TV Binge: Fishbowl Wives (Season 1, 2022)

Fishbowl Wives (Season 1, 2022)

Director: Matsuyama Hiroaki & Namiki Michiko

Cast: Ryoko Shinohara, Takanori Iwata, Masanobu Ando, Kyoko Hasegawa, Wakana Matsumoto, Shizuka Nakamura, Saori Seto, Anna Ishii, Hadekazu Mashima, Shingo Fujimori, Atsuhiro Inukai, Yuki Kubota

In a luxury apartment tower, six different women in unhappy marriages end up crossing the line into infidelity. – IMDB

Fishbowl Wives dives into the married lives of various women in a pricey high rise where the higher the condo, the more expensive and wealthy the family is considered. Each of these couples struggle with their own issues which eventually lead them on the path of infidelity or in one case, pondering it. Based on the manga Kingyo Tsuma, the series is formed like an anthology where there is one central plot with the more successful and popular couple in the high rise penthouse who runs away from her abusive husband, giving up a life of luxury for a calmer and respected life at a goldfish store. The other stories of the other women are framed within their own individual episode. The structure itself creates an imbalance, leaving out a lot of actual substance for building these characters for the various women and leaving it with their decision to choose infidelity. With these stories also comes a lot of steamy sex scenes. Giving up their depth on the other characters, it does create space to elaborate on the main storyline revolving around Sakura (Ryoko Shinohara), her abusive husband Takuya (Ando Masanobu) and the goldfish shop owner Haruto (Takanori Iwata).

While the storyline is fairly thin overall, it does look at many different types of marriage especially highlighting the characteristics and values embedded in the Japanese (or maybe even some more traditional Asian) society. It looks at the different dynamics that exist within these marriages which essentially create the issues. While it seems in some cases a fairly ridiculous point for infidelity, it all dials down to the main point that some marriages might fade or change in their priorities or perhaps, all in all the lack of communication between these couples. Some of these affairs focused are truly hilarious to watch and a bit self-inflicted when the final episode shares all the end game of each of these couples. In some other cases, it also is a twist in the whole infidelity plot. It also brings in the whole concept of whether the one you marry is your “twin flame” as the eccentric Feng Shui lady in the high rise tells them seemingly leading them to these different affairs. There’s no doubt that the stand-out one that borders ridiculous and self-inflicted but a tad hilarious is the episode The Lunchbox Lady.

The central plot is where the main story does lie leaving many points to ponder in the whole situation. What makes it very respectable is the story itself especially revolving the growing bond between Haruto and Sakura is very comfortable to watch with a lot of very warm and romantic scenes without involving a lot of sex scenes. It gives their relationship a certain foundation that eventually comes to light a deeper story to the whole scenario. It shares a much more equal and balanced relationship compared to the marriage that Sakura escapes which is controlling and physically and mentally abusive. The whole fishbowl and fish brings in a lot of the analogy to her own life. The key here being that Ryoko Shinohara and Takanori Iwata are relatively good in their roles. I don’t watch any Japanese TV series so this is probably my first one so I’m not exactly sure whether this is below or above normal standard for this sort of show however, while their chemistry wasn’t always great and sometimes felt a tad awkward, it did manage to build up as it went along and the dialogue and their connection also managed to be pretty decent. Ando Masanobu playing Takuya does a good job as well since his character is pretty despicable right from the start and feels a bit more conflicted as it starts spiraling to the finale.

Overall, Fishbowl Wives is not exactly a great series. It lacks depth and character growth for the most part. It plays around with the concept of infidelity in marriage and does cover some interesting stories about marriage itself that may contribute or justify these choices (whether or not you accept it will probably also add or minus to the enjoyment of the series). These stories do reflect in its own way the societal values towards marriage and divorce in the Japanese society. However, if there’s anything to give it praise for selling itself in the steamy market, the show is pretty heavy on the steamy sex scenes and for the most part, they are filmed pretty well. In fact, not only those scenes are done well, there is a pretty decent use of cinematography overall. Not exactly the best first venture into Japanese TV series but it was pretty average, some good and some bad elements.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022: The Secret World of Arrietty (2012) by Starry Traveler’s Road

Welcome back to Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 as we continue with the second week of entries. Today’s guest is one of my own childhood friends who has slowed down on her blogging recently but always drops by with a review for the blogathon every year. Her blog, Starry Traveler’s Road now focuses on her every day things from opinions on certain societal things in Montreal to her crafts and other mom adventures and even shared some of her jewelry making progress.

