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

Fantasia Festival 2018: Laplace’s Witch (2018)

Laplace’s Witch (2018)

laplace's witch

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Sho Sakurai, Suzu Hirose, Sota Fukushi, Mirai Shida, Hiroshi Tamaki, Lily Franky, Etsushi Toyokawa

An environmental analyst is asked by the police to determine if two deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning are an accident – or a murder. But when he meets a young woman at both sites, a scientific mystery begins. – IMDB

Based on the 2015 novel by Keigo Higashino, Laplace’s Witch takes its audience for a fantasy and scientific journey. With Takashi Miike at the helm, the accomplishment from his experience is the beautiful setting and the mood that the entire mood sets. The atmosphere and the shots are done incredibly well. It makes some slick moments that create the tension needed for the mystery. The rural Japan setting works great and many of the other backdrops used work beautifully to elevate the scenes even more. As with most Japanese movies, the humor they execute is still very familiar here with some comedic breaks in simple dialogues and expressions in the different characters. Its slightly dark and sarcastic but works with the tone of Laplace’s Witch.

Laplace's Witch

There is a certain charm to this novel adaptation. I have never read this novel before and know nothing about it. However, assuming its faithful to its novel as the screenplay writer is the author himself, this story has a lot of great elements. It has a strong scientific angle and also wraps in some supernatural aspect also. There’s a crime to solve which honestly is quite the head-scratcher seeing as any possibility has a near-zero chance of happening making it hard to determine. However, the introduction of the young woman who calls herself Laplace’s Witch aka Madoka (Suzu Hirose) is where the story brings in a lot of charisma. While her character feels rather simple and one-note whether in her expressions or her actions, Suzu Hirose ignites a convincing role which makes Madoka’s plight feels honorable and genuine and its makes us root for her. Paired along with the professor Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai), they become quite the team especially since the professor is an oddball who shows genuine passion in his rare field of earth science that no one else seems interested in. There is some great charisma between these two characters. They are familiar characterizations but somehow work for this premise. In the spectrum of these two characters, a lot of scientific theories are put into the story including the main foundation of this movie being French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace’s articulation called Laplace’s Demon.

Laplace's Witch

Disappointingly, where Laplace’s Witch starts to fall apart is in its pacing. The story while had its unique elements with the scientific aspects and discovering the root of the special abilities that Madoka possesses which leads to unveiling why she feels the urge to be involved in helping with the investigation alongside the professor. While the story itself has some nice twists and turns which are slightly fantastical and far-fetched, the fact that it is a Japanese film somehow makes these elements easily forgivable.  However, where this suffers is in its lengthy runtime of 2 hours and having its reveals set too early, making the final half feel dragged out. This lead to the well-developed first half to lose its intrigue quickly in the second half. There are some serious execution issues here that make the final thoughts of this movie feel simply bland and lackluster.

This review is also published on That Moment In.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Fantasia Film Fest 2013!

Fantasia International Film Festival 2013 started yesterday!

I wanted to keep this in the down low since time has been scarce and I’m not exactly sure if I can actually to get my schedule sorted out to accommodate it.  Thing is, I just finished looking at the movies schedules and I’m just WAY TOO EXCITED! However, choices have to be made since I don’t have that much time and limited financial resources.  Plus, I’m having trouble finding friends to go with me as I don’t particularly enjoy going to movies by myself.

I’ve been thinking of going to see the Fantasia Film Fest ever since it first came about 10 years or so ago.  Its an international film festival here that focuses on a lot of Asia movies (75% probably) and the majority of them are actually horror, thrillers or action of some sort mixed with drama, romance, comedy, etc.  They also have a good many that are having their premiere at this festival.  I know I don’t seem like the type to like horror.  Fact is, I do love them, especially horror thrillers.  My sleep doesn’t as much.

