Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Return from the DEAD!

Yep, so last week I was sick as the proverbial dog. FLU sick. It's been 13 days and I'm still recovering. I really don't mind so much since I don't seem to get sick all that often (knock, knock). I mean, a person really needs to be sick sometimes to strengthen the body's immune system.

I saw a few movies last week that I hadn't yet commented on. In addition to "Run Fat Boy Run", I saw the concert film "U23D".

I hadn't seen the "Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds" 3D concert film because a) I'm 38 years old without children and b) the friggin' tickets are $18 bucks a pop. $18. That's Child or Adult. That's Matinee or Evening prices. It's a sad and outrageous fact of life these days. Big Business makes your kids into spoiled brats, then use them to make the parents pay ungodly amounts of money for things that have been marked up 500% from what they should be. I digress.

In my Flu induced haze last Tuesday, I decided to leave the house and see "U23D". $11.00 a ticket. Wow. I remember a day when 3D movies were the exact same price as other features. The glasses were actually FREE in those days. So I pay the money and sit in the back row.

The film is really good. I'm not a U2 fan by any stretch, but I know all the hits. I tried to get into U2 back during the release of "Rattle & Hum", but the whole "We're messiahs from Ireland coming to America to become Journeyman Bluesmen" thing left me cold. I saw it a few times during it's release since I was doing the Rocky Horror floor show thing back then and "Rattle & Hum" played for 3 weeks at the same theatre (yeah, I did Rocky Horror. I was a kid. Sue me). So, yeah, I wasn't really into U2's pretensions.

The movie itself is a criminal 80 minutes long. This is one film that could've easily ran 2 hours with no audience fatigue. I was a bit unsettled by the first credit: A BEST BUY PRESENTATION and then kinda mystified by the second one: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PRESENTS... Strange bedfellows. I'd have never thought I'd see those two credits before a film. The actual opening scenes of kids running through the stadium to get to their seats are actually in 2D with artificial 3D sun flares added to them, but once the concert proper starts, the 3D really rips.

I was incredibly impressed with the 3D. It wasn't ever the poke you in the eye 3d, but many effects were quite pronounced. The best shots were not of the sort where the band pokes instruments into the screen, but the shots taken from the audience. Those shots are the ones that really give the feel of being there. The first time someone onscreen pumped their fists up into the air, I was actually tempted to yell, "Sit down!", but then I realised it was onscreen and not the guy in front of me.

As for U2 themselves, I was suitably impressed with their show. Their political causes have intensified, but the pretensions have fallen off a bit. Outside of Bono wearing a bandanna with religious symbols on it, there wasn't much grandstanding. Most of that was on the huge screens behind the band. Bono is, admittedly, quite a showman, but he really needs to be seen from about 20 feet away. Up close, the guy is kinda creepy. Still, a scene where he's close enough to touch while a 60 foot reproduction of him is lit up on the screens behind him was damned awesome.

Later in the film, there were some visual effects that were 3D representations of the graphics on the rear screens and those made things interesting, but they reminded me of the free association projections utilised in the greatest concert film of all time; the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense".

One thing that bothered me was it seemed like the band did a run through of the show expressly for the cameras. Some of the shots seemed too staged for an audience to actually be there. In fact, I didn't detect an on camera camera until about songs in. I'd read afterwards that the film was culled from around 6 shows, but I can't believe there wasn't some post concert doctoring going on.

All in all, a wonderful concert experience, but not nearly the greatest. It's a great film for people like me who wouldn't dare pony up the dough for a ticket to an actual U2 show.

A couple of things I learned from watching "My Blueberry Nights":

- Wong Kar Wai is a visual genius that is incapable of creating a film that isn't absolutely gorgeous.

- Natalie Portman is actually more attractive as a butch gambler.

- Norah Jones' speaking voice is impossibly different from her singing voice.

- Uncover any cinematic rock, and you'll find a Jude Law performance.

