Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Review: Macross Frontier: The False Songstress (Itsuwari no Utahime)

Macross Frontier: The False Songstress is a visually stunning 2-hour movie with enough differences from the TV series to keep you watching until the end.  But as I was watching it, I couldn’t help to compare it to DYRL. I like DYRL better because I can relate to its characters more easily:  I see more of myself in Hikaru than in Alto.  Why?  Because Hikaru, like myself, has a humble beginning, and is quite average-looking.  He’s not a dashing womanizer with a deep-sounding voice (Roy Fokker), and he’s not the best ace pilot (Max).  Yet he’s placed in extraordinary circumstances, and is our humble hero.  His situation speaks to our dream of being in extraordinary circumstances and being a hero.  In Macross Frontier, Alto is our hero, but he’s out of the ordinary:  he’s bishounen,  has an acting background, is quick-tempered, and tends to overreact.  I can’t relate to any of those qualities.

And how many of us men go through chasing someone who’s not right for us, just to see if we can make it work, and later discover it doesn’t, and then realize we need to be with someone whose lifestyle and tendencies suit us better?  This sounds like Hikaru’s fascination with Minmay before deciding Misa is better for him.

As for the women in the love triangles, I can relate to Minmay’s situation more than Sheryl or Ranka’s because she had an average upbringing.  On the SDF-1 in the TV series, she helps her aunt and uncle with their restaurant before making it as a successful singer.  How many of us have helped our parents or relatives with their businesses?   In contrast, Sheryl was homeless before being rescued and made into a star.  How many people do we know share a similar background?  Ranka is somehow the queen of the Vajra:  do we know anyone who can control insects by singing?  Ranka’s talent sounds like a superhero quality, something you’d see on X-Men, like Storm’s ability to control the weather.

And what about the choice Alto makes between Sheryl and Ranka?  Is either of them “right” for him?  He has a strong aversion to acting/performing, even though he did these before, so Sheryl wouldn’t be right for him.  And Ranka is too young for him.  Ranka’s crush is more like a high school girl who gets a crush on a college guy.

Oh, that’s right.  I’m not the target demographic.

Anyway, here’s the cover of the Blu-ray DVD Hybrid Pack, which comes with the movie and a trial version of a PS3 game on one disc.

Blu-ray DVD box cover

DVD cover sheet

DVD Booklet cover

PS3 game instructions.

Small film strip

Movie Reviews: Inception and Salt

Does your personal/family life interfere/affect your work life?  Well, it certainly does for Leonardo diCaprio’s character in Inception and Angelina Jolie’s in Salt.  Leonardo is Cobb, a person with the best talent for extracting thoughts from people while his subjects are dreaming.  While using his talent for corporate espionage, he also uses it on his wife to plant an idea, which has dire consequences on their relationship, and in his work, where his wife often shows up unexpectedly in his dreams.  Ultimately, Cobb wants to do “one last job” to clear his criminal record and return to his family.  In other words, Cobb’s primary motivation is getting back to his family, and not using his talent for work.  Similarly, in Salt, Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who comes to a turning point when she decides her allegiance based on her family life versus her work life.  Sounds a lot like her role in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, doesn’t it?

After watching these movies, I thought about the cast.  In Inception, I thought Ellen Page was totally mis-cast.  Her most famous role is in Juno, where she played a pregnant teenager.  What’s Ellen Page doing in a psychological thriller in the context of corporate espionage?  In Salt, I thought Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast because we know she can carry an action movie.  Did you know the script was originally for a male lead, and Tom Cruise was approached to be the lead?  The script was re-written for a female lead.

Movie Review: Up in the Air: Life Has a Journey, not a Destination

I really like “Up in the Air” for its mature themes.  In this Academy Award-nominated movie, the main protagonist Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, realizes that his life is a journey, not a destination.  A self-chosen bachelor (he doesn’t want to be married or have kids), Ryan has one of the loneliest jobs–he’s hired by companies to fire employees, and he flies 322 days of the year.  His primary purpose, other than his job and giving the same motivational speech, is to accumulate 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines.  When he reaches that goal, he feels surprised, and wishes it wasn’t happening.  Even though he’s prepared himself to talk with the pilot who gives him a special metal card, only the seventh ever issued, he can’t remember what he wanted to talk about.  What really bothers him, however, are his personal relationships with his younger sister Julie and an attractive frequent traveler Alex.

