Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Battle Royale (2000)

Battle_royale_pochette

Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure

Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda

Synopsis: A class of teenagers are abducted and forced to take part in a military exercise where they must kill each other on a deserted island until only one is left…..so kind of like the hipster Hunger Games.

I remember when I was in high school, this was the cult film that everyone had to watch. I had managed to get my hands on a copy of the film and it ultimately got passed around the class like a soggy biscuit at Eton. At the time this film was released, it was shocking, harrowing, polarising, but unquestionably brilliant. After re-watching the film, I’ve come to the conclusion that it still is. It’s not brilliant solely because of its action, or its beauty, or its twisted sense humour. Battle Royale is brilliant because it manages to combine all these and turn a story about basic characters senselessly killing one another into a moving coming of age tale.

I think that the thing that gives Battle Royale its power is its characters. In total, there are about 43 that appear throughout the course of the movie. Creating a movie with that number of characters is a daunting task but the makers Battle Royale rose to the challenge admirably. Of course, many of the characters are killed off quickly but even characters that appear for one extended scene only are given their own unique personalities and quirks and histories. This is best seen with the character of Chigusa. In one scene the film establishes that she is an athlete, proud, fearless, and that she will kick the ass (and knife the balls) of anyone who attempts to rape her. The audience barely knows her and yet we end up respecting and liking her immensely, which makes her exit from the film all the more tragic and beautiful.

ChigusaRIP you super fierce bi-atch

Of course there are other characters that are wonderful. Takeshi Kitano’s character adds depth and a much needed adult perspective. I have the biggest crush on Hiroki and, when commenting on the characters, it’s hard not to give attention to Mitsuko Souma, the school hussy. In short, the film presents a myriad of complex characters and it makes you feel for them even though not a lot time is dedicated to them. One character in particular only gets a couple of minutes of screen time but she is easily one of the best in the whole film.

BR Lady“You’ve been selected to kill each other. CONGRATULATIONS!”

One of the other brilliant things about this film is that it encourages its audience to engage their imagination and ponder about what they would do if they were forced to enter into a fight to the death. What would you do? Would you hide or would you play the game? What sort of weapon would you want to get? A gun or something like a tracking device that allows you to avoid the competition? Very few films manage to draw in their audiences in such a way right off the bat but Battle Royale manages to do it without even trying. Maybe it’s because the general premise of the film is so fucked up or maybe the film appeals to some innate competitive survival instinct in every human. Whatever the reason, this is one film you will not stop watching halfway through. You will force yourself to watch it all the way to the end.

In recent years some people have debated whether The Hunger Games is a rip off of Battle Royale. For the record, I am going to say that I don’t think The Hunger Games is a rip off. Although I think the two share similarities, I think it would be fair to say that The Hunger Games has its own distinct features and themes. While Battle Royale is about growing up and leaving behind childhood friends, The Hunger Games is (I think) more of commentary on wealth inequality and reality television and it is enjoyable in its own way. Don’t get me wrong though, I think Battle Royale is 1000 times better and you would be a fool for thinking otherwise.

High-lights:

  • Wonderful characters that are developed in a very small amount of time.
  • Surprisingly good amount of humour.
  • Great soundtrack.
  • The lighthouse shoot out is one of the weirdest and most spectacularly perverse scenes in the history of film.
  • RUN!

Downers:

  • Kazuo Kiriyama is the only underdeveloped character and it’s a shame because in the novel his background is fascinating.

Summary:

I have no doubt that Battle Royale will continue to be a cult favourite for decades to come. It has all the ingredients needed to ensure its survival as a classic. If you haven’t seen it yet then hop to it. It’s on Netflix so there is no excuse.

10/10

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Action/Adventure, Drama, Mind Blowingly Awesome

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Genre: Romance, Drama

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloë Grace Moretz

Synopsis: A film chronicling the life and death of a relationship with hipster queen Zooey Deschanel.

Relationships are a funny thing. They can put you at the top of the world or kick you square in the nuts/lady garden. I’ve never been one for romantic comedies or any kind of film in which a man meets a girl and they have superficial conflict thrown into their lives but then they overcome it and live happily ever after. It’s not what happens in real life. That’s why I quite like this movie: it at least attempts to be realistic. I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while and last weekend I was in the perfect mood for it. I took quite a lot away from it and found a new perspective. I’ll explain what I mean so just bear with me.

One thing I really like about this movie is the cinematography. I hope people understand what I mean when I say that the film has an architectural and almost geometric feel to it. The shots in this movie are very clean and stylized and at times it can feel like a greeting card or postcard: little snapshots of bliss mixed in with the grey of everyday life. The scenes are beautifully shot but the quality of it and the maturity progresses throughout. The greeting card fun of it all becomes more complex and we begin to see more honest instances of affection and beauty. The two that come to mind are the scene where JGL and Deschanel are on a train and the sun’s setting outside the window just beyond the Pacific Ocean and the scene where JGL attends a rooftop party and faces the crushing reality of his situation. The cinematography ‘grows up,’ in a way, and this reflects JGL’s character and his journey from greeting card writer to architect. His perspective on life and love changes in the film and the cinematography reflects this.

