemas (August 30), I decided that this was the week to watch all his films. 

Wes Anderson has been something of an icon as far as the American independent cinema is concerned. Despite the big name actors who are constantly popping up in his films, Anderson's films have carried an energy about them which epitomise the American independent cinema. "Quirky" is a word often associated with his films and while that's not particularly a false claim to make, the American independent cinema can be categorised as such. You can certainly make an argument that Anderson had successfully paved the way for many other filmmakers to be as experimental and as "quirky" as him (films like The Brothers Bloom, Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost World, I Heart Huckabees) but then again you could also make the same argument about Jim Jarmusch or Steven Sodabergh, pioneers of the American independents. 

Regardless, Anderson's films have a strong poise and contain an indelible energy that embodies the independent films of America. His films are strongly associated with themes involving family, community and relationships. His characters are colourful and offbeat - fantastic, if you will. They don't necessarily fit the archetypes of what you'd expect. One might even say that Wes Anderson's films are a lot like Yasujiro Ozu's (although I myself cannot make such a claim, considering I've only seen one of Ozu's films). His unique visual style is instantly recognisable and there is no mistaking that what you're about to watch is a Wes Anderson feature. 


His debut feature, Bottle Rocket, was a delighfully charming effort. It starred brothers, Luke and Owen Wilson (both of whom made their feature film debuts in this) and was about a couple of guys who plan a big robbery. It feels similar to Reservoir Dogs albiet with Anderson's trademark brand of wit and sincerity. It's hugely enjoyable and is one of Anderson's best films, in my opinion. Owen Wilson is fantastic in it - a really humble debut. 


Rushmore put Wes Anderson on the map. A coming of age story about a teen who tries to win over the heart of a teacher at his school. Those of you who are familiar with Submarine are sure to enjoy this little feature although the similarities between both films are rather striking. In my opinion, Rushmore isn't as strong as Bottle Rocket but it's still a pretty decent film.


Arguably his most alienating film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is about an oceanographer's attempt to track down the shark that killed his best friend. My main problem with this film was that it didn't have the heart that his previous films had and was essentially an empty vessel of a film with nothing substantial to show for it. It's artificial and is completely detached from reality. It's his worst film and is severely disappointing. 


The Darjeeling Limited is a return to form for the director and I'd argue it's somewhat underappreciated. Everyone always puts Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums over as the defining films of Wes Anderson but I disagree and think that this is superior. The film is about three brothers who travel across India on a journey to cleanse their souls. I hadn't been moved by an Anderson film until I saw Bottle Rocket and then this absolutely floored me. It's a beautiful film that lovingly romanticises India and arguably features some of the best characters that Anderson has come up with to date. An absolute joy. 


Based off the Roald Dahl book of the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson's first animated feature but it still drums up the same familiarties that audiences have come to expect with Anderson. It's got the same visual style, oddball characters (whose characteristics are now amplified by the fact that they're anthropomorphic animals) and themes but the fact that it's animated somehow makes all of Anderson's nuances all the more magical. I certainly think that Fantastic Mr. Fox has a whimsical charm about it which makes the film so much more endearing. His style certainly works well within the parameters of animation and I'd certainly love to see another animated feature from him. One of his best, for sure. 

Instead of a trailer for each film, I've included a video that cuts all of his films together into a kind of tribute video. It's by Kees van Dijkhuizen, a Netherlands-baesd editor who has made some incredible cuts that I've featured in the past (if anyone remembers his Cinema series which highlights various films specific to the year of its release then you'll know what I'm talking about). Anyways the video is a good sampler for his films. Check it out!

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS


First up is this meaty, almost 6-minute trailer for the hugely ambitious spectacle that is, Cloud Atlas. The film is brought to us by Wachowskis, directors of The Matrix, and Tom Tykwer, director of Run Lola Run, and is based on a science-fiction novel of the same name by writer David Mitchell. The novel itself is comprised of six interrelated stories that as the trailer suggests, one action in one story will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the stories. In a lot of ways, this looks like Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain only with more of a budget, a huge ensemble cast and more heavy thematics thrown at it. It basically looks like ten different movies in one. I'm pretty excited for this film and wasn't excited for it until I saw this gorgeous trailer. It's wildy bold and ambitious but even saying that is just putting it lightly.


