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Ogawa no hotori (2011)
Scenic take on a Samurai's morally challenging assignment
This is a well-made Samurai piece and also the only "HD quality" movie presented in the Japanese Film Festival 2013 in GSC. The story is pretty simple and straightforward. It is a journey of a respected samurai (and his sidekick) who was given a morally challenging assignment from his Lord.
The pace was a tad too slow for me, but there is a reason for that. The Samurai here required ample time, to think and take things slowly, to consider every key point in history (hence the flash backs) to fully understand the meaning of his task. Which also meant balancing between his loyalty to his professional calling and the conflicts that involved family and friendship. In this respect, the movie did good job providing sufficient materials for the audience understanding.
Nevertheless, I believe the pace was just right for the mass audience to appreciate the great scenery, the masterful music composition (sounds to me that Hishashi was behind this), and the feelings each character had towards the consequences of the task.
Perhaps the biggest problem that prevented me from giving a 7 star (or above) is the acting performances, while good in general, is too theatrical, slow and too silent at times. It takes away more rational actions, especially by the female characters, that could add variety to the theme. The fact that women at that time was supposed to be submissive may as well be made redundant by the fact that the mother was a very outspoken character. However, the main character's wife seemed too calm for the fact that her loved ones may lose their lives. Tazu was another surprise towards the end of the film, knowing her personality, she accepted defeat (and a solution) too easily.
009 Re: Cyborg (2012)
Graphics reminded me of GITS Innocence, but bogged down by mediocre plot
When I glanced through the names of the production team behind this movie, I honestly expected a lot out of it. You have Kenji Kamiyama, who is understandably the perfect guy for this movie, having directed some well-known works like Eden of the East. This was especially so given his experiences in bringing out hidden "human" values through cyborgs in his GITS series. You also have Kenji Kawai, who produced some of the best soundtrack ever heard in sci-fi series.
However this movie felt to me like these guys went back to school, or maybe they were not trying to surpass their previous works. Kenji Kawai's scores this time around had no new tune to them, almost sounded like recycled from his own previous works.
The cyborg characters were bland. The lack of dialogue between the characters was not the problem, but I expected something more systematic instead of jumping through events as if they had no significance to the bigger picture. They were trying to milk out a juice I call "character's thoughts" especially right at the end, which I felt was still poorly executed
There seemed to be a critical lack of interaction of events with each other, And this in my opinion was more serious an issue than the lack of interaction between characters because you need events to correlate with each other well to make difficult concepts in sci-fi materials approachable to the audience.
Overall, A fan or anyone familiar with their works would expect something thought-provoking out of the movie. But this time around, "thought-provoking" was an ingredient clearly missing - like an empty shell.
There were a few chapters of pre-anime release manga that can be easily searched online. The manga chapters had slight alterations to the movie, but then, it makes me wonder if this movie was actually made for the manga or something else, which makes sense because of its second-class quality.
Nankyoku ryôrinin (2009)
Do not watch this movie on an empty stomach!
This marked the first of several films that I have watched during the Japanese Film Festival held in the GSC Cinemas (Msia) in Sept 2013. It contained an interesting concept - basically pertaining to survival skills employed by modern day professionals under extreme working conditions.
It is something everyone can relate to at some point in our professional or student life. Postings to places far from our home, or working 24/7 for a demanding project. Effects conjured out as a result of leaving our comfort zones, like homesickness, feeling out of touch with family members' or loved ones whereabouts, urban lifestyle etc...but in this case, the saving grace is that the 'trapped' scientists had the luxury of a chef to provide the best of the most important necessities of all, which is home made food.
It is rather amazing how sophisticated dishes can be made under lack of variety of food choices, and the low water boiling point. But another sweet side of the movie is that it quite diversely covered the fun activities that are likely to happen to fill in the boredom. There were the unpleasant side of the activities too, for instance during long distance phone calls which were better not made in the first place, or one particular favourite scene where a member threw tantrum as a particular food supply ran out.
The only couple of things I can name that the movie did not cover at all were the doctor's chores, it was like none of the members had any health problems throughout the over 400-day stint.some of the characters were severely underdeveloped, I didn't get to know their background or why they chose to participate in the expedition at all.
Overall this is easily a heartwarming movie but given its time length I felt more allocation to character development could be done to substitute for some of the food scenes. A 6.5/10 movie to me.
Reminded me of City of God
There are already a few pieces of movies with the same core reference to child soldiers in Africa. They all had one thing in common - they showed us an overall birds-eye view of what child soldiering was like. This movie appeared to be steered in a different way. It is not an overall picture of things, but rather a personal ordeal told from a strong-willed girl.
Aside from some of the the wishy washy 'voodoo' and romance elements of it, there are many things worth pointing out from this movie. The key attraction is of course the fantasy side of things which artistically fit very well into the overall story. But ultimately it is a heartwarming story of survival.
The style used in this movie reminded me of City of God, not because of whether it possess the same style or the gore behind it (well it was not that gory), but the music used and the tone of the setting are unique in its own way.
Koto no ha no niwa (2013)
A Short Film but Contained The Same Magic seen in "5cm Per Second"
Makoto Niitsu really did it again. Despite being only about 45 min in length, the message delivered still carried the same taste that was seen in his earlier works which included '5 centimeters per second' and 'voices of the distant star', but this time was set in a realistic urban setting rather than a more fantasy approach.
The intricate details in the visual and the soothing sound effect might have played a big part in it, but the real magic was of course brought out from the stories of the characters. Without giving out spoilers, it is essentially about people finding their way out of impediments towards life's goals and the loneliness that often accompanies them. And this sometimes brings people together in odd ways. (7/10)
Man of Steel (2013)
Probably the first superhero movie that takes glory in the mass genocide of human lives!!
4/10 as the cons outweigh the pros
I am quite disappointed in this movie, given that I am quite a fan of both Zack Snyder's and Nolan's works. Points highlighted as below:-
1. Probably the most vulnerable superman film in terms of his humanity and the struggles in search of identity and belonging. Probably the first movie to show how his powers were a discomfort to him. Probably the first movie that shows how imperfect he was and he was not able to protect everyone
2. Mind-blowing action sequences of the usual Zack Snyder-quality
3. Great acting performances by all-star studded cast
4. No room for unnecessary romance (except for a ridiculous 3-4 min of the movie) which was a good move given that it was the story of his initial journey as Superman
5. They made Lois Lane the Best Reporter to ever appear in Movies - a true investigator, and a very daring one
6. They made the Kent parents very cool and modern parents in their own right
Cons:- 1. The biggest flaw is that this movie went against all key fundamentals that defines Superman. Although the action sequences were beautifully made, I was more troubled by them (rather than savouring them) because the film conveniently ignored and "censored" the HUGE amount of human (by-standers) casualties caused by the destruction. No excuses on 'the world now is a darker place so destruction should be more realistic' because such massive destruction happened in the movie as the parties involved did not do their jobs properly to make the inevitable less painful. The fact that Superman allowed this to happen, and partake in it without worrying about human lives (except for a few key characters) was seriously horrendous to the very essence that build his character. I would have been more satisfied if Superman tried to save a few more other than Lois even if he can't save a whole city of citizens. But For instance, his fight scenes with Zod could be better done elsewhere (i.e. lure him away from the dense civilization to the ocean or something?) without smashing into buildings and causing potential loss of innocent survivors. HELLO? If Batman could do it (when fighting against his villains in Nolan's movies), why cant Superman do it?
2. How on earth, when the breathe support was down, did Zod able to permanently adapt to Earth's atmosphere at the last moments for such a long fight scene? This script was written by Nolan, "revenge" was NOT a convenient excuse
3. Another STUPID major error - Superman cant breathe in Kriptonian Spaceship (quite obvious it wasn't due to any Kripton material). It is a well known fact Superman can hold his breath in vacuum/ outer space where there is no air at all, and it was already explained in the movie that he learned the art of sharpening his focus
4. Superman allowed his hometown to be devastated (again I don't want to repeat the point of any potential loss of lives) in unnecessary long fight scenes when he could have just K.O. his foes by ripping all the Kriptonian's breathing masks off. HELLO! Both Superman and ZOD himself explained in the movie that 'their temporary weakness was revealed'
5. Superman actually murdered someone in this movie. That scene was not well-made. I do not know for sure if he had other ways to prevent the murder, but logically speaking he should have other ways because he IS Superman and he already said in the movie he can do things that others cant (a choke hold is the LAMEST way to go about it). Sure he showed regrets and even consulted Lois for his actions, but that scene lasted for a mere 5 minutes which was barely a justification for such a radical change in Superman's character - and then we have that stupid ending
6. Too many inconsistencies in the plot - the same flaw seen in The Dark Knight Rises - for example, Why do they need Lois Lane on board the Kriptonian spaceship (and with a welcoming breathing mask for her) when her purpose in the end was to disrupt their operations? Why did Clark take such a stupid risk to decide to hand over to Lois his father's chip? Why when was a planet about to be destroyed, have its citizens care about their last few hours of their lives deciding how to banish some 'war criminals' , which actually made more sense to banish them to stay in the dying planet and use the ice technology to save a few good/ deserving citizens to carry on the Kryptonian's survival? In one-on-one scenes, Why did only a few Kryptonians went into real confrontational action against humankind and the heroes (what were the others doing)? Why did people or Daily Planet seemed to be calm and not question the government on the disturbing videos? The government's scientist / doctor already mentioned that the World Device was using GRAVITY force, and yet the commander sent war planes to destroy the devices, and the scientist was there too. HOW STUPID!
