Bangkok Nites (2016)
Director: Katsuya Tomita
Screenplay: Toranosuke Aizawa
Cast: Subenja Pongkorn
Review: Starting off with the main character, Luck (Subenja Pongkorn), a Thai prostitute looking outside a hotel room, we follow her and a Japanese man named Ozawa through the world of sex tourism in Thailand and the various Japanese men who come for the services. The film looks at how richer people from Japan exploit poorer ones in Thailand. It also explores if a real relationship can grow between a prostitute and a former client and the definition of “paradise.”
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Un Printemps d’ailleurs / A Touch of Spring (2017)
Director & Screenplay: He XiaoDan
Cast: Yan WenSi
Review: The story starts with Li Fang (Yan WenSi) who has a violent breakup with her husband in Montreal over her desire to have a baby. While her husband looks for a lawyer to organize the divorce proceedings, she decides to return to her hometown of Dazu in ChongQing (municipality), China to visit her grandfather. She struggles to reconcile her family’s idea of success with her own.
With regards to the story, it’s straight-forward and simple. It’s more of a character study or a bit of a philosophical exploration. Of course, there’s a bit of a clash between traditional Chinese values and more western ones that Fang has adopted but it’s not really the focus and simply comes out naturally as events occur. In another event, what seems like a cultural clash ends up not being the case due to the secrecy surrounding a young girl that she meets at her family reunion. The pacing is rather relaxed so it can feel a tad slow but it’s mostly fine and allows one to ponder the significance of certain events or piece together information from hints given. Buddhism is often mentioned including the idea that life is suffering. Fang wonders what the secret is to a happy marriage to which her grandfather replies with a very unromantic but perhaps sage response.
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Meditation Park (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Mina Shum
Cast: Cheng PeiPei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma
Review: The story focuses on a grandmother named Maria (Cheng PeiPei) who’s seemingly good life is turned upside-down when she discovers her husband’s (Tzi Ma) infidelity after celebrating his 65th birthday. Further tension arises when her adult daughter (Sandra Oh) comes for a visit to pass on a wedding invitation to Maria. It’s from the son whom her husband disowned in the past.
The acting performances are amazing. This combined with the nuanced writing and efficient editing allow the story to move at a good pace that doesn’t feel too slow, which is often a problem with some dramas. Each character has their flaws and even seemingly negative characters are given dimension that gives some explanation for their actions, whether it be the neighbor who “steals turns” and undercuts his price for his backyard parking or the mistress and Maria’s husband.
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Claire’s Camera (2017)
Director & Screenplay: Hong Sang-Soo
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kim Min-Hee
Review: The story for this movie is extremely simple. A French woman randomly meets a few Koreans (a man and two women) in Cannes during a film festival and finds out they know each other. Gradually their connections are revealed as she encounters each one multiple times and take polaroid photos of them believing that people change after she takes their photo.
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Although I was late in watching episode 1, I actually got a chance to see episode 2 at a preview screening which was cool. I also got to briefly meet most of the rest of the cast during CBC Montreal’s culture day when they dropped by in Montreal as part of their promo tour for season 2.
Janet plans to move out with her roommates but things don’t go as planned while Kimchee encourages Jung to make a move on Shannon even though she’s “with” Alejandro (first seen during the season 1 finale). I do admit to being uninterested in the apartment plot at times but it’s definitely relateable. Gerald actually has some funny lines here. The opening is quite amusing between Appa and Mr. Mehta as they discuss a particular euphemism and a meme.
Jung’s attempts to tell Shannon about his feelings lead to some funny moments but it seemed a bit off or at least too sudden for Jung to be so eager to do so. Then again maybe that’s the persuasive power of Kimchee. Overall, this was a solid episode that should gain some new fans. Old fans will appreciate getting reacquainted with the Kim’s, like meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen for a long time. Now for episode 2…
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My Love Story!! / 俺物語!! / Ore Monogatari!! (2015)
Directed by Hayato Kawai
Screenplay by Akiko Nogi
Starring Ryohei Suzuki, Mei Nagano, Kentarō Sakaguchi
Review: The main character Takeo (Ryohei Suzuki) is a teenager but looks like an older, burly man. People are often scared of him because of his looks but he’s actually a kind, helpful person. His best friend, Suna (Kentaro Sakaguchi), looks like a pretty boy and attracts a lot of girls including the ones that Takeo likes. No girls have ever liked Takeo but one day while walking with Suna he saves a girl named Rinko (Mei Nagano) from a harasser. When she thanks him he instantly falls for her. The next day she finds Takeo with Suna near their school. She wants to show her appreciation further by sharing a cake with them.
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Mini reviews of Free and Easy, The House of the Disappeared, Shock Wave, The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, Napping Princess, Love and Other Cults, Rage, Extraordinary Mission, Night is Short Walk On Girl.
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Blade of the Immortal / 無限の住人 / Mugen no jūnin (2017)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda
Review: This jidaigeki film was a last minute addition to the festival but what an addition it was being the director’s 100th film. As a result the theater was packed with his enthusiastic fans. It’s an adaptation of the hugely popular manga of the same name. Manji (Takuya Kimura, ex-leader of the recently disbanded boy band SMAP) is a samurai cursed with immortality after killing a hundred men. Fifty years later a young girl named Rin (Hann Sugisaki) seeks out Manji. She wants to hire him to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his fellow master fighters.
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