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Quantum of Solace (2008)
Review upon a second viewing
I have just watched Quantum of Solace again, and I don't really understand why it's such a maligned Bond film. In all honesty, I find it very hard to re-watch the old bonds now, even the revered Goldeneye. QOS is criticised for not having much of the wholly debonaire Bond so iconic of past films, yet the much lauded Casino Royale lacked that interpretation of Bond as well.
Essentially, the Bond films of the past got caught up in the sexual revolution of the 60s and thus reflect that attitude, however that's hardly relevant nowadays when scenes in television dramas are enough to make those old films blush. The sexuality of the old bonds is rather quaint when viewed with today's far more sexually subjective lens. If such an approach were to be kept, perhaps only granting the agent his first bisexual experience could keep it in any way punchy.
This rebooting of Bond has been long overdue, and the aspects which I've enjoyed most about it is the closeness with the colder, more ruthless Bond of the earlier novels, while still maintaining some level of sexuality and the debonaire. The character's emotional development -- at first cocky and naive in Casino, and then injured and broken (after Vesper's betrayal and death) in Quantum -- is far more rewarding emotionally than yet another formulaic rerun of the tired Bond archetype.
Yet the criticism is that this somehow diminishes his character, makes him like 'James Bourne'. It really is quite silly. What diminishes any character is having him constantly repeat himself such that he becomes his own caricature. Craig's Bond has me excited as to what he'll do next. Bond has become a far more complex and intriguing person to get to know. I don't miss the gadgets, nor the suave dismissal of danger which only somebody mentally deficient could perform.
Other than that, the charges levied against the film, such as a clichéd and scant story, as well as an over-dependence on action scenes, are amusingly hypocritical. The same critics decry the loss of the older, outdated Bond yet hold this film to standards very few of those old Bond films could ever hope to meet. Bond is anything if not clichéd, but isn't that part of the charm, and it's one of the old traditions which have survived.
The other reason for the film's failure to gel with critics, at least in my view, is the premise. The villain is nebulous and vague. We know that whoever Bond chases, he or she will no doubt be nothing more than a pawn, or at least one of many heads of a global hydra. This lacks the personal punch of a Le Chiffre, yet for the attentive viewer, the new villains and their organisation have intriguing intersections.
The other issue was the plot, and by this I mean that of the villain, who is concerned with not only installing, propping up and profiting off dictatorships of developing countries, but also stealing the water rights from them as well. We in the developed world can't imagine what paying for every drop of water is like, not like in those developing countries in which people are jailed for collecting rainwater.
In the the Middle East, fossil water supplies have all but depleted, and they don't replenish. The brief years of prosperous farming are now over. New economies collapse and corporate rescuers step in, like Monsanto with their genetically modified, 'terminator seeds' which require chemical activation or they're infertile past their 'licensed season'. Thus developing nations become forever shackled transnationals' profit. Imagine if the water supply was controlled by them as well.
So yes, the culprits aren't dictators or dastardly SMERSH agents. They are transnational corporations, completely amoral in their decisions, who see owning a whole nation's water as a great investment. I think that movie goers just failed to key into the grand scale of villainy which Bond was up against. That and, Quantum of Solace is quite an impenetrable title for many Joe Blo movie goers -- a common complaint -- yet the title is simple, that Bond is searching for that one 'quantum of solace' which will enable him to overcome his grief and anger and function as a human being and a man.
I think that, facing all we have to face in this new, corporate and amoral world, a quantum of solace is what everybody needs.
Ninja Assassin (2009)
Amazing violence can't save this kung-f .. er ninja movie.
It's not often I'm offended by a movie but Ninja Assassin was awful. Did you say 'ninjas'? They are as much ninja as Will Smith Jnr is a 'karate kid'. 'Oh it's all the same!' some say. So I guess boxing and UFC are too. The movie is custom made for only the most naive of film goers and 13 year old boys. Many would argue that as a tautology.
Yet, is a ninja film actually staring some Japanese doing actual ninjutsu, and not just a kung fu movie re-skinned, so impossible? I welcome the day when ninja are treated even half as well as Sho Kosugi did back when they were at their Western peak. There are far superior films on the subject matter in Japan, yet those film reportedly 'bore' foreign audiences with their realism and physically grounded martial arts.
That's fair enough, but films like Kuro Obi show how stunning Japanese budo can be on screen, and Owl's Castle shows how a ninja's life could be one of brain squeezing intrigue. There's no need to throw away such beauty and minimalist perfection, in favour of cheap thrills via anachronistic kung-fu. The ninja weren't the kind to leave trails of dissected bodies behind. That's an invention of anime and comic book myth.
As spies and covert killers, their work was much more subtle and dare I say, cerebral. Owl's Castle illustrates this and I guess that's why it has been labeled as 'boring'. Go figure. And cerebral is not a word I would use for any aspect of the film's plot or characterisation, though there's plenty of 'cerebral matter' on display throughout the many brainless (LOL) fight scenes.
I love cheesy genre films as much as the next ninja fan, and my collection is filled with schlock, but what I don't like is careless and derivative story telling. Great schlock has heart. This film's heart has already been ripped away, thus reducing what remained to a paint by numbers exercise in predictable emptiness, but with some excellently done, albeit entirely anachronistic fight scenes.
Lake Mungo (2008)
An excellent exploration into grief and loss
I wasn't sure what to expect when I watched this film. I think it was completely misrepresented in its international promotion, as part of the 'Horror After Dark' festival last year. This 2007, and belatedly released, film is filmed in a documentary style about the Palmer family trying to deal with the tragic... loss of their daughter, Alice.
I didn't find the film frightening, but it was very atmospheric. Some scenes were quite foreboding. In retrospect, it is easy to see how this film could have been presented, had it been made in a typical straight forward way. The plot turns are all in keeping with genre expectations, but it was the choice to tell the story in an almost completely strict 'third person objective' view point that really had me engrossed.
The Hollowood remake is set for release next year and expect it to lack much of the honesty and soul of the original. No doubt the remake rights, as is the trend now, were part and parcel with distribution rights. This is the current tactic of the American film industry now - distribution with the condition of remake rights.
That makes for a very sad situation, and if it isn't protectionist, I don't know what is. The only reason to remake this film is to cash in on this year's Paranormal Activity. I would watch that as well. As for Lake Mungo - see it if you can. It is a very striking film, full of life for long after the credits have rolled (watch them all by the way). And don't watch any trailers.
Kiriya makes another epic doomed to be misunderstood
It was the same with Casshern and it will be the same with Goemon. At this moment, the film hasn't gotten as much exposure in the West but needless to say, when it does, the film community will be awash with disappointment and confusion. Why? I think it has a lot to do with the role of CGI in film today. Being largely the domain of larger Hollywood studios, the technology has been used as a means of replacing reality, emulating it to the point of near transparency. Jurrassic Park was one the first films to show that such a goal was even possible and effects have progressed so much further since then.
It therefore are that a Hollywood films attempt to use CGI for enhancing reality or making an entirely new reality of their own. Sin City was made outside of the studio system and perhaps that is why it was made at all. 300 was a valiant attempt as well at using CGI to create the actual fantastical. On the other side of the coin, Lord of the Rings, though amazing for its depiction of monsters and creatures of the imagination, ultimately had the purpose of bring THEM into OUR world.
