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Archive for December, 2014

Climbing To Spring (2014)

Climbing to spring poster

Toru, a young boy is climbing a snow covered mountain with his father. Toru is struggling to climb in certain areas and slips down the ice a little bit. Instead of consoling the poor lad, the father slaps him across the face and tells him to tough it out. Eventually they reach their destination – a mountain hut that’s completely covered by snow. It is owned by Toru’s father and they have to get the place ready before Spring when the climbing season begins. Fast forward 20 years later and Toru is now a financial broker in the city. Upon hearing that his father has died after an accident in which he tried to save the life of an inexperienced climber, he comes back home for the funeral. His mother is planning to sell the mountain hut but Toru decides that he’s had enough of the city job he’s doing so he quits and takes up the ownership of the mountain hut business instead. As Toru hasn’t been up to the hut for so long and he has no idea how to run it properly he is grateful for the help and support from the 2 staff members there who learn the ropes to him. Can Toru make a success of the business like his father?

This gentle drama might not sound like an exciting movie to watch and I didn’t know what to expect from it. I saw it on my flight over to Tokyo Narita airport. I was thinking it was going to be one of those mountain dramas where there are people in peril and these mountain hut people come out to rescue them. Although you do see some rescues, that is not what drives the plot of the movie. The story is basically about the relationship between Toru and his co-workers and how they become like a small family of sorts – always ready to help each other out and the blossoming love relationship between Toru and Ai Takazawa, one of his fellow co-workers. Things don’t always go right for Toru who takes a hands-on role as the new owner of the hut such as messing up serving meals for a mountain hut visitor but he learns from his mistakes.

Climbing-to-Spring screenshot

The movie is also about Toru stepping out from the shadow of his father and becoming his own man. As Toru couldn’t really connect with his father, he develops what could be construed as a father/son bond with Goro, a mysterious drifter who worked with Toru’s father in the past and has vast experience of being up in the mountains. The trio of main characters in Toru, Goro and Ai are instantly likeable people and one can’t help but warm to their friendly personalities. It makes you want to visit the hut for yourself just so you can be in their company and at the end of the movie you feel as if their your own friends.

If there’s one thing that stands out in this movie is the stunning cinematography – it will blow you away. I think the mountain range that’s featured here is the Tateyama one (though I’m not 100% sure) which is commonly known as the Japan Alps. Despite the lack of anything major happening throughout most of the movie, things do take a dramatic turn in the final third as Goro is taken ill at the mountain hut (I believe he gets a stroke) and Toru makes a decision that he has to get him down the mountain as quickly as possible. The mountain rescue people agree to meet Toru half way down. There is a 5 hour time limit on getting Goro to the hospital or his condition will deteriorate. This is where Toru comes to his own and shows the determination and mettle to help his friend out. It’s backbreaking work carrying a person and very tiring for him but he will not give up on Goro.

Kenichi Matsuyama is fantastic as Toru, the former city broker who initially thinks he’s made a mistake on taking on the mountain hut business but over time he becomes more confident as the owner. Aoi Yu is charming and sweet as Toru’s love interest and co-worker Ai Takazawa who makes all the visitors to the hut very much welcome with her delicious hot food. It’s nice to see that Toru and Ai do get close over the course of the movie which gives the viewers the happy ending it deserves. Etsushi Toyokawa is also great as the kind fatherly figure Goro who dispenses his wisdom to his 2 younger colleagues.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. Even though the movie will feel slow to many viewers, it kept my attention and the great ending was the icing on the cake for myself. It’s such a shame this movie is unlikely to make it’s way onto DVD in the West as it deserves to be seen by more. If you do get a chance to check it out, please do. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Parasyte Part 1 (2014)

parasyte-part-1-poster

One night, parasitic alien organisms come to Earth and begin taking over human beings by entering their bodies through the ears and then controlling their brains. Teenager Shinichi Izumi lives at home with his single mother. One of the parasites make their way to Shinichi’s home but find their usual entrance to the human body blocked as Shinichi has fallen asleep listening to music with earphones. On Shinichi waking up unexpectedly, the alien burrows it’s way inside his right hand instead. He prevents the alien from reaching his brain by applying a tourniquet to his arm. The next day at his room desk a pair of eyes starts appearing on Shinichi’s hand. He tries to extract it but it only angers the alien which totally emerges from the hand to give Shinichi the fright of his life. The alien which is given the name ‘Righty’ by Shinichi appears to the teenager as a small entity embedded in his hand with a single and a mouth that talks. Unlike his fellow aliens which have begun devouring humans for food, ‘Righty’ is content in having a peaceful relationship with his host. Shinichi is content not to interfere with the other aliens until his own mother is taken over and then things become personal for him. The alien threat has even infiltrated his high school with his science teacher now an alien host. But what can one individual do against a hoard of ferocious alien hosts?

