Archive for the Foreign Category

Gantz movie review

Posted in 3.5 Stars, Foreign, Horror, Japan, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by russellsreviews

After the successful live-action adaptations of Death Note, Detroit Metal City, and 20th Century Boys its becoming more common for Japanese film studios to take a chance on a mature manga/anime series. Gantz is the newest one by creator Hiroya Oku. However, Gantz is a much different beast than all the others before it. Its not that the manga isn’t as deep, but it goes to some very dark and intense places for it’s characters. Does the Gantz movie pull any punches or stay true and risk loosing a broader audience?

Kei is a underachieving teenager simply waiting for his train to arrive. A drunken man stumbles and falls on the tracks and everyone, including Kei, just stares and being curious to see what happens next. The only person who decides to help turns out to be Kei’s childhood friend, Kato. With the pressure of seeing his friend, Kei drops down to help raise the drunken man back on the platform only for them to be ones crushed by the oncoming train. Kei and Kato immediately find themselves with other killed strangers in a small locked white apartment with a giant black ball in the center room. Are they really dead? Where are they? How did they get there? More importantly why are they there?

That’s as far as I want to go as a set up, because the main draw of the series for me is seeing these mysteries played out and never know whats going to happen next to the characters. From the very first time I watch the anime of Gantz I felt that the story could translate very well to the big screen and would no doubt blow the sci-fi genre craze wide open if the the action was done well. The only problem is the original Gantz goes to some disturbing limits. This will ultimately be the deciding factor if you will enjoy the film or not if your a fan. To be honest there were parts of Gantz that went to far in my opinion. I know the main character did some really nasty immature stuff and part of showing all that sex and violence was for you to see how far Kei grows as a human being, but it was borderline too far  sometimes and crossed over to being simply there for shock value and to get the very same people Kei is growing out of to watch the show. The Gantz movie rolled back the unnecessary sex and made Kei into much more likable guy from the start. Gantz might have pulled back a little too much in some areas that hurt it from being near perfect, but in this reviewer mind it also helped making it a more balanced movie. If you were one of the fans of the Gantz manga that liked it only for how messed it up it got sometimes you will feel jipped. Fans should not worry about the action side of the film. All scenes are very close to the original and are surprisingly good.

For those that know nothing of Gantz are in for a real treat. You have a lot of the fat trimmed out for a more streamlined version and are in for something totally fresh and interesting. A fair warning though. The version shown in American theaters is dubbed and dubbed very bad in some emotional scenes that did twist some powerful scenes into unintentionally funny ones. Some fans will predictably cry foul, but a lot will walk away feeling pretty satisfied and will be excited to see what the sequel might bring.

3.5 STARS

Ong Bak 3 review

Posted in 3 Stars, Action, Foreign with tags , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by russellsreviews

The final chapter in Tony Jaa’s experimental Ong Bak sequels is here. Ong Bak 2 ended in a controversial cliffhanger which might be the first a martial art movie ever to do so in my memory. That film also took a lot of fans back by change of tone, characters, and even time period. It had its problems, but it totally delivered where it counts in these films with tons of brutal creative fights that you can watch over and over. Unfortunately, with Ong Bak 3 I can’t say the same.

Ong Bak 3 starts off with the aftermath of Tien(Tony Jaa) being captured by his family murderer. He is tutored and beaten only to narrowly escape with the help of his childhood love Pim. Tien is now a crippled man and looses all hope. Tien learns from a Buddhist monk that not all is lost and there was a greater meaning to everything that has happened and there is way for him to resurrect to his pure self. An interesting concept for sure, but this rehabilitation takes up a big part of the picture and by the time he has regained himself most people might have already tuned out.

This built up would have been saved by a long fight scene but is only followed up with short but sweet ones. Tony Jaa pulls of some crazy moves, but his fight scenes work best when his fights build upon each other and don’t end quickly. The final fight with the true evil of Tien quest is great and worth repeating and isn’t as short as the other fights but somehow manages to feel less epic that Jaa’s previous films.

You can tell that Tony Jaa is putting 100% on and behind the screen. The film is shot very well and the set pieces are wonderful. Ong Bak 3 just suffers from bad pacing that makes things seem off compared to before.  I’m pretty sure most these problems are caused with Tony Jaa’s much publicized stress on the product and eagerly await his next film now that this whole thing is behind him. However , I think if you are a fan of Tony Jaa you should see this film, but if you just want to see a good martial art flick or have high expectations you are going to come away a little disappointed.

3 STARS

PowerKids trailer

Posted in Action, Foreign, movie trailer, New Movie on September 9, 2009 by russellsreviews

The master behind ong-bak and chocolate has recently released a new film. I known he always had a nack for finding great young talent, but this is pretty surprising. His new film showcases the talents of five really really young action stars. I will be shocked if this comes over state side with all the child labor laws. Sure, there was three ninja’s kick back movies, but that was obviously fake kung fu, not real action fighting like theses kids. Still pretty amazing stuff kids or not.

Nana Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Review, Romantic on August 26, 2009 by russellsreviews

Nana is a live action adaptation of a popular manga, anime series of the same name. I have never seen or read any of it, and the little knowledge I have of Nana was really only what I remembered from when my fiance talked about it. Its a foreign romantic story, yes, so if you have low tolerance on character drama or “love stories” this could mean to some people will automatically write Nana off, but to these people I say grow up, and try to expand your horizons a little. Now thats out of the way on to the movie.

