Archives for category: Film

As I watched Gravity, I can’t remember anything else that kept me on a tether like Sandra Bullock was desperately trying to cling onto life. I also wondered at the technological marvels that allowed the film to exist. Whilst Neil DeGrasse Tyson and some others might’ve pointed out some inaccuracies in the film, I’m really glad I’m not an astrophysicist or I’d get annoyed by details that detract from the plot. Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar nom heavy film is stunning in terms of visuals and theme. It’s unbelievable how Bullock’s Ryan Stone manages to survive nightmarish incident after nightmarish incident but we want her to and we want us to. Stone is humanity and we need her to survive. It’s a film that speaks to the optimist and the survivor in us and does so magically and wondrously.

Not a lot of films have that one rare ingredient that makes a classic and Gravity has it. Movie magic. You think you’re there, watching everything unfold and you think it’s all actually happening. From the get go, it grips you and never lets go and you don’t want to, or you’d be floating away into oblivion is what you’d think.

Call me stupid but I’m amazed that Bullock and the only other actor, George Clooney, don’t even see each other in filming. It’s remarkable that there’s only two actors playing shit out in a lightbox/green screen suspended by puppeteers and with a headset to communicate with Cuaron. It’s on that visionary shit.

At once, the film reminds us of the fragility of life, of the beauty of our existence, the beauty of our planet and the wonderful yet scary thing we call physics. It’s so easy to forget how hard it is to actually live. To think we struggle without the need to exist in a world without something like gravity, or the fact that we can breathe freely or the fact that we don’t have shit hurtling at us all the time. Most people just spend all day staring at screens, big and small and seem completely absorbed into a world that doesn’t exist and yet, we live in a mysterious, logical, amazing world. It almost makes me want to stop typing and smell the roses or look up at the sky. But then I remember that I’m alive.

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I watched this documentary called Michelin Stars: The Madness Of Perfection. William Sitwell is a food writer and critic who delves into the world of Michelin stars, talking to Marcus Wareing, up and coming chefs, Marco Pierre White, Jean-Luc Naret (ex president of Michelin guide), a real Michelin inspector and Jeremy King, a man who has a few restaurants, all without stars. One of the focal points is Bernard Loiseau, who is alleged to have killed himself apparently because he worried he would lose a star.

I think one of my favourite bits was a candid chat with Raymond Blanc, who didn’t mince any words when he said that drug use is high in professional restaurants. You don’t get to see or hear this shit ever. That’s the reality of working in starred or hatted restaurants. Blanc mentioned how a good kitchen is one with a great energy and vibe but he also stressed that the ones where young chefs get screamed at shouldn’t be the case. Myself, I worked with this German dude who was sometimes jovial and sometimes a swearing nutter. Schiesser schiesser schiesser. I currently work with a dude who’s pretty damn chilled and great fun. I can tell you which is better.

I have never actually worked for a famous mad pan tossing, swearing mofo like some of my friends. The stories we tell over beers and soju are about dickheads and egos and clashes between the front (management) and back (kitchen) and people getting stabbed and shit. There’s a shitload of effort that goes into a good plate of food. Where I work might not have 3 hats at the moment but we push hard. I work on average a 52 hour workweek, on paper. In truth, it’s about 20% more than that and only because my place is quite nice and people tell me to go home when I’m done. But in many top kitchens, it’s not unusual to do 70 or 80 hour weeks for something like $600 a week. Or less, particularly when you just start out.

I know a guy who had a hot pan thrown at his face. He dodged it. There are like a zillion kitchens where the guy on top is basically mouthing off at your face, worse than Gordon Ramsay, who’s actually a pretty nice guy considering. I dined at Pier on it’s final day and as I traipsed past the kitchen door, two dudes were in fisticuffs. There’s plenty of places where you’ll see adverts all year for chefs of all positions, revolving doors where chefs get used and abused and another poor sod who doesn’t know any better comes in. And the drug use? I haven’t seen it personally other than a spliff or a pill or a line out of work but people use or have used drugs. I work/worked with dudes who have/had problems.