This year she shares a review on The Secret World of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibli film. Remember to head over to check our her blog!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)

Despite all the chaos going through our lives, Bun Bun and I are back with a movie review! It was refreshing to just spend time together to reconnect. It is also fun to continue our yearly tradition especially she is now in first grade and understand the world a bit more. HUGE thank you to Kim and Drew for hosting us for the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022!

The summary as written on IMDb (https://m.imdb.com/title/tt1568921/

Fourteen-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler, Saoirse Ronan, and Mirai Shida) and the rest of the Clock family live in peaceful anonymity as they make their own home from items that they borrow from the house’s human inhabitants. However, life changes for the Clocks when a human boy discovers Arrietty.

Let me start by saying this movie is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers which is still on my book list. We watched the original Japanese movie (2010) with English caption. I took the time to read every line as we go since none of us understand Japanese and Bun Bun can only recognize sight words. We watched it over two evenings as we started on a Sunday and she had school the next day. It was a bit difficult to determine where is the best place to stop if you cannot sit through the whole movie. On Monday night, we watched the rest of the movie.

I am very proud to say that this is the FIRST movie that Bun and I saw without her running away to hide when things got scary (she did not like the housekeeper). She cried a bit when the characters had to say goodbye. From what she told me, she really liked Arrietty due to her personality and flowery bedroom along with the cat whose appearance reminded her of the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro. Bun Bun did say that she would like to watch it again someday which tells me she did enjoy it as not many movies get on her “let’s rewatch” list.

As for me, I enjoyed the movie and hope to eventually find time to read the book soon (Bun is not huge on bedtime stories. Or else, I would read to her and use it as an opportunity to discuss the difference between movie and book). It was interesting for me to finally notice a pattern on how some male characters and female villains are portrayed in movies from Ghibli Studio.

I liked the dynamic between Arrietty and Shawn (Sho in Japanese), the male character, especially how they cared for one another. The graphics and music are great by Ghibli standards too!

This is it for Bun Bun and my movie review! We hope you enjoyed it!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A huge thanks to Phoebe for dropping by with a review of The Secret World of Arrietty!

Head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for the last guest entry for the blogathon!

See the full list of the blogathon updated daily HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 Kick-Off: Porco Rosso (1992)

Welcome to the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022! This year’s theme (in case you missed the announcement post) are featuring films released in a year ending with -2. The choices coming up from ourselves and our guests span more than a century much to surprise and there are lots of fantastic posts to come up.

With that said, today is the first of two kick-off posts for the blogathon as I start off with my first choice and my awesome co-host Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews will share his first pick for part 2 of the kick-off over on his blog.

To start things off this year, I decided to check out a fan favorite from Studio Ghibli which really doesn’t get talked about enough but my friends over at Asian Cinema Film Club did rank it as their Top 150 Best Asian Films of All Time. The film is 1992’s Porco Rosso, a film about a bounty hunter pig, seaplanes, and some romance and pirates.

Porco Rosso (1992)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

English Voice Cast: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Kimberley Williams-Paisley, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers, Tom Kenny

In 1930s Italy, a veteran World War I pilot is cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig. – IMDB

Based on a 1989 three-part watercolor manga by Miyazaki called The Age of the Flying Boat, Porco Rosso is a colorful adventure where a war veteran turned freelance bounty hunter uses his one of a kind seaplane to hunt down airborne pirates. Living on a deserted island alone, stopping to visit his friend Madame Gina, the owner and beautiful singer of her club, and waiting for his next bounty call, Porco Rosso lives away from humans because he has lost hope in them under the curse of being turned into a pig. When his seaplane is shot down by the American ace Donald Curtis following his engine failure and claiming that he has killed him, Porco goes to get his seaplane fixed in Milan, where he has an arrest warrant on his head, where his old engineer send his young niece Fio to redesign the whole plane and ends up embarking on the journey afterwards as Porco heads off to face up against Curtis.

