petronia: (tea or coffee?)
True Legend (Su Qi Er)

Milocrorze: A Love Story

You Are Here: A Meta Detective Story (love all these factual snakes-onna-plane titles)

Petty Romance


Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano

Attack The Block


I have a few more to Tumblr queue today, before I go off to Osheaga, so may add to the list. Also wrote this thing about Amy Winehouse which I guess I should link as well.
petronia: (photography)
Week 2: epic historical pyrrhic victories edition

Week 2: revisionist history of Japanese punk edition

Two or three more posts to come. The weird thing about this Fantasia is that I haven't gone to any actual horror movies, or that I would define as such. I wanted to go see [REC]2 and The Last Exorcism, both of which are reputedly excellent, but other engagements took precedence. Won't be able to get into the undoubtedly epic Scott Pilgrim screening either - I'd have had to blow off radio prep, but it would have been worth it. On the bright side I am going to the "director's cut" of Metropolis w/ orchestra at PdA.
petronia: (individualist)
Evangelion 1.0: the original series with a classy face lift.

Tokyo-3/NERV/Eva mechanics
visible as opposed to invisible Shinji emo
in general, explanations of what the shit is going on
gore (the Angels are all bleeders now apparently argh - this is also foreshadowing though)
underage nudity

stock footage
"auteur" pacing
visible as opposed to invisible Anno Hideaki emo
Brechtian soundtrack selections (to come??)
"is the Crayola flip book animation due to directorial self-indulgence or Gainax embezzling the budget AGAIN"

Misato is a drunk
Gendou is a dick
Shinji is a navel-gazing passive-aggressive emo whiner with zero self-esteem fourteen
Pen^2 is a penguin

...Actually, Asuka isn't there yet because we're only up to the Sixth Angel. Why couldn't they have gotten hold of the second film for Fantasia as well is what I want to know.

(Saw two more films but will review later for lack of time.)
petronia: (individualist)
Three - or two, depending on how you count - Japanese movies that hinge on the same period in pop music, 1968-1970.

20th Century Boys (Parts I + II): it turns out they shot it as a trilogy, and the third part won't be out in Japan til August. I left off reading shortly after where the second movie stopped (around volume 20... I think?), so I actually have no idea what will happen. XD;; Will the third movie cover the sequel? Is that anywhere near done? There is so much to unpack in this story, and to the best of my memory I've never tried, because having watched Monster to the end I'm wary of deconstructing any Urasawa series ahead of time. Urasawa might wing it like CLAMP in the medium run but in the long run he's a moralist (also like CLAMP), meaning some conclusion or other is foregone, just that you the reader aren't in the loop. Five minutes before Tenma's final decision I had no idea how shit was gonna go down, but when it did it was clearly the only ending possible - for Tenma, anyway. Salvation lies in strange places.

Though: there's only one part of 20th Century Boys I find specifically weird, and it's Urasawa's viewpoint on the music. Cut for RIDICULOUSLY LONG. )

...Actual movie-wise, it's kind of a qualified success. This is LotR epic shit obv and one can only be grateful that it wasn't rewritten more. As it is, the bildungsroman feel was almost entirely lost with the character backstories, reveals get telescoped, and some scenes plain lose effect as a result (*cough*Fukube*cough*). It also doesn't ratchet up the tension as well, which was where the Monster anime excelled. The casting was some form of genius, though! Barring Urasawa basing all his characters on real actors and them deciding to take up the respective roles, I'm not sure how they did it. And Ced and I both stayed absorbed for the 2h30min of the first part (he hasn't read the manga), so the storytelling does its work. I felt the second part lagged more, but I feel that about the manga anyway.

