Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2014

SPEC: Heaven (2012)

spec-heaven-movie-poster-otaku-house

Continuing from the TV special, Toma and Sebumi investigate reports of people being mummified on a luxury cruiser. This is the same thing that happened to one of their colleagues.  There is also something about 3 Fatima prophecies which have specified by the Vatican. Two have already come true but the final one hasn’t.  However, Sebumi has a daughter he had with a former colleague that he has no knowledge about and this child could be the new messiah as she doesn’t share the same DNA as her parents. To add to Toma and Sebumi’s troubles is the return of their archenemy Ninomae who has aligned himself with a villain so powerful that even Toma doesn’t think she can defeat him. The police also declare war on the SPEC holders by denouncing them as terrorists.

SPEC was a Japanese TV drama that first aired in 2010. It didn’t do spectacularly well in the ratings but since that time it has grown in popularity. I started watching it last November and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s about a special department in the Tokyo Police organisation which tries to crack unsolved cases – those without any evidence or witnesses but more often than not trying to apprehend villains with special (SPEC) abilities . Headed by a senior police officer in Kotaro Nonomura, he has two people working under him. Toma Saya is a woman with an exceptional IQ of 201 who treats her fellow police officers in a condescending manner. Her left arm is in a sling after her hand was cut off by a former boyfriend of hers who had special powers. Sebumi Takeru was a part of a special police task force who has been moved to the Unsolved Crimes Unit for an incident that happened with a SPEC villain. A colleague of his fired a couple of rounds at him but instead of the bullets hitting Sebumi they flew back and severely injured his colleague instead. The man who was Sebumi’s best friend subsequently died and his wife blamed Sebumi for everything until it was discovered that a villain used his abilities to freeze time and change the trajectory of the bullets. What I also loved about the series was that it was so unique, funny and very witty. It was such a refreshing change from other dramas. Where else but in this drama would you see bizarre vuvuzela salarymen who appear and blow their horns when one of the villains turn up!

Spec-Heaven-screenshot

I’ll say this right off, if you haven’t seen the series or the SP episode there’s really no point in watching this movie. There’s no introduction to the characters, storyline or anything at all. It assumes you’re already a fan of the series. The movie felt like an extended episode more than anything else (not that there was anything wrong with that) and it centers on a showdown between SPEC holders and a special Japanese government unit with orders to destroy all of them. Even better news for fans of the series was the return of Ninomae (Toma’s brother). It wouldn’t have been the same if he hadn’t been in the movie. Even though he was supposedly killed off in the series, it’s interesting to see how he is resurrected – there’s a unique twist about it which is revealed at the climax. The showdown between Ninomae, Sebumi and Toma is also fantastic. The series had a brilliant balance of serious drama and humour and it continues in this movie. The relationship between the bickering pair of Toma and Sebumi is hilarious to watch. Sebumi is such a glutton for punishment. I’ve never seen a man go through so much pain. He’s been beaten up, blinded temporarily in the series and he endures even more in this one – he is Mr Indestructable. Just when you think that everything is wrapped up before the close, there’s another twist in the tale with another new big bad God-like figure who is connected to Sebumi’s daughter (if he is her daughter that is?). It seems she’s even more powerful than what people initially think and why has the little girl aligned herself with the villains. Another confusing scene is at the beginning when we see a post apocalyptic Japan in September 2012. It does leave a carrot dangling in the eyes of viewers so I think the 2 SPEC movies that were released in Japan last November ties everything up with this storyline. I only hope that they’ll still be playing in one of Tokyo’s cinemas in March when I arrive there as I’d love to see the conclusion but knowing my luck they’ll have been withdrawn!!

