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: Let Me Eat Your Pancreas

Title: Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (Yes, the title is correct. I checked)

Japanese Title: 君の膵臓をたべたい || Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai

Starring: Kitamura Takumi, Hamabe Minami, Oguri Shun, Kitagawa Keiko, Otomo Karen, Yamoto Yuma, Sakurada Dori, Kamiji Yusuke, Morishita Daichi

Genre: Romance

Rating: 9/10

Holy crap what is that title

If you’ve been on a lookout for a zombie movie, you’re going to be sorely disappointed with this flick from Japan. Because as funky as the title is, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is anything but a gore fest.

Which is something I would have pinned it down as if not for the fact that I regularly lurk on the Moments page of HelloTalk. I saw people raving about how romantic/beautiful/poignant it is, so really, the thought of it being a horror flick pretty much diminished from my mind.

That doesn’t mean the same applies for everyone else, though. There was a handful of people at the cinema last night who kept staring at the screen, then at their tickets, then at the screen again in utter confusion. Of course, the words “What the heck is this movie about?” and “What movie is this?” followed suit. Like they had expected blood and violence instead of what appeared to be a serene, cherry blossom-blessed scene with young high school leads leading completely normal lives. Where were the guts and gore?

Oh, the pain.

Unfortunately for them, the most morbid thing in Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is the female lead’s joking comments about cannibalism.

So there’s no horror. What is it about then?

Set in Japan, Haruki is a high school teacher at the same school he graduated from. Despite choosing to pursue teaching due to the encouragement of someone special to him, he is laden with doubts. He has always been a loner, so really, what makes him suited to be a teacher? He has to interact with people, and that has never been his thing…

These doubts slowly begin to change when he is requested to sort out the books at the school library, which has to be closed down- for it has reached a state where it has been deemed too run down for use.

It is at this point onwards that his memories of his high school years begin to return to him with burning clarity- and with far greater frequency. Of his days spent with an ex-classmate, whom he had found out was suffering from a terminal pancreatic disease after he picked up her Illness diary at the hospital. Her name was Sakura, and there’s not a day that passes him by where he does not miss her.

What’s your take on it?

If I have to be brutally honest, even though I greatly enjoyed the movie, I wasn’t surprised by the way it turned out. It carries a lot of themes that are commonly found in Japanese stories (novels, dramas, anime, manga, etc…) and most prominently, it bears a strong resemblance to the live-action film, Your Lie in April. You know, the one starring that ball of fluff, Yamazaki Kento? That very one.

This familiarity with Japanese works is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t tear up during the film even though my friend did hahaha.

Still, though. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is a beautiful movie that is worth watching, and dare I say, it might be a bit better than Your Lie in April? It’s tough to say, because both are brilliant works with talented leads, so I’m going to say that this particular decision of mine is made out of pure taste. Because even though I adore Kento to bits, I prefer the more focused approach that Let Me Eat Your Pancreas has on the leads’ relationship.

So yes. I definitely recommend giving this a watch. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is hands down the, if not one of the, best romance Asian films I’ve seen to date. In fact, I still have this warm, feel-good feeling that it left me with as soon as the credits rolled last night.

It’s a lovely story about first love and I can’t help but to smile just thinking about it.

Just for fun

The title was shortened to “LET ME EAT YOU” on our movie tickets. My friend and I had a good laugh out of that!

I swear the title is a stroke of brilliance.

Movie Review: IT

Movie Review: IT

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer

Genre: Horror

Rating: 9/10

Warning: This post is NOT spoiler-free

Despite my general indifference towards the Horror genre, the moment I heard that a new adaptation of Stephen King’s famed “IT” was on the way, I couldn’t help but to sit up. As a fan of his literary works, how could I not? Till this day I look upon “Misery” as one of my favourite books of all time, psychopathy, gore and all.

So anticipation naturally mounted as months passed me by, with posters, dramatic clown sightings and a movie trailer only serving to increase it. When “IT” finally hit cinemas, I was quick to buy tickets the first chance I got.

