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The sky is the limit!

Posted : 1 year, 7 months ago on 23 April 2017 04:22 (A review of The Handmaiden)

"You can even curse at me or steal things from me. But please don't lie to me. Understand?"

Set in 1930s Korea, the period of Japanese occupation, a new girl (Sook-Hee) is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress (Hideko) who lives a secluded life on a large countryside estate with her domineering Uncle (Kouzuki). But the maid has a secret. She is a pickpocket recruited by a swindler posing as a Japanese Count to help him seduce the Lady to elope with him, rob her of her fortune, and lock her up in a madhouse. The plan seems to proceed according to plan until Sook-Hee and Hideko discover some unexpected emotions.
By the visionary director behind Oldboy, the vengeance trilogy, and Thirst, Park Chan-wook captures a very deceptive plot which provides plenty of twists and turns resulting in a very erotic love story.

Film making, effects, cinematography:  The Handmaiden is clearly a work of art which is reflected by the vast array of costumes, architecture and the shots involved manage to capture the beauty yet never diminishing the quality.  The movement and motion convey the fluidity of a very hierarchical pecking order, the separation of nobility from the servants, an unprecedented attention to detail even with the ongoing extreme motivation of "lust", "greed" or "deception".  It never shies away from aerial views that promptly bring our gaze to the idyllic gardens or the far shots of the sea when the main characters are aboard ships. Park Chan-wook manages to achieve style and a high level of presentation, with of course substance.  This is also captured and conveyed in his previous works while accompanying the shocking revelations that comes with each story being told;  Sweeping and panning shots that very slowly move in time with the [Link removed - login to see] to give a lasting impression.
Story, acting, character development:  This is a love story but not between who you would expect.  The chemistry with the deep form of eros slowly escalates and cascades into a formidable force between Sook-Hee, the handmaiden, and Lady Hideko.  It is loosely veiled by the perpetual and continuous lies that emanate from them both which wind/weave towards a transformation for our fated pair.  The perverted nature of Uncle Kouzuki is seen from the erotic books and sadistic impulses that fuel his contemptuous nature, alongside a brutal (submissiveness expected from women) and violent upbringing for Hideko.  The development of each character relies on a very non-linear storytelling process (flashbacks) which is triggered by the twists and revealed by the hidden motivations which stem from conman Count Fujiwara,  pickpocket turned handmaiden Sook-Hee, and the pragmatic sometimes suicidal (abused upbringing) Lady Hideko.
The Handmaiden is a very erotic, violent and turbulent film and I would advise anyone of a timid/sensitive nature to perhaps refrain from watching. Anyone who is a fan of Park Chan-wook will be aware of this trend (adult content) with all his films/works but the previous warning as well for anyone that hasn't experienced/viewed them yet.

[Link removed - login to see], score, sound:  Poignant and an elated score by Yeong-wook Jo who brings to life the stunning visuals with a haunting rendition of melody.  It is another aspect which elevates The Handmaiden into an emotional and memorable art form.  A wave of vibrant, lively, mesmerising instrumental bliss equally soft or sharp depending on the severity of the scenes.

Summary and conclusion:  Overall The Handmaiden captures the imagination and essence of an era where strict rules exist and social divides appear between Koreans and the Japanese, between nobility and the poorer classes but wait a moment;  It is a love story which gets away from all of that and eventually does its own thing.  We have various characters either attempting to assimilate to a foreign influence or trying to con a rich mark so they can be rich.  This is a film which shows men being very one dimensional creatures, where they view women as sex objects or something to be exploited.  Whereas we also have the progression of Sook-Hee, from pickpocket playing the part of handmaiden, becoming at first part of the deception and later on the receiving end of a plot.  She develops a rather deep and passionate bond with Hideko and eventually we get to see what the truth is behind all the smoke and mirrors.  Also who knew what and why then showing us how they get there.
The Handmaiden is a dangerous game of deception and love with this erotic, lustful exploration between two players. 

"At that moment, a drop of insanity could cause one to go completely mad. If I could drive Sasaki mad as well, then life would've been more fun."

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Writing on the Heart...

Posted : 3 years ago on 5 November 2015 07:51 (A review of Spectre)


“You've got a secret. Something you can't tell anyone, because you don't trust anyone.”

James Bond investigates an enigmatic organisation and becomes involved in an action laden adventure with femme fatales, fancy gadgets, explosive weaponry and cars/planes/equipment.  Spectre correlates the previous films Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall with a deranged nemesis who has been pulling the strings as a twisted puppeteer from Bond's past.

Film making, effects, cinematography:  Beautiful shots, idyllic locations such as Mexico, Austria, United Kingdom, Morocco for examples.  The effects and chases really thrill and shock while give a tantalising taste of adrenaline pumping finesse. The audience is treated to visions of the wilderness or breathtakingly gorgeous and prominent landscapes.  The title sequence is exceptionally beautiful accompanied by the Writing's on the Wall via Sam Smith.

Story, acting, character development:  The characters and story have a particularly linear progression/approach.  Cast is exceptionally high maintenance with Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Craig, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz giving stellar performances.  Ben Whishaw as Q was very funny and the humour/banter was rather a much needed accompaniment.


[Link removed - login to see], score, sound:   The sound was high quality as you would expect these days and the score/[Link removed - login to see] by Thomas Newman is particularly emotional and effective.  We have a range of powerful angry tones while for the more intimate scenes passionate parts of the sound spectrum.

Summary and conclusion:  Sam Mendes whom directed Spectre has made a good effort with this latest morsel.  It is also shows us a transition for James Bond into a less psychopathic agent and more a compassionate loving human being.  In the face of evil love and empathy can be a refreshing change especially for those that deserve it.  The film in my eyes teaches us that we have a choice to kill or not to kill, to love or not to love, to defend ourselves or when not to resist.  Spectre is that meteorite that was in the shadows for what seemed like an eternity yet decided to impact our hearts with a journey of passion, action and psychological thrill seeking mixed with an uplifting climax.


Madeleine Swann: Is this really what you want? Living in the shadows? Hunting, being hunted? Always alone?

James Bond: I don't stop to think about it.



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Intelligent, twisted... and deadly.

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 8 February 2015 12:05 (A review of Gone Girl (2014))

”What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”

David Fincher tackles an adaptation of the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn with this psychological thriller. Fincher is indeed back on form with this wonderfully dark story and the immediate escalation and complexity that develops is in a word inspiring. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are cast in the lead roles as husband and wife: Nick and Amy Dunne. The plot revolves around the alleged murder of Amy and the suspicion falls upon her husband. The ensuing media frenzy, clues and fallout evolves into a race against time. A linear murder mystery? Is it that simple? Not at all. Fincher gives us a story with numerous twists, turns and flashbacks.

Film making, effects, cinematography: The clever camera shots and smooth transitions are typical finesse as usual in a Fincher film with clever close ups, panning and sideways movements. Gone Girl has some delicate effects which never deviate from being realistic. Whether indoor or outdoor regarding scenes the use of low or high angles give the film a menacing and claustrophobic edge.

Story, acting, character development: Casting and acting remain at a high standard and all players involved deliver performances which are not only multifaceted but also allow layers in characters who are not what they seem. The real shining examples in Gone Girl are Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, as we learn from the story as it progresses Amy is a successful writer whom seems to be in a marriage, which started full of passion and vibrancy, yet spirals into resentment and manipulation. Nick in the earlier stages appears to be cheating with one of his young students (Played by the beautiful Emily Ratajkowski) and is essentially living on the funding of his wife. The character development is advanced and deeply warped which is a pleasure: The deception and puzzling nature of (especially) Amy and Nick is what gives Gone Girl an unpredictable mask upon another volatile mask.
The chronological nature of the story follows Amy’s disappearance and the clues left for detective Rhonda Boney, played by Kim Dickens, and Nick allows the trail of bread crumbs leading to answers or more questions apparent. There is also a development which shows other chronological chapters for not just Nick but Amy and a resulting one based on what transpires with the murder investigation when it reaches a conclusion which I will not spoil here. Other worthy performances stem from Neil Patrick Harvey and Tyler Perry with hands on approaches with their roles.

Music, score, sound: The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross adds to the frantic, foreboding and menacing events. It gives the film atmosphere and a scary tension which still resonates with the viewer even until the credits are still ascending.

Summary and conclusion: David Fincher gives us his most recent revelation with Gone Girl. A psychological, intelligent and thrilling rollercoaster puzzle within a twisted and warped story. By the end it really reaches a place that will perhaps be memorable as an outcome which is dually monstrous and suffocating. A lingering imprisonment of suspicion, horror and an unescapable confinement with something, with someone deadly.

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Circling the flames...

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 7 February 2015 04:55 (A review of American Sniper)

“If you think that this war isn't changing you you're wrong. You can only circle the flames so long.”

