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Shoplifters
14 people found this review helpful
Jan 5, 2019
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

"Sometimes, it's better to choose your own family."

Edit: Having now seen six of Kore-eda's other works, I'd like to rewrite this review in retrospect.

Here's a caveat- I can't guarantee that you will like Shoplifters or even see any worth in it. The film currently has a rating of 8.0/10 on IMDB from about 45000 votes. For every person rating this film a nine or ten, there is one who gives it a six or less. If you scroll down the comments on this site, some words that stand out are 'overrated', 'disgust[ing]', 'disappointing'. Despite being a commercial hit in Japan and making waves in the West, Shoplifters isn't a film that will appeal to everyone's tastes. It is more of an art film rather than a conventional crowd-pleaser or tearjerker. Hirokazu Kore-eda has a very distinctive style which can simply be described as implicit rather than explicit. This is what makes his films powerful, in my opinion. Simple domestic scenes and basic dialogues, even just single shots, are laden with emotion and implied meaning that won't be picked up if you turn your brain off during viewing. Don't watch Shoplifters if you just want pure entertainment or if you can only stand films where everything is shoved under your nose. If you want to bear witness to a subtle yet powerful piece of art, then this is your film. Here is an extract from Roger Ebert's review of Still Walking (2009) that speaks for Shoplifters too, as well as all the Kore-eda works I have seen and all those I have yet to see:

"He has produced profoundly empathetic films about human feelings. He sees intensely and tenderly into his characters. Like Ozu, he pays meticulous attention to composition and camera placement. Acting as his own editor, he doesn't cut for immediately effect, but for the subtle gathering of power. His actors look as if they could be such people as they portray."

Shoplifters was in fact ten years after Still Walking and of course, they share a key similarity apart from their meticulous attention to detail. The core of both films is the family unit and how its individual components are affected by some form of loss or abandonment. Still Walking, for example, portrays a family forever rifted by the death of the eldest son, decades before. This goes for Kore-eda's other films. Nobody Knows is a testament to the strength of children as we see four half-siblings struggling to survive after their mother leaves with another man. Like Father like Son shows a wealthy and largely absent father break down in tears at the prospect of choosing between his biological son and the boy that he believed was his. Umimachi Diary depicts the lives of three young women in the shadow of their father's abandonment and death, as they accept the fourth half-sister whose conception tore their family apart. Even The Truth (from last year) sees a middle-aged mother confront her own mother, a famous actress that, despite her autobiographical claims, was absent from most of her life. In these films, there is nearly always a missing piece to the puzzle. And over the course of the story, we see the other pieces rearrange themselves to form an imperfect but complete picture, welcome in new pieces or re-accept the old piece. Shoplifters starts off with the second of these three, with the adoption of an abused little girl into the family of petty criminals. It poses the viewer with a question that it answers with the wealth of evidence that it presents; "Is family really just defined by blood?"

Japan is a country that is bound, perhaps too tightly, by its emphasis on blood ties. This first question is already transgressive. But the second question, revealed in the final half-hour, is even more so. "Can a loving family be formed out of the necessity to survive, even through acts of crime?" The authorities in the film, despite being well-meaning people, say no. The assumption is that Shibata Nobuyo has kidnapped the little girl out of selfishness and jealousy, wanting a child for herself. She and her 'husband' are condemned as criminals (well they are) that have misled two young children who would be better off with their abusive parents or at an orphanage. But we, as viewers, know better. We don't see order being restored, we see a loving family being pulled apart by traditional, inflexible values. Once more, the film's question answers itself by the weight of true love that we bear witness to- even though this love has sprung out of (illegal) pragmatism. Kore-eda shows us a fourth case; that a puzzle can be entirely created out of stray pieces.

