Review: Rise Up (Nakajima, 2009)

Japanese Title: ライズアップ

Director: Nakajima Ryo (This World Of Ours)

Info Links: AsianMediaWiki, IMDb, Trailer

Rating: ★★

Watch the trailer and you’ve seen the movie.  Enjoy, then read my review.

Nakajima Ryo, who burst onto the scene with the original and refreshing This World of Ours (2007), which was immensely popular on the film festival circuit, is a promising young director that I assumed would be bold with his filmmaking.  Being a fan of his freshman feature, I naturally was quick to pick up his sophomore effort.  Rise Up disappoints in almost every way possible.  While This World of Ours was fresh, original, and powerful, Rise Up is a complete departure, resulting in a film that is overly cliche and suffers from the pitfalls of mainstream conformity.  I predicted the entire movie within the first 10 minutes and the film turned into a comedy for me as every prediction came true.

Wataru (Hayashi Kento) is standing at the top of a huge hill, enjoying the beautiful scenery before jumping off and paragliding down as his friend, Hiroya (Taiga), films him.  Before touching down, a girl, Rui (Yamashita Rio), walks in Wataru’s path, causing him to crash land in an unexpected way.  Hiroya is angry and continuously yells at Rui, but Wataru quickly realizes that she is blind and accepts the situation. Continue reading


Roger Ebert’s Japanese Film Reviews

Roger Ebert is possibly the world’s best-known film critic and has been at it for years, contributing reliable reviews and critical analysis that many English-speaking film-goers turn to when in doubt about what to spend their money on.  He has a massive collection of reviews on his website, over 6,400 according to movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert’s collection of reviews includes a large amount of foreign films, many of which are Japanese.  He lists Ozu Yasujiro as one of his favorite directors, so his films are well-represented, but he seems to also have a penchant for Koreeda Hirokazu, Miyazaki Hayao, Kurosawa Akira, and other Japanese greats such as Mizoguchi and Imamura.

This was a difficult list to put together.  The idea came to me as I was sitting at work, wondering if Ebert’s review database was sortable or searchable in some way.  I arrived at home to find that it is tough to pinpoint his reviews of Japanese films, though searching the website can net a few.  So, I poured over countless reviews to find the Japanese films represented in this list.  It’s probably not a perfect representation–I’m sure I missed some–but there is a wealth of great films along with Roger Ebert’s expert opinions and analysis here.  Although I don’t agree with him on everything, he is mostly spot-on.  Ebert has seen a great amount of Japanese masterpieces and you’ll notice that out of the 61 films on this list, 52 of them received a rating of three stars or higher (out of four) or are on his “Great Movies” list.  Truly a great list for anybody interested in foreign and masterful cinema.

Continue reading

Review: Ain’t No Tomorrows (Tanada, 2008)

Japanese Title: 俺たちに明日はないッス aka. Oretachi ni Asu wa Naissu

Director: Tanada Yuki

Info Links: AsianMediaWiki, IMDb, Trailer

Rating: ★★★

“The Summer when youthful passion sweltered in the air.”

Ain’t No Tomorrows opens with this line, though it would be more accurate as “The Summer when youthful and somewhat annoying characters suffered in the sweltering air.”  Hiruma (Emoto Tokio), a high school senior whose only goal in life is to get laid as fast as possible, attempts to blackmail the sickly Tomono (Miwako), who is in a serious relationship with their teacher (Taguchi Tomorowo), into having sex with him.  Repeatedly failing, he turns to Ando (Kusano Ini), a fat boy, in order to take out his sexual urges by squeezing his man boobs.  Little does he know that Ando is lusted after by Akie (Misaki Ayame), the school beauty, who seems to like him for “who he is.”

Hiruma and Ando’s friend, Mine (Yuya Endo), one day stumbles upon Chizu (Ando Sakura), who is passed out in the grass with period blood running down her leg.  She has no idea about her own body and appears to not be knowledgeable about sex, so Mine “helps her out.” This pairing turns out to be the best in the film, though it is the least represented on screen.  In fact, the scene in which they meet is the best scene in the movie. Continue reading

J-Drama: The Best of 2000-2009 (In My Opinion), #1-5

Japanese dramas (TV).  The addiction of housewives, young girls, learners of Japanese, and fans of beautiful people.  Often knocked for their low-level of cinematography, acting, and general filming woes, J-Dramas nonetheless attract countless numbers of native Japanese as well as people around the world who thrive off of custom subtitling groups and free distribution sites via Livejournal, other blogs, or the popular Daddicts.  What’s the draw?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  Most watch J-Dramas for their favorite actors/actresses, some watch them for their dramatic, effective, slowly-unfolding stories, others watch them to improve their Japanese or just to kill time.  There’s a certain emotional weight to some J-Dramas that draws you in and doesn’t let you go until the series finishes. Continue reading

J-Film Thoughts & Commentary: 1990-2000

Musings, praise, critique, descriptions, commentary…all in a few sentences.

Alright, here is a collection of some of my comments and thoughts on various films between 2000 and 1990.  The films that I have written reviews on elsewhere in my blog are not included here, find links to them in my J-Film Review Database.  This post will be continuously updated.

I have seen a massive amount of contemporary Japanese films, most of which were released post-2000.  Admittedly, I need to watch more classic cinema, and you’ll see more comments and thoughts trickle in as I watch more.  Many of these films here will be highly rated, just because I have chosen to watch good films that were recommended to me.  An entry on films released before 1990 will be posted in the future, as will entries on films released after 2000.  This is primarily a reference post that I will link to in my J-Film Review Database.  Please feel free to recommend any Japanese films released in this time period by commenting below.  Enjoy my opinions! Continue reading

Contemporary J-Actors/Actresses: Separating the “Actors” From the “Idols”

A characteristic issue in Japanese cinema today is the massive popularity of “idols,” controlled by talent agencies.  Idols, to me, are defined as multi-talented, young, cute, cuddly, and pure (appearance-wise) media sensations.  They often go through expansive, quick, and tough training brought about by their talent agency so they are ready to be worked to the bone doing various publicity stunts such as appearing on variety shows, looking good in photoshoots, acting in TV dramas, and possibly joining boy or girl idol bands.  The main draw of idols is how they look, not how they act or how well they sing.  Most of them have a very short span of popularity and often fall from glory once they age a bit.  There are, however, exceptions to this; notably the most famous guys coming out of the talent agency Johnny’s Entertainment.  SMAP, consisting of 5 members who are currently some of the most famous people in Japan, debuted in 1991 and continue to be mega-popular.  Arashi, again from Johnny’s Entertainment, is set up to remain popular for a while as well. Continue reading

Contemporary Japanese Film: Where to Start?

Are you desiring to begin your journey to Japanese cinema enlightenment, but don’t know where to start?  Do you study Japanese with Anime, but want to move on to live action?  Are you a film lover who wishes to expand your horizons by looking into contemporary Japanese film?  I’ll attempt to provide a basic introduction to contemporary Japanese film and recommend 5 movies that I feel are great starters for any film fan wishing to venture into the realm of contemporary Japanese cinema. Continue reading