Clint Eastwood latest directorial film is an adaptation of American Sniper from the book by Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper is given the lead role and Sienna Millar stars as Tara, the love interest and eventually wife. The plot is based and centred on the exploits of Kyle, a Texan patriotic guy who starts of as a country cowboy then seeing on television the 9/11 events, he wants to make a difference, becomes a seal and sniper who does 4 tours in Iraq. The audience is also shown the gradual repercussions and effects on Kyle as the horrors of war, loss of fellow fighters and the killing of insurgents, which are sometimes civilians such as women or children. Clint Eastwood plays upon the empathy of the viewer while showing the hero as sympathetic. Although I will write about the problems concerning the war of Iraq and the enemy being shown in a very one dimensional manner later in this review.

Film making, effects, cinematography: To be expected from an experienced director Clint Eastwood achieves in making a war film that is executed with high quality visuals and epic fight scenes. American Sniper is well made and fast paced, this is when preceding to taking facts, truth, sources and research out of the equation. It has clever camera angles and methods that transport the viewer in a sometimes topographic viewpoint.

Story, acting, character development: Obviously the cast and crew are top notch, notably Bradley Cooper gives a solid, layered performance as the lead role and really shows a very unyielding patriotism. Clint Eastwood manages to sometimes exploit the audience by playing on their heartstrings and empathy. The performances from Bradley Cooper and Sienna Millar immediately with their progression throughout the story intensifies as they are shown at breaking point, how the war is effecting them psychologically. What remains problematic is that Clint Eastwood is doing his best to show Chris Kyle and company in the best possible light while having in mind he has to respect family in real life. This is where I encounter more dilemmas with the real life Kyle and the one in the film. Anyone familiar with the book American sniper will remember the real life Chris Kyle enjoyed the fame, the killing, the exaggerations regarding his exploits and the way he termed all the Iraqis as savages. The film, despite the attempt to show remorse from kyle for his actions, it doesn’t completely remove the negatives from the reality of this war and situation. The film is so intent on painting Kyle in a positive light the story sometimes shies away from the reality: 1) The Iraq war being a complete disaster. 2) The civilians (Iraqi people) referred to as savages. 3) The false correlation between 9/11, Al-Qaeda, and Iraq. 4) Saddam Hussein, its oil and Iraq a sovereign state destroyed: The result destroyed infrastructure, exploited resources and the resulting vacuum being filled with religious extremists. The reality is similar to intervention in Vietnam and Afghanistan: A waste of life and money on all sides.
American Sniper attempts to give plausibility and justification, as well as the hero worship of a man called a liar, that the Iraq war was a triumph. The film that Clint Eastwood has used his exceptional skills amounts to propaganda with devices preying on the empathy or bloodlust of the audience.
There is also a nemesis Iraqi sniper who is shown as the enemy equivalent of Kyle. He is often shown jumping across rooftops and structures reminiscent of something out of a Jason Bourne action film. The frustrating aspect of him is that he is given very basic character development: We are given meagre details concerning his background or personality. Clint Eastwood’s Letters of Iwo Jima was unbiased and explored both sides in the conflict, unlike American Sniper. The Iraq sniper also has a family, was in the Olympics and seems to mirror Kyle in ways that show the similarities between two extremes: They are both fighting for something they believe in. Clint Eastwood could have been clever and explored both sides whereas the biased, dogmatic source which is the American Sniper book only achieves a distorted view from one side.

Music, score, sound: I can’t fault the composer Joseph S. DeBeasi and Clint Eastwood, as always moving, in-depth and poignant.

Summary and conclusion: I was caught between truth and falsity with American Sniper, where Clint Eastwood has used his talents to make a well-made film. This doesn’t mean it is healthy or has honest intentions. If Clint decided to make a film about an evil, lying megalomaniac he could reverse the reality and show the individual as a saint because he as a film maker is at the top of his game. This is disappointing for me as this is one of those rare instances in a film that it becomes dangerous and questionable when concerning a war and a person where this film is justifying and glorifying something wrong and violent that could be seen by the masses as worth repeating again with yet another questionable conflict and war.

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Reclaiming our homeland. Our home.

Posted : 5 years, 11 months ago on 15 December 2012 08:23 (A review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

"I know you doubt me. I know you always have. I often think of Bag End. That's where I belong. That's home. You don't have one. It was taken from you, but I will help you get it back if I can."

From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.
A curious Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.

