The Third Murder 三度目の殺人 Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda (2017)

The Third Murder    The Third Murder Film Poster

三度目の殺人Sandome no Satsujin

Release Date: September 09th, 2017

Duration: 124 mins.

Director:  Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay),

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Koji Yakusho, Suzu Hirose, Yuki Saito, Kotaro Yoshida, Mikako Ichikawa, Izumi Matsuoka,

Website IMDB

This film from Hirokazu Kore-eda feels like a departure from his usual interests of family dynamics because it is an exploration of the Japanese justice system but it still features his familiar interest in the atomisation of Japanese society.

Set in the snowy northern island of Hokkaido, this is an almost coldly analytical tale of a public defender taking on what should be an open and shut case and discovering that the truth is hard to pin down and that those who mete out justice sometimes aren’t interested in truth at all.

Shigemori (Fukuyama) is an elite lawyer who has been given the task of defending a man named Misumi Mikuma (Yakusho), an ex-con only just released from prison after serving a term for a murder he committed in 1986. Misumi has been arrested and charged with murdering the manager of the canning factory he works at. Misumi seems guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt because he was caught with the victim’s wallet and has confessed to the murder. A violent background, circumstantial evidence and confession. That is enough to warrant the death penalty. Shigemori has been drafted in to save Misumi.

Continue reading “The Third Murder 三度目の殺人 Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda (2017)”

The Blood of Wolves 孤狼の血 Dir: Kazuya Shiraishi (2018)

The Blood of Wolves      The Blood of Wolves Film Poster

孤狼の血 Korou no chi

Running Time: 126 mins.

Release Date: May 12th, 2018

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Junya Ikegami (Screenplay), Yuko Yuzuki (Original Novel)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tori Matsuzaka, Yoko Maki, Tomoya Nakamura, Pierre Taki, Shido Nakamura, Yosuke Eguchi, Renji Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Director Kazuya Shiraishi follows his Roman Porno, Dawn of the Felines with this blistering film.

Hiroshima is a prefecture with lots of natural beauty but filmmakers do like to find drama in the dark underbelly of the place, perhaps most famously with Kinji Fukasaku’s 1970s crime film series Battles without Honour and Humanity which was based on the experiences of a post-war yakuza boss from Hiroshima. Kazuya Shiraishi takes audiences into the same world with The Blood of Wolves, a film which feels like a throwback to an earlier time due to its raw violence, emotions, and the character archetypes in play. Shiraishi is no stranger to the crime genre thanks to his previous films The Devil’s Path (2013) and Twisted Justice (2016) but this is his best crime film yet and it is all down to a magnetic performance from lead actor Koji Yakusho and his character’s no-holds barred attitude to policing.

The Blood of Wolves Film Image 6

Continue reading “The Blood of Wolves 孤狼の血 Dir: Kazuya Shiraishi (2018)”

“Tampopo” Screening at London’s Picturehouse Cinema on May 17th

Movie fans in London will have the chance to see the film on the big screen at Picturehouse Central for one night. The screening takes place on 17th May at 18.30pm and tickets are already on sale over at the Picturehouse website.

Tampopo Film Image

There are a small group of films which have almost universal praise and go down in cinema history as they transcend borders, languages, and cultures. Tampopo is one of them. It was written and directed by Juzo Itami just as he was entering the height of his creative powers. After an early career as an actor, he shifted to roles behind the camera and made a series of fondly remembered and critically acclaimed films starting with Tampopo and including A Taxing Woman.

Tampopo is all about the glories of food, the sexiness and spirituality that goes into making something as simple as ramen and while that may sound like one for foodies, it transcends that particular category to become a hilarious comedy thanks to its funny character-filled script which parodies and creates new tropes and genres. Everywhere I have been in Japan, the moment I mention Tampopo, people’s faces light up. “Ah! You know that one!” It seems to be universally loved.

I am guilty of throwing the word classic around with abandon but if you want to be convinced about this particular film’s greatness then here’s a paragraph from an excellent review from the excellent writings of Roger Ebert:

“Tampopo” is one of those utterly original movies that seems to exist in no known category. Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it’s a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles.

