Movie Review: Downsizing

Rating: 4/10

Genre: Science fiction/Comedy/Drama

Language: English

Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Udo Kier

While I usually have something to say before moving on to the review, I don’t have much to say for this one. So rather than going on pointlessly just for the sake of it, here is the review:

What is it about?

“Downsizing” is essentially a social commentary of the environmental state of our world today. The premise of the film is that, after a scientist made an incredible breakthrough that enables him to shrink living things, a movement is made to downsize humans in order to save the environment. It is a desperate, highly unconventional move in response to global warming, but it also deeply reflects just how serious the state of the world is in.

Fast forward a couple of years in time, the world’s microcommunity has grown- enough to have an impact on the economy. Houses are being left vacant due to the previous tenants having moved to much tinier accommodations, and businesses aren’t making much money because- let’s face it, tiny people don’t need as much as their larger counterparts.

In the middle of this changing society are Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey Safranek (Kristen Wiig). Paul and Audrey are a couple with financial issues, and after reuniting with old friends who had gone through the downsizing process, they start considering the possibility of doing it as well. After all, their friends seem happy, and beyond helping to save the environment, they’re also enjoying the good things in life- all thanks to the increase in the value of their money.

Eventually, the couple makes the choice to get themselves downsized as well, but Audrey backs out at the very last minute- leaving Paul devastated, betrayed and, well, tiny. Left in a world where he’s completely separated from his family, the majority of his friends and his wife- what is he to do?

Is it worth a watch?

If your idea of a good time is being bored to death, then yes, it is worth a watch. Although it possesses a pretty promising premise, “Downsizing” largely fails to entertain. The world that is painted in this film is drab and lacks colour, and the characters themselves fail to intrigue. There is very little to find interesting or emotionally compelling about the characters; in fact, one of the few times you’d find yourself emotionally invested is when Paul gets betrayed by Audrey.

The fact that the film tends to drag on unnecessarily doesn’t do it any favours either. I actually found myself looking at my watch quite a few times during the film, wondering when it would end.

So no, I wouldn’t recommend watching this film. Its only shining star is Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), whose overly blunt nature successfully cracked a couple of laughs from the audience.

Movie Review: ReLIFE

Rating: 7/10

Genre: Romance/Science Fantasy/Drama

Language: Japanese

Starring: Nakagawa Taishi, Taira Yuna, Takasugi Mahiro, Ikeda Elaiza, Okazaki Sae, Chiba Yudai

Seeing that a major part of my job is now writing movie reviews, I think I’ll write as many movie reviews as I can on this blog, just to get some practice in. I’m still pretty new to the art, so it would be good to get more used to writing such reviews without spoiling the story. Practice makes perfect, amirite?

Which brings me to point of this post. I actually watched this version of “ReLIFE” quite a while ago, but didn’t have the chance to write about it until now.

Life has been very much busy and not at all conducive for blogging. I am here now, though, and ready to give my opinion on this version of “ReLIFE”. Please note that I’ll mainly be comparing the film to the anime because I’ve not read the manga.

For my review on the “ReLIFE” anime, click here.

What is it about?

If you’ve taken the time to at least keep up with news regarding Japan every now and then, you might have heard of the term “karoshi”, and in turn, the difficulties found in a Japanese working environment.

For those who aren’t aware, “karoshi” is a Japanese word that is defined as death from overwork, or suicide from work-related stress.

As one of the few Japanese entertainment shows to touch upon the subject, I was immediately intrigued. A show about karoshi? You can bet I’d pay to see that- and I did.

The story starts with a peek at half-NEET Kaizaki Arata’s daily life. After quitting his job of only 3 months, he struggles to find employment, as companies refuse to hire someone who seems unreliable on paper. He claims that the reason behind his resignation is that the company “does not fit his highest potential” when in reality, he couldn’t bear the thought of working for a black company any longer.

