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Japanese Movie Legend Setsuko Hara Dies At 95

Setsuko Hara Akira Kurosawa

The actress, who has been a recluse for more than four decades, passed away following a bout of pneumonia on 5 September (15), her family announced on Wednesday (25Nov15).

Hara made her film debut at the age of 15 in 1935's Tamerau nakare wakodo yo, and shot to fame two years later in the German-Japanese co-production The New Earth, which was designed to strengthen ties between the soon-to-be World War Two allies.

She went on to appear in more than 100 movies throughout her 30-year career, working with revered directors including Akira Kurosawa and Tadashi Imai.

Continue reading: Japanese Movie Legend Setsuko Hara Dies At 95

Cinematographer Takao Saito Dies At 85

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa's longtime cinematographer Takao Saito has died, aged 85.

The Japanese moviemaker passed away on Tuesday (06Jan15) following a battle with lymphocytic cancer.

Saito was best known for working on the films of Seven Samurai director Kurosawa and was later considered a member of his "Kurosawa-gumi" - a group of cast and crew who collaborated with the legendary moviemaker on a number of projects.

Continue reading: Cinematographer Takao Saito Dies At 85

Chris Pratt For Magnificent Seven?

Chris Pratt John Sturges Denzel Washington Yul Brenner Steve McQueen Charles Bronson John Lee Hancock Akira Kurosawa

Chris Pratt is in talks to star in 'Magnificent Seven'.

The 35-year-old actor is in early talks with MGM about taking on a leading role in the upcoming Antoine Fuqua remake of the 1960 western directed by John Sturges, Deadline reports.

Pratt would join Denzel Washington, who is already confirmed, as one of seven elite gunmen tasked with protecting their town, while the remaining five characters are still up for grabs.

Continue reading: Chris Pratt For Magnificent Seven?

Akira Kurosawa To Receive Posthumous Writers Guild Award

Akira Kurosawa

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is set to be posthumously honoured by the Writers Guild of America (Wga) alongside three of his longtime collaborators.

The filmmaker, who passed away in 1998, will be named the recipient of the 2013 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement at a special ceremony in Los Angeles on 17 February (13).

He will be feted alongside his collaborators, writers Ryuzo Kikushima and Hideo Oguni, and screenwriter/director Shinobu Hashimoto. Hashimoto, 94, is the only surviving member of the group.

Continue reading: Akira Kurosawa To Receive Posthumous Writers Guild Award

Zack Snyder Responds To Star Wars Speculation

Zack Snyder George Lucas Akira Kurosawa Steven Spielberg Joss Whedon Guillermo Del Toro Wes Anderson Jj Abrams

Zack Snyder has denied he is in ''any way'' involved with the new 'Star Wars' movies.

The 'Man Of Steel' filmmaker was suspected to be helming the new Walt Disney chapter of George Lucas' iconic franchise and was then reported to be attached to a Jedi-centric spin-off movie which would run parallel to the sci-fi films.

A representative for Zack has put a rest to both rumours, telling The Hollywood Reporter: ''While he is super flattered because he is a huge fan, Zack is not involved in any way with the new 'Star Wars'. He is currently in post on his two films, 'Man of Steel' and '300: Battle of Artemisia'.''

Continue reading: Zack Snyder Responds To Star Wars Speculation

Zack Snyder Denies Involvement With Star Wars

Zack Snyder George Lucas Akira Kurosawa Steven Spielberg Joss Whedon

Zack Snyder has confirmed he is not involved with the new 'Star Wars' films.

The 'Man of Steel' filmmaker was previously rumoured to be directing 'Star Wars Episode 7' after Walt Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas last year, and it was thought he was also working on a spin-off movie alongside the sci-fi production.

Vulture reported his other film would run parallel to the new trilogy, taking inspiration from one George's favourite films - Akira Kurosawa's 1954 flick 'Seven Samurai' - and replacing the ronin characters with Jedi.

