Battle Royale


I am quite convinced that whoever the woman is who wrote The Hunger Games saw Battle Royale before being ‘struck’ by the idea of Katniss Everdeen. The similarities are surely not just coincidental. Children battle to the death on an isolated island (or arena for THG) with the weapons they are given/can find.

It’s not exactly the same but the basic story is definitely very familiar, however, in Battle Royale the government chooses a naughty class of children to be the sacrifices. It’s not random death selection like in THG. From there on it’s pretty much the same. Lots of kids you don’t feel much for get chopped to bits by other kids you don’t feel much for and the kids you do get to know try to avoid killing as much as possible but have to do it to save themselves now and then.

There’s a little romance thrown in to Battle Royale in between the insane violence – not sure why, there’s nothing nice going on here and you know everyone’s going to die, right? As if you’d be thinking about boys/girls at this time. Although it’s a while since I was a teenager so maybe kids these days are all into bloody destruction matched with romance?

Battle Royale is really violent although not in a very realistic way. It’s a mean film though. There isn’t any weak conquering the mighty to be seen and those you think might make it through the battle to the death are just as likely not to.

BR is pretty gross and pretty wrong but I think it’s got quite a bit to say about authority and the role of government in making laws that are good for some but bad for others (really bad in BR) and usually bad for the people who have the least power to do anything about it. Maybe I’m reading a bit more into it than the writers intended but if I saw it at all I’m pretty sure it’s there – I’m not the best at finding hidden meaning in anything. At the same time it seems just as much an excuse to get Japanese girls to beat the shit out of each other while wearing school uniforms and still managing to be manga cute while, of course, the blood sprays in every direction.

There’s no happy ending here and a lot of the death is really quite gruesome. If you can handle splatter splash heads off kind of gore you might just like Battle Royale. Don’t watch it if you don’t like blood or if you don’t like to see the blatant meanness underlying the entire story or watching a film while knowing it’s never getting any better or that general feeling of dread when you know it’s all going to hell in a handbasket but you’re sitting in your living room and you probably don’t need to keep watching.

Also this film is in Japanese with subtitles. Also this film does not have Cary Grant in it, which is disappointing but something I’ll probably have to get used to when it comes to movie watching…




Dolls is no doubt a cult classic of Japanese cinema and if it’s not, it should be (well IMHO anyway).

Everything about Dolls is beautiful. From cinematography to story. There are dolls to begin with and admittedly the first sequence is a bit if a trial unless you like Kabuki  (?) theatre acted out by puppets (yes, read dolls). The dolls, of course, are beautiful and the sequence does set up the stunning quiet/cold aesthetic of the film.

There are three separate stories, one being the bound beggars, the other two tell of lost love, loneliness and obsession. The stories twine in and out of each other which is cleverly done by the director. He’s not out to make you catch all the strings but they are there.

The themes are those of selfishness and its outcomes, as well as love lost, and the extreme paths we find ourselves on in our lives because of decisions that seem small at the time. I am sure there is much more to be found if you are Japanese or have an understanding of Japanese culture or history. I don’t, but in the end I still thought this was a great film.

The dolls play a symbolic role throughout as we watch these stories unfold. Through the still beauty of the bound beggars, through the picture perfect backdrops to the characters lives (Japan’s countryside at its most amazing). I’m pretty sure the director made Dolls as a love letter to Japan.

There is one ongoing storyline of the bound beggars which “ties” together the film (“bind” “tie” , oh, the poetic symbolism!!). Our beggars wander through the film, through years, through seasons and throughout Japan I should imagine  (they do a lot of walking). They are beautiful even though past acts were not and their red cord is even beautiful. By the end of the film there is genuine affection for these two even though they barely say a word. Other characters are less likeable but you get that.

This is a very slow film that takes a long time to unfold but it really is worth it. There are subtitles so don’t watch when you are sleepy! Just be warned that once you finish watching Dolls you will probably be immediately overcome by the need to book a holiday to Japan in the spring, then one for the summer, then another for the autumn but probably not for winter that snow looks cold… beautiful but cold.



The Wolverine


Hey, have you noticed that Hugh Jackman is ridiculously buff? I think this is the 11th time he’s played Wolverine in an X-men movie. Which means he’s been working out for a long time! I can’t remember if we get a gratuitous shot of his bottom in The Wolverine and I’m a heterosexual female so you’d think I’d notice so there probably wasn’t one. We do, however, get a gratuitous abs shot which wasn’t all bad, no sir, not at all.

Now apart from the HJ factor for the ladies, I actually really enjoyed The Wolverine. There was enough action to keep me happy and enough story line to keep me thinking. Nice. The women were interesting characters with actual back stories and an arc that made sense. Woah, action film with female characters that aren’t just there for sexy times (although there was a bit of that but seeing as HJ was also getting the sexy time oily buff treatment I have no problem with such – equal treatment FTW!).

This film even passes the Bechdel test. The women talk about their concerns for someone other than Wolverine and I have to say if HJ were hanging out anywhere near me I would find that exceedingly difficult. (Oh dear, I’m one of those women – shut up, shut up, shut up, write about the film!)

I loved the Japanese location and the cultural influence on the movie. Wolverine was so far outside his comfort zone and his way of doing things (scratching people up y’know) just didn’t cut it (haha! pun bell!) in the society he was in. The Japanese just did everything better, cleaner, cooler and with less facial hair.

I think taking Wolverine out of the USA was a really good idea for this one. We really needed to be outside the goings on of the other X-men franchises and X-men Origins: Wolverine. I liked Origins but it was just so confusing and hard to place in the X-men timeline (I’ve never read the comics and I didn’t think about it for very long so I can’t comment on whether it makes sense for the pure of X-men folks). It was good not to have to think about the timing of events while watching – it just didn’t matter.

You know what’s weird about Wolverine? It’s when he has bone claws not adamantium. For some reason that really freaks me out. It actually makes my knuckles feel weird. Surely bone claws break like really long nails or something? I mean they’re quite thin. Also, why don’t they ever show the claws cutting through his skin? It must happen every time. And what about when he (SPOILER – although it’s an obvious plot hook) loses the ability to self heal? Surely he’d have permanent cuts on his knuckles? They totally should have shown that. And it probably hurt each time they got re-cut (am I over thinking this? I think so).

Back to the film… I liked it. It’s got action and it’s got a not entirely stoopid story line.

Two things I didn’t like:

1. superfluous ninja guy – he was just there to go heavy ninja all over the place and to make the big W a bit jealous – pointless and confusing

2. the big bad was too predictable, yet another evil guy being pretty obviously evil and just evilling about, c’mon people this is X-men the home of the ever conflicting Magneto (he’s bad but he’s good but he’s bad but I like him cos he’s good but he’s so bad but he’s good, you know?).

Also, Hugh Jackman looks good with his shirt off… (shut up, shut up, shut up)