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Archive for August 23rd, 2013

Phoenix Wright dvd

The story takes place in a somewhat slightly changed modern day Japan where the legal system has been altered because of the high level of crime committed and prosecutors/attorneys now have only 3 days for each case before the judge gives a verdict. Phoenix Wright is a rookie attorney who goes up against his childhood friend and now prosecutor Miles Edgeworth in court and somehow manages to win his first case. However, an even bigger case comes up when his female boss, a spiritual medium named  Misty Fey is murdered in her office.  At first her sister Maya is made prime suspect but soon she is free and by investigating the case with her and Detective Gumshoe, Phoenix opens up a can of worms which results in Miles Edgeworth being implicated for murder.  With Miles in jail and nobody willing to help him, Phoenix decides he will defend him in court but the prosecutor he is going to face is none other than Von Karma who has never lost a case in 40 years. Can Phoenix with the help of Maya and his friend Larry Butz successfully defend Miles or will Von Karma who is not averse to using dirty tricks to win his cases manage to throw Miles in jail permanently?

Based on several popular video games from Capcom that has sold 4 million copies to date, Takashi Miike adapts the first game of Phoenix Wright and somehow manages to compress everything into a 135 min movie. I have to confess to not having heard about Phoenix Wright before but then again I’ve never been a big gamer and I find playing games to be a very frustrating experience as I had the tendency to cheat at nearly all games I played because I was never any good at them!  I felt I had to do a bit of research on the original game so that I could understand the movie a bit better after watching it. Video game movie adaptations have a bit of a mixed history in the cinema – some when done competently come out very good, others not so but in Miike’s capable hands he has created a unique and original looking movie.  It’s always hard for a director to try and create something that will not only please hardcore fans but also attract those that know nothing about Phoenix Wright. I think overall he did a great job and he has captured the element of the games very well especially with the characters. The games were also well known for their offbeat humour and Miike has kept them in the movie. Even the catchphrases ‘Objection!’ and ‘Take That’ which has become synonymous with the game is included. What I liked most about the movie is each court case is like a gladiatorial contest between the prosecutor and attorney. Evidence shown on holographic images in the courtroom are literally thrown towards the other and verbal blows are struck to get the upper hand. What could have been boring courtroom scenes are spiced up because of this. The use of a spiritual medium in helping the defence out at times was a neat idea. These are very unique concepts that I’ve never seen before and the visual flair employed by Miike in the movie is a big plus. Perhaps in the hands of another director the movie might not have been as good as it was?

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For those that have played Phoenix Wright’s first game you will find the plot of the movie very familiar. Naturally some aspects have been changed but overall Miike has more or less stuck to the game’ story and hasn’t deviated that much. It’s quite an easy movie to follow until the plot delves further into an incident that happened 15 years previously and saw Phoenix’s mentor die tragically – it then goes a bit too complex for it’s own liking. The generous running time of the movie might jar with some viewers but as the movie was so entertaining it didn’t bother me for one bit that it ran over two hours. Haruki Nariyama brings Phoenix Wright to life extremely well. The eccentricity of the character and his overall look from the hairstyle to his finger gesticulation is fantastic.  Takumi Saito as Miles Edgeworth seems to have nailed the character down to a tee with his aloof attitude and cold stares. I probably liked the loud and colourful character of Larry Butz the most in the movie. The role is played superbly by Akiyoshi Nakao. Mirei Kiritani is so beautiful as Maya Fey who channels the spirit of her dead sister to aid Phoenix out when he needs help the most in court. All of the other supporting characters have a part to play in moving the storyline along.

When it’s all said and done, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is one of the best video game adaptations to date and the reason for that is probably because Takashi Miike stayed true to the source material. It’s a fun movie with an great cast of characters and an interesting plot that pretty much makes sure you’re never bored. As such it’s a movie that can be enjoyed by fans and newcomers alike. Well worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Wangan Midnight The Movie

