Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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New Studio Ghibli Movie, Kokuriko-Zaka Kara

Kokuriko Zaka Kara

When I was at the cinema this week, I saw the trailer for the new Studio Ghibli movie Kokuriko-Zaka Kara (From Kokuriko Hill), due out in Japan this summer (2011). Unfortunately UK, US and the rest of the world probably won’t get to see it until much later – as much as a year judging by what’s gone on with The Borrower Arrietty, which has now finally got a cinema release date for 29th July 2011 in the UK.

It would seem that this new movie is about the life of a girl living in Yokohama, the large port city conjoined with Tokyo. In the story, based in the 60’s, her father had gone missing at sea and her mother often worked abroad as a photographer so she spends her time hanging out with friends in the many school clubs and after school activities common for students in Japan. When the time comes for the school clubhouse to be demolished to make way for preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the friends unite to defend it from the wrecking ball.

There’s absolutely no way of passing judgement on this until it comes out this summer, but I’m disappointed by the lack of supernatural themes, wizards, giant beasts, airships, robots, ghosts and so on, and there’s more than an outside chance that this could be a schmaltzy and overly sentimental offering from the once great studio.

EDIT: I’m just messing around because actually, I was a big fan of Mimi wo Sumaseba and Omohide Poro-Poro.

 

Space Battleship Yamato

Space Battleship Yamato

If you hurry to the cinema in Tokyo now, you can still catch the live action version of the original animation series Space Battleship Yamato. It was released in cinemas around December 1st but will continue throughout January. I’d actually meant to post something about it before Christmas, but forgot, what with the mayhem of celebrations. Not that it’s a big deal though, as I’ve heard negative reviews and, looking at the trailer, it seems like it’s going to be one hell of a cheesy movie! On the other hand though, the design of the Yamato stays roughly the same, adhering the uniquely Japanese tendency in sci-fi to give existing or traditional technology futuristic capabilities. On the bridge of the Yamato is the captain compete with naval uniform and hat, after all, the Yamato was based on the real World War II battleship of the same name. And if you take a look at Galaxy Express 999, you can see an intergalactic steam train. You can also see blimps and propeller planes from a parallel universe in some of the works of Studio Ghibli. This is something I really like about Japanese anime and sci-fi, although I probably won’t be going to see this live action version of Space Battleship Yamato. Steven Tyler has done the soundtrack and it’s full of cheesy rock ballads, which is an immediate fail. Here’s the trailer:

 

Enter The Void – Opening Credits

Although the actual film itself is horribly acted, farcical and depicts Tokyo in such a way as to miss the point entirely, the opening credits of Gaspar Noe’s new movie Enter The Void are worth the price of entry by themselves.

 

Tokyo!

Tokyo!

Tokyo! is a new film recently released about, well, Tokyo.

I don’t know why I didn’t post about it before. I’ve known about it for a while, forgotten about it, and was reminded of it when it launched in cinemas across Japan recently. A friend of mine went to see it, but struggled with the fact that there were no English subs. Our Japanese is OK, but not good enough to understand dialogue in a Japanese film. I’ve yet to see it. I might wait until it comes to DVD so I can get the English subs.

To whet your interest though: the film consists of 3, half-hour segments, each one directed by a different director. The three being Bong Joon-Ho, Michel Gondry and Leos Carax. I won’t go into the individual storylines. Instead, I will direct you to PingMag’s excellent article on the film.

 

Sukiyaki Western Django

Sukiyaki Western Django

I watched Sukiyaki Western by Takashi Miike the other day. It was typically Miike in that the film was highly original, really well shot, and charismatic, but there was something about the plot line that didn’t quite work. Also, Tarantino was pretty awful in his side-role. Despite the film’s weaknesses, I was totally engrossed. This always happens when I watch Miike films. One of his previous films called ‘Gozu’ was really good too.

 

Ponyo on a Cliff

Ponyo on a Cliff

Gake no Ue no Ponyo will be the eighth film by anime virtuoso Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli. Apparently, this time (and it’s obvious from the posters you see in Lawson’s combini), the animation style will be based on watercolours, a bit like the previous Ghibli offering ‘My Neighbours, the Yamadas’. It’s in production now, in fact, looking at the date, it should be in post-production at least – the film comes out in Cinemas across Japan on July 19th this year (2008).

It sounds pretty trite when I write it like this, but the film is about a Goldfish Princess called Ponyo who really wants to become a human, in chasing her goal she meets and befriends a young boy called Sousuke (who’s character is based on Hayao Miyazaki’s son Gorou when he was 5 years old – Gorou has since directed feature-length anime ‘Gedo Senki’ for Ghibli). I’m sure it will be a great film. Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong, especially in the latter part of his career. So it looks like this year, I’ll get to experience a very important Japanese cultural event: A nationwide opening of a Miyazaki film at a cinema in Tokyo, with all the queues and crowds that normally come with it. Tanoshimini.

 

Kage Hinata ni Saku

Kage Hinata ni Saku

There are so many films out in Japan right now. Many that will never get a UK or a US release, so I felt privileged to be able to go and see one of these films at the cinema, in Tokyo! However, this is a Japanese film being shown in Japan, so there were no subtitles. I was certain that I was not going to be able to understand anything that was going on in the film, but actually, I totally grasped the plot, and I even understood some of the dialogue! I’ve found that if you listen for key words in a sentence, and then think of them in context, you can guess what it is they are most likely to be saying. There are times when really simple speech is used, and that’s no problem to understand. The thing that made this film so good though, is that it was set in Tokyo, and some of the typical kinds of people found in the city were in the film. You had the young no-hoper addicted to Pachinko, the salaryman, the yakuza gangsters, the homeless guys you see in the many parks of the city (noted for their ingenious cardboard bivouacs and distinctive blue tarpaulin tents), the traditional Japanese comedian, the Akihabara otaku J-pop fanboys, and of course their pop idol, a cutesy female singer having not very much success. When you blend all of this with the famous Tokyo locations, some great cinematography, and a good story, you get just what was needed to further increase your enthusiasm for Tokyo.

 

Cheap Cinema Day

Still exploring what’s coming up in terms of Tokyo cinema in the near future, I discovered that 1st March is ‘almost half price cinema day’! The usual ¥1800 entry fee comes down to ¥1000 only (about 5 quid), for a short time (maybe that day only), so I’m hitting Yurakucho to see a movie or two. The problem still remains that the movie will be in Japanese and will have no English subs, unlike the blockbusters shown at Roppongi Hills. I was there the other day for American Gangster. I really wanted to see Sweeney Todd, but majority rules. I’m definately going back to Roppongi Hills in the near future. I also need to tell you about the automated car-parking facilities there, but I still haven’t figured out how they do it yet. Plus I took no pictures last time. I’ve learned my lesson though; I always carry my camera with me from now on. Roll on March 1st!

 

Now Showing at Cinema Artone

Now Showing at Cinema Artone

I love Japanese films, so I was having a look at what was on at the numerous art house cinemas around Tokyo. One I found that looked good was Cinema Artone (which used to be called Cinema Kitazawa, after its location). So I was perusing the listings waiting for something to jump out at me – and everything did! Have a look at a selection of stills from the movies currently on show there (above)!