Why the hell do chefs do it to themselves though? I understand the pressure and all but to kill yourself like Loiseau is madness for sure. For the recognition? I think Marco Pierre White put it best in the doco. He said “What chefs should accept, is that the people who are judging them, have less knowledge than they have.” I definitely subscribe to that philosophy, even if it comes across a little arrogant, it also happens to be 100% true.

Which is why it sucks that a restaurant’s livelihood is summed up in a few lines in a paper or worse still a 400 pixel wide image on a blog written by someone who has no professional or insider understanding whatsoever. I’m not saying there’s no good food blogs, there’s plenty and they’re informative but I never bother about their opinions, it’s just another angle of information aside from a restaurant website but often I’ll read some shit that makes me roll my eyes back into my sockets. Bloggers do need to understand that they have a responsibility to real businesses and real people who can have off days from time to time.

I think chefs have a hard enough life as is. Long hours, physically demanding labour, intense environmental conditions, so many fears out of your full control (hairs dropping, bugs in the salad, plastic wrap/paper/foil stuck on food…), constantly getting injured… It’s really no help at all when you just wanna do something that will brighten up someone else’s day. In today’s instagramming, twittering, facebook enabled society, you’re judged the moment you mention to someone that you’re gonna open doors, before the first plate of food goes out. You’re judged on where you’ve worked before (Tetsuya’s great, roast chicken shop less so) and your background (exotic culture/ethnicity, training in a foreign land…) or your looks even. As much as I like to go out to eat and write about my experiences, I tend to prefer not to mention places I didn’t thoroughly enjoy and I don’t really openly criticize too much. I abhor articles that mention that somewhere else is better. I think comparing the stuff from one place to another as a point of reference is perfectly fine but in one recent review for a ramen store in Sydney printed in a major newspaper, the author went onto recommend another place instead, which I think is highly unprofessional.

Chefs definitely belong in the work hard play hard category of people. Not everyone’s cut out for it either and just too many people do it because, well, what else would they do? Chefs are mostly either stupid or naive. Stupid because they should’ve studied harder in school to land that white collar. Naive because they think they’re doing something they’re passionate about and hoping to share that passion with other like minded people. Sure there’s plenty of peeps who love and know great food and what it can do but there’s just loads and loads of people you will never please.

I like a few genres in film. Noir, thrillers, sci-fi and comedy. Rian Johnson’s Looper is basically the first three but mostly the middle two, so it was definitely on my to watch list when it came out. Starring Bruce Willis as the future version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the basic premise revolves around these hired killers called loopers who kill people sent back in time. Throw in 10% of the population having telekinetic powers in 2044 plus floating crop harvest robots and eyedrop drugs and it feels like a compelling futuristic dystopia.

If only the massive loopholes didn’t destroy what could have been. The problem with Looper is that Rian Johnson was mostly fixated on trying to show what could happen if your future self meets up with your younger self and the two don’t see eye to eye. Because of this conundrum he wanted to create, he had to also create some future technologies to make it all plausible. But he doesn’t really do that very well. The whole telekinetic thing really feels like it was dropped in to explain this or that or maybe make it so this would be cool. Also, time travel is really really tough to play with without creating all kinds of logic errors.

Johnson’s approach was most aptly described by a scene in a diner when JGL and Willis meet properly for the first time and sit down over steak and eggs. Willis’ character blurts this out as the catchall explainaway telling the viewers to disregard the loopholes and focus on the plot/characters, “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”. Pity that the plot and the complications in the characters’ situations all depend on the science having some plausibility.

The film itself was somewhat enjoyable and if you’re capable of disbelief suspension for 2hrs, then you’d like the action and retro americana steampunk styling. You’d probably laugh at the scene when Emily Blunt gets horny and presses on a frog, which has JGL running to find her in her lingerie. I just can’t believe in a world if it’s made in such a hurried, kinda patchwork method where if there’s one logic problem, we’ll just magic it away with “sci-fi” but create two more problems that we’ll just ignore. In many ways, it just seems a bit lazy.

