Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014)

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We’ve all seen movies that advertise themselves as “based on a true story.” But what happens when someone actually believes that claim? Kumiko, a friendless, unmarried office worker in Tokyo, has convinced herself that the Coen Brothers film Fargo, wherein a criminal buries a suitcase full of money in the North Dakota snow, is real. So much so that she steals her boss’s credit card, abandons her apartment and pet rabbit, and journeys to the US to find the “treasure.” She barely speaks English, and has no real plan of how to find the fictional loot. But she’s determined, and won’t let anything, be it the cold, or the fact that the treasure isn’t real, stop her. What will happen? Watch the movie to find out. Continue reading

Audition (1999)

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7 years after his wife’s death, middle-aged businessman Aoyama is told by his son, Shigehiko, that he looks old, and should start dating again. Distraught, Aoyama goes to his friend, Yoshikawa, for advice, and Yoshikawa, believing that the current dating scene is too complex for Aoyama to navigate, devises a scheme to get his pal laid. This involves Yoshikawa, who is a film producer, setting up a phony audition wherein young women will come in and try out for the “part” of Aoyama’s wife. They won’t know what’s going on, and Aoyama can pick whichever one meets all of his criteria. In so doing, Aoyama comes across Asami, a shy, but well-spoken former ballerina whose apparent emotional depth is fascinating to him. As he grows closer to her, however, he starts to uncover some disturbing facts about her past, and realizes that maybe she’s not who she says she is.
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Isle Of Dogs (2018)

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The Japanese archipelago, 20 years in the future. Canine saturation has reached an all-time high, and an outbreak of dog flu has created mass hysteria within the city of Megasaki. To quell the panic, Mayor Kobayashi signs an executive order deporting all dogs, including his family’s pet, Spots, to nearby trash island; the newly christened “isle of dogs.” Unbeknownst to the public, however, the cat-loving Kobayashi actually created the virus to stir up anti-dog hysteria, and is actively repressing the fact that it can easily be cured. And as if this weren’t bad enough, the mayor’s nephew and ward, Atari, has stolen a plane, and flown over to the island to find his beloved Spots. WIll Atari find his dog? Will the truth about the Mayor get out to the public? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.
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Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)

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In 1920s Japan, 9-year-old Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold to pay off their impoverished families debts. Chiyo is purchased by a Geisha house, while Satsu is sent off to a brothel. At the Geisha house, Chiyo encounters the ruthless Hatsumomo, who, fearing that the young girl will grow up to replace her, makes her life a living hell. All this cruelty nearly breaks Chiyo, until, one day, she is shown a small act of  kindness by The Chairman, played by Ken Watanabe. This motivates Chiyo to become a Geisha, and she spends the next several years training in the art of music, dance, and conversation. Finally, after her instruction is complete, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a Geisha of incredible beauty and influence. She even finds The Chairman again, who claims not to recognize her after all these years. Things are looking up, until World War 2 breaks out, sending Chiyo’s life, once more, into turmoil.
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Mifune: The Last Samurai (2015)

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Toshiro Mifune; if you know anything about Japanese cinema, or cinema in general, really, you’ve heard that name before. Not only was he Japan’s biggest movie star in the 50s and 60s, but his films went on to inspire the likes of George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. To quote this documentary, “Without Mifune, there wouldn’t be a Magnificent Seven, Clint Eastwood wouldn’t have a Fist Full Of Dollars, and Darth Vader wouldn’t be a samurai.” And that’s true. Many of Mifune’s most popular films–Seven Samurai, Yojimbo–were remade in the States as Westerns. George Lucas openly admits that the original Star Wars was modeled after Mifune’s Hidden Fortress. And Darth Vader’s outfit is, indeed, highly reminiscent of a samurai’s armor. But who was he in real life? What was he like behind closed doors? Those are the questions that this documentary seeks to, and, in my opinion, manages, to answer. Because this is a highly engaging, deeply entertaining film. Continue reading

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

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In a dystopian, futuristic Tokyo, the line between humanity and technology has blurred. Virtually everyone is “enhanced” in some way, possessing cybernetic limbs, eyes, or, in the case of the film’s protagonist, an entire body. She is the first of her kind; a human consciousness, or “ghost,” inside an entirely robotic body, or “shell.” As such, she is stronger, faster, and more intelligent than regular people, and has absolutely no fear of death or injury, since she can just be rebuilt after being destroyed. This makes her the ideal police officer, and that’s precisely what she is, a member of the elite Crime Fighting Unit, Section 9, which takes down terrorists that threaten this new world. But when several high-ranking scientists of a prominent robotics firm wind up dead, and she and her teammates start investigating, she learns that there is more to her origin, and the man perpetrating these murders, than meets the eye. Continue reading