So with his reputation in pieces, he walked away from that job and has been struggling ever since. The situation only worsens when his parents cut off his allowance, and he has to fall back on his only other source of income- a part-time job he managed to snag at a mini market.

It is at this point that Yoake enters his life, and offers him a job opportunity, on the condition that he agrees to be a test subject for a scientific experiment first. This experiment involves rejuvenating Kaizaki by 10 years and sending him back to highschool as a student, in order to fix whatever is wrong with his life as well as to provide a chance of enjoying youth again.

Desperate and running out of funds, Kaizaki agrees and signs the contract.

So that was it. He has a year to fix his life and maybe, just maybe, score a job.

Is it worth a watch?

Yes, I would think so. Despite being born from the same source, the live action version of “ReLIFE” is not exactly the same as its anime counterpart. Instead of having 13 episodes to squeeze everything into, the movie version has to work with a trimmer time slot (about 2 hours, if I recall correctly?)- and that means several things have to be changed.

For the first part of the movie, “ReLIFE” pretty much follows the same storyline as its anime counterpart. It then diverges from anime canon, but not so much that it affects the quality of the story. At least in my opinion. The changes they’ve made are reasonable enough that it doesn’t feel too unnatural or out of place in the story, which is something that tends to happen when producers change the storyline in live action or anime shows for whatever reason there may be. Anime/manga fans ought to be especially familiar with this phenomenon.

How many of us have sat through an anime or live action film, feeling incredibly annoyed that the producers have made ridiculous changes to the story? (When I say story, I mean the manga or novel that anime and live action films tend to originate from.)

That aside, other notable changes that can be found in this version of “ReLIFE” is that the more “problematic” undertones in the story have been taken away, probably to keep things light seeing that they’re working on very limited time. Arata’s inner conflict about being much older than his “peers” has been glossed over and ignored, but this change can be forgiven. There is also not as much focus on the identity of Arata’s (Nakagawa Taishi) superior, which is again different from the treatment the character received in the anime.

Another change you can expect is that the main couple of this film enjoys a more “complete” ending. While I do not feel that the decisions made for them to reach that point really make much sense, there is still a sense of closure that fans of this series get to enjoy here as opposed to the anime.

Overall though, I’d say that “ReLIFE” is worth a watch. It’s lighter than the anime, fans of the main couple are definitely in for a treat, and this adaptation is in no way inferior to the anime despite the differences.

Movie Review: Isshuukan Friends

Rating: 8/10

Genre: Romance/Drama

Language: Japanese

Starring: Kawaguchi Haruna, Yamazaki Kento

I actually watched this one a while ago, but I never got round to writing about it until… today (and “today” should be 14 January because this post is scheduled).

Thanks to my growing fondness for Yamazaki Kento, this is another movie of his that I picked up immediately after seeing him on the DVD cover. Because… why not, right. He seems to appear in a lot of good movies too, so all the more reason to check it out. 😀

He’s not one of the most popular Japanese actors today for no reason, amirite.  With that said, on to the rest of the post!

What is it about?

“Isshuukan Friends” or “One Week Friends” if translated to English, is a live action film based on the manga “Isshuukan Friends” by Hazuki Matcha.

It is about a teenage boy named Hase Yuki (Yamazaki Kento) who wants to be close to Fujimiya Kaori (Kawaguchi Haruno) after falling for her during their first (admittedly awkward) encounter. Yet despite all of his attempts to close the distance between them, he gets shut down. One would think that it’s all because of the terrible first impression that he had made with her, but as he eventually finds out, there is more to it than that.

The reason Kaori refuses to be friends with him is because she suffers from a memory impairment; she forgets everything that happened to her by every Monday. Which is already in itself problematic, but her concern runs deeper than that. She feels as though friends would eventually get tired of reintroducing themselves to her over and over again, so why bother?

But being the bright, persistent lad that he is, Yuki isn’t put off by such a prospect. He still wishes to be close to the stoic girl and so devises a creative way of ensuring she wouldn’t forget their newfound friendship.

