Tag Archive: japan


What to Watch – July 2013

With most of the biggest summer films come and gone already, it is down to Pixar, giant robots and the least anticipated superhero film of the year to vie for audience attention.

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Now You See Me – 3rd July

A star studded cast embark on a world wide game of cat and mouse to catch a group of ‘Robin Hood like’ magicians turned bank robbers in Now You See Me, which is by far the most exciting film on this list for me.

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The Bling Ring – 5th July

From Sofia Ford Coppola comes The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson (albeit sounding like an American brat). Inspired by true events, a group of teenagers begin stealing from the rich and famous Hollywood socialites… the whole story is in the trailer pretty much.

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Pacific Rim – 12th July

After what many critics have called ‘the best trailer of the summer’ Guillermo Del Toro’s homage to Japanese monster films has a lot to live up to. And there don’t seem to be many people that think it will fail.

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Monsters University – 12th July

This will be the film that either reassures everyone that Pixar’s last couple of years were just a blip, or confirm what many people fear: Pixar are declining. Hopefully, as Monsters Inc. is probably my favourite Pixar film, the former will be proved correct.

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The World’s End – 19th July

Simon Pegg looks like he’s in the form of his life with the final installment in the Cornetto trilogy. Joined by a rich supporting cast it looks as though Wright, Pegg and Frost will be bowing out in a no less than exceptional manner.

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The Wolverine – 25th July

In a film that not many people want and fewer are excited about (other than me who is quite looking forward to it) Wolverine is taken on his most human and darkest screen voyage to date. However, the main problem here is: if you make Wolverine mortal, surely he dies straight away due to his body being filled with adamantium? But after the massacre to the X-Men film universe that was Origins, I suppose that doesn’t really matter?

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After the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, fans have been pretty on the fence about whether to bother with The Wolverine or not. However, as more and more news has unravelled about Logan’s next venture The Wolverine had my curiosity but now, with the release of the first international trailer, it has my attention.

The Wolverine takes place after the events of The Last Stand: Jean Grey, Cyclops and Professor X are dead and the X-Men are disbanded. Wolverine is coming to terms with the fact that he is always going to outlive everyone he ever cares about and comes close to, he will be forever grieving. He is in a state of hopelessness, without identity now more than ever. Who is The Wolverine?

Despite being the lead character in the original X-Men films and obviously in Origins, a lot of time was given to other mutants – to the point in Origins that there were perhaps TOO many mutants for anyone to really be bothered about. However, what we have here is a true solo Wolverine film. Based on one of the greatest story arcs of all time by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, Wolverine travels to Japan and meets a mysterious figure from his past.

Hugh Jackman is a man who clearly loves his art. This will be the sixth time that Jackman has took on the role of Wolverine and will be playing the part again next year as well. It is hard to think of any other actor who clearly cares for his character so much. Despite the poor outings in his last two features Jackman is still portraying the clawed animal, determined to give fans the true incarnation of Wolverine that they want. And now it looks as though all of his waiting is about to pay off.

Thankfully, there are a lack of mutants in The Wolverine, with most of the conflict coming from assassin’s guilds. However, the other mutants who do appear are set to offer something new to the franchise. There is a wealth of characters that FOX haven’t even come close to alluding to in the X-Men universe so it is good to see some fresh faces here. In particular there is Silver Samurai, played by Will Yun Lee, who has access to an electrified suit of samurai armour and is the son of Shingen Yashida, the figure from Logan’s past. But there is also Viper; in the comics she is a skilled martial artist and tactician with an enhanced life span and teleportation abilities, but it is unclear how much of this will be used in the film adaptation of the character, but she is played by the beautiful Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova.

The preview images have been impressive. Fans have longed to see Wolverine in his suit and now they get to see him, finally in… well, a suit. Nobody really knew what the stakes were going to be for Wolverine in Japan but now we know; will he really lose his ability to heal himself? Is that truly what he wants?

Director James Mangold (of 3:10 to Yuma fame) previously listed a series of films that had influenced his take on this iconic character. Among them were Chungking Express, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The French Connection and 13 Assassins which are all fantastic films and it will be very interesting to see the impact that these films have on The Wolverine.

We’re shown flashbacks in the trailer of World War 2 presumably. There’s a little glimpse of Famke Janssen, is that The Last Stand footage or a new cameo that she preciously teased? One thing we know for certain, or that I am willing to speculate anyway, is that this will be the Batman Begins of Wolverine’s story. I predict that The Wolverine will be the surprise package of 2013!

The Wolverine hits cinemas worldwide on July 26th.

