When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead / に帰ると妻が必ず死んだふりをしています (2018) – Movie Review

The latest movie I watched was When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead / に帰ると妻が必ず死んだふりをしています, a movie based on a manga that was inspired by a question posed on Yahoo! Japan. The story revolves around a young married couple, and how their relationship evolves after the wife, Chie (Nana Eikura 榮倉奈々), starts to “play dead” whenever her husband, Jun (Ken Yasuda 安田顕), returns from work. It’s a really strange premise but definitely captured my interest.

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The first prank death was surprising (if you don’t know the backstory at all), but turns out to be kind of funny, although I really felt for Jun who was understandably panicked. The subsequent prank deaths were increasingly silly, hilarious, inventive, and clever. Those are funny scenes, but they have Jun wondering what Chie’s intentions truly are. Is she dissatisfied with their marriage? Has he done something wrong?

Over the course of the movie, several marital themes are explored, but not too deeply, and the tone of the movie is kept very light. The serious themes of infertility, separation, and divorce were played out by Jun’s coworker and his wife, and even though the couple decided to end their marriage, they showed growth and maturity… and maybe this is a lesson the writers were trying to teach us?

Chie and Jun’s relationship becomes stronger during reflection and also because of the illness of Chie’s father. It’s during a visit to Chie’s childhood home that Jun gets a clearer glimpse into Chie’s childhood and gains a greater understanding of her. But the mystery of why Chie would fake her own death every day remained unsolved until the very end. Unfortunately for the viewing audience, when Jun reveals to her that he knows why she did it and is explaining the reason, there’s a strong wind and we don’t get to hear his words. I think it was meant to be funny that the audience doesn’t find out, but to me, it was just frustrating. I got the feeling that the writers really didn’t have an explanation either, and it was just a cop-out. But perhaps that’s true to the mystery of the original story. At any rate, it was an unsatisfying ending to a story that had seemingly been advancing towards a good conclusion.

I have to mention one major point that I didn’t like about the movie. There were several scenes where the music didn’t match the mood of the story at all. In fact a few times, I was wondering if I had left Spotify going, or a browser tab was open that was playing music. The generic rock and roll background songs were inappropriate and cheesy, and I kept thinking how much better a scene would have been if there was instead just silence in the background. I admit to wondering if the director’s teenage kid begged to have his band be in the film…

Anyway, if you can ignore the terrible ending and horrible musical overlays, then you are left with a fun, lighthearted movie, with some marital wisdom tidbits thrown in. The performances from all the actors were excellent, especially Nana Eikura, who was quirky and charming. Ken Yasuda played the straight man while also subtly letting us in onto his frustration. In summary, When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead is a watchable movie, worth your time.

My rating: 7/10

またね~

Okko’s Inn (2018) – Movie Review

こんばんは。How’s it going?

My friend and I went to a special showing (only two nights here!) of Okko’s Inn, a Japanese anime directed by Kitaro Kosaka (formerly of Studio Ghibli). The film was awesome! Both my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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I had a special interest in the animation and character style, but the story itself blew me away. It was funny, sad, smart, uplifting, and engaging. I especially loved when the character Matsuki would pull out quotes from historical figures. Hilarious! 😆

There were so many elements of the film that I found interesting: the onsen town setting, kaiseki food, the supernatural, and traditional rituals. And the animation was so well-done. The scene where Okko slips on the tatami was great! If you’ve ever felt how slick a tatami mat can be, you’ll know what I mean. It was captured perfectly.

I also liked the fact that there were no overt antagonists in the story. I was expecting Okko’s grandmother or Matsuki to play that role. Although Matsuki started as a rival, she had noble intentions and wasn’t inherently nasty. The lack of any enemies reminded me of Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro in that respect. I really appreciate stories like that, especially if they can keep you engaged.

I enjoyed Okko’s Inn even more than some Ghibli movies, like Ponyo, Kaguya, and Arrietty. When I left the theater after seeing those, I felt that I had watched good movies but wasn’t overly excited, but after Okko’s Inn ended, I was pretty stoked, and thought that I’ll definitely need to own the Blu-ray version!

If you didn’t see Okko’s Inn during the special engagement, look for it on video later. It’ll be well worth your time.

My rating: 9/10

Captain Marvel (2019) – Movie Review

こんばんは。Tonight my two sons and I went to the theater to catch the 9:35 showing of Captain Marvel. I had heard good things about this superhero movie, so I was excited to see it (much like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse), and I was not disappointed.

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I absolutely loved the movie! It had a great story, interesting characters, and wonderful acting. Plot-wise, I liked the manner in which Captain Marvels’ past unfolds bit by bit and changes her relationship to the other characters. As she learns more about her past, we learn the true nature of those around her, and that drives the story. Funny how you can begin the movie despising the Skrulls, and then that turns around 180 degrees. Their story, of course, has relevance to today’s real-world situations, so that gave me a whole lot to think about.

I liked how the 1995 setting establishes Captain Marvel’s place in the MU before most of the present-day heroes. Since 1995 would put the main characters at about the same age as me, I have a special affinity for them. Plus the setting is Los Angeles, so there’s an extra connection!

It’s always interesting how the movies’ stories intersect with each other and seeing Nick Fury and Agent Coulson as young noobs was really fun. I read that the actors were digitally “de-aged” by 25 years for the movie. It looked great!

