Movie Review: The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Hello there, my friends! I hope you’re day is going well. Anyway, it’s once again time for Akira Kurosunday. So let’s chat about this movie.

Ladies and gents… “The Hidden Fortress”.

The story follows Tahei and Matashichi (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara), two lowly peasants trying to get by. But then one day they get the opportunity of a lifetime when they meet a man and a woman (Toshiro Mifune and Misa Uehara) who promise the pair a bunch of gold in exchange for helping escort them across hostile territory. What the pair o’ peasants don’t know though is that the man and woman may be more than meets the eye. “The Hidden Fortress” is slightly different from the previous Kurosawa flicks we’ve covered so far. It’s not an examination of truth and lies, or a deep dive into the darkness of a man’s soul, or even a four hour epic about different people coming together. This is a more straightforward adventure story, going for less of a deep, nuanced thing, and aiming to be more of a fun affair. And I think it succeeds at that quite well, telling a very entertaining story with enough little turns to make it a little more interesting. I do feel that the pacing isn’t the best in this movie, as it drag a little in parts for me. It doesn’t completely break the experience for me, but it’s noticeable enough to bring it down a little bit. But otherwise I highly enjoyed the story told here.

The characters in this are all colorful and entertaining. First up we have the two peasants, played by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara. They have a very fun dynamic, and they help add a lot of comedy throughout the entire movie. And Chiaki and Fujiwara both give really solid performances. And I think it goes without saying how good Toshiro Mifune is in his role. And Misa Uehara does a solid job with her role too. It’s just generally a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think he did a really good job with the music here. It very much fits the fun adventure style that the story is going for. It has enough grandeur to add some weight to proceedings, but it also clearly never goes for anything too serious. It’s just a fun score that works very well for this movie.

As you already figured, “The Hidden Fortress” was directed by Akira Kurosawa, and as per usual he of course knocked it out of the park. This was also his first venture into widescreen filmmaking, and he took full advantage of that fact. He has stuff going on throughout the entire screen, giving us a lot of beautiful wides of both action and stillness. He and cinematographer Kazuo Yamazaki really outdid themselves here in giving us a lot of breathtaking shots and sequences. Must’ve dented the floor with how many times my jaw dropped.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

While the pacing drags a little bit in parts, I still find “The Hidden Fortress” to be a highly entertaining piece of filmmaking. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Hidden Fortress” is an 8.87/10. So I’d say that it ‘s definitely worth buying.

My review of “The Hidden Fortress” is now completed.

Fortress: Hidden
Movie: Very visible.

Movie Review: Throne of Blood (1957)

Hello there, friends, and welcome back to Akira Kurosunday! So, are we all ready to talk about an old movie? Yeah? Cool! So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Throne of Blood”.

The story follows Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a hardened general as he works, with the constant egging on by his wife (Isuzu Yamada), to fulfill a prophecy that says he will become lord of a mighty castle. If you’re thinking to yourself “Gee golly willikers, Uncle Markus, this sounds a mighty bit like Macbeth”. How observant of you, reader. That’s right “Throne of Blood” takes the setup and themes of the famed play and merges them with elements from traditional Japanese storytelling, which makes for an insanely compelling narrative. What also helps the storytelling out quite a bit is the immaculate atmosphere of the movie, which makes everything feel a bit off. But not off as in bad, but off as in “Something is weird”, which gives the movie an interesting and unique vibe that adds quite a bit of nuance to everything going on. It’s just a great story that adapts the classic play to great effect.

The characters in this are all pretty flawed and nuanced, and I think they all work well here, all helping build onto the drama quite well. I would say more, but I don’t wanna go into too many details (spoilers and all that jazz). I’ll simply say that Toshiro Mifune is fantastic as usual in the lead, playing the mad, power hungry shtick ridiculously well. And in the supporting roles we find people like Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura, Akira Kubo, Minoru Chiaki, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Masaru Sato, and I think that he did a great job with it. His score for it is very atmospheric and kind of eerie for a lot of it, complementing the slightly surreal mood I mentioned earlier. But there are also a few more bombastic (for lack of a better word) tracks as well, and those work quite well in their respective scenes too. It’s just a damn solid score that elevates the movie even further.

