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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyillis Sommerville
A few weeks ago I posted a trailer for The Last Stand, an upcoming American film being helmed by Kim Jee-Woon (A Bittersweet Life, The Quiet Family). He is one of a number of successful Korean directors working on Hollywood projects. Now, thanks to the eagle eyes of Curiosity Kitty, I have seen a trailer for Park Chan-Wook’s English language debut, Stoker.
When India Stoker’s (Wasikowska) father dies, her mother Evelyn (Kidman) brings in a mysterious uncle named Charlie (Goode) who seems charming but has a dark side which draws India to him.
Park Chan-Wook has made two incredible films in Oldboy and J.S.A. and one excellent one in Thirst. While The Last Stand looks like good old-fashioned action fun, this looks like it is a psychological horror/family drama. Nothing supernatural. It stars such fine actresses like Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Mia Wasikowska (The Kids are All Right, Jane Eyre) and the British actor Matthew Goode (The Lookout). The trailer looks visually stunning but I am unsure as to whether that is enough to persuade me to see the film. I’ll have to wait for reviews. It is written by Wentworth Miller who is famous for Resident Evil: Afterlife… Famous to me for that film at least. Apparently he was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. I honestly thought that it was something to do with Bram Stoker and vampires but there you go.
Kamen Rider Fourze the Movie: Everyone, Space is Here!
The Dark Knight Rises
Two of the Japanese films released last week enter the charts with Ushijima taking seventh place while Rurouni Kenshin takes the top spot. This has been the biggest opening of any Warner Bros. Japan’s releases… I think… and it has grossed $7 million. Pretty impressive. Prometheus entered at three and Umizaru and The Wolf Children remain in the top ten at four and five respectively.
What is released today? Lots of Japanese films! What a mix!
Japanese Title: 人生、いろどり
Romaji: Jinsei, Iridori
ReleaseDate:01st September 2012 (Japan)
RunningTime: 112 mins.
Starring: Sumiko Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Yuta Hiraoka, Eri Murakawa, Mie Nakao, Tatsuya Fuji, Shigeyuki Totsugi
The third film from Osamu Minorikawa, Jinsei, Irodori is one of a couple of forthcoming films tackling the issue of the ageing population of Japan. It also reminds me of the anime Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita due to the plot involving food and a woman coming in from a large “agency” and helping a community… Tenuous, I must admit. Anyway the film stars a mixture of new talents like Eri Murakawa who starred in Train Brain Express (I keep referring to it as Take the A Train), Shigeyuki Totsugi (Mitsuko Delivers), and venerable talents like Kazuko Yoshiyuki who has starred in a wide variety of films like Maiko haaaan!!!, Glory to the Filmmaker, Departures, Gohatto and Lady Snowblood 2, Sumiko Fuji who has appeared in Summer Wars, Hula Girls and the original Thirteen Assassins and Tatsuya Fuji who I last saw in Bright Future.
Based on a true story, Kamikatsu in Tokushima prefecture is a small town where nearly half of the population are elderly people and its once thriving tangerine industry has collapsed. When a woman from the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation named Eda arrives and endeavours to revive the town by selling vegetables from the local area. She meets opposition but three women named Kaoru, Hanae, and Michiko join forces with Eda.
Toshiaki Toyoda (9 Souls) follows up Monsters Club with this thriller about a religious cult which stars a whole load of stars including the handsome Kento Nagayama (Villain), Tatsuya Fujiwara (Death Note, Battle Royale), Ryuheu Matsuda (Nightmare Detective, The Suicide Song), the beautiful Kiko Mizuhara (Norwegian Wood, Helter Skelter) and Mayu Harada (The Millennial Rapture) Happy birthday, Mayu! It also stars Itsuji Itao (Love Exposure, Tokyo Gore Police, Ghost Train, One Missed Call Final) who uses his ability to by slimy well in this.
Rui (Fujiwara) is the charismatic leader of a new religious group who attracts the attention of the media after a car accident leaves a man dead. He retreats to his group’s compound in Okinawa where his chief aide (Itao) hires three bodyguards (Matsuda, Nagayama, Nakano) to look after him, his sister (Harada), brother (Kitamura). Why the need for bodyguards? What is the threat and is Rui happy with the life and his religious group?
Writer: George Nolfi, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Andrew Knauer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest whitaker, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Rodrigo Santoro, Genesis Rodriguez, Luis Guzman, Johnny Knoxville,
While I only review American films on this blog if they have impressed me enough there are a number of Japanese and Korean directors working in Hollywood right now and so I post trailers for their projects. Right now Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On franchise, Reincarnation) is putting the finishing touches on 7500 (following the demise of the production company behind it, when that will get a release I have no idea) while Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, J.S.A.) is handling Stoker. Kim Jee-Woon looks set to deliver the biggest blockbuster of the bunch in the form The Last Stand starring action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) was once in the LAPD but after a police operation goes badly wrong he leaves to become the sheriff of a quiet town named Sommerton Junction which is on the border with Mexico. Just when he thought he was free Owens is soon forced back into the thick of the action when an infamous drug baron escapes the FBI and makes a dash for the border. Owens will join forces with FBI agents Bannister (Whitaker) and Richards (Rodriguez) as they aim to stop the bad guy.
