Category Archives: Events

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I was feeling like this earlier - but click on the pink panda packing heat to visit my new site.

Yes – we are going official – to howmanypandas.com
Give me a little time to work it all out – but I have a few reviews ready to go… once I work out how to do it.
Das Panda
PS. Is pretty much done now, but I need to retag and recategorise everything. Also for some reason I can’t get my twitter feed up. No problem. You will need to change your RSS to my new site. So please don’t forget.
XOXO
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Review – Reign of Assassins – Australian Premier – #BIFF

Beautifully and creatively shot on every level

For some reason this was touted as the new John Woo movie – but we couldn’t see his name as Producer or Director in this romp. I have seen elsewhere on the net that he has been credited as a co-director. Okaaaaaay.

In many ways, RoA’s ticks the boxes for a matrial arts movie. Silly pretense, grudges, fights, pretty girls who are dangerous, cross and double cross. And look, I was enjoying it as a piece of pure escapism movie going, until it became about testicles. It didn’t need to. Even if it had just stayed on mega martial arts skills I would have been happy with that. That twist wasn’t necessary IMHO. The other twist though I didn’t see coming.

While I have heard some people say that the romance story wasn’t in line with the story, I found he acting between Michelle Yeoh’s Zeng Jing and Jung Woo-sung’s Jiang Ah-sheng was lovely – and I thoroughly enjoyed the disparity between their little ideal world and what was going on around them. So NEENAH to those who didn’t like that.

Pluses:
Lovely comedic dialouge
Some good fights (though some were a little silly)
Awesome twist!
Sword play.
The filming of the fights was pretty hot too – especially the watershedder sword shots.

Minuses:
Testicles anyone?
Silly names.
In high dialouge scenes the subtitles moved too quickly to take in the scene and the words.

Even with the silly twist, it was an enjoyable way to finish the festival and I am very pleased I saw it. I generally wait for DVD, so this was the first wuxia movie I had seen since Hero – so it was lovely to revisit the experience on the big screen.


#twoandahalfpandas

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Review – I Love You Phillip Morris – #BIFF

Of all the prison libraries in all the world you had to walk into this one...

This is the ultimate con movie. Ok – it is also a romance movie. Oh and it is a comedy too. But at the end of the day it is all about the con.

Everyone in this movie gets con’ed – everyone – including the viewer – yes I admit I got majorly con’ed. Hook, line, sinker and copy of angling times (to quote Red Dwarf).

But let’s talk about the movie.

Jim Carrey plays police man Steven Russell who is married with a couple of kids, and whom, after years of searching, finds his birth mother who wants nothing to do with him. He packs up his life and heads to Texas where a life changing moment makes him realise he wants to be happy and to be himself – gay. What follows are Russell’s lives, cons, loves and brilliance. As he put it, it is expensive to live on the high on the gay hog. While in prison he falls for Ewen McGregor’s Phillip Morris. Things go well, go badly and well just go. What is the most bizarre part of this “con-rom-com” is that Carrey’s Russell was actually successful at his lives – just greed and lifestyle got the better of him.

Pluses:
Prison romance.
CFO.
Aids tests.
Texas.
Throw away lines.
Carrey really can act – I had forgotten!
Some of McGregor’s acting.

Minuses:
McGregor’s terribly fake eyebrows.
Some of the scenes were a bit OTT.
Trying to cater to the general audience.

Until I saw The Red Chapel, this was my pick of the festival. It isn’t perfect, but is so enthusiastic that you forgive its failings. I look forward to its American release next month.

#fourpandas

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An Exercise in Twitter Engagement

Ghost Riders in the Sky - great opening number and photo shared via twitter to those following the #612hashtag

Much has been said of the ABC’s embracing of the Twitter phenomenon. We have even seen op ed pieces running in online news sites about how this focus is incorrect – with a Twitter only competition proof of discrimination against their regular listeners – and their re-reading tweets as giving people who tweet’s opinion more weight because they are shared with the public twice – once on twitter then once on the radio.

Anyway, I was part of that Twitter only competition.

It ran two different ways for two different presenters for ABC Brisbane 612 Radio. The prize was to participate in “Tweet Seats” at a theatre production – The Ultimate Rock and Roll Jam Session – being held at The Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane. The catch? For this double pass, you had to wear the @612Brisbane twitter tee and live tweet the show with the #612jam hashtag (you can see our efforts here by searching on the hashtag). To win a spot – you either had to tweet in a specific sentence (1st 6 got a double pass – I was first though I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing but it did get me awesome seats!) or review the radio show in a tweet (140 characters or less).

