Europa Report injects a fresh take on the sci-fi/horror genre and is destined to become a cult favorite. While many saw Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and was mesmerized by the simple things that can make us appreciate life, scare us and make us sweat with anticipation of what will happen next, Sebastian Cordero’s Europa Report, also released in 2013, gives us a similar taste in reality. The film uses the found footage technique to enhance your experience like you’re watching a documentary and in this particular case, it works and doesn’t show off as just a gimmick but as a staple on the overall project.
Daniel Wu and Sharlto Copley headline an international cast of astronauts who are trapped within their own vessel and struggle to stay alive within the vast infinite space. A hidden evil is disrupting their lives and they must fight their way to reach home. The way the film is set up is you already know the outcome of the story. You already know how it goes down because the film is edited out of order. The journey here is the most important aspect and you feel trapped and lonely alongside these characters. How would you react to an unknown enemy? How would you prepare yourself in this situation? These are questions you ask as characters are picked off one by one. While the script has moments of generic tendencies and cliches because we’ve seen this tale be told many times over, the characters themselves are natural and speak volumes. It’s like the actors onscreen are actually in danger within this environment. Director Sebastian Cordero structures everything together to create such panic inside the walls of the ship.
The editing is masterful and the tension keeps building as each frame goes by. Bear McCreary’s epic and terrifying score enhances the film to layer each scene with acute vulnerabilities and heightened awareness. For 90 minutes, you are whisked into this reality as you see these people get lost into oblivion with every decision that is made and wish them anything but this as a desperate calm. While the ending is hit or miss and may upset some viewers, the film is an energetic work of art and shows that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. If done right, horror and sci-fi can coexist. Europa Report fell under a lot of people’s radars which is a shame but this is a film you have to seek out because it deserves the recognition. A hidden gem that must be discovered. A work that has to be seen to be believed.
Yasuomi Umetsu created Kite back in 1998 and nearly 10 years later creates a sequel that has little to nothing to do with the original except for the girls with gun concept. In fact, you can argue that it’s not really a sequel. You could change the name to just Liberator and nobody would even know the difference.
Monaka is an assassin by night who uses feathers scattering in the crisp night time air as her signature but during the day, she is the most clumsy teenager to ever grace this earth. How on earth she is able to flip that switch is anything beyond compare. Oh wait, it’s an anime film so anything is possible. She works at a maid cafe with a boss so ugly he makes a pedophile look charming. She wants to save enough money so she can live on her own. It’s usual teenager stuff really. Meanwhile her astronaut father working on the international space station delivers a gift to her daughter then later morphs into a deadly creature after eating food that was medically enhanced with the sun’s radiation causing his calcium levels to skyrocket.
Kite Liberator is an unfortunate victim in its attempt to capture the spirit of its predecessor and while the action is merely watchable and does have flashes of good moments, it’s nothing that can stand on its own. It looks like it tried too hard to glorify what the original did without the flair that made the original enticing. It’s welcoming that Umetsu paid more attention to character, making this one a much more personal affair as the heroine goes up against her father-turned-creature villain. Speaking of character, Monaka is pleasing as the assassin personality but falls apart and is less interesting as her clumsy counterpart. No one in the entire world would figure out that this girl was Wonder Woman, let alone the girl responsible for the killings during the film. The other characters are pretty forgettable but the attention is focused on Monaka so it’s to be expected.
Even with this film as a passable watch, it won’t be remembered much. While the animation is clean and the music a good listen, the sum of its parts is nothing noteworthy. Kudos to the creators for making a more personal plotline but Kite Liberator is just another run of the mill OVA. If you missed it the first time around, there’s no use crying about it. You have plenty of time to catch up. Plenty.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 Oscar nominated film directed by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese based on the memoirs of the same name and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a man who rises from the bottom of the barrel; a stain on a stock brokers’ Armani suit to become a man who possesses whatever he wants, whenever he wants. In other words, he becomes filthy stinking rich.
