Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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The Rover

I saw this a couple of months ago and it's probably one of my favorite films of the last few years.  Kind of like a cross between the original Mad Max movie and an art film.  I liked it enough that I picked up the director's previous film, Animal Kingdom, which is also very good.  


This movie has its problems, but if it isn't a complete success it can lay the blame on overambition and big ideas, rather than underambition and big explosions (although, to be fair, it does have some big explosions, too).

If you ever looked out your window and grumbled, "Where are the jet packs and flying cars I was promised, dammit!", this movie has an answer for you.  And the answer is that we were too lazy and complacent to make our dreams real.  But it's not too late.

As messages go, I can think of worse ones.

From what I've heard, those jet packs only last about a minute, so not very fuel efficient. Not much fun if we're constantly having to fly to the nearest gas station.

On the other hand, how difficult could it be to make a cell phone you can wear on your wrist? Where's my two way wrist radio? 

I saw Tomorrowland on Saturday night and IMO it's biggest shortfall was implying that technology can solve all our modern problems, failing to address the problems caused by rampant overpopulation and associated environmental devastation and pollution.  OK, not all that surprising for this sort of film, and at least it didn't try to convince viewers that a return to blind faith in religion would solve everything.

Lots of movies I've seen in recent weeks without noting them here. Among them:

  • Unstoppable. Runaway train movie starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. Some careless doofus lets a train out of the train yard with nobody aboard that has the engine running at full throttle and no brakes. Denzel and Chris try to stop it, with coordination from Rosario Dawson at the control room. Good, clean, dumb fun.

  • Pulp Fiction. I didn't see it when it was out, and seeing it all these years later, I didn't get what the big deal was.

  • Avalon. The story of a Polish Jewish immigrant family who settles in Baltimore right around World War II and make a life for themselves in America, where anything is possible and the streets are paved with gold. Charming and heartwarming, and a nice antidote to The Wire -- and the news.

  • Ladder 49. Likewise. A firefighter in Baltimore is trapped in a burning warehouse, and as the rest of his company try to get to him, his life flashes before his eyes, starting with the day he joins the firehouse of the title. Keep a box of tissues handy.

  • Serpico. Early Al Pacino in this based-on-a-true-story about an honest-to-a-fault New York City cop who is surrounded by such casual corruption that he's set up to be killed -- but doesn't die, fortunately for him.

And there was Report to the Commissioner. Another early '70s New York City cop movie, although it is not based on a true story. It starred a young Michael Moriarty, who is thoroughly miscast as an idealistic hippie-dippie rookie detective who doesn't fit in with old-school bulls Yaphet Kotto and Vic Tayback. Moriarty's character, Bo Locksley, wants to relate to people where the old guard is all about knocking heads.

One day, he gets an assignment to find a teen runaway, a girl from South Succotash, Iowa or someplace. Old-school guys like Kotto or Tayback would make a show of asking around, file a report and forget about it -- which was exactly what was expected, as the "runaway" is actually an undercover cop posing at the girlfriend of a heroin dealer. Unbeknownst to her, her captain and her lieutenant decided that some dumb flatfoot making noises about looking for her would cement her cover with said dealer.

Unfortunately, this dumb flatfoot -- who didn't know the assignment was bogus -- was consumed with the sad thought that Ma and Pa Kettle back in Cornhusker, Indiana or wherever the heck she was from, were crying their eyes out about their little lamb in the wicked sinful Gomorrah that was 1970s New York, and resolved to actually find her. Worse, he DID find her. Still worse, he resolved to send her back to Wheatstraw, Kansas, or wherever it was -- which drove her crazy, wondering why this creep is stalking her. 

Our earnest detective comes to the loft the "girlfriend" shared with the heroin dealer -- and he shows up too(!). An argument ensues, shots are fired, and they rookie detective and the heroin dealer are off on a mad race across town, down fire escapes, across rooftops, behind alleyways, even on the roofs of cars, until they both wind up in an elevator in Macy's department store.

Thus begins an hours-long standoff between these two men, neither of whom knew the girl detective got killed in the crossfire back at the apartment. And her captain and her lieutenant, being the kind of ambitious sharks who lasted long enough in the NYPD to reach the rank of captain and lieutenant, finagle a way to cover their butts. At one point, there's a press conference about the standoff, and some reporter asks if this is a love triangle gone bad -- and they run with it.

Our doofus detective and our desperate drug dealer, meanwhile -- after several hours trapped with each other and no food, air or toilet facilities in that elevator -- come to a truce and agree to leave its confines. Our drug dealer emerges first, and immediately gets shot full of holes. Our poor rookie detective comes out second ... and is arrested for the murder of the woman, as the captain and sergeant floated the story that he was a jealous ex-boyfriend who couldn't stand to lose her to another man (and he's Black, too!). And our poor dumb rookie was so confused, dehydrated, and sleep-deprived, he actually started to believe the story was true! By the time the Report to the Commissioner of the title was prepared and delivered -- exonerating him and putting the blame on the captain and lieutenant, where it belonged -- our poor schmuck hung himself in despair. 

I read the book, and the movie brings it all to life, although it's rather grim. Includes an early appearance by Bob Balaban of The Legion of "Hey, It's That Guy!" Character Actors, and the first movie role for Richard Gere, as a pimp. Moriarty approaches him while looking for the girl from Cheese Curd, Wisconsin or some such, and Gere, being in the business he is in, gives him a girl -- one girl's the same as any other, hey? (A pissed-off Moriarty at first accepts the insult, but doubles back and lets Gere have it.)

Ma and Pa Kettle back in Cornhusker, Indiana ...

I think you meant to say Crabcracker, Maryland.   photo whistling.gif

Wikipedia says it was Cape Flattery, Washington. 

Really? I was sure it was South Succotash, Iowa ...  photo tongue.gif

Once you wade through the art house pretentiousness, all you end up with and all EX MACHINA ends up being is a movie about a guy trying to build a better sex toy. 

Fred W. Hill said:

I really enjoyed Ex Machina; great, thoughtful sci fi and I can really do without so much mindless action and explosions that are so prevelent in so many fantasy/action movies of the past decade or so.  Seventh Son I saw a few weeks ago and thought was far too cliche-ridden and forgetable.  My favorite comedic film of the last few months was What We Do in the Shadows. I rarely ever see films twice, but I did pay to see both Ex Machina and What We Do in the Shadows twice. 

I watched the silent film Seven Footsteps to Satan (1929), which is an adaptation of an A. Merritt thriller about a supercriminal. The movie has a different storyline, as I knew going in, but it takes more from the book than I expected. The book's hero is a man of action, but the movie's is an ordinary guy who proves to have the right stuff at the climax.

ClarkKent_DC said:

  • Pulp Fiction. I didn't see it when it was out, and seeing it all these years later, I didn't get what the big deal was.

I think that this is one of those cases where the movie has been copied, redone, remade, retooled, and plundered to such a degree that it's no longer possible to see its impact anymore. But it really was something new at the time.

Saw two Wachowski Bros films recently:

Jupiter Ascending

I wouldn't think it possible to remake David Lynch's Dune and have it actually be worse but they did it.

Cloud Atlas

This is as good s Jupiter Ascending is bad. Probably owing to the excellent source material.

Both movie are great eye candy though.

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