1551. A brutal and bloody civil war has ravaged Japan for a hundred years, ferocious warlords have been locked in a death struggle for supremacy in the fractured land. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan tells the tale of that era and how, through a painful birth, the modern Japan would be born.
Age of Samurai is a limited docuseries featuring the usual shtick: talking heads, narration, recreations with actors, and maps. So many juicy, juicy maps. However, it’s the way you tell ’em, and Age of Samurai has some wonderful acting, artfully but not distractingly shot talking heads, lush graphics, phenomenal editing, and a narrative structure that sucks us in. Forget anime and manga: this series is a gateway drug to Japanese culture. My only criticism is later important characters sometimes just pop up instead of being mentioned or having their importance artfully foreshadowed.
A kind of real life Game of Thrones… set in Japan, the twists and turns were riveting. I’ve never much been interested in Japanese history, but this has started a fever in my brain; let’s see where that fever leads.
The Harpers are struggling to deal with a recent tragedy in their family when a mysterious and evil presence begins to torment them within the sanctum of their already fractured home. A recent spate of child kidnappings adds further pressure on pater familias and local detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney). Can Greg and his wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) and teenage son Connor (Judah Lewis) hold it together? And what is the evil force which has begun to terrorise them?
I See You is a crime-horror-thriller that thoroughly involves you in its mythology from the start. It’s also an interestingly structured and plotted film without being overwrought in the least. Split quite neatly into two halves, the second offers us a completely different perspective on the story thus far and develops the plot in unforeseen ways. Yet despite the unexpected twists, I See You is never a shlocky twistomatron, throwing up mindbending twists for the Hell of it. Quite the opposite: everything moves and develops in a completely believable way. Indeed, at the half way point where we begin to see the story from a different angle, so to speak, I felt momentarily deflated that the “reveal” was so soon. Yet this half-way point reveal was only the beginning of what was a wonderful ride indeed.
The music and sound design was thoroughly disturbing from the very beginning. It combined with the cinematography to unsettle and rivet us simultaneous. Never a boring moment. I kept waiting for the film to careen off the tracks as so many of this kind do in the second or third act. But it never happened. The writing was first rate and all the actors convinced. But the cherry on the cake? Horror now has a new iconic image to add to its scripture (see the poster above). This movie has all the traits I associate with a franchise-spawning beast, and I foretell a slew of much worse sequels coming from this bad boy.
You may have noticed that I haven’t said too much about the plot details-wise. Well frankly, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just watch this movie. Highly satisfying in every way.
Live Twice, Love Once a.k.a. Vivir Dos Veces (‘Live Twice’) is the touching story of a retired university lecturer Emilio (Oscar Martinez) who, upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, decides to track down the one who got away. Think of it as a geriatric Road Trip, with a less severe neurodegenerative disorder.
Funny and heart-warming, all four of our leads convince and the characters win our hearts. Emilio, a passive-aggressive and sardonic old stick-in-the-mud; Julia (Inma Cuesta), his somewhat naggy but deeping caring daughter; Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell), the cheese to her grandfather’s chalk; and Julia’s online life coach husband Felipe (Nacho Lopez), more believable and less zany than you’d think.
The change in Emilio’s very personality is poignant, and the trip (literal and metaphorical) which our characters embark on is by turns funny and touching. However, I felt there was something lacking in the somewhat forced double climax to the movie.
When a home birth goes tragically wrong, Marta (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean’s (Shia LaBeouf) marriage and lives spiral viciously downwards as they struggle to deal with their awful loss.
Pieces of a Woman features powerful central performances from Kirby and LaBeouf. The film was realistic and often crushingly depressing. But it also dragged. Slow to move, it wasn’t so much a slow-burner as a slow-flickerer. It was missing that little something extra. None-the-less, the brilliance of the cast, the direction, the editing, and the realism of the script make it one worth seeing.
Not so much a well-structured narrative but rather well-drawn characters.