Sunday, December 31, 2006

明けまして、おめでとうございます!Happy New Year!

On the last day of 2006, I would like to thank those who have visited this site and given your valued comments about the content here. Although I've been very busy these few months and could hardly find time to provide regular updates, I hope to rectify this situation or at least post something once a week within my capability. In the meantime, I can only hope for your continued support and patience especially when I am unable to post regularly.

To round up the year, I will post a recap of my favourites and dislikes in 2006 within the next few days so do feel free to post your comments when the features are up!

Till then, see you again and may you have a great year ahead!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (10 Dec 2006)

1) Iwojima kara no Tegami

2) Bushi no Ichibun

3) 007 Casino Royale

4) NANA 2

5) Death Note the Last name

6) Open Season

7) The Devil who wears Prada

8) Eiga Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star Chikutaku Kiki Ippatsu

9) Arigatou

10) Ou no Otoko

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Boku no Aruku Michi Ep 1

Actually, I had my reservations about watching this drama despite the fact that I really do like watching Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's acting. The issue stems from the fact that this drama is the third part in the Boku series (previous instalments were Boku no Ikiru Michi & Boku to Kanojo to Kanojo no Ikiru Michi) and I was afraid that the production quality wouldn't be as good as the previous versions. In addition, the female leads paired with Kusanagi do not really match up to him in terms of acting skills so I was apprehensive about seeing Kusanagi take up the burden of holding the entire drama together. Although Yada Akiko turned out to be OK in the first series, I don't really feel the same way towards Koyuki. Given that Karina has always been restricted to supporting roles, it really makes me wonder if she's up to the task of being the female lead at this point in time. And the fact that a lot of the cast members have already appeared in prior versions of the Boku series thus reducing the novelty appeal.

Kusanagi plays the autistic Ootake Teruaki who has just quit his job at a bento shop because of discrimination from his fellow colleagues. As such, he is reluctant to work again for fear of such treatment from others. His mother, Rie tries to encourage him to try again but Teruaki is still resistant to the idea after all. As such, Rie knows that it's futile trying to force Teruaki and tells him to take a rest for the time being.

In Teruaki's family, he also has an elder brother Hidenori, sister-in-law Maki, nephew Koutarou and younger sister Rina. Hideharu thinks that it's better for Teruaki to work in a place for the disabled, Maki doesn't really think well of Teruaki while Rina doesn't seem that close to Teruaki, at least from what it seems from the first episode.

Teruaki seems to have a strong liking for the colour yellow as seen from his pictures in his room, his jacket and his tie worn during the interview. Besides that, he can be really insistent about getting some things done properly like how he kept pressing Rina for her morning greeting before he answered her question. The drama shows some of the characteristics of autistic people e.g. how they don't seem to be able to look at others in the eye and their persistence about certain routines in their lives. As such, it does take a lot of patience for the people around him to adapt to Teruaki's pace and style of doing things.

Miyako (Karina) introduces Teruaki to work at the zoo but this isn't without any problems. Some of the people around him have to learn how to give instructions while there are some who seem very resistant to the idea of having Teruaki around right at the start especially Koga. He might have a reason for being biased about Teruaki's autism though. In addition, due to the fact that Teruaki keeps giving problems, this causes Miyako to be interrupted at work many times.

Teruaki has a very strong belief in Miyako and thinks that she will never be nasty towards him. This causes some worries in Hota, Teruaki's doctor when he hears about how Teruaki feels about Miyako. However, it just happens that Miyako is feeling frustrated about her relationship with her married boyfriend Kawahara and has to be called back to work because of Teruaki's mistake so she flares up at Teruaki. As such, this just goes to show that there's no guarantee that everyone can treat Teruaki with the same level of patience at all times so it takes effort for Teruaki to learn how to get along with others and vice versa.

After watching this episode, this turned out to be better than expected. The production quality is as good as the previous productions but I think this demands Kusanagi to put in more effort in trying to potray an autistic guy. I can't say that I like Teruaki at this moment so I'll probably judge which of the three characters from the Boku series is my favourite by the end of the season.

The biggest surprise was seeing Karina do better than I thought. I don't know if this has to do with Kusanagi pulling his female leads along the way but it seems like Karina was able to convey her feelings of being stuck in a relationship which seems to be headed nowhere. It's easy to sympathise with her especially when she has to devote more attention to Teruaki so that he can adjust to the demands of the job.

Anyway, I will probably continue to watch this for a while unless something puts me off.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Kekkon Dekinai Otoko Ep 5

At the beginning of the episode, Kuwano is cleaning his apartment with such enthusiasm as if he enjoys doing housework very much. In actual fact, he's so particular about cleanliness that he never allows anyone to enter his house. Comparing this with Hayasaka who hates doing housework, the two of them clash again over their differences with Hayasaka being offended by Kuwano's senseless remarks again.

