The Gift (2015)

The Gift   The Gift Film Poster

UK Release Date: August 07th, 2015

Running Time: 108 mins.

Directors: Joel Edgerton

Writer: Joel Edgerton (Screenplay)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Wendell Pierce, Nash Edgerton,

When you meet the person of your dreams, the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, would you tell them about the less flattering moments in your history, the bad bits that make you ashamed? Or would you leave them out and make a future with them? I think we would all like to craft a new reality and leave out the bad bits even if it isn’t being totally honest.

The Gift is all about the differences between perception and reality. Through the way we speak, the way we cultivate our appearance, a few spoken sentences and the content we put into and omit from those sentences, we can create ideas of who we are and influence people’s perception of us. The characters all project their best selves to the world but when the past comes back to haunt one of them they find what they considered their reality shifting.

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Cold in July (2014)

Cold in July (2014)   Cold in July UK Poster

UK Release Date: June, 2014

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Jim Mickle

Writer: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici (Screenplay), Joe R. Lansdale (Story)

Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Nick Damici, Vinessa Shaw,

Director Jim Mickle and actor/writer Nick Damici have had a run of horror films with alternative zombie plague chiller Mulberry St (2006), downbeat and savage dystopian vampire film Stake Land (2010) and the remake of the Mexican cannibal film, We Are What We Are (2013), but here they trade genres opting to go for a pulpy thriller based on a novel by Joe R Lansdale.

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12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave  12 Years a Slave Film Poster

Running Time: 106 mins.

Release Date: February o8th, 2014

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley (Screenplay), Solomon Northup (Original Book)

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, one of many free blacks kidnapped and forced into slavery and one of the few to escape back to freedom. He soon turned his exploits into a book and stage play which abolitionists in the north of America used to help bolster their cause against slavery. Solomon’s story fell into obscurity after the American civil war but was discovered by Bianca Stigter, the wife of British Turner Prize winning artist of Steve McQueen who was seeking to make a film about slavery but struggling to find a narrative. McQueen is a man who has successfully made the leap from art to film with his first two features Hunger (2008) and Shame (2012) and now the critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave which is an incredible adaptation of an incredible story.

12 Years a Slave Solomon Freeman in New York

Saratoga Springs, New York, 1841. Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a free black man. He earns a living as a skilled carpenter and violinist and resides in a comfortable house with his wife and two children. In New York he is relatively safe from slavery which is the biggest and most commerically important industry in the world and is generally respected by his neighbours. Two musicians invite Solomon on a two-week tour as a musician but behind the smiles are ruthless kidnappers who drug Solomon and sell him into slavery. He is beaten repeatedly and given the name Platt before being resold to a plantation owner named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Solomon earns the respect of Ford but the ire of the overseer Tibeats (Dano) who threatens his life. Ford decides to resell Solomon to a slave-breaker named Edwin Epps (Fassbender) to avoid any bloodshed but Solomon is far from safe from this vicious drunk who exercises his reign of terror on his slaves and Solomon’s years of captivity become even more brutal and dangerous.

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Genki Christmas Season 2013

Genki Christmas 2013 Season Banner

This is my annual Christmas season post but I should be honest and call it the catch-up season. Last year I was able to watch lots of Korean horror films  but this year I will be posting lots of reviews from the film festivals I attended back in October. Due to the autumn anime schedule and changes in my work schedules I pretty much ran out of time and into chaos when scheduling posts. So there will be reviews for Sake-Bomb, Our Shunhi, Gravity, You’re Next,  Insidious 2, The Conjuring, Rurouni Kenshin, The Flu, The Ravine of Goodbye, Shady, Remiges, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Galileo Donna, Beyond the Boundary. Gosh. There will also be director interviews which I got from the Raindance Film Festival – Sake-Bomb Interview.

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Pacific Rim

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Pacific Rim                                                        Pacific Rim Japanese Film Poster

Japanese Title: パシフィック リム 

Romaji: Pashifikku Rimu

UK Release Date: July 04th, 2013

Running Time: 132 mins.

