Double Feature: Your Name. (2016) & The Guardian Brothers (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we are looking at two foreign animated films. The first is one that was previously reviewed as a part of the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon and originally posted over at my co-host Drew’s Movie Reviews’s blog for Your Name. The second is a Chinese animated film by Light Chaser Animation Studios called The Guardian Brothers (on Netflix, but called Little Door Gods everywhere else), which is their debut movie from the studio before getting to one of my favorite movies of 2019, White Snake (review).

Your Name. (2016)

your name

Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai

Voice Cast (English ver.):  Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh, Kyle Hebert, Cassandra Morris, Ben Pronsky, Ray Chase, Laura Post, Glynis Ellis, Catie Harvey, Scott Williams

Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart? – IMDB

There’s no doubt that when we think of Japanese animated films, Studio Ghibli is the first one that gets the most recognition. Yet in the sea of Japanese anime, there’s a lot of smaller films with a lot of great ideas that are starting to appear on the international film market and Your Name is one that definitely had a lot of recognition when it was released. Adapted from director Makoto Shinkai’s novel of the same name which was published only one month prior to the film’s premiere, Your Name stands out because of all its elements being done very well: story full of reveals and twists, emotional moments, music score and of course, its rich animation.  

Your Name has incredibly rich animation. Each scene has a lot of intricate details. Whether its setting up how the sunlight beams through a scene or how the night sky and the comet and lights contrast in its night scenes, every scene is set up to look beautifully authentic, especially in its outdoors nature scene that almost looks like a realistic snapshot full of colors, instead of an animation. Paired with its music score by Radwimps which runs fittingly throughout all the scenes, especially during the montage moments between the two main leads and the little things that happen to go through time quickly, it adds so much to each scene and tone. 

The story here written by the director Makoto Shinkai is based on his own novel which makes it even more of a personal offering and easier to portray the film the way that he wants. Your Name carries a rather complex story packed with swapping bodies, time elements and a few surprises along the way. Its execution is possibly the most important element put to the test in order to make each of its reveals timed perfectly to make it have the most impact and Shinkai does it so masterfully that it manages to make each one unpredictable and pulls the story into another direction and packing in a lot of emotions and tugging some heartstrings as this is at the centre of it all, a love story by the end. At the same time, props to Shinkai who also starts off the story in a light and fun way of introducing these two characters, Taki and Mitsuha with their different backgrounds, locations and genders who learn to discover each other physically and emotionally, adding a lot of charm and humor. At the same time, every supporting character also has its own purpose in propelling the story forward and making sure that some conversations help explain the odd predicament that they find themselves in. 

Overall, Your Name is an outstanding animated film. While I only managed to listen to the English version and would have preferred to see the original Japanese version with English subtitles instead, the story doesn’t lose anything because it has some unique ideas and excels in so many elements that put together, it becomes a memorable movie experience. Yet again proving that 2010s brings forward an eye-opening offering of international films and expands into some unique ideas outside of the big American studios like Disney and Pixar offerings. 

The Guardian Brothers (小门神 , 2016)

  The Guardian Brothers

Directors: Gary Wang & Paulette Victor-Lifton

Voice Cast (Eng. Version): Dan Fogler, Edward Norton, Bella Thorne, Nicole Kidman, Mel Brooks, Meryl Streep, Steve French, Cristina Pucelli

There’s a crisis in the Chinese Spirit World — humans don’t believe in gods anymore! A Door God, facing unemployment, ventures into the human world to prove his worth, leading to unexpected encounters and transformations for humans and spirits alike. – IMDB

Much like its recent film offering, Light Chaser Animation Studios creates stories that play with certain Chinese beliefs, traditions as well as stories. In this one, it uses the belief of spiritual guardians  just like how American movies would use Santa Claus and the loss in belief, affect the future in the human world and pulling the two worlds together. At the same time, it also surrounds the story during Chinese New Year and a familiar tale of a creature called Nian that is the origins of why many Chinese New Year traditions are now used like firecrackers and such. Light Chaser Studios, using these source material, creates a rather fun story which is very much fittingly a fantasy comedy and has equal doses of both, while still managing to add some family drama in between of a mother and daughter relationship and carrying on their family restaurant against the more popular commercial restaurant.

The English version of The Guardian Brothers is packed with a great cast. Right off the bat, Meryl Streep has a unique voice that I’ve always loved and she does a stellar job as the narrator which carries the story really well. The brothers are voiced by Dan Fogler and Edward Norton who fittingly also has one who is more funny and the other much more serious respectively. While Bella Thorne definitely does show up in a lot of different movies more and more and her voicing the role of a little girl, Rain really has its own fun. I talked about her roles a little when I reviewed Midnight Sun (review) and yet again, it is wonderful to see her take on something other than the norm and further breaks her out of this acting box that she was stuck in for a while. Of course, it does help that Nicole Kidman is casted to voice her mother. Of course, I can’t leave this without talking about the villain or just the evil corporate businessman voiced by Mel Brooks, which really is present but more as hurdles and gets whats coming to him as with most animated films aimed towards children (maybe not too young as some darker elements here and there) do to emphasize the importance of being good.

If there was anything to criticize for this one, it might be just the pacing and at times the execution feels like the story jumps around a little too much that pads out what could be a fairly straight forward story. However, the animation is really colorful and imaginative. It manages to grab a good color palette suitable to the atmosphere and what is going on. Its a nice offering and one that is incredibly suitable for Chinese New Year (which was actually when I first watched it not knowing that it was a Chinese New Year movie).

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these animated films?

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Double Feature: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a rather female character driven combo with the Barden Bellas final hurrah in Pitch Perfect 3 and Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants. It seems like a decent pairing, don’t you think?

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. – IMDB

Pitch Perfect 3 has really just been riding on the success of its first film (review) but for myself, it feels pretty much like the Step Up franchise. In Pitch Perfect’s case, its all about the acappella musical elements and the charming cast of Bellas that come with it. Pitch Perfect 3 is a farewell movie and while the story itself is rather disposable as its yet another competition that they need to try to win but this time, its a little different because its about finding closure for all of the main players: Becca, Chloe, Amber, Amy as they move on with their lives from this family to each seeing those problems that make them who they are. Its a bit messy and brushed over quickly for all those involved, mostly because for most of them they never had tackled personal problems for these characters.

Looking at the cast here, which retains itself from the Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2 (review) but as they exit their lives after university and the many struggles of finding their own identity and purpose after their success, each have their own path right from the start and of course, their own issues that make them want to go on this final hurrah for them to compete again together. In many ways, Becca has gone full circle from the beginning to the end of this film where she finally finds success in what she wanted at the start in some form but now its her loyalty to the Bellas that holds her back, a bit of a reverse situation. Bellas is a wonderful little group of friends as they are unique in their different ways and different backgrounds, nothing more apparent than in this one, even if it does piece it together oddly.

Of course, aside from the Bellas, we still have the supporting characters including the staple characters of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins characters who have that additional comedic relief. On top of that adding in some other talent from DJ Khaled playing himself and a few side characters with Matt Lanter as the Bellas military guide and something of a bodyguard. The other groups competing for that one spot include Ruby Rose playing the lead singer of Evermoist. I remember that year, Ruby Rose ended up in three different movie sequels which was pretty fantastic as I love her style even if the Bellas were the main focus here. Of course, you also had John Lithgow sporting an Australian accent as Amy’s dad who “isn’t a very nice man”(quoting the line she uses to describe him).

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is quite a mixed basket but the musical elements are still there if you like these movies. The Bellas are still quite fun to watch and they get themselves into some serious trouble and Amy really steps up. At the same time, Its the right time to wrap this whole thing up and they do it really well in the credits with what looks like bloopers and extras from the production of the three movies together which is a nice path down memory lane.

What A Girl Wants (2003)

what a girl wants

Director: Dennie Gordon

Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole

An American teenager learns that her father is a wealthy British politician running for office. Although she is eager to find him, she realizes it could cause a scandal and cost him the election. – IMDB

If you put together a dash of Mamma Mia (review) and then adds in a dose of The Princess Diaries, you will get something like What A Girl Wants but maybe a little less refined. Rightfully so because this was movie before Lovewrecked (review) earlier than the movie that I knew Amanda Bynes from, She’s All That. However, it does feel that Amanda Bynes always has that same type of character that she played really well in the 2000s teen movies that just seemed to work for her. Along with that, she did have Colin Firth playing her father with does boost this movie a little despite its rather run of the mill story.

