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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

I don't like historical stories. Whether the old bygone period is set in warring Japan, colonial America or jolly old England I am very disinclined to pick up any kind of story set in those times. This particular aversion of mine could be traced back to my schooling days where I had to take History as a subject and thanks to my brain's horrible memory with dates, it has become a subject that I have very few fond memories of. So then what was I doing at the movies watching one of those based on a true story period pieces? I needed to do something while I waited for my brother to be done with the party and this was the highest rated movie available there. Were those ratings well deserved? I happy to say that they really were.

The movie follows the life of the Duke of York a.k.a. Bertie and his trials and tribulations in the decade prior to his coronation as King George VI. This particular English monarch was known to have a speech impediment in the form of a stammer and the story depicts his attempts to overcome it with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue. Of course, some dramatic and artistic liberties were taken here but from I've read, Mr. Logue's methods were as unconventional in real as they were on the silver screen. Some of the lines were also based on notes left behind in the real man's journal too though I honestly can't tell which ones were totally made up and which ones had a basis to go on. I really am curious to know whether or not the man actually did make a prince shout out "fuckfuckshitshitshittyshitshishitbuggerfuckshitfuckbloodyfuckfuckfuckandtits". That's not the actual line from the movie though, I paraphrased it due to my shoddy memory.

As you can most probably infer from the previous paragraph, the movie has its fair share of humor mixed in with the drama. I have always had a high regard for the British wit this movie features some truly brilliant bits of dialogue. Lionel is a huge source of all the subtle comedy that you'll see here as he likes to go around jabbing sticks around at authority. The man had big enough balls to sit on some holy chair and sacrilegiously point out that people have carved their names in the wood that seated a fair number of "assholes"(His words, not mine). The scripting was obviously top-notch while the cinematography that went with it was fitfully impeccable. No scene was wasted and no reason to leave your seat, even for a little while, was given. After the magnificent first and a half hours of the film I just couldn't bear to miss any of the last twenty minutes even for the toilet break I was in dire need of and I would recommend anyone finding themselves in a similar situation to mine to follow my lead as missing those last few minutes would mean doing an injustice to not only yourself but to every moviegoer in there with you.

Do not misunderstand my praises though. My words thus far may seem to paint the movie as surprise comedy but the movie is still at heart a dramaticly heartwarming tale of a man that fought hard to serve his duty to the best of his abilities. Colin Firth portrayal of the burdened man was so convincing in his anguish that I actually found his struggles to be rather moving. Watching the guy go through speech therapy looks incredibly comedic at first but gradually it becomes so very clear just how big of a hurdle this was to Bertie. By the time the climax arrives, you're going to be on the edge of your seats, silently cheering him on, as he works his way through that lengthy three minute speech. Many movies failed to induce tension into their audience and where so, so, so many life-or-death explosion-filled battles were incapable of doing so, this three minute speech by a man still struggling with his speech impediment had my complete and utter attention as he tried not to stumble on the devilish contraption that is the wireless. I honestly wanted to join in on the clapping that shortly followed the king's speech but it was a very bare theater and I wasn't so sure if I wanted to get odd looks.

In short, the movie was marvelously spectacular and deserves a going to the cinema right now. They even extended the screenings to the rest of the world after it did so well back on native soil even though it was never meant to. Fellow Bruneians should know that the screenings are set at the new smaller theaters with the very comfy chairs and surprisingly chilly air-conditioning. I will certainly be adding this to my list of favorite films and I hope that it wins whatever awards they've got lined up for grabbing. I dare anyone who's seen this to try and tell me why Colin Firth shouldn't be getting the Best Actor award of 2010 for playing Bertie cause there's simply no competition with this role.

Monday, 14 February 2011

A Fascinatingly Underwhelming Dream in a Quiet Mind

Just woke up from a most interesting dream. It was interesting in the way that my dreams are normally of a fantastic and grand nature, encompassing amazing worlds, strange surreal concepts and strings of events that make very little sense if I were to try explain them. My latest one came to me in one unintended cat nap after having taken a shower preceded by an exhausting session of training. Though I am a little annoyed at having lost three hours of wakefulness, this dream I had gave me a very rare opportunity to think in a way I can't even recall doing at all - let me think slowly and quietly.

Basically this dream just involved me thinking. I had just finished reading the first part of the second installment in Nisio Isin's Zaregoto light novel series and my eyes felt a little heavy. Between that and the comfort of my bed, I should have gotten out of there asap if I didn't want to lose any time awake but you only need one guess to predict the outcome. Sadly, the sweet temptations of a short, peaceful slumber is all too enticing to me and takes much, much more willpower to overcome than I care to admit. If this world worked like an RPG, my status screen would show a 0% resistance towards the "sleep" status condition and I'd be completely useless in an area where the enemies specialized in attacks that induced that particular condition.

