Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Kimi no Na Wa: must-watch cinema

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

I’ve watched Kimi no Na wa after all the hype has died down. In fact, I wouldn’t have watched it if not for my sibling’s invitation yesterday. I’ve grown to dislike Makoto Shinkai’s works because they were depressing without any source of redemption.

Your Name is different. Not only does Shinkai feature proactive characters in this film, he has learned the art of comedy. These are two aspects I’ve long desired in a Shinkai film, and Your Name has both of them. As this isn’t a summary blog, all I can tell you is to watch the film. And like many other people, I think it’s also a masterpiece.


It’s a masterpiece to me because it triggers recollection of all the great films and series that I’ve watched. Although it’s nowhere near as complex as Tatami Galaxy, it features layered realities. Although not as colorful as Steins;Gate, it features characters willing to fight fate to change reality. Although not as beautifully simple as Ocean Waves, it features an enduring, patient love. More surprisingly, it does all of these things well: it’s a multiple-reality film featuring well-fleshed out characters that transcend space and time because of their love.

I’ve always been fond of stories that challenge its viewers to think for themselves. These stories often feature alternate realities, dreamscapes, and fragmented timelines. I’ve been partial to such examples of media ever since I fell madly in love with Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury. I realized that I love being challenged: I love figuring out the mysteries that these stories hold. More importantly, I love the film because amid all the divorces and heartbreak in a lot of media, its message of patience and waiting for true love is a great contrast to Shinkai’s earlier films which featured unnecessary and bathetic heartbreak.

Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words: – ‘Wait and hope.’ -Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

In this regard, Your Name is an extremely wise film. It’s also a very human one.

Cure (1997 film): among the best horror films I’ve seen

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

I’m not a big fan of horror films. I’m tired of the genre’s reliance on in-your-face spooks and special effects. I’ve watched Cure twice, however. It’s undeniably a horror film, but the events that occur within it are situated in the real world. It’s also a mentally-challenging thriller.

Other review sites had already summarized the events in the film, so I won’t do it again. Since the film is open to interpretation, however, I’m going to write about mine and corroborate it with evidence.

Spoilers are below.

I think that Takabe was never completely mesmerized by Mamiya. That’s one of the central questions of the film. Since I don’t have a psychology textbook with me, I used a bit of Wikipedia. Hypnotic suggestion is dependent on the person. While most of the killers in the filmed may have medium susceptibility to hypnotic suggestion, Takabe had shown a strong resistance to Mamiya’s suggestion.

This is the first time Takabe knocks down Mamiya's lighter.

This is the first time Takabe knocks down Mamiya’s lighter.

Most of the first half of the movie presented how Mamiya was able to hypnotize the people who eventually performed murder. He usually utilizes the lighter in a one-on-one environment to draw the murderers in. Barring that, as with the case of the female physician, he uses the person’s reflection and the sound of flowing water, but it takes significantly more time to totally mesmerize the person.

The second time that Takabe knocks down Mamiya's lighter while daring Mamiya to hypnotize him.

The second time that Takabe knocks down Mamiya’s lighter while daring Mamiya to hypnotize him.

On my second viewing I looked at the size of the water puddle on the floor to estimate how much time lay between the water dropping through the ceiling and the hall guard entering the room. Since the film doesn’t go out of its way to be supernatural, I believe that a puddle that size would probably take between thirty seconds to a minute to grow to that size. Takabe is also very immersed in his pursuit of the serial killer that he is resistant to suggestion: the picture of the room when the hall guard entered was Mamiya rolling on the floor with Takabe abruptly standing. Perhaps Mamiya was able to impress upon him, finally, the necessity of Takabe killing his wife in order to life his own life. I also think that when Mamiya mentioned Takabe helping him escape, I think he meant that Takabe knew Mamiya’s capabilities to mesmerize the hall guard yet left him alone despite that.

The water puddle has a small size. It was only less than a minute between the water pooling and the hall guard arriving.

The water puddle has a small size. It was only less than a minute between the water pooling and the hall guard arriving.

