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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The River

Hi friends.

Again, I apologise for the late post although I have a pretty good reason for being away from the computer this week! I worked all evening through Saturday and spent my entire day in the city at ACMI and with friends afterwards. So like yeah, that should totally give a good reason for not being able to write this weekend (might not be able to have the same excuse next week though but ah well). Maybe with uni being over now I might be able to post on a more regular basis (read: sporadically during the week, a la Ellen Nakamura, as opposed to one every weekend.)

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Melbourne Cup just happened today and I DIDN'T WIN ANY MONIES. Okay that's not true, I won a bit but not as much as I should've, haha. I legitimately thought I would win more though cause the night before, I chose Green Moon, the eventual winner of the cup, based on it's name (green being my favourite colour). But turns out I circled the wrong horse, the one right next to it. Ah well. Somebody get me the wahhhhhhhhhmbulance.




Also Rose Byrne was at the Cup today! She was like an ambassador/special guest for Lexus or something. PRETTY THOUGH.

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Picked up a new Blu-ray player from JB Hi-Fi last week, one that was capable of playing Blu-ray discs from overseas. Which essentially means I'll be able to purchase Blu-rays produced by The Criterion Collection now!

For those that don't know, The Criterion Collection is a distribution company that treats its home releases with the utmost respect and care. The majority of their films are highly regarded works in the world of cinema and as such, they try to provide beautiful transfers, alternative cover art and a whole range of special features to cater for the cineaste out there. Needless to say, they're a pretty prestige brand and for a film to get the Criterion makeover is a big deal.


I've had this copy of Chungking Express from The Criterion Collection for a year now and imported it without knowing that my Playstation 3 was incapable of playing the film due to the region lock. So having re-watched bits and pieces of the film now, I can pretty much attest to the gloriousness that is the transfer of Wong Kar-wai's crazily infectious film.



Having said that, I think the top three films from Criterion's Blu-ray selection that I want/need are Secret Sunshine (South Korea, 2007), Still Walking (Japan, 2008) and of course, In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong, 2010). Yes, obvious bias towards Asian cinema is obvious...

I'll be essentially double dipping with ITMFL (triple dipping if you're really keeping count at home) because I already have the Criterion copy of In the Mood for Love on DVD. Look, I just really like that film, okay? Also, let's petition for more Hirokazu Kore-eda for Criterion!

FUN FACT: Secret Sunshine is the first South Korean film to be given the Criterion makeover which I happen to think is an excellent choice (I loved the film when I saw it a few months ago and occasionally think about it).

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I also managed to pick up WWE 13 this week! I haven't owned/played a wrestling game since perhaps SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006. Coincidentally, that was around the time when I started to stop watching professional wrestling altogether. It wasn't until last year when I started watching it again though (yeah, it's all child's play but whatever).

Anyways, I'm really enjoying the game and it's reminded me why I really liked these games to begin with (I mean the creation options are seemingly endless - you can lose HOURS creating something within the game!). The Attitude Era campaign is especially cool. When I got into pro-wrestling, it was somewhere between 2000 or 2001 when the Attitude Era (basically a time when pro-wrestling was at the fringe of pop culture) was on its way to ending so it's nice to get a bit of a history lesson to see where things went and how they happened back in the day. Been losing a bit of sleep to this game. Only negative, haha.

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And I also managed to FINALLY get a copy of Runaways! It's only the first volume (with like another ten that I need to get) but it's a start! Runaways is about a group of children who abandon their homes when they find out that their parents are part of a villanous organisation called, "The Pride".

I found out about the series in high school which was when I started getting into reading comic books. I was doing some research on teenage comic books and Young Avengers and Runaways were on my priority list  but the only problem was money (trades can be pretty darn expensive, kids!).

I'm enjoying where things are going at the moment and I think it'll turn out to be something special. I... have far too many comics now. I need to have less hobbies/interests that require a consistent reliance on money. Comics, films and video games will be the death of me.

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If anyone wants to read about my thoughts on two films that I saw for the Greek Film Festival (which recently wrapped up here in Melbourne), you can find my reviews over at Meld Magazine. I liked both of the films that I saw (Fortunate Son and City of Children) but I think Alps was the strongest out of the three I watched (Alps isn't included in this article though). There was just something about it that was elusive that made me want to return to it. I don't think I was ready to leave that film which is odd because I initially had some ambivalence about it. I'd be keen to check out Dogtooth in the near future though.

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And I'm gonna lose so much credibility just by saying/mentioning this but it's had me kinda excited all week and I've already mentioned it enough on Tumblr. I've recently come into possession of both the Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors series'. Not weird at all.