This is the big screen adaptation of the manga ‘Kiseiju’. There has literally been dozens of alien invasion movies done over the years but this one even though the plot may sound unoriginal is still unique in its own little way. You may be tempted to think when you see the trailer that this could be a comedy or a children’s movie of some sort but believe me, this is no family friendly tale of a symbiotic relationship between a teenage boy and his alien controlled hand. At times the movie gets extremely dark and there’s plenty of gory scenes throughout. After the initial stealth takeover by the parasites, the first hour of the movie concentrates on Shinichi’s relationship with his new alien host, his would-be girlfriend Satomi and his mother. Shinichi’s right hand can contort and twist at will which shocks the teenager, it almost reminds me of the Stretch Armstrong toy. The alien’s intentions are not made clear to the viewer in this movie though you may have guessed what it is. It’s obvious from the start they’re hostile but for now they are quietly taking over key personnel such as a slimy politician and when the time is right their invasion plans will come to fruition (the filmmakers have made sure this scenario takes place in Part 2). Not all of the aliens though are focused on killing/eating humans. Shinichi’s female biology teacher Ryoko Tamiya, herself an alien host is fascinated by the relationship between the pair and rather than wanting them killed she wants them observed instead although her fellow aliens are not quite so keen on the idea. Ryoko is seen to be pregnant but I’m not entirely sure if it’s one of the aliens that has impregnated her or not?

Parasyte part 1 screenshot

You might think this movie is full of action and gore. Yes, there are some gruesome attacks by the aliens throughout the movie which includes a bloodbath near the end at Shinichi’s school when the corridors are littered with bodies but it does slow down considerably until the last 30 mins. The emotional strand of the story comes down to Shinichi’s decision to kill somebody very close to him. Shinichi is quite happy to be passive about the invasion until his caring mother unfortunately gets taken over when she comes to inspect a wounded alien creature. He realises that the mother he knew no longer exists and it’s heartbreaking to see him going on the offensive and fighting her until he manages to eventually kill the alien host. This act places a heavy burden on Shinichi’s mind and make him even more determined to destroy the aliens. The CG effects showing the true face of the alien hosts emerging is incredible – the head splits open into 4 and what comes out is something with a large mouth filled with eyes and teeth which can consume human beings in one bite. They can also produce various sharp bladed weapons when their heads open wide as well. It is said that some fans of the manga are not best pleased with the changes made as Shinichi’s father is alive and well in the manga but in the movie he’s dead. I think fans have to realise that movie adaptations of a manga, novel, game or anime will always have some minor changes made by the studios.

Shota Sometani excels in his role as Shinichi and it’s nice to see the filmmakers bypassing the usual good looking male idol actors for such a blockbuster movie and casting somebody ‘normal’ instead. So far he has only acted in indie productions so this is probably his biggest movie yet. He gives a very good account of himself in this movie even though he is seen mainly talking to his alien hand and manages to make his character endearing to the viewer. Shota is apparently even learning English quickly in the hope that if Hollywood will eventually film the English version they might cast him for the lead role. That looks highly unlikely but fair play to him for making the effort. His co-star in the reliable Ai Hashimoto is as good as ever as Shinichi’s friend Satomi. I also liked Eri Fukatsu as Ryoko in the movie too. Kazuki Kitamura and Tadanobu Asano are only seen briefly though I guess their parts will be expanded more in the next movie.

It’s plain to see that this movie is more or less a setup to what takes place in Part 2 when the fate of the planet will be up for grabs. The trailer for Part 2 right at the very end of the credits looks amazing and it features Shinichi and Satomi becoming very close together plus the teacher Ryoko gives birth to her child. I’m sad that I will not be in Tokyo to see this movie when it is set to be released in May 2015

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie despite a couple of scenes dragging. It’s got an interesting alien invasion story with a fair few scenes of bloodshed which are rather frightening. The alien CG effects are fantastic. Coupled with great performances from a solid cast, this is one movie you don’t want to miss out on. I can’t wait to see Part 2. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Stand By Me Doraemon (2014)

stand by me doraemon

10 year old bespectacled boy Nobita is visited by Sewashi, one of his great great grandchildren from the 22nd century who emerges from a drawer in Nobita’s desk with a warning that his future will bring him misery if he continues down this path which will ultimately have him marrying Jaiko, the sister of the class bully Gian. Sewashi brings along a robot cat with him, Doraemon whose mission is to change Nobita’s timeline so that his future will be brighter, happier and that he marries the classmate he likes Shizuka instead. Unless Doreaemon can do that, he won’t be able to go back to the 22nd century. Doraemon secretly lives in Nobita’s closet in his bedroom and with plenty of gadgets at his disposal sets about changing Nobita’s life for the better. Will Doraemon succeed in altering Nobita’s timeline?

Doraemon is a Japanese institution and one of the country’s well known manga/anime character. Nobita and Doraemon’s adventures have captured the hearts of the Japanese people for well over 40 years. The blue robot cat from the 22nd century first appeared in a manga in 1969 before getting his own anime series during the 70’s. The latest anime series which is still running on Japanese TV has been on air since 2005. Not only is Doraemon popular in Japan, he also has a huge fanbase in Indonesia. I’m ashamed to say I had no exposure to Doraemon at all until I saw this movie. I’d heard about him and read some titbits about the character but I’ve never seen the manga or the anime. This movie goes back to Doraemon’s origins in visiting Nobita for the first time as well as reliving some of his famous adventures over the years. There were some rumours that this was going to be Doraemon’s final movie but I’m happy to say that it is all hogwash as he will be back on the big screen in 2015. This movie was also released to celebrate Doraemon’s creator Fujiko Fujio’s 80th birthday (even though he passed away back in 1996). The movie first appeared in Japanese cinemas during early August and it is still running even now (well it was in early December when I was in Tokyo anyway). It’s probably the biggest money spinner in Japanese cinemas this year and it wouldn’t surprise me if a third of Japan’s population has seen this movie.

stand by me doraemon screenshot

For those that have been following Doraemon’s recent anime adventures, they will notice a big difference between this movie and his previous adventures. This one has been made into a full CGI 3D movie and it looks stunning. The attention to detail and the vivid colours used make this movie a fantastic visual experience. It may take a little bit of time for his fans to adjust seeing him look differently from his 2D self but it’s well worth it in my opinion! It makes a huge difference in how fans see all the characters they love and I really hope that all of Doraemon’s future movies will be made the same way. The movie is basically about Nobita and Doraemon’s strong friendship, how they help each other out and how the young lad begins to grow as a stronger person thanks to his new friend. He’s initially a bit of a wimp and even though Doraemon’s gadgets which he can produce from a pouch near his stomach such as an invisibility cloak gets him out of trouble they have their limitations as well. Nobita’s plans don’t always work out so he has to overcome those challenges himself. There is confusion for some fans who assume that Doraemon is not allowed to go to the future because of his programming but that isn’t the case. He may not be allowed to go back to the 22nd century but there’s nothing to say he can’t go into the near future which he does with Nobita through the aid of a magic door. The movie has got a straight forward and easy story that everybody can follow. For parents of young children and adults going to see this movie, they can wallow in nostalgia and identify with Nobita’s plight because they themselves will have gone through the same passage of growing up. You do care for the characters and want Nobita and Shizuka to fall in love with each other even though there are some obstacles in the way such as a young male classmate of Nobita’s that seems to make Shizuka’s heart all a flutter. You begin to wonder if Nobita will ever get together with her. Doraemon himself is such an adorable and mischievous character. The 3D effects capture his expressions so well especially the big wide grin on his face. I can understand why the Japanese people love him so much. There are plenty of laughs to be had but also some tears near the end when Nobita has to say goodbye to Doraemon or does he…………….

This is a fun, entertaining but also a touching family movie. It’s a brilliant introduction for those that have yet to see any of Doraemon’s adventures so far. The animation is amazing and there’s a very nice soundtrack accompanying the movie too. The wonderful story has it all from drama, humour, tears and happiness. Be sure to watch the end credits as there are outtakes of the movie which are amusing (it was a novel way by the animators of making sure that punters stayed in their seats till the very end of the movie!) Well worth checking out and it comes highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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A number of students are forced to play a number of deadly games at their school in which their lives are put on the line. The first challenge involves them playing ‘statues’ against a talking Daruma doll. Somebody has to hit the button on the doll’s back to stop a clock which is counting down to zero but it isn’t easy to do because if the doll catches a pupil moving when it turns around to face them their heads explode in a burst of blood and red marbles spill out of every orifice they have. A lone survivor, a teenage boy named Shun Takahata survives the massacre but his nightmare is only beginning. Out in the hallway, he meets a girl he likes called Ichika. Both make their way to the school gymnasium where they see many pupils have dressed up in mouse costumes. All of a sudden, the wooden floor opens up to reveal a giant mechanical talking beckoning cat (maneki-neko) with a spring attached head. The cat attacks and devours those dressed in mouse costumes. Again there is a countdown clock going down to zero and this time the only way to stop the clock is to shoot a basketball shaped bell through a hoop on the cat’s neck. Other challenges include singing kakeshi dolls and Shun facing off against an evil classmate. Will anybody be able to survive the ordeal and why have the students been chosen to play these games?