Martin Freeman: Bilbo

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the first part from Peter Jackson adapting Tolkein's loved book. A book for our youth and elders, capturing humour while attaining deeper meaning and significance.
This film not only captures the essence and greatness of the story but also goes many steps further.
At times with the details regarding the back story it is like reading The Silmarillion where we are treated to such impeccable sequences and roots. A radical return to form using all sources available regarding Tolkien.
Peter Jackson gives the film the masterful, visionary strokes it deserves and goes beyond even the book itself with even more analytical precision to paint a bigger picture.
Detailed, passionate and a perfect example of beauty and storytelling.

Certain stories focus on honour,
on courage, and on the struggle and fight for home.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one of these rarities which will spark action and inspiration, in the sense, those few of us who can comprehend such a call to arms. That can appreciate and value the importance not merely regarding the destination or sentiment, but the enduring journey. This is an experience and a reminder that we must act and the story applies to our situation and reality. This is the beauty that stems from such a masterpiece and an adaptation worthy of such praise.
Our efforts, no matter how big or small, make a difference. The Hobbit reminds us of tradition, culture, and a social path more in tune with nature.
It is a beautiful escape from the artificial ugliness that we see in such tainted liberal societies, who are in a cocoon of complacency and undisciplined laziness.
This first part of The Hobbit does its uttermost best to wake up audiences by setting a glorious yet humble example. An example of brotherhood, comradeship, patriotism, loyalty, faith and spirit.
This is bravery and courage and it still exists even if many seem to have forgotten.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is truly acceptable for such a high standard, for such nobility held by virtues and for our people it is indeed appropriate. Peter Jackson crafts a tale of love, faith, strength, blood and honour.
Thus Jackson effortlessly puppeteers the cast seamlessly, like a spider meticulously spinning a web, immersing and blending all into middle earth.
Fran Walsh and Guillermo del Toro worked on the screenplay and it shows. High quality and their usual finesse is apparent in the glow of the storytelling and natural characters.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage as Thorin make the characters legends, strong and to be idolised for their enduring qualities.
Freeman's originating English properness and sheltered life growing into a revolutionary and adventurer a warrior is greatness: An evolution of Bilbo through experience, battles and travel. Armitage wonderfully projects royalty and authority while still being constrained of being a dwarf.
Ian McKellen's return as the wizard Gandalf is as always legendary, comedic and a prophet.
Andy Serkis's Smeagol is beautifully detailed and we see an example of Bilbo expressing empathy in sparing such a tortured soul. His schizophrenic tendencies reminded me of certain work in psychology and how such a condition can develop when faced with such an isolated situation and corrupting power.
Regarding others in the dwarf company conclude in being far too many for individual analysis.
As a group and collective they provide excessive amounts of humour and energy.
At the same time they endure the heavy burden, the ongoing hardship of having lost their home and are fighting to have their home back.
We see many Lord of the Rings characters return such as Frodo, Saruman, Galadriel, Elrond. It is full of detail which excels even the book yet keeping the playful nature in tact.
I loved seeing Radhagast the brown, the elves, a younger 'pure' seemingly good version of Sauron, the three trolls, teased with brief glimpses of Smaug, then witnessing those riddles in the dark where Bilbo encounters Smeagol... Breathtaking landscapes and architecture which resparks urges to travel and be in natural spheres once more in life.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is perfection and is one the best films to ever be made in this lifetime alongside the LOTR trilogy.
Great storytelling, amazing visuals, wonderful performances.
The film grips audiences via a multitude of levels in a relentless manner. This film is sending a clear message to those truly listening:
We are part of something greater than ourselves, fighting for something older towards a secured future. Striving now for a return to greatness, reforged and even greater upon realisation and action.
Our home and our way of life will be reclaimed. Order will be restored. This is the beginning.

"We will reclaim our homeland. I will take each and every one of these dwarves over the mightiest army. Loyalty, honor, a willing heart, I can ask no more than that."

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Revolution is War.

Posted : 6 years ago on 15 November 2012 10:59 (A review of Battleship Potemkin)

''Revolution is war. Of all the wars known in history it is the only lawful, rightful, just and great war. In Russia this war has been declared and begun.''
– Lenin, 1905.

A dramatized account of a great Russian naval mutiny and a resulting street demonstration which brought on a police massacre.

Aleksandr Antonov: Grigory Vakulinchuk - Bolshevik Sailor

Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels once spoke about Battleship Potemkin:
"A marvelous film without equal in the cinema ... anyone who had no firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after seeing the film." That is a brief statement which partly sums up the power of Battleship Potemkin.
The film was not banned in Nazi Germany. Why? I feel it is because the content speaks for itself, it demands respect and attention from enemies and friends alike.
It is an example of perfected propaganda and glorifying art for the cause, capturing the storm of change and the ideological perfection captured upon the screen which invokes the masses to rise up against oppressors.