The most intriguing part of this whole film for me is Korean actress Bae Doona, seen in the future segments of the film. She's a great actress and despite the relatively small amount of roles she's had, Bae has demonstrated that she's not only a capable actress but one whose screen presence immediately demands attention. I'm glad she's getting a big spotlight here. Her performance looks like it could be reminiscent of her Air Doll performance which I don't think is a bad thing. If anything, I would think that it'd allow more exposure for Air Doll, a hugely underrated film.


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I'm pretty sure this is just a series of internet episodes but nonetheless, I do think that this is a pretty neat concept even if this next piece of news isn't quite related to films. So it seems that I'm the only one who liked the film, Like Crazy, but that's okay because I'm interested in Drake Doremus' new project, The Beauty Inside. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead andTopher Grace and from what I gather, is about a man who wakes up every morning as a different person but its still essentially him on the inside. Okay that was a terrible synopsis on my part but I'll let the trailer do its job in telling the film to you.

I think it's a fun idea that this is a "social film", in that it's a film that's engineered by everyday people via social media. We'll see where this goes. Episode 1 lands on August 16 on their Facebook page and all the information about the film/series is there. Have a look and if you're interested, maybe you'd like to audition as well!


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There were rumblings this week of a potential Battle Royale television show. The show might be headed towards the CW, an American television network whose most popular shows include The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill. Um... yeah. I think all of that should speak for itself. If this does become a reality (and the only reason why the cult Japanese feature is being discussed at all is because of the popularity of The Hunger Games) I can't see this being as confronting or compelling as the original film and novel. Now if it were on HBO, AMC, FX or Showtime...
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And that's the way it is this week. As always, below you'll find the song to which this post's title owes itself to. It's from Chromatics' latest album, Kill for Love. The album as a whole is pretty spectacular, I'd recommend giving it a listen. 



End post.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Gotham's Reckoning

Hey all.

So I had a pretty stacked week this week which was capped off by a friend's birthday party on Friday night. Got home at about 4.30 in the morning which was fun. Hadn't had a good drink in a while as well. Ellen blogged a bit about it. Read it there. Or even read about it on Alison's blog. Yes, go!

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Thursday night was a big one since I went to go see The Dark Knight Rises which didn't disappoint at all but more on that later. Also if you're going to see this film then see it in IMAX because I feel like the scope of the IMAX screen and the sound within the auditorium does the film justice.

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In the Mood for Love is one of my favourite films of all time so I was glad to hear the announcement that the prestigious Criterion Collection would be giving this masterpiece a high definition transfer on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, this means that anyone with a region-locked PS3/Blu-ray player (me), won't have access to it. Well ain't that a bitch!

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Breaking Bad returned with its fifth season this week! Arguably the best show on television at the moment and although the first episode of the season was a little more restrained than it should've been, it's an understandable move by the show's creators. Can't wait to see how the rest of this season will play out.

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Oh and speaking of television land, Emmy nominations were made this week and Community was given a long-deserved nomination for Best Writing in a Comedy Series! Unfortunately it wasn't given a nomination in Best Comedy Series which is a silly move cause isn't the success of comedy based on its writing?

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Found this pretty awesome video the other day thanks to Tumblr and /Film. The video is titled, 135 Shots That Will Restore Your Faith in Cinema. So basically beautiful shots from some beautiful films. Enjoy.


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And I just wanted to quickly show the picture above cause I thought it was pretty cool what Madman did with my blog name on the postage. It's like as if  Musing With Hieu is a company or something! And if you're wondering what's inside, it's a copy of the Indonesian martial arts film, Merantau. Will review it next week.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


Yasujiro Ozu is one of Japan's most deeply respected directors. Known for his low-key "home-drama" films, Ozu, has been often described as being the most "Japanese" director, which essentially means that his films commentate on specific Japanese notions regarding families and tradition. His film Late Spring tells the story of Noriko, a woman pressured into marriage despite her intentions to take care of her father.

I feel that with this film - and perhaps with all Ozu films if Late Spring is indicative of things to come - it will take a while to appreciate. At least that's the case for me. It's a slow film with a poetic beat about it but there's a lot about Late Spring that I don't think you can fully appreciate on the first viewing. What I can appreciate however, is the unusual yet effective techniques Ozu implemented within the telling of his film. Shots have been clearly planned out meticulously - almost resembling a stage play of sorts.