The 4K restoration of Juzo Itami’s classic ramen western Tampopo was released on blu-ray in the UK on May 01st of this year thanks to The Criterion Collection. Here’s the trailer:

Continue reading ““Tampopo” Screening at London’s Picturehouse Cinema on May 17th”

Charisma カリスマ (2000)



Release Date: Feburary 26th, 2000 (Japan)

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Jun Fubuki, Yoriko Doguchi, Ren Osugi, Yutaka Matsushige, Akira Otaka,


Happy Halloween! This is the fourth year where I highlight horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzai, and POV: A Cursed Film. This year I take on Charisma!

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is my favourite director and for much of his career he has focussed on horror movies. Post Tokyo Sonata (2009) Kurosawa has become more conventional and mainstream as he slides into making dramas and adaptations of novels so it is great to revisit one of his horror films for Halloween 2015!

Continue reading “Charisma カリスマ (2000)”

The Boy and the Beast Trailer

Yesterday it was announced that anime films Hana to Alice Satsujin JikenMiss Hokusai and The Boy and the Beast are set to be shown at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival (The Boy and the Beast is part of the Work in Progress section while Hana to Alice and Miss Hokusai are in Competition) ahead of their theatrical release in Japan in a few months’ time. The directors of the films are regulars of the festival, giving talks and getting awards. I have already written previews about Miss Hokusai and Hana to Alice (no reviews as yet) so that leaves The Boy and the Beast.

Bakemono no Ko Character Design Continue reading “The Boy and the Beast Trailer”

The World of Kanako 渇き (2014)

The World of Kanako      The World of Kanako Film Poster 2

Japanese Title:

Romaji: Kawaki

Running Time: 113 mins

Release Date: June 27th, 2014 (Japan)

Seen at the BFI London Film Festival

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima (Screenplay), Akio Fukamachi (Novel),

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Nana Komatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Joe Odagiri, Fumi Nikaido, Ai Hashimoto, Miki Nakatani, Jun Kunimura, Asuka Kurosawa,


On paper The World of Kanako sounds incredibly formulaic: based on a novel by Akio Fukamachi, it’s about an ex-cop and bad father who goes in search of his missing daughter who may be involved in a world of trouble. The World of Kanako is anything but formulaic. It resists falling into cliché by being a visually and aurally staggering assault on the senses so meticulously designed, written, and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, and acted out by big name actors given the chance to play evil characters that it makes an old plot feel new and exciting.

The film begins with the quote:

An era is only confused by a confused mind – Jean Cocteau

Continue reading “The World of Kanako 渇き (2014)”

License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)

Genki License to Live Film Review Header

License to Live                                     License to Live Film Poster Slightly Bigger

Japanese Title: ニンゲン 合格

Romaji: Ningen Goukaku

Release Date: January 23rdt, 1999

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Sho Aikawa, Lily, Shun Sugata, Ren Osugi, Yoriko Douguchi, Masahiro Toda, Hajime Inoue

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in the west for his horror films thanks to titles like Cure, Pulse, and Retribution being more available than his dramas and crime thrillers. In fact he is adept at working in other genres and there is a large body of work from his v-cinema days during the 90’s missing to those of us outside Japan. Overall his best film is the drama Tokyo Sonata, a masterful portrait of the breakdown of a modern family. License to Live is another drama film with similar themes to Tokyo Sonata but from 1999, ten years prior, and with a lighter comic touch.

Yutaka Yoshii (Nishijima) has just awoken from a ten year coma caused when he was knocked off his bicycle by a man named Murota (Osugi). It comes as a shock to the hospital staff and Murota who can’t forget the story and paid for Yutaka’s medical bills but Yutaka is conscious and so Murota gives him 500,000 yen to put an end to it.

Yutaka’s family might be glad of his recovery but they have all separated having accepted the possibility he might never wake up. His parents are divorced and his sister is supposedly in America. The only person willing to take Yutaka in is Fujimori (Yakusho), an old college friend of his father who raises carp in a fish farm on the Yoshii’s family property.

License to Live Yutaka (Nishijima) and Fujimori (Yakusho)


With Fujimori’s help Yutaka begins to grow up but soon his family hear about his recovery. First to appear is his father Shinichiro (Sugata) who travels the globe and has consigned Yutaka to the past. Next is Yutaka’s sister Chizuru (Aso) who shows up on the fish farm with her fiancé Kasaki (Aikawa) but she doesn’t want to stick around. Finally Yutaka finds out about mother Sachiko (Lily) who is the only one to stick by him.

“Your new life is what counts,” others tell him but Yutaka wants to bring his family back together again, even if only for a moment.

