Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Ultraman Saga (2012)

Ultraman Saga opens with a powerful apocalyptic vision of Tokyo, buildings destroyed and the city seemingly devoid of life. We are soon introduced to the Earth Defense Force (EDF), Team U. They and a group of young children and the last survivors on planet Earth after the world was invaded by the evil Alien Bat, the rest of the human population having been abducted. In an alternate universe in which he defeated Ultraman Belial in the previous movie (Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial), Ultraman Zero receives a distress call and proceeds into the multiverse and finds our universe. He goes towards the Earth in aid, and from yet another universe, that from which Ultraman Dyna disappeared through a black hole 15 years ago, a young defense team pilot named Taiga is trapped in the ship of an invading alien force, who quickly disappear to another dimension. Taiga soon finds himself in another world, in the apocalyptic version of Tokyo, as Ultraman Zero battles a huge fleet of alien spaceships. As Taiga notices a crashing ship heading straight towards a young boy, he pilots his ship directly into its path in an act of self-sacrifice. Witnessing his brave actions, Ultraman Zero rescues Taiga and joins with him. Taiga soon encounters Ultraman Cosmos and his human host Musashi, along with Team U and the children. He and Musashi learn that Ultraman Dyna and his human host Asuka had once stayed with the team and protected them, but that was lost in battle with the alien Zetton. It is now up to Taiga and Musashi to protect the survivors. However, Taiga is not so happy to be joined with Ultraman Zero, and has no intention of fighting…

Despite the Ultraman movies being targeted primarily for kids, part of the strength of Ultraman has always been the way it also manages to appeal for adults as well. I’ve watched several of the movies they’ve made since 2000 and they’ve been very good but it seems that something has gone wrong with this one as I just didn’t enjoy it that much. It’s like they’ve tinkered with the formula that made the previous movies so good and what you get here leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The plot I thought was going to be fairly interesting due to the sombre beginning with Tokyo in ruins but this didn’t go anywhere in the end. A bonus for me in initially watching this movie was the addition of several members of my favourite idol group AKB48 in the cast. There are 7 of them in total which includes my oshimen Ayaka Umeda as Misato. Apart from Sayako Akimoto who plays Team U leader Anna, the others don’t get to do that much. The studio obviously thought that they could cash in on the popularity of the group and attract their fans to watch the movie. One of the biggest problems I found was there’s far too many comedic moments which I didn’t find funny at all and were poorly executed. Kids might find it amusing but anybody else will just roll their eyes. I felt that some of the comedy was so embarassing. I didn’t feel any suspense or excitement in the action scenes, I was like “is that it?’. The movie came across as dull and just going through the motions. I wasn’t too keen on the overuse of CG effects either.

Daigo in the role of Taiga/Ultraman Zero is one of the biggest disappointments acting wise in the movie. His performance is cringeworthingly bad and OTT. It’s hard at times to know if the character of Taiga is being serious or funny. Adult fans will find it hard to connect to the character and consequently will not really give a toss about him – I didn’t anyway! Thankfully Takeshi Tsurno as Ultraman Dyna even though he doesn’t appear for nearly 2/3 of the movie gives probably the best performance out of everybody involved which says a lot about the bad acting you’ll encounter. There’s too many kids who are just there in the background of the movie – I’m not sure if their purpose is just to be seen to look happy or sad in some scenes. Makes you wonder why they’re in the movie at all. Only one of them is given a substantial role and I wouldn’t say he’s that great either. I would have liked to have seen more of Ayaka Umeda but alas she’s only seen fleetingly in some scenes.

All in all, not a great movie for Ultraman fans though I’m sure kids will enjoy it. It was lackluster with terrible acting from some members of the cast. I do hope they’ll be an improvement with the next Ultraman movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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aka Kitaro and The Millennium Curse

Young women disappear one after another in drizzling rain. They all hear the cursed chanting of the Cage Song before they vanish into thin air. Kitaro and his friends investigate these mysterious cases when they meet Kaede Hiramoto, a high school girl who finds herself involved in this mystery. She has been cursed and this has caused scales to appear on her hand. With the help from the librarian of Yokai Library, they find out that the curse was caused by an evil Yokai that was released from 1,000 years of sealing. To save Kaede, they are to gather the 5 ancient musical instruments and perform the ritual to seal the evil Yokai again, which has to be done within 48 hours! In search for the ancient instruments, Kitaro and his friends depart for three different points that the ancient map indicates. Kitaro & Kaede head to “sky”, the sacred mountain in Hakone, Cat-girl and Ratman head to “land”, Mt. Takao, and Sand Witch and Old Cry Baby head to the “ocean” off the coast of Miura peninsula. But the evil Nurarihyon is determined to stop them. Will Kitaro be able to stop the curse, protect Kaede and the human beings from the evil Yokai, and also, overcome his destiny?

