Category Archives: movie

No More! Movie thieves!

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I have been to over seventy movie meetups and I saw at least twenty movies on my own here in Japan. So I probably saw around 100 movies in Nippon and one hundred times the “No More! Movie thieves!” trailer. It always puzzles me why they try to educate the people who actually paid to see a movie. It’s even worse on DVDs, where you can’t skip those clips. Sure DVD owners could rip the movie and start distributing it, but by the time a DVD comes out, the film has been leaked anyway from sources inside the industry.

The “NO MORE 映画泥棒” clip features a guy with a camera instead of a head. Why someone would use a video camera to record a movie inside a cinema is beyond me – high quality versions are already on the web. The new version also warns against uploading movies.

If you watch movies in Japan, you will see this guy a lot of times! Read the rest of this entry

At the movies: Gantz Perfect Answer

I have not read the Gantz manga, but I do know the anime and I didn’t like it at all. I watched the first part of the live-action version in April in Fukuoka and today I saw the second part. Both were shot together, so they tell a whole story. There is a conclusion at the end of the second movie that makes a third movie highly unlikely.

In the second movie, Gantz gives the characters a new non-alien target: the vampires which also appear in the manga. They are very interested to get into that special room of Gantz and stop the black sphere. Masaru Kato is revived, but has a doppelganger.

The manga introduced other Gackt teams and an alien invasion. In the live-action film, the vampires are the final enemies. The first part, which contained several different opponents had a bit more action, but I think part 2 was a good conclusion to Gantz. Special-effects were again very good. I have no idea what the English dub is like.

At the movies: Saya Samurai さや侍

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Today’s movie day for me started at 9.20am with a showing of Saya Samurai at the Shinjuku Piccadilly Cinema. That’s also where the movie meetups are usually held. Normally I would reserve tickets only via the cinema site which unlike in Korea is no problem at all, even with no local credit card. You need to be able to read Japanese however and need a telephone number. Both the reservation and telephone number are typed in at the ticket machines which then print the ticket.

But I was looking to practice speaking, plus it can’t be bad to show Japanese that foreigners are able to speak their language. So the first movie of the day was Saya Samurai, a Samurai movie without any sword fights. The film tells the story of a Samurai and his daughter. The Samurai has 30 days to make the son of a local lord laugh. If he fails, he will have to commit ritual suicide.

What makes the movie even funnier, is the seriousness of the Samurai. His daughter is intimidating enough to even scare the guards. She is however disappointed in her father because he always runs away from his fights.

I liked the film and the ending. Without knowledge of the language, one can at least enjoy the Samurai’s attempt to make the kid laugh.

Tokyo Movie Lovers Meetup: X-Men First Class

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I could’ve easily watched this film in Seoul and saved a lot of money: meetup fee included, I payed 1400 yen (about 19000 won). The standard price for movie tickets in Korea is 8000 won (600 yen). It can be a bit more depending on the cinema and if the film is in 3D or “4D”. But nothing beats watching movies with a nice group and that’s why I’ve been to over 70 meetups of the Tokyo Movie Lovers.

It’s one of the biggest if not the biggest meetup in Tokyo. It’s not an arthouse movie meetup and we rarely watch Japanese movies. So it’s in English language with Japanese subtitles. This can be irritating when watching a 3D movie because the subtitles hover in the foreground.

X-Men First Class is a prequel to the three X-Men films. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr were still friends and John F. Kennedy US president. The mutants were fighting together against an evil group of mutants trying to unleash World War 3.

Great movie – unfortunately I’m going to miss the Super-8 meetup, another must-watch movie. After every movie meetup, we usually head to a nearby pub. If you are in Tokyo, visit the movie meetup!

Secret (Korean movie)

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Time for something more artsy: A Korean movie with Japanese subtitles! I watched „Secret“, a thriller from 2009. There is currently a Korean film festival in Tokyo which I didn’t know about, probably because it lasts a whole month! They are not going to show 200 films, it’s just a small selection stretched over a long timeframe.

Cinema Square Tokyu is an art house cinema not far away from Koreatown and about two minutes from Seibu Shinjuku station. Ticket counter is outside at the first floor (ground floor), the cinema is on the third floor. They have very comfortable seats and an old-fashioned curtain.

Since my Korean is still quite basic, I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. Fortunately there were Japanese subtitles. The movie is a crime thriller about a guilt-driven detective who tries to cover up his wife who has been to a crime scene, clues pointing that she has something to do with murder. The detective is played by Cha Seung Won an actor I know from the drama series „City Hall“. The film is ok but has few weaknesses such as the detective’s clumsy cover-up attempts which would more likely make him the prime suspect.

1000 Yen Movie Day (Service Day)

Movie prices in Tokyo are high and it doesn’t matter which cinema you choose. If you buy the tickets on the day, it’s about 1800 Yen. There are a couple of ways to save money though: If you preorder tickets for a movie premiere (e.g. at Lawson convenience stores) you pay less. Wednesday is „Lady’s Day“ (1000 Yen) and the first of each month is „Service Day“ where everyone only has to pay 1000 Yen. If this day is on a Saturday or Sunday, tickets quickly sell out.

Ordering via Internet is popular but not so popular that you won’t get a ticket at the counter.  Still, I bought my ticket for today’s showing of „Inception“ at Shinjuku Piccadilly online. It’s quite easy: On the homepage there is a list of the films showing that day. If it is a foreign film, the original title is written as well as the Japanese one. „X“ means no seats available, △ means few seats available and ◎ lots of seats available. „*P“ is for premium members only. If you don’t speak Japanese, look for „字幕“ next to the film name – it means „subtitles“, these films are shown in their original language.

