Posts Tagged ‘foreign’

The 2011 Oscars – Panda’s Wish List

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I do hope you get up, Jackie, but unlikely.

Well the noms are out.

I am not going to say who is going to win, but I am going to say who I would like to win / should win if I was in charge.

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech (very close second is John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (always meant to write a review… whoops)
  • Best Achievement in Directing: Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech (so pleased Inception wasn’t nominated here)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: The King’s Speech
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Winter’s Bone
  • Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: How to Train Your Dragon (my go to movie after a long day)

Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything nominated in Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category and the only doco I saw nominated for Best Documentary, Features was GasLand which I don’t think should win.

There you have it.
Very The King’s Speech focused, and avoiding The Social Network and Inception. While I enjoyed The Social Network’s writing, I loved The King’s Speech more. I think The Black Swan will get up in art direction or something and Portman is prolly going to pick up a little guy.

I think I will get Colin Firth for Best Actor and that is about it for my preferences.

Bring on awards night (or afternoon as it is for us).

PS. True Grit is released TODAY in Australia, so I am heading down this afternoon to my local – so this may change after seeing it.

Review – l’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I had the time of my life, and I never felt this way before.

Meet Alex (Romain Duris). He makes women fall in love with the idea of love, getting them to leave their unhappy relationships, and he is paid to do this by well meaning family members. We follow Alex’s latest gig, his biggest pay check yet, to get Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to break up with the perfect man. With the assistance of his sister and her husband, they get into all manner of strife and comedic situations, while reaffirming love along the way.

Real laugh out loud moments. Yes some of the set pieces are silly, but it is supposed to be.
Hearing an audience cheer!
The wonderful comedic timing of his two partners in crime.
How when everything goes wrong, it goes right.
So over the top at times it is ridiculously funny.

Wake me up before you go-go!
The script – clever, engaging dialogue!

Great editing, really zipped along and cut neatly between all parties.
Fantastic supporting cast who all played their parts to perfection.
Such a nice wedding gown.
Lovely framed shots, and I want to go to Monaco again, now.

I just wish I was still good at French, as I think it would have been brilliant to hear it.
The ex-best friend was a tad too much but was in spirit with the movie.

This isn’t a movie where you go in and think, oh don’t be silly, this would never happen. It is a pure comedic romp, and it is a golden pure comedic romp. I loved how the leads aren’t “hollywood perfect,” and how you are empathetic to the most unlikely of heroes. Don’t do a runner as soon as the credits start, there are a couple of scenes in the credits.
If America does a version, don’t go, see this one on DVD instead. Heartbreaker is out now in Australia on limited release.


Review – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I see only happiness in our future! This telescope only shows me the truth - at least that is what the guy in Mongolia told me!

I remember seeing this at the movies years ago, and about a year ago I bought the DVD for $1 on ebay.  Given my current holidaying status I decided to dig the DVD out of my box of random stuff I have acquired over the year and watch it. First up – what the hell – it was in English! I remember it in Chinese – thankfully I got my language options open and fixed that.

Controlled love. Unbridled passion. Vengeance. Feuds. Choices and loss. Oh and a little bit of sword play.

The beautifully styled fights and how they were captured.
Some of the camera angles were brilliant!
Women in positions of strength, power and/or control.
Developed characters, not like some Wuxia movies.
The use of colour and light – breathtaking.
The difference in shooting styles for the desert vs the city.
Hair styles.

A tad too much magic for me – a little is good – but all the “running-flying” bores me.
Michelle Yeoh is better looking now I think.
No one really gets what they want in the end.

I was surprised just how much I had forgotten in the 9-10 years since I last saw it. The fights were even more spectatular than I remembered, though I must admit that some of the shots in the fight scenes and imagery in Reign of Assassins topped Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but mind you, 10 years have passed and there is a lot better technology available these days. In that way it has dated a little, but still a brilliant film that holds it own in other ways.


Review – La Femme Nikita (France 1990)

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Did someone ask for gritty and bleak?

I have been loving SBS this month – to celebrate 30 years on the air, they have been playing everyone’s favourite world movies. Over the weekend, while I was engaging in Adventures in Puppy Sitting, I stayed up late to watch the original incarnation of Nikita. It has been years since I saw it and really only remembered a couple of scenes, so given how much I am loving the CW’s redux of Nikita, I had to watch.

Nikita is a junkie, punk bad girl who murders a policeman in cold blood and is convicted of his and the deaths of victims in the movie’s shoot out – which opens the film. Finding herself in a hidden world of training and development at the DGSE (the French CIA), Nikita transfers herself from riding the line of being cancelled (to use the CW’s Nikita’s terms) to being a glowing success – a hot hit woman.