With the success of the first Gegege no Kitaro movie, the studio behind the live action project swiftly filmed this sequel while interest was still high. The main cast from the first all appear in this one too. The storyline is better and the budget is significantly bigger. Even though you could watch this movie without having watched the first, it will diminish your enjoyment slightly if you’re not familiar with the yokai characters you see though there is a small flashback about Kitaro’s origins right at the beginning of the story. The pace of the movie is a bit slow at first but it does quicken though I will say that with the running time (2 hours) it’s about 20 mins too long. Don’t get me wrong, the story doesn’t drag or anything and it never gets boring but the movie would have flowed better. The CG effects are pretty good with the main highlight near the end when a massive giant skeleton incarnated from thousands of dead souls comes to life and threatens to attack a coastal town before Kitaro comes to the rescue. The action sequences are competently done with a dynamic fight scene between Kitaro and Yasha (a foreign yokai from a far away land who hypnotises victims with his music). There’s plenty of excitement on display.

Eiji Wentz shines once again as the half human/half yokai main character Kitaro though I’ve always enjoyed watching the supporting cast more than him. Kii Kitano is the young schoolgirl Kaede and she pulls in a fine and sympathetic performance. She looks so fresh faced and this movie came out just as her popularity was increasing. These days she’s not just an actress on the TV and in the movies but a pop star as well. I confess to having a soft spot for Rena Tanaka who plays Cat-Girl so I liked all the scenes she was in very much. For somebody that was 28 years old at the time of filming she looks incredibly young so perhaps that’s why she was chosen to play a teenage character. The rest of the supporting cast (Kitaro’s eyeball father, Ittan Momen (a piece of white long cloth that can fly like a magic carpet) and Nurikabe (I can’t really describe what he is except maybe he looks like the NHK TV channel mascot Domo but Nurikabe is grey, taller and has no mouth and teeth!) have a part to play in pushing the plot along and kids will laugh watching the antics of Ratman and his farting hijinks.

Overall, this movie is a great family/kids movie and it will entertain them no end. There’s a couple of scary scenes which could frighten them but nothing too bad. Quite an enjoyable movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Usagi Drop (2011)

27-year-old Daikichi is an unmarried office worker with no girlfriend. When his grandfather dies he attends his funeral and sees a strange little girl there. He finds out that the quiet and sad little girl is his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter and the mother is unknown. The little girl is called Rin and she’s 6 years old. The family debate about who will take over responsibilities to look after her. With nobody willing to do it, Daikichi takes it upon himself to be her guardian. His family are surprised as they believe he has no idea on how it is to become a parent. Even his mother warns him that she made many sacrifices for her 2 children. He soon learns the difficulties in raising a child as a single parent with the usual childhood problems: wetting the bed, not making friends, then making friends, becoming sick, experiencing feelings of abandonment and posing tricky questions about death. As time passes by, little Rin begins feeling more and more comfortable being around him, but still must face the loss of her father.

Based on the manga of the same name, this is a lovely heartwarming tale about a young man taking up the responsibilities of parenthood and finding out that it’s not as easy as it looks but even through the hardship he encounters in raising young Rin he wouldn’t have it any other way. We witness the likeable Daikichi change from being a work intensive person and even changing job so that he can focus his attention solely on raising Rin. It shows the human condition and our ability to nurture in the absolute best and worst of scenarios. It also shows the emotional and physical toll in raising a child especially in a work-heavy society such as Japan. With this kind of movie you might expect sentimentality or maybe some saccharine sweet moments but director Hiroyuki Tanaka keeps them to a minimum. Even when there’s a little bit of drama near the climax as Rin and her nursery school friend Koki run away to visit Koki’s fathers grave in a cemetery and come across a creepy looking young man, it is handled competently and any thoughts that the situation is going to become dark is soon forgotten. There’s hardly any conflict in the movie and the romance that seems to be building between Daikichi and a female single parent seems to be snuffed out before the end credits. There’s not a lot of character development either but that didn’t really bother me. Ultimately this movie is about the cute and warm relationship that grows between Daikichi and Rin

I quite like Kenichi Matsuyama as an actor. He has established himself as one of Japan’s brightest actors and he doesn’t fail to impress as Daikichi. He has the knack of being able to tackle a variety of diverse roles. The main star of the movie has to be Mana Ashida who is simply too adorable for words. She’s THE most popular child actress in Japan right now which has seen her star power rocket over the past year. Already a veteran of several movies and dramas, she is fantastic as Rin. Even though she may be a child, Mana’s acting especially in her dramatic scenes is superb. She compliments Kenichi Matsuyama’s acting very well and they make a very believable parent and child. With everybody wanting to have a piece of Mana Ashida at the moment, I just hope she won’t burn out soon.