I can only speak from personal experience and what my friends tell me – but most of my friends who listen to 612 do so either via their phone/apps or via the blog – cherry picking the pieces they are interested in after the links are tweeted. I listen while driving, but at least 50% of my listening is on delay via an application that provides digital radio coverage to your iPhone/iPod. Given that this usually has a delay behind regular radio of what I am guessing is at least 10 seconds, I can’t actually win a dial in competition and I am certainly not going to try and quickly dial while driving 100kmph on the motorway. So for me, a twitter competition is most likely the only way I am going to win a prize (I did win movie tickets last month, but that was all timing – I was just settling into my car when the song you needed to hear came on – so I dialled in).

So let’s talk about the event.

Tweets from almost two years ago still on the most recent tweet list...

It was a great idea – to have people live tweeting a show – though there are a few things that I think should be taken into account in the future.
Make sure the venue has good coverage.
Sounds obvious, but at least 4 of us had real issues with coverage – with it dropping in and out or just unable to get reception.
The seats themselves – we were three rows back (and I and my friend were smack bang in the middle right in front of the “star” of the show). So for us to tweet, we had to “low tweet” so tweeting low in our laps with our brightness turned way down to try not to annoy the people behind us – though I am sure we were a real distraction. It was VERY weird to be at a show tweeting – and looking left I could see the white lights of the view screens standing out in the dark theatre.
The organiser of the event had a twitter account that had barely ever been used, and didn’t engage us. No asking us who we were, our user names – nadda. Let’s face it, someone who hasn’t even bothered to tweet more than a few times in over a year isn’t the best person to be driving this. She tried, but not understanding twitter was a hurdle – telling us what her twitter handle was would have been a start – I only stumbled on it by chance.
The show itself was lots of fun – a bit of a comedy of errors (I will get around to reviewing it shortly) and the cast tweeted during intermission and after the show – though it would have been good to get some engagement going in advance.
The 612Brisbane account was reweeting some of the tweets from the event, and this did engage the greater twitter audience – I received a few tweets asking what was going on – where I was etc after I was retweeted, plus a fair amount of communication from my regular followers asking for information from my #612jam’ing their stream – though nothing negative – which was good because I was concerned I would annoy some of my followers.

So what did we learn if anything from this exercise.
Check the reception at the venue before you commit.
Put together an engagement strategy and get the participants/show connected with each other.
It was a good choice of show – you didn’t have to think while watching and was easy to tweet – though not sure how transferable us talking about songs and events on stage translated to the greater audience. I can’t see us live tweeting King Lear any time soon.
Maybe place us before a break in the seating so we aren’t so distracting to the paying customers.

EDIT: I personally don’t see embracing Twitter as a new medium to connect with listeners/viewers as a bad thing. You can pretty much pick any group and say they have an advantage. I think the the ABC balances it well. For example, I love how Virginia Trioli will read out emails and Facebook comments then made jokey comments back to her followers on twitter during her off air time in the show. 612Brisbane  and some of their announcers really engage with their audience, and I do wonder whether there has been an increase in their blog traffic since they started tweeting segments. From my own andecdotal evidence based on a sample of one (me), I will tune in via my app at work if something is coming up that really interests me vs waiting to hear it later. How do I know what is coming up? Twitter tells me. So to have a competition to engage a particular segment of your audience isn’t discriminatory at all – I think it is merely responding to your market share and providing appropriate opportunities. Let’s not talk about the #fidlerannouncement.

I doubt this will be the last Tweet Seats event – and I would certainly enter to go again – and the event (not the show) I rate as

#twoandahalfpandas though I think with a little tweaks these could be highly coveted #fourpanda events.
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Review – Howl – #BIFF

Awwwww.

Straight up – I am not a modern poetry kind of Panda.
That being said, I was interested in Howl because of what it achieved, not so much the poem itself which I have never read.
Ginsberg is one of the most celebrated poets of the last century, and I wanted to know why and how he achieved this fame.
Unfortunately that really wasn’t the primary focus on the movie. It really felt like there were four movies in one, none of them to the depth I needed to really “get” it. Firstly we have Ginsberg reading the poem in a club. Secondly we have an imagining of the poem through animation. Thirdly we had him being interviewed post poem and trial. Forthly we had the trial. Oh and we also had him writing the poem.