Pacific Rim is the upcoming film being directed by Guillermo del Toro and pays homage to the Japanese giant monster films, known around the world as Kaiju. Pacific Rim tells the story of giant creatures rising from somewhere in the depths of the ocean and waging war on mankind; in order to combat the legions of monsters humankind builds robots (Jaegers) just as big to be piloted by humans in an attempt to “stop the apocalypse”. On the verge of defeat mankind must turn to two unlikely heroes – a washed up former pilot and an untrained rookie – to pilot a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past.

The trailer debuted today, here it is:

Now you can’t deny the grand scale of epic-ness contained within those two minutes?!

I first heard about Pacific Rim a couple of months ago and at first I did think that it sounds just like your typical disaster-turned-action-movie but then my mind was soon put to ease. Guillermo del Toro is a director that doesn’t do things by half; he is one hell of a credible name in the world of movies and has previously brought us the critically acclaimed Hellboy and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army as well as the incredible Pan’s Labyrinth. All of these three films really show that del Toro can do special effects like no other director out there and that when he uses them he makes sure that everything looks perfect and that they do not distract from the film. The brief glimpses in the trailer of the giant see monsters (which look magnificent) and the Jaegers (equally so) have a real sense of brilliance about them: everything just looks so epic, so huge that watching the trailer on my laptop screen just does not do it justice, it really looks like something made specifically for the big screen!

Now you can tell Pacific Rim is going to be requiring a huge budget so who are the two leads on whom the pressure lies? Well, that would be Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi… you don’t recognise them names? Both of these have been successful in their careers so far yet stayed away from big blockbusters like this. Hunnam has appeared in Green Street, Children of Men and more recently the critically acclaimed television series Sons of Anarchy whilst Kikuchi is wonderful in Babel. They are supported by Ron Perlman (Hellboy obviously), Burn Gorman (my favourite character from Torchwood so nice to see him here), Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) and arguably the biggest name among the cast these days, but still not a huge name, Idris Elba. These actors may not all be well known but from what I’ve seen of them I do really like them and Idris Elba is fast becoming one of my favourite actors to watch, I have a lot of faith in this cast. The script comes from Travis Beacham who’s last film was Clash of the Titans and yeah, it wasn’t that good but I don’t think the writing was much to blame for that.

Pacific Rim, quite clearly, is going to eclipse any other blockbuster you have seen recently and that is very clear just from the trailer. The vast scale that it is operating on is so huge it completely puts to shame other blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises who have their fight scenes battling to save New York or Gotham City whereas here you’ve got real threat, real awe, real horror and just sheer amazement at what Pacific Rim has achieved. I can’t wait to see an all out battle between the Jaegers and the sea monsters and I do believe this could be one of the greatest blockbusters ever made!

Pacific Rim is set to be released in the UK on the 12th July 2013.

2013 will see the release of the sixth film in the highly commercially successful and highly critically criticised Fast & Furious franchise. Last week Vin Diesel uploaded some pictures to his Facebook account of him on set and these photos were met with largely negative response to people on the internet with people saying things like “oh look, Vin Diesel in a car, they’re really pushing the boat out for this one” or just simply “shit” etc etc etc. But really, what did people expect from the Fast & Furious franchise? And with every film pulling in great box offices so far and the latest instalment Fast Five being the highest praised and highest box office is there any need for all the negativity and is there any need for the series to be clamped?

It all began back in 2001 when producers decided to make a film about street racing clubs that use Japanese cars to race in New York City. And the first instalment, The Fast and the Furious, set the tone for what every other film that follows was set to be about; illegal street racing. And while these are just typical popcorn, mindless action films (up until Fast Five) is there really anything wrong with that? Actors, especially back in the 80s, have made names for themselves in making mindless action movies and what we have here is just an hour and a half – two hours of real escapist fun. The films aren’t made for the critics, they’re made for the fans and as long as the fans are out there the films will get made.

The fourth instalment reunited the original cast… if only for a brief time.

Whilst the series continues with 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, when the rightful sequel arrived in 2009 with the original cast members all back together the franchise seemed to be reborn. Fast & Furious reunited Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez as well as adding new characters that would seem to become main players in the franchise from her on out: Gal Gadot and Sung Kang (the latter also appearing in Tokyo Drift). With Fast Five some more talent was added and Dwayne Johnson received high critical praise for his performance (and is it any wonder? He was brilliant!) and the series continues to add fresh acting talent with The Fast and the Furious 6 adding Luke Evans, Gina Carano and Joe Taslim. It was rumoured that Rihanna (excuse me while I throw up) was reported to be in the next instalment but thanks to scheduling conflicts (Hallelujah!) we are not being subjected to that torture and she is rumoured to be replaced by British pop sensation Rita Ora… interesting.

