Archive for the ‘Movies’ category

Reviewing the movies of Akira Kurosawa

October 8, 2014

After the Rain made quite an impression on me. After I watched some other Japanese movies, I didn’t get the same feeling so I did some research to find out why.

The war now ended, Kurosawa, absorbing the democratic ideals of the Occupation, sought to make films that would establish a new respect towards the individual and the self. The first such film, No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), inspired by both the 1933 Takigawa incident and the Hotsumi Ozaki wartime spy case, criticized Japan’s prewar regime for its political oppression.


Kurosawa’s is a heroic cinema, a series of dramas (mostly) concerned with the deeds and fates of larger-than-life heroes. Stephen Prince has identified the emergence of the unique Kurosawa protagonist with the immediate post-World War II period. The goal of the American Occupation to replace Japanese feudalism with individualism coincided with the director’s artistic and social agenda: “Kurosawa welcomed the changed political climate and sought to fashion his own mature cinematic voice.”[204] The Japanese critic Tadao Sato concurs: “With defeat in World War II, many Japanese … were dumbfounded to find that the government had lied to them and was neither just nor dependable. During this uncertain time Akira Kurosawa, in a series of first-rate films, sustained the people by his consistent assertion that the meaning of life is not dictated by the nation but something each individual should discover for himself through suffering.”[205] The filmmaker himself remarked that, during this period, “I felt that without the establishment of the self as a positive value there could be no freedom and no democracy.”

I wondered why so many Americans liked the Seven Samurai movie. As well as why some Japanese like Wild West Westerners from the US.

The idea of the individual hero fighting for or against society, however, does explain many things. After all, it’s something I myself came to a similar conclusion on after a voyage on learning about evil.

Japan is still a nation moved by group politics and social consensus or social Will, but it still has a great amount of individual will in certain sub cultures and entertainment venues. Far more than is the case in America herself these days. It’s somewhat reversed. In America, our Hollywood entertainment, education, police, and political circles are all corrupted for one reason or another, leaving only certain types of groups (gun owners) to have the requisite experience and virtue to act as individuals. Everyone else is too afraid of their Boos or Social Authority to disobey. In Japan, individual private ownership and will can be seen in the otaku culture as well as Japan’s educational corporations and schools, but submit to the security of the group via the Japanese Defense forces and the local police units. In America, we rely on personal arms and other warrior esque training to protect ourselves, our families, or our communities. The police doesn’t really do much except clean up the bodies. Even the deadly Marathon bombings a few years ago were stopped by a citizen that escaped his captivity at the hands of Islamic terrorists inside the US and reported the location and vehicle type of his captors, resulting in their death/capture. Meanwhile the police were shutting down entire city sectors and finding nobody useful.

So I don’t think Kurosawa failed. To him, living in a Japan ruled mostly by social rules or authority laws, it might seem that nothing much changed. To an American that can tell the difference between individual strength/freedom and social obedience, Japan didn’t turn out too bad. Certainly when compared to China or modern US culture. With patriots like Kurosawa working to improve their culture and people, there’s always life and thus hope for improvement.

The problem is always when evil manifests and works against life. Then evil must be killed. Who is going to do it when American generations can’t even defend their own pathetic lives against murderers and serial killers?

You can read more about this on those links. After the Rain brought to me a lot of the individual heroic qualities I saw in Seven Samurai. So I’m just going to view all of them, if I can.

Being There

May 23, 2014

Chauncey Gardner, I heard that name before for Hussein O. It was a pretty good movie. If Hollywood produced that kind of subtlety in the 21st century, things would be better, but they aren’t.

Groundhog’s Day Semi Review

February 3, 2014

I found this methodical synopsis and chronology check to be the most agreeable in terms of content. Though very spoilerish.

Then I wrote a comment about it.

Phil mostly saw women as an entertainment venue, like a party, and not as a life partner. Mostly he had no life apart from his pleasures and social status.

Once he got stuck in God’s sand glass, he pursued pleasure to the ends of the Earth, and found it meaningless. Thus individuals that did not get conquered by him easily, or at all, started to take on a more meaningful, existential, value. They were harder to get. Harder to get, meant more valuable and more rare, to the person that can have everything and anything, within the limits of his hourglass prison. The grass is always greener on the outside. Attraction is felt much better from a balanced dose of courtship and prioritization of greater goals.