Late Spring doesn't use many, if any, moving camera shots. I can't recall seeing any pans or dollys in the film at all but, and this is something I particularly admire about Ozu's direction, the fact that he loves to employ static still shots suggests to me that Ozu is an artist. He knows what it will look like and uses the set is his canvas and the camera as his paint brush. Each shot, as noted, has been meticulously planned out where everything within the frame is there for a reason. It might seem disjointed in his editing, particularly when characters move in and out of rooms, but I think that there's a quality about it that asks for you to pay close attention.

If I were making films, I'd want to work like Ozu. People would hate me for it but I would rather shoot one perfect shot and do it a couple of times than do multiple shots from different angles and then figure out which one I liked best in editing (and I would imagine it would save a lot of time in the post-production stage too!).

There's definitely a lot of nuance and detail to this film, and I would assume that the rest of his films would be just like this. I'm also pretty sure that Takeshi Kitano would cite Ozu as a directorial inspiration cause they both use similar shots for character conversations. But right now, it's hard to articulate how I feel about the film after watching it.

No trailer unfortunately.

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Every great series must eventually come to an end. The Dark Knight Rises is the final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman series and for all its bombast and hype, the final chapter does not disappoint in any way shape or form. To call the film, perfect, is just a bit of a far-cry (although it is close to it) however as the film does drum up a small share of inconsistencies some of which mean having to draw attention to the film's plot which I wouldn't want to spoil anyway. Let's just say that with the amount of new characters that are being introduced into this film, some of whom may feel a little shoe-horned in, there's going to be some time in the beginning to have to introduce them and give them enough screen time to make them relevant enough to the story - even if that means not having to hold the film at a standstill for a moment.

Slow exposition notwithstanding, The Dark Knight Rises successfully rounds out the series and brings it full circle. The film has the theatrics and comic-book feel of Batman Begins while also incorporating the seriousness, scale and presentation of The Dark Knight. In other words, The Dark Knight Rises uses the best elements of the previous two films and turns it into a high-octane film. And once the film kicks into gear, it really delivers. The final hour or so of the film is enthralling and by this time the story is moved by mostly by actions, not words - an apt motif for a misunderstood hero like Batman.

As expected, acting is top notch from top to bottom. My favourite performance is probably the most understated one which belongs to Michael Caine. As the loyal butler to Bruce Wayne, Alfred essentially acts as the voice of reason for Bruce - the one that brings him back to reality and reminds him of the dangers that the Batman faces. I felt that Caine was able to make some of the more personal moments of the film so much more memorable. But not to take anything else away from the other actors, particularly Tom Hardy whose screen presence in the film was largely felt.

There's a lot to love about The Dark Knight Rises. It's a film that satisfyingly caps off what has been an immensely ambitious series - one hallmarked for its realism and intelligence and, at least for me, serves as a reminder as to why we go to the movies. And despite my minor gripes with the film, I feel that once I see the film again, the pacing may feel a lot different since I'll know what's going on. A near-perfect film and a near-perfect trilogy.

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS



Two new teasers for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, popped up online over the weekend. The trailer has been screened ahead of The Dark Knight Rises in cinemas and Warner Bros are hoping Man of Steel will emulate the success of Nolan's Batman series. Man of Steel is directed by Zack Snyder and is being produced by Christopher Nolan. Judging from the teasers (both of which are identitical but feature different voice overs from Superman's two fathers) this looks like a completely different Superman than anything we've seen before. Camera work and cinematography bring to mind the work of Terrence Malick, in particular The Tree of Life. Anyways, I'm excited by this one - the teasers are quite powerful and have piqued my curiosity.

Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) V.O

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) V.O

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Bachelorette has been on my radar for a bit now so I'm glad to see a trailer for it has been released. The film looks to be in similar spirit to last year's surprise hit, Bridesmaids, and features a pretty awesome female cast in Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Rebel Wilson (who was also in Bridesmaids). Now aside from the lack of laughs I got from the trailer, my main reason for wanting to see this is because the film serves as a mini-Party Down reunion. You'll see Adam Scott (now seen in Parks and Recreation) and Lizzy Caplan are being paired together again in the trailer and it makes the fanboy in me cry.


