Tag Archives: love

The Air I Breathe

Every time I watch this movie, I’m surprised at how simplistic it is. It follows a very simple storyline between four characters and never veers from that path. Focusing on human emotions and the tribulations we all face (although the cases may be extreme in this case) it’s a movie where the acting and humanistic side aren’t far off. Add elements that make it a worthwhile plot, and you have the makings of a film debut by Jieho Lee in his first film.

The entire film is based on an ancient Chinese proverb. Life itself is made up of four emotions. Happiness (Forest Whitaker), Pleasure (Brendan Frasier), Sorrow (Sarah

A well known cast with a bit of heart.

Michelle Gellar), and Love (Kevin Bacon). Each of these characters are represented on a hand, all connected by fingers (Andy Garcia). Through four separate “mini-stories” played out in an intertwining fashion, we gain insight into what the Chinese proverb means.

Hey may look friendly here, but he seems always frightening in his films.

Here’s something I don’t get though. Most critics gave this a bad review. They said that the all-star cast didn’t give enough of a boost to the film. I don’t think the cast or any of that hullabaloo had anything to do with this movie and how it did. This movie focuses on the plot. Seeing as its a character driven plot, the characters fuel and progress the story by their emotions and actions (finally discovering the emotion they represent by their part’s end). People say Brendan Frasier is a terrible actor (excluding The Mummy Series, of course. If you think those are bad, you have no idea what a good action movie is.) but I think this movie proves that theory wrong. Brendan Frasier plays an atypical character to what he normally plays. He’s not a muscled buffoon or frozen caveman come to life. He plays a thug, sure. But he plays an introspective thug who thinks before he acts. He has emotions and feelings you don’t normally see in a Brendan Frasier vehicle,

Give her the nod for this one.

something I’m proud to say he did very well.

There are other reasons this movie is good. Andy Garcia, how can you ever go wrong with that? He’s a frightening mobster man in whatever he does, and I’d personally never want to cross him. Forest Whitaker plays outside of what I think his normal roles are with his timid and almost asthmatic accountant position. Sarah Michelle Gellar was at least applauded for this movie, which I think was justly deserved. Kevin Bacon, well, he’s just Kevin Bacon. Combine interesting roles with an uncanny cadre of actors and you have yourself an interrelated plot about the human extremes of emotion.

Kevin Bacon. He’s footloose in this one.

This movie isn’t flashy. It’s not presumptuous or too intellectual. It shows you that it is what it is and that’s it. An emotional rollercoaster with a happy ending. Not everything that leads up to the ending is happy, but we must all go through trials and tribulations before we see the silver lining (or get to reach it). I think this is an understated film. It’s one of those films you should own in your collection as a little bit of a “life check” for when things are bad, or even good. So I would recommend at least giving The Air I Breathe a try. It’s thought provoking. 8.2 out of 10.


Raging Phoenix: Passion in Drunkeness

In one of the more visually stunning and passion filled Muay Thai martial arts films I’ve seen, Yanin Vismistananda performs far better than I could have expected. As the leading heroine in Raging Phoenix (AKA, Jeeja Due Suai Du), Yanin shows more heart and courage (with some more brutal and flashy moves) than she did in Chocolate (although I love that movie). Panna Rittikrai does it again with some amazing stunt coordination in this one.

Deu (Yanin: also spelled Dew for some reason…) is a down and out on her luck drummer in a punk band. She has scummy boyfriends and is constantly being fooled. (She’ll say this at length in the movie.) With trust issues and an appetite for the drink, Deu gets herself in some trouble. After being chased down in a parking structure, Deu

She is both pretty and deadly.

gets away by chance with the help of a devilishly good looking and bearded Thai man (He’s also in Bangkok Knockout. I didn’t know he was one of Panna’s main boys, but Pod is in this one too… Review coming much later). He turns out to be called Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang) and he’s good at taking down thugs with bladed kangaroo legs.

Look at that handsome man. Who wouldn’t fall for that?

With bringing her back to their hideout, Sanim encounters some unexpected collateral. Deu meets Pig Shit (Nui Saendaeng) and Dog Shit (Sompong Lertwimonkaisom), two fellow fighters with an agenda. What Deu becomes so fascinated with is a drunken style of fighting (made up for the film) known as Meyraiyuth. With montage scenes and lots of drinking, Deu and the gang take on the Jaguar Gang, a bunch of thugs looking to kidnap women just like Deu for nefarious purposes.