The acting is unforgettable. The fact that none of the performers, especially Ando Sakura, weren't nominated for acting awards at Cannes or the Oscars, is a crime worse than shoplifting or pension abuse. Ando's performance, especially during the bath scene and at the police interrogation, should be witnessed by anyone that disparages the potential of Japanese actors and actresses. Everyone else was also amazing; Kore-eda regulars Lily Franky and Kiki Kirin (rest in peace), the child actors and of course, Matsuoka Mayu. I personally prefer a bit more music in films, and this one is a bit more stark on music than Kore-eda's other works, but the soundtrack was used perfectly (as usual). I don't have the slightest clue about cinematography, camera lenses or any technical mumbo-jumbo but it was obviously a cut above the usual fare. An unforgettable movie. My only issue is that other Kore-eda works, particularly Still Walking and Nobody knows (and dare I say the critically disparaged Umimachi Diary) haven't received nearly the same amount of acclaim.

OLD REVIEW

'Shoplifters' is not a loud, over the top, or pretentious film. There are no absolutes, right or wrong, cruel or kind. The actors don't yell, brawl or pull odd or dramatic facial expressions. There are no intense and pulse-pounding fights, chases, or confrontations. However, this film hits hard, with purity, sincerity, and unabashed truth. The film's sheer realism, shown in moments of cruelty and intimacy, speaks volumes about those who've been marginalised within society, and struggle to make it through each day, far more so than any melodrama or sob story. And this is because we are able to see the characters as fellow people, fellow family members, thanks to the spectacular performances delivered by the entire cast. When the mother and daughter take a bath together, when the father and son gleefully chase each other around, the only word and feeling that comes to mind is love. Even in moments of silence, where they just sit and stare, feelings such as sorrow and hopelessness resound intensely. Love, transcending social and familial norms, is what this movie is about.

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Kyou Kara Ore wa!!
9 people found this review helpful
Dec 26, 2018
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This was a really great series that managed to balance its constant hilarity with moments that were surprisingly profound or heartwarming. The cast of characters was almost universally endearing, mostly thanks to the incredibly comic performances that the various actors delivered. Despite all this, I found the series to be unexpectedly didactic, delivering viewpoints on topics such as friendship, honour and pragmatism. Unless you have an aversion to a bit of blood, this is a must see. My only regret is that it finished at episode 10.

P.s. as someone already pointed out, the theme song is a cover of 'Otoko no Kunshou'- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frC94k58Hvo - Jiro Sato, who played Riko's father, makes an appearance in this music video.

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Nippon Noir: Detective Y's Rebellion
2 people found this review helpful
Dec 20, 2019
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 4.5
Story 4.0
Acting/Cast 5.5
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 3.0

"It's not funny."- Yusa Kiyoharu, 2019

**Potentially unpopular opinions, read at your own risk.**

After writing this review, I'm going to march up to NTV headquarters and demand a refund for the precious time I lost watching this series. 'Nippon Noir' knows how to control and manipulate easily swayed viewers; by shovelling on the melodrama in spades. Sanctimonious speeches, highly predictable character deaths, dramatic music and table-kicking histrionics are layered on thick and fast, building up into a mess that is almost self-mocking; except it isn't.
Most prevalently in the first episode, the story is convoluted and constructed upon overused tropes and plot devices; as if amnesia wasn't enough by itself. None of the numerous plot twists are genuinely surprising and yet the series tends to make a song and dance about them, dragging them out with dramatic pauses and blaring orchestral music. The characters, especially the villians, are two-dimensional and, much of the time, annoyingly overdramatised. 'Nippon Noir' tries to convey fear, anger and sadness. For me at least, it only generated second-hand embarrassment.

The combined efforts of the cast, which contains a number of experienced and potent actors, are disappointing. Kinda like how when you cook a tonne of spinach in a pan, it shrinks to a fraction of what it appeared before. The overacting was intense and eventually hard to watch, and they weren't able to generate an inch of pathos during the 'deep' and 'emotional' scenes. I know child actors really have it hard in general and I applaud the efforts of the kid here, but he clearly couldn't cry or scream, let alone act at all. In the end, I think it's a case of poor directing and script. Thus, my sympathy goes out to the actors involved; they could've been working on much better projects.

The fight scenes, as plentiful as they were, were also mediocre. Regardless of the circumstances, they all seemed to play out the same way, lacking excitement or creativity.

