Tag Archive: Akira Kurosawa


Review by C.J. Bunce

How can a movie get better on repeated viewings?  What makes that possible?  After three viewings of the home release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–the Digital HD edition, the Blu-ray, and the 3D Blu-ray–it’s apparent the film on repeated viewings is indeed as good as the initial theatrical viewing if not better, a rare feat in any genre.  Naysayers who didn’t like the CGI effects of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia–the primary criticism of the December theatrical release–should find even a home theater big screen television will mask any distractions seen on a 30-foot theater screen.  The Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray provide the best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release.  The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props.  As with most 3D movies, outdoor scenes, like the Scarif ground battle, are even more vivid with sharp foregrounds and backgrounds.  Check out the complete review of the film from December here.

The special features disc includes a version of the bonus features viewable together as an entire documentary and also viewable by chapter.  The extra disc available through Target stores only includes two short extra chapters, and although the creature shop feature is excellent the two extras wouldn’t normally be enough to tilt a buyer toward the Target edition–costs being the same–and some may instead opt for packaging, like Steelbook boxes (Best Buy only) or Connexions cards (available only in the Wal-Mart edition).  Fun bits in the features to look for include Bodhi actor Riz Ahmed’s audition tapes for Edwards, a feature documenting many Easter eggs from the show even the best eye likely never identified, and interviews with motion capture actors Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Ingvild Daila (Princess Leia), both who look little like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher, proving that simply using lookalikes or prosthetics would not have been a realistic option for re-creating these characters.  The standard bonus features included with the bundles are K-2SO: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues, and Rogue Connections (the Easter eggs list).

Rogue One easily merits ranking as the third best film in the series after Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back–but truly in a league with those two films.  One of the best war movie stories put to film, the best prequel or prequel that is also a sequel (yes, even considering the great Godfather II), the best space battle, the best use of spaceship filming (director Gareth Edwards avoids 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era overly-long ship takes and instead uses his imagery only as necessary to drive the story forward), while featuring one of the all-time best heist movies.

It really has it all.

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In the latest trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, released today during ABC’s Good Morning America, we have even more teased scenes that make it impossible not to get excited for this incredible looking film.  Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is tapped to lead a dangerous mission, and Forest Whitaker never looked better as an old rogue.  And check out the new movie poster.  Count the good guys.  Is this going to be another The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai inspired film?  The original Star Wars was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress.

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And Darth Vader, no longer hidden as another villain to the new story of Star Wars’ past.  But something tells us that appearance is going to be similar to Mark Hamill’s brief return as Luke Skywalker in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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But be warned:  The newest Star Wars entry fills in the remaining plot points, gives a clear look at Mads Mikkelsen’s key role in the story, provides more looks at costumes and landscapes, and introduces a few new characters, including what appears to be Eunice Olumide as a Rebel leader, more AT-STs, Death Star shots, and more Vader.

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Check out the latest trailer for the next big Star Wars flick:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

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Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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The Wolverine Japan theme poster

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s strange to be reading December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the Worldby Craig Shirley and read all of the vitriol directed against Japanese people in the days after Pearl Harbor in the summations of newspaper accounts.  I know that not using derogative terms to talk about groups of people is a relatively new concept, but looking at the headlines and words used in newspapers still gave me pause.  (The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the chapter I just read mentioned Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Redskins.)

I recently saw The Wolverine and it begins at the other side of the story of WWII, nearly four years after Pearl Harbor when the sovereign land of the Japanese was hit with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the planes of the United States.  Logan is a prisoner of war in a special constructed cell that buries him in a hole well beneath the surface of the earth.  A bomber passes overhead. A Japanese officer rushes to release POWs from their jails.  He finally cuts the lock from Logan’s cage as well after a bit of deliberation and joins his fellow officers as they face the horizon in the position to commit seppuku before the bomb hits Nagasaki.

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47 Ronin movie poster

The legend of the 47 Ronin has been told and retold and numerous books and at least seven movies.  This includes a Dark Horse comic book titled 47 Ronin which just wrapped up its five-issue series last month.  The unrelated Universal Pictures movie 47 Ronin was originally scheduled for release November 21, 2013, then it got bumped to this February and now to December 25, 2013.  Usually that kind of movement signals a potential bomb.