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JAPANORAMA - Osaka BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgThe Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were 2LDK and Aragami. (ARAGAMI REVIEW HERE)

Duel Project 0Duel 2LDK2LDK: two actresses – who are also flatmates – have auditioned for the same leading part: they’ll find out who got it tomorrow morning, if they haven’t killed each other by then. This is split into two distinctive parts; 30 minute setup and observational comedy about living with an annoying flatmate, the other 30 minutes is simply two girls beat the tar out of each other in the ultimate catfight. Hearing the inner-ramblings of two polar opposites (paired with their polite spoken dialogue) as they grate on each other is entertaining, although it takes a few moments tuning in to 4 quickfire word tracks. The two actresses are great, but the main star is Yukihiko Tsutsumi with direction that has urgency, impact, flare and style, all in abundance; the framing is also superb. Such great direction means that the tension and action are served up raw. For a one-week rush-job the make-up and FX really add to the brutality. 2LDK is a highly enjoyable, momentum building, entertaining movie, that’s strangely relatable for anyone that has ever shared a flat.

Score: 8/10

2LDK 01 Eiko Koike, Maho Nonami, Yukihiko Tsutsumi

Before

2LDK02 Eiko Koike, Maho Nonami, Yukihiko Tsutsumi

After

The Host: creature feature from South Korea. Starts off like a trendy comedy horror, with awful over-acting, but gets more serious as the story progresses. There were a few awesome moments of suspense, but in general it didn’t seem to know whether to be funny or serious – ended up an eclectic mix. The music also conveys this, being spot on in parts, but totally ridiculous in others. The start and end are great, action-packed and when the film really comes to life, although the mid-section isn’t as good, coming across as drawn out and filler. The most outstanding part of this film was the monster, and the special-effects. Other than the very end it’s amazingly convincing and looked great. Some good, but predictable jumps along the way, and why is it that people in films like this always fall over when they’re running for their lives?! Mini political agenda regarding media hysteria, chemical warfare, failure of ‘the system’ and western criticism but it’s never really in your face. Far more focus on the family than the monster. Great action and tedious backstory but don’t really understand how it became the biggest Korean film of all-time, reasonable attempt nonetheless.

Score: 6/10

A Serious Man: the monumental breakdown of a weedy, pushover, atheist Jew as he searches for the ultimate answer, why him? The humour is the ultimate in dry / deadpan / dark / awkward and the story’s as bleak as anything else I’ve seen – so much so that handfuls of people walked out of the cinema around the 30-40 minute mark. The slow pace of the film didn’t help matters much and neither did the over-the-top ‘Jewishness’ – with lots of Yiddish vocabulary being used. The opening act didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the film, and ended up being a distraction – whereas the finale is as  open-ended as No Country. It’s shot well, remaining pretty stylish and retro throughout and the acting’s of a pretty high standard – there’s also a few tactically placed laughs to slightly lighten the mood. Overall it’s totally pessimistic, bleak, relentless & overwhelming with no likable characters and not enough funnies to balance it out. Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or were Jewish in the 1960s.

Score: 4/10