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“The last two weeks I’ve written a beginners guide to Asian cinema, I originally planned to include this but thought it would perhaps suit it’s own standalone place. More next week though!”

Hayao Miyazaki and chums over at Studio Ghibli have shown the world that Japanese animation can be ultra stylish and stories don’t have to involve underage hareems and panty shots. However Studio Ghibli to your every day anime is more like comparing Walt Disney Pictures to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Movies are a different world compared to their TV counterparts.

The problem with anime is that it has a bad image. There is a sea of almost perverted stories or tales of a boy so strong he fights with other… strong people or equally ridiculous ordeals. However these are stories from another culture, a whole other style of life, style of thinking and most of all a whole other style ir story telling, it just takes a little thought to find something that wont make you vomit.

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Wasted Orient is a pretty raw film. Kevin Fritz’ only directorial venture to date, Wasted Orient documents the first tour of struggling Chinese punk rock band Joyside. Struggling is an understatement, although they have a growing fanbase, a manager and the ‘punk’ attitude, the members of Joyside live in a poor section of Beijing, after moving there to start a band.

Lives riddled with alcohol, tobacco and a violent temperament Bian, Yang, Fan, Liu and Xin board a train and travel to various provinces of China in their break-through tour. We are given snippets about their life, their thoughts and their punk dreams along the way. It is often confusing whether what we are seeing is deluded wannabes playing up to the camera or a group of people hellbent on their dreams and pressing through regardless of their hardships.

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It’s always a daunting prospect discovering a new type of Cinema, the world can be a confusing place when you are being recommended things to watch left, right and centre or you just don’t have a clue as to what to watch. Trust me I’ve been there, so I’ve decided to write a little guide for anyone wanting to expand their tastes.

I should really make it clear that when I say Asian I mean East Asian (Japan, China, Korea, Thailand etc.) and not Southern Asian (India, Bangladesh, Iran etc.). Also, I really want you the reader to view this as a more open subject. If you really think a piece of Cinema is important enough for others to view let us all know.

In part one I’m going to introduce a few “entrance” movies. Nothing too violent, nothing too obscure and most importantly a good representation of culture. Aww here goes:

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I recently watched Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. My original plan was to watch the original and then watch the US version, a shot by shot remake directed by Haneke himself. Watching the original quickly dispelled this notion.

Funny Games is not a film you enjoy, it is a film that you yield too, a film you are constantly afraid of admitting weakness too, a film that attempts to completely deconstruct ideas you have established about onscreen violence. In short it is a brilliant piece of work, but a piece of work which is remarkably repellent. Funny Games, through its constant destruction of the fourth wall, is a movie which attempts to reveal innate truths about the viewer.

Feeding a cinematic bloodlust and then pausing for cool introspection at its height. It is a movie which demands people pay attention to their own desires and forces you to study exactly what you expect of films in terms of their violent content. Watching Funny Games got me thinking about depictions of onscreen violence, and particularly the way that filmmakers attempt to generate a need for wanton destruction. As a species we are naturally voyeuristic and as such we are fascinated and thrilled by violence perpetuated against other humans.

Funny Games examines this fascination by making the viewer acutely aware of his own primal desires through a plethora of cinematic devices a great example of this being the wink the main villain gives to the audience as we anticipate the discovery of a dead pet. But what is Haneke commenting on? The audiences desire for viscera or the intellectual desire for violence? His arguments against the subtle use of screen violence only holds when violence is used as a sleight of hand tool, when it is used as punctuation in films which have intellectual merit. Far from putting me off of violence in cinema, Funny Games made me want to rediscover the movies in which violence was entertainment.

My first thought was to look at the action films of the 1980s and profile the work of directors like Mark L. Lester and Paul Verhoeven who would take transgressive screen violence as far as the ratings board would allow. Personally I felt more comfortable detailing films from East Asia and as such I’ll have to deal with American violence cinema in another post at some point. (more…)

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As a child my favourite movies were “The Never Ending Story” and “The Karate Kid” or at least my favourite kids movies, I was a huge “Aliens” fan. Every year these two favourites are aired on Bank Holidays, Easter Holidays maybe even Christmas, and every year I watch them as if for the first time.

No kid’s movie has yet made such an impact on me, enough for me to care, except now. “The Forbidden Kingdom” probably isn’t written to be a kid’s movie but is basically a mash of the two. With that new fancy-pants kind of Kung-Fu, the kind with ropes and badass stunts. (more…)

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Tom Marvolo Riddle

Tom Marvolo Riddle

With my recent focus on comic book films I’m beginning to feel the onset of arrested development. The premiere of a teaser trailer for the new Harry Potter is certainly not helping in my attempts to cover more mature material. Of course this being the summer season there’s not much maturity to be found in cinemas at the moment, so we might as well indulge the inner child while we can. So lets all get excited about our first glimpse at Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

This being a teaser there’s not much to see, but the stuff shown demonstrates that David Yates, who directed Order of the Phoenix and is scheduled to finish off the series with The Deathly Hallows, really was the right man for the job. Really this trailer is all about introducing the young Tom Riddle and it does an exceptional job, with Ralph Fienne’s nephew oozing menace as the precocious little bringer of ethnic cleansing.

For a start you can view the trailer in High Definition at Moviefone here, and of course you can view it below in the usual youtube dreariness. I’d actually suggest the HD version every time, not least because the teaser is packed with little details which kind of get lost in the grain of youtube’s compression. (more…)

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