3 March 2015

Uzumasa Limelight (Japan, 2014)

Seiichi works at Nichiei Studios in Uzumasa, Kyoto, Japan. He only plays characters who get slashed by the sword. Due to the popularity of other types of dramas, his workload has been steadily declining. Seiichi then meets a young girl, Satsuki. She is a fan of his work and wants to learn from him. Thanks to Seiichi's instructions, Satsuki becomes a star in Tokyo. She is cast as the lead female character in a big budget historical film. She hopes to work with Seiichi who is already retired.

Uzumasa Limelight is a heartfelt story where we meet an aging actor who specializes in being killed on screen, finds himself becoming obsolete when young new actors are becoming the next big thing in samurai movies. The idea feels original and entertaining, and not at all without its fair share of melancholy.

Genre: Drama

20 February 2015

On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate (South Korea, 2002)

Actor Kyung Soo leaves Seoul to visit an old classmate. The reunion with his friend does not amount to much, but the trip does lead to some romantic encounters. He gets involved with two women, first a young college student whom he leaves without a moment's thought and then a woman whom he deems his fated partner. As Kyung Soo becomes increasingly invested in this second relationship, he begins to notice certain coincidences and similarities that recall past pairings, blurring his conception of exactly which woman, which relationship, he is so desperately holding on to.

Turning Gate feels like a romantic drama, but without all the usual sweet romance. Instead it's a more realistic take on what can happen when you fall head first for someone and it doesn't always go your way. 

Genre: Drama

18 February 2015

A Girl at My Door (South Korea, 2014)

Young-nam was a promising graduate of the police academy before she was transferred to the small seaside village, which was caused by her misconduct. On her first day to the village, she encounters with Dohee who is the girl living in the town, seeming to have somewhat gloomy looking face. As Young-nam tries to accommodate with her new surroundings, an accident of Dohee's grandma getting killed by falling in the seashore cliff happens. As to protect the girl from her stepfather's abuse, Young-nam let Dohee stay at her place but things turn out to be more mysterious as she gets to know her.

A Girl at My Door features Doona Bae (Air Doll, The Host) in the main role as a cop who don't really know what to do when a young girl is constantly being beaten by her dad and shows up at her house afterwards. As most often, she gives a great performance. Not a movie that breaks any sort of formula or does anything new, but still a good film.

Genre: Drama

9 February 2015

Doppelganger (Japan, 2003)

Hayasaki is an inventor working on an Artificial Body. It is not going well and he is stressed out and on the verge of being fired from the research division of his company. His doppelganger appears to help him out of the rut he has created for himself.

I saw Doppelganger a couple of years ago and it didn't impress me as much as when I recently re-watched. I think it's because I had soaring expectations due to the fact that it's directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure), who's somewhat of a personal favorite. The concept of Doppelganger is fascinating and interesting, and Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance?) gives a smashing performance as two different individuals.  

Genre: Comedy/Thriller

1 February 2015

Han Gong-ju (South Korea, 2013)

Han Gong-Ju is taken to a home in an unfamiliar area. The home belongs to her former high school teacher's mother. The mother wants to know why her son is leaving Han Gong-Ju there, even if he promises she will be there for only a week. An investigation is ongoing back in Han Gong-Ju's hometown. Can Han Gong-Ju escape from her past?

If you want to watch something cheerful and uplifting, look away now. Han Gong-ju is one hell of a tragic and bleak story which follows a girl who've experienced something awful and is trying to move on, but it's also very powerful and features some great performances. I strongly recommend it, but I hope you don't feel too horrible after watching it.




Genre: Drama

31 January 2015

Real Fiction (South Korea, 2000)

The film follows a South Korean artist as he systematically seeks out, and then guns down his real or imagined enemies.

The cool thing about Real Fiction is the fact that it was shot entirely in real-time. You won't see any retakes here. The film also plays around with the concept of what is real and what's not. If you're a fan of Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron, The Isle) you should take the time to see this little film of his, because it has his name written all over it.

Genre: Crime/Drama

30 January 2015

Roaring Currents (South Korea, 2014)

Roaring Currents mainly follows the famous 1597 Battle of Myeongryang during the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598), where the iconic Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin managed to destroy a total of 133 Japanese warships with only 13 ships remaining in his command. The battle, which took place in the Myeongryang Strait off the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula, is considered one of the greatest victories of Yi.

Roaring Currents (a.k.a. The Admiral) became the biggest film of all time at the South Korean box office, and the first local film to gross more than US$100 million. That is insane considering the small amount of hype the film has gotten. The thing that got me interested was that Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) plays the titular admiral, and he's an actor I never will stop keeping an eye on. 

Roaring Currents is, as one would have guessed, a huge and epic war movie. The second half is basically an enormous naval battle with bloody fights sprinkled in-between. Recommended for those who like action packed period films which are based on true events. 


Genre: Adventure/Biography/History/War

28 January 2015

The Wig (South Korea, 2005)

In Seoul, Su-Hyeon is terminal with leukemia, and bald due the treatment of chemotherapy. Her sister Ji-Hyeon buys a long-haired wig, but she does not disclose the truth about Su-Hyeon's health condition to her beloved sister. While wearing the wig, Su-Hyeon recovers her health and hits Ji-Hyeon's former boyfriend Ki-Seok, changing her behavior and relationship with her sister. When Ji-Hyeon discovers that the wig is possessed by a fiend, she finds that it was manufactured using hair of a cadaver and a dark secret about Ki-Seok's sentimental life.

