Friday, March 10, 2017

My Impression of I am a Hero

Image used from: http://asianwiki.com/I_Am_a_Hero
I watched a Japanese movie, I Am a Hero, around the same time as I did with Train to Busan. Coincidentally, they were both zombie movies which I don't often watch that type of genre. The Japanese movie was released on April 23, 2016 and was directed by Shinsuke Sato. The movie starred Yo Oizumi, Kasumi Arimura, and Masami Nagasawa. 

The basic premise of I Am a Hero is the zombie apocalypse, but it takes its time to set up the zombie apocalypse. It starts the story a couple of days before the outbreak and introduces the main character, Hideo Suzuki, and his previous life before all hell breaks loose. He's always been a normal person with no accomplishments in life. All he has was his dream, but he's now 35 working as a manga assistant, which is consider lower than a normal part time job, with no hope of achieving his dream of being a successful manga artist. Then he meets a high school girl, Hiromi Hayakari along the way and tries to survive in this apocalyptic world meeting all sorts of people.

As with all live action adaptation, there will be some changes from the source material but at least for the beginning, it looks like it does capture the feeling and some details of the original story. There are some changes of how Hideo meets Hiromi for example, but I didn't even know about it. I never read the manga before watching the movie so I thought everything made sense. Because of the movie, I started to read the manga. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie as it had good acting, good cinematography and the pacing was fine (though I guess some people might consider it a bit slow). The action sequence with Hideo was really cool.

As a single movie, the one criticism I had was Hiromi. Something happens to her which essentially renders her useless for the rest of the movie. She's there, and we see a glimpse of what she can do but that was only for one scene. For the rest of the movie, she's just there needing to get rescued. From some of the comments online, it looks like the original manga goes into developing her character and we get to see Hiromi's development later on in the story. Of course in the movie, we don't get the luxury of seeing the whole story so it felt lacking and disappointed to see Kasumi Arimura's acting be used for nothing.

In conclusion, I liked the movie overall and was in for a surprise. I actually watched this movie before Train to Busan. If you enjoy the zombie genre and want to check out some international films, I would recommend I Am a Hero and Train to Busan. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Impression of Train to Busan

(Image used from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Train_to_Busan)

I rarely watched Korean movies, and I believe this is the first time I am writing a review of sorts for one. Since this movie takes place in the apocalyptic zombie setting, this makes it even less likely for me to watch as I don't really watch zombie movies. Moving on, I randomly stumbled upon this movie and decided to give it a shot, The movie, Train to Busan. premiered on May 13, 2016 at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by Yeon Sang-ho, and stars Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, and Ma Dong-seok.

To not give any spoilers to the story, I'll try to be as brief of a summary concerning the story. The story centers around Seok-woo (played by Gong Yoo) and his daughter, Su-an (played by the child actress, Kim Su-an) where they get on a KTX train from Seoul to Busan so that Su-an can see her mother due to her wanting to file a divorce from Seok-woo. Since it is a zombie film, things go awry and an infected person gets on board the KTX to start the infection. Seok-woo fights the zombies as he protects Su-an while the train continues to head to Busan as he meets various survivors in the zombie outbreak. 

To be honest, I did not have any expectations heading into watching the movie since I randomly stumbled upon it. I didn't even know it was a zombie film as I thought it was a thriller. It was my surprise when I saw the first infected person. The zombies reminded me from another movie called World War Z. They are ridiculously fast compared to the traditional zombie motif like with The Walking Dead. The makeup on the zombies were really good, and interesting to show how they transform from humans to zombies. The first indicator is the veins spreading and showing. It made for a nice adrenaline rush while watching the movie as I was drawn into the suspense, and hoping that the small core of characters try to survive the zombie outbreak. The acting was good in my opinion. I really liked Su-an's acting and I thought she did a fine job as a child actress. That piqued my interest to see what kind of roles she'll be in soon, or even check out her other previous works.

Train to Busan was a well-made movie with good acting, good action, good cinematography, and well-edited movie. I do recommend this movie if you are looking forward to the zombie genre, or even as a good action movie. It had its suspenseful action moments, as well as emotional scenes that I shed tears for. The actors did a good job to make you feel attached to the characters, or even hate them.

