Movie Digest: Summer at the Movies, Part 1 – Japanese Selections.

I’m not actually a movie buff so I tend to steer clear of movies unless something about them propel enough in me to check them out. Which explains why the only time I enjoy catching up with movies is during my long-haul flights – something I seem to be doing often these days (hope it stays that way, ha!). My recent trips back home from Philly followed by my week-long vacation in Tokyo allowed me to watch a number of Japanese and Korean movies – thanks Malaysia Airlines for your Club Asia selections! – and fortunately, I greatly enjoyed most of them.

I’m in no way reviewing these movies like a movie pro would – I’m just listing them here to pimp the good ones and mostly, simply wanting to share my thoughts cos I really enjoyed a majority of them. The list was piling up so I figured I’ll break it down to two parts – Japanese and Korean movies.

Movie Digest: Summer at the Movies, Part 1 – JAPANESE SELECTIONS!

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)
Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Fantastic live-action movie that did complete, total justice to its manga – one I actually watched as a kid. News about the live-action slipped past me that the first time I watched the trailer, it surprised me with how good the movie looked. The casting of Sato Takeru as Rurouni was pure gold and pitch-perfect – as I’m sure everyone agrees, since two sequels are in the works – and Aoi Yu as Takani Megumi was my second favorite.

If you’re a major fan of the manga/show, don’t even hesitate – give this live-action a go (I’d be surprised if you haven’t!). If you’re a live-action enthusiast in general (like me), then this one is seriously one of the best live-actions made. If you’re a casual movie-watcher who figured you’ve nothing to lose watching this – do it! Basically… This movie has something for everyone, is what I genuinely think. Keep an open mind and enjoy it!

Two-thumbs up from me on all fronts – casting, directing, writing, staying true to its origin and the sticky factor. Can’t wait for the sequels in 2014!

Platinum Data (2013)
Platinum Data (2013)

Platina Data / Platinum Data (2013)

So I watched this because the trailer looked promising, but it turned out to be a disappointment.

Am I the only one who is unimpressed by Ninomiya Kazunari‘s (Nino of ARASHI) acting? Or is it only in this one that he’s less than stellar? Whatever the case, personally I was wholly unimpressed by him here where he had what looked to me, only one facial expression – I think he wanted to be all tense and serious, but he mostly looked like… He’s constipated. Sorry fangirls, but he just didn’t win me over in this movie…

Story-wise, this movie’s based on a novel by oft-lauded novelist Keigo Higashino and not having read that, I can’t say how good the original was but word has it the movie deviated some from the novel or funnily, took the more uninteresting parts more than it did the juicy ones. The suspense and mystery made me curious, but the execution and build-up were slow. Not all parts were bad – the movie picked up its pace and then some in the second half, but I thought there was nothing memorable or impacting. At the end of my watch, I was glad I made it to the ending, but easily moved along to the next movie in my list.

Yay or nay? Unless you’re a fan of one of the cast, my suggestion is to skip this.

Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting The Girl Ship (2013)
Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting The Girl Ship (2013)

Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting The Girl Ship (2013)

I watched this movie because at that time, I recently completed the understated and awesome Jdrama Osozaki no Himawari ~ Boku no Jinsei, Renewal ~ starring the talented Yoko Maki, who’s here playing the titular Mai. Completing the trio were Kou Shibasaki as Sue (who is perhaps the true leading cast) and Shinobu Terajima as Sawako. This movie is really a small, slice-of-life story exploring a beaten-to-death, typical topic: womanhood, specifically when you’re 30-something and lost in both love and profession.

Truthfully, there was nothing particularly memorable or enjoyable about the movie, but fortunately something still resonated – it’s a poignant watch overall. Judging by the title, I think they meant for the friendship to be the focal point and while they probably did meet that, what they didn’t was to show us something deeper and more lasting ergo if the brains behind meant to portray an unconditional friendship between women, I didn’t feel it – not to that extent.

Their respective stories though, plenty of food for thought on each and I think they thematically resonate better if you’ve something in common of any sort with either or all three women. While I didn’t exactly enjoy the executions (the pacing was sometimes tad too slow and some characters’ actions I could not get behind or relate), I thought the show did one thing right: the ending. It was poignant and decisive, in that these women actively and purposefully made those decisions that led them to the epilogue.

These questions lingered: Are they happy? Are they satisfied with the outcomes of their deck of life cards? The short answer is who really knows, except for the women themselves but as an audience – I accept. I heartily accept and above all else, applaud them for staying true to themselves.

Tokyo Family (2013)
Tokyo Family (2013)

Tokyo Family (2013)

Now this one? MUST WATCH!

It plays on like an art house film, as in the pacing is slow and very little happens from scene to scene. Plus, this movie truly is a slice-of-life genre – it explored the characters of a particular family and simply focused on their lives as people and more importantly, as part of a unit that makes up a family. The children are now grown with the eldest two having families of their own while the youngest is still bumming around. They’ve also moved to Tokyo, now calling the city home and leaving behind their aged parents back in their hometown.

Here’s the focus of the movie – the parents arrive in Tokyo for a week-long visit which ends rather tragically but the golden nugget is this in-between period. The director wonderfully gives us a glimpse into the dynamics of the family – not glossing over, nor making any judgments about them… Just giving us a peep into these individuals and their family bond. It is both heartbreaking and moving, because these characters especially their actions and decisions, resonate so realistically. It greatly helps that the casting is pitch-perfect, especially Isao Hashizume as the Dad and Kazuko Yoshiyuki as the gentle Mum, effortlessly playing their roles with nuance, pathos and definitely, clear understanding of what it’s like to be parents. They’re the reason this movie is this good, seriously.

Personally, I think Tokyo Family is a challenging watch to sit through for some because of the pacing, length (it clocks in over 120 minutes) and slice-of-life – as is typical in this genre where very few things happen for long periods – but I hope you’ll give this movie a chance. Keep at it, stay to the end!

I’m glad I did because more than the tears (of which I shed plenty), the universality in the message, cliché as it is when it comes to the meaning of family – it permeates and lingers, long after the credits roll.


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