Meatball Machine ミートボールマシン (2006)

Meatball Machine   Meatball Machine DVD Cover

Japanese: ミートボールマシン

Romaji: Mi-tobo-ru Mashin

Release Date: September 23rd, 2006

Running Time: 89 mins.

Director: Yudai Yamaguchi, Junichi Yamamoto

Writer: Junya Kato (Screenplay),

Starring: Issei Takahashi, Aoba Kawai, Taro Suwa, Kenichi Kawasaki, Ayano Yamamoto,

This is an earlier entry in the career of splatter specialist Yudai Yamaguchi. Although he has worked in other genres he is most famous for his outrageous and over-the-top blood soaked action films. This entry plays out like a colourised version of Tetsuo: The Iron Man with a twisted love story at its heart.

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The Guard From Underground 地獄の警備員 (1992)

Genki The Guard From Underground Film Review Banner

The Guard From Underground  The Guard From Underground Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄の警備員

Romaji: Jigoku no Keibin

Release Date: 1992

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Kunihiko Tomioka (Screenplay),

Starring: Makiko Kuno, Yutaka Matsushige, Hatsunori Hasegawa, Ren Osugi, Taro Suwa

Akebono Corporation is a major business and Akiko Narushima (Kuno) is on her way to a new job. She used to be a curator at a gallery and is now the new adviser for the purchases of paintings for the corporation. Akebono are also hiring a new security guard in the rather tall and solidly built shape of former sumo wrestler Fujimaru (Matsushige), a man who is wanted by the police investigating the case of the murder of his lover and her lover, another sumo wrestler…  He was released due to being insane but the police are looking to prosecute again. Akiko starts her first day brightly and meets her new colleagues, the flighty Hanae Takeda, the rather useless Ken Nomura, and anonymous bald dude Minoru Yoshioka (Suwa). Her workmates are great… apart from her lecherous manager Kurume (Osugi), a carefree head of human resources named Hyodo (Hasegawa) and the mighty Fujimaru who takes a liking to her.

The Guard From Underground Security Booth

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Another, Our Homeland, Japan Lies, Kamen Rider Fourze the Movie: Everyone, Space is Here!, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Charts

Anime Character Guessing Game Entry - EriThis 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…

What’s happening with the Japanese movie box-office chart this week?

  1. Umizaru 4: Brave Hearts
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie
  4. The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
  5. Pokemon: Best Wishes 2012
  6. Eight Ranger
  7. Helter Skelter
  8. Brave
  9. The Amazing Spider-Man
  10. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 2nd

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.

Another                                              Another (live-action movie) Poster

Japanese Title: Another

Release Date: 04th August 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Takeshi Furusawa

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.

Our Homeland                             Kazoku no Kuni (Our Homeland) Poster

Romaji: Kazoku no Kuni

Japanese Title: かぞく の くに

Release Date: 04th August 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Yang Yong-Hi

Writer: Yang Yong-Hi

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

Release Date: 04th August 2012 (Japan)Nippon no Uso Hodo Shashinka Fukushima Poster

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Saburo Hasegawa

Writer: Saburo Hasegawa

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!Kamen Rider 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!

Release Date: 04th August 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 66 mins.

Director: Koichi Sakamoto

Writer: Kazuki Nakashima

Starring: Sota Fukushi, Ryuki Takahashi, Fumika Shimizu, Rikako Sakata, Ryo Yoshizawa, Shiho,

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.

 

Code Geass: Akito the Exiled

Romaji: Ko-do Giasu: Boukoku no Akito

Japanese Title: コード ギアス 亡国 の アキト

Release Date: 04th August 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 66 mins.

Director: Kazuki Akane

Writer: Morita Shigeru

Starring: Maaya Sakamoto, Miyu Irino, Ai Kayano, Yuko Kaida, Asami Seto, Marya Seto, Kenta Miyake, Keiji Fujiwara, Masaya Matsukaze

 

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)

Kazoku no Kuni (Our Homeland) Poster 2

Mei Misaki - Another Poster

Himizu ヒミズ (2012)

Yuichi (Sometani) and Keiko (Nikaidou) in Himizu Banner

Himizu is Sion Sono’s adaptation of Minoru Furuya’s manga of the same name. It involves tough subject matter like child abuse, murder, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, but it is ultimately a redemptive and moving exploration of life, identity, and the will to live in an unfair world.

Junior high school kid Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) wants a quiet life but his mother (Yukiko Watanabe) comes home with different men every night, and his drunken, hate-filled father (Ken Mitsuishi) only pays him visits when he needs money. Yuichi carries on running the family boat rental business and lives surrounded by homeless people who are victims of the tsunami. Meanwhile at school he is ignoring class-mate Keiko Chazawa (Fumi Nikaidō) who has a massive crush on him. Things get tough when his mother abandons him and Kaneko (Denden), a Yakuza loan-shark, shows up looking for Yuichi’s father and ¥6 million. Pushed to breaking point by his situation Yuichi finds himself unable to control his anger and a series of events leads him to the brink of madness.

 Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) in a Crisis in Himizu

Sion Sono’s films usually carry the tropes of bad parents, abuse, violence, and existential confusion but there is enough black humour and outlandishness to lighten the impact. The audience does not get that here. What we get is an extreme view of the dark side of a modern Japan and the existential soul searching that needs to take place to build a new future and a lesson in never giving up on life.

 “Nobody can touch my future!”

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Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚 (2011)

Cold Fish Murata Welcomes You

Cold Fish is Sion Sono’s award winning film loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer couple Gen Sekine and his ex-wife Hiroko Kazama who perpetrated Tokyo’s notorious 1993 “Saitama serial murders of dog lovers”. It received its premiere at the 2010 Venice Film Festival and is a genuinely brilliant film.

Shamoto (Fukikoshi) runs a small tropical fish shop with his second wife Taeko (Kagurazaka) and rebellious daughter Mitsuko (Kajiwara). One day Mitsuko is caught shoplifting but an intervention by a friendly man named Murata (Denden) prevents the store manager from pressing charges. As it turns out Murata also runs a tropical fish store with his wife Aiko (Kurosawa). Won over by Murata’s charm Shamoto and his unhappy family form a bond of friendship with him and Mitsuko even goes to work for him. What Shamoto does not realise is that Murata is not as friendly as he seems to be and soon finds there are many dark and twisted secrets behind the smile and he is powerless to resist.

Murata (Denden) Bullies Shamamoto (Fukikoshi) in Cold Fish

Cold Fish like many of Sion Sono’s films flits between horror, satire, thriller, and comedy. It is heavy on gore and black humour with writing and acting that perverts believable drama into a crazy, enjoyable, and moving ride.

The story can happen anywhere people exist. Shamoto’s family are believably unhappy, with each individual wrapped up in their own lives with Taeko sour from a life she feels is wasted, Shamoto unable to express his true feelings and Mitsuko contemptuous of her parents.

Shamoto is one part hapless and mostly meek. He is a simple man unable to deal with adversity and the absurdity of life. His inability to deal with life sees him retreat into his dreams just to escape conflicts that might be solved if he was more proactive and was able to communicate his real feelings to his family.

Fukikoshi develops sympathy by capturing the good-natured but timid nature of Shamoto who wants to avoid the ugly reality of life. Despite his best intentions he cannot overcome his meekness. As the film progresses he goes from looking affable but ineffective to genuinely horrified, squeezing himself into corners out of sight of the horror. Through Murata’s insistent bullying Shamoto reveals his pent up anger and when he snaps the rage is recognisable.

Equally recognisable is the bitterness and resentment that Taeko feels. It is portrayed by Kagurazaka in the curl of distaste her mouth takes when her husband speaks or the poisonous looks she shoots Mitsuko. At one point her relationship with Shamoto had romance and they understood one another as individuals and shared dreams.

Shamoto (Fukikoshi) and Taeko (Kagurazaka) in the Planetarium in Cold Fish Continue reading “Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚 (2011)”

Ju-On: The Curse 呪怨 (2000)

Ju-On Attic HeaderAfter dedicating most of September to the J-hora films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa it seems fitting that I should now look at those of Takashi Shimizu.

Shimizu studied under Kurosawa at the Takashi Shimizu, director of Ju-On Tokyo Film Seminar/Film School of Tokyo. This relationship proved crucial for Shimizu because Kurosawa got him his first professional directing job helming two segments for Kansai TV’s 1998 Haunted School G series. These would form the basis for the Ju-On films which Shimizu is most remembered for.

Ju-On – A curse born of a strong grudge held by someone who died. The place of his death gathers his grudge and works on anyone who comes into contact with those places. Those with this curse shall lose their life and a new curse is born.

 

Ju-on The Curse Basic InformationThe film is split into six vignettes. Each one follows a separate person and they are not in chronological order. The first follows a teacher named Shunsuke Kobayashi who is concerned about the absence of one of his pupils named Toshio Saeki. While paying a house-call Shunsuke notices Toshio is injured, Toshio’s mother Ayako is nowhere to be found and the household in disarray with objects strewn around and the environment suggesting abuse. After helping Toshio apply first aid Shunsuke makes the decision to wait little realising the house is haunted. Cut to a few years later and new occupants are in the house. The Murakami family consist of the mother Noriko, son Tsyuyoshi and daughter Kanna with a father off-screen. Each of these people and those they interact with become haunted over time as the curse spreads and it becomes clearer that the house is haunted and the curse is spreading.

Ju-on's Outwardly Normal HouseOriginally a direct-to-video (original video) release, Ju-On: The Curse is the start of Shimizu’s highly popular run of yurei in suburbia titles that culminated in his helming the American re-make and even two films celebrating the tenth anniversary of the series which were directed by two new directors. I wrote yurei but it might be more accurate to call them onryou because these spirits are intent on harm. They terrify their victims (and the audience) to death with Shimizu playing on every fear an urbanite might have about their surroundings. The film is low-budget but high on imagination.

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