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Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of The Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

Madadayo Review


Very Good
It seems only fitting that Akira Kurosawa's last film (which he wrote and directed) be an homage to teaching. After all, he inspired many of today's respected directors and is taught in film schools internationally. Madadayo is a sweetly overlong portrayal of an interconnected community whose center is a beloved professor.

Madadayo opens with a Professor (Tatsuo Matsumura) announcing to his class that after 30 years of teaching, he is now choosing to write in retirement. The young sing his praises and previous alumni move the Professor and his wife into a new home. The pair is as hospitable to everyone as if they were children returning from college.

Continue reading: Madadayo 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

To End All Wars Review


Bad
If you were to take all of the movie clichés from every prisoner of war film since 1937's The Grand Illusion and string them together, you'd get a film slightly better than 2001's To End All Wars. It would be better because it wouldn't also pilfer from Dead Poets Society and The Shawshank Redemption.

In 1942, a Scottish division is captured and taken to a Japanese labor camp in Thailand. On the train ride over, Captain Ernest Gordon (Ciarán McMenamin) narrates in voiceover such mind-blowing insights as, "When you surrender in war, you're stripped of your dignity as a soldier." Soon enough, they arrive at the camp, and before you can say "Abu Ghraib," the abuses begin. After a series of The Bridge on the River Kwai-like encounters with the camp's Sergeant Ito (Sakae Kimura), the soldiers' Colonel McLean (James Cosmo) is murdered for refusing to order his troops to build a railroad. His lieutenant, Campbell (Robert Carlyle), witnesses the act and spends the better part of the film seething and plotting revenge. On the other side of the spectrum, Yankee attaché Reardon (Kiefer Sutherland) plays the part Americans usually play in these films - commercial opportunist. À la William Holden in Stalag 17 (or Bridge, for that matter) Reardon barters his way through the camp, finally succumbing to beatings and torture when Campbell turns him in.

Continue reading: To End All Wars Review

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Madadayo Movie Review

Madadayo Movie Review

It seems only fitting that Akira Kurosawa's last film (which he wrote and directed) be...

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