Reviews

Kinamand

Kinamand (Meaning Chinaman in English) was a beautiful and interesting film.

The main character, Keld, is a plumber who is more or less stuck in a rut. When his wife of many years leaves him for another man, unable or unwilling to cook for himself, he begins to eat at a Chinese restaurant near his house every day.  This begins a friendship between Keld and the owner, Feng.  When a pipe breaks in the kitchen, Keld offers to take a look.  Seeing that the kitchens plumbing is not up to code, Keld offers to replace it in exchange for free meals.

When Keld finishes the plumbing job, Feng very happy with Kelds work asks Keld to marry his sister Ling, so she may stay in Denmark with her family, in exchange for 25,000 Danish Kroner (Roughly USD$4,000) Keld contemplates the offer momentarily and then declines.  Keld is then shown at a divorce settlement where he is asked to pay his ex-wife 50,000 DKK.  Keld, unable to pay the amount returns to Feng and tells him he will accept if he would be willing to double the offer.  Feng accepts.

Kinamand Poster

Ling and Keld, after a meeting with immigration officials, hold an extravagant wedding. Keld, a seemingly apathetic, slightly brutish man, is pulled into a remarkable world of subtlety and tradition while living with Ling, growing to appreciate it, and falling in love with Ling in the process.

The movie was quite understated, which I strongly appreciate. It was visually beautiful, whereas Europe was shown with kind of a grey dreary pall, the Chinese figures in the movie, as well as the brief moments in China itself were quite bright and colorful, which helped illustrate the stark differences in cultures the movie was attempting to convey.

Kelds character was very relatable, trying to find meaning to life while rolling with the punches. The juxtaposition of the portly, inelegant Keld to the petite, beautiful Ling was quite striking and in fact made for a wonderfully odd coupling.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who can appreciate subtlety, it being one of my favorites of recent years. As I understand it one of the only places to find this movie in America currently is by Netflix, where it can be streamed or received via physical disc, and this would be my recommendation


Last Life in the Universe

Last Life In The Universe ( เรื่องรัก น้อยนิด มหาศาล ) Box Art

I’ve mentioned several times before watching a movie strictly for atmosphere. If any move I’ve ever seen has been worth watching for Atmosphere, its Last Life in the Universe. By Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, the director of 6ixtynin9 (Ruang Talok 69), it’s a truly whimsical, slow yet perfectly paced film.

The film revolves around a suicidal, obsessively clean Japanese man working as a librarian in Thailand. Through a set of slightly winding circumstances he finds him self

...tbc


Nana 2

I hesitate to say I hated this movie, because I didn't. I want to hate it, I desperately want to hate it. I can't though, mostly because if anything it did get me thinking.

This film was the polar opposite of the first which I reviewed a little over a year ago. Whereas the first was artful and creative with its character construction, they knew with this film that the characters were already built our and despite being put into very straining situations there was very little character growth. Heck, the whole play of how the number 7 connected the two Nana's was almost completely avoided, although I imagine some could argue this is a good thing.

Nana 2 Hide Actor Change

One of the oddities of this film is of the six main characters, three were played by different actors than in the original film. I honestly didn't even notice, save the fact that I was wondering why Ryuhei Matsuda's character had received such a bit part, Nana 2 Fake Japanese Bob Dylan as he was one of the larger focuses of the first film. This was why I did some research and found out that it wasn't even him. They do their best to mask this by hiding his face for most of scenes he is in, often having his back to the camera, or more creatively having him reading while wearing a baseball cap.

This film, in stark contrast to its predecessor, is largely a series of unfortunate events and ends on an exceedingly sour note. The climax of the film involves the happy go lucky Nana finding out she is pregnant. Having recently dumped the guitarist from Trapnest (whom she only sought in a moment need) for the guitarist from BLAST who genuinely cares for her, she is uncertain which is the father. The guitarist from Trapnest (Takumi) offers to marry her, and after some reluctance she agrees. She moves in with him just in time for him to leave on a 6 month tour. While Trapnest gathers outside, the lead singer makes a comment about how Takumi has a wife in the UK, though this fact is never again mentioned. At the end of the movie, Nana cries while holding the other Nana, realizing she has ruined her life.