Usagi Drop is a sweet feel-good movie that will leave you smiling afterwards. It was an absolute delight to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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This movie has been split into 3 parts. The first part named Kamen Rider Decade: Final Chapter follows the series cliffhanger ending at the climax of the Rider War in which Decade accepts his place as the Destroyer of Worlds and Tsubasa is running amok taking on all the other riders in order to claim their cards. Can any of the Riders left alive stop Decade? The second part of the movie Kamen Rider Double: Begins Night investigates the origins of Kamen Rider Double as briefly shown in the opening of the series’ first episode, referred to in the series as the “Begins Night” and how Phillip and Shotarou’s boss Shokichi met his end. The Movie Wars 2010 is the third and final part of the movie, a convergence of the two parts that brings the casts and characters of Decade and Double to finish the fight with Super Shocker together.

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider W Decade Movie War 2010 was a fun movie. Having not watched a lot of Decade or W I wasn’t sure if I’d be lost with the movie’s plot but fear not because it didn’t really matter. The action’s great as usual with these Kamen Rider movies. However it’s a little uncomfortable especially in the first part because it’s largely Rider-on-Rider violence, and the deaths are fairly graphic, with Riders really exploding, chunks and all. You won’t see any blood or anything as this is a kids movie after all but I never thought I’d see the day when Kabuto’s head horn would be blown off! The character of Tsukasa as Decade is a nasty bastard make no mistake about it. He’s ruthless and seems to enjoy destroying the other riders. For him to get killed by Natsumi in her KR Kivaata form was a bit lame in my opinion. He’s gotten past all the other tough riders and it’s left to her to finally make the breakthrough to finish him off. Sorry I didn’t buy it. Just a minor gripe though and a great opening part to the movie.

As for the KR Double segment of the movie, I also really enjoyed this as well. Unlike Decade where I did manage to catch a third of the series, with Double I switched off after 2 episodes as I thought it had too many young characters for my liking. Now after watching this movie I might actually go back and watch the entire series. This part of the movie gives a good backstory to the series which builds up to a satisfying conclusion. It’s the characters that actually make this part work so well even the annoying Akiko which was one of the main reasons I disliked the series so much. We also get to see the appearance of KR Skull who looks cool with his hat. The action is top notch.

So now onto the final part where Decade and W team up to defeat Super Shocker but Decade also brings along a few other friends along to counter the threat – 9 Heisei Riders. This sequence might not have the grand scale feel of All Riders vs Dai Shocker but it’s still amazing to see. The only problem is what semblance of plot and logic you had going in the first 2 parts is thrown out of the window in the final segment. It didn’t really matter because the action is so good you don’t really care about it.

Overall, this movie was fantastic and it was a great way to end Decade’s story although he would appear in other KR movies after this. Definitely recommended for KR fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Superkid (2006)

A quirky children’s movie from Hong Kong about a boy genius escaping from his prison of sorts in a top secret facility and meeting up with his female internet friend as he wants to understand what makes a family happy. Along the way, they get up to all sorts of scrapes as the female boss of the secret facility Chloe sends her goons out to get her top student back.

Hong Kong isn’t that well known for producing kids movies. Although tagged as a kids movie, it does have some scenes that might disturb them involving hypodermic needles and even referencing to a notorious HK Cat III horror! Thankfully the majority of the movie is light stuff with some slapstick comedy and lessons to be learned in life aimed squarely at the kids. The leading characters are OK, at least they’re not annoying. It’s a good movie to watch on a rainy afternoon.

No trailer for this movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The alien parasite Fog Mother begins its millennial hatching of its brood to infest the planet Earth. However, a sacrifice is required for Fog Mother to fulfill its ritual. Environmental photographer Kouji Segawa’s sister is abducted and he is left for dead by Fog Mother’s underlings, but mysterious beings known as “Earth Spirits” resurrect him into the warrior Kamen Rider J. Fog Mother’s battleship goes on an orgy of destruction. Can Kamen Rider J save the day?

Kamen Rider J isn’t a favorite amongst fans though I don’t understand why as this movie is very enjoyable with an environmental theme running throughout it. Plenty of action with tons of explosions and pyrotechnics going off. There’s even a rip-off from Alien as Fog Mother’s eggs hatch with ‘face hugger’ like creatures emerging. But even then the filmmakers weren’t content with copying one franchise, they even copy Ultraman as Kamen Rider J transforms into a 50 foot giant to fight Fog Mother’s battleship.

The story is simple and the action is relentless from the start. The suits and FX are good quality, and the miniatures for the giant bits are cool. Although the running time is just over two episodes’ worth of regular TV, the plot comes across well and the finale is very satisfying. I would certainly recommend this for Kamen Rider fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Hinokio (2005)

A sweet family movie of a young lad called Satoru stuck in a wheelchair after an accident which claims his mother. His father builds an advanced humanoid robot which takes his place in school and he can interact with his classmates through a computer.

This movie touches on issues such as bullying, family, life and death. Konata Hongo is fantastic as Satoru and it’s amazing to see how young Maki Horikita is with her long hair. Loved the end song by Yui.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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