Nearly everything about Yi Yi is odd and wonderful. The movie revolves around a middle-class family in Taipei struggling with everyday life. The main character is an uptight businessman named NJ whose company faces bankruptcy. His wife is a delicate woman who breaks down when her mother suffers a stroke. The family's youngest member, a precocious 10-year-old boy, is preoccupied with photographing the backs of people's heads. And the boy's sister is a student musician who falls for the wrong guy.
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Another Heaven (from one of the producers of Ringu) is pretty squarely in the latter group, though that doesn't make it as complete a waste of time as it ought to be. It starts with promise: A group of cops investigate a murder scene: The victim is dead on the floor, his head sliced open and his brain cooking in a pot of stew on the stove. What follows gets confusing, and fast, as it turns out a bunch of brainless folks are on the loose, and they're all killing people before they die themselves.
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Hustled out the same year as the wildly successful Ringu, Rasen was only the first attempt at a follow-up sequel. It picks up where the original left off, focusing on the investigation into the bizarre deaths we thought we had figured out in the original. Surprise: There's no ghost or spirit, really. It's all a virus that makes you see terrible things before you die. (Never mind that you can avoid getting whacked if you show a videotape to someone else.)
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Ringu is very atmospheric and often creepy, especially in its last half hour, but it's hardly chilling enough to keep you up at night. The fairly vapid performances don't really help, but the overwhelming sense of marching us toward doom makes up for many of the film's flaws. The remake, by all accounts, actually seems to be a better time.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.