'Nippon Noir' is a spin-off of the wildly popular '3-Nen A Gumi' (Muto Shogo's previous drama)and features many returning actors in guest roles, but it honestly seems the connection was made so that it could ride off the popularity of the latter. Without spoiling anything, there is also an uncomfortably high degree of similarity between 'Nippon Noir' and 'Kamen Rider Build' (Yet another Muto Shogo project), both in terms of casting and plot. However, 'Kamen Rider Build' has the excuse of being a children's television show to accomodate for its flaws. 'Nippon Noir' doesn't.

The only good things about Nippon Noir were the opening and ending sequences, and the repeated mantra of "PARTY PEOPLE". I'm not a J-drama veteran but I've seen many more detective/mystery/suspense shows that warrant a watch over this. SPEC: Birth, Detective Yugami, Hitorishizuka, for instance.

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Laplace's Witch
2 people found this review helpful
Jan 25, 2019
Completed 0
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
I watched Laplace's Witch twice, on the way to and back from a plane trip. While it wasn't a boring watch and had some admirable concepts, it was brought down significantly by poor pacing and a number of loose threads. Much of the film was pure talk, and thus it didn't effectively explore or bring out the potential of Madoka and Kento's foresighting abilities- furthermore, the final confrontation seemed rather tacked on. The acting was decent overall- Professor Aoe was a rather uninspiring protagonist but Madoka's outbursts of emotion felt quite profound and realistic. People have described Sota Fukushi as a bland actor but I felt that he tried hard to bring out Kento's anguish, with a degree of success. Overall, decent and somewhat interesting.

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Kamen Rider Drive
2 people found this review helpful
Dec 29, 2018
48 of 48 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers
Kamen Rider Drive was a great series that had cool suit designs, a unique transformation device AND rider machine, and an energy-filled theme song. Tomari Shinnosuke and Mr. Belt were highly likeable and reflective of the series as a whole- sometimes light hearted and comedic, at other times dead-serious and intense. Likewise, Kiriko, Go and Chase, especially Chase, were all excellent characters with dark, but interesting, backstories.

What also struck me about this series were the Roidmude, particularly the main trio- initially appearing to be cruel killing machines, their backstories painted them as being sympathetic and nuanced- androids made to feel pain and suffering, yet treated as objects to be abused and disposed of by their owner. Thus, they were some of the better Kamen Rider antagonists that I've seen.

My main complaint with the series is that, approximately until the reveal of Chase's identity, the series seems to trundle along in a monster-of-the-week type way and seemed fairly uninteresting, to the point where I dropped it for about two months before tentatively starting it again. The first 15 or so episodes required a bit of patience to get through. That being said, the story really shifts into top gear after this, so don't be discouraged.

All that's left to say; "Nice Drive!"

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Kamen Rider Amazons - The Last Judgment
2 people found this review helpful
Dec 29, 2018
Completed 0
Overall 3.0
Story 4.5
Acting/Cast 5.0
Music 1.0
Rewatch Value 1.0
This review may contain spoilers
I went into this with really high hopes, having enjoyed season one but wanting for some closure after the fairly mediocre second season. For the most part, this was an utter mess. While the plot started off decently, making it seem as if Alpha and Omega were being hounded in to a final, climactic battle, the majority of the film ended up dealing with a grim yet unremarkable arc that would've fit better some place in season one, rather than in the supposedly dramatic conclusion- and then having the two main Amazons fight to the death as a seeming afterthought. I was looking forward to seeing Neo-Alpha in action, but, despite his interesting design and concept, he too was a disappointment- he didn't receive nearly enough action time and his agenda seemed weak and inconsequential in the face of not only the two main Amazons, but of the series as a whole. Furthermore, he literally had no background whatsoever, the writers having bypassed the need to explain him with flimsy plot devices that went unquestioned throughout the film.
Ignoring the film's lousy pacing, weak character interactions, the huge lack of music (which helped set the atmosphere in the first season) and the fact that you just didn't care when characters died, the greatest issue at hand was that it didn't fit in at all with Kamen Rider Amazons. Yes, the angst, suits, characters, gore and subdued colors were all there, but it all felt hollow- the depth of the first season and even parts of the second season was nowhere to be seen. Death, humanity and morality were all important themes in the series- what does it mean to be human? Are monsters deserving of life? Who are the monsters? The film briefly mentioned and played with these ideas before tossing them right out of the window- when Haruka and Jin reunited and then proceeded to start tearing each other into shreds, seemingly on a whim, I didn't feel any gravitas or tension whatsoever- frankly, it seemed like it was bordering on (rather poor) farce. Speaking of which, the attempted inclusion of comedy in the conclusion was utterly out of place, and was completely needless.
When Haruka got on his bike and rode off at the end, one thought entered my mind. "Is that it?"