As mentioned early in the review, “Throne of Blood” is based on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, and was directed by Akira Kurosawa. Aaaaand Kurosawa of course brought his A-game with the direction. What I’ve noticed with each of his movies I’ve seen is that his craft gets better and better. And while I love his direction in the last two movies, I really think that this is the best I’ve seen from him so far. The way he composes movement, the way he puts you on edge with simple angles, the way he brings you into the action, Kurosawa handles any and all situation beautifully and showed just how ahead of his time he was. And the cinematography by Asakazu Nakai is fucking gorgeous.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.1/10.

So yeah, Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” is another winner. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Throne of Blood” is a 9.88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Throne of Blood” is now completed.

So many arrows…

Movie Review: Seven Samurai (1954)

Hello there, and welcome back to Akira Kurosundays! That’s right, every Sunday (unless something comes up in my life) I’ll be talking about a movie from this Kurosawa box set I have. It started last week with “Rashomon”, and it continus today with… this.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Seven Samurai”.

When a poor, defenseless village is threatened by a league of bandits, the villagers decide that they can’t stop them on their own. So they hire seven samurai to help them out with this situation. It’s a simple setup that leads into a surprisingly nuanced narrative that I like a lot. And when I say nuanced I don’t mean that it’s some ultra deep mindbender of a story, but rather that it takes its simple adventure story setup and adds to it with elements of war drama and comedy. It balances a lot of tones on its plate, but I feel like it succeeds wonderfully at all of them. And despite that mastodont of a runtime, it moves at a surprisingly fast pace, never really getting boring at any point. It does admittedly threaten to buckle under the weight of its runtime and content thickness at times, but it doesn’t take long for it to then pick itself back up and continue on the path of greatness. Seriously, this is a great samurai story.

The characters in this movie are for the most part pretty interesting. There are the titular swordy boys, all of which are colorful (ironic, given the color palette). They all feel unique to each other and have some interesting dynamics with each other. A few of the villagers are also alright, rounding out the cast nicely. And among the actors you can find people like Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Kato, Keiko Tsushima, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and I think he did a really good job with it. His score just works very well in conveying the mood of the various scenes, and even elevating certain parts. When the music needs to be eerie and ominous, it gets eerie and ominous. When it needs to be more on the epic and exciting end, it does that. And when it needs to be a bit more lighthearted and comical, it succeeds at that too. Just like the story, it captures and balances all tones wonderfully while feeling like an engaging and cohesive whole.

As made very clear in the intro, “Seven Samurai” was directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. And good god damn, he really knocked it out of the park here. His control of the camera and the actor is simply masterful, giving us direction that creates a wonderful flow from moment to moment, whether it’s in a slower character development scene, or in the action scenes that appear throughout. Speaking of which, those action scenes are excellent. Exciting, tense, fun, and frankly just stunning to look at. It all just comes together spectacularly.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positing rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 98/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10 and is ranked #19 on the “Top 250” list.

So yeah, “Seven Samurai” is terrific, not much else I can say on that. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and excellent directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Seven Samurai” is a 9.76/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Seven Samurai” is now completed.

Seven samurai, many butt cheeks.

Movie Review: Rashomon (1950)

Not too long ago I bought a box set featuring six movies from acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. And today I decided to finally start getting through it. And I thought that it could be fun to talk about each movie as I get through them. Sound good? Cool. Let’s do it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Rashomon”.

Kyoto, Japan. We follow a group of people as they recount the various perspectives on the tragic events that transpired between a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), a samurai (Masayuki Mori), and the samurai’s wife (Machiko Kyo) that happened in the woods on one fateful day. Perspective is the name of the game within “Rashomon”, as each retelling of the events changes some minor details to make the momentary narrator seem like the better person, which does present some interesting ideas about truth, lies, and how we perceive people telling us about things they’ve seen and done. And the way it’s used within “Rashomon” is actually pretty clever and interesting, often making for really compelling drama. Admittedly it doesn’t always hit bullseye with its various sections, as there are times where the storytelling feels like slightly weaker than in others. But overall I can’t say that there’s anything outright bad in the story of “Rashomon”, as it’s still an ambitious and interesting piece of psychological drama.

The characters in this I found to be pretty interesting. Seeing how they either react to the different retellings or even how they are the one being the teller makes for some interesting character studies that aid the storytelling in really compelling ways. And with actors like Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, and Minoru Chiaki all delivering top notch performances, you get one hell of a compelling cast of characters.