While Porco Rosso might not have quite the nostalgia for myself as other Miyazaki films like My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso is a fun adventure. It doesn’t only focus on pirates and seaplanes but also tells a story about Porco Rosso finding a bit of his humanity back by finding back a bit of the lost hope he had for it which turned him into a pig. The film itself remains mostly light-hearted as the characters all have mostly comedic interactions, mostly from the silliness of the whole situation whether its between the pirates and Porco or Porco and Fio and the whole Milan crew. It brings in some elements of those times when women weren’t regarded to be much more than being at home but in this one, his whole crew ends up being female relatives of the repair shop owner. The bickering between Porco and Fio also ends up being rather funny as Fio’s naivety also makes her someone not afraid to stand up for herself and Porco in the face of equality and such. It all dials down to a final fight between Porco Rosso and Curtis which ends up taking a hilarious turn when the two both encounter issues in terms of weaponry.

There are some familiarities in this Miyazaki films whether inspiring some of his later works or from prior to that. Perhaps this is a project that shared the love of Miyazaki for planes which eventually leads to his last film, The Wind Rises before announcing his retirement (which obviously now is not happening since he has a new film in the works) or the concept of the cursed character much like Howl’s Moving Castle’s main character who also has a moment of reversing back to her original form for a second in the middle of the night. However, this is one of the few films that Miyazaki does leave a fairly open sort of ending. While there are little hints as to what does happen to the people whether its Porco Rosso and Gina’s relationship or whether Fio’s hopeful personality does transform Porco Rosso back to a man when he was known as Marco, the ending does leave those bits hidden from the camera, which is a fun little bit for the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Overall, Porco Rosso is a pretty fun film. It isn’t as dramatic as some of the other Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki films but switches over to a fairly unique setting post-war and with seaplanes and pirates with some happy and colorful characters. The film sets its tone fairly early in the film and keeps up with it building from that point on. Its pretty impressive for a film that was once supposed to be a short film funded by Japan Airlines which eventually got a full length theatrical release. After Disney’s distribution, Porco Rosso also got a rather impressive English voice cast including Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Kimberley Williams-Paisley and Susan Egan in the main roles. While not wildly discussed like some of Miyazaki’s other works, Porco Rosso is one that is a light and fun adventure well worth a visit.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Remember to head over to check out Drew’s kick-off review for the blogathon tomorrow!

All films will be updated daily on the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 page HERE. Be sure to check it out to not miss out any of the awesome guests posts coming up!

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Director: Yusuke Hirota

English voice cast: Tony Hale, Antonio Raul Corbo, Stephen Root, Misty Leek Hasan Minhaj, Greg Chun, Ray Chase, James Mathis III

A factory town is covered by chimney smoke, and as the townspeople haven’t see the sky in centuries, they no longer believe that stars exist. A chimney sweep and a friendly monster named Poupelle decide to prove that stars are real. – IMDB

Mostly known for his role as computer graphics animator, director Yusuke Hirota has his directorial debut with this colorful adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s children picture book of the same name, Poupelle of Chimney Town, who also writes the screenplay. Poupelle of Chimney Town is a family fantasy animated film set on an island which is covered in chimney smoke with no knowledge of anything outside of their world. Carrying his disappeared father’s story in his mind, Lubicchi works as a chimney sweep to be closer to the sky in hopes of seeing the elusive stars that his father constantly talked about until he meets a monster that everyone called Garbage Man and he names Poupelle (nice play on the French world poubelle for garbage). As their friendship flourishes and he tries to hide Poupelle with a little help, they soon realize that Poupelle might not be just a monster while the constant doubt of the outside world and even the resistance of these ideas.