I said at the beginning of this that I don't watch zombie movies, but my next review is a Japanese zombie film, I am a Hero which I also enjoyed and watched around the same time as Train to Busan.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flash Fiction #45

I saw this writing prompt and found it interesting for me to write on.

"You realize you are immortal or more specifically that you cannot die. The issue is that you only realize this once the man who is attempting to torture you to death can't finish the job."


~~~

I couldn't believe I was in this predicament. Strapped to a chair in a dimly lit basement with the curtains covered and head covered by a black cloth, my fears were fully realized. Claustrophobic. Thantophobic. I didn't even know the time of day. My cries of pain echoed in the empty room. Will anyone hear me?

"If you want the pain to stop, tell me what I need to know!"

I pleaded, "I don't know what you're talking about. You're misunderstanding!"

At the crack of the whip, I felt the sharp pain on my chest. It just kept on coming. I could definitely feel the skin had broke and blood was dripping away.

"Why were you with my wife the other day?! Why did she leave me!? What did you tell her!?"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "You're completely insane!"

"If you're not going to cooperate, we're going to have to escalate this." The man took a tool and stretched out my fingers onto a wooden board. I thought he was going to do what I thought, and found myself correct. A knife came down and severed my right pinky finger.

I roared out in pain, crumbling up inside and panting heavily. "Please... I beg you... I don't know... you're mistaken..."

"Still playing dumb?" The man chopped off my right ring finger this time. "I wouldn't have to do this if you admit it!"

"You got the wrong guy!"

"You're still telling the same lies?! What about these!?" The man shoved pictures into my face as he lifted the black cloth from my eyes to look at them.

As I looked at the pictures at the unfamiliar woman and myself, I recalled just one day from the last week where I bumped into her by accident as seen in the photo. She seemed distressed about something, and I had just spilled her coffee that she was holding. I immediately gave her the change for another one and a napkin to try to help her clean up the mess. I must have said something, but we exchanged smiles and we went on with our own lives. With the blindfold off for a quick moment, I looked past the photos to see the man's face in shadow. I couldn't recognize him at all in the dark. My first thought at seeing his face in shadow was: This guy is insane!

"That was the first time seeing your wife that day. I don't know anything. Please believe me!"

"She didn't talk to anyone that day and all of a sudden at the end of the day, she told me that she wanted to leave me! Why!? What did you say to her!?"

"I don't remember. It must have been something simple like a 'Sorry'. I did bump into her and spill her coffee that day!" I tried to explain to my kidnapper. "I'm sure if you come clean to the police and get some help, they can help you."

"You're lying. Everyone is lying." The man covered my face again with the black cloth and could hear him muttering to himself over and over again.

I thought he was going to cut off another finger, but I felt a sharp object pierce through my torso. I yelled out in pain, but I must have gone into shock and passed out.

I resumed consciousness, still feeling the pain but now dull. My hand twitched and the man shouted, "How are you still alive?! I got your heart!"

I couldn't believe it either. Why am I suffering through this hell? If I'm going to die, why won't it end?

I felt another sharp object pierce through my abdomen and coughed out blood. Is this my punishment for everything I wronged in the past?

When I thought another weapon was going to stab me, I heard the basement door kicked open. "FREEZE! Hands up!"

It's the police! Thank you!

"He's the monster! Why won't he die!? I'm not the monster, just a normal person!" I assumed he got handcuffed, and dragged away as his voice trailed from the house.

He whispered, "Please... help... I want to see Alisa..."

"Don't move, we'll get you out soon and the ambulance will take you to the hospital." An officer knelt down and pulled the blindfold away from my face. "I'm not sure how you're still alive, but keep hanging on. You're safe now."

Monday, February 6, 2017

Flash Fiction #44

I had originally started this months ago, but I didn't finish it. I don't recall how I wanted to end it...

~~~

The bell for recess rang and everyone ran outside wearing their winter coats to the snowy fields in the school playground for their fifteen minutes of freedom before class continued. James hung back being one of the last ones to leave the school building. While he watched his classmates and other students have fun in the snow, James knelt down at a corner of the school playground to play alone. It was always like this everyday. He never had someone that he called a friend since the school year began months ago.