The score for the movie was composed by Fumio Hayasaka, and it’s great. It often plays into the whole unreliable narrator aspect of the story, having this unsettling vibe that helped in putting me on edge whenever it was heard within a scene. But I also appreciate that it isn’t overused. There was a lot of restraint shown in how it was used as sparingly as it did, giving it a much great effect whenever it popped up. It’s just really solid and works very well for the movie.

Based somewhat on a pair of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” was co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. And I don’t think I’m bringing anything new to the table when I say that his direction here is top notch. His framing, his movements, everything about his directing is just superb, adding so much to the storytelling. His direction manages to be big and bold, while also having a lot of subtle nuances to it. It’s just great stuff, yo.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic is has a score of 98/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10 and is ranked #130 on their “Top 250” list. The movie was also nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best art direction. 

So yeah, “Rashomon” is a really good psychological drama that, while not perfect, still manages to engage for its runtime. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Rashomon” is an 8.80/10. So I’d say that it’s most definitely worth buying.

My review of “Rashomon” is now completed.

Feels good finally getting ’round to Kurosawa.

“Devil May Cry 5” E3 Trailer

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen. Once again it is that time of year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly known as E3, is in full force and trailers are coming out left and right. I know that there are those of you out there who aren’t into video games, but that won’t stop me from writing about them. I love video games, and E3 gives me plenty of trailers to talk about. So let’s get into it.

First trailer we’ll be talking about is for a franchise that I almost thought was dead. But after months of rumors and speculation, we finally have a trailer for “Devil May Cry 5”. The latest part in the Japanese hack n slash action series follows Nero (Johnny Yong Bosch), the protagonist from “Devil May Cry 4”, as he goes on a journey to kick some demon ass. We get CGI cutscenes and even small increments of actual gameplay. And it looks like it will be the fun, fast-paced, over-the-top style of the previous games with the same crunchy combat that fans love. And as a fan of “Devil May Cry”, I am excited for this new game. I love the world, I love the insanity of it all, and this just looks like it will be a lot of fun. “Devil May Cry 5” is set to be released in spring of 2019.

What are your thoughts (if you have any)? Are you excited for “Devil May Cry 5”? And do you like the other games in the series? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy the trailer!

Movie Review: Death Note (2006)

With the recent release of the American Netflix movie adaptation of “Death Note”, I thought it was time for me to check out the first live action adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba’s manga. So here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Death Note”.

Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is a highly intelligent young man with a bright future ahead of him. And one day he finds a notebook that just fell from the sky. And it turns out that Light can kill pretty much anyone he wants by writing the person’s name in the notebook. So he uses this opportunity to become a mysterious vigilante simply know as Kira, killing criminals and fugitives left and right. This attracts the attention of mysterious investigator L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama), triggering a game of cat and mouse where they try to figure out each other’s identities to eliminate the other one. So now we have our plot. And is it any good? For the most part, sure. And I say that because it’s not without it’s flaws. The basic premise is great, and a lot of the developments in the story are good. Problem is that the plot at times also manages to drag, rush, and feel disjointed… all at once. This happens of course happens because they try to cram about nine episodes of anime into a two hour long movie. So some scenes feel like they’re rushed through, and some parts don’t have the smoothest transition which is the reason for some bits feeling a bit disjointed. And the dragging is because some scenes are just a bit slow, and not in a good way. But there’s still enough intrigue in the plot to keep it from being all out bad. It’s fine.

The characters here are pretty interesting. Light (like I said) is a highly intelligent young man, top of his class. So what happens when you give such a person a notebook that can kill people with the stroke of a pen? A really fascinating, smug, and slightly scary guy. I was rooting for him, but I also felt that he was a bit of a smug ass… which is what makes him so interesting. And Tatsuya Fujiwara is really good in the role. L, the eccentric and highly skilled detective that is hunting for Kira. He’s weird, he’s funny, and he’s just an interesting character. And Ken’ichi Matsuyama is really good in the role. Then we have Ryuk, the apple-loving god of death following Light around. He’s as cartoonishly hyper as he should be without sacrificing any of the creepy aspects of the character, which is great. He’s voiced by Shidô Nakamura, and he does a really good job capturing the feel of Ryuk. Then there’s a whole bunch of supporting characters/performances that I won’t go over in detail because I don’t have the time or will to do so, but let’s just say that they do a good job.