With that said, Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who ends up reaching out to his British wealthy politician father who doesn’t know he exists. While she doesn’t want to lose her unique personality and herself in this new world, she soon realizes that to exist in her father’s world, she may have to in this part fish out of water story as well with adapting to some of the British terms and upper class etiquette. Colin Firth playing her father actually is an opposite type of character who is more reserved and contains his feelings and affection as well but soon also shows the side of him that Daphne’s mother loved, especially as the whole secret of who broke apart her parents in the first place comes to light and a few secret motives, that are actually quite obvious reveals itself.

There’s not a whole lot to say about What A Girl Wants. For people who like Amanada Bynes, this should fit the bill as its an earlier roles of more popular roles like She’s The Man but its still very much her style of humor and acting. At the same time, there are some very predictable moments and the script isn’t that great but it has some fun moments and Amanda Bynes’ character Daphne has some good empowering characteristics that I did like. Some good, some bad, I’d say its somewhere in the middle: pretty much one to save for a rainy day.

Thats it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal (2020)

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal (2020)

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal

Director: Jos Humphrey & Kenny Park

Voice Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott, Michael Hawley, Liam O’Brien, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Toks Olagundoye, Sharon Muthu, Kari Wahlgren, Charlet Takahashi Chung

You drive the action in this interactive adventure, helping Carmen save Ivy and Zack when V.I.L.E. captures them during a heist in Shanghai. –IMDB

Running at 30 minutes per run through, Carmen Sandiego is a bite-size animated Netflix game/movie. While I’ve never gotten around to watching the actual Netflix series for Carmen Sandiego, the red-coated long hair sleuth marks a lot of nostalgia and its why it seems like a fun idea to use animated film into a little interactive game type of movie.

With each run being 30 minutes or less, seeing as you could reach an unfortunate ending before its actual end and have to take a step back to make another choice, which I had to do a few times, leading to a total of eight endings (which I managed to get 5). The interactive elements of it are decent and come up frequent enough for it to feel immersive. In essence, this is an interactive additional episode for the show which is directed to kids unlike the previous two interactive movies which were more directed towards an older audience. Despite the choices, it does feel rather on rails. Its this or that situation. However, it feels smooth enough and the step back to the previous one is already made for you as a choice to restart the movie or to start from the previous step. In the end, it is an animated film so it still has to be fairly simple to comprehend and stay fun.

The voice acting here is done pretty nice. Perhaps not something to talk too much about since they are generally the same cast as the TV series (but I haven’t seen it). Carmen Sandiego is a fun character to watch and keeps to her character and well voiced by Gina Rodriguez. Finn Wolfhard voices Player, the offsite technical support for Carmen. The characters in general from Carmen’s crew, ACME agent and VILE villains are all fairly entertaining. What does take the cake for being entertaining is the ending sequence that you get to choose to watch or not as a bonus which is an addictive and really awesome song for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

Overall, while a little more geared towards kids and has that straight forward simplicity in its story that comes with it, Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal is a fun interactive game/movie. I’ve probably said fun a billion times in this review and honestly, I don’t have any other word to describe it. It did its job to entertain while keeping the choices consistent and frequent enough to make it feel immersive enough. There’s not a whole lot of revival of animated characters that I like (My Little Pony for example..not a fan of the new ones) but Carmen Sandiego works for me. Definitely going to find some time to catch up with the series!

Double Feature: The Night Comes For Us (2018) & Come and Find Me (2016)

Next double feature is here! This time is a bit of a fast pace film duo with Netflix distributed Indonesian action crime film The Night Comes For Us and drama thriller Come and Find Me. The first I originally watched as a contender for opening the Ultimate 2010s blogathon and the second was just a random pick and I hadn’t watched an Aaron Paul movie in a while. Let’s check it out!

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

The Night Comes For Us

Director (and writer): Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Zack Lee, Salvita Decorte, Sunny Pang, Hannah Al Rashid, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Abimana Aryasatya

Ito (Joe Taslim), a gangland enforcer, caught amidst a treacherous and violent insurrection within his Triad crime family upon his return home from a stint abroad. – IMDB

Indonesian cinema has been gradually finding its spot in the last decade or so especially when The Raid: Redemption arrived in 2013. With the two main leads from that film being the leads in The Night Comes For Us, the least we do know is that there will be some fantastic action. There’s a lot to love about The Night Comes For Us even if its very much a lot of the same bloody, fast-paced and action-packed sort of deal that Indonesian action films have been showing (at least in my very little experience from the 3 films I’ve seen..so I could be wrong, and if I am, please let me know other Indonesian movies to check out).

