Life of Pi 3D (2012)

Life of Pi Movie PosterThe Life of Pi is an adaptation of the novel by Yann Martel, published in 2001, that tells the story of a young man's survival after the ship he is travelling on sinks in the Pacific. He survives on a life-raft with a Zebra, an Orangutang, a Hyena and a Bengal Tiger.

The film version has been adapted to screen by director Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman [1994], Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [2000], Brokeback Mountain [2005]) and writer David Magee (Finding Neverland [2004]) and they do it very well. One of the hardest things with adapting a novel to screen is what do you leave in or take out. With Pi, I found nothing missing from the book, and if there was it was not necessary for the telling of the tale, making this by far the best literal adaptation of a novel to screen that I have seen.

The film opens with the writer meeting Pi Patel at his home in Canada with a brief explanation of how the writer came to find the Life of Pi – “a story that will make you believe in God”. This in itself is an excellent adaptation of the Author's note from the novel merged with the central narrative, and proof of David Magee's desire to provide a concise yet accurate telling of this tale. Pi then begins his story...

The film take us on a beautiful journey, filled with humanity and humour amidst tragedy and some spectacular visuals. The performance of Suraj Sharma as the young Pi is excellent in its innocence, bookended by Irrfan Khan's delightfully engaging elder Pi. The rest of the cast do a great job of establishing their characters and value to Pi with their limited screen time.

Life of Pi uses 3D incredibly well - The opening sequence of the animals in the zoo, some of the raft and underwater scenes (there is an almost palpable depth and scale to the imagery rather than the decoupage effect I have witnessed in other 3D films and trailers) entrancing the viewer with intense, vibrant, and surreal image in a manner that feels pure and inescapable. The technology is rarely used to hurl objects at the audience, instead focusing on the splendour, isolation and intimacy of the stage to great affect. The 3D is not perfect, but this is the first film since Avatar that has made me believe this technology can add something to the cinema experience.

Life of Pi brings to cinema a wonderful, humour and hope-filled fantasy to movie theatres inundated with gritty, realistic, heavily dramatic, or moronic films. It easily earns 9 out of 10.


Samsara (2011)

Samsara PosterSamsara is one of the most beautiful, disturbing, elating and haunting films I have seen. It is the third film collaboration by director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson.

Their first film was Chronos (1985) was a 43 minute IMAX film that is regarded as the first non-verbal non-fiction motion picture. Sadly in Australia I have only ever come across a 4:3 version of this film and have not seen it in its full 65mm 1:78:1 aspect, but it is still a beautiful piece of film showing the grandeur of our planet to a very elegant musical score.

Their second film Baraka (1992) was a far more impressive film. Shot on 70mm in 2:20:1 aspect, it was released in Australia in 1994 and had a profound effect on me. Featuring footage of 24 countries, filmed over to an epic musical score, the film displayed some of the epic wonder of our planet and the people upon it, while also showing a number of the ills of our modern society. I have seen this film over 20 times since its release and it is one of the few films I have found that truly benefits from the Blu-Ray High Definition format. Baraka means 'blessing'.

Samsara (2011), released to the general public this year, is an intellectual and thematic continuation of Baraka, once more offering a range of visuals from 25 countries and filmed over 5 years. Samsara means 'the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.' The name informs the viewer of the nature of this venture, being a weightier film than the 20 year old Baraka. The visuals that the team has put together must have been a logistical nightmare to obtain, ranging from Thiksey Monastery in India, to sweat shops in China, the Hawaiian Volcanoes to the Chateau de Versailles, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to Mecca.

From the moment the film begins you are entranced, ensnared. For the next 100 minutes your life belongs to film. The musical score controls the rhythm of your breath, the images your thoughts. It is a meditation on the world and your place within it, taking you from calm to elated glory at the wonder of the natural world, human rituals, as well as the traditional and modern world we have built, then through to roiling distressed horror at the inconsistencies of how human life operates, before returning you to the epic beauty of our world and the people upon it.

Samsara is a wonderful film project that engages you, emotionally and philosophically, and the experience can not be shed immediately upon leaving the cinema.

A joyous and concerning film that I think everyone should watch. 9/10 for sheer epic brilliance.

Samsara (2011) Trailer

Baraka (1992) Trailer


7 July 2012 - The Bamboos @ The Gov

Saturday afternoon we were wondering what we would do that evening and whilst pottering around the house doing the weekly chores I came across an article that Rina had torn out of the Messenger last month. It was a simple statement: The Bamboos play Sat 7 July at the Gov.