The film begins after showing Belfort midway through his rich life of luxury, in the beginning of his naive, young little life, trying to make a name for himself. He gets introduced to the world of Wall Street by Mark Hanna (triumphantly played by Matthew McConaughey) and tells him that in order to successfully live life in Wall Street you need to have a life of cocaine and sex. Shortly after he begins to give it a try, the firm collapses due to Black Monday. He then takes a job dealing penny stocks and becomes partners with Donnie Azoff (played impeccably by Jonah Hill, who is nominated for an Oscar for the role). He also recruits several friends to start a company called Stratton Oakmont including Jon Bernthal as Brad, Kenneth Choi as Chester and P.J. Byrne as Rugrat. The life of sex, drugs and everything in between becomes a reality.
DiCaprio is absolutely electrifying as Belfort who also serves as our (un)trustworthy narrator. He commands your attention. He practically begs for it as he dominates in every scene he’s in. Not to be outshined by his leading co-star, Jonah Hill shows a certain nuance that is a perfect counterpoint to DiCaprio. When they are onscreen together, magic happens. The film itself though tells us that everyone involved in Wall Street is addicted to sex and drugs and they drink until they fall over. There is enough excess here to last a lifetime and sometimes it feels like it’s too much by showing multiple scenes of partying over and over again. When Belfort finally reaches that pedestal he acts like the alpha male but he truly looks like a child with a lost cause. He’s unpredictable and an enigma of the materialistic culture we live in. These characters don’t have a lot of redeeming qualities but it makes you wonder how exciting life could be, given the circumstances.
Do you care about Belfort? Not really. Do you care about DiCaprio’s portrayal as Belfort? Of course. He did an excellent job. Do you care about the movie as a whole? That depends on whether you can tolerate a 180 minute film. Money got the best of him as his Aunt Emma suggests, among other substances.
MITT is a film that premiered at the Sundance film festival and is now available on Netflix and is being billed as a Netflix original because Lisa Nishimura-Seese, Netflix’s VP of Original Documentaries and Comedies, helped produce the film, making this the first film to be available for public viewing while Sundance was still going on. The opening scene of MITT shows the Romney family sitting down and realizing what we all know today; that they had lost the election to Barack Obama. Despite where you are on the political spectrum, this film does what we need more of from political documentaries; showcase the human side of a politician who is perceived only by what the public sees on their television and see them at their most vulnerable.
After the first scene, the film goes to 2008, where the first half of the film highlights and shows Romney running for President. Romney looks less prepared but more fierce as he would eventually, if you know your political history, lose the nomination to John McCain who would later lose to Obama. Romney did eerily predict the outcome of that race saying, “He’s not gonna beat Barack Obama. Barack Obama has changed the race. He’s changed our prospects.” Flash forward to 2012 and he goes against that sentiment, running for President again but this time reaches a further step closer to the presidency.
Most people saw Romney as being robotic or not relatable enough and while this film may not change your perspective on him, it does show the man in a new light. Seeing him react after the first debate with Obama and feeling confident then after the second debate feeling the complete opposite, despite his family trying to support him the best they can, is quite staggering. The film could have benefited from showing how he felt after all the negative hits he took during his campaign and how he responded to them but it seemed filmmaker Greg Whiteley wanted to keep those distractions out of the it as much as possible. Also, there are some camera angles that feel sluggish and subpar like when the camera is capturing Romney then gradually departs to film the sky with Romney’s head just barely visible during the scene. Was this intentional? Who knows?
No one will change their minds after seeing this film but it will hopefully give you a more respectable viewpoint on what these people go through. It certainly doesn’t look tough but it certainly isn’t for everyone. However you may feel about Mitt Romney, that’s not the issue. What is important is showing the man, his family and his presidential campaign. Whiteley succeeds quite marginally.
With the live action film of Kite just around the corner (which is slated for a 2014 release) starring self proclaimed anime fan Samuel L. Jackson, what better way is there to celebrate than to review the original OVA by Yasuomi Umetsu, who is also known for Mezzo Forte, a similar girls with guns story.
