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.

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

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.

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

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~

Close-Knit 彼らが本気で編むときは (2017) – Movie Review

The Japanese movie Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは) was on TV Japan the other day, and it looked interesting (and is subtitled) so I watched it, even without knowing much about it. I just knew that a Johnny’s member was portraying a transgender person in it. Today happens to be Transgender Day of Remembrance, so I thought I would write a bit about it.

Well, I will start by saying the movie was excellent. The acting, plot, dialog, and overall feeling was sensitive and heartfelt. The story is told through the eyes of Tomo (柿原りんか), an 11-year old girl, who is forced to move in with her uncle, Makio (桐谷健太), and his girlfriend, Rinko (生田斗真), who is transgender. Over the month that the three live together, a wonderful relationship develops amongst them and many issues are discussed. There aren’t any plot twists, but the story doesn’t need any. It’s straightforward and compelling without needing to resort to gimmicks.

It was refreshing to see issues that many people often wonder about being asked and discussed so openly and without taboo. Maybe it’s because the 11-year old girl is at an innocent age where she hasn’t been influenced so much by grown-ups and can look at people with a more open mind. Her inner questioning of the beliefs of others is palpable, and she ponders on what makes something “wrong” and what makes something “right”. And because of this, I felt she was one of the wisest people in the story. Maybe it’s important to keep a young, non-judgemental mindset throughout life.

************* Possible spoilers below *************

Another important part of the story was about Tomo’s classmate, Kai, and the struggles he has when he realizes he is gay. The discrimination and teasing from his classmates were sickening. One of the most powerful scenes was when he talked to Tomo about what he was feeling and how he didn’t understand it all. It was so moving! There was a similar scene in which a young Rinko also breaks down as she deals with being a girl in a boy’s body. But the difference between the two was that Rinko had a completely supportive mother (田中美佐子), while Kai’s mother (小池栄子) is threatened by “strange people” and Kai fears coming out to her. It’s kind of simplistic situationally, but I imagine that these are common scenarios.

Lastly, the story brings up the subject of child abandonment, since Tomo’s mother doesn’t come home for a month, which is why Tomo moves in with her uncle Makio and Rinko. The mother (美村里江) is set up to be the villain, but in one of the climactic scenes, we find out a little about her own insecurities and flaws, and the strong bond that exists between mother and daughter, however strained the relationship might be. When she broke down, I just about lost it! 😭 That was an incredible scene. I have to point out that the acting was superb in the film, of course from the starring roles, but also the supporting cast like Tomo’s mother.

You know, I admit not really thinking much about transgender issues in the past, but I’ve always been supportive of equal rights for all people. I guess I haven’t given it much thought because I think people are people… I don’t care about gay, straight, transgender, etc. People can be good or not-so-good, whatever their lifestyle. However, watching Close-Knit just reminds me that people deal with issues that might not involve me personally, nor be readily apparent, but that I should try to be empathetic towards everyone.

If you have the chance to watch Close-Knit, I recommend doing so. I for one gained some insight into the struggles of LGBT people, and transgender in particular, and I think I have become a better person for it. I think you will too.

My rating: 8.5/10

Diva (1981) – Movie Review

"Diva" Austin, 2018
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/15 sec, ISO6400
“Diva” Austin, 2018

こんばんは。Tonight Bay and I went to see my all-time favorite movie in the theater. Diva (1981) was showing at the AFS theater so I just had to see it… in fact, this is my first time to see it on the big screen. The first time I watched Diva was probably around 1985 on VHS, and I was immediately captivated by the beautiful visuals, atmospheric soundtrack, and the coolness of Paris. It really made a huge impression on me. The following year, I traveled to Paris with my dad and we visited some of the same places that were in the movie. It was like a dream! ❤️🇫🇷

Watching Diva on the big screen was just as awesome as I thought it would be. Since I have seen the film many times, I didn’t discover any new details, except the subtitles were different from the version I grew up with so a couple of the nuanced jokes had a new angle. But my favorite scenes (sentimental walk, subway chase, and driving to the castle) were amplified by being in extra-large format. It was surreal.

Tonight’s viewing re-affirmed Diva as being my favorite movie of all-time. It was funny, but I overheard the couple behind us after the movie ended, and the woman asked, “Still good?” and her partner said, “Yes, still in the top five.” 👍

Diva is based on the book of the same name, by author Delacorta. He wrote a series of six books featuring the adventures of Gorodish and Alba. I read the first three, which were super-difficult to find in the pre-Internet age, but I enjoyed them quite a bit. I’m going to have to hunt down the entire series now, so I can finish up reading about the two characters. Something to look forward to!

And lastly, for some reason this particular scene is one of my favorites of any movie. It’s just magical! If you haven’t watched Diva yet, please give it a viewing. 😀

My rating: 9.5/10