After watching a string of 9 films within the space of a week: I have decided to do some novelty by presenting a few awards for the JFF. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the JFF organisers for allowing me to review this year’s impressive line-up of films. Let the drum rolls begin:
HK Neo Reviews Awards – 15th Japanese Film Festival in Sydney
So that’s it for this year JFF – I certainly had a loads of fun! I look forward to next years JFF!
If any of you are in Melbourne the JFF begins tomorrow from 29th November to 6 December 2011. So join in the fun.
As for any of the above award recipents and you happen to come across this site and read this and you are in Sydney. Feel free to contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org and I will present you with the HK Neo Reviews Award – JFF edition.
Hankyu Railways is not the usual kind of film. It is a film about life experiences, the ups and downs, the hope, the miracle and the people around us. The film possesses multiple plotlines and somehow they will all interlink together through a 15 minute train ride on the Hankyu Railways. The obvious flaw about this film is that it requires more verbal and obvious expressions to express out its underlying message in place of subtlety and cleverness. In doing so, it seems like the audience is reading the film like a book and thus losing some lasting effect that it could be capable of. Still, Hankyu is an extremely well-meaning drama that depicts how people deal with ups and downs in life. How someone you randomly sit next to on the train, can have an influence in your life and decision. It is by all means a positive film and provides hope for those that require it. Some stories are more interesting than others, in particular of interest will be the story of the good girl (played by the very pretty Erika Toda – see pictures below) being in a violent relationship with a total jerk and the main story of a woman going to her cheating fiancé’s wedding in a bridal white dress. There are some moments in the film that seems real and others that seem to be more manufactured and laboured. Still, Hanky Railways is by no means a terrible film, but rather it is what you call an uneven well-meaning film that isn’t executed as well as it can be. All in all, Hankyu Railways does convey its message out even if it is a tad too obvious and its well-meaning and positive nature provides people who are facing difficulties in their life with some sort of hope. There is a quote in the film that I wanted to share about cutting the losses in life: “you can cry as much as need to, but you need to know when to stop the tears from continuing.” Overall, the film is not bad, but not great…
From the creators of the acclaimed Spirited Away, Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle comes another imaginative anime flick that brings you back to your childhood memories and dreams. As a child, I have always dream about another world that exists within our world where tiny people exists, but we cannot see. I remember playing lego and imagining building a house for them. Therefore in the sell-out screening of Arrietty, it invoked and clicked at my memories. Imagine a family of tiny human beings living in your basement with their own little dream house. Such is the simple yet creative premise of this film and it is exactly why the film works. What I love about Studio Ghibli anime feature films is that they are just as appealing to children and for adults alike. There are always themes and motifs behind its simple and imaginative nature. The characters seem to come alive within their cartoon outlook and the scenery and details are simply beautiful to watch and endure. Arrietty may never reach the heights of Totoro or Spirited Away, but it remains true to the line of films that we have all grown up and dream about. Sometimes, in the midst of adult life with all the daily stress and growing up reality, it is wonderful to be able to escape into another world and become a carefree and imaginative child for a little while. Arietty is exactly that and therefore it succeeds in its attempt. All in all, Arrietty is a kind of film that is impossible to dislike, certainly a crowd pleaser and a beautiful dream to aspire to. I feel like I am a child again…
A Boy and His Samurai is a perfect example of how to blend comedy, drama and emotions all into one mixture of a delicious cake. This film has a rare and unique quality that captures the audience attention from the beginning to the very end. In the midst of the film, it also have the ability to make you laugh, cry a little and finishes off with a bittersweet smile. In essence this is a movie made for kids, but also an enjoyable film for adults to watch together. This is the kind of movie that Ninja Kids!!! fails to be and should have been. Putting in a Samurai of the 1800s Edo period into modern day Tokyo is a smart idea, but full credit must go to the entire likeable cast of Ryo Nishikido, Rie Tomosaka and Fuku Suzuki. In particular Fuku Suzuki steals the show with steady child cuteness and the trio (Nishikido and Tomosaka) plays off each other with chemistry and fun. All in all, A Boy and His Samurai is one of those films that allows the audience to enjoy the experience, laugh together, carefree, light-hearted and engages the audience at an emotional level. It is a rare quality and the pacing is much faster than most Japanese movies. In doing so, A Boy and His Samurai is fast becoming a contender as the most enjoyable movie at the 15th Japanese Film Festival. A must see.
Peak: The Rescuers is exactly what you expect, a movie about mountain rescuers saving people in the face of adversity and dangerous weather conditions. In delivering as expected, the film succeeds without any major fireworks, but rather going the safe route of efficiency and effectiveness. The film is ably aided by an extremely charismatic performance from lead actor – Shun Oguri, which allows the film to storm through the audiences’ minds at a million miles an hour. Director Osamu Katayama does extremely well in setting up a tense finale through some excellent build up work, Although, Peak: The Rescuers is easily inspiring, the film lacks an emotional punch and the result is definite failure to fully engage the audience in the proceedings. Another flaw is the constant cutting of rescue sequences or in particular the non-showing of the much awaited amputation scene. Gruesome and cruel it may seem, but if the actual scene is shown, the emotional engagement level will undoubtedly increase. In saying that, Peak: The Rescuers is by no means a bad movie as it pretty much delivers as per expectation. In fact, this is a film that could have been great, if only for the emotional engagement factor. Still, the film ends on a good note: “What do you never ever abandon? Life.” Go Sanpo!
Neo rates it 7.25/10
Writing about Asian and World cinema since 2004 (Member of Film Critic Circle of Australia and Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts)