Monday, June 27, 2005

you go backwards again, you go forward again...

TOPIC NUMBER ONE

I'm currently listening to Coldplay's new album, X&Y. It's pretty good, but I don't 100% feel their musical direction. In this new album, everything's a bit more energetic, less sad and melancholy. Well, the main reason I liked Coldplay in the first place was exactly because they were sad and melancholy. Who could I forget songs like like "Trouble" or "Amsterdam" or "Everything's Not Lost," which retained that melancholy feel?

That isn't to say that they haven't completely lost their edge - I'll tell you about four tracks that I really liked from the album.

The first track, Square One, reminds me of a mix of Coldplay's new style and the style they had adapted with A Rush of Blood to the Head. There's fairly much going on at the end and it goes into this great finale that gets stuck in my head whenever I hear it.

The second track, What If, is my favorite track of the entire album. The intro hearkens back to Coldplay's Parachute days. Then it ups the ante a notch and delivers a satisfying transition without being too energetic. It's sad, it's almost deperate, I love it.

The fourth track, Fix You, is similar to track 2, but is a bit more energetic than that one. It however manages to give me a pleasant feel.

The twelfth track, Twisted Logic, is a song unlike any Coldplay I've heard before. The fact that it's so different from the other tracks from the album is the reason I like it so much.

Other tracks include Speed of Sound, which kinda sounds like their hit song Clocks, and Talk, which is enjoyable but could have been a bit shorter.

TOPIC NUMBER TWO

I've watched a peculiar little film last night on the Star Movies Mandarin channel, which is currently having a trial run on Home Cable. (I wish they'd make it permanent, because that channel rocks, having introduced me to many great Chinese Flicks, notably Wong Kar-wai's Fallen Angels, the Takeshi Kaneshiro flicks Fuyajo (1998) and The Odd One Dies, the great parody Chinese Odessey 2002 and Fruit Chan's opus Made in Hong Kong.) It was the 1989 film "Fatal Vacation."

Well anyway, on to the film. The first face I recognized was the venerable Eric Tsang, who has starred and shined in a good number of recent HK flicks (Infernal Affairs, the HK segment of the first Three anthology) and the late but great Victor Wong, most prominent in a number of American movies, most notably The Joy Luck Club and the 3 Ninjas series of movies. Anyway, the plot consisted of Tsang and a number of HK tourists captured by the NPA (!) led by Bernardo Bernardo (!!) and held hostage until the brother of the leader is released. However, there's a little problem: the brother is dead.

Directed and produced by Chang, the film is a collaboration between HK and the Philippines, which is interesting. The film itself is a but absurd and unintentionally funny to boot - the scenes of eeeevil that abound in the movie are so cheesy, it's hard to take them seriously. I almost thought halfway, having not seen the opening credits, that Wong Jing could have directed this movie. That's not good.

I was amazed that Pen Medina was there too... he looks a bit different that what we see of him now, but hey, this movie was made 16 years ago.

Another interesting thing is that the movie ends with the Freddie Aguilar song Anak, which was kind of strange considering almost everybody got shot to death or something. Heh.

TOPIC NUMBER THREE

I saw Coco Lee yesterday. Tres cool.

a little quiz

I found this circulating around film blogs and thought it might be interesting to answer... Note that thanks to my relative preference for Asian films, they are going to dominate this list.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video

Approaching 500 (maybe 600, since it's been a long time since I checked) with the majority on DVD. A reasonable number came from those VCD sales with VCDs at 75 pesos or lower a pop.

2. Last film I bought

Bought, there was a batch of them, but as for acquisitions, a classmate gave me Seijun Suzuki's Pistol Opera, a 2001 reworking of one of his earlier films, Branded to Kill (1967).

3. Last film I watched

That would have to be the Filipino film Nasaan Ka Man, a strange semi-romance/character study/horror film that doesn't exactly know what kind of film it actually is. It wasn't that good, in my opinion, thanks to loads of exposition cut from the final movie. I'll probably post a review soon.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order)

This is a hard question since the list changes every, say, five minutes. Out of the top of my head I would say:

Swallowtail Butterfly (1996) One of my favorite Asian movies. It's about a band of immigrants who try to make it big in Japan, although the film is really a tapestry of interesting characters and their dreams and aspirations. It's very postmodern and Shunji Iwai brings an otherwise dull story to life. This movie helped spark my interest in Asian Cinema in general, and I'm grateful for it.