What's more interesting is to see Kuwano doing things which seem rather illogical as he tries to stick to his perfectionist principle. For example, he is busy with work and only has a pack of noodles to make do with for dinner. However, he can't bring himself to eat it without any sauce and goes to the supermarket to purchase the seasoning. Then again, he doesn't like the idea of having ready-made sauces and goes to the extent of purchasing fresh ginger which he needs to grate. When he realises how much time he is wasting in the process, the expression on his face really makes me laugh!

The main issue this round is Kuwano overworking himself and falling sick in the process. However, he continues to put on a brave front and even tries to work despite his condition. He ends up breaking his own rule of refusing entry to anyone into his house and has to let Hayasaka in for a consultation. Well, he didn't actually let her in out of his own will but rather she made use of a chance to get in and didn't give Kuwano a reason to say no. In any case, this also signifies a slight improvement in their "relationship" since Hayasaka has become the first woman to step into his apartment.

Frankly speaking, I really can't stand a cleanliness freak like Kuwano. In my opinion, he's going overboard with the cleaning. Well, a guy who is willing to do housework is appealing in a sense though but too much of everything isn't good after all. And he keeps trying to insist on things which seem meaningless and these end up complicating or worsening the situation. As such, I just don't see any significant improvement in Kuwano's ability to get hitched after 5 episodes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (26 Nov 2006)

1) Death Note the Last name

2) The Devil who wears Prada

3) Flag of our Fathers

4) Tegami

5) Kisarazu Cats Eye World Series

6) Tomorrow World

7) Soul 3

8) Arigatou

9) Tsubayama Kacchou no Nanoka kan

10) Shichigatsu Nijuuyokka Doori no Christmas

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jigoku Shoujo Ep 1: Hibiwareta Jikan (The Cracked Time)

Having watched the anime version of Jigoku Shoujo prior to the drama remake, I had my reservations about this version for a couple of reasons.

First of all, being quite familiar with the story would mean that I would know how the story progresses. And this bothered me in the first 10 minutes of this episode because I knew exactly that the story was rehashed from the first episode of the anime. Although it comes with a different title i.e. the anime's first episode's title was Yuyami no Kanata Yori (From the Other Side of Twilight) and the setting was slightly tweaked, I couldn't help but feel bored initially. In the drama, the main character for this episode is a senior high student who gets bullied by 3 girls because of her securing a place in university due to the school's recommndation. However, in the anime, the bullied girl was a junior high student who was bullied without any special agenda right in the beginning.

Well, given that the drama and the anime is essentially based on the original manga, it's inevitable that they will show the same stories. However, the drama has only 12 episodes as indicated on the official website so I'm hoping that the selection of the stories to be featured will be done with caution so that they do not end up boring the viewers. As it is, episodic stories without much advancement in the main plot would tend to be repetitive so I'm quite glad to see that they will introduce Shibata Hajime and Tsugumi from Ep 3. These two characters will be of great importance in unravelling the mystery behind Enma Ai's background.

Initially, I was also worried that the story would be over-stretched if it spans 45 minutes like the usual dramas but it was good that they kept it short and sweet at less than 30 minutes just like the anime.

Besides the similarities, the cast selection is also something which I couldn't help comparing. First of all, Iwata Sayuri who plays Enma Ai sounds so close to Noto Mamiko, the seiyuu who plays Ai in the anime. I wonder if her original voice is like that or whether she was trying to sound close to Noto's voice. In any case, I must say that I prefer Noto's voice though. Iwata sounds too squeaky and high-pitched for my liking. Appearance-wise, Iwata does look quite close to the Ai in the anime and the mannerisms were similar so I guess it's largely due to her own effort and the production crew in trying to stick to the original. Nevertheless, since her appearance airtime is too little, I think I won't write her off completely until a few more episodes later.

With regards to her subordinates namely Ichimoku Ren (Kato Kazuki), Hone-Onna (Sugimoto Aya) and Wanyuudou (Ogura Hisahiro), I feel that they do resemble the original characters to a certain extent, at least in terms of their images. However, just like Ai, their appearances are very limited so it doesn't show as yet whether they can convey the distinctive traits of their characters. Among them, I think Sugimoto looks so close to Hone-Onna especially the feminine and sexy side of her so I think she's perfect for this role.

Last but not least, an issue I have with the drama adaptation is the way the punishment is meted out. In the anime, the producers have the luxury of CG to design elaborate punishments which is one of the highlights in the story but in the drama, the manner it was done proved to be plain and it was over in a matter of less than 3 minutes. What an anti-climax it proved to be! The sight of Ren and Hone-Onna carrying the girl who was to be sent to hell just made me chuckle about their lack of "resources".