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Hitori Camp de Kutte Neru
1 people found this review helpful
Jan 7, 2020
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 7.5

"This is my happiness."

Pros

-As one might expect, 'Hitori Camp' is an upbeat and stress-free series that is relaxing to watch. The anguish that one might obtain from watching J-dramas is nowhere to be found.

-This series could easily be labelled as an unconventional comedy; every episode is a wellspring of amusement. Unlike most J-dramas, which rely on slapstick or wordplay, the humour in 'Hitori Camp' comes from odd camera angles, wacky scenarios that are presented understatedly, and just a bit of schadenfreude. The scenes where Nanako talks to herself or role-plays in pursuit of her ingredients are particularly hilarious. She's a bit like Sid from 'Toy Story' but not sadistic and bratty.

-The guest roles are all memorable, with each of the minor characters leaving their mark by imparting lessons onto the two protagonists. Towards the end of the series, they also get more screen-time and some of their personal stories are quite touching, especially in the penultimate episode.

-Kento and Nanako are contrasting but interesting and likeable protagonists that you learn more about as the series progresses. Miura Takahiro and Kaho deliver natural performances, realising Kento's haplessness and Nanako's eccentricities. Filming this series must have been a change of pace for them.

-It is satisfying to see the protagonists' adventures culminate in a self-prepared dish. I don't know whether it is Miura and Kahos' acting or their genuine enjoyment, but you can really feel their enthusiasm as their scarf their efforts down, mostly with a bit of alcohol. Whether the food came from a river or out of a can, it is clearly a source of pride to them.

-Lovely and homely shooting locations. Whether the site is by the sea, amongst the trees or even in the comfort of one's home, 'Hitori Camp' makes it clear that you don't have to be in the midst of the wilderness to experience the pleasures of camping.

-Nicely minimalistic soundtrack, interspersed with some classic Japanese songs that the protagonists absent-mindedly sing as they go about their activities. The theme song, 'To the moon' by Yogee New Waves is worth another listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPs6EjmDE38

-While not the focus, the series does take some time to comment on the nature of loneliness and what effects it can have.

Cons

-Kento and Nanako never appear in the same episode. Hoping for a future special where the two meet and prepare a combined meal of canned and foraged food.

-Some of the food didn't look very appetising TBH, but this complaint is minor as its more about the journey (and the friends made along the way) than the destination. Unlike 'Yuru Camp', this series doesn't have the creative luxury of glamorising simply-prepared meals made with a camping stove and portable utensils.

Verdict; A relaxed and funny slice-of-life that is visually pleasing and suitable for all demographics to watch.

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Yutori Desu ga Nani ka
1 people found this review helpful
Nov 27, 2019
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
Despite the title, this series isn't primarily concerned about deconstructing the negative stereotypes surrounding the Yutori generation- it's more about light-heartedly depicting the work and love lives of three vastly different men of the Yutori generation and the people surrounding them. And how fun and entertaining this series is- you come to like every single character, regardless of their often glaring flaws. As usual, Kudo Kankuro plays with running jokes and cultural references with high finesse. Kankaku Piero's opening song, 'Haikei itsuka no kimi e' somehow fits the series really well despite sounding like an anime OP, and is honestly a real bop. Beneath all this, there is a simple yet important message about how all generations- not just the allegedly lackadaisical Yutori, must take responsibility for their actions. Great show.

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Blue Hour
1 people found this review helpful
Nov 27, 2019
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 9.0

"Bye-bye!"

