Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recommended: The Snow White Murder Case

This film has been on my radar for a while, since it stars Inoue Mao, but I was unaware of any subs or a decent rip online until I saw it mentioned on Hamsapsubeke.

It’s a murder mystery which is described through the eyes of a tabloid TV journalist, who’s keen for a big exclusive story. As such, all of the clues and eye-witness accounts point to one suspect: one who just so happens to have disappeared on the same evening as the murder.

The film reminded me a lot of Rashomon, with its multiple telling of the same story, and it was fascinating to see the events shift from one perspective to the next. Inoue Mao was superb in her role, probably the best I’ve seen her in any film. There’s a real difference in her performance when she’s in a flashback (as described by someone else) and when she’s being the actual character herself. I loved that kind of subtlety to her role. Ayano Gou, too, was great as the manipulative reporter.

By telling the story through news reports and twitter feeds, it really shows how a story can grow and how the opinions of people who have nothing to do with the case are able to be spread and repeated.

It also reminded me of the Joanna Yates murder case in 2010, where the media latched onto the idea that the landlord was the murderer and strongly put forward their theories until the real killer (a neighbour) was arrested.

A lot to think about, and a clever story in its own right. With half an hour to go, I still wasn’t sure how the film was going to end. The overlap of social media and the need for news reporters to get the facts first (whether the facts are true or not) is a timely subject, given the recent hoax of the “countdown” to release photos of Emily Watson.

A great film, in a surprising number of interesting ways.

Recommended: The Chaser

Ah, once upon a time I was cutting edge! I followed J-dramas with more attention than a cat following a wounded bird! I saw all the dramas and plenty of films, and I even wrote about future seasons and what I was looking forward to. Now, lack of time has put an end to all that, and I’m just as reliant on review sites as anyone else. So tonight I’m going to dash off two reviews of films that I found out from other sites.

I found this film on a Top 25 of Korean Movies, and for some reason the description appealed to me, so I hunted it down and had a look.

The Chaser is a thriller, but is best described as a Tragedy of Errors. Most thrillers and mysteries rely on the characters misunderstanding something vital that increases the danger and heightens the tension, but this has people making mistakes all the time. And not just one big mistake, like asking for help at an old abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. Little things. Like a missed call, a wrong turning or a set of dropped keys.

The storyline revolves around an ex-cop who is now a pimp who is convinced that his best prostitutes are being kidnapped and sold on. When a familiar phone number asks for a particular woman, he suspects this is him, and he puts in place a plan to catch him.

Except nothing goes right, not for the pimp, nor the killer (since the women aren’t being kidnapped at all) nor the police who don’t know how to deal with an ex-cop-turned-pimp yelling about abductions, while another man is calmly telling them he’s murdered nine people.

If I’ve made it sound funny, then it’s not. Not really. In fact, it’s more painful to watch everyone come to reasonable but agonisingly wrong conclusions. But at the same time, I can’t fault how nicely everything fits together. It’s a tense time-bomb of a film, and definitely worth anyone’s time.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Just finished: Zero no Shinjitsu

Sometimes I don't understand myself. Why, out of all the dramas this season, did I stick with this until the end? I do not know. The cast were good, but the characters never really worked together very well, despite the occasional mention that some of them dated in the past.

The stories were nothing special, although I will say that I didn't guess the ending of the main story arc: who killed Matsumoto Mao's mother. So, hats off to the writers for that, at least.

Finally, there was the issue of the subtitles. I often found myself rewriting them as I went, replacing the bizarre translations with what I thought they actually said. Certainly, I'm grateful that any series gets subbed, but often the strange English undermined some pretty important scenes.

All in all, it was okay, but it made no lasting impact at all. After I post this review, I'm deleting it from my hard drive, and I don't expect I'll ever think about it again.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Currently watching: Nakuna Hara-chan

To be honest, after I'd finished subbing SOIL, I didn't have any plans to do any more subtitles. Although SOIL was a satisfying drama to work on, it left me kind of exhausted. However, two things happened to change my mind. First, I was getting increasingly irritated by the machine-translations that one subber in particular left in his subtitles. I know I should be grateful they're being subbed at all, but at least do a bit of quality control before you release them.

The other thing was finding this drama on a hard drive, and discovering that no one had made English subs for it (in my last post about this drama, I mentioned they were on LiveJournal, but couldn't find them when I searched again). I'd seen the first few episodes before, but this time I wanted to watch it properly, so I sat down and made a start on a set of subtitles for it.

The storyline is about a frustrated manga writer (Aso Kumiko) who, after a series of unlikely events, meets one of her own characters in real life. This character, Hara-chan (played in typical bombastic style by Nagase Tomoya) is very much an innocent in a strange new world, and his lack of inhibitions about how to act make for some interesting episodes.

It requires a huge suspension of disbelief from the viewer. Not just about how a comic character can come to life, but also about how he can meet his own author, and go back and forth into his world at opportune moments. But once you get over that, it's a fun comedy, which also has a fair amount of emotional weight behind it. Certainly, anyone who's let their own low self-esteem stop them from going for something they really wanted should find themselves empathising with this story.

Also, Nakuna, Hara-chan seems like a good drama for anyone just starting out learning Japanese, because Hara-chan repeats a lot of words when asking what they mean.

An amusing comedy, perfect if you want something that won't tax your mind, but will pull at your heartstrings.