I think the role of Toma is probably Erika Toda’s best to date. I love the way Toma stands on her desk in the office with her head nearly touching the low ceiling, gets a weird look in her eye, takes a paintbrush and forms words on pieces of paper relating to the case she’s working on, ripping the papers up, throwing them up in the air and pronouncing ‘Itadakimashita’ when she has her Eureka moment. She’s also got a penchant for eating an enormous amount of gyoza and walking around with a wheeled suitcase! Toma gains a SPEC ability of her own in raising the dead by grabbing the spirit of a person by the hair and dragging them up through the floor and into this world. A handy ability when she wants the help of other SPEC holders which have died. Ryo Kase is equally as good as Sebumi. Sebumi and Toma may bicker like cats and dogs but they have a healthy respect for each other’s abilities although the relationship is really put to the test in this movie when Toma points a gun at Sebumi and threatens to shoot him. Even though he has only a small role, Ryu Raita is also amusing as the pair’s chief who has a young mistress in a cute policewoman named Miyabi. She mercilessly teases him that if he doesn’t leave his wife, she’ll go with somebody else. It’s obvious she’s only after his money more than anything else. Chiaki Kuriyami guest stars as Sebumi’s ex-girlfriend Satoko in the movie and the filmmakers could not resist a joke at her expense when Toma is introduced to her and she says “What is this? Kill Bill?”. Another actor who plays himself in the movie and as a villain is Atsushi Ito. There’s even a reference to his famous role in the Densha Otoko drama as well. I was dismayed that Mano Erina’s character Satori only appeared in flashback here but I know that she does appear in the 2013 movies. I wonder if SPEC drama fans mimicked her ‘Satori Masu’ hand gesture across Japan?

Even though I really enjoyed this movie, I felt that there was just too much going on with the plot, new characters and it does overload the brain. For myself, SPEC was always about Toma and Sebumi’s relationship and that doesn’t disappoint here. I had a great time laughing at Toma’s behaviour. Most SPEC fans will love this movie, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser. I’m just looking forward now to seeing those 2 new movies. Definitely go and see the series first before tackling this movie. I guarantee you’ll find it extremely entertaining and funny.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Fireworks from the heart

After 6 months having treatment in hospital for leukaemia, high school student Hana returns back to her home just in time for the town’s annual fireworks festival. On arriving at her home, she finds out that her older brother Taro has become a social recluse, a ‘hikikomori’ who stays in his room and never ventures out. She tries to encourage him to leave his room but he just ignores her. Hana though will not let Taro waste his life away and forces her way into his room to talk to him. During the evening, Hana attends the fireworks display and notices that the town’s youth group (those that will hit 20 years old the following year) are planning a spectacular fireworks display of their own to celebrate their coming of age. She decides to get her brother involved with the group in order to bring him out of his shell and also get him a part-time job. Although reluctant at first, Taro listens to his sister and starts his paper round. He even attends the local youth group meetings although one boy in particular doesn’t want Taro as an outsider to join. All seems to be going well and Taro is progressing nicely until one day when Hana is struck ill and has a relapse. She is rushed to hospital where it is discovered that her leukaemia has come back and has spread through her system. It is terminal and there is no hope for her. Taro is determined to create a very special fireworks display of his own for his sister as she loves the fireworks festival. As this fireworks display is expensive, Taro gets himself another job as a labourer on a construction site. Will Hana manage to stay alive for the town’s firework display and see her brother’s special fireworks?

Nobody does good quality weepy movies that tug at your heartstrings as well as Japan. Although the storyline in this movie might not be any different from others you might have seen from other directors, I still found it a very touching and moving drama. Usually this kind of movie would centre on two lovers but this time round it’s about a family dealing with one of their members with a serious illness. The focus of this movie is on the relationship between a brother and sister. The difference in attitude between the two at the beginning of the movie couldn’t be any more different. Even though Hana has been through a difficult time, she has a positive outlook on life, outgoing and has many friends at school which is in complete contrast to her brother who has shut himself off from everybody including his parents and sister. The special bond between the siblings is vital for Hana to unlock Taro’s affliction and get him amongst people again. She won’t allow him to continue the way he is so she breaks down the physical barrier he has created – basically blocking the door that allows his sister to walk freely from her room to his. Her motivational techniques to help her brother lose his introverted ways are amazing to see. She even accompanies him on his paper-round job to help him with talking to people. Hana is a selfless person who cares more about other people rather than her own illness.