Scott Neustadter, the co-writer, has said that this film is based on a real-life relationship of his and I think it really shows. This movie is written and made by people who get what it’s like to be young and in love and have it all come crashing down. As such, it can become quite a difficult film to watch because you can use it as a tool to look at your past relationships and assess who you were in each failed relationship: were you Summer or JGL? I’ve been both. In my most recent relationship, I was JGL. The relationship ended quite badly and now I don’t know where we stand. It has been hard dealing with that uncertainty and trying to figure out how someone you cared about can treat you so badly. However, watching JGL go through all the horrors of a bad relationship and a loathsome job has helped me. He learns from his relationship with Summer and I want to learn from my relationships and use those lessons for my betterment. I want to move forward and improve and I know I can do it; I just need to grow up and aim for what I want.

One thing I don’t get about this film though is how anyone can turn JGL down. THE MAN IS BEAUTIFUL!!! Readers may already know about my love of him through my GI: Joe review (sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little by mentioning that film). If he was at my office making bad sexual puns I would be all over that right then and there, in the office. I don’t care if people are watching. Marry me JGL. I want to have racially ambiguous babies with you. That is all.

High-lights:

  • Wonderful cinematography and beautiful shots of LA. This is the LA that I love. It has its moments of beauty too.
  • Great soundtrack.
  • It’s not easy to know who’s to blame in this relationship: he was clingy and didn’t listen to her when she said she didn’t want a relationship but she handled their interaction the wrong way. They’re both as bad as each other. I like that idea.
  • I WANT JGL ARCHITECT AS MY HUSBAND NOW!
  • Those cat cards would be so popular. I know they make it seem like it’s a lame idea but everyone loves cats. I mean, that’s what the internet was made for. Cat worship!

Downers:

  • There are some really depressing scenes.
  • I will never be able to draw like that and why isn’t my apartment that sexy?

Summary:

Your ability to like this film will be directly proportional to your tolerance of hipster goddess Zooey Deschanel. I like her so I’m fine but one of my friends wants to punch her so I can’t imagine her becoming enamored this film. It’s not a film for everyone but definitely worth the watch. I would recommend watching this after smoking something that will boost your senses. That way you can really appreciate the cinematography. I watched this with a friend so I couldn’t cry into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s without losing my dignity. That might be the best way to go also. Make sure you watch this at a time when you’re ready to look back at your relationships and get a better understanding of them otherwise you may misinterpret the film, in the way JGL does with The Graduate. This isn’t a sad film, just an honest and encouraging one. It’s a coming of age story, not a rom-com.

9/10

7 Comments

Filed under Drama, Great, Romance

Spirited Away (2001)

Genre: Kids, Animation, Drama, Romance

Cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Michael Chiklis

Synopsis: A sullen young girl enters the world or spirits after her parents are turned into pigs for eating food that didn’t belong to them. She must work in a bath house for the spirits and discover her courage to save her parents and return home.

Spirited Away is the Studio Ghibli film that everyone has heard about and the one that is considered Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus. Whilst the latter is certainly debatable, there is no doubt that this movie is an absolute masterpiece. It’s a sumptuously animated coming of age tale about a girl who is trapped in the world of spirits and must work at a bath house for a witch. Whilst at the bath house, she encounters a marvelous array of characters and is forced to look within herself and learn valuable lessons about courage, conviction, and love.

This movie won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The win was well-deserved. In contrast to many western animated features, Spirited Away never patronizes its audience. The central themes of the movie, though simple and familiar, are presented with a touching complexity that possesses a resonant honesty. Nothing is black and white. Instead, everything lies somewhere in the middle. There is no pure good or pure evil, the key is to find the inner strength that enables us to turn our backs on the bad and to find the conviction to keep moving forward towards the good. This message is perhaps exemplified in the relationship between Chihiro and No-Face, the film’s semi-antagonist. Chihiro understands No-Face’s unhappiness and, in the face of certain death, sacrifices her own chance of saving her parents for his own well-being. She understands his dark side but sees his good side too and encourages it to flourish. In my opinion, films too often occupy themselves with the idea that evil can be vanquished but that’s a mistake and doesn’t reflect reality. Evil and sadness are innate and, instead of killing them outright, we should face these problems, accept them and not feed them so that they grow out of control. Evil will always be a part of us but we all have the power to control it. This is a theme that is featured in a lot of Miyazaki’s work, such as Princess Mononoke, but it feels a lot more accessible in Spirited Away and a lot more relatable.

With regard to the visuals, I can’t begin to describe the beauty of the animation. Everything is crafted with expert precision. There are times in this movie when I have to be completely silent in order to appreciate the splendor of it all. Whether it’s a train gliding across the ocean, a bustling bath house stretches out like a fortress, or a walk through walls of wild flowers, the most basic scenes possess a resounding gorgeousness that can be appreciated by everyone.