When the credits rolled I was genuinely surprised, expecting some kind of at least semi-happy resolve.

Nana 2 Sad Ending, Pregnant with Baby
The movie ends with everyone's life in shambles.

Not only for the massive change in direction, but the genuine lack of style which the other film pulled off fairly well, I have to say this film didn't even come close to living up to the first film. I was genuinely disappointed in this film.

As I've told people with the original Matrix, if you liked it, don't see the sequel, the same applies to this, unless you enjoy seeing characters and concepts you've grown to like being terribly abused.


Samaria

I’m trying something new this review, I’m writing it while I watch the movie, I have the movie playing on my secondary monitor, and I’m typing it on my primary. 

This movie reminds me a lot of Install, but it’s a far more serious, far more Korean version.  Lately it seems that South Korea is pushing out far more decent film than Japan. 

Samaria Movie Poster

This movie starts out with two Japanese school girls, one of which is prostituting herself, and the other one managing the money and getting her men.  They plan on going to Europe, and there’s an undertone that there might be something more there, that they may be in love.  This is indicated at least to me  when Jae-yeong tells Yeo-jin that she thinks she’s in love with one of the Johns, Yeo-jin becomes increasingly Jealous.

Yeo-jin makes Jae-yeong promise not to fall in love or even learn anything about any future Johns and Jae-yeong reluctantly agrees. The next day they go out to the next man, Yeo-jin is supposed to be standing watch for police, but she gets distracted by a man bugging her, and the next thing she knows she sees officers running into the apartment.  Jae-yeong, with nowhere to go decides to jump out the window.  She falls,  lands flat on the ground.  Covered with blood she orders Yeo-jin to carry her.  Yeo-jin runs off with her on her back to a hospital.  There we are told they’ll be lucky if she makes it the night. 

Jae-yeong demands to see the John she was in love with before she’ll give them her parents phone number.  Yeo-jin runs to find him, only to find he refuses to go unless she’ll have sex with him.  She crys and reluctantly agrees, thinking of her friend on her death bed.  When they finally get to the hospital Jae-yeong is already dead. 

This sets forth the plot of the rest of the movie, whereas Yeo-jin in an attempt to understand Jae-yeong, decides to return the money to Johns, and in the process have relations with them.

It should be noted that her father starts out as the perfect single parent, making her breakfast and encouraging her to do well in school, and this is as much a study of the affect on him as the effect on her.

Her father notices her actions, and rather than stopping her, doesn’t let her know he’s on to her, and takes action against the Johns, with increasing levels of violence, first just breaking a bottle and telling the guy to get lost, to humiliating them in front of their family (which they subsequently commit suicide) to out and out murdering them.

It’s no masterwork, but it’s on par with Oldboy for the new kind of Korean ultra violence though not in such a quantity.

Visually, there’s one scene that really struck me and I’m uncertain if its on purpose or not, but her father pulls a car off a side road onto a highway, and there are maybe 3 arrows point left, and he turns right.  The scene lasted maybe 10 seconds, but it was practically silent and something about it just struck me.

Samaria Night Filter

Also, this firm features what is certainly one of the worst night filters I’ve ever seen.  I had assumed she somehow ended up underwater until I discovered what was really going on.

One last note, her father is a Christian, so I’m uncertain if they’re trying to say something with that or not, but he’s always talking about Miracles and such.

Hopefully next review will be on the new review system I’ve been building, which should allow us to review almost anything.

The end is certainly bitter, I won't say much more than that, just that despite my feelings that the film was mediocre I certainly don't regret watching it.


