This smart riff on the Coen brothers' 1996 classic Fargo is is a blend of wonderfully offbeat black comedy and much darker themes involving a central character who seems to be mentally unstable. It's also a strikingly original movie, packed with knowing wit and astute references, as well as a complicated central performance from Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) that borders on the surreal. There's sometimes the feeling that the entire movie is a big joke that we don't quite get, but it's also mesmerising.
The story begins in Japan, where 29-year-old Kumiko (Kikuchi) works as a clone-like tea lady in a big corporation. Except that she refuses to behave like a clone. Rebelling by refusing to settle down with a husband and kids, she indulges in little treasure hunts. On one, she finds a VHS tape of Fargo pointing to a specific moment when a case of cash is buried in the snow. So she contrives to travel to icy Minnesota and find it. Not only is she clearly delusional about the nature of movie fiction, but her obsession has blinded her to the realities of this kind of journey. Quickly becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere, she gets some help from a kindly old woman (Shirley Venard) and a friendly local cop (director David Zellner). But she can't give up on her quest.
Kumiko is a remarkable movie character, so odd and tenacious that she's both worrying and inspiring at the same time. Her embroidered treasure maps are hilariously minimalistic, as is her inventive approach to finding housing and winter-wear. But is she mentally ill, or has she just snapped back against the oppressive demands of her mother and all of Japanese society to be something she has no interest in becoming? Kikuchi cleverly drops all kinds of hints into her alert performance, but never tries to spell everything out for us. This makes Kumiko a remarkably likeable young fugitive, a liar and thief with a deep yearning for life on her own terms.
Continue reading: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Review
Rinko Kikuchi and Shota Sometani - A variety of stars from the film industry were snapped on the red carpet at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) 'Nobody Wants the Night' which was held at the Berlinale Palast in Berlin, Germany - Thursday 5th February 2015
Kai is a half-English and half-Japanese outsider who was exiled from his homeland, beaten within an inch of his life and enslaved for his heritage. Now he is stronger; an accomplished fighter with an ability to triumph over even the most formidable of adversaries. He is enlisted by a group of samurai warriors to help them regain their land which has been overrun by an infinite army of demons, witches, monsters and giants who have enslaved their people following the dishonourable death of their leader. The forty-seven ronin vow to avenge their master, sacrificing their own lives to attempt to free their compatriots; though as the land becomes more and more sated with savage beasts and ruthless mystics, Kai is left wondering if this is one battle he can't win.
Continue: 47 Ronin - International Trailer
Kai is an outsider, banished from his home, beaten and forced into slavery for being half-English and half-Japanese. He was among a small group of samurais exiled after the dishonourable death of their leader, and now his suffering has turned him into one of the land's most formidable warriors, able to defeat even the largest of beasts. He is enlisted to be part of an army of forty-seven ronin who vow to seek revenge against the infinite army that has taken over their home and killed their master. However, their plan looks almost impossible as the nation is rapidly becoming overrun with a myriad of colossal shape-shifting monsters with the ability to wipe out the ronin all at once.
'47 Ronin' is a fictional interpretation of the real events that happened in Japan in the 18th century, when a small group of samurais sought to avenge their leader. There have been many variations of the story and it has been described as Japan's National Legend. First time director Carl Rinsch is at the helm of this gripping fantasy war film and it has been written by Chris Morgan ('Fast & Furious', 'Cellular', 'Wanted'), Hossein Amini ('Snow White and the Huntsman', 'The Wings of the Dove', 'Drive') and Walter Hamada in his screenplay debut. It will hit the UK on December 26th 2013.
The best thing about this massive blockbuster is the way it updates the classic Japanese monster movie to the 21st century, with a first-rate cast and staggeringly good effects. Sadly, the script isn't up to scratch, throwing in enjoyable comedy and corny melodrama while maintaining such a formulaic structure that there isn't a single moment of actual suspense. We never doubt for a second how all of this is going to end or who will survive.
It all begins in the present day, as gigantic creatures called kaiju appear through a temporal rift in the Pacific Ocean floor near Hong Kong. They start attacking cities (inexplicably starting with San Francisco), and humanity takes years to fight back, building massive robots called jaegers that are piloted by two-man teams. Over even more years of fighting, the monsters learn how to stop the jaegers, so military leader Pentecost (Elba) assembles his best jaeger pilots in Hong Kong, including the haunted Becket (Hunnam) and father-son Aussie duo Herc and Chuck (Martini and Kazinsky). And as they plan their assault, the scientist Newt (Day) makes a startling discovery about the kaiju.
Most of the film is played as a massively over-serious action movie in which manly, muscly heroes set out to save the planet. The relational melodrama always feels like a distraction, including Pentecost's assistant (Kikuchi), who wants to be a pilot and carries a torch for Becket. There's also a dose of bromance as Newt tries to loosen up his so-British sidekick (Gorman). And to help spice things up, we also get some comic relief from Perlman, who is hilarious as a swaggering black-market dealer. None of these characters is very complicated, but the gifted actors all do what they can with the roles.
Continue reading: Pacific Rim Review