Shinjuku at dusk — FIRST Xacti HD700 video!

February 29, 2008

This is the first real sample video I shot with my new Sanyo Xacti HD700 video camera! It’s just a minute of footage from my balcony at dusk.

It is a 720p video, so it may play choppily on older computers. Try pausing playback and letting it download all the way first before playing it.


JUNO [2007] review

February 25, 2008

I wasn’t on board JUNO until about the half-way point in the movie, but then I was all on board. What did it was the end of just a flow of dialogue that will quickly become dated, and the start of a different direction in the teen pregnancy genre. Like Juno herself, I felt shocked and confused and had no idea what was going to happen next or how it would all play out from that point. Even until the very end, I didn’t know what was really happening and continued to be surprised.

…The movie starts off with the usual quirky film staples of quirky characters living in modest conditions doing strange things, like moving a whole living room onto a front lawn. I didn’t like the tone of the first parts of the film. Didn’t buy any of it. A convenience store clerk who can belt out one hipster jokey line after another?

…But the story is about Juno and her learning of what love is. The audience and Juno don’t know she is on a path that could lead to it. She is just trying to….solve her pregnancy in the most practical manner she can. In the beginning, I didn’t see where the conflict would come from, where the story was. But once that was revealed, the movie seemed to gain a strong and distinct drive, very noticeable. I became invested in Juno’s fate and felt her urgency and was wanting to see more and more. That’s how you know the movie has created good characters, when you don’t want the film to end. When you want to keep spending more time with the characters. I wanted more time with Juno.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD [review] 2007

February 23, 2008

I had been looking forward to seeing THERE WILL BE BLOOD for a very long time. For some reason, this movie was particularly hard to come by. When I was finally able to watch it, the movie was not at all what I thought it would be. Not that it had to be anything, but what it was I didn’t like, pretty much at all. This is what BLOOD was to me: a strange, horror film or thriller soundtrack, an over-the-top lead performance, a script entirely devoid of any and all humor, one single storyline, and a very unsatisfying ending, all these sum up BLOOD.

Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview is in virtually every frame of the film. If he is not in the scene on screen, something will happen to soon bring him into it. There are no other storylines, at all. … There is not a single cutaway to any other character, unless that character will soon be talking to Plainview. This, I guess, is supposed to be a character study, but when a character can be pegged from the very beginning, and he also happens to be a first-rate bastard, then seeing that character in every frame with no relief adds up to a dull and almost unwatchable film.

…Yes, at some points I considered stopping the film. Something I’ve only ever done twice in my life (during Annie Hall and I can’t remember the other, maybe it was only one then). I made it to the end, but the final scene made me most want to stop watching. It was totally over the top, and on top of that, brutal to watch for its violence.

…If you feel like spending 158 minutes with a bastard, then maybe you will like BLOOD. I didn’t, and I have no interest in ever seeing it again.

EASTERN PROMISES [2007] review

February 16, 2008

Sometimes a movie can be mostly one note and still be intriguing. Such is the case with EASTERN PROMISES. Thanks in large part to the immense screen presence of Viggo Mortensen, the dark and dreary London landscapes pop and hum with a controlled energy. His character spoke in a broken Russian accent and wore dark sunglasses, and was obviously overqualified for the job he repeatedly stated as, “just the driver.” A midwife finds a diary written in Russian, which she can’t read. She asks her uncle to translate it, but he refuse. This leads her to seek someone who is willing, and this person turns out to be the boss of a Russian mafia family.

As the secrets of the diary become known to both parties, life and death moves are made and a surprising mystery unfolds. I say surprising in that I didn’t expect there to be a mystery story of that level nor for there to be such good plot twists.

EASTERN PROMISES is a satisfying peak into an interesting world that “regular” people, as told in the movie, should just not get involved in.

There were some very gory scenes I had to avert my eyes from.

INTO THE WILD [2007] review

February 11, 2008

It was dangerous for me to watch INTO THE WILD, I knew it would be. How close was I not so many years ago of meeting the same fate as “Alexander Supertramp?” … As he thought one must face fear once a year, so did I, and continue to face it once a year. And, I didn’t know I believed it, but I think unknowingly, I always have…money makes you cautious.