I almost completely missed this film by accident. I knew that Wong Kar Wai, director of the devastatingly gorgeous Chinese art house films "In The Mood For Love" and "2049" was making an all English, all Western actors movie and I'd heard Norah Jones was going to star, but I'd forgotten all about that. The title "My Blueberry Nights" rang a bell in my head as well, but I couldn't tie it all together.

When I finally worked it all out in my head, I immediately dropped everything and sat down to watch. "My Blueberry Nights" is obstinately a road picture; kind of a feminine "Iliad" where Norah Jones' character Elizabeth seems to drift from one scenario to another. Jude Law's character Jeremy is the owner of a busy NY diner who keeps a collection of keys in a bowl under the counter. Either someone forgets their keys or, as in Elizabeth's situation, leaves them on purpose. Regardless, every set of keys tells a story. Elizabeth leaves her cheating boyfriends keys behind to signify their breakup. When he doesn't come to retrieve the keys, Elizabeth begins to frequent the restaurant; talking to Jeremy about relationships over the blueberry pie that no one seems to ever order. After a night of being mugged and catching her now ex-boyfriend red handed with another woman, Elizabeth moves to New Orleans to start a new life, sending postcards with no return address to Jeremy as to how she's progressing.

Along the way, Elizabeth finds herself involved in other peoples personal lives and situations. To reveal more would be to give away much of the film's mystique. The other two big names in the movie, Rachel Weisz (who looks strikingly like Jones in more than a few scenes) and Natalie Portman give some dramatic weight to the film, but this is Norah Jones' show all the way. As stated earlier, her speaking voice is a bit jarring if you've only ever heard her sing. In fact, the first scene with her involves her screaming into a phone and her screechy voice set me on edge. She quickly settled into her role, however, and was fine from there on.

I'm not really sure exactly what the film was really about, but that could be easily said for all of Wong Kar Wai's films upon initial viewing. I'm starting to believe Wong's interests are not in actual plot and resolution than just observing people in their daily lives and making the surrounding look as magnificently beautiful as possible.

I've always stated Korean films are some of the most visually sumptuous films in the world. Even their garbage films are wonderful to look at. No where is this more true than in Korean Romantic Comedies. These films grab me every time. Usually, it will be a few hours after one of these has ended before I realise what a crap film it was.

Case in point: "Spring Bears Love" (aka "Everybody Loves Spring Bear"), a Korean Rom Com from 2003 that I recently caught up with. It's lovely to look at and the plot is fairly engaging. So much so, that it didn't hit me until later what a total muddled mess the entire film was.

Hyun Choi (Played by Bae Doona) is a average looking girl that has terrible luck with men. Actually, that not true. It's not luck so much as she's not very good socially. She always seems to say/do the wrong things at the wrong times. She takes care of her father, a writer, and brings him library books to study up on. One day, she opens one of the books and discovers a love note that refers to another book. The next book, in turn, has a note that refers to another book. And so on... She begins to believe that notes are placed there for her and that she has a secret admirer whom she dubs "Vincent", since all of the notes are written in books on paintings.

Enter Dong Ha (played by Kim Nam Jin). He's Hyun Choi's would be suitor from their childhood who returns to the city just to be close to her. His attempts at affection fail due to her obsession with finding "Vincent".

That's the basic plot, but the damn film is so bent on twisty plot devices that my head started to hurt as the finale approached. Once the plot strands were untangled, however, it was actually a very ordinary and standard story, somewhat predictable but pleasant enough.

I'm beginning to believe the era of quality Korean Romantic Comedy cinema is about finished. There doesn't seem to be any more films of the caliber of "My Sassy Girl", "My Tutor Friend", "Someone Special" or "Please Teach Me English". Last year's "200 Pound Beauty" was close, but someone needs to come up with something really special. I'll keep my eyes peeled and probably sit through a million more "Spring Bears Love" before I find one. (*sigh*)

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