At the End of the Matinee – Book vs Movie Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/5, 1/60 sec, ISO3200
“At the End of the Matinee” Cedar Park, 2021

I finished Keiichiro Hirano’s novel At the End of the Matinee today. I thought it was excellent… in fact it had me awake until 1 am the other night, totally engrossed in what would happen between the two main characters, Makino and Yoko. But for this blog post, I wanted to compare it with the movie adaptation.

******** SPOILER ALERT *********

Simply put, this is a case of “the book is so much better than the movie”. But it’s because there is so much more in the book that could possibly but shown on-screen. First off, I’d say the book was one of the best I have read in a long time, whereas the movie was kind of “meh”. There’s so much internal dialogue in the book that would be impossible to bring to the big screen, including elements of PTSD, survivor’s guilt, as well as large episodes of how the long-distance romantic relationship between Makino and Yoko. In the movie, these are only quickly touched upon and make it seem like the two are jumping into their romance (and even breaking off engagements!) without much thought. There is a scene in the movie where Makino says he would kill himself if Yoko ever committed suicide. It happens so out of the blue (and makes Makino seem like the kind of person you should not be alone with), in just their second in-person meeting that it seems implausible for him to have those feelings. However, the book details in length their internal struggles and feelings, the conversations in their Skype calls, and the development of their the long-distance relationship that happens before that in-person episode even takes place. With that back-story, his declaration doesn’t seem so out-of-the blue. I would say that character/relationship development is the most interesting part of the book. I think it’s impossible to translate or convey that on the big screen.

One of the problems with reading the book and then watching the movie is that I can’t objectively watch the movie without thinking of the book. I know so much more about the characters and what is going on inside their heads and hearts, and that knowledge gives life to the on-screen performances. So I am only guessing that the movie version doesn’t work well on its own… but maybe it does? My viewing experience must be very different from those who only watch the movie, but is the same as those who have read the book.

Perhaps a better way to look at it is that the movie is a companion to the book, adding visual illustrations to “the real” story (ignoring some of the substitutions like Paris/Baghdad). In that sense, I am pretty satisfied with the casting of Masaharu Fukuyama and Yuriko Ishida in the main roles. They pretty much fit in with what my mind’s eye saw when reading the book, but the actors had an impossible task to show the characters’ depth and feeling in just a few scenes. The movie did attempt to convey the serious internal struggles of each by using some “intense” cutscenes but these were just unsatisfying and cliché. The scene in which Makino agonizes over Sanae’s betrayal was so terrible, it actually reminded me of the infamous Darth Vader “Nooooo!” scene.

But speaking of the book, I mentioned it was one of the best I have read in a long time. In fact, I gave it a 10 on my 2021 movie/book list! I was very interested in the story of two people in their 40s developing a romantic relationship and all the feelings that come along with it. The huge plot twist where Sanae puts a stop to the Makino and Yoko’s reunion in Tokyo was amazing. That was the part that kept me reading late into the night. I was expecting for the deception to be revealed quickly and the consequences to Sanae’s deplorable actions to be dealt out with conviction. But it didn’t happen that way at all. The plot took a much more satisfying and plausible turn. The two main characters continue with their separate lives, wondering why the other suddenly cut off the relationship. I guess this is where the 40-something-year-old’s life is different from a 20-something-year-old’s. Even Sanae’s deception was understandable. (Book version FTW!)

But throughout the years where Makin and Yoko continue with their separate lives (an the ups and downs), they often think back to each other and realize they still love each other, even though they have new families. So do they ever meet again? Well, you’ll just have to read the book or watch the movie to find out. And I would steer you towards the book version. 😀

Glamping at Under Canvas Moab

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/8, 1/200 sec, ISO640
“Under Canvas Tent” Moab, 2021

We stayed one night glamping at Under Canvas Moab and enjoyed it a lot. It was our first time glamping (glamourous camping) which I would not normally consider, but we thought that we’d give it a try and see what it was all about. It really is a combination of a nice resort hotel and camping. Pretty cool concept!

“Reception Tent” Moab, 2021

The check-in process was really smooth and one of the hosts explained pretty much everything you need to know about the facilities. The reception tent has a check-in/out desk, snacks, board games, water, coffee and tea, fresh fruit, refrigerated items, souvenirs, tables and chairs to relax in, and also the S’mores station, with ready-to-use packets of ingredients to take outside to the firepits. They also have a sno-cone machine, and bags of ice for you to replenish your cooler.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/8, 1/140 sec, ISO640
“Under Canvas Tent View” Moab, 2021

There are a few different tents to choose from, and we chose the most inexpensive one (Safari), which is perfect for a couple. The tent is pretty sturdy, the bed is large and comfy, and most importantly for the cooler months, there’s a wood-burning stove/heater. It’s all ready to fire up, which we did immediately. In a few minutes, the tent was cozy and warm. There are also power banks to recharge your devices, battery-powered lanterns and fans, and earplugs.

“Wood-Burning Stove” Moab, 2021

After opening up a bottle of wine and relaxing a bit, I decided to take a shower and freshen up. The more expensive tents come with a bathroom, but ours didn’t. The communal bathrooms and showers were in their own little building not far from our tent, and were perfectly fine. No problems there! There were plenty of clean towels in their own little closet, and you can just put your used towels in the bins just outside each bathroom. There aren’t normal faucet handles for the showers, but rather a handle on a chain which you pull down to release the water. It’s a good system to ensure you don’t use too much water, but a little inconvenient since you have to keep the chain down while rinsing. It also is perfect for the camping experience. FYI, you have to wait a little bit for the hot water to flow. At first I thought I was going to have to take a cold shower, but thankfully the water became warm. Whew!

