REVIEW: バトル・ロワイアル [Batoru rowaiaru] [Battle Royale] [2000]

It’s not my fault. The idea that a totalitarian government would target children as a means to subdue opposition wasn’t a far-fetched concept even before such YA-fare like The Hunger Games arrived over a decade later. You don’t have to look further than twentieth century wars wherein teens were drafted to serve as cannon fodder while the adults in charge sought to destroy the world. Transform draft dodgers during Vietnam into bratty fifteen-year-old punks rebelling against high school authority and you have your unwitting band of so-called “disrespectful counter-culture” types…

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REVIEW: アーヤと魔女 [Âya to majo] [Earwig and the Witch] [2020]

I shall give you the worms. Those familiar with Diana Wynne Jones‘ children’s book Âya to majo [Earwig and the Witch] will be surprised to find Gorô Miyazaki‘s cinematic adaptation beginning with a chase scene pitting a red-headed woman on a motorcycle against a yellow Citroën on her tail. They weave in and out of traffic with impossible speed and maneuvering before we see the first bit of magic used to create some extra distance. That’s when a cut occurs for us to watch the unknown redhead walk through a…

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REVIEW: ウィーアーリトルゾンビーズ [Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu] [We Are Little Zombies] [2019]

Reality is too stupid to cry over. Hikari (Keita Ninomiya) has always been a “single player.” That’s what happens when you’re raised in an affluent household by parents who substitute gifts for affection thanks to them never being around. Videogames became the boy’s only outlet. They gave him comfort when bullies at school put him in lockers and when he found himself microwaving yet another vacuum-sealed bag of spaghetti-for-one within his perpetually empty apartment. They’re also the medium by which he interprets reality’s framework for everything that happens to him…

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REVIEW: Family Romance, LLC [2020]

We can only do what we really are. Leave it to the Japanese to create an industry where you hire actors to fill-in for every occasion. The father of the bride can’t attend the wedding due to illness? Hire a performer to take his place so the absence isn’t noticeable (no sitcom antics a la headsets via “Arrested Development” or motorized computers via “The Big Bang Theory”). Unable to relive the excitement you felt upon winning the lottery? Pay someone to randomly surprise you as though you’ve won again to…

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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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