GOEMON, like Casshern, is an attempt to bring us into another world, similar to our own but in so many ways, different. The effects and design serve the purpose of creating an unreality of enhanced surreality, mimicking the pages of comic books and the frames of animation. Visually, it was never intended to fool the eye or make the fantastical 'real'. Like its predecessor, it had loftier, more artistic goals. The question is, did the film reach them? In many ways it did, but in many, it fell short. In the running time of story, there is certainly no lack of sumptuous composition and stunning colour. The action is hyperactive and generally defies the rules of the real world, though they make total sense in the scheme of Goemon's. The sheer audacity of the large scale battles, especially in the last quarter, makes the viewer simultaneously bewildered and amazed. You have never seen this before outside of the imagination and the boundless universe of pen and paper. No Hollywood film would dare do it.
And that is the film's dual strength and weakness. What it does is alien to a majority of film fans bred on Hollywood's particular brand. They have been fed so much in the way of safe challenges and formulaic product, that their first instinct is to rebel against any films cutting against the grain. The beauty of GOEMON is that it isn't a Hollywood picture and therefore doesn't need to apply itself to pleasing a conservative demographic who are otherwise unable to accept what the film ultimately creates.
That is not to say that it doesn't follow clichés and formulas of its own origin, but the presentation is fresh and eccentric enough to counter them. The whole is entirely a product of Japan. It reflects the culture's own eclectic, modern tastes while also preserving a filtered rendition of the old. It both revises and reinforces its subject matter, forming it into something that is Japan and at the same time, is not. It doesn't matter that most of the story never really happened. The vitality of the film is its lust for a life of its own and, its characters, while largely archetypal, serve the mythic aspects the story perfectly, because that is what myths are made of.
GOEMON is a film that shouldn't be weighed against standards set outside its context. It is a film trying to shed the limitations forced upon it by a conservative industry and consuming public. It is a myth, a comic book, a video game, an animation, and an epic drama; it is a lush and inspirational 'other world' and doesn't need to be constrained by our own. Films should not need to succumb to our ingrained demand for adherence to our reality. Go into the film with this in mind, and your imagination will be enriched by it. Be unable to let those strictures go, and I think that sadly, you will miss out.
A gripping modest budget thriller
I went into this film not expecting much but I ended up pleasantly surprised. The characters were the usual archetypes of wounded 20 somethings, wise elderly and nasty gangsters. However, as a genre film, I don't think that the film suffered for their use. Instead I quite enjoyed the interactions between the protagonists and the warmth in their makeshift family. Also, the unrelenting menace of the antagonists was genuinely gripping.
The main character, Goro, is suitably mysterious, with only the vaguest of outline as to his past. Not being a flaw in any way, it keeps the film from any 'I also cook' kind of clichés and allows his character to fill the shoes of the 'unknown quantity', essentially for these kinds of stories. As above, the other characters range from supporting to integral roles but all have at least something that lets them sparkle throughout the course of the film.
Similarly, the action scenes, of which there are a few, while not taking centre-stage, are well executed but should be noted for their chaotic choreography. Anyone can fight when their lives depend on it and their effectiveness comes down to their training and experience. I quite liked how raw and undisciplined these scenes were. It shows how little need there really is for martial arts precision in action films when the fights are kept real.
It was an enjoyable film with an ending I didn't quite expect. I recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese film of this genre. Just don't go in with your Hollywood hat, and you will have a good time with the subtle course of the film.
Negatibu happî chênsô ejji (2007)
Humour, action, romance, horror: A hero's journey
I grabbed this DVD at my Tsutaya mostly for the unusual title, but I was pleasantly surprised. As one of the other reviewers here said, it is a coming age film, or in other words, part of the Hero's Journey tradition. I don't think that any spoiler warnings are in order here because if you have ever read a book or seen a movie, then you most likely know the themes and progression of a film such as this one. Is that a problem? Hey, if it ain't broke why try to fix it? This story has been fine for thousands of years so let it go on.
Our hero, Yousuke, is a complete no-hoper who has positioned himself under the shadow of his recently deceased best friend, Noto. Our hero-to-be constantly strives to be half the man (boy?) that Noto was, but that is not to say that he was an ideal because truly he was quite reckless but he had such spirit that is hard not be impressed. It isn't long either before Yousuke meets our heroine, so really this story could be part of the "heroes' journey", AHEM, please pardon my English teacher enthusiasm for the possessive plural apostrophe.
Eri, our heroine, is recovering from tragedy herself and on top of that is pursued nightly by a chainsaw wielding giant that seems to have no other purpose other than to dice her into pieces. These two kids become seemingly unlikely partners but I say "seemingly" because part of the fun of this kind of story is finding out if that is true or not, and of course they have their own personal demons of their to deal with along the way. The film quickly shows its coming-of-age colours, which is probably going to stump quite a few film fans that think of Japan as just a source of arterial spray and dismemberment.
I can't blame them because it is the fault of Western distributors who think we would only go for that kind of thing. I mean, who would watch something where everyone speaks funny and does weird cultural stuff if it WASN'T ultra violent? I say that with total sarcasm but sadly it is the truth for far too many people brought up by labels touting words like "EXTREME" and other macho and exploitative vocabulary. What it amounts to is that distributors now have to market every Japanese action oriented film as if is IS one of those spray heavy cheese-fests, even if they aren't. They have to market to people that say things like "it's so cool; Japanese people are weird", even though ironically, a films like Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl are actually designed for a Western audience, chasing the exploitation film resurgence.
The point is, Negachain is a film that goes for sentimentality and melodrama a lot more than it does for hi-octane action. The story and drama as it unfolds might seem obvious to some, and it might feel heavy handed to others. Other people might find themselves yelling at the screen in response to something that they feel a character should or shouldn't be doing. But I would like to say that it's obvious because it's Life and as much as we might deny it, our own lives would make for pretty predictable melodramas too. It's heavy handed because that is what teen drama is like; teenagers need the subtlety of a jack hammer. It is designed for a good cathartic cry, and perhaps the Japanese style seems heavy handed to many people because they are already immune to heavy handedness of Hollywood. "I'm the king of world" and "you had me at hello" and all that junk.
And isn't being exasperated with characters and telling them what to do a result of being drawn into a story enough that you care what happens in it? The only reason I might yell "no don't do that you fool!" is because I care about the story and I want to save the character some embarrassment or a sticky end. It's a good thing, plus I am a sucker for melodrama and the entire coming of age genre as a whole, so with or without a super-powered school girl and a chainsaw wielding monster, this film would have pulled me in anyway.
And in terms of that chainsaw beast, I have to say that it is one of the coolest villains I have yet seen. It is a kind of Grim Reaper brought into the modern, heavy metal age. It is like ol' Grim took the soul of some 80s metal head and flipped through his record collection before he left the apartment. "Oh, that would be pretty nifty", he said in a deep hollow rumble, pulling out his notebook and a pen.
Luckily as well, the way that he moves and how the fights are put together never reaches a Kamen Rider level of rubberyness and I was very relieved about that. As a whole, the wire work and CGI is outstanding and is definitely an example of how the "less is more" maxim can get fantastic results. The film never steps beyond its limits. Definitely, between Eri's leaps, flips and throwing-knives and Chainsaw Man's deft aerial slice and dice, the film's few battles are certainly impressive.
