Archives For October 2012

I’ve finally seen ‘Looper’ and man, I’ve gotta say I’m so relieved: the film held its own! Going in to see new sci-fi films is always nerve-wrecking, as so many of them are totally rubbish, but the ones that hold up often end up among my favourite films. The expectations for ‘Looper’ have steadily grown since the release of the first trailer, and seeing the positive reviews and feedback on IMDb and Letterboxd certainly hasn’t quelled them.

The plot of the film takes places in Kansas in 2044, where “loopers” – or assassins – such as Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are contracted by mobsters from 30 years into the future, where/when time-travel has been invented and disposing bodies is virtually impossible. The mobsters in 2074 send marked men back in time to 2044, to a specific location where a looper is waiting to blow his brains out. This may be a difficult concept to wrap  your head around, but in the movie it’s actually laid out fairly simply. Anyway, this works really well for Joe until one day he finds a thirty years older version of himself (Bruce Willis) appearing in front of him to be killed.  Sufficed to say, trouble arises.

The gritty world of 2044 felt real; the developers have (thankfully!) resisted the temptation to show off and make a flashy special effects showreel. The time-travel concept was lain out without making too much of a gradeschool lesson of it, and worked acceptably well under the premises.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rise to fame has been interesting to follow. I remember him all the way back from’10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999), though he was overshadowed by the legendary Heath Ledger (and to be fair, who wouldn’t be). In ‘Mysterious Skin’ (2004) he really got to show the world what he’s made of, and anyone who’s seen that film will have a difficult time forgetting his performance. Over the last couple of years he’s appeared in several big productions that have ensured his talent will not pass unnoticed: ’50/50′, ‘Inception’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Now again with ‘Looper’, in a better Bruce Willis impression almost than Willis himself, he’s proved to the world that his fame is well-earned. To give the make-up department their due credit, the face prosthetics are really impressive, but JGL has the mannerisms and even the voice down to a tee.

It’s nice to see Bruce Willis has still got it in him too, though I must say, his age is beginning to show. He’s not struggling to keep up with the action yet, though. Emily Blunt (I spent a lot of time wondering if it was indeed her) also did a nice really nice job. They were both overshadowed by another talent though: the performance of young Pierce Gagnon, in the role of mysterious Cid. I have no idea how someone directs a kid in that kind of role, and those are some pretty heavy lines he has to give, but he’s really remarkable.

I’m not familiar with writer and director Rian Johnson, but I will be sure to keep an eye out for any upcoming projects of his!

What did you think of ‘Looper’? 

Korean Influence

28/10/2012 — 7 Comments

My flatmates and I are all keen travellers and members of the couchsurfing community, where the idea is that travellers sleep on local people’s couches (or whatever else is available) rather than stay at hotels. It’s a great opportunity for both travellers and hosts to learn and discover new things. That’s how we ended up with three Koreans in our flat this weekend.

The experience was highly successful: the girls, who travelled from Paris where they are currently on student exchange, were all really nice and easygoing. Instead of clothes, their bags were filled mostly with Korean food, which they insisted on cooking for us. In exchange, we showed them around the city and treated them to coffee at “our” coffee shop (where my flatmates work and I used to).

When I arrived at home after work on Friday night, the Koreans had already found the flat and met my flatmates (apparently I had also met them in passing, since I work at the airport their flight arrived at, though we didn’t interact at the time). My flatmates had already mentioned to them that one of my all-time favourite movies is Korean. They were very excited about this, and in turn I was thrilled to hear that they also know – and like! – ‘Bin-Jip’.

I haven’t seen a lot of Korean movies, but the ones I have seen have invariably been good ones. One of the most famous recent ones is the brilliant and disturbing ‘Oldboy’. The fact that it is now being remade in the US is (ironically) a measure of its International success.

I saw ‘Bin-Jip’ (2004, English title: ‘3-Iron’) at the cinema several years ago. I can’t remember what prompted me to see it in the first place, but I was blown away by it and have loved it just as much upon every rewatch since. “Bin-jip” means “empty house”, and the film is about a man who lives his life in the homes of other people while they are away on vacation. He eats their food and wears their clothes, then refills the fridge and does the laundry before moving on; it’s as if he was never there. In fact, it’s almost as if he doesn’t exist at all.

One of these empty houses he lives in turns out not to be empty after all. Another shadowy figure is there, a woman who has been regularly abused by her husband. The two set off together and proceed to live as ghosts in the houses of others, sometimes even while they are inhabited.

The director is Ki-Duk Kim, the man known for his beautiful, meditative films. He’s behind the acclaimed ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring’, which has been on my watchlist for the longest time. The girls told me the man himself is a bit of a social hermit, living on his own in a remote mountain area. Perhaps that is why he is so good at capturing solitude.

Have you ever had that feeling that you like something so much that you’re almost afraid to recommend it, in case others won’t see what the big deal is? For me, ‘Bin-Jip’ is like that. I’ve only ever recommended it to two of my friends, whom I’ve felt pretty confident would like it, or at least appreciate why I do. Now I guess the cat’s out of the bag.