Star Wars (1977) I always watch this at least once a month. A fine example of blockbuster cinema, this reworking of the 1958 Akira Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress combines cheesy dialogue with classic action sequences to make a product that feels like 400 million bucks.

Ran (1985) One of Akira Kurosawa's best works. Deeply affecting and abound with primal despair, Ran has a story befitting its name: Chaos.

Oldboy (2003) A deeply twisted tale of a man's search for revenge, this movie is a seamless work of cinema. Although not exactly the epitome of cinematic perfection, this movie teaches us what a movie director can do with a story to twist it further.

Ring (1998) This is the movie that defined the new wave of Asian Horror. It set the bar for countless future asian releases, knockoffs and imitations that, one way or another, borrow from this film.

5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?

I'd be Zatoichi, because he's so badass. hehe.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Travails of a Kickboxing Champion

Yes. Yes it was. FOR ME TO POOP ON!
So there I was, half awake and aimlessly wandering around the confined spaces of my own punch-drunk imagination. Taken over by an overwhelming sense of ennui and general procrastination, I decided to play some games. Old style games. There was one game that beckoned louder than all the others, a Gameboy game called “The Kickboxing.” Engrish title aside (the Kickboxing what?) it was renamed “Best of the Best” for the Americans, who probably agree with the Japanese that despite two different titles, the game sucks more ass than a vacuum cleaner in the rectum.

Yes, that's right: Geriatric Ladies Touting Prince Commemorative Dinnerware
Normally that would entail me going for the alt-f4 route right away, but no, the magical dwarves and their half-breed ilk that made this game managed to entice me ever so slowly into the game. The description of the game was jackhammered into my cerebral cortex: I am an amateur invited to the World Kumite Tournament, to face the strongest fighters in the world, and with training and stuff, I will become the best of the BEST OF THE BEST, SIR! The game obviously expected me, based on its own twisted logic, to “win.” Of course in reality if you pitted an amateur fighter even with a bit of training against established world fighters, you’d expect them to tear the poor newbie a new anus, right? Well, not always. Upsets do happen, you know.

Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.
With no choice of name or nationality, I ended up with a player with a portrait that kinda looks like Rocky-era Sly Stallone. Understandable, since the game was made in the early nineties, and I think there was still one Rocky movie back then. Yeah, it was the one where he GETS BRAIN DAMAGED AND LIVES ON AS THE SHADOW OF THE MAN HE ONCE WAS. Er, sorry for spoiling the ending of Rocky V. Nevertheless, it really didn’t matter what my character’s portrait looked like, since at the actual fighting screen you look exactly the same as your enemy.

So, with undaunted resolve (and lack of understanding in the game’s basics), I faced my first opponent, Tsong Po, whose name is probably some Japanese word play on “Chump” or something. This first match was a loss, since without a manual I was left to fend for myself, furiously mashing the buttons to make my character do a lame kick that, 3 times out of 4, miss completely. As I later realized, you don’t really have to mash the buttons to make your character kick. I wonder how many kids’ thumbs were maimed after pressing too hard on the joypad, as their pitiful screams of despair and hate can be heard on the operating table against the makers of “The Kickboxing.”

D-uh, Which way did he go, which way did he go?
As I proceeded to retry my luck, I realized that there was something else about this game that bugs me- terrible, terrible collision detection. In reality, when two fighters are two inches apart from each other, you’d expect them to hit something. But no- this timeless masterpiece of a game has no idea what the hell that means. Another thing I noticed is that once my character is close enough to the enemy that he’s on the other side, he doesn’t immediately face the other way. He just stands there like a ninny, waiting for the enemy to pummel him to death like the human punch bag that he is.

In a flash of inspiration akin to that of the good Sir Isaac Newton, I saw the little option called “training” which inspired visions of my character running along with his trainer ala Punch Out, or maybe, aptly so, Rocky. Again, my imagination was crushed when I happened to see what I was actually going to do- mash one button again and again to raise my character’s stats, oh, lets see… a staggering 1 percent. On the other hand, there was one fun segment involving reflexes that raised my stats a bit more, which was a faint spot of light amidst a relatively black dark pitch black shadow of blackness.