However, fundamentally, this film is about two people and their own emotional and spiritual quests, written for a teenage audience. The creature is IN the film but the film isn't ABOUT the creature. What is at the core of the whole thing is whether or not our hero and heroine can transcend their flaws, weaknesses, fears and despair and become better people. Thus is the Heroes' Journey and I really enjoyed this film's take on it, complete with teenage angst, sentimental melodrama, and of course wicked cool fights between a high school girl and a chainsaw wielding maniac!
A much maligned masterpiece
I finally got around to watching Loft, after a year of owning the DVD If you find a copy, play it loud because the sound really makes the movie. The director is Kiyoshi Kurosawa and I'm a huge fan of his work. His films are just so often unable to be defined in one genre, or ANY genre for that matter. The first 2 thirds of the film are filled with so many haunting and hypnotic scenes. It is macabre and yet beautiful. I couldn't look away and just sat there glued to the TV, breathing shallowly like only Kiyoshi Kurosawa can make me do.
His films have a pace that makes drying paint seem like an adventure sport. But what that means is that every shot of the film is studying something or someone, or something that isn't even there. As with all of his films that I haveseen, in Loft I felt a kind of voyeuristic feeling, like I was there in the scene too. It is hard to describe, but this quality is clearly what alienates some people. What some viewers considere painfully boring, had me on the edge of my seat until the last frame. Watching with empathy, projecting yourself into the shoes of the characters, the film's real depth come to the fold.
And sound really does make all this live, or quite often the lack of sound. Silence is one of the scariest things you can ever hear, as paradoxical as that seems. Kurosawa perhaps knows just how unusual silence actually is in our lives and when it occurs in his films, the effect is haunting. And it also the abruptness of sound in his films. A crescendo of tension in the audio can just suddenly cut off into silence with a change of scene or angle. In many ways it is subtle sound design like this that keeps the viewer on edge and off guard.
Visually, no KK film would be complete with out decrepit buildings in which to fill with shadows, but also this film is incredibly green, being set in a forest. So much of the film isn't in the dark but that doesn't seem to make a difference. The beauty of a KK suspense piece is that it knows that noises and the dark are just cheap thrills. A horror film doesn't need to have them to get under your skin and into your mind, and Loft certainly did that for me.
Is it scary? Well if you are of very sensitive disposition. I would say that it is atmospheric, mesmerising and macabre; and ends up in a place quite different to where it starts out. It is a difficult film to classify and probably because it was made by KK. The film is full of his various trademarks, including awkward tonal shifts mid movie, and manipulation of perception and reality, but it works, though you might not think so at first.
Loft is a film that left with me with the sensation that what I had just witnessed was so much more than what I had managed to surmise from it. It had the aftertaste of something allegorical, that had me feeling that I had understood the message even though I couldn't put into words what it was. It is a film that expects a lot from the viewer, however, if you put in the effort and just let the film draw you along into its dark and twisted logic, Loft is a very rewarding film.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa once said that the ghosts in his films are very Japanese, in that they often don't do anything. Just the fact that they are in these people's lives is horrible enough.
Tunnel Rats (2008)
Boll has finally done it
It is very easy to hate on anything that Uwe Boll does, and it is clear that most people here are taking this path of least resistance and jumping that same wagon. However, it takes a greater person to admit when they were wrong and give credit when it is due, and it most certainly due. If one really wanted to, they could pick apart the historical accuracy of the film, or the tactics, or the costuming, or the geography; I am sure that such people could easily find some justification for condemning this film.
On the other hand, what would follow would be a trite listing of errors and complaints, tarted up with clever comments and sealed with some witty remark. Is that what proper film critique is about? It doesn't take much in the way of intelligence to attack and destroy what you see before you. That is why people do it so easily and without thought. In a way, this film touches on that very human failing. So many film goers and critics (professional and armchair) are going to dismiss this film as if it is some plague carrier, and only because of the name that goes with it. I feel sorry for those people because they will miss out on a great many interesting and even inspiring film experiences in their life time.
Tunnel Rats is one such experience. It is a small production and done very succinctly and without much extraneous posturing. From the first scene, the film gets right down to business and doesn't really let up until the gripping and downright mortifying ending. Perhaps it is the small size of the production that has kept Boll honest somewhat. I can imagine that when contracted to make Hollywood films, there is a lot of pressure to appeal to the attention deficit audiences out there, often the very ones that hate him, and therefore he aims too far above his mark.
In this film he hits the mark very confidently and professionally. It is worth seeing this film, and doing so without preconception or judgment. Boll is just the director and a film is a sum of its parts, even though Boll directed this film, there were dozens of earnest and hardworking actors and crew members putting in their all to make this film. It is the hight of arrogance to laugh at their efforts and belittle what they made when truly there is nothing really wrong with it.
I hope that enough people are see this film so that Boll can keep doing what he enjoys and sharing it with people. Every film, when made earnestly, has something worthwhile to show us. Stay free of the popularist hate for Uwe Boll and see films for what they are.
An engrossing retelling of a 19th century classic
Hideo Nakata is himself perhaps a haunted man. Despite having had quite a full film career already, it is only by his work in the horror genre that he is largely known. This is especially true in the West where viewers can be a lot more literal in their definition of the genre. With just Nakata's name alone on the marketing, anyone could be excused for having expectations closer to films like Ring or Dark Water. It is these unfortunate connections that will undoubtedly drag this film down into murky waters not unlike those often present in Nakata's films.
The film is a fairly close retelling of Encho Sanyutei's 19th century ghost story entitled "Shinkei Kasane-ga-fuchi" about the cursed fate of two families and the karma passed on from parent to child. Anyone familiar with the 1964 film Kwaidan (the title uses an antiquated spelling of the same word, both meaning "ghost story") will see similarities in the presentation of Nakata's film. Many have said that he intended to pay homage to ghostly films of the 50s and 60s, but that is not going back far enough. The film reflects the very traditions of Japanese ghost stories and fables. The main actor, known for Kabuki, plays opposite a character once played by his own father in a Kabuki performance years earlier.
I stated earlier about the limited view of the horror genre as held by many Western film goers, but it hasn't always been the case. Sadly the idea of a "slow burn" and finding suspense in the thematic fabric of a film is something rare today in Hollywood horror. Too often, films depend on incredibly literal scares, in the form of disturbing images, gore and violence, but lack any real thematic richness. In some ways Nakata's few inserted jump scares in the film made me balk a little. Perhaps it is his Hollywood experience that convinced him that such heavy handedness was needed. The film has some genuinely tense and "Oh .. !" moments (I am sure you know what I mean) that really don't need any audio cues to let us all know they are happening.
Perhaps this is connected to the negativity around this film. For the few scares present in the run time of the story, there aren't much. In fact, categorising the film as "horror" might me somewhat of a misnomer as well, at least by modern Hollywood definition. What we have with Kaidan is a traditional Japanese ghost story and fable that strives to not only thrill us but also impart some wisdom. The true horror of the story is the tragedy inherent in its themes and sheer extent that it spreads. Obviously, what comes along with such a film, some viewers won't like. Viewers expecting something more akin to modern horror films like The Grudge, will no doubt find parts or all of Kaidan boring and uneventful. Others will decry the feature of "more long-haired ghosts" but to be fair, such people don't appreciate the deep tradition of ghost stories in Japan.