This coming few weeks, you should be seeing a few reviews of certain movies.  As I type this, I have already planned two Hong Kong movies with my mom.  First one we’ve already bought the tickets for called The Last Tycoon with Chow Yun-Fat last night.  Check out the link HERE!  Seems like I always end up taking my mom to see Chow Yun-Fat movies. At least this time around, its in Chinese so I won’t need to explain it to my mom! SCORE! 🙂

Next one I want to see (probably more than The Last Tycoon) is Saving General Yang on July 29th.  Deal is, its at the 2nd last day before a HUGE work deadline so I’m only buying the tickets depending on how much work I get done in the next few days. I’m going to try to pull lots of overtime to make it happen.  Funny thing is this one actually has a English dubbed trailer which you can find HERE! It has a phenomenal cast and it features one of my favorite historical ancient Chinese families.  I’m totally happy that my mom agreed to go see both movies with me.

My boyfriend is supposed to go with me to at least one as well.  We haven’t quite decided which one yet.  We just need to find out his new work schedule which is supposed to happen but hasn’t been posted up at work yet.  We do have a few on our minds.

Our first choice is Ip Man: The Final Fight.  You can find the trailer and description HERE! We’re huge fans of the Ip Man franchise and even if this one doesn’t have Donnie Yen, it has Anthony Wong and he’s a really kick-ass actor.  One of the best actors in the Hong Kong movie industry.

Another one we were interested in but I’m not too keen on seeing at an international film fest is I’ll Follow You Down since it’ll be accessible on Blu-ray easily afterwards. I almost didn’t recognize Haley Joel Osment.  He does not look anything like he did in AI/Sixth Sense, etc.  Take your pick 😉 If you haven’t heard about it, HERE is the link with the synopsis! I really dig the cast in it though and the story seems pretty intriguing 🙂

Another one I’m more interested than my boyfriend in seeing which is something like a 3rd choice is Lesson of the Evil directed by Takashi Miike.  It looks something like some cool gory fun.  By the way, I’m not scared of that genre of movies too much (with the exception of Texas Chainsaw Massacre) so it should be good. It could get creepy also.  Have you heard of it? The synopsis is right HERE!

Another one that is kind of like a guilty pleasure that looks like a pretty ridiculous horror comedy. I had tweeted about this yesterday as a joke but after I saw the trailer, it could be fun.  Who knows? OH, the title! Its BIG ASS SPIDER! It has an awkward Wednesday night showing so my boyfriend can’t go with me.   So with no one, I will pass since it is a US production so it should be  easier to find 🙂 By the way, Misty, this looks exactly what you’d enjoy 😉 Its not sea creature but spiders could be entertaining too! 😉 Find the trailer right HERE!

When this goes up, I’m aiming to go see this really awesome thriller! It looks so messed up.  Its called Magic Magic and has pretty decent cast with Juno Temple, Michael Cera (who really looks crazy) and Emily Browning! The trailer was impressive 🙂 My best friend to confirm that she will go with me!  The trailer is right HERE!

There are a few more but since limited resources, these have peaked my interest as well! So just some honorable mentions with the respective link below!

1) Taiwan production: When A Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep–> http://www.fantasiafestival.com/2013/en/films-schedule/48/when-a-wolf-falls-in-love-with-a-sheep

2) Hong Kong production: Drug War –> http://www.fantasiafestival.com/2013/en/films-schedule/214/drug-war

3) Canadian production: Antisocial –> http://www.fantasiafestival.com/2013/en/films-schedule/163/antisocial

By now, I’m pretty much set on going to get those tickets for Saving General Yang if anything 🙂 And I’m pretty sure that my cold will subside long enough for me to go see one this weekend with my boyfriend! A dose of Nyquil should be help 😉

If you are interested, HERE is the movie list at Fantasia Film Festival 🙂 Maybe you’ve seen some of these and give me some recommendations!

Any cool festivals coming up where you are? Have you heard of some (or all) of these movies?

Part 3: INTENSE Horror Movies

First of all, let me apologize for this list being late.  I wanted it to be posted up by the end of the weekend but I hadn’t finished watching it.  Its completely my fault though.  I needed a day off halfway through to clear my mind a bit and catch back a lot of lost sleep.

As I promised, here is the list for intense horror movies.  Its definitely built up to this point.  For these ones, my boyfriend helped me as mentioned last time.  The reason is that I haven’t seen ANY new horror movies after The Haunting in Connecticut in 2009.  Some of you may think I’m crazy and even my boyfriend doesn’t understand why it just made me scared to that point that I wouldn’t watch another one.  Honestly, I don’t know either but, for you, this week I’m exploring horror movies.  Some I’ve seen, some I haven’t but my boyfriend,Eric and I will do this movie marathon together (for the most part).  He was the one that chose 80% of the movies.  I only contributed the other 20% because I wanted him to see those.

