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Desu nôto (2006)
The trailer looked kind of cool, still I had my suspicions. Loads of people I know had read the manga and said it was interesting. A friend who watched it yesterday recommended it to me, saying it's enjoyable even if you haven't read the manga.
To give a short summary, the movie is about a university student (called, get this, "Light Yamagi", very common Japanese name indeed) who all of a sudden finds a weird notebook called "Death Note" (written in large letters on the front, yes, in English, with a very Gothic font). If the owner of the book writes the name of a person and thinks of that persons name at the same time, that person will die. A god of death (a horribly CGI'd creature less convincing than a video game character from the late 90's) appears and follows Light as he tries and cleanse the world from evil by writing the names of criminals in his book. He is however daunted by the Japanese police forces, led by the mysterious hacker/genius "L" (yes, "L", that one letter the Japanese have problems pronouncing).
Well, it wasn't very enjoyable. I bet that people who liked the manga will like the movie though, but for people who are interested in movies and not manga this is about as bad as it gets. The movie is full of those illogical and unnerving details, put in the movie just to make it "cool", that seems symptomatic to these kind of Japanese movies. For example the uncalled for English, (I mean, LIGHT? COME ON!!), the look of the death of god (what was wrong with the Death of The Seventh Seal?), the visual representation of "L", the flawed logic.
Still, even though within this large wobbly mass of corniness, I think the movie had a theme which COULD be interesting. If you had the power to kill anybody you knew the name and face of, what would you do? If you decide to kill all "bad people" with that power, how far would you go? This movie fast forwards through any such philosophical questions and the one it tries to handle it fails miserably, and where good acting could have lifted up the movie, the actors never fail, to fail to act even a single emotion convincingly.
The movie was, however bad, not entirely unentertaining. At least, I didn't feel like leaving the movie theater in the middle of the showing, which must account for something. Still, I can seriously not recommend this movie to anybody who has moved beyond from the stuff they thought were incredibly cool when they were 14-15.
Summer Nude (2003)
Like a "purikura" sticker
Young director Iizuka Ken's first work is a comedy about the day in the lives of a bunch of people on the Okinawan island of Ishigaki, who all start with their own separate stories but end up having effects on each other lives in one way or another. Does it sound like it has been used before, well it has. This is not the most imaginative movie ever, in fact, it comes packed with several tired old clichés, like many Japanese comedies. The main story is supposedly a love story but because the director puts far too many smaller stories in the mix the film loses its focus.
There is however something slightly charming about all the short stories - they may be meaningless and largely superficial, but they are still snatchy, funny, and colourful, just like one of those "purikura"-stickers Japanese teenaged girls love to take. Iizuka is also doing a good job of building sympathy for new characters in a very short time. My favourites include the two slacker yakuza's on the beach and the annoying girl from Tokyo.
To summarise: Clichéd and flawed in many ways but has its agreeable parts too and overall it works out, on some level, at least for a first time director like Iizuka.
I rented this movie after reading the words "Kyoto" and "1968" on the back of the DVD cover and had really no idea what to expect. After seeing the first 15 minutes I still had no idea where the movie was going but I knew I was in love with the movie.
Pacchigi is yet another movie about Zainichi Korean but it differs from all other movies sharing that theme I've seen so far. Mainly because it's a comedy (or at least starts out as one) but also because it doesn't in any way victimise the Koreans or demonise the Japanese.
It would be wrong to say this is the story of a Japanese high school kid falling in love with a Korean high school kid because the movie revolves around so many other things. It would also be wrong to say this is a story about violence between Korean and Japanese gangs in the 60's because even though there are many violent scenes depicting this it's not really relevant. I think more than anything it's a story about the 60's in Japan, about sexual liberation, about freedom, about music, about doing what you want.
Basically I recommend it.
Uchôten hoteru (2006)
The Uchouten Hotel, is, like the name suggests ("uchouten" means something like "to be beside oneself with joy") an extremely fast-paced, incredibly hysterical comedy by Koki Mitani (who also wrote and directed "Warai no Daigaku") about a very busy New Year's Eve in the five star Avanti hotel.
The comedy varies from situational comedy to elements of typical Japanese slapstick and spiced up with unexpected turnouts and embarrassing cock-ups for the main characters.
The film sports some of Japan's most popular actors, such as SMAP singer Katori Shingo and Yakusho Kouji, famous worldwide for his part in the recently Hollywood remade "Shall we Dansu?".
The movie is classical Japanese humour performed flawlessly without retreating too much to old clichéd banalities. I warmly recommend it to any lover of high-paced comedy.
This film was abysmal. It was so abysmal and such a waste of time that I at first decided not to waste even more time on writing a comment, but upon realising the lack of proper critique of this film, I decided to make possible future viewers a favour.
This is not an action film, it is not an intelligent film. It would be unfair to say that it is somewhere in between; yes, it does fail to be any of the two, yet it also completely fails to be an interesting mix of the two. The result is truly bland. This seems to me a 15-year old's image of intellectualism and just general "coolness". If the director wanted this movie to be taken seriously, why is Aragami's hair dyed red? Just one of those stupid details which makes no sense, other than adding "coolness".
No, I have nothing against action movies, nothing against intellectual movies, nothing against Japanese movies and I would say I usually do not have anything against samurai movies either. So... trust me. Just don't waste your time on this movie.
An OK attempt
Once again we see Takashi Sorimachi take on the role as the Great Teacher Onizuka. I must start off by saying that you should probably not watch this without having seen the TV-series first.
So, what is there to say? This film is a lot better than the confusing TV-special but still lacking compared to the TV-series. Also I find Onizuka's logic alot fuzzier than normal. Usually you kind of understand how he's thinking but in this movie it seems he's just randomly freaking out.
The best part about this movie might just be the new version of the song "Poison", which is sung at the end. Except for that, this is OK but not as good as the series. Still, if you're a fan you pretty much need to watch this anyway, right?