TF Film Review: Shutter Island

When Leonardo DiCaprio burst onto the scene big-time after Titanic I wasn’t taken in by all the hype around him. That may be because I am a straight hetrosexual man! However, thirteen years on and I have grown to be quite a fan of his acting with special recognition going to his roles portrayed in ‘Blood Diamond’‘The Beach’‘Catch Me If You Can’‘The Departed’ and most of his other non-wussy films.
His latest movie was released in Japan yesterday (no doubt it was released in Britain and the U.S a while ago as is always the case with films over this way) and I went along to my nearby cinema to see it.
At 138 minutes ‘Shutter Island’ is inevitably a bit too long for my liking (and for my comfort) but I have to say that I certainly wasn’t waiting for it to end. It’s difficult to say too much about what happens without giving any spoilers so I’ll just say that the plot was far heavier than I expected. In fact it was almost a horror film as much as it was a thriller or crime story. What I thought I was watching turned out to be something very different by the end thanks to the flashbacks and plot twists within the picture. Now I know the outcome I’d like to go back through it but that will have to wait till its available to rent.
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Rain Fall

To be frank I have very little interest in Japanese films. I’ve seen a few notable ones and they’re OK but most just don’t quite cut the mustard with me. However, there is one exception and that is ‘Rain Fall’ which is based on Barry Eisler’s series of books which I have very much enjoyed reading. They revolve around one principle character; John Rain, a Japanese-American cynical, conscientious assassin with a liking for whisky and jazz music. The first two books (there are six in total) are set in Tokyo which was obviously appealing to me and though not as likeable or exciting as the Bourne series they were thrillers which kept me hooked and wanting more including a film adaptation. That has now happened and features Gary Oldman but sadly for me the film is predominantly in Japanese and so there is no need to provide English subtitles. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if it gets released overseas at a later date. I now know how those Japanese people with a strong interest in Hollywood films and American TV shows feel when they can’t watch them until they finally get subtitled.

TF Film Review: Slumdog Millionnaire (2008)

I’d never even heard of ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ before it won a load of Academy Awards a few months ago. It’s not even came out in Japan yet but I did manage to watch it a couple of weeks ago on the internet and was glad to see that it did live up to its hype. I really enjoyed it and it was interesting to see the slums of India; a country which I visited back in June 2007. ‘Who wants to be a millionnaire?’ is shown in the same format in many countries around the world including Japan and I often use the theme tune in lessons as well as saying “final answer?” which is said in English on the Japanese version and is well known and gets a cheap laugh every time. Of course most people don’t realise that the programme originates from the UK.
Watching the films scenes on the quiz show set reminded me of my own experiences on the Australian version of Millionnaire back in 2001. No, I wasn’t a contestant but I was an audience member and along with my friends Richard and Jo we were directly behind the presenter and appeared on screen each time his face was shown which was most amusing to me at the time. It was a celebrity episode (not that I knew the majority of the Aussie celebrities – basically there was no-one on there from Neighbours or Home & Away!) and so they filmed two episodes in one day which was so tiring by the end of it. Its difficult to clap with enthusiasm after a certain amount of time plus we had to move to the back for the latter episode to make it look like it was live with a different audience as eagle-eyed viewers do notice these things. I even fluked all the ‘ask the audience’ questions right but then again I even managed to go on a bit of a run the first time I saw the Japanese one which was made even more difficult by the fact that I couldn’t understand nor read the questions and multi-choice answers!

TF Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Here it is then – a review of a film which came out in November last year apart from the fact that it has only just been released here in Japan. These delayed releases really are annoying as you can basically get the movie on download before it comes out here. I know that promotion and subtitling can take time but if some films have a worldwide release date then surely so can most others, especially the Quantum of Solace which is even distributed by Sony who are of course a Japanese company.

I was very late to get into the Bond franchise with ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ in 1997 being the first one I saw in its entirety and from then I on I was hooked and over the years I have made the effort to see many of the others, both new and old. I even went to James Bond Island near Phuket (featured in 1974’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’) which was a highlight at the time for me and Ethan.

