Featured

Ad Astra Dir: James Gray (2019) (USA)

Ad Astra   

アド・アストラAdo Asutora

Release Date: September 18th, 2020

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: James Gray

Writer: James Gray, Ethan Gross (Screenplay),

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, Kimmy Shields, John Finn, LisaGay Hamilton, Bobby Nish, Sean Blakemore, Kimberly Elise,

Website IMDB

Following on from his sure-footed performance as a cocksure stunt-double in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Brad Pitt takes the lead in another of 2019’s biggest films but dials down the flashiness to portray an ace astronaut who must confront a hostile environment and emotional states as he goes to the far edge of the Solar System in search of his father to stop a civilisation-ending disaster.

Pitt gives an understated performance as Major Roy McBride, a skilled but buttoned-up military man famous for having a pulse that never goes above 80 bpm.

Continue reading “Ad Astra Dir: James Gray (2019) (USA)”

Featured

The Flowers of Evil, From Miyamoto To You, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Chapter I, Horror Channel, Ojo-chan, Yoidore Seiyu Horoki Seibero ‘Shinbashi-hen’ , Shunga and the Japanese, Gekijouban Soshite Ikiru, Cinema Kabuki Tokubetsu-hen Yuugen , Ninkyo Gakuen, Daremonai Heya Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

Chichi no Kekkon Film Image
Chichi no Kekkon Film Image

I hope you are all well!

This week I published my review for Orphan’s Blues and also a look at the Japanese films at this year’s Busan International Film Festival. We’re getting closer to this year’s Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and I’m doing SNS and press stuff.

What is released in cinemas across Japan this weekend?

Continue reading “The Flowers of Evil, From Miyamoto To You, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Chapter I, Horror Channel, Ojo-chan, Yoidore Seiyu Horoki Seibero ‘Shinbashi-hen’ , Shunga and the Japanese, Gekijouban Soshite Ikiru, Cinema Kabuki Tokubetsu-hen Yuugen , Ninkyo Gakuen, Daremonai Heya Japanese Film Trailers”

Featured

Japanese Films at the Busan International Film Festival 2019 (03rd-12th October)

Busan International Film Festival Logo

This year’s Busan International Film Festival is the 24th in the series and it runs from October 03rd to the 12th. This is the first time that I have covered Busan but it has been on the cards for a while because, much like Tokyo and Osaka, it’s a good place to scout out Asian films. There is a great slate of titles from some soon-to-be-released mainstream films to indie movies and there are familiar titles featured at other festivals.

Here are the titles!

The Opening Film is:

The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time    The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time Film Poster

オルジャスの白い馬Oruhasu no Shiroi Uma

Release Date: January 18th, 2020

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Lisa Takeba

Writer: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov (Screenplay),

Starring: Dulyga Akmolda, Madi Minaidarov, Mirai Moriyama, Samal Yeslyamova,

Website IMDB

This road movie/western is a co-production between Kazakhstan/Japan and brought to the big screen via Tokyo New Cinema. It is the work of two directors, Yerlan Nurmukhambetov who won the New Currents Award in Busan International Film Festival 2015, and Lisa Takeba. Yes, that Lisa Takeba with the fierce imagination who made The Pinkie (2014) and Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory (2015). In his first overseas role, Mirai Moriyama (The Drudgery Train) takes one of the lead characters amongst a predominantly Kazakh cast.

It looks like an ambitious and fresh new movie production for Japan as it follows To the Ends of the Earth to new territories and stories. 