Continue reading “License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)”

The Woodsman and the Rain キツツキと雨 (2012)

Genki Jason The Woodsman and the Rain Review Banner

The Woodsman & the Rain                            The Woodsman and the Rain Film Poster

Japanese Title: キツツキと雨

Romaji: Kitsutsuki to Ame

Release Date: February 11th, 2012

UK Release Date: January 28th 2013 (UK)

UK Film Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 135 mins.

Director: Shuichi Okita

Writer: Shuichi Okita, Fumio Moriya

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Shun Oguri, Kengo Kora, Asami Usuda, Kanji Furutachi, Daisuke Kuroda, Kyusaku Shimada, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Tsutou Takahashi, Mitsuru Hirata, Masato Ibu, Tsutomu Yamazak

Ever since writing about this film last year I had been eagerly anticipating it, principally because it stars Koji Yakusho, a wonderful actor who has won my admiration through a series of performances in films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I was also impressed by the festival awards buzz it had acquired as it took the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival and the Audience Award at Nippon Connection. The awards are richly deserved.

The Woodsman & the Rain opens in a dense forest outside Yamamura village. A lumberjack named Katsuhiko (Yakusho) is busy sawing a tree with a chainsaw. This short sequence reveals a gruff and pragmatic small town man who is comfortable working the land. He can even read the weather and predict when it will rain hence the title. He is soon distracted by the arrival of Torii (Furutachi), the assistant director of a film. Torii asks him to stop. “We’re in the middle of a take.” Katsuhiko does not quite understand movie jargon and he is not one easily swayed from his craft so Torii says, “We’re shooting a movie over there.” Katsuhiko understands now and asks “Can I prune?” Torii replies “If it isn’t noisy, sure.” Katsuhiko climbs a tree and starts cutting branches. From this vantage point both Katsuhiko and the audience see the town in distance with movie vans parked around.

Yamamura has been invaded by a small crew shooting a low-budget zombie film named Utopia. Katsuhiko is not concerned with any of this and goes about his work day routine and living very uneasily with his unemployed and directionless son Koichi (Kora) but a chance encounter with Torii on the road leads to Katsuhiko meeting the film’s director who is also named Koichi (Oguri), a man barely out of university and on his first major project. Pressure is getting to him and he suffers from severe lack of confidence which leaves Torii taking command and trying to make use of Katsuhiko’s local knowledge for some location scouting. This is just the first of many requests that the film crew ask of Katsuhiko.

The Woodsman and the Rain Zombie YakushoDespite being initially unimpressed with what he sees (especially Koichi) Katsuhiko is soon sucked into the film and even gets to act as a zombie. He even strikes up an unlikely friendship with Koichi as he falls in love with the story of the movie and the experience of making it. The more deeply he becomes involved with the film the more enthusiastic he is and discovers that the director, despite lacking in confidence and finding the demands of movie-making a little too much, is extremely talented. The two forms an unlikely friendship and help each other overcome personal problems.

Continue reading “The Woodsman and the Rain キツツキと雨 (2012)”

Third Window Films Release The Woodsman & the Rain

Third Window Films follow up their release of The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker with the release of the second film on my  preview of Asian films getting released in the UK, a film I have been interested in since it was released in Japan last year. That release is The Woodsman & The Rain. It has an all-star cast including the incredible Koji Yakusho and Shun Oguri. I’ve got my copy on pre-order!

Alua over at Otherwhere reviewed this film last year and gave it an excellent write-up, so without further ado, here are the details:

The Woodsman and the Rain DVD Case

The Woodsman & The Rain

A film by Shuichi Okita (Chef of the South Polar, Story of Yonosuke)

Starring: Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins, Cure, Retribution)
Shun Oguri (Crows Zero, Azumi, Space Brothers)
Kengo Kora (Norwegian Wood, Fish Story)

Japan / 2011 / 129 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / 35mm

Out on DVD January 28th, 2013

DVD Special Features:

Interviews with the Cast & Crew, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Katsu (Yakusho) is a 60 year-old lumberjack who lives in a small, tranquil village in the mountains. When a film crew suddenly arrives to shoot a zombie movie, Katsu finds himself unwittingly roped into assisting the production and becomes increasingly frustrated with the pushy crew, especially the young, seemingly spineless director Koichi (Oguri).

However, an improbable friendship soon develops between Katsu and Koichi, as Katsu comes to see joy in the filmmaking process, and gradually helps Koichi to recover his sense of self. Soon, their bond inspires an unusual collaboration between the villagers and the film crew.