Nana is ironic story of two girls from very different worlds, but with the same name and some deeper things very much in common, meet by chance on a train. Some time later when one Nana decides to look for an apartment in Tokyo to be closer to her boyfriend she once again bumps into the other Nana looking at the very same apartment. Recalling how well they got along at that chance meeting on the train and how they both are need of a room mate they decide to move in together. Although the two girls couldn’t look or act more opposite, they find similarities in their lives, grow closer, and become a much needed support in crisis. They help improve each other and make them see that their love life needs a second look.

All of this might sound too girly, but the movie never crosses that line so even the average guy should like this film. The problems of both girls look very real and well done that you care and feel their ups and downs. All of the emotions have real weight to them. Not only this, but the outcome you can never be sure about. It’s been a long time since I have seen a romantic movie were you don’t have a check list of what happens next and how they all end up.

On top of the great love stories, you have a great message about humanity in general. Both Nana’s are totally different, yet the same. They both have insecurities, passions, and desires. Through the bridge of music they find something to build a friendship on. If people could be nice to each other and try to find things to relate to life would be much easier. You can’t judge a person by looks or how they act alone. Look deeper at that person that you might have thought was weird or different to you could end up being a better friend to you than the ones you have now.

I can’t say how well Nana adapted the source material to film, but as movie it accomplishes a lot. The acting, the direction, and emotions are top grade. Nana is another movie in a long line that mainstream Hollywood should check out on how to make simply good drama. So should you.

4.5 STARS

Ponyo Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Animation, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 16, 2009 by russellsreviews

In the U.S. 2-D animation is all but dead. If it wasn’t for Pixar, not even Disney would be making them and when they do its about one every three years. Television now is even moving away from it. The only place really to get 2-D anymore is from Japan. Hayao Miyazaki is consider the master of this craft in Japan, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t that recognized in the states as well. Ponyo, Miyazaki’s newest, is finally given its chance in American theaters. His movies are normally critically acclaimed, although always overlooked by the Academy, but never a commercial success. Can Ponyo change all of this?

Ponyo is a fairy tale of a young boy named Sasuke who finds a mysterious fish, Ponyo, and decides to take care of it. Only this goldfish is actually the daughter of a mad wizard who is in charge of keeping the balance of human and magical worlds separate. If Ponyo stays with Sasuke too long it will shift everything out of balance and cause the moon to get closer to earth and put all of Japan underwater. Only Ponyo has fallen in love with Sasuke and is willing to risk everything to become a real girl and be with Sasuke forever.

Ponyo is more light hearted than his previous films and little more innocent, but that’s what Miyazaki was going for. All of his movies deal with love, but Ponyo’s whole theme is love. The love story takes place with two very young kids to show how love is innocent and pure and shouldn’t be corrupted, much like a child. Much like his other films as well he as a environmental message. Human ways are hurting the magical creatures, yet they coexist with the humans for their ability to love and work together.

It was very refreshing to see the hand drawn character movements and the painted environments. In my opinion, movement, motion, and emotion in a 2-D will never be matched by CGI. Ponyo is just another in a long line examples of this. Ponyo might not rank up there with some Miyazaki fans, but deserves praise for trying to tell a tale in a more simple fashion, dare we say more assessable to the west. Miyazaki is a master of animation, because he creates movies with fascinating worlds seen no where else, while reminding adults of important messages, and most importantly while never loosing the imagination or the fun to reach all ages. I hope Ponyo will be the one to finally to make a good buck in America and would only be called predujice against Asian culture if it doesn’t get at least gets nominated this year.

4.5 STARS

The Sky Crawlers Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 7, 2009 by russellsreviews

The Sky Crawlers is director’s Mamoru Oshii newest film, the man behind one of the most famous animes of all time Ghost in the Shell. Oshii doesn’t really make a lot of movies partly because his movies are so jam packed with ideologies and normally have a deeper meaning on what he thinks is going on with society. The Sky Crawlers attempts to do the same the film,but gets too bog down with slow pacing for you even to care.

The film takes place in an alternate history where young pilots have to defend Japan everyday from bandits and attacks other countries. The film opens in a intense realistic dogfight and it quickly gets you in mood for anther great work from Oshii. However, that’s mostly all the action you are going to get. Which normally in movies like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the movie takes so long to develop and progress only the fully commended won’t have trouble keeping their eyes open. The characters all of too much subtle movement and the characters design are all bland. None of them stand out or stay with you. The director said he went with this approach to show how mundane and boring their lives have become, which I get, but the problem is that this goes on for too long. There are too many scenes with really no purpose.  There is a crazy unique twist more than half way through, but most will already have checked out. Outside the few dogfights and the bowling ally scene the camera mostly stays stationary. Which, again, normally would OK in a movie like this, however when you are doing a deep intellectual and there is very little dialogue movement or creative camera angles its hard to keep your attention until the reveals.

For people who can make it through there is a unique story. The young pilots turn out to be Kildren, a race of people for some reason who can’t die. The government and companies stages  a war between them in a endless loop to keep them busy, money, to give people something to route for, or simply for entertainment for the masses. All ideas are touched upon but each one so little, it was almost like Oshii was more interested in the world he created rather than the story itself.

The Sky Crawlers has to get some points for trying something ambitious, but it’s plagued with bad overall execution. It has a story worth seeing, I hate to say it,but with better direction could have been just as ground breaking as Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor.

3 STARS

Raging Phoenix Trailer

Posted in Foreign, martial arts, New Movie, Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 by russellsreviews

With Chocolate being a success, fans across the world can’t wait for JeeJa Yanins next movie. The release is still a little ways away, but we now have a english trailer to watch showcasing the cool fighting styles being used in the movie! Enjoy!