Johnsons’ previous major work, Brick, was actually much better because it didn’t involve any need for quantum physics. I remember JGL’s character from that film talking way too much and being more than a little unconvincing at the time but fast forward 8 years and he’s become a brilliant Bruce Willis mimic.

I think 30% of me wanted to really like Looper but the other 70% was just like, um… this doesn’t make sense!!! So I couldn’t fully enjoy it, which is a pity because I think it would have been like Inception level if the major plotholes were filled with substance, not just bandaids.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce Willis

The Sword Of Doom or 大菩薩峠 Daibosatsu Toge (which is actually the name of a mountain pass used in the film) is a 1966 samurai movie starring Tatsuya Nakadai and directed by Kihachi Okamoto. Toshiro Mifune also appears as an experienced kendo master in a supporting role. Nakadai plays Ryunosuke Tsukue, a ronin cast out from the Kogen Itto-Ryu school of swordsmanship. He’s the ultimate antihero, a cold and ruthless murderer who kills without much thought or emotion.

The movie starts out with an elderly man going on a pilgrimage with his granddaughter through the pass afterwhich the Japanese title takes the name. The old man prays for an early death so his granddaughter will not suffer the burden of looking after him, at which point Ryunosuke duly obliges with a slash to his back.

He’s pleaded with to lose a sparring match to a rival by his father to allow him to save his face. The man’s wife even begs him to help, offering herself in exchange. Instead, he kills the man in “self-defense” and ends up staying with the woman. Obviously upset with the death of their kin, the entire school sets out to kill him, only for Ryunosuke to slash them all to hell in a really slick semi isometric/side scrolling scene. He next joins the Shinsengumi as a ronin for hire, killing whoever they want him to for a pittance.

Eventually, the brother of the man he killed in the sparring contest seeks revenge and even his mistress tries to turn on him. The Shinsengumi too in a final, climactic scene which ends abruptly but not without a lot of rather gruesome deaths; especially for the time. In total, Ryunosuke kills 90 dudes throughout the film.

Along the course of the film, Ryunosuke’s character changes dramatically. At the start, he has a certain arrogance and perhaps sees himself as nigh invincible, a human god of death sent to cleanse the earth. Yet slowly, his position turns more decrepit than before. Even if his sword skills still seem unmatched, he’s living pretty much in squalor and pinching pennies as a killer for hire.Eventually, he meets Mifune’s character and for the first time, is scared shitless. From thereon, his invincibility looks a lot less convincing and it appears that he’s about to get what he’s given. He goes from being an arrogant dick to a loser and then an insect scrambling to survive, all the while being a really good swordsman as well.

I really enjoyed the movie. I thought the action scenes were just mad, particularly for something from the 60s. It was really smooth, well planned and choreographed. Very very stylish to say the least. Hands get chopped off and blood goes everywhere and it’s like Ryunosuke just needs one hit to kill anyone. His technique is all about the bait and slash, so you see guys rushing at him and swiftly steps aside or rolls away before drawing a quick slash across his foe.

I also liked the camera work and the inventive use of lighting and shadows to tell the story, particularly just before the end fight scene where Ryunosuke imagines all the people he’s slain back to haunt him and he’s slashing at these bamboo blinds and half his faces is shrouded in lines until eventually his imaginary ghosts turn into real enemies hiding behind the screens.

Whilst you’ll hate his character from the start and probably till the end, the movie itself is pretty snappy and action intense sendup on karma being a bitch. You’ll also marvel with the ease with which Mifune and Ryunosuke just go slash slash slash with careless abandon. Check the video for more convincing proof.

The only “bad” thing is the seriously abrupt freeze frame of Ryunosuke’s face of an ending in the midst of the final fight. Apparently, the film was supposed to be a trilogy but somehow the ending as it is also maybe is a lot more powerful in a sense. I was certainly convinced that there’s more to Sword Of Doom than just a nihilistic sword slashing spree. Probably already up there in my fave films list but then again, I’m a knife loving moron who wishes he were a samurai with a topknot and mad bitches falling all over.