OHH THE EXCITEMENT!!!111one
After raising my stats up to 90%, which made Tsong Po look like a pussy in comparison, my character proceeded to totally rape his ass goodbye. I made goals for myself, trying to knock the poor bastard down in one round, repeatedly, with my character’s smelly foot. And so he was defeated, and I was free to challenge the other contenders with impunity, but instead, I decided to punish this poor little character again. I mean, he was the guy who humiliated me in my first match. I had time for the others later. I could almost hear his cries of desperation as I challenged him again and again and danced over his twitching body every time my spinning heel kick hurled him to the canvas. SPINNING HEEL KICK, hoooooooooooooooooooooo!

I then went up the ladder, mauling opponent after opponent, laughing as they wept in the corner with gallons of tears streaming down their manly eyes. Yes, it was a visual paradox, if you think about it. I claimed their trophies and belts, ME, this formerly pathetic martial artist who you probably invited to feast on in the ring. Yes, me. Who is writhing in pain in the canvas as I do the splits NOW, huh? Whose groin will be disfigured for life, eh?

I was then stopped by a series of informal challenges, composing of “street brawls” taking place not in some street, but in some medieval dungeon – or perhaps, that place where those two guys fought in Fight Club. Here my progress to the world championship was stymied by this fellow called Doc Jump. Why the makers of this game named such a character with a stupidass name as “Doc Jump” escapes me, since he’s not a doctor, nor does he jump much when he fights. Well, maybe not. They are magical dwarves after all.

Doc Jump was your average high-class white male living in an upscale white subdivision. He was born Edmond Thurston Laplace Honneby XXIV, born to a successful banker and his dominatrix/love slave Exotica. He spent his early years listening to reggae and ska, and eventually became a category-1 lamer, adopting the name “Doc Jump” which has absolutely nothing to do with reggae or ska. Perhaps it came from Doc Martins, or Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

After deciding on a strategy, I defeated this “Doctor” eventually, in a round that was described by journalists and film critics alike as “spamtastic!” Thus I continued on with the champion, learning more about this devil-spawn of a game. Oh, how I looked at your face on the ground, Doc Jump, with such undeniable melancholy. You seemed like the universe had collapsed around your broken body. Oh, fates and destiny hear! How sad it is to live the life of a street brawler. How sad it is.

As I ripped through my enemies with increasing fervor, the game got all cheaty on my ass. Every time I got two hits on my enemy, the referee, who is by all accounts invisible, stops the match and resumes it after the break. There must be something amiss, I thought. This referee might be the personal love slave of all these fighters to be so… dirty. Hey, I’m just making a living here, you know, kicking ass and stuff. You guys invited me, not the other way around.

Cogneur and "Slayer" heat it up with their intense homosexual urges.
And so I was to face my last and final opponent, the champion of champions, Cogneur, whose name instantly reminded me of that clock from Beauty and the Beast. Oh ho ho ho, you and your clocky hands, monsieur Cogneur, they are so ticklish. I fought him and lost, again and again, as I soon realized that Cogneur was shafting me big time. Everytime I got a kick or punch off, Cogneur would score a point, and I would score nothing. I felt like Onyok Velasco when he fought against that Bulgarian guy whose name escapes me at the moment at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Then, after a seemingly innocent exchange of blows, I realized the cruel truth:

COGNEUR AND THE REFEREE ARE GAY LOVERS.

Oh, Cogneur, I can hear Tsong Po saying, “Coggie, what about our dreams together? What about our house in the marina? What about Fluffles the cat, whose oh-so-soft fur astounds us both? Uhuhuhuhuhuhuuuuu….”

I had threatened to fling various expendable items in frustration after Mr. Dirty McFight trounced me again after 22 fights, but I persevered, and won, the end. I have no doubt that this story will win the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence. As I lay down to sleep, finally exhausted after my travails as a Kickboxing Champion, I know this fact for sure. That Pulitzer is mine, baby.

Oh, and after a torrid eight months, Cogneur and his referee boyfriend split up.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Comics Talk 3

Here we are with the last installment of Comics Talk 3! One note though- whenever there are Japanese words like manga used in english, you write "manga" not "mangas." My bad. But since I'm too lazy to change my thing, there you go.