There I lay, halfway between wakefulness and unconsciousness knowing precisely what consequences waited for me if I continued to extend my rest. On what was probably my eighth internal debate, I had already fallen into dreamland even though I was still lucid enough to realize it. Realize it I did not as the dream i had was a continuation of my reality at the time: I was dreaming that I was awake and trying to decide when I should get up. Before long I just decided to continue on with my rest but I found that for some reason I didn't seem to be getting any sleepier and that for some reason my mind was at peace. No buzzings and whispers that I have to drown out with my "louder", more deliberate thoughts but an actual period of calm and silence that just seemed so odd and new to me. Fascination took hold of me and I gave in to the impulse to see how long this quiet period would last and lied there on my dream bed, unmoving and unthinking for I don't know how long. Eventually, a thought came out of me. A speculation on the book I just read, a clearly composed prediction that I never considered consciously and it came to me alone in perfect clarity. Another one quickly followed, still quiet, clear, unconscious in nature and all on its own. I was amazed. My thoughts had never been so... unmessy. For once I couldn't describe it as lots of trains leaving a single station and arriving at lots of different stations along lots of different routes at different times.

Even in my clearest moments, I still had background thinking going underway though they all pertained my assessment of whatever situation I was dealing with. This was different and felt completely new to me. It really made me wonder if other people thought like that and if my level headed thinking and inability to give in to panic or fear was because my way of thinking made it much, much harder for me to feel overwhelmed. It still sounds as arrogant as I thought it did prior to my dream but now I had my own instance where thinking worked in such a manner and it gave me something to make a comparison with. I can't claim myself to be a genius but I have to agree with the consensus that I am at the very least, very clever. Still, it's not a cleverness in the proper and smart way since my methods and motives rarely prioritize being proper over enjoyment but it's certainly a cleverness that gives me an edge over most. It does get cumbersome at times, especially at times when it would be better not to notice what others overlook be it intentional on their part or otherwise. Hopefully, I will get future opportunities to experience so I can understand people more easily. It would be good to refresh my understanding of fear as well. After all, it wouldn't do to advertise myself as a master of fear if I were to get so out of touch with it that I've forgotten what overcoming it feels like.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Videos: Renai Circulation CAN gross you out

Renai Circulation, an anime opening engineered to induce an overload of moe into all those who watched it by means of soft, whimsical colors visually, sweet seemingly innocent vocals courtesy of Kanazawa Hana aurally and the cute, adorable antics of the character it's about. It pleases me to say I have found a remix(?) video that packs as much of a punch as the original only not in the way that the original was intended to. This video is an MMD among many that made it into the top 100 on nico nico douga's rankings today and it managed to not only tickle my funny bone but also give me goosebumps at how disgusting seeing some of the characters inserted into the video singing their takes on the song. I don't know if that was intentional or not but that Doraemon guy and Snake singing were very disturbing. Have a watch and see what I mean.

Renai Circulation MMD by 瓜玉子さん

Original Renai Circulation OP Bluray Version

Orchestral Version by Taste

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Manga Review: Our Dear Tamura-kun

 A love triangle manga! And I liked it!? Between that and Duke Nukem Forever there must be flying pigs out there somewhere.

Title: Our Dear Tamura-kun
Author: Takemiya Yuyuko, Kurafuji Sachi
Release: Monthly
Status: Complete
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Art: A
Originality: A
Story: A
Characters: A
Humor: A
Action: A

Impression: Hahaha. It’s been a while since I’ve read a love comedy series this entertaining. I normally don’t go for pure romances but this got my attention when I was browsing some raw manga thanks to its art style and the summary that went with it. And to my honest surprise, I actually liked it a lot and seeing as Toradora is one of my favorite series I should have picked this up for a read a long time ago since they’re both written by the same authors. The story is about an average high school boy by the name of Tamura Yukisada who fell for a quiet, loopy girl that moved away the summer prior and how he tries to make sense of the chaos that is a hormonal teenager’s love life. Now starting high school, he faces another girl, an ice queen, who quickly puts the two of them at odds with one another with her standoffish demeanor and her inexplicable attempts at trying to associate with him. The fact that she conked him out with a present thrown through his window meant for his brother didn’t help in the least. They soon become close to each other, close enough to share a kiss, but he isn’t sure what to make of it as he still has feelings for that odd and demure girl from his middle school days. Quite an interesting love triangle story this one is. For most part, the first girl only appears in flashbacks showing how significant they became to one another while the other girl gets closer to the lead thanks to her active attempts at befriending him despite her very, very crude methods at doing so but neither ever actually meet the other making this love triangle one very different from the norm. In the end though, it all comes down to how devoted the main character is devoted to his first love and surprisingly enough the “losing” girl handles it very maturely at the end showing off just how well developed the characters in this series are. I do have a minor gripe about how the protagonist came to his answer as the event that triggered it could only be described as a very timely coincidence that happened during a very time critical moment. But hey, that coincidence led to a satisfyingly heartwarming conclusion so I’ll have to let it slide. After all, Shakespeare had a similar thing happen in one of his stories but Romeo and Juliet is still being remembered as a classic of the classics so it’s much more forgivable in comparison since it didn’t lead to a tragedy. Here’s the figurative bottom line, I enjoyed this series immensely for its refreshing take on the love triangle plot, the depth of the characters and its great balance of light-hearted comedy and heart-wrenching drama. Even the side stories were a lot of fun to read so I do hope you won’t try to pass this up cause you’ll miss out on a good read.

