Thursday, 13 November 2014

Review: Lady Maiko

The much anticipated Sydney leg of this year’s Japanese Film Festival has opened, and musical comedy Lady Maiko is the Opening Film. It is a well-chosen film to open the Festival as comedies have traditionally been particularly well received as the opening films at the Festival, and it is helmed by internationally acclaimed director Masayuki Suo. Those of you who have read my earlier post would know that Suo is a director whom I am very fond of. Shall We Dance? is my all-time favourite Japanese film, while Sumo Do, Sumo Don't also ranks high on my favourites list. It is great to see Suo return to comedies after a long break from directing followed by a pair of serious dramas (I Just Didn’t Do It and The Terminal Trust).

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Review: Climbing To Spring

Climbing To Spring is veteran cinematographer Daisaku Kimura's follow up to his directorial debut The Summit: A Chronicle Of Stones. I had the pleasure of reviewing The Summit for the Japanese Film Festival Official Blog in 2011 and loved it. So I was really looking forward to this new film that is lensed, co-written and directed by Kimura, and it does not disappoint. There are many similarities between these two films: both are drama that focus on life's journeys, set in the mountains and boast beautiful cinematography. While not quite as epic in scale as the award-winning The Summit, Climbing To Spring is more focused and accomplished. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Review: Leaving On The 15th Spring

For most of us, moving from primary to high school is an important milestone; but for the Japanese people living on the remote Minamidaito Island situated 360km east of the main island of Okinawa, where there are no high schools, having secondary education takes on a special meaning because the young people have to leave the island in the spring of their 15th year. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: My Little Sweet Pea

Japanese filmmakers are experts at crafting gentle, touching family dramas, and My Little Sweet Pea is another fine example. Director Keisuke Yoshida has made a film that is accessible and intimate, and most viewers will be touched by the film’s tender moments, while those with active lacrimal glands may even shed a tear or two. It is not all sad, however. There is actually a good sense of humour to be appreciated here, including a fun animated sequence made by Production I.G.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: The Snow White Murder Case

Yoshihiro Nakamura is a great storyteller. His previous films like Fish Story, Golden Slumber and A Boy and His Samurai (JFF 2011) all perfectly demonstrated his incredible ability to tell stories in a way that keeps audiences interested and intrigued from a film’s introduction to its conclusion. The Snow White Murder Case, his latest film, is another fine addition to his filmography. Featuring a great cast who all give credible performances, it is an exciting, enjoyable and entertaining film, which carries with it a simple but important message for all of today’s worshippers of social media.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

2014 Japanese Film Festival Announces Additional Films For Sydney And Melbourne

Just like in previous years, the 2014 Japanese Film Festival will be featuring an extended program for Sydney (13 - 23 November) and Melbourne (27 November - 7 December). There will be a total of over 50 titles to choose from this year.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Review: Why Don’t You Play In Hell?

Sion Sono sure knows how to make fun and insane movies. With films like Suicide Club and Love Exposure, he has entertained lots of viewers and at the same time offended many others. The films’ bloody violence and obscene subject matters may well be a turn-off for some, but others don’t seem to be able to get enough of them. Now, after making some serious drama like Himizu and The Land Of Hope, his new film Why Don’t You Play In Hell? marks a return to the over-the-top style of filmmaking that he is most famous for. And the result? It's exhilarating!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Trailer: Twilight Sasara Saya

Here’s a nice trailer (in Japanese without English subtitles) for upcoming Japanese drama Twilight Sasara Saya. It is directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, who had 2 films featured at the 2011 Japanese Film Festival – medical drama In His Chart and food film Patisserie Coin de Rue.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review: Short Peace

Short Peace is a collection of short anime films from a group of talented anime directors led by the great Katsuhiro Otomo. The film opens in a spectacular fashion thanks to work by Koji Morimoto. Viewers are then treated to the following shorts:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Trailer: The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

From Studio Ghibli co-founder and director Isao Takahata (Grave Of The Fireflies) comes the new film The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, which is based on a classic Japanese folktale. An English-dubbed trailer has become available ahead of the films North American theatrical release on October 17. The voice cast includes Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Darren Criss, and Lucy Liu.

Review: Wood Job!

If you have seen director Shinobu Yaguchi’s previous films such as Waterboys and Swing Girls, you should be familiar with his winning formula: place the main characters in a strange situation where they have to overcome some major challenges (often with unexpected and hilarious results) and allow them to ultimately triumph in a rousing climax that invariably makes viewers laugh, clap and cheer. His latest film Wood Job! does not stray too far from this formula, which means it is another heartwarming zero-to-hero comedy, something that Yaguchi has perfected over the years. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Focus: Director Masayuki Suo

Born in 1956, Masayuki Suo is one of Japan’s most renowned film directors. At the Awards of the Japanese Academy, he has twice won the Best Director Award. Internationally, his films are regularly screened at film festivals all around the world.  

Thursday, 18 September 2014

News: Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Scored Massive Opening

Last weekend, The Legend Ends, the second sequel and final film in the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, easily opened on top of the Japanese box office. It sold an incredible 717,958 tickets for 919,479,200 yen, beating the record of its predecessor, Kyoto Inferno, for Japan’s biggest domestic live-action film opening in 2014.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

My Thoughts On 2014 JFF’s National Program – Part 2

The rest of the national program for this year’s Japanese Film Festival in Australia includes quite a number of films that are potentially very good.

If you like hilarious comedies and don’t mind them being a little silly, Thermae Romae and its sequel Thermae Romae II are for you. Adapted from a manga and anime series, the films tells the story of a time-travelling Roman architect in modern day Japan.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Trailer: Pale Moon (Kami no Tsuki)

From time to time, I will be posting Japanese film trailers on this blog. Please note that the films for which trailers are featured here may not necessarily be selected films at the Japanese Film Festival. 

Embedded below is the trailer (in Japanese and without English subtitles) for Pale Moon, the new film directed by Daihachi Yoshida (The Krishima Thing – winner of Best Film, Best Director and Best Editing at the 2013 Awards of the Japanese Academy and featured in JFF’s encore screenings earlier this year). It stars Rie Miyazawa (The Twilight Samurai, Kiki’s Delivery Service – JFF 2014), Sôsuke Ikematsu and Renji Ishibashi.

My Thoughts On 2014 JFF’s National Program – Part 1

It is wonderful to see the Japanese Film Festival expanding to more venues than ever before. It is a great film festival and cinema lovers in Australia and New Zealand would no doubt cherish the opportunities to experience some wonderful Japanese films.

The national program that was announced yesterday certainly has a healthy balance of films from different genres, and the following are my picks:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

2014 JFF’s National Program Announced

The national program for this year’s JFF has just been announced. As usual, it is looking sensational. I will soon be sharing my thoughts about the program, but you can first read the official media release below:

Welcome To The Unofficial Japanese Film Festival Blog!

I LOVE Australia’s Japanese Film Festival.

The reason is simply that I love Japanese films and Australia's Japanese Film Festival is the largest film festival outside of Japan to showcase Japanese cinema. Every year, the Festival has an eclectic selection of films that always make for a fascinating cinema-going experience. Whether you're into action, drama, comedies or documentaries, there is really something for everybody.