Continue reading: Zack Snyder Denies Involvement With Star Wars

Classic Films To Debut On Hulu Plus

Akira Kurosawa Alfred Hitchcock Ang Lee Brian De Palma Charles Chaplin David Lean Federico Fellini Fritz Lang Ingmar Bergman Jane Campion Jean-Luc Godard Jim Jarmusch John Cassavetes John Ford Jules Dassin Louis Malle Michelangelo Antonioni Orson Welles Peter Weir Robert Altman Stanley Kubrick

Some of the greatest films ever produced will now become available for streaming on Hulu Plus, the $7.99-per-month subscription service launched last year by Hulu, the company owned jointly by Disney/ABC, Comcast/NBC Universal, News Corp./Fox, and Providence Equity Partners. Hulu said Tuesday that it has signed a deal to bring the highly regarded Criterion Collection to its video website. The collection includes classic films by Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Charles Chaplin, Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, David Lean, John Cassavetes, the Maysles brothers, Jules Dassin, Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch, Michelangelo Antonioni, D.A. Pennebaker, Fritz Lang, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Peter Weir, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Jane Campion, Ang Lee, John Ford, and hundreds of others. In a statement, Eugene Wei, who hold the title of Hulu's senior vice president of audience, called the Criterion Collection "the preeminent distribution brand in the minds of movie buffs." Hulu is making some of the films available immediately at www.hulu.com/criterion.

Continue reading: Classic Films To Debut On Hulu Plus

Sanjuro Review

Very Good
One of the biggest hits in Akira Kurosawa's film career was 1961's Yojimbo, the genre smasher with Toshiro Mifune's instantly legendary performance as Sanjuro, that shambling and bedraggled ronin who roams the countryside looking for food, shelter, and cash for anyone who will pay him to kill. So successful was Yojimbo that Kurosawa's studio prevailed upon him to rework a script he had been working on, turning it into a Mifune vehicle with Mifune reprising his role as Sanjuro. And within a few months it was written, shot, and in the theaters. The result of this rush job by Kurosawa was Sanjuro -- a quieter, gentler Yojimbo.

The tale involves nine straight-laced, by-the-book, narrow-mined, and lunkheaded young samurai, who want to barrel in and rescue the chamberlain of their clan, being held prisoner by the clan superintendent Kukui (Masao Shimizu). Meeting at a temple to discuss their plans, the samurai are interrupted by loud yawns from the back room. Emerging from his slumber is Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune), and he greets the group scratching and yawning. Admonishing the group, he grumpily tells the innocents, "People aren't what they seem. Be careful. You'll never suspect who the worst are. Be careful." As if on cue, Kukui's army sneaks up on the temple, commanded by canny samurai mercenary Hanbei Muroto (Tetsuya Nakadei). Hiding the nine samurai in the temple floorboards, Sanjuro beats back Moroto's men and grumpily offers to help the boys: "I can't stand by and watch you blunder your way to your deaths." The rest of the film consists of Sanjuro maneuvering Muroto away from his armies so that Sanjuro can wipe out the bad guys in dazzling displays of swordplay, but Moroto returns to the scene.

Continue reading: Sanjuro Review

Dodes'ka-Den Review

Very Good
Dodes'ka-den, Akira Kurosawa's first color film, premiered in New York in the summer of 1971 to mixed reviews and, even for foreign fare, lousy box office. A major argument held that the filmmaker simply didn't know how to use color. The film didn't hit Chicago theaters until 1975 and his next color feature, the vibrant Dersu Uzala, wouldn't hit American shores until 1977. Perhaps out of respect, Dodes'ka-den was nominated for an Oscar, which it lost, rightly, to Vittorio De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

Dodes'ka-den certainly isn't like any Kurosawa film I've ever witnessed. A junkyard shanty-town of misfits, perverts, gossips, and criminals is its setting... and yet we begin on a note of gleeful innocence. Adrift in a dream life that casts him as a streetcar operator, a young mentally-retarded man (Yoshitaka Zuxhi) prepares his make-believe trolley for its short journey through the slums, all the while repeating the word "dodes'ka-den" which translates, literally, to "clickety-clack." The young man seems to be the central figure and audience proxy for the five or six stories that litter Kurosawa's dire landscape and, fittingly, as the film progresses we see less and less of him.

Continue reading: Dodes'ka-Den Review

Kagemusha Review

Very Good
Before the epic rancor of Ran, Akira Kurosawa told a more intimate, but no less tragic story with Kagemusha. Also set in feudal Japan, but based on real events, the film tells the tale of a thief set in place to impersonate a dead warlord to prevent the warlord's enemies from gaining control. It's kind of like Dave, but much slower and in Japanese.

The film opens in 16th century Japan. Two warlords, Ieyasu (Masayuki Yui) and Nobunaga (Daisuke Ryu), take on a third, Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), for control of the country. So far, Shingen has them on the run. But a lucky sniper gets off a round that may or may not have killed the warlord. While his enemies wonder, a wounded Shingen demands that should he die, his passing be kept a secret for three years, lest his rivals be emboldened. When Shingen finally gives up the ghost, it's up to his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki) to come up with a plan to carry out those wishes.

Continue reading: Kagemusha Review

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