Pluses:
I didn’t mind the animation for the first half of the movie but it got old fast.
Courtroom pieces.
Grinsberg’s recollections.

Minuses:
The poem.
Too many competing voices.
I really wanted to know more about Ginsberg than we got.

Not really my cup of tea and bit too all over for me to connect with this highly regarded piece. I walked in with expectations and they weren’t met.

#twopandas

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Review – The Red Chapel – #BIFF

Simon, Mads and Mrs Pak present the pizza oven device

Poor Mrs Pak has no idea what is really happening.

This is a hard movie to describe. I have seen a few people try – but it doesn’t quite get to how I see it.
In short, two Korean born Danish comedians (Simon and Jacob) return to Korea but go to North Korea, not South Korea. They are accompanied by their “manager” (Mads Brugger) under the pretence of putting on a comedy show for the North Koreans in a cultural exchange – possibly the worst show ever produced. In truth, they are there to show the darkness that pervades North Korean society by their interactions and Simon who as a (self labelled) spastic is a living representation of what is never allowed in North Korea – perfect children only please.

The movie works on many layers and asks the viewer many questions, often ones that are very uncomfortable, while at the same time filling you with shock, awe and laughter by what they are prepared to do to get their point across – and how eagerly the North Koreans lap it all up. Mads Brugger does realise that he is also manipulative and cruel in forcing his comedians past their level of comfort and ethics – putting on a face for their hosts, while at the same time the North Koreans are being manipulative and cruel under the guise of helping and love for their guests and their Dear Leader. There are a few moments in the documentary where you think – no, there is no way – but there it is, unfolding out in front of your eyes.

The impact on Simon was heartbreaking. Seeing a “perfect” world where everyone is happy, beautiful and loved that he can never be a part of is so emotional and honest. Then to see how Mads continues to manipulate and force him to push forward is just as heartbreaking. It should be noted that Simon is the only one in North Korea who can speak their mind. Not only is he speaking Danish (their handler speaks English) but he is speaking “Spastic Danish.” So while Mads and Jacob are careful in what they say, even in Danish, Simon tells it like it is – the only time he dissembles is in English and in letters. You laugh as Mads deliberately lies as he translate, but at the same time you squirm on the inside.

The manipulation of the North Koreans knows no bounds. From a bus load of pretty girls for the boys to picnic with to totally redoing their comedy show including patriotic sentiments and hiding Simon’s disability, it leaves you gob smacked. Watching though, it is impossible to forget that these people’s lives, and those of their families, depends on making this work to make North Korea shine. I do have real fear in my heart for the North Koreans involved, especially Mrs Pak. Then you think about the entire population of the country – living in fear, lies and mistruths – always watching what they do and say – even their children. It is no life to live like that.

Pluses:

The march.
The uniforms.
Pineapple.
The filming style.
The honesty.
Pins.
Pizza.
The pain.
The hopelessness.
The tears.
The table.
Wonderwall.
Simon saving Mrs Pak.

Minuses:
Did they really think about the fall out back in North Korea?

This was my “life changing” moment of the festival – every year you want one – you don’t always get it – and this year I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those years where I picked the wrong movies. Then I saw The Red Chapel. It touched me in ways I can’t put into words – infact I have tears behind my eyes as I write this, then I will smile and laugh as I remember a particular obtuse moment. I have wanted to go to North Korea for many years, and have looked at various tours to go – but couldn’t bring myself to give my western currency to the regime… for the same reason I have never gone to Indonesia or Burma/Myanmar. After seeing this documentary I desperately want to go, while at the same time horrified by what I saw and what I would experience.

#fourandahalfpandas

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Review – Somewhere – Australian Premier – #BIFF

Not off to the Golden Pandas, that is for sure

It must be so hard to get paid stupid amounts of money to do something as pivotal to human society as act in movies.
I went along having heard that this Sophia Copola movie didn’t suck like her last one.
Bupboww.

For just under 2 hours we were given a bird’s eye view of the tortured and lonely life of a mega star.
Boo Frickin Hoo.

Whereas Lost in Translation saw us have empathy for the players, heart conflicted, Somewhere just left me with a feeling of tired ambivelence – or maybe two feelings – tired and ambivelence. Yes, he no longer knows why he does this. He no longer sees the relevance in his life. Welcome to reality – well a pole dancing twins version of reality. The dialouge was minimal and did little to encourage a sense of engagement from the audience.

