Greetings for the new year! Here’s wishing everyone a plentiful year in terms of dramas and films, and whatever your heart desires. It is fitting therefore to begin the year with a post on films by two actors I like and who are always lovely to watch on screen. The two films are very different in content, but there are some surprising similarities to be found.
Also, happy birthday to Tamaki Hiroshi! 💖💖💖 He turns 39 this year, and after the big year he had in 2018 – getting married, starring in three films, and being picked for a WOWOW drama, among other achievements – here’s hoping 2019 will bring more success for him! Continue reading
So it was that, good cat slave that I am, I made a beeline for Japan’s latest offering of feline adorableness as soon as I could. Because, of course, shelling out money to watch a film about cats counts as worshipping my feline overlord.
Nana (voiced by Takahata Mitsuki) is a smart and sassy cat adored by his owner Satoru (Fukushi Sota). However, for reasons unknown, Satoru now cannot keep his cat, so he and Nana go on a journey across Japan to find a new home for the feline. As Nana and Satoru meet old friends and new, they uncover secrets and eventually Satoru’s past… Continue reading
I have a thing for hot antagonists and I cannot lie. Especially if they’re played by the likes of Sato Takeru.
Inuyashiki Ichiro (Kinashi Noritake) is a luckless elderly salaryman who is stuck in a deadbeat job and has an uncaring family. One evening, he is struck by an explosion and realises he has turned into a cyborg with incredible powers. Inuyashiki sees a new purpose to his life and makes use of his powers to heal people. Also struck in the same explosion is teenager Shishigami Hiro (Sato Takeru), who instead uses his newfound capabilities to go on a killing spree…
Actor combinations are strange things. If I like a potential pairing, I might actually want to be nice and check out their previous works, just to be sure I won’t be in for a rude shock when said pairing actually graces my screen. So it was with some interest that I watched Hirunaka no Ryuusei, a light and fluffy film adaptation of the shoujo manga by Yamamori Mika.
When her parents move to Bangladesh and decide not to take her along, Yosano Suzume (Nagano Mei) moves to Tokyo to live with her uncle Yukichi. Lost in the big city, she sees a shooting star during the day and also gets help from a man, Shishio Satsuki (Miura Shohei), who turns out to be her teacher at school. Suzume also tries to make friends with her standoffish classmate Mamura Daiki (Shirahama Alan), who is actually a gynophobe… Continue reading
Life as a purist is hard.
A pawnshop owner is killed in 1973 in Osaka. Detective Sasagaki Junzo, who has been assigned to the case, begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are seemingly involved in the crime – the son of the victim, and the suspect’s daughter. Over the years, Sasagaki tracks the whereabouts of these two people as he tries to bring the case to a close… Continue reading
Going to the cinema is a luxury these days because ticket prices rise quicker than I can watch dramas, but the opportunity to watch Sato Takeru on the big screen again was hard to resist. Oddly enough, the last film I caught in the cinema was also another live-action film starring Sato – the final act in the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. This must be a sign, so I splashed out the cash and had an enjoyable couple of hours.
Nagai Kei (Sato Takeru) is a hospital intern who discovers he is an “Ajin” when he is hit by a truck. Ajin are immortal beings with the ability to regenerate when they die and can summon IBM (invisible black matter). They are regarded as dangerous by the Japanese government and subjected to experiments when caught. Kei is rescued by Sato (Ayano Go), another Ajin who is hell-bent on exacting revenge against the government for its treatment of the Ajin. As Sato’s actions become more extreme, Kei finds himself having to choose sides… Continue reading
Life has been a bit topsy turvy for me lately, so I wanted to watch something more sedate and soothing. I didn’t feel like a 10-episode drama, so I settled for Little Forest, a charming two-parter film that seemed to have garnered some positive reviews.
Ichiko (Hashimoto Ai) returns to her hometown Komori in the Tohoku region after a series of setbacks in the big city. She lives in her mother’s old house and farms the land, living in harmony with nature and the changing four seasons. With help from her friends, she comes to terms with what she really needs in life… Continue reading
Tortured musician? Check. Hot male lead? Check. That was my mindset when searching for lighter fare to watch after BORDER and deciding to give Kanojo wa uso wo aishisugiteru a try. I am not generally a fan of shoujo manga or stories with high-school characters, but it surely couldn’t hurt to spend a couple of hours with two winsome leads.