More Interesting Manga I've Either Partly Seen or Haven't Seen At All And Want To See

Tenjou Tenge

(a.k.a. Tenjo Tenge, Tenjho Tenge, Tenhjo Tenge, That manga with the girls with the big boobies)



This manga by Oh! Great (Ogure Itto) is not really about any one particular person, but it does tell us the days in the lives of Souichiro Nagi, Bob Makihara, Masataka Takayanagi, and Maya and Aya Natsume in a highschool that espouses martial arts training. Souichiro and Bob enroll in this school, thinking that they can just kick everybody's arse and win. But no, this is no ordinary high school. It turns out that there are tons of people in the school who can handily kick their asses. Assisted by Maya Natsume, a sexy babe who turns into a chibi version of herself to conserve energy, they undertake a path to martial arts greatness.

But that isn't the only focus of the story. A large chunk of the series is devoted to the earlier highschool years of Maya and her former friends, providing a backstory so interesting, some people like it better than the main story. The action is often very violent and intense, and when people go berserk, they go berserk.

The art is beautiful and very ecchi at times, but that's what you get for a manga that appeals to the 18-21 age group. It has accumulated around 80-odd chapters into 13 graphic novel volumes in Japan, and is still ongoing. A heavily edited version was released in the USA under DC comic's CMX imprint, which angered a bunch of fans. An anime series, covering the first few volumes of the manga, includes 24 episodes for TV and two OVA episodes.


Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou

(a.k.a. Karekano, His and Her Circumstances)



I first knew Karekano through it's anime adaptation by popular anime studio GAINAX. Helmed by the extremely talented Hideaki Anno (whose series, Evangelion, and live action movie, Love & Pop forever shaped the way I would view stuff) it was a comedy with some shoujo elements and a little bit of character introspection and drama. It told us the romance between Yukino and Soichiro, two model students who decide to become a couple. It also portrayed, through various substories and arcs, the stories and personal onflicts of the other supporting characters, whose interaction with our two protagonists is as interesting as the interaction of the two leads among themselves. It stopped abruptly at around volume 9 of the manga it was based on, and thanks to differences between Anno, the sponsors of the show and the manga's author Masami Tsuda, there never was (and never will be) a second season of Karekano.

Sigh...

But the manga storyline that was mercilessly cut short in the anime continued on, ending just last month after years of circulation, totalling 21 volumes for the entire series. It does continue in a slightly dramatic direction (the path Tsuda wanted to take, as opposed to the path GAINAX wanted, to keep it as a comedy) and details the dark secrets and pasts of the characters in the story. I haven't seem it all yet, but with an ending like that in the anime, anyone would be tempted to look for the manga and finish the series once and for all.

The manga is being serialized in Singapore (I think) and America, who has probably reached around volume 16 or 17 or so.


There are so many more manga I want to discuss with you (X, Evangelion, Love Hina) but I can't be arsed to... at least not yet. That wraps it up for Comics Talk, tune in next time, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Comics Talk 2

More Comics Talk from me, since I can't do anything else.

Manga I've Not Completely Read

GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)

Eikichi Onizuka GTO is a funny manga from Toru Fujisawa. It details the story of Eikichi Onizuka, a former motorcycle gang member who decides to become the greatest teacher in Japan (and maybe the world!) After a few early tribulations he gets assigned to a junior high school class. It just turns out that this class is the most notortious in the school, reputed for turning teachers insane. Onizuka deals with the class in a very unorthodox manner... and somehow, thanks to his ways the class warms to him.

The main storyline is peppered with sidestories detailing the various tribulations of the supporting characters, which is just as interesting. The comedy is great and the situations that Onizuka gets himself in, hilarious.

The manga has finished in Japan after 20+ volumes. An anime adaptation followed, with a special ending made for the anime. Live action versions, in movie and TV series form, have also appeared.

Slam Dunk



There are many sports manga out there, but a basketball manga? Slam Dunk is the only one I know. You can see Takehiko Inoue's love for basketball in this series (Shohoku's starters - pictured above - are in some ways patterned after NBA players from the nineties) with detailed notes the rules of the game and how to play inside. In fact, I picked up a few pointers from this series.