White kimonos are what women are cremated or buried in and traditionally all women had very long hair devoid of any colouring or permed curls. I say, if it ain't broke, why try to fix it. Certainly it is better than Hollywood's constant recycling making every second movie monster like the love-child of the Alien and Pumkinhead, or the tendency to laden everything down with CGI and "in case you didn't get it" effects (I am referring to The Ring's, Hollywood equivalent of Sadako).
So whether you'll like this film or not depends on yourself. The film is not a modern horror tale full of scares and jumps. It is a dramatic, period ghost film, drawn from tradition and based on a 19 century novel. If instead of demanding Kaidan to entertain you, open yourself to what it has to tell you. This a story not unlike those told around campfires at night. The scares are in the themes and situations that the characters face and the fear is in those characters' minds. As with many good horror films, the film is out to scare the characters, not you. Get into their heads and you'll feel it too.
Otoko-tachi no Yamato (2005)
A powerful film that really drives home the humanity of war
I am so disappointed to see some posters turning their reviews into cold historical commentary. Did this film not teach you anything? I couldn't help but be immensely moved by this film. It steers well clear of overly political and historical commentary and focuses on the young sailors and their loved ones. The hardship of the Japanese in the second world war was not unlike any other nations' peoples' hardship. Their loved ones went to war and never returned; they lost their livelihoods and what they loved; they were powerless to the whims of their leaders.
This film shows People. People in tragic times. People fighting for their loves and their lives. Whether it is Yamato, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Brotherhood, Stone's trilogy, Eastwood's duo of films, etc, it comes down to people trying to live. So much has been said about the film that is political but I ask you, what is the point of doing so for a film that strove so hard to in favour of a human story? After years of revisionist Hollywood war films, it is ironic that this moving film, Yamato, be raked over coals for inaccuracies or romanticism.
Besides this, however, and a technical note, the film's visual effects are excellent for a non-Hollywood film. I wouldn't be surprised if Yamato was one of the most expensive Japanese films ever made. While making an ocean going battleship replica was not an option, the sets, miniatures and CGI create a very gritty and realistic feeling of being aboard the fated ship.
Musically the film is also very striking and has some memorable themes throughout. The sound track is also superb with excellent separation in the 5.1 channels. The battle scenes are especially vivid in their aural presentation.
The amount of heart, work and effort that went into the film is clear from the exceptional cast, sound and competent visuals and their passionate and honest performances and work. This is definitely a film for the world to see. It is not a war film about "war"; it is a film about love. The message rings loud and clear until the final note of the closing credit's song.
Cheesy action fun! The best kind!
I saw the film at the cinema years ago and came out as the only person in the group that appeared to like it. SOme of my friends begrudgingly let slip that "the actions scenes were cool" or that "the chicks were hot", and it was then that I updated my list of people not to see movies with.
Yes, the main girl is cute and yes the action scenes are cool, but in my mind a film doesn't earn the designation "crap" because it doesn't sate one's thirst for blood and titillation. Sadly it seems that Japanese film has scored a legion of followers expecting everything to be "extreme". It doesn't help that Western marketers pander to this lowest common denominator. This latest Sukeban Deka movie is pure teen drama and super-hero action and it doesn't need misogynistic violence, tentacles or acupuncture needles in tender places to be entertaining.
The main character is established early on as the daughter of now outcast original "Sukeban Deka", translating to "Girl-gang leader Detective". She is reportedly just as cute and just as aggressive as her mum. After a very stylish intro and opening credits (cool rotoscoping) the daughter, taking her mother's old moniker, Asamiya, as well as her old job, is sent to investigate an Internet based terrorist organisation. It is here that the film sets into "highschool detective" mode where all manner of tangled intra-personal troubles and dark motivations are unraveled.
Anyone familiar with the above genre will probably know what that entails: bullies, student politics, trust and friendship, and there is nothing wrong with that. Interspersed with the detective work is intrigue, action and character building enough to draw the viewer along to the climax, which is comprised of a couple of great action setpeices but unfortunately a slightly disappointing conclusion.
Kenta Fukasaku has put together a stylish film that works well within obvious budget constraints and ultimately delivers some great cheesy fun, reminiscent of the TV dramas before it. No, it isn't gory, and no, those expecting the next "Asia Extreme Gorefest" with blood, bodily fluids and TnA all over the place, are not going to be happy. But if you can put aside your base desires and just enjoy the flimsy teen drama and cheesy action, you will enjoy yourself.
Another excellent example of Japanese horror to be misunderstood and rejected by the masses
I am a huge fan of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work and I also greatly admire Koji Yakusho as well. Ironically it was his performance in Warai no Daigaku cemented my admiration. None the less, seeing both of these talented people partner up for a film filled me with anticipation. Before seeing Sakebi I knew that it would not be along the lines of other genre mates like Juon or Chakushinari. I also knew that the film would be carried over to the West on the wings of Hollywood remake hype and be marketed as the "scariest thing ever".
Well those advertising execs have to learn that the definition of "scary" in the West, particularly nowadays, is a heck of a lot more literal and straight to the point: the ghost appears, augmented by all manner of cgi effects, just in case we didn't realise her nature, and then cue loud audio cue, "boo!". Was it as scary for you as it was for me? It also seems that knowing everything that there possibly is to know about a ghost apparently makes the whole situation more frightening.
It exasperates me that today's spoon-fed audience chalk up anything inexplicable or mysterious about a film as bad writing and direction. As far as these viewers are concerned, mysteries are OK as long as they are smart enough to work them out, crying out "I didn't pay to be confused" as they eject the DVD in perplexed disgust.
Which leads me to the film in question. The tag-line "There is no escape from the ultimate retribution" should have been saved for the next regurgitation of Friday The 13th. A film such as Sakebi deserves promotion targeting a much more sophisticated audience. Where are the people that enjoyed Don't Look Now, one of most effective and haunting supernatural thrillers ever made? They aren't going to see a film with a tag-line that could have been made from some university student's Internet horror tag-line generator.
But it seems that I have typed so much and barely touched on the film itself. I won't go into the story more than just to say that it revolves around the investigation into a series of similar murders occurring largely in and around the coastal landfill and reclamation areas of Tokyo. This setting lends the film a strong sense of isolation, and the characters reflect that. Thematically, Sakebi deals with loneliness and abandonment, which while not new for the horror genre, Kurosawa gives them a breath of life.
There is much about this film that strays from genre trappings, and there is perhaps equally as much that stays within them. However, ultimately this is a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film and it isn't going to appeal to everyone. Its stillness and reflection will turn off many viewers, as will its unwillingness to lift the curtain and expose the workings of story. Terrible acts shown in long shots give us a feeling of helpless voyeurism, with no fast editing or closeups to remind us that we are watching a film. The film's score is so unobtrusive that I can't really recall even hearing it, and most of the film is on a background of ambient sound.
But perhaps it is Kurosawa's trademark of staying with the characters and rejecting the God's Eye View of the story that will perplex and affront viewers the most. There is an expectation that at least we should be let in on the secret and know more than the characters do. We are smarter than they are, aren't we? But why should we know? Life is full of mysteries, irrationality and actions with unknown motives. We can't even explain why a man kills his whole family and them himself, so how can we hope to know the motivations of a restless spirit.
I think that this touches on something important: people WANT to know why people do terrible things and the confessions of a ghost are the ultimate revelation. Horror, like science fiction are so often reflections of the fears and insecurities of our time. We can't explain the tragedies around us, but maybe through the genre of horror we can try to come to terms with them.
