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Avengers. My movie review.

Another Summer, another Marvel comic book movie.

Had a chance to catch Avengers, or Avengers Assemble for those in the UK, because, after all, Emma Peel and John Steed are the only Avengers the UK needs. While not really a comic fanboy, I have read more than my share during my youth, though never really venturing into the Avengers or X-Men or any of the other superhero “teams”.

So as a slightly interested observer, what’s my one word synopsis for this newest comic offering? How about “fun”. Well actually it’s a bit more than that. It’s definitely better than some of the Marvel films of recent years, maybe even one of the best. I think the  folks at Neonpunch are not that far off when calling this “awesome” though they are far bigger fanboys than I.

The stage has been set for this movie for the last couple of years, with S.H.I.E.L.D and Sgt. Fury being introduced in sort of a cameo way across a multitude of Marvel films over the last few years. Over the past five years we’ve had:

The movie stars Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgård (Dr. Selvig) and Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson). These are all reprising their roles from the other films. There’s also a neat scene with Harry Dean Stanton, the original Repo Man, and of course the cameo by Stan Lee that we’ve come to expect in these comic book adaptations.

So real quick, basic plot summary without too many spoilers. Loki, the “brother” of Thor, teams up with some Chitauri lizard dudes to attack and rule the Earth. The various superheroes comprising the Avengers “assemble” together to meet this threat. I mean, really, is there much more of a plot needed?

Want.

In between this and the finale you have a few internal squabbles with Avengers battling one another as they come to grips with the fact they need to fight together against a far bigger threat. You also have some cool scenes of the S.H.I.E.L.D. flying aircraft carrier, which was probably the coolest of the tech in the film. There were also quite a few “glass”-based computer monitors, kind of like the Corning / Microsoft “visions of tomorrow” monitors we’ve seen in futuristic viral videos. While for some watching this movie made them want to go home and suit up in their own superhero costumes, for me it had me going home wondering “how many monitors could I fit on my desk, really“.

The story was actually pretty tight, but I do wonder how it would gel with someone who hasn’t seen some of the other films. The cosmic cube of Tesseract which was in Captain America and Thor plays a vital role in this films, and characters like Agent Coulson, who we’ve seen through the last several films are also quite important. Not sure if a non-comic book fan, non-movie goer would get this, but then again, if you have’t seen the previous five movies and are going to this one ‘cold’ what are you thinking?

Want, also.

As far as the acting goes, basically the first half of the movie was Iron Man, and the second half was the Hulk. While the story is being set up you find yourself basically waiting for the next Tony Stark quip and witty sayings while everyone else does their superhero bits, some of which came across as a bit wooden. But the second half, or more appropriately, the finale, is really all Hulk. The Hulk’s simple comic touches outdoes the cracking witticisms of Robert Downey Junior, and when the Hulk meets Loki “monologuing” it was definitely the high point of the film. From taking out the giant armored turtlefish (yea, you’ll see) to simply wiping the floor with Loki, the Hulk simply stole the show.

If I had to nitpick, I guess I would quote Loki when he talks about people being ants and he the boot. In all too many alien invasion movies we see the aliens come down and due combat with the Earth “one on one”. If you are a superior civilization with advanced technology, the last thing you are going to do is go around trying to kill each and every person in each and every corner of the planet. No, you’re going to nuke the place from above and then clean up after the smell is gone (i.e. just like you do with bug spray and bugs). I’d also have to say the 3D is pointless. I found myself barely noticing it when it was taking place, and wishing it was more prevelant in other scenes. I mean, if you are going to show Scarlett Johansson’s curves in spandex, why can’t that be in 3D?

Anyway, this isn’t going to have you talking to your friends about the meaning of life, but if you are sitting around this weekend and want a good “fun” movie that your geek friends think is “awesome” and that you’ll probably enjoy while eating some popcorn, you won’t go wrong this film.

p.s. Thanks to the folks at Norton Hong Kong for the passes.

How watching cartoons helped me realize I’m an uncultured slob.

I’d like to say that I “discovered” Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki this week, but the truth is a bit more nuanced. I’ve known of some of the later films for some time now, from Howl’s Moving Castle to Spirited Away which even won an Oscar a few years back. But like the first drops of rain that has you questioning “is it raining” my experience with their films has been on the periphery, rather than a torrential soaking.

But now that I have kids the excuses have come to an end.