I’m picking up all my courage to do this and jumping back into the horror world.

So no more babble, lets get down to business! INTENSE horror movie marathon begins NOW!!

1) Candyman (1992)

Director: Bernard Rose

Cast: Virgina Madsen (The Haunting of Connecticut, Number 23), Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass, Taken), Tony Todd (Final Destination 1,2,3,5)

Plot: A university student Helen (Virginia Madsen) is doing a paper on urban legends.  She has heard about the Candyman legend in Cambrini Green and she goes off with her friend (and classmate) to seek out the truth behind it.  Candyman is a man who was tortured to death because of his love for a woman he was not supposed to be with.  She tries to summon him and things go really bad.

This is a slow-paced horror movie which packs in some startling moments.  It can be gory and bloody at times.  It is quite suspenseful at other times as we don’t know if Candyman actually exists.  Its about beliefs and doubts in the entities around us which is exactly what the Candyman thrives and lives on.  To me, its the perfect way to start off this marathon.  It wasn’t exactly intense horror but it did have its scary factors.  On top of that it was written by Clive Barker and well, thats my boyfriend’s favorite horror author.

2) Three Extremes (2004)

Director: Fruit Chan, Chan-Wook Park, Takashi Miike

Cast:

Dumplings: Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tony Ka-Fai Leung

Cut: Byung-Hun Lee (Hero, The Good, The Bad and The Weird, G.I. Joe Retaliation), Won-Hie Lim, Hye-Jeong Kang

Box: Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe (The Flowers of War), Mai Suzuki, Yuu Suzuki

Plot: A compilation of 3 shorts starting with “Dumplings”, the Hong Kong horror short (which also has a full-length feature) about a fallen actress and wife of a rich man(Miriam Yeung) who goes to find a woman (Bai Ling) who is renowned for her dumplings that help rejuvenate.  The second short is from Korea-“Cut”.  A reknowned director (Byung-Hun Lee) comes home and gets knocked out.  When he wakes up he is tied up and there is a stranger (Won-hie Lim), who was an extra, in his movies at his house.  The third short is of Japan’s feature-“Box”.  This is about Kyoko, a girl who wakes up from the same dream of two young sisters who are contortionist and their relationship with their ringmaster.

This selection is pretty much three shorts and I couldn’t really give a big description because if you haven’t seen it, then it would be just spoiling the fun.  Part of the horror is in not completely knowing whats going on and just watching disturbing and twisted mentalities weave us these three different stories.  I can understand and be a bit more scared of the Hong Kong one as there is a belief in Hong Kong that makes that concept just a bit more disgusting and even more twisted than the plot itself shows.  Its as the title calls it. Its extremities in the psychologically disturbed and the mentally unstable and the twisted ideas magnified.

3) 28 Days Later (2002)

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Cilian Murphy (Batman Begins, Dark Knight Rises), Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston (The Others)

Plot: An infection has spread and the main symptom is rage.  28 days after it was spread, England has been evacuated but it was too late.  Jim (Cilian Murphy) wakes up to find that he is in an empty hospital and goes out in search for someone who can help him figure out what is going on.  As he walks around the city, he encounters the infected and are saved by two survivors, Selena and Mark.  The only way for them now is to stay alive.

This one could have possibly been the first horror movie I saw in theatres.  Watching it again now, I realized that I’m not as scared as I used to be, but I still think its a really good horror movie.  The story itself is pretty solid and well-shot.  Its all really well put together for a horror movie.  It packed in some eerie scenes and some crazy scenes.  It had some blood and death and zombies (aka the infected, in this case).  It had parts which made me feel endangered for the characters and parts where it was startling and I held my breath. I think it qualifies as a pretty good zombie movie.  Plus, in any horror list, you have to add at least one, right? I have another one lined up as you’ll see further in the marathon.

