2013 - The Fake (still 7

Another Korean Film Festival review just gone live on UK Anime Network, this time a new animated effort from the director of King of Pigs – The Fake.

A small Korean town is slowly being dismantled before being sacrificed for a new damming project. The people of the town are being appropriately compensated by the government, but still they’ll have to pick up and start again somewhere else even though many of them are already past retirement age. Two new forces are descending on this once ordinary town – one offers hope in the form of an evangelical preacher who claims to cure the sick and offers a place in a new paradise (to those with the money to buy a ticket – places strictly limited, terms and conditions may apply) and the other a violent drunkard, Min-chul, who wastes no time in wreaking havoc on the lives of his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, Min-chul picks a fight with the wrong person and is the only one to realise that the preacher’s “backer” is a notorious fraudster currently wanted by police for a string of similar crimes. Sometimes the truth comes in unpleasant packages, and being the sort man he is, who would believe Min-chul when he’s the only one who’s seen through this “fake” miracle? 

A-Tale-of-Samurai-Cooking-teaser

I kind of love this photo because he already looks so annoyed :)

Review of period romantic comedy/drama with a side serving of culinary delight A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story up at UK Anime Network. I went a bit overboard with the food metaphors, which is maybe what you get when you spend your food budget on movie tickets. I regret nothing.

Anyway this is showing at the Curzon in Mayfair until tomorrow, though they did say it may extend if there’s enough interest. It’s also going to be screened at the Genesis Cinema in Mile End and the Everyman and apparently will open in Ireland from 9th January. Yume Pictures will then release it on DVD in 2015 if you aren’t near a cinema that’s showing it, or you can even watch it on Curzon Home Cinema right now.

 

wp03_1024-768

Based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka (Fish Story; The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker), Gravity’s Clowns is the story of two very different brothers who discover a dark family secret following the death of their mother. Part mystery story part character drama, Gravity’s Clowns takes a look at the themes of nature vs nurture as well as the importance of familial love and acceptance.

Returning home for the first anniversary of his mother’s death, Izumi (Ryo Kase) and his younger brother Haru (Masaki Okada) spend some time with their father Tadashi (Fumiyo Kohinata) reminiscing about the past. Watching a local news broadcast, Haru realises the site of a recent arson attack is not far from where he’s been working. Noticing a pattern in the location of the attacks, Haru decides to investigate and ropes his brother in for the ride. However, the mystery Izumi finds himself embroiled in ends up being far different than the one he imagined.

It’s revealed fairly early on in the movie, but the fact of the matter is that Izumi and Haru may only be half brothers as their mother became pregnant with Haru shortly after being brutally assaulted in her own home by a serial rapist operating in the area. Having decided to have the baby and raise the child together whatever his true parentage, Haru’s parents did their best to give him a normal, loving upbringing alongside his older brother. Though there was some gossip in the town thanks to the incident’s notoriety, neither Haru nor Izumi were aware of their mother’s ordeal until after her death. After discovering the truth, both brothers react in different, though ultimately similar ways.

As a mystery, Gravity’s Clowns tries to pack in a fair few twists and turns though ultimately they are all quite obvious and frequent viewers of crime thrillers or psychological dramas will have guessed the entire plot in the first ten minutes. However, the mystery is definitely of secondary importance to the character drama that is being played out in front of it. The real key to the film is in the relationship between the two brothers, and to a larger extent the family as a whole. What’s important is that the brothers support and and love each other no matter what and as their father told them, their family is the strongest family there is. No matter what past traumas or biological facts may interfere, these guys will always come through for each other.

Having said that, the narrative does meander somewhat and in particular the “comedy stalker” subplot feels a little out of place and under developed. Despite playing a crucial plot role, and providing quite an amusing joke early on in the film and at its end, Yuriko Yoshitaka’s “Natsuko” (this is just a nickname and a fairly amusing pun as Haru’s name means “spring” and she always follows him around so they called her “Natsuko” which means “summer’s child” , she doesn’t even get a proper name) doesn’t have a tremendous amount to do. Likewise, the small but important role played by the boys’ father feels as if it bounces around a little in terms of weight as does that of their mother who is only seen in flashback. Ultimately Gravity’s Clowns over reaches itself as it tries to tackle some more weighty themes like nature vs nurture and the ethics of certain kinds of crimes which are only addressed in a very superficial way, and in fact concluded fairly ambiguously.