Sawa is a schoolgirl who was orphaned because of her parents’ murders. The detectives who are assigned to the case take her under their wing and one of them, Akai, begins a relationship with her, making her his personal sex slave. Sawa receives a pair of earrings from Akai which contain the blood of her parents so that they will be with her forever. She becomes an assassin and whoever the detectives tell her to kill she does so with a special gun that makes people explode after a delay. Later on, she meets another assassin named Oburi and they form a close bond. Sawa learns a terrible secret and the film’s true colors shows itself.
The animation looks good enough still to this day and has a distinct look that makes it stand out from the rest. The music choices, especially during the action scenes, are genius. The story on the other hand is nothing shocking or resonant but it does captivate enough to keep the viewers interest. The real testament of the film however is the sex and violence included in the film. Whatever your enjoyment level is depends on how much you can handle the aforementioned elements. If you don’t care for such things then your enjoyment may be much higher than for someone who can’t stomach a lot of sex and violence although the violence in this film may be seen as tame compared to what is seen in today’s violent films. There are versions where the sex scenes have been omitted but seeing a young girl and a much older man together may still make you feel odd and unjust.
The film questions your moral compass and whether it was done intentionally or not, the film can still be enjoyable. If you enjoy everything about this film, that doesn’t make you a nasty person, it just means you are a person who can take a story for what it is rather than what it should be. Kite shouldn’t be considered a masterpiece or even a great film but it can be seen as a worthy addition to your anime collection.
Based on a true story of the Perron family seeking the assistance of Ed and Lorraine Warren after the Perrons experience paranormal activity in their home, The Conjuring is directed by James Wan, who also directed Saw and Insidious. With Patrick Wilson and Vera Fermiga playing Ed and Lorraine Warren respectively, The Conjuring is a film that while it may not bring anything new to the table of supernatural horror films, will entertain and frighten the hell out of you. It’s one of the best films of 2013.
Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor respectively) move into an old farmhouse with their 5 daughters and the move goes well except for the family dog who insists on staying out of the house. The first morning after, Carolyn finds a random bruise on her and they also find their dog dead. Soon after, more disturbing events happen and the family grows increasingly scared of living in the home so Carolyn and Roger call in the help of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Conjuring gets placed above the pedestal because of James Wan’s outstanding direction and Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes’ superb script, moving things along in a slow and masterful pace. While the film moves slowly, once the film finally gets its running shoes on, it’s well worth the time. The camera placement is sublime with the camera placed in such a way that it feels natural. There is a sense of trouble at every corner, every turn and you don’t know when something will jump out at you. You will be short of breath once the film is done. It’s one thing for a film to try and scare you as many times as it can but it’s another to have those scares actually work and make you sweat. The Conjuring does a brilliant job of doing just that: scaring the crap out of you.
While the film does have similar tendencies to classic films like The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, The Conjuring, in its own right, creates a moody atmosphere that can rival such classic films. These are the kinds of horror films we need more of. The kind that make people think about what will happen next; to make people look at all corners of the screen to see if something will pop out and make you jump. The performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Fermiga carry the film off into the sunset. Wilson and Fermiga are believable to the point of us actually believing they do this for a living. The film also breathes in old school execution, having scenes of documentary style cinematography to create tension and keeping the digital effects to a minimum.
The Conjuring is a welcome addition to the ever growing supernatural horror genre. It doesn’t do anything new, fresh or surprise anyone but The Conjuring succeeds by taking what we are familiar with and taking it to another level. The Conjuring is a film that’ll be talked about for years. If you want a good scare, go see this film.
David Wong is a violin player who has produced videos on YouTube for several years. He has done violin covers (of course) for songs such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child and fun’s We Are Young but he generally plays all genres. His self titled cover EP was just released recently so go check it out! We talk about how he first came to love the violin, the process he does doing a YouTube video and his new EP. We have included the full audio interview below and below the player is the full text interview for your reading pleasure…
When did the violin first become a part of your life?
David: I started playing violin when I was four. Basically my mom asked me if I wanted to play violin or piano and I picked violin. I couldn’t tell you why. I stuck with it ever since. There was a small year or few months where I picked up Cello but that definitely did not stick. I’ve been playing violin since I was four so for 22 years, almost 23.
What was the first song you learned how to play on the violin?
David: Twinkle (twinkle little star). That was definitely the first song I ever learned.
