departuresWe watched Departures this weekend – amazingly beautiful, sad, funny, uplifting film.

A premiere symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands, leaving Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) suddenly unemployed.  Suffering from an innate sense that he is a mediocre musician, he faces up to the fact that not everyone who has devoted their life to music can become a top artist. With wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in tow, he moves back to his home town in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata.  They move into the crumbling remains of his mother’s house, which doubled as the local pub.

Spotting a Help Wanted ad featuring the word “departures,” he is excited about the prospect of trying a new career in the travel industry.  He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins lining the back wall of the office.  The company owner, Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. Daigo finally ventures to ask what is involved, exactly, and is stunned to learn what he has gotten himself into: the ceremonial “encoffination” of corpses prior to cremation.  Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash.  He’s getting older, and needs someone to carry on the tradition.

In desperate straits, Daigo overcomes his initial trepidation and begins to travel around Hirano with Sasaki. Sasaki is comically matter-of-fact but firm in his directives and the contention that they are providing an important service to their community.   Some cases are markedly traditional, featuring beatific family members in time-honored transition.  Others highlight family dramas fraught with inevitable collisions, eased into unexpected conclusion.  True to Sasaki’s expectations, Daigo develops a deep respect for life in all its variations, and a profound empathy for people trying to make peace with the finality of death.

Too embarrassed to tell his wife about his conversation-stopping profession and admit that he has fallen in love with the townsfolk, Daigo vainly tries to keep his new life secret. As their relationship hangs in the balance, the big question is how he’s going to react to surprising news she brings, as an encoffineer, as a husband, as a son and as a human being.   It is Daigo’s turn to deal with life and death among the people who are dearest to him.

A story of love, of discovery, of revelation and of the transcending human spirit, “Departures” will linger in your heart and mind long after viewing.

makeupI loved this movie, gorgeous scenery from Japan, insight into traditions and culture, humor, philosophy, etc. It has it all. Showing the traditions of funerals in Japan and how the times have changed them. A glimpse into something rarely seen. Daigo’s acceptance of his role and growing care and respect in the rituals of encoffination and the way he uses his skill at the end of the movie to resolve his feelings was very poignant and well done. Very good movie, very deserving of its accolades.

copyrights to HighRanger on Flickr

copyrights to HighRanger on Flickr

Post apocalypse Australia? Looking for Max Rockantasky driving a MFP pursuit special?

No, its a dust storm in Sydney, Australia. Severe drought and gale force winds picked up huge amounts of soil from Australia’s interior and caused this orange sky. The scene immediately brought to mind the post-apocalyptic ruined city in Mad Max: Beyond Thunder Dome.

After 25 years of development Hell we may finally get another Mad Max movie,  maybe as an animated movie this time around to boot.

Tina Turner’s official video:

wildthingsareI really hope that the movie version of Where the Wild Things Are turns out to be as good as the trailer makes it seem. The book is so short, I guess that a lot depends on what extras they tacked into it and how the story plays out….

the hidden bladeContinuing on with the theme of Samurai movies: The Hidden Blade is a 2004 production which embodies the current trend in samurai films, the move away from the “severed limbs and fountains of blood” that I touched on earlier. The current move is toward more humanistic portrayals of samurai, focusing on the emtional conflict between giri/ninjo (duty/morality) that happens when orders to do something which the samurai find morally wrong. From the Wiki:

The Hidden Blade (隠し剣 鬼の爪 Kakushi Ken: Oni no Tsume?, literally “Hidden Blade: Oni‘s Claw”) is a 2004 film set in Japan of the 1860s, directed by Yoji Yamada. The plot revolves around several samurai during a time of change in the ruling and class structures of Japan. The film was written by Yamada with Yoshitaka Asama and, like its predecessor The Twilight Samurai, based on a short story by Shūhei Fujisawa. The soundtrack is an original composition by Isao Tomita.

To sum up the plot without giving spoilers:

The epic tale of Munezo a samurai being displaced in a rapidly changing japan. After a failed political coup he is ordered to prove his innocence by finding & killing Yaichiro a former friend samurai & brilliant swordsman. Munezo enlists the help of their old teacher who entrusts him with a secret technique.

I love the attention to detail in the props. Like the teapot and the hot water bedwarmer.  The photography is gorgeous and the high production values really shine. The story really uses the northern Japan setting to its advantage, you never miss Edo. This was just an excellent movie all around. Action fans craving flashing swords and the aforementioned severed limbs will be disappointed since the pace is slow in building to the climatic swordfight. But I prefer the drama and conflict. The resolution between Munezo and Kie is very satisfying. Very highly recommended.

47RoninI have been into a movie kick lately. For some reason I have been getting into samurai movies big time lately. There is a trend to make samurai flicks more dramatic, more human and get away from the “fountains of blood” approach prevalent in the 70s and 80s.

Watched Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin over the weekend. Its the classic story of the Loyal 47 Ronin. (See the Wiki synopsis of the true story of the Asano ronin here) The revered story of devotion to duty and loyalty (giri in bushido) has been made into countless movies, TV shows, books, and manga. This particlar adaptation is well filmed but very quick, almost rushed. It jumps into the middle of the story and proceeds forward before suddenly bactracking to Lord Asano’s seppuku and their oath that starts the Chushingura story. It also rushes through several subplots with barely a pause for breath. best quote of the movie: “A samurai who doesn’t know accounting is useless.” The action gets rolling at the end and the pacing suits the story well as the battle unfolds. The editing of the battle in Kira’s compound needs some work as the movie fails to get a sense of layout of the mansion grounds across and the logic and planning that went into their attack is lost. All in all the styling and wonerful photography do redeem the movie along with very strong acting especially from Koji Ishizaka. I really want to know more of what happened in the story and plan on getting more on this historical event.

500x_conanArnold Schwarznegger still has his sword from the original Conan movie. Via io9:

Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Twitter: “I do still have the Conan sword, and I keep it in my office. Here’s a picture.”

lol, wonder if he takes practise swings?



Noburu Iguchi of Tokyo Gore Police fame is finishing up his next project, Robogeisha. Via io9 and Twitch:

RoboGeisha is the latest collaboration between Iguchi and special effects man Yoshihiro Nishimura – himself the director of Tokyo Gore Police – and it bears all of the now-classic hallmarks of the duo: outrageous special effects, grotesquely hilarious gore and weapons where weapons just should not go.

the official movie site is here and the trailer is up at Twitch. youtube trailer:

Do be forewarned though the trailer has fried shrimp jammed into eye sockets, violence galore. Funny as all get out though, Iguchi is a strange filmaker 🙂

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