Poupelle of Chimney Town is pretty family friendly. In fact, it does play like a children’s book. The screenplay being written by the author of the source material definitely does fill in some of those boxes (although I have never read the source material itself). However, the story does flow relatively well. There are some parts that feel a little disjointed or the English dub dialogue might feel like it jumps into the next scene a little awkwardly. However, the concept of the whole story is there. As an animated film, the world itself being covered in chimney smoke doesn’t stop the actual film to be very colorful in appearance which brings the entire Chimney Town setting to life. The film also uses different angles for various sequences which almost plays out like a movie but at times like a video game scene and even a few musical scenes. It may feel a little odd, mostly fun but does add a little uniqueness to the whole execution.

The story is the main focus as the characters are pretty simple and easy to understand. There are some rather witty characters that pop in and out, much like any children’s book someone who poses as resistance and others that are bullies. Whether we look at Poupelle or Lubicchi who are primarily the main focus of the whole story, their goal is still pretty simple. The story talks about friendship, family, and most importantly, belief. The whole end game is to see whether there are stars in the sky and prove that Lubicchi’s dad wasn’t lying about this and being shamed for it. As the government gets in the way posing as the main resistance and others trying to stop life from the norm, the whole story unfolds both in adventure and drama, sometimes the tone does also jump around a little abruptly. It does all come to a rather satisfying and slightly emotional revelation. It seems a little far-fetched but if you do get immersed into the story about those living in this Chimney Town, the whole idea of seeing the miraculous sky is pretty cool.

Overall, Poupelle of Chimney Town is a decent family friendly animated film. There are a few darker moments and a tad bit of violence but the story itself is pretty straight forward and does feel rather magical and colorful, making it also visually appealing. It looks like a story book that comes to life for the most part in its art style. There are some fun characters and some cool adventures. Sure, the story feels like it has a little disjointedness whether in tone or story progression at times but the main message and story does carry forward well enough.

*Poupelle of Chimney Town opened in theatres across North America on January 7, 2022*

*Screener provided by Prise Media Group*

TV Binge: Girls Und Panzer (Season 1, 2012)

Girls Und Panzer (Season 1, 2012)

Miho Nishizumi comes from a family famous for their skills in Senshado, the art of tank warfare. However, she dishonored her family name, so she attends the no-name high school called Oorai, which doesn’t have a Senshado club, wanting to stay away from it. But, the student council president has other plans, wanting to save their school from termination by winning the Senshado tournament. – IMDB

Its been a while since we’ve talked about any anime here. Its fine time to talk about the the latest one that I watched although it has already left Netflix. Girls Und Panzer is a interesting premise with schools on freighter ships away from the main land and the focus on tankery as an extracurricular activity. There’s so much to love about it mostly because war-like commands seem like its very focused on men and war but this one is an amicable strategy competition between different schools and bases around these girls at this school as they work together to make it happen with the main girl Miho being a girl that wanted to run away from her family and tankery but ending up with a school who rebuilt tankery in hopes of saving their school. I’m going to say right away that this is the rare occasion that I watched the English dub version, which was very adequate and entertaining. Minor things didn’t match up to the subtitles in comparison but it all translated to pretty much the same thing.

Girls Und Panzer is a little odd at times and a little quirky but overall, it has a really positive and fun vibe. Using the whole tank warfare as their focus is a unique angle for the story especially when it captures a girl who has refound her passion for something her family is renowned for but she has been shamed upon her ways as she isn’t doing it the conventional way but in a more caring way. It reflects in the team that she eventually is asked to direct as the commander for all the other tanks. Miho’s character eventually is crafted into a much stronger one by the end of season one. Much her team, especially the her core team which she runs the tank with as the flagship. They end up truly bonding as each of the characters also have their little background and something that they are fighting for as well or a certain value they find from joining into this.