4) Event Horizon (1997)

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Laurence Fishburne (Matrix), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park 1 &3), Kathleen Quinlan (The Hills Have Eyes, Apollo 13)

Plot: In 2040, Event Horizon was launched to explore the boundaries of the solar system and then disappeared without a trace.  The movie starts in 2047, where a team is sent out to around Neptune because there was a transmission from Event Horizon, to investigate what has happened.  Dr. Weir (Sam Neill) is the consultant who built the “faster than light” travel that Event Horizon had done before it had vanished and is sent along with this team led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne).  When they reach the ship, they detect life form but unable to pinpoint the location from bio scan and are forced to search the ship manually.  Suddenly, strange things start happening.

I think I’m starting to feel that I like Paul W.S. Anderson’s style.  His movies never seem to be very popular to the general public but for us, we love it.  It was gripping and mysterious.  The tone that it set was dark and creepy.  This is the second time I watched this one and I have to say, I had a few moments that really startled me.  I wonder if its because I started analyzing movies more that I am more aware of the bad dialogue or stupid decisions the plot has set the characters to do.  Still, I stay true that it had its horror moments and some disgusting parts to creep the audience out.  I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

5) Pulse (2006)

Director: Jim Sonzero

Cast: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder

Plot: Two students hack into an unknown frequency and unleash something darkness into the world.  A group of college students attempt to know figure out what it is and how to stop it before it gets worse.  More and more deaths happen unexpectedly and suicide is increased in the city. Mattie (Kristen Bell), whose boyfriend was one of the hackers and had died, tries to move on but gets dragged into whatever has crossed over into the world.  She meets Dexter (Ian Somerhalder) who has coincidentally bought Mattie’s boyfriend’s computer system and he gets involved as well.  They try to stop whatever is wrong before it gets out of hand.

This is my first time watching this movie and I think its about one of the top 10 horrors that I’ve seen.  I know its not saying too much, but this whole marathon thing was a good idea, as it opened my eyes to even more horror genre. I had foreseen a pretty sleepless night already and we’re only halfway there.  So this one was a American remake of a Japanese movie.  It probably was a bad remake, and it was packed with obvious dialogue and retarded acting for the main girl at least, but it did creep me out.  It also the 2nd movie so far that I have seen for the first time.  It definitely makes a good impression.  Plus, Pulse has a 2nd and 3rd part so maybe I’ll give those a whirl when I finally move on from this one.

7) The Eye (2002)

Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Cast: Angelica Lee (Re-cycle), Chutcha Rujinanon, Lawrence Chou

Plot: A blind girl (Angelica Lee) has the opportunity of undergoing a cornea transplant to regain her vision.  After she gets her transplant, she starts seeing a bit more than the normal.  She starts seeing ghosts.  She starts trying to find out who the cornea belonged to and why she has been seeing all these things that she shouldn’t be.

My boyfriend watched this one by himself.  It is the only one where he did because after pulse I needed a bit of time off from crazy ghost and spirit type of movies.  I still remember this one like yesterday.  It was really really spooky.  The images she had, the story behind it, was all very very good.  I was pleased by how they had made it.  Maybe its because of my Asian roots, I get easily creeped out by more spirits and ghost stories because its part of our beliefs.  This one really is the best horror I have seen.  One that I truly appreciate, so I was disappointed at the American remake which pretty much took the whole story then set it in the States and Mexico instead but didn’t really do as great of a job.

6) Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer

Plot: Someone infected has spread it to everyone in the city.  There are a few survivors who take refuge in a big shopping mall.  They are desperately making sure that they are not going to have anyone penetrate the building and need to make sure that whoever that wants to come in are not also infected as to not put themselves in danger.  At the same time, they need to find a solution of how to escape the city and hope to find somewhere that are free from the infected and live in peace.

As much as I really like 28 Days Later, I always seem to enjoy this one just a bit more.  Maybe its the factor that we never really know how it all started and its just action and suspense.  It startles us and at the same time brings us to wonder if there is salvation somewhere else.  The characters themselves are convincing as they all have their own stories and their emotional ties that help move the plot forward a bit more to make you feel a bit more connected with the characters.  I’ve never seen the original Dawn of the Dead but my boyfriend says that this one is better in his opinion because it was higher budget or whatnot.  I just have to say, this was a must in our selections and will probably remain that way.