What I liked most about this movie was the interesting new style of fighting. Called Meyraiyuth, this badass feet of fury technique is actually an infusion. Mix classically ballin’ brutal Muay Thai finishing moves with a Capoeira dancing style that allows you to outwit your enemy and you can easily evade attacks with a lot of trauma. There are some great fight locations and a lot of newly

Pretty dope, right?

invented kicks and finishing moves that always surprise me in these Muay Thai action films. When you see one of these you expect the same old stuff, but Panna Rittikrai always has something new up his sleeve.

This was news to me too.

The acting was fine in this one, with the exception of a few actors. But that’s not what these movies are about, right? It’s about the artful technique of martial arts. It’s got the word “arts” right in there. Who cares about the plot and talking if the fans aren’t there for that? There were some cheesy CG effects and one or two strange other things, but the movie held its own as a story of love, loss, and the channeling of pain into what you do with your life. Yanin “Jeeja” sold it and it all worked out in the end.

And the end is what I wanna talk about. I’m used to these Muay Thai films with the main hero busting down hundreds of guys with lethal finishing moves, one right after the other. But this movie focused on a handful of major fighters taking on their counterparts in some long, well developed fight scenes. And that’s what makes the end so brutal. In her pain and despair, Yanin channels death into her palms and  DESTROYS the main villain. She absolutely does some of the best, most lethal moves I’ve ever seen that are actually doable in the realm of physics. I was welling up with tears with the impassioned music and the fists ripping across the screen. That doesn’t happen often, but I know when I’ve found a new favorite fight scene. So, with that in mind, I give Raging Phoenix a lethal 7.6 out of 10.

That’s a beauty. Right to your face.


The Great Happiness Space

In this documentary by Jake Clennell (a UK documentarian), the world of Ouran High School Host Club comes to life. In Osaka, Japan, the Cafe Rakkyo is a place for tired and worn down women to come and feel healed, emotionally and probably physically, by the male hosts. With lots of drinking and fake flirting, Clennell dives into the secrets and tips of being a Japanese male host.

For Jake Clennell’s first time doing a documentary, he does a great job. In a mere hour and fifteen minutes, he captures the host life through a

Not your average Ouran boys…

handful of interviews and first hand events. Centered around the owner of Cafe Rakkyo, Issei, who every girl loves and wants to be with. His animal magnetism comes from the way in which he tailors himself to what a girl wants. And what’s the endgame? Money.

This entire interview/documentary is about a human’s instability. Growing up into such a business mogul the way in which Issei did has sacrificed something. Even those who have come in fresh to the game (as one host did) notice something different about themselves. The hosts can’t escape the attraction to the girls (some say love, others say connection) but in the end there is a lot of focus on materialism. Fashion designer clothes, accessories, hairstyles, it’s all about selling themselves to entice women to come to their host club. They lose the excitement of falling in love with someone and lose senses of trust, commitment, and honesty.

Some cute Asian cuddling?

From someone who doesn’t know a thing about host clubs or anything other than from anime, it comes as a culture shock. To see men in a power and control of sexuality and a socialite position in quite in contrast to America. Here, women hold all the power when it comes to sex. We pay for their drinks, we are the ones that instinctively flock towards them in clubs and bars. Men actively seek women in this country. It is up to the women to say yes or no.

But, in the world of Japan, men are the ones in these types of clubs that dictate the tempo. Women pay for privacy and one on one time with them. Women buy the men drinks in order to loosen them up and make them more friendly towards them. These women spend

Just your average host selection bar…

thousands of dollars a visit in order to woo these men. A male host starting off can make $10,000 American dollars a month. How insane!

And then comes the issue of who comes to these host clubs. More often than not, they’re call girls/prostitutes who have just gotten off work. They come to relax and enjoy time away where they’re the ones being catered to. The Osaka district in Japan is drenched in sex. Male businessmen, young impressionable females, host club employees, it’s everywhere. And to see a place that encourages social interaction other than sex is something interesting and new.

The real message to take away.

In the end, as these boys emerge from their cavernous man-den, the come out drunkenly into the sunlight, falling over, hair a bit askew, wanting a good night’s rest. And they’ll be back in a few hours to do it all over again. Issei heads back to his apartment, speculating about his future life and if he’ll ever marry. But what this documentary has delved into is that this may not be the case for this host culture. A bunch of boys jaded by love and what it means to be faithful, who knows if they’ll ever find love. All I know is that this documentary was entertaining and complex, insightful and opened a whole new culture aspect to me (being interested in Japanese culture and all). If you like pretty Asian boys or just something that will make you more aware and intelligent on Japan, you need to check this out. It’s pretty deep. 7.2 out of 10.


Repo! The Genetic Opera

In a crossover genre that reminded me a bit of the only other big exposure I’ve had to operetta style plays/shows (i.e. Cats), Repo! The Genetic Opera was a twist and melding of something I’m not used to seeing at all. And, big plus, in the form of a movie. And what more could seal this musical deal? Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saws 2-4, was the director. That’s a pretty sweet marmalade right there. And I was surprisingly not bored during this horror/rock opera/film extravaganza.

In a strange dystopian intro scene that may remind those of us who have seen Mystery Men of a similar grimy town flyby, there is a new way of living in the city. And that is prologued by the GraveRobber (Terrance Zdunich). In this new dark and sinister world, people are living longer. How, you may ask? Through the use of artificial organs. You

GraveRobber, the teller of our tale. (Is that a cat from Cats right next to him?)

can pay for these organs with a monthly fee, but it must be paid on time to GeneCo. If not, “Rotti” Largo (Paul Sorvino) will send his RepoMen after you and remove it from you.

The story focuses around a doctor Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head) and his sick daughter, Shilo (Alexa Vega). In a story of sick and twisted nip/tuck pleasure, betrayal and love, and discovered identities, Repo! The Genetic Opera combines the operatic style of singing with the gruesomeness of shock rock. What I found surprising, coming from a director who has done such a violent and intestine filled series, gave a bit of humor and poise to the blood and guts. I was never grossed out (as if this film or any other could do that) by the events unfolding before me, it was more with the type of music and subject matter. It was a winning combo, to be sure.

Paris Hilton, can you tell?

I liked the subject matter (dystopian world of the morbid) and found it to be a simple enough plot to get across with how many underlying motives were at play. What I was semi-impressed with was the singing. Anthony Head, star of Buffy and featured on my favorite British comedy, Little Britain, was a phenomenal singer. Alexa Vega, a bit weak, which surprised me. Terrence Zdunich was a phenomenally good stage presence in front of the camera. I enjoyed his pop out of a trash can every once in a while. He had the Cats vibe down. His morbid look was appealing and flashy, almost like a Rum Tum Tugger (although this guy didn’t do any theater before this, so far as I can tell…).

Some surprising cast though in this film. Paul Sorvino, star of musicals and dramas and a couple of Italian Mafioso films, was a good presence, but weak as a counter character/villain to Nathan (Anthony Head) the age difference was a bit of a problem for the plot device they had to deal with, and so it just came off as odd. His singing was a bit weak too, but I think that’s something that happens when you have to speak/sing lines in a rock opera. Sarah Brightman, English singing extraordinaire was delightfully pleasant for as small of a role as she was given. Her

A little bit of blood never hurt Buffy…

singing sent a few chills down the old spine.

And there’s even more! Throw in Bill Moseley, actor from a shit-ton of horror films, including a few Rob Zombie vehicles. And Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy (industrial metal band for those of you who don’t know)? Who knew? I could barely put the names and the faces together with this nip/tuck of a performance. Oh, and Paris Hilton for sex appeal. No big surprise there.

Enjoy that open wound, guy.

In an hour and a half of rockin’ and a rollin’, you’re exposed to the world of blood and guts, drums and guitar. I’ve never seen a movie like this before, and this sets the bar sort of high on expectations (and no, I won’t be watching Rent anytime soon). So move aside The Wiz, because there’s a new favorite musical film in town. And it’s got more of an edge to it. So strap in and hide your organs for Repo! A 6.4 out of 10.

 


Clannad: The Wonderful Beginnings of an Anime

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed an anime, and this is the perfect one to come back to. Clannad is the wonderfully touching story of a group of high schoolers and their lives as they grow with one another. Focusing primarily on the central relationship between Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa, these two lead tragic lives that have become better because they found each other. It all started one day at the bottom of the hill to the high school with “anpan”, and blooms into a wonderfully dynamic and free flowing friend group. The main plot behind this first series is that Nagisa wishes to create a drama club at her school. It is used indirectly to raise her self esteem and confidence.