Have you watched any good Korean films?

Netflix was finally launched in Norway today. As far as I’m aware, this is the first provider on the market offering a service with a monthly subscription on films and series – and in fact the only serious provider of series at all -, as opposed to a pay-per-view system, and the price is sympathetic at 79 NOK/month.

First of all, I have to say my vain streak is not overly impressed by the look of the site, but it’s a very user-friendly system that is easy to navigate through. There’s a personal recommendation system, based on expressed genre preferences and ratings, but how accurate it is I can’t say yet.

I know many people appreciate Netflix for their selection of TV series, which I believe is quite impressive (though I’ve heard a few comments about the newest seasons lacking), and I’ve already confirmed that the remaining three seasons I have yet to see of ‘The Tudors’ are still there. Personally though, I have been more eager to see what I can in their film selection. I brought out my (rather extensive) watchlist and did a random search of about 12 of the more well-known titles, and confess myself rather disappointed at the result.

Of the 12 or so titles I looked up, these were not available:

  • ‘Adaptation’
  • ‘Top Gun’
  • ‘The Color of Money’
  • ‘The Birds’
  • ‘The Outsiders’
  • ‘Born on the Fourth of July’
  • ‘Seven Samurai’
  • ‘Iron Man 2’
  • ‘Archipelago’ (less known, granted)

I have seen some good titles there too though, and there are documentaries available there as well, so I won’t dismiss the site as useless just yet. I’m eager to dive deeper into it and see what I treasures can be found, and whether or not the selection will be expanded at a decent rate in the months to come.

Last week I watched BBC’s ‘The Hollow Crown‘, which has (re)kindled a keen interest in both Shakespeare and English Royal history.

The Hollow Crown‘ is a series of four movies based on Shakespeare’s plays ‘Richard II’, ‘Henry IV part 1’, ‘Henry IV part 2’ and ‘Henry V’, collectively known as the ‘Henriad’. As much as I usually enjoy historical dramas, and Shakespeare’s stories, I find that film adaptations of his plays in the original verse forms and old language are difficult to follow. With that in mind, it was really my interest in the outrageously talented Tom Hiddleston that initially caused me to watch them – and as such, I began by watching ‘Henry IV part 1’, which is the second film in the series.

After watching the three Henry titles, I can only maintain that Hiddleston, as you will (or should) have seen as Loki in ‘Thor‘ and ‘The Avengers‘ (and should see in ‘The Deep Blue Sea‘),who here portrays Henry V (the son of Henry IV), is pure talent. He has, as far as I’m aware, been trained in the classics at Eton, and somebody did something right in training him, because he completely owns the genre. As impressive and acknowledged as Jeremy Irons (Henry IV) is, there’s something about the way Hiddleston delivers an expired language and occasionally pompous speeches in a remarkably natural way. I was absolutely blown away, and recommend the Henry films heartily. I watched ‘Richard II‘ last, and whether because it lacks Hiddleston, because it’s in rhyming verse (and therefore more difficult to deliver naturalistically) or simply because there is another director, I found this to be the least engaging of the four films.

Since finishing the series, I’ve decided to make an attempt to read some of Shakespeare’s plays. I know several of them through various theatre or movie adaptations, and I’ve always enjoyed his stories, but I’ve rarely attempted reading them. As proficient as I may be at reading English, I have to admit that I find it difficult to read Shakespearian English, and I lose my concentration easily while attempting to grasp it. However, hearing the dialogue performed as it was in the Henry films has encouraged me to think that it doesn’t have to feel all distant and difficult. Thanks, Mr Hiddleston!

The other consequence of watching ‘The Hollow Crown‘ is that I have frequently found myself spending considerable amounts of time on Wikipedia reading up on English medieval kings and queens. When you have real stories like these, really, who needs to make stuff up. Whilst reading I came across the name Tudor, which I was previously unfamiliar with except as a title of a TV series. It turns out that five (disputedly six) rulers of the English throne, from Henry VII through to Elizabeth I, were of the Tudor family. Needless to say, I got hold of the TV series and have now watched through the first of in all four seasons.

The Tudors‘ (2007-2010) is based on historical events and follows Henry VIII (played by an excellent Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the charismatic king notorious for his many wives and their unfortunate fates. Season one deals with the king’s introduction to miss Anne Boleyn and his persistent struggle with the Roman church to force through a divorce with his wife Queen Catherine in order to be with her. All the while there are intrigues and conspiracies on all sides, as the people of the royal courts struggle for power and influence.

The costumes alone makes this show worth watching, but the show is clever and interesting and full of great acting performances. Sam Neill posesses a truly engaging role as the dubious Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, while Jeremy Northam is unnerving as Sir Thomas More, the idealist and adamant lawyer who is appointed Lord Chancellor and given the task to deal with the “blasphemous” religious uprising spurred on by Martin Luther.

Please ignore the horrible, cheesy voiceover; this really is a good show:

Which is your favourite film adaptation of a Shakespeare play?