(JFF Sydney 2019) Hakota Yuko's debut film centres around the coming of age of a disillusioned career woman undergoing a quarter life crisis.
Sunada Yuka's loneliness and repressed discontent are interwoven into the fabric of the film and are a testament to how unhappiness doesn't have to stem from external circumstances; after all, Sunada has a well-paying (albeit patronizing and insecure) job, a comfortable house and a nice husband. The moral tonic at the core of the film is simple and universal but of high importance; that only by relinquishing emotional burden can we confidently face the future and establish control over our own lives. To detest sentimentality (or 'tackiness', as Sunada calls it)- by looking on our pasts with shame or regret, and refusing to reveal our vulnerabilities to others is to invite the hardening of our hearts and the accumulation of a discontent that can't be quenched by beer, loud karaoke and adultery.

My only complaint about the film is that the progression of the story at times was uneven and a bit jolty, especially during the road trip to Ibaraki. Sometimes it has a tendency to awkwardly drift for a bit. Overall, though, it felt very well integrated with symbols and motifs used cleverly throughout. Among these was the titular Blue Hour- a liminal period of time that reflected both Sunada's state of transition and her subconscious wistful feelings towards the childhood that she tries to banish from her mind. Another nice touch was the focus on flowers, which I took as another potential symbol for Sunada's situation- cut off from their origin stem, they initially seem fine immersed in water, but can only survive so long before they start to wilt.
The ending seems to have generated mixed opinions but it is certainly one of the best I've seen to date in a film. The final twist ties everything together so well, and adds a note of sadness when one thinks about the film in retrospect. I doubt this review is going to be read but I advocate for anyone who has viewed/ will view this film to think upon the implications of the ending, as Director Hakota encouraged me to do so when I asked her about it in the Q and A.

Someone at the screening made a comparison to Hirokazu Koreeda's style of filmmaking and I think there is merit in this. Much of what the film is trying to convey is created without words- rather, through awkward silences, physical gestures and the occasional but powerful outburst of raw emotion. I've stated this all too many times, but Kaho (who gives one of her best performances here) really proves her prowess when given complex roles- she displays powerful emotions that aren't necessarily given the chance to fully surface, but they are ever present and when they do surface, it is with heartfelt poignance. It would be a crime not to commend Shim Eun Kyung for utterly nailing her character despite Japanese not being her main language- Kiyoura was the perfect foil to Sunada, and Eun Kyung's infectious sense of delight helped alleviate the often melancholy mood. Kaho and Eun Kyung had fantastic chemistry, which was a given as Director Hakota mentioned that the three of them had spent a lot of time off-set together as well.
The other performances were also amazing, notably from every member of Sunada's odd and somewhat dysfunctional family. The country bumpkins were brought to life, not as morally upright contradictions to Sunada's resentment, but as people just as flawed as Sunada herself. Sunada's brother (Kuroda Daisuke) was a highlight because of the dark humor he provided in his few minutes of screentime- there was clearly something wrong with him but he was still funny nonetheless.

For anyone who has parents/grandparents that they've come back to after a long time away, this film is bound to be highly relatable. For anyone else, this film is still a must watch... if you can somehow track it down. Hopefully it sees a wider release in English by some chance. Let's hope that Director Hakota's next release is just as good.

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Kamen Rider Kabuto
1 people found this review helpful
Feb 8, 2019
49 of 49 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 6.5

'Clock-up!'

The main selling points of Kabuto are the suit designs and the dynamic fight scenes. Both the worms and the riders are based off insects, highlighting the similarity of their powers, but the sleek, almost robotic rider designs contrast with the creatively monstrous worms- this, I find outstanding.
The characters were, on the whole, well executed, and had great interactions with each other. An issue to point out was how Tsurugi's shifts between a driven, serious character and comic relief felt fairly jarring, but he too was enjoyable nonetheless. The worms were interesting villains, their 'Thing'-like gimmick and hyperspeed making them formidable foes- however, the paranoia factor around the aforementioned ability could have been utilized a bit more.
The issue with Kabuto was the pacing of its story, especially towards the end. The show spent too much time on comic, filler episodes (such as the ramen cookoff), and thus didn't have enough time to develop its crucial endgame. The events that set the ball rolling happened too fast and too late, and the revelation of the true antagonists and their motivations felt underwhelming. This badly ruined my experience of watching the show, and I felt it ended on a sadly insipid note. Even so, it's still worth watching.