And mind you, I was not disappointed. While my friend of 19 years squirmed in her seat even though it was already her second viewing of the film, my eyes were shining with anticipation. I had not managed to finish reading the novel like I originally planned -work reasons, of course- but I had read enough to have a good feeling about the general storyline. To think I got to watch the new adaptation so soon after picking up the book!

For those who are unaware of the plotline of the film, here is the gist of it: the small, inconspicuous town of Derry has something about it that slips under the radar for most. Something big. This thing being the chilling fact that it has the highest number of missing people cases in comparison to other towns- and by a startling mile. Even the inhabitants of Derry seem to approach this with a worrying lack of empathy, with the majority of its residents soon forgetting about such disappearances despite their mounting frequency. –And within that mass of bland, grey passivity is a young boy by the name of Ben.

A loner and a bookworm, this library-bound lad seems to be the only one who has noticed this trend at all. It is through his dusty readings that he notes these disappearances occur every 27 years, like clockwork. Such events tend to be isolated incidents as well, which serves as one of the primary reasons why no one living is around to provide any clues as to what had happened.

To delve further into the plot, the story starts with Georgie, the little brother of the protagonist. Whilst chasing the newly waxed paper boat that his older brother, Bill, had made for him, his brand new toy, carried by the flow of water from the heavy rain, falls into the drain. It is here that the unfortunate lad meets It, the being grinning from where it stands inside the drain. Calling itself Pennywise, It is disguised as a clown, for the sheer purpose of luring in its preferred prey- a tool that It utilizes to its very fullest, until it at last succeeds in coaxing poor George to draw closer.

A wash of crimson decorates the quiet Derry street, the colour soon disappearing as it slips into the drain.

Interestingly enough, if one were to step into the cinema without any IT novel knowledge whatsoever, they would find the story incredibly similar to Supernatural’s episode 2 of season 1, “Wendigo”.

The episode bears the following themes: a being that reawakens every set period of years to feast on unknowing victims before slipping into hibernation, few living to tell the tale, the creature’s habit of hoarding extra “sacks of meat” in its abode and its ability to imitate humans (at least in terms of speech).

The similarities are enough to cause one to wonder if wendigo lore had inspired King.

Or if IT had inspired Supernatural, much to Sam’s dismay.

So is it worth the watch?

Despite not being as scary as certain other horror films, “IT” is definitely one to put on your To Watch List. Masterfully created, this film is one that will have you gripping the edges of your seat while watching it- especially with it being one of those rare monster movies with a LOT of monster in it. Pennywise appears rather frequently, yet the terror it strikes into the hearts of viewers doesn’t waver an inch. As a matter of fact, the more often It appears, the more the situation escalates, to the point where you fear for the lives of the entire cast.

Who will die? Who will be the next to disappear?

Pennywise grins as you ponder this, eagerly waiting for more children to follow its psychological lure.

This heightened anxiety is propelled further by the structure of the movie, which is coloured by a thrilling story that explores the human psyche, and a stunning performance by the entire cast- most notably by the actor of the very being that everyone is afraid of.

Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise the Clown will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable clowns in film history- and yes, this is the very same list with the late Heath Ledger’s Joker on it.

At the same time, however, despite “IT” being scary while watching it, it fails to maintain that feeling even after the reel ends. This might just be me, though. Some people avoid drains and whenever they can, the bathroom, a long while after watching the film.

All in all? A movie that largely stays faithful to King’s literary giant (with a few changes, of course) whilst maintaining the ability to act as a stand alone. Simply brilliant, despite the shoddy censorship.

Something I’m sure other Malaysian moviegoers were as puzzled about as I was.

I mean, how could one swear word uttered by a child be censored while for pretty much the rest of the movie, the children swore freely? Then there were the kisses… One was cut out while the other wasn’t. The poor censoring work astounds me, as do the scenes that had been cut out. So a swear word is censored, but a mad clown feasting on a severed arm and waving it around happily isn’t?

Well, then. To each their own, I suppose.

Anyway, watch “IT”.