Pluses:
Elle Fanning’s Chloe – some great acting (though her iceskating was more like 3 months than 3 years).

Minuses:
The rest.

I didn’t think I disliked it as much as I did untill I sat down to really think about what I loved about the movie. Breaking things into pro’s and con’s reveals just how little I felt in this movie. There were a couple of cute moments (Guitar Hero), but they were few and far between. The imagery felt so staged and the final scene has been done to death. I wanted to check the time, but the guy from Universal was standing near me and had informed us we would be escorted from the cinema if we used our phones/devices during the movie (which wasn’t advertised as such FYI). I can’t believe this won the Golden Lion.

#oneandahalfpandas
PS. It should be noted that I was pretty tired but I was super energised and upbeat when I walked in after just seeing The Red Chapel.

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Review – Red Hill – #BIFF

Not having a good first day on the job?

Red Hill is Patrick Hughes first movie – he wrote, produced and directed it and it had its Queensland release at the Brisbane International Film Festival. After my disastrous experience with Simone North’s first movie “I Am You” (which she also wrote, produced and directed) I was ready to experience Red Hill with zero expectations of it being a passable movie.

Red Hill tells the story of a just under 24 hours in a small country town in the Victorian Highlands. It is Kwanten’s character, Shane Cooper’s first day on the job as a country beat cop. Unbeknownst to Cooper, this town has a dark past, one that comes crashing in just hours after he starts. The villain of this piece was the indigenous actor Tom E Lewis’ Jimmy Conway. His ability to portray Jimmy Conway’s emotions and thoughts without saying a word, and with wearing a large prosthetic was very impressive. The town, lead by the always enjoyable Steve Bisley, prepare to defend their town from Conway – who is back with vengeance on his mind.

The plot was a bit predictable, and some plot devices were obvious, and had you questioning the motivation of the characters by their actions, which were required to keep the story moving. The twist was also expected but well delivered. I was’t too sure about the necessity of the kitty cat, and it was a tad too CGI for me – but each to their own.
All this being said this film is a very strong first effort. Some of dialogue was great. There was really solid character development and the film was moving along really well – the suspense building and you had real emotional buy in. Then the movie changed into something akin to a Tarinto gun fest bordering on the comical – then back again to the suspense and character driven piece. Some of the shots were wonderful and there were lots of hat tips to other films from the genres.
For a first movie that was made without any support (Hughes mortgaged his house to make it – and it is a “Hughes House Film” (that did make me laugh but I was pretty drunk)) it was damned fine.

Pluses:
Bisley’s Old Bill was a great character!
The town itself.
The art direction.
Lewis’ acting.
Kwanten’s forceful acting.
The characters of the town.
Some of the gun fights.
The overall arc of the story.

Minuses:
Unnecessary characters – we had no need to meet his wife.
Predictable plot points.
Kitty Cat.
Kitty Cat nibblies.
Overly hokey country music twangs.
Frustrating character actions/inactions to solely drive the plot.

I initially gave this a #threepanda rating, but on reflection given the shoot time (24 days), first movie bonus, and the self funded multipler I have changed my rating to

#threeandahalfpandas
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Review – Brisbane Bandits vs Perth Heat – Season Opener

We are ominous - GRRRR! PS. Have you met our mascot?

The last baseball game I went to was with the ill-fated Daikyo Dolphins, 18 years ago. I remember the happy dolphin, snarling with shark sharp teeth, and sitting up on the hill with my friends at the old Gold Coast Stadium. I also remembered that the team had a lot of imports – including designated hitters who were fat and sat down after they reached first because they had someone else steal bases and run for them.

So last night, heading to the re-birth of the Australian Baseball League, 10 years after its last demise was a bit of a trip down memory lane… as well as reminding me just how much I had forgotten about baseball, including how much I enjoyed it.

The Brisbane team is called The Bandits – and while you can’t tell from the logo (face covered in shadows and a black kerchief), he is actually a Ranga and looks like a textbook illustration of a Cowboy stereotype. Not that it is a bad thing, but it did amuse me that the logo was so dark and menacing in comparison to their mascot. The Bandit himself reminded me of Nicole Kidman as a cowboy. Red hair, super wide smile and a face that doesn’t move.

The RNA Showgrounds is the new home for the Bandits. First up, the seats are remarkably uncomfortable. They might be OK for the fireworks at the Ekka, but for 3 hours or 5 hours in a double header – no way. BYO cushion needs to be written on every ticket.