This was the first movie I watched after coming to Japan in November. With director Takashi Miike you’ve come to expect the unexpected from him and this movie is probably the craziest one he’s ever done. With a bigger budget at his disposal and loads of CG effects, Miike lets his creative juices flow and he doesn’t disappoint. The movie has been adapted from a popular manga. From the get go of the movie, viewers are immersed into a bloodbath situation inside a classroom in which heads explode in a fountain of crimson and it really does hook you in. The violence on show might be gory as hell but it is done in such a cartoonish way that you can’t really take any of it seriously and Miike is certainly having fun with this story. What’s interesting about the surreal childhood playground games that take place is all of them involve something associated with Japanese culture. It’s amusing to see these traditional cultural icons become instruments of death. The maneki-neko has to be the most insane creation I’ve seen in a Japanese movie for a while. The story moves from one lethal game to the next with plenty of long talking sequences inbetween and part of the fun in watching the movie is seeing what Miike will come up with in the next game. A subplot has a massive floating white cube hovering above Tokyo Tower with the games being broadcasted on screens for the general public to see. The school pupils have been chosen as God’s Children to test their survival skills in order to prove that God exists which sparks off street riots and unrest. Do they eventually find that there is a God out there? Well a large wooden evil polar bear and a talking fish are represented as Japanese Gods in the movie.

As the gods will screenshot

The story’s protagonist Shun is your typical good looking Japanese teen hero. He may be responsible for putting his classmates through their ordeal due to becoming bored and wishing for the uninteresting world he lives in to be destroyed. The game masters are quick to give Shun a polar opposite of himself in a classmate Takeru that likes to inflict pain on his peers and during the climax both clash in a fight to the death. Although it might look on the surface that an alien force could be behind everything at the school, there’s a hint that human hands could be the mastermind of it all as it shows a reclusive computer geek in a room controlling things. At two hours long, it’s inevitable that the movie begins to run out of steam during the 2nd hour and although the movie on the whole is interesting, nothing can top the opening spectacle in my opinion. If there’s a social commentary about religion by Miike in the movie, it’s been lost on me due to not understanding Japanese properly. That’s the problem with watching a foreign movie RAW with no subtitles. In order to fully enjoy this movie, I will just have to wait until a subtitled DVD version comes out.

Overall, even though this movie is great to watch, it’s certainly not one of Miike’s best. I enjoyed it up to a point. There was just too much talking going on in some sections for my liking. I did find the set-pieces very inventive and unique but the story did become tiresome as the movie wore on. I felt Miike was trying to lengthen the movie too much. A good 20-25 mins needed to be cut for the pacing to be better. It’s definitely worth a watch though for Miike fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Carmen_Falls_in_Love

Carmen Falls In Love
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Doomsday party

Doomsday Party
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Those_Merry_Souls_movie_poster_1985

Those Merry Souls
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Oki’s Movie
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

the day he arrives

The Day He Arrives
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

FatalTermination

Fatal Termination
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Bloody Territories

Bloody Territories
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The-Victim

The Victim
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

a-kid-from-tibet

A Kid From Tibet
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Tough Beauty

Tough Beauty And The Sloppy Slop
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Crystal Fortune Run

Crystal Fortune Run
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

FinalYamatoposter

Final Yamato
Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

AngelEnforcers

Angel Enforcers
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

City of darkness

City Of Darkness
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Angel of vengeance

Angel Of Vengeance
Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Hello All

I’m back from my trip to Tokyo and I hope to post reviews on all the new movies (9 in all) I saw during my time there. I’ll try my best to start putting up a couple by the end of next week if I can manage to go through the pile of work that’s waiting for me on Monday.

What you can look forward to seeing being reviewed are these movies:

Parasyte Part 1

As The God’s Will

Pale Moon

Attack On Titan: Crimson Arrows

Hibi Rock

Doraemon: Stand By Me

Fuku-chan of Fuku Fuku Flats

Climbing Into Spring

Snow On The Blades

Please bear with me until I get things in order then I’ll post reguarly every Friday as before.

Thanks

 

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