Fine, Totally Fine 全然大丈夫 (2008)

Fine, Totally Fine Review Banner

Fine, Totally Fine                                       Zenzen Daijobu Poster

Romaji: Zenzen Daijobu

Japanese: 全然大丈夫

Release Date: 26th February 2008 (Japan),

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Yosuke Fujita

Writer: Yosuke Fujita

Starring: YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoshino Kimura, Yoshinori Okada, Noriko Eguchi, Naoki Tanaka, Keizo Kanie, Shima Ise, Kitaro

For a title Fine, Totally Fine sounds like damning with faint praise but don’t be fooled because the film is a relaxing and charming tale of people forced to grow that will have you recognising much of yourself in the characters and feeling refreshed.

Teruo (Arakawa) lives at home with his heart-sick used bookstore owner father named Eitaro (Kanie). Teruo is nearing his 30th birthday and when not working as a part time gardener he spends his days aimlessly dreams of building a haunted house which he hopes will be able to “scare people to death” and secure him riches. His childhood friend Hisanobu (Okada) may have a respectable job as a hospital administrator but he still helps Teruo in his childish schemes, however his enthusiasm is waning since he feels his life is stuck in a rut. He is not the only one as Eitaro ups and leaves Tokyo so he can roam the country which leaves Teruo and his sister stunned. Enter clumsy artist Akari (Kimura). She has a love for fish paste sausages and painting but she also has a ‘negative aura’ which results in self-injury. When she attends a job interview at the hospital Hisanobu works at he falls in love with her and when her accident-prone nature forces her to quit Hisanobu snags her a job at Teruo’s bookstore while trying to channel Akari’s artistic talents. Unfortunately for Hisanobu, Teruo falls for Akari, regarding her as his future wife and looking for a way to woo her but life is not that simple.

Yosuke Fujita’s is a writer and theatre director and this is his movie debut. The time spent on stage and script seems to have armed him perfectly for his debut film because the insights into human nature are sharp and delivered amid moments of gentle but highly amusing humour.

Arakawa as Teruo in Fine, Totally Fine Continue reading “Fine, Totally Fine 全然大丈夫 (2008)”

Crime or Punishment?!? 罪とか罰とか (2009)

Crime or Punishment - Guilty Banner

Crime or Punishment?!?                                         Crime or Punishment Movie Poster

Romaji: Tsumi Toka Batsu Toka

Japanese: 罪とか罰とか

Release Date: 28th February 2009 (Japan),

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Keralino Sandorovich

Writer: Keralino Sandorovich

Starring: Riko Narumi, Kento Nagayama Sakura Ando, Inuko Inuyama, Koji Ookuram Megumi Okina, Eriko Sato, Kumiko Aso, Yasunori Danta

The film starts with the quote:

“It must be some mistake, that’s the only hope” (from Franz Kafka’s The Trial)

Kafka? Don’t worry, Crime or Punishment?!? is not a grim existentialist tale but an absurd and surreal comedy.

The name of the writer-director is Keralino Sandorovich. It might sound Russian but he’s actually a Japanese comedian/theatre director. Crime or Punishment!?! is his third feature film and it carries a simple message: stop relying on others and assert yourself. The film delivers this message in an existential candy-coloured adventure which is filled with accidents, murder, bizarre coincidences and surreal incongruities.

Continue reading “Crime or Punishment?!? 罪とか罰とか (2009)”

Cannes 2012 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate Press Reviews and Interviews

Cannes-chanWith the 65th Cannes Film Festival closing today I think it would be fair to say that based Rin Takanashi on the Red Carpeton critical reception Michael Haneke’s Amour is going to take the Palme d’Or (The Paperboy sounds so outrageous I want to see it.). How the other awards shake out is another question but I hope best actress goes to the beautiful Rin Takanashi! For a better overview of the awards handed out at the festival head over to Bonjour Tristesse. Anyway critical reception for the third and final feature-length Japanese  film has comes in and it is mixed much like Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love which leaves Ai to Makoto as the only Japanese film to receive mostly positive reviews.