So this is a classic action film the likes of which propelled Scwarzenegger to fame. I actually enjoyed some of his films like True Lies but the real draw for me is Kim Jee-Woon. I have reviewed two of his films so far – The Quiet Family, A Bittersweet Life – and need to review the others I have seen (although the prospect of re-watching The Good, the Bad, the Weird leaves me feeling tired…). The trailer looks pretty awesome – he is bringing his post-modern take on films to Hollywood. My only reservation is that Kim Jee-Woon is not writing. That job is being handled by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), Andrew Knauer and George Nolfi (co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum and the writer and director of The Adjustment Bureau). Not bad but not brilliant. What does look good is the cast which includes top veteran actors like Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog, The Last King of Scotland), Luis Guzman (Magnolia, Snake Eyes), Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, Repo Man) and Peter Stormare (Fargo).
Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of my favourite directors so the chance to catch one of his earliest films (thanks to a tip from Sadako’s Movie Shack) which inspired a game considered one of the forebears of Resident Evil¹ was too good to pass up.
A film crew consisting of Kazuo Hoshino (Yamashiro), his daughter Emi (Nokko), producer Akiko Hayakawa (Miyamoto), cameraman Ryō Taguchi (Hurutate) and art restorer/TV presenter Asuka (Koroda) head off to an old and abandoned mansion where famed artist Ichirou Mamiya is said to have painted a final undiscovered fresco inside shortly before his death. After entering the house they discover the fresco and Asuka sets about trying to restore it for a documentary but weird sounds can be heard all over the place and when Taguchi knocks over a creepy shrine a supernatural force is unleashed. Only local man Yamamura (Itami) seems to know the true nature of the curse but can he do anything to save the crew?
Sweet Home is a haunted-house movie. Its horror DNA is a mixture of traditional Japanese imagery like long-haired yurei and western influences like Poltergeist, and The Exorcist. As is to be expected for a horror film directed by Kurosawa Sweet Home is anything but sweet. With Kurosawa at the helm you can count on a film which supplies absorbing and creepy atmospherics. This time however instead of an intellectual ghost story what we get is a highly kinetic and mainstream movie which utilises special effects and broad acting to deliver a fun ride.
I avoid serial killer films but Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure (1997) is the exception. I love it. It is partly due to the atmosphere that is unique to Kurosawa’s films, his intelligent deployment of cinematic techniques to create specific feelings and plot twists, the dose of the supernatural, intelligent writing, and deep characters. Angel Dust (1994) has many of the same elements.
This week I posted a review for The Suicide Manual, a trailer the latest PreCure movie (boy are there a lot of those!) and information of Terracotta’s release of the anime adaptation of Junji Ito’s Gyo (which has me very excited!). I did have another film review on offer but I have been engrossed with the 2012 Olympics (which I love!) and the BBC’s spectacular coverage (second to none!). I have managed to talk to members of Team GB (okay, their support/physios) and I’ve also had the opportunity to test out my Japanese on visiting Japanese fans who have been unfailingly polite (much to my relief because they could have laughed at my pronunciation etc.). Speaking of Japanese people, I wonder…
Two of last week’s newest entries enter the charts in the form of the latest Naruto movie and Eight Rangers at three and six respectively. Uzimaru holds onto the top spot while, The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki drop from second to fourth and Helter Skelter drops from fourth to seventh in its third week. Thermae Romae falls from the top ten. After fourteen weeks and making a lot of money. What an achievement.
What’s released this week? A strong dramatic film, an interesting documentary and a live-action adaptation of a favourite anime of mine.
Japanese Title: Another
ReleaseDate:04th August 2012 (Japan)
Writer:Sachiko Tanaka,Yukito Ayatsuji (Novel)
Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Kento Yamazaki, Ai Kato, Mika Akizuki, Hiroko Sato, Masaki Miura, Mana Kanno, Takashi Waki, Maya Okano
Yukito Ayatsuji’s supernatural-mystery novel Another has had an anime adaptation (which I liked a lot) and the live-action movie is released today. The director of the movie adaptation is Takeshi Furusawa who acted as assistant director to Kiyoshi Kurosawa on the classic J-horror film Pulse and director of the so-so Ghost Train. Kento Yamazaki (Wings of the Kirin) plays Kouichi while Mei Misaki is played by Ai Hashimoto (Confessions, Sadako 3D). Other cast members include Hiroko Sato (Atsuhimie No.1, Cursed), Masaki Miura (Cold Fish), and Maya Okano (Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). Two trailers, one featuring Sadako!
The story takes place back in the Spring of 1998 at Yomiyama Kita middle school where a transfer student named Kouichi Sakakibara arrives from Tokyo and finds himself in a class under a curse which causes unavoidable death. It seems to be linked to the death of a student in 1972 but a code of silence has developed amongst pupils and teachers past and present. When classmates begin to die Kouichi finds himself drawn into the deadly curse with only the silent and mysterious Mei Misaki seemingly able to give answers.
