22 april 2014

Short Peace (Japan, 2013)

A compilation of four anime short films. 
PossessionsA lone traveler is confronted by unusual spirits in an abandoned shrine.
CombustibleA spectacular tale of love, honor and firefighting in ancient Japan.
Gambo - A mysterious white bear defends the royal family from the predations of a red demon.
A Farewell to Weapons - A tour-de-force saga of men battling robotic tanks in apocalyptic Tokyo. 

These are four insanely good-looking pieces of animation, and they're so Japanese that you'll probably keel over from the culture shock. Worth mentioning is that the second one, Combustible, is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who gave us the classic Akira. Watch this one if you want some fast-paced anime action with masterful visuals.

Genre: Action/Animation/Adventure

20 april 2014

Go (Japan, 2001)

Third-generation Korean, Sugihara, is a student at a Japanese high school after graduating from a North Korean junior high school in Japan. Sugihara’s school days are filled with fights that always result in his victory; he and his delinquent peers fill the rest of their time with all kinds of mischief. One day, Sugihara attends the birthday party of one of his friends and meets a mysterious Japanese girl. He takes her out on a couple of dates and they gradually become intimate

Tension rise high between the Koreans and the Japanese, and this film puts a high school student right in the middle of it. On one hand it's a love story with a turbulent high school setting, on the other hand, it's a tale about how a young man's heritage makes him the outcast of his school. Worth your while.

Genre: Drama

18 april 2014

Azumi (Japan, 2003)

In war-torn Japan, the Tokugawa Shogun, desperate to restore peace to his people, orders the assassination of the hostile warlords. A beautiful young woman is raised from birth with nine other orphans, to become an assassin. Her name is Azumi.

Chances are you've heard of Azumi. It was well-received on release and got a lot of fans all over the world, which is not surprising because it's a very cool and fast paced sword fest. Not without its silly moment, like when a guy's head gets cut off and he continues to scream, but a fun ninja brawler nonetheless.    

Genre: Action/Adventure

16 april 2014

White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (US, 2007)

Featuring interviews with fourteen atomic bomb survivors, many of whom have never spoken publicly before, and four Americans intimately involved in the bombings, WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN provides a detailed exploration of the bombings and their aftermath. In a succession of riveting personal accounts, the film reveals both unimaginable suffering and extraordinary human resilience.

White Light/Black Rain isn't a Japanese production, but it deals with one of the most horrifying events in Japanese history, and it's by far the best one I've seen on this subject. The footage from the bomb sites is so tragically gruesome, so it is very easy to get disturbed, and there's more than one scene that makes you want to look another way. White Light shows the unfiltered brutality of these bombings, and let's the survivors tell you their own heartbreaking stories of how it really was in those fateful days so many years ago.

Genre: Documentary

14 april 2014

The Face Reader (South Korea, 2013)

Nae-gyeong, the most skillful face reader in Joseon dynasty, was living in seclusion when he was offered a lucrative partnership by Yeon-hong, an entertainer working for the King. Nae-gyeong accepts the proposal to read the faces of Yeon-hong’s guests only to get involved in a murder case. With his face reading skills, Nae-gyeong successfully identifies the murderer and his skills are soon acknowledged by King Munjong who orders him to identify the potential traitors who threaten his reign.

I had high expectations for The Face Reader. It features many good actors and among them is one of my favorites, Song Kang-ho (Memories of Murder, Thirst). South Korea also is one of the champions when it comes to the costume drama genre. Needless to say I wasn't disappointed, because it's a thrilling and well-made period piece that's bound to draw you in with both humor, tragedy and characters with and dark, evil intentions.

Genre: Drama/History

12 april 2014

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (Japan, 2003)

Forty-two years after her first visit in Tokyo, Mothra returns to warn mankind that they must return Mechagodzilla, along with Godzilla's bones, to the sea, for the dead must not be disturbed. If not, dire consequences will follow. However, Godzilla is once again on the rampage, and Mechagodzilla is Japan's only defense.

I've watched a lot of Godzilla movies, and after a while, they're starting to feel the same. But some of them stands out as great action flicks and shows some fantastic city destruction. Tokyo S.O.S. was one of the better ones, I think.  The story, which continues from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) is involving and the action sequences is better than in many other Godzilla films. There's something incredibly satisfying in seeing huge buildings being torn apart and completely demolished by giant monsters. Also check out Godzilla: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), as that one also was one of the better ones.

Genre: Action/Fantasy

10 april 2014

Kuroneko (Japan, 1968)

A woman and her daughter-in-law are raped and murdered by samurais during the time of civil war. Afterwards, a series of samurai returning from the war through that area are found mysteriously dead with their throats torn out. The governor calls in a wild and fierce young hero, to quell what is evidently a ghost.

Some of the horror elements in Kuroneko has in my opinion been somewhat lost through the decades since its release, but it still got an immense amount of haunting imagery and the visuals, oh my God the visuals are superb and beautiful. A good classic that has a big place in Japans horror cinema history. 

Genre: Horror

8 april 2014

The Kirishima Thing (Japan, 2012)

The Kirishima Thing tells the story of two high school students who crosses social boundaries between the elite and lower class at their school. Ryoya Maeda, from the lower class, is a member of the film club, while Hiroki Kikuchi, from the elite class, is a non-participating member of the high school baseball team.

The Kirishima Thing is without a doubt in my mind one of the best drama movies from recent years. I can't find any flaws with it. Basically, it's a slice of life kind of story revolving around a group of students. It uses the 'Rashomon effect' to tell the story from different characters, and it works great. Terrific acting all the way and a fantastic cast, The Kirishima Thing will be a film you'll come back to many times.

Genre: Drama

6 april 2014

The Gifted Hands (South Korea, 2013)

A little girl is kidnapped and murdered in the jurisdiction of gang buster detective Yang Chun-dong, who fights against the gangs for three years now. Also the case of the murdered girl is up to him. During the case, he realizes the crime scene is the same as the mysterious wallpaper he saw once on the street. He starts tracking down the painter, a young man called Joon. But when Chun-dong is arresting Joon, he realizes that this boy has the so-called 'psycho-metry' ability to see the past by touching someone or something with his right hand. 

The Gifted Hands (a.k.a. Psychometry) is a very competent thriller from the promised land of detective thrillers. It delivers an exciting story with a twist in form of a psychic ability, and well, despite the fact that it doesn't exactly feel like the most original thriller it still can capture your attention 'til the end.

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

4 april 2014

A Touch of Sin (China, 2013)

The film revolves around four random acts of violence set in vastly different geographical and social milieus across modern-day China, ranging from the bustling southern metropolis of Guangzhou to the more rural townships in Jia's home province of Shanxi. Set in current times and based on allegedly true events from the recent past, the film also draws on the history of wuxia stories.

The violent scenes in A Touch of Sin are so well done that you don't mind sitting through this over two hours long film, and the stories which all take place in contemporary China are not bad at all. Stylistic and with great directing, I found A Touch of Sin to be quite easy to watch despite its long running time. 

Genre: Drama