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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Lazuli

Oh hai, reader! 

A number of exciting things happening on my end but I won't divulge information about it just yet in case things go awry. So uhh, just keep your eyes on this space I guess. 

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When last I wrote, I had received a copy of The Disaster Artist from a mate as a birthday present. I've since finished the book and highly recommend it to fans of cult classic The Room or anyone after some weirdly inspirational story about one man's need to create something special. I'm so glad that James Franco's production team have planned to turn the book into a movie as I can see a lot of it translating really well over onto screen. I now have a more different outlook on the creepily mysterious figure behind The Room, Tommy Wiseau

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Remember how I wrote a short film for the 48 Hour Film Project sometime late last year? Well, my director and pal, Mark, has given what can basically be described as his "director's cut" of the short film and has uploaded it for all to see. It's titled, A Tale of Two, though it wasn't my idea cause when I wrote the script, it had no title and I had no brainpower to come up with one cause it was really early in the morning. Please have a watch and if you have anything to say about it, good or bad, let us know! Keen to give it another go this year!
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


HER: So I finally saw Spike Jonze's latest and adored it! A lot more clever than the film lets on, there's enough in the film to let it pass as science fiction and though it is entirely a work of fiction, it certainly appears as if we're headed in the direction that Jonze has predicted in the film. In addition to making the romance between Joaquin Phoenix's Thedore Twombly and Scarlett Johansson's Samantha seem credible and extremely palpable, Jonze's observant eye on all of love's facets poses some interesting questions: are words enough to construct the feeling of being loved (represented both in the letter company that Twombly works at as well as his devotion to Samantha)? Are we slowly readying our society towards this hybridisation of man and technology? Does the Asian-inspired cityscape play some part in the film's search for connectivity and understanding of loneliness? Some have viewed Her as Spike's answer to Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, also starring Scarlett Johannson, as Her may, or may not, chart Jonze's inadequacies as Coppola's former spouse.

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THE LEGO MOVIE: Saw this as part of a private staff screening which was pretty cool (film doesn't come out here in Australia until April which I presume is due to distributors wanting to maximise profit by pushing it back to the school holidays). I loved this movie more than I thought I would. More than just a soulless cash-in off the name of a recognisable, licensed toy product, there's so much to appreciate about The Lego Movie! It's essentially like this year's Wreck-It Ralph - a warm, funny and charismatic film that's full of heart and ingenuity. When you really think about it, it's amazing to see how much went into actually taking the idea of this film seriously enough that it'd strike a hit with audiences of all ages (not just the recommended age!). The story is itself inspired by the very appeal Lego has to children (and adults!) with a twist towards the end of the film that's unexpectedly amazing. It also such a nice blend of CG and stop-motion style animation that just adds to the magic of the film! It's just great, okay? Extremely fun and satisfying, I had heaps of fun watching this and I daresay that I may go back and see it a second time when it's officially out (also, best version of Batman ever committed to screen, ngl).

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DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: I really dug Dallas Buyers Club but thought a lot of it was pretty "by the numbers". It might not be particularly bold or take too many risks but it does have a great story aided by some pretty amazing and inspired performances from two unlikely (but now Academy Award nominated actors) men - Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Set in the '80s when the AIDS epidemic seemingly swept America, Dallas Buyers Club sees racist and homophobic Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) take action when he finds out he is HIV positive. Desperate, he seeks medication not available in the United States to survive, living longer than his original expiration date of 30 days and extending that to 7 years. It's an inspirational story, for sure, and the film is hardly dull with enough meat on the bone (in spite of McConaughey's shockingly thin figure) to gnaw from with its performances. One would imagine that the film would make for a decent double with Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko, as both films take apart America's flawed legalities regarding the FDA (Food and Drugs Association) and the practices of big pharmaceutical companies. But hey, talk about a career turnaround for McConaughey, ey? Join the McConassaince everyone!

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LABOR DAY: I normally enjoy Jason Reitman's films (though I've yet to see Young Adult) but I wasn't prepared for this mess. You have to really wonder why this film needed to be made/adapted as there really isn't a whole lot in the film to gravitate towards. It's clear in Reitman's script that there seems to be evidence of a bigger film going on in Labor Day but in the end these distracting subplots do little to either accentuate the main story or remain strong enough to be memorable in their own right. Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet are decent in their parts but there's little for them to work off. With so much going on and yet so very little actually happening, reaching the final moments of Labor Day becomes exhausting as it becomes abundantly obvious that the film is completely bloated and doesn't know how to properly brings all its diverging stories to a proper close. Also, I'm trying really hard to forget that awkwardly long scene of the pie-making. Oh god.