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The full theatrical trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's latest, The Master, made its debut online and does not disappoint. The film is loosely based on the Church of Scientology and is about a man who falls into a questionable religion whose founder is a charismatic intellectual. Of the three PTA films I've seen, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, I must say that Anderson's films are bold and refreshingly original. There's an energy, a flavour to his films, that you won't find any where else as far as American cinema is concerned (the Coen Brothers come close though, maybe even David Lynch or David Cronenberg but I categorise them as their own genres). Anyways, The Master looks elegant and is sure to be another triumph for Anderson.

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And that's all for this week. This week's title is brought to you by Hans Zimmer, the music composer for The Dark Knight Rises. Gotham's Reckoning is essentially Bane's theme in the film and the music of the film is another outstanding highlight that elevates The Dark Knight Rises to another level of brilliance.


End post.

Monday, 16 July 2012

What If We Could

HEY.

I was out quite a bit this week, mostly due to the fact that a friend of mine came down from Queensland to visit. He's up there working and I don't think we'll see him again for another year although he wants to try and come down during the summer.

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On Monday, we went to Big Boy BBQ in Caufield, a restaurant whose speciality lies in the art of the American BBQ. Got ourselves the biggest platter they had to share between six people and it was amazing. There were no greens on the table - just all meat, from ribs to wings to shoulders. And their selection of BBQ sauce is top too. So yeah, meat lathered in BBQ sauce = the best. I'd totally recommend the place. And then on Tuesday night we just went out for a few drinks. No photos to share though from either of those nights. Not quite the photographer when it comes to my everyday life, clearly.

Oh and then on Wednesday I had yet another dinner with the same group of friends but then afterwards we played some Liar's Dice (those who've played Red Dead Redemption will probably know what I'm talking about).

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The full program for this year's Melbourne International Film Festival was released this week and I was more than happy with the films screening this year. I bought a pass that allows me to see a maximum of ten films so I've booked in the ten films I'm wanting to see. There are some Melbourne critics/reviewers on Twitter that I follow who will be seeing over 60 films which is mindblowingly crazy! I kinda would like to be able to muster up the energy to power through 60+ films in two weeks but I can barely get through three in a week lately!

  • Amour (2012) dir. Michael Hanake
  • Headshot (2011) dir.Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
  • Himizu (2011) dir. Sion Sono
  • I Wish (2011) dir Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Liberal Arts (2012) dir. Josh Radnor
  • Nameless Gangster (2012) dir. Yun Jong-bin
  • Something From Nothing - The Art of Rap (2012) dir. Ice-T and Andy Baybutt
  • The House I Live In (2012) dir. Eugene Jarecki
  • The Imposter (2012) dir. Bart Layton
  • Undefeated (2012) dir. Daniel Lindsay
As you can see, mostly repping Asian cinema with a few documentaries thrown into the mix. I'm a huge devotee of Asian films so it's no surprise my list has turned out the way it has. And honestly, I could have chosen to see something like Moonrise Kingdom but I'm almost positive that's getting a wide release in Australia anyway so I'd rather see something that most likely won't get a release in Australia outside of the festival circuit. Otherwise it'd go straight to DVD (sometimes they don't even!).

To see the full list of films that will be at MIFF this year, head on over to their website and check it out!

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

Fanart poster that I wish was real.

Akira Kurosawa is heralded as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever leave an indelible imprint on the landscape of cinema. His films have enthralled and inspired generations of audiences and filmmakers alike and will probably continue to do so for future generations. Arguably his most recognisable and popular film, Seven Samurai, was the film that announced the arrival of Kurosawa in the western world and was a film that, along with Kurosawa's other samurai pictures, helped inspire filmmakers like George Lucas and Sergio Leone to apply the Kurosawa formula to their re-establishment of the science-fiction and Western genres respectively. 

When a farming town is terrorised by a group of rowdy bandits, the farmers seek out the help of some samurai to help them fight back against the bandits. Apparently there's a lot of versions of the film but the one I have, which is included in the Akira Kurosawa boxset from Madman that I bought a while back, is the full cut and stands at an epic 3 hours and a half. I'm actually surprised that total running time could fit onto a single disc given that a film like Once Upon A Time In America was split across two discs!