In uni, I took a course on art film which was probably my most enthusiastic self in my entire school life. I basically got to watch a whole buncha classic films and shoot shit about em. Some were horrid whilst others were easy. Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday was one of the first films we caught which was so easy to enjoy whilst I could never sit through anything by Hou Hsiao Hsien before my drool hit the floor. Thankfully, Wong Kar Wai was a massive part of the course and I got to rewatch a lot of his movies.

Anyway, the first time I watched Ashes Of Time, I was probably in my teens and I remember wondering why the hell it didn’t have better action scenes and why the hell it was so dreary and slow and what the hell was the plot going on about. The second time I watched it was in the film course and I still felt it was extremely dreary and slow.

Fast forward to today? I decide to watch Ashes Of Time Redux, which is the 2008 rethink of the film. And? Yes, it’s still fucking dreary and slow but heaps better, I think. In many ways, I feel like it’s a film that shares a lot more with Wong’s films post Fallen Angels. The regular Ashes has a washed out, bleak tonality to it that really looked mostly just blurry and fuzzy or empty. The action scenes were just flailing closeups whilst the landscapes were just desolate. In Redux, the colour is just intense, bright greens and blues which were totally absent before are now everywhere and yellow is the significant tone that dominates the new treatment. It looks a lot closer to 2046 in that sense.

The music is also changed, I can’t remember what it was before but now there’s this orchestrally score, particularly at the end, which sounds terrible. It feels like a low budget version of the In The Mood For Love soundtrack because it sounds like the kinda shit you hear in the melodramatic bits in wuxia pian.

I think Wong also paid more attention to the end bits of the film, which focuses on the story of the narrator and main character, Leslie Cheung’s Ouyang Feng and how every other plotline leading up to this explains his existing position and predicament.

This redux seems a helluva lot better than the old movie, which was probably a compromised version which had a lot of bloody action scenes that really didn’t help the plot much. Watching the current version though, feels like it hints at what Wong would later achieve with Happy Together and In The Mood For Love.

All in all, you have to be really happy with Ashes because even though it’s not a great movie and is kinda shitty to watch in most respects for the casual moviegoer, it spawned two of the greatest HK movies of all time. Chungking Express got busted out during a two month break and The Eagle Shooting Heroes / Dong Cheng Xi Jiu got made to cover costs.

If you don’t know what the latter is, here it is in its entirety for Cantonese speakers and Mandarin readers. Pretty much the most hilarious wuxia pian in the history of wuxia pian.

Manhattan Murder Mystery is a ’93 Woody Allen movie that started out as the screenplay for Annie Hall. The murder mystery bit got dropped and everything else became Annie Hall. Allen sidelined the original screenplay until the early ’90s when he got together again with Annie Hall co-writer Marshall Brickman to get it back on track. Like Annie Hall, MMM stars Diane Keaton, who wasn’t originally meant to feature. Instead it was going to be Mia Farrow, who had just ended her relationship with Allen. Despite this, Keaton really takes to the role superbly and has to be the cheeriest thing in the movie.

The film itself is a sendup of film noir to some extent. It starts off with Keaton and Allen, a middle aged couple who seem to lead rather tranquil lives. They meet their neighbours one night only to learn the next day that the wife had died of a heart attack. Bumping into the husband the next night, Keaton’s Carol finds it suspicious that he doesn’t seem to be grieving much at all.

Cue the sneaking and snooping as Carol breaks into her neighbour’s apartment where she starts to unravel what she thinks is a murder mystery that somehow, only she can solve. Allen’s Larry on the other hand, just doesn’t want to keep getting woken up at 1am every night and is convinced his wife should give up the wild goose chase. She doesn’t of course, because she’s buoyed on by their friend Ted (Alan Alda), who also happens to be very interested in Carol. Meanwhile Larry is editing a book for the highly sexual Marcia (Angelica Huston) who’s coming on to him all too obviously.