Xbox 360 Initial Review

Seeing as how Jesse's review of the 360 Controller has been up for months, I figured it was time for another review... The 360 itself

Pros: I love the dashboard, not only can you listen to your own music at any point during a game, but its actually somewhat intuitive. The 360 can finally rip music off burned CD's which was a major reason xbox 1.0 never really saw much use as a music player. The Controller is comfortable as heck, and the wireless thing is really nice and so far the battery life (the wireless controller uses 2 AA's) has been great, but I'm probably going to invest in some rechargeables. All in all, I do like that Microsoft decided to use AA's instead of some proprietary battery, far cheaper and easier to replace them that way.

The graphics are great, I've played Gears of War and the graphics are a deffinete step up from xbox 1.0, ps2, etc. Not only does the console have plenty of speed, but loading times are minimal compared to xbox 1.0. I also like the fact the 360 will have an add-on HD player, because i don't have or need HD-dvd, nor do i want to spend another $200 for one.

Cons: The HD is a bit small, while 20 gigs seems like a lot for a console, once you start ripping your own music onto the thing, it starts to pile up. I'm not anywhere near running out of room yet, but I can definitely see it happening to those with more impressive media collection. I'd like to see either a larger HD available, or an adapter allowing you to use a regular computer HD which would see storage capacity limited only by the size of the HD's available. I'd also wish they'd left the start and select buttons where they are on the xbox 1.0 controller, never realized how nice it was having them to the side till now. While in general I do like the dashboard, it'd be nice if you were able to customize the button settings for entering information. It'd also be nice to be able to fast forward and rewind within songs.

Nitpicking: I wish the controller was just a tad larger, like the size of the S controller that is standard with xbox 1.0, It's not that the controller is too small to use, but would be nice if they beefed it up just a bit.


Nana

Nana 2 - Both Nana's

I’d just like to start this review saying I got this movie because it has Ryuhei Matsuda ( 松田 龍平 ) in it, of Blue Spring and Collage of our Life fame. Some of you may know he is my favorite Japanese actor.  He had a strange part in this film, managing to be a major character, but having perhaps four lines.  Also, I’d like to note the way he held the guitar seemed awkward in such a way as to seem almost identical to something straight out of Guitar Hero.

This movie is apparently based off a popular Japanese Manga, and in fact made for a extremely popular movie in Japan.  I had no idea of this while watching it.

Ryuhei Matsuda

This movie focuses on two women named Nana, who though complete opposites, through anomalous circumstances became very good friends. [Back Story Explanation for those of you who are lacking in Japanese:  Nana while being a Japanese name is also Japanese for the number seven.  Hachi is Japanese for the number eight, and also a common name for dogs.  The gothic Nana renamed the other Nana “Hachi” informally to keep them from getting confused and because she said the preppy Nana acted like a puppy.]  They meet on a train to Tokyo, which becomes stuck for several hours due to high snow.  Hachi is heading to Tokyo to be closer to her boyfriend who is going to art school in Tokyo, Nana is moving to Tokyo to pursue her dream of being a famous singer.  After reaching Tokyo they head their separate ways, only to meet up again when looking for an apartment when two real estate agents show them the same apartment.  Number 707 nonetheless.  After some arguing about who should get the apartment, gothic Nanas friend who is with them suggests they live together, and with little ado they agree.  

The movie ends up first going off first into Hachi’s immediate romantic life with her boyfriend, and then moves on to Nana’s past and her coming to terms.  Nana was in love with Ryuhei’s character “Ren” when they were in a band together “Blast”, but they separated when Ren joined a new band “Trapnest”, which we latter find out has become a huge hit, whereas Nana’s band has only met with marginal success, and the man they got to replace Ren looks like a Japanese Bob Dylan no less.  From reading about the original book Blast was supposed to be extremely punk whereas Trapnest was supposed to be more mainstream rock.  They both in the movie though come off as very generic soft rock though, which is kind of lame. 

The Japanese Bob Dylan

From the visual side of things the movie had a very romantic feel; for example nine times out of ten when someone is outside it was snowing, and flash backs always happened to be in the winter (though this is quite possibly because the movie was filmed in a short period of time).  The inside of the Nana’s house was white.  White and snow are a recurring theme to the film.

The songs they sang were cheesy at best, mixing Japanese and english in the same sentance, as I described to kern “Blah blah blah I love you blah blah blah baby!” as it would be to the casual listener.

Overall the movie was decent for those of you saps who like pointless foreign romance/lost love flicks.


Survive Style 5+

Reika Hashimoto Flying Through The Air

This movie is hard to describe.  It has five main plots, hence the name, that in the end work them selves together.  One interesting aspect of the film is that as it introduces plot lines, it visually numbers them on screen.  It begins with a man burying his wife, his wife being played by the beautiful half Japanese, half Spanish Reika Hashimoto.  He returns home to find his wife sitting at his kitchen table, which sets up what is to become a pattern for his plot.  Next we are introduced to a woman who works in advertising and a hypnotist who are in bed together.  Throughout the film the advertising woman has a number of "Visions" of commercials.  Some are quite humorous while others just make you say "What!?"  The next plot is kind of a comic relief plot… do you really need a comic relief plot in a comedy?  I don't know, but it basically involves a group of friends, where a Japanese man is terrified of the prospect that his really ugly, male, friend is in love with him.  Next we are introduced to an English hit-man and his Japanese assistant on an airplane on their way into Japan, whereas he causes quite a ruckus on the airplane harassing a flight attendant about her purpose for living.  The last plot involves a man who visits the hypnotist, is hypnotized into believing he is a bird, and the hypnotist is killed by the hit man before he is un-hypnotized.  This was my favorite plot, and the way in which it connects to the first is pure genius. 

Guy with Ugly Teeth - Survive Style 5

The imagery and colors of this film were beautifully intense. It felt… surreal.  They do an amazing job though of making you not realize how strangely colored things are, which the end result gives the film just an amazing feel.  For instance the airplane the hit-man came over on was bright pink, but I don't believe I noticed until reviewing the film just now. 

Pink Airplane - Survive Style 5

The soundtrack includes some interesting choices, all very rhythmic, sometimes with the scene seemingly moving to the beat.  There's an amount of western music I haven't seen in any other Asian films.  The soundtrack adds greatly to the feel of the movie.

Overall I recommend the movie highly.  It was greatly entertaining and beautifully composed.  It was a distinct comedy, which I see few of, but I found it highly enjoyable.


Install

I read a yearly summary of movies which had Install in its top ten.  The movie begins with Asako, the main character, daydreaming in English class about talking to a boy in a clock tower.  The teacher wakes her up and asks her “Who were you with in your dreams” which struck me as an odd question, to which Asako replies “Your Sweetheart” and then running out of the classroom.  Folowing this, for reasons unknown to us, Asako decides she doesn’t want anything she owns anymore and hauls it all out to a dumpster outside her apartment.  A 10 year old, Kazuyoshi, sees her throwing out an Apple Classic computer and asks if he can have it, which she allows.  On a further chance encounter she finds out that the 10 year old is filling in for a sex worker in a chat room, which sets the plot in motion for Kazuyoshi to become Asako’s 10 year old cyber pimp.  As the plot, or really lack thereof develops, Asako looses respect for men, has a couple of cheesy dreams and doesn’t go to school for several months.  Its not until several months later when her mom finally discovers her room is empty that everything begins to fall apart.  Also, in usual asian film style, there is a confusing subplot involving the boy whom she was dreaming about in the beginning of the film.

Install Movie Phone

The music of the movie maintains a strangely upbeat and strongly Japanese form, even at some rather akward for the situation, very much adds to the style of the film.
Overall the movie was decent, featuring a number of amusing moments, though I wouldn’t put it in the top 10 of last year by any means.



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