GS Wonderland: whereas this is a fluffy, nominally feel-good comedy that says nothing is authentic, at least not where the Japanese music industry is concerned. Not the performers, not the audiences, not domestic folk nor foreign rock nor manufactured pop. One would say, certainly not the management, except that the elbow grease put in by the management (and various label peons) is presented as possibly the most authentic cog in the machine. XD; And the friendships made through music, of course. Otherwise, Miku's persona as a female singer is no more true to her actual self than her persona as a male keyboardist in a Monkees-style group, the dudes who just wanna rock, maaan get all their moves from their "How To Play Like Hendrix" book, and the hysterical girls are just biding time until they find boyfriends who are not fake bishounen in a band. The wheel turns and all the players drop off at each round, but the Samsara ride itself never stops. It's only depressing if you feel about it the way Urasawa does, I suppose.

Note on the music for those who were at the showing: they got the songwriting duo who churned out these "group sounds" hits at the time to... write a bunch more in the same style. XD; Dudes must be like 70... I really like the main song, actually, with the organ vamp and the bass bit you can't really hear in the preview. There's stuff to unpack here, too, because this is the story of Japan's home-grown response to the Beatles (...appropriation, natch), and what's manufactured here reinvents itself as indie a quarter-century later, as Shibuya-kei. Or maybe that's too much of a leap; I'd like a go at proving it, though. XD
petronia: (Default)
Daytime Drinking: structurally a stoner road comedy, but with soju. Quieter and more naturalistic, too; everything takes place in Korean equivalents of the sort of off-season British seaside town Charmian and I debated at one point, if it were English the protagonist's theme music would be "Everyday Is Like Sunday" on FOREVER REPEAT. The ending is quite funny but takes a long time setting up. ***/5, add 1/2 star if you're settled in comfortably and matching the characters shot for shot.

(The SAQ doesn't carry soju, but I found some shiso-flavoured shochu and took it to Ced's party after the movie - and H's b-day party the next evening. That was a smooth mf of a 20% alcohol beverage.)

Thirst: after Pride and Prejudice with zombies we now have Thérèse Raquin with vampires, GOOD JOB KOREA. Actually, only Koreans seem capable of making a fucked-up Catholic movie these days, as opposed to a fucked-up movie about Catholicism (or lapsarianism). It's excellent, too, and this is speaking as someone who could never get through a Zola novel or a Park Chan-Wook movie. XD; But when the dreary gritty dog's death at the heart of so many Korean thrillers meets the original depressing-as-shit naturalism... It's also very funny, which maybe makes the difference (vampiric powers carry so many practicalities). And sexy, if you like the idea of Song Kang-ho doing his best Richard Chamberlain in Thornbirds, and Kim Ok-bin (whom I've not encountered before) being basically on fire. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: make this your one vampire movie of the year if necessary, let's not have a repeat of the situation with Let The Right One In where no one paid attention to my words OK.

P.S. A thematically relevant mixtape by [ profile] elfiepike.
petronia: (Default)
The usual assortment of geeks, freaks, punks, otaku, goths, lolis, Asian exchange students, and indie film gonzos. Fantasia is resistant to the P4k-indie brand of hipster, I find, which is odd because IME they all read comic books and/or have lived in Asia. The girl tees this year are white with black sleeves, hot pink (summer 09's "in" colour!), and electric blue, all steals at $15 apiece. But the cost of popcorn has gone up.

Moon: not actually a Fantasia movie, but could so well be I'm reviewing it in this section anyway. XD Smart, classy, affecting old-school SF, like a good episode of The Outer Limits; a Sam Rockwell one-man play of sorts. Written and directed by one Duncan Jones, son of Dave, who no doubt at one point envisaged the Major Tom jokes coming his way and decided it was worth doing anyhow. Takes place on the moon but disregards most of what gravitation has to say about it, with no effect on plot.

Yatterman: my guess is that Miike Takashi uncomplicatedly enjoys being at the career juncture where people give him large sums of money to remake the cheesy tokusatsu serials he used to watch as a kid, because who wouldn't? He doesn't play this particular one straight, but the subversion is dialed down to kid-friendly levels. A bit of fourth-wall breaking here, a few rocket-launcher boobies and robot makeouts there... In any case Miike's thing is to take every shot to its logical conclusion of unblinking childlike wonder even if a sane adult would get embarrassed halfway and cop out, and that never stops being entertaining. Sakurai Sho stars and (one suspects) was directed not to try to act. You'd probably like it if you liked Anno Hideaki's take on Cutie Honey.