Phil’s “efforts” amounted to no more than the PUArtist’s desire to get sex and babes, for personal and social status elevation. It was only when he achieved satoh or enlightenment, and gave up his worldly desires, that he began on the road to pursuing beauty as a goal in and of itself, not merely as a utility for man. The ice sculpture pointed out that the time was already there for him, mostly.

Phil was given a kind of immortality. Pleasure and ultimate domain over his territory (or prison) went through a cycle of acceptance and rejection. Then at a certain point, his spirit and soul was freed from his human constraints, thus achieving escape. Phil could no more let someone die in his domain than he would allow his employees to perform badly, because it reflected badly on him. But while in the beginning it was a sort of grand narcissistic campaign to elevate his own status in his own eye, eventually he truly came to care for those in his domain, his eternal prison. Even though he had attained or been given a special place amongst Creation itself, he had not the power to reverse time, reverse death, create life, or anything of the kind attributed to true Divine Power. So he sought the closest emulation, spiritual and physical perfection through effort and will. Phil obtained power, and in obtaining power he also obtained the weight of responsibility. Yet for all that, his power could not exceed the realm of the Divine, the absolute Equality of Death. When he was a weak plaything of his own desires, Phil could never look up at the Divine powers that were above him and truly respect the greater powers that be. Phil had never had such powers and believed that anyone who did, would be weak or evil or a gluttony for pleasure. That’s how he became when he acquired almost divine level immortality. Only when a person truly becomes strong, independent, and willful of mind, soul, and body, judging for himself, by himself, can he look up above at the cosmos and recognize the difference between the scales of power that differentiates the mortals and the immortals. Those that are limited by death and those who are not limited by death. Phil could only save a limited number of people, yet he knew the power to save life and transcend death existed, he was proof of it.

From someone who watches a lot of Japanese and Eastern cultural/historical/philosophy based material, it was an unexpected story and movie. The title was somewhat misleading too.

Someone previously told me that my reaction to movies is mostly because of what I bring to it, which is true. It doesn’t necessarily apply to anyone else. And when the masses often like to convince the “public” that a certain viewpoint is right, I also tend to react predictably.

Pacific Rim : Movie Review

January 23, 2014

When this movie started, it had an interesting definition of the word kaiju or sea monster. It’s a Japanese word. I started thinking of whether this movie was really going to be about Japanese themes or whether this is just some knock off cheap copy.

It turned out quite well. I think the turning point for me was when the first 20% of the movie backstory and intro/prologue were over, and I started hearing Japanese. At this moment in time, I read subtitles almost automatically due to configuring my brain through long habit in multi tasking and seeing things out of the peripheral vision areas. Good for martial arts as well when facing enemies. Because of the speed I read the subtitles at, I couldn’t tell whether I heard the Japanese and thought in Japanese and translated it to English, or whether reading the English subtitles allowed me to figure out what the Japanese is. The Japanese language definitely makes a stronger impact on me emotionally for the stronger emotions. English is very good for self discipline, suppression of emotions, and figuring out social body language. At least that’s the way I am configured.

This movie is essentially about giants battling it out between humanity’s annihilation and invaders from X. The human part comes in the form of the Image, the vision of bipedal motion, human pilots, and the Drift (a buddy system between two pilots). The buddy system is also used in US Marine Corps boot camp training, marriage between a man and a woman, as well as anime like Buddy Complex.

I was never bored. It didn’t feel like Hollywood special effects. I try to imagine it as a sort of live action Mecha series, and the image character doesn’t break. That’s a high level of compatibility with Japanese themes for them to be able to sustain the “image” so well.

Another kaiju themed series is Heroic Age. Watched that series like 4-6 times. Very enjoyable. Schlock’s Mercenary author was right though. For fans of Japanese meta creations and kaiju themed monster movies, this is a solid work. A lot of East meets West vibes going on in the movie.

P.S. I did notice at the end that they started talking about obvious stuff as a sort of narration. Obvious stuff which I already knew about because the movie showed it to me 2 seconds ago. If they want to use up movie time with that kind of stuff, they should discuss the “statistics” of the Jaeger weapons in full detail, instead of machine gun spitting it out in 4 seconds because they think the audience will be bored of technobabble. It’s actually very important to know the difference between why this Jaeger uses a plasma cannon vs that Jaeger using a hydraulic punch vs the other Jaeger that uses missiles. Code Geass did a very exciting job of explaining the different technical specifications of mechs and why they should matter to people who want to see human conflict.