So here, we have two plots running alongside each other. On the one hand, Carol and Ted try to solve the mystery, whilst Larry is tossing up between taking poker lessons from Marcia and putting more effort into his marriage. Ultimately, the four all get together at a point when it seems that they are the only ones who can bring the murderer to justice or perhaps they’re just delusional middle agers looking for some adventure.

I really enjoyed how sweet the movie was and how the relationships of the main characters was juxtaposed against the murder plot. Rather than the murder being the focal point, it was really the romantic side of the story that was engaging. The murder plot would make for a really shitty noir though. The way Allen and Brickman wrote the final story really works out well and there’s just so many funny scenes in this, it’s ridiculous. It’s like a noir romantic comedy.

Midnight In Paris has been out for ages and it’s been sitting on my hard drive for ages. Why I took so long to summon up the muscle to watch it bewilders me. I think it was somehow because I saw it mentioned in someone’s Facebook feed or someshit and I thought it’d caught onto some hipster bs. Then I remembered that all I do is hipster bs. Or maybe it was because Owen Wilson is the protagonist and I keep seeing Jackie Chan’s nose when I look at him. I never figured he’d fit a romantic comedy written by Woody Allen. Now that I’ve actually watched the film, I reckon he might’ve been the perfect fit. You don’t actually want someone handsome or dashing or suave. You want a dude with a bit of child like naivete in his voice and an idealistic tone, not an actor’s actor or someone completely serious.

Judging from the title alone, I knew I could expect that the city of Paris itself would be one of the stars of the show, much like how New York was in 1979’s Manhattan. What I didn’t know, however, was that there would be time travel involved. I never read the synopsis or watched the trailer. All I did was read the title and see that image of Owen Wilson walking under Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I got straight up fooled and that in itself is real movie magic, when you fall in love with the fantasy.

Wilson’s Gil Pender is engaged to Inez, who’s played by Rachel McAdams, expertly cast again as the perfect spoilt white rich girl. They go to Paris with Inez’s staunchly Republican father and hooty tooty mother. Right off the bat, the free spirited Gil seems an absurd match for this family. He just looks completely out of place and destined for something else. He’s a struggling writer who makes a good living writing scripts for Hollywood, which is easy, but he dreams of being more like his idols F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway, a novelist. Instead, he has to deal with Inez’s friend Paul (Micheal Sheen), who’s the most stuck up dickwad of a character you’ll ever meet. Paul ridicules Gil’s penchant for a more nostalgic “golden age”, Paris in the 20s. He reckons “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”. He also tries to argue with fucking Carla Bruni, who appears as a tour guide to the Rodin museum. She’s sooo hot. How the fuck is she 44? She could be standing on a stage with a sash and crown and telling me she believes in world peace and I’d follow her to hell and back.

Anyway, so Gil drinks a little and decides that he’s gonna hit the sack whilst Inez and Paul and Paul’s wife Carol go dancing. How obvious is it at this point that Inez wants to fuck Paul and vice versa. Women always go for the asshole. Meanwhile, Gil opts to walk back to the hotel but ends up lost. He traipses round Paris at night, clearly lonely, clearly lost and sits down on some steps until a really old looking car stops and it’s occupants invite him in. He ends up at a party where he meets his aforementioned idol, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda and Cole Porter is playing “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love” and later Josephine Baker then the very poetic Hemingway in a salon. At first Gil is wondering wtf just happened but the Fitzgeralds bring him around and he kinda just falls into it. He’s somehow got time warped into his favourite time and place, 1920s Paris. Hemingway asks Gil to hand him his novel to pass onto Gertrude Stein to proofread. So Gil is delighted, walks out of the salon then wonders how he’s gonna contact him again so he tries to walk back but finds he’s back in the real world, back in the numbingly boring present standing outside a laundromat.