Romaji: Kazoku no Kuni
Japanese Title: かぞく の くに
ReleaseDate:04th August 2012 (Japan)
RunningTime: 100 mins.
Starring: Sakura Ando, Arata, Yang Ik-June, Kotomi Kyono, Jun Murakami, Taro Suwa,
This movie was one of a strong contingent at this year’s Berlin Film Festival where itwas screened at the Forum section and won the CICAE prize. It is a partly autobiographical story that draws on the director’s life and tells the story of the emigration of over 90,000 Koreans from Japan to North Korea after being promised a better life. An early review shows that it is a strong dramatic film. It stars Sakura Ando (Love Exposure, Crime or Punishment?!?), Arata (After Life), Kotomi Kyono (Takeshi’), Jun Murakami (Himizu, The Land of Hope, Blazing Famiglia), Taro Suwa (Ju-On: The Curse, Reincarnation), Yoshiko Miyazaki (Villain).
From 1959 to 1979 the North Korean government implemented a policy to attract Korean living in Japan to the idea of immigrating to North Korea. One of those who went was Son-Ho (Arata) who left his younger sister Rie (Ando) behind in Japan. 25 years later the two meets again when Son-Ho returns to Japan for three months for an operation. The film looks at the clash of feelings and cultures.
Japan Lies: The Photojournalism of Kikujiro Fukushima, Age 90
Romaji: Nippon no Uso: Hodo Shashinka Fukushima Kikujiro 90-sai
Japanese Title: ニッポン の 嘘ー報道写真家 福島 菊次郎 ９０－歳
ReleaseDate:04th August 2012 (Japan)
RunningTime: 114 mins.
Starring: Ren Osugi
This documentary follows the work of photographer Kikujiro Fukushima, a man who served in the Japanese army and narrowly avoided the atomic bomb and with the end of the war became disillusioned with Japanese state and began documenting its darker aspects. Ren Osugi reads Extracts from Fukushima’s writings. This sounds like a fascinating watch for anybody interested in history and Japan.
Kikujiro Fukushima is a man who has documented controversial aspects/moments in Japanese society such as discrimination against people of Korean ancestry, violent protests against the Japan’s involvement with the Vietnam war and the Japan-U.S. security alliance, and portraits of radiation poisoning following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and his most recent work photographing the farming communities in Fukushima prefecture following the meltdown at the local plant following the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami. Hasegawa’s documentary tells Fukushima’s story from his early days to now.
Kamen Rider Fourze the Movie: Everyone, Space is Here!
Romaji: Kamen Raida Foze Za Mubi, Minna de Uchuu Kita!
Japanese Title: 仮面 ライダー フォーゼ The Movie みんな で 宇宙 キターツ！
Tokusatsu and super sentai series are not my forte. I do not really watch them but I marvel at their long titles and the mix of Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana.
The Kamen Rider club in Amanogawa High School are fighting a mysterious monster named Zodiatsu while Space Ironmen Gurandain and Sukaidain are putting the finishing touches to a satellite weapon which has enough power to destroy the world. The team clearly have their work cut out if they are going to stop all of that.
Although the concept of Britain ruling the world through mecha is amusing I have yet to watch the anime Code Geass. This trailer is for the first episode of Sunrise studio’s forthcoming four episode spin-off from the Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion TV series from 2006. It is called Code Geass: Akito the Exiled. It is directed by Kazuki Akane (Birdy the Mighty Decode, Vision of Escaflowne), the script has been written by Morita Shigeru (Space Brothers), and Kimura Takahiro (Dirty Pair Flash) is adapting Clamp’s character design and Yasuda Akira (Turn A Gundam) is in charge of mecha design.
Extras: Soundtrack for this post (Olympic Badminton and this video)
Wataru Tsurumi’s notorious book, The Complete Manual of Suicide has been blamed for helping people to commit suicide and improving the chances of death occurring. This is not the first time I have encountered Wataru Tsurumi since news organisations around the world carried reports on his work. What I did not know was that his book had inspired a film. The result is far less interesting than one might think.
Yuu (Mizuhashi) is a journalist/cameraman with AX TV, a local broadcaster. He has been tasked with investigating a recent spate of suicides by his boss Yashiro (Sakaki). He heads over to the scene of a group suicide with his assistant Rie (Morishita) where they encounter a survivor (Nagasawa) who puts them on the trail of a woman named Rikki (Nakamura) who organises group suicides through her suicide bulletin board and a DVD she sends to potential suicides. The DVD is called The Suicide Manual. Yuu finds himself haunted by the concept of suicide and becomes obsessed with contacting Rikki.
This V-cinema release was the second directorial effort of Osamu Fukutani, one of the writers from the low-budget horror films The Locker 1 and 2. The cast list for The Suicide Manual features actors from both of those films and even the director Kei Horie. While I was no fan of Osamu Fukutani’s writing in The Locker I am interested in seeing how he squares up as a director.
The film opens with the lines:
The purpose of this movie is to warn against suicide. Its intent is not to encourage people to commit suicide