I'll probably continue to watch this for a couple of episodes before deciding whether this is worth my time to stay throughout the entire run. Unless the repetition gets to me or I do not see any improvements in the storyline, I think it's likely that I can bear with the differences with the anime or any little issues I have with the drama adaptation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (19 Nov 2006)

1) Death Note the Last name

2) The Devil who wears Prada

3) Tomorrow World

4) Flag of our Fathers

5) Soul 3

6) Kisarazu Cats Eye World Series

7) Tegami

8) Tsubakiyama Kacchou no Nanokakan

9) Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru

10) Shichigatsu Nijuuyokka Doori no Christmas

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (12 Nov 2006)

1) Death Note the Last name

2) Kisarazu Cats Eye World Series

3) Tegami

4) Flag of our Fathers

5) Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru

6) Sad Movie

7) Shichigatsu Nijuuyokka Doori no Christmas

8) World Trade Centre

9) Nada Sousou

10) Metro ni Notte

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (5 Nov 2006)

1) Death Note the Last name

2) Kisarazu Cats Eye World Series

3) Flag of Our Fathers

4) Tegami

5) Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru

6) World Trade Centre

7) Nada Sousou

8) Shichigatsu Nijuuyokka Doori no Christmas

9) Metro ni Notte

10) Black Dahlia

Monday, November 06, 2006

Meitantei Conan ~ Kudo Shinichi e no Chousenjo

As I've never read the manga or watched the anime of "Meitantei Conan", I have no idea how the story goes or the traits of the main characters. In view of this, I approached this story without any prejudice and thought of this as a mere detective story. Frankly speaking, after watching this SP, I don't feel any interest with regards to finding out more on the original story since the adaptation doesn't impress me that much after all. That's not to say that the SP is badly done, it's just that I've seen much better stories from Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo and Tantei Gakuen Q so I find the case presented in this SP not as challenging. The suspects are easy to spot so that only leaves how to figure out the tricks to lead to the truth. Maybe the general consensus that Kindaichi fans and Conan fans cannot see eye to eye on which story is better, does hold true.

With regards to the cast, I think the lacklustre story did not provide them with too many chances to shine. I have no idea how the original characters are supposed to be so I don't have any basis for comparison. I'm not sure whether the problem lies with Oguri Shun or rather the fact that Kudo Shinichi's tendency to put on a kakkoii front irks me very much but you can be sure that I don't have any liking for this lead character. In fact, I find the supporting characters like Mori Kogoro (Jinnai Takanori) and Megure (Nishimura Masahiko) more interesting since they add a lot of humour to the storyline. Otherwise, I really think none of the cast members caught my attention in a good way since I was practically dozing off until they got to the resolution segment.

Judging from the way the SP ended and how they went to lengths to use the anime and describe how Shinichi became Conan, I guess there is a high possibility that NTV may do another SP or full-length series which means that it's impossible for Oguri to play this role again. Seems like NTV has the tendency to use drama SPs as a form of testing to see how the viewers react before investing heavily in a regular season drama and this looks like a good method by far. Given that Conan has been going on for at least 10 years, there should be a strong fanbase to tap on which could lead to a regular pool of viewers tuning in if there's a drama adaptation.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (29 Oct 2006)

1) Kisarazu Cats Eye World Series

2) Flag of our Fathers

3) Nada Sousou

4) World Trade Centre

5) Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru

6) Metro ni Notte

7) Black Dahlia

8) Hula Girl

9) Niji no Megami Rainbow Song

10) Tonmakkoru e Youkoso

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Review of "Taiyou no Uta" (Movie version)

As compared to the drama version which I couldn't watch beyond the first episode (partly because of the two leads which I had grown to dislike and the slow pace of the story), the movie version exceeded my expectations because right in the first place, I wasn't very optimistic about a simple love story like this to keep my attention for 2 hours. However, the simplicity turned out to be a good thing and I liked the balance exhibited in the movie i.e. the pure love, family ties, friendship and music aspects were presented with equal emphasis. As such, the so-called tragic love story didn't seem that sad after all and the ending was on a relatively high note with lots of hope for the future. I don't know how the drama ended but given that everything was packaged nicely in a 2-hour deal, I do not see the rationale of dragging it beyond 10 episodes so I doubt I'll ever watch the drama version.

Being YUI's debut movie, she did very well especially when it comes to the singing scenes. However, that's really nothing to boast about since she's a professional singer in reality as compared to someone who doesn't sing that well and her CD sales turned out to be really astonishing. You can sense the disbelief I have about that record when I heard news of it.