Synopsis: We are in the plains of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, a world where horse thieves operate under vast skies and on huge grass plains. A family man is murdered by those thieves as he heads to a town market to sell his horses. This leaves his wife a widow and his children fatherless. The village comes together to help the wife hold the man’s funeral and then the wife decides to return to her family with her children. Then, another man who vanished from her life eight years ago appears and helps the woman move and takes one of the children, the son, under his wing, teaching him how to ride horses. The son of the wife resembles that man. The man and the boy go out on horseback together and track down the horse thieves…

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Busan International Film Festival 2019 (03rd-12th October)”

Featured

Orphan’s Blues オーファンズ・ブルース Dir: Riho Kudo (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

Orphan’s Blues      Orphans Blues Film Poster

オーファンズ・ブルース O-fanzu Buru-su

Release Date: May 31st, 2019

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Riho Kudo

Writer: Riho Kudo (Screenplay),

Starring: Yukino Murakami, Takuro Kamikawa, Nagiko Tsuji, Sion Sasaki, Tamaki Kubose, Yu Yoshii,

Website

Orphan’s Blues was the winner of the Grand Prize at the Pia Film Festival 2018 and was screened at last year’s Nara and Tokyo international film festivals where it earned some critical buzz. It makes its North American debut at Japan Cuts 2019 where its narrative dissonance will either capture imaginations or leave audiences bewildered.

The world seems to be ending. Grim pronouncements about rising temperatures and global warming are made on the radio and it seems to be true considering the sights and sounds of a sun-soaked stifling summer scored by cicadas provide the backdrop for a road trip taken by characters to find a missing man. Initiating this journey is a young woman named Emma (Yukino Murakami). She lives a lonely life working as a bookseller on a dusty roadside patch and she is furiously fighting against her fading memory. It is a battle she wages by creating canopies of post-it notes at home and writing in notebooks. Her present-tense thoughts are scattered around but dominated by her memories of her past in an orphanage with her best friend Yang. When she gets a painting of an elephant from Yang (elephants’ never forget), Emma decides to drop everything and search for him.

Continue reading “Orphan’s Blues オーファンズ・ブルース Dir: Riho Kudo (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]”

Featured

Blind Witness, Little Nights Little Love, Love’s Stoppage Time, My Father the Bride, Hello World, Soushiki no Meijin, Ghost Mask: Scar. Wolf’s Calling, Ko Sekai, Jinsei o shimau jikan (Toki), Sekai Ichi Oishii Mizu Maronpati no Namida, Three Mornings, Ko Sekai, The Tears of Malumpati, Ranhansha Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

The Best if Youth New Generation

I hope you are well!

I ended last week with a review of The Best of Youth and then proceeded to go back into my Japanese film reviews with Samurai Marathon and the Sho Miyake film And Your Bird Can SingI’ve also been manning the SNS of an animation festival and surveying coverage on other sites and it’s going well.

What’s released this weekend?

Continue reading “Blind Witness, Little Nights Little Love, Love’s Stoppage Time, My Father the Bride, Hello World, Soushiki no Meijin, Ghost Mask: Scar. Wolf’s Calling, Ko Sekai, Jinsei o shimau jikan (Toki), Sekai Ichi Oishii Mizu Maronpati no Namida, Three Mornings, Ko Sekai, The Tears of Malumpati, Ranhansha Japanese Film Trailers”

Featured

And Your Bird Can Sing きみの鳥はうたえる Dir: Sho Miyake (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

And Your Bird Can Sing   Kimi no tori wa utaeru Film Poster

きみの鳥はうたえる Kimi no tori wa utaeru

Release Date: September 01st, 2018

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Novel)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Tasuku Emoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Makiko Watanabe, Ai Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

Film adaptations of stories by the writer Yasushi Sato have slowly been made over the last decade with Sketches of Kaitan City (2010) by director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Mipo Oh’s The Light Shines Only There (2014) and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence (2016) joined by Sho Miyake’s And Your Bird Can Sing which premiered at the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival. All are set in the author’s native city of Hakodate in the north of Japan and all centre on the lives of working-class people, showing them with subtle shades of sadness in slow moving dramas struck through with moments of beauty for some uplift. And Your Bird Can Sing is the least dramatic of the bunch but no less engaging.  