While the characters themselves are pretty fun, the key element and the most fun of the series is the tank warfare sequences which they do spend a lot of time doing as the Oorai school pretty much has one friendly match as practice and then gets pushed into the competition against some of the top schools which also brings in some colorful opponents from different parts of the world and their own set of strategy versus theirs. All that stuff is pretty fun as the crew learns more about how to strategize and it smoothly flows from one thing to the next as they learn from their previous matches each time around. Not to mention, they actually bring up different actual tanks that did exist (a mega thanks to my husband who knows a lot about history who shared this knowledge with me while we were watching it) even if some of them (according to my husband again) was a little out of reality but it is an anime so a lot of these things can be ignored in my opinion.

Overall, Girls Und Panzer is a really fun series. Its a unique angle and the characters are all pretty good plus there’s a decent bit of comedy that lands pretty well even if some of it is a tad bizarre and quirky. Its a little sad to see that they didn’t get past the first season but there are a few films released after the TV series which is something that I am trying to hunt down.

FNC 2021: Bound (2020)

Bound (2020)

Director (and writer): Jean-Armand Bougrelle

Bound is a Japanese documentary that explores the traditional art of Japanese rope bondage in today’s society in regards to women. While bondage as a term itself has strong sexual connotations, these women share a different view depending on how they view it and the different roles that they have assumed to the meanings that it has for them. Its an interesting topic to explore to say the very least and has not only acts to open the society towards this community of women who practice but also the deeper elements from the techniques and art to the deeper feelings and different settings that it can take place.

Bound takes an interesting angle. It dives into the interviewers which are primarily all women who practice in different avenues. It looks at what got them interested in the first place and their own journeys with shibari and the feelings that it exposes. For some, its a liberation, others its about vulnerability, a few view it as an art while others enjoy it for its capability of being able to communicate without language. It also emphasizes on the differences in context when performed between two women or a man and woman, and whoever leads as the rope artist. In some ways, it shows a part of how these women feel about the society around them in order to search for these releases.

The community of practitioners of this rope bondage in the society also feels very varies. Its touches on what differs between each of these roles: domina, performers, models, etc. Its rather intriguing to see how the different spaces they choose to do this and the different places that some people have created in order to keep this safe space alive mostly for women who desire to have their own space to have this release and communication and yet, it has nothing to do with the sexual elements where a lot of them especially mostly exploring the women tying up women performing together and the dynamic that they have together which exceeds the romantic interest. It dials right down to the artistic element of how certain performers and models are more pleasant to watch than others.

What completes the documentary is that it also goes into a little history lesson on how shibari formed when its historical roots were as a torture device in ancient times where different knots and methods suggested different class and crime with an end game to kill. Its an opposite of how its viewed now which creates in some cases pain that brings pleasure.

Bound is a straight-forward documentary that shares the community of women who performing this mostly in secret and the different roles. It aims to share a different side of the society and a different angle to how bondage can be viewed. Its a rather eye-opening lesson in general and a rather intriguing topic. In some ways, there is a certain depth to the whole topic explored.

*Watched as coverage for Festival du Nouveal Cinema*

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Dreams On Fire (2021)

Dreams On Fire (2021)

Director (and writer): Philippe McKie

Cast: Bambi Naka, Masahiro Takashima, Akaji Maro, Saki Okuda, Shizuku Yamashita, Medusa Lee

A vibrant and intoxicating look into Japanese dance and subculture communities. – IMDB

Dreams On Fire is a 2021 drama about the journey of a young dancer Yume who moves from her small-town against her grandfather and mother’s wishes to Tokyo to make it big in dancing however along the way, she meets a few good and bad people that assist and hinder her journey.

From the director of short film Breaker previously shown at Fantasia Festival, Philippe McKie has the North American premiere of his directorial feature film debut with Dreams On Fire that casts dancer Bambi Naka in her first leading role in the role of Yume. Yume’s journey through Tokyo isn’t exactly an unexpected one however, it is unique to the Tokyo landscape as it leads her from one place to the next that exceeds the hostess club that she lands her first job at to a lot of underground bars and clubs from fetish to cosplay and so on. Through the process she learns about the hurdles of becoming of a dancer on all fronts both from the people she meets to the things that happen to her, something like building a social media following having its importance and the importance of image, making her simple dream of being a dancer much more complicated than it seems. Much like most dance films, it all dials down to a big dance battle that almost rounds out as the movie also starts off in a dance battle.

With the different locations, the music style and dance styles all vary and change making the movie every more so colorful both literally and metaphorically. Along the way, Yume also breaks out of her shy shell and really openly expresses herself more and more. The film shifts through these locations mostly showing different dance scenes, dance studio, the hostess club where she works and anchoring itself in her little rental room which is an empty little box with a table and computer and nothing else, truly highlighting the starving artist part of her journey. The part of the charm of the film is the underground settings, each with their own distinctive elements starting with the gold and chandelier almost tacky cosplay hostess club that Yume’s starting working at where the people there are mostly horrible as expected to the darker settings from S&M club and her introduction into different music like heavy metal and folk. The film really dives deep into the diversity of Tokyo’s underground scene.

A good part of Yume’s journey is in the people that she meets along the ways. As much as she meets bad people like the hostess club boss who threatens her often to keep coming to work and has a lack of respect in general, she also meets a lot of good people along the way who appreciate her talents and while doesn’t quite understand her journey, refers to other dance-related gigs and jobs however, perhaps its the people the she meets on her own paths that are the most charming. Of course, that’s not to say that Bambi Naka as Yume isn’t great because she does a great job and it helps that her dancing abilities are really outstanding and the growth throughout the film moving from one dance choreography to the next is embodied so well. The one that definitely stands out is her dance studio teacher played by Genta Yamaguchi who is a colorful person in general. Every scene is so fun and light-hearted and absolutely bubbly. Much like later on when she meets ChoCho (Medusa Lee), a Chinese fashion school graduate that moved to Tokyo to be in what she believes is the no.1 fashion location and ends up teaming up with Yume with her costumes. Not to mention that, I strongly believe that the jacket she wears in final battle is the one that is in Breaker (not sure if anyone can confirm this or not?).

Dreams On Fire is an absolutely journey that keeps to familiar outline of a dance movie and yet also breaks out of it by highlighting its locations and stepping up the diversity of music and dance as it moves through so much variety on the artistic level. The movie is a trip, not only for Yume but the viewer. At times, the cinematography is also a trip from rotating camera angles to aerial shots to long neon-lit alleys or distorted dreamy sequences used blurs and bright colors. Overall, Dreams On Fire is an absolute treat.

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2021)

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Droste no hate de bokura, 2021)

Director: Junta Yamaguchi

Cast: Kazunori Tosa, Aki Asakura, Riko Fujitani, Gota Ishida, Yoshifumi Sakai

A cafe owner discovers that the TV in his cafe suddenly shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future. – IMDB

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is a Japanese indie low-budget one-take time travel sci-fi comedy Japanese. Look at those hyphens. A few of those things might even sound like gimmicks but let us not forget the success the surprises that One Cut of the Dead (review) brought using a similar low-budget one-take concept. While its hard to say that this one is as clever as that one but comparing a zombie movie to a sci-fi comedy is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. While time travel and time loop films usually are rather complicated deal with a lot of loopholes most of the time, but this plot execution flips it around to feel like a much more simple sci-fi element and focuses it more on the events and people involved.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is another type of beast in itself. Its fun and extremely enjoyable in all its absurdness and time loopy elements that at some point, it almost feels like it might lose itself and not exactly know how to get out of that loop to wrap up the plot and somehow, it does using something as simple as TV and PC monitors and a delayed surveillance camera link creating a 2 minute void. The concept feels so simple and other than wondering who actually has monitors with such long cables that you can run up and down the stairs with a screen within one setting, there’s a lot of credit to give for a movie filmed entirely on iPhone in one-take.

