Tag Archives: relationships

What Women Want: A Chinese Take

I can’t explain what it is, but the original Mel Gibson version of this film has just stuck with me for years. I loved it and loved the idea behind it. Almost like a comedians joke, it is true that men can’t think behind what women are thinking. Combine that with Mel Gibson’s attitude and apparent macho sex appeal, and you got yourself a movie with comedy, wit, and a combining of the sexes.

And the same thing goes for the Chinese version of this film. Starring Andy Lau and

Some real chemistry between two beautiful Asians.

Gong Li, these two had a chemistry on film that wasn’t present as much between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The humor is all there in both films, it just comes off as more of a real feeling when watching this 2011 remake. Maybe the Chinese know something about gender relations than we do…

Basic plot. Sun Zigang (Andy Lau) is a successful and macho advertising agent. He knows sex sells to a male audience and does it in a very male oriented way. After all his success and the expectation of a promotion, along comes Li Yilong (Gong Li). She’s young, sassy and successful, and her headstrong attitude scares Sun. He must learn to work under her when she takes his sought after promotion, only to struggle against her managerial style. After taking some female products home, Sun is struck by electrocuted by a fish lamp in his bathtub.

Andy Lau as a secure male. In red heels.

That’s where everything changes. Suddenly, Sun Zigang can hear the thoughts of women. Not all people, like a useful power would, just women. And he finds out that all the women at his work hate him, even his own daughter from his newly divorced wife. With this massive hit to his ego, he must save face and do well in his job all at the same time.

I keep coming back to it, but the idea of a plot like this fascinates me. Most men in this situation would use this power to manipulate women. Andy Lau does this to an extent. But to learn that women can be just as mean to men (just not saying it) is a scary and

Gong Li really is a beautiful woman.

depressing thing. I hope this idea/ script was written by a women, or it wouldn’t be as true and enlightening and this film becomes.

I’m sure there are those people who write this off as just a romantic comedy. Why look into it any more than that? But why not? The idea that maybe being able to be honest and truthful with one another (even if we don’t know that we are) can make things better. It can improve relationships, maybe break them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. But honesty is at the heart of this movie, and that’s what I connected so much with. Listen, I’ve not had a bunch of good luck with female friends in the past. They back stabbed me, left me, didn’t understand me, and I tried to communicate with them on a real level. Maybe that’s something a lot of people can’t handle. Unrelenting trust. That’s the kind of difficulty this movie idea tries to handle.

Ya got beat, Mel.

The acting is great, just like the original, but the chemistry and relationships seem a bit more realistic in this Chinese version. I liked the awkward Asian stereotype at play in the way that it was an ebb and flow between the characters. Nobody ever really said what they wanted to say, and that proves how hard it is to be trusting and honest, completely, with other human beings. I saw a side of China that you don’t often get to see, and it reassures me that not everywhere other than America is so unrelated to us. The music was upbeat and modern, and the comedy was nicely paced and quirky. I gotta say, Mel Gibson, you got beat by Andy Lau. 7.1 out of 10.

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I Love You Phillip Morris

This is one of those movies you don’t think much of when you see it first released, but comes back to surprise you. I had no idea how much homosexuality, adult themes, and gay sex would be portrayed in this film. At all. I sat up late the night I watched this, clutching my pillow, wondering if Ace Ventura was really kissing Obi-Wan. It’s not that I’m opposed to the lifestyle and part of the sexual spectrum these characters lay on. It’s just so surprising to see how committed actors can be to a role they’re given. And it can turn out to be the best of performances.

In I Love You Phillip Morris, Steven Jay Russell (portrayed by Jim Carrey) is a local police man and loving husband to his wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann) and daughter. The

Carrey and Mann, a loving couple?

only thing he can’t get over is that his mother gave him up for adoption when he was a baby. In search of his true mother, he finds that she gave him up… and kept her other children.

With his life’s dream fulfilled and ruined all in one fell swoop, Russell is involved in a bad car accident, changing his life around. He resolves to live his life the way he wanted to for so long. And that life he will pursue will be as a gay man. I thought the first angle of this movie, never having read the accounts of Stephen Jay Russell or anything related, was going to be about him being a con man. I didn’t realize he was going to find his homosexual roots before he met Phillip Morris in jail, but that was just my movie plotline brain buzzing. All the more power to him, because his cons and jail escapes were unbelievably top notch.

