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Posts Tagged ‘recommendations’

It has been a while since I put together a recommendation piece and even longer since I’ve done a straight film edition.  So just in case you wanted to hear my take again I thought it might be time for another.  As with the first film edition I’ve borrowed the film descriptions from Netflix (in italics) with my own take below.  I hope you enjoy and, as always, let me know your own recommendations.

Paper Heart (2009)

Eccentric performer and romantic skeptic Charlyne Yi embarks on a quest to learn the true nature of love — and gathers some surprising findings when she begins a relationship with actor Michael Cera. Real-life sweethearts Yi and Cera star as themselves in this quirky hybrid of documentary and scripted comedy. The charming romance was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

This is a faux-documentary that, if I hadn’t known differently, I would have thought was real.  Perhaps it is because Cera and Yi are a couple in reality or because many scenes in the film were improvised.  Either way, Paper Heart presents a funny and charming story full of indie style quirkiness and one of the more true-to-life young adult relationship stories on film today.

Hamlet (2009)

David Tennant stars as the melancholy Dane and Patrick Stewart portrays his uncle Claudius in this exhilarating version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s smash hit 2009 production of “Hamlet,” which was filmed on location rather than on the stage. When Hamlet’s father’s ghost reveals he was murdered by Claudius, who then married his widow, Hamlet seeks revenge. Stewart won a prestigious Olivier Award for his riveting performance.

I will admit that I wanted to watch this mostly because it starred David Tennant (whom I first became familiar with through Doctor Who).  There is good reason for that since Tennant is a brilliant actor (and quite scary when he plays crazy).  Add onto that the also brilliant Patrick Stewart as Claudius and all the Royal Shakespeare Company and you have a fantastic Shakespearian production set in modern times.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

When dreamy delivery girl Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) starts popping up in his life, slacker musician Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) takes notice. But to win the love of this rollerblading goddess, Scott must vanquish all seven of her evil exes in martial arts battles. Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels, director Edgar Wright’s action-packed romcom also stars Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Chris Evans.

Yes, I know that I’ve banged on about this film before but I still think this is one of the most criminally overlooked films of last year.  A modern day love story with all of the difficulties and baggage that involves wrapped up in a story that is conceptually absurd and emotionally truthful.  It is the kind of pure fun that will stick with you for a while.  Besides, it is directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) so you know it has to be good.

Summer Wars (2009)

Though math whiz Kenji Koiso is a social zero, his avatar flourishes in the online space of Oz — until he accepts an e-mail request to solve a thorny equation, creating a conduit between the real and virtual worlds that may destroy both. Set in the not-too-distant future, this sci-fi anime thriller finds the shy Kenji coming out of his shell as he defends innocent citizens, and his honor, against a viral cyberspace menace.

This film has been described as many things: a romantic comedy, a cautionary tale about technology.  For me, though, this is really a story about the importance of family in good times and bad.  There is something here that will appeal to all ages in one of the best films of 2009/2010.

Your turn.  What do you think?

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I really love music (I think most people do) and I’ve found there is no better way to change or enhance a mood than with the right song.  With that in mind I bring you Recommends: Mood Music Edition.

When I want to relax…

…nothing can beat Sufjan Stevens.

When I want to be carefree…

…this song from Mika works pretty well.

When I want to be thoughtful…

…mewithoutYou gets the mind and soul moving.

When I want to be clever…

…Ben Folds shows a good amount of wit.

And when I want to dance (if I could)…

…Polysics works perfectly.

What is your mood music?

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For this second edition of my “Recommends” series (I did aways intend for it to be a series) I wanted to narrow my focus a bit and spotlight great pieces of animation.  This are just a handful of films and short series that you may not have heard of but really should.  So without further ado, I give you the ‘toons:

“If you make money from war, you’re scum. If you can’t make money from bounty hunting, you’re an idiot!”

Exiled and disillusioned, the Italian World War I fighter pilot, Porco, scratches out a lonely existence as a bounty hunter in the skies above the Mediterranean.  Porco’s reclusive tendencies get interrupted, though, when a young mechanic and a rival American pilot cross his path.

This is one of those films that can appeal to just about everyone.  Transitioning effortlessly from comedy to action to tenderness this film becomes an affecting experience that sneaks up on the viewer.  Add on to that the chance to hear the very British Cary Elwes do a convincing Texan accent and you’ve got one fine film.

“Oh, what a pretty name! Be sure to take good care of it, dear!”

Porco Rosso came from the director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli and I’ve become convinced that they cannot make a bad film.  The film that is often considered Miyazaki’s masterpiece, though, is 2001’s Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is the story of a young girl who wanders into a magical world of spirits.  There she is forced to challenge a witch to save both her parents and herself.  Heartfelt and beautiful, this film gently explores themes of excess, identity, and redemption all while creating a world of wonder and imagination.  In a way it is like Alice in Wonderland for a modern day.

“Time waits for no one.”

I admit that I already mentioned this film in my first “Recommends” article but it is worth mentioning again.   Charming and believable characters, an imaginative story, and great animation from Mad House Studios make this a film worth seeing (or seeing again).

“Please don’t tell people our bakery’s motorbike ran you over.”

If I had to describe this series in one word it would be “crazy”.  If I had two words I would say “batsh-t insane”.  FLCL (or Fooly Cooly) is the story of a small town boy, the robot that came out of his forehead, and the Vespa riding alien girl that won’t leave him alone.  If that doesn’t make any sense then don’t worry because at its core FLCL is about adolescence, growing up, and all the insane feelings that come from that.  If you can stand a little craziness then check out this six episode series but if not then stay far far away.