Fireworks_From_The_Heart screenshot

People with a condition like Taro are quite common in Japan. The cause for such a condition has been attributed to social pressure from friends and family and the expectation placed upon such a person.  Gradually the viewer sees Taro’s transformation and development over the course of the movie and in the finale his metamorphosis is complete. During the final third of the movie, the shift moves more on Taro with Hana confined to hospital. The sheer hard work Taro does in order to generate money for his special firework display is commendable and shows the love he has for his sister.

The main leads in Kengo Kora and Mitsuki Tanimura are excellent in their roles. They share great chemistry together. The viewer sympathises with Taro’s condition and the difficult relationship he has with his father who is disappointed that he has thrown his life away.  Rather than letting it be just Taro’s personal problem to solve on his own, the plot makes it a family issue to deal with and it does that in a realistic manner. It should be said that the best scenes in the movie tend to be when it is just the 2 leads together with no other supporting characters.

Movies such as this one tends to veer towards being a bit sentimental and this one is no different. I felt the fireworks festival in the final third was dragged out a bit too much. The use of violins to highlight a sad scene is probably the only thing about the movie that slightly annoyed me (is there a clause in a movie script that says violins are a must in sad scenes?).  On saying that definitely grab a box of tissues for the heart-warming finale.

I really enjoyed this endearing story about the bond between siblings and one young man’s struggle to change himself for the better as a tribute for his sister. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

school-days-with-a-pig-posterMr Hoshi is a bright and relatively new teacher at an elementary Japanese school who is given a grade 6 class as his charges. He wants to make his mark at the school so he proposes an experiment to teach his students about the food they eat. He wants to bring a small piglet to school, let his pupils look after it for a whole year and then at the end of that period the pig will be taken to the slaughterhouse to be eaten by them. Despite opposition by some staff and parents, the female Principal decides to let the experiment go ahead and soon the pupils are building a pen for the little piglet which they dub ‘P-Chan’. The class take their pig husbandry duties seriously and begin to become quite attached to ‘P-Chan’. He soon grows into a large pig. As the class will graduate at the end of the year, the inevitable question about slaughtering  the pig comes round. Even though it was decided at the beginning of the school year what would happen to the pig, some of the class aren’t happy about killing it and want another class to take over looking after it after they’ve all gone. The final decision rests though with Mr Hoshi. What will he and the class decide to do?

Based on a real-life experiment that took place in Osaka during 1990 which was the basis of a TV documentary, this award winning movie is a moving and educational story about the circle of life and asks the question if we have a god given right to end animals’ lives. How close the script was to what actually took place in Osaka I’m not too sure. I liked the concept of the movie about taking our food for granted and giving a class the responsibility of raising an animal before eating it – basically making them appreciate the food on their plate. The problem the class did was giving the pig a personality and a name. As soon as that happens, you’re giving it a human trait which makes it even more difficult to kill it. It was great to see the youngsters dilingently looking after their pig so well – building a colourful pig pen in their schoolyard, bringing their own food, cleaning the pen etc. They don’t slouch in their duties one bit, taking the challenge they’ve been given very seriously. This was a class that loved the pig they looked after but in doing that became too attached to it. I was expecting some kind of drama to take place with maybe a rival class perhaps becoming jealous of all the attention given to a pig and sabotaging the work the class had done but nothing of the sort happens.