A little bit of the lavish life for a pair of gay men.

So Russell meets other men, some sexual interaction (AKA butt sex. I must add this scene, although dramatized, shocked the shit out of me.) and he meets his Latino boyfriend, Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro). After his losing bout with AIDS, Russell goes for one last big haul, and gets himself thrown in jail. But that wasn’t before trying to escape in the only way he knew how. Con city, bro.

While in jail, Russell meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The gentle and noble disposition of Morris changes something in Russell’s deceiving nature changes. He looks out for someone other than his

The moment they meet. In jail. How touching.

own interests and finds true love in a world that had given up on him and his ways. It is at this point that Russell will do anything in order to get Phillip Morris out of jail and to make a stable life for the both of them. As luxurious as that may come off…

What overall impressed me about this film were Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s performances. They were so convincing as a loving couple onscreen that you had to root for them, even if one of them was a con man. The kisses felt real, the holding and touching was that of a chemistry ridden couple. And by couple, I mean just any kind of couple. Gay, bisexual, straight, biracial, you name it, they showed the characteristics of two people in love. By the end of the movie, no matter how homophobic the person watching may be, you came to like and accept Russell and Morris for who they are. That’s something that can cross all lines when it comes to the world of movies.

Some of that steamy man love.

The other thing that I loved about this movie were the cons. And based on real cons, as far as I can see. This entire movie was based on Steve McVicker’s novel about Steven Jay Russell’s life entitled, I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks. These cons are so well played out that you could only believe they would work in the movies. Or, in this case, Texas or one of the Southern states. Yes, a slight against Southerners from the liberal movie makers, who knew? But how well and entertaining they were to watch one right after the other. You felt shame for the law enforcers and businessmen by the end of the film for being so able to be swindled.

This movie takes a whole new approach to the con man, and to relationships in general. How far would one of us go to break their love out of jail? To risk it all one something illegal in order to see their love happy and smiling? That is exactly what Stephen Jay Russell did. And the end of the movie let’s us know that he is serving a life sentence under constant surveillance, while Phillip Morris was finally let out in 2006. This movie of the con man, set in the 1980’s and 90’s, really explores an era that was exploring itself. This movie shows the liberation of the man from his chains, both

Good form.

literally and symbolically. And Jim Carrey gave one of his best quirky drama performances in a long time. I love all of his work, and this is another title to notch in his bedpost. Gay con artist. A well deserved 8.8 out of 10.


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.


50/50: Was Better Than 50/50

To keep things simple, this movie surpised me as a darker true drama comedy. I wasn’t sure about 50/50 going in, and I was surprised that I liked it more than 50/50 percent. I hadn’t seen any trailers, but knew I was going to see it based on my mom’s need to see it. That’s solely because Josephy Gordon-Levitt was meant to be play by fellow boss actor, James McAvoy. But, all the same, it was a moving film about cancer that I’d never really seen before. It was edgy with just the right amount of humor (AKA Hall scene, when you see it, you’ll know.) and just enough human connection. Although I thought it was going to be a comedy, I was pleasantly surprised to the contrary.

This is a true story (about one of Seth Rogen’s friends, I think) who was diagnosed with cancer in his late twenties. With seemingly nothing wrong in his life, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a radio producer in his prime with a

Gordon-Levitt coming to terms with cancer.

loving girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). His best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) is a bit of a dick, but he really sticks by Adam. Include a neurotic, worrying mother (Anjelica Huston) and you’ve got the heartbreakingly bittersweet journey of one man’s back cancer.

There were lots of things I loved about this movie. First off, Adam and Rachael’s relationship. Adam, for lack of a better word, is spineless (and that’s a pun). He doesn’t assert himself anywhere in life, and you feel that would set up for his last run at life full force with his knowledge of cancer. But that’s not what happens at all. At least, not until the threat of

This scene was amazing because it was real.

death towards the very end. I have to say, the entire ending is one gigantic emotional scene. I’m pretty sure everyone shed at least one tear in that theater. Anyways, Rachael is an artist, and she has all of these “expos” and “galleries” all the time that gives her not much time for Adam, although she promises to stay by his side and help him through his disease. Fat lot of good that does.

