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Like Father, Like Son Review


Extraordinary

With his previous film I Wish, we knew that Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda was an expert at drawing engaging performances out of adorable young children. And he does that again here, but the film's main focus is on a man who discovers the little boy inside himself, as well as the father he should be. It's a strikingly sentimental story that never gets remotely sappy because it draws out delicate details in each scene.

The man in question is Ryota (Fukuyama), a well-off architect raising his cheeky 5-year-old son Keita (Ninomiya) with his quietly observant wife Midori (Ono). When they're notified that Keita was swapped with another baby at birth, their reactions are extremely telling. Ryota says, "Now it all makes sense", while Midori wonders why she didn't notice it earlier. Their biological son Ryusei (Sho-gen) has been raised by the poor shopkeeper Yudai (Lily) and his wife Yukari (Maki), who have two other children. The question is whether they can just swap the boys back to their biological parents, or are the bonds already too strong?

By keeping the focus on Ryota, Kore-eda pulls us into the events from an intriguing angle. Sharply well-played by Fukuyama, Ryota is cold and sometimes harshly demanding, which we learn is a legacy from his own father. He's also snobbishly dismissive of the poorer family, even offering to raise both boys himself. By contrast, Yudai always puts his family ahead of his work, something alien to Ryota. So the key is whether Ryota will be able to view this situation through the boys' eyes.

Continue reading: Like Father, Like Son Review

Wild Life Review


Grim
Some people will do anything for love or money. But when ex-boxer Sakai Hiroki's boss disappears at the hands of yakuza thugs, it's nigh impossible to tell what his motives are. For that matter, it's hardly clear what director Shinji Aoyama was shooting for in the making of Wild Life. Known for his off-beat, parodic takes on various cinematic genres, Aoyama brings his sense of irony and dry humor to the world of hard-boiled yakuza flicks with this meandering piece from 1997.

Sakai Hiroki (Kesuke Toyohara) is a former boxer reinventing himself as a pachinko repairman in the employ of slightly shady game parlor owner Kenzo Tsumura (Mickey Curtis), who saved Hiroki from entering the only other career path open to a man of his talents, that of a yakuza enforcer. But when Tsumura falls prey to a yakuza boss (Jun Kunimura) over the robbery of one of his gaming parlors, Hiroki gets a taste of the thug life after all. Along the way, Hiroki falls for Tsumura's daughter, Rei (Runa Natsuo), as he is repeatedly harassed over a videotape that would reveal the mobsters' ill deeds.

Continue reading: Wild Life Review

Audition Review


Excellent
Starting right with its cover shot of demure Japanese model Eihi Shiina wearing a chemical-safe, black rubber glove and clutching an enormous syringe, we know we're in for something extremely wrong with Takashi Miike's Audition.

And in a way, that's the problem. Audition starts out as the sweetest little love tragedy you can imagine. Poor Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is nursing his wife during her final hours on her deathbed. She passes away and he's left to raise their son alone. Years later, he has finally gotten over the loss of his wife and consults his friend on how a widower finds a girl these days. The friend proposes a clever idea: Hold an audition for a movie that will never be made. Ask the girls whatever you want, then pick and choose the perfect one for a wife.

Continue reading: Audition Review

Audition (Odishon) Review


Grim

The main character in "Audition" is a shy, middle-aged Japanese widower who taps a movie-making buddy to help him find a new wife now that his son is a teenager with a life of his own and little interest in hanging around with dad.

His friend arranges for Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) to pretend to be a producer and sit in on phony screen tests of wannabe actresses that might strike our hero's fancy. He hopes to hit it off with one of them, then string her along with little white lies about delayed casting decisions, hoping she'll become more interested in him than the movie. (This plot would never work if the film were set in Hollywood!)

When pretty, very demure Asami (fashion model Eihi Shiina in her film debut) takes the bait then later confesses she doesn't really want to be an actress, Aoyama falls in love and seems to think he's landed in a quaint little romantic comedy.

Continue reading: Audition (Odishon) Review

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