Rina had heard them as a feature of ABC Dig Radio and thought they were cool A quick trip around the net and through Youtube and I realised why: They were indeed a very cool and funky band which, whilst I wasn't really aware of who they were I had heard their songs over the years and what I heard today was enough to make me want to see them live.

The Gov is an iconic music venue in Adelaide, situated on the western edge of the parklands across from the Entertainment Centre on Port Road. It is Iconic in that it has managed to survive as a music venue while others in Adelaide have been crushed by the increased urbanisation in their immediate vicinity. I've seen numerous bands there (some good, some not, and others brilliant) including 'The Cherry Poppin' Daddies', 'Soul Sistas', and 'The Beards', and many more. The venue hosts a range of genres and bands of various popularity and notoriety and for the most part is pretty cheap. It can also hold around 700 people so you can get a good sized crowd.

Tonight's show cost $35 at the door and we got the last two tickets.

After we got in we saw the schedule. 7:30-8:30 DJ, 8:30-9:15 The Transatlantics, 9:30-10:45 DJ, 10:45-12:15 The Bamboos. It was going to be a long night.

TransatlanticsThe Transatlantics took the stage late, which isn't so bad because it means less DJ before the main act. The Transatlantics are an Adelaide band inspired by 1950/60's Soul with 3 vocalists and a 7-piece band. They cover the small stage and dress the part. Their music is pretty decent but their performance kept us from truly enjoying ourselves. Quite a few of them seemed bored and distant which I find prevents a live show from achieving Awesome. It's quite a shame really because if you closed your eyes, you started to really dig their music and vibe. I would gladly see them again as I hope this performance was just one of those days for the band. They've got some of their tracks available on the website, so pop across and have a listen.

Bamboos2The Bamboos took the stage and they instantly set themselves apart from the Transatlantics. There was a vitality that had been sorely lacking earlier in the night. These were musicians who truly believed they had the best job in the world and it came through in each movement, note, chord and octave.

The band has been around since 2001 and has steadily grown and evolved to the current 9 piece format. The music is easily digested funk – upbeat, well orchestrated and excellently delivered.

When Lance Ferguson, the band leader and guitarist, starts playing there is an instant familiarity to his performance. You feel as though you've been here before and are glad to be back. Kylie Auldist, the lead vocalist, opens her mouth and immediately establishes an intimacy connection with the audience. The rest of the group all play their roles well and the room fills with warmth from their delivery. There isn't a moment of their performance that feels lacking or wanting for more, even when Kylie hands over the stage to Ella Thompson, the other vocalist, the pace and atmosphere continues unabated proving herself an excellent singer.

I went from having no idea about this band to fan within a matter of hours. I would heartily recommend that you check out their website to have a listen and check them out the next time they come through town.

The Raid (2012)


Every year there are a slew of action films that come to the cinemas and DVD outlets. For the most part these are relatively generic films suffering from uninspired plots/script and starring cookie cut actors. It is a genre where you check your head at the door and watch the mediocrity for two hours with the occasional cheer and/or chuckle, and rarely an incredible action sequence that you talk about later.
Then along comes an action film that stands apart... this is one of them.
The Raid doesn't sport a new or unique plot: A Police unit must raid a tenement to capture a gang lord – hijinks ensue. But, oh the hijinks.
The film opens with our protagonist (Rama, played by relative newcomer Iko Uwais) enjoying marital bliss – waking with his pregnant wife and preparing for his job – establishing that Rama is just like us, an Everyman. Dressed for action he joins his team in a truck driving towards the tenement and is given his briefing. Who the bad guy is, who his bodyguards are, etcetera etcetera. Lieutenant Wahyu, who is commanding the Raid, makes the point of singling Rama out as a rookie amongst the elite team and gets him placed at the back so as not to cause trouble.
The Raid begins easily enough, the team infiltrates the complex easily enough with some nicely shot manoeuvres, scaling the tower. As always though, after a while they are not quick enough and the alarm is sounded. What follows is a beautifully shot battle between the scum and villainy of the tenement and the 'elite cops', culminating in the film's conclusion.
One of the things that sets the film apart is the form of martial art used, the traditional Indonesian Pencak Silat. The style as portrayed in the film is efficient and brutal in its elegance. The camera work in this film, particularly during combat is brilliant, conveying inertia and potency that leaves almost all of the big budget actions films I've seen these last years, well behind. There is care and forethought to how the actors move on set as well as to what the viewer will see of it. Very rarely does the camera not move fluidly, which keeps the audience's adrenaline running rather than making them queasy, which is surprising considering how close into the fray it gets.
I can't really speak to the acting as I've only been to Indonesia a few times and am not sure what the standards or nuances are for actors there, but it does hold up well compared to western action heroes. Although, being that most of the movie is an action scene, most of the extras just throw punches and take hits with the appropriate screaming and gurgling and thus not requiring Academy Award winning dramatists.
Watching this film I look forward to seeing what Director Gareth Evans, Cinematographer Matt Flannery, and Iko Uwais have in store next. As a second film for the team, this is a great outing keeping me engaged throughout.

