Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

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Criminally Overlooked: “47 Ronin”

December 29, 2013

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Wait, what is this? An entry in the “Criminally Overlooked” category that’s not only still in theaters, but has only been released this week? What madness is this, you’d be forgiven for asking. Now, I want you to be calm and stay with me here. Doubtless, you’re probably feeling some anxiety and confusion, but before you go breaking open the emergency stockpile of assault rifles you started hoarding when it was clear Obama was going to win the election, be assured I have a good reason for this. By all accounts, 47 Ronin has not only lost the holiday weekend, but has left the field, gone home and is now drinking cheap beer and weeping. How bad is it? Well, a 175 million dollar movie has barely grossed 10 mil at the time of this writing. And that’s really too bad, since 47 Ronin is actually a nice little ($175,000,000) adventure movie. Hey, and Keanu Reeves isn’t even in it that much. Yay!
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Amid the ashes of the Rising Sun: “Emperor”

March 11, 2013

Emperor_posterEmperor is a unique, not-completely-successful movie that sorta puts me in mind of Shanghai—and not simply because of its period and setting. Like Shanghai, Emperor has been shuffled into theaters with a minimum of advertising (for there to be any less, the studio would actually have to try and physically prevent people from seeing it), as if the studio execs themselves have no idea what to make of it. Also like Shanghai, this film is a throwback to an earlier, more ambitious time of moviemaking, when filmmakers were unafraid to tackle thorny moral issues in unclassifiable stories. This reticence is kinda too bad, since Emperor—while not as deep or rich as it wants to be—is nonetheless never not interesting.
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Michael Douglas kicks Japan in the nuts: “Black Rain”

January 30, 2013

Black_RainTo anyone born before 1990, the current hysteria over an ascendant China seems awfully familiar. See, before it was trendy to fear China, the roaring dragon of the East was Japan, and we were all pretty sure they’d pretty much own the US by, oh, 1995 or so. Which really sucks because Japanese is hella-difficult to learn (the upsides—cheap sushi, cosplay , limitless tentacle-porn—somehow never made it into the national dialogue). As with all cultural anxieties, this one made its way into the movies, one of the first being 1989’s Black Rain. Black Rain posits a simple theory about our (then) culture-clash: everything will be okay between the US and Japan as long as Americans are big enough dicks and the Japanese do it our way. In this, it anticipated George W. Bush’s basic foreign policy, but with less Middle East-invading and more shouting Michael Douglas.
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Our Star Blazers…”Space Battleship Yamato”

January 8, 2011

Yeah, that’s how I knew this story. Every Sunday morning along with Battle of the Planets, there was Star Blazers—the Americanized version of Japan’s Space Battleship Yamato. They provided a double shot of mature, serious cartoons that were leaps and bounds more alien and, frankly, higher-quality than the Hanna-Barbera crap being shoveled on Saturday mornings. Even at seven years-old, I appreciated my intelligence not being insulted. Conceptually, it’s not a bad idea, and just iconic enough in geek circles to make it surprising that it hasn’t been made into life-action movie before now. But it’s here now, and I had to see it opening night. I mean, c’mon! It’s about a space battleship blowing shit up. How do you resist that?
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Meet the newer, more soulful Buffy: “Blood: the Last Vampire”

July 9, 2009

blood-the-last-vampire-poster-largeBlood: The Last Vampire gives you what the title promises. There is blood. There is a vampire. Possibly the last one. And there is martial arts and demons and swords and wire-fu. Vampire-hunting has been done to death in recent years. Beginning with the awesome Buffy TV series and moving on to the increasingly turgid Blade movies, and then those interminable Underworld movies. Add to that the various and sundry Buffy knockoffs and vampire hunting is about as novel in TV and movies as tracking down serial killers. So you’d be forgiven for being skeptical going into B:tLV. I certainly was. But the movie still manages to charm. Yes, there are big-teethed demons, and flappy-winged monsters, and The Big Bad Parent Monster. There is wire-fu, and katana swordplay, and numerous, numerous dismemberings. There’s really nothing here you haven’t seen before, and yet it still feels different enough to be a lot of fun.
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