Comments, Rotten Tomatoes and the like

There is always room for improvement; leave a comment tell me what you think. And please, be brutal. Nothing like being eviscerated by the general public (though in reality no one reads this so maybe not so general public).

16 9월, 2007

The Joys of English Language Vernacular

A parachute is:

a) An apparatus used to retard free fall from an aircraft, consisting of a light, usually hemispherical canopy attached by cords to a harness and worn or stored folded until deployed in descent.

b) A dancehall/reggae move.

c) Korean slang for a colleague or coworker that gets a job not on their own merit, but because someone in upper management places them there.

d) All of the above.

Some things just make me smile for no apparent reason. Odd sense of humour? Maybe.


08 9월, 2007

My Musings on Music, Hip Hop/Rap in Particular

For all you music buffs out there. I have to admit I have an uneasy relationship with hip hop. While I appreciate artists such as Talib Kweli and Common, to be honest I am quite unfamiliar with anything that is not on the radio. At the same time that I decry the violence, misogynism, greed and lack of talent I do not go out of the way to actually listen to anyone outside of the mainstream.

From my understanding hip hop started as a way to demonstrate to the world what life was like living on the outskirts of "normal" society. Not to glorify it, but to highlight the strife, poverty and desolation of such a life. It wasn't all pain don't get me wrong. Hip hop was also a lot about fun, but oft times in a witty, tongue-in-cheek manner. It provided a voice to those unseen, unheard masses that truly had something to tell the world. Artists were truly that. Nowadays the music scene seems to be dominated by less than stellar voices, speaking on less than noble themes. Can anyone say 50 cent?

I thought that Timbaland and Kanye West were the great hopes for the year. After a 2007 with an array of rather bland, sub par albums I was excited, thrilled even. Timbaland released Throw It On Me and The Way I Are, which to my untrained ears sounded fresh, new exciting, branching out from the tired old beats that we were all used to hearing. Kanyeezy, in turn, absolutely blew me away with Stronger. Co-produced with French electro-pop duo Daft Punk this track had to be the best that had been released all year, for me probably in the last 2. It seemed that hip hop was waking up and moving away from the creative rut it had sunk into, exploring new frontiers, breaking down barriers, saving the world!!! Yeah, not so much. I should put a note here that is not a commentary on lyrical content, which, depending on the track, I don't give a toss (club bangers) or get bored by because the beats don't engage me.

Okay, so I indulged in a bit of delerium there, but I had great hopes for Timbaland's Shock Value album and Kanye's Graduation but, sorry to say, I was highly disappointed. The tracks are solid but its seems they released the cream of the crop to lure us into a venus fly trap of sameness. Mr. West was especially disappointing. While there is a maturity to this album compared to The College Dropout it just didn't freak me like it does my brother.

What is all this doing on a blog supposedly dedicated towards Asian entertainment? Well M.I.A's album Kala dropped in August and I just got round to listening to it. For those of you who don't know, M.I.A is Sri Lankan by birth but grew up in the UK after fleeing with her mum as a refugee. The album had me from its hello, titled Bamboo Banga with its driving beat, and its rip of a Tamil movie hit. The production is just amazing. From what I can glean from album reviews, she had visa issues and could no longer work in the US. Instead she careened about the globe, working on the album at every port of call. The album is just chock-a-block of energy, with a fusion of sounds from West Africa, South Asia, even bird calls and gun shot sounds making appearances.

Her influences from Bollywood to The Clash resonate throughout, making it a thoroughly listenable & danceable release, a true pleasure. Indeed the weakest track on there is the one produced by the venerable Timbaland (who @ this point, coupled with Fiddy's Ayo Technology, is begining to piss me off. What with all this weak sh*t?). This to me is the best hip hop/fusion/alternative album of the year, putting this woman so far ahead of the curve i don't think her contemporaries can even see her dust. And, she is a woman with a cause, and makes sure that she's heard. This is where Missy Elliot was when her first couple albums dropped and this is what hip hop needs to be maintain its grip on the music industry.

05 9월, 2007

Aragami: A Challenge Well Met

You have to love Japanese film makers. Good directors can actually do stuff for kicks and giggles and get amazing results. Directors Tsutsumi Yukihiki and Kitamura Ryuhei were set a challenge: each was to create a quality, full length movie with one set, one location, only 2 central characters and filmed in 7 days. It was named The Duel Project and produced 2 highly anticipated films. Tsutsumi's efforts produced 2LDK, where two female roommates create a bloodbath in their apartment. Armed with 5 actors (3 peripheral ones) and himself, Kitamura gave us a worthy treat. Aragami.