Day 10: 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate – Un Certain Regard

 1125 The Day He Chose His Own Fate

Director: Koji Wakamatsu, Writer: Masayuki Kakegawa, Starring: Arata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tasuku Nagaoka, Takatsugu Iwama

Koji WakamatsuProlific veteran director Koji Wakamatsu tackled the violent and tough story of an extreme far left group during the turmoil of 1960’s Japan in the award winning United Red Army and now he is tackling a controversial figure on the right in the shape of Yukio Mishima, a writer, critic, and nationalist who espoused traditional values based on the Bushido code. He and his militia attempted to launch a coup d’Etat by taking a military commander hostage.

He is at Cannes with his film where he took part in a Q&A which had some interesting quotes:

What does Un Certain Regard mean to you?
It is an honour for me to be selected at “Un Certain Regard” since making film means how director express own “regard”.

Why is cinema essential to you?
Film making is my essential weapon for expression.

What about that critical reception?

“11/25: The Day He Chose His Own Fate is not as rigorous a work as it should be, but it is a complex and absorbing re-interpretation of the Mishima legend.” Simon Abrams (indiewire)

“Flat as a TV movie, Wakamatsu goes earnest with biopic, sans Schrader’s arty flamboyance & RED ARMY’s ferocious autocannibalism” Budd Wilkins (Slant Magazine)

After watching the trailer the film seemed like heavy going. Wakamatsu’s latest movie gets released in Japan next month.

Girls for Keeps, Kotsutsubo, My House, Still Human Beings Trailers and Japanese box-office Charts

The Cannes film festival is winding down and critical responses have been mixed for Japanese films. Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film, Like Someone in Love, has had prLike Someone in Love Posteraise for the performances of the actors (particularly the gorgeous Rin Takanashi) but the story with its ambiguous ending has upset many. Thankfully Takashi Miike rescued proceedings with Ai to Makoto. Also flying the flag for Japan was Koji Wakamatsu with his Mishima biopic which has garnered a good review (more on that tomorrow).  I also had the pleasure of seeing the Olympic Flame pass by and managed to get a picture of the young lady carrying it. And all of the sponsors. And the Metropolitan Police Escort.

What is dominating the Japanese movie box-office charts?

  1.  Dark Shadows
  2.  Thermae Romae
  3.  Sadako 3D
  4.  Space Brothers
  5.  Detective Conan: The Mystery of the Eleventh Striker

Tim Burton storms to the top of the charts of the charts as the newest entry at number one while familiar franchise entries make up the rest of the top ten. Thermae Romae is doing excellent business as it remains in the top three  for the fourth week in a row. Enough of that… what Japanese films get released today?

Girls for Keeps                                             Girls for Keeps Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ガールGaru

Release Date: 26th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa

Writer: Hideo Okuda (Novel)  

Starring: Kumiko Aso, Karina, Yuka Itaya, Rei Dan, Rosa Kato, Michiko Kichise, Osamu Mukai, Yusuke Kamiji, Jun Kaname, Kento Hayashi, Eriko Hatsune, Mei Kurokawa, Kenichi Yajima

Based on the 2006 anthology novel Girl, the movie adapts a number of short stories that follow women in their romantic lives and so on. Obviously I’m not the target audience but I recognise a lot of the names involved: Kumiko Aso (Pulse), Yuka Itaya (Suvive Style 5+, Apartment 1303). Eriko Hatsune (Norwegian Wood, Spiral) head the list of beautiful ladies while the handsome men include Kento Hayashi (Arakawa Under the Bridge), Jun Kaname (Casshern), and Kenichi Yajia (Sonatine, Kamikaze Taxi).


Continue reading “Girls for Keeps, Kotsutsubo, My House, Still Human Beings Trailers and Japanese box-office Charts”

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along Part 5

It is the final part of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along and as we prepare to bid farewell to Locke and Jean I think I know what lures sailors to their doom in the Parlour Passage – not rebel bondsmagi but sexy mermaids.

Anyway I have had another great time conversing with book bloggers and I would like to thank the #lynchmob leader Little Red Reviewer for organising the whole thing. This week’s questions come from Lynn who told me that mermaids are dangerous last week which saved my life on a recent coastal walk. Anyway these readalong have been a lot of fun thanks to the exciting books and the book bloggers who offer up a variety of weird and wonderful opinions.

