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.

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Love & Peace ラブ&ピース Dir: Sion Sono (2015)

Love & Peace      

Love and Peace Film Poster
Love and Peace Film Poster

ラブ&ピース Rabu & Pisu

Release Date: June 27th, 2015

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring:  Hiroki Hasegawa, Kumiko Aso, Tohiyuki Nishida, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Eita Okuno, Makita Sports, Erina Mano, Megumi Kagurazaka, Miyuki Matsuda

Website IMDB

Christmas movies range far and wide in terms of content from Heavenly interventions seen in Frank Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life to the monstrous antics of the little green Gremlins seen in Joe Dante’s same-named film but these appear normal compared to Sion Sono‘s 2015 film Love & Peace which takes the seasonal setting and goes down a radically different path as he makes genre mash-up of a Christmas movie with a kaiju rock opera epic with a little help from Santa

Ryoichi Suzuki (Hiroki Hasegawa) once dreamed of becoming a punk rock star but he gave up on his dreams and became a salaryman at a musical instrument parts company in Tokyo. Life is miserable because he is bullied by his colleagues and he has no friends but he has feelings for a timid office lady named Yuko Terashima (Kumiko Aso) whose kindness towards him keeps him from going insane. Alas, he can’t express his love for her. but fate soon strikes!

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Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016

Double Life   Double Life Film Poster

二重生活 「Niju seikatsu

Running Time: 83 mins

Director:  Yoshiyuki Kishi

Writer: Yoshiyuki Kishi (Screenplay), Mariko Koike (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Masaki Suda, Lily Franky, Setsuko Karasuma, Naomi Nishida, Yukiko Shinohara, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Double Life is the debut feature-film from Yoshiyuki Kishi but it is done with such control you would have no idea. It is based on a novel by Mariko Koike and features a strong cast that bring audiences an interesting drama of a student who becomes obsessed with her neighbour ‘s life.

The student at the centre of the story is Tama (Mugi Kadowaki in her first lead role). She is a philosophy student who lives with her video game designer boyfriend Takuya (a low-key Masaki Suda) in a comfortable apartment.

A Double Life Film Image

When we first see her, she’s slogging through her masters thesis and even questioning the meaning of her own life when her inspirational professor, Shinohara (Lily Franky playing his role in a physically and emotionally constricted manner), gives her some guidance by telling her to follow in the footsteps of the French writer Sophie Calle and follow, in turn, in the footsteps of some random stranger on the street to discover their life.

Continue reading “Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016”

Sion Sono’s “Love and Peace” now available to pre-order! Out JULY 11th on DVD and BLURAY!

Great news! The film distributor Third Window Films has announced a release date for Love and Peace! It will be out on DVD and Bluray from July 11th!!!

This announcement is on the appropriate day since it’s World Turtle Day and the film features a magical turtle!

Love and Peace Pikadon!
Love and Peace Pikadon!

Continue reading “Sion Sono’s “Love and Peace” now available to pre-order! Out JULY 11th on DVD and BLURAY!”

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? 地獄でなぜ悪い (2013)

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?           

Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄でなぜ悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Release Date: September 28th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi

This has been a long time coming. I saw Why Don’t You Play in Hell? at last year’s BFI London Film Festival and I had huge expectations. In the months leading up to the screening I had posted trailers and made posts full of Gifs. It was my final festival film of the year and walking into the cinema I was tingling with excitement. Why? Because Sono is one of my two favourite Japanese directors and this looked awesome. I can confirm that it was God-tier awesome. 

The film opens on a teenage director named Hirata who, along with his amateur film crew The F*ck Bombers, is busy shooting a gang fight between some Yankees. The main ambition of The F*ck Bombers is to make the most miraculous movie ever with realistic action! These guys will come into play later as the film switches to Muto (Kunimura), a yakuza crime boss who is the top target of a rival gang.

 Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Jun-Kunimura

A hit-squad from the rival gang head to Muto’s home. Except he’s not there. His wife Shizue (Tomochika) is. What results is a bloodbath as Shizue defends her home from the gangsters… 

Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Muto's-Wife-Tomochika

Meanwhile, as mother dearest is chasing one of the few survivors of her rage, Muto’s daughter, the angelic child actress Mitsuko, arrives home to find herself wading in a sea of blood. Lying on the kitchen floor and bleeding out is lone survivor Ikegami (Tsutsumi) who is charmed by Mitsuko so much that he develops a bit of an obsession. He stumbles out of the crime scene where he runs into Hirata and The F*ck Bombers who realise he is an honest to God blood-covered yakuza and begin to film him.

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Why Don’t You Play in Hell? Gif Version

I posted the trailer for Sion Sono’s latest film Why Don’t You Play in Hell?  last week and Tired Paul suggested I make some Gifs for the film… Little did he know I was already doing it! Well, I posted them on my Tumblr. Some are so large I need to post them here because of the file upload limit on Tumblr.

So, here’s the film done through the power of Gifs (I expect this post will take ages to load due to the size and number of the things).

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?           Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄 で なぜ 悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Release Date: September 28th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi

Muto (Kunimura)

Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Jun-Kunimura

and Ikegami (Tsutsumi)

Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Ikegami-(Tsutsumi)

are rival gangsters who despise each other but there’s a catch for Ikegami… he loves Muto’s actress daughter Mitsuko (Nikaido).

Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Mitsuko-(Nikaido)

Continue reading “Why Don’t You Play in Hell? Gif Version”