schooldayswithapig screenshot
Even after their teacher had told them right at the start of the experiment what would happen at the end of the year, when it comes to the crunch there is disagreement between the pupils of the class and the teacher decides that a debate is to take place with everybody voicing their opinion about whether to kill P-Chan or keep it alive. The young cast were given a brief outline by the director of what to discuss in this segment so what you see taking place is unscripted and off-the-cuff. I loved this segment and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say and also realistic – very much coming from their heart. All angles are covered by the class. It was very much like watching a politicial debate in Parliament with some heated and passionate opinions taking place between them. On one hand you have some pupils saying they have a responsibility to go ahead with the vow they promised at the start of the yearand others saying what right do they have to send the pig to be killed and that P-Chan should be passed along to another class to adopt so that they take over their duties. Mr Hoshi hardly ever intervenes during this spirited discussion apart from when things get a bit shouty. The viewer is made to choose a side. Mr Hoshi decides to finally settle the argument that a vote should take place and whatever the decision of the vote is to be final. Even when the final tally is counted, the class is split 50/50 so the person making the final decision regarding P-Chan’s fate is Mr Hoshi himself. I think you can tell which way he decides to vote. It was the best thing to happen – that the kids see the fruits of their labour through to the end. Yes, it was sad for the kids but the right decision I thought. Viewers might think it becomes maybe too sentimental near the climax as there are many tears shed by the cast. It shows how much all of them no matter on which side of the fence they were in the debate, they cared very deeply for the pig they called their friend. As this movie was targeted for kids, the actual slaughter never takes place in the movie. It ends with the class running after the slaughter van in slow motion as it gather speed and moving away from them before fading to black. I’m not sure if showing all of them eating the pig afterwards as the final scene would have been a good idea or not to show the class appreciating the sacrifice of P-Chan.

The young cast (all 26 of them) are fantastic with their acting which looks natural and their ability to showcase their emotions. Even though perhaps kids’ opinions are somewhat tossed aside by adults who think they they’re too young to fully understand what’s going on, the pupils here show much intelligence and maturityand it’s good to see a teacher that values their differing views too. They’re all a very likeable bunch of kids as well. Tsumabuki Satoshi who plays Mr Hoshi gives a good and convincing performance as their teacher and yes, the 11 pigs that were used to portray P-Chan are cute!!

Overall, School Days With A Pig is a very good movie to show to children about the food chain and what we eat on our plates which is what the whole point of the story was about at the end of the day. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

kinopoisk.ru

Makai Knight Kouga arrives in an unnamed city in Japan following order to hunt for more Horrors which are led by Lord Karma (a demon woman). Karma is living inside a demonic mirror and she uses her two henchmen in Kurusu and Shion to open up a gothic nightclub in which she can lure unsuspecting patrons into her realm on the false pretence that she can make their dreams come true. In reality though, once they fall through the mirror, they are only used as food to her. Arriving in the city as the same time as Kouga is a Makai Priestess. Rekka who has a bit of an attitude and wants to exact revenge on Lord Karma. She aids 2 Makai Priests – Akaza and Shiguto in saving a baby from its mother who turns out to be a Horror. Kouga turns up to reveal that the baby is not human but a Horror as well. Transforming into Garo, he manages to destroy it. Kouga reveals to the 2 Makai Priests his mission and they are quite happy to assist him apart from Rekka that is who is determined to slay Karma for herself. Although Karma’s evil presence is around the city, Kouga cannot find the location where Karma could be hiding. Rekka continues to annoy Kouga who shows how ill-equipped she really is to defeat Lord Karma. After finding Shion about to lure yet another victim, Kouga discovers the nightclub where Karma is residing but things do not go as planned and during a battle, Garo’s armour falls through the mirror and Kouga is severely injured for his troubles. Recovering from his wounds, Kouga discovers that somebody has betrayed the Makai Knights and is helping Lord Karma. Will Kouga find the traitor in their midst and will he be able to recover Garo’s armour to defeat Lord Karma?

I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as late night tokusatsu shows in Japan but that’s what Garo: Red Requiem is all about and it’s a spin-off from the 2006 series (since this movie there’s been 3 additional Garo TV series). So what’s different from this to say the Super Sentai/Kamen Rider franchises? Well for a start there’s nudity and that’s something the kids wouldn’t see on a Sunday morning (traditionally the slot where these kinds of programmes are shown). As I haven’t seen the first Garo series (which was apparently popular) I did worry that I might be a little lost with the plot but this is a stand-alone movie although knowing some history about the characters and their quirks would have helped. Thankfully there are no silly and childish antics taking place in the movie which does happen quite a lot in normal tokusatsu shows. The script is fairly standard stuff but the wonderful CGI effects will wow you enough to forget about the plot’s weakness. Garo’s transformation is quite cool to see. The creature designs are impressive and imaginative as you’d expect from a Japanese tokusatsu show. Those that love action will see plenty of it in this movie.