1.       Oh my god, such a lot going on I thought the showdown between the Poison Orchid and the Sovereign was brilliantly written and they were holding their own until Utgar and his nasty device turned up.  Well a lot of you had kind of predicted it, and I suppose we’d been let off too easy so far in terms of deaths of well-liked characters  – but come on,  did you expect something like that?  And how on earth will Jean ever recover?

Talk about nerve wracking battle – kids in danger, ship could sink while there is a sea-monster swimming around, half the crew dead, and evil birds flapping about pecking eyes out. I did not see the situation with Utgar coming up – his alchemical  device was really evil and ingenious. I honestly thought that the situation might have evolved differently. I thought Jean might save the kids and the whole crew would surrender to Rodanov and get sent to prison. When Ezri sacrificed herself it was horrific. Like others I felt that Ezri and Drakasha were marked for death because they occupied a similar position to Nazca – strong characters who have a major influence on the GB’s. Will Jean recover? Not entirely. It will haunt him. Perhaps make him more reckless and nihilistic.

Continue reading “Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along Part 5”

Black Dawn (Gaiji Keisatsu) Movie Trailer

Black Dawn                                                          Black Dawn Gaiji Keisatsu Movie Poster

Japanese Title: Gaiji Keisatsu

Release Date: 02nd June 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Kentaro Horikirzono

Writer: N/A

Starring: Atsuro Watabe, Machiko Ono, Kim Kang-Woo, Yoko Maki, Min Tanaka, Ryo Ishibashi

I have one particular blind side when it comes to Japanese movies – adaptations of TV shows. Despite a half-hearted attempt at watching the live-action Arakawa Under the Bridge I have not really given much though to other television shows. If I’m going to understand the Japanese movie industry better then I must investigate Japanese television beyond anime. I already know what my first two shows will be: Keizoku and Keizoku 2: SPEC. The reason I mention this now is because today’s trailer is based on the TV series: Anti-Terrorism Investigators. In the cast are Atsuro Watabe who was the in Sion Sono’s magnificent Love Exposure and Ryo Ishibashi who appeared in Audition and The Grudge.

When Japan is hit by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami it falls into chaos. The disaster coincides with news from the CIA that uranium is being smuggled in Japan. Kenji Sumimoto (Watabe) is part of the foreign affairs division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. A detective with the willingness to bend the rule, he finds himself handed a hot case when sensitive documents and enriched uranium go missing following the disaster. His mission is to uncover the truth of the smuggling operation which stretches to the Korean peninsula. His one lead is Kaori Okuda (Maki), the wife of a businessman thought to be a spy. He will soon be joined by an undercover Korean policeman named Ahn Min-Chul (Kang-Woo) in what will become an explosive adventure.

Cannes 2012 Ai to Makoto (The Legend of Love and Sincerity) Press Reviews

Cannes-chanWe’re halfway through the 65th Cannes Film Festival and the first two of three Japanese films at the festival have been screened with one left to go (for more information on the Japanese films screening check out my preview post and for a better overview of the festival check in with Bonjour Tristesse). So far Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love has failed to set the world on fire as reviews published soon after its first screening revealed. So it was left to the legendary Takashi Miike to come to the rescue with Ai to Makoto as part of the Midnight Screenings selection.

Day 6 – Ai to Makoto (Midnight Screening)

 Ai to Makoto Film Clip

Director: Takashi Miike, Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga), Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono

Ai to Makoto Film FestivalLast year Takashi Miike was at Cannes with his 3D remake of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai which was met with a lukewarm critical reception. This year Miike is not attending the festival but his latest film is present and was screened last night. Ai to Makoto is an adaptation of Ikki Kajiwara’s romance manga and stars Emi Takei (Ace Attorney), Takumi Saito (13 Assassins), Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Sakura Ando (Love Exposure). Unfortunately reviews for this are thin on the ground. According to the one review I could find from Filmoria the crowd at the screening was rather sparse:

“Screened as a midnight movie here in Cannes, to say the Grand Théâtre Lumière was full would be a terrible lie – in fact it has been the quietest and most relaxed screening I’ve attended thus far…”

I suppose slow-cinema and Hollywood fare have sucked the energy out of those attending Cannes while those few who did watch the film are too busy to post anything yet. I’ll keep checking back and will add reviews as they pop up for this one because this film looks really great. Anyway the review gave a glowing write-up of Ai to Makoto:

Using his signature directorial flair, Miike captures a world with neon-soaked nights and magnolia-streamed days – the visual aesthetics of Ai To Makoto are breathtaking in their stark and beautiful contrasts. At times the film feels as urban and dangerous as Audition, whilst at points it’s as delicate and hopelessly gorgeous as, say, a live-action Studio Ghibli feature. Chris Haydon (Filmoria)

UPDATE: More reviews added. The two critics are divided on the performance of Satoshi Tsumabuki but love Emi Takei’s performance.