The producer attended in costume and showed a hilariously bullshit introductory video in which Miike told us we, the Fantasia attendees, were the only audience that understood him, and also that all Japanese filmmakers lived together in an idyllic village of straw huts. Actually, watching the room react one could hardly imagine any audience being more on board, although the Japanese would probably have gone into hysterics at the original seiyuu cameo. I don't believe the straw huts story, though.


I also went to see the Star Trek movie again! As per [ profile] astrael_nyx it's worth watching once for the story/characters and once for the lens flare cinematography, so I'll take her advice and not go for a third. XD Will add some of the getting-from-A-to-B plot points, since my brain tends to filter out obvious babble, and the great winterwear in the Delta Vega scene. XD; Maybe it was the effect of watching Moon just beforehand, but I kept thinking "so here are two entirely unrelated groups of marooners in a hurry who didn't just bundle their maroonee in the nearest thermal spacesuit-like thing but found them a GQ overcoat for classy surface living, huh." Though I'm sure it's made out of that Japanese space putty that turns rock solid when you hit it with a shovel or whatever.
petronia: (in concert)
Should probably have gone for the Midnight Meat Train adaptation but it'll live without me, methinks. XD

The Moss [trailer]: Ced had the impression this was much longer than the 90 minutes it was. The brutality can certainly be gruelling - no clean gunshot deaths in this one, all digging implements to the skull - but for some reason it didn't leave the unpleasant aftertaste these things usually do. Maybe it's the dark fairytale aspect (the trailer makes it look more like a conventional mob thriller and less like the quasi-Carteresque Beauty and the Beast riff it actually is), or the fact that it's beautifully shot and edited, and the actors have faces that hold the gaze.

I have to say, though, and not just about this movie - the recurring "Indian illegals who are psychotic machine-gun wielding rapists" trope is seriously wigging me out. I've been watching, on average, a few HK triad movies every year at Fantasia since the late 90's, and the genre's reflected a shifting palette of anxieties: the handovers of Hong Kong and Macau, the rise of competitive Southeast Asian economies, the influx of cheap and/or illegal labour from the mainland... It's a dark and un-PC glass, but assuming it is still a glass, the zeitgeist right now is a massive upswell of xenophobia (always unfortunately latent in Chinese culture). And frankly I haven't the slightest clue what's going on in reality.


petronia muxtape will be revamped pretty soon, as they've upped the file size limit to 24MB - finally, an end to discrimination against fans of 15-minute techno cuts! \o/

Other recs from my favorites list:

soulfonicsource: for people who like to listen to minimal at work, with a bit of melodic indie woven seamlessly in. Soothing and gorgeous.

narie: has gone pink. (Possibly I have never actually heard "Stars Are Blind" before? I didn't know it was ska. Er... >_> Speaking of which, eventually I'll figure out which Pizzicato Five song Lily Allen is pakuri-ing there.)

ricforsale: the other other Brit indie + jpop fan on muxtape.
petronia: (Default)
I'll have gotten around to reviewing all of them! ...By watching half as many as usual, granted. XD;

Who Is KK Downey? [trailer]: locally-produced, -financed, and -shot indie comedy, about a pair of fame-hungry loser buddies who perpetrate a literary fraud in the vein of the James Frey or JT Leroy debacles. Budget-what-budget, of course, and some of the actors were less convincing than others, but the script was strong - basically it was an over-the-top sendup of vacuous hipster culture, with a full gamut of awful ironic hipster hairstyles on display. Read the novelization, if they ever turn one out as promised in the Q&A session.