A flawed, if pleasant enough character drama, Gravity’s Clowns is generally entertaining but ends up feeling a little insubstantial. High quality and committed performances from the cast and especially from Ryo Kase and Masaki Okada as the two central brothers help to elevate the material but somehow it never quite takes off. Heart warming and actually quite funny at times, Gravity’s Clowns is a noble effort but one that ultimately fails to strike home.

imgnewly1-187l

Based on the Edogawa Rampo award winning novel by Urio Shudo, Brain Man is a stylish psychological thriller which addresses such themes as guilt, redemption and the effects of childhood trauma. Are some people just born bad, can even those who’ve committed terrible crimes be rehabilitated? People on opposite sides of the legal system seem to have some conflicting ideas but perhaps the answer is never going to be as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

While a series of explosions rock a small provincial town, forensic psychologist Mariko Washiya (Yasuko Matsuyuki)  is the head of a research programme which aims to help convicted felons come to terms with their crimes through interacting with the victim’s families and there by coming to feel a kind of empathy for all the hurt and destruction they have caused. After leaving the office one day she races to catch the bus only to miss it by seconds while a bunch of bratty kids make faces through the window. Moments after the bus pulls away, it explodes killing all on board. Becoming an unwitting witness to events, Mariko finds herself at odds with the hardline policeman investigating the crime. When the police arrest the perfect suspect, a strange, near silent man discovered at the site of an explosion, Mariko is called upon to examine him. Ichiro Suzuki (Toma Ikuta) presents himself robotically, answering each of Mariko’s questions at face value no matter how strange and otherwise remaining motionless. That is, until something disturbs his sense of justice and he breaks out some killer martial arts moves. As might be expected, nothing is quite as cut and dried as it might seem on the surface and something convinces Mariko that there might be something more ‘human’ locked away deep down in Ichiro’s psyche.

First and foremost Brain Man is pretty mainstream thriller which means it isn’t totally free of a few melodramatic turns and far fetched plot developments but by and large it gets away with them. The first plot line centred around the bombings quickly gives way to the mystery surrounding Brain Man himself before getting back to the bombers towards the end. The two narrative strands sometimes seem at odds with each other and don’t feel as cohesive as they perhaps should. Though having said that though the “bombers” plotline is definitely the film’s second strand it gives ample room for Fumi Nikaido’s gloriously crazed depiction of a drug addled lesbian terrorist which she manages to play in a refreshingly restrained way (well, as far as the part allows – it is a particularly well pitched performance). There is also even a third subplot regarding Mariko’s prestige project of a young man who’s shortly to be released from a young offenders institute (played by Shota Sometani) seemingly rehabilitated and eager rejoin society all thanks to Mariko’s new therapy program which plays in conjunction with a fourth subplot concerning Mariko’s family and its own past traumas. Undoubtedly, there’s a lot to juggle but Brain Man makes a surprisingly valiant attempt at getting it all to work together.

Director Tomoyuki Takimoto is probably best known for his previous film Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit – a low budget though similarly impressive adaptation of a manga. Brain Man has a slightly higher budget and its fair share of flashy direction both of which impress from the get go. Even more so Takimoto has amassed a cast of up and coming stars who each turn in well rounded performances ranging from the completely out there extremes of the aforementioned Fumi Nikaido to Shota Sometani’s small but complicated patient and, of course, Toma Ikuta’s powerful portrayal of the near silent and emotionless killing machine the Brain Man not to mention Yasuo Matsuyuki’s warm hearted doctor.

Although a little slow to get going initially and excusing the odd lacuna brought about by throwing the points on the great train track of narrative, Brain Man manages to pack in a decent amount of excitement into its relatively tightly plotted structure. In many ways it isn’t particularly original, but it does what it does pretty well and mixes in enough twists and turns to keep even the most jaded mystery enthusiast interested. Perhaps a little bit too crazy for its own good, Brain Man is another classy Japanese thriller that isn’t afraid that isn’t afraid to go to some pretty strange places in the name of entertainment.

2014 - A Hard Day (still 2)

In an unprecedented level of activity, here is another review up on UK-anime.net – this time Korean black comedy crime thriller, A Hard Day which was shown at the London Film Festival and the London Korean Film Festival and is now out on DVD from Studio Canal.

Gun-su is driving furiously and arguing with his wife on the phone because he’s skipped out on his own mother’s funeral to rush to “an important work matter”, which just happens to be that he has the only key to a drawer which contains some dodgy stuff it would have been better for internal affairs not to find – and internal affairs are on their way have a look right now. So pre-occupied with the funeral, probable career-ending misery and the possibility of dropping his fellow squad members right in it, Gun-su is driving way too fast. Consequently he hits something which turns out to be man. Totally stressed out by this point, Gun-su does the most sensible thing possible and puts the body in the boot of his car before continuing on to the police station. Just when he thinks he’s finally gotten away with these very difficult circumstances, things only get worse as the guy that he knocked over turns out to be the wanted felon his now disgraced team have been assigned to track down. Oh, and then it turns out somebody saw him take the body too and is keen on a spot of blackmail. Really, you couldn’t make it up! 