Garo Red Requiem screenshot

The main hero Kouga is a Makai Knight, basically a protector of mankind from inter-dimensional beings that are called Horrors. He’s the archetypal quiet hero. As with other tokusatsu shows Kouga gains special powers from a suit which transforms him into a Golden Knight (the helmet on his face looks like a lion but it’s a wolf from what I’ve read). The story doesn’t allow any time to introduce us to the characters as the viewer is thrown into some action from the start as the big bad villain Lord Karma (looks like a woman so she should be a Lady!) is after some food and wants some human flesh.  I liked the idea of a creature luring humans with the promise that they can have anything they want but of course once they cross over into Lord Karma’s mirror world only death awaits them. A good idea by the villain to have her lair underneath a nightclub where human beings are abundant to provide a steady supply of food. Kouga is made to battle Lord Karma and her minions without his Garo armour in this movie as it’s stolen and taken away to the mirror world. He only gets his armour back and is able to transform into Garo in the climax. There are a couple of new characters that were not in the series which have been thrown into the movie (two in particular are redundant to the plot) but for myself it’s the sexy female character Rekka played by MaryMatsuyama that I took an interest in more than anybody else. Initially she’s a strong, sullen, moody woman who only wants revenge on Lord Karma for killing her father and hates the fact that Kouga is interfering in her plans but she does mellow a little bit towards the end. She’s pretty much a bad-ass and her fight scenes are very entertaining to watch. Matsuyama did most of her own stunts and being a former gymnast she’s quite nimble in her fights. If seeing her workout in a dojo doesn’t raise mens’ pulses I don’t think anything else in the movie will!! Ryosei Konishi is fine as Kouga. There’s nothing about his acting that stands out though.

I enjoyed this good vs evil movie and will probably check out the first series out in the future. Tokusatsu show fans should like it……..if they’re not averse to a little bit of nudity that is.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

First of all, a Happy New Year to all the people that come to read my reviews. Just a quick site update before I list all the movies for last month in this post. As I will be having surgery tomorrow, there won’t be any movie reviews posted on this site for at least 2 to 3 weeks. I hope all of you understand but as soon as I feel better I’ll start posting again.

Right then, on with the movies:

A Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2
3 stars out of 5

A chinese torture chamber story 2
The Ball At The Anjo House
3.5 stars out of 5

Ball at the anjo house
Violated Angels
3 stars out of 5

Violated Angels
Gaoranger vs Super Sentai
3.5 stars out of 5

Gaoranger_vs_super_sentai_poster
Snake Deadly Act
3.5 stars out of 5

SnakeDeadlyAct+1980-15-b
A Book Of Heroes
3.5 stars out of 5

A book of heroes
The Wicked City
2 stars out of 5

The Wicked City
Escape From Brothel
3 stars out of 5

Escape From Brothel
Daggers 8
3.5 stars out of 5

DAGGERS 8 DVD SLEEVE
Bruce Lee Against Supermen
2 stars out of 5

Bruce Lee against Supermen
War Of The Gargantuas
3 stars out of 5

War of the Gargantuas
Blood Of Dragon Peril
3 stars out of 5

Blood of a dragon peril
Hissastsu Sure Death Revenge
3.5 stars out of 5

Hissatsu sure death revenge
The Mighty Peking Man
3.5 stars out of 5

The Mighty Peking Man
Love Me, Love My Money
3 stars out of 5

lovemelovemymoney
The Bodyguard
1.5 stars out of 5

bodyguard_1976_poster_01
Incredible Kung Fu Mission
3 stars out of 5

Incredible kung fu mission
Rusted Body: Guts Of A Virgin 3
2.5 stars out of 5

Rusted Body
A Stranger Of Mine
4 stars out of 5

A-Stranger-of-Mine-2005-J-Movie
Badges Of Fury
3 stars out of 5

BadgesofFury-Poster-thumb-630xauto-36759
Postman Blues
4 stars out of 5

Postmanblues
Kagemusha
4.5 stars out of 5

kagemusha
The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On
4 stars out of 5

The-Emperor's-Naked-Army-Marches-On(DVDcover)

Read Full Post »