New York City-based Complex Magazine published its list of the 50 Most Stylish Neighbourhoods in the World last week. These are the go-to places in global cities, areas that – apparently – emerge as destinations for unique fashion, style, and culture. And to my utter surprise, my little neighbourhood here – Gastown – is listed as the 4th most stylish neighbourhood gobally. The top ten for your information are:
1. 1st Arrondissement, Paris
2. Harajuku, Tokyo
3. SoHo, New York
4. Gastown, Vancouver
5. Kreuzber-Friedrichshain, Berlin
6. Wynwood, Miami
7. Sodermalm, Sweden
8. Ladbrooke Grove, London
9. Central Districk, Hong Kong
10. Brera, Italy
Go figure! My own pereception of Gastown does not necessarily mirror Complex’s. Mainly because the place is overrun with tourists during the cruise season May through October. Tourists and style hardly go hand-in-hand. And while, sure, Gastown is completely charming and has some of the country’s finest restaurants and uber chic boutiques within its tiny precincts, the ‘it’ spots for stylishness has moved on to Railside me thinks.
… but let’s onwards to some stylish (and not so stylish) movies …
Saam gwok dzi gin lung se gap (aka Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon)
Based on the 600-year-old novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” by Luo Guangzhong, director Daniel Lee’s sweeping movie has common-man cum war hero, Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) rise to fame by rescuing the son of warlord Liu Bei (Hua Yueh). Charged with liberating the land from the evil warlord Cao Cao (Damian Lau) and his just-as-mean daughter Cao Ying (the always brilliant Maggie Qi), Three Kingdoms is full of the shock and awe requried of Chinese action movies but fails in its character development. It is more a series of battles – done brilliantly for sure – linked together with talkie bits, which is rather a shame for sure as the acting of both Lau and Qi deserve better. However if you are a film buff new to this genre or this period of Chinese history, do pick it up. My rating 6 out of 10.
The year is 1953 and fourteen year old Ralph Walker (Adam Butcher) remains self-reliant despite the challenges life has presented him. He lives alone in his family home and lies to authorities that he is living with his grandparents. His widowed mother, who is perpetually hospitalized, thinks he is living with a friend. His father is dead. Not surprisingly Ralph is obsessed with girls – in particular nurse Alice (Jennifer Tilly) – and is often in trouble at St. Magnus Catholic School in Hamilton and brought up before the school`s strict headmaster, Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsett). In an effort to redirect his hormones Father Fitzpatrick orders Ralph on to the school`s cross country running team. There, under the guidance of the team`s unorthodox coach, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott), Ralph finds his stride – so to speak – as he makes a bid to run in the Boston Marathon. Wholly unbelieveable as it is, this quintessentially Canadian film, directed by Michael McGowan, with equal parts folksiness and quirkiness delivers a heart-warming story with enough laughs and drama to make it to the finish. My rating 7 out of 10.
A film that demonstrates the problems that arise when you rewrite it umpteen times. Result – silliness and disaster. It starts fine enough with the audience becoming hot and bothered by the parents of wee Lilth Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland) who are bent on roasting her in an oven. You read that right. That all ends poorly for them and enter Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger trying to become scream queen), a social worker who opts to adopt Lilth. When Lilth moves in all manner of odd/strange/creepy/usual (take your pick) things start to take place and Emily begins to suspect not all is good or right with the wee one she’s adopted. Seems Lilth is particularly good at sensing one’s worse fears (albeit through statically telephone calls) and ending the lives of Emily’s acquaintances. All this is confirmed by Emily’s friend Lovejoy, er, Detective Mike Barron (none other than Ian McShane being, well, Lovejoy with an ounce more heart). Director Christian Alvart tries hard to knit it all together and deliver some scares but really we sort of know what’s up from the get-go. Just another demonic possession; and not a good one at that. Yawn. My rating for the horror of it all (and I’m being faceitious here), 3 out of 10.
Ritânâ (aka The Returner)
Americans will focus solely on the fact Titana is a mix of several US franchise movies – The Terminator, Matrix, Independence Day to name but three. Purists will focus on the – granted – gaping plot devices and holes within the script. But, if you can sit and just watch this film for its entertainment value alone, you’ll enjoy it. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, Ritana centres on a young Japanese girl, named Milly (Anne Suzuki) who is one of a handful of remaining humans who have survived an alien invasion of earth in 2084. Milly travels back in time to 2002 and hooks-up with a mercenary named Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to attempt to find and kill the original alien who sent the signal to destroy mankind. In that hunt they come up against a mafia boss named Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani) who is actually keeping the alien and the ship he arrived in captive. Ritana is full of that smooth bullet action wizardry found in Matrix as it deploys its kungfu magic, and is a visually stunning film to watch. The action is well paced and despite rather oblique fuzziness on what’s actually going on is worth returning to again and again. A solid, fun movie to watch in all its stylized fashion. My rating 8 out of 10.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
This latest edition of the money-making franchise starts robustly with lots of good fun as director Rob Marshall lets Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) do his usual scchitck. In this romp the absence of Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly from the pirate ship is certainly compensated for by the arrive of Angelica Teach (the beautiful Penelope Cruz) as Captain Jack’s new foil. The quest this time out is the fabled Fountain of Youth. Jack’s nemiss, Blackbeard (an excellent Ian McShane) is back as as well. But after starting well, the film sputters along and this reviewer lost interest as soon as things moved to the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge. One wonders if this franchise has set sail into becalmed waters and whether Captain Jack ought to walk the plank and be done with it. My rating 4 out of 10.
Haevnen (aka In a Better World)
Susanne Bier directs this Danish creeper that deals squarely with revenge. Amid the story of Anton (Mikaek Persbrandt), who commutes between his home in Denmark and a nameless west African refugee camp, lies the central story of his son, Elias (Markus Rygaard), who is being bullied at school until he is befriended by new kid on the block, Christian (William Johnk Nielsen). Christian, obviously a very troubled teenager, leads Elias in progrom of revenge on his bullies that forces both boys and their families to come to terms with the complexity of human emotions. If you can ignore the subplots in Haevnen that try to juxtapose Anton’s mission in west Africa with the game afoot at home – a device that simply fails – there is a darker theme about the cost of revenge that does make the film worth a peek. Both young actors are good and carry the film between the ever sombre looks of Anton. Haevnen won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2011 that should have easily gone to either Biutiful or the superb Canadian film, Incendies. My rating 6 out of 10.