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Archive for May, 2011

This documentary movie follows the very popular Japanese idol group AKB48 and covers the group’s activities throughout 2010, using footage from over 1,000 videotapes. The documentary includes the production process behind each of their singles, their concerts at Yokohama Arena and Yoyogi National Gymnasium, their senbatsu events, last year’s appearance at Kohaku Uta Gassen, and their visit to Anime Expo. Viewers will get a glimpse of the idols’ joys and troubles, their growth over the year, and their dreams for the future.

Being a huge fan of AKB48, I really enjoyed going back and reliving the events that happened in 2010 – the highs and the lows, the smiles and tears as well as seeing the girls outside of their job and trying to have a normal life. The motto of AKB48 is “idols you can meet” and that’s true if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket to their shows in their own theater in Akihabara. Hardworking, dedicated, down to earth and giving it their all epitomises what AKB48 is all about. The group although split into 3 teams which have their own captain is overall led by one amazing and inspirational girl – Takahashi Minami. Takamina is the glue that holds all of the girls together and is a good role model that Japanese girls should look up to and strive to be like her. Those that have no interest in Japanese idol groups will find this documentary to be a waste of time but those that love AKB48 will certainly find this entertaining as we get to know these girls a little bit more at work and at play. I’m so proud to be an AKB48 fan and to see them grow in popularity over the past 3 years has been nothing more than what they deserve and long may their success continue.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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A rather long but very entertaining drama about a bent police detective and a cold, calculating killer who play a dangerous game of cat and mouse against each other. Nothing particularly new in terms of theme (wild-cannon cop chasing serial killer), but in terms of execution and sheer enjoyment, there’s no doubting this movie’s worth. Unlike other murder mysteries where the investigator solves the case with clues and evidence, Kang Cheol-Jung (the main cop) pursues this case because of his instinct. He has no doubt the suspect is guilty (somehow), despite the lack of evidence. There are some problems with the story. We have an overlong introductory period before anything actually happens. On the plus side, it’s pretty enjoyable as it is, getting a sense of our not-quite-anti-hero, but at the same time, it lags a little.

Although the movie contains both scenes of brutal violence as well as slapstick and character-based comedy, it’s all well incorporated, so it doesn’t feel disjointed. The principal actor, the talented Sol Gyung Gu, does an excellent job at making a fallen cop likable enough to follow him. Due to its violence and disturbing scenes, I can’t say that everyone should watch it, but as far as police thrillers go, it has a great concept and executes it well. As such, if you’re looking for a story about a cop and the murderer he’s trying to collar, this is as good a place as any to go.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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An unknown killer is on the loose killing off policemen that have a connection with a case that has details never revealed to the mass media. During a wedding party at a hotel, Conan’s friend Ran witnesses the identity of the killer who tries to kill the last remaining officer. But this causes Ran to lose her memory from the emotional shock of the what she has witnessed. As her memories of all her family, friends, and Conan are wiped out, everyone tries to find a way to slowly get Ran’s memory back as she is the only witness to the face of the killer. Meanwhile Conan deducts all he can on the case by finding out the backgrounds of the 3 possible suspects and the truth of the case that’s “need not to know”.

Another brilliant Detective Conan movie (the 4th in the series). It’s exciting and gripping. I like how the whole mystery keeps you guessing till the climax. It keeps you on your toes from beginning to end and does a great job showcasing character chemistry. The story is very well paced, and builds on its momentum as it goes forth, though not without some lighthearted moments, especially from Professor Agasa and the Detective Kids. Definitely not a Conan movie to miss. People new and old to the franchise will find something to love in this.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Absolutely amazing science fiction romcom about a beautiful female cyborg sent from the year 2070 by her creator Jiro, back to the year 2008 to assist his younger self and change some things in the past. I loved this movie. It’s got plenty of very funny moments in it. The director’s inventive humour and storytelling delivers quite a satisfying and entertaining movie. While some of the comedy may border on the silly, I found myself laughing at a lot of the visual gags. The mood though changes from comedy to drama as a major disaster hits Tokyo. You might even shed yourself a tear or two by the end. The special effects in general were fun to watch, and the whole movie was nicely paced. Ayase Haruka is alluring and cute in her role as the future cyborg. She makes for a likable if but somewhat stiff heroine. Koide Kesuke is also likable as Jiro. Their love story begins in typical awkward fashion but soon develops into a sweet romance thanks to their nice and controlled performances.

