From April 2004

Volume 2

So far so busy… haven’t had a lot of spare time since I got back to Durham, I can see this is going to be another busy term! I did however manage to catch Kill Bill Vol. 2 on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised!

Kill Bill

It’s noticeably less violent than its predecessor but makes up for it with deeper character and story development. Although at times things run a little slowly a number of scenes stand out for their pure excellence, most notably when she is buried alive. All in all if you saw the first one you’d be stupid to miss the ending!

Bus Stop

The end of the easter break is rapidly coming to an end and I’m off up to Durham in a couple of days time – a few hours of downtime should be expected around that time. After seeing Kill Bill Vol.1 uncut at the weekend (see my last post) I can’t wait to see Vol. 2 this coming weekend – by all accounts it sounds pretty cool, especially if the trailer is anything to go by. Today I thought I’d bring you a review of a rather bleak but equally touching film:

Bus Stop (Korean) – 7/10

Bus Stop

Jae-sub is a severely depressed teacher/writer who works at a Korean night school and spends the rest of his time writing a novel. His work colleagues think he is anti-social and they constantly badger him because he never goes out with them for get-togethers.

Bus Stop

One day, 17-year old So-hee enrolls in his class. She looks even more depressed than him and he senses that her life must be overshadowed by unhappy experiences. She likes to think she’s more mature than her fellow classmates but underneath her tough exterior is a little, lost and naive girl who can’t occasionally help herself from behaving childishly.

Bus Stop

As Jae-sub and So-hee live in the same town, they frequently meet at the Bus Stop and the teacher and his new student start to develop a friendly relationship with both talking about their problems with each other. They seem to share the same problems in life, a sense of not belonging and not being able to fit into their conventional society and this brings them closer together with Jae-sup wanting nothing more than to heal her pain.

Bus Stop

The film itself is thoroughly depressing and the ending does little to raise your spirit with nothing really being resolved. If your don’t mind that sort of thing then I’d definitely recommend it.

Kill Bill UNCUT

Just watched the new uncut version of Kill Bill and if you thought it couldn’t get any better then you’d be wrong! With some cool extended new footage and dialog (mostly in the fight scenes) it’s put back all the bits that should have been in the original had the sensors not objected. Most notably the rumored color version of the main fight is all there, so no longer do you have to sit though the black and white carnage. The beginning of the film has also seen a makeover with things being cut a little different to include some new bits. The anime bit has been significantly extended as well giving us more a glimpse behind the character of O-Ren Ishii. Unfortunately if you want a copy you’ll have to get it from abroad or off the net as its not available here right now but personally I would wait a year or so until the mega box set comes out.

Kill Bill

Week in review

Although I’ve had no Internet connection over the past week due to my remote location in the Yorkshire Dales I still managed to stuff the hard drive on my PowerBook with a load of foreign movies that I hadn’t seen. I ended up watching 5 of them and have written a short review of each below (In no particular order). In case you wondered I didn’t go on holiday to watch films but instead primarily to go walking and managed to clock up around 40 miles over the week – I think my legs are ready for a service now!

Sound of Colors (Chinese) – 8/10

Sound of Colors

Most people would probably describe this film as being a bit arty and it basically deals with what its like to be blind, hence the title. The plot is pretty basic and follows a lonely blind woman who helps a man who looses his sight in later life learn how to live again without it. The film is shot beautifully with some haunting moments where the screen is completely black when looking at things from the perspective of a blind person and all you can hear is sound – something which is surprisingly scary. Defiantly worth seeing if you don’t mind films that are all narrative.

Audition (Japanese) – 9/10

Audition

Those who have seen Audition understand why it is regarded in the upper echelons of notorious films. The premise is simple – a middle-aged man whose wife dies is looking for a new one but things don’t turn out as planned. Explaining why it is so notorious would give too much away but sufficed to say I would suggest that this is not a film for most people, especially if you want to get any sleep for the rest of the week! Aside from this the films cinematography is excellent and the acting impeccable, especially notable is the female lead who you will never forget!

Slashers (American) – 4/10

Slashers

I guess you could never expect much from a low (and I mean LOW) budget yank film by the above name and you’d be right. Slashers rips of ideas from a heap of other films, most notably Battle Royale (now where have I seen those neck collars before?!) but it does have a certain originality. The whole film is basically shot as a sick pseudo tv game show called ‘Slashers’ where contestants get placed in a big set with a load of psychopathic killers and whoever makes it out after the allotted time wins. On one level it works very well but with poor sets and even poorer acting this isn’t going to be wining any prizes soon! Interestingly the whole thing appears to be shot in real time without any cuts (something which I doubt) so it wins some points there but overall it comes off as a fairly cliched student film whose audience is probably the same.

Victim (Japanese) – 6/10

Victim

Victim is a fairly run-of-the-mill detective story with a few paranormal goings on thrown in for good measure. The story is a bit convoluted and from what I gathered it has something to do with a man who looses his job and get in trouble with loan sharks for failing to pay them back. The film is still enjoyable and well acted although its probably not one you would watch twice.