Is it worth a watch?

If you’re looking for a light film to spend a chill Sunday afternoon with, then yes, “Isshuukan Friends” is worth a watch. Like the majority of anime/manga, the main characters serve as foils to one another; Yuki, who is bright, goofy and optimistic, and Kaori, who is quiet, aloof and pessimistic.

However, in spite of their differences, the pair work well together as a pair- especially with Kento bringing light-heartedness to the screen with ease, a performance that is met with much applause considering the number of cold, serious roles that he has assumed. Really, one cannot help but to be warmed by the sincerity of his character’s persistence. Haruna is not to be forgotten either, as she plays the distant, and emotionally and psychologically fragile Kaori as though it is natural to her.

And the supporting cast? While I would have liked to have seen more of Matsuo Takashi (Kiryu Shogo), the supporting cast as a whole do well in adding more heart to “Isshuukan Friends”. Takashi as the badass, genius friend and Takahashi Haori (Yamagishi Saki) as the kind, caring friend who miraculously does not hold an ounce of maliciousness in her even when the odds aren’t in her favour.

The best part, though? The usual over the top qualities of anime/manga are absent in this live action movie.

All in all, the ideal teenage film to enjoy during the weekend.

Movie Review: Heroine Disqualified

Rating: 6/10

Genre: Romance/Comedy

Language: Japanese

Starring: Kiritani Mirei, Yamazaki Kento, Sakaguchi Kentaro, Fukuda Ayano, Wagatsuma Miwako, Takahashi Maryjun, Nakao Akira, Yanagisawa Shingo, Rokkaku Seiji, Hamada Mari, Takeuchi Riki

I admit it. I got bitten by the Yamazaki Kento bug, and I have absolutely no regrets about it. Ever since I discovered him, I’ve taken it upon myself to purchase just about every movie of his in sight- even though most of them are of the Romance genre, a genre I normally don’t care for. Maybe I’m just lucky or the guy has a lot of good movies, but I enjoyed most if not all of his work thus far.

Including this one (somewhat. I’ll get into that a bit more later).

This is the latest one I’ve watched, and it’s called “Heroine Disqualified”.

What is it about?

As with most teen romances, the plot of “Heroine Disqualified” is fairly simple. Matsuzaki Hatori (Kiritani Mirei) is a highschool student who is in love with her childhood friend, Terasaka Rita (Yamazaki Kento). Being as close as she is to him, she ardently believes that he will eventually choose her as his girlfriend. So much so that she refuses to conduct the almost mandatory act of “kokuhaku”, claiming that as the woman, she should be the one to be confessed to.

Alas, that is not the case. Instead of getting a confession, Rita starts going out with Adachi Miho (Wagatsuma Miwako), much to Hatori’s horror. That’s not how things are supposed to go!

Whilst she kicks herself for her stupidity, the most popular male student, Hiromitsu Kosuke (Sakaguchi Kentaro), begins to take an interest in her.

Perhaps not all is lost after all?

Is it worth a watch?

Despite the charms that “Heroine Disqualified” has, the fact that it has such an unrelatable main character does it a great disservice. Hatori is a product of directly translating an anime/manga character into the live action world, which more often than not isn’t a good idea. Not if you want a live action character that the audience can relate to on a human level, no.

Hatori is much like any anime/manga character turned live action. She’s exceedingly loud, her reactions are over the top and moments where she seems human are few and far between.

This wouldn’t have been such a problem if she wasn’t the main character, but she is.

That aside, the shiny offerings that “Heroine Disqualified” has come in the form of the two male heroes, Rita and Kosuke. Rita is a stoic lad who has issues with being close to others despite craving intimacy. Kosuke on the other hand is confident, and has no qualms whatsoever with initiating the first move with whomever he’s interested in. Both young men played their roles splendidly, though Kosuke does have a touch of anime/manga-ism to him (why in the world would he suddenly take such an interest in Hatori? In the real world, people would’ve had that girl tested).