About a month ago I made the kids sit through “Arrietty” or The Secret World of Arrietty as it was called in the US. We followed that up this week with My Neighbor Totoro which has been on basically daily rotation with the boys. Watching the giant forest spirit Totoro bounce and pounce and smile has the kids humming along the theme song, even though the lyrics are in Japanese. We followed up with Kiki’s Delivery Service and I watched “Spirited Away” the other night while nursing them through some colds (thank god for the iPhone). The kids watched a bit of Ponyo but it was in Japanese so they tired quickly from the subtitles.

Ghibli is called the “Disney of Japan” but that’s really a misnomer. The cartoons are far more complex than your standard good vs. evil with an odd speaking sidekick that passes for Disney animation today. Often told from the perspective of a young female lead (as compared to the more male-dominated cartoons of Hollywood)

Since 1984, under the auspices of its founder and chief auteur, Hayao Miyazaki, the studio has rolled out a succession of dense, ambitious fantasy adventures, almost all of them led by strong, intelligent, independent-minded girls. Miyazaki’s movies are exciting and fantastical, often involving flying machines, ecological disasters, clashing civilisations and precarious spiritual values – all rendered in clean, colourful, hand-drawn animation. His heroines also tend towards a certain type. They are adventurous and active, but also compassionate, communicative, pacifist and virtuous. Their “female” qualities and childish innocence are often what resolve the crisis at hand and bridge conflicting worlds….

“He thought heroism was much more complicated than that black hat/white hat stuff,” explains Helen McCarthy, a British author who has written extensively on Miyazaki and Japanese animation. “By making the hero a girl, he took all that macho stuff out of the equation and that gave him the freedom to examine heroism. His career has been a very beautiful building of an idea that the feminine doesn’t preclude the heroic.”

There is also quite a bit about a casual, rural lifestyle that comes out in several of these films. The sounds of the crickets and grasshoppers and the rainbow of fresh flowers and plants are common elements in many of these films, harkening to perhaps a more simple way of living through the more complex reality that we now face. I think one regret about Hong Kong is that my boys have not played in the mud frequently enough, worried as we are about the polluted air or dengue-fever dripping mosquitoes.

You’d think PIXAR and Ghibli would be almost opposed to each other, but apparently there is a great deal of mutual respect between the two.  Miyazaki has visited the PIXAR offices where he found all sorts of stuffed animals and other hints of Ghibli merchandise strewn about, and Pixar employees would often get together to watch these films, even giving Totoro a small cameo appearance in Toy Story 3 (I guess I should mention that Disney has the rights to distribute Studio Ghibli movies in the USA).

But as I sat googling more information about the films and whatnot, I found myself frequently pulled back to Youtube for musical clips from the different films. The soundtracks of some of these films has been all I’ve listened to this week, and got me to realize that I’ve been away from classical (even the neoclassical music) a bit too long. Such is the life of an uncultured slob.

Most of the works are done by a Japanese composer named Joe Hisaishi, sort of a neo-classical star in the world of music and one that I think has been far too overlooked in the USA. While he produces some catchy songs like the Totoro theme, sung by all kids in Japan and even a few adults, and even some John Williams-esque marching songs like the Castle in the Sky, he also has some deeper music, dripping with emotion at times. The Path of the Wind, which is sort of an ambient track throughout much of Totoro, is a hauntingly beautiful piece.  I actually discovered a full concert from the Budokan celebrating 25-years worth of music, and am already working on getting the DVD from Japan.

I think a hidden secret in the world of classical music is that many of today’s musicians actually got their first introduction to classical music from Bugs Bunny. The Rabbit of Seville is actually ranked as one of the top cartoons of all time and many kids learned classical music from Saturday morning fare.

So now I’m playing these songs to my kids, hoping that some of the hooks and rhythms stand out in their mind as they grow older.  My oldest, who has a good understanding of music, is already recognizing certain songs and saying “Dad, stop humming Totoro” before he starts humming it himself.

Anyway, here is a bit of a playlist for you to peruse.  Close your eyes and try to visualize your own cartoon as you hear some of these songs.  It’s not hard to do.

Path through the Wind

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Laputa Castle of the Sky (time to storm the castle)

Tonari No Totoro Theme

And if you have the time, a full concert at the Budokan by Joe Hisaishi. I’m still trying to find the DVD of this.

