UP/Inglourious Basterds/竊聽風雲 (Overheard)

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UP
Pixar’s latest spectacle tells the story of Carl Fredricksen, an octogenarian who ties balloons to his house and flies away to South America, a place he and his late wife wanted to visit together. But Carl’s life is made difficult by Russell, a kid who, while trying to get his ‘assisting the elderly’ Boy Scout badge, stows away on his front porch. Hilarity ensues, in typical Pixar style. Although the film is obviously aimed at children there’s much for all viewers to marvel at and while UP doesn’t have anything on the studio’s crowning achievement thus far, last year’s WALL●E, it is nonetheless enjoyable on multiple levels.

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Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s marauding band of Nazi-scalping Basterds, comprised of Brad Pitt, B.J. Novak and Michael Fassbender—and assisted by the torture porn director Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, ‘The Bear Jew’—face off against Col. Hans Landa, played in a star-making turn by the Austrian television actor Christoph Waltz.

Daniel Brühl (The Edukators) plays a German actor starring in a Nazi-glorifying film that will première at a Parisian cinema operated by Shoshanna Dreyfuss (the beautiful Mélanie Laurent, De Battre mon Coeur s’est Arête), a Jew hiding in France whose family is brutally executed by Landa in the film’s first scene. The Basterds conspire to bomb the theatre, in the process killing every upper member of the Third Reich in attendance, including Hitler, while at the same time Shoshanna plans to burn a gigantic pile of highly-flammable nitrate celluloid negative film.

Tarantino exposes his cinephilia here more than in any other of his films to date; Inglourious Basterds is a film more about the cinema, and the explosive power it wields, than about the Holocaust, World War II, or anything else. In the film’s final shot, Brad Pitt stares straight down the barrel of the camera as he looks upon a freshly-carved Swastika in a Nazi’s forehead—a signature of his—and remarks, “This might just be my masterpiece.” Well, Quentin, it just might be.

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竊聽風雲 (Qie Ting Feng Yun/Overheard)
The Hong Kong film industry has long punched above its own weight, and was one of the largest in the world for much of the 20th century. However, this status has faced major challenges in recent years: greater competition from the emerging film industries of its neighbours; depressed economic fortunes following the Asian Financial Crisis, and the increasing popularity of Western movies amongst the rising Hong Kong middle classes.

Nevertheless, films like Overheard show that Hong Kong may be down but not out. The film reunites director Alan Mak and writer Felix Chong, the makers of the stunning Infernal Affairs trilogy, and centres on a police taskforce monitoring illegal stock trading activities. Mak and Chong have successfully assembled an all-star cast, bringing together Sean Lau Ching-Wan—a mainstay of Hong Kong cop television and movie dramas—and his long-time collaborators Louis Koo (Protégé; Election I & II) and the incredibly versatile Daniel Wu (The Banquet; Shinjuku Incident).

Sadly, due to my assumptions based upon the fantastic casting and production team, I was disappointed. While the cinematography uses the limitations of Hong Kong’s tight urban sprawl to tremendous advantage, the plot simply had one too many clichéd twists and turns. While I would heartily recommend the film as a taste of modern Hong Kong cinema, do not enter expect an equal to Infernal Affairs. (Oliver Woods)

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