Repo! The Genetic Opera [trailer]: I'd be lying if I didn't admit part of Fantasia's enduring attraction was the geek cred of those North American and world premieres. I mean, de gustibus non est disputandum and all that so I guess there's a few people on my flist who wouldn't go see Anthony Stewart Head, Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton sing in a massively OTT goth rock opera produced by Yoshiki out of X-Japan (and yeah, check out the rest of that cast while you're at it), but the rest of you are going to have your butts parked in the repertoire house come Halloween. Something to look forward to in life... The screening was something of a triumph. XD Ced and I didn't stay for the Q&A as it would've just been anticlimactic, so instead we went to La Banquise and had poutine (with bacon! and onions!). It was delish but I suspect the sudden influx of starch and trans fats didn't agree with my system - have been living off fruit and cold noodles and such for a while.
petronia: (dot dot dot)
Shadows in the Palace [trailer]: Joseon-dynasty murder mystery. One of the imperial maidservants is discovered dead in her rooms, and an autopsy reveals traces of pregnancy. Intrepid court nurse with a past pursues the investigation and opens a can of worms, whitewashing efforts turn rapidly deadly - then supernatural shiz starts to happen. The director apparently worked on The King and the Clown, and this has the same feel to it, only focussed on the women of the court. Like Jewel in the Palace with more scenes of bloody torture. ^_^; Rather a good film; the horror elements could have clashed but felt natural, no more or less than what people at the time might have expected given circumstances.

L: Change the World [trailer]: spoilers for the end of the first two films (not the same as the end of the manga), but has nothing to do otherwise with the plot of actual Death Note. XD; Basically, it's L-centric fanfiction directed by Nakata Hideo of Ring. In someone else's hands the script could well have been unbearably silly, but Nakata makes it scary, particularly toward the end - and the whole hinges on Matsuyama Kenichi's performance anyhow, in the same way as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise hinges on Johnny Depp doing Jack Sparrow. Less mind games, though, more horrible Ebola deaths - consider yourselves warned. Worth it for L's ride, which is pimpin'.

Added Youtube trailer links to the other reviews, too, if anyone cares. ^^;
petronia: (soft light)
Mad Detective [trailer]: a bleakly cynical view of the police force. Genius investigator is able to see the "inner personality" and hidden thoughts of others, giving him uncanny insights into criminal motives - i.e., is a schizophrenic who talks to thin air. ^^; The main suspect has, count'em, seven distinct dueling personalities, which makes for endless entertainment from Mr. I-Don't-Take-My-Pills' perspective if no one else's. Johnnie To, no longer content with staging multi-person gunfights in mirrored rooms and such, makes half the participants in said action scenes imaginary. For the most part it even works.

Let The Right One In [trailer]: the bittersweet love story of a bullied, isolated twelve-year-old boy and the bloodsucking girl-next-door. Set in early-eighties Sweden and told in an understated, intimate style - lots of trudging through snow and having breakfast with one's parents and gym class and daily round of existence in general, even the kind that involves ripping strangers' throats out under dark overpasses. Seriously, as a coming-of-age romance it's totally adorable. XD;; The leads have chemistry to spare. A definite recommend.

(I wrote my first and only vampire story in the second grade. It was about making friends with the weirdo new girl at school, bringing homework over to her house, then developing a mysterious bout of anemia. Maybe I was never able to come up with normal story ideas, who knows. XD;)
petronia: (photography)
Mother of Tears [trailer]: was frogmarched (along with others) to the midnight showing of this by G, who was horrified that I hadn't watched any Dario Argento films. Boy, the script was cheesy. XD Cheesy like those cheese-filled pastry balls I overdosed on after four days in Brazil and never want to see again. Was also horrifically amused at recognizing locations from my own vacation photos in the background while the brains of badly made-up Japanese goths were spilled in the foreground. Tried to decide whether there's a misogynistic element to the violence - the bit with the lesbians was especially queasy - but in the end came down on the side of benefit-of-the-doubt, if only because the male characters were so ineffectual. Horror is catharsis of feminine anxiety, and here it's the female principle cleaning its own house; Asia's character really didn't represent any kind of submission to the patriarchy, the way a Catholic exorcism would have.

Liked the dialogue-less short film that preceded the main feature (apparently all involved are cult favorites of Italian horror cinema). I always tend to like short better.