Running the movie and being caught up in this action thriller is Ito played Joe Taslim who is amazing because he is this good-looking rugged action star who truly has some fantastic moves, not surprising since he was on the Indonesia Judo national team for a while. Between him and Iko Iwais as well as the femme fatale characters and Ito’s buddies, the action has a lot of variety and keeps it pretty fresh throughout with different weapons and stylishly violent.

A lot of people want to bring in the Chinese into their action crime thrillers these days. Being Chinese myself, I naturally tend to judge the believability of the people speaking this language and for myself, the actors speaking Chinese definitely could be better. However, the story itself was in some ways rather straight forward and it was somewhat of big plan or just reasoning as to why Ito wanted to make that first decision to save the girl and slowly gives an idea of his spot with the Six Seas and then into the relationship with his friends.

Come and Find Me (2016)

come and find me

Director (and writer): Zack Whedon

Cast: Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt, Enver Gjokaj, Terry Chen, Zachary Knighton, Chris Chalk

When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she’s not who she was pretending to be. – IMDB

Its not surprising that Come and Find Me was an unknown title to myself. It did only have a limited release and VOD. Its quite a pity because while Come and Find Me follows the motions of a general thriller of this type in a relatively predictable way, its actually executed pretty well. I might also be a little skewed because this type of setup where past and present intertwine when done well is a pretty neat structure. I do admit thay there is a beginning sequence that feels like the setup took a little longer than needed.

Aaron Paul is definitely the central character here as David who finds his girlfriend missing one day and then realizes something isn’t quite right when her friend comes to trash their place in search for something. Its this that starts his search for her in another direction and leads him to find him her different secrets and essentially who is really is. Aaron Paul does deliver a great role here. Plus, I love movies that throw their characters on wild and unexpected rides turning them from clueless innocents into tougher characters.

Come and Find Me was a pleasant surprise. It had some slower moments but overall it was executed fairly good. There was a bit of intrigue and mystery and thrills. Its a decent random pick.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts!

Double Feature: Crawl (2019) & Bumblebee (2018)

Welcome back to another double feature! Today, we are looking at an interesting pairing to say the least. One is a creature feature with alligators and the other is another Transformers movie but more of a spin-off of how Bumblebee ended up on Earth. Its a pretty fun double feature

Crawl (2019)

Crawl

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, George Somner

A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators. – IMDB

*Originally posted as Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea HERE*

While sharks are primarily the star of creature features, Crawl takes on a lesser used monster as it takes a disaster film and pairs it with a horror film where a father, daughter and their dog gets trapped in their basement crawl space and hunted down by alligators during a Category 5 hurricane. As in any of these films, it is about survival. Directed by Alexandre Aja who is no stranger to directing horror films, Crawl takes on a decent form from the atmosphere and how the whole story goes as it builds gripping tension with these characters and this quiet predator.

Starring Kaya Scodelario as a rising swimming athlete in university called Haley who goes to check on her father Dave played by Barry Pepper, she ends up finding him in a crawl space unconscious and their own salvation is behind these pipes that the alligators hunting them can’t get through. As the crawl space fills up with water, they need to find a way to escape without being noticed by these alligators. Just looking at the character designs, it definitely feels like a rather contrived way to put a swimmer as a central character in a flood and yet, if you can get past that (and you should), Crawl manages to create some gripping moments and build up a decent  bit of tension while also making the whole crawl space experience to play well in the claustrophobic and time-sensitive situation.

There’s a lot to love about Crawl. For one, it uses a lesser used “monster” which definitely needs to be used more as quiet predators create some good surprise attack moments. At the same time, the characters are pretty good. While there is still some family drama to sort out between the father and daughter, the focus on survival is the priority. At the same time, the script makes an effort to give reasoning for why these alligators have gathered in this crawl space and it all does come together in the end. Plus, the director manages to not only use the crawl space and the claustrophobia of that setting to its potential but when it migrates out of there, it still manages to use its environment and the hurricane to its advantage as well. Crawl definitely delivers a great creature feature film that’s well worth a watch.

Bumblebee (2018)

Bumblebee

Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Ricardo Hoyos, John Ortiz

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. On the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, Charlie Watson discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. – IMDB

While I don’t have any major qualms with Transformers to this certain point but knowing that its really just mindless entertainment, Bumblebee is a whole different level. I guess nothing looks so bad until you find something better that comes along. Bumblebee is a fun movie and brings so much to the table because its so goofy and really about the unlikely friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie as she learns gradually about what he is, maybe not fully as this movie also shows how he loses his voice and ends up finding it again with the help of Charlie and her mechanic skills.

