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Film – Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai
Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai, directed by Takeshi Miike
Written by: Kikumi Yamagishi
Starring: Ebizô Ichikawa, Eita, Hikari Mitsushima
My rating: 4 of 5

So you’re the head of an honourable household. One day a destitute ronin comes to you and asks if he could possibly kill himself in your courtyard, because that would help him leave this life with as much as honour as he can salvage. Just another day in feudal Japan*.

However, you’re moved by this ronin’s plight and offer him a position in your household. After all, it’s not his fault his house disbanded and Japan is going through a peaceful period that prevents him finding work. The heads of other houses follow suit, offering work where they’re able or giving them a little money when they aren’t. Either way, the ronin are getting some help and all is good.

Then, of course, people take it too far, and it reaches a point where the less honourable ronin realise they have an easy way to find work or at least a few coins. Can’t afford those rice cakes? Go offer to kill yourself before the Iyi clan, they’re always good for a few ryō.

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Film – Quick Thoughts: Insidious

Insidious
Insidious, directed by James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Patrick Wilson & Rose Byrne
My rating: 4 of 5

I think it probably says a lot about the current state of horror films that something like Insidious can be rated PG-13 in the US and 15 in the UK purely because it lacks any real violence, gore or swearing, because I found it to be very creepy and a lot less immature than a Saw or Hostel.

It starts out like a typical haunted house story, a family moving into a new house only to have weird and spooky things start to happen to them. Before long one of the sons is left in an unexplainable comatose state, not waking up but with nothing obviously wrong with him. They do the sensible thing and move house straight away but it doesn’t help, the supernatural problems have followed them. They turn to professional help and learn the terrible truth.

The film relies mostly on being creepy rather than using any real gore, violence or swearing. Strange noises, figures moving in the background or who are only seen for a brief seconds, and just being atmospheric in general. It uses that musical sting noise a lot, making sure something scares you by having the soundtrack make a loud shriek, but that only works if the film is already spooking you and Insidious was definitely doing that for me. I really enjoyed it.

Film – Quick Thoughts: Mean Creek

Mean Creek
Mean Creek, directed by Jacob Aaron Estes
Written by: Jacob Aaron Estes
Starring: Rory Culkin, Scott Mechlowicz & Josh Peck
My rating: 3 of 5

A group of teenagers decide to get revenge on the school bully by inviting him on a boat trip, their plan being to strip him naked, throw him in the river and make him walk all the way home without any clothes on, leaving him humiliated but unhurt. Things go badly wrong, which is hardly surprising.

The film’s biggest problem is the bully himself. I think everybody who has been through school knows what a bully is like and has an idea of them in their head. Physically fit, popular, doesn’t like school and likes to party. The bully in Mean Creek is overweight, a little nerdy, has no friends, is very inexperienced and might even have something wrong with his head, so even when he’s being mean it’s hard not to feel sorry for him, and some of the teens plotting against him are not nice at all. It changes the film from being about nice people taking revenge on a bully to being about mean people making nice people do bad things to a bad person.

It wasn’t a bad film and the young cast do very well, but I don’t think the film did all it could have done.

Categories: Film, Opinions (Film) Tags: ,

Film – Quick Thoughts: Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola
Written by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
My rating: 4 of 5

This is another one that I’ve seen before and really enjoyed. It’s a sweet film, two people in Tokyo, far from home, feeling lost and lonely but finding companionship in each other. Charlotte (Johansson) is young, just finished school and has been married a couple of years but doesn’t know where her life is going, having followed her photographer husband to Tokyo but barely seeing him and not feeling like she fits in with his world. Bob (Murray) is an older actor whose career has peaked long ago, in Japan for a lucrative commercial deal but feeling dissatisfied with where his life has brought him.

Though there are other characters it’s mostly just Charlotte and Bob, hanging out and talking. I particuarly liked this conversation:

Charlotte: “I’m stuck. Does it get easier?”

Bob: “No. Yes. It gets easier.”

Charlotte: “Oh yeah? Look at you.”

Bob: “Thanks. The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

That rang true to me, I’ve said similar things before.

Despite the difference in ages their friendship comes about fairly naturally, being drawn to one another because they’re both obviously foreigners. Scarlett Johansson does a good job in her role and Bill Murray is always fantastic in anything, so a film that mostly just sits back and gives him screen time almost can’t fail to be good. Lost in Translation certainly isn’t a failure, it’s very good.

Film – Quick Thoughts: Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity, directed by Oren Peli
Written by: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat
My rating: 4 of 5

Paranormal Activity is essentially like The Blair Witch Project but in a house, the couple involved using a camera (the whole film is their footage) to study the strange things that are happening in their home and which have followed the woman, Katie, since she was eight years old. Her boyfriend, Micah, is convinced he can solve the problem (which is why he gets the camera) and starts performing all sorts of tests, but the more he tries the quicker things escalate.

Just like The Blair Witch Project I found it very creepy to watch even though you’re mostly looking at or hearing little things, footsteps  on the stairs or doors opening and closing, but that’s why it works. Mundane things are acting in abnormal ways and you’re left wondering what’s causing it, because it’s another one of those films that holds back from explaining or showing too much. When you don’t know everything it allows you to imagine absolutely anything, which makes it all the more creepy. I can understand why so many people liked it because it really is good, though it’s a shame they’ve decided to milk it with sequel after sequel as it’s exactly the kind of film that works best in isolation, without further explanation.

Film – Quick Thoughts: Wilderness Survival For Girls

Sucker Punch
Wilderness Survival For Girls, directed by Eli B. Despres & Kim Roberts
Written by: Kim Roberts & Eli B. Despres
Starring: Jeanette Brox, Megan Henning, Ali Humiston & James Morrison
My rating: 3 of 5

Three teen girls celebrate finishing high school by spending a night in a cabin in the woods, enjoying their independence, experimenting and having fun. Late in the night a strange man walks in and they panic, tying him up and keeping him prisoner. He says he’s been living in the empty cabin and is happy to just take his stuff and leave, but they feel that they can’t let him go because he could be dangerous. They can’t keep him prisoner forever though and they are far away from help or a phone, so they don’t know what to do.

It’s an interesting dilemma because the man isn’t obviously dangerous, played well by James Morrison (who I know as Bill Buchanan in 24), but there’s just enough that’s off about him that they can’t be sure. If they let him go and he really is dangerous then they would be in lots of trouble with no chance of help coming, but what else can they do? The girls manage to make more problems for themselves out of their own dramas, seeing as they are still teenagers enjoying their first real taste of freedom, and I couldn’t be sure how the story was ultimately going to play out. I enjoyed it.

Film – Quick Thoughts: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone
Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck
Written by: Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard
Starring: Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris
My rating: 4 of 5

I’ve seen this before but wanted to watch it again because I really did enjoy it. A little girl goes missing and a private detective is hired to help investigate, because he grew up in the area and can talk to people who won’t talk to the police. Once he starts investigating though it becomes clear that things are even more complicated than they seem.

Every major character is either already broken and jaded when the film starts off or they end up that way by the time the story concludes, being exposed to elements of society or having to do unpleasant things or make hard choices. There are some interesting questions in the film about right and wrong, the law being clear on what you’re supposed to do but most other aspects of the situation suggesting something else. It’s a very good film with some excellent performances, though quite a sad one.