What We Do Is Secret [trailer]: I first learnt about Darby Crash and the Germs from this list, which is the first link returned if you google "rock and roll premature deaths". As Ced pointed out afterward, the movie was pretty lighthearted for being about a band so purportedly crazy they were blacklisted from every venue in L.A. and whose frontman killed himself via intentional overdose at age 22 (none of this should be a spoiler going in). There wasn't even any gay angst! ...Well, there was angst about the bf character being kind of a dickhead but that's not the same thing. XD; Was confuzzled for ~30s thinking I was flashbacking to editing the last SSBB issue; I mean I could have Wiki'd before watching the biopic but where's the fun in that.

Ultimately it was about friendship and fan communion and the DIY spirit, not unlike 24HPP's take on Joy Division (which I prefer to Control's). Maybe about how youth assumes purity is incompatible with progression, or fails to imagine the latter.


In other news I started uploading my Brazil photos to Flickr! The incomplete set is here. The Ubatuba pics (not yet up) are the most idyllic but I think São Paulo is pretty too, in that modern big city way.

Random selection behind the cut )
petronia: (dot dot dot)
Machine Girl [trailer]: I like Christgau's patented(?) album review system because it has ratings that mean "if you normally dig this kind of thing you will find it awesome/good/fair," which is not the same as saying "this is awesome/good/fair to me." ^^; Thus: if you normally dig evil ninja yakuza, softcore schoolgirl exploitation, and pressurized jets of red food colouring, this movie is recognizably good-going-on-awesome. "Dig" in the Western audience sense means "laugh uproariously at the cheese factor" though I have an uncomfortable intimation that the spraying fake blood is really supposed to be taken as a sexual signifier.

[rec] [trailer]: this is a zombie movie. XD Spanish, a must-see in the original, quality of American remake to be determined. The premise is that a TV journalist and cameraman are doing a piece on firemen working the night shift, and accompany them on a call to an apartment building where the residents had heard an old woman screaming. They break down her door and try to take her to hospital, upon which everything rapidly goes to hell in a handbasket.** The handheld cinéma verité concept's been done, so the brilliance lies entirely with the execution. The entire screening room screamed once or twice, and Fantasia crowds are a hardened lot.

** People in horror movies always have underdeveloped senses of paranoia: if health inspectors had sealed off the building with Rincewind still in it while asking him to remain calm with megaphones, he'd've looked for a sewer grate immediately, not two hours down the line.
petronia: (damned fangirls)
The other day I was watching the BBC footage of Jay-Z at Glastonbury when it occurred to me that the place would make a great setting for a zombie movie. Wouldn't it?? FANTASIA BLURB TREATMENT: a Wiccan ritual gone awry causes a disturbance in the ley lines running under the Eavis farm, but with all the excitement surrounding the music festival, the fatal imbalance goes unnoticed until a young girl collapses of alcohol poisoning - only to resurrect as the ravening indie undead! Soon the tents are overrun by an army of zombie hipsters, shambling dazedly through the mud in their rain boots [Ed.- how can you tell?!]. Of course, the only way to lay the forces of darkness to rest is to ROCK OUT, using the mystical guitar pick handed down by Joe Strummer on his death bed for this very foreseen purpose... a pick so powerful, the sonic wave it generates instantly causes ZOMBIE HEADS TO EXPLODE...

My impression being you wouldn't even need a CG budget, by the end of the festival everyone will look ghastly enough as is. And you can rope in celebrities for zombification purposes. Peeps like Lily Allen or Arctic Monkeys would probably jump at the chance. Also, whenever somebody in the media speculates about a Libertines reunion I always think, "Not until some calamity occurs - LIKE IF ZOMBIES INVADED ENGLAND," while picturing this perfectly serious fic scenario a la 28 Days Later. A drug addiction handicap would make a good twist/metaphor on the usual survival horror tactics as well, come to think of it (wasn't there the one Japanese console game), but I like the Wild Zero-esque take better. XD; Pitched it to G today and he said it's been done. It does seem as if someone should've come up with it before; I'm not even much of an aficionado of the genre.


