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Dec 2003
Issue 043

KS Classifieds out NOW!

Finding Nemo


Comedy, Animation/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/101 minutes
Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould
Director: Andrew Stanton

Finding Nemo reduced this hard-bitten reviewer to tears. No, really.
And it's not a confession that comes easily. However, these tears were not the sad kind, they were the laughing kind.

Ignore the Disney label on this film — this is a Pixar movie through and through. Pixar are those eccentric computer nerds that brought usToy Story and Monster's Inc. and Finding Nemo cements their reputation for consistent quality and innovation. All the Pixar trademarks are here: the witty characteri-sation, fast, tight plotting, and spectacular animation. As usual the gags are not all for the kids —there's plenty for us big kids too, like the shark called Bruce who speaks with an Australian accent and who has started a self-help group along the lines of alcoholics anonymous for sharks that want to control their addiction to fish.

The story follows Marlin, an over protective, neurotic and desperately unfunny clown fish searching for his son Nemo after he has been decaptured by a scuba diver. Marlin has tragedy in his past and as a consequence has all the usual parental anxieties magnified to obsessional proportions, so when Nemo disappears, Dad will go anywhere and do anything to get him back. The lingering note of tragedy adds a hint of poignancy to the comedy of the whole film.

Perhaps this is an unpromising premise for a film but the Pixar team's talent for making the ordinary into something unusual gives the adventure an entirely fresh feel. Arguably the dialogue and the plotting are not quite as sharp as earlier films but to make an issue out of this would be churlish. The setting for the adventure, the Pacific ocean, Australia's barrier reef and the city of Sydney gives the animators plenty of scope to ratchet their skills another notch, creating scenes of quite stunning beauty.

But what makes the film bubble is the cast of digital characters, each of whom is a caricature of a familiar human type. Finding Nemo is not simply a fishy adventure, it is more a gentle, affectionate mocking of its human creators.

The Last Samurai


Historical/US/English and Japanese (English and Japanese subtitles)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Edward Zwick
Warner Brothers

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a soldier without honour. He is a man of decency and ideals but as member of the 7th Cavalry he became complicit in the murder of innocent women and children. He cannot live with the shame and we meet him as an alcoholic and a performing monkey for the Winchester weapons company.

Being recruited to go to Japan to train their modernising army to fight against an insurgency of traditionalists does nothing to relieve his fatalism and gloom. In his first encounter with the insurgents he is captured and taken to their mountain village where he quickly discovers that these people are not savages as he has been led to believe: they are educated, disciplined and devoted to the code of the samurai.

He becomes fascinated as he realises these are people who live by unshakable principle. He learns their ways and sets off on the road to recovering his own honour and integrity.

This powerful and moving film is about a clash of values: venality and principle; about a clash of civilisations: the Western technologised, commercial world and an older philosophy-driven way. The artful directing through shots of telegraph poles and railway lines scarring Tokyo reminds us that the forces changing Japan are the same ones that seized America's west.

The vision of Japan's reformers is enlightening as we see that the rush to modernise was part of a factional power struggle within Japan: the modernisers had no interest in modernity except for the power the technology and commercial systems would give them over their rivals; they were self-serving manipulators of a weak Emperor.

The Last Samurai parts with the Hollywood tradition of hiring cheap Chinese imitations of Japanese people and uses well-known actors of real presence and talent: Ken Watanabe as dissident samurai Katsumoto deserves a truck-load of Oscars and there are impressively toned performances from Hiroyuki Sanada and Koyuki.

If Hollywood is to movie making what the telegraph rail companies were to the west, then The Last Samurai is the noble dissident. Let's hope it's not the last one.

Film Reviews: Chris Page

Also playing

The Matrix Revolutions

There's a lot of hush-hush for the final chapter
of the Matrix. Warner Brothers have not offered reviews or trailers so we have to presume that on November 5th, the rebels' long quest for freedom culminates in a final explosive battle. Will Zion survive the attack of the Machine Army as they wage devastation? And where exactly does Neo fit in all this and how will he end the war and save all of humankind?

Cast: Keanu Reeves/Laurence Fishburne
Director: by Andy and Larry Wachowski
Warner Brothers


Ten strangers are brought together in a rainstorm: A limo driver, an '80s TV star, a cop who is transporting a killer, a call girl, a pair of newlyweds and a family in crisis, all take shelter at a desolate motel run by a nervous manager. Butt he ten travelers begin to die, one by one. They soon realize that, if they are to survive, they'll have to uncover the secret that has brought them all together.

Cast: John Cusak, Ray Leotta, Amanda Peet
Director : James Mangold
Sony Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey — self-declared Jerry Lewis on acid —gets together again with director Tom Shadyac to recreate the Liar Liar team — so if you saw Liar Liar, you should be cued to the goofy tone of this film. Carrey is Bruce Nolan a TV reporter who thinks he should be running the show. He misses promotion and goes ballistic, cursing God for mismanaging the universe of Nolan. God, played perfectly by the ice-cool Morgan Freeman, calls Nolan's tune and turns the universe over to him for a while. Perhaps being the main man isn't all that Nolan thinks it will be.

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/101mins
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, M Freeman
Director: Tom Shadyac
Universal Pictures

Daddy Day Care

Self-absorbed careerist daddies Charlie (Eddie Murphy) and Phil (Jeff Garlin) mess up their bright careers in advertising and suddenly find themselves unable to pay for their kids to attend their up-market day care centres so they decide to set up their own school. How difficult can it be to look after hordes of screaming brats? Their anarchic
school takes off big time, and piques the owner of conservative rival school ma'am Miss Gwyneth Harridan (Anjelica Huston) who sets out to put them out of business.

