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21 reviews in total 
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6 Souls (2010)
66 out of 107 people found the following review useful:
Plays like Ring without a video tape., 4 April 2010

It's really rare for an American film to open in Japan before America, so I rushed to see it. Well, I might not have rushed had it not been for Juliana Moore who does deliver despite huge gaping plot holes littered throughout the film.

I won't give anything away about the story. There is a lot of development in the first half of the movie which might make the film seem s l o w for some viewers. When the mystery is revealed it is surprising but even given the careful buildup you might still have to make an effort to suspend your disbelief if only because of the plot holes (which I can not mention with out enumerating spoilers).

There are quite a few logical disconnects, too. In a age of cell phones when you're a busy psychiatrist why would you drive across town to do something which would take ten seconds by phone? Because it's a plot device.

Still, I enjoyed the film. I can not recommend it to my Japanese friends as there is a lot of talk about God and Faith which is lost on a truly secular country; but I can recommend it to people who like films like The Ring or The Exorcist. There are some interesting characters and a lot of good acting especially by the male lead who, well, you'll see.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
It's delicious, 17 January 2014

This movie is fantastic! It has a strong moral core about friendship, memorable characters, and does what animation should do, which is show the fantastical: Living food. The animation colour and design are extraordinary, fun, vivid. The food and the situations reference older films which adds something more adults can enjoy. Simply put, this film is fun -- and much better than the first one.

About the references, a lot of animation today makes quick cultural jabs that fall flat the next year. This film heavily references situations, for example, Steve Jobs' decision to pay the Chinese a pittance and reap a huge profit, but not in such a way that can date the film in the 20 or 40 years. It's there. It's easy to see, but the allusions blend into the landscape seamlessly. It's very well done.

I gave it a ten, not for the reason I gave ten for Monoke Hime but for showing me a fantastical bright world that I would love to visit and populating it with quirky characters that made me laugh and were just thoughtful enough to not be one dimensional.

Death Note (2017)
8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
This version is worth watching in order to compare it to the original film, 25 August 2017

I live in Japan and have been a huge fan of the series since it was made into an anime years and years ago. What the anime (and manga) can do that neither movie can is pace the story. The original Japanese Death Note film was rushed but this new America remake was contorted to fit it's just over 90-minute run time.

If you don't know, Death Note is about a young man who receives a "magic" book that will kill anyone's name written into it.

What the original manga and anime are able to do is explore the public's relationship with the person behind the killings and debate their morality. Neither movie could do that, the American movie much, much less so.

This new American retelling went for style over plot. There is a lot of work on the cinematography at the expense of what makes the Death Note so compelling. Worse still, they edited in mainstream music during key emotional scenes. The lyrics are meant to convey what the characters are feeling but they are distracting and clearly there to help abbreviate the narrative and punctuate a scene -- it's bad visual and sound editing.

The plus is that they departed from the main narrative, so even I was surprised at where the story was headed. They also give background information on the character L, something you don't get until the third stand-alone film in the Japanese franchise.

Because they chose an African-American L and a Caucasian Light, they could have nuanced the story with the racial tensions in the US to give it a reason to be told in America. They could have spent time exploring the theme of justice. They could have taken a lot of different threads to make this version of Death Note a story that needed to be told. Instead, the American Death Note is a cool lesson in cultural differences between Japanese and American storytelling.

Watch it but be sure to watch either the original Japanese movie or the original anime -- if you can read the manga, it's a truly wild ride.

Freud (1962)
7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
a strange collaboration, 25 August 2011

I found this film by accident. A happy one? Montgomery Cliff, John Huston, Jean-Paul Sartre and an image of Marilyn Monroe are purposely put together though it comes across as accidental.

On the plus, it is educational to see how something mainstream presents material which should be avant guard. The dream sequences are interesting for that reason as the film would have been much better if they pushed the envelope. Instead, the film maintains a balance in the imaginings of what an Oedipal Complex were, of what dreams are like, and, I suppose, the images are as developed as they could be for 1960's America. For that reason I recommend it: The film is a bit of time capsule in how films were made.

Against the film, the pacing is unnecessarily slow and the acting is wooden or melodramatic for todays audience. The dialogue presents the Freud's ideas with ease but there 's no art in the language.

House (1985)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Does not hold up well over time, 7 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film follows an author who is in the middle of writing a book about his experiences during the Vietnam war. His son disappears in The House. Through a convenient series of events he decides to live in the house which is populated with 80's latex monsters. Riffle shots, screams, all sorts of loudness and only one neighbor notices. (It's that kind of movie.) Eventually he comes to realize that the mental monsters he's been dealing with in writing his book have become reality -- The Boss Fight is with the zombie/monster/ghost of a soldier he betrayed. He finds courage, gets his son back, his wife comes, happily ever after.

I saw this on its first release when I was boy. I really can't recall how well I liked it, but I definitely do not like it now.

