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Showing posts with label Film Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film Reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea 崖の上のポニョ is beautiful

A confession. When I was watching Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea at the cinema yesterday, I was a little choked up during one scene. And yes, damn it, I teared up too. I was so awed by the exuberance and beauty of a scene that I couldn't help but find a single tear trickling down my face. I won't spoil that scene, but it involves the storm, and a girl running frantically ON the crashing waves.

Yes, I went 'Wow' and teared up.

Friday, July 25, 2008


[UPDATED: 26TH OF JULY, 2008] Jason Gray has posted about the PIA Film Festival 2008 Winners.

I just came back from the PIA Film Fest in Shibuya again (read about my thoughts on SEMIGAO and TENGU LEAF, two films I saw at the fest on Saturday). I couldn't catch the rest of the films in competition, but managed to see SEISMIC GIRL by Tatenai Kenta and GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI by Kodama Kazuto, the two films from the NEW DIRECTIONS IN JAPANESE CINEMA project. They are films produced under the Agency for Cultural Affairs' 35mm short film production support projects. Basically, the project is to allow filmmakers (previous finalists of the film fest) to experience true 35mm filmmaking (all films in competition at the festival, being self-produced, are of course shot digitally).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

[30th PIA Film Festival] SEMIGAO and TENGU LEAF

I first heard about the PIA Film Festival (English site here) from my friend Maiko (who is supposed to produce my next Japanese-language short film). It's an important film festival that launched many careers of young Japanese filmmakers, normally when winning an award at the Tokyo PFF, their films end up touring around the nation, and some, of course, get invited to important foreign film fests. There were some winners at the Berlin Film Festival too. Naomi Kawase was a Pia winner, I heard Kiyoshi Kurosawa was one too.

Today was the opening of the 30th Pia Film Festival, so I decided to go there and check out two of the films in competition. It's only 1200 yen (300 yen cheaper than a normal film), and I get to watch 2 films, so it's a good deal.

The festival is held in a cinema at Shibuya Crosstower, the place was filled with young people, probably university students too. Unsurprising, since the filmmakers are those around my age as well. The cinema was packed, and I started wondering if a similar event was held in Malaysia, whether it would be just as successful. It's not a bad start though. A film festival for student films held in a cinema, of course, the tickets have to be cheaper as well.

In the little-seen (and UNDERRATED) Antonio Banderas film, THE 13TH WARRIOR, his character managed to learn Norse miraculously in a night by sitting with the crowd of vikings he was traveling with, and listening closely to their conversations. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm doing the same when i go to the cinema to watch a Japanese film without subtitles. Often I don't understand most of the dialogue, but I find myself 'understanding' the plot.

Both films I saw, SEMIGAO 蝉顔 and TENGU LEAF 天狗の葉 seem to revolve around the same themes. The disaffected young people in contemporary Japan, whose relationships with their family members are friendly but somewhat distant, and they are those who are left behind by the rapidly moving society. However, both use vastly different methods to tell their stories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Live-action version of The Last Love Song on This Little Planet 最終兵器彼女 is rather lacking

Shortly after first watching Shunji Iwai's Love Letter ten years ago, I developed a little teenage crush on Sakai Miki, who played the young Itsuki in the film. It's impossible not to, there was this innocent beauty in her, coupled by the gracefulness of the scenes she was in. Especially the one where she skates by herself in the midst of a pure white snowy plains...

... and then finding a frozen dragonfly, understanding her dad's passing, it was a very elegant scene.

On the year I discovered SPEED by accident at Tokyo, I was actually looking for Sakai Miki's album, LIKE A BEST FRIEND (which I did).

But since then, I never knew what happened to her. I thought she may have retired from acting, living the blissful life of a housewife.

So I was surprised when I saw her in a supporting role at THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET, which is more popularly known as SAIKANO, or also SHE, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON, which is based on a manga and anime.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happily Ever After 自虐の詩 starring Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani

Jigyaku no uta

The literal translation of HAPPILY EVER AFTER's Japanese title, Jigyaku no uta 自虐の詩, is 'the poem of self-torture/ self-inflicted pain'. I watched it last night not knowing what to expect. I was initially interested in it solely because of the two leads, Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani.

When Kaiji Shakedown covered the film last August, it was almost dismissive of the film's visuals, pointing out its flat television look that makes it look like TV movie of the week compared to the eye candy that was Memories of Matsuko'.

Friday, July 04, 2008



This entry was originally written last Sunday. But as you know, I ended up being buried by the production of my new short film, FLEETING IMAGES. (screenshots), so I'm posting this up now instead.

I first heard about the TOKYO REFUGEE FILM FESTIVAL because of Refusenik (also check out the official production blog). It all happened 2-3 weeks ago when I was seeking, via Facebook, other filmmakers who reside in Tokyo, and I found Megumi Nishikura. After corresponding briefly on Facebook, she told me about the screening of Refusenik, a documentary she was involved in as assistant editor during her stay in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure

Poster of Standard Operating Procedure by Errol Morris

Managed to catch another film at the Refugee Film Fest last night, this one's a documentary about the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse called STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, by Errol Morris, director of the seminal documentary THE THIN BLUE LINE. I watched the latter two years ago when I sneaked into the lecture sessions of the documentary class while studying in Perth.

Being the only other film by Morris I've watched, I still notice that he retained his style for STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, which is driven entirely by the interviews of his subjects and some reenacted scenes. With a budget of 5 million USD, and a score by Danny Elfman, this is a documentary that features 'production values' of what you normally see in its Hollywood fictional counterparts, shots of playing cards showing Saddam and his sons faces falling slow-mo onto the ground etc. Along with some really beautiful filmmaking flourishes that you don't see often in a documentary, like the scene which shows the assembling of a forensic timeline using hundreds of Abu Ghraib photos taken by three different cameras.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


the Pagodas of Burma

Right, so I said I was going to take a brief hiatus to force myself to write for my new short film. I might have underestimated my own writing skills since it took me only one night to finish what I need to write.

I went to the 3rd Annual Refugee Film Festival in the past two days (Friday and Saturday) and attended the screenings held at NHK Fureai Hall. The Tokyo Refugee Film Festival is organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and it screens films that draws attention to the human side of refugees (theme of the World Refugee Day's this year)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gave me mixed feelings

Saw this on Sunday immediately when it premiered in Tokyo. Here's a confession, unlike most, my best film memories in childhood weren't really the Indiana Jones films. Because, quite frankly, I can't remembe them much at all. I saw THE LAST CRUSADE when it first came out in theaters and I was only 6. Then I watched RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK a year later when it was screened in primary school for Children's Day, I remembered how the projectionist was being an ass by putting his hand over to projector during the kissing scenes to 'protect' the children's eyes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Chinese Program at the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008

Fruit Chan's A+B=C a short film

Just as I've mentioned in my previous post, I returned to the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008, this time for the Chinese Program that my friend, Cara Yuan (she organizes the mobile film festival in China) was curating.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Attending the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008

I first heard about SHORT SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL from Cara Yuan, organizer of the mobile phone film festival in China (I met her when I was at the Hong Kong International Film Festival back in March). She has came over to Tokyo to curate the Chinese program for the Short Shorts Film Fest, which will be featuring short films by Wong Kar Wai ('THERE'S ONLY ONE SUN', I've seen it on Youtube before) and Fruit Chan. I'm attending that a few hours from now, after I wake up (it's 3:42am while I'm writing this).

But wanting to familiarize myself with the way to the film fest, I decided to attend another one of the programs yesterday afternoon, right after I finish classes. Each program is 110 minutes long and is a compilation of short films for a particular competitive category. The one I went to was a screening of short films for the ASIA and JAPAN Competition, along with one entry for the STOP! Global Warming Competition. Then there's also a special screening of Tadanobu Asano's 224466, a 25-minute long short film he directed and starred in. Since I've just watched Mongol yesterday, it marks the second consecutive day I saw an Asano film.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kwak Jae-Yong's Cyborg She / My Girlfriend Is A Cyborg 僕の彼女はサイボーグ starring Haruka Ayase


I'm not sure what is the actual title of this film. Some articles call it MY GIRLFRIEND IS A CYBORG (a literal translation of its Japanese title), while Wikipedia called it 'CYBORG SHE', prefer the former, it's catchier.

This film is directed by Kwak Jae-Yong, the Korean director of MY SASSY GIRL. It was said that this will be the last film of his 'Sassy Girl trilogy', after MY SASSY GIRL, WINDSTRUCK.

MY SASSY GAL is widely considered a classic Korean romantic comedy, and (deservingly) made a huge international star out of Jun Ji-hyun, although I personally thought that Cha Tae-hyun's performance was a little underappreciated. It's one of my personal favourite Korean films, I've also seen Kwak Jae-Yong's subsequent films, THE CLASSIC and WINDSTRUCK. THE CLASSIC was a decent pure tragic tearjerker, while WINDSTRUCK was a mild disappointment, because it felt too obvious that he was trying to recapture the magic in MY SASSY GAL. By doing that, I felt that he was recycling his old tricks, instead bringing in something new. After all, Park Chan-Wook's films from his REVENGE TRILOGY are pretty different from one another, why can't Kwak Jae-Yong do the same?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon 三國之見龍卸甲 starring Andy Lau and Maggie Q

I remember THREE KINGDOMS: RESURRECTION OF THE DRAGON solely for one reason. It was the one film that was going to screen in Malaysia on the week I left for Japan. Thanks to my departure, I was deprived from my much-wanted Maggie Q dose. I also remember watching the trailer just before the laughably bad (but still laughable) AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS, and realized later that the trailer itself was better than AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Film adaptation of LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

I actually watched this nearly a month ago (during the same span of days when I watched Strawberry Shortcakes and Funuke, Show Some Love Your Losers!, quality stuff) I was so appalled by the film then that I decided I really have nothing to say about it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the second Narnia film

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Finally went to Shibuya to see THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN. It's the second film I went to the cinema for in Japan, and the first Hollywood film I saw here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hitoshi Yazaki's sublime 'Strawberry Shortcakes ストロベリーショートケイクス'

Strawberry Shortcakes ストロベリーショートケイクス

Watching Strawberry Shortcakes two weeks ago, I was reminded of some independent films from the current Malaysian New Wave, albeit not shot on MiniDV, has (slightly) higher production values, and with actual sex scenes. The visited themes (loneliness, emotional paralysis, ennui etc), the stylistic choices (sparingly-used music, use of meticulously-composed wide shots, languid pacing, multiple plots and central characters), the gritty realism and atmosphere.

Tokyo was portrayed in a manner I've seldom seen in J-doramas and studio films, still beautiful, but lonelier and harsher. After going through a series of Japanese films where its characters are portrayed in a much more exaggerated manner, behaving like live-action version of anime characters (I watched this right after I finished last year's megahit HERO, starring Takuya Kimura), Strawberry Shortcakes felt like a breath of a fresh air.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Shaolin Girl 少林少女

Shaolin Girl

After 3 weeks of Japanese language classes, I decided to put my newly-acquired language skills to test by going to the cinema for the first time since arriving at Tokyo. My original plan was to see IRON MAN, but since it isn't going to come out in Japan until September, I can only pick a Japanese film to watch (all other Hollywood fare were stuff that came out during the end of 2007, the newer stuff showing now are SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and 10 000 B.C...)

I picked a film which I knew wouldn't really be too much of a challenge to understand despite my lack of Japanese language skills:


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Daihachi Yoshida's wonderful Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers! 腑抜けども、悲しみの愛を見せろ

Funuke, Show Some Love Your Losers

Been getting rather difficult for me to write any film reviews lately, but here you go:

Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers! is a film I knew nothing about when I started watching it, and I finished it feeling rather rewarded.

It's a film about a dysfunctional family, it's driven completely by the four primary characters and the relationship and interaction between them. The opening scene sets the tone for things to come, we see a gruesome traffic accident caused by a cat that's sickeningly funny.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Empress And The Warriors 江山美人

After viewing the trailer (I was already giggling at the 'romantic' scenes between Leon Lai and Kelly Chen), and reading its early reviews in Hong Kong, I was already expecting the worst from AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS. Directed by Tony Ching Siu Tung (he often works as an action choreographer and is Zhang Yimou's frequent collaborator, working on the action scenes in HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, he was also behind the badass martial arts scene in the godly Bollywood superhero flick KRRISH), starring Donnie Yen, Kelly Chen and Leon Lai, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS is the kind of film you need to avoid if you were seriously looking for a good film to watch.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Roland Emmerich's 10,000 B.C.

10,000 B.C. was a magical cinematical experience. It's been a while since I had so much fun in the theater while watching what I would normally regard as a shitty film.

I saw it at KLCC on Friday (7th of March). It was a rowdy crowd. People laughed at the most inappropriate moments (but then, the film IS full of unintentional hilarity) and made amusing comments as the film went on. Like the few women behind me, where I would overheard lines like: