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
We compare the two summer giants
Before Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim was released, Michael Bay seemed to take a little pot-shot at him, bemoaning all the ‘rip-off’ robot movies around and imploring fans of that genre to stick with Transformers – the franchise he brought to the big screen with a huge budget back in 2007. The thing is, Bay's movies took tons and tons of cash at the box office. The first, in 2007, took over $700 million. The second took more, while the third took over $1 billion.
The Kaiju are a formidable foe
Pacific Rim got nowhere near the Transformers movies following its opening week at the box-office. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it opened to around $37 million - a troubling number given the tentpole's massive $190 million-plus budget, not including a pricey marketing campaign.
It has always been thought that alien life would arrive on the planet from space, but when colossal monsters arise from the depths of the Pacific Ocean, it soon becomes clear that mankind are facing a threat unlike what they have ever anticipated before. The creatures are known as Kaiju and manage to effortlessly destroy cities around them, use up resources and take away millions of lives. While the Earth's population worry that the apocalypse has finally arrived, the military are less than willing to accept that fate and build enormous robots called Jaegers in an attempt to fight back. They work by having two people controlling them from the inside with their minds linked. However, even they are no match against the Kaiju and the defenders of Earth decide that they must enlist the help of an ex-pilot and untested trainee to bring to life an early model of a Jaeger that has earned much recognition despite being potentially just as useless as the others in this fight for the survival of Earth.
Directing and co-writing this action-packed sci-fi flick is Guillermo Del Toro ('Pan's Labyrinth', 'Hellboy') with writing credits also from Travis Beacham ('Clash of the Titans', 'Dog Days of Summer'). It is due to be released next summer; July 12th 2013.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Continue: Pacific Rim Trailer
Watanabe (Matsuyama) is a 19-year-old shaken to the core when his best pal (Kora) commits suicide. While comforting his grief-stricken girlfriend Naoko (Kikuchi), Watanabe begins to fall for her, but their mutual attraction only makes her depression worse so she flees to a healing retreat in the woods.
Watanabe's womanising pal Nagasawa (Tamayama) advises him to find another girl, but when he meets Midori (Mizuhara) the relationship is equally complicated.
Continue reading: Norwegian Wood Review
Johnson's brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) appear in the film like some kind of magic vaudeville act gone to seed. A spectacularly goofy opener (including a fake magic cave and a one-legged cat locomoting about on a roller skate) about their childhood paints them as Damon Runyon-style scamps set free in a landscape of innocent marks. It's a cotton-candy world that the boys, with their slouchy hats and black suits, are going to take for everything they can. Their roles are cut and dried: Stephen as the storytelling author of their scams, Bloom as his moody and conflicted accomplice, fated to never live a real life of his own.
Continue reading: The Brothers Bloom Review
In Babel, directed and co-written by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros), a clutch of characters from a range of cultures and walks of life attempt to build a towering film of meaning from coincidence and portent; unfortunately, in the end it is the viewer who is punished for the filmmaker's hubris.
Continue reading: Babel Review