…That’s when we first meet Chris (Alexander as he goes by on the Road). The movie follows him as he prepares for his “great Alaskan adventure,” that has many stops along the way first. And the movie does an incredibly realistic job of showing the amazing people you meet out on the Road. … The relationships he forges with people, be they 10 minutes or a month, they are all significant, especially for the people that get left behind.

…All the actors in WILD really get into their roles, bit parts or longer, and give the movie a real weight.

…It’s no spoiler to say Chris doesn’t survive the movie. … But by about 80% into the movie, I just couldn’t believe it. In the first quarter of the movie, I totally could. He was so cavalier and reckless, it seemed no one could keep getting that lucky for that long, not even with the invincibility of youth. … The moment you realize the reason why he won’t make it, I said “motherfucker” out loud.

…But I do not see this as a sad or a tragic movie in the least. It’s one of wonder, and awe, and hope, and finding, at long last, what one is looking for, and being content with grasping it for the moment, and then accepting the fate of such a thing.

…I always say, and I believe Chris would totally agree with me, living a few decades on your own terms, without compromise, is way better than living 80 years for nothing.

Inokashira Park Ride

February 10, 2008

As always, I only came up with the idea to ride to Inokashira Park just minutes before I left the house of my Trek 7.3 FX. It is definitely better to leave with a destination already in mind. The few times I’ve not had any particular destination I was riding too turned out to be unsatisfying rides for the most part. So before leaving I used the Bikely maps website and scouted a route. Basically it was just two roads to get there, nice and simple. The roads were small and medium small sized, which are pretty much the best sizes for quickly getting to places in Tokyo. When there were red lights, I could usually just roll through them.

…The second of the two roads was lined with many up-market care dealerships like Porsche, Alpha Romeo and Audi which made for some decent sightseeing for a car fan like myself. Even saw a sweet yellow Lamborghini Diablo, one of my top ten favorite cars.

…You can’t really ride fast at all, but they are good enough for one to gently roll and take in the scenery without having to worry about running someone over constantly. … I stopped and checked out one j-dude’s pen and ink paintings, as I myself just bought pen and ink supplies yesterday! … They were good, and I could use it also to study technique. Hmm, should have bought one, the dude was pretty cool.

…After riding around the ponds, I returned to a sunny area on the northern edge of the pond. I sat on the fence and look through half-opened eyes as the golden sunlight reflecting off the pond and through the trees. … And a trio of noisy obasans, the loudest of which was puffing away and drinking beer from an open can.

…I couldn’t take much more, so I said farewell to the pond and the ducks and enjoyed the moments on the ride home I was able to ride with the wind, flying down streets fast enough that cars didn’t pass me for good stretches of time.

CLOVERFIELD [2008] review

February 9, 2008

I couldn’t wait for CLOVERFIELD to open in Japan in April, so watched a not so great copy of it at a friend’s house. We were both very excited about seeing it and wanted to see it before we got spoiled. … I understand that it is supposed to be a reinvention of the monster movie. That in all past monster movies we get the macro view of things, the decisions being made by the military, the possible explanations for where the monster came from, and how it can possibly be killed. …

CLOVERFIELD shows none of that, but instead shows the view of 4 of those anonymous people on the street. And I for one, do not want to see that kind of monster movie. I like the tried and true monster movie formula. If one goes into this movie thinking one will see anything like a traditional monster movie, just forget it. What you will in fact see is a claustrophobic, shaking jogging movie. That’s all the characters do, run from one spot to another. … The one scary scene is so obvious I don’t know how anyone could possibly jump. Then after that, the characters are pretty much totally out of any kind of surprise danger. … Just huge objects smashing and being blown up that we only see pieces of.

…Perhaps seeing a better copy of the movie would have improved my liking of the movie a bit, but I doubt it would have done enough for me to not be annoyed by the constant loser remarks made by the character holding the camera. There are hot girls in this movie, but there is absolutely no reason they still should be in the movie. The men should have absolutely insisted they go with the military rescuers.

…And then the ending is just that, an abrupt end.

RESCUE DAWN [2007] review

February 6, 2008

Imagine the pure ecstasy of being rescued.

The jungle is the prison.

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