I know you majored in Asian studies as well as music. In regards to your Asian studies major, what have you done with it that has helped shape your life?
David: That’s a good question but unfortunately not so much. I took it because I started taking Chinese cause I’m half Chinese. I started taking Chinese cause there was a two year language requirement. I liked a lot of the aspects of the Asian culture and Asian cinema and I used to like anime a lot but I don’t watch much anymore. I played a lot of video games. I got really into DDR. That being said, I don’t do much with it now. I had a lot of friends who were Asian. I guess I’m not using the major as much as I’m definitely using the music more.
I know you do a lot of YouTube videos and you cover songs of any genre. For you personally, what’s the process of doing a cover and does the process change from one genre to the next?
David: That’s a solid question. It really depends on the song and what kind of cover I’m doing. To start off, when I first started doing covers, basically the process is, I usually tend to cover songs that are stuck in my head whether I like the song or not. I do them all by ear besides maybe one or two, I’ve never really written out any of them. Most of the covers that are on my YouTube channel I started and put out within a few hours.
What’s a song that you would like to cover but you have never got around to doing it?
David: That’s a really good question. This one is really random. You know Megaman 2? It’s just such a weird thing to do (and) it’s a lot of effort to put in for a really short song so who knows if there’s going to be much interest. That’s definitely one of them. A lot of guitar solo stuff that I haven’t gotten around to like Metallica’s One.
Can you tell us about some of the ideas you had for your new EP that you wanted to accomplish?
David: Well, I think for this one I saw it as being almost like a demo, like a take home thing. For what was going on it, for the cover tunes, they had to get licensed and everything. Basically the goal was to put together the best ones. So, the stuff that’s going to be on the EP, all things where I play all the tracks or that I worked on for almost the entire track.
For you, what is it about music that you believe makes it such a great healer and emotional connector?
David: I think especially for me, music has been a way of expressing myself. I always seen it as a very emotional outlet, anything that I feel definitely goes into the violin. I’ve always been a very connected player when I’m playing. I definitely play with a lot of feeling. I close my eyes a lot which is something I’m trying to get away from cause I know it can distance you from the audience but I always find myself closing my eyes as a very internal process when I’m playing. But I think that musicians tend to be some of the most passionate people for what they do mainly because I think one of the reasons is as a whole musician is a very underpaid profession. I think it’s true that musicians really love music because they are just trying their hardest to do everything they can even if they don’t make it. A lot of people are still trying.
What kinds of struggles have you personally encountered that have helped you become the person you are today?
David: One of my biggest faults is sometimes I’m a little lazy. Sometimes I’m a lot a lazy. I have a lot of ideas and I have a lot of things I want to do and sometimes I don’t do them. I’m getting a little better at it but I think my biggest struggle is really kicking myself and completing things and pushing myself a little bit harder. It’s held me back for sure but it’s getting better and I’m liking more things and getting the opportunities to do bigger and better things.
What are some of your favorite Asian films and/or anime?
Can you give us some words of encouragement for those who have struggled to follow their dreams?
David: The biggest thing I usually tell people is that you have to be patient with yourself. Everybody runs differently and it’s very easy to give up. If you really believe that you are good enough and try hard enough and push yourself to get there, then you totally can. There’s a reason that there are people that get there. It’s because, yeah some people get lucky, but the general amount of them have just been pushing and pushing so that they end up at the right place at the right time. “Preparation meets opportunity.” I really like that quote. I think you just keep doing what you’re doing and if you think you are doing a good job and you’re getting better at it then I generally think people are successful. I think the people that generally fail are if they just stop or they decide to not do it anymore for one reason or another. It’s not necessarily they fail at life or they fail at all, they just stop and decide it’s not for them and go and do something else. I think persistence is really key and if you love it, then just keep doing it. The more you work at it, the better you get.