“Are you enjoying the Time of Eve?”

Time of Eve is a short six episode series about a time in the near future when humans and androids have become almost indistinguishable from each other.  While exploring themes like creativity, prejudice, and understanding this series maintains a thoughtful and lighthearted atmosphere that avoids the tropes and cliches of similarly themed science fiction stories.  What makes it even better is that the series is available for free (legally) online at Crunchyroll so there is no excuse missing out on it.

Those are my recommendations.  Let us know if you have any of your own.

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I have not had a whole lot to say on here lately but at the same time I didn’t want to let the blog fall into disuse like I have in the past.  With that in mind I decided to finally get around to doing a series I had had in mind for some time now.

I would like to take some time to introduce you to other bloggers that I think are the cream of the crop and you should check out.  Today I’d like to introduce you to Thee Brouhaha.

Thee Brouhaha is written by someone who, like me, is a lover of storytelling.  On his blog he goes in depth in exploring and critiquing storytelling and design in everything from movies to anime to video games.  With humor and intelligence, Thee Brouhaha is a top notch blog.

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Recommends

I have had many blog posts floating around in my head but none of them have really come to fruition.  At the same time, though, I have been  coming across many great films that I always want to recommend.  That’s what I’m doing now.  All of these can be found on Netflix (which is also where the descriptions come from) so check them out.  My own comments are below in blue.

Persepolis

Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) just wants to be an ordinary kid, but that isn’t easy in 1978 Iran. This profound animated film follows Marjane’s childhood in a repressive society, her adolescence in France and her return to Tehran as an adult. Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, this Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature Film also features the vocal talents of Catherine Deneuve and Simon Abkarian.

I just saw this the other night.  It’s not only a very interesting story of this one woman’s life but also will help to explain just how Iran got the way it is today.

God Grew Tired of Us

After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time. Capturing their wonder at things Westerners take for granted, this documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.

A fascinating documentary that tells about the experiences of these refugees in America.  I like how it didn’t simply parade a cause before the audience but instead simply looked into a few peoples’ lives on a personal and honest level.

Kill!

Director Kihachi Okamoto’s inky action-comedy (based on the same novel as Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, Kill!) pokes fun at samurai flicks and Italian giallos. When two swordsmen roll into a new town — one a former farmer and the other a retired samurai warrior — they intend to lead normal lives. But the troubles of a band of rebels fighting the vile local clan leader convince the pair to pick up their weapons again.

Sadly, I couldn’t track down a trailer for this one.  This film wears all the vestments of an old samurai flick while also displaying a cheeky and subtle sense of humor.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Inspired by author Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel, this anime follows the adventures of Makoto Konno, a seemingly ordinary high school student who makes a startling revelation when she learns that she’s been endowed with the ability to travel back in time. Following a series of frivolous “time leaps,” Makoto learns that her powers have a negative impact on the people around her and sets out to correct the effects of her actions.

It’s an old premise that’s been done many times over but this film manages to keep it fresh with beautiful animation, believable and likable characters, and a surprisingly down-to-earth message.

Death Note and Death Note II

When he discovers a mystical notebook that grants him the power to kill anyone he wants by merely writing their name, a brilliant student named Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) develops a god complex and attempts to create utopia. Now, it’s up to ingenious detective “L” (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) to stop the supernatural vigilante. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko, this eerie thriller also stars Asaka Seto, Erika Toda and Shigeki Hosokawa.

Like Kill Bill, this is a story split between two films.  Even with it’s supernatural premise, this is a detective thriller at it’s core.  The dynamic battle of wits between the genius detective and the genius vigilante is both fantastic and believable.

Linda Linda Linda

It’s three days before the big school talent show and Kyoto, Kei and Nozumi are in a fix when their lead singer quits over artistic differences. Their only candidate to fill the spot is a Korean foreign exchange student who can barely speak any Japanese. Time for some all-night rehearsals! Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita and featuring a score by former Smashing Pumpkins member James Iha, this lighthearted comedy stars Du-na Bae and Yu Kashii.

This is one of my old standby favorites.  A quirky slice-of-life comedy of the kind that always relaxes me and makes me smile.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

When he’s not busy breaking the law or trying to get close to his secret crush, Penny (Felicia Day), supervillain wannabe Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) boasts about his exploits via his Internet video blog and dreams of defeating his nemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Conceived during the 2008 Hollywood writers’ strike, Joss Whedon’s quirky musical comedy originally debuted as an online miniseries.

A hilarious musical send up of all the superhero/super-villain tropes.  I still get songs from this stuck in my head on a regular basis.

The Taste of Tea

Director Katsuhito Ishii’s whimsical episodic tale chronicles a summer in the lives of the quirky Haruno clan, who passes the unhurried days trying to realize their ambitions. As Mom (Satomi Tezuka) attempts to revive her career, her hypnotherapist hubby (Tomokazu Miura) practices on the family. Meanwhile, their pubescent son (Takahiro Sato) feels the pangs of love, and their 6-year-old daughter (Maya Banno) grapples with a pesky dopplegänger.

Weird, quirky, and oddly relaxing.  This is another slow-moving slice-of-life comedy that I leaves me with a relaxed smile on my face.

That’s enough for now.  Let me know your own recommendations in the comments.

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