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Destiny: Kamakura Monogatari
0 people found this review helpful
16 days ago
Completed 0
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
This review may contain spoilers

"Our bond has been alive for so long."

Pros

-Ghibli-esque themes, aesthetics and soundtrack. The scenes at nighttime have a Spirited Away vibe to them.

-Not only was this film shot in Kamakura (which is a pleasure to set one's eyes upon), it puts a fantasy spin on the town, as a community where spirits, ghosts and humans live in harmony.

-I like what they did with the Shinigami (death spirits). Rather than being depicted as ominous monsters, they're a workforce of white-haired, bowler hat-wearing young folk who are just doing their jobs. While a bit too idealistic, the film's attitude towards death seems appropriate to show to young children; that dying is inevitable, but something more wonderful may lie on the other side of the veil.

-The cast was really good. Ando Sakura, Takahata Mitsuki, Tsutsumi Shin'ichi, etcetera

Cons

-This film hinges on its visuals yet suffers from mediocre CGI. Of course, Japan was never renowned for good CGI and the CGI here is better than the usual fare, but Japanese productions simply don't have the money that Western productions do to take it to a realistic level.

-While, as mentioned, the visuals are nicely Ghibli-esque, the fact that it conjures up Studio Ghibli makes it stand out as an inferior- dare I say- wannabe. None of the luscious fantasy settings are particularly original and innovative, because they've already been captured to a greater extent in Western fantasy films and Japanese anime films.

-The progression of the plot is sloppy. The first half feels like a quirky slice-of-life (with supernatural elements) before rocketing into tragedy and then action-adventure. The main antagonist is cartoonish and is brought in way too late to be of significant impact. The final confrontation isn't nearly as powerful as it would like to be and is solved by, of all things, a brick joke.

-The chemistry between the leads is unsatisfactory- despite their repeated and sappy professions of love, I couldn't feel any deep husband-wife intimacy. Sakai Masato, while an entertaining performer, overacts a lot and isn't able to pull through during the 'emotional' scenes. Takahata Mitsuki seems better at playing bad girls than innocent, naive heroines.

Conclusion: While DKM is entertaining and will definitely be loved by children, it pales in comparison to the works of Studio Ghibli in terms of strength and depth, and is outshone visually by even the most generic of high-budget Western fantasy works.

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Totto TV
0 people found this review helpful
23 days ago
7 of 7 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers

"It's 8:15"

Who would've thought that a quaint docudrama on the genesis of Japanese television could be so emotionally overwhelming. I went into 'Totto TV' with the intention of having a nice laugh and possibly learning a bit. In the end, I had a nice laugh, learned more than just a bit and was almost moved to tears. 'Totto TV' is perhaps just a bit too sentimental- but I don't see why it shouldn't be, as it is simultaneously a remembrance and a celebration of an era long gone, but fondly remembered. An era of dramas filmed in real time, of crowds gathered apprehensively around small screens, of the excitement of a segregated nation opening up to the wide world following the Second World War. And yes, while Kuroyanagi Tetsuko herself is sadly the sole survivor of the close-knit circle of entertainers that gathered at Wan-san's Chinese restaurant, the legacy of their work is still remembered today; perhaps immortalised in this series. As made clear by the appearance of the three Totto-chans in the last episode- child, young adult and old lady- there will always be a next generation to carry on the torch from their forerunners. If there's one thing to be taken from 'Totto TV', it's that "A farewell is sad, but a departure is happy"- because a departure entails the start of something new.

Needless to say, Mitsushima Hikari proves herself worthy of portraying the legendary Kuroyanagi Tetsuko. Both her comedic and dramatic finesse shine through in a performance that is charismatic and idiosyncratic. This is also her first performance that I've seen where she is able to put her singing abilities to use as well.
And I really can't discount the rest of the cast. While the charm of each character and the pain that came from their eventual departures was in part due to them being real people, it took a talented cast to bring them to life and leave an everlasting imprint. It was just so wonderful to see everyone taking part in the energetic numbers that ended many of the episodes. There were also some very welcome cameos from famous actors; half the cast of 2013's 'Amachan' must have popped up, including Koizumi Kyoko as the narrator. Aside from the actual presence of Kuroyanagi Tetsuko though, the best appearance had to be from Miura Daichi, who dressed up as Charlie Chaplain and performed a duet with former idol group member Mitsushima- in (heavily accented) English.

This has already been pointed out, but the main flaw of the series was the fact that seventy year old Totto looked the exact same as twenty year old Totto except for clothing and styling. Seeing as one of the episodes featured Totto applying makeup to become an old woman, the decision of the producers to leave Totto the same while aging the rest of the cast was baffling to say the least. They might have done this to emphasise the enduring spirit of Kuroyanagi Tetsuko, or to compound the sadness of seeing everyone else deteriorate over the years, but it just seemed nonsensical and even self-destructive. However, that's my only problem with this short but wonderful series. Bravo.

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Kung Fu Hustle
0 people found this review helpful
23 days ago
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 8.0
'Kung Fu Hustle' is an utterly ridiculous film, and succeeds as a piece of pure entertainment all the more because of this. Shamelessly absurd and flamboyant, this film's hilarity comes not only from its comical characters but from how fast it dispenses of any semblance of logic. It doesn't pace itself evenly or fully flesh out its characters because it doesn't need to. What it does do is deliver on the goods; slapstick comedy and kung-fu fighting that starts off as fairly standard fair and just gets crazier and crazier. It never fails to surprise and delight, and keeps giving until the end. Also the axe gang has to have one of the best villain introductions in cinema. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kZ4SHVKlRA

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The Antique
0 people found this review helpful
Jan 2, 2020
Completed 0
Overall 5.0
Story 4.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 6.5
Rewatch Value 1.0

"Really boring though"

EDIT: In light of the Higashide Masahiro debacle, a reminder that adultery is inexcusable and should never be condoned, let alone romanticised.

'The Antique' has one main thing
going for it; aesthetic value. This can simply be attributed to the filming location of Kamakura, with all its scenic beauty and gorgeous ocean views. Although there weren't really any scenes that required the venerable cast to demonstrate significant acting chops, the performances were quite good too.

That being said, there are better, much better films than this one that also have aesthetic value and good acting. Apart from aesthetics and acting, the rest of the film is paper-thin. 'The Antique' winds up falling back on cliches and melodrama, and its characters and their (often plausible) motivations weren't compelling enough to draw my sympathy, let alone attention. The film is listed here as a 'mystery' but said mystery wasn't mysterious in the slightest, especially with the tiny pool of characters to draw from. Often, 'The Antique' plays out like a broken record; the characters repeat the exact same literary quotes time and time again, and ramble abstractly about the value of books with enough zeal to make a high school English teacher giddy. And when spouting quotes fails, the terrible and utterly unnecessary action scenes come in. Basically, I just couldn't groove on this film. Perhaps it would appeal more to enthusiasts of Japanese literature.

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Completed
Still Walking
0 people found this review helpful
Jan 1, 2020
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10

"I'm always a little too late."

'Still Walking' was conceived by Kore-eda after the deaths of his parents, and embodies his regret in being unable to fulfil his own filial piety. To keep things brief, this film is a masterpiece. Kore-eda's ability to balance heavy themes with warmth and humanity proves he is at the height of his craft. The acting from every performer couldn't be better, and the minimalistic soundtrack was always used at the right moments. It definitely warrants a second watch.

"The characters are utterly ordinary people: the film takes place over the course of a single summer day.... nothing of consequence happens during their rare, overnight family reunion. Yet over the course of this day, as deceptively tranquil as a calm sea, the tide flows in then out, and wavelets constantly ripple the surface." Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2008.

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