As for the story itself, it is structured well enough that it does not feel like it is going too fast nor too slow. It also holds just enough of that cute, amusing factor to push it a tiny bit over the “just average” movie rating.

So is it worth a watch? Maybe, if you also like and understand how anime/manga works. Otherwise, the insanity of Hatori’s behaviour might be lost on you.

TV Series Review: Yamada and the Seven Witches

Starring: Yamamoto Yusuke, Nishiuchi Mariya, Triendl Reina, Ide Takuya, Ono Ito, Mamiya Shotaro, Kobayashi Ryoko, Miyama Karen, Kojima Fujiko, Matsui Airi, Takuyama Hidenori, Nagae Yuuki

Genre: Romantic comedy, supernatural

Episodes: 8

Rating: 4/10

Ever since I started attending Japanese language classes, I’ve taken the initiative to watch more Japanese shows that extend beyond anime. Despite having seen a few since then, this will be the first one I’ll be touching on- simply because I suck and had next to no opportunity to write during the time. Perhaps one of these days I’ll write about the rest, because there were quite a few gems in the lot.

Anyway.

After watching so many slice of life films and tv shows, I decided I wanted to try something different. I wanted to see the Japanese’ hand on the fantasy genre. Should be interesting, right?

So, compelled by the eye-catching DVD cover and 3 for RM30 offer, I picked up “Yamada and the Seven Witches”, the live-action version of a manga series by Yoshikawa Miki.

What is it about?

The story starts with the introduction of the two main characters, Yamada Ryū (Yamamoto Yusuke) and Shiraishi Urara (Nishiuchi Mariya).

Yamada is the school delinquent. Much like a good chunk of anime/manga protagonists, Yamada is naive, blunt and as dumb as a sack of bricks. Shiraishi, on the other hand, is a quiet, smart girl who is currently being bullied by her peers.

One day, Yamada and Shiraishi accidentally trip whilst they are walking up a flight up stairs. A rough fall in which they knock into each other and inadvertently have their lips connect is where the string of events that follow begins. This is because after Yamada awakens from his fall, he realises that he’s in Shiraishi’s body, and she his.

They had swapped bodies.

What in the holy Hell?! Panic grips him and he works with her to return to his own body. Unfortunately for Yamada, however, it doesn’t just end there. He soon finds himself in a mind numbing web that involves witches, dastardly schemes and magic.

Time for the nitty gritty

If you’re the sort of person who likes watching shows with actual depth and meaning, you should probably give this one a pass.

Although “Yamada and the Seven Witches” does have its highlights, it is largely a show that runs on a senseless plot that solely depends on fanservice, with the added trait of trying to emulate the immature side of anime/manga as much as possible. It is for the latter reason that “Yamada and the Seven Witches” is rife with over the top reactions, strange logic and bizarre interactions that cannot be found in real life. The characters are, in the simplest term possible, caricatures.

So those who are unfamiliar with the nature of anime/manga will likely find this incredibly off-putting and nonsensical- although to be fair,  older fans of the genre will probably share the sentiment. The main difference is that they would understand why the material is the way it is. It is crack and honestly isn’t meant to be taken seriously.

That is not to say that this eight episode series is a total loss; as mentioned earlier, it does have its strong points.

These strong points are the cast and the light-hearted humour it is injected with. For all of “Yamada and the Seven Witches” faults, the actors and actresses have done no wrong and have simply done their job in giving a good performance. Colourful and vibrant, it is through their work that the series retains some semblance of entertainment value, thank Heavens.

So would I recommend this to anyone who wants anything remotely serious? Definitely not.

But I would recommend this to someone who doesn’t mind spending a lazy Sunday afternoon watching senseless fun and a near endless stream of fanservice.

“Yamada and the Seven Witches”? More like “Yamada and Every Man and Woman on the Planet”.

You get the picture.