My Departure, A Terminal Trust, Resident Evil: Damnation, 009 Re:Cyborg, Smile PreCure! The Movie: Everyone is All Mixed Up Inside the Picture Book! Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

FFXIII LightningThis week a gallery that had remained dormant opens and so there has been extra work for me to do. Not that it stopped me from posting information for Terracotta’s forthcoming release of a double-bill of Kim Ki-Duk movies in the form of Arirang and Crocodile, the Japanese films at the London International Animation Festival and a trailer for the hotly anticipated Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo anime movie. I also wrote a small obituary for the Japanese filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu who tragically died last week. I had a day off earlier in the week which allowed me to write up my notes from the BFI London Film Festival and do a lot of previews for films. My prediction about getting free time made a couple of weeks back did not quite pan out as expected but I am running slightly ahead of schedule (writing this did not feel like a desperate struggle).

What does the Japanese movie chart look like?

  1. The Expendables 2
  2. Tsunagu
  3. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  4. Outrage Beyond
  5. Uchu Keiji Gyaban: The Movie
  6. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  7. The Mystical Law
  8. Resident Evil: Retribution
  9. Bakarea High School
  10. Intouchables

The big change is the fact that The Expendables 2 is at the top spot and Space Ranger Gavan is at five. Sono latest film, The Land of Hope is apparently not in the top ten which strikes me as a crime, especially as it has had good reviews.

What is released in Japan today? A lot of anime!


My Departure                   My Departure Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 旅 の 贈りもの 明日へ

Romaji: Tabi no Okurimono Ashitae

Release Date:  27th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Tetsu Maeda

Writer: Takashi Shinohara

Starring: Kiyoshi Maekawa, Wakako Saki, Yu Yamada, Kurumi Shimizu, Shono Hayama, Yu Tokui Taro Suruga, Atsuka Sakurai

Tetsu Maeda… That name rings a bell That’s right! Late last month his film The King and I was released. Well he’s back with My Departure, a film which stars the popular enka singer Kiyoshi Maekawa, Wakako Sakai, Yu Yamada (Nodame Cantabile live-action films). Being a gaikokujin and completely unfamiliar with Japanese television beyond Keizoku, The Water Margin and Monkey Magic, the only people I recognise are Yu Yokui (Keizoku, Swing Girls, Insight into the Universe, Dark Water, and the amusingly titled I am a Cat Stalker) Kurumi Shimizu and that’s only because I wrote up a film she was in last month called The Kirishima Thing, which I really want to see. From the synopsis I thought I might not like the trailer but actually… I kind of liked it. Maybe it is because I commute to work via train.

A man from Tokyo who worked for a construction company, a woman from Nagoya who is a hair stylist and another woman from Osaka who is about to get married travel by train to the city of Fukui As they travel by train these three people go on a journey both physical and personal.


A Terminal Trust                        The Terminal Trust

Japanese Title: 終 の 信託

Romaji: Tsui no Shintaku

Release Date:  27th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 144 mins.

Director: Masayuki Suo

Writer: Saku Tatsuki (Original Short Story)

Starring: Koji Yakusho,Tadanobu Asano, Takao Osawa, Yoshihiko Hosoda, Tamiyo Kusakari

Masayuki Suo, director of I Just Didn’t Do It and the smash-hit film Shall We Dance? reunites two cast members from the latter film with Tamiyo Kusakari and Koji Yakusho (Séance, Cure) as the trailer shows at the beginning. They are joined by Tadanobu Asano (The Kids Return, Bright Future, Vital, Survive Style 5+) and Takao Osawa (All About Lily Chou-Chou, Ichi) This medical/legal drama is based on a short story named Tsui no Shintaki (The Final Request) by the lawyer Saku Tatsuki.

Doctor Ayano Orii (Kusakari) is placed in a difficult position when a patient named Shinzo Egi (Yakusho) who suffers severe asthma requests that he does not want to be put on life support following an attack. When he does die she is questioned in a criminal case. 