8) Friday the 13th Part II (1981)

Director: Stever Miner

Cast: Betsy Palmer, Amy Steel, John Furey

Plot: Jason’s mom, Mrs. Voorhees has died and Camp Crystal Lake is closed. A counsellor training camp close by is hosting a group of teenagers there.  They are slowly hunted one by one by an unknown killer.  The sheriff has told them to be careful and to not wander into the Camp Crystal Lake area. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen and triggered the man into a killing frenzy.

Please note that I only had my boyfriend’s recap of the first one and he explained a bit of the events that happened and general plot so I had a better understanding, not that I really needed it. This was a fun slasher flick.  I’m usually not a big fan of these but I really enjoyed this one.  My boyfriend said this was his favorite.  We might probably (eventually) sit down and do the marathon of the complete collection(next Halloween?).  It had a few surprising moments that even though sometimes I guessed what would happen next, it still kept me on edge for most of the movie.  I was really involved in it and thats a really good sign when you see me yelling at the TV.  Definitely very entertaining and if you are into slash flicks, I’m sure its a good pick.

9) Halloween (2007)

Director: Rob Zombie

Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane

Plot: Michael Myers (Adult as Tyler Mane) kills his dad and sister at the age of 10 and gets admitted to a mental institution deemed as a psychopath. There he meets Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) who tries to get him to open up and confess.  He ends up staying there for 17 years, 15 of those he doesn’t ever speak.  One night he breaks loose in search of his younger sister, Laurie(Scout Taylor-Compton) who is in Haddonfield.  Anyone in his way has to be careful.

Back to back nights of slasher flicks was alright.  Originally, this was supposed to be the original but my boyfriend couldn’t find the DVD so we replaced it with the remake.  He did enjoy it and I did as well. I had different feelings from watching this than Friday the 13th.  It felt just a bit messy because they emphasized so much on his upbringing and how he was made into a psychopath due to the perfect balance of exterior and interior factors in his childhood.  I really liked that aspect and I did get very involved with the progress of the movie.  Same thing as Friday the 13th, I was worried about the turnouts and when he will just pop out and do more slashing.  First time watching this one also and I’m impressed.  When my boyfriend does find the original, I’ll probably give that one a shot.
image

10) Hellraiser (1987)

Director: Clive Barker

Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence

Plot: Frank is on a search for the extremes and finds the cube which is actually a relic that when solved, opens up the realm between pleasure and pain. It summons the souls of the evil who takes his life. Flash forward, Frank’s brother Larry(Andrew Robinson) decides to move in with his wife, Julia(Clare Higgins), into his family house. What he doesn’t know is that Julia had an affair with Frank and when there was bloodshed, Frank has risen from the dead and needs more blood to become whole again.

We started and concluded with a Clive Barker movie/story. This movie wasn’t actually scary but more disgusting. Even though I was lost throughout most of it, and kept asking my boyfriend what was going on. I would say the ending was probably the best part because it was compelling and had some intense moments. I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite in the marathon but it was original.

 

There you have it: The INTENSE HORROR MARATHON! All of you have to be proud of me. I really doubted being able to get myself through this list and I did watch them all, except for The Eye.  That doesn’t really count though.  I had already seen this two times before and I have vivid memories of it already.  Getting through this list means a lot (and I mean A LOT) of sleepless nights.  I’m living on about 3-4 hours of sleep on average per night.  As much as it seems hopeful that I’ll get back into horror, I’m pretty sure its going to now officially be an annual deal.  I’ve learned that even if I don’t get scared initially, as I walk into dark rooms and that sort of thing, my imagination just goes flying.  Now its like a 10 movies mashup reel, so it will take some time (and many comedies) to move on.

 We’ll jump to the list. A big thank you goes to my boyfriend because he helped me edit and actually sat through all those movies.  Looking at the entire list, we were both pleased with the choices.  We did learn that we don’t technically have the same taste as the general public according IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, but its alright.  I’m still quite proud of myself, what more can I say?

Now that you finally get the whole list.  What do you think? What type of horror movies are you into? We tried to cover a few genres with possession, zombies, slasher, disgust and absurd original concepts.  Which ones are you normally into? What gets you startled or intrigued the most? Do you have any favorites that you’d like to share?

**Just a side note, it’s the first time I’m posting with a tablet. If there are any problems, they will be fixed shortly. I’m trying to learn how to do this reasonably well in the next week before I head off to vacation.**