"James! Heads up!" A female voice called him and James looked up to see a snowball hit him right down the middle.

"Haha! Slowpoke!" The girl pointed her index finger at him and laughed so much she had to clutch her stomach to contain herself.

"Nancy. Leave me alone!" He turned around to walk away, visibly hurt.

"What's wrong, James?" she asked, bending over to look up at his face.

"I'm fine. Why don't you go play with Jessica and them as you always do?"

"You're always alone, so I wanted to play with you during recess today." Nancy smiled.

Jessica yelled across the school ground, "Nancy! Are you coming over to us!?"

"I'm fine here! Not today!" Nancy waved back.

James asked, "You don't have to play with me because I'm alone. I'm used to it, and besides, our classmates will judge you because you're with me."

"I'm fine with that. You're an interesting classmate, and I want to get to know you! Come on, let's build a snow man!" Nancy grabbed James' hand, and ran over to the patch of snow to start rolling a snowball.

James joined in and for the first time since the school year, he was having fun. When the bell rang at the end of lunch recess, Nancy and James started to walk back to their designated doors. "Thanks for playing with me today, Nancy. I had a lot of fun!"

"See! You can make friends in class! You have to try with the others!" Nancy beamed, nudging him with her shoulder.

James wanted to say that it was because of her, but he blushed at the thought of it. He whispered, "Can we play again tomorrow?"

Nancy paused for a moment before nodding. "Of course. I'm excited for tomorrow now. But promise me that you'll try to make new friends?"

"O-Of course, I'll try if you're here."

"Pinky promise!?" Nancy stuck out her pinky, and James linked his pinky finger with hers for a brief second. Then they hung up their jackets at their cupboard before heading back into the classroom to continue on for the rest of the day.

Little did he knew, that was the last day he saw Nancy at school. She had moved across the country with her parents because they got transferred to a different branch for their jobs.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Flash Fiction #43