Upon her completion of her training, she starts what she fools herself into thinking is a normal life till the people that made her come calling.The second half of the movie traces her trying to balance her love and pretend life with his boyfriend and the demands made by her true employers.

The disparity between worlds.
Lies and the lies to hide the lies.
People looked real, unlike the US versions.
Believable characters trying to live in a world out of their control.
Brilliant set pieces – that restaurant scene is just glorious.
The dark humour littered throughout the movie.

Some bits were a tad over the top, but I think it was to show the differences.
By some bits, I mean the overacting of Anne Parillaud.
The unlikely relationships she develops.

Even with the effects of time (learning what a mouse is hehhe) it is still a dark adventure into an under world beyond the law. It was certainly ahead of its time and spawned a successful ongoing franchise. All that being said, it wasn’t as good as I remembered it. I loved how gritty it was, but its over the top depiction of wild Nikita just saw me lack empathy for the protagonist.


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Review – Reign of Assassins – Australian Premier – #BIFF

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Beautifully and creatively shot on every level

For some reason this was touted as the new John Woo movie – but we couldn’t see his name as Producer or Director in this romp. I have seen elsewhere on the net that he has been credited as a co-director. Okaaaaaay.

In many ways, RoA’s ticks the boxes for a matrial arts movie. Silly pretense, grudges, fights, pretty girls who are dangerous, cross and double cross. And look, I was enjoying it as a piece of pure escapism movie going, until it became about testicles. It didn’t need to. Even if it had just stayed on mega martial arts skills I would have been happy with that. That twist wasn’t necessary IMHO. The other twist though I didn’t see coming.

While I have heard some people say that the romance story wasn’t in line with the story, I found he acting between Michelle Yeoh’s Zeng Jing and Jung Woo-sung’s Jiang Ah-sheng was lovely – and I thoroughly enjoyed the disparity between their little ideal world and what was going on around them. So NEENAH to those who didn’t like that.

Lovely comedic dialouge
Some good fights (though some were a little silly)
Awesome twist!
Sword play.
The filming of the fights was pretty hot too – especially the watershedder sword shots.

Testicles anyone?
Silly names.
In high dialouge scenes the subtitles moved too quickly to take in the scene and the words.

Even with the silly twist, it was an enjoyable way to finish the festival and I am very pleased I saw it. I generally wait for DVD, so this was the first wuxia movie I had seen since Hero – so it was lovely to revisit the experience on the big screen.


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Review – The Red Chapel – #BIFF

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Simon, Mads and Mrs Pak present the pizza oven device

Poor Mrs Pak has no idea what is really happening.

This is a hard movie to describe. I have seen a few people try – but it doesn’t quite get to how I see it.
In short, two Korean born Danish comedians (Simon and Jacob) return to Korea but go to North Korea, not South Korea. They are accompanied by their “manager” (Mads Brugger) under the pretence of putting on a comedy show for the North Koreans in a cultural exchange – possibly the worst show ever produced. In truth, they are there to show the darkness that pervades North Korean society by their interactions and Simon who as a (self labelled) spastic is a living representation of what is never allowed in North Korea – perfect children only please.

The movie works on many layers and asks the viewer many questions, often ones that are very uncomfortable, while at the same time filling you with shock, awe and laughter by what they are prepared to do to get their point across – and how eagerly the North Koreans lap it all up. Mads Brugger does realise that he is also manipulative and cruel in forcing his comedians past their level of comfort and ethics – putting on a face for their hosts, while at the same time the North Koreans are being manipulative and cruel under the guise of helping and love for their guests and their Dear Leader. There are a few moments in the documentary where you think – no, there is no way – but there it is, unfolding out in front of your eyes.

The impact on Simon was heartbreaking. Seeing a “perfect” world where everyone is happy, beautiful and loved that he can never be a part of is so emotional and honest. Then to see how Mads continues to manipulate and force him to push forward is just as heartbreaking. It should be noted that Simon is the only one in North Korea who can speak their mind. Not only is he speaking Danish (their handler speaks English) but he is speaking “Spastic Danish.” So while Mads and Jacob are careful in what they say, even in Danish, Simon tells it like it is – the only time he dissembles is in English and in letters. You laugh as Mads deliberately lies as he translate, but at the same time you squirm on the inside.