Ogasawara Aki (Sato Takeru) is a genius musician who composes songs for the popular band Crude Play. Aki is moody and depressed despite his success, and desires an escape from the music that has dominated his life. One day, he meets high school student Koeda Riko (Ohara Sakurako) and starts a relationship with her on a whim, lying about his identity. When Riko is scouted by Takagi Soichiro (Sorimachi Takashi), the same producer who propelled Crude Play to success, Aki’s lies start to unravel… Continue reading
I was probably drunk when I thought of the post title, but hey, I tried. Anyway, since I was craving for some Jang Hyuk on my screen post-Beautiful Mind but wasn’t ready to jump headlong into any of his long-ass sageuks, two-hour films seemed like the perfect antidote. Spoilers after the jump. Continue reading
Today’s my birthday? Really?
❤ Happy birthday, Tamaki Hiroshi! ❤
Our Chiaki senpai turns 36 today! Here’s wishing him many happy returns, and may all his dreams come true! Even though Tamaki wasn’t in a lot of dramas or films last year, I’m glad he ended 2015 strongly with Asa ga Kita, which is doing well in ratings so far. I’ve missed seeing Tamaki in solid roles and I really hope a super meaty one will land on his lap soon – the asadora is a wonderful opportunity for him, but I’d still like to see him in more primetime dramas.
Anyway, to celebrate his birthday, here’s a quick post on one of his recent films, 2014’s Bakumatsu Kokosei, otherwise known as Time Trip App. Basically, high school teacher Kawabe Mikako (Ishihara Satomi) and her students have somehow time-travelled back to 1868 Edo, where they meet imperial statesman Katsu Kaishu (Tamaki Hiroshi). These are troubled times for Edo, where a battle is about to break out between shogunate forces and those of the new government. Eager to prevent bloodshed, Katsu sends a peace envoy to the highly influential samurai Saigo Takamori (Sato Koichi). But as time ticks by, there is no response from Saigo and Mikako despairs that Katsu does not seem like he’s doing anything to rescue the situation… Continue reading
Hm, I have to confess I don’t always pay much attention to cinematography, at least not enough to say which one is the best. So I’m just going to go with some Chinese films off the top of my head.
I think film-watchers would be familiar with Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who in his earlier days had a string of critical successes that were also pretty much social commentaries on Chinese society in the 1980s and 1990s. Zhang is known for his use of colours to tell a story, and this is evident in his earlier works such as Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern and Judou. In fact, he was already employing such techniques when he served as cinematographer for Chen Kaige’s 1984 film Yellow Earth, which was a very interesting film in its own right and worth a watch. I think the example most Western viewers would be familiar with would be Hero, where Zhang used five dominant colours to show different perspectives of the various assassins. It wasn’t really a wuxia film, but it was very beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle, who also shot In The Mood for Love, among other illustrious works. All the films mentioned above are recommended.
Mmm… since most villains end up as lame ducks, it’s difficult to pick one that is completely badass. But I guess I’ll go with these three since they have some potential.
Yuki Michio (MW)
The potential comes largely from the manga, where Yuki is one destructive murdering sonofabitch who doesn’t bat an eyelid whether he’s chopping up body parts or fucking people (all puns intended) and their lives. Yet, Yuki can be playful, needy, coy and nice. It’s all pretty sick, but there’s a delicious thrill in having a villain who is so diabolically fun. The film diluted Yuki to a fanatical terrorist, but still, I thought Tamaki Hiroshi did a great job with the very limited material (he just needed a much better hairstyle). The fact that Yuki survived the plane crash means he can continue his plans to end the world, which is actually kinda awesome.
Chae Do-woo (Story of a Man)
Do-woo is really only awesome for the first half of the drama, but still, Kim Kang-woo played him with such delicious understated malevolence and complexity that I ended up rooting for Do-woo rather than the hero of the drama. Again, Do-woo survives the people who were out to take him down, and the open ending makes it seem that he is actually the one who gets the last laugh. Yum.
Dongfang Bubai (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu)
For the uninitiated, he is a character from one of Jin Yong’s wuxia stories Xiao Ao Jiang Hu who practised a kind of martial arts that required castration, and thus he became an effeminate person who then set out to rule the martial arts world (and also took on a male lover). The castration and effeminate bit meant that actors both male and female have played this character (eg: Brigitte Lin in Swordsman II & The East is Red). I don’t have much love for either the story or character, but well, you’ve got to hand it to the guy who willingly sacrifices his little brother in favour of world domination. That takes some real guts.