Seven Samurai paces itself nicely over its lengthy running time and never abstains from feeling monotonous or dull. Light-hearted humour is sprinkled all throughout and characters always remain interesting enough for us to want to care about. I think with a running time like this, there would have to be no excuses for a lack of story/character development which Seven Samurai fortunately is able to accomplish and then some. Even the smallest of characters have enough time on screen to satisfyingly fulfil their character arcs.

The grand scope of the film is not to be ignored either. The fact that Kurosawa decided it would be appropriate to shoot on location as opposed to an indoor built set is a testament to how grand his vision for the film would be (although I read that he decided it would be better for the actors to engage with their environment as opposed to make one up for themselves). The effort that has gone into making the film is quite staggering and it definitely pays off - I don't recall a lot of films from this era, Hollywood or otherwise, that use a large and expansive landscape like this one (correct me if I'm wrong!). It really took me back just the scale of the film in context of the time in which it was made.


Also on a technical level, the camera work/cinematography is fantastic. Every shot is perfect - the battle scenes are beautifully staged and not a single shot is wasted. Kurosawa cited influence from American director, John Ford, for his choices in staging characters and action and appropriates it within the context of his film accordingly.

But what more could be said about the film that hasn't already been discussed? Seven Samurai is a film for the ages - one that has stood the test of time and still looks and feels as exciting to this day. Essential viewing for anyone who loves films or is studying it.

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

Much news to break down this week thanks to the shenanigans of the San Diego Comic Con! So let's get right to it. Here's some film news from this week.


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In video game movie news, the massively popular Assassin's Creed series will be making its way to the big screen. Michael Fassbender, last seen in the sci-fi thriller, Prometheus, is confirmed to be starring in the picture and will also have a producing credit. So if that isn't enough to get excited for a VIDEO GAME movie then I don't know what will. Fassbender's a picky actor too so there's gotta be some level of legitmacy.

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In other video game movie related news, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, will also get a movie makeover. I'd be interested in a Deus Ex movie but that's only if there's a good team of people behind it. I mean if anything it could potentially be another Blade Runner-esque film. Just save the golden filter for another film cause I don't think I can handle it.

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Sam Raimi, director of the original Spider-Man films, unveiled his latest film, Oz: The Great and Powerful at Comic-Con. The film is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz but I can't help but feel cynical about this film because despite its robust cast, it looks way too similar to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. We'll see how this one fares when it releases some time next year.


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Coming off the spectacular success of The Avengers earlier this year, Marvel have unveiled their plans for future films in the coming years. Officially dubbed, "Phase Two", this second step for Marvel will include Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man.

I like the fact that the Thor and Captain America films aren't given the standard numerical imprint to show that it's a sequel. Also, comic book readers will understand why the Winter Soldier suffix has been given to Captain America. As for The Dark World, I'm not sure as to why it's called that.


Marvel also showed off official concept art for Guardians of the Galaxy and Edgar Wright, director of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, showed off his initial test footage for his adaptation of Ant-Man. Marvel's commitment to bringing their comics to life is one that I really admire. We're entering a bit of a renaissance period with comic book films where studios really want to explore the genre and who can blame them? Decades worth of story has already been established for them and there's a huge untapped goldmine of money to be made. But what it all boils down to is a matter of tastefully bringing it together. Its a shame that DC hasn't been as successful with their superheroes, save for Batman, but here's hoping Man of Steel, the newest Superman movie, will change that. Marvel is fortunate in that their characters are embedded in reality moreso than a godlike figure like Superman (or any other hero in DC's glorious pantheon of icons) which is probably why Batman, the most "human" of all DC's characters, has benefited from all this mainstream exposure. /endtangent. 

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Here's a new minute-long trailer for Dredd, a film that I had no real interest in until I saw this. I mean, the previous trailer looked alright but it didn't blow me away like this one did. Zack Snyder, eat your heart out - this is how you do slow-motion (and do it tastefully I might add...well as tasteful as shooting a bullet into someone's brain can get!). I'm liking Dredd, more and more, and I hope it's not disappointing cause right now, it looks like a good bit of fun.


