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Animation Features Movies Shorts

Memories (Memorizu, メモリーズ)

1/ Magnetic Rose (Kanojo no Omoide, 彼女の想いで)

2/ Stink Bomb (Saishu Heiki, 最臭兵器)

3/ Cannon Fodder (Taiho no Machi, 大砲の街)

Directors

– 1/ Koji Morimoto, 2/ Tensai Okamura, 3/ Katsuhiro Otomo

– 1995 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 113m

*****

Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

The film that made Otomo’s name and the one with which he’s most frequently associated is Akira (1988). It wasn’t his first film, though. Previously, he was one of nine directors who collaborated on the uneven portmanteau Robot Carnival (1987), a compendium of different animated stories based around robots of various types. One of the other directors was Koji Morimoto.

Memories is loosely similar – it only has three stories (and three directors), allowing each of the segments a bit more room. Its three episodes are very different yet perfectly complement each other. Otomo directed the third section Cannon Fodder.

Parts of the roughly two hour Akira drag, while Otomo’s later Steamboy (2004) gets lost within a massive set piece after a near perfect opening first reel or so.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

KIBA: The Fangs Of Fiction (Damashie No Kiba, 騙し絵の牙)

Director – Daihachi Yoshida – 2020 – Japan – 112m

*****

Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.

Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

The Sparks Brothers

Director – Edgar Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 140m

****

The rollercoaster career of musical duo Sparks with its successful hits and intermittent lapses into obscurity – out in cinemas on Thursday, July 29th

There’s a story about John Lennon phoning Ringo Starr to say, “you won’t believe what’s on television – Marc Bolan doing a song with Adolf Hitler.” This was Sparks’ auspicious debut on BBC music show Top Of The Pops in the early 1970s playing what is probably their best known track, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, a broadcast estimated to have reached some 15 million people. Everyone was talking about this the day after – that’s mentioned here, and it’s something I myself remember from my own school days: the lively energetic singer (Russell Mael) and the suited, almost motionless, keyboard player (Ron Mael) with the slicked back hair and the Hitler moustache. The Hitler appearance may not have been deliberate, but that image of the duo – the extrovert and the introvert – has become the band’s enduring media image over the years.

TOTP 1974

One gets the impression from passing moments in this film that Charlie Chaplin was an equally formative presence for Ron – and though it’s never mentioned, Chaplin made the film The Great Dictator (1940) in which he played a Hitler type despot as well as a Jewish barber unfortunate enough to look like him…but I digress.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

37 Seconds

Director – Hikari – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

*****

A wheelchair-bound, young woman manga artist struggles to become independent of her over-protective mother – on Netflix from Friday, January 31st, 2020

Yuma (Mei Kayama), wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy from birth, lives with her mother Kyoko (Misuzo Kanno) who looks after her in a small Tokyo apartment. However Yuma is far from helpless with a day job as an uncredited manga artist who draws and writes the comics allegedly penned by fast rising YouTube star Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara). The uncomplaining Yuma secretly yearns for Sayaka’s celebrity, if not to actually be her at least to know what it feels like, but Sayaka bans her from attending any public events such as book signings.

Yuma starts exploring ways of going independent of Sayaka. She shows some work to Iketani (Shohei Uno) from Sayaka’s publishers who tells her that what she’s produced is good but alas too close to Sayaka’s work. Finding a bunch of porn manga magazines in a park, she phones around to see it the magazines are taking submissions and embarks on an erotic space opera series, lovingly rendered in a sequence which is not so much full animation but more like an animated peruse through pages of manga, only to be told when she goes to see a friendly editor Ms.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Blue Spring (Aoi Haru, 青い春)

Director – Toshiaki Toyoda – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 83m

*****

Dual format Blu-ray/DVD available at Arrow Video’s Third Window Films site.

Teenage high school movie Blue Spring (2001) centres on the leader of a violent boys’ gang in their final year. The nonchalant Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda) has befriended Aoki (Hirofumi Arai in his debut role) since the latter first joined his class in their infancy: these days Aoki is Kujo’s number two. The gang now comprises eight boys and periodically re-stages a terrifying ritual. In the opening scene, four of the boys chicken out while the other four including Kujo and Aoki take part.

Their flat school roof has a one storey tower accessible by metal fire escape type stairs. On the roof’s edge is a metal railing overlooking the open ground in front of the school building. The four boys climb over the railing so that their backs are facing the several storey drop below and hold on to the railing with their hands… [Read more]

I reviewed Blue Spring for All The Anime on its 2019 Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format release.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Little Forest (리틀 포레스트)

Director – Yim Soon-Rye – 2018 – South Korea – 103m

*****

This review originally appeared in DMovies.org.

The passing of the seasons. A young woman finds her true self in the Korean countryside in this adaptation of a Japanese manga; the outcome will make you drool, for more reasons than one – from the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) and the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

Raised in the countryside by her mother (Moon So-ri) but dissatisfied with life there, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) moves to Seoul and acquires a boyfriend. But after both of them have taken their exams, she returns to the village in which she grew up to get some space and think about her life.

The boyfriend has passed his exams and is hoping she has done the same, leaving messages on her voicemail to this effect, but she’s still waiting for her own result to come through. She doesn’t respond to his messages.

For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, but which surface to a degree in the course of the narrative, her mother has left, presumably to start a new life now that the job of raising a well adjusted daughter is complete.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Castle Of Cagliostro (Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro No Shiro)

DVD review originally published in Starlog, UK edition.

TO CATCH A THIEF

ANIME OF THE MONTH

THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO

(REG 2 DVD: ENGLISH / JAPANESE DUBBED, OPTIONAL ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

£19.99, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 2.0 (Manga)

One of Manga Video’s best kept secrets arrives on UK DVD. Arsene Lupin III is manga artist Monkey Punch’s descendant to Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc’s noted thief Arsene Lupin and the subject of copyright controversy in the US where the character had to be renamed Wolf or Rupan. Strong though the character may be, the factor that raises this particular film above much anime is the pedigree of writer-director Hayao Miyazaki.

A superb piece of genre film-making, Cagliostro allows Miyazaki to try out lots of ideas he’d rework later. Monkey Punch’s quasi‑European trappings, evidenced both here and in other Lupin III movies, are perfectly in tune with Miyazaki’s sensibilities. Fairytale plot elements concern a princess (a dead ringer for one of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’s characters) trapped in a tower by the evil Count Cagliostro and a castle with a 500-year-old secret (shades of Laputa‘s decaying castle in the sky). Then, for a film about a thief, there’s a surprising nod towards goodness, yet the film never becomes too lofty for its own good, being filled with such detours as banknote forgery, lethal security systems, unexpected trap doors and an impressive autogyro (Miyazaki has a reputation for strikingly designed aircraft and other flying objects).… Read the rest