I gladly give this film 8/10 for pure entertainment.


Ghost Rider - Spirit Of Vengeance (2011)

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance Movie posterWhen I first heard that there was going to be another Ghost Rider movie I was cautious, especially when it was said to be a sequel and a reboot. It sounded like it was complete BS from Columbia Studios to get people to ignore the first film, which while it made money it didn't survive the critics wrath as other comic book adaptations have and was treated almost as poorly as the dismal Catwoman. It wasn't that the first film was bad per se, more that you had to remove certain parts of your brain to enjoy it.

Then I heard that it was to be directed by the guys that did Crank and its sequel, which made me feel a little iffy – Would this be a serious attempt to make an action-horror or would it just be a series of over-the-top explosions with little in the way of plot? Then came the first trailer for Spirit Of Vengeance and the trepidation went away. It looked good and the story, while cliché, sounded like it could be pulled off reasonably well. It seemed like there was going to be a melding of the crazy action that these guys do plus a decent good versus evil plot that if anything should at least be entertaining. And there was Idris Elba in there for good measure.

I should have known better.

This was one of the worst comic adaptations I've seen. It would be easier to say what I liked than what I didn't as the film left such a poor taste in my mouth I've started to think better of the first film. Spirit of Vengeance feels similar to the Punisher: War Zone that came out a few years back – Half Hearted, poorly funded, ill-conceived, and a dozen other ways of describing dreck.

Where to begin? How about Nicholas Cage. Over the years I've come to get used to Nicholas Cage and the performances he delivers. Sometimes they are fun (Drive Angry) at others creepy (Adaptation) sometimes enjoyable in an Elvisy way (Matchstick Men), but most of the time it's the same bland character saying different lines. This time out, Cage plays his character as a junkie with a moral code who understands he's a dickhead and doesn't even try to change. That should say enough about this movie to make you put it back on the shelf and walk away.

As to the other actors: Violante Placido (The Damsel in Distress), Idris Elba (The Drunken Monk), Christopher Lambert (The Zealot), and Ciaran Hinds (The Devil) – their performances are far from being their A game let alone their C game. They are bored and uninterested.

As for the story itself? Well, it is less a Good versus Evil story as it is boring versus boring. In order for a film of this genre to engage you it needs either or both of the following:

An excellent Hero or Villain or at least someone charming enough to make you leave reality outside for two hours.

A brilliant script that enable the viewer to ignore poor performances because they are so engaged in the dialogue.

This film has neither. The Characters are just dumb and the actors really do nothing to make them anything more than cardboard cut-outs parading on screen. With not a single one of them redeemable you really don't care if they survive the film let alone the next minute or two (secretly you hope that they won't because then you wouldn't have to listen to them speak again). The dialogue is atrocious and the story labours from moment to moment like an amputated meth-head (not easily).

Probably the only thing this film has that can offer it up even an iota of redemption is the special effects. They honestly look good even if they are used in many a stupid and irritating way and aren't entirely consistent. How the studio or directors thought they'd be able to use the scene of Ghost Rider taking a leak more than once is beyond me, but they do and to the detriment of the product.

All in all, this film was a very poor outing for the Character and Columbia and should be avoided unless you take pleasure in badly made movies, and not bad in a good way, but actual bad. Thankfully this film didn't do particularly well (although it did make some money) so we probably won't have another offering from this soiled slate.

1 out 10 because even I don't have the heart to give something 0.


The Power of One

Recently the issue of democracy and the power of the individual in a society has started to really get on my nerves. Does democracy work? Is there any point in the individual speaking out? Is anyone listening or do they really care?

I've become a little jaded with this over the years as I know in my personal experience that in the Australian system I do not count for much except for tax dollars – middle class, unmarried, no kids, etc – but then again I don't lobby for personal issues such as less tax or concessions, rather focusing on broader issues that I perceive has a greater importance such as the environment. That's democracy for me, choosing the issues a person wants to support and doing their best to get that issue put forward and resolved.