Tonight was my first Fantasia screening of the festival; it was not a zombie horror movie. Rather it was a Takashi Miike flick called Sukiyaki Western Django (AFAICT the Bebop/Champloo nod is entirely intentional), which is basically a conflation of Heike Monogatari and A Fistful of Dollars. Think of it as being to Miike what Ada is to Nabokov, only instead of North America = Russia, Japan = Nevada. XD;; The director in shiny crowd-pleaser mode. My favorite part was when Kiyomori decided he was going to be Henry VI instead as [sentence completion left as an exercise for the reader]. And Quentin Tarentino's best line, which was quite the extended setup.

petronia: (photography)
I'm reposting these in Xanga, whence they're imported into Facebook. So apologies to people who see them 2-3 times. ^^;

Silk: brilliant handwave concept derailed by the (peculiarly Asian?) contractual obligation to feature an idol actor from every country that funded the film. So there are underdeveloped roles, unlikely casting choices, and a lot of random switching from Japanese to Mandarin etc. in a way that any experience with multilingualism tells one doesn't happen in reality. These days my rule of thumb is that each additional language featured in the script halves the believability of the cast's acting. XD;

It really is a great concept, though (a material that acts like a black hole if a black hole were "sponge-like" - able to absorb and re-emit the energy involved in supernatural manifestations, among other things). The "physics" are roffle-worthy but that isn't the point, the point is to assume the existence of the technology and extrapolate the effects.

Sun Scarred: gruelling and highly uncomfortable. Miike pulls few stylistic shenanigans in this one, unless you count the chara settei of the villain (my first thought was, confusedly, "Oh god, he's found another psychopathic bishounen to do his bidding"). It is what it is, a three-hour hi-def-video revenge drama shot in grey daylight colours about a guy who suffers so many injustices and gets screwed by the system to such an extent that the audience has to empathize with him going bugfuck nuts. The point of a movie like this is to get you to bay for blood and brutality as a morally cathartic finale, which I find way more disturbing as a filmmaking exercise than mere entertainment via stylish ultra-violence. Basically Miike is working within a tradition for the hell of it, though.

One element I remember being stressed cinematographically was the idea of - not absence, I just realized, but blind spots. Which makes more thematic sense. Hidden faces, obscured lines of sight. Entire scenes where the character who's the current focus of the drama isn't inside the frame at all, so the viewer sees everyone else looking but not what they're seeing.

This was an international premiere and preceded by a 40-minute-long interview-heavy documentary on Miike hisself, by the same guy who did the Chris Doyle documentary Ced went to see (I would've too, but was out of town). From this we learnt that Miike grew up in a famously rough Osaka neighbourhood and his elementary schoolmates the local yakuza are rather proud of him, and that he and Shinya Tsukamoto read so many manga as kids it irreparably warped their mentality even if they're not actually into manga anymore (this explains a lot).

Dance Machine: is it true that if you score 100,000 points on every stage of the DDR arcade game, you will unlock the Ultimate Dance of Death that you can only beat if you have mastered the secret (disco) techniques of the Shaolin monkhood? ...I think I've pretty much summed up this movie. XD Everyone loves a good cliché; like the dude said, people resonate with the cheap philosophy found in cheesy movies because people are cheap and cheesy. All the more so if "Dam Dariram" is what passes for a climactic soundtrack moment. It would've been better if they got actors who could DDR at competition levels, though (I assume such a thing exists).

I also kind of took it as a parable of the hidden historic connection between italo/eurodisco and Avex parapara (though it's funny how Europe cannot manage to be politically correct by North American standards even when it's being weeaboo). XD Either way I hope Konami funded this since it's essentially feature-length publicity.
petronia: (shinsenplushies)
Exiled: I sit at Johnnie To's feet as at those of a master. XD I said "Traffic" was a rip off Soderbergh structurally but the camera work (as with "The Berchtesgaden Debriefing" I do think of it as camera work) is all Johnnie To. Like, why pretend I didn't just go the short route and cast Francis Ng, Roy Cheung, etc. as OCs in my head. XD Of course, as soon as the storyline hits Japan... we're in a Miike film. I think.

