Thursday, January 20

(Mini) Midweek Movie Madness

Okay, so technically we're past the midweek - but what IS time but something we came up with to explain why we're so hungry during the days, and why "night" is good for a..myriad of activities.

I nearly forgot: American Idol's back. It's nice to see Simon and crew again, although Paula DOES look like she's had a little too much Xmas turkey. Still - it made for an entertaining slot tonight, with some really horrible attempts, but we know we see that every year.

But I digress. Since I can't possibly achieve the deep thought and sociological vision necessary to elevate this particular blog into some sort of a fifth estate (no, no link there, try PPS; although I DID spend some time in rubber estates playing when I was a kid - does that count?) entity, I'll do what I've been doing for the past two years or so, which pretty much involves me pleasing myself (and perhaps some kindred souls out there). Anyway. If you're looking for some entertainment this weekend, here are some choice picks I've been meaning to review for the longest time, but never had the time to. As of the time of publishing (I fully expect that in the near future most blogs will have set publishing times, you know, like newspapers -Read Ash.Ox Morning Edition at 545 am!!!) these are all available in reliable D9 durian format from your friendly neighbourhood vendor (except Paranoia Agent).

Please don't shoot them, okay?

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow

I didn't expect to be impressed by this, but I remember reading some reviews last year which were really favourable towards this highly stylised flick and upon viewing I was suitably entertained. Yummy Brit boy Jude Law (also Alfie this year), Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi star in this art-deco-ised science fiction movie set in an alternate 1940s. When several scientists go missing and a plague of strange machines invade major cities around the world, it's up to plucky reporter Polly Perkins (Paltrow) and her heroic old flame the Sky Captain (Law) to get to the bottom of the mystery. Along the way they bump into Shangrila, remnants of obscene nuclear experiments, and Angelina Jolie in one of her sexiest roles I've ever seen her in. Everything about the film screams of attention to detail, especially when you bear in mind the actors had to act with little to no props or locations at all. It's not for everyone, that's for sure; but if you're in the mood for something with a little vintage feel to it but still rollicking enough for a few hours, check this one out. The disc also comes with several notable extras including the original 6 minute short film that inspired the making, and commentary tracks. Audio and video quality's excellent overall, although truth be told I WAS expecting the aural component to be a bit more earth shattering. Transfer rates are in the high 6 megabits, if you're into that sort of thing.

3.5 out of 5

Paranoia Agent Discs One and Two

If we equate anime greats like Miyazaki, Mamoru Oshii, Katsuhiro Otomo and Shinichiro Watanabe to Disney, The Wachowski Brothers, Spielberg and others respectively, Satoshi Kon MUST be the Asian counterpart to David Lynch, at least. In a time when anime series are starting to get mired in their own convoluted twists and turns (I fear the worst for Naruto, for example) Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue) proves that you don't need robots, explosions or big bosomed heroines to craft a compelling, disturbing tale. Set in an undisclosed time that looks suspiciously like our present, Paranoia Agent (Mousou Dairirin)'s episodic format presents intertwining tales that whilst incredibly confusing on their own meshes into something that may literally change the way you look at animated series. Ever. A series of vicious beatings prompt two detectives to try and get to the bottom of the case. Does the mysterious assailant (called Shounen Bat) really exist, or he is just a figment of the victims' repressed, unspoken fears? Who can be trusted? A cop who builds a new house for his family only to tape his 17 year old daughter undressing in her own bedroom? The school tutor whose split personality compels her to become a high class prostitute at night? What of the kid who vomits maths formulas during an exam?

There are no blacks OR whites in Agent - just increasing shades of gray until the final, shocking denouement. Audio/video quality could be better, with a lot of artifacting perhaps due to the low bit rate. Subs are generally competent although I expect the fansub community to quickly come up with an even better version soon (please do!). In short - this is one series any anime fan worth their salt should check out. This one is available from eflix (Link).

4.5 out of 5

Onmyoji 2

The sequel to 2001's surprise hit, Onmyoji 2 sees previous actors Mansai Nomura and Hideaki Ito reprising their roles in the Heian capital of Old Japan, vanquishing a new evil - this time in the form of a vengeful reborn god. Nomura returns as the enigmatic court wizard Abe no Seimei whilst good friend and nobleman Hiromasa (Ito) again pulls them both into a whole new adventure. Along for the ride is hottie Kyoko Fukada (as Lady Himiko) and Hayato Ichihara as an unwitting and unwilling god. A word of warning - this isn't like your average blood and gore chambara. Instead, the story is told in a deliberate manner, with loads of emphasis on the customs and mannerisms of the kingdom at a time. Having said that, there's enough atmosphere, magic, blood, demons and even a semi boob shot of Fukada to reward adventurous souls. Recommended, but check the first one out. It helps. This is available in VCD format from eflix or DVD in durian. Picture and sound quality are about average for Japanese releases as they don't seem to worry too much about artifacting and video fidelity. You won't be stretching that new plasma LCD on this one.

3 out of 5

Other notable releases include Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Stander (which seems to be a bloody good flick) and Kandahar. There are also several foreign/indie flicks that I'd love to get my hands on...but not yet. Also, if you're so inclined, a six disc version of the Kamasutra is out on durian, so if any of you out there need some pointers, I'd be happy to hook you up.

Well that's about all the time I have for this week - especially since it's going to be one HELL of a January. So enjoy the weekend, and do come back for more bits on movies, games, pr0n and almost anything that's digital - or not. All absolutely estate-free, of course.

Oh, by the way: Nigella Lawson is now on Astro. Thank you, God.