44ea2aa088e78643f1ee584fde4e3d2eI interviewed the director of Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats for UK Anime Network while he was over here for the Raindance Film Festival. You can read my review of the film too if you’re so inclined (that might be a link to a link to a link, um – sorry!).

Seeing as I asked him about enka in the interview here’s a video of one of the songs featured in the film (as tracked down by ace music detective and film blogger genkina hito!)

Tabidachi no Uta

Those opening chords sound a little like I am a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel which I did listen to a lot as a child, maybe that’s why the song sounds so nostalgic even though I couldn’t have heard it before?

A1rM9z8kBbL._SL1500_

Great new box set from Third Window Films reviewed on Uk-anime.net.

ruruoni_kenshin_the_kyoto_inferno_still(saito’s just so cool!)

Review of the first Rurouni Kenshin sequel, Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno up at UK Anime Network.

Having successfully seen off would be drug-baron Kanryuu and the false Battosai Jin-e, once remorseless killer Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) has moved into the dojo run by Kaoru (Emi Takei) and made a seemingly joyful life alongside Kaoru’s only pupil, the boy Yahiko (Kaito Oyagi), the doctor Megumi (Yu Aoi) and loud-mouthed Sanosuke (Munekata Aoki). However, the happy family’s peace is about to be rudely interrupted as an envoy from the Home Minister arrives and requests a private meeting with Kenshin. It seems an old enemy once believed dead has been discovered to be alive and currently plotting terrible vengeance against the new government in Kyoto. Shishio’s skills are matched only by Kenshin, and so the government wishes to make use of his services once again to stop this new threat to the development of the modernising Japan. However, Kenshin has laid down his sword and dedicated his life to atoning for the lives he took as a warrior – will he really return to the life of a wandering swordsman? Originally reluctant and very much against the wishes of Kaoru, a tragic event finally convinces Kenshin he has no choice but to stop Shishio whatever the cost!

This is out in UK cinemas from Friday 28th November 2014 when it’ll play all these cool places:

  • Cineworld Enfield
  • Cineworld Crawley
  • Cineworld Sheffield
  • Cineworld West India Quay
  • Cineworld Glasgow RS
  • Cineworld Cardiff
  • Cineworld Stevenage
  • Cineworld Bolton
  • Vue Piccadilly (London)

Well worth seeing on the big screen, might even be better than the first one!

9ae7eea7-3b8a-4212-96ca-023eb8b5cdd5wallpaper1Review of Kim Ki-duk’s latest from the London Korean Film Festival up at UK Anime Network.

This oddly symmetrical tale begins with the shockingly matter of fact murder of a young schoolgirl by a gang of seven masked aggressors. Following this seemingly senseless crime another group of seven, this time a group of vigilantes brought together by a desire for some kind of personal vengeance against society, have taken it upon themselves to avenge this killing by kidnapping each of the seven perpetrators and torturing them until they confess and give some kind of information regarding the true nature of the crime. In another duality, the “villains” are all well to do, successful underlings whereas the “vigilantes” are generally working-class people who’ve lost out in the current economic climate and in some cases are living in dire poverty through no fault of their own. The villains offer several different reactions or explanations for their involvement in such a heinous crime varying from “I was just following orders” or “it was for the common good” to “what does it matter, I have status and can do as I please” but at the end of the day those on both sides will have to realise that the lines between good and bad are much more fluid than most people would like to think and that eventually you will have to decide for yourself not just where you stand but who it is you really are. 

 

 

WorldOfKanako-P

Another LFF review up at UK Anime Network – The World of Kanako. I was also lucky enough to interview the director, Tatsuya Nakashima, who was actually very nice and quite chatty in contrast to some of the other interviews I’d read with him! (The consequence being I had way too many questions so it’s sort of a front loaded interview, oh well.) Interview’s already transcribed and in the system so hopefully live soon.

Disgraced former policeman Fujishima has a whole host of problems in his life, alcoholism and possible schizophrenia being but two of them. Suddenly he gets a call from his estranged wife, who’s out of her mind with worry because their teenage daughter, Kanako, has not been home in a few days. On searching her room in true detective style, he finds a stash of illegal drugs hidden in her school pencil case. This alarming discovery sends Fujishima down an increasingly dark alley that leads only to the heartbreaking realisation that the kind and beautiful straight A student he believed his daughter to be was no more than a figment of his own imagination.