Anyway, coming back to YUI, she really looked the part of a 16-year-old and didn't get on my nerves for trying too hard to act cute. I have a really low threshold of "kawaii-ness" when people try to show that they are cute on screen so it's good that YUI was natural in that aspect. Her background as a singer does help a lot in bringing out the essence of Amane Kaoru and she looked convincing as a credible street singer.

Her partner in this movie, Tsukamoto Takashi didn't get that much attention as Fujishiro Koji but I think he and YUI looked good together and he didn't have to be a hyperactive guy for the first time in a drama or movie. Usually, he plays those mood-maker roles where he tends to speak loudly or be the joke of the party but he has toned down considerably as Koji and I think it's good that he tries more serious roles in future to make sure he can grow as an actor. It just felt a bit weird to see him playing a senior high student when he's far from that age.

Another person worth mentioning was Kishitani Goro who plays Kaoru's dad. It's been some time since I saw him on screen and he entertains me with his bantering with Kaoru in the movie. Then again, he also has to juggle the emotional scenes where he cries upon knowing about Kaoru's deteoriating condition so that's when he shows his skills as an actor. It was a pity that he didn't have too much screentime to do more for the movie.

On the whole, this movie was quite enjoyable to watch and it won't get as tragic as it seems just because of Kaoru's illness. And there's no worry about it being a draggy love story because the pace of how Kaoru and Koji's relationship develops is relatively speedy. You've also got to check out the music which is also an essential ingredient in the success of this film especially the theme song, "Good-bye days" by YUI herself.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (22 Oct 2006)

1) Nada Sousou

2) World Trade Centre

3) Metro ni Notte

4) Black Dahlia

5) Eien no Hou

6) Hula Girl

7) 16 Block

8) Tenshi no Tamago

9) Snake Flight

10) Il Mare

Monday, October 23, 2006

Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari Autumn 2006 SP

Here's a review of the recent Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari Autumn 2006 SP. Over the years, this has been one of the most long-running dramas I've been watching but sometimes, I don't have access to the shows so there are some seasons which I may have missed. For this season, there aren't that many big names except for Domoto Koichi who's trying his hand at this hit series for the first time if I'm not wrong. As for Uchiyama Rina and Hirosue Ryoko, they have made appearances in this series before but I'm not sure about Shaku Yumiko and Tanaka Misako. A significant difference in this SP is the introduction of short stories which are less than a minute long in between the 5 main parts. My favourite is the clip on the guy trying to bend the spoon with his supernatural powers and ended up bending Tokyo Tower instead! ^__^

First up is Kyoko-san starring Hirosue Ryoko. The name Kyoko is written as "kagami-ko" in kanji which literally means someone in the mirror. Hirosue's role, Morisawa Izumi is an intern at the Arisu Hospital where there was someone who died under weird circumstances just the previous night before she was due to report to work. Morisawa hears from her young patient about a chant which goes like this, "Kyoko-san, Kyoko-san, watashi wo kirei ni shite kudasai na" (Kyoko-san, Kyoko-san, please make me beautiful) and tries it out for fun at night in the toilet. However, this causes a woman in white to appear and slash Morisawa's arm in the end. Nobody believes that such a woman exists but Morisawa gets suspicious upon hearing some rumours about the hospital being a jinxed place and people dying suddenly without apparent reasons. She does some snooping around and finds out the unexpected truth through the woman in the mirror. This story is rather creepy and will no doubt leave you with goosebumps at the end.

Next is Shaku Yumiko and Ibu Masato in "Bucchou OL" who switch bodies due to lightning striking them. This begins a series of hillarious experiences for both who try to grapple with the differences in lifestyles especially at work due to their new identities. Previously, both of them were at loggerheads because of their inability to identify with each other's problems but through the short experience, they forge an unlikely friendship and eagerly look forward to the day when they can go back to normal. However, an unexpected happening occurs which creates more chaos instead of undoing the situation. After watching a scary story, this helps to relive some tension especially when funny situations are aplenty.

This has got to be my No.1 for this season's SP. Next up is Domoto Koichi in "Kinou Kouen" (Yesterday Park) where he starts off as a young guy, Yosuke playing baseball with his longtime friend Takao in the park. However, he is aghast to hear about Takao's death that evening after they parted ways. The next day, he goes back to the park and realises that after picking up a baseball which appears from nowhere, he is transported back to the previous day. Having the benefit of hindsight, Yosuke tries to prevent Takao's death but with each intervention, he ends up causing more dire consequences. In the end, Yosuke starts to question himself as to whether he should continue trying to prevent Takao's death and decides against it in the end. This results in everything going back as to normal and the cause of death reverting to that of the first occurence. However, years later, Yosuke gets a sense of deja vu when his wife Noriko asks him the same questions as what he asked Takao when he was trying to decide whether to save Takao...Frankly speaking, this story falls into the category of creepy and ironic at the same time. The ending brings Yosuke back to square one in a sense and makes him go through what his friend experienced. As for the ironic aspect, the more Yosuke tried to save Takao, the more problems he caused. Is this trying to say that we should not go against the will of heaven and let things take their natural course?

