All posts for Movies in 2005


A Bittersweet Life 2005-12-22 02:29:24

Sun-woo, elegant of dress and speech, is ostensibly the manager of a four-star restaurant—but we know there is more without being told as such. One night he’s summoned to one of the party rooms to “deal with” an unruly client....

Record of Lodoss War 2005-12-12 23:23:29

Still dazzled by Berserk, I went back and had a closer look at the other major example of an anime that draws on Western-style fantasy. And it’s funny how Record of Lodoss War, or Lodoss as it’s more commonly simplified,...

Berserk 2005-12-03 20:00:00

Berserk does the one thing I almost never see in epic fantasy: It takes the full implications of its setting seriously. Even The Lord of the Rings, for all of its scope and careful detail, feels too much like a...

Seven Swords 2005-11-13 03:07:46

Seven Swords has been greeted with some of the most savage reviews I’ve read of almost any Hong Kong production, so much so that I wondered if people were simply trying not to look unhip. This film was, in the...

Samurai Rebellion 2005-11-12 04:27:33

I once said to someone that the decisions that affected my life the most seemed so inconsequential at the time that I barely remembered making them. The job that determined the course of my career to this day, I jumped...

Sword of the Beast 2005-11-12 04:19:31

Sword of the Beast plunges us immediately into its story with so little forewarning that for a long time we’re not sure if the character we’re seeing is worthy of our sympathy or our derision—just what’s needed in a movie...

To-ri 2005-11-11 22:40:08

To-ri is the sort of production I love to discover: a showcase for a number of different works not created for the sake of commercial success, but simple artistic expression on the part of the creators. One of the...

Ugetsu 2005-11-11 19:00:00

Watching Criterion’s restored print of Ugetsu reminds me of the way the proud colors of the Sistine Chapel ceiling remained buried for centuries under a somber patina of grime. The shimmering beauty of this movie, one of the greatest to...

Pom Poko 2005-10-11 03:47:06

Under the skin of Pom Poko, one of the funniest and most charming of Studio Ghibli’s productions, is a movie that asks such tough and troubling questions about modern life that it’s amazing the movie doesn’t tear itself apart....

Pretty Poison 2005-10-11 03:44:37

How I hate trying to write about a movie that’s best seen cold. The less you know about Pretty Poison going in, the more fun it is to watch it unspool. And unspool it does, until it becomes more...

Izo 2005-10-11 03:31:50

Takashi Miike’s Izo is in some ways the movie he has been trying to make his whole career—one which sums up his ambitions, exceeds all his earlier works, and may end up alienating everyone involved. Izo springs from the...

Neo-Tokyo 2005-10-10 23:38:02

Hot on the heels of reviewing Memories, I looked at Neo-Tokyo, a close cousin to that three-part anthology film. Neo-Tokyo is much shorter—it’s only fifty minutes to the other movie’s 110—but it packs about as much imagination and eye-filling imagery...

Wonder Boys 2005-10-10 19:00:00

At some point in our lives, we all look around and realize that despite whatever success we have, we’re surrounded by people who just seem to be more successful, more popular, more together, more with-it, and just plain happier about...

Batman Begins 2005-10-10 18:00:00

I have a theory—perhaps a crazy one, but crazy theories are a favorite hobby of mine: that what science fiction did for the advancement of science, superhero comics may eventually do for sociology and public action. Yesterday’s SF dreams are...

Kill! 2005-10-10 16:30:11

In anyone else’s hands, Kill! would have been demented nonsense, but Kihachi Okamoto and Tatsuya Nakadai make it into transcendent nonsense. Here is one of the most outlandish and Byzantine plots ever put into a samurai movie, but it’s played...

Initial D 2005-10-10 14:09:48

Initial D is a perfect example of how cultural cross-pollination is driving creativity in movies around the world: it’s a Hong Kong adaptation of a Japanese manga, popular in both countries and in the United States as well. It’s hard...

Red Lion 2005-09-10 03:42:24

Red Lion follows a pattern laid down by many of the best movies in that it attempts to do many things at once and succeeds at all of them. It’s set in pre-modern Japan, so it’s a rousing samurai adventure;...

Paranoia Agent 2005-09-10 01:17:42

The best works of horror don’t simply scare us, but give our fears form and make us look objectively at them. Alien worked not just because the monster was really scary, not only because the protagonists were trapped on a...

Layer Cake 2005-09-09 20:47:39

The problem with crime is not that it doesn’t pay, but it pays so well most people have no idea what to do next. Movies about criminals usually wind up being about a) drugs or b) “one last job,” because...