Zatoichi (Japanese) – 7/10

Zatoichi

With another excellent performance by Beat Takeshi Zatoichi is a pretty cool film if you like a good bit of cool Samurai fighting. The film is set in traditional Japan with rival gangs fighting each other over who owns what and people with deep rooted grudges against each other out to make trouble. Things kick off when a homeless blind person with particularly sharp reflexes and a gambling habit enters a small prefecture, stirring things up. Proceedings eventually come to a head and a blood bath ensues with interesting consequences. The film is presented in a sort of washed out appearance with everything looking very earthy and brown giving it a look of being aged. Definably worth watching if you like that sort of thing.

Everything and nothing

Lots to report this week on both technical and filmic fronts (no, I didn’t just make that word up!).

On Wednesday I took ownership of a loverly new graphics card with a whooping 256mb of memory being run by an NVIDIA GeForce FX5600 XT chipset. Its a big improvement on my old 32meg card and works flawlessly in Linux – Unreal Tournament 2004 looks amazing!

Graphics card

For a bit of fun I decided to have a play with Wine which is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X (sort of Windows compatibility layer). The basic upshot of which being that in theory you can run Windows executables of Linux. I managed to install Office 2000 but it didn’t like Office 2003 one bit. I suspect MS do not like the idea of what Wine is doing but its all completely legal.

Spygirl

Now onto the films… This one would defiantly fit into the “good film, bad name” category as how could you ever take a film called “SpyGirl” seriously? I somehow don’t think it sounds so bad to the Korean’s who produced it (where its know as “Geunyeoreul moreumyeon gancheob”, seriously!). The content of the film may be seen as somewhat controversial as it follows the mission of a North Korean spy sent to find and bring back a defector from the South. IMDB put in the Action/Romance/Comedy categories which is about right as its all very light hearted and at points down right ludicrous!

Spygirl

Though the premise is pretty far fetched it works charmingly well and I would recommend it if you can find it. I guess that just broke with the standard sort of think I like so getting back on track you may have been aware of the recent release of ‘The Matrix Revolutions’, the movie which people love to hate though more out of ignorance I imagine. I managed to rent a copy from my local library (I’m holding out for the box set before I buy it) and was truly impressed by the quality of the transfer which is second to none.

Revolutions

If you weren’t sure about it the first time round then its definitely worth a second look, just the special feature documentaries alone are intriguing.

I’m off next week for a short holiday to somewhere in Yorkshire (I think) so I’ll be without the Internet (ekk!) till I get back and hence no updates till then :confused:

Gnome 2.6

Early yesterday morning I took the plunge and upgraded to Gnome 2.6, amazingly everything went very smoothly and my desktop is looking even better than before! The only change which I took an instant disliking to was Nautilus’ new spatial file browsing mode which I very quickly turned off. Aside from that everything seems a lot quicker and browsing windows shares is now seamless and crash-free. Why anyone would want to use KDE (or other WM’s such as the ugly mess that is ironically called ‘Enlightenment‘) is beyond me but I guess thats what makes Linux such a great OS in that if you don’t like something you can change it.

Ever wondered what would happen if you got a load of Japanese school kids to fill in the words in an American-style comic strip as an exercise in learning English? No? I hadn’t either until I came across this site which I found fairly amusing, especially when it comes to their attempts at humor!

Goings on

Just got back from London after spending a very nice weekend with relatives who live down that way. Activities undertaken were wide randing from the installation of garden trellises to a bit of web design consultancy! I managed to get quite a few nice pictures from the relative excursions we went on, the first set from central London can be found here and I’ll be uploading the rest over the next couple of days.

After a reviewing the excellent Chinese film ‘The Eye’ a while back I’ve managed to get hold of ‘The Eye 2’ which came out a couple of weeks ago so hopefully I’ll get a chance to watch it some time this week and bring you my impartial opinion (!).

Series Update

Moving on from the brutality of my last post onto something a little more tame I think…

Lots of stuff going on on the series front. R.O.D The TV has now finished after 26 brilliant episodes culminating with the fall of the reborn British Empire (now where did they get that idea from I wonder!).

ROD

I finally finished Ghost In The Shell – Stand Alone Complex (series 1) but considering the shear bind-boggling complexity of the plot line I’m still not sure whether the infamous ‘Laughing Man’ was good or bad!

GITS

The ending was pretty sad, especially when the little Tachikoma robots sacrificed themselves to save Batou-san. The second series has already begun and if the first episode is anything to go by they it looks like it’ll be pretty good (the new opening theme tune is especially cool).

GITS

Back in the west the latest episode of 24 was aired yesterday and following the release of a deadly virus in a hotel complex things are getting pretty tense! Defiantly not to be missed.

24

In other news Gnome 2.6 has now been released after a weeks delay due to a hack attempt – the screenshots are looking very nice – I can’t wait till Dropline Gnome catches up!