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Travis Beacham

Starring: Charlie Hunnan, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Mana Ashida

I like Guillermo del Toro films. I’ve seen Hellboy 1 & 2, The Devil’s Backbone, Chronos and Pan’s Labyrinth in a cinema. Deep down he’s a fanboy like me, a guy who grew up reading and watching everything from anime to gothic fiction. Pacific Rim reflects his love for the distinctly Japanese mecha and kaiju-eiga genres. Giant robots vs giant monsters. Think Gigantor vs Godzilla. I know my mecha. I grew up in love with tales like Patlabor, Evangelion, Gasaraki and Macross (not so much Gundam) and I’m partial to a bit of giant monster carnage so trust me when I tell you that this genre mash-up is God-tier.

Warning, this is a long babbling review listing loads of stuff I loved and loads of Gifs that I created to celebrate it.

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World War Z

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World War Z                                                World War Z Film Poster

Release Date:  June 21st 2012 (UK)

Running Time: 116 mins.

Director: Marc Foster

Writer:  Max Brooks (Original Novel), J Michael Straczynski (Original Screenplay), Matthew Michael Carnahan (First Rewrite), Drew Goddard (Second Rewrite)

Starring: Brad Pitt, James Badge Dale, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Matthew Fox, David Morse, David Andrews, Elyes Gabel, Fana Mokoena, Peter Capaldi, Elyes Gabel, Ruth Negga

World War Z has been on my radar for a long time. In 2010 I read the novel and liked it, in 2011 I posted a video of location shooting in Glasgow  and in 2012 I posted about the film’s trailer. It is 2013 and it has finally hit UK cinema screens and I watched it and quite enjoyed it.

Genki World War Z Film Review Gerry Lane( Brad Pitt) and Karin Lane (Mireille Enos)

Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former U.N. investigator who quit his job working in dangerous places like Liberia and Sri Lanka to be with his wife Karin (Enos) and their two daughters in Philadelphia.

When the family get caught up in a zombie attack they make their way north to New York where they witness the spreading chaos, death and destruction. The east coast of America looks like a war-zone and they only escape thanks to Gerry’s old boss, Thierry Umutoni (Mokoena), the under-secretary of the U.N. who gets them on board the Argus, a U.S. Navy ship which leads a task-force picking up people who can make a difference in a war against zombies.

Gerry Lane and his family are only guaranteed a place on the ship if he joins a team searching for the source of the outbreak and so he races across the world to locations such as South Korea, Israel and Wales to find answers.

I went into this film with an open mind. It was clearly not going to be like the book and it has been well-reported about how the film went through a prolonged development process due to numerous rewrites of the script which was not even finished when filming started. You can tell from the rather perfunctory plot with dumb logic, the massively different changes in tone and the simplistic ending which feels tacked on. That written, whatever criticisms of the script are lost in the fun of this tight little action thriller.

The film’s plot is simple. It starts with happy Hollywood family scenes’ showing Brad Pitt being the ideal house-husband (he can cook, be loving and look sexy!)

Genki-World-War-Z-Gerry-(Brad-Pitt)-the-Domestic-God

And then normality gets rocked off its axis as a zombie apocalypse takes a bite out of life. Said apocalypse is light on gore but still full of action and thrills as the handsome and reliable Pitt travels the world in order to save the day. He does so with some random observations (done in slow-motion and flashback for the audience) and huge leaps of faith that only work in Hollywood films.

The structure of the story is totally different from the book which was an ensemble piece showing the apocalypse from different viewpoints in different nations with some satire thrown in. I still miss that multi-narrative aspect but having a central protagonist to follow works in the film’s favour since it creates a solid arc for the audience to follow throughout a story where action scenes dominate and horror shambles far behind.

The film feels like a cross between 28 Days Later with its fast-zombies and music and Resident Evil 6 with its action sequences where Gerry and a bunch of marines travel from one level to the next expending lots of ammo with some stealth bits where they have to avoid the zombies in tight and dark corridors. It has a few jump-scares but it does not build an atmosphere of dread. Night of the Living Dead, this is not but it does present the spectacle of a zombie apocalypse very well as the most effective zombie action sequences happen during the daytime with huge crowds of zed-heads.