Where should I start when talking about this anime? This has the elements of a slice of life anime, thrown in with a bit of humor and comedy from Fuko Ibuki, the starfish obsessed wonder. The anime flows over a few arcs focusing on secondary characters that attend the high school, ranging from freshmen to seniors. All of the main characters are mostly seniors, and this transitions into their graduation and life around the town. It is good to see that, although this anime has the beginnings of a harem with only one true central male character, but it is happily thwarted by Youhei Sunohara, the blond haired foil

The starfish and the Dangos!

character to Tomoya’s passive aggressive antics. Their dialogue and chemistry onscreen is infectiously hilarious and comes across as amazingly absurd and out there. It’s perfect to offset the harrowing topics of the anime.

Not to ruin anything about the plot, but the characters focused on are all tragically tainted. Tomoya is an out there delinquent bad boy who was maliciously beaten by his drunken dad in a fight one day. He lost his mother and the two had been drifting apart for years. His dad coped with drinking, and Tomoya did with bad behavior. This doesn’t really seem to ruin his reputation at school, but it ruined his arm and his chances at playing basketball. Damn. For Nagisa, her debilitating health has kept her back a year in school, losing friends, yet allowing her to meet Tomoya. And, for the others, it’s about watching the show to discover what’s so sad with each character. If you don’t cry at least once, where’s your soul?

The dynamic duo, Tomoya and Youhei!

It wasn’t really a decision at the beginning on whether to watch subbed or dubbed. As a rule of thumb, if it’s a show with a lot of crying or sadness, it’s better portrayed in Japanese. Tears=subbed, comedy=dubbed. Remember that. I was surprised to find this show was based on an interactive text video game (one of those simulated dating things, but a manga followed the game soon after, giving a structure and not choices to the anime in the direction the plot would take. The voice acting is really well done and will make you laugh and cry (tears of some sort) and it’s worth watching the first half in order to reach the even better Clannad: After Story. In order to love and care about the characters, you watch Clannad, but once you’re established in that love, then comes the After Story tears. They will flow.

Other than that, I don’t have many complaints with a show that has come out in the last ten years. Animation was crisp and clean, the plot moved along at a reasonable pace, and there’s a character for everyone to connect to. It’s the story of growing up, of high school, of conquering your fears and finding love. It’s a true humanistic story of discovery. I think it’s good for people of all interests and (being the secure man I am) found it rather heartwarming. So leave yourself a few weeks to savor the flavor of the Dangos, and enjoy this 7.7 out of 10 anime.

A possible couple? You’ll see…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is the song that’ll make you cry.

 


Nana: Two Girls Named 7

Going into this I expected slice of life, girl power anime. Coming out, I cursed the Demon Lord himself for not allowing Ai Yazawa to continue the manga that has for so long been on hiatus. Without the manga continuing, there can be no anime of epic downfall and emotional turmoil. And no happy ending for Nobu and Hachiko either… Oh well, they worked with what they had.

And boy, did they have a lot. Nana is the story of, well, two girls with the same name, Nana. Normally when I see the word Nana, I think old lady. But, in the Blast! + Hachi in cool mode.realm of Japanese anime, Nana means 7 (please stop me if I’m being redundant). And these two girls come from separate worlds. Nana Komatsu (Hachiko, her pet name meaning 8), comes from a well to do, middle class family with nothing but dreams of a happy family life with her boyfriend, Shoji. Nana Osaki is a punk rocker with no family past to speak of and a whole lot of rage and cigarettes to sing about. One day they meet on a train and their lives are changed… forever?

People do some great artwork for this show.

A lot of stuff happens in the span of this 47 episode anime. Relationships are founded and lost, friends are made and lost, basically, a lot of stuff is found and subsequently lost. There’s pain and anguish, scenes of sexy times, and a lot of cigarette smoke. But hidden behind that cigarette smoke is one thing. The love of ambition and love itself. Nana Osaki won’t let anything get her down and plans on beating the rivalry that is created between her band Blast! and her boyfriend’s band, Trapnest. This dynamic in itself creates problems between the bands as both sides become intertwined in a web of secrecy, seduction, and snarky conversations.

What I found great about this show was the even distribution given between the two Nana’s. Hachiko is given equal time at the beginning with her relationships and problems of fidelity and then Nana Osaki is given her time to shine as her

Ren and Nana, two loves from opposing bands.

band becomes popular in Tokyo. The chance happening of meeting each other on the train and the separate lives that come together under one apartment roof is an interesting premise that is buffered with good turns and emotional climaxes. The characters are diverse and strong in their certain flaws which gives an element of a darker relationship based “slice of life” anime that is where it really hits hardest.

But there are flaws. And it’s not that flaws are bad. But all of these characters are passive. They allow everything to happen to them by key characters. Not to divulge too much, but Takumi Ichinose of Trapnest controls the last 20

The most smoking ever. This show is adverts for smoking.

episodes of this anime. And the decisions you’d like to see happen for that happy ending don’t happen, but you are sort of okay with it at the end (other than the hiatus placed on this manga…). But the ineptitude and inability of certain main characters to function is just staggering. It makes you hate them and wish for them to move at the same time. Heartbreaking.

Just a taste of the manga that needs to be brougt back.

Other than that, work on your shipping skills and hope for the best for the Nana’s. The voice acting is fantastic and there’s a character for everyone to love in this show. It’s simple charm about people attempting to achieve their biggest dreams, however big or small makes for a great anime. ‘Cause, come on, who wouldn’t want to follow a band around as they become famous, being their friends and just having the ride of your life! Enjoy the amazing music by Olivia and the quirky animation and raw human emotions and talent portrayed by the voice actors (subbed for this one). I give Nana more than just a 7, I give it an 8.1 out of 10. Recommended for anyone interested in life and love.

 

And here’s a little taste of the music of Nana in this first opener.


30 Minutes or Less: Aziz Ansari Hour!

Now, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a big Parks & Recreation fan. But I am a huge Aziz Ansari fan, especially after this movie. 30 Minutes or Less is hilarious and a lot of things came together to make this movie near perfect as a comedy. A lot of things I think came together to make Aziz Ansari a tour de force of hilarity in this film as well. Starting off with a small acting career (or comedy first?), Aziz started with School for Scoundrels and moved on from there after a few shorts as well. (I’m using IMDB, not exactly sure on the details…) But, after a funny episode as a racist fruit seller in Flight of the Conchords, Aziz took off in the MTV show Human Giant. With some Scrubs work and a few more small comedy films, he made his way into Parks and Recreation, and this opened the door to a starring role in 30 Seconds or Less. And by God, was it phenomenal.

Let’s get to the story. Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a down in the dumps pizza

Hilarity ensues! Yay!

delivery guy who prides himself on his driving ability and speed in getting there, “30 minutes or less,” the slogan of his employer’s pizza business. He has a best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), now a school teacher and not lowlife like Nick. Nick and Chet are pretty good friends, other than the fact that Nick slept with Chet’s sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria). This has created a rift between them and this pervades as comic throughout the film.

McBride and Swardson are fiends in this film! (Big Nick Swardson fan!)

Meanwhile, two friends, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) are two scummy friends who live off of Dwayne’s dad the Major (Fred Ward) and his winnings from the lottery. But he spends it like a bastard. So Dwayne and Travis make a plan to off the Major through an outside hitman, suggested by a hooker/stripper/prostitute. But it’s gonna cost 100,000 bones.

And that’s where Nick comes in. With their expertise in pyrotechnics and bomb making (more Travis’s forte…), they strap a bomb to Nick’s chest and demand that he rob a bank for their nefarious purposes. Nick enlists the help of Chet and these two groups are off on a wild ride of wild driving, destruction, and a string of hilarious jokes (one in particular about Facebook that Jesse Eisenberg delivers expertly.).

This Ansari face explains all.

From occaisional film director Ruben Fleischer (director of Rob & Big and Zombieland. Guess he really likes Jesse Eisenberg…) and first time writer Michael Diliberti, comes a fantastic film about love, betrayal, and all things ridonkulously funny. Aziz Ansari kills it in this film and I was literallly howling in the theater with laughter (my mom looking at me strangely). I gotta admit though that Danny McBride, although sometimes funny, ruined this movie with tons of sex jokes and random unfunny swear words. All-in-all, I give this film a definite top 5 best of the summer and a definite watch with a group of friends. 8.8 out of 10.