Sucker Punch : Movie Review

January 19, 2014

I came to review Sucker Punch because I read that author’s review of the movie as well. Which reminded me that I don’t have a review up yet.

I saw this movie years ago but promptly forgot about it. Mostly because the themes seemed rather complex without a second viewing… and I don’t pay attention to Hollywood, MSM, popular culture reviews or the internet comments on movies. The second reason is probably the more important factor in why I forgot about it.

All in all, it’s a good movie. It combines several genre hybridizations and would be what I might call “an original American made live action anime”. Girls in miniskirts, check. Girls that fight, check. Girls that socialize together, check.

The general over arching plot has to do with the dark side of humanity in a setting of enforced imprisonment. The ending, if I recall correctly, left me with bitter regret that I lacked the power to help such individuals. For even if the movie has only fictional characters, I know and remember from my research on human history that such incidents are very common across the world. Only someone with Divine level power could hope to change the world to fix such issues.

A lot of Japanese anime concerns putting a modern boy into feudal settings where he has to fight. For expected reasons, that appeals to me. Since I often feel like I was born in the Wrong Era, given my personal skills and talents.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time: Movie Review

January 19, 2014

This time we’re reviewing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. We in the sense of “waga”, which the female character/heroin often uses in Uminek no Koro ni . When the Seagulls Cry.

I played the PC game this was based off of, all 3 trilogies. Although I never finished the second one (it was based upon some kind of warrior fighting theme with heavy rock). The music made me crazy.

The original PC game followed a similar plot line as the movie. So I’m glad they took the time to write up a whole movie script based upon the concepts and plot devices, while not trying to steal stuff from a game’s plot. A game is designed to be interactive, so the plot isn’t really… active most of the time as a movie would need. In fact, if they had used the PC game as the central plot outline, they could have done the complete PC game trilogy in 2 hours of show time. Doable, but maybe too much stuff for a movie.


I would characterize this movie as a sort of romantic adventure set in ancient Persia, depicting royalty and a few themes like Kingship. But the acting is far inferior to what I might expect of the Japanese, anime or live action. I refer to facial gestures and emotional touching frame working. Scenes that I knew could be worked into emotional tear jerkers using the Japanese style, were done in a Hollywood fashion, producing flat emotional tones. You get what is going on and you get what you are supposed to feel, but I don’t feel it. Women may react to it but men… probably won’t.

The entire middle part wasn’t that interesting. They do include jumping puzzles in the intro, which were a nice homage to the jumping puzzle that is the entirety of the PC game. Well almost entirely, you get to use a dagger with your martial arts and acrobatic combos in the PC game as well, which was hard to control but beautiful when executed well.


All in all, this isn’t a bad adaptation of the pc game. But the pc game was still more fun to play for 2 hours of entertainment. It may be a good compromise for a couple that can’t decide between action and romantic comedy. Which, in itself, is saying something about current trends.

P.S. The movie’s plot would actually have worked better for Elika, the 2008 or so Prince of Persia PC game’s female companion. By companion I mean the Greek usage of the term as applied to martial warriors and bonds. That was… memorable.

Riddick: Movie Review

January 19, 2014

I found Pitch Black to be good but Chronicles of Riddick to be a little too science fiction in the “blaster stormtrooper” kind of fashion. It pulled the Riddick franchise away from the grimy, individualistc, human vs monster, theme. Riddick 2013 fixes that, for the most part. The intro did a good job of “resetting” things, although it’s not a plot reset like Star Trek.

I’ve been going through this person’s movie reviews. I found out later that he was also the same person I listened to on Brandon Sanderson’s podcasts on Writing Excuses.

I refuse to read Hollywood reviews by journalists. But people who I respect or think has something to offer intellectually or morally, I’ll take their movie reviews at face value. Stardust was recommended to me before by Laer and it worked out well. Frozen was recommended to me by Bookworm Room and that worked out. So maybe there’s some interesting Hollywood movies out there, but I won’t search through them personally.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.