The fourth story is "Neko ga Ongaeshi" (The Cat Returns its favour) starring Uchiyama Rina. Well, I think this is the most boring story in the SP. It's rather predictable and doesn't seem that original after all. I remember seeing something rather similar in the past but I just can't recollect the details. Anyway, Uchiyama plays Emi who has just lost her grandmother and can't help but lament to her cat, Kuro that she wishes that it will turn into a human to stay with her. Surprisingly, a man appears before her and shows signs that he's Kuro which makes Emi very happy. Unknown to her, the man has a hidden agenda and isn't what he claims to be...

Last but not least, we have Tanaka Misako in "Kazoku Kaigi" (Family meeting). A family of three meet with a serious traffic accident which leaves them with life-threatening injuries. They find themselves back at home safe and sound as if nothing had happened. It turns out that they have been told to kill one of their family members within 3 days so as to keep the other two alive. However, this is a tough choice to make as the deadline draws near and rifts start appearing among them...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nihon Chinbotsu Review

I finally got the chance to catch this movie so quickly in Singapore despite it being shown in Japan just this summer. As the official screening will only be next Thursday i.e. 26 Oct, the sneak previews are held this weekend thus explaining why I got to watch this today. Due to the fact that Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's face is not shown on the chirashi uploaded online (i.e. the Johnny's Jimusho ruling that their artistes' faces cannot be used on websites), I took a picture of the poster at the cinema. As the place was rather dim, the lights happened to be near the poster and I used a camera phone, that explains why the resolution is not that satisfactory. There were 3 other versions of the posters pasted on the same pillar but those did not have pictures of the cast so I decided against shooting them. Be warned that there will be plenty of spoilers in the following content so do not proceed if you want everything to be kept in suspense until you watch the movie.

From the way I see it, Kusanagi being featured against a blue blackground while Shibasaki Kou shown in front a fiery red blackground has a lot to do with their occupations. Kusanagi's role Onodera Toshio is a submarine pilot which means that he works in the sea while Shibasaki works as a resuce team member constantly faced with disasters or fires so that explains the contrast.

One thing I'm not too pleased about is the direct translation of the movie title which sounds really crude in a sense. I'm just being picky here...

As compared to what I observed today versus Death Note which I watched last Saturday, there were some significant differences. First of all, although it was rather late at night, there were many youngsters watching Death Note while for Nihon Chinbotsu which was an afternoon session, there were many families consisting of the elderly and the children. It seems to suggest that the composition of viewers both movies attract don't really overlap. I noticed that promotional efforts for Nihon Chinbotsu weren't as intensive as Death Note which could also explain why the first 4 rows of the cinema were empty as compared to a full house for Death Note.

Coming to my views of the movie, I must say that I enjoyed this to a certain extent but I do have some grouses about some aspects.

With regards to the CG disaster scenes, the impact was strong and very impressive. It will no doubt leave a deep impression on you. However, the story leaves much to be desired because it seems to have paid too much attention to catch the viewer's attention with the visuals. Here are the points which I don't feel too good about:

-The relationship between Onodera Toshio (Kusanagi) and Abe Reiko (Shibasaki Kou)
There should have been more screentime allocated to them. I just don't comprehend how they developed such a strong relationship when the movie only showed them meeting for the first time as Reiko saved Onodera during an explosion after an earthquake. The next time we see them together, Reiko mends Onodera's jacket and goes to his workplace specially to return it to him. And then, we see Onodera going to Reiko's place to visit Misaki (Fukada Mayuko) whom Reiko also saved at the same time. Nothing really points to the fact that they started dating and yet we suddenly see Onodera asking Reiko to go with him to England when everyone is evacuating overseas?! Especially when you see how they parted ways when Onodera had to go on a mission of no-return, it suggests that they have very deep feelings for each other. I really would have wanted to see some happy scenes for Onodera and Reiko rather than them being subjected to the pain of parting just when they finally reveal to each other how they really feel. I think this was also one of the grouses from Japanese viewers who wanted to see more romance in the movie.