We paid the big $12 each for premium seating, which saw us just to the right of home base, on the side of the visiting team. The seats were unallocated, but thankfully the person I went with arrived early and jagged us a good spot to see the action (not that there were any staff making sure you were going to the right area). The only problem with the premium seats is that you can’t see the score board over the dugout of the away team. Now I use the term ‘dug out’ loosely, as it wasn’t dug, but it was certainly out. It was a portable pagoda/marquee that just needed a big gust to blow it up and away. It was pretty cool to be able to see the players though while they were watching their team mates.

Blocking the scoreboard - but very cool to see them hanging out and stretching

Food was priced comparably to what you would expect at any other event of after a night partying. $5 for chips or a hotdog and $8.50 for a burger (They didn’t do a bag check – so I brought along sushi which I forgot to eat). The real disappointment though was the merchandise. The tees (well tee as there is no choice) is black with the logo and Bandits written on it. I am not sure why it doesn’t say Brisbane Bandits. The tee is also black. Yes black. I guess that goes well with their menacing logo, but I really don’t want to be wearing a black tee during the afternoon game, or even in the afternoon heat in Summer as I make my way to the game. Some of the supporting staff (e.g. the younger players who were supporting the teams) had two different white tees. They were brilliant. I would go either of those, though preferably the white with black piping, versus the white with black sleeves. The hat – $50 for the hat? Really? It isn’t even SunSmart! Were they hand sewed by ex-major leaguers with golden thread?

The logistics was also a bit haphazard. Maybe they weren’t expecting over 1000 people, though they did have over 500 tix presold apparently (1551 was the official count). But when I arrived shortly before 7pm, the line up for parking was insane (this Panda strolled in from her home in The Valley/New Farm area) and there was no one to assist in crossing the road. Some cars were swerving around those that were lined up and having to break to avoid the ppl who were crossing the road. Accident waiting to happen. Another challenge was getting in to the ground. There was no clear signage other than Tickets (to buy) so there was this massive pack of ppl with a combination of passes, print out tickets, looking where to collect their tickets and then the usual tickets. Turned out I was on the wrong side of the pack, as I had an internet print out ticket – which could only be read on the other side of the gate. Signs or staff directing ppl constantly would make a huge difference.

Once I take off my kerchief I am super happy and friendly!

The game itself was pretty fun. It took a while for the nerves to pass and the teams to gel, but it turned into a really good game. Bandits were more consistent in their hitting and their fielding, was on the whole, tighter than that of the Heat. One of the highlights, for me at least, were members tauntingly chanting BAAAAROOOON BAAAAAROOOON over and over as the Heat’s opening pitcher (Baron) was preparing to pitch. LOVED IT! The crowd also really got behind the local team, cheering as they were announced as they came up to bat, standing and cheering when we got a runner home. Great atmosphere. The PA system was a bit hit and miss, but you could recognise the songs, people got into the clapping and stamping, they even got up and sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the 7th Innings stretch. At the same time though, it wasn’t hokey American. It felt like a typical Aussie sporting event, just with Baseball.

Pluses:
Great atmosphere.
LOTS of activities for the kids (they get in free, youth are $6ish)
Awesome value for money $12 for 3 hours is fantastic – and for a double header you get TWO games for one price!
Really easy to get into the game – Baseball isn’t that complicated to understand.
On par food pricing.
Lots of Public Transport options (no CityCycle unfortunately)
Home by a decent hour, even on a work night.
Not too many imports.

This close for $12 - awesome!

Minuses:
The logistics and planning.
The inability to see the scoreboard from the “Premium Seats.” (I assume they would put the name of the player and stats etc on board while playing – could be wrong but I would like that).
Unappealing merch.
Safety in road crossing.
Spelling mistakes on their home ground sign – they play at the CORAL not the CORRAL.
You don’t get to see them play the same team again later in season unless finals.

If you want a really fun evening or afternoon out with minimal cost – you should check out the Brisbane Bandits. Get in with the diehards and have a ball!
EDIT: I forgot to say – Bandits trounced the Heat 8/3 and you can follow the Bandits via The Twitters.
EDIT of the EDIT: I forgot to say how impressed I was with the batting and base work of relief Pitcher Naughton as well as just how fantastically supportive the crowd was of Fukoda as he overcame some early nerves/adrenaline to do some awesome bat work and run like the blazers!

#threeandahalfpandas
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