Apparently, if you sit on some random steps in Paris at midnight, you can time travel, which is what Gil does once he realizes how the trick works. He meets more and more illustrious people, from Allen’s idol Bunuel to people like Dali (who has a rhino fetish) and Matisse and Man Ray and T.S Eliot. He also meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who happens to be Picasso’s mistress and falls in love with her. At this point, the conflicts within Gil are fully revealed and there this amazing juxtaposition of the past and the present with fantasy and reality and importantly, with Gil’s indecision over whether to live as he wants to or as he thinks he needs to.

I like how the fantasy element of the film is just a really big metaphor for the fantasies that plague our own minds. We’re drawn towards nostalgia, towards our dreams but we’re unfortunately held back by reality, or maybe we think we are. I also really liked how the pacing of the film lulled you into that fantasy of 1920s Paris and lulled you into following Gil’s ultimate self actualization as we reach the rather upbeat ending. The climax of the film is probably the scene where Gil time travels whilst he’s time travelled, from the 20s to the turn of the century and he meets Toulouse Lautrec, Degas and Gaugain and it’s this scene that’s kinda like the image within an image thing which is very cool for me. It’s like some kinda for a split second Gil is in this endless mirrored reflection possibility situation where he has to choose whether to keep pining for a nostalgia he’s never experienced or to live life to its fullest in reality.

The love for the city is there (in the opening sequence) and the way Allen frames the shots, you get this sense of beauty and wonder and that little bit of magic that sparkled from the Parisian streets. Midnight is really very close to Allen’s own The Purple Rose Of Cairo from 1985. The main protagonists are similarly idealistic dreamers stuck in an everyday grind that they know they abhor but somehow seem to be resigned to. Then there’s the obvious fantasy elements in both. The time travelling in MIP is reminiscent of how Gil Sheperd (same first name) breaks the fourth wall literally, jumping from reel to real life. In feel and in spirit, these films are similar.

It’s actually a really good Woody Allen movie, Midnight is. It’s also nice that it’s the kinda of film that you can say is a Woody Allen movie, the slightly off beat romantic comedy. Well it’s harsh to call it a romantic comedy because you think people laugh watching it and people kiss in it. I mean, that shit happens in the film but it’s not the romance between the characters that matters one bit. There’s a love story plot but it’s the romantic perspective on life itself that dominates. It’s more so a story of self discovery perhaps or one of self realisation; a comparison of fact and fiction, which is why I think Midnight is pretty much the second bestest Allen movie evar! After Annie Hall of course. At this point, I’m wondering if Ingmar Bergman made a movie with such a romantic philosophical view on life, something so bright and cheery.

If you watch the trailer, it looks like a really shitty comedy with the worst lines but it’s really not. Instead, I think it’s much better to see the following clips of Carla Bruni and Lea Seydoux instead. Massive spoilers obviously. Skip to 1:53 for the last one.

Ok so I just watched Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi flick for the second time. I gotta say, a lot of the film feels like a rehash of the good ole Alien franchise and of course, this is sorta, kinda like the prequel to Alien or at least it gives insight into where those horrible evil creatures came from. There’s the strong female character, well ok there’s two this time. Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers and does push ups after waking up from hypersleep in loin cloths. It’s not particularly sexy at all but it reminds you of Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. But the main heroine, Elizabeth Shaw is played by Noomi Rapace, of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame. She’s a god fearing scientist that becomes the main protagonist in Prometheus. Faced with death all around, she somehow summons up the will to survive and it’s this will that drives the plot. Aside from the strong female characters, there’s also the aliens and cool spacesuits and spaceships and gear and stuff. I really like the design of a lot of the tech stuff actually.

The movie opens as a camera flies across various desolate, bleak landscapes until you see a massive shadow moving on the ground and the sound of what appears to be a massive spaceship. Then you cut to a lone figure walking on the edge of a waterfall. It’s some alien guy with a very strong nose, extremely muscular body and he strips off his robes before ingesting something that starts to destroy his body from within. His body starts breaking down and he falls into the waterfall and from this destructive suicide, we see new chains of DNA forming and cells dividing. Was this how life started here on earth?