Technically this isn't a sequel to The Mission, it just has the same cast playing essentially the same characters and really, does anyone ever bother to remember the names of Johnnie To's triad hitmen. XD They're too cool for that shit. The whole thing consists of manly comraderie (expressed through: carjacking, Mexican standoffs, whacking crime bosses, moving furniture) and about a hundred people dying in several discrete hails of bullets. The gimmick here employed is what might be termed the diet-Coke-and-Mentos method of action set-piece construction: position the pieces one by one with care, then pull the string and watch the spray fly. This happens like five times during the course of the movie, and it doesn't get old. XD

The Rug Cop: parody of cheesy old Japanese TV shows about do-gooder policemen, with the enka OP theme and so forth. The main character is a maverick detective whose special weapon is his wig, which came alive as the result of a scientific experiment on hair regeneration (he throws it like a boomerang). That gives a reasonably good idea of what the movie is like. Directed by the same dude who brought you Executive Koala and The Calamari Wrestler, which are a suspense thriller and a sports movie starring a giant koala and a giant squid respectively. The latest doesn't have bizarre animals, unless you count the wig.
petronia: (anyone else isn't you)
Ghosts of Cité Soleil: some of the best cinematography and editing I have seen in a documentary, which is impressive considering it's about armed gangs in Haitian slums (chimère, the ghosts of the title) immediately before and after the fall of Aristide in 2004, when the country went to Hell in a fast-moving handbasket. Basically the filmmaker picked up a camera and followed two of these inner-city gang chiefs around for months, documenting their dreams, loves, feuds, family, music, politics... The miracle is that he managed it without stopping a bullet with his body. It's beautiful, insane, and insanely-beautifully moving.

It was a head trip to read half of The World Is Flat, then go and watch a film in which an Uzi-toting Haitian gang leader who styles himself '2pac' calls up Wyclef Jean in his kitchen, on his cellphone, to spit freestyle accompanied by his jeep radio. These guys are trilingual - in French, Creole, and gangsta rap. Thug life! None can deny, that is how they roll. XD;; They're whip-smart, too, enough to see the big picture, but out of options from beginning to end.

13 Beloved: working stiff with an aged mother and an overdraft loses his girlfriend, gets his car repossessed, and is downsized to boot. Then he gets a call from a purported reality game show offering him an astronomical sum of cash if he can successfully accomplish thirteen tasks. The first task is to kill a fly; after which it descends rapidly into dangerous, disgusting, and morally murky territory. There's a guiding principle to the seemingly random tasks as well, which doesn't come entirely clear until the end.

Very dark, thought-provoking, extremely hilarious. As a bonus, contains the first remotely believable server-hacking scene I have seen in the cinema. Highly recommended if you like films like Fight Club, though considering it's a Thai flick, the chances of a Hollywood remake are considerably higher than of it making its way to a multiplex near u. ^^;
petronia: (shh not a word)
Death Note I & II: an improvement on the original series, actually. Stuck to the manga storyline when it was good, removed the parts that were boring/superfluous, and made changes to tighten the dramatic arc as necessary. Well-cast and acted. Watching these reignited my love for the series somewhat, or at least reminded me of why I liked it so much in the first place. ^^; If the manga had ended the way the movies did it would probably still stand among my favorite series. This does happen sometimes with screen adaptations - mangaka on a deadline follows his/her nose all over the map, anime writers sort it out in retrospect - but for some reason I wasn't expecting it in this case.

Even so the second movie was 2 1/2 hours long and convoluted as heck. The audience kept thinking it was going to end and making false starts at applause and/or getting up to leave. It was a very enthusiastic crowd, though: Fantasia usually is, but I got the impression most of the people were there on the strength of a couple of episodes of the anime, or of the director's resume (Godzilla, Gamera), i.e. came into it spoiler-free. I suppose if one were a real DN manga fan, one would've downloaded and watched the films ages ago. XD;;

There was a Q&A session at the end with the director (dressed memorably in a colorful alphabet-patterned shirt and lemon-yellow trousers), his translator, and a fanboyish actor who played one of the American FBI agents. The questions were haphazard as these things tend to be but the guests loved to talk and spouted on-set anecdotes with no lead-in. From this we learnt that Godzilla's teeth were recycled for Ryuk's model, that Fujiwara Tatsuya was indistinguishable from nice!Light even when nominally "off", and that Matsuyama Kenichi insisted on Japanese sweets in the second movie (there was a directorial decision to have L consume Western imports only in the first film - come to think it must be a difficult role in that respect, if it were me I'd never want to see a chocolate bar ever again).

