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26 reviews in total 
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Fine story, well made, 3 November 2016

We meet O-Ei, grown daughter of the famous Japanese painter Hokusai. She has a younger sister, O-Nao, who is blind. (O-Ei's name was actually Katsushka Ōi, but it also appears as "O-Ei".) Hokusai is depicted as a gruff, single-minded man, living in his studio, apart from his wife and children. The blind young sister is invented - as is most of the rest of the story. But she plays a very important part.

There are great moments here. One incredibly beautiful moment occurs near the end of the film. And of course, there's a delightful scene involving his most famous print, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa".

The animation is beautifully done, in typical Japanese fashion. Not as beautifully as Miyazaki, but still, good.

The story covers a lot of ground, including the Japanese form of erotic art (shunga). Part of that thread involves an important plot element.

The musical score is very Western and modern, which could be a little off-putting. As the credits went by, I saw one of the song titles given in Spanish!.

It's a movie that keeps you involved, and doesn't let you nod off.

PS: Keep your eyes on the little dog that shows up at the beginning.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Another shoot-em-up summer movie, 9 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

That's a charitable 4 - for effort. They tried. The special effects are quite good.

This one is loosely based on characters created by Tolkien, but they're put into situations way outside his story line.

Other reviewers have noted the goofs.

Ryan Gage's Alfrid was probably put in to provide comic relief, but I believe your comic relief character should have some likability. Alfrid is about as likable as one of the lesser orcs.

The Thorin/Tauriel sub-story was unconvincing at best. Did it never occur to the writers that a male/female relationship could be a friendship at the same level as Bilbo's and Thorin's?

Most of us who grew up with the early Gene Autry/Roy Rogers westerns will recognize the eagles as the cavalry charging in over the hill to save the day. What were they waiting for?


The coincidence of Bilbo arriving back at his home in the Shire, just as his stuff is being auctioned off, stretches belief to the breaking point.

Tenshin (2013)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Slow, detailed historical biopic, 27 September 2014

This film will be more appreciated by Japanese viewers. It is a detailed, pull-no-punches film about the life of Okakura Tenshin, a well-known (in Japan) art writer and collector, who died in 1913.

The cinematography is quite good - during the filming, there was a tsunami off the coast, which gave the director some good ocean shots to highlight the drama.

The time of the story is the time in Japanese history (late 1800s) when Japan was reaching out to the West for new directions in art. Tenshin fought to retain Japanese culture, and was forced out of his teaching position at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He takes four students and goes off to a remote part of the country to found a school. The story follows him and his students through lean times, and eventually to a country-wide exhibition, where two of his students win major prizes.

Tenshin is shown as a hard taskmaster to his four struggling students. He drives them relentlessly, rarely praising, and letting them fend for themselves and their families, living off whatever fish they can catch.

7 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Left me cold, 17 May 2014

There's something about this one that left me cold - uninvolved.

But first: if you haven't seen it yet, stay through the final credits - all of them. There's a trailer that's really a preview of a new X-Men movie.

This time around, Stan Lee is easy to spot. He even gets a speaking line. I wonder if they paid him scale......

After a few giant monster movies, the genre gets old. I saw nothing new and interesting about this movie's monsters. Big, nasty, powerful - yawn, been there, done that.

There's an interesting contrast between Parker/Spiderman and Wayne/Batman: Batman comes from a wealthy family (and has Michael Caine as a Number Two), lives in a mansion; Parker and his aunt are barely getting by, live in an apartment.

The spider-silk acrobatics are too far out to be believable. Each journey through the city (always conducted at altitude) takes at least 23 times his own body weight in silk thread.

On the other hand, the special effects are great. Downtown New York has been destroyed in so many movies, it's a wonder anybody stays there.

The local theater where we saw it dropped the 3D version early. I asked the manager about that; he said hardly anybody went to that one. I wonder of the thrill of 3D is wearing off.

Bottom line: I'd go for the special effects, not the story.

15 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
A movie about genius, obsession, and disappointment, 5 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We saw this last week (April 2014). I wanted to go because I'd read Dune (many years ago); because I knew that the De Laurentiis version was pretty bad; and because I had no idea who this Jodorowsky is.

The documentary starts by reviewing AJ's earlier films. To say that he was then a surrealist would not be an exaggeration. Then it takes up his plan to film Dune; it follows his efforts - successful - to get the best artists, technicians and actors to work on the film.

On the list: Dan O'Bannon, H. R. Giger, Chris Foss, Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd, ....

He wanted Orson Welles to play the Emperor. He tracked Welles down in Paris - eating at his favorite restaurant - and though he wasn't interested in doing any more movies, AJ promised him that if he took the job, AJ would hire the restaurant's chef and OW could eat as he wished. OW accepted.

He wanted Salvador Dali for another role. SD wanted $100,000 an hour - so he could be the highest paid actor. AJ asked the script writer how long SD would be on screen - about 4 or 5 minutes, total. So AJ went back to SD and offered him $100,000 a minute.

AJ is a fascinating, interesting, engaging, complex man - the kind that the world could use more of.

The interviews with Giger, Foss, Dali, O'Bannon (we only hear audio clips - he died before the film was made) are fascinating (Giger is a bit older than the last time I saw his picture).

In terms of a single-minded effort to realize a dream, it reminds me of another documentary, "Tim's Vermeer" (check IMDb). Tim Jenison takes 3 or 4 years of his life to show - by doing it himself - that Vermeer might have painted "The Music Lesson" using a form of optical projection. He goes as far as building a perfect replica of Vermeer's room - in his warehouse in Texas, learning to read Dutch, going to see the original in Buckingham Palace).

