Having bought us memorable tracks like “Yesterday & Today”, “Fukai Mori”, “Rakuen” amongst others, Japanese rock group Do As Infinity has officially disbanded with the release of their greatest hits album “Do The A side”, which contains all 20 singles since their debut in 1999 with “Tangerine Dream”. Recalling the early days when the trio performed as a street band in Shibuya before they made it big, to the times when their official website was launched and they saw only an average of 7 visitors per day, DAI’s has come a long way, and their collective music will be missed.

Oct 1st 2005

Watching Brad Silberling’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is like tasting the delicious icing and toppings on an otherwise bland cake; its like savouring the attractive, beautifully illustrated cover of an otherwise boring novel. That much said, the film’s astonishing photography and production work is unlike anything we’ve seen since Sleepy Hollow, granted, they were done by some of the same folks.

If you’d cared to stay just a few minutes longer for the end credits, one will be greeted by a cornucopia of the best talents in the business; ILM, as ever for the CG and animation, cinematography by Emmaneul Lubezki of Sleepy Hollow, Great Expectations; editing by Michael Kahn, who edited most of Spielberg’s recent films; production design by Rick Henrichs of Sleepy Hollow; costume design by Colleen Atwood of Gattaca, Silence of the Lambs; music by Thomas Newman of American Beauty, Meet Joe Black, and the list goes on.
Let’s just hope next time the cake is as tasty as the icing itself.

Sep 28th 2005

For the last time, Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords is not at attempt at remaking Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, quote “and a piss poor job at that”, so say the folks who hated Hark’s latest film. For the record, Seven Swords is based on the much-read novel “Seven Swordsmen From Mount Tian,” by Liang Yu-sheng, one of the fathers of 20th century Hong Kong martial arts fiction.

I know what you want to say. “So, you must be a Tsui Hark fan eh, standing up for his work like that. ” I beg to differ. Seven Swords certainly had its merits in the character design and fight choreography departments, ( not to mention Hark’s excellent decision in asking Kawai Kenji to score. Let’s face it, original scores in Hong Kong films just ain’t that great. ) but its Kurosawa that’s taking the insult here by that “remake” comment. What amuses me, maybe even irritates me is how the chaps came up with the idea of this Seven Samurai remake connection. Do these folks even know what they are talking about ? I figured there are 2 possibilites : 1) They are simply outta their minds or 2) They’ve never watched Kurosawa’s Samurai, or didn’t understood a thing if they did, but since it was such a famous film and it puts credit to their film literacy they decide to mention it, “and hey, both films have the word SEVEN in them !”

Anyone who’s actually watched Samurai and enjoyed it understand that the film’s concern is not about the fighting, but the in depth study of the different characters that exist within and their actions and consequences, the beautiful and brilliant use of visual patterns which accentuate the narrative, and so on. Nadda on fighting. Last but not least, the film’s a CLASSIC. When was the last time anyone compared a piece of contemporary music to say, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in terms of grandeur ?

ps Check out this beautiful Seven Swords Japanese movie pamplet.

Sep 22nd 2005

Sweet, sweet eye candy from start till end, Nomura Tetsuya’s Final Fantasy VII : Advent Children is the ultimate culmination of the brilliant CG work conjured up by the artists at SquareEnix ( formerly SquareSoft ), dating back to the then revolutionary Squall Leonheart character in 1999. This time round what sets Advent Children apart from 2001′s FF Spirits Within is not so much the faithfulness it stays to the game’s original material, but more the presence of impossibly, devastatingly neat characters. Top that with sleek Anime style editing, photography and beautifully animated fight sequences, Nomura has created a film tailor made for FF fans, with none of that sanitized Hollywood treatment in sight. This is the definitive, bona fide Final Fantasy.

Sep 16th 2005

As Typhoon No 14 lashed past central Japan plains glancing past Tokyo the winds here were still strong enough to give me one of those Stormriders hairdos as I struggled to get to school today. On my way home as I got off the train station I was greeted with a quaint and nostalgic sight; in the far distance the setting sun has spilled a wondrous palette of reds and oranges reflecting off the voluminous clouds, framed by the distinctive silhouetted rooftops of Japanese houses and cascading cables that stretched from post to post. A beautiful sight by any other day, but more significant today because I had created an exact image of it a full 6 years ago for my final year animation project.

Truly, this is the Shinjuku Dreams.

Sep 7th 2005

A nice little farewell party for Hide,(seated) who having stayed with us for a memorable 4 months at Borderless Tanashi is now headed for greener pastures in Yokohama. After dinner and a considerable amount of booze we had ourselves a little Hanabi party, a closing event for the summer that is drawing to an end here in Tokyo.