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I might be forgetting something else but I can't seem to recall being excited for anything else this week. I mean there were some other rumblings at Comic Con but no official footage has been shown, just recorded footage from fans which I shy away from.
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And we've reached the end of what seemed to be a very LONG post. Apologies. Or maybe not - I think some people actually like that I write a lot. Anyways, this blog post's title comes from the official score soundtrack to David Fincher's, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I quite like it and anyone who was a fan of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' work in The Social Network should get a kick out of this one too. Have fun.



End post.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

American Royalty

Hi guys.

I spent most of this week in a bit of a slump due to a pretty terrible fever that hit me on Wednesday. This meant that I wasn't fit to come in and help the public program offices of ACMI on the following Thursday. How unfortunate. On top of that I had some other nasty illnesses plague me in the week which wasn't great. Nasty stuff.


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And just as a personal aside, I always look forward to coming in on Thursdays to help out. It's a learning curve for me in some respects but its also nice to be doing something that's completely different to what I'm accustomed to (okay sitting down at a computer and typing stuff isn't exactly different BUT its the work and the environment that is!). I hope that I'd get to work for ACMI in the future in some capacity as opposed to volunteering my time with them although I really enjoy the volunteer experience - I mean I have been volunteering with them for almost two years now. Unpaid work may sound unattractive but I genuinely think more people my age should get out there and volunteer for things they're passionate about. Okay that got a bit preachy towards the end there but I just kinda wanted to say something about that! 


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On a more positive note, one of my recent blog posts got some attention from the Publicity Manager over at Madman Entertainment and he kindly offered to add me to Madman's media list which was pretty awesome and very unexpected news. Four years (technically five) of blogging and it has now yielded some pretty awesome results! So I'll be most likely reviewing much more content that Madman Entertainment supply and distribute in future posts. Thanks Ben!
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


In 2009, Korean director Bong Joon-ho, responsible for fantastic films including Memories of Murder and The Host, added another great film to his already outstanding oeuvre - Mother. The film is reminiscent to Memories of Murder but instead plays out more like a Hitchcock film than a police procedual. Mother is about a woman who investigates the murder of a local girl after her mentally challenged son confesses to the crime, a crime the mother firmly believes was not committed by her son.

In recent years, Korean cinema has seen an upward trend in quality dramatic thrillers and mysteries and Mother is no exception. The film has all the great spectacles of any great murder mystery and tells an equally great story. Bong's direction is masterful  and his portrait of the mother is terrifying and heartfelt and we wouldn't feel that way about her if it also wasn't for the marvellous acting job by Kim Hye-ja. Equally impressive is Won Bin who plays the son in the film. I last saw him in The Man from Nowhere, another awesome action thriller, where he played a completely different character to the one presented here. If you liked films like Oldboy, I Saw the Devil or Memories of Murder - absolutely give this movie a chance. It's sensational.


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With Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, The Master, coming out soon, I thought I should continue watching more of his films and settled down to some Hard Eight over the week. Unlike the ambitiousness and scale of his later films, Hard Eight, Anderson's debut feature film, was a lot more low-key and minimal. I get the feeling that Punch Drunk Love is also a return to minimalistic settings and characters but I haven't seen that yet, nor have I seen There Will Be Blood yet.

Not much is made by way of story here - there is one but it doesn't seem to be the focal point of the film. Instead Anderson is more interested in characters and much like his following films, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, explores his characters and gives us ample time to care about them. Hard Eight made a great impression on me with its style and at times reminded me of Takeshi Kitano's personal style of framing conversations - characters look at the camera and talk directly to it. Whether or not this was intentional is beside the point though, Hard Eight is a fantastic entry point for a director who understands the language of filmmaking and uses his knowledge to excel stories he's interested in. It's a great bit of pulp fiction and Philip Baker Hall (also seen in Boogie Nights and Magnolia) provides an exceptional performance as Sidney, the world-weary mentor to John C. Reilly's character.



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The Nanking Massacre is no easy thing to discuss and to present on film is an equally harder task to accomplish. I would assume that the Nanking Massacre is somewhat common knowledge but, as Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust, suggests, it would seem the atrocities that occurred in the city of Nanking are largely forgotten when compared to the devastation of the Holocaust.