The mesmerising efforts, films and works of Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein in the early days of Soviet Union's cinema easily beats anything Hollywood made in the same era. The musical score is a tempest of energy and passion, the imagery retains an intense and avant-garde style and transitions smoothly allow the audience to absorb the clever storytelling.
For Director Sergei Eisenstein cinema was an art with a multitude of reflections thus his concluding montage fuses the meanings of images, words and music into a powerful piece.
A work and labour of ideological patriotic art depicting the struggle of overcoming the artificial confining class system.

Battleship Potemkin is split into five sections:

1) Men and Maggots: This chapter focuses on food and hygiene. The sailors are subjected to poor conditions while the higher ranking officers are not.

2) Drama on the Deck: This chapter focuses on morality and religion which it shows as a distraction or I should say as a form of control. The crew however dismiss superstition when used against their rebellion.

3) A Dead Man Calls for Justice: Addresses the death or martyrdom of the fallen leader/hero Vakulinchuk.
The funeral is used as a political demonstration against the rule of the Tsar.
Community being a potential replacement for an oppressive government.

4) The Odessa Staircase: Shows the evils of the soldiers and regime of the Tsar. Any uprising is killed or suppressed regardless of whether it involves men, women or children. This chapter clearly feels like it is provoking or enticing the audience, which I write about further on as well.
This scene has been an inspiration for many film-makers since this period.
A fine example and tribute from recent years is Terry Gilliam's cult classic Brazil which honours this scene.
Who can forget the pram with the baby descending faster and faster down the steps as the chaos continues to escalate? It is unforgettable.
Even a century after its creation, the chapter on the Odessa staircase is still highly impressive.

5) The rendezvous with the Squadron: The conclusion depicts the glory and patriotism in which the ideology allows freedom for the masses.
There is a sense of productivity, patriotism and unity. No oppression.

Battleship Potemkin offers many beautiful examples of detail and perfect cinematography: The audience are treated to the visual splendor of small and dark rooms where the sailors reside, then alternate between big and light rooms of the tsarist officers.
Beautiful dishes with religious inscriptions for the priviledged bourgeoise on board and the foul dead meat for the sailors (workers/oppressed).
We bare witness on another segment to the sadness of a despaired woman that loses her young child whom is coldly dispatched by gunshot while under the onslaught of pitiless, merciless imperialists. The resulting bloodbath attempts to touch a nerve and provoke the audience into waking up to such chains.
Eisenstein gives you an idea regarding the sheer enormity of these oppressive forces dressed with dramatization, relentlessly descending upon the suffering citizens.
The director and makers are constantly working to breathe life into the ideology by means of stirring up the emotions of his audience, especially in this chapter on the Odessa steps. It is a success in many ways.

Battleship Potemkin focuses on the rebellion and the solidarity of a collective crowd, effectively displaying emotion and expression when focusing on facial expressions or epic ongoings.
This film is a treasure filled with details and perfection from an artistic point of view. Ahead of its time.

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Hunted by your future. Haunted by your past.

Posted : 6 years, 1 month ago on 28 September 2012 07:10 (A review of Looper)

"I work as a specialized assassin, in an outfit called the Loopers. When my organization from the future wants someone to die, they zap them back to me and I eliminate the target from the future. The only rule is: never let your target escape... even if your target is you."

In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Joe

Bruce Willis: Old Joe

Wind the clock back to 2005 where we had Rian Johnson's Brick being released and new comer Joseph Gordon-Levitt giving an amazing performance in a complex puzzler within a mystery detective piece.
Thus comes Rian's latest work Looper: A sci-fi dystopian time travel piece set in the near future and beyond.
From just having seen it while being equally excited by the prospect, the film and experience, certainly lived up to expectations and beyond.
Looper is among the best films of 2012 and a science fiction marvel with a fascinating twist and examination of time travel.

Looper tells the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hit-man working for a professional crime syndicate whose primary function is assassinating targets sent from the future. After being confronted with his future self (Bruce Willis) and failing to kill him and close the loop, Young Joe is forced to track down Old Joe and finish the job before being tracked down himself by the nefarious mob led by Abe (Jeff Daniels).
The story however, as expected, results in being far more complicated and certainly not straight forward in the slightest.
Director Rian Johnson doesn't hesitate when it comes to keeping revelations secret from the audience until the plot develops and the film progresses. This helps build momentum and tension causing the characters and story to be fleshed out to the right degree.