Adam’s relationship with his parents is something I would have liked to see a lot more of. Adam’s father has Alzheimers and hasn’t remembered his son for quite some time. His mother has both her father and her estranged son to dole on, but never is really give the chance to help and care for them. Adam’s friendship with Kyle (AKA, Seth Rogen in every movie) is something that isn’t worthwhile until the end of the film. In a Knocked Up/40 Year Old Virgin mash-up, Seth Rogen drinks and smokes as he does in every movie and tries to get laid. He’s skinnier now, but it’s still sad. If this is how he truly acted around his real friend with cancer, I will now shudder with the thought.

Anna Kendrick. Yes.

Add also into the mix, Anna Kendrick. Current Twilight understudy, like many of the other Twilighters, she has broken away from the stereotypical marble mold and been given a chance for bigger and better works. I would say this is one of them. Playing an awkwardly naive therapist, Katherine attempts to help Adam come to terms with the idea of dying, although his chances are 50/50.

There are some eye opening scenes and experiences in this movie that I never really knew about. Chemotherapy and its aftermath looks horrendous and tragic. The diminishment of life that is experienced while just going through treatment is completely harrowing. The toll that cancer can play on not just the life of the person, but the life of everyone the person knows, is beyond comprehension. All of this issues come to a beautiful story about Adam that I would love to give credit to director Johnathan Levine and writer Will Reiser. With a great cast (besides Seth Rogen for the most part, but, if Seth Rogen is playing Seth Rogen, then it’s all good) and a fantastic delivery, this movie is worth a watch or two for a good life perspective switch. 9.3 out of 10.

Just overall fantastic.

 


Creation: The “A Beautiful Mind” of the 1800’s

So I just finished this movie and, I have to say, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m pretty sure this movie had about 5 shooting locations, and this simplicity alone was touching and dramatic. This film about the entity that is Charles Darwin and the theory that changed the world through conflict, was one of anguish, inner turmoil, and alienation. This movie may have been pure speculation about the life of Darwin and his quest to write “Origin of the Species,” but it is rare to encounter a film that makes you believe that the actor who is Darwin must have known Darwin. Must have been Darwin.

I had heard about this movie a year or so ago and have always had an affinity for Paul Bettany. All of his

Paul Bettany as Darwin with his Wife Jennifer Connelly as, well, his wife.

work is top shelf stuff. And Creation is no exception. Another amazing piece from across the sea, and it kept me entranced in Bettany and those around Darwin. The 1850’s was a time of religious dominance and this film portrayed that quite clearly. It is this conflict between science and religion (still ongoing) that frames the film. It is not all encompassing of the purpose, but gives substance to the interactions between work, family, and the past.

Martha West as Emma Darwin. What a relationship they had.

There are two amazing relationships that also frame this movie. The first is between Darwin and his daughter Annie (Martha West). The conflict between the live Annie and the memory of her past self haunts Darwin throughout the film. Annie loves her father and his dedication and fervor for life. And at the same time, she loves her mother and the devotion she shows to her religion. As Bettany says ever so touchingly, “I thought we were making the perfect child.” But it is this child that causes the loss of faith as well as the devotion to his soon to be world changing book. And, with every painful interaction, Darwin is forced to face the demons of his past and the issue that this creates with his family, most importantly his wife. And therein lies the second best relationship portrayed in the film. Between Darwin and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), there is an ocean. Emma’s religion and Darwin’s science seem to be the issue at the heart of the problem, but in a surprising and touching twist, it is the daughter that causes the rift. And the resolution is worth the watch in itself. It is rare in films that a leading man and lady would be married in real life. This is one of them. And I give that credit to whoever cast a married couple in a role like this. It’s absolutely amazing to watch two people with chemistry that is based in life to interact on film. Every scene with their interaction is so fluid and natural that I was blown away by how wonderful it must be to be those two in love. Quite literally the best part of the film.

Quite similar.