Set sometime in Feudal Japan, two heavily injured samurai stagger into a remote temple and take refuge. One wakes up finding all his injuries miraculously healed, his partner gone and is wined and dined by his mysterious, seemingly benevolent host, served by an eerily quiet female companion. Turns out the host ain't so great after all. He's actually Aragami, the "raging god of war", a near immortal with a pecadillo for human flesh. He challenges the samurai to a battle to the death.

For those of you expecting an all out samurai sword fight fest though, hold your horses. Kitamura slowly builds a lot of tension through dialogue, adding strange touches of humour and melodrama strewn throughout the piece. What has been done brilliantly is the act of dispensing with a lot of the extraneous bits we come to expect @ the cinema. There is nowhere else but the gorgeous, amazing set, no outside individuals, no distractions. We get get only the briefest of backgrounds on the unnamed samurai and we honestly could not care less. The director seems to have quite carefully sculpted the movie around the demi-god, and gives us a little character study of him, while also exploring the development of a relationship between the two. We get to know Aragami as the story progresses, and even get a window into his possible motivations for such a throw down. As the intensity builds to what are some really all out, solidly choreographed sword-fight scenes, we appreciate more and more that there is nothing to distract us from the battle between the them.

While it does nothing revolutionary, it is a revalation, with brilliant directing and great story telling that gives us a solid entertaining piece of work that should be appreciated by all and is well worth multiple viewings.

4.25 out of 5 for a hugely entertaining movie

04 9월, 2007

The Allure of K drama

So here is a rationalisation for why I watch Korean TV. Primarily it is because they don't do seasons which thrills me to no end (you have no idea). All they have are a standard 16, maybe 18, episodes which air twice each week, so in 2 months it's all over. There are some shows like Jumong which ran 80 episodes, but that was a rarity, as it was an in depth historical drama and that was a great production undertaking in itself. Dramas take the best qualities of TV and movie which combined gives us the character development and depth of TV, and the finality of a film. This, is sheer bliss: I don't have to wait till next season to see what happens next (House), I won't lose interest (Desperate Housewives) and I won't come to loathe the show with a passion when the next season rolls around (Grey's Anatomy). Secondly they are overwhelmingly in the romantic comedy vein, which suits me just fine. Thirdly, they don't really subscribe to the more-skin-less-clothing school of thought. While it can seem a little too chaste I enjoy TV that doesn't feel the need to exploit. Which brings me to my fourth and last point: the dramas remind me of home. For some odd reason, Korean culture connects with me on a visceral level, but that is for another post.

The typical K dramas share a lot of common elements: ditsy yet lovable, but often poor female leads; strong, capable, rich, aloof male ones (if its a comedy) and; will most definitely have a love triangle/quadrangle. There will be a sexpot female 2nd lead or there will be an ex-girlfriend/lover who is stunning but will never get the guy. Someone, somewhere, will be plotting something nefarious, and, quite often the female lead is older than the male one. Most annoyingly though, somebody, usually (AGAIN!!) female, will most likely have some hidden terminal illness, or will die of a broken heart. Or someone will lose their damn minds, me along with them.

Oh and I forgot to mention. The dudes are unbelievably hot. Caliente. From K dramas I discovered some serious eye candy, namely Bi, Kim Sung Soo, Dennis O, Lee Jung Jae, and Gong Yoo being the cream of the crop. Yeah, I'm shallow like that, so sue me.

Now, most dramas I wouldn't touch with a barge pole because really, how often can you watch the terminally ill ex-girlfriend, die of heartbreak, but not before she wreaks havoc between the two leads? Unfortunately as a newbie i didn't know the difference and was sucked into watching a lot that was highly recommended, forgetting that the audience consists predominantly of giggly 15 to 19 year olds who think it's touching to watch someone suffer and die, fist clutched to chest, over love. Unh hunh.