I was inspired by something that happened yesterday. Hope you enjoy!

~~~

As I sat there staring out the window with the thin layer of snow covering the roads out front, I couldn't think of what I was doing. What was my purpose? Everything was the same as usual. Up in the morning, eat, let time go by throughout the day, and sleep at night. There has to be something out there. I want to experience the world, but how? An intricate plan must be in the works, but would help be available? I can't possibly do this on my own. There has to be something I can do on my own... bit by bit.

"What are you doing in the corner by yourself?"

"Coral, I didn't see you there." I looked over to her, as I couldn't hide the surprise on my face. "It's nothing. I wonder what life is like outside."

"You still have aspirations for the outside? Let's just admit our fate here like everyone else." Coral shrugged as she sighed.

"I can't. I'm sure you had the same thoughts as me. Remember when we were kids?"

"That was when we were kids. I've accepted the inevitability of normalcy."

"I promise you if we get out of here, there's something waiting for us. I promise you that." I looked at Coral with a stern look, reaching over to hold her.

"Even if I believe you, what's your guarantee?"

I looked at her, stunned. I didn't even have a plan, but I never took my eyes off of her despite that. "Let's think and come up with a plan together. No matter how long it takes. We'll get out there. I won't believe life is all it is to be here."

Coral smiled. "Let's get back to the others to eat. We'll talk more later."

"Alright." I followed her back to the rest of the group, and I peered over my side at the window. Freedom... what is the price to pay for that? I wonder how long it will take to achieve that? What awaits Coral and I on the other side? I couldn't stop the tremble thinking about the unknown, but it's better than the normal life like everyone else here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Impression of Chihayafuru Part 1 and 2

Image used from: http://asianwiki.com/Chihayafuru_Part_1

Image used from: http://asianwiki.com/Chihayafuru_Part_2
A couple of months ago, I watched these two movies that are related called Chihayafuru Part 1 and 2. The Japanese titles are called: Chihayafuru Kami no Ku and Chihayafuru Shimo no Ku respectively. They were released in March 19 and April 29, 2016. The movie series is getting a third movie to round out the trilogy sometime in 2017. It was directed by Norihiro Koizumi, and based on the manga with the same name written by Yuki Suetsugu. The movies stars Suzu Hirose, Shuhei Nomura, and Mackenyu Maeda.

The story is about Chihaya Ayase (played by Suzu Hirose) who meets and becomes friends with Arata Wataya (played by Mackenyu) a talented karuta player. After being introduced to karuta by Arata, she hopes to become the best karuta player in Japan. She also make friends with Taichi Mashima as they all play karuta together. Unfortunately, all three of them are separated from one another, but Chihaya still plays karuta with hopes to see Arata again. In high school, she forms a Karuta Club with Taichi in order to play competitively with other schools to be the best karuta player and for her to be with Arata again.

I had no idea what karuta was before watching the movie, so I had to learn quickly through the movie's exposition as they show what the game was all about. I get the gist of it with some uncertainty, but it tries to explain for new viewers that is unfamiliar with the anime/manga. From what I can understand, the basic premise of karuta is a card game where two opposing players lay out in front of them. A judge reads out a card that they have, and the players have to grab the card to finish the poem before their opponent or protect their own. It's a lot more intense than what I'm actually explaining!

The acting with its main cast and supporting cast were well done in my opinion. I was drawn in to watch it because of Suzu Hirose as I recently watched a movie she was in which was Our Little Sister. She's really pretty, very expressive with her emotions but not too over the top that makes you cringe while watching. I can't say how the movie  was compared to the source material as I never read/watch the series, but I feel like the pacing was good. It didn't feel too rushed. It may bore some people who are not interested in this type of story as it is all talking and the only action is when they play karuta. The director did try to make it interesting for those scenes. It's been a while so I don't quite remember the music or cinematography, but I think it was well done. There wasn't anything negative about it that I can remember.

It gives me hope that possibly one day they will adapt Hikaru no Go as a live action movie/TV drama, if they could adapt Chihayafuru. Overall, I really like the two films and I can't wait to watch the third movie sometime next year!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Impressions of The Hours of My Life

(Image used from: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Boku_no_Ita_Jikan)

I recently watched a Japanese TV drama (again) called The Hours of My Life (translated from Boku no Ita Jikan) that aired in Japan between Jan 8 to Mar 19, 2014. It starred Miura Haruma and Tabe Mikako. 

The synopsis for this Japanese drama on Drama Wiki is well done and not too spoilery, so I'll just copy and paste their summary here (with minor tweaks):

"Fourth year university student Sawada Takuto (played by Miura Haruma) is having a tough time looking for a job. As the eldest son of the director of a hospital, Takuto's parents had expected him to become a doctor. But they began to focus their hopes on his younger brother Rikuto instead, some time during his junior high school. Although Takuto is popular and good at befriending ladies, he has no confidence that he will be loved and thus avoids deep emotional involvement with anyone. One day, he is informed that he does not have long to live because he is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disease. Takuto, who had given only vague thoughts to his goals in life, starts to explore what is left of his life and live with a positive attitude."

I do have to say that the chemistry between the main characters of Haruma and Mikako's characters were good, and the acting overall between the co-stars and main cast were good as well. I like the varying angles and the cinematography that was in the TV show. The theme songs played throughout the series especially the song that plays at the end of every episode is really good. The story is really emotional as you would expect from the plot summary, and you really feel for Takuto and what he is going through. Although the story centers around him, the story also shows character development for the people around his life like his younger brother, his girlfriend, best friend, and parents. In each episode, I couldn't stop my tears from coming out and despite it being a fictional story, it inspired me. Back then, I can relate to what it is like after graduating from university and having vague thoughts about the future. I wasn't sure what to do, and I have a normal life so I kept on thinking that I have the next day to think about it. But as an example if you get an incurable disease and you have a fixed time left to live, you begin to think more seriously about your life and goals in your life that you want to accomplish. It made me feel bad at myself, and I found his speech in the last episode to be really touching and inspiring.

Overall, I really like this drama. If you want to have the feels and get some good acting with its main cast, I definitely recommend a watch at least once.