Genki World War Z  Review Israel Chase Genki World War Z Film Review Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt)

What these sequences get right is the sense of panic and chaos felt in the headlong rush to get away from a stampede of zombies and the disorientation of being engulfed by people. There are many overhead shots and long shots which show lots of people running and it is pretty staggering to watch. Then there will be panicked close-ups as characters swim amidst the moving bodies caught on hand-held camera and it gets pretty exhausting. Movement is life, Gerry says at points, and the chaos movement can create can be pretty stomach churning.

The Jerusalem section has an impressively staged set-piece where Pitt has to flee an onslaught of zombies with a cadre of Israeli soldiers and it is at this moment where it is tensest because you get a sense of what it would be like to be there. You cannot tell who is who or if they are infected. It was bloody disorientating to see it and one could get a sense of how impossible it would be to maintain control.

Genki-World-War-Z-Gerry-(Brad-Pitt)-Runs-Away-From-the-Crowd

The 3D helped to deliver these feelings with zombies and object hurtling at the screen but it was the more quiet moments I liked such as the cell/crematorium in Camp Humphreys where ash floats around.

Like the plot, the characters are uncomplicated and maybe a touch bland. Pitt fits in with the proceedings well, looking confident and providing a decent protagonist one would want to follow. It was down to supporting characters like James Badge-Dale’s wry soldier and David Morse’s mad-prophet CIA agent to provide some interesting flavours.

Overall I’d say this is a fun action movie and a decent zombie film. It is not the scariest or most original zombie film by any stretch but an enjoyable way to pass the time.

3.5/5

Apparently it did so well it’s getting a sequel. Sign me up for a viewing.

Genkina hito’s Best Film of the Year Part 1 – Shame

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Sight and Sound Magazine January 2013I bought the January issue of Sight and Sound to read the critic’s film highlights of 2012. The titles that come up frequently are Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Tabu, and Holy Motors. An eclectic mix but I have yet to see them. My blog represents my taste and it is also eclectic and rather idiosyncratic. Foremost is the fact that I love far eastern films regardless of genre – hell, even musicals these days. Indeed, no matter how much I may tease people who love slow-cinema, I still watch it. My Top Ten Films of the year is a diverse list with titles like the existential (or was I reading too much into it?) Goth – Love of Death at ten, the moving reflection on death that is Vital at nine, great genre stalwarts Skyfall and Prometheus both at six and the gloriously OTT musical Ai to Makoto at two. Japan features strongly but there is also a large British contingent which is best represented with my joint number one.

On a related note, I was at a party for the Japanese class when a friend mentioned how I had too many joint places in my Top Ten Films list. Half-jokingly… I think. Anyway the fact is that this year, more than any other previous year, I have fallen in love with so many films and wrote passionately about them. They moved me to feel something and I enjoyed researching and writing the reviews for them.

Next year I will be tougher.

Anyway my best film of 2012… let me rephrase, my best films is a joint entry for Shame and The Wolf Children which happened to be my best anime of 2012 as well (and will follow in another post)!

Two films which could not be more different from one another. Do I really want my number one films of 2012 to be about a sex addict with intimacy issues and a film about children that morph into wolves? What was so good about them?

What was so good was the fact that they both shone a light on aspects of humanity in such original ways.

Shame

Shame Fassbender and Mulligan Banner Genki Jason

Shame was the first film I went to see at a cinema this year. My expectations for it were quite non-existent since I knew little about the film other than it starred Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and it was directed by Steve McQueen. I was familiar with the actors, having watched films like Jane Eyre and An Education in previous years but Steve McQueen was an unknown quantity. I knew that he and Fassbender had wowed the critics with their previous film Hunger but I ducked the opportunity to see it in a cinema because the subject matter did not interest me. I came to question my decision when I read all of the critical praise for Hunger. I decided to watch Shame to see if the hype was justified.

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Genki Christmas Season 2012

Genki Christmas Banner 2012

It is December and it is dark and it is cold and wet. One of the traditions in the UK around this time of year is to tell a ghost story. The BBC usually adapts an M.R. James story or a tale from Dickens. What will I be doing? Watching a lot of Korean horror movies. That sounds much better than going out, freezing to death and getting wet.