His younger sister Julie, played by Melanie Lynskey, is getting married, but since Ryan hasn’t been there to support her and their father passed away, she chose her fiance’s uncle to give her away at her wedding.  But Ryan redeems himself by talking with Julie’s fiance Jim on the wedding day, and curing him of his cold feet.  Jim is having second thoughts because he feels life will become pointless after he gets married, because his life milestones like buying a house and having kids seem so obvious, ending with his death.  Ryan consoles him and makes him realize it’s better in life not to be lonely and to have Julie as his co-pilot.  I think what’s really missing in this dialogue is that Jim is missing the point of those life milestones:  it’s the journey through them that is worth it–witnessing the birth of your first child, their first steps, going to school, etc.  There are so many joys in that journey that Ryan can’t explain because he hasn’t experienced them himself.  The movie never explains why Ryan chose to be a loner, but I bet it has to do with a bad relationship he’s had, whether with his parents or with a previous ex-girlfriend.

In some hotel bar, Ryan meets Alex, played by Vera Farmiga, who appears to be his soul mate because she’s a frequent flyer and likes all the perks like Ryan does.  Alex makes many suggestive comments to Ryan and leads him on, to the point that Ryan invites her to his sister’s wedding and to his high school.  But their relationship doesn’t work out in the end, because of an important detail that Alex doesn’t mention and the fact that she feels Ryan is just an escape.  In fact, she says he’s a “parenthesis.”  Ryan needs a genuine relationship, and the only way to increase his chances is to be grounded somewhere.  He needs to be in the same place in order to build meaningful relationships with other people.

The dialogue and cinematography are excellent, and if you like movies with mature themes, I definitely recommend watching “Up in the Air.”  This movie will make you think about why you chose the work and personal life you have.

Movie Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

While reading reviews of Uma Ga Kikoeru, I saw that some people recommended “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” as a good anime movie that captures love in the time of high school.  So I watched it, and was pleasantly surprised!

girlwholeaptthroughtime

The primary protagonist, Makoto, is a female high school student who suddenly discovers she can literally leap back through time.  She uses her newfound power to alter the outcomes of particular situations, some humorous, and some life-and-death situations.  This movie reminded me of “Groundhog Day” , because for certain situations, Makoto tries going back in time at various points in the past, to see how she can alter the final outcome.  Like “Run Lola Run”, this movie emphasizes that the tiny decisions in life we make can profoundly affect a later outcome.

What really impressed me about this movie is that it captures the emotions between boys and girls at a time where people are changing from just being friends and girls being tomboys, to when boys start asking girls out on dates, and girls start telling boys that they’re interested.  These themes envelope Makoto and her two guy friends, Chiaki and Kousuke.  Luckily, Kousuke is not like Kyousuke from Kimagure Orange Road; instead, he’s a stud who one girl likes.

There is a very interesting sci-fi twist towards the end of the movie.  Definitely an entertaining movie, with lots of strong, solid voice acting.  Highly recommended!

Movie Review: Umi Ga Kikoeru

umi_ga_kikoeru

If you’re interested in watching a love triangle unfold, or you’re a guy who finds strong-willed, smart women attractive, or you were competitive in high school, then I recommend watching “Umi Ga Kikoeru”, a TV movie from 1993, made by Studio Ghibli.  I recommend it even more if you went to your high school reunion, have divorced parents, or if you saw Kimagure Orange Road.  The director of KOR, Tomomi Mochizaki, just happens to be the director of this movie.  Tomomi-san must think the ideal woman is strong-willed, attractive, and intelligent, because the main female character in this movie is Rikako, who is a high school transfer student from Tokyo.  She suddenly becomes ranked 12 in the entire class, whereas one of the guys in the triangle, Taku, our narrator, ranks 92.  Also, Rikako plays some very aggressive tennis that puts lots of fellow students in awe.  Doesn’t that sound like Madoka from KOR, who stood up to (and fought) school bullies, and played a saxophone?

Besides the captivating drama in this movie, even though the art is somewhat simple, I really appreciated this movie because the makers took the time to construct scenes that allow the viewer to reflect.  For example, when Taku and Yutaka (the second guy in the triangle) are in the junior high school art room, we see a close-up of a sculpture at the beginning of the scene, and at the end of the scene, they are both looking out the window at a nice cloud formation.  We also hear a slow piano tune as background music throughout this scene.

Watch this movie–it’ll take you on quite a ride!

Movie Review: He’s Just Not That Into You

The movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” came out on DVD on June 2, 2009, and I finally got around to renting it.  If you like “Love Actually”, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this movie, too, because it features vignettes of love stories and intertwined characters.  However, unlike “Love Actually” which has a whole cast of great English actors, “He’s Just Not That Into You” has a whole cast of American actors, including Justin Long (the Mac commercial guy), Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, and Bradley Cooper (the guy from Alias who was Jennifer Garner’s friend).