The film takes place over one summer in Hakodate and follows an unnamed protagonist (Tasuku Emoto), simply referred to as “Me” in the credits. He is a freeter who works at a bookstore while sharing an apartment with his unemployed friend, Shizuo (Shota Sometani). They pass their time together drinking from dusk until dawn and shambling home in a fit of giggles after some mild caper. “Me” will frequently roll into work with a hangover while Shizuo will potter around during the day in anticipation of the night to come which promises a repeat of their antics. They are young, aimless and content. However, their lethargic days are shaken when “Me” begins dating his co-worker Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi). Independent and quietly rebellious, she is attracted to “Me” and his laid back nature. Curiosity turns into companionship as she gets roped into his hang-about life and meets Shizuo.

For “Me” and Sachiko the future appears so far off as to be inconsequential especially with more immediate pleasures at hand which consist long nights spent bopping to beats in clubs or slipping in and out of a lover’s embrace but change will happen because there is an ever so gentle forward motion to the story driven by Shizuo’s growing attraction to Sachiko. Sho Miyake’s camerawork loves Shizuka Ishibashi’s spirited performance as she slinks and grooves through scenes and she imbues a liveliness to her character which naturally holds the attention of the audience as well as other characters, Shizuo especially as his snatched glances and side-eyed stares segue into touchy-feely interactions during their many trips to karaoke bars and clubs.

“Me” seems to just accept the situation with indifference but the subtle shifting of emotions presages bigger changes as the three friends start to slowly slip away from each other at a time when employment and family pressures mount and provide unwelcome pricks of reality that let the air out of the snug and comfortable world they created. Responsibilities avoided come crashing down and it seems like the fun is over as the story forces them to reassess their situation and recognise a general malaise they feel from having held life in stasis for some time. 

This is a soft drama rather than something hardscrabble, something that explores the harmony of companionship where the pace of the film is affected by the lifestyle of the three as they while away their time but the emotional fluctuations are there and they lurk under the surface of scenes, usually in subtle movements of the actors. When the pressure mounts, hints of nastiness emerge, Shota Sometani and Tasuku Emoto able to turn their character on a dime and launch into aggressiveness and then reveal a more sympathetic worry to add welcome layers of emotions to characters that initially just seem aimless. 

Sho Miyake chooses to use this slow pace to delicately tease out the changes felt between these people in moments of low drama so the film ends up feeling like a tender and caring examination of characters preparing to face complicated feelings rather than something harsher as experienced in other adaptations of Yasushi Sato’s work. Miyake probably captures the freeter lifestyle accurately as he respects and translates the pleasures of their lives, shooting everything with a pleasant light, often during dusk and dawn, giving the image a quality that softens everything and renders their activities and the city of Hakodate more beautiful than it could possibly be in reality. Reality can be harsh but there is some hope at the end of this film as they have to leave behind their freeter lifestyles. As much as they like hanging out, at some point the party has to end but who will leave with the girl…?

 

My review for this film was originally published on July 21st at VCinema

Featured

Samurai Marathon  サムライマラソン Dir: Bernard Rose (2019) [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]

Samurai Marathon 

サムライマラソン Samurai MarasonSamurai Marathon Film Poster

Duration: 104 mins.

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Director:  Bernard Rose

Writer: Hiroshi Saito, Kikumi Yamagishi Bernard Rose (Screenplay), Akihiro Dobashi (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Satoh, Shota Sometani, Mirai Moriyama, Nana Komatsu, Munetaka Aoki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Naoto Takenaka, Danny Huston, Junko Abe, Mugi Kadowaki, Mariko Tsutsui,

Website IMDB

Every May in Annaka city, Gunma Prefecture, a marathon is held that claims to be the oldest in Japan. Its origins can be traced back to when Commodore Perry arrived off the coast of the country in 1854 with his black ships and, through threat of aggression, ended 260 years of Japan’s self-imposed isolation. Leaders across the land reacted differently to his arrival. One cautious feudal lord, Katsuaki Itakura of the Annaka clan, tested the abilities of his samurai by holding a marathon. This story is brought to life by British director Bernard Rose – famous for Candyman (1992) – who worked from the novel “The Marathon Samurai: Five Tales of Japan’s First Marathon” by Akihiro Dobashi. The resulting film, Samurai Marathon will sweep audiences away in its neatly executed adventure that, once it gets running, provides plenty of action and amusement.