For the rest of December I will be reviewing K-horror classics like the first four entries in the Whispering Corridors series and Kim Jee-Woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters. I will also review other films like R–Point, Doll Master, The Cello, I Saw the Devil and Into the Mirror. My Korean movie list is about to get a major boost but I have been buying K-horror films like crazy for the last few months and I want to watch them!

In a venerable tradition (started last year), at the end of the month I will post my ‘best ofs’ in terms of video games, films and anime. My favourite game and anime TV series includes plenty of dead things but my favourite films, according to my Top Ten, is more life-affirming.

You can also expect a review of Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the King which I saw in a cinema last Saturday. Here is a quick review… ALMOST GOD TIER. OH GOD, THE RUSH OF ADRENALINE AS I RELIVED THE SAGA (which I only first tasted a few months back)! Here’s the intro of the film for you to get a taste:

There will be a lot of reviews this month.

Genki Berserk Christmas Season Banner

Reviews Added:

 

Whispering Corridors

Memento Mori

Wishing Stairs

The Doll Master

Berserk: Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King

The Voice

 

Skyfall

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Skyfall                                                        Skyfall US Theatrical Poster

Release Date:  26th October 2012 (UK)

Running Time: 143 mins.

Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Robert Wade, Neal Purvis, John Logan, Ian Fleming (Original Characters)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear

Skyfall comes at an interesting time as it marks the 50th year of the Bond franchise and it follows the disastrous Quantum of Solace which. Skyfall has to be good as it is under assault from modern spies like Jason Bourne who just feel more relevant. How good is it?

Magnificent!

Istanbul, James Bond (Craig) is on assignment with fellow field agent Eve (Harris) tracking down a computer hard drive which contains the identity of almost every NATO agent embedded in terrorist cells around the globe. Things go wrong when Bond is wounded and falls into a river leaving M (Dench), back in London, with an agent down and major security headache all while she is being pressured into retirement by the Parliamentary security committee chairman Gareth Mallory (Fiennes). Then MI6 headquarters is attacked during a cyber-terrorist assault on British Intelligence. With events spiralling out of M’s control Bond comes back, joining forces with the new Q (Whishaw), to track down the person behind the attack, first heading to Shanghai then to Macau where he meets Severin (Marlohe), a woman who knows about the plot and how it is linked to a man named Raoul Silva (Bardem).

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Bond. Despite being British and having watched every film in the franchise I always found the fantasy elements and the thin characters rather dull. There was never any sense of jeopardy and the stories were increasingly irrelevant. I soon switched to the Bourne trilogy of films. When Casino Royale was released it introduced a new Bond in the form of Daniel Craig and it replaced the silly gadgets and outlandish plots with gritty realism and gripping character drama. I loved it. Then A Quantum of Solace was released, a film that had a lot on character but awful action, a boring villain and a dull plot. Once again I lost interest. Thankfully Skyfall manages to resurrect the franchise by bringing everything back to basics, back to M and MI6 and back to Bond himself.

Skyfall Bond (Craig)

The film feels more relevant than other Bonds. Gone are the invisible cars and exploding pens and in comes a cyber-terrorism plot linked to the characters and Britain’s history. While a bit fantastical it is less far-fetched than the franchise is used to.

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Top Ten Films of the Year Revamp

Ihara and Yakusho Check out Genkinahitos Top Tens

After creating a page which contains an archive of my film reviews I have decided to revamp my Top Ten Films page. This is a much needed change because I used to place nothing but theatrical releases in there and miss out reviews of movies that I watched on DVD/streamed – as a result no films like Tokyo Sonata qualified. I would then break my own rules and sneak a few DVDs in. Now, I am sticking every film I have seen that has impressed me enough to make my top ten list. People do check out the page quite a lot and it has not been updated since I went to see Prometheus which was back in July.

The revamp will reflect what I have watched over the years and give a better indication as to how my taste operates… Actually scratch that last bit, my taste is so idiosyncratic and my viewing habits constantly hanging I doubt people will find any line of rhyme or reason.

Now I have updated my lists for the years the blog has been operating and I will compile a top ten Japanese films of all time. Expect to see a directory for Japanese directors some time soon.

As for now, check out my new and improved Top Ten Films

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