Sailor Moon has five seasons, each of which contain around 40 episodes while Cardcaptors (or rather Cardcaptor Sakura) has just the one series and is 70 episodes long. Yes, they're extremely feminine anime shows but ya know what? They're pretty damn good! (You've lost your readership now.)

I'd say Cardcaptors is somewhat underrated while Sailor Moon is essentially Dragonball Z for girls but somehow even that comparison doesn't quite substantiate the legacy of Sailor Moon. Oh, look at me trying to defend my life choices, hehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Anywho, I don't think Australia aired all the episodes of Sailor Moon with the English dub or Cardcaptors for that matter (although I hear Cartoon Network Australia did with Cardcaptors). So I'll essentially be revisiting a few old episodes and watching new ones as well. But yeah exciting times in my life, clearly. 
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING



South Korea has been steadily producing bigger and better blockbusters since 1999. From Shiri to The Host to The Good, The Bad and The Weird to now with The Thieves, Korea's increasing expenditure on big blockbuster films now pits it in contention with Hollywood.

Since its release in its home country several months ago, The Thieves has become the highest grossing film in South Korean history. Assembling a star-studded cast, the film on the surface looks devilishly like Ocean's Eleven. It might look like a Hollywood film but of course, when it comes to Korean cinema, always expect the unexpected. 

Essentially a heist movie, The Thieves follows a group made up of thieves from Hong Kong and South Korea who are assembled to infiltrate a casino in Macau and steal a prized diamond. This set up might seem simple in its mechanics but increasingly becomes more and more intricate as the film paces forward. 

It's slow to begin and it might seem a little overstuffed with story but these blemishes are largely forgiveable in the grand scheme of things. The Thieves is a hugely entertaining piece of popcorn filmmaking and while it might not win any huge awards, the mere fact that it can boast a production the scale of a Hollywood tentpole feature is something to be admired. 

The final act of the film is where The Thieves truly excels as it uses all that we've learnt in the previous two acts and mixes up the action and story with tightly co-ordinated chases and gunfights. It plays with expectations and might leave you feeling surprised by the outcome of it all. It's almost as if the film is built on twists, an important feature of the film to point out, as these twists are what keep the film running at a reasonably high momentum. And by this point of the film, it sheds off the dead weight of most of its ensemble cast, leaving only a few important key players to languish in the spotlight.

It's not my favourite film of the year but it is one of the more entertaining ones (at least as far as action and comedy goes). It might seem weighty with its ideas and intermingled stories but it does a grand job of showcasing another side of Korean filmmaking to the world. The production value shows and, ocassionally, it is quite a beautiful film to look at (some may deem it artificial or glitzy but there's nothing wrong with sweeping shots of Macau at night). 

Fans of Korean cinema will want to check this one out (if they haven't already). And even if you're not a fan of Korean cinema - or foreign cinema in general - The Thieves might change your opinion about the kind of films a certain country is capable of making. 

As much as I don't want to use this comparison, it seems appropriate given the situation. If Gangnam Style can break the language barrier and become a worldwide smash hit, I would be more than happy if someone who wasn't formally aware of Korean cinema to be introduced to it through The Thieves. It has that appeal and that potential to break through and become something special.


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With The Master drawing closer and closer to release, I figured it was best to catch up with the rest of Paul Thomas Anderson's films this week. I started with Punch Drunk Love on Monday and am thinking of watching There Will Be Blood sometime later in the week. By then I'll have seen all his films just in time for The Master (although I plan on seeing The Master at the Astor Theatre a month after release since it'll be screening in it's original 70mm film format).

The thing I admire about PTA is the fact that he is an absolutely original director. He may borrow techniques and shots from other directors/films and incorporates them within his films but he does so in a way that seems almost effortless and completely his own. While someone like Quentin Tarantino blatantly uses the most obvious of shots and techniques to pay homage to his favourite films and filmmakers (not a shot at Tarantino at all, I love his films), Anderson uses them to tell original stories rather than amalgamations of stories from the past.

Punch Drunk Love is about a lonely and somewhat psychologically damaged man who falls in love with an English woman all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line and buying an abundant amount of chocolate pudding. It sounds ludicrous but, again, it comes back to PTA's mad brilliance as a storyteller.