War Horse – My movie review

I’ve been on a bit of a World War I kick lately. I realized a few months ago that I basically knew only the rough outlines of the Great War, and couldn’t tell the difference between the First Battle of the Somme or the second (or third). It’s led to some new reading material, like the The First Day on the Somme which I’m moving through right now, along with a number of free eBooks such as the Story of the Great War by Churchill, Miller and Reynolds, which is available for free download in many places (all eight volumes).

So it’s with this bit of interest I caught an advanced screening of War Horse the other night in Hong Kong. I hadn’t heard much about this film being so far removed from the “upcoming releases” and rarely seeing any trailers, but the pre-release buzz, based on the book and the play, was pretty strong.  Steven Spielberg was directing so the film has all the grandiose cinematography that we’ve come to expect from his sweeping epics.  A relatively young and unknown cast (unless you watch quite a bit of British TV).

War Horse tells the story of a horse (surprise) during the first World War I.  A beautiful thoroughbred is bought by a drunken farmer in a petty spat with his landlord and adopted by the farmer’s son.  The boy teaches the horse, which should be racing as ascot, how to pull a plow and behave around the farm.  But the drums of war are approaching and when times get tough on the farm, the horse ends up in the service of a British cavalry unit, led by Sherlock Holmes (well, the actor  Benedict Cumberbatch)  on their way to the front.

This isn't Oxford.

Act II takes place with the British forces, and is quite the “pip pip” and all that of massive horse charges (beautifully filmed by the way) and tragic consequences of the ‘Flower of England’ going to war in the trenches.  Another act with a refugee family before the horse finds himself in the service of the Germans, pulling large artillery pieces through the trenches past the corpses of many a horse that has pulled before.

The final act sees the unification of the whole story, with the farmer’s son now on trench duty in the  First Battle of the Somme (1918) (there was another in 1916 for those who don’t know).  Will the horse and master reunite, or is it a chance encounter of two ships simply passing in the night.

The film was enjoyable, but for me I think I suffered from “over expectations”.  Some of the reviews have been positively gushing, even reports of Kate Middleton sobbing as she saw it at the London Premier.  But for me it wasn’t quite all there.  The lead character is a horse, of course, but having an emotional connection with a horse is something that just didn’t come through it for me.  That it was able to move through the war from one side to the other and stay out of harms way was great and all, but as a film, the horse never jumped into something more, something I could relate to or have a deeper connection with.  When human actors appeared, they came and went before you barely got past your stereotypes.

There are good moments, wonderful moments of the film.  But while I’m all for a good cavalry charge, it doesn’t quite make a movie (ask the directors of The Lighthorsemen).  In fact, for those who have never seen this nearly unheard of film, let me just show you the most important scene.  If you are in a rush, spin to minute 3:27 for the be all, end all of cavalry charges in film.  The horse charge in War Horse ranks right up there though.  It was visually amazing and stunning in the display of the tragic futility of modern warfare against a more ‘noble idea’ of warfare on horseback.

 

Not bad as far as calvary charges go

I guess one other thing is that I don’t really “get” horse films. It seems there is a whole genre of films based around horses that attract this subset of film goers who just “must” see every movie with a horse. It’s kind of like “ski” movies. You can take any idiot (and they do), pair them with some girls in bikinis (because skiing is all about bikinis) and then films a few minutes of guys going down a slope and people will pay money, over and over again to watch this.  There is a built in audience for horse and ski movies, and I’m not in either crowd.

This film thankfully isn’t as violent as Saving Private Ryan, but neither is it as memorable.  The relationship you had with the men under Tom Hanks command is stronger than those you’ll form in this film.

Should you see it?  Yes.  Should you expect a life-altering two hours? No.  Just go with the concept you’re going to spend two hours watching something beautifully films and you’ll come out pleasantly satisfied.

Opens in Hong Kong the first week of February, after Chinese New Year.

Attack the Block movie review – from turning it off to cult classic in just a few steps.

Now on DVD

Ok, I’ll be honest, the first time I watched this movie I got about 20 minutes into it and I turned it off.

Why?  Perhaps it was the rioting in London that was taking place, and the fact you can easily picture all the lead characters actively stealing TVs or looting police cars.  Or maybe it was the hip-hop meets Jamaican South London accents and slang required not only the captions to be on but a couple of hits to urban dictionary just to follow the plot (see my Attack the Block slang dictionary).  It might also have been the fact the film was billed as a horror movie, and basically I hate what has become of horror movies (torture porn and vivisection documentaries).  But eventually my own stubbornness forced me to come back to the movie and finished what I started.  I watch the whole movie from beginning to the end (88 minutes later).