And there are a few notable mentions to make about minor acting parts. Freya Parks does a great job as Etta, the oldest of Darwin’s children, fighting for the attention of her father who is perpetually focused on the memory of his dead daughter. Her scenes are touching and tragic in the way that she tries and seems to flounder without any affection from her father. The last scene, something to see. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s current Sherlock) gave a great minor performance as Mr. Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes and emotional support in his hour of need when it comes to writing his book. And Martha West, bless her heart, gave it her all as Annie, the focus of Darwin’s obsession and past regrets. Having to play a protagonist and antagonist simultaneously must be quite hard for a child, and she pulls it off with aplomb.

You may have noticed the title of this blog. And I would have to say this plot reminds me of A Beautiful Mind, the great Ron Howard award winning story of another theorist who could see figments of his imagination, John Nash. All of the dramatic elements are there and its done with the same grace. I gotta give credit to Jon Amiel, a director who I’ve not seen do anything like this before, directing with all he has. Throw in some scenes straight out of The Fall with their exotic nature, and you have a recipe for a great movie. 9.5 out of 10.


Fate/Stay Night: Battle Anime at its Finest

So I saw an amazing AMV for this anime at Anime Boston and I was hooked. ( To this and t.a.t.u.) This anime, based on a video game really caught my attention. Its plot and characters are really strong and its premise taken from the video game is also really interesting. Makes me really wanna find the game and play it. I’m not exactly sure what the title of the game/anime means, but it evokes images of the anime from now on in my mind.

This anime focuses around Shiro Emiya, the son of an adopted father that taught him the virtue of helping those less

Shiro. He just wants to help.

fortunate. When his father passes away, he leaves his entire estate to him, and Shiro continues his pursuit of justice and fairness and help for those who need it. And then one day everything changes. When Shiro witnesses a battle between what seems to be two warriors, he runs away and is stabbed by one. Rin, a fellow classmate saves him and it is at that point that Shiro summons a Servant, Saber. Rin and her Servant Archer team up with Shiro and Saber and these two discover exactly what is going on.

What is going on is that they are in the middle of a centuries old battle for the Holy Grail. There are seven Masters and seven Servants that are fighting each other for control of that Holy Grail in order to grant their wishes. The only way to eliminate competitors is to kill the Masters or kill the servants. From the beginning it appears that killing Masters is more effective, for the Servants will just disappear. But things drastically change this time around as the battles continue. With Shiro’s attitude and the relationship he develops with Saber, nothing will ever be the same for these magical warriors battling for their lives.

Those are some sexy Servants/Masters.

And that’s what I like about this anime. Though it focuses around the battles, not all 24 episodes contain violent action sequences. Most focus on Shiro’s attempts to quell the violence and find another way in which they can avoid confrontation and yet acquire the Holy Grail. (And I won’t even get into how complicated the Holy Grail itself is.) Shiro is constantly, and pretty much annoyingly, protecting Saber and preventing her from her primary function, fighting. But it grows on you as the anime progresses. And that’s where they social/relationship aspect of the show grows from. You begin to discover the pasts of the characters and really wish that not a single character would die. (Kind of the case… Hard to explain.)

But there are great characters in this anime. Shiro, of course, is a conflicted, troubled, angsty main character that really has to use the anime to work out his issues. Rin, his fellow student and collaborator helps Shiro as much as she can while trying to gain the upper hand over him. Illya is a little girl with a tragic past that only needs help from others, and yet at the same time is spine-tinglingly ruthless. Shinji Mato is a troubled boy who only wants to prove himself and meets challenges in his own way (I rather like him and his Servant.) And those are just the Masters to name a few. There’s Saber, Shiro’s Servant with a ruthless attitude that borders on heroically suicidal. Rider, Shinji’s Servant that is sexy and majestic at the same time. And Archer,

Archer. He destroys.

Rin’s Servant with a hard exterior and heart of gold complex. And all these characters are based on mythological/historically ancient warriors. It’s great.

These amazing characters set against a modern backdrop sets up what comes out to be an amazing anime. The battles are epic, the Noble Phantasms are great powers to have, and the mana, attacks, and spells come right out of the video game realm. I’ve never thought of how easily story driven video games can easily be turned into anime/cartoons, but they can, and they have. (Tales games, Final Fantasy, ect.) So please, check this out, it’s worth a watch.

Check out this AMV. It’s amazing.