Running just shy of 2 hours, Cyborg Girl is an enjoyable sci-fi fantasy that will have audiences hooked from the start and invested in the romance between the attractive leads. While some may find the story a bit melodramatic and the humour a tad forced, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The 5th Detective Conan movie is an entertaining, full of suspense and action heavy anime movie as Conan and his friends are invited to the grand opening of a pair of high rise twin tower buildings but death and mayhem mars the fresh start to the architectural marvels. Conan, suspecting that the mysterious Black Organization that poisoned and left him for dead of being involved, goes to investigate. But soon finds himself in harm’s way, trapped, as Tower A is deliberately set on fire plus some bombs have been primed to explode. How can Conan escape from the burning building before the bombs go off?

There are nods to 2 classic Hollywood movies here (The Towering Inferno and Die Hard). The murder/mystery in the storyline might be complicated, yes, and filled with the usual red-herring and cryptic hinting, but it’s ultimately disposable and a little silly clue-wise. That’s only a minor gripe though. It’s still a brilliant fast paced, gripping and action packed movie. Having Gin & Vodka (from the Black Organisation) as the main villains certainly add to the enjoyment. The animation isn’t spectacular and on a par with the TV series. For those who want a great introduction to the Detective Conan movies, this entry is a good place to start.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Dog In A Sidecar (2007)

A young innocent girl gradually becomes privy to the shady dealings of her father and his free-spirited mistress over the course of one eye opening summer vacation. Kaoru was just getting her footing in life when her mother walked out on her father. Now, as the head of the household attempts to make up for his shortcomings by working overtime at the used car lot and bringing home a Pac-Man machine for the kids, a new woman named Yoko appears in the household. Yoko is the complete opposite of Kaoru’s real mother – she feeds the kids a steady diet of junk food while coming and going as she pleases – but there’s something about her father’s new mistress that fascinates the impressionable young girl. As the summer goes on and Kaoru becomes increasingly aware of her surroundings, she begins to mature in ways that can only happen when you finally learn to roll with life’s punches.

A very enjoyable friendship movie between a 10 year girl Kaoru and her father’s lover Yoko who takes the little girl under her wing. Dog in a Sidecar is a short, thoughtful movie about growing up and taking the bumps life gives. Kaoru is earnest and sweet, but her environment and parents do not allow her to fully grow as a person and it is a woman from outside the fold of her daily life that changes her. It is these interactions with the other, the unknown and unfamiliar that change Kaoru. Would she have been the same hard-nosed woman if she had not met Yoko or would she have become as weak-willed as her father if her mother had stayed with the family? Kana Matsumoto is incredible and so adorable as Kaoru and the chemistry she shares with Yuko Takeuchi is wonderful. The rapport, their interaction and what they learn from each other is what drives this movie forward. This movie is an absolute delight to see, a feel good movie filled with nostalgia and fond memories of younger days. Highly recommended.

Unfortunately I can’t find a trailer.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Kokkuri (1997)

The popular and seemingly street-wise radio host Michiru proclaims to her listeners the ease and effectiveness of garnering secret facts by consulting “Kokkuri-san”, a traditional Japanese form of Ouija. Three high school girl friends decide to experiment to ask about their futures and love life. Within this group of three is Mio, a quiet and mature girl who lost both her parents tragically at a very young age, Hiroko whose brief and angst-filled life has left her a nihilist, and Masami who finally got (hot and heavy with) her new heart-throb boyfriend and is intent on keeping him. Well, needless to say the Kokkuri session does not go well for the girls. Masami discovers that her new boyfriend is fooling around with Hiroko on the side, Mio learns that she will suddenly die sometime within the next month, and Hiroko storms out of the room before the proper closing chant is completed, resulting in Kokkuri-san hanging around them for the duration of the film. Then things begin to go downhill.

I was expecting this to be a good Japanese chiller but what I saw was nothing of the sort. In fact this movie was fairly dull and uninspiring. It was a little too melodramatic for me and I’m still not clear on how the ghoul behind Kokkuri-san fitted into this. The story was uninteresting and the cast looked like they were sleepwalking in their roles. I wasted 90 mins watching this borefest. Don’t bother with this movie, unless you want to watch something that will make you fall asleep quickly.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

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