The score was composed by Kenji Kawai and I think he did a good job. The score is pretty eerie and helps create a feeling of unease in the movie. And it’s just overall well composed. Now, mild spoiler I guess, though it isn’t about a story scene, but rather the end credits. During the end credits they play the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Dani Calfornia”. I have nothing against it (it’s a great song), but it felt a bit random and I just had to bring it up. I have no opinion about it being used other than… weird. Oh well.

This movie was directed by Shûsuke Kaneko and he did an okay job. His directing feels a bit bland for the most part, though at a couple points he uses some pretty nifty camera tricks elevating those moments. But for the most part his directing was pretty bland. Also, can we talk about Ryuk? Not as a character, but his look in this movie. They decided to make him a fully CG character, and while his design is spot-on from the manga and anime, it doesn’t look very good. It’s like bringing a cartoon into a serious live action set… bit jarring. It’s not the biggest problem for me, but I did feel like it was worth noting.

While this movie doesn’t have too much of a presence on the sites I use, it does exist to some extent. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% positive rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t exist at all. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Death Note” is a pretty good live action adaptation of the manga/anime. It has an okay plot, good characters, really good performances, good music, and okay directing. My only flaws with it comes from the plot feeling a bit messy (as I explained earlier), and Ryuk looking a bit… meh. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Death Note” is a 7,77/10. So while flawed, it is worth a rental.

My review of “Death Note” is now completed.

Don’t expect a review of the sequel. Maybe expect a review of the Netflix movie… maybe.

 

“Dragon Ball FighterZ” E3 trailer

Hello there, my friends. More E3 shit comin’ your way… so here we go!

Here we have a trailer for “Dragon Ball FighterZ”, a 1v1 fighting game based on the popular “Dragon Ball” franchise, which was created by Akira Toriyama in 1984. I wasn’t really gonna talk about this trailer, but my best friend (RasmusTerra on twitter) said that it looked badass, so I decided to at least check it out. And now we’re talking about it because DAMN, it is badass. It looks like an anime but in game form, and I like that because it gives it a cool and unique look. And while 1v1 fighers isn’t my main thing when it comes to games, I do play ’em from time to time (“Injustice: Gods Among Us” being one of my favorites). And this looks like fun. Taking control of the “Dragon Ball” characters, and then having them beat the shit out of each other. Sure, it’s been done before, but I don’t think it has looked this extreme. So yeah, this could be fun. “Dragon Ball FighterZ” has no specific release date, but it’s at some point in 2018.

What are your thoughts? Are excited for “Dragon Ball FighterZ”? And are you a fan of “Dragon Ball” in any way? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy!

My Favorite Scenes: Godzilla: Final Wars – Godzilla Vs. Zilla

Well hello there, ladies and gentlemen of all ages and colors and welcome back to “My Favorite Scenes”, the series I sporadically do when I feel like it. For new(ish) people who may not know and can’t do a simple analysis of a fucking title, this is the series where I show a scene from a movie or TV-show and try to briefly explain why I like that scene. Now… onto the main show.

So for this edition of “My Favorite Scenes” I’d like to share one of the most gratifying scenes in any movie I have ever seen. Which is weird because it’s not even a minute long, but still reamains one of the most memorable and satisfying moments in cinematic history. The movie in question is “Godzilla: Final Wars”, and it’s basically an all-out monster brawl between Godzilla and pretty much every monster from his filmography ever. And this might be the best out of all the moments. In the scene we’re talking about, Godzilla (AKA the real one) faces off against the shitty American version (named Zilla by fans). And by faces off with it I mean totally fucking destroying it by tail whipping it into the Sydney opera house and giving it the good ol’ atomic breath. I know it sounds like I spoiled it, but honestly, it’s still fantastic to see even if you know what happened. And I honestly don’t mind the choice of music for the scene (Sidenote: not edited in by a fan, but by the film crew). The song in question is “We’re All to Blame” by Sum 41 and I think it actually kinda works. Just… just watch it because it’s just one of the greatest things ever.
Enjoy!