- The hurried pace of the story
Frankly speaking, the movie seemed to be rushing from the start. In less than 20 minutes, so many earthquakes and explosions had taken place that I was looking at my watch and wondering what content would be left for the movie to explore if they showed the CG scenes at one shot at the beginning. And true to what I expected, the ending was extremely unsatisfactory, at least to me. If Tadokoro (Toyokawa Etsushi) had thought of a way to solve the problem long ago, I don't see why the story had to drag it till the very end before he provided his suggestion to Takamori (Oji Mao). And it felt as if a simple solution was all it needed to resolve the tough situation. So why did all these people die if rectifications could be done much earlier? And it seems like the movie was more interested in dishing out visual shock to the viewers in terms of the CG disaster scenes rather than focus more on human relationships in the face of danger or spend more time to explore how they solved the problem.

- The unsatisfactory ending
I don't understand why the hero of such stories have to die ALWAYS at the end. It's almost an unwritten rule that unless you die, you can't be considered as the hero in this type of movies. And surely you don't need me to say who died so I'll leave it for you to find out how he died.

With regards to the cast, here are my comments about some of them:

- Kusanagi Tsuyoshi as Onodera Toshio
Well, he's one of the main reasons why I wanted to watch this. ^__^ Kakkoii! However, his screentime is terribly limited where the disaster scenes appear more than the cast does. Nevertheless, he sure showed his acting skills despite the limitations since Onodera doesn't show too much of his emotions except when he had a showdown with Reiko and wanted to know her feelings for him just before he left for his mission. Too bad there weren't many romance scenes for the leads. Come to think of it, Kusanagi doesn't have that much kissing or intimate scenes even for his dramas...

- Shibasaki Kou as Abe Reiko
This is where you see her with long hair before she snipped it off to a short bob. Her role is a gutsy lass who's not afraid of danger but scared of loving someone and losing him in the process. Like I said, if there were more emotional scenes, it would have probably given her the chance to show her depth as an actress.

- Toyokawa Etsushi as Tadokoro Yuusuke
That hairstyle sure reminds me of Kuzu in "Bengoshi no Kuzu" although the movie was shot much earlier than the drama. And the blend of some frivolous with the seriousness makes the resemblance more striking. He's a charismatic actor but his role seems kind of helpless at times instead of looking the part of a leader in the operations to stop the disaster.

- Fukuda Mayuko as Kuraki Misaki
Being dubbed as one of the tensai koyaku (genius child actors) these days, Fukuda does make her presence felt on screen as a cute girl who looks her age. Some of her past roles usually make her seem like a girl who's much mature than her actual age so it's nice to see the smile on her face. However, there's not much room for her to show her stuff in this movie which is really a pity.

- Oji Mao as Takamori Saori
This tough lady is simply gorgeous for her age. If not the fact that she is the ex-wife of Matsudaira Ken, I would never have paid notice to her name prior to this movie. If I'm not wrong, she's also in her 40s or nearing 50 just like Kuroki Hitomi and she looks almost as good as Kuroki. Maybe it's because she doesn't appear as much on TV like Kuroki so not many people know her. Anyway, I think she has one of the meatier roles in the movie where she appeared more times than the leads did but of course, comparatively, the leads had more screentime despite the limited appearances. Too bad there wasn't any focus on her relationship with Tadokoro after the teaser about them being an item in the past appeared in the movie.

- Oikawa Mitsuhiro as Yuuki Tatsuya
This guy also has limited screentime but he does leave an impression on me. Frankly speaking, I think Micchi is very charming on screen as compared to off-screen where he tends to be a bit too gentle or feminine for my liking. I admit that I'm quite attracted to him or rather his role in this movie. ^__^

- Ishizaka Koji as Yamamoto Naoyuki
Haha, this guy proved to be a surprise for me. I was wondering why he is labeled as a special guest in the cast and after watching the movie, you will understand the rationale. He appears in a rather important role BUT he will fade out in a grand fashion. That's why they got a pretty well-known actor to take up this seemingly insignificant but still important role.

On the whole, I must say that I do feel disappointed with the movie especially with regards to the feeble storyline. However, it's still worth watching it if you fall into the categories:

1) You like the cast members
2) You like disaster films
3) You are prepared to forgive the not-so-impressive storyline for the sake of the "powerful" CG scenes dished out

Last but not least, I have posted the covers of the DVDs to be released on 19 Jan next year. The limited edition (catalog number: GNBD-7381, price 7140 yen) consists of 3 discs, dual-track explanations, making-of footage, replica of the director's script, image boards and illustration cards. There will also be comparison images with the 1973 original movie with this remake in one of the discs. As for the normal press (catalog number: GNBD-7389, price 3990 yen), it features the leads on the cover and consists of the movie only. The special in this edition would be an interchangeable 3D DVD casing jacket.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (15 Oct 2006)

1) World Trade Centre

2) Nada Sousou

3) Black Dahlia

4) Hula Girl

5) 16 Block

6) Eien no Hou

7) Il Mare

8) World Speed x 3 TOKYO DRIFT

9) Gedo Senki

10) The Centennial

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Death Note Real Life Movie Part 1 Review