Hailee Steinfeld has gone a long way in her acting career. She’s had some misses, mostly due to the overall movie and not her. Bumblebee sees her in a blockbuster role that she really does take on very well. Her character is a tad bitter about her life with her own burdens in her current life situation while at the same time, her sarcasm adds to the humor especially when playing off of Bumblebee who also is discovering Earth and just how it all works despite his amnesia. Its a bit of a fish out of water story in a Transformer point of view and its executed so well.

If there was anything that I disliked about Transformers, it would have to be the annoying John Cena character which plays a little like Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Kong: Skull Island who pursues Bumblebee like he is a threat and the army gets manipulated by the Decepticons (because you know, who wouldn’t believe anyone called Decepticons, right?).

Overall, Bumblebee is a fun time. It definitely has much more substance and gives an origin story angle for Bumblebee which works very well. It balances between the comedy, drama and action a lot and also manages to get in a lot of  screen time for the Autobots and Depcepticons instead of the humans. Really good job here!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

First Love (2019)

First Love (2019)

First Love

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Shota Sometani, Takahiro Miura, Becky, Jun Murakami, Nao Ohmori, Cheng-Kuo Yen, Chun-hao Tuan, Mami Fujioka

A young boxer and a call girl get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo. – IMDB

With over 100 directorial credits under his name, Takashi Miike movies are always ones to look forward to. Some obviously deliver more than others as he churns them at such fast speeds. There are a huge variety of what he does whether its adaptations or original stories. However, there is no doubt that he always manages to bring some nice cinematography and most of the time, some quirky characters to life as well. With that said, his latest full feature First Love is one that embodies a very well-made movie as it brings everything you’d expect in a Japanese action crime film: action, blood, crime and quirky characters, humor; all into the mix in this rather fast-paced 2 hour movie that doesn’t even feel that long with everything that goes on. 

First Love

The action presented in First Love is fantastic. Each of the characters have their own form of weapons as the two sides, Yakuza and Chinese triad, collide together as they both start chasing down the two innocents thrown into this to find some drugs that obviously don’t have. Each side hunting down for a different objective and hidden motives and each character surfacing with their intents throughout. At the same time, each have their different personality, quirks, humor that all pulls together with their different weapon of choice: katana, shotguns, crowbars, etc. You name it and its all there to create this very violent romp but also deliberately clumsy in some ways that it breaks through some of the intense action scenes. Its perfectly balanced to make it a very satisfying watch. Especially when its paired with a great soundtrack to match the chase and action scenes. 

First Love

There is an incredible amount of cast here. A lot of people that gets involved in the whole ordeal. The main female lead Monica (Sakurako Konishi) and male lead Leo (Masataka Kubota) are actually the quieter characters here as they get propelled through the story and have a rather toned-down attraction to each other as they move through this. Monica is a bit odd as she has some weird hallucinations which actually are rather absurd at times but eventually becomes rather comedic. As for Leo, Kubota takes on this role as a boxer who doesn’t seem to be very passionate about his profession until the doctor tells him that he is about to die which makes him lash out and causes him to be caught up in this mess. There are a lot of subtle changes within his character development. Its definitely another great role after seeing his appearance as Skin in Diner (review).

However, if we were to talk about the supporting characters that show up, they definitely have a much bigger contrast that creates some really fun moments. Julie (Becky) is a woman whose boyfriend gets killed and she’s out to revenge with a crowbar who is completely bonkers. She definitely stands out here in both her appearance and dialogue. Aside from her, there is the yakuza underling (Shota Sometani) who tries to work the yakuza and Chinese against each other but becomes this hilariously clumsy character that creates a lot of problems in the path of reaching his goal and its a standout character here even if he plays the bad guy role. And thats not even getting to the one handed shotgun wielding Chinese man (Cheng-kuo Yen) or the female assassin (Mami Fujioka). All very colorful characters to discover! 

Overall, First Love is an awesome movie. It has both great execution and pacing. There are a palette of colorful characters to discover and a fantastic balance between dark humor, action set through one night in Tokyo between the organized crime rivalry. Highly recommend!

You can find out where to get this film HERE