Archive for May 3rd, 2012

Re-Cycle (2006)

Ting-yin, a young novelist, is struggling to come up with a follow-up to her best selling trilogy of romance novels. She has not even started on the book yet and her agent has already announced that the next title, The Recycle, will deal with the supernatural. After drafting her first chapter, she stops and chucks the pieces of paper into her bin. She then starts seeing strange, unexplainable things and finds that she is experiencing the supernatural events that she described in her novel-to-be. After a ride in a lift, Ting-yin finds herself in a nightmare world in which there may never be an escape!

From the acclaimed Pang Brothers, I would have expected this to be fairly decent having loved The Eye movies/Bangkok Dangerous but Re-Cycle was far too complex for it’s own good. It starts out promisingly enough but it soon loses it’s way. The first part delivers on the usual scares and familiar shock tactics. As soon as Ting-yin enters the fantasy world the story collapses. It’s like the brothers weren’t exactly sure what this movie wanted to be – it first starts off as a straight up Asian horror flick (which I did enjoy) and soon enters a fantastical world filled with dark imagery and at the same time colourful surroundings. Fine, if the Pang Brothers genuinely wanted to experiment a little and let loose their imagination.  It’s OK to try something new out but this attempt by them was a big fat failure. There’s hardly any suspense and you don’t really care what happens to Ting-yin. The movie is visually very impressive with a superb eerie atmosphere which is dominated by a Hong Kong in ruins – this decaying world populated by suicides, rusting toys, ignored ancestors and aborted foetuses. Possibly the brothers thought that the visuals could paper over the weak script?

Although I can’t really recommend this movie, it is a very creative movie with enough visual greatness to wow the viewers. Even if I don’t like it, there could be a chance that you will so by all means check it out. Maybe it’s myself that’s wrong and this is a wonderful movie?

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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Bright Future (2003)

Friends Mamoru and Yuji are aimless young men stuck in dead-end job of cleaning hand towels in a dreary factory in Tokyo. Mamoru is obsessed with a project of acclimatising the dangerous and poisonous Red Jellyfish he has a pet to fresh water. One night, he callously murders his boss’ family without any reason and is promptly thrown in jail where he is sentenced to death. Yuji is left to continue his jellyfish project but feels he hasn’t the patience to do it properly. Mamoru decides he’s had enough of living and commits suicide in jail.Yuji befriends Mamoru’s father and form a bond. Finally, Yuji in a fit of rage smashes the tank containing the jellyfish where it slips between his floorboards and out into the canal system of Tokyo. But that’s where the problems begin as the jellyfish begin to multiply and people start getting attacked.

I can see this movie having a split opinion amongst viewers as the story isn’t that easy to grasp. In fact a lot of viewers might be prompted to ask what the hell is it all about? Don’t for a minute think you’re not alone in assuming that nothing in the movie makes any sense because I felt the same way but the way I see it is that the 2 main characters especially Yuji is supposed to represent the younger generation in Japan (disconnected, lonely, lacking in motivation, purpose and instead of thinking things straight in a logical manner they just go and do things on impulse without realising the consequences). Perhaps if you allow yourself to be immersed in the dreamlike qualities of the movie, and pay close attention to its symbols and their underlying social message, you may get something out of the experience. Despite the fact that the movie could frustrate the hell out of you, it’s still an intriguing one at that due to the characters. It’s very well directed and acted brilliantly by the 3 leads. The surrogate father-son relationship that emerges between Mamoru’s father and Yuji is played well by actors Tatsuya Fuji and Jo Odagiri. If you are not used to slow pacing in movies, you may not like this at all. I did enjoy the way director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has shot this movie – it’s got that bleached out look to it. You’ve got to admire the man for giving us these perplexing movies where it is up to us to interpret what he’s trying to tell us instead of giving us a direct straight answer.

Bright Future is worth a watch simply because of the presence of it’s 3 leading men, interesting visuals and soundtrack.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The story follows a young girl named Asuna Watase who is intrigued about the mythical land of Agartha, talked about by her substitute teacher, Ryugi Morisaki. Morisaki longs to travel to Agartha to find his deceased wife Lisa and bring her back with him to Earth. Asuna has also lost a loved one. Her father died when she was little, compelling her mother to work long hours as a nurse. Lonely and withdrawn, she spends her time after school in her private mountain retreat listening to the crystal radio her father had given her. One day, after hearing beautiful and strange music from her radio, she meets a young boy with supernatural powers named Shun, who saves her from the attack of a ferocious bear-like creature. Returning the next day, Shun tells her that he is from Agartha, a land deep inside the core of the hollow Earth. Surprised by a blessing from Shun in the form of a kiss on the forehead, Asuna leaves suddenly but when she comes back the following day, she learns sadly that Shun, while trying to reach for the stars, has fallen off a ledge and died. When Asuna once again returns to her hiding place, she discovers a boy who looks like Shun but who claims to be his brother Shin. Morisaki poses as a warrior of the group called the Arch Angels, those who want to reach Agartha but are interested only in its wealth and superior knowledge. Morisaki, however, simply wants to find his dead wife Lisa. Using a device known as a “clavis,” he and Asuna enter the underground realms and begin their travel to the Gate of Life and Death.

Ever since watching Voices Of A Distant Star a couple of years ago I’ve really enjoyed Makoto Shinkai’s works so I was so looking forward to having a look at his latest production. Does it carry on with the high standards we’ve seen before? – yes it does. It’s different in that it veers into the fantasy genre. The storyline was compelling and had me engaged from start to finish with it’s theme of life and death and the mysterious rumours of a world within the Earth, a place where ancient knowledge and memories dwell, and ancient divine entities (Aztec Gods) wander the land, who used to give guidance to humankind. Known for his fantastic art and attention to detail, Shinkai again creates some beautiful landscapes. There are dozens of frames in the movie that deserve to be framed and hung on a wall. The colours and lighting is top notch. The viewer will be in awe of the things they see such as the details in the grass and the mountains to the colourful skies, sunsets and the stars.There has been some complaints that Shinkai has made this movie too Ghibli-like for his own good, perhaps as a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki? I did like message of the movie about recovering from sorrow, letting go and moving on with life. The soundtrack by Tenmon is hauntingly ethereal and fits in well with the theme of the movie. There is a problem with the pacing though as it’s extremely start-stop and never finds a consistent middle ground. The characters are engaging and hold our interest. There’s some good character development especially on the movie’s heroine Asuna.

This movie is an entertaining adventure story despite a couple of failings. What makes this work more than anything is the breathtaking beauty on show throughout with the artistry. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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