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Archive for March 10th, 2010

Hana Yori Dango:Final (2008)

Hana Yori Dango was an extremely popular dorama series in Japan starring Jun Matsumoto and Mao Inoue which ran for 2 series. It followed “tough weed” poor girl Tsukushi Makino’s plight as she attended the ultra rich Eitoku Academy and simply tried to muddle through without upsetting any of her elite classmates. This plan failed miserably when she met Tsukasa Domyoji, the arrogant leader of F4: a group of obscenely rich heirs to family fortunes that made the other rich kids at the school seem like paupers in comparison. F4 had a policy of making life hell for anyone that dared cross them, doling out “red notices” which meant everyone at the school had the right to harass and pummel the person in question until they changed their attitude or disappeared. However, when Makino earned a red notice she refused to succumb to either option. In fact Makino punched Domyoji in the face!! Unexpectedly this leads to a love triangle involving Makino, Domyoji, and another F4 member Rui Hanazawa with Domyoji eventually winning her heart. From that point on, various characters attempt to sabotage the couple in the most absurd ways possible, sometimes risking everyone’s lives in the process. Then, without fail, F4 would swoop in at the last possible moment and save the day

The final installment in the HYD saga finds Domyoji and Makino travelling around the globe to Las Vegas, Hong Kong, a deserted tropical island and finally Kyoto on the trail of an expensive tiara (a pre wedding gift) that’s been stolen from Makino.

I loved the HYD dorama series so I was looking forward so much to the movie and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint – sticking to the same formula as the series. Slightly far fetched in places but a wonderful and satisfying movie. A brilliant ending to finally close the storyline. HYD fans will love it!

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Drugstore Girl (2004)

A young female pharmacist student runs away to a small Tokyo suburb after catching her boyfriend cheating on her. Finding work in a new drugstore she meets the local old eccentrics who start to fall for her and get interested in the sport of lacrosse as she plays it. The men form a team in a feeble attempt to win her affection. Instead, Keiko becomes their coach—a job she takes very seriously!

This is a silly and ridiculous comedy but it does have some funny scenes. I do like the beautiful Rena Tanaka as the lead character Keiko Odayashi.

I can’t find a trailer but here’s the first 50 seconds of the movie!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Typhoon (2006)

A North Korean man steals some nuclear waste and plans on dropping it on the Korean peninsula for an incident that happened 20 years previously when his family were denied asylum in the South. This led to his parents being murdered and being seperated from his older sister. A South Korean agent is ordered to find and take him out.

This was such an brilliant exciting thriller and well thought out. Loved the devastating opening sequence of pirates hijacking a ship. Miles better than a lot of Hollywood’s output these days. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Vital (2005)

Vital is about a medical student who loses his memory after a car accident that claims his girlfriend. By dissecting her body at the medical college he slowly starts to get his memories back.

This didn’t do anything for me I’m afraid and I found it a bit confusing as to what was going on and rather odd. I didn’t know if the main character was hallucinating or it was his way of dealing with his girlfriend’s loss? Not my cup of tea at all.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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Beautiful and moving tearjerker of a man searching for his girlfriend who comes back to his hometown and starts remembering his first love Aki who died of leaukemia 20 years previously. With the years passing by he’s been unable to move on with his life. Now he’s finally able to come to terms with his grief and loss and have a poignant closure.

I loved this movie from the story to the characters even though it was incredibly sad. Touching and original. Masami Nagasawa gives a great performance as Aki, the girl with leaukemia. This was the movie that propelled her to being a big star in Japan. A must see.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Tenshu is imprisoned and sentenced to death for murdering the men who raped his girlfriend. However, he manages to survive his execution and is presented with an option: face another execution attempt or subject himself to their bizarre and dangerous experiments. He choses the latter and is put in a cell with a rapist and a woman who’s infected with a taint that transports from person to person during extreme anger. The taint is transferred to Tenshu and he must now deal with the military who has interrupted the experiment to obtain it.

I usually love Ryuhei Kitamura’s movies but this one dragged on way too long. Very disjointed plot involving an alien that moves between human hosts. It’s a bit of a mess to be honest which is a shame as it started quite well. If you want to watch a similar type movie then I’d recommend the far superior Aragami.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Sky High (2003)

Sky High follows detective Kanzaki Kohei as he investigates a sudden rash of horrific murders, all of young women, involving the removal of the victim’s heart while she is still alive. This investigation becomes personal when, on Kanzaki’s wedding day, his fiance Mina comes walking down the aisle, gushing blood all over her white wedding gown from the large hole in her chest from which her heart was removed. As the now obsessed Kanzaki hunts desperately for Mina’s killer, he gradually discovers that a much more diabolical plan may be behind these murders. Meanwhile Mina finds herself standing before an immense Gate within a dark cavern. Before the Gate stands Izuko, a sworded female guardian who explains to Mina what lies before her. Mina is at this Gate because she is a murdered soul, and as such can choose one of three paths:

1. She may enter through the Gate and await reincarnation in Heaven.
2. She may remain upon the earth as a homeless, wandering spirit.
3. She may haunt and torment her murderer, the price of which will be Hell.