It's not an easy thing to get an issue recognised, it needs the weight of many people behind it and it always helps if the media can give you some coverage, but as long as you try for something you can at least then complain if the outcome is not to your liking.

Most of the complaints I hear is that an issue didn't go how the person thought it should. When I ask them what they did to support the issue, they often reply that they did nothing, not even generate a petition or send a letter/email to their representative. To this I reply, “then how did you expect to get the outcome you wanted?” That usually ends the conversation. After all, most issues that people discuss have many players representing different agendas and more often than not, the loudest or most populous voice wins.

The ability to provide passive support for an issue has become much easier in recent years with the formation of online lobby groups that regularly develop petitions and campaigns that can be supported by a mouse click and a small monetary donation. These groups have forums for members to put forward ideas and help develop them into future campaigns, so if they are not covering the issue you want yet, you can start to get it into people's heads so it can become a global issue. There is really no reason why anyone can complain about a lack of opportunity to support whatever issue they want so long as they have access to the Internet, which is widely available in Australia. These groups also provide links to other groups so that you can escalate your involvement to a level of your choosing.

There is however another way by which an individual can express their democratic rights, and it is actually one of the more potent methods I know of – Money. Money is vitally important in today's society, and the more of it you have the more powerful you can become. The thing is that any level of money is power. Every cent you spend, invest, or save effects the economy. The way you spend your money on a daily basis can be the most effective way to create change.

Think about your grocery shopping for a minute. Where do you do the majority of your shopping? Is it at one of the large chain supermarkets and independent Grocer or at a farmers market? If the answer is the chain, then your money is going first to the corporation and down the chain paying staff and suppliers and shareholders. If it's a Farmers Market, then it is usually going direct to the primary producer then paying staff and suppliers. The major difference is the local distribution of the money and the level of participation in profits.

This also the same with regards to other sectors of the economy. Unless there is a monopoly, you have a choice.

In Australia, we are afforded enough choices in our purchases that we can choose how locally our money interacts with the economy. Small decisions regarding the locality of our spending can make great differences. A local producer who earns more will start to expand and will thus need to employ more people to keep up with demand which means more local wages which will then be spent in the community, thus keeping the local community in fiscal health.

The difficulty in ascertaining where your money goes once you've bought an item is all on of education but thanks to the Internet this education has become easier to get. A quick search on a company can give you a great deal of information regarding who they are, their corporate philosophy, their ownership and profit sharing. This information is vital if you want to use your money to change your society.

It's not just where you get your products from though, it's also the products that you use. Who owns the company? Where is the product manufactured? Where are the ingredients/components sourced? Where do the profits go? Does the company match your own philosophy?

These are vital questions to ask if you want use your money to change society. There are numerous companies that have a poor track record in regards to the environment, labour, human rights, etcetera and when I have become aware of these companies I have chosen not to purchase their products thus not supporting their actions and ever so slightly removing a bit of their power.

This philosophy works for all aspects of trade from Produce to Technology, Fuel to Insurance and everything in between. Every company that exists, exists only by the will of consumers. If they have no-one to buy their product, they don't exist for long.

Now, you're probably thinking that one person's purchases doesn't really amount to anything. And in a way that is true, but that one person can also talk to people about these issues and maybe the other person will choose to act accordingly.

An industry that I hear a great many complaints about, whether it's the media or an individual, is banking. The media reports that the RBA has opted not to increase the cash rate then a week or so later the Banks raise their rates anyway stating other factors as the cause. To anyone that complains about the banks I simply ask “Why don't you change to a bank that treats you how you want to be treated? Do you think the banks wouldn't notice if they suddenly had clients closing accounts and moving to another facility? Do you not think Banks would begin to change their operations in order to keep their customers?”

After all, Banks need their clients money in order to operate and thus generate their profits. So, without your money, the Bank can't operate.

This is not some esoteric knowledge, this should be common sense. All it takes is a little effort. Learn who you are dealing with and change your dealings accordingly. If you can't be bothered to change, don't complain when the world doesn't change the way you want it to.

It is up to the individual to utilise their money to demand the products, services, and price they want. True, it may take a bit more effort to get the right product and price, but in the end by changing your habits and who gets your money, you start to change the fabric of the economy to suit your philosophy rather than the other way around. This is the power of a free market, this is the power of choice, and this is a far greater power (in my opinion) than casting a vote every four years and expecting that things will just work out right. Your money is the greatest tool of Democracy you have.

You can complain to a company regarding their practices and hope for change, or you can force change by stripping the company of your money. After all, the buck can stop with you.

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