It would be very very awkward if Clark Kent can retain his hidden identity in MOS 2, given that too many people knew about his identity ever since his childhood
Somehow reminded me of Okuribito
Tsunagu, like Okuribito, is another film that brings positive light on the subject of death. During the main character's apprenticeship, his grandma taught him to lead some of the connection or "tsunagu" between certain individuals who wanted to glimpse their dearly departed. The key thing is that the main character's story was not the centerstage - this film spent much time developing a few clients' stories.
Thus, we get to see a good blend of relationships-family, love couples and best friends. Some arcs were pleasant to watch, some were cases where things may not go as well as planned, but all were generally heartwarming. Through a one-time chance to reconcile with the dead, the movie also raised the issue of moving on in life.
While the execution was smooth, and some scenes may be designed as tearjerker, the whole movie seemed to lack the extra ingredient to make it truly stand out. Some scenes were overly dramatic. Another turnoff for me is that some of the actions that somehow made the ghosts seem to be able to 'contact/touch' physical matter made the whole process too easy as if it is from a children's cartoon. Hence it is a 6/10.
Hello! This is not Amour!
While I was impressed with the director's earlier works (White Ribbon), this movie to me did not deserve to win the best Foreign Film.
Okay, whatever that transpired in the events from start to finish, they may have been based on true accounts, but from what I saw, they are more voided of 'amour' which was the exact opposite of my expectations (even though the movie deliberately gave off a spoiler of the ending from the first 3 minutes of the movie).
What I see throughout the whole ordeal was selfishness.
Lets start of with the wife. The woman refused hospital treatment at the beginning was understandable. But when she knew later on the sacrifices her husband is doing on her behalf, if she loved him and her family enough, she should have reconsidered her decision before losing away all consciousness through a slow but degrading state of losing away one's mind. If she did consider those options somewhere along the way, the movie failed to show it. Now that is selfish.
Lets go to the husband. Now that is another selfish bastard. He may be a stubborn character judging from how he treats the nurses and his own family members who doubted his intentions. That is understandable. But, he knew he was as fragile as she was (what happens if he got into an accident? Or if he ended up in the same fate as her?) He knew he was not qualified to take up such challenges all by himself. And yet, he asked for the barest minimum of assistance from nurses (who are not part of the family, they may cause trouble) and neighbours who helped with minimum chores. Now is that love? Love should have prompted him to seek help from family members - if not, he should at least seek help from his close friends, which I am sure at least one of them encountered such situations and would be able to help him. Doing all of these things alone, is hardly a moral thing to do and hardly inspiring.
The daughter. She is also selfish. Based on her conversations with her father, it is clear that she was not taking it seriously. If I am in her place, and my dad refused to convey to me what was going on, I would ASK THE NEIGHBOURS, who knew their situation better than the daughter. i would ASK HIS FRIENDS. I would probe until I find out what was really wrong as soon as I suspected something about it. At the very least, if I cannot spare my own time to come over to the house, I should get myself involved in getting some really competent people (doctors, friends etc) instead of letting my own father HANDLE EVERYTHING. The movie had at the very least showed that the daughter did not care to consider or mention any of those options.
Now can you tell me, if this movie deserves such a title? Maybe so, if the purpose is to force us to ponder about what is right and wrong in such situations. To me, the director should have chosen a better title. Not every viewer have the level of maturity to understand the meaning of the movie especially with such a controversial title. While the more intelligent crowd may be in awe of this movie, I feel that he had been disrespectful to the mass audience...we expected more, and most of us have parents and are expected to take care of them when they are old. Now, Haneke, are you trying to give us amour? Or making us senile and confused?
Technotise - Edit i ja (2009)
Good attempt despite unsatisfactory ending
This non-Japanese cartoon film actually deserves some credit for its catchy theme and fast-paced execution. The characters have diverse personalities and a hint of a tendency to be rebellious in the train of thought without the usual clichéd stereotypes. Overall well made, but not saved from heavy flaws in the lack of intimacy between some key characters (they did show some intimacy but it felt like a flash video clip). Some scenes were also jumpy I felt may disrupt the flow of the plot, especially given the sci-fi nature of its theme that can appear complicated to some of the audience members. The biggest flaw in my opinion is the unsatisfactory ending, which felt too rushed and not doing enough to justify the whole 1.5 hours of the movie.
A character study employing multi facet point of views
I believe the primary purpose of this movie is to, demonstrate how relationships and conflicts are so diverse across individuals, that their perception on a similar matter can never be the same. For that, high marks are awarded.
Kirishima is supposed to be the popular student but never present in the movie physically speaking. His unintentional absence instead is to provide a pivot...and eventually proved to the audience that one's absence could trigger unwanted effects on the togetherness/friendship/reliance on another individual. And the effects can be compounded. The movie repeatedly play the same scenes several times, but at different camera angles and different 'main characters' to illustrate the aforementioned views.
The final scene was a letdown to me as the gathering on the rooftop it was rather unrealistic. but overall, not many movies are able to illustrate well the effect when the plot only happened in such a short span of time.