Unlike Japanese ATMs, I never had problems using a foreign credit card with a Japanese web site. I had to enter my name in Hiragana though which just looks strange. In the end you are given a reservation number (引換番号) which has to be entered along with your phone number (電話番号) at the ticket machines.

Today was the second time I watched Inception and not because I didn’t understand it the first time but because I think it’s a movie made to be seen in a cinema. There is really enough exposition in the film and to all the critics who blame the director for not explaining how the tech to enter someone’s dream works: Why should he? The technology exists in the world of Inception and it would be unnatural for the characters to suddenly explain a technology that is known to them.

Tip: If you are stranded in Shinjuku and missed your last train: Wald 9 Cinema has night showings.

Flight movies

Today, during the flight from Tokyo to London, I didn’t beat my previous record (six films watched during one flight). I managed to watch Max Payne, Burn after Reading, Madagascar 2 and War of the Worlds.

Max Payne was ok for a computer game adaption, although that compared to Jason Bourne in the Bourne trilogy, Max was never threatened very much by the fact that he was a wanted suspect. Still, I expected a worse movie.

I love the Coens, but Burn after Reading was one of their less good works. Too much star power, not enough quirky characters.

Talking about “not enough”: Not enough penguins! The four gang of penguins in Madagascar 2 had all the good scenes or at least the one which were not predictable from A-Z. The main story felt like it was copied from a million other movies from the past. Of course the friends separate, then discover the meaning of friendship blablabla.

Less blabla, more kaboom in War of the Worlds the only movie that was not on the “recent films” listing in the entertainment system. I must say that I liked this adaption. Focussing on a family is a clever idea and while they mentioned that the aliens are destroying things everywhere the movie kept showing other places and militaristic heroism to a minimum. Note that the army only managed to shoot one of the tripods down, when they were starting to die anyway.

Korean Films Rundown (1)

I’ve seen many Korean films in Germany but they were usually about a few martial artists from an ancient kingdom flying through an abundance of special effects and eliminating each plot hole with a fire ball. I guess the only Korean film which has some popularity without featuring martial artists or a horror theme is Oldboy.

So it was time for a Korean movie marathon, since the videos were already piling up. I sometimes buy a DVD and then watch it for the first time after a year or so…

First was Attack the Gas Station (1999) which is, um, about four social outcasts attacking a gas station. After demolishing and robbing the station, they are already bored on the next day and decide to attack the same station again. This time they don’t get as much money but they have an idea and start running the station by themselves. Of course with their short-tempered behaviour and their general lack of respect for any authority (police, elders) they quickly make some new enemies and hostages. I don’t want to spoil more of the content but there are some great comedic scenes in it as well.

Bi-mong (Dream) is more of an arthouse movie, directed by KIM Ki-duk and starring ODAGIRI Jo who is also known for his roles in Mushishi and Azumi. Besides the story (Japanese guy having hyper-realistic dreams which are acted out by a sleepwalking woman in reality) the interesting bit was the language. I understood (without looking at the subtitles) exactly half of it. Odagiri is talking only in Japanese throughout the whole movie while the rest of the cast is only talking in Korean. But they all talk like they perfectly understand each other and him being Japanese is never a topic.

Last one (for now) is Yeongeo wanjeonjeongbok or Please teach me English. Read the rest of this entry

Movie meet-up: The Day the Earth Stood Still

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Last movie meet-up for this year! Keanu Reeves latest film has received a lot of attention lately and is used by LG in their commercials for a new handset. The film is of course a remake of the 50’s science-fiction classic with a bigger robot, more explosions and more annoying kids. Of course the big alien sphere landed in New York’s Central Park. There were surprisingly many people in the evening – I thought that one should avoid the Central Park when it gets dark?

Most of the film was quite predictable and of course the army later attacked the robot with everything from a machine gun to jets. Parts of it also reminded me very much of Matrix – so much, that I expected the guys in the suit to call Klaatu “Mr. Anderson”. As Klaatu said in one scene, the new human body takes some time getting used to and by the end he still didn’t master facial emotions.

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Photos taken out of the film, when Klaatu makes a short trip to Tokyo

Therefore the director probably thought that to balance things out, Dr. Helen Benson and her stepson Jacob have to show even more emotions. Unfortunately the Jacob character was an annoying brat and **spoiler** when he died for a minute, there was certainly no empathy in our group for him. Unfortunately, he was healed when Klaatu was sacrificing himself, but destroying all of Earth’s technology with a giant EMP.**spoiler end**

Movie meet-up: Wall-E…

… or the “Citizen Kane” of animation films as one German TV magazine phrased it. Yes, Wall-E has probably been shown in about every country but in Japan they decided to to premier in December. I doubt that it has something to do with dubbing, because there is hardly any language in it.

So how does Wall-E compare to the best christmas movie ever made (Die Hard, of course)? The title character sure talks less than Bruce Willis did.

Wall-E is a waste compactor who assembles trash, compresses it and then spits out a cube. His only friend is a cockroach and he watches cheesy musical movies in his home. All humans left and are now living on a big starship, occasionally sending out probes to Earth to find out whether it’s habitual again. These probes look like big iPods and are not the only Apple reference – the other is the start-up sound of Wall-E which is the well-known chime of the Macintosh. You could tell who in the theatre was part of the Movie Meet-up Group because we were the ones laughing when it played for the first time.

Getting to the Wald-9 cinema in time wasn’t easy. Like I mentioned earlier, Ikuta station is not really around the corner and was crowded. So I barely arrived on time