Having bought my ticket in advance (its 500 yen cheaper and also including a free bottle of Coca Cola Zero zero 7) I got up early last week for the 10am showing before work. I’d been doing my best to avoid any article or TV report about the film but couldn’t help but hear that it was now more similar to the excellent Bourne films and that was constantly in my mind as I watched some of the opening scenes which were remnant of The Bourne Ultimatum in my opinion but I guess that film franchise also borrowed heavily from Bond.

Overall, I enjoyed the action parts of the film but coudln’t really explain it plot-wise (luckily so for those who haven’t seen it yet!) but thats never been such an important thing for me. I didn’t think it was as good as Casino Royale and as much as I like Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond I do miss the little things which made 007 iconic such as the gadgets, quips and memorable lines.

TF TV Review: Japanorama/Adam & Joe Go Tokyo

Since I got my DivX player a few months back I have been going through some of my dvd downloads and I ended up watching two series’ about Japan. The first was Jonathan Ross’ Japanorama which was tucked away on the BBC3 schedule last year and the other was ‘Adam and Joe Go Tokyo’ which was on the same channel a few years back.
Both series were a bit different to the usual documentary or travel programme and delivered to the UK public in a humurous way which I guess is not too difficult to do given the contents which would be seen as being “bizarre’ by most Brits and that probably includes myself too even though i have been in among it for the last few years.
Many people may think Japan is a homogenous society where people remain on “the inside” not wanting to be “outsiders” or different so that it may upset social harmony. However, if you look beyond the generalisations there are different people as outlined particularly in the second series of Japanorama. Wossy ethusiastically focused on six different parts of Japanese culture (e.g. cool, cute, geeks etc) and he was like a big kid at times. He even used one of the Japanese toys in the last episode of the 2nd Extras series in which he played himself.
Both programmes did overlap at times but thats not too surprising.
Far too many things to mention here but highlights among other things included geek spotting in Akihabara, finger-phones, noodle slurping, robots, maid cafes, cos-play conventions, elvis dancers, loose socks, the yakuza, hard-gay man, fugu, hello kitty, beetle racing and work uniforms which are actually worn with pride, status and a sense of belonging to the company unlike in other countries.
The Adam and Joe show included many off these things too but they got a little more involved in creating situations such as trying to become famous in a city where “any washed up star” can do so! This included wearing strange costumes for the Matrix premier, trying to get stuff for free in a shop and a mock TV interview in Shibuya which saw them mobbed by actors which resulted in more people gathering around. The best part of this over the eight week show was the forming of a band named ‘Gaijin Invasion'(see the video here) who busked in the park in Kichijoji and even got on music station Space Shower TV.
They also went to a cos-play convention dressed as Harry Potter and Wizard, held a speed eating contest and looked at the other wierd and wonderful things in Tokyo like dog petting zoo’s, host bars, capsule hotels and a stack of useless gadgets and inventions. These included a nude bra, a cushion that looks like an arm for those lonely people and a device to let you know what you’re dog is saying called “Bowlingual”. I’m sure you agree that this is all essential stuff!!
One of my highlights from this series was seeing them play finger pointing game “Gets” with Dandy Sakano who is a Japanese comedian from yesteryear and can be seen here. Doing this action to illicit the word ‘get’ or ‘gets’ in class normally guarantees cheap laughs.

TF Film Review: The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

One of the first proper books I ever read was ‘the lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ and I also enjoyed the BBC tv series of the chronicles of Narnia series including the aforementioned book. It was with intrigue that i went to watch the film adaptation yesterday afternoon. Basically i hated this film. I have heard its a poor-mans Lord of the Rings but i can’t back that comment up as i have never seen or read that series as i have no interest in such childrens fantasy stories.
I  was only about 10 when i enjoyed Narnia but obviously i have matured greatly (?) since then and just cringed at what i saw happening in front of me on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, i think the film has been quite well made but i decided that i don’t actually like most of the story and just sat there thinking ‘as if!’ as i watched the story unfold.  How could i have been so foolish when i was younger?!! Lock me in the wardrobe please if this rubbish is ever on TV!