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WARRIOR: This movie had no right being as good as it actually was. It was one of the films I'd wanted to check out during its original run in 2011 but, for some reason, never quite got around to it. Two years later, I finally decided to sit down to this and was not prepared for what was essentially a pretty entertaining sports movie. Though mixed martial arts has been sensationalised a little for the sake of cinematic entertainment in the film, at the heart of Warrior are three inspiring performances from Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, each of whom give it their all in what could have otherwise been a forgettable cash-in on the UFC/MMA phenomenon which, for me at the time of the film's release, felt like it was at its absolute peak. A solid script and considered direction from Gavin O'Connor make this an emotionally resonant sports film. So, so great.

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PRIDE & PREJUDICE: Adapted from the famous Jane Austen novel of the same name, Pride & Prejudice signalled the arrival of director Joe Wright and helped further propel Keira Knightley's appeal as an actress. Knightley earned a nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards that year and it's supremely well-deserved as she turns in a beautiful performance as the independent and proud, Elizabeth Bennett. Admittedly, I wasn't too keen on watching this on the pretence that it was a Jane Austen movie but to my surprise, there was actually a lot to enjoy about the film. It's charming, funny, gorgeous and the courtship of Bennett and Mr. Darcy is so well thought out and constructed that it's no wonder many women find themselves yearning for their own Mr. Darcy (even if the dude's a cold, cold, prick to begin with).

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ATONEMENT: I like Atonement, I really do, but I feel as though the reputation that the film has and my level of expectation because of it, is what stopped me from really embracing it. An intricate film told from several points of view, Atonment is gorgeously photographed and meticulously directed, all of which only adds to the film's romantic grandeur. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are crazy amazing, as is Saorise Ronan (13 at the time of filming) and the film's centrepiece, an uninterrupted five - six minute tracking shot, cleverly demonstrates the misery and general melancholy of war (and more particularly in the case of James McAvoy's character, showcases the agony and turmoil his character had to suffer after years of being unfairly separated from his woman). It should be noted that Atonement came out in an extremely impressive year of films lead by two American classics in There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.

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OLDBOY: Yeah don't even bother with this one if you're a fan of the original Korean version I am. I really wanted to give this a chance and like it as I was quite looking forward to seeing what Spike Lee would do with this story (and the trailers, in my opinion, were pretty exciting) but the end result is a product that is needlessly violent, aimless and just plain wrong. Personally speaking, I found one of the biggest sins of the film is its characterisation of the antagonist. In the original, director Park Chan Wook's characterisation of Lee Woo-jin - in my opinion one of the best villains ever on screen - was set up in a way where his humanity always shined through despite his sinister motivations. Where Park's villain was sympathetic, Lee's villain Adrian, comes off almost as an ill-conceived-only-to-be-discarded Bond villain. I could say a lot more about what I didn't like about Spike Lee's Oldboy but I don't wanna waste any more time thinking about it. All I wanna do now is just wash it away with Park's original. Yuck.
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And there we have it for the week! Been pretty hooked on Beach House cause dream pop is amazing for the soul (so is shoegaze, yes) so no surprises why their song, Lazuli, is featured as today's blog title. Thanks Blue is the Warmest Color trailer for showing me how awesome they are (even though I've mentioned this before and plugged them on another post, heh)! I didn't realise this track was a single when I first heard it but once I found out, it kinda made a lot of sense. Listen and love, ya'll.


End post.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

With You, Friends

Hey hey! 


Firstly, thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday a few weeks ago! That above picture is of me at the age of four. My cousin is the one staring into the camera. Look at my perfect bowl cut though. Like I can't get over how perfect it is. 

As is the case with me, I never quite make a big fuss over celebrating my birthday and it was pretty much the same as usual this year. I mean, I went to go see The Wolf of Wall Street with the usual suspects like any other Friday night so there really wasn't a change.


I did however receive this as a birthday present! It was such an unexpected gift that I never, in a million years, would have expected to receive but I'm glad I have it for reasons involving The Room and the mystery of Tommy Wiseau
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I've got another piece published over at Modern Korean Cinema but instead of a review, this time it's a feature on the lovely and talented Bae Doo-na. The actress has appeared in many notable Korean films over the years including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Host and, more recently, has found herself in Hollywood engineered blockbuster, Cloud Atlas. It's basically just a giant love letter to the actress in hopes that she notices me, hahahahahahahaha.... ha. Hrm. Check it out, please. 

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The big news of the week so far has been the unexpected passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman - a big deal if you care about films. Always fun to watch on screen. I'll always remember his collaborations with director Paul Thomas Anderson as I think Anderson really brought out the best in him. He has a small but pivotal part in my favourite PTA film, Punch Drunk Love, which still makes me laugh and his reverence in The Master was particularly outstanding as well. I think what's even sadder about this news story is that he is survived by his wife and three children who have to come to terms with the alleged nature of their father's passing. 

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No where near as sad, is the recent news of wrestler CM Punk's sudden departure from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). As one of the top guys in the WWE - and certainly one of the most popular wrestlers in the world today - Punk's exodus from the company has had everyone in the wrestling world buzzing. Speculation's currently running rampant over whether or not this is all a work (something that Punk and the WWE already planned)  but I feel this is legit and akin to Stone Cold Steve Austin's similar walk out on the professional wrestling monopoly. Hrm. 
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


THE WOLVERINE: A pretty fun and faithful depiction of Wolverine up until the final moments of the film where it devolves into the usual comic book movie shenanigans with a ridiculously dumb fight with the end boss and almost ruins what came before. Much of the success of X-Men: First Class, I felt was that it changed up the superhero/comic-book movie formula a bit by readjusting things to a period context. It totally worked for that film and guess what - it totally worked for The Wolverine too. Its stark beginning in World War 2 made it its own little film within a film and, if I'm being honest, an entire movie on that would have been far more interesting than what they eventually came up with. Never mind though as everything that proceeds the WW2 stuff was almost as interesting as James Mangold essentially turns the story into a noir-like piece filled with corruption, femme fatales and lonely men. Also amazing how different a series can can feel just from changing locations (see Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift). 

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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: The energy from the latest Scorsese/DiCaprio team-up is so infectious that you'll likely be feeling indestructible even when you leave your seat after the film's through. It's DiCaprio's best performance on film to date as the actor (who's 39, can you believe that?!) puts in a deliriously manic show as the egotistically drug-fueled millionaire, Jordan Belfort. If anything the film is essentially a cross between Scorsese's own Goodfellas and Oliver Stone's Wall Street but I really felt the three hour length of that film wasn't necessary as it practically dragged out conversations and comedic moments. Those crying about the film being a celebration/glorification of Belfort's crimes and excess need to realise though that the film really is a ferociously cruel indictment of Belfort, his associates and pretty much anyone on Wall Street with as much audaciousness as Belfort. 

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12 YEARS A SLAVE: If this film doesn't sweep the Academy Awards this year, I'm going to riot (okay, I won't go to that extreme of a length...). Steve McQueen never fails to astonish and 12 Years A Slave will undoubtedly go down as one of the most audacious and important American films ever made. It's the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and it's incredibly told by McQueen and company. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a lock for Best Actor as is newcomer Lupita Nyong'o who turns in one of the most dire performances of any actress this year. McQueen regular, Michael Fassbender is also fantastic and while I certainly hope he takes home an Oscar, I fear he may lose it to Jared Leto. It mightn't be as much of an arthouse feature as Hunger and Shame but that isn't to say that there are moments in the film that transcend your standard biopic. Essential viewing - definitely one of the best films this year or any other year. 

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PHILOMENA: Was completely surprised by how enjoyable of a film Philomena is especially given its bizarre promotional campaign! Recounting the true story of Philomena Lee, a woman whose child is taken away from her as a teenager, the film picks up in present day where Philomena, with the help of journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), the two set out on a journey to investigate the whereabouts of Philomena's missing son. It's a huge crowd pleaser with so many unexpected layers than what what you're lead to believe. Surprisingly deep and Just when you have the film figured out, it swerves into unexpected revelation. A really great watch with a heartwarmingly endearing performance by Judi Dench. Totally not a grandma film! 

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AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, this domestic drama/comedy features an ensemble cast of acting talent with Meryl Streep at the top of that pool of actors. Like Philomena, I felt this was quite a surprisingly enjoyable film and as a fan of films contained in enclosed spaces (the action in the film takes place in an unassuming home out in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma), was incredibly pleased with how effectively contained the drama in this was. Though the beginning lags considering the number of characters and subplots going on, it all builds towards the film's centerpiece - the dinner scene. It's one of the best dramatic dinner scenes I've seen in recent memory (sorry Before Midnight) and this is largely owed to the careful direction and tight script. Meryl Streep is scarilly good in the film and if Cate Blanchett hadn't been in Blue Jasmine this year, I'd feel confident in giving Streep another Oscar as the matriarch of the Weston clan. 

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THE ACT OF KILLING: For all its hype, The Act of Killing disappointed me on all fronts. I watched the director's cut of the film and oh man was that such a difficult watch. The film moved me to boredom and, for me, really didn't do much as a character study or a document of Indonesia's sordid past. Never does it feel like a study of man's pride and capacity for murder or genocide and while I will admit that the film is very surreal, stylistically different and a very disturbing watch, I just felt like there was nothing to latch onto. For the most part, it feels like as though Joshua Oppenheimer, the documentary's director, is just stumbling around in the dark, hoping to find something profound and meaningful for the audience to jump at. While I am curious about the theatrical cut to see if it fares any better, I don't think I'd want to revisit the film any time soon. Really disappointing.

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And that's it for this post. More earlier than the usual monthly wait, ey? Anyways gonna leave ya'll on some Skrillex cause that's how I roll. Not quite dubstep (not really dubstep at all, really, don't be afraid). Straight from the Spring Breakers soundtrack! 


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