Presented in beautiful black and white photography, City of Life and Death, a Chinese film made in 2009, is an exhausting presentation of the Nanking massacre. The film doesn't answer why the Imperial Japanese army stationed in Nanking did what they did and it would seem that history wouldn't have a definitive answer as to why they did what they did. The fact that there isn't an answer might alienate viewers and I was wondering what the point of this film was at all. Instead, we see the events of the film unfold through the eyes of various people, a Chinese official, a resistance soldier, a young boy and a Japanese soldier and it is through them that we see the wickedness that humans are capable of.

And despite it's depressing subject matter, City of Life and Death is a beautiful looking film - the choice to do it in black and white is an inspired choice, reminding one of films like Raging Bull and Schindler's List. And in it's harrowed bleakness, there's a deep philosophy that runs through the core of the film in that death is easier than life - especially when life can throw you a bone as tough as this one.

Oddly enough, even though City of Life and Death is one of the most depressing and eye-opening films I've ever seen, I feel that it has some rewatch value. There's a lot to take away from this film. Highly recommended.


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Ten years since the first Spider-Man film and now we have a reboot in the form of The Amazing Spider-Man. Its the second of the big superhero films this year and one that attempts to re-establish its hero. Unfortunately, what we see is an underdeveloped movie with a story that too closely resembles the original, matching it beat for beat in some instances.It might be unfair to compare the two but when the marketing of the film has said that this is "The Untold Story", then you'd have to make the point of seeing just how different this is to the 2002 original. 

There's a lot that the film does right and a lot that it does wrong. The casting for the film is exceptional - Andrew Garfield, last seen in The Social Network, shows us a different side of Peter Parker that we're not used to. He's not the clumsy nerd from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, he's a loner with a lot of heart - heart which only grows after he gets bitten and becomes a hero. His relationship with the kind hearted Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is strong and palpable unlike the relationship we see with Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson in the original films. This is attributed to the real-life relationship of Stone and Garfield, both of whom began dating as a result of this film. 

The supporting cast is equally impressive - veterans Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary all take their roles and run with it, making the most out of their otherwise rudimentary roles. If only the same could be said for Rhys Ifans who has a lot to do in the film but never amounts to anything than "crazed scientist" with a bizarre plan that doesn't have much logic behind it (but then again, most comic book villains are usually like this). It's a decent film with a strong and very likable cast but its more or less the same as the first film (which I actually prefer over this one). 


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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS


The first trailer for a little independent film called, Compliance popped up this week and was a controversial stand-out at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year. The film is based on real life events and explores our attitudes towards authority - that is to say how we, as humans, are naturally conditioned to follow the orders of a person we believe is exerting some form of authoritative force over us. The trailer is quiet but eerily powerful. Here's hoping this pops up at MIFF!


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And oh look, a new minute long trailer for Quentin Tarantino's upcoming western, Django Unchained! Not a lot of new footage but still nice to oogle over. The more I see of Dicaprio in this film, the more I'm loving it! He looks like he's having an absolute ball playing a character that is so atypical of his other characters.

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And that is all for the week. Childish Gambino's new LP, Royalty, was released this week and for me the track that really stood out was the one embedded below. Which is exactly why I've chosen it for this week's blog post title. So have a listen and enjoy some fine tunes.


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Monday, 2 July 2012

Bring Me Coffee or Tea


Hey there.

After really looking at my new banner/layout, I kinda actually don’t like it now. So I’m gonna change it again and actually try to do something hand drawn like all my other banners. Also, I’m frustrated with the new template layouts Blogger has set up – it’s not to my liking at all. 

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I was able to check out Game Masters at ACMI this week and the exhibit is fantastic. My favourite bit of the exhibit is probably the very beginning of the gallery space where they’ve set up a bunch of old arcade games and have really made it feel like an arcade. It’s great to hear all those bleeps and bloops in that narrow walkway. I wrote a piece on the Game Masters exhibit for Meld actually, so you can read more about it over there.

Oh and while we’re speaking of Meld, I also wrote up on article about how social media has found its way through mainstream entertainment. This one just so happens to be my first article on the website. Cheap plugs FTW.

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JB Hi-Fi had a pretty massive sale again over the week and I managed to snag these two games for only $32! I doubt either of these games will ever come this cheap ever again. Most AAA games in Australia are never priced under $20 (at least not to my knowledge) so this was a steal as far as I’m concerned. And I know I said I wouldn’t actually buy any more games until I finished Chrono Cross but I figured I ought to take advantage of the situation cause these two games might not get another sale like this for a long while.