And then I did it again.

And again.

Wow.

Thank god I went back to this film.  This was a lot of fun!  It was a refreshing look at a tired genre (alien invasion) done with just enough comedy to keep me laughing when I wasn’t looking down at my shoes (to avoid a few bloody scenes).

Attack the Block tells the story of an alien who lands in a South London tower “block” public housing unit.  It falls into the middle of a mugging by a gang of youth led by the aptly named Moses (John Boyega — more on him in a moment).  After killing the initial alien, they take the corpse back to the local drug dealer’s “weed room” where they meet Ron (Nick Frost) the resident horticulturist and Nature Channel afficiando.  They also meet up with the drug kingpin guarding his stash who allows the boys to store the corpse in the “Fort Knox” growing facility because of the chance to make some money selling it to the tabloids.  But before they can contact The Sun, more aliens fall to earth, prompting the boys to run out to bash a few more skulls.  Unfortunately, these new aliens are not like the Gollum-like alien they first encounter, but are, in the apt and t-shirt ready words of the youths, “big alien gorilla wolf motherfuckers”.  The rest of the movie has them fighting their way back to the block where they can engineer a battle with the alien horde.

Who you gonna call?

The film is being praised as not only a reinvention of the alien invasion flick (after Independence Day to the worn out Battle Los Angeles) but also as a social commentary, with the youths spurting out lines that betray far more knowledge than you would expect from your local street urchins.  The language is fresh from the street (though you will need some translation) and the story is as much comedy as it is sci-fi adventure tale.  The acting was very strong, with Nick Frost, the only guy you’ve ever seen before, playing a supporting role behind the cast of new faces.  From a film perspective, I was having a bit of fun identifying “scenes” here and there. The directors really studied their movie history and this is not just some slap dash filming going on but some real ‘sets’ that were carefully staged with good cinematography in mind.

As for the monsters, the big alien gorilla wolf motherfuckers, well they are just cool.  Yea, it’s almost low budget in how minimalist they are, but they’re scary, they’re mean, and well, they look like big alien gorilla wolf mofos.  I’m surprised I didn’t see more of these at Halloween, but expect next year they’ll be out in force.  I also expect to see them in a sequel, and god a video game would be so awesome.

The film is rated R for language and for a few bloody scenes, but the squeamish can turn their heads away before these three incidents (the police in the van, the parking lot, and in the smoke filled hallway).  This film is headed for cult status and excels at the take of a alien invasion from a personal standpoint (boringly done in War of the Worlds and Cloverfeld).

I really enjoyed it.  Perhaps it was because I was expecting so little that I found the surprise to be so memorable.  The acting by the lead John Boyega as a solemn but mentoring street leader has caught the attention of Spike Lee, who has already cast him in a new movie about Mike Tyson.  Expect to see Boyega’s name for many years to come if he can repeat the believability he did in this role.  Definitely worth a look.

p.s. the trailer doesn’t do the movie justice.

 

 

UPDATE:  Oh yea, the soundtrack was also pretty good too.  A mix of reggae and some new sounds from Basement Jaxx, et al.



Attack the Block slang dictionary

Just finished watching Attack the Block and found it surprisingly refreshing after a dismal run of rather badly done invasion films.  I’ll write a longer review later, but one thing that was interesting was some of the South London street slang that was prevalent in the film.  For those who are thinking of watching, here is a cheat sheet I made up of some of the slang.

 

Allow it - don't worry, leave it.
Bangers - fireworks
Believe - Accept something as true.
Bare - many, a lot, large number
Brap, blat - sound of a gunshot, bang
Bruv - brother, friend
Bully van - police van
Butters - ugly
Ends - neighborhood, area
Fam - close friends, family
Feds - police, government
Innit - isn't it
Murked/Merked - killed, or badly defeated
Ps - £ British pounds
Peak - impending danger
Po Pos - police
Shiv - knife, stabbed.
Strap - a gun, get armed
The block - housing estate, tower block.
Wagwan - what's up?
Wraps - paper used for carrying drugs, usually cocaine
Big Gorilla Wolf Motherfuckers - alien

Here is my review of Attack the Block.