Various shots of The Fast and the Furious 6 in production

Anyway, it was Fast Five that was the real game changer. It seems that now Fast & Furious has finally reached it’s full potential. With Fast Five, the writers, cast, crew, directors, producers, whoever! had got a grasp on what was going on in the series and Fast Five showed that it was more than just mindless action. They allowed for real character development; it was great to see how much Dom Turetto had changed since his first outing in 2001 as well as Paul Walker’s former cop turned criminal’s relationship with Jordana Brewster’s character. The really disheartening thing is that, because people think the first few films are rubbish, the majority of people will not watch Fast Five and they are missing out on a real treat and one of the greatest action films of all time!

Yes, the acting isn’t always brilliant and the stories aren’t always gripping but Fast & Furious has never set out to be a contender for big awards in film making. For this series it’s all about having fun; fast cars, hot women, tough men, big action scenes and explosions. And when you watch Fast & Furious you can’t help but have fun. So people should stop moaning about the quality of previous films, sit down and watch Fast & Furious (2009) followed by Fast Five and prepare to be swamped in fun, explosions and at times surprisingly touching friendships. Embrace it.

 

 

How can you not want to at least watch Fast Five after that?

Babel (2006) Review

Babel is the third offering from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in his ‘Death’ trilogy, following Amores Perros and 21 Grams. Being a big fan of 21 Grams I was looking forward to watching Babel and had high expectations due to the amount of critical acclaim it received back upon its release.

Babel tells the stories of four different families in three different continents who are all connected by one tragic incident. But as much as Babel is about these families and their stories the stories take a back seat in order for Inarritu and scriptwriter Guillermo Arriaga to develop and explore pivotal themes in human life such as death, communication and family. It is a good job really because I felt that none of the stories were really strong enough to stand up by themselves and all supported one another significantly. However, the story that takes place in Japan is a little less connected to the others and, despite arguably being the most interesting of the four stories, has little bearing on the film as a whole.

As well as the deep themes being explored it is also the terrific acting that makes Babel worth the watch. Brad Pitt is not a name associated with the phrase ‘terrific acting’; yes he is a bankable name and yes he is world famous but he’s never been the best actor around but Babel sees Pitt put in a really emotional performance and is definitely one of his best to date. The real stand out performance for me was, again, in the Japanese story. Rinku Kikuchi as Chieko Wataya, a deaf-mute Japanese schoolgirl, is incredible. This is genuinely one of the best performances I think that I have ever seen, it is so compelling and just layered with intrigue that it is not a performance soon forgotten. It’s a whole international effort with stellar performances coming from actors and actresses of all nationalities including Adriana Barazza, Elle Fanning, Mohamed Akhzam and Gael Garcia Bernal. But any Cate Blanchett fans thinking of watching Babel I probably wouldn’t bother. She is on the front of the DVD case and her name is one of the most well known of the cast but she is barely in it and after her first scene she barely even speaks or moves.

As you might well expect the direction from Inarritu is flawless. Babel is not one of the strongest films I have ever seen but it is up there with the most beautiful. Inarritu clearly has a talent for his craft and this is nothing less than perfection in his directing of the film. Every single shot is well thought out and every single detail is covered. It is his performance as director that makes Babel what it is.

For all of it’s good points, as I mentioned earlier none of the stories are really that strong. It is hard to gain an emotional connection to any of the characters when you are being flown across the globe and back again to get all of these different stories flying at you. And for all the good acting and brilliant directing that is something that I could not look past. The writing needed to make the characters easier to connect with for the audience.

My Rating: 6/10.

The X-Men series has come under a lot of criticism in it’s time despite the critical success that X-Men, X2 and X-Men: First Class has enjoyed. So if three of the five films have gone down well then why do fans of the X-Men continue to be critical of the series?  A lot of the criticism comes from the messed up continuity of the franchise and if you look hard enough you will find plenty of issues with the continuity throughout all five films; X-Men: The Last Stand came under fire for ruining a lot of hard work that Bryan Singer had set up in the first two instalments and X-Men Origins: Wolverine upset fans by just not being very good and ruining Gambit, a character that fans had wanted to see on screen for far too long for him to just be dismissed like he is.

So when The Wolverine was announced to be yet another film focussing on the escapades of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the news was met with less than positive response on internet forums. Yet this week, finally, The Wolverine is connecting with fans and getting people actually hyped up due to one little quote that director James Mangold made to Empire magazine. Mangold won fans over by saying “Where this film sits in the universe of the films is after them all, Jean Grey is gone, most of the X-Men are disbanded or gone, so there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for him”. Everybody was assuming The Wolverine would be another prequel because it is set in Japan (the storyline from the comics in Japan happened before Wolverine met the X-Men) and now it appears that everything we thought about this film was untrue.