The young actors fill their tongue-in-cheek roles with earnest abandon. Satoshi Tsumabuki(Waterboys, Villain) is particularly effective as the deeply scarred outsider Makoto. Deborah Young (Hollywood Reporter)

This adaptation of a 1973 manga that spawned the Nipponese genre of jun-ai (pure love) arguably reps the protean helmer’s first full-blown romance; not surprisingly, it ends up a scornful lampoon of pulpy sentimentality as Miike upstages the genre’s conventions with riotous musical numbers and schlocky violence. Maggie Lee (Variety)

Based on these reviews alone I think this would be my film of the festival but then I am biased  because I really love Japanese films.

Cannes 2012 Like Someone in Love Reviews and Press Conference

Cannes-chanThe 65th Cannes Film Festival is in full swing and reviews and news are coming out fast (check Bonjour Tristesse for more coverage  – I’m going to copy his way of setting out the information here). We are midway through the festival and Japanese films get their premieres today with Like Someone in Love screening early in the day in competition and Ai to Makoto being screened later at midnight as part of the Midnight Screenings. First up is Like Somone in Love.


Day 6 – Like Someone in Love (In Competition)

 Like Someone in Love Poster

Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Writer: Abbas Kiarostami, Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase

Like Someone in Love is Abbas Kiarostami’s follow-up to Certified Copy. It is a French/Japanese co-production and it is the only Japanese language film In Competition at Cannes. It stars Rin Takanashi (Goth – Love of Death), television and theatre actor Tadashi Okuno, Denden (Cold Fish, Himizu) and Ryo Kase (SPEC: The Movie).

In Cannes were a radiant looking Rin Takanashi, Okuno, Kase and Kiarostami and although the press conference got off to a bumpy start it was rather interesting (although not as interesting as an earlier interview, some answers from which I have included). As expected the majority of questions were directed at Kiarostami until a plucky Japanese journalist appeared at the end and asked Okuno what it was like working with Kiarostami. Amusingly it was revealed that that Okuno doesn’t have a driving licence and yet he had to perform driving scenes. Anyway, quotes here:

Kiarostami’s relation to Japanese cinema: Kiarostami: “… When I started getting interested in films I used to go to the film library in Tehran and I used to watch a lot of Ozu’s films… Once I had become a director I realised I had been heavily influenced by Japanese films…”

On watching recent Japanese films: Kiarostami: “I couldn’t perceive Japanese soul and emotion. I perceived a tremendous influence of Hollywood film and these films were a poor copy. In terms of being impacted by contemporary Japanese films, no I wasn’t influenced… Maybe I didn’t watch the right contemporary Japanese films.”

On Ella Fitzgerald’s song and how much of an influence is Jazz: Kiarostami: “I don’t think that the importance of the music is paramount in the film… Music doesn’t play that major part. We are a generation that was marked by Jazz. The actors and producers were all familiar with Like Someone in Love.”

Like Someone in Love Rin Takanashi 2

Kariostami on the ending: I felt that this can’t be the end of the film, there’s something unfinisned about it but we’ll see about it later. Time went by, more than six months elapsed but I didn’t find the end. When I sent this in for translation and I sent it to the producers I expected the producers to say your film doesn’t have an ending but then I realised that my film doesn’t have a beginning… and I realised that’s what happens in real life. No tale has a real beginning or ending.

Continue reading “Cannes 2012 Like Someone in Love Reviews and Press Conference”


Kotsutsubo                                                         Kotsutsubo Poster

Release Date: 26th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Jiro Nagae

Writer:  Yoshimasa Akamatsu (screenplay), Yusuke Yamada (short story)

Starring: Natsumi Matsubara, Ai Shinozaki, Rurika Yokoyama, Aika Ohta, Ai Hashimoto, Kazuhiko Kanayama, Mamoru Tsubouchi

I had never heard of the author Yusuke Yamada until I watched Oyayubi Sagashi. I didn’t really like that one but I saw his stories were getting adapted rather frequently (X-Game 2 which was recently released in cinemas is based on one of his stories). Anyway Kotsutsubo is based on another of his works and it is directed by Jiro Nagae and stars a number of J-pop idols. Nagae is developing a habit of putting idols in horror settings after his last film, Kokkuri-san Gekijuoban, starred Mariya Suzuki from AKB48. This film stars four different idols from four different groups. Natsumi Matsubara (AKB48), Rina Miyazaki (Super GiRlS), Rurika Yokoyama (Idoling!!!), and Ai Shinozaki (AeLL) – be very careful when you type Ai Shinozaki into YouTube. It looks awful. Not even the prospect of seeing idols bumped off gets me interested in this. Norio Tsuruta tends to do these things better.

Eri (Matsubara) is a high school student who is anonymous unlike her friend Mitsuko (Yokoyama) who is the target of amorous advances from their teacher, Ichida (Tsubouchi). Eri comes across a novel way to protect Mitsuko: find a cursed funerary urn that contains ashes reputed to cause death and give said ashes to teacher.

Rainbow-Colored Fireflies: The Eternal Summer Vacation Trailer, Japanese Movie Box Office Charts

This week I posted some trailers for Another, and Helter Skelter and went to my final Japanese class until September – silly film related story at the bottom of this post. Anyway… The films released last week looked awesome soooo…

What is happening in the Japanese movie box office charts?

  1. Thermae Romae
  2.  Sadako 3D
  3.  Space Brothers
  4.  Detective Conan: The Mystery of the Eleventh Striker
  5.  Larry Crowne

Sadako 3D is not number 1. I am genuinely surprised. Japan must really need a comedy because Thermae Romae is at number 1 for a third week in a row with Sadako 3D entering at number 2. While I was not convinced about the latest Ringu film’s ability to scare I thought it would “dominate the Japanese charts for the next few weeks” because Sadako is such an icon and the film looked like fun. The only other new entry is Larry Crowne which has entered at number 5 which Curiosity Kitty recently reviewed and pretty much dismissed. Unfortunately Rent a Cat didn’t chart in the top ten. What’s released today?

Rainbow-Coloured Fireflies – The Eternal Summer Vacation

Japanese Title: Niji-Iro Hotaru: Eien no Natsu YasumiNiji-iro Hotaru Eien no Natsu Yasumi Poster

Release Date: 19th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Konosuke Uda

Writer: Kei Kunii (Script), Masayuki Kawaguchi (manga)  

Starring: Akashi Takei, Ayumi Kimura, Kairo Nitta, Taro Ishida, Takahiro Sakurai, Kazuya Nakai, Chikao Otsuka

Rainbow-Colored Fireflies: The Eternal Summer Vacation (Niji-iro Hotaru Eien no Natsu Yasumi) is released today by Toei Animation. The film is based on Masayuki Kawaguchi’s 2007 novel of the same name. It is directed by Konosuke Uda who helmed Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy and the recent TV anime Ginga e Kickoff!!. Other big names involved include Hisashi Mori who has worked on classic movies The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Tokyo Godfathers. Takaaki Yamashita (Summer Wars) is adding visual art, and Seiki Tamura (K-ON!, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) is performing duties as art director. Yumi Matsutōya, the artist responsible for the themes to the classic Ghibli movie Kiki’s Delivery Service is providing the theme song for this film while her husband provides music.


The story follows a young boy named Yuuta, who lost his father in a car accident a year ago. One day, all alone, he goes to catch a beetle at a dam deep in the mountains he used to visit with his father. On his journey he meets a strange old man and it starts raining. Yuuta slips, falls off a bridge and passes out. When he wakes up he finds himself in a village that should be under water but he has travelled back 30 years in the past. With children named Saeko and Kenjo he experiences summer activities like collecting fireworks, catching a rare beetle and discovering his first love. These experiences will be part of his precious summer memories.

Continue reading “Rainbow-Colored Fireflies: The Eternal Summer Vacation Trailer, Japanese Movie Box Office Charts”