The film’s set-up is a sprint to get everyone to the starting line. Opening with the arrival of Commodore Perry (Danny Huston) and his treaty demands it dashes into Katsuaki Itakura’s (Hiroki Hasegawa) organising a marathon 36 miles long to toughen up his warriors in mind and body for potential attacks from foreigners. The promise of a wish being granted to the winner is the motivation for the ensemble of runners which consists of fighting men of all stripes from lower-class spear-men like Hironoshi Uesugi (Shota Sometani), who dreams of being raised to the status of a higher-class samurai, an aged samurai recently put out to pasture named Mataemon Kurita (Naoto Takenaka), to the chief retainer’s son, Heikuro Tsujimura (Mirai Moriyama) who wants to marry Itakura’s daughter Princess Yuki (Nana Komatsu). All are vying to win and all are introduced quickly as are the people connected to them such as wives and children. By the time we get to the starting line at the 40-minute mark we get a vertical view of samurai society and become connected to characters who are all distinctly sketched.

Continue reading “Samurai Marathon  サムライマラソン Dir: Bernard Rose (2019) [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]”

Featured

The Best of Youth La meglio gioventù Dir: Mario Tullio Giodarna (2003) [Italy]

The Best of Youth    The Best of Youth Film Poster

La meglio gioventù

Release Date: June 22nd, 2003

Duration: 366 mins.

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

Writer: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli (Screenplay),

Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Jasmine Trinca, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Maya Sansa, Lidia Vitale, Fabrizio Gifuni,

IMDB

The Best of Youth is director Mario Tullio Giodarna’s 2003 film that manages to pack in 40 years of Italian history into six hours of screen time by following three generations of one family. Beautifully lensed and efficiently scripted, it says a lot about how good the acting and directing is that it feels epic yet intimate, that it never strains credibility too much as it charts social changes and that it ensures we care about the internal struggles of a wide cast of characters through the decades.

Continue reading “The Best of Youth La meglio gioventù Dir: Mario Tullio Giodarna (2003) [Italy]”

Featured

They Say Nothing Stays the Same, Hit Me Anyone One More Time, No Longer Human, BanG Dream! Film Live, Ousama ni nare, Geki × cine “Seven people of the skull castle” Season Moon, Mitorishi, Attack of the Giant Teacher Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

Judge! Kiichiro (Tsumabuki)

I hope you are well.

I’m trying to get my genki back. I’m posting this on a Friday because I’ve got something else reserved for tomorrow. Anyway, this week I posted a review for the film Sayounara which I saw back in March. I then posted a review for the film A Japanese Boy Who Draws and a news report about the Nara International Film Festival’s Pre-Event where Berlinale and Short Short and Asia film fest films will be shown in Nara.

What’s released this weekend?

Continue reading “They Say Nothing Stays the Same, Hit Me Anyone One More Time, No Longer Human, BanG Dream! Film Live, Ousama ni nare, Geki × cine “Seven people of the skull castle” Season Moon, Mitorishi, Attack of the Giant Teacher Japanese Film Trailers”

Featured

Nara International Film Festival Pre-event 2019 (September 14-16)

 

The organisers behind the Nara International Film Festival (NIFF) have lined up a special event this weekend (September 14-16), or should that be, Pre-Event, as they host three days of films with highlights from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and the Short Short Film Festival and Asia (SSFF).

Opening on September 14th, the fest serves up Catalonian food and films with Franc Aleu’s documentary El Somni shows how creatives from various disciplines (sculptors, bonsai masters, dancers, actors, novelists) team up to create a meal of multi-sensory seduction that captures all five senses and not just the taste buds. Here’s a glimpse with the trailer:

Continue reading “Nara International Film Festival Pre-event 2019 (September 14-16)”