The story centers on Hanamichi Sakuragi, a red-headed highschooler who has been rejected by a girl for the 50th time (much to his dismay.) Sakuragi is then smitten by a girl in his new highschool, Haruko Akagi. It turns out that Haruko's brother is the captain of the school's basketball team and Sakuragi joins. As the series progresses, he matures both as a player and as a person, as Sakuragi develops a love for basketball.

The humor in this series is pretty funny, and the basketball games themselves, which can be covered in five or more volumes, are exciting and full of suspense - even if you know the final result. One of the better mangas I've read.

The series has stopped at around 30 or so volumes, and a 110 episode anime has been made, as well as six episode length movies.

that's it for now... coming soon - mangas I want to see!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Comics Talk 1

Hey hey hey kids, time for another fun filled blog from yours truly, as a supreme testament to his powers of procrastination.

I've read my fair share of great comics, and today we'll be talking about Manga, or Japanese comics. Japanese comics are widely accepted in Japanese society, unlike American comics, which are only appreciated by a certain section of the population. Japanese comics basically talk about anything - the heroes can be the ultramuscular strongmen we're used to, or they can be antiheroes with fractured psyches and absurd personalities. Plot ideas can range from the daily life of chefs with supernatural powers to a club obsessed with olfactory pleasures.

Anyway, here are a few manga I've read or want to read. I just want to share them with ya...

Manga I've Read

Blade of the Immortal



Still, after five or so years, one of the best Manga I've ever read. Manji is a samurai who was once a bad, bad man, wanted for killing 100 people. One day this old nun gives him worms that make him virtually immortal - a state that he doesn't want to experience. In addition for death, he vows to kill a thousand evil men. Nice premise, huh? In his quest to kill a thousand people, he meets up with Rin, a vengeance-obsessed girl out to kill the guys who killed her parents. Manji, perhaps out of remembrance of his dead sister, becomes her yojimbo. It just turns out that the guys who killed Rin's parents are members of the most powerful and radical sword school in all Japan...

I love Hiroaki Samura's rough, pencil drawing style. It gives the characters a strange life that I don't think can be achieved through animation. The characters and settings are interesting too, since even the antagonists are not unlikeable at all - everybody has their own agenda, their own motivations for doing the things they do. Anotsu Kagehisa is someone you would assume is the bad guy earlier on, but as the story progresses, he's treated almost as another protagonist. The action is also great when it happpens - limbs fly in this manga, and not in moderate amounts. Motion dissolves into lines and shadows and it is pulled off with relative amounts of style.

The series in Japan is around two to three years ahead of the great American translation from Dark Horse comics, which is currently at material for volume 15. The series is still ongoing.

Mars



Kira is a shy student who is execptionally gifted at drawing. In school she is categorically ignored by her classmates, and she doesn't mind - she likes the loneliness. One day she meets brash, unhinged pretty boy Rei, who is pretty much her opposite. Strangely enough, Rei falls for Kira and a relationship begins...

Mars is your basic Shoujo manga. It shines mainly because of its great characterization that manages to draw you in, volume after volume. Being a basic Shoujo manga, Mars has your compulsory cast of supporting characters, your basic pretty boy male protagonist, the works. What makes it so interesting to read is finding out about the pasts of the two leads, and how those potentially devastating revelations will affect their lovelife.

The series has ended its run at volume 15 and an extra omake volume with sidestories for your pleasure. It has been adapted into a chinovela with two of the stars from another Manga-adapted chinovela, Meteor Garden.

I"s

Iori Yoshizuki I"s (pronounced "Eyes") is the brainchild of Masakazu Katsura, known for the Video Girl Ai series. It reads like a shoujo manga, but it is told in the male perspective, and is told with lots of fan service, which would serve the male crowd. It tells the story of Ichitaka, a highschool student who has a crush on one of his classmates Iori Yoshizuki. Iori is a beautiful girl, having appeared in various gravure photoshoots, which really does happen for pretty teens in Japan. Obviously, basically everyone else has a crush on Iori. This leads Ichitaka into various dilemmas that threaten his future together with Iori. This exerts itself in full force when a girl from Ichitaka's past comes to haunt him...