Gantz opens in Hong Kong soon, my early review

Given my recent review of Suckerpunch, I thought I’d continue along the same vein of films that in which I was “sold” based in large part on scenes from the trailer. For example, the picture along the right here probably goes a long way to explaining why I wanted to see the movie Gantz.

Gantz is a manga series in Japan that has developed quite a cult following. The storyline is basically follows two lead characters, childhood friends who after a long absence find themselves rescuing a drunk from a subway track moments before they are both hit by a train. They die, but rather than end up in an afterlife their stuck in a rather odd sort of a limbo in the shape of a small condo in Tokyo filled with a half dozen other recently deceased and a giant black orb. Eventually, after the arrival of a naked woman shown on the right, the orb tells them they have a mission to hunt aliens (for points that can eventually set them free) and it arms them with weapons and special suits (see the pic, again).

Yada-yada-yada.

The film was ok. Nothing to change my view of the world or lose sleep over (unless of course I have dreams of the aforementioned picture on the right). The story was ok, though some of the special effects ranged between interesting and sort of low-budget.

What made Gantz rather infamous was the fact the graphic novel was very graphic. Extremely graphic. If they made a movie true to the novel it would probably be rated-X for violence. It’s also pretty sexual in nature (I think in one of the books they have a sadistic rapist reincarnated who takes pleasure raping aliens before he dispatches them). Some have pointed out that the lack of extreme violence has watered down the film to a point that true fans will be turned away and new fans might be a bit alienated.

That’s not to say it’s splatter free. You don’t just kill an alien with a sniper rifle. They have to be shot with a blaster that blows up all different colors of slime. But compared to what some might be expecting I gather this was quite a bit tamer to sneak in with a PG-13 rating or below. Personally, the last thing I felt like watching was a vivisection film, even if they were alien arms and legs.

If your friend has a coffee table that looks like this, be afraid.

What might turn away casual fans is the dubbing into English. Apparently the guys who did 1970’s kung fu dubbing have been pulled out of retirement to create one of the worst dubbings I’ve seen in quite some time. Ridiculous pauses and verbal intonations render this at times laughable.

But in the end I got what I expected. A quick movie about the world of Gantz (which will be followed by a sequel released in Japan later this month). I have to say the extreme gore of the manga is probably keeping me from be a more fanatic follower of the series, but it was worth checking out as a stand alone film and story. I will watch the sequel just to see more of the woman on the right (despite whatever plot twists might occur in the next film that I won’t reveal) but don’t expect me near the comic book shop anytime soon buying the book.

UPDATE: There is an iPhone app for Gantz. GANTZ movie – T-Basic. Inc.

My Sucker Punch movie review

Ok, let’s be honest–when I saw the preview of a 30-foot stone Samurai carrying a gatling gun doing battle in a temple with a waif-thin blonde girl in a mini skirt armed with a sword, I, along with every 12-year-old kid who has ever played a video game, was basically on board to see this flick.

So when I read the mountain of reviews that have come out that “cleverly” used the title “Sucker Punch Sucked” (wow, what an amazing play on words there–not) I wasn’t too dissuaded. I wasn’t going to this film for the plot, character development or to reach some epiphany about the meaning of life, as were many of the mainstream commentators who have really trashed this film.  I was going for the action.

But before I talk about that, let me do a brief synopsis of what amounted to a plot.  Sucker Punch is the story of a young girl named ‘Baby Doll’ thrown into a corrupt mental institution who ‘escapes’ from an upcoming lobotomy by delving into a world of make-believe. She finds herself living ‘trapped’ in a bordello filled with other young women working as dancers and prostitutes, conveniently dressed as extras from Moulon Rouge. When Baby Doll is dancing she casts all that watch into a mesmerized trance, at which time Baby Doll and her friends fall into yet another land of make-believe in the video game world on giant gatling-gun toting Samurai, steam-powered Kaiser soldiers from World War I, the set of Lord of the Rings & Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or a hover train from the film Total Recall. Each video game sequence corresponds with a ‘bordello-world’ sequence in which they are obtaining a necessary parts for their escape.

Ok, so basically describing the plot there was a lot like writing down the plot of a porn movie. Kind of irrelevant. For me, this film was always about the action and special effects sequences and the rest of the movie was just cinematic detritus necessary to fill in the allotted time.