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Non-stop action, 25 October 2013

All you need to know is: this is a Jackie Chan movie. That's all I knew about it when I saw it on the schedule. I guess they don't believe in advertising over here.

An opening sequence has Chan escaping from his latest caper, in a sequence that makes a James Bond opening look like a British lawn party.

The plot revolves loosely around the recovery of 12 zodiacal animal heads, taken from an old Chinese palace by invading "foreign troops" (undoubtedly British) back in the 1800s. The movie also draws attention to the worldwide market in stolen artifacts (that's in the closing credits).

If you remember Hollywood musicals from the 30s and 40s, you remember that they were largely made up of a lot of songs, having little to do with the plot, loosely tied together into a story.

The Chan movies are a lot of martial arts scenes, loosely tied together into a movie.

But Chan is one of (if not the finest) living actors in this genre. This movie, like many of his others, ends with the credits playing alongside outtakes. Among his other Guinness records, he's probably the actor with the most injuries per movie. At 57, he may be slowing down a little, but not much.

And there's always a little bit of humor - slapstick - in some of the fight scenes. He never takes himself too seriously.

He takes the fight arena to new heights: he jumps out of a plane - to catch one of the treasures - followed by three bad guys. They spend a good 4 or 5 minutes falling and fighting in the air.

During the outtakes, we find out how they did that.

If you can find it, go see it.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
So-so sequel, 17 July 2013

Like many sequels, this one falls short of the original. The first movie is set apart by its originality, and the transformation of the arch-villain Gru into a soft-hearted father.

This time around, Gru and the kids are already settled, and he's retired from villlainy. The only thing to do is bring him out of "retirement" to do battle with yet another villain, who wants to take over the world (don't they all?).

Throughout the movie, minions abound, providing comic relief (in a comedy).

But most of the action is only a little more than ordinary. Some sight gags work well, but not enough to make this sequel stand out. some scenes just run too long - the Cinco de Mayo party, for one.

There's a possibility of a third movie, and with a partner for Gru, the stage is set for something completely different. But I'll wait and see.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Great adaptation, 13 July 2013

Shakespeare. Black & white. Two things taken together that could send people running from the theater (or into another screen, for an Adam Sandler movie).

For me, though, two things that make this a must. Obviously, we have to compare it with the Branagh/Thompson version from 1993. It's been too long since I've seen that one to remember the details, but I'd say this is an excellent version.

The first thing I noticed is the setting: there's an opening shot of a tree-lined street. Big Black cars drive up. Men in suits and ties get out. They come into a modern high-end house.

Then they start speaking Shakesperean English. After about a minute, though, it all comes together. The cast (all new to me, except Fillion) is excellent. The two leads (Beatrice & Benedick) are convincing.

The camera work is excellent. There are two or three scenes that are outstanding. One in particular: towards the end, after everyone thinks Hero is dead, there's a solemn procession. It starts with a medium shot over the back yard, then the people walk slowly into the frame, all dressed in black, single file, carrying candles.

The music score is minimal - all done by Whedon.

Benedick has a few funny scenes - I don't know whether this is based on the Branagh version, or whether it's usually done in a typical production.

Fillion, as Dogberry the Constable, is almost perfect. He handles the role - Shakespeare's comic relief - with style, not overplaying it, but filling the role with good-natured incompetence. The last time he and his colleague leave the house, there's a long shot of them getting to the car, then realizing that they've left the keys in the car.

There are very few movies I could watch more than once, less than a year or two apart, but this is one I can watch again any time.

PS: The movie was shot in Whedon's house. Does that make it a 'Home movie"?

Impressionistic film, 8 April 2013

We saw this at the 2013 Vietnamese International Film Festival in Orange County, CA. We met the director, Siu Pham.

This is an impressionistic film. The story covers 3 or 4 days in the life of a man, about 70 (Jean-Luc Mello, French), and his wife (nobody is named in the film). It opens with a series of apparently unconnected images, following the couple as they wake up and start their daily routines. You know something is not quite ordinary when you see the man, in front of the bathroom mirror, with a Bach prelude for solo cello on the soundtrack, playing along with 2 bows, on the tendons of his neck.

The next part of the story involves the man going out on a fishing boat, with a reluctant crew. Some miles out, he decides to go swimming, over the objections of the crew. He tells them he's OK, and that they should go back, so they leave him floating in the ocean. While he's out there, there's a dream sequence with a group of water-ballet swimmers.

The rest of the story follows his wife as she tries to find him. The film ends with a scene of all the characters around a dinner table - including the man's long-dead parents and children. That reminded some in the audience of Fellini's "8 and a Half". About halfway through, the film reminded me a bit of Fellini.

All in all, it's well-done film with a very unusual story line.

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Not all that bad, 14 October 2012

I remember the old days, when serials played in theaters on Saturday morning, ended with the hero falling off a cliff (or did he?), and the next installment came next week, ending with the hero surrounded by lions and tigers.

Now we have to wait years between installments.

I came to this movie cold, not having seen Part I or read the book. Most of the story, and many of the characters are well known to almost everybody (everyone that's been paying attention), so I fell into the story line.

As most reviewers said, the acting was better than the first (glad I messed it). I'd say the top nomination should go to the train repairman near the end (the guy from 20th Century Motors).

It's relevant to today, with the government taking more and more control. Maybe back in the 50s, Directive 10-NNN(?) would have seemed really far-fetched, but today ..... not beyond the realm of possibility.

It was a nice touch to have the single white star on the locomotive of the Army train. Shades of "Dr Zhivago".

For some strange reason, there are no "External Reviews. Maybe the critics are still stunned by the magnificence of the movie.

PS: Where was the Penn & Teller bit?

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