I don’t have an outright favourite film, so I’ll just go with one (or two?) each for Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong. I think the two Nodame Cantabile films will probably count as my favourite Japanese films, haha, since they have Tamaki Hiroshi. I really love the music featured in the entire franchise, and everyone just stepped up a notch in the films, it was awesome to watch. I also really liked Kurosawa Akira’s Stray Dog (Nora Inu), which I think is very underrated since most people prefer his more famous works such as Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Stray Dog is a detective film, but pretty unusual in the way it plays out since it’s more character-driven than your usual cop films. Mifune Toshiro, a stalwart of Kurosawa films, played a detective who had his gun stolen by a pickpocket and teamed up with a more veteran colleague to hunt it down. Apparently, Stray Dog is considered a precursor to the police drama and suspense films we see now.
I am also very fond of Il Mare, which starred Lee Jung-jae and Jeon Ji-hyun. It was a beautiful and intricately crafted film, very thought-provoking and showcased some wonderful acting by Lee and Jeon (I admit, I shipped them for quite a while). Even though there were two different timelines and the actors rarely shared the same screen, one could still feel their chemistry just from their correspondence.
As for Hong Kong films… where do I start? I grew up with them and have enjoyed so many over the years, but it’s really difficult to pick a favourite. Perhaps I’ll go with these two from my childhood: the Aces Go Places spy spoof series and the original All’s Well Ends Well. I loved the original pairing of Karl Maka and Samuel Hui in Aces Go Places – the former was bumbling detective Albert, who spoke with a hilarious accent, while the latter was a master thief. Sylvia Chang was Albert’s hot-tempered wife and also their “supervisor” of sorts. The series was pretty mo lei tau and probably one of the earlier examples of the genre.
All’s Well Ends Well (the original was the 1992 version, which later spawned quite a few lame sequels) had all your usual Hong Kong stars who were by then starting to become household names: Stephen Chow, Leslie Cheung, Raymond Wong, Maggie Cheung etc. It was about three hapless brothers and their women troubles, with each brother eventually learning that love has to be gradually nurtured instead of taking it for granted. In Cantonese with all the wordplay, parodies and jokes, it was even funnier.
Writing about these films makes me want to watch them all over again!
Never thought I’d be doing one of these 30-day challenges, but I was a little inspired by mochirochi’s posts on this, so here goes – the 30-Day Drama Challenge. I was going to keep this challenge entirely on J-dramas, but that might be too limiting, so I’ll try to include a variety of dramas and also a Japanese component as far as possible.
I’ve watched many dramas since I was a wee kiddo, so I don’t rightly remember which exactly is the very first. But somehow, I’ve always vaguely remembered images of The Foundation (決戰玄武門) as one of my earliest dramas, so I’ll go with this. This is a 1984 Hong Kong drama about Li Shimin and how he became the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. If you know your Chinese history, you’d know there was infighting between Li Shimin and his two brothers, which resulted in the Xuanwu Gate Incident, where he assassinated his brothers to eventually take control of the throne. Despite this bloody coup, Li Shimin was always regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history, and indeed during his reign, the Tang Dynasty flourished in many aspects. This drama had a star-studded cast, such as Miu Kiu Wai, Felix Wong and Barbara Yung, who were very popular back in the 80s and even till now. Story-wise it was okay, but tended to drag a little given the love triangle involved. It did have a wonderful theme song, as was the norm for wuxia dramas back then, although this wasn’t really one since it had a good deal of court politics involved.
As for my first film, I really can’t remember since I grew up on a staple of Hong Kong films, so I’ll just go with the first Japanese film that left a lasting impression on me. That would be the 1995 film Love Letter by Iwai Shunji, about a young woman, Watanabe Hiroko, who loses her fiance Fujii Itsuki in a mountain climbing accident and in her grief, writes a letter to him but unexpectedly gets a reply from a woman who shares the same name as the dead man. Nakayama Miho was excellent in the dual roles of both Hiroko and female Itsuki, and what unfolded was a beautiful, moving story of an unusual first love and coming to terms with losing a loved one. Acting was solid throughout and there was also plenty of beautiful scenery of Otaru, Hokkaido. Definitely a must-watch.