Mamiya, however, never completes the sign of the X before he is gunned down by Takabe. I think that the ending is Takabe’s conscious choice to become the next among the ‘missionaries’ who would tear away the veneer of society and expose the darkness in people’s hearts: he gets rid of his wife in the process, and seems to be an even more potent Mesmer than Mamiya ever was. By freeing himself, he also becomes the undesired cure for other people. To me, the Cure in the film’s title pertains to the release from civilization and society that holds us back from our deeper desires: ultimately, all of the murderers in the film wished to kill their victims, but they let themselves go because of the suggestion.

The X was never completed.

The X was never completed.

There’s a very good chance that this film will end up as one of my all-time favorites.

The Bad Sleep Well: or, Welcome to the Philippines

Monday, October 5th, 2015

I’ve written three drafts regarding this film, and I think all my drafts have failed. It’s so hard to put this film into words. But since summarizing the movie didn’t really help me, I’ll just write about my perceptions regarding the film and hope it’s sensible and cogent enough.

Akira Kurosawa has been known to be among the greatest film directors in the world. His greatest films are among the most imitated: Seven Samurai has been adapted into different films, and even an anime series. Yojimbo became Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Throne of Blood was recognized by the preeminent Harold Bloom to be one of the best Shakespearean adaptations he has seen on film. Only Yasujiro Ozu is perhaps more revered by film directors and critics, and that’s even a coin toss.

I’ve watched Kurosawa’s Dreams about ten years ago, because it was required viewing by our tasteful English professor. I didn’t think much of it, although I thought it was a good film. While I’ve intended to watch his more popular films since then, I guess I didn’t really want to, as I didn’t prepare time for those.

It’s only been recently that I’ve used great movies to bond with my father. I guess I’ve been exposed to real life and medical cases for too long that I’ve forgotten to enjoy films that pique both the mind and the heart. What I had started with Friedkin’s Sorcerer I kept up, until I eventually stumbled into Akira Kurosawa.

I’ve had Throne of Blood on my PC for about six months. I just didn’t really want to watch it. I wanted to watch a more contemporary film made by him, so I waited until I discovered that Kurosawa made a loose adaptation to Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in the 1960s.

Its title was The Bad Sleep Well. The Criterion Collection certainly made it look attractive: its front-cover picture was a white building on a black background with a prominent red X on one of its floors.

The Bad Sleep Well

The only mistake I made when watching the film was that I watched it during night-time. It’s a film that takes its time with its build-up, so one needs to pay utmost attention with its conversations and character interactions: it’s not for those who enjoy the rampant shallowness and the anti-intellectualism that pervades Philippines today. Toshiro Mifune still stars in this film (Mifune starred in all of Kurosawa’s great films except Ran) but unlike his long-haired and bearded counterparts in Kurosawa’s samurai films he is clean-shaven and quiet as Nishi. This film shows that he is a masterful actor because he is equally able to present characters who are larger-than-life and violent as he is able to show brooding, quiet, and highly intelligent ones.

Mifune ditches the dirt and the beard and replaces the kimono with a suit, yet still acts extremely well.

Toshiro TBSW

The film is subtle: in fact, to me it’s been insidious. It’s the kind of film that one nods off to at times because of its deliberate pace but grows on the viewer after the ending credits have appeared. Looking back, it’s probably one of the best films I’ve seen this year. The opening scene is well-filmed: a momentous occasion such as a wedding of the daughter of the firm’s head is sullied by the suggestion of corruption at the highest levels of the firm. The press that covers the wedding is suspicious, but powerless.

The Bad Sleep Well is a 1960’s film, but it could have been alternatively titled ‘Welcome to the Philippines.’ The viewer first questions whether Nishi is a good or bad person. He crosses the line between good and evil too many times for the viewer to figure out until the film’s latter half. One, however, ultimately discovers his motivation and his struggle to be moral. Similar to Heneral Luna, however, the film ends on a somber tone: those who will good and do good are often buried in corruption and bureaucracy. The film has very strong historical bases, too: during the time of Stalinist Russia, it wasn’t those who were morally pure or idealistically noble who survived. Those who pandered to Stalin the best became his right-hand men. The sycophants survived, while the pure and ethical were murdered. The film was also extremely timely during its release: issues of deep-seated corruption pervaded the Japanese government during the 1960s as well.

It is a film I can recommend to very few people. It’s a film that takes patience and focus, both of which are in dearth in this time and age. It is a very rewarding film, however: first, it was done by Kurosawa; second, it’s a timeless commentary on the ills of society and sycophancy; and finally, it’s a damn good film with great actors.

The cake is a lie.

The cake is a lie.

Sorcerer (1977): one of the best thrillers of all time

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

I have always believed in the saying that ‘if you watch what everyone else is watching, you’ll think what everyone else is thinking.’ I’ve always been disgusted with intellectual stagnation, so I tried to avoid immersing myself in only what was popular. That philosophy allowed me to watch a film as old as Cavalcade, which was the Academy Award-winner for Best Picture back in 1933. (I don’t recommend watching that film: it’s a slog, and not even Noel Coward’s screenplay could save it. It’s probably among the worst Best Picture winners I’ve seen.) Most of the dated films I’ve seen were most definitely not as bad.

This scene was immaculately and painstakingly filmed. I was blown away with how it was executed - in 1977.

This scene was immaculately and painstakingly filmed. I was blown away with how it was executed – in 1977.

Casablanca still remains to be one of the most well-written and well-acted films I have seen, even though it was initially shown in 1942. Sorcerer also lies in the opposite spectrum from Cavalcade. It’s one of the best films I have seen. It was directed by William Friedkin, who is better known for his Best Picture-winning French Connection, and his seminal horror, The Exorcist. As I wasn’t and still am not into shock-horror films, I abstained from watching Exorcist. (I do watch films such as The Night of the Hunter and The Shining, however.) Because I was fond of thriller films, I watched The French Connection. It was merely a bonus that I saw the talented Gene Hackman play as an anti-hero instead of his later villainous roles. It was a good film then, and is a good film now.

Sorcerer, however, is a better film in my opinion than French Connection. Although Roy Scheider was never a notable a leading man as Gene Hackman was, Sorcerer had a more engaging and well-wrought story. It was a truly gritty, well-directed and well-acted thriller: Wikipedia even revealed that due to its close-quarters filming back in the 1970s, stuntmen were not utilized much: most of the stunts were performed by the leading actors themselves. The director contracted malaria after filming the movie. It was as manly as any film could get.

Despite its merits, however, few people know of the film nowadays. Why is that?

The answer is simple: it came out during the same year that Star Wars came out. The 1970s marked the period where people transitioned from enjoying films featuring earthly suspicion and paranoia toward the more iridescent space operas. I think Sorcerer was among the latest attempts by a talented and well-awarded film-maker to ground a picture in realistic cynicism and bleakness. We all know what happened to Star Wars: there’s even a movie coming out later this year! Sorcerer, on the other hand, was left in the lurch. Only fans of good thrillers or great cinema search for it: I only stumbled it when I had already seen most of the notable 1960 spy films.

The plot of the film is simple. Four down-and-out men belonging to the lower depths in different societies somehow end up in Nicaragua. They live sordid lives there, and wish to get out. There are almost no options left until an oil well explodes, and the oil company searches for four desperate, daring men to carry nitroglycerin to stop the fire. (This is probably where the saying ‘fight fire with fire’ came about.) Things don’t get any easier when these men have to traverse through the forests of Nicaragua with such terrible terrain: exaggerated vibrations can cause nitroglycerin to explode.

Though the film’s first hour may be slow to people used to watching Michael Bay films, the explication and build-up is worth it. By painting the four major characters with the desperation they need to tackle such a suicidal job, the gravity of their job is magnified. The second hour makes up for it with a number of suspenseful, taut sequences depicting their struggle to successfully deliver the goods. The four major characters certainly do not disappoint, and Roy Scheider was at his absolute best here.