There’s something so great about simplicity in films. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes dials it down. All it takes is 2 screens facing each other and a constant growth in the cast from one person to two and slowly the group forms with friends and employees each offering up their thoughts on how to use this 2 minute advantage. As each person in the group pitches in their thoughts on how to profit from the future, they soon realize that its unreasonable to go too far ahead as they have to keep the loop consistent. 2 minutes might not feel like a lot of time and yet, it creates a lot of busy work as they use it to pull minutes ahead in time to utilize the future to teach the past selves that help their present situation. Its a pretty clever execution overall. Perhaps, it might not work if you dissected the film in depth but I do have to admit that at a certain point, the loop just got a little hard to track but the plot itself was so engaging that it sold the time loop element convincingly.

While the films general time loop concept seems like a much simpler affair, the cast here is what brings in a lot of the charm. The cast itself consists mainly of members of a theatrical troupe and this is their debut as film actor in collaboration with the voice talent Aki Asakura for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. While film might be new to the cast, they all deliver really well. The main character Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is a fairly quiet character that constantly brings in his reluctance to know about the future to the other people while he’s contrasted by the other much louder and colorful characters that are both friends, customers and employees who push the whole thing forward as they start off testing out the time loop in ridiculous outfits and little tasks to eventually bigger plans of how to expand the time loop and the many ideas to help them make money in whatever small way. This eventually to leads to a much more “dangerous” situation as they pull in others. While no one ever feels like they are any sort of the threat and the film never feels like it has the ultimate peak and turning point like other films, somehow the film does wrap up in both an absurd and heartwarming way.

Overall, Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes might almost sound like a gimmick playing with the one-take as the jump-off point but its so much more than that. A simple time loop concept with a fun plot that pushes itself further and further in plot set in one location, albeit an entire building, and a charming cast of basic characters keeps both the sci-fi and comedy elements fresh and entertaining. Its a fun little ride from start to finish, no matter how absurd it might seem. Don’t forget to stick around to see some of the filming process inserted in the credits with a hilarious looking moment as they scrabble up the stairs with cables, cast and crew, really showing how one takes really take the entire team to make it all happen.

*Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is on demand on Fantasia Film Festival’s virtual platform from August 5th to 25th. You can find more info HERE.*

FNC 2020: Red Post on Escher Street (2020)

Red Post on Escher Street (2020)

Director (and writer): Sion Sono

Cast: Sen Fujimaru, Riku Kurokouchi, Mala Morgan

It follows a film-maker who holds auditions for his net project. Several of the actors who fail to win roles participate as extras. – IMDB

While Sion Sono is a well-known director from Japan, its one that is a bit of a blindspot in my watch list. Red Post on Escher Street is an odd film. It almost feels like one long audition reel with a lot of different groups of friends and touching a little on the different backstories from a widowed young girl and her family to a group of friends who do theatre shows today or a group of extreme fangirls of the director of this film, etc. Looking at both sides from the auditions to the different people behind the scenes like the director’s story and the executives funding the film and their influence and all coming to the finale where the film is being made and all these people who didn’t get the roles become these extras and it all goes to a crazy finale. The whole thing feels like a lot of something and nothing and almost feels like its not very significant and yet, there is something so charming and entertaining about the whole ordeal which is what makes Red Post on Escher Street such a fun movie experience despite its long runtime of almost 2.5 hours long.

Red Post on Escher Post highlights a film set and the difficulties plus the differences in viewpoints. The director wants to find his roots and a new muse of sorts that he had with a previous actress that he worked with however, things are set up in a certain way to be coerced to have the investor’s wishes of casting his own choice of cast. The pressures on all sides and the different backstories of the people all reflected and come together by the end. It all gets so ridiculous at the end and yet so hilarious as we have the shoot all fall apart when the extras want to fight for their chance and follow their dreams, each warped in their own thoughts and this whole string of people running down the streets. I’m sure the Red Post Box is meant to have some significance but its really great how it shows up in different scenes as a purpose for various events whether its finding certain items or delivering their audition application forms or whatnot.