Whilst this is definitely a kids’ film, I think that a lot of the themes will be lost on the young. However, Spirited Away is a film that stays with you and the more you watch it the more you understand. As such, it’s essential viewing for people with young kids. As I have said numerous times, I plan to force my kids to watch the entire Studio Ghibli catalog. I think it’ll make them grow up to be good people. I hope it will at least. For adults, I think the messages are still applicable. Even though it’s a story about growth and maturity, we’re always growing and learning. Spirited Away has the power to remind us of our strength.

High-lights:

  • Spectacular animation.
  • Complex characters that really satisfy. There is no weak-link here.
  • The ending. The unsure and almost mournful look back to the past and that strong and confident turn to confront what lies ahead, safe with the knowledge that accomplishments can be made.
  • LOOK!!! HE’S CUTTING AND EATING THE CAKE!!!! Kawaii!

Downers:

  • None.

Summary:

This movie probably isn’t to everyone’s tastes but it needs to be seen at least once. Also, I’d recommend watching the original Japanese version. The dub is good too but I think the original dialogue has a little more depth to it. Weed isn’t necessary to enjoy this movie but it certainly adds an interesting perspective to the viewing experience. I’d prefer to watch this after smoking something that will give a cerebral high. The animation and color become all the more vivid as a result. Keep this movie for a sad day and for when you need cheering up. It’s the perfect remedy for the blues.

10/10

5 Comments

Filed under Animation, Drama, Kids, Mind Blowingly Awesome, Romance

Stand By Me (1986)

Genre: Drama

Cast: River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland

Synopsis: A group of young boys venture into the woods in search of a dead body. Whilst on the hunt they expose their insecurities and take part in a journey that will change their lives forever.

Apologies for not updating the blog sooner but I had an important interview this week so I decided to take a smoking break in order to better prepare for the interview. I still probably botched the interview which is a shame because it was a brilliant position but c’est la vie. Now that the interview is over, I can spark up to my heart’s content. In order to cheer myself up and distract myself from post-interview worry I wanted to watch an uplifting movie but one that wouldn’t have me blubbering like a whale. I settled on Stand by Me because I hadn’t seen it yet and I had heard very good things about it. Plus, as regular readers will have deduced from previous posts, I am a huge Stephen King fan and it’s rare that I’ll turn down an opportunity to watch a film adaptation of one of his works (Dreamcatcher not included).

The thing that really stood out for me in this film is that it kind of served as an eerie harbinger for all of the main actors who starred in it. In a macabre twist of fate, the four boys all became the living embodiment of the characters they so convincingly played in this movie. Will Wheaton plays the sensitive Gordie, a talented and intelligent writer who is coming to terms with the recent death of his much loved brother. Wheaton later became a writer and all-around-awesome nerd. Jerry O’Connell plays Vern, the funny fat kid. O’Connell later became a vaguely successful comedian but has kind of faded into obscurity, much like Vern in the movie. Corey Feldman was perfectly cast as the fucked up Teddy, a kid who harbors sever psychological scars from the abusive relationship with his father. In real life Feldman was a troubled kid who was literally pimped out by his parents to the movie industry. He later became the poster child for washed up child stars, dealing with drink and drugs and coming to terms with the child abuse he endured as a kid. River Phoenix, however, is perhaps the most upsetting example.

Phoenix shines as Chris Chambers, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who longs to escape the dead end town which he is practically destined to remain in. It’s quite emotional to watch his character develop as the audience knows right from the start of the movie that Chris will later die in a tragic accident, much earlier than he should have died. In real life, Phoenix came from an unusual background but would later become the toast of Hollywood. His career was reaching meteoric heights. All that came to an end when he passed away, the unfortunate casualty of a drug overdose. The parallels between Chris Chambers and River Phoenix are startling and it makes the film that much more engaging and poignant. All the actors bring an amazing complexity to their roles as lovely kids from messed up backgrounds but it is Phoenix that really stands out by bringing a real and touching sensitivity to the film.

The film has many other great aspects. The soundtrack is absolutely cracking and I applaud the person in charge of sound in this movie. The sporadic use of music is brilliant because it effectively presents the film as a snapshot in time. Moreover, there are plenty of scenes to get your heart racing and the scenery is gorgeous. This film is a pleasure to watch and I highly recommend that everyone see this movie at least once, preferably more.

High-lights:

  • Likeable characters with great complexity.
  • The scene with the train is tense as hell.
  • Awesome soundtrack. No-one could possibly complain about the use of Stand by Me and Lollipop.
  • The dead body is actually really funny…kind of kills the moment but in a film that lacks a lot of humor it’s a welcome break.

Downers:

  • The leech scene is gruesome as fuck!
  • Some very minor instances of bad child acting but they are few and far between.
  • The fact that the actors became these characters is a real downer.

Summary:

Excellent. A real treasure. This is a movie is both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s a great movie to watch when you want to feel human and be reminded of all the beauty and tragedy of life. Feel the feels. Because of its emotional nature I would say it’s best to watch this on your own but any strain would complement the movie nicely. This should definitely be an addition your DVD/illegal download collection.

9/10

2 Comments

Filed under Drama, Great