I recommend this film to movie-watchers looking for a cerebral thriller with a dash of social commentary, as well as to those who are simply fond of well-made films. I am not exaggerating when I say this ranks among my top 5 films. To me, it really is THAT good.

Tokyo Story: an elegy to parenthood

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

My father was a year old when Tokyo Story was released back in 1953. To put things into context, I am only 27 years. Tokyo Story is more than twice as old as I am.

The best film of all time for directors

The best film of all time for directors.

Why did I attempt to watch such a dated film?

I watched it because Tokyo Story is considered by both directors and critics alike to be among the best films of all time. It’s not enough to read about a great film: a film is truly experienced only when one watches it. I had initially obtained a copy of it back when I was still an intern, but forgot about it because I had to attend to responsibilities inside the hospital and out. I then watched glimpses of it, but it was only two days ago that I had finally completed the film in its entirety. (It doesn’t help that the film has a slow, pensive, and elegiac quality in it. Patience is extremely important when one attempts to watch this movie.)

I don’t think it to be the greatest film of all time. First, I am neither movie critic nor director, so my understanding of film theory is marginal at best. I have a few films I think are more appealing to me. (These films are often thrillers, like The Killing and Army of Shadows.) Yet I cannot discount the greatness of this film and the eternal timeliness of its subject matter: Tokyo Story talks about family.

The story is simple. An elderly couple from rural Japan decide to visit their children in Tokyo. They are slowly being pushed aside, however, because of their children’s responsibilities to their family and to their work. Shige is the most obvious offender, bordering on subtly disrespecting her parents. Noriko, on the other hand, is a widow of the couple’s son. Despite that, however, she showers the most love and concern toward the couple, and it is this realization by the patriarch that moved me to tears. The blood siblings rush back to Tokyo a little after one of their parents died: only Noriko remained to help.

It’s so easy to summarize the film, because it tells a simple story. Its greatness, I believe, lies in its artistic expression as one watches the film. There are no true villains in this movie: there are only children who have drifted apart, and parents who have grown old.

I know and believe it’s natural to drift away from one’s parents. I guess I am lucky that I grew up in a close, traditional household that me and my siblings’ ties to our parents are still strong despite our adulthood. One day, I would have to be separated from them as well. I’m just glad that we were raised with filial respect that has still endured even despite our misgivings as regards our parents. I’m glad that I’ve watched the film, because I saw myself in the character of Koichi, who was a small, neighborhood doctor. While patients are indeed important, the film reminded me that my parents, who have given me life, are also important. Sometimes I take them for granted, but I appreciate them even more now that I’ve seen the film. While I would still get pissed off at them sometimes, as children normally do, I have the utmost respect and love for them. I hope having my own family in the future will not efface that.

This post is my own reminder.

Some summer anime and their movie counterparts

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I have pretty much been floating for the past few days: the days really just fly by, and since I’ve once again loosened my rein on my studies, after some time it’s already night and I haven’t done anything of value in the day. I’ve also discovered a good Japanese band because of Ryan, so thanks to him for Fujifabric: I’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to all their released music and separating music I like from the music I am indifferent to. They’re a great band, especially with some of their songs. I doubt there will be any releases in the near future, however, as their lead vocalist and lyricist died of unknown causes about a year ago. I feel that I will return to anime-watching once I filter through all their songs: I want to know all their wonderful songs so I can construct a playlist that I can to again and again.

I found this to be hilarious.

I found this to be hilarious.

I’m not really disinterested in anime, I really just haven’t watched anything lately, and even I don’t know why. I guess it’s because of the time I spend playing DotA, a game that has once again become very interesting to me. I did watch two movies in the past few days, one being Shallow Grave, and another one recently released, which is The Expendables. Because this is an anime blog, however, I think it’s apt to include Shiki in my explication of Shallow Grave.