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I also started watching HBO's newest television drama, The Newsroom and the pilot of the show is absolutely stellar. Aside from a few gripes about some of the characters in the show, I reckon the show has a lot of interesting things going for it and the writing and direction for the pilot was really solid. I look forward to the rest of series.

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I forgot to make mention of this last week but I ordered some In the Mood for Love photo cards, each the size of an A4 piece of paper but I have no idea what the hell I'm meant to do with them. I mean there's space on the walls to put them and everything but... I dunno. I'll figure something out.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


Welcome to the NHK isn’t your average anime to begin with. It stars a hikikomori (a term used to describe someone who shuts themselves in their room/apartment essentially cutting themselves from any real interpersonal social contact) who meets a girl that promises him that he can be cured of his hikikomori status. Sato (our hikikimori character) believes that a conspiracy has been made against him to shut him away from society and that a group called the NHK is behind it. So yeah a lot of quite bizarre stuff going on already. 

I did like the anime from the first ten episodes that I saw last week but the show never really made an indelible impression on me. I will say though that the fact the show even goes to the lengths that it goes to is quite admirable and explores an underbelly of Japanese society that few shows are afraid to discuss – yes they even go into the weird world of anime sex video games. Along with Eden of the East, both shows highlighted that there are obvious problems with Japan which lie in the vast number of student drop outs who either regress into a hikikimori status or simply live on handouts and allowances but don’t actually make the effort to get a job. But Welcome to the NHK doesn’t use the hikikimori problem to move the story but just uses an example of one hikikmori and builds a story around him. The results are mostly hit and miss, I feel, and it all builds up into a far too familiar romantic set-up that has been played out in many anime and dramas in the past. As a whole, the show is essentially a coming-of-age story albeit with a skewed take on the formula. Needless to say, the show didn’t end up the way I thought it would so I was left unimpressed and dissatisfied with the final product. It’s not to say the show was bad, just that it wasn’t for me.


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Pixar’s latest film, Brave, tells the tale of Merida, a Scottish princess who has no interest in becoming a typical princess and simply wants to revel in fun and adventure. Essentially a tomboy-like character, Merida reminds us of our rebellious teenage years (although specific mention Merida’s age is never made) but on a larger scale, Merida stands for feminism and doesn’t want to accept her natural gender roles. Like all Pixar films, there’s a lot of heart and emotion rooted in some pretty deep themes which is no different with Brave. Despite this, however, Brave trades in story and depth for gags and punch lines. Too much time is spent in the set of the gags and the jokes themselves and then you kinda forget that there’s a story somewhere in all of this. The film begins powerfully but that light diminishes over the course of the film. No real threat is posed against Merida other than her mother who wants nothing more than for her daughter to accept her role as a princess and even the later threat of the film isn’t given enough time. There’s some fantastic voice talent and the animation that we’ve come to expect from Pixar is of the highest calibre – unfortunately the direction and story are weak and uninspired. It’s one of Pixar’s more mediocre films (Cars might be even better than this) but despite all of its shortcomings there’s a lot to like about Brave which is mostly attributed to the likability of the characters and the very simple, albeit derivative, story about how our fates aren’t set in stone and that we’re in control of our own destiny. It’s preachy by Pixar standards but it’s appropriate Disney material. And then there's Merida's hair. Good lord, her hair is amazing. 

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

In film news this week, trailers! I’ve gotten lazy with writing up actual film news and mostly show off trailers now, ey? When something newsworthy does come about I’ll be sure to put it up on the blog and let everyone have a flounder around. Ba-boom! This week, we have brand new trailers for Looper, the time-travel actioner starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis and The Man with the Iron Fists, a film written, directed and starring Wu Tang Clan’s RZA that pays homage to the kung fu flicks of yesteryear.



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And that's all for this week. This blog post title is thanks to Can and can be found on the soundtrack to Anh Hung Tran's Norwegian Wood, the film adptation of the Haruki Murakami novel of the same name. I really want to get the film on Blu-ray and watch it again - I feel like it could get better with a second viewing.



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