Speaking of actors, Brie Larson was excellent in the title role. She was relatable and strong, and once again, I can easily imagine her in the 1995 timeframe. But she also pulls off the transitions from Star Force soldier, to So-Cal native, and to superhero with ease. And what about that mohawk? At first, I thought it was kind of ridiculous, but then I was all, “Yeah”! I also liked the chemistry between Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, but then, Jackson seems to have good chemistry with everyone. 😀

On the flipside, I was surprisingly disappointed with Jude Law‘s acting which seemed formulaic and lacked depth. Maybe it was just the dialog he was given, but I felt like I could predict everything he was going to say and every expression on his face. After each of his scenes or lines, the thought “yeah, that was average” went through my mind. I expected the usually excellent Law to give more color to the character, but that was not the case here.

Although I don’t like the ensemble superhero movies as much as the standalone character films, I’m looking forward to seeing the next Avengers movie. Everyone has their favorite heroes, and Captain Marvel jumped to the top of my list. I’m hoping she kicks some butt in Avengers: End Game!

Here’s a ranking of my favorite superheroes (that I am familiar with). Looking at this list, any character below Black Panther I’d be fine with not making the Thanos cut.

  1. Captain Marvel
  2. Dr. Strange
  3. Thor
  4. Spiderman
  5. Hulk
  6. Gamora
  7. Black Panther
  8. Star-Lord
  9. Scarlet Witch
  10. Vision
  11. Black Widow
  12. Iron Man
  13. Captain America
  14. Hawkeye

Lastly, I thought it was cool that Brie Larson said one of her role models was Sailor Moon, and that prompted @Drachearannak to create this amazing illustration which got thumbs-up from Larson herself! So awesome.

My rating: 8.5/10

またね~

Tremble All You Want 勝手にふるえてろ (2017) – Movie Review

Plot: 24-year-old office worker “Yurika”, awkward, offbeat, and still carrying a torch for cool and popular middle school crush “Ichi”, tries to locate said crush and meet up, while fending off the advances of an uncool co-worker “Ni”.

Okay, so the story doesn’t seem special, but the “awkward and offbeat” nature of Yurika is the reason that Tremble All You Want 勝手にふるえてろ turns out to be a good movie. Specifically, it’s Matsuoka Mayu‘s (松岡茉優) portrayal of Yurika which is notable. I’d seen her in supporting roles in a few doramas over the years, but she amazed me with her range in the starring role.

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As I mentioned, the plot was standard romance fare, but the interesting twist is that Yurika lives in a semi-fantasy world, imagining conversations with people that acquaintances real life. At the beginning of the movie, these seem like normal conversations with friends or close acquaintances, but we soon suspect that she doesn’t have any real relationship with these people and is just imagining the conversations.

This fact is made clear to us towards the end of the film with a wonderful scene in which Yurika actually sings her feelings to the audience, looking directly at the camera. It’s pretty amazing and she pulls it off without skipping a beat. She doesn’t have a great singing voice, but that just makes it feel more real and engaging.

The end of the movie, unfortunately, wasn’t very satisfying as there were many loose ends that I would have liked to see resolved. For instance, does she mend her friendship with Kurumi? Will she ever get found out about impersonating a classmate? Does she open up more to the real people she had imaginary conversations with? Also, it seems a little unbelievable that after carrying a torch for 10 years, that flame could be extinguished instantly, especially since Yurika and Ichi had a seemingly magical connection when they finally met. Thinking about it some more, a sequel or continuation would be welcomed! 😄

Unresolved plotlines aside, I think Tremble All You Want 勝手にふるえてろ is well-worth your viewing time. I’m really looking forward to more films with Matsuoka Mayu in the lead role.

My rating: 7/10

Mirai 未来のミライ – Movie Review

Tonight I went to see Mirai (未来のミライ) at the local theater, and I loved it! Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film is kind of a slice-of-life type anime, mixed with a bit of fantasy. The story itself centered around a young boy named Kun, and how his family’s life changes after his sister, Mirai, is born.

****** SPOILERS FOLLOW ******

That fantasy portions of the story were a bit of a mystery as to why they were happening, and no explanations were given, which is fine. Actually, I was happy that no effort was made by the film-makers to try to rationalize how these time travel sequences (and other fantastical details and characters) existed, and that was kind of the magic of the film for me. We get to travel in time and to amazing places without the burden of things needing to make sense. I suppose that is why animation is so special. We are already removed from the real world because of the artwork, and so the leap to the fantasy world is very natural.

As a parent, I felt like I had a special connection to the film because a lot of the story revolved around the mother and father and their domestic roles, and we get to see scenes from their own childhoods. It brought back a lot of parenting memories when my kids were small as well. So it was nice to see a lot of screen time devoted to the parents. Not only that, but we get to see the lives of Kun and Mirai’s great-grandparents as well. My favorite parts of the movie were these scenes from the past, where Mirai explains that a person’s efforts can have a huge impact on the future. It gave me a lot to think about. These lessons from the past make me want to take care of the present day because who knows how it might affect the future?

"Kun-chan" Cedar Park, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.2, 1/125 sec, ISO1600
“Kun-chan” Cedar Park, 2018

If you get the chance to see Mirai in theaters, I would recommend doing so! But if you can’t, then be sure you rent it when it is available. I am planning on buying the Blu-ray for my collection, especially because I want to study the character designs, specifically the father and mother. Plus I need to see the motorcycle scenes again. Those were so cool!

I give Mirai (未来のミライ) a 9 out of 10.

またね~