Looper is action packed, thrilling, dark and thought provoking. An element of chase in the style of Logan's Run mixed with the time travel science fiction in the vein of 12 Monkeys;.
Many of the segments and processes put forth, although disturbingly graphic and violently explosive, are curiously unique, bringing light upon morality, greed, duties, and coming to a conclusion with regards to our past or with knowledge concerning our future.
Closing the loop by eliminating your future version, telekinesis, dystopia poverty with extreme divides between rich and poor, one way time travel, a film noir narration with serious undertones and unwavering meaning, executing bloody revenge in a semi-futuristic world, and the unforgiving, darkly serious tone of mistakes and redemption play out amusingly and unexpectedly. Looper isn't continuous action sequences and that is the biggest asset, reserving moments to create complex characters and time travel plot mechanisms.
In other words: It takes the time necessary painting a picture regarding the storytelling.
Looper has entertainment value, fascinating characters, ideas, concepts and powerful intent laced with intensity.

Overall, the film and story presents us with a deeper aspect: Choice. How purpose can be blinded by material gain and time can be taken for granted? Do we sell our souls for vast wealth even if it means we will only live for another 30 years? Then what happens if we find love in that time? This changes the whole picture as the protaganist must fight for this love aspect.
What are the limits or boundaries when it comes to what we would do for this?
Looper on another level shows our actions and choices have consequences and repercussions. In the present these future possibilities and that hindsight remains enigmatically unseen by ourselves because we can't see who or what will enter our lives to change our stance or view. Our perspective and persona is constantly learning and changing over time. Many years from now, and Looper is a reminder of this: Will you still be the same person? Let time change you in a way that benefits your way of life where existing isn't just a case of material gain. A life with higher significance. A higher purpose is acquired in time. Looper teaches us the importance of purpose and change. That our greatest enemy can sometimes come from within and to conclude this struggle is a matter of acceptance and balance.

"This is my life now, you've had yours already."

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Paprika, is the inside of my head this messed up?

Posted : 6 years, 1 month ago on 28 September 2012 06:06 (A review of Paprika)

"That's right, keep running. There are no boundaries to dreams. The spirit will be freed from the constraints of the body... and gain limitless freedom. Including me! I will also be free!"

When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patient's dreams is stolen, all hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist can stop it: Paprika.

Megumi Hayashibara: Paprika / Chiba Atsuko (voice)

There comes these rare moments and times when life throws at you a film or artwork which screams freshness, overwhelms the senses and stimulates on an intellectual level which is complete and utter fun. The kind of craziness which maintains a high quality and visual sweetness laden with imagination.
Director Satoshi Kon's Paprika, adapted from Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel and combined with a killer screenplay by Seishi Minakami.
When a masterpiece like Paprika can inspire someone like Christopher Nolan to create a concept and film such as Inception, you know you've found the source and inspiration from where those roots originated.

Paprika is a Japanese anime film via subtitles which retains a plot and soundtrack which in my experience instantaneously ends up being addictive and likeable as soon as it begins. The music was written by Susumu Hirasawa: Beautiful yet quirky.
The storytelling and the infused artwork make this a treasure for audiences time and time again. How many films can boast a story which involves technology, dreams and higher concepts contained in an animation styled piece? What projects ooze a realism yet then have the dual pull of being surreal, eerily original and an examination of the subconscious and the psychology of the mind.
Not many if any at all come close to what Paprika succeeds in bringing to our attention.
So... A female research psychologist who goes up against thieves who steal dream technology and develops an alter-ego named Paprika... Yes, it had me at that.
It is truly thought provoking, for example, when a recurring corridor scene with the detective and you see some sort of murder and chase taking place...
The dream never lets the detective catch up with the mysterious shooter in the distance. He is always out of reach. This is one of many scenes which actually captures the uncontrollability of being frozen or trapped in a dream which truly scares us and renders us powerless. A dream which feels like a prison and when we wake up it actually comes as a relief to distinguish reality from dream.
The twist comes in the sense that later on, the detective is shown in a segment, actually being the victim and the shooter. A very strange case of him shooting himself. This was a fascinating possibility and totally disorientating in so many ways.

Paprika isn't afraid of letting loose all punches and shocks: It is a mind fuck and it doesn't pretend to be an easily travelled journey.
It is fun. It is crazy. It is thought provoking. Need I say more?
This is a film and story which will show how dangerous technology could be if it could allow others to access our minds and dreams.
What could doctors and scientists or anyone accessing your subconscious mind do or change inside your dreams? Would the dreamer have more willpower or control over proceedings? It would depend on who is stronger or weaker and this would determine the level of manipulation and danger involved.

This film comes highly recommended and without giving anymore away I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed it, with the added factor that you remain pondering and going over various concepts and ideas the film throws at you.
Paprika seems to be about human nature and control. What gives us the right to invade an individual's privacy? Is there any point when it can be justified? The questions stand and you can ponder them with me.
This journey then shows us how everyone wants something different and that sometimes these desires, aims or objectives conflict with each other.
The interesting conclusion is that light can overcome darkness and reality inspires our dreams where we can mutate and adjust them from our perceptions. Paprika makes dreams come true.

"I, who stand before you, am the protector of your dreams. I wonder what kind of punishment will befall the ignorant commoner who tries to enter this sacred dream?"

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Lies may lead to truth.

Posted : 6 years, 2 months ago on 14 September 2012 02:44 (A review of A Separation)

"What is wrong is wrong, no matter who said it or where it's written."

A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.

Peyman Moadi: Nader

Leila Hatami: Leila Hatami (Simin)

A beautiful film and story is born from writer and director Asghar Farhadi. It comes in the form of this real, moving masterpiece A Separation.
The beauty comes from the way it transports us and shows us a way of life and we the audience become part of this existence. It is intriguing. It is interesting. It is, in my opinion, very beautiful, painful and real.

The cast, all previously unknown to me, give performances which echo realistic and powerful resonance. The complex yet subtle tones of a couple struggling to stay together, breaking even under a traditional and strict system in Iran. Yet we have his father suffering from Alzheimer's accompanied by his daughter confused by the ongoing fragmentation of her parents marriage.
The later added conflict with a woman whom is caring for the elderly father and then the blame and distortion regarding the situation and truth behind it all.

A Separation succeeds in being a dramatic tempest, a storm of human emotion and social uncertainty. The film gives us at the same time an insight into life in Iran, not just the traditions, the disciplines, the everyday workings of everyday people.
As we the audience accompany the characters on their respective journeys and routines, we also see how fused the Law and Religion are in Iran. How pious and strict they follow their beliefs and how it guides them with rules, honour and respect. The Qur'an is followed and stands as a basis for all people.
Religion and politics are entwined in Iran. At times I felt that the West could learn from the positive aspects of having this: Respect, routine, tradition and discipline versus the evils of extreme, total, liberal freedom.
Life has taught me that people need balance. They need air to breathe and they need space to grow... Yet they also need a purpose to do so.

As the film progresses the film asks us: What is truth? Who is telling the truth? Are honest people sometimes blinded by confusion regarding lies? How do we deal with loss and change in a society or World that encourages everything to remain the same?

A Separation is a story and film which deserves all Awards it garnered. It succeeds in being a very moving, deep piece intent on playing with our emotions: The victory lies in realism. We can all relate to the dramatic proceedings and the struggles the characters face when in conflict with each other. This is the human condition. This is temporary. Yet A Separation teaches us that these negative times do not weaken us but in fact they make us stronger. We learn and strive to not just overcome these argumentative dramas, but we grow and leave them behind.
The ending leaves us with the couple, and the daughter deciding which parent she wants to live with as they separate:
Particular questions I end up asking are these, "Should a child, a son or a daughter even have to decide between her parents? How can we choose between loved ones? How can we have one moment to decide upon a life altering conclusion?"
The film leaves the ending up to us. An ambiguous conclusion where it is up to us to answer and decide for ourselves. Such is life.

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Why do we fall?

Posted : 6 years, 2 months ago on 10 September 2012 02:48 (A review of The Dark Knight Rises)

"I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

Christian Bale: Bruce Wayne

The trader states, "This is a stock exchange. There's no money for you to steal!"
While Bane coolly, resolutely responds, "Brother. Then why are you people here?"
The beauty is we can relate to many of the issues and problems within the story and this complex reality mirroring our own.
The Dark Knight Rises from legendary visionary Christopher Nolan succeeds in being a multifaceted epic piece which isn't just a dark, gritty graphic novel in the same vein as Frank Miller's books. It is a reminder about the problems we face in our World ranging from class struggle, greed and money, economics, politics... while the innocent are tainted by these factors with the label: Criminality... Then how we live our lives is ultimately engulfed within lies and decadence that surmount to our system of bondage. Truth is sacrificed because it is easier and cleaner to live a lie. The Batman has become the true vigilante because he wants Gotham to survive, he chooses the lesser of two evils... But The Dark Knight Rises asks us: At what cost?