It’s this question that is one of the key focus points in the movie. Who are we? Where did we come from? What’s the meaning of life? I don’t think the film pushes the question too hard. At the end of the day, it’s really just a simple sci-fi adventure and it doesn’t even bother to attempt to answer any questions really. There are no answers and it’s just an infinite loop anyway.

Two scientists/idiots think they do though. Rapace’s Shaw and her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find the same star system depicted in various cave paintings found in ancient civilizations that never shared any contact. The Mayans, Mesopotamians and every other mofo is summoned to give credence to their theory, that spacemen gave birth to us and are inviting us to find them.

They convince Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland, who’s kinda like a what if Emperor Palpatine was mainly interested in immortality and meeting his maker. He wears this make up and prosthetics stuff that is sooo fake by today’s standards. He does a decent job acting old even if his voice is incredibly sprightly. But he’s supposed to be already dead so he’s just funding things. Or is he? Charlize’s Theron character is the custodian for the Weyland corporation, so she’s in charge of this trillion dollar mission to find the engineers and hires a buncha guys including most notably, Idris Elba of The Wire. He plays Janek, the Captain of the Prometheus, the spaceship named after the Greek titan that tried to give fire to the humans and level the playing field against the gods.

The crew arrives inside the star system that is their destination, where a single moon orbiting this massive Jupiter like planet looks like it could support life. While the planet appears to be uninhabitable, they find some structures that are too linear to be natural so they land and investigate but all is not what it seems!

Some stuff just made me cringe. Some obvious, why didn’t you do this or how the hell could these scientists with this technology be so stupid/careless. A lot of foreshadowing was just too obvious and some parts of the story had a certain mechanical progression rather than an organic one. I felt the story and it’s many characters could’ve been fleshed out more. But it’s not all crap. It ain’t perfect but there’s at least one awesomely epic scene I won’t forget in a bit. In many ways, the films just plays on our fears of the unknown, of our origin and the fragility of our existence and just some damn cool future space shit. It’s not the best in a while, but I love it!

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is the David Gelb helmed documentary about Jiro Ono, owner and head chef of the much heralded Sukiyabashi Jiro. It’s a very pretty film, with lots of slow mo pans and tilts and lingering shots of soy being brushed over the fish and placed gently on serving dishes with a soundtrack of Phillip Glass and Max Richter.

The story itself centers mostly on Jiro himself, a sprightly 86 year old who has basically been a sushi chef since forever. He’s a legend, a national treasure and a curious, almost eccentric personality. He’s the sort of perfectionist so in love with his craft that he hesitates to stop. His only desire is the continual improvement and attainment of better sushi. It’s hard to imagine working at the same thing for over 75 years. He actually considered retiring at one point when he fell ill and had to go to the hospital but ultimately just kept going.

But it’s not all about Jiro, the supreme overlord sushi machine. It’s also about succession, about his sons and the apprentices who have served under him and are serving under him, including Hachiro Mizutani of Sushi Mizutani, another 3 starred place and well respected in and of itself who talks briefly about working under Jiro and also about the difficult task that his sons face. Takashi, the younger has branched out with his own Roppongi Hills outlet. Yoshikazu, the elder, is expected to the heir but he’s still the underling at over 50! He has at least graduated to doing the shopping and in many ways, he’s probably the head chef moreso than Jiro. The film also mentions how the restaurant was awarded 3 michelin stars consistently and each and everytime, the inspectors were served by Yoshikazu, not Jiro himself. Mizutani says it’s still tough for Yoshikazu though, so great is Jiro’s influence that his son has to be at twice his actual level to even match him in the eyes of regulars.

From the issue of succession, it segues into the issue of long term continuity which is the environmental issue of overfishing. Top sushi restaurants like these tend to be tiny little places, where reservations are mandantory. 30,000Y is the starting price for dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro. As popular as they might be, they don’t generate that much actual demand and don’t buy that much fish. Instead, it’s the kaiten sushi joints and rubbish supermarket stuff that is running fish stocks into the ground due the low cost and massive demand. The film itself is still a staunch promoter of sushi so it’s a bit of a double edged sword but if you watch it and you notice the insane attention to detail and how different it is to the cheap shit, hopefully you’ll understand the importance of quality not quantity. I still remember my worst meal in Sydney to date, a lunch at kaiten style sushi joint in the city. Super tasteless fish, pathetic portions and poor quality that no amount of mayo could negate. I think you can also extrapolate the idea to other types of food as well, from overcrowded farming techniques to the excessive use of pesticides and shit. Fuck I think I’m turning into some kinda organic food asshole.