On the other hand, for some reason, more than likely cultural, Japanese horror does away with the naivety that we could somehow fathom the ultimate mysteries of death. Instead it shows us something bleak and inevitable, far beyond our knowledge and understanding. Something that has transcended our existence, yet profoundly affects us. Japanese horror reminds us that we don't have as tight a grip on the universe as we like to believe, and that bothers some people.
Gorgeous and gripping, but weak in the last minutes
After eyeing this DVD off in the stores here in humid Japan, I finally plonked down the 4,000 or so yen, and got myself a copy. I wasn't sure what exactly I was getting myself into, but I was interested in finding out what the son of Osamu Tezuka, Makoto Tezuka, could do.
What I witnessed, was a visually stunning film, drenched with atmosphere, held back only by underdeveloped main storyline, or should I say, climax. To say that the story was bad is inaccurate. After the quite intense opening, I quickly learned that this film was going to offer much much more than a typical murder mystery; gory as it may be in parts, the characters are so interesting and enjoyable to observe, I almost forgot about the grisly slaying that punctuate the film throughout.
In fact, when the climax did in fact arrive, it almost seemed to abrupt. Though the film clocks in at a little over two hours, so much time is spent soaking us beautiful imagery and tense atmosphere that the revelations in the final scenes seem out of the blue. Perhaps much more could have been done in regards to this, but seeing that this film had a rocky path to cinema release, perhaps some things were out of Mr Tezuka Junior's hands.
As stated above, the film is shot wonderfully, with great colour compositions and clever visual arrangements. The use of CGI in the film is minimal, but it is high enough in quality to fool those of more literal mindsets. The sound design is also worth a mention, as it really adds to the dark and foreboding mood of the rain drenched glistening imagery, and cramped and cluttered spaces.
Much has been said about Tezuka's references to other film makers in this film, particularly Hitchcock, but for what it's worth, it isn't a negative aspect. It isn't cheap, and I think it is a sincere attempt by the director to show us as film-goers just what makes him tick. The medical aspects of the story, perhaps echo Makoto's own upbringing, his father being a doctor originally, and I like to think that this film reflects his father's work much closer than people have assumed: an exploration of humanity, and human life.
That is what I see this film is, and the murders are just an enabler for the real dissections to take place.
Worth watching for its atmosphere and excellent ending
I finally got to see this film after buying it in Singapore. I had heard very little about it from horror fans, so I put the disc in last night and was prepared to be underwhelmed. But from the opening scrawl I was hooked by the atmosphere. The film was really enjoyable to watch, and while I had some worries at first about its short run-time (about 87 minutes), by the climax, I had none. As other reviewers out there have said, despite its lack of length, the film has the feeling of a 2 hour film. This is probably due to its slow burn, something that I adore a lot of Asian horror for. The film builds up a strong foreboding atmosphere, before descending into one of the more memorable climaxes I have witnessed in the genre.
It seems that the film has copped a lot of flak from fans and critics, and it is perhaps due to the idea that video game films can't possibly be good. I have never played the games, instead just drooling over the cases in shops and admiring the artwork. From what I can gather, the film follows the second game in the series, and does so pretty closely, with of course some inevitable changes that restraints require. Unlike many films adapted from games, Siren actually contains some clever plotting and dense atmosphere. Here, characters are typically over the top and quirky. In some ways the film reminded me (a little) of Uzumaki in its off-kilter approach, though Uzumaki went to an extreme in that. Some may say that one major detail is telegraphed a mile away, but unlike another film with a similar idea, I don't think that Siren is trying to keep it such a big secret. The fact that knew that something wasn't right from the get go really added to the suspense.
Get the R3, the subs are great, and the picture quality is quite good, and it is anamorphic. The only let down is perhaps going to be inherent in all versions, and is that the DVD only has a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. I haven't been able to check if the Japanese DVD has DD 5.1 or DTS. However, despite the stereo audio, I could here some great separation through my speakers, and as a Prologic II track, it didn't sound so much like one. Other than that, there are almost no extras of note, in fact there are only 3 versions of the movie trailer, and what does one need them for when they have the film? I have never understood the inclusion of trailers as "extras" for that reason. I would liked to see some SFX reels, or even bloopers, but perhaps in a film such as this one, the budget didn't allow much room for trial and error.
In all the film was easy to watch and not too challenging, yet still carrying with it an aura of freshness. There are no dark haired ghosts (though if it did, how could one complain about it when the majority of people living in Japan have such hair), and the budget of the film keeps the production honest and small. The film has a slow build up that may dismay viewers of short attention spans, or a lust for blood, but the climax is quite gripping, and helps elevate the film beyond where it may have settled without it.
Uchôten hoteru (2006)
It's Fawlty Towers for Japan
It's New Year's Eve for the Hotel Avanti, and the whole place is in panic mode. There's an award ceremony and countdown party to prepare for, guests to greet, entertainment to organise, a persistent call girl to deter, an escapee duck to find, and more.
It is near impossible to sum up this film in a few neat concise paragraphs. The level of writing that has gone into this film is fantastic. Throughout, it really feels like a stage play. The viewer feels intimate with the story and characters, and there is a real warmth and closeness there that is rare to find. Perhaps it the writer's experience with the stage that allows that quality to come through, and as such it is a real strength for the film.
This intimacy really helps the viewer to involve themselves in the story, which is incredibly fast-paced and deliciously mischievous in design. The film is really funny, and represents a very full spectrum of humour, from "hmmm" funny to "hah hah", and wry to downright silly, but still manages to be quite understated. This isn't the kind of film that you will make Pepsi come out your nose, but it is really funny all the same, and and there are some hilarious cock-ups that will have you giggling gleefully.
The jokes of course wouldn't work without the film's biggest strength: the characters. They are all so enjoyable to watch, as their adventures and mishaps tangle and spiral together, gathering momentum in one huge snowball effect. Some scenes are the culmination of so many threads that it is wonderfully painful to watch it all come together. It is hard not to talk at the TV. To the writer's credit though, the film is often refreshingly unpredictable, and I was impressed to find that this comedy of errors didn't just rely on the same old gags as similarly styled comedies.
The film also carries a dramatic message, and while all of the characters are caricatures of sorts, they are much deeper than that, and live and breath to the extent that the viewer finds themselves genuinely caring about what happens to them. There are so many great characters and scenes in this film that it would be a very cynical viewer that couldn't take away something memorable from it.
The Uchoten Hotel is a delightful film, expertly written, directed and performed. Even as the film effortlessly straddles zaniness and sophistication, and its many threads entwine together, the viewer can, just as the Hotel Avanti promises, think of the place as their second home.
Mibu gishi den (2002)
The tragedy of the Shinsengumi
I saw this film a while ago, and thought that I should comment on it, now that it appears to have been "discovered" outside Japan.
Many have critised Mibu Gishiden (When the Last Sword is Drawn), but I think that seeing the film from the POV of Japanese people might change their opinions.
The film is very melodramatic, and manipulative, and perhaps if I didn't live in Kyoto, and work next to Mibu Temple (Yes, where the Shinsengumi (the Mibu ro) often were), I would also be more dismissive of this film. But I have seen Kyoto's fascination for the tragedy of the Shinsengumi, and their futile battle against an unstoppable chain of events. I have seen walked past pachinko palours where battles were fought, and ate in restaurants where people were killed, and sword marks still remain in beams of wood. I have ridden the subway, just a metre away from a crazy fan that only went outside when dressed and fully armed in true Shinsengumi fashion.