Nobody Knows 2005-09-09 19:00:00

Nobody Knows begins with a mother and son moving into a new apartment somewhere in Tokyo—an ordinary scene, except that two of their suitcases seem to be…well, fidgeting. They contain two younger children, another daughter and son, who are being...

Battlefield Baseball 2005-09-04 07:09:04

Battlefield Baseball comes from the same people who gave us Versus, and it has the same wacky ramshackle feel to it, but its main flaw is that it isn’t a better movie for the material. The premise: A gang of...

Swords of Vengeance 2005-08-09 03:08:39

At this point Japan has filmed most of its national legends not just once but several times, and with each retelling comes the perspective of its director and the era of its making. Few tales are as widely known or...

Woman is the Future of Man 2005-08-08 19:00:00

There is a scene early in Woman is the Future of Man that is, to me, the key to the way the film works. Hyeon-gon has returned to Korean from studying in America, and is hanging out in a...

A Tree of Palme 2005-08-07 19:00:00

A Tree of Palme creates one of the most breathtaking fantasy worlds I’ve ever seen in a movie—a genuinely alien and unearthly place—and uses it as the backdrop for a story that threatens to collapse under the weight of its...

Another Lonely Hitman 2005-07-09 01:09:07

When I talk about a movie being “Kitanoesque,” that probably brings to mind a slew of associations familiar to people who’ve seen a number of Takeshi Kitano’s movies: the static takes, the deadpan treatment of the subject matter, the stories...

Rōnin-gai (Street of Samurai) 2005-07-08 03:37:08

If Kurosawa made samurai cinema for Japan and the rest of the world to boot, Rōnin-gai is the kind of samurai cinema that the Japanese made exclusively for themselves: gritty, violent, and unapologetic, but also keen on character and insight....

Samurai Banners 2005-07-08 03:28:58

In Man against Myth, philosopher Barrows Dunham explained that one of the problems with tyranny is that you have no choice but to be a tyrant. If you want all the goodies that go with being a conqueror, you have...

Onibi: The Fire Within 2005-07-08 01:05:22

Rokuro Mochizuki’s Onibi: The Fire Within comes from the same director as Another Lonely Hitman, and is a refinement of that earlier film in many senses of the word. The similarities between the two movies are no accident: Onibi was...

On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate 2005-07-08 00:54:10

For a long time after watching On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate I couldn’t put into words what it was about the film that was so special, except for the simple fact that it refused to leave my...

Mind Game 2005-07-07 19:00:00

And now, for the space of this review, I shall geek out, as I have a hard time describing Mind Game without collapsing into blathering fandom. So be it. It is certainly one of the greatest animated films I’ve ever...

Real Fiction 2005-06-07 03:52:11

Real Fiction is an amateurish and pretentious waste of eighty minutes from a director who has since gone on to produce much better things. The director in question is Ki-duk Kim, he of The Isle, 3-Iron and Samaria, three films...

Samurai Assassin 2005-06-07 03:32:44

Samurai Assassin is in many ways a brother film to Sword of Doom—it was directed by the same man (Kihachi Okamoto), shares one of the same stars (Toshiro Mifune), and even the same screenwriter (Kurosawa collaborator Shinobu Hashimoto). It doesn’t...

Love Song For Rapper 2005-06-06 22:29:00

I’ve had such a hard time figuring out how to describe Love Song for Rapper that I’m tempted to say, see the movie and we’ll talk about it after. It’s a crude, scruffy, handmade movie with no name recognition that...

Three-Iron (3-Iron) (Binjip) 2005-06-06 19:00:00

The young man’s job is ostensibly to leave takeout menus on people’s front doors. If the menus are still there when he returns later in the day, he breaks in—he’s quite handy with his tools—settles down for a little while,...

Rock & Rule 2005-06-06 19:00:00

Rock & Rule is another in a small batch of experimental animated productions from North America in the Seventies and Eighties, almost all of which met with commercial failure but gathered a thriving cult following. What’s most disappointing about Rock...

Immortal (ad vitam) 2005-06-06 14:15:53

Immortal is the sort of movie that people describe as “Heavy Metal magazine come to life”, and in this case it’s fact. Immortal is, in fact, a filmed version of three graphic novels that appeared at one point in the...

Cat Soup 2005-06-06 05:07:46

A key concept in Buddhist thought is the impermanence of all things: today’s meal was yesterday’s cow, and will become tomorrow’s waste product. If everything changes form and passes away, then maybe the whole idea of things having form in...

Primer 2005-05-06 03:42:13

The first lasers were measured in “Gillettes”. A laser beam that could punch through a single Gillette razor blade in one second was a one-Gillette razor; a beam that could burn through two in one second was a two-Gillette...

Samaria 2005-05-06 01:35:33

I could not tell you, offhand, how many teenaged girls in Korea prostitute themselves. I would hope it’s not endemic. I doubt it is, but that doesn’t make the events in Samaria any less troubling. It deals with two young...

Twenty-Four Hour Party People 2005-05-05 05:33:03

If you weren’t “there,” or so goes the conventional wisdom about turning points in the history of popular culture, there’s just no way to convey what it was like to be “there.” “There” could be Woodstock, or the last...

Oasis 2005-04-05 00:03:37

Among all the countries in the world with a cinematic presence, Korea alone seems to be an outlet for the most simultaneously punishing and rewarding movies around. The most startling thing about movies like Oldboy, The Isle, Too Young to...

Kagemusha 2005-04-04 16:27:56

The word kagemusha means “double” or “shadow warrior” in Japanese, the name for someone who impersonates a warlord or noble to draw away assassins—but it also refers to the wire-pullers in bunraku or Japanese puppet theater, the ones behind the...

Naked 2005-04-04 15:36:11

I've known people in real life who are like Johnny, played unblinkingly and with frightening power by David Thewlis in Mike Leigh’s Naked. They don't have a fixed address, method of income, bank account, or even a consistent set of...

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind 2005-03-16 18:06:38

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind belongs in the same canon of films as Lawrence of Arabia or The Leopard: epic and sweeping, but never losing sight of their characters or their true conceits. With a movie this ambitious,...

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence 2005-03-07 02:52:41

It’s common practice to use the term “thought-provoking” as praise for a movie, and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence has been designed from the inside out to provoke so much thought that said impulse threatens to override everything else...

About Schmidt 2005-03-03 20:00:00

In the very first scene of About Schmidt, a man sits in an empty office, watching the clock on the wall strike five. He gets up, takes his briefcase (which is probably empty anyway), and walks out. He has retired...

Blues Harp 2005-03-03 08:22:04

Fans of the blues know that most of the best blues songs are about broken hearts and violent revenge, two themes Takashi Miike seems happy to explore endlessly in his movies about Tokyo's criminal underground. Blues Harp is one of...

Sword of Doom 2005-03-02 20:00:00

Tatsuya Nakadai has one of the blankest, most impassive faces possible for an actor, and Sword of Doom is a showcase for him projecting the most chilling emptiness possible with that face. Most people confuse acting with emoting: they think...

Shall We Dance? 2005-02-06 03:11:48

Sugiyama is a glum, poker-faced office drone who drags himself home every night on the train feeling like he’s accomplished absolutely nothing. His wife and daughter barely see him—in fact, his co-workers barely see him, either—and there isn’t anything in...

Sengoku Jietai (G.I. Samurai / Time Slip) 2005-02-03 02:56:44

Sengoku Jietai (a.k.a. G.I. Samurai) starts with an interesting premise: What if a squadron of modern-day Japanese soldiers, complete with their weapons and vehicles, were somehow transported back in time to Japan’s feudal past? What we get, however, is an...

Ninja Wars (Iga ninpoucho) 2005-02-03 00:53:48

If you’re into beheadings, lurid sex, warrior monks that vomit yellow slime and ninja tricks galore, look no further. Ninja Wars (Iga Ninpo-cho) has all of the above, and then some. It’s one of a long line of commercially successful...

New Police Story 2005-02-03 00:45:07

The lines in Jackie Chan’s face stand out all through New Police Story, and there are scenes where he sits hollow-cheeked and cold-eyed, staring at a point somewhere far off-camera. These moments hint at the “new” Jackie Chan we’ve been...

The Cat Returns 2005-02-02 20:00:00

The Cat Returns is a surreal and charming product from Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki’s production company, even if it isn’t quite on the level of the best work from that company. It was in fact not directed by Miyazaki, but...

Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis 2005-02-02 06:46:47

Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis is absolutely ridiculous from beginning to end, but don’t take that as a recommendation. It’s a big-budget (for Japan) supernatural fantasy / horror epic with just about everything you could think of stuffed into its two-plus-hour...

Rubber's Lover 2005-01-03 23:56:10

Rubber’s Lover sets out to blow our minds the way Tetsuo: The Iron Man did, and while it doesn’t succeed as completely it’s still a trip worth taking. There’s slightly more dialogue than Tetsuo, and slightly more plot, but let’s...

9 Souls 2005-01-01 20:00:00

Nine Souls is one of those movies that refuses to be pigeonholed into an easy category, and is all the better for it. It begins as a goofy comedy, then moves through wistful drama and magical realism before ending in...

See previous posts from 2004

See future posts from 2006