Then you start talking about the suppliers. The similar level of dedication the tuna guy has (he either buy’s his first choice or nothing) or the rice guy (who won’t sell the rice to anyone else because they can’t cook it)… It reminds me that a place is only as good as the stuff it can get in the first place and a lot of that is disappearing.

When I was planning my trip to Tokyo a month ago, I actually wanted to hit up a less expensive 3 star joint, Sushi Saito as well as one of the famous trio at Tsukiji. Time and hesitation meant I omitted Saito, which I regret. Having watched the film, I think I’ve sworn off rubbish sushi entirely and if I want that stuff, I’ll do it myself at home. Otherwise, I’m only gonna have it if it’s worth it. The next Tokyo trip, I’m definitely gonna gun for at least one of the top sushi places.

I enjoyed the film immensely. The idea of dedication and the ritualistic nature of being a craftsman, a shokunin, is what I took from it the most. Just trying to enjoy your job and always looking onwards and upwards. I still wonder how much better a place like Jiro really is. I really want to know what it’s like to be near the mountaintop at least. I want to know how such dedication and critical selection can turn simple methods into works of art. To think it’s a 10 seat, reservations only place, hidden underground in the Ginza station is just mind boggling!

Another thing that resonated deeply with me is watching the team eat staff meal. You can’t tell what tastes good if you don’t eat  it. That’s something I’ve subscribed to since I was in the womb!

Charles Bronson is the stagename for infamous career prisoner Michael Peterson, a name taken after Peterson starts out in the world of underground boxing. Bronson is the pseudo autobiographical film helmed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Tom Hardy is the man that stars in the lead role and does it really well. It’s a highly theatrical film, replete with the lead actor playing narrator in facepaint.

The show starts out with Bronson facing an audience and telling them his story sequentially, from his birth til he reaches adulthood and his unlikely fall into criminal behaviour. There’s really no reason for it. He just likes to fight. He robs a post office and gets himself 7 years in jail and from there, picks a fight with anyone he wants and moves from prison to prison and then a mental hospital before getting released because he’s too expensive to keep in jail. He gets involved in some boxing but falls for a girl, steals a ring and ends up back in jail. At one point he laments that he’s spent 30 or so years in the prison system and he hasn’t killed a single person. Back in jail, he keeps fighting the guards but eventually winds up in art class, gets his art teacher interested in his work, beats his art teacher up, ties him to a pole and paints his face. He’s naked but painted black and wearing gold framed sunglasses and a bowler hat whilst doing this. There’s a certain Clockwork Orange-ness mixed up with Magritte, who’s gets referenced just a moment earlier.

The film style is somewhat surrealist/absurdist. It plays on the hyper violence by having electro pop/classical tunes playing in the background. So you got the Pet Shop Boys and New Order or something from Madame Butterfly whilst he’s pummeling prison guards or screaming fuck you cunt or whatever. It works quite well stylistically. There’s also a heavy homo-eroticism in the film with a few very gay characters seeming to take a liking to the muscley and mustachioed Bronson which works to contrast with the macho man image of the main character.

However, the character just feels a little empty. He’s an excessively violent sociopath who doesn’t have much raison d’etre. I suppose that’s probably the main criticism for the film, that it lacks substance. Not that a film needs to have great meaning but just that Bronson seems a little uninteresting beyond the nice framing and music and the cinematography and Hardy’s twitching between hyperviolence and prim and proper. Despite the hardline outer masculinity of Bronson, you can still see the child within him, uninformed and naive and ultimately a little dull.

Still got some interesting scenes though.