Manga Reviews Index

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Went to watch the Green Hornet earlier when I was having a new pair of spectacles made. Hadn’t changed them in five years so I figured I needed to kill some time with a movie before they got done. The Green Hornet wasn’t even on my “watch eventually” list but compared to the rest of the stuff that they were showing I decided that I’ll go with Seth Rogen’s latest work. I liked Pineapple Express and thought the music from the trailer was pretty kickass so I forked over cash to sit in on it. By the end of it I had two questions in my mind: 1) How is a man-child like Seth Rogen not one of those lousy Hollywood hacks that dare call themselves writers? 2) When’s the sequel?

The movie stars Seth Rogen as Brit Reid a.k.a. the Green Hornet, a party animal who’s the sole heir to a major newspaper company his father created, and Jay Chou as Kato, the mysterious Chinaman who grew up on the streets to be an engineering genius that works on the cars of rich men, kicks ass like some deranged renegade Mossad agent on the run and makes coffee so good that you just can’t live without it. Brit’s a disappointment in his father’s eyes so when he kicks the bucket, he decides to have a wild night out on the town by cutting off his memorial statue’s head with the help of Kato once he finds out just how awesome his coffee maker is. This leads them to a brawl with some gangbangers that start them off on their careers as pseudo-villain heroes.

Like I mentioned before, Seth Rogen is a surprisingly good writer. Barring the first dull twenty or so minutes of the movie, the writing’s pretty damn solid and even manages to play off the usual conventions of superhero movies to the point where the movie almost seems to be a deconstruction of the genre. The main characters are, at best, morally grey as they have no qualms about doing harm to the general populace, destroying public property and outright murder. At one point I had to feel sorry for the designated villain of the movie. Sure he doesn’t look like much but that’s no reason to keep putting down his style. If anything, he should be putting down theirs. The man had a double barreled gun, single handedly took out an up and coming gang and isn’t afraid to step in and brutalize his enemies in ways that cannot be considered as anything less than overkill. It makes me wonder about the man’s self-esteem as those greenhorns somehow managed to get him to switch from his casual suitwear to that hammy lame-ass red supervillain theme he had in the end. Still, that red motif contributed a good number of jokes to the already numerous repertoire to be had, most of which were sexual innuendos that flew over the heads of my fellow moviegoers half the time.

Aside from the refreshingly lighthearted yet serious script that drove the movie, the direction deserves it share of praise too. There was one particular scene that struck me as it really set the tone for the final act of the movie where the shit gets real. Seeing the antagonist send out a hit on the Green Hornet and just how in control he was of the city’s underbelly made for a great start to it. The action scenes were incredibly good as well and the Mythbusters will have you understand just how the absurdity of it all only made the film better. It wasn’t just the overt awesomeness of the stunts that made them so much fun to watch but the subtle ways they worked out on film. Some may only appreciate seeing a land rover fly over a bush and onto a road for the novelty of the flyover itself. I appreciated seeing that from a long shot as I’ve rarely seen one it shot from that angle making it all the more impressive. That was done by one of the bad guys by the way, everyone gets a chance to shine in these scenes really. Well, everyone named at least.

I'm no fan of the original source of the story or the very premise of this movie but the staff behind it made it work. It's not brilliant, it's not deep and the pretentious will be very inclined to call this film one only the juvenile and immature would enjoy but I had a great time watching this. Man-child be damned, Seth Rogen is a good writer and I cannot consider both Pineapple Express and the Green Hornet to be flukes. I can honestly tell you that this movie was one worth watching and it's worth watching at your nearest cinema. Perhaps if you are as fortunate as I was, you might even get seated next to some aesthetically pleasing bimbos that have watched the movie already. They certainly didn't make my movie experience any worse though they did make me wonder if there's more truth than meets the eye in that comparison between myself and a certain legendary lover of bimbos and suits.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Gurren Lagann Parallel Works Series 2

Heard about the new set of parallel works quite a number of months ago but I somehow forgot to check them out. From what I saw here, it seems that those rumors about Gainax animators loving their job were not unfounded. I could also see that they were working up to Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt with these cause I can see Stocking's swords in Big Building and plenty of English in Kittan Zero. All the videos are pretty interesting though if I have to pick a favorite it'd have to be The Sense of Wonder for it's great fairy tale-like ambience. The music in that one reminded me of Legend of Mana for some reason. Goodbye Dai-Gurren and Kittan Zero come pretty close too, it was nice seeing what the cast did off screen. I would like to get a full version of that jazz song in Goodbye Dai-Gurren though but I doubt that'll ever come to be. If you missed out on these videos in the past months then I would suggest you take some time and watch them. The staff put in a lot work into these and their dedication for their work shows. Also, Gong Xi Fa Cai to all who celebrate it!

Kittan Zero

The Sense of Wonder

My XXX is the Best in the Universe

Goodbye Dai-Gurren

Big Building

Kiyal's Magical Time, Three Minutes Before

Gunmen Symphonia
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