Perhaps without all of this, I would have dismissed the film in favour of Yoji Yamada's films at the time, and also WTLSID is overly overdrawn. But it is the insight into history, and the exploration into the passions and lives of these historical characters that really makes the film memorable. See it if you can.
What's in an apostrophe
TAKESHIS' I have been thinking about what exactly the apostrophe in the title is doing.
An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. To have a plural of "Takeshi", you just add an "s". To show that Takeshi owns something, you would simply write "Takeshi's thing". Therefore, the title "Takeshis'" would be the possessive of the plural "Takeshis".
Perhaps the title isn't (incorrectly) denoting a plural, but actually means that this film belongs to "more than one Takeshi"? It belongs to all of Takeshi's personas, and characters. It COULD just be another example of misuse of the poor apostrophe, but maybe Takeshi studied hard at school, and has dedicated this self-parody to himself, and his own multiplicity.
That being said, he reportably not all of the Takeshis are happy, as one was reportably quoted as saying: "Today I saw the film again and it's terrible. 'Who the hell made this?' I thought to myself. I set out to make a strange, groundbreaking film, and I think it succeeds, but it feels like I made a car that was so fast I couldn't drive it and fell out. If I win the Grand Prix, it must mean I'm nearing death, so I don't need it. This period is over. Next time I'm going to make an orthodox film in the style of the masters and then maybe I'll win." I think he was being too hard on himself (himselves?), but perhaps it never ends for an artists such as him (them?).
OK, enough with the plural jokes, and they probably only amuse me anyway. I just finished watching the film. It had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and I needed to relax after a frustrating mêlée in Half-Life 2 (Nova Prospekt!). I had intentionally read as little as I could about this film beforehand, and I had almost no idea what to expect when the film began. However, I instantly knew that I was watching a Takeshi Kitano film - the unmistakable style of the director completely permeates this film. Besides, there was a big blue "K" at the start.
This film is like some kind of flushing out of Kitano's creative musings. It is surreal and dreamlike, free form, and has some fantastic images and compositions. The film is almost totally devoid of complex narrative, and is instead experimental and perhaps introspective for the director. Perhaps this is what his dreams are like, and if he means what he said above, maybe this film is the end of an era - the final digestive process before moving on to the next creative banquet.
I truly respect Kitano for his bold creativity in film. He seems to attack it as he does his painting. He creates for himself, and I am sure whatever his next project is, it will be unmistakably his own.
Anime Stylings and Innovative Characters
I FINALLY got my hands on the DVD, and watched it a few days ago. I must say that I hyped this movie to myself for quite a while as I waited and waited for the film to arrive on subtitled DVD. Seeing the movie posters at the cinemas just made me salivate, and as such my view of the film was slightly slanted, and also of slight disappointment.
The film follows the story of the two tribes of Ninja - Iga and Koga, who have obeyed a non-aggression law for many generations. In a period of peace after Japan's own warring states' period, two ninjas from opposite sides meet and fall in love. In true Star-crossed Lover tradition, they have to keep their romance a secret. However, inevitably fate steps in to pull them apart, in the form of a shady tournament, designed by the Shogan's advisors.
The romance of the film takes center stage, and it fits well with the sub title "Heart Under Blade". The two main characters, leaders of their clans have to balance their love, and their responsibilities, as the Shogun's plot unfolds.
The Characters are very interestingly designed, and colourful. They all possess unique skills, and have very anime'esquire costumes and fighting styles. Much of the fighting is a combination of CGI and wire-work, and some of it is incredibly cool. The low budget effects will no doubt be critised by many who are used to ILM level of graphics, but while companies like ILM strive to make the fantastic, "real", Shinobi's effects are beautifully stylised. Regardless of how they look, their fresh and innovative look more than makes up for any lack of polish.
Character design in this film may be great, but sadly the personalities underneath have not been as fleshed-out. Except for the main characters, we are given as much as we need to know about each character to accomplish the end goals of the story, and not much more. Even the main pair felt a bit empty, and perhaps some more exploration into their feelings would have built their characters more. Seeing them hug and canoodle certainly showed that they were in love, but in the end I didn't feel it like I had hoped I would.
That said, the acting in the film is quite good. Taking cues from its comic and anime origins, the characters are even larger than life when in motion, and villains and heros are very archetypal, lending them comic-book credentials that probably would have been insufficient in a more serious film.
Perhaps it is the comic book acting, but at times the film, like many lower budget Jidaigeki, looked a little "television". I can only assume that this was due more to filming technology than quality. However, many people that love Asian film will tell you that to fully appreciate it, you have to look past the budget and see its heart. While Hollywood film tries to use the glare from all of its gloss to hide plot and character inadequacies, Asian film doesn't usually have that luxury. What it does often have though are ideas.
Shinobi does things that I have never seen a Hollywood film even try (except for a strange Spiderman like sequence which may have been in the source material anyway), and as such is something to see. It owes an awful lot to anime, and it is indeed based on one. From the character designs of the Androgenous razor whip wielder, and the silent hulking doppelganger, to the Ninja Gaiden like battle sequences, this film is an anime and ninja fans guilty dream. Plus with all of Yukie Nakama's conflicted and fragile expressions, you can't help but wish you could just give her a big cuddle! 7/10
Chinjeolhan geumjassi (2005)
Just got the Korean 2 DVD set and watched the B/W version first. All I can say is that, this film is a masterpiece! I was very moved and if you do one more thing in your life before you die, see this film!
Of course, I use the term "masterpiece" in its true sense, as the work which reveals an artist's achievement of "mastery" over his or her craft. Don't be confused with the latter conotation that a masterpiece is a "perfect" work. Could there ever be such a thing? Truly, this film shows the original sense of the word, such that I would be nervous seeing any subsequent films from him.
There are two versions of the film. I checked the colour version, and besides the opening credits being slightly different, and the much talked about retaining of colour throughout, it appears to be exactly the same.
I am sure your are all familiar with the premise, but I think that the less you know, the better. At it's basic level, this film follows in the classic "quest for revenge" schema. A beautiful woman is condemned to 13 and a half years of incarceration for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. By this theme, the film connects to the previous entries in the now Vengeance "Trilogy", but it is in no way a rerun.
Just like the other two films, (Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance is gorgeous. The design in the film is extraordinary, and there are so many frames that are simply beautiful. The use of colour and light is inspirational in some parts, and I really can't think of watching any version but the "fading" one. Maybe it's because I saw that version first, but I didn't find the colour version as deeply affecting.
I think that which is better will be a personal decision for all who see this film. There are a some points where the fading version is very effective with what becomes subdued spots of colour. Yet, the characters in the film are also colourful, and fleshed out enough so that the viewer gets to know them, but not enough that they know them completely.
The past is something hidden for these characters, in many ways that is a thematic point of the film. The film is truly about redemption, and as we follow the moving drama within we may even come to understand something within ourselves. It is truly a fitting end to this three film exploration into hate remorse and revenge.
Rinjin 13-gô (2005)
I have just watched the film, and there is not much I can say without spoiling some of it for you. Let's just say that is a revenge film, and like many Japanese films of its type, insanity plays a part. The film starts when a young man, Juzo, gets a job at a construction company. We learn that Juzo spent much of his school years hiding from bullies (and from the introduction, also being tortured in some VERY shocking ways). The cruel attacks by his supervisor at the site begin to affect Juzo, bringing more and more of his school memories to the surface, and the desire for REVENGE.