Exte: Hair Extensions (2007), which has been featured on this blog, is somehow not the only film to have murderous hair as the antagonist. Though, The Wig (a.k.a. Scary Hair) is a tad more serious and the plot has a few more layers than Exte. A couple of nasty scenes (one in particular is really gross) and a spooky atmosphere makes The Wig a decent film for the horror fans. Even though it's still kinda silly with killer hair.

Genre: Horror

25 January 2015

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (Japan, 2014)

Shishio has set sail in his ironclad ship to bring down the Meiji government and return Japan to chaos, carrying Kaoru with him. In order to stop him in time, Kenshin trains with his old master to learn his final technique.

The final installment in the Rurouni Kenshin-trilogy is here at last. The stakes are higher, and the samurai are all gathering for the final battle. The Legend Ends blow our minds once again with flawless sword fighting and insanely stylish fight choreography, just like the two previous films. The fight with Sojiro Seta is a personal favorite of mine, as it also was in the previous film Kyoto Inferno (2014). Apparently there were some changes made to the original story, so manga and anime purists may not appreciate it as much as those who've never delved into the series before. That aside, it's still a genuinely awesome and well crafted movie that should impress anyone who wants good action, cool characters and an entertaining story.


Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama

24 January 2015

Exte: Hair Extensions (Japan, 2007)

Customs agents discover a huge amount of human hair used as materials for 'hair extensions' along with the dead body of a young girl with a shaved head. With the corpse being soon transported by the police, the results of the autopsy determine that the woman's internal organs have been harvested. The possibility is pointed out that she was kidnapped in some foreign country and was a victim of black market human organ racketeering ring. A sinister, fearless smirk comes over Yamazaki, the morgue night watchman.

As I've said before, I'm rarely impressed by the works of director Shion Sono. Only on rare occasions has he made a film I can tolerate (Suicide Club, Cold Fish), and Exte is one of those. The premise is kind of silly and it's important not to take it too seriously, so if you can do that it's a fun horror flick with creepy ghost hair spilling out of peoples bodies. 


Genre: Comedy/Horror

19 January 2015

Patema Inverted (Japan, 2013)

A world, forever beyond your expectations. In a dark, cramped, underground world of endless tunnels and shafts, people wear protective suits and live out their modest hard and yet happy lives.

Patema Inverted introduces a wildly interesting concept of two different gravity zones next to each other. Above ground, people can walk around normally without any problem, but deep underground there's a group of people who's used to the gravity being inverted. It's kind of hard to explain and it gets even crazier towards the end. With good animation and a very original story, Patema Inverted is a recommended watch for anime fans.  


Genre: Animation/Adventure

14 January 2015

Barren Illusions (Japan, 1999)

Many years from now, a dangerous pollen will fall all over Tokyo. In this age, two people decides to become guinea pigs for a new drug that may prove to be the cure for this new epidemic.

Barren Illusions is a fairly unknown film, and has probably been seen mostly by those who are willing to dig in the filmography of the fantastic director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse). This movie was made by Kurosawa with help from many of his film student. The plot rarely shows its face, and we're left with a man and a woman who must face the consequences of trying to help others. It's very minimalistic and mysterious. Not for everyone but interesting for those who wish to see some early work by one of Japan's most interesting contemporary directors.


Genre: Drama/Romance

10 January 2015

Like Grains of Sand (Japan, 1995)

The movie is built around the very complex relationships between Yoshida, leaving Shimizu for Aihara (or at least he tries to), and his friend Ito, whose love for Yoshida seems to have little chance for success. In the end we have a coalition of Ito and Aihara - who may or may not be in love with Ito - teaching Yoshida a lesson.

How this film has passed me by through the years is beyond me. Maybe it fell under the radar when it didn't became a box office hit, making it so that most people didn't hear about it. Which is incredibly unfortunate because it's an amazing little film that faces the controversy of homosexuality in the Japanese society head-on.

It also has a killer soundtrack, beautiful and atmospheric. When the ending theme "SAYONARA" kicks in, you'll almost close your own eyes together with Yoshida.


Genre: Drama

8 January 2015

Aberdeen (Hong Kong, 2014)

The extended Cheng family, which, like Aberdeen harbor's Chinese namesake, represents today's "Little Hong Kong" and its myriad of contradictions between traditions and modernity; superstitions and materialism; family and individuality.

Aberdeen, named after a part of Hong Kong, explores the relationships and personal struggles of a typical Hong Kong family. It does an amazing job of showing off the towering metropolis its set in, and the use of colors makes me absolutely drool. Gorgeous stuff. A good film for those who like drama's that focuses on a group of people rather than just one main character. 

Genre: Drama

6 January 2015

The Snow White Murder Case (Japan, 2014)

A young woman who work at cosmetic company become a prime suspect,after her beautiful co-worker was murderer.
The Snow White Murder Case is a mystery which unfolds in an unusual fashion. After the murder has taken place we get a huge amount of back story, leading up to the killing. We get important plot points during news coverage and interviews with everyone involved. Social media also plays a big part in helping the viewer seeing the whole picture, because we have access to everyone's updates. Kind of hard to explain but you'll know what I'm talking about, it feels very original.

The story is based on a novel by Kanae Minato who previously wrote Confessions, which also got a fantastic movie adaption.
Genre: Drama/Mystery