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/93mins
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Anjelica Huston
Director: Steve Carr
Sony Pictures

Phone Booth

This has to be the suspense movie of the year: 20 years in gestation, ten days in shooting on one location — with a novel plot and immaculate execu-tion. New York wide boy Stu (Colin Farrell) finds himself in Manhatten's last pay phone in the sights of a sniper who seems to know all about him. Put down the phone and he gets shot. Keep the phone to his ear as his life is stripped bare and he may get shot anyway. The police think Stu is a killer and are ready to shoot him too. Tense and inventive.

Suspense/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/81mins
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, F Whitaker
Director: Joel Schumacher
Fox Pictures

Auto Focus

Capitalizing on his fame as the star of "Hogan's Heroes," Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) dove into the freewheeling spirit of the 60s and 70s with relish, having affairs with numerous women. Eventually, Crane teamed up with video technician John Carpenter to document his exploits, an association that may very well have led to his murder in a Scottsdale, Arizona motel room in 1978, which remains officially unsolved to this day.

Cast: Greg Kinnear, William Dafoe, Rita Wilson
Direcotor: Paul Schrader
Sony Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

Beyond Borders

Sarah Jordan (Angelina Jolie) is a rich American living in London who at a charity event is arrested by the sight of macho aid worker Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) gate crashing with a starving Ethiopean kid in his arms to accuse the rich of double standards. This act propels Ms. Jordan into an orgy of international acts of mercy, ferrying, cartloads of urgent supplies to Callahan's aid group in the world's trouble spots. When Callahan and Ms. Jordan get the hots for each other against a backdrop of starving refugees the film reveals itself as a steamy romance.

Romance/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/127mins
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen, Linus Roache
Director: Martin Campbell

The Brown Bunny

Low key, sensitive art film — or a crock of rubbish? Man of parts Vincent Gallo is Bud Clay, a man in pain travelling across the US to find his lost love played by Chloe Sevigny. On the way he meets up with a number of women who succumb to his moody looks. There are long brooding shots, some very graphic sex, and the film eschews plot for contemp-lation while Gallo, who also wrote and directed, gives a quietly intense performance. The Brown Bunny was booed at Cannes but was received well at the Toronto festival.

Art/US/ English (Japanese subtitles)/90mins
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny, Cheryl Tiegs
Director: Vincent Gallo

Riders (Steal)

An entrepreneurial criminal, Slim (Dorff) is as smart as they come and with his two friends, they form a team of risk-taking rush-seekers to pull off a series of five bank heists, each time using a different extreme sport to make the getaway. Following an unexpected windfall on only their second job, the gang nets $20 million in untraceable bonds. Having scored enough money to retire on, Slim and his crew decide to call the robbery game quits. But both the mob and the police have other plans in mind for them

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Natasha Henstride, B Payne
Diretor: Gérard Pirès


It was supposed to be simple: kidnap the child of rich parents, hold the kid for 24 hours, keep the mother under control while an accomplice gets the ransom from the father, who is on a trip. But things go very wrong because they find out that the kid they kidnapped is asthmatic and the parents find out a little too much about the kidnappers.

Cast: Charlize Theron, Courtney Love, Kevin Bacon
Director: Luis Mandoki

Bad Boys 2

Fractious duo Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are part of an elite Miami police force drug squad hunting down a reliably ruthless drug lord who is single-handedly taking over the illegal drug trade in Florida. Their mission is complicated when Marcus’s dutifully gorgeous sister, who happens to be a DEA agent on the trail of the same bad guy, gets cute with Mike and then has her cover blown. Will the bad boys save the girl and put paid to the bad guy? It’s anybody’s guess in this fast-paced, production line cop flick.

Crime-Action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/146 minutes
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union
Director: Michael Bay
Sony Pictures

Kill Bill

Post-post modem, post ironic, post coherent, and posthaste to the bank with buckets with dosh. After a six-year absence Tarantino is back with the biggest, baddest, most hubris-laden film of his career. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad led by Bill and his evil troupe, turn on one of their own, known only as the bride (Uma Thurman), massacring her wedding guests, her husband and her unborn child on her wedding day, and leave her for dead. Or they thought. The Bride comes to four years later and sets about slashing her way to revenge. From there on, its just blood sport all the way.

Action/US/E&J (Japanese subtitles)/93 minutes
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, David Carradine
Director: Quentin Tarantino


Up to date cinema listings guide so you always know what's on, where and when!


Festivals, performances, shows, gallery openings...your guide to what's coming up in the next few weeks.


Hard Knock Life
The Midori group peers thrugh the tarpaulins of Kyoto's homeless community.


Ski Suki?
The lowdown on some of the best ski resorts in Japan for folks who want to get a jump on the ski season.


Beauty by Coro
Time to dress up for the holiday season.


J Soccer Monthly Review
Soccerphile.com's Sanborn Brown on the latest action in Japanese soccer.


Top games on the horizon
The lowdown on what's hot and what's going to be in the gaming world.


Outback Grill
Sizzling steaks and blooming onions in Umeda.

Kitahorie's Covent Garden Social Club
A Canadian Cheers in the middle of Kitahorie.


Some of the news you won't see printed elsewhere, plus the best of the rest.

:: ART

Ikko Tanaka retrospective and Angkor Wat rubbings, plus other art listings for December.


Ya La Tengo, John Mayer, Clarence Gatemouth and many more incoming live acts...


ELLEN ALLIEN vs DJ MAYURI @ Club Two, Carl Cox @ Under Lounge and more...


Pixars' Finding Nemo, the much anticipated The Last Samurai and many more...


William Kremer A member of the Midori Group, and co-director of "Kyoto Poverty".