I'm reading Wikipedia and it says Nakata Hideo is making a movie about L's backstory. Was going to ask if this was a figment of some crazed fan's imagination but research indicates it's not. ^^; (Funnily enough I was idly pondering L's past as meitantei, in a "I would cross it over with PSoH just to see L and D do dessert and discuss life as an initial" way.)
petronia: (byakuya)
Big Bang Love: a surprisingly straightforward police procedural, with a supernatural horror bent. XD Come to think of it I haven't been baffled by a Miike flick since Gozu; even Izo made sense to me at the time (I don't remember much of it now). Not sure if Miike's getting more transparent or if the Fantasia audience is getting better at parsing his visual language. It's magic realism, more or less, delivered with a sort of artless literalism I find endearing; like we're all overthinking and dude just shot whatever the hell the script girl handed him. "He reeled back, as if the ray of light had pierced his heart as well as his eye." Lots of ontology-of-theatre in this one as well. The inside of the prison is a theatrical paradigm; outside the prison is a cinematic paradigm. The electrified fence between the two is... animation. Apparently. XD

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After This Our Exile: a brilliantly observed family drama of the depressing, kitchen-sink, two-and-a-half-hours-long variety. Aaron Kwok turns in a fine and convincing performance as a dude I began to wish halfway through would take a long walk off a short pier, as it was clearly the best turn he could have done himself, his family or society in general. But then I've never been known for my patience with this kind of storyline. XD; The boy who plays the son is utterly adorable.

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Two reviews pending: Ghosts of Cité Soleil, the documentary on Haitian Chimère from yesterday evening, and the new Harry Potter movie tonight. XD
petronia: (individualist)
More Fantasia reviews!

Ghost in the Shell S.A.C.: Solid State Society: the problem with trying to wrap a Standalone Complex-style plot in 1h45min is that the exposition gets really, really clunky. "As you know, Ishikawa, the political quandary caused by the fall of the Seok Republic..." And the ending felt like a bit of a copout, somehow. But basically it was just a long, excellent episode of the TV series.

T and I were talking about Transformers later that evening, and I said that at Nickelodeon-age I was alienated by "boy" cartoons - wouldn't watch anything that had robots, cars, or muscly men. I didn't even like muppets as most of them were funny-looking (the bulk of my Sesame Street-watching was done as a pre-teen, at which point I was old enough to get the puns). I did, however, enjoy watching G.I. Joe. XD;; Thinking about it that was basically like GitS:SAC for six year olds (insert own American foreign policy zing). Scarlett! Snake Eyes! OSHI IT'S STARTING TO COME BACK TO ME.

I was reading an article in Adbusters by a college professor who lamented that her twentysomething students were utterly refractory when asked to assess the influence of consumer culture on themselves, even though they accept the theory readily - that in effect the generational brainwashing by the likes of Hasbro was a total success. "Yes ma'am, child-targetted advertisement sure is nefarious, but don't you go hatin' on Strawberry Shortcake."

Yellow Fellas: bit of an amateur production. I do care about how films look, very much so, and this wasn't it. ^^; It was a free showing (the line stretched futilely around the block as the theatre only had 300-something seats) and a tale of personal endeavour so the crowd was inclined to be indulgent, I think. The script was the best part of it but I find that kind of humour only mildly amusing, and to be honest I don't relate to the existence of a greater North American "Azn Pride" identity, even defined parodically. Insofar as it strikes its mark it must be with regard to Asian men, at any rate, not Asian women, of whom there are a grand total of zero in the film (if you don't count the baby daughter).

October 2017



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