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Japan-AICN: Collage of Life; Spy Sorge; Kitamura's Alive; Shurasoju; Miyazaki; SkyHigh; Juon 2; BattleRoyal 2; Gamera 4

Father Geek here with our cool reporter/editor in Japan, pigmon . He's got a great little column for you this week, soooooo lets get to it right away...

This week's AICN report from Japan...

NEWS

* "The Matrix Reloaded" has broken the all time first 2 day opening box office records for our islands, Warner Japan announced. Japanese moviegores spent about $18 million dollars on the first 2 days of its opening. Old record is held by "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" which earned $16.6 million.

* Hayao Miyazaki("Sprited Away") has directed beautifully 4 new TV commercials for House Foods. You can check on This Site to See. It is Japanese language only, but if you click CM, you can view the great looking commercials.

* "Gamera4:The Truth" which is a low budget and authorized by the Kadokawa Daiei company, will be showing more and more to the public. Japanese traditional comedian Shinpei Hayashiya directed this 45 minitues long short film with only $2500. He made all creatures by himself. Yukjiro Hotaru who plays the detective in original Gamera series appeares as the same character. This movie will be showing at Miyazaki Film Festival(6/28) and Japan SF Festival(7/19).

* Matsushita company chose Oliver Stone to do their new DVD recorder-DIGA promotions. He will appear on TV commercials, posters, newspapers and magazines for most of the world, except USA. The big budgeted TV commercial already filmed about a month ago on location in Hollywood.

* North Korean and Chiniese buyers will not be invited for 11th French Film Festival Yokohama. Yokohama residents asked the Yokohama city goverment to not invite film buyers from another Asian countries because of fear of SARS.

* 5th annual Short Short Film Festival has begun in Tokyo. At the recepiton party, former film director and now Tokyo Mayor, Shintaro Ishihara announces that he is planning to have an Asian Short Film Festival next year. The theme will be "ghosts."

* Toei company removes "Battle Royale II" posters from school zones because of PTA protests. PTA does not like the lines on posters,"All Persons Killed In war,junior high school students..." Now the Toei company is making new signs which will cost another $12,500.

* About 10 books relating to "Battle Royale II" will be published within 2 months. They are photo album, guide book, essays and so on. You can get some of them from Amazon.com/Japan soon.

* "Juon II" has already made deals with 24 countries around the world after showing at Cannes Film Festival. US major company is also negotiating now... it seems "Juon" will be made for the American market with same director, Takashi Shimizu and produced by Sam Raimi.

* Ryuhei Kitamura("Versus" and "Alive")'s new film,"Sky High" will start shooting in 2 weeks. "Sky High" is based on same title of very popular late night TV series in Japan which run early this year. Yumiko Shaku("Shurayukihime"and "Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla")is a star of this movie. It expects to be at the Japanese theaters in October.

* Director Naomi Kawase plans to shoot a film about hula-dance on her next project. Her new film,"Shurasoju" was in competition at Cannes Film Festival which will be shown in Holand,Luxenburg ,France and Belgium this year.

SHORT REVIEWS...

* ALIVE(Klocokworks ) directed by Ryuhei Kitamura

"Alive"is by Ryuhei Kitamura (and for those very few of you who don't know who he is, Ryuhei Kitamura is the cinematic genius that redefined the Yakuza vs. Zombie sub-sub-sub genre with his spectacularly senseless film Versus.

It may disappoint some to learn that Alive is not wall-to-wall combat the way Versus is. There are a few fight sequences, but they are hardly the high points of the movie. The final fight, in fact, is perhaps the most dippy part of the entire film. Instead, Kitamura is apparently experimenting with--check it out--concepts such as "plot" and "character." I say experimenting because the film doesn't seem entirely comfortable taking these wild new concepts (for Kitamura) altogether seriously.

I should back up for a moment--it's starting to sound like I didn't like the film. I did. It's a loopy little film, hard to categorize, harder to write about, but in the end it's hard not to like it. I mean, you have to imagine that Kitamura has forever been wanting to make that little dream sequence where the protagonist is hanging around in that Doom-like (as in id-software-Doom) landscape made up of miscellaneous guts and body parts.

The basics of the story are this (and this doesn't really count as a spoiler because any blurb you read about this film will give at least this much away): an execution is botched. They give the convict a choice: we try again, or we declare you dead and something else happens to you. The convict chooses life (not like in the right-wing bumper-sticker way, like the don't-electrocute-me-right-now way), and then wakes up in a strange room that looks like one of the detention levels from the Death Star putting on airs. Things happen, and the overall trajectory of the film becomes quite hard to predict. The pace is much more deliberate than "Versus", although I would have to say that Versus, with its wall-to-wall action, actually got more boring than this one did, because so much more was up in the air in "Against".

Anyway, if you get a chance to see it, it's definitely worth a look, if only because of the pressing question it leaves you with: Monkeys? Or U.F.O.'s? (reviewed by Daniel)

"Alive" starts next month in Tokyo.

* "Spy Sorge"(Toho )directed by Masahiro Shinoda

Based on true event ,Russian spy Sorge comes to Japan for checking out what Japan is tring to do after invading China. Sorge is played by Ian Glen("Tomb Raider") and he does a good job, but through his acting, we don't feel that he is a spy. This is regarding to the problem of this film, what is real the intention for Sorge. Also discribing the character of Sorge is not enough. The true winner of "Spy Sorge" is the VFX team. The VFX are awesome. Most of the virtial set looks great and some of the Zero fighter planes look very real. This is going to be 72 year old director, Masahiro Shinoda's last film . Well, a good cap to a great career... it is time to retire Shinoda-san.

* "The Collage of Life"(Shochiku)directed by Yukihiko Tutumi

Yukihiko Tutumi has shot great mystery films in the past, such as "Keizoku" and "Trick:The Movie", but this time he shoots a contemporary love story which takes place both in Tokyo and New York. He proves that he can shoot a great love story as well.

Makoto who is played by Ryuhei Matsuda ("Taboo") gets an invitation to a photo exhibition in New York City from his ex-girl friend Shizuru who is played by beautiful Ryoko Hirosue. Ryuhei wants to be a professional photographer, but he does not get any good jobs after graduating from collage. He just wants to check how Shizuru is doing in NY. After arriving in NY, he found out that Shizuru has been murdered over a year ago. Soooo who sends an invitation to Makoto?

First half of movie is set in Tokyo, how these two lovers meet and end. The 2nd half of movie kicks in New York with a little essence of mystery/suspence. Especially in the performance of Ryuhei Matsuda whose father played a young yakuza who fights against Michael Douglas on "Black Rain", a great performance. You can check on some of the visuals of this movie here: Just Click

** Next week "Ultra Man Cosmos VS Ultra Man Justice","Nine Souls","Dragon Head" and so on...

* BOXOFFICE
  • 1 (New ) The Matrix Reloaded
  • 2 (New ) The Core
  • 3 (1) 8Mile
  • 4 (3) Two Week Notice
  • 5 (New ) Niju Spy
  • 6 (7)Reign of Fire
  • 7 (5) The Hour
  • 8 (8) About Schimidt
  • 9 (2) Chicago
  • 10 (9) Azumi

See ya at the movies!

pigmon

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