Posts Tagged ‘ 4-Star Films ’

Review: BANDAGE (Kobayashi, 2010)

Japanese title: バンデージ

Director: Kobayashi Takeshi

Info: IMDb, AsianMediaWiki, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★

Being an Iwai Shunji-produced and co-written film, I was quick to pick up BANDAGE, hoping for something original and enjoyable.  I’m not sure how involved Iwai was with the film (I’m guessing not too much, though there are undoubtedly Iwai inspirations scattered throughout the film), but it mostly delivered on my hopes.

Casting Akanishi Jin as one of the leads was a smart move by director Kobayashi Takeshi.  He brings massive fan support to the movie, not to mention experience in the Japanese music industry.  Playing the lead singer of a rock band, Akanishi undoubtedly draws from personal experience (he’s a very popular member of the Johnny’s boy band KAT-TUN–actually, former member now; he decided to go solo using this film as a base) as he plays the carefree yet troubled character of Natsu.  His band, LANDS, is quickly gaining mass popularity but encounters problems–the band members just don’t completely gel.  A genius musician, Yukiya (Kora Kengo), and a brilliant composer, Arumi (Shibamoto Yuki), form the heart of the band with Natsu supposedly still remaining just because of his indie fan base.  It also helps that he can sing. Continue reading

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Review: Yuriko’s Aroma (Yoshida, 2010)

Japanese title: ユリ子のアロマ (Yuriko no Aroma)

Director: Yoshida Kota

Info: IMDb, AsianMediaWiki, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★

What if you woke up to someone licking the sweat off your hair?  How would you react?

17 year old Takeshi (Sometani Shota) experiences this strangely erotic act in the secluded, deserted, run-down shed where he takes a nap after kendo practice.  The licker?  Yuriko (Eguchi Noriko), who works in a massage parlor run by Takeshi’s aunt.  Upon meeting Takeshi, Yuriko realizes that she’s turned on by his body odor and ends up stealing one of his gloves to smell it.  Yeah, the premise is pretty strange. Continue reading

Review: Kakera (Ando, 2009)

Japanese title: カケラ

Director: Ando Momoko

Info links: AsianMediaWiki, IMDb, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★½

“Men and women are all humans.  It’s only hard when we categorize ourselves … Maybe we don’t need to define ourselves as man or woman.  Maybe [the determination of our sex at conception] is as arbitrary as whether the zoo was open or not.  What we do know is that in the beginning all humans start out being women.”

Kakera: A Piece of our Life is an emotionally-charged independent film about the budding relationship between two women.  Haru (Mitsushima Hikari, of Love Exposure fame) is a quiet, odd-ball college student dealing with a boyfriend who is with another woman and only uses Haru for sex.  Riko (Nakamura Eriko) is an enthusiastic, excitable prostheticist who prefers women “because they are soft and cuddly,” as she states in one scene.  They meet quite randomly–in a coffee shop; Haru is drinking her mocha and ends up with a cute chocolate mustache.  Riko is immediately smitten. Continue reading

Quick Review: Violent Cop (Kitano, 1989)

Cold and violent…

Rating: ★★★★½

In short: Violent Cop is a great film.  Kitano plays a cold, Dirty Harry style cop well.  The film is very well-paced and uses its screen time adequately. Violent Cop is Kitano’s first film as a director and it does not disappoint.  Watch it for an enjoyable hour and forty minutes, and enjoy the climax that will leave you with your mouth wide open while experiencing an ending that you kind of knew would happen.

Violent Cop (その男、凶暴につき) is a film about Azuma (Kitano), who is a cold detective that doesn’t care how he treats others.  There is no basic plot, just one scene after another of violence, Kitano style.  Normally I wouldn’t give praise to a film like this, but it is so well-done that it deserves it.  Camerawork is superb, acting is equally good, and the music, though minimal, comes in at just the right times.  Kitano, who had this film handed over to him after Fukasaku Kinji left it, establishes himself as a top-notch director with Violent Cop.  There are many familiar faces that will appear in later Kitano films, such as Terajima Susumu.

Azuma slaps a guy in a bathroom repeatedly 23 times.  He beats up a kid.  He stops a knife with his hand and chases a criminal for a lengthy period of time, eventually running him over with a car.  He also takes care of his mentally deficient sister and visits an art gallery.  He shows no emotion, except anger when he interrogates a guy that slept with his sister.  Azuma is an interesting character that is played brilliantly by Kitano.  Watch Violent Cop to discover Kitano’s roots and to enjoy a good dirty cop/yakuza-style film.  Recommended.

Review: Air Doll (空気人形)

Hauntingly beautiful

Rating: ★★★★

In short: A deep, thought-provoking, beautifully filmed, and well acted piece of Japanese cinema. Bae Doona is magnificent as an inflatable doll that develops a soul and falls in love. Hirokazu Koreeda wows once again with his deliberate film making, effectively commenting on social problems dealing with urban life. Despite the fact that it is a bit slow and a bit long, Air Doll is definitely one of the better films that I’ve seen recently.

I was finally able to watch this film (on DVD) and was impressed, more so than I thought I would be. To me, Air Doll includes aspects that make it attractive to both film festivals and commercial audiences. With the quirky and interesting premise of a sex doll that comes to life, Air Doll (which is lightly based on a manga) establishes itself as a film which seeks to appeal to modern audiences, specifically Japanese. This doll, “named” Nozomi (played by Korean actress Bae Doona), sneaks out of her owners house every day to go to work at a local video store. There, she falls in love with her coworker, Junichi (played by Arata), and learns about life–both the good and the bad. Continue reading