Want to stay up to date on all of David’s music and videos? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
Subscribe here! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=dieselchew137
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/The_David_Wong
“Like” me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/electricviolin
A movie with the title Kung Fu Master is an obvious ploy for martial arts film fans to just pick up a copy, sit down and enjoy the ride. Yuen Biao stars in this film as, you guessed it, a kung fu master (actually a monk with kung fu skills but whatever) who fights any enemy who comes his way. It sounds like the typical martial arts film plot. We can talk about how this film is just a collection of action scenes from a Hong Kong TV series that Yuen Biao starred in called The Legend of Shaolin Kung Fu 2 with the scenes coming from the middle portion of the 120 episode series condensed into 95 minutes. How in the world did the filmmakers decide that doing that would be a good idea? Do they think we’re stupid? Like, we aren’t going to find out for ourselves because we don’t know how to do research on a film that looks like it was made for TV.
Anyway, one of the things that stands out as how you can tell this film was condensed is the fact that there is an action sequence for almost every minute of screen time except for a few short scenes put in to establish a main plot line that doesn’t go anywhere. I’m sure the TV series is decent and interesting enough but this condensed version of the series is not something that would suffice on a Monday afternoon. Yuen Biao does get to showcase his amazing talent but unfortunately there are times when the man is obviously doubled. There are some awkward camera angles and there are times when the fights don’t flow as well as they should have. Even though this is off of a TV series, the editing could’ve been a much better highlight.
Going on a tangent here but there is one time, during the final fight, where the same sequence is used twice – in chronological order. You read that right. The camera is on Yuen Biao and then zooms out with his entourage forming a line on both sides of him. Then, the next sequence, IS THE EXACT SAME THING! Wow, that is same horrendous editing. Someone must’ve been sleeping on the job while they were editing that. You will know what I mean when you see it.
Yuen Biao is such an amazing talent that it’s a shame he never reached global super stardom like he deserved because he truly is an astonishing martial artist. This “film” definitely doesn’t help that cause and for all of you martial arts fanatics out there, you should do yourself a favor and skip this. Better yet, when you see the DVD, save everyone the trouble and just throw it on the ground and stomp on it. Is that too harsh to ask?
Kamikaze Girls is a film that delights in incredible wackiness. Adapted from Novala Takemoto’s light novel, one doesn’t have to have read the source material to understand and enjoy this crazy film. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch two girls who are completely different from each other become best friends? I know, right? Sounds like a great film to me!
The film opens up with our main character Momoko (Kyoko Fukada) getting hit by a car while she is riding a moped. While she floats in the air for what seems like forever, she starts to say goodbye to all the people that mean well to her. Surprisingly, she doesn’t say goodbye to the most important person in her life – herself. We then go back in time to see her life before this unfortunate incident. She talks about how she wishes she was born in France, more specifically Rococo-era France instead of being a Japanese person. She also wishes to buy clothes and lots of them. Oh, and they have to be expensive but she constantly runs out of money (it happens) so in order to get some money, she decides to sell some of her father’s fake Versace items. That’s when she meets Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya), a rude, tomboy like character who is in an all-girl biker gang and the pair gradually becomes more acquainted with each other.
Momoko isn’t the easiest character to root for. She is stubborn, selfish and very egotistical. Ichigo isn’t so well off herself. But the thing that makes their pairing so unique is the gradual growth of their friendship and how they learn from one another. Even though at the end of the film the two are basically the same people, they have learned to cope with each other and look past those differences and that’s a beautiful thing. The one character (at least for me) that put this film over the top was Momoko’s former gang member father. He is absolutely hilarious and every time he was on screen, I was in awe by Hiroyuki Miyasako’s over-the-top but way too funny performance. Oh, did I mention that Momoko can fly (or does she)? Yeah, let that mix in your little brains for a minute. Yoko Kanno, most known for her anime compositions, composed the music for the film and her score helps elevate the silliness.
This was a film that looked really ridiculous but I’m glad I looked past the overall “look” of the film and actually sit down to watch it. It’s a film that really shows that sometimes style over substance is a good thing but like anything else in this world; it has to be done right. I have to give props to Tetsuya Nakashima for writing a great adaptation and directing it with charm. This film definitely could’ve been a disaster from the start but I laughed and had a great time with this film. I’ve only scratched the surface of this film and it’s not for everyone but for me, it’s an easy recommendation and an enthusiastic passing grade!