Oddly enough, I feel like as though Punch Drunk Love might be the best of the PTA films that I've seen so far. I might have to change my mind when I see either There Will Be Blood or The Master but there seems to be something about Punch Drunk Love that elevates it above Anderson's previous films (sorry, Magnolia). I can't describe what it is, but perhaps it might be due to the very minimalistic quality of the film which, in itself, helps aid the elegantly subtle performance by Adam Sandler (yes, that Adam Sandler!). Sandler's performance is akin to that of Jim Carrey's in The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind although I don't think Carrey could have been as good as Sandler was here.

The film goes beyond simply being a love story and is more of a character study. Barry Egan (played by Adam Sandler) is a compelling character. He's a bit nutty and has years of built up anger but he's a good-hearted man caught in the bizarre net of circumstances that befall him. And while his flirtation with Lena (played by Emily Watson) is a cute in itself, there's so much more going on that makes this film utterly engaging. From the visual nuances to the editing, it's the little things that make this movie, and other PTA movies, stand out as being films for film lovers.

I really enjoyed Punch Drunk Love, moreso than I thought I would. PTA's understanding of character and story is unparalleled and he will no doubt assert himself as one of the most revered filmmakers in history some day. A real delight and something I'd like to implore people to try and see.

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

Slow clap for the return of Tidbits of Film News! Did anyone miss it? No? Really? Well, why am I even writing it up then?! Oh doesn't matter. Here's what's been going down in the last week.

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If you haven't heard by now, news broke last week that Disney bought out Lucasfilm for an estimated 4 billion dollars. Arguably the biggest piece of film news to have broken in recent memory, Disney have said that they plan on making on a brand new trilogy of Star Wars movies (reportedly set sometime after the events of Return of the Jedi) and, essentially, have major plans for more Star Wars-related media in the upcoming future. 

In some ways, this can be seen as a blessing. Disney, who now owns Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, will be able to produce more content for fans eager to see more. It also means that Disney will (at least try to) ensure that Star Wars remains a significant part of future generations' childhoods as much as Disney classics are. 

Concerning the films, Disney have said that Star Wars creator George Lucas, will stay on only as a creative consultant/producer. He won't have anything to do with the actual characters or direction that the series is headed, he'll just be kinda there to ensure things are at least in line with the universe he has created. Lucas hasn't done much with the series post-Prequel trilogy and has let the name flounder around so that he could make money from it so handing it over to a Disney might seem like a pretty smart move (at this point in George Lucas' career, he has enough money to hold him over for this lifetime and the next).  

When I first heard about the acquisition I was more surprised than shocked or outraged. Even now I feel somewhat undecided with how I feel about this whole situation but hopeful might be something I should express. I'm all for new Star Wars films (and at least the purists can be relieved that daddy George won't try to bastardise his own series) but at the same time, I can't help but feel just a bit cynical about the entire situation. 

While Disney's reputation as a monopolising corporation can be seen as somewhat unjust, I think people need to keep in mind Disney's reputation as a movie studio and the talent that they have/can acquire. Imagine if someone like Gore Verbinski brought the same imagination and entertainment he had for the first Pirates of the Caribbean to a Star Wars movie! I'd pay to see that. 

I think there are more positives than negatives in this purchase (someone will have to point to me the negatives). I can only hope things turn out well for the series. 

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Hey Wong Kar-wai fans, are you keen to see new footage from the Hong Kong auteur's long-gestating Yip Man biopic, The Grandmasters? Well have no fear as I'm here to bring to you the first full-length trailer for The Grandmasters! It's a thing of beauty even with all the slow-motion and bass drops. Some impressive sequences and a very stylistic take on the martial arts film. Have fun with this one.


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Anyone excited for Park Chan-wook's American debut with Stoker?! Yes? Well have a look at the magnificent poster for Stoker! More posters need to think a little bit different and think outside the box, I think. This is cool and most movie posters kinda aren't. Yes. Also, if you'd like to hear the first track from the official soundtrack for Stoker here it is. It's kinda really awesome. Ambience man, ambience. The video is so good - the creation of the poster + song + new footage from movie. AWWWW MAN.


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So apparently Steven Soderbergh is on his way to retiring from filmmaking. I'm not terribly familiar with Soderbergh (although I've seen his Ocean's trilogy and Traffic) but consider that in the last year he's kept himself incredibly busy pumping out three films (Magic Mike, Contagion and Haywire) with a fourth (the one I'm about to make mention of) on the way and another currently in production. 

Side Effects, starring Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's kind of hard to describe what the film exactly is as the trailer doesn't quite lend itself to giving a description of the film. Just have a look. I'm mildly interested in this.

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And that's all for the week. This blog post title is brought to you by Parkway Drive's new album, Atlas. I love these guys. This music probably isn't for everyone though but like that's not my concern. LISTEN AND LOVE.


End post.

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