The actors read their lines off each other; the script has a complete arc but there's no craft but formula in this movie; the monsters are ridiculous, even for the 80's; and it takes itself seriously too, too often.

Oddly, House Two, The Second Story is a much better film. It's more a comedy with a few monsters you can laugh with. House wants to be a serious film but the creators didn't have the skill.

Great visuals; a good haunted house film, 13 January 2014

Personally, I don't feel they needed to make this film. The law of sequels is that they have to explain, so the parts of the first film that existed in your imagination are going to be put to rest. That's the only real negative.

The acting was solid. They did a good job of taking disparate horror elements to create something new. And they paid homage to film like The Shinning. They also set up the sequel.

If you like haunted house films, you'll enjoy the first half. If you want to know the specifics of what happened in the first film you'll like the second half. If you like a complicated story line that pays off, you'll like the whole film.

Intruders (2011/I)
the story hinges on a twist and how you think about that twist determines the genre, 2 October 2012

I don't want to give away anything.

This is one of those films you watch and think you could have made it better if you did X and Y in place of A and B. If you have friends with whom you can sit around later and talk about how you would have approached the subject, it's a great film. If you want something straight forward, you'll dislike it.

I watched it because I was mislead by the trailer and assumed the story would be good because Clive Owen signed onto it.

The performances are top notch, but the editing is weak and so the story telling drags in places. (Most people will complain about the priest's role in the film.) If you reflect after the twist is revealed, you should understand why certain scenes were not throw away but reveal something about the characters (for example, when a man at Clive Owen's character's workplace nearly falls).

I recommend Intruders for people who enjoy talking about or thinking about (different from picking apart) films. There's a strong message here and it's worth exploring.

Ken (1964)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A pure hearted soul in world that's corrupt, 2 January 2009

The movie is set in a Kendo club at university and has, as it's primary conflicts , the struggles between Kawaza and Kokubun, Kokubun and the world; there are two subplots involving a novice Kendo player and Kokubun; and a woman and Kokubun.

Kokubun represents Japans innocence, its virtue, its purity, its purpose (his name means "a part of the country). He is unknowingly engaged in a battle to be the leader of the kendo club with an equally talented rival, Kazawa, who lacks Kokubu's focus and self possession.

Kendo is the epitome of the traditional Japanese spirit; pay attention to how Western "things" are presented and juxtaposed to traditional values (I'm thinking of a gun, a café, and a dance scene) and compare how the characters are different in the city versus at the temple.

It's a subtle story. Kazawa is unable to discipline himself and Kokubun is unwilling to bend himself to the future or the "ways of the world". How will it play out? Watch it and see: it's a fine film where kendo is a metaphor and the story is chance to think on something more.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
What could have happened to Harry Potter., 1 November 2013

The Percy Jackson (probable) franchise is a hint as to what Harry Potter might have looked like were it made in the Hollywood studio system.

The writing is terrible and the lines read, not acted. (Listen for how the writers try to punctuate every moment with an attempt at wit or humor only to fall flat and disrupt the pace of the film.) The special effects are ladled on without point and while the ideas for some of the creatures and scenes are well realized, I couldn't help wonder if they were a nod to or theft from better films.*

Still, if you're tween or just looking for a cinematic escape and nothing else is playing, it's not the worst film you could watch. They set up the ending for a sequel and, depending on the reviews, I might suffer through another if my date cancels or I am very bored.

I do not recommend Percy Jackson unless your either into bad fantasy, a junior high student or younger, or want to play Mystery Science Theater 3000.

*spoilerish -- I'm speaking of a cab scene and something they find at sea.

48 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
Excellent live action adaptation of an anime, 23 September 2014

I really enjoyed this film.

I've seen the anime a few times, but I could never get into it. The film leads someone with no experience carefully into their world while (according to my friends who've seen it) pay a nod in all the right places to the original work.

I can see where a non-Japanese audience is going to have problems with the film:

How do you shoot a film with an international cast which live in a world where Japanese is the lingua franca? You dub it. I came close to leaving the theater to tell the staff the tracking was off but it quickly became obvious what they were doing. Honestly, it could be distracting but if you think about it, every animation works on the same principle.

(One benefit to the dubbing is that they could use actors with animation quality voices to fill the voice roles for many of the actors, or allow the principals to animate their voices in a way that would look unnatural in real life.)

Also, they shot the film in HDR (high dynamic range) which really animated the facial expressions and heighten the the boundary between real and imagined scenery -- a huge plus in this kind of film, and especially beautiful to watch on the big screen.

Oguri Shun's performance was top notch. He nailed the role. The other characters hit their character's tone, too. And when you see the situation the characters will find themselves in, you'll see they are not played as one dimensionally as the typical anime/cartoon to live action film. Their situations are complex and multifaceted.

I recommend this film. It's entertaining, beautiful to watch, presents the genre in a new way, and gives you a dose of Japanese-isms.

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