Lupin III (2014)

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Art thief adventure series Lupin III and frenetic cult director Ryuhei Kitamura (Godzilla: Final WarsVersus) seems like it could be a match made in heaven. Kitamura is known for his energetic, reality defying, somewhat gaggy but exceedingly enjoyable action movies, and Lupin is known for his energetic, law-enforcement defying, seemingly impossible but somehow charming art heists. The combination in this 2014 live action movie makes for a moderately fun crime thriller that is never too serious … (read more)

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Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno & The Legend Ends (2014)

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I’ll be upfront with you; I’m not going to review Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends separately. Considering how close together their theatrical releases in Japan were, it could be argued they’re just one film with about a month long intermission (if you’re old enough to remember those). Also considering the cliff-hanger Kyoto Inferno ends on ­Empire Strikes Back style I’d also run a much bigger risk of spoiling far too many things if I … (read more)

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Short Peace (2013)

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Although the theme for the Sunrise/Shochiku multimedia project Short Peace was apparently “Japan” it seems to me that the ‘peace’ part of the title is far more telling, because in one way or another each short in this 4-film anthology is about conflict. Not only that, but unless I’m reading far too much into it, there is something to be learned from each of these battles.

The first cab off the rank after the energetically ethereal opening title sequence is … (read more)

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Thermae Romae 2 (2014)

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I’ll admit, I decided to go to see the sequel to the surprisingly entertaining Thermae Romae with some trepidation. Basically I’m not a fan of comedies in general, so that I enjoyed the first film made a few of my friends check to make sure I was still the same person. I’m seriously considering not telling them that I enjoyed the sequel almost as much.

Although, perhaps that was a no-brainer. There’s no surprises in this follow up — it’s … (read more)

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Bends (2013)

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Bends

Given the recent public demonstrations in Hong Kong, the film Bends, which I actually saw almost a year ago at the 2013 Stockholm Film Festival, feels especially pertinent. But for those following the socio-political debates and news of Hong Kong, the issues being dealt with in this film go back for longer than that.

Sort of a Chinese version of Driving Miss Daisy, though not quite as chatty nor spanning decades, Bends is a quiet and unassuming film … (read more)

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All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa (2014)

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One of the joys of the Japanese Film Festival every year for me is discovering the unexpected gem. Film festivals are of course great for those films that you’ve heard about and been dying to see that will likely never make it to your local cinema, but I always make a point of picking a few random films as well — films that I’ve heard nothing about; often films that I don’t even bother to read the synopsis for. Without … (read more)

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The Golden Era (2014)

The Golden Era

After sitting through all 179 minutes of this new Chinese release one question occupied my mind: how did a director of the calibre of Ann Hui become involved in such a road wreck of a movie? Obviously the people behind this mainland production were seeking the artistic cachet that Hui’s name would give the film. Instead, The Golden Era resembles the leaden propaganda of the 2009 pic The Founding of a Republic.

The film recounts the short and often … (read more)

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Kiki’s Delivery Service (2014)

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We’ve probably had this conversation before — the pros and cons of the Live Action Film. When they’re done well, they enhance the source and become another aspect of effective cross-stream marketing that people are happy to pay to see. They win new fans and invigorate the existing ones. But let’s not kid ourselves thinking that any company sinks millions of dollars (or yen in this case) into a film better known in anime or manga out of their sense … (read more)

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