Red Post on Escher Street is a movie to just experience. Its hard to say that anything is especially outstanding but yet it all seems to work together in a rather over the top way. Some of it doesn’t all make sense but then the script is done that by the end a lot of the randomness comes together in subtle details in dialogue and a little reveal for one of the characters. The scenes and outfits are colorful and the characters themselves are also quite catchy and oddly intriguing. Among the tons of serious movies in this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema, its quite the palate cleanser to have a movie that discusses a very serious themes of grief, loss, chasing dreams, oppression but all wrapped up in this colorful and oddly comedic tone.

Double Feature: Gwen (2018) & The Garden of Words (2013)

As we get back to more frequent double features, we head into the next letter in our alphabet run as we get to G. G selections on Shudder are rather slim pickings so I went ahead and started up 2018’s slow-burn film Gwen and then paired with also a shorter title with Japanese animated film by the same director as Your Name, The Garden of Words. Let’s check it out!

Gwen (2018)

Gwen

Director (and writer): William McGregor

Cast: Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Maxine Peake, Richard Harrington, Mark Lewis Jones, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Richard Elfyn

A folk tale set in the hills of Wales during the industrial revolution. – IMDB

Gwen is a slow pace Welsh horror drama set during the Industrial Revolution, mostly set in the isolated hills where this family of a mother and two daughters live on their farm. Unfortunate situations keep happening as the older daughter Gwen holds up the family and strives to survive while dealing with the farm animals dying mysteriously and her mother being overcome with a mysterious illness. Its a dark story and well-portrayed in its landscape and setting under its dim lighting and gloomy shots.

If we look at the characters, Gwen is played by Eleanor Worthington-Cox who does a really great job in this character. Its a quiet movie so dialogue is much less and there’s more of an observation of the situation and she does that very well. At the same time, her mother is played by Maxine Peake who also captures her role fairly well. There’s some rather “creepy” moments for lack of a better word. The movie itself isn’t exactly scary per se but it is a little unsettling at parts.

Gwen is for the patient audience that doesn’t mind a slow paced horror drama. Its not scary in the jump scare sense but more of a slow unwinding unsettling feeling that goes with where its set and the gloomy darker environment that surrounds this tale.

The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words

Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa, Takeshi Maeda,

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. – IMDB

The Garden of Words is a 45 minute Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, the person behind Your Name. Its interesting to see that this story also features two strangers Takao and Yukari who the latter is the mysterious woman who we actually don’t know the name until much later when her identity is revealed. The Garden of Words is something of a coming of age as the two characters have their own personal struggles of being a bit of a loner or misunderstood and finding it hard to know how to move forward. It uses the 15 year old boy, Takao’s passion for being a shoemaker and shoes in general as a metaphor for life.

Because of that focus, there’s a lot of scenes that capture the feet with how they sit and position their feet or walking through the streets, etc. Makoto Shinkai is a nice storyteller. His stories, at least the two to date that I’ve watched, has been rather meaningful. Its always about some element of life and adds a hint of romance in it that helps the characters grow. While this story isn’t quite as complex, it does take a level of careful execution to allow the story to work in the realm of keeping one of the character’s a mystery until giving her identity reveal. At the same time, Shinkai always gives these rich in color and beautiful animated scenery. In this case, its capturing the realistic rain fall set in the beautiful garden and capturing the light beams  and such.

The Garden of Words is a mere 45 minutes and because it doesn’t have a overly complex story but still with a little mystery, it adds enough to move the story in a quick paced. Its well-animated and has a rather careful metaphor. The story focuses on two characters with an age gap and while there are some elements of it that feels a little odd at first, its a rather interesting friendship that happens between them. Its a bit unlikely but then its not the friendship itself but rather how it develops emotionally perhaps. The Garden of Words is a quick viewing that’s definitely worth your time if you liked Your Name. Its not the same sort of story but its still a pretty good watch.

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