Dec 06 2015

Flying Colors (Film Review)

Flying Colors
Review by David Cirone

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The magic of Flying Colors is also its weakness. You know what you’re getting from the very first moments — it’s the kind of feel-good, predictable fast-food film that modern Japanese cinema and film excel at. It’s the strength of the actors and the simplicity of execution that make it worthwhile nonetheless.

A top-notch cast, led by Kasumi Arimura as under-achieving student Sayaka Kudo and Atsushi Ito as her dedicated cram-school tutor, manage earnest performances that surpass the candy-coated script, and I found myself rooting for Sayaka as she pushes herself relentlessly toward her dream of attending the prestigious Keio University.

Sayaka’s childhood dream was to make friends, and by all accounts she’s been successful. Staying out all night with her BFFs is a regular routine, even if it comes at the expense of her studies. She’s ranked among the lowest in her high school class and has no hope of passing college entrance exams.

When Sayaka meets Yoshitaka Tsubota (Ito), the head of Seito cram school, he praises her imagination (“genius level”) and urges her to believe in herself. “Keio boys sound hot,” so she picks top-ranked Keio University as her target.

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Sep 22 2015

Outrage (Film Review)

Outrage
Review by David Cirone

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In Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage, violence comes suddenly and at full force, often preceded by brief, polite conversation. A successful character study disguised as a standard yakuza crime drama, Kitano returns to the his signature gangster genre (there’s a ten-year gap between this release and 2000’s Brother), stacking the film with great actors like Jun Kinimura as Ikemoto, Kitano’s benefactor turned enemy, and Kippei Shiina as Kitano’s right-hand man. Kitano himself (performing as alter-ego Beat Takeshi) is typically grounded and realistic, fitting right into his role as underworld boss Otomo, who gets caught in a battle for power between his superiors.

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Sep 06 2015

Rookies – Episode 11 (Review)

ROOKIES
Episode 11

Review by David Cirone

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SUMMARY
The Nikogaku team has reached the semi-finals, and the dugout is filled with a feeling of dread and insecurity. Mikoshiba (Kiesuke Koide) speaks to his team with the full authority of his position as captain, urging them to keep fighting for the sake of their teammates and their absent coach.

Kawato (Ryuta Sato) stands at the border of the stadium, listening intently to the game’s radio broadcast as Nikogaku squares off against their rivals Megurogawa and their star pitcher Enatsu (Yusuke Kamiji). An early home run by Shinjo (Yu Shirota) gives them hope, but the team is suffering from too many injuries. Sekikawa’s (Akiyoshi Nakao) base-stealing fails because of his sprained ankle, and Aniya’s (Hayato Ichihara) anguish grows more visible with every pitch.

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Aug 20 2015

Last Cinderella (Series Review)

LAST CINDERELLA
Series Review by David Cirone

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Last Cinderella piles on the cute. As much a fantasy story as its namesake, the series trips over itself time and time again as it overtly panders to a middle-aged female audience. Despite its talented and earnest cast led by Ryoko Shinohara and featuring Haruma Miura and Naohito Fujiki as her dueling love interests, Last Cinderella never found it balance and took itself too seriously. Played for straight comedy, it might have been more successful.

Sakura (Shinohara) has no confidence, no dating experience, no fashion sense, no clue about makeup, and no radar for judging how the people (especially men) around her feel. One month shy of 40, she’s become androgynous, a point hammered home by the beginnings of a beard sprouting from her chin in the first episode.

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Aug 08 2015

Rookies – Episode 10 (Review)

ROOKIES
Episode 10

Review by David Cirone

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SUMMARY
As the Nikogaku team rises in the qualifying rounds for Koshien, rumors begin to spread about the team, and coach Kawato (Ryuta Sato) earns the attention of the horse-racing obsessed sports writer Yoshida (Atsuro Watabe). Is it possible that the violent kids and their violent teacher are intimidating their opponents off-field?

The High School Baseball League takes the rumors seriously and calls Kawato in for a conference, citing Kawato’s history at his previous school and the recent attack on another coach (see episode 5). The challenge to their team’s integrity comes at the same time as their schoolmates are treating them like celebrities and as the boys are deepening their self-confidence.

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