She is given 12 days to decide the matter, during which she hovers around Kanzaki as he continues to track down Mina’s killer. Before long, through the help of a psychic photographer whose photos reveal supernatural entities, they discover that the villain is none other than Kudo who is determined on resurrecting the Devil in a bid to revive his own beloved from her limbo between life and death. The scheme requires six living hearts, of which Mina’s was the fifth, and so the clock is ticking as Kudo sets his diabolical trap to capture his sixth victim and extract her heart!

Absolutely loved this supernatural thriller and it’s up to the usual high standards that Ryuhei Kitamura delivers. Though the plot sounds ridiculous and the acting is over the top at times I think that’s what I like about it the most. Unlike the frenetic pace of Versus, Sky High is more slow. A definite highlight is Kudo’s secretary Rei – she’s one hot chick!

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kids Return (1996)

Excellent character driven movie of two teenage slacker friends who quit school. One goes into boxing, the other into the shady world of the yakuza. But just as things are going their way, their world starts to collapse. Brilliant storyline. Takeshi Kitano never fails to deliver even if he isn’t onscreen. One of his best.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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My Brother (2004)

Jong-Hyun is an underachiever whose slightly handicapped older brother Sung-Hyun is favored by their mother and acquaintances alike for all his sincere efforts. Petty jealousy, competition over a pretty girl, and years of sought-after acceptance drives a rift between the two brothers. As the years pass, the two brothers lead increasingly separate lives, and their lingering conflict goes unsettled. Will each eventually be able to call the other “My brother?”

Superb Korean movie. Brilliant acting all round. It’s hard not to cry at the end. A great storyline. Beautiful, heartwrenching and sad. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Libera Me (2004)

This follows a team of firefighters as they tackle deadly blazes and try to stop a dangerous arsonist who’s deliberately putting lives (firefighters and ordinary people) at risk as revenge.

Wonderful thriller which is Korea’s answer to Backdraft. It’s exciting, tense and gripping. The fire set-pieces are amazing to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)

This anime movie follows the story of young Sophie Hatter, a bookworm, the eldest of three daughters, a girl doomed to an uninteresting life as a hat maker. Sophie resigns herself to her boring fate, but fate has other plans for her. Cursed by the Witch of the Waste with the body of a 90-year-old woman, she finds her way to the moving castle inhabited by the wizard Howl, said by all to eat the souls of young girls. Howl has been cursed by the Witch as well, and is seeking the love of young girl to help him break the curse.

Once more Miyazaki weaves a magical tale of a young girl placed under a curse for getting involved with a wizard called Howl and his incredible castle. Has an anti-war message to it which has been featured more than once in Miyazaki’s movies. The animation as always by Studio Ghibli is first rate. An absolute pleasure to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Set in 1950’s China, the story follows 4 year old Qiang as he starts kindergarten school and his struggle to fit in. He starts his own rebellion against his teachers there. His charisma slowly earns him friends despite his rebellious behavior. The little red flowers in the title is what the kids in the school get for good behavior – something Qiang struggles to achieve due to his behavior.

It’s a great movie to watch and the kids are cute, endearing and adorable. The interaction between the kids is great and feels very authentic. Might be a tad slow for some but I never found the movie to be boring. Shame about the rather abrupt ending.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Thai version of Charlie’s Angels is done in a humourous and tongue in cheek fashion. It’s also incredibly cheesy and the acting is so bad. But there are a couple of good laughs thrown in – mostly to do with a cross eyed woman and a gender bender baddie! It’s not too bad.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Sunwoo is the right-hand-man to ruthless mob boss Kang. He’s the kind of fellow that every self-respecting crime lord would want on his side – loyal, respectful and extremely good at dishing out violence on request. Things start to fall apart however when Kang enlists Sunwoo to watch over his girlfriend Heesoo while he’s away on business. When Sunwoo discovers that Heesoo is having an illicit affair not only is he unable to “take care” of the matter as instructed, but he becomes strangely drawn to Heesoo himself – and every gangster know that developing a heart is the first mistake in this line of business. Soon Sunwoo finds himself betrayed by the same people that he’s always been unquestionably loyal towards, and a path of escalating violence inevitably ensues.

This Korean movie is gritty, uncompromising and bloody. A movie that will make any action fan jump for joy. Incredibly stylish and very violent. A strong performance by Byung-hun Lee as Sunwoo who is just the embodiment of coolness! Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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