Resident Evil: Damnation                             Resident Evil Damnation

Romaji: Baiohazādo: Damunēshon

Japanese Title: バイオハザード ダムネーション

Japanese Release Date: 27th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Makoto Kamiya

Writer: Shotaro Suga

Starring: Paul Mercier (Leon), Alyson Court (Claire Redfield), Sam Riegel (Steve Burnside), Patricia Jay Lee (Jill Valentine)

I am old enough to remember when Resident Evil was first released… I think I played it that same year. Over the intervening years I have lost interest in the franchise – the last one I played was Code Veronica on the Dreamcast – but I still watch the films if I have nothing better to do. Anyway a trailer for Resident Evil: Damnation, the 3D CGI anime film sequel to Resident Evil: Degeneraton, was released last week.

In this story Leon S. Kennedy takes centre stage as he finds himself in a war-torn European country, the East Slavic Republic to verify that Bio Organic Weapons (BOWs) are being used in a civil war which both the US and Russia plan to intervene in. Obviously there are BOWs since the trailer shows Leon battling Lickers. Makoto Kamiya who directed Resident Evil: Degeneration and has handled the special effects on Gantz, acted in Tokyo Gore Police and was assistant director on Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon is directing this. Takahashi Tetsuya (AppleseedHalo Legends) is composing the music.

009 Re:Cyborg                                                           009 ReCyborg Poster

Japanese Title: ゼロゼロナイン リサイボーグ

Romaji: Zero Zero Nain Resaibo-gu

Release Date:  27th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Kenji Kamiyama

Writer:  Kenji Kamiyama (Script), Shotaro Ishimori (Original Creator)

Starring: Sakiko Tamagawa (Cyborg 001 / Ivan Whisky),Daisuke Ono (Cyborg 002 / Jet Link), Chiwa Saito (Cyborg 003 / Françoise Arnoul), Toru Ohkawa (Cyborg 004 / Albert Heinrich), Teruyuki Tanzawa (Cyborg 005 / Geronimo Jr), Tarou Masuoka (Cyborg 006 / Chang Changku), Hiroyuki Yoshino (Cyborg 007 / Great Britain), Noriaki Sugiyama (Cyborg 008 / Pyunma), Mamoru Miyano (Cyborg 009 / Joe Shimamura)

Production I.G.’s 3D anime take on Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic manga is released today. Kenji Kamiyama (Eden of the EastGitS: Stand Alone Complex) has taken on the roles of director and screen-writer for the movie. Other notable staff attached to the movie include Yusuke Takeda (Blood: The Last VampireGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) as the art director, Gatou Asou (Moribito – Guardian of the SpiritOccult Academy) as the character design Masanori Uetaki who has handled 3D CG on titles like Asura Cryin’ and Tiger & Bunny, is lead animator, and Kenji Kawai (Patlabor!Ghost in the Shell!!) handling the soundtrack.

The story follows a group of nine people who have been kidnapped from across the world for a project involving human experimentation. These people are turned into cyborgs but escape and turn their new powers against their former captors in order to protect humanity from them.

Smile PreCure!  The Movie: Everyone is All Mixed Up Inside the Picture Book!Precure Mixed Up Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 映画 スマイル プリキュア! 絵本 の なか はみんな チグハグ

Romaji:  Eiga Sumairu Purikyua! Ehon no naka wa minna Chiguhagu

Release Date:  27th October 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Narumi Koda

Writer:  Shoji Yonemura (Script), 

Starring: Asami Tano (Akane Hino/Cure Sunny),Chinami Nishimura (Reika Aoki/Cure Beauty), Hisako Kanemoto (Yayoi Kise/Cure Peace), Marina Inoue (Nao Midorikawa/Cure March), Misato Fukuen (Miyuki Hoshizora/Cure Happy), Daisuke Sakaguchi (Pop), Ikue Ohtani (Candy), Megumi Hayashibara (Niko)


The PreCure anime is popular amongst girls in Japan where it is a massive franchise. I am not a girl or Japanese, therefore this has no effect on me. The film is directed by Narumi Kuroda who has acted as a director on the differenttelevision series. Shoji Yonemura (Glass Fleet, Fairy Tale, Smile PreCure!) is writing the script for the film and characters designs come from PreCure franchise veteran Toshie Kawamura.  Kozue Komatsu is also aiding Kawamura in character design as well as fulfilling the role of animation director. Chie Satou, another PreCure franchise familiar is handling the art direction.

Voice actors from the PreCure franchise are also reprising their roles and they are joined by Megumi Hayashibara (Rei Ayaname in Evangelion).

The five legendary PreCure girls find themselves transported into a picture book and are guided in their journey out by Niko, a girl who lives in fairy tales.