Time to dig out those fudons soon.

Aug 31st 2005

A half-reluctant 3 days holiday trip to Yamanashi Highlands had me reliving the forgotten horrors of an organized group tour. Sponsored by a certain Rotary Club, whose members have affliations with my former Japanese language school, I had fatally commited my name a month ago, thinking perhaps I could meet up with some of my old friends, most of whom didn’t turn up anyway. So after checking into the hotel the “program” started as we were ferried from place to place, touch and go travelling, stopping at one souvenir town after another till I was sure I won’t survive till day three.

And what’s with the incessant photo taking ?? Sure, I mean if the scenery’s justifiably beautiful and all, but the crazied lot were snapping everywhere they went, outside a cliched souvenir shop, front of the roadside, long as they could find a place to stand. This lady, seeing me grieving in pain outside the souvenir shop, came up and asked : ” Say, you don’t like taking pictures ? ”

Silence.

No more group tours for me.

Aug 23rd 2005

I dunno which galaxy these guys came from, but on the planet where I live, and I’m no linguistic expert here either, I dare wager desert dwellers in Mongolia sure as hell don’t speak Cantonese ( Lei hai bingor ? ). Cracked me up. Still, John Moore’s remake of the film Flight of the Phoenix does happen on this planet no ? Confusing.

Anyway, a phonecall from my concerned mother regarding the earthquake ( happens intermittently here, most Tokyoites including myself have learnt to be fairly nonchalant about it, unless the roof actually comes down on our heads. ) had me assuring her that all was fine ( I keep reminding her half-jokingly that if the Big One were to visit, which by the way is overdue for Tokyo, myself, together with half of Tokyo’s population would have long since coalesced with the remaining rubble by the time news hit Singapore shores. ) Anyway, passing the phone over to my brother as we caught up a bit I realized to my absolute horror I haven’t spoken english for so long it sounded…wierd, foreign even. Like that part in Dances With Wolves, if you know what I mean. Couple that with my half_f**ked Japanese, too, and a nightmarish evening is complete, together with cantonese speaking Mongolian desert dwellers.

Aug 16th 2005

An invitation from my good friends Takeshi+Kojima for a summer vacation in Takeshi’s hometown Gunma ( a largely rural prefecture north of Tokyo, very Riri ShuShu-ish. ) was an excellent way to kickstart the vacation, although temperatures there soared to a searing 37.1 degrees as we arrived, threatening to set my short crop on fire. This time round armed with a video camera documentation was high on the tasklist, and the highlights certainly had to include a drive up mountain Akagiyama ( home to the manga and film Initial D, although the drive up the winding roads gave me none of that “need for speed” gusto but a splitting headache instead. ), as well as the annual Takasaki summer festival, complete with fireworks and folkdances.

Aug 11th 2005

Shimoyama Ten’s Shinobi is looking sharp with some impressive action sequences as seen from its trailer, but remembering the Kazuaki debacle that was Casshern, with equally promising visuals and a most attractive trailer, let’s not put in too much faith just as yet. Check out the official website here.

Anyway, attention on this post ought to have been dedicated to some writings on the excellent film Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders ( I can’t believe I’ve missed out on this film for so long even though it was shot 20 years ago ) that I just watched on film appreciation class in school yesterday, but I don’t have the time for a lengthy post right now. In any case, a viewing of the film will do infinitely more than reading off this blog, so please watch it.

Jul 22nd 2005

Two production stills from a short film production “Hanako to Taiichi” that just wrapped last Sunday. The story entails a girl set on suicide that receives some pretty stylized divine intervention. I was covering lighting on set and will also be doing a cut of the film soon. Shooting on location the view and backdrop from the rooftop was simply fantastic, and very…well, Japanese. If you’ve seen the film Tokyo Sora, you’ll know what I mean.

Jul 11th 2005

Required viewing was in store for Doi Nobuhiro’s Ima, Ainiyukimasu, the biggest Japanese film for 2005 so far, picking up 3.8 million viewers. Despite been unabashedly melodramatic and saccharine, cliched even, *ahem*, I liked it. Perhaps an understanding of the original japanese dialogue added to the enjoyment of the film too. Take it as a guilty cinematic pleasure one indulges in every once in a while. *Mr Mckee, BFI S&S folks frowns disapprovingly*

Check out the Japanese Premium dvd boxset here.

Jun 28th 2005
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