I"s sees our protagonists grow and mature. It's kind of like one of those teen dramas you see on TV, Dawson's Creek and stuff. Characters come and go, Iori and Ichitaka eventually graduate from highschool, relationships form and break, etc. You feel for Ichitaka's character - at times there are scenes where he really isn't at fault, just misunderstood (a theme that reappears in Video Girl Ai) and ends up being a tragic victim. He goes through a lot of emotions and they translate to the printed page rather nicely. The story is accentuated by Katsura's absolutely gorgeous drawing style, which brings his characters to life. There are two versions to the ending- the one that ends up in the graphic novel collection is the better one.

I"s has been adapted into an OVA, which really isn't that good. The series has finished after 15 volumes.

eh- that's it for today! stay tuned (hopefully not too long) for more Comics Talk!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Persistence of Memories

Today we review two Korean movies, both about past memories, both great films. Without further ado...

Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon The 1999 film Harmonium in my Memory is set in the late fifties/early sixties, as a young, greenhorn teacher Soo-ha (Lee Byung-hun, A Bittersweet Life, JSA,) who goes to a remote village in Kangwon-do to teach. Joined by fellow newbie Eun-hee (Lee Mi-yeon,) who is even more idealistic, they realize the reality of the situation: the grade five kids they are teaching are mostly poor, read at a grade 1 level, most are old enough to be in high school, and most quit after grade 6 to work. After a chaotic first class, the students warm up to the two teachers. The students in Soo-ha's class are taken by their teacher's warm, no-discipline demeanor, and start forming a bond with him. One of the students in particular, Hong-yeon (portrayed excellently by a young Jeon Do-yeon, in one of her earlier roles,) a 17-year old student who lifes along with her mother and three brothers in a small hut, develops a crush towards the young teacher, although she doesn't realize this fully at first. She ponders the meaning of a lot of little things, exchanges and whatnot with Soo-ha. Soo-ha, on the other hand, forms an attraction to Eun-hee the quite quickly. Thus develops a love triangle that eventully leads to some emotional developments between the three characters.

Although it sounds a bit serious, for the most part the movie has bits of humor that lighten the mood. What emerges is a cleverly shot, warm tale of love that manages to stay in your mind long after the credits have rolled. The movie is boosted by the lead actors performances, most notably the versatile actress Jeon Do-yeon, who would later go on to play a daring role in the art film Happy End with Choi Min-shik.

Thanks to poor video quality upon my viewing (a trait attributed to many K-films pre-2000) the ending gave me a different impression than what was originally intended. As I searched around and found out what the real ending was, I was in a bit of a bind, because I had liked my initial impression. Either way, the ending draws its power from the fact that there seemingly is no power in the resolution, ending in a quaint and simple manner.

To some it may prove a nostalgic trip into the past, a simple yarn about an innocent first love.


Chulsoo and Younghee Speaking of innocent first love, Chulsoo and Younghee, a modest little production compared to the blockbusters of the preceeding three years, is one of this year's pleasant surprises for me. A very simple tale of a first love, Chulsoo, a troublemaker known for getting on the nerves of many of the teachers, gets a kick in the pants when one day, a new student, Younghee, joins the class. Younghee is, in some ways, the opposite of Chulsoo, a smart student who loves music. During their first day they are seated together, and thus begins a friendship.

What interests me about the film that it's point centers mainly around the slice of life we are presented with; it doesn't try to preach to us or deliver any sort of message; it just exists, as if invited to a vacation with cherished friends. The story merely serves the characters, especially Chulsoo who, thanks to his new friendship, ends the movie for the better. It is not a drastic change, but a slow, subtle one that grows slowly as the film progresses, and it is evident that it continues long after we witness their childhood experiences.

As such, the movie dwells on characterization, and here the movie shines. Chulsoo is not as one dimensional as other movies would have portrayed him. Like many kids his age, he has a vivid imagination, and deep down he reall has a good heart. Younghee has more issues than she would like to reveal to the other characters; she's dealing with stuff from her past regarding her parents, culminating in a scene that frankly freaks me out. The kids deal with issues regarding growing up, school, and things that would be of concern to kids their age.

There is little doubt that some may compare this movie to When I Turned Nine, another similarly themed movie. In fact, there is one plot device very similar between the two movies regarding stolen items. However, When I Turned Nine seemed at times a little melodramatic for me, while this movie serves it just right. This movie shines because the characterization is so nicely integrated into the film, so subtle, that it feels natural to watch it.

I highly recommend this film; it is a sweet, subtle experience that lingers with you long after the credits have come and gone.