*The Neighbour Number 13 (Rinjin jusan go)* That's all I can say really, as I don't want to spoil or diffuse this film. I am pretty sure if you do a search you will find a couple of reviews on the boards, from the cinema release, but beware of spoilers: the story is everything in this film, there are few twists and turns, and some sections will leave you stumped.
I liked this film: it is very stylishly shot, and the use of colour is fantastic in some scenes. I have never read the original comic that this film is based on, but I can only assume that the film's many lapses into the surreal are faithful to the source: there is even an animated section of the film, and identifying the reality in this film is not always an easy thing to do.
There are some very still sequences that reminded me of Kitano's films (Hanabi or Brother in particular), and some of the more insane scenes are definitely like adding a pinch of Miike to the mix. While there is a fair bit of violence in the film, most of it occures offscreen, though the fate of one character is shown particularly graphically.
One aspect of the film that I am sure is from the source material, as it seems to be a very manga thing to do, is the depiction of some of the more grosser things in life, ie: bodily excretions, both liquid and solid are shown in this film, when I am sure few Hollywood films would not. It's nothing too graphic, but it was enough to make me squeal "Ewww gross!" like little girl. tongue.gif So in the end, I quite enjoyed this film. It is stylish, tense and atmospheric. This director's style, reminds me in some ways of Kitano's older work, in that I felt sometimes that was just following the characters around. Some scenes are just not trimmed down to keep the action flowing, and I like that. Like I said, there are some quiet moments, but they are often filmed in a kind of detached manner, and filled with tension, possibly reminiscent of Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
The Neighbour Number 13 is a film that would be best watched with friends, and discussed over SEVERAL pints of beer - or at least Cokes and Gummi bears tongue.gif While it isn't amazing, it is very interesting and looks fantastic. If you have bought all of your essentials and you are looking for a sidedish, I can fully recommend this film.
A Glorious Epic!
Suriyothai is a stunning film: Spanning 2 DVDs, and full of political intrigue, history, and glorious battle scenes. There are so many main characters, and all of them command a huge amount of weight, and against movie tradition, there isn't really even a traditional Hero character, even Suriyothai herself playing minor roles in much of the drama.
Some have criticized the actress's acting as stiff and wooden, but I thought that Suriyothai was poker-faced intentionally, because she is a Queen after all. Most period pieces from any country have characters like this. I think you have look past her obvious cues and look for the more subtle ones, in order to appreciate her character: passionate about her country and her people, and devoted to her role.
In fact there are many cards that other productions would have played, that this film doesn't, and much to its credit it stays away from many of the obvious manipulative narratives that are the mainstays for this genre of film, especially in the west. The film has a historical and legendary basis, and I am unsure exactly how closely it stays to that, but I found the film had the great level of depth and realism that only the best historical films attain.
Watching hundreds of extras, alongside elephants, charge into battle, clashing swords and dodging cannon fire, is exhilarating. It's hard to see which army has the upper-hand until the final moments. There appears to have been a conscious decision to not fall for the trappings of making each battle into "hero's battle", so the action often stays away from focusing on main characters, and chooses to present to the viewer the sheer chaos of war.
Oh, and it needs to be said: The elephants are awesome.
If you are interested in this film, get at least the the 3 hour long version, as it is the closest to the way the film was intended (reportedly it was originally going to be a mini-series). While this longer edit of the film has a lot more political intrigue and dialogue, it that brings with it much more depth to the characters and situations. If you are not part of the "Attention Deficit Generation" bred by Hollow-wood, you can't go wrong with this REAL version.
I can see why this film was edited down for the USA release. It is very long, and there is a lot of references and content that is probably assumed knowledge for most Thai people. However, while I can see the logic in removing parts of a film because of cultural barriers, isn't one of the reasons for watching foreign film, to find out more about other cultures? Granted, there is much that went over my head while watching this film, but I have to say that I didn't mind, and now I will find out more if I can about Thailand and its history: The Internet is a wonderful invention.
Francis Ford Coppolla has some serious balls to have resold this film BACK to Thailand after he deleted most of it. I doubt he would take a film by Ridley Scott, and slice it to pieces. Faced with that particular situation, I am sure he would be all about "preserving the vision of the artists". It seems to be to be just another example of Hollow-wood being unwilling to let Asian Film compete on its own merits in America, and at least an ingrained xenophobia.
Suriyothai is an amazing film. It is an epic that I have not seen bested by any other, and maybe even the mythical long edit of Tsui Hark's Seven Swords would have an near-impossible mission to dethrone it. The sheer size and quality of this production, together with the unique chance that it gives to see Thai history represented so gloriously and elegantly, are reasons enough to hunt down the Thai DVD.
Qi jian (2005)
Excellent Film. Deserving of more praise!
Just finished watching Seven Swords. I have no idea why people are so against it. Sure, at 2 and a half hours length, it is still missing over an hour, but I had no trouble understanding the story, and to me the characters were pretty fleshed out. For some reason people are dead set against this film, and I wonder if it has to do with Crouching Tiger, Hero and Daggers?
Maybe these people haven't seen The Bride With White Hair, The Blade or films like that. I get the impression that many complaints are leveled by Hollywood trained fans who don't yet understand the context of this film. Whatever the case, this film deserves accolades for it's imagination and for hewing so close to sword fight movie tradition.
The action was fantastic and the fights were creative and very clever. Yes, they did it with wires. That's why we keep coming back. The swords themselves rules, and the cinematography had that Tsui Hark attention to detail. The middle of the film has mostly dramatic elements, building up to a huge finale. I never thought it dragged on, and I found myself rapt until the final credit rolled.
Seven Swords was beautifully shot, the characters embodied the fantasy perfectly and acting was full of heart. Get it.
Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004)
A Fun film that makes no excuses for being what it is!
First, before my review, I have address two points of contention about this film. For starters, the hero (Ozaki), besides having short black hair, black clothes and martial arts skills, no more resembles Keanu Reeves, than a brick resembles a prime-mover. His clothes may have similar pigmentation to the Matrix's Neo but in this film Ozaki is actually wearing white plastic body armour, and his military coat is dark green. Both he and Neo might share martial-arts knowledge. At least Ozaki is from the country that invented a large portion of it! Besides, I thought he looked MUCH more like Noah Wyle. If his coat had been white, perhaps people would say the film was ripping off ER.
The second issue is about the 'Matrix style'. Since even the creators of those films admit that their style harvests greatly from manga, anime, and HK action movies, it would be fair to say that Final War's director, Ryuhei Kitamura is more influenced by his own culture than three blockbuster popcorn flicks. Stopping bullets with telepathy, psychic battles, gravity defying fights, and slow motion have been enjoyed in Japan and mainland Asia for a VERY long time. Unfortunately, many aspects of their fiction have been somewhat hijacked by Hollywood.
The director shows many influences in this film, and it would foolish to deny that the Matrix did not play a part in shaping his approach. However, many film goers are simply unaware of the depth of The Matrix's own influences, and shouldn't attribute too much to them. Anyway, on to the review.
Well, if you are seriously wanting to get anything out of this film, you should probably become a fan of Godzilla and Kaiju genre. Anyone else would probably mistake this film's style, steeped in Kaiju tradition, for faults. It is true that the special effects are mostly 'analogue', and that the monsters are NOT CGI (usually). Yes, they are men in suits wrestling in model cities, but is it a flaw? Heck no! This film is great entertainment, and even a little touching!