After months of waiting, I finally got the opportunity to watch Death Note in our local cinema! Well, the movie was only supposed to be screened from 19 Oct but there are sneak previews this weekend thus I jumped at the chance to catch this last night. As compared to the situation for Umizaru which was shown about 2 months ago at three locations, Death Note is screened at GV cineplexes which are located strategically in the city area and heartlands so I think this will be a big boost to its takings. Besides, Death Note enjoys a very strong following among local manga fans. I noticed that there were many groups of guys coming to watch the movie together and girlfriends accompanying boyfriends who are manga fans (the guys sitting around me seemed to be occupied with explaining the story to their girlfriends ^__^ )so I assume the strong turnout is largely due to the popularity and fame of the manga itself. Last but not least, the advertisement billboards started appearing in places like MRT stations since last month so the publicity has helped to generate hype over the movie's release significantly.

Another piece of good news is that the local cinemas will be showing the second instalment i.e. "Death Note - the Last Name - " next month which I suppose should be in conjunction with its release in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong! This means that the local distributor must have deliberately delayed the release of Part 1 to Oct instead of going along with Hong Kong and Taiwan which screened the movie in about 1 month after the Japan screening in June, so as to keep the story fresh in viewers' minds and ensure that they will continue to watch the sequel. Watching Part 1 on its own only lays the foundation and background of the story and it ends with a cliffhanger. The real action i.e. the battle between Light and L will be the essence of Part 2 and I can't wait to find out if the ending will be different from the manga.

Coming to my views of the movie, I won't go into too much details of how the story progresses but do be warned that there would be plenty of spoilers in the following content as I express my thoughts about the movie especially when it comes to the comparison between the manga and movie.

First of all, the setting of the movie is significantly different from the manga especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships and backgrounds.

For example, Light was a 17-year-old senior high student in the manga but he becomes an university student reading law in the movie. I guess that's partly due to the fact that Fujiwara Tatsuya doesn't look like a senior high student now so instead of sticking blindly to the original setting and being slammed for not looking his part, it was a smart move to adjust Light's background to suit Fujiwara's physical attributes and image.

Names of characters were changed like Raye Penber became Raye Iwamatsu (I didn't see the rationale to do this though since Raye was an American after all in the manga) and some characters whom were supposed to be here ended up at another point in the story. For example, the guy named Shibuimaru Takuo was the one who got knocked down by a truck after he was chasing after a woman to harrass her but he took on the form of a child murderer in the movie and Light deliberately stood before the guy to write his name on the Death Note. Well, Light was furious about the fact that this guy was unrepentant about his misdeeds and that's why he had the strong urge to kill Shibuimaru as soon as he found out that the Death Note really had the power it claimed to have.

And the so-called key person in this movie i.e. the newly created character Akino Shiori didn't seem that important if you consider the limited airtime she gets. However, her presence is somewhat like a litmus test which gives you an idea of how Light views the people around him and how his character and morals had changed from his initial motto of changing the world for the better. It's obvious that Light doesn't love her at all which is why he could sacrifice her easily. He didn't seem that affected by her demise. To me, Light didn't have the intention of killing Shiori until the presence of Misora Naomi became a serious threat to exposing his identity. As such, he probably saw Shiori as someone whom he could use as a pawn anytime. Besides, as seen from his dialogue with Ryuk who asked what Light would do if Shiori found out that he is Kira, Light simply shrugged nonchalantly and said that Shiori will understand his intentions one day. If Shiori had meant something to him, I guess he would have given some thought about her feelings rather than expect that she accepts his new identity as a dictator of death without any reservations. As such, Shiori's importance in the story is subjective, depending on how you see it.

Something which bothers me was the fact that they used a middle-aged man to play the fake L on TV when the manga obviously used a much younger man. Again, I don't see the reason for the change but anyway, it doesn't affect the story at all. It just irks me to see changes which are not necessary.

Another thing was the inclusion of a female detective in Yagami's team. The self-introductions by them to L were conducted quickly but I remember clearly that the lady's surname was something I didn't see in the manga. Another newly created character, I guess.

Amane Misa was not as ditzy as what she is in the manga. I guess Toda Erika doesn't have much time to show off the characteristics of Misa yet so we should be seeing if she can match up to the irritating traits of the manga Misa.