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The movie explores relationship issues, such as trust, dating do’s and don’ts, commitment, marriage, and even how technology affects dating (Drew Barrymore gives a great monologue about it).

After you watch the movie on the DVD, watch the deleted scenes.  There are a couple of scenes where Scarlett’s character confides in her mom about two guys, one that she’s not that into (because he’s too clingy and needy), and another to whom she’s really attracted to, but married (Brad Cooper’s character).  Her mom also longs for all the famous musicians she knew, but mentions that life with Scarlett’s dad was real, whereas being with any of those famous musicians is a dream.  For Scarlett, going after a married man is a dream.  That’s when I drew a parallel with Hikaru Ichijo’s choice in Macross:  Hikaru chooses Misa because she’s more like him (they’re both in the military), she’s more mature, and she proved she can make a good home (remember the scene on the Protoculture city where Hikaru and Misa pretended to be enjoying a meal?).  On the other hand, being with Minmay is a dream.  She’s a pop star with many fans, but she doesn’t have time for staying at home because of her packed schedule.  Minmay is selfish (remember what she told Hikaru when the SDF-1’s entire crew’s lives were at stake, and all Minmay wanted was to be alone with Hikaru), and somewhat immature.

If you were Hikaru and you had to choose between Minmay and Misa, who would you choose, and why?

Movie review: “Shinobi: Heart Under Blade”

Although “Shinobi:  Heart Under Blade” was released in 2005 in Japan, I haven’t seen it until now.  I was actually in Japan shortly after the movie was released, and saw movie poster ads everywhere.  What caught my attention about the poster was that it showed a good-looking couple.  But what really stood out about the couple were their eyes.  Their eyes were gleaming, like people nowadays who wear contact lenses to change the color of their eyes.

shinobi_01

Why do their eyes gleam of a different color than the normal dark brown?  The answer is that their eyes have something to do with their special powers, which I won’t give away.  In this review, I’ll talk about the plot, the characters, themes, and the cinematography.  Overall, I definitely recommend this movie if you like movies about ninjas and fanciful fighting.

Set in the year 1614, Shinobi is about two opposing ninja tribes, who have been at war for over 400 years, but are under a truce from the command of the reigning shogunate, Lord Hattori Hanzou.  Wait, where have I heard that name?  Remember “Kill Bill”, when Uma Thurman’s character seeks out a samurai sword made by Hattori Hanzou?  Anyway, the emperor fears any rebellion that may enlist the help of either ninja tribe, and commands Lord Hattori Hanzou to lift the truce and have each tribe pick five of their best ninjas to battle the other tribe’s best five warriors.  The surviving tribe will determine a particular lord to serve under the emperor.  So the ninja tribes are just used by the emperor, as tools of destruction!

It’s under this plotline that our two main characters, Gennesuke (the guy) and Oboro live in.  They happen to meet one day, and fall in love at first sight.  However, they’re from opposing tribes!  So what we really have here is a Romeo and Juliet story.  The movie’s subtitle, “Heart Under Blade” describes that Gennesuke and Oboro’s feelings for each other are under pressure from their duties to their tribes.

Although the fight sequences are really cool to watch, what I really appreciated about this movie is the underlying theme of leadership.  The two existing tribe leaders choose Gennesuke and Oboro to assume leadership of each tribe.  When a leader chooses a successor, the successor must have some special talents that others respect.  Gennesuke and Oboro’s talents are  their special powers.  When you watch the movie, do you think that these characters have a power that is so much better than anyone else’s?  A second leadership theme is that followers will question a leader’s judgment, and you’ll see a few instances of this happening in this movie.

Another theme I enjoyed was a parallel with the ninja’s purpose of life and the Zentraedi’s purpose of life.  In Robotech/Macross, the Zentraedi were created as fighting machines.  In the TV series, when Zentraedi try to live in peace, some of them can’t do it, and just want to go back to fighting.  In Shinobi, some of the ninjas can’t imagine a life of peace; all they want to do is fight because fighting has been their way of life.

The cinematography is brilliant.  The movie uses slow motion where appropriate. Many scenes are breathtaking in terms of use of color and lighting.  The musical score is very fitting, and the end-credit song “Heaven” by Ayumi Hamasaki is a moving piece.

The Blu-ray DVD was released on May 13, 2008, and Amazon has it:
http://www.amazon.com/Shinobi-Heart-Under-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B0014567U2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1251872574&sr=1-1

“Heaven” is available on iTunes!

Go see the movie!