The story is simple: a new force threatens the earth and sends monsters to destroy cities and crush humanity. What else? Luckily, the defenders of earth, a collection of mutants themselves, strive to combat the threat and restore peace. Godzilla herself may just be the only weapon left to mankind that could save the human race.
And so stylistically this film is very SF. The human forces wear futuristic body armour and sport hightech weapons. There are flying battleships and alien spacecraft. This may be an angle that some fans don't agree with but atleasy the monsters are all here. I forget how many, but quite a few from the Godzilla bestiary return to wreak havoc, and there are some fantastic clashes between them.
However, Final Wars is as much a human story as it is one of mass destruction at the hands of giants. Yes, that was a little difficult to say. But there is quite a lot of focus placed on the human protagonists this time. They are fighting a new and mysterious new foe. Many of the action sequences, and in fact often the longest ones, involve humans in hand-to-hand.
Even if this raises the hackles of a few Kaiju fans, I can understand: bring on the rubber-suited titans and all that. Yet I think that this dual focus adds an engaging dramatic quotient to the film. The action sequences may also draw a few comparisons to a certain fizzled out sci-fi trilogy, and all I can I say to that, is written above. And the words "get", "over" and "it".
The acting skill of the players varies between that of a seasoned performer to that of a pro-wrestler grapling with his lines. Oh wait, I think he is a pro-wrestler. I feel though, that if viewers are looking at acting skill in a film like this, they missing out on the bigger picture. Rest assured however, that this is definitely not like Devilman, where store-front manikins could have acted better.
Reportably, Final Wars is an anniversary film, and it is, though doubtfully, the last in the Godzilla series. For that reason, regardless if it remains that way, I was very happy to see the film stay true to the heritage it is a part of. It provides a fitting farewell. There is something refreshing, watching rubber-suited actors trample miniature sets - actors pretending to be monsters, waving their claws about. Sure the such things are cheesy and yes the rest is overly stylised, but the film makes no excuses for that, and it shouldn't.
Bring it on!
Party 7 (2000)
Kinki and weird - a great recipe!
Today I acquired the "Party7 - Perfect Edition" DVD, released by Tohokushinsha Film, on their Best Selection brand. Initially the DVD caught my eye because of the beautiful girl on the cover (the gorgeous Akemi Kobayashi), but then I saw that it was another film by Katsuhiro Ishii, so I had to get it. For any of you who aren't aware of his work, you can look here (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0411002/); his film Sharkskin Man and Peachhip Girl is classic, and you all know of The Taste of Tea.
So about the film. On the cover, there is the aforementioned, "beautiful girl" (in a silver bikini top, and red black and white flame print leather. or are they PVC, hotpants, mind you! :D). Under the film's title, it says "Perfect Edition", and I am not sure why exactly. I wonder if it is not just some "english" garnering on top, but it's probably because there is an adventure game that enables you to view trailers, sketches and other extras, on the disc.
I have already mentioned the heartbreakingly cute Akemi Kobayashi, but the film also stars Masatoshi Nagase, Keisuke Horibe, Yoshinori Okada, Tadanobu Asano, Yoshio Harada, and Tatsuya Gashuin: seven characters, hence Party7. All of them are larger than life, and some are truly bizarre and would be perfect in an anime or comic. In this film, all of the characters are at least a little strange, but I think that that is the point, and if you have already seen SM&PG you know what to expect.
The film jumps back and forth between 2 major story-strands, and some auxiliary ones, but it primarily centers around Nagase's character Miki, and the hotel room he is hiding in. With very similar premise to Ishii's previous work Sharkskin Man and Peachhip Girl, he has stolen crime syndicate money, and is on the run. However, Party7 is by no means a re-run of old ideas. There is so much more in this film that differentiates it from that, and any other film .. of any genre: This movie is very weird. Delightfully strange in fact. From the stylishly animated opening, to the creative design and editing throughout the film, to the enigmatic peeping-tom superhero, Captain Banana; this film is rarely predictable.
Captain Banana? Oh yeah, I jumped head a bit ... this film has a few story-strands that interweave and cross over each other. The story centers on Miki, who is hiding out with the stolen money, in Hotel New Mexico, when an old girlfriend, Kana (the pants stretchingly delicious Akemi Kobayashi) comes looking for him, looking to clear some debts. At the same time, a hit-man (Horibe) is sent by the Syndicate Boss, to find and kill Miki. In the background to all this, a serial peeping-tom, Okita (Asano) is released from prison, and visits his dying father in hospital. On his deathbed, he tells Okita of a secret room in a hotel: a room from where he can spy on the guests. Upon sneaking into this room through a vent, Okita finds himself faced with the PVC clad, helmeted, Captain Banana (Harada) - the master of this high-tech and comfortable Peeping-Room. Together they spy on the adjacent room, occupied by Miki, and the story unfolds.
I can't say too much about the plot though, because, though simple, so much of it is a surprise. It is really supported by the fantastic dialogue, and I am sure many mainstream movie-goers have already compared it Tarantino's work, but they would be denying this film maker his credit. The conversations are hilarious, ranging from amusing squabbles, to some perverse re-countings of peeping-tom adventures. As is the style of the director, the viewer often arrives in the middle of a conversation, and has to work backwards to find out the topic. It's really well done, and very involving.
Party 7 is a unique, and engrossing film, that has, at its heart a very simple story. However, it's the organs and limbs around that heart that make it truly fantastic. I didn't find it to be as special as SM&PH, but that film is a hard one to top, and maybe it is Party 7's simplicity that holds it back a little. This kind of surreal and twisted film-making is perfect for after-showing conversations with friends (over beer of course, or Pepsi for you youngsters .. hey you can't watch this anyway!:P ), and there is definitely much to puzzle over.
Don't get me wrong though, there is much more to this film than it being an oddity. It is its oddness that makes it so good. There are not many films out there like this, and if you haven't seen this, you are doing your brain an injustice!
Awesome spectacle and great adventure
Just watched it then. It is pretty damn awesome. The fights are fantastic and the magic is really cool! It's totally like a video-game in parts, with some amazing hand-to-hand combat in there.
This film is for the fans: "To those who loved this world once before and spent time with its friends, gather again and devote your time..." Besides this ominous opening, the story was not very hard to follow, and Ihave never played a Final Fantasy game. I think it pays to be familiar with Role Playing Games in general; knowledge of the genre kinda helps you grasp some of it better. I think though that if you pay attention, and accept what the film throws at you, it's quite easy to understand. There is a lot that isn't explicitly explained, and if you demand that it should be then you will probably be confused and irritated.
Watching the film is like being dropped into the middle of some grand saga, and having to put as much of the puzzle together as possible. I like that approach; you get caught up in the mystery and confusion that all the characters are going through. But like I said, just be accepting. If a weird red lion thing that talks, turns up and starts kicking ass and taking names, and the other characters just say he's an old friend, accept it and move on; you don't need a biopic flashback, or a tell-all sit-me-down. You are an observer here, of something beyond your experience and undestanding.
So: fantastic graphics and animation, great voice acting, cool video game styled music, involving story and characters, and maybe some of the coolest fights you'll see in a while. It's worth seeing, and while it IS for the fans, it is perfectly accessible for people like me that have never played the games.