Before I rave about the good points of this movie, let me point out one major disappointment and grouse I have. It's with regards to Misora Naomi. As you may have known, she is the fiancee of Raye and a former FBI inspector. In the manga, her interaction with Light was a very exciting part of the story where Light showed how clever he could get and Misora had protected herself right to the end until she revealed her name to Light as she let down her guard. Even though Misora did disappear or should I say die because of Light's manipulations, it was done in a very classy manner, absolutely no gore and leaving much to imagination. However, the movie oversimplified Misora and made her seem like a rash woman who exposed her background to Light too easily. As we find out later, Misora giving away a major piece of information about her identity proved to what killed her in the end. It was a waste to see her die in that fashion which was contrary to what she should have been. Too bad for Seto Asaka too...she could have done much better if the movie didn't design Misora to be such a brainless and reckless woman.

On the whole, I think that the story was handled pretty well especially for the following parts:

- The finale where L ate consome potato chips in front of Light at the arts museum. It was an obvious taunt at Light by L that the latter had seen through the mobile TV trick.

- Raye being ordered by Light to write down names of the FBI detectives on the Death Note. No doubt it was a little shortened, it was still exciting to watch.

- The moment L started appearing and his fervent eating of sweet stuff. That part where he stringed doughnuts, cakes and various snacks on a barbecue skewer and offered it to Yagami Soichiro was simply hillarious! L really provided lots of comical relief in the movie. Another favourite part was L saying that he and Light had something in common: both of them are childish and hate to lose. This has got to be one of the most classical lines in the story spoken by L. ^__^

- The bus-jacking incident, especially when Ryuk scared the wits out of that criminal

As for the characters/cast, my no.1 favourite would be L played by Matsuyama Kenichi. He's really a dead ringer for L in the manga especially his mannerisms and how he devours the sweets and snacks. Using a lollypop as the stirrer for his tea was really true to the "spirit" of L who has an unusually sweet tooth. Although I cringed at how he was eating (the thought of eating so much sweet food gives me the creeps), I wasn't put off by his performance and liked his potrayal of L very much. He's the most outstanding actor in the cast although I would have preferred to see more of him.

Second would be Nakamura Shido who plays Ryuk. Well, we don't get to see his face at all but his voice is really close to the image I have of Ryuk while reading the manga. And it is difficult to convey the emotions of the character just by using his voice so I'm very impressed by his performance (not by his private life scandals though!).

Fujiwara Tatsuya comes third for me. He does have the feel of Light to a certain extent but I think he is somewhat stuck in the middle at times. Right from the beginning, Light is supposed to have a tinge of innocence and childishness when he hasn't changed completely to a devil. In this regard, Fujiwara doesn't seem that "pure" after all. On the other hand, at this stage of the story, Light has not yet evolved into the epitome of complete evil so Fujiwara doesn't have the chance to show off his "evilness" as yet. I've seen the trailer for Part 2 and that's where I think Fujiwara will perform much better since the gap between Light's evilness and kindness will be very wide and this will be a big test of his acting skills. It will be interesting to see whether he or Matsuyama Kenichi will turn out to be the better actor at the end of the series. Nonetheless, I still think he did a pretty decent job although he was limited by some parts of the story at this point in time.

By the way, for those who are expecting to see something at the end of the movie, there's only the credits. I stayed till the end and was expecting to see some behind-the-scenes footage but was disappointed. Maybe there will be some for Part 2?!

On the whole, I'll rate this movie 9 out of 10. Except for some minor disappointments and some changes made to the setting which seemed redundant, this performed above my expectations.

Seems like there is a rush of Japanese movies to be screened this year. Nihon Chinbotsu comes on next from 26 Oct and I'll probably go for the sneak preview. There's also the Japanese Film Festival starting this month which has pretty recent films like Kamome Shokudou and Hakasei no Aishita Suishiki. And I am keeping my eyes wide opened for the exact screening date of Part 2 for Death Note...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (8 Oct 2006)

1) World Trade Centre

2) Nada Sousou

3) Hula Girl

4) Il Mare

5) Eien no Hou

6) The Centenial

7) World Speed x3 TOKYO DRIFT

8) X-MEN: Final Decision

9) Lady in Prada

10) Ultraman Mavis & Ultra Kyoudai

Sunday, October 08, 2006

PV of "Sorafune" by TOKIO

Here are some screenshots of the PV for "Sorafune" by TOKIO which is the theme song of My Boss My Hero:

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Something worth mentioning is that Matsuoka Masahiro is the director of this PV. It is not the first time that Mabo has done directing for TOKIO's PVs and I must say that most of them, if not all, turn out to be very good. Besides, I guess as a member of the band, it's easy for him to try things which the other members will be willing to attempt or accommodate ideas from others more readily as compared to getting a director who doesn't know them well. That's why the result is usually satisfactory or even exceeds expectations.

Nagase Tomoya hogs all the attention (again!! ^__^) but he's also not spared from being drenched from the rain for most of the PV. Given his "sacrifice", he gets to put on a kakkoii look in the centre of the room while singing with his members surrounding him. I think it's worth it after all.