So anyways, I watched dramas like Goong and Goong S, Delightful Girl Choong Hyang, Full House, 1% of Anything and my favourites, Coffee Prince and Air City. Those are the ones I actually completed. I started countless others but could not bear to finish them because, quite frankly, the got so melodramatic, so rip-your-hair-out weepy, so full of angst that I nearly ripped the screen off my notebook in sheer frustration. They start off lighthearted, witty and amusing, and the good dramas get you invested in the characters and rooting for whatever side you pick but by about episode 8, you honestly just want commit fictional mass murder. A couple of them such as Green Rose and Time Between Dog and Wolf are revenge dramas and so you would think sidestep those pitfalls, but then you remember that any thrilling revenge plot always needs: a thwarted love story to make us connect with the angst more keenly. Air City was near perfect though, which was basically a 16 episode advertisement for Incheon International Airport, Seoul, with all its high tech gadgetry (yay!), good investigative drama (I seem to be in the minority with that thought) and some good writing. Then they killed it with the, yup you guessed it, terminally ill ex-girlfriend (boo!). Coffee Prince was the pinnacle for me, and I'll stop there because I've already gone on ad nauseum in a prior post.

For a fascinating, overwrought, and utterly hilarious summary, go to Youtube and do a search for "Bobby Lee Korean dramas", a Mad TV series of skits. Even with no Korean @ all it's pretty funny, and with my limited knowledge (it is really hard to teach yourself a language), I cracked up @ the Korean that i did understand and the extremely, baaaad translation. Enjoy part 1 of 4.

Its all about the happy ending...

So, for those of you who I actually keep in contact with (all 2 of you, you know who y'all are), you know that I have been, for want of a better word, obsessed, with a show called Coffee Prince or 커피프린스 1호점 (literally kaw-pi peu-rin-seu 1 ho-cham) . It has literally been the one show that i have watched religiously, waiting on tenterhooks until the next torrent is released, then having to wait for the fansubs to come out. Aigoo. After 17 delicious fun-filled episodes however, the show is over, and Coffee prince is no more. I was quite cut up when the final episode aired, to be honest. I can't quite explain, but my guts twisted, my heart felt so constricted and it felt, really for the first time, that I was truly mourning the loss of something truly dear to me. I'm not sure I was this upset when I left home to attend college. All this over a TV show you ask? Yes, absolutely. This has to be the best piece of television I have seen all year, bar none.

The setup: A la Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night, it involves a girl, Go Eun Chan, who disguised as a guy, falls for main squeeze Choi Han Gyul, who just happens to be in love with his cousin's (Choi Han Sung) girl, Han Yoo Joo, who just returned to Korea after running off with another guy, blessedly only known as DK. Get that? Han Gyul, played by Gong Yoo, is 30, a cavalier playboy, and having run off to the States to be a toymaker, has now been summoned home to Korea to fulfill his filial duties like take over the family business and get married to some suitable filly. Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hae) is 24, and has lived most of her life as a tomboy, has never been to college and works as a delivery "boy" to support her inept mother and high strung sister. Through several chance meetings HG, thinking that EC is in fact a he, hires her as his fake gay lover to ward off advances from the "dates" his family have set up. Liking her work ethic he hires "him" to work at an all male coffee shop, Coffee Prince.

Now this extremely light and fluffy framework would seem to consign this to the not-much-depth department, but there you'd be wrong. What starts off as a simple tale of a girl and guy falling in love morphs slowly into a tale of a boy becoming a man, dealing with questioning his sexuality, what it means to be true to oneself and the nature of falling in love. As I have mentioned earlier in the blog, Coffee Prince is liberally sprinkled with "play" and the romantic in me loves the fact that they really emphasised friendship as part of any love relationship and not just two people making calf eyes @ each other. It also quite interestingly, showcased a rocky, long-term relationship, how people deal with infidelity, mistrust and how people move forward trying to keep it together. I don't mean to imply that it is all heart wrenching stuff. You get the sense it is a lot like Much Ado About Nothing, or another favourite of mine Pride and Prejudice, where you know everything will end up alright, but the journey is what gets you coming back for more. I like that as a series it had layers to it, is very much worthy of a deeper look, it still was an enjoyable experience. While I enjoy the works of the like of Won Kar Wai, Kim Ki Duk Lee Myung Su and the like, the occasional non-mind bending piece of celluloid is totally needed to balance it all out.

What else can I say? I love this series to bits and my respect for Gong Yoo has absolutely grown in leaps and bounds. Sadly, he's off for compulsory military training for 2 years and this author will truly miss him. An nyeong, oppa.

A beacon of hope for great writing: 5 out of 5!!!