The manipulation of the North Koreans knows no bounds. From a bus load of pretty girls for the boys to picnic with to totally redoing their comedy show including patriotic sentiments and hiding Simon’s disability, it leaves you gob smacked. Watching though, it is impossible to forget that these people’s lives, and those of their families, depends on making this work to make North Korea shine. I do have real fear in my heart for the North Koreans involved, especially Mrs Pak. Then you think about the entire population of the country – living in fear, lies and mistruths – always watching what they do and say – even their children. It is no life to live like that.


The march.
The uniforms.
The filming style.
The honesty.
The pain.
The hopelessness.
The tears.
The table.
Simon saving Mrs Pak.

Did they really think about the fall out back in North Korea?

This was my “life changing” moment of the festival – every year you want one – you don’t always get it – and this year I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those years where I picked the wrong movies. Then I saw The Red Chapel. It touched me in ways I can’t put into words – infact I have tears behind my eyes as I write this, then I will smile and laugh as I remember a particular obtuse moment. I have wanted to go to North Korea for many years, and have looked at various tours to go – but couldn’t bring myself to give my western currency to the regime… for the same reason I have never gone to Indonesia or Burma/Myanmar. After seeing this documentary I desperately want to go, while at the same time horrified by what I saw and what I would experience.


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Review – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives #BIFF

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Good evening, ghost of my dead wife. Would you like something to drink?

I would like to start by saying I have NO idea what this film was about, what it was an analogy for (if it was) or what the outcome was (if it had one).

I picked this film because it got great reviews (according to the guide) and that it was an art film for everyone. Maybe the definition of an art film is that you are not supposed to have a clue what is going on.

I, and from the confused sounds around me, the entire cinema sat there perplexed for two hours waiting for it to tie together. If people did work it out, I wouldn’t have seen all the “Lost the Plot” and “Not my Cup of Tea” tears on the evaluation sheets.

In short.

There is a cow. The cow sees this black thing with red eyes. We then meet the main characters who talk about nothing consequential – other than illegal immigrants being bad and likely to stab you then rob you (was just like listening to an ALP or Liberal rally only in Thai). They have dinner. Ghost of dead wife shows up. Black thing with red eyes turns out to be a monkey ghost man who is the lead character’s missing son. He had sex with a monkey man ghost thing and became one. Cut to a princess in love with her chair bearer who wishes she was pretty. She meets a talking catfish who proceeds to have oral sex with her. Cut back to main characters – they go for a walk into a dark cave. Man thinks he was born here (shot of baby catfish). There is his voice over with modern photos of Thai youth (military and not) doing every day stuff. He then dies. There is a funeral. Two remaining main characters decide to go out for dinner but they aren’t really themselves as their bodies are still watching TV (looked like a piece about SARS).

The end.


I am still thinking about it.
I liked the the main female had a disability.
Some cute one liners.
Lovely paradoxes (eg. putting a face mask on for a medical procedure but not wearing gloves).

It was predominately shot with natural light so often the subject matter was hard to make out.
Minimal dialogue that didn’t clear anything up.
Confusing as all heck.
Sound problems.
Hand held camera for a whole section.
Did I mention I have no idea what was going on?

It was still better than I Am You – but don’t recommend it unless you want to be baffled. If you did see this and know what it means, can you please drop me tweet @howmanypandas or email me HowManyPandas AT I am going google some reviews and see if someone has worked out what it is about – maybe even an interview with the director.

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My Viewing Choices for the Brisbane International Film Festival (#BIFF)

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Somewhere only we know thanks to BIFF (HT @ Keane)

Yes ppl (read Panda Lovers), it is BIFF time again.

What am I off to see this time round?

The American (leaving a relation’s 16th birthday early to get there)
Red Hill
I Am You
Uncle Boomnee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
I Love You Phillip Morris
The Red Chapel
I have added:
Reign of Assassins
Still two more till I hit my 10, but so many others I want to see.
ADDITION: I was invited to go to the opening night event of BIFF and their after party – so I am now seeing Cane Toads: The Conquest as well.

What have I seen already and recommend? Click the thoughts in brackets for my reviews on them. I will add as I see more.
Jucy (great little wom rom com and when you factor in the budget it is pretty dang impressive)
Fair Game (enjoyable piece of film with amazing acting by Penn and Watts)
Cane Toads: The Conquest (light hearted telling of the cane toad invasion of Qld and the NT)
The American (a somewhat predictable yet emotionally driven movie with outstanding scenery)
I Am You (Do. Not. Go. It. Is. Terrible)
Uncle Boomnee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (No idea what it was about)

Also check out ABC Local Radio 612’s morning film reviewer’s picks here.

You can book on line or use their awesome iPhone/iPod/iPad app (search BIFF10) which talks to your calendar (or you can RSS to your bookings which then updates your calendar).

See you at BIFF.
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