REVIEW: プロメア [Puromea] [Promare] [2019]

Oil and water as one! Its mechs vs. monsters storyline starts pretty straightforward. The latter are born from a mysterious mutation that gives a select percentage of the Earth’s population combustion powers that they simply couldn’t control at the time of the “Great World Blaze” en route to causing a mass genocide it’s taken three decades to overcome. The former are the creation of a new scientific law enforcement entity that goes by the name Foundation. With popular billionaire Kray Foresight (Masato Sakai) as its CEO, newly crafted high-tech resources…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Tenki no ko [Weathering with You] [2019]

Or maybe not not. Teenagers get plenty of flack these days with derogatory labels thrust upon them by older generations refusing to truly look outside their window at how much the world has changed. They’ve a lot to shoulder with the pressure of living up to impossible and antiquated expectations, confusion as to a future and identity they can’t quite decipher yet, and the crippling reality that the world around them is literally crumbling via war, genocide, and climate change. Kids used to run from home as a means of…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Sadako [2019]

That new girl is creepy. Director Hideo Nakata brought novelist Kôji Suzuki‘s Ring series to the big screen two decades ago and spawned a laundry list of sequels, American remakes (one of which he helmed), comics, and television remakes that each put their own unique spin on central “monster” Sadako Yamamura’s history until fluidity of mythology became a veritable franchise hallmark. Things got muddled fast too as the initial follow-up to Ringu fared so poorly (with a different creative team at the lead to release the same year) that it…

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REVIEW: 情牽拉麵茶 [Ramen Teh] [Ramen Shop] [2018]

He kept her memory alive with every bowl of ramen. While Eric Khoo‘s Ramen Teh [Ramen Shop] is at its core a story about a young man looking to reclaim a part of his heritage that was lost, it’s also a rather poignant account of the lasting scars of war and the struggle to separate hate from love when two worlds collide. Because it’s not simply that Masato (Takumi Saitoh) never returned to Singapore after leaving with his parents at age ten. He wasn’t welcome there. Despite the country being…

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REVIEW: 未来のミライ [Mirai no Mirai] [Mirai] [2018]

I don’t like everyone! Young Kun (Moka Kamishiraishi) is excited to welcome his mother (Kumiko Asô) home after giving birth to his baby sister. I single out “mother” because she’s whom he misses. Dad (Gen Hoshino) has never really been around due to constantly working so Kun doesn’t necessarily have any affinity for the man. As for the new child: if she can’t pull her weight playing bullet trains with him, what’s the point of her even being there? Kun is barely removed from the toddler age scale himself, though,…

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REVIEW: リズと青い鳥 [Rizu to aoi tori] [Liz and the Blue Bird] [2018]

I hope that day never comes. The filmmakers behind リズと青い鳥 [Rizu to aoi tori] [Liz and the Blue Bird] did a smart thing: they took an existing property (Ayano Takeda‘s novel series Sound! Euphonium which has subsequently become a manga, anime series, and film) and expanded upon two of its secondary characters by allowing them to take the lead. I’m not familiar with the original iterations of the property, but a bit of research shows that its plot surrounds a high school concert band in Kyoto, Japan just returned to…

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REVIEW: Manbiki kazoku [Shoplifters] [2018]

Sounds fishy. When times are tough, you improvise. Look at the Shibata family for example. Osamu (Lily Franky) and Nobuyo (Sakura Andô) both work part-time jobs to bring home meager earnings that can be added to the pension Grandma Hatsue (Kirin Kiki) collects as a result of her husband’s passing. They also have her home to share with Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), her older granddaughter, and Shota (Jyo Kairi), Osamu and Nobuyo’s son. It’s a cramped lifestyle, but workable thanks to their collective ambivalence towards stealing. Nobuyo has no qualms taking…

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FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ペンギン・ハイウェイ [Pengin Haiwei] [Penguin Highway] [2018]

I might be too amazing for my own good. Adapted from Tomihiko Morimi‘s Nihon Science Fiction Taisho Award-winning novel from 2010, Penguin Highway takes us into a world barely unlike our own. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida from Makoto Ueda‘s script, the film centers upon a Japanese fourth grader on the cusp of self-proclaimed greatness. With just under four thousand days until adulthood and his first Nobel Prize (he calculated it himself), nothing can peel Aoyama’s (Kana Kita) precocious interest from new, mysterious experimentations besides his crush: the town’s pretty dental…

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FANTASIA18 REVIEW: 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか? 横から見るか? [Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?] [Fireworks] [2017]

If … In a nation of repressed emotions, three young teens find themselves confronting their feelings at what might be their last opportunity to do so. Shy Norimichi (Masaki Suda) can’t stop himself from starring at Nazuna (Suzu Hirose) while his more confident best friend Yûsuke (Mamoru Miyano) admits to wanting to declare his love for her. The boys seek to deflect their obvious infatuations, falling over each other in embarrassment so that the other can win his prize regardless of how the object of their affection feels about either.…

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FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ルームロンダリング [Rûmu rondaringu] [Room Laundering] [2018]

Don’t cry. Smile. According to Kenji Katagiri‘s debut feature Rûmu rondaringu [Room Laundering]—and I have no reason to disbelieve him—Japan has a law stating that landlords must divulge whether a previous tenant died or suffered a violent crime within any newly vacated property to all prospective replacements. But while this rule makes sense considering people are sensitive to the notion of supernatural hauntings and evil spirits, lawmakers never stipulated how long before that history can be “cleaned” off the books. No one setting the duration at “x-amount of years” is…

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REVIEW: Oh Lucy! [2018]

“Meow. Meow. Smooch.” I saw Atsuko Hirayanagi‘s short film Oh Lucy! back in 2014 and thought it to be a bona fide charmer. It told the story of a lonely woman named Setsuko who does her niece a favor by recouping the cost of English classes the cash-strapped girl had decided quit. The American teacher was an eccentric who used wigs and fake names to allow ‘Lucy’ to disappear into a new, more candid version of her buttoned-up self. It’s a whirlwind of emotions when the teacher goes back home—enough…

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