The cast from The Dark Knight Rises is a sublime assemble with a few particulars whom shine and stand out. We have the old favourites: Micheal Caine and Morgan Freeman. Christian Bale as our dark vigilante and Bruce Wayne yet again.
Anne Hathaway as Selina with her Catwoman dual identity marks a memorable, sexy femme fatale professional thief. She perfectly captures and steals the audience with her curvy, seductive costume and her magnetic, unpredictable personality. Anne Hathaway makes her character truly believable and... adaptable indeed.
The antagonist of this piece Bane, played by an unrecognisable Tom Hardy, is another jewel in the crown. He is often seen as a stereotypical villain, yet also there are times where most of us can agree with his convictions and his views regarding the corruption and decadence which is spreading from a system and place rotten to the core in all fields: Whether it is a question of morality or economics, lies or truth.
His mask and physical appearance portray a powerful, muscular figure matched by an angry, extremely radical mentality wherein he knows what his goals are, he knows what his aims and objectives are... And he is the radical extremist whom is willing to carry out those revolutionary visions belonging to the group he is affiliated with.
As Bane makes his speech to the city we intently listen: "We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you... the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For and army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. The police will survive, as they learn to serve true justice. This great city... it will endure. Gotham will survive!" He is becoming a revolutionary propagandist setting up his own lie before destroying it all. As the plot progresses we are given another question: Who is serving whom?
Cleverly, Bane is a complex and epic character who emulates the perfect mysterious leader and prophet like character: Ra's Al Ghul. Played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins, he makes a welcome cameo in this third instalment.
Bane cannot be controlled by money, or intimidation, or anything or anyone: He is dedicated and driven. In those ways I find his character refreshing and inspirational.

"Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!
...The shadows betray you, because they belong to me!
...Ah, yes... I was wondering what would break first...
Your spirit, or your body?"

Upon reflection, and on a personal note, I found the love element, which presents a problem and conflict for Bruce Wayne to be distantly similar. I could relate to pain and suffering because some of us have had to deal with losing someone, with loss or heart ache. That point where we think we will never meet anyone else because that person we lost was the only person... That we would love for life. Like Bruce Wayne we cannot see at that point in time ever being able to establish that deeper connection ever again.
So when the audience, for example, sees that emotional scene with Alfred and Bruce having a heart felt conversation...

Alfred: [about Selina Kyle] You two should exchange notes over coffee.
Bruce Wayne: So now you're trying to set me up with a jewel thief?
Alfred: At this point, I'd set you up with a chimpanzee if it'd brought you back to the world!
Bruce Wayne: There's nothing out there for me.
Alfred: And that's the problem. You hung up your cape and your cowl, but you didn't move on, you never went to find a life, to find someone...
Bruce Wayne: Alfred... I did find someone.
Alfred: I know, and you lost her. But that's all part of living, sir. But you're not living. You're just waiting, hoping for things to go bad again.

When I listened to that you realise some of us can relate to this in so many ways: It's a painful reminder yet it is a hard lesson for those of us who find it difficult to let go because something or someone meant so much to us it takes a long time for change to come, to adjust to a life without them there. How can we live if we can't move on? The answer is we can't function, we can't live... It is hell. But we can overcome this ourselves, on our own. Then we are stronger for it.

The Dark Knight Rises is another unique masterpiece birthed from one of my personal favourites: Christopher Nolan. The inspirational legendary director seems to tap into what life is about, everytime he constructs and unleashes a story or film it concludes in being a puzzle. A puzzle full of twists, turns and perfected storytelling, where we are not just entertained, not just stimulated but made to think and indeed, he cleverly gives the mind lots to be inspired by regarding intellectual nourishment.
When we arrive at the end of The Dark Knight Rises it isn't the same as when we begun, nor was it what we expected. It is a beautiful example of love, light and hope.
The end shows us one person can make a difference. That happy endings do exist. That truth can triumph over falseness. Where light can triumph over darkness and where good and evil are clearly defined.
The Batman is a symbol and idea which isn't just restricted to one man. Like the phoenix rising and being reborn from the ashes so is a new hero rising within the darkness with water falling. A rising sun showing light will have its day... Or indeed Knight.

"Not a lot of people know what it feels like to be angry, in your bones. I mean, they understand, foster parents, everybody understands, for awhile. Then they want the angry little kid to do something he knows he can't do, move on. So after awhile they stop understanding. They send the angry kid to a boys home. I figured it out too late. You gotta learn to hide the anger, practice smiling in the mirror. It's like putting on a mask."

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