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/690 sec, ISO25
“Moab Sunrise” Moab, 2021

The people in the adjacent tent (the tents are spaces a good distance away from each other) were cooking dinner on the tables just outside their tent. I noticed they were using their their own camp stove, headlamp, and camp lantern. So yes, it really is a hybrid camp/hotel.

On that note, I would recommend bringing your own food to cook since there isn’t a restaurant on-site. However, there are several gas grills in covered pavilions, with picnic tables and lighting. I believe the staff even said they’d be happy to prepare the food for you! Next time, we’ll stop at the market and buy some steaks, kebabs, or burger fixings and use the cooking stations. I could see it being an excellent place for a group to hang out all night, grilling, drinking, having S’mores, and partaking in the cornhole bean-bag toss, board games, or horseshoes (all provided).

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/400 sec, ISO25
“Utah Morning” Moab, 2021

What’s really neat is that they offer some other activities, such as morning yoga, workouts, live music, and trivia in the evening. There’s also a cool little area in the middle of the site with several hammocks set up so you and your neighbors can stargaze together.

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/40 sec, ISO500
“Activity Board” Moab, 2021

While not truly remote, the site was far enough away from the highway to provide some isolation from light and noise. It’s also only about 20 minutes from Moab, so it wouldn’t take long to make a beer/food run and be back at camp to continue the party. Speaking of location, it’s only 10 minutes away from Arches National Park, so it’s a fantastic location if you are visiting the park.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 20 sec, ISO3200
“Under Canvas Big Dipper” Moab, 2021

All-in-all, we were satisfied with Under Canvas Moab. It’s a little on the spendy side, but I think that you definitely get your money’s worth. The staff were all very friendly and ready to help if you need anything. It was so nice to relax here after a long day hiking at Arches National Park!

Watching A Scene at the Sea / あの夏、いちばん静かな海。

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/3.6, 1/25 sec, ISO800
“Yuzu & Takako” Cedar Park, 2021

I have a bunch of movies on my computer that I need to watch, and looking at the list, I decided to just start alphabetically. A Scene at the Sea / あの夏、いちばん静かな海。 is a 1991 Takeshi Kitano movie about a deaf man who starts surfing.

I enjoyed the relaxed vibe and 90s-era clothes. So uncool and yet so kakkoi (cool). The story was not anything to write home about and the end was kind of a head-scratcher, but it was an interesting movie, if only for the nostalgia. On a positive note, the soundtrack was really good, which can be expected from the great Joe Hisaishi.

Rikokatsu リコカツ (2021) – Dorama Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO1000
“リコカツ” Cedar Park, 2021

******** SPOILER ALERT *********

Today I finished up watching the last episode of Rikokatsu リコカツ starring my favorite actress, Kitagawa Keiko 北川景子 as Saki. Co-starring with her is Nagayama Eita 永山瑛太 as her husband, Koichi. The premise of the story is that the couple meet by chance and marry quickly, and later decide that they have nothing in common and should divorce. Along with them, their parents are also divorcing, as well as Saki’s sister.

It’s a very lighthearted comedy, and Eita’s comedic acting is hilarious. I was laughing out loud several times watching this dorama because of him. Besides the humor, there were also a few times that tugged on the heart-strings which is something I always appreciate in a movie or dorama. 😭

I thought the story itself was just okay, and a bit repetitive and predictable. It’s a typical melodramatic Japanese dorama, so if you are in the mood for it (or a fan of one of the actors as I am) Rikokatsu is a decent choice.

One of the characters that I disliked greatly was Minazuki Ren, a novelist to whom Saki is assigned as editor. Minazuki’s behavior is infuriating, exhibiting sexual harassment, power harassment, and literal thievery. He’s a total asshole. I kept hoping he would get his lights punched out. I know this is not a serious dorama, but normalizing that kind of behavior (without any repercussions) is awful. Towards the end, we learn he had a difficult childhood and is struggling to become a better person, but the way he treats everyone just makes my blood boil.

Okay, back to the positives… the ending where Koichi bends a bit to make a compromise so that Saki can live her dream was pretty cool and well-done. The long-distance relationship and video calls were funny and during this pandemic time, everyone can relate. I enjoy anything Kitagawa Keiko is in, but in this dorama it was refreshing to watch her as a “normal” person. In Ie Uru Onna 家売るオンナ, her character is very one-dimensional, outwardly emotionless, and never smiled. After watching two seasons of that character, it was nice to see her acting as a person with a range of relatable emotions, and is not always dressed/made-up perfectly.

I give Rikokatsu a 7 out of 10.

p.s. Thank you to Citrine Subs for subbing Rikokatsu!

Children of the Sea – Movie Mini-Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021

I saw Children of the Sea at the theater with my good friend, and I thought it was excellent! I wasn’t so sure about the character design at first, but the facial expressions quickly grew on me. The landscapes, clouds, and background art were amazing, and the word “Wow” was constantly running around my head.

The story itself was interesting, but I wasn’t a fan of the “2001: A Space Odyssey” moment, as my friend so accurately called it. Still, I liked all the characters. A very fun and beautiful film, well-worth watching, in my opinion.

What I also noted was that the soundtrack is fantastic. Joe Hisaishi captured the mood with a minimalistic orchestration perfectly. I loved it so much. Give the Spotify playlist a listen at the end of this post if you are curious!

I hope you get a chance to watch Children of the Sea, especially if you love the warm summer ocean breeze. 😊

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021