The special effects sequences were awesome. No denying. In fact, the four combat scenes were both amazing to watch and almost comical in that they hit on every ‘hot button’ thing a 12-year-old desires in a video game. a) Hot chicks in leather mini skirt b) armed with short-barreled M-4 Carbines and HK MP-5s battling against c) steampunk World War I soldiers with d) airplanes and giant blimps in the air, oh, and e) a walking robot Bunny rabbit Gundam/ ‘mech’ robot firing a gatling gun. I mean, check check check check.

The film is shot in a ‘washed out’ effect in which various shades of grey and black seem highlighted and most other colors neutered. It’s fitting to the storyline of a dark 1950s mental institution, but toward the end I was starting to feel a bit grey myself. As I mentioned the general story of escape that fitted between the action sequences started to get a tad boring. I didn’t care at all if they escaped, triumphed, found the meaning of life or whatever. I didn’t come for the story or any of that, so toward the end of the film where they are tying up those loose ends I started to feel a bit down. The action sequence sugar highs started to crash and I bemoaned the lack of any more crazy scenes to come.

For some of my friends attending the films, the short sugar highs were enough. They agreed that the general story was nothing but a delivery device for the wild combat scenes and beautiful women, and the action sequences were enough to give it a big thumbs up.

For me the action scenes are simply the eye candy of this film that provided enough of a meal to get me through the two hours.  It was like watching some kung fu movies. You don’t really care about the story as that is just used to tie together the fight sequences.  For example, Fist of Legend is an amazing movie but honestly I skip everything that is not a battle. I’m sure others do something similar with porn movies that try to introduce a plot or character development.

Speaking of porn this really wasn’t an overly sexual movie. Yes, they were wearing mini-skirts and tight fitting clothes pretty much the whole time, but they really didn’t emphasize the sexuality overly. Many video games and mass market magazines like Maxim or FHM are more revealing than this film. There weren’t many close up cleavage shots and apparently several sequences in which the lead characters did their respective sexy dance routines were stripped from the film (but will make it out on the DVD). In fact a very overtly sexual scene was censored to ensure a PG-13 rating in the US.

In the end I also started to wonder about the purpose of this film. We now live in a media world in which some video games outstrip the revenues of major motion pictures. Call of Duty Modern Warfare generated $550 million in revenue in just a weekend and the whole genre has generated over $3 billion in revenue. If you think of it this way, imagine a video game of Sucker Punch, with the characters and even more action sequences. Now imagine this film as just a commercial for the game? I can. In fact I wondered if this flick was released on YouTube only as a teaser for the game if the critics would have been kinder and the buzz greater.

Many movies are really just plugs for a series of toys or other assorted items (ever ask WTF was an Ewok?). Sucker Punch could have been a movie released just to introduce a whole new line of video games, instead of say Final Fantasy or Lara Croft, which were films made after the games. In a sense I think the business opportunity might have been lost here to bring out a new line of games and characters.

In the end, if you are feeling the need to watch a pretty amazing video game for a couple of hours and eat popcorn, this is your film. If you want to talk to those in the comic book or video game industry over the next year, you also need to see this film as it will be a subject of conversation at many of their events. If you are looking to impress your friends in banking, finance, law, medicine or some other industry, probably best if you just keep your guilty little secret to yourself that you saw this film.

Space Battleship Yamato opens in Hong Kong

On Feburary 24, which is still a few days away.

Americans may remember this show by the American-ized title of “Star Blazers” where the battleship “Argo” went up to battle the Gamilons. Back in the day the very word “Yamato” still had too many WWII memories I guess.

Anyway, will probably go. My neighbors from Japan remember watching it as kids as well, and I think his wife has a crush on the lead character so she’ll want to stare at him for a few hours.

UPDATE: MOFOS! Released here but only in Japanese with Chinese subtitles. No English subtitles. Screw them. I’ll get it off the torrent sites instead of giving them my money.

Confessions (Kokuhaku) English-subtitled trailer is out

Wow.  This movie looks intense.  Of course I’ve been misled by trailers before, most recently the utterly awful and ridiculous The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, which I watched with the same disbelief that reminds me the French love Jerry Lewis for some reason.

But I think I’ll give this Japanese film a chance, eventually. If I can ever get out to a theater. You can read more about it at the Small Trouble in HK blog or just watch the clip.

Want to watch something scary tonight? The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the movie.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a book I’ve mentioned in other posts, is now making it’s rounds of the art house cinemas (and the torrent networks).  All three movies have been filmed and released in Europe, but only the first is out now in the USA.  Of course a US version is being prepared, but the original Swedish one is very dark and creepy.  In fact, even having read the book I still found it kind of scary.

NOTE:  This is a very violent film.  Not so much gore but mental and gritty.  Rape, torture, murder.   The original title was “Men Who Hate Women” and you’ll see the depths of their evil in this flick.  Might be hard for some to watch.

Back to Asian cinema and lovely plot holes.

One of the greatest apps for the iPhone is TVUPlayer.  It’s a peer-to-peer television application that lets you watch TV from around the world.  One channel is basically the latest and greatest movies from Asia, which I’ve been watching quite a bit over the last few weeks to help cure the insomnia and middle of the night wakeups that go with being a dad.

In the past few weeks I’ve seen:

  • Sniper (Hong Kong)
  • Spy Girl (Korean)
  • Lady Cop & Poppa Crook (Hong Kong)
  • Sassy Girl (Korean)
  • New Police Story (Hong Kong)
  • Accidental Spy (Hong Kong)
  • Mr. Nice Guy (Hong Kong)

It’s the last one (picture at right) that moved me to write a post.  I came into the film a bit late so I had to check wikipedia for some plot background.  As you may know, many Asian films undergo some plot development flaws and a certain inconsistency problem.  This is the plot summary below.  See if you can guess why I was a tad confused…

They travel to a mountain in the countryside where she unveils a time capsule. During the previous night the couple wrote their true feelings in letters which the Girl says will be buried next to a particular tree on the mountain. They agree to meet again at the tree after two years to read the letters together. After burying the time capsule they go their separate ways.

Overtime

During the two year span, Gyeon-woo works hard to improve himself in many ways, even writing My Sassy Girl which someone has bought the movie rights to, an event he eagerly anticipates telling the Girl about. When the agreed upon date arrives, he travels to the mountain but the Girl does not show up. Eventually, he opens the time capsule and reads her letter and learns the root of her angst and behavior: Gyeon-woo reminds her of her previous boyfriend who, rather than breaking up with her, actually died before she met Gyeon-woo. All through the time the Girl and Gyeon-woo were seeing each other she had been seeing her dead boyfriend’s mother, who wants to introduce her to a nice young man.

A year after Gyeon-woo visits the tree, the Girl finally arrives. Sitting under the tree is an old man. During their conversation the old man reveals the secret of the tree, that it is not the same tree; the original tree had been struck and killed by lightning a year before and a similar tree had been planted by a young man so that someone special wasn’t sad, and that he has read the letters. The Girl says she had hoped that destiny would bring the couple together during the two years. As the girl begins to read the letter, she sees a UFO (time machine) flying away. This lead her to believe that the old man was Gyeon-woo from the future.The Girl then tries to call Gyeon-woo repeatedly, but she was informed that number is either changed or doesn’t exists.

The film then cuts to Gyeon-woo entering a subway station, wearing the same suit he was wearing at the beginning of the movie. The flashback has ended and continuity is resumed from right after Gyeon-woo leaves the photo-studio. Gyeon-woo is caught outside the shutting doors of a train, presumably ignorant at first of the Girl’s presence on the train but after a few seconds of staring he seems to realise whom it is he sees from behind. As the train pulls out he runs along but has to give up.

At lunch with her deceased boyfriend’s mother after a year-and-a-half, the Girl is surprised to hear a familiar voice apologise for his lateness. The mother introduces her nephew Gyeon-woo whom she has been trying to introduce to the Girl for years. The mother, who is Gyeon-woo’s aunt, tells the Girl to go out with him, he’ll make things easier for her and then tells Gyeon-woo that the Girl can give advice to him about his impending trip to England but Gyeon-woo replies, “I don’t have to go now.” The pair hold hands under the table and the Girl says she thinks she met a man from the future (Gyeon-woo’s future self).

 

WTF?  WTF? is really the only thing I can think of after watching this stuff.

Something ‘real’ in the world of Harry Potter

Ok, this is in Japanese with a few subtitles, but you can understand what is going on by the emotion involved.  The girl is ‘Japan’s biggest Harry Potter fan’ who won a contest to go to ‘Hogwarts’ and conduct interviews for Japanese tv.  When she is surprised by Harry Potter, she’s overwhelmed with excitement.  It’s actually kind of fun to watch just because she is so happy.  Her interview with Ron is also pretty hilarious.

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