High school student Akio Asakura is more interested in fast cars than schoolwork. During a trip to a junkyard with his friend who runs a car workshop, he comes across a rusting old blue Nissan 240Z car. He finds himself being attracted to this particular car and decides to buy it. Strangely enough the previous car owner had the same name as Akio. The car has the misfortune of being called ‘The Devil Z’ for the fact that it killed it’s previous owner and caused accidents. Consequently there are rumours that the car is cursed and will kill it’s owner eventually. Akio though isn’t frightened off by this information and puts his heart and soul into restoring the car to it’s original pristine condition.  After the car has been restored he goes for a test run on the road that runs along Tokyo Bay in a district called ‘The Wangan’ where many car racers go head to head against each other. It is on this road that he meets a young doctor called Tatsuya Shima who drives a black Porsche 911 Turbo nicknamed ‘The Blackbird’. It seems that Tatsuya was friends with the Devil Z’s previous owner and he is also now dating the dead man’s beautiful sister.  Tatsuya isn’t exactly happy to see the car back on the road knowing that it’s caused so much pain and heartbreak and he is determined to see the car destroyed. He challenges Akio to a race in the hope if the car is involved in an accident it will put Akio off from driving the car ever again. However, Tatsuya is surprised by how determined Akio is in proving that the Devil Z can beat his Blackbird. Will the curse of the Devil Z come back to haunt Akio if he pushes the car too much?

I have a bit of a guilty pleasure in watching car racing movies even though I’m not really interested in cars as such. A car is just something that takes me from A to B and that’s all. I know a lot of my friends and colleagues like to discuss sometimes about cars and engines etc but that kind of thing just bores me! Apart from The Fast & The Furious franchise, the only other Asian racing movie I’ve seen was Initial D and that was a number of years ago. The same team that made Initial D is behind this movie too. This movie is akin to that more than F&F in that it deals with the characters and the relationship with their cars rather than the racing itself. There’s a hint of a supernatural theme to the movie whether the Devil Z is actually cursed or not. Most of the movie focuses on the duel between Akio and Tatsuya. It’s like the Devil Z has a hypnotic effect on Akio. No matter how much anybody persuades him not to ride the car he feels compelled to do so and in doing that Tatsuya who thinks that nobody can control the car properly and watched his friend perish in an accident whilst driving it thinks it should be himself that should take the car out once and for all to prevent further tragedies and to bring closure. The fact that he’s dating the dead man’s sister Eriko makes the situation even more personal for him. Despite how shocked Eriko is to see the Devil Z that killed her brother back on the road, she is pulled towards Akio and the car. Akio himself asks Eriko to go on a drive with him in order that she might understand why the car held such an attraction to her brother. At several points in the story the viewer is made to think that the Devil Z actually might have a mind of it’s own as it doesn’t respond to Akio’s control during one race with Tatsuya causing an accident to occur. His reasoning is that the car might be rejecting him. Another is during one scene when Akio and Tatsuya are talking outside near their cars whilst Eriko is sitting inside the Devil Z. The next thing we see is the Devil Z taking off and the look on Akio’s face says it all as he has the car’s keys in his hands! However, Akio is told by Tatsuya that Eriko has a set of the car’s keys that her brother possessed and that it is her driving the car.

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There are a couple of pointless sub-plots in the movie that doesn’t really move the story forward at all. One of which involves a popular gravure model Reina who loves to go out car racing at Wangan during the night but is warned by her pushy manager to not say anything to the press or fans as it could jeopardise her career in getting some acting roles. Another is about Akio and his decision to forfeit a term at school so that he can concentrate on his racing. His female teacher keeps on trying to persuade him to turn up at school and it is not until she reveals  something about her past that he promises to come into class.  One of the most striking things about this movie is the cinematography. Tokyo at night is an amazing sight and none more so than around the Tokyo Bay/Odaiba district where the colours on Rainbow Bridge and the ferris wheel on the Venus Fort complex stand out.  It’s one thing seeing these sights onscreen but to actually see them in real life is even better. I regularly visit the Odaiba area during the evening on my trips just to see these wonderful sights and the twinkling lights of the rest of Tokyo across the Bay. The cars used in the movie are sleek and beautiful although please don’t ask me what make/model they are as I’m no expert on such things! The races that take place between Akio and Tatsuya are exciting and exhilirating but on saying that I’ve seen better in other movies.  The acting from the cast is great and I was particularly pleased to see Sata from the manzai comedy duo BAD BOYS appear as Akio’s mechanic friend. It’s hard not to miss him with his Mohican styled hairstyle!!

Although you could say that this is a movie for petrol heads, Wangan Midnight is more than just a racing movie as it has an intelligent and touching storyline with interesting characters that you can relate to. There’s a teaser right after the end credits that a sequel could be made in the future as Tatsuya on duty at the hospital hears an all too familiar engine sound and a caption comes up onscreen saying ‘The Z Will Be Back’. If a sequel will be made is debatable as I’m not sure how well this movie did in Japan.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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