One of the things I feel turn people away from Shiki are its characters. There’s no one particularly endearing, and as of episode three, most of them are obnoxious. The pink-haired girl was a disgusting stalker; Natsuno, on the other hand, is nothing short of a prick, and the character introduced on episode three is someone both creepy and bitter (and ugly, too). Shiki excels in creating a scary atmosphere, primarily because the people that populate the rural town are disturbing existences.

I think the series is similar to Shallow Grave: it’s a good film, but it’s also a film I will not watch again if I could. The central characters were perverse and depraved despite purportedly being educated people. The film is a wonderful snapshot of the nether parts of humanity, the darkness within every single one of us. It works well as a thriller, but it’s just difficult to empathize with selfish bastards who care for nothing but money. It was indeed ingenious and well-directed (Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire, after all, helmed the film), but it was a depressing film: redemption with the central characters was as impossible as Batman killing people. It was a simple film, but its suggestions were frankly something I don’t want to entertain as they were so bleak.

In contrast to the depth of Shallow Grave, there is The Expendables. As an action film, it was good, but as anything else it was pretty bad. There was so much that could have been done with the all-star cast that was not executed properly. It was a great time-waster for what it was worth, and I think that was all Stallone really wanted, anyway. I think that he’s the master of wasted potential after all. It was an enjoyable ride, but it was nothing more.

I don’t recall doing anything more than that. Current series don’t really invite me to watch them, although I’m trying to keep up with High School of the Dead (which is also quite similar to The Expendables).

The coruscation of Inception

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Last year, when I found out that Christopher Nolan was filming a movie that dealt with dreams and the architecture of the mind, I knew I was going to see it on cinema early in its release. It’s the kind of expectant waiting that I had with Tatami Galaxy: I had faith that it was going to be something good based on the track records of its auteur. Just as I was impressed with Kemonozume and Kaiba (to a lesser extent), I was also impressed with Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight. My faith all the more solidified when I knew it was going to be performed by a stellar cast: what else do you expect from a group of Oscar winners and nominees? Even Tom Brady was excellent in his portrayal as Bronson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in both his independent and blockbuster films was consistently great (I loved [500] Days of Summer).




Of pens and murder

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Even when I was still a child I had always been admiring of pens in all shapes and sizes. I sometimes admired some pens so much, I stole some of them when I was still very young. While I no longer steal pens at this age (I’d like to think I’m a wee bit more mature), I still have the same admiration and quasi-obsession for these objects. I bought three pens at two American dollars primarily because they were aged and comparatively antique (two were probably at least ten years old). As expected, the ink dried out within a week, and I had wasted two dollars on white elephants. They barely even wrote. (more…)

The bone snatchers: the horrors within

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

As I’ve said in my previous posts, I have been busy chasing and dealing with the requirements of medical school. That doesn’t mean I have done absolutely nothing as regards anime: on the contrary, I have observed and watched a significant number of movies and series (both anime and live-action).

This is an OK film.

This is an OK film.


REVIEW: The Sound and the Fury (1959)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

The Sound and the Fury, written by William Faulkner, is universally acclaimed to be one of the best novels ever written by an American. It’s also recognized to be one of the best books of the twentieth century. Its intricate construction and its well-written streams of consciousness underlie a tragedy so total and so complete because the Compson members are unable and unwilling to love one another. From the man-child Benjy, to the selfish Jason, the family is torn from within because they remain inflexible in the face of cataclysmic change. Each of the featured characters end up tragic in their own unique way; it is arguable, however, that the least sympathetic tragedy among them was Jason’s. His tragedy, compared to Quentin’s and Benjy’s isn’t a moral tragedy: the novel itself suggests that Jason is extremely amoral and immoral, that he cannot love beyond a miserly notion for money. His tragedy was the most physical as compared to the torturous mental disintegration of Quentin and Benjy’s permanent entrapment into the mind of a retard. His was a tragedy he himself could rectify. Ultimately, his tragedy was that of an utter resistance to empathy and positive change.

This was the original film poster.

This was the original film poster.