Everyone wanted a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and it seems as though The Wolverine could be the closest thing that we see to this. With this being a sequel it also gives the opportunity for former characters to return to the franchise. Returning characters was hinted at with the other prequel titled Days of Future Past but it seems that maybe fans were misled and Patrick Stewart’s and Famke Janssen’s comments about returning to the franchise could have been meant about The Wolverine rather than Days of Future Past. I, for one, would love to see some of the old characters return and it might be able to give an explanation to what happened to Cyclops, explain Professor X’s return and feature more of Angel perhaps. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this will happen though because the film will be set in Japan.

One of the main things that has been hinted at is that Wolverine would set up the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters and whilst this would be a very touching moment for the character and could set up some more stories for future X-Men you can’t help but feel this SHOULD have been done before the prequels of First Class came into existence. It seems as though The Wolverine will be a stand alone film and you have to hope it will be because right now there are too many strands of the same franchise going on:

X-Men prequels – First Class, Days of Future Past

Wolverine Prequels – Origins

Original X-Men timeline – X-Men, X2, The Last Stand

Wolverine sequels – The Wolverine

That is four different strands of the same franchise and you can see why so much confusion and continuity errors will be made! However, James Mangold says that he wanted to set the film in the timeline so you imagine he will try to stay true to events that have already happened. Mangold has been hit (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) and miss (Knight & Day) in his career so far but hopefully The Wolverine will be a hit! Regrettably, hopefully The Wolverine will be the last we see of Hugh Jackman too and the X-Men franchise is finally brought together and made simple once again.

UK Release Date: 3rd August 2012.

Stars: Yimou Zhang (director), Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Zhang Xinyi, Tong Dawei, Shigeo Kobayashi.

Plot: In 1937 China, during the second Sino-Japanese war, a mortician, John arrives at a Catholic church in Nanjing to prepare a priest for burial. Upon arrival he finds himself the lone adult among a group of convent girl students and prostitutes from a nearby brothel. When he finds himself in the unwanted position of protector of both groups from the horrors of the invading Japanese army, he discovers the meaning of sacrifice and honor.

You probably haven’t heard of any members of the cast of The Flowers of War other than Christian Bale but that shouldn’t come as any surprise as this is a huge made-in-China epic. Whilst you may not be familiar with the name of director Yimou Zhang you may be more familiar with a couple of his works; Jet Li’s Hero and the brilliant House of Flying Daggers made him a name to be noticed among the world of cinema in the early noughties.

It seems strange that Christian Bale is in a film with a load of Chinese people just because we are used to seeing him in American or British films but it becomes clear from reading some interviews that he found the experience very educational and entertaining and could help him bring another level to his acting ability. The Flowers of War, at an estimated budget of $90 million, is the most expensive production to ever come out of China.

The Flowers of War has already been released among many nations and is coming to the UK a little late. The film was actually shot before The Dark Knight Rises and perhaps they want to try and make money off the back of Bale’s popularity as Batman. Despite holding a 7.6 rating on IMDB The Flowers of War didn’t go down well with critics but was still nominated for the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film (it didn’t win). Go see it and make your own mind up though.

Recently, at a Lexington Comic and Toy Convention, Jason David Frank stated that he would like to see a Power Rangers movie made in a darker tone to the series and that he thinks it could work in the style of Batman or something similar. This may mean nothing, except for the fact that Jason David Frank is the best Power Ranger to ever grace the series; he is Tommy Oliver, green ranger, white ranger, red ranger and black ranger. He is an absolute legend. So could a Power Rangers movie work?

Children all over the world from Japan to the USA to Britain have grown up with the Power Rangers, it is one of the longest running series’ on television and has been running every year since the original series was shown way back in 1993. The fact that the series is still being made proves its popularity among younger audiences but is that really reasoning enough to turn it into a big film franchise. Well why not?

Film executives and studio big wigs nowadays seem to focus on the money aspect of things and there is no doubt that with the Power Rangers popularity and the merchandising deals that could be made, the films could bring in a lot of money. The only problem is in attracting older audiences. I believe that some people, like myself, will remember growing up with the characters and would go and see a film if it was made for sentimental reasons if nothing else.

The Power Rangers is a classic story of good and evil, every series and every episode follows the same strict formula. There is no reason why this formula could not transfer onto the big screen. Hollywood audiences love a good battle between the forces of good and evil as we have seen with Harry Potter and the recent trend of superhero films. And on that note, why not give the series a try as a film whilst audiences are obsessed with superheroes, there’s nothing to lose.

There is no reason why Power Rangers could not be made darker for a more mature audience either. With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting a reboot and the Transformers trilogy being made, why not try adapting another children’s classic for a more mature audience. Set the tone darker, keep the fight between good and bad, but add more adult themes. It would work!

I, for one, would love to see a new team of Power Rangers on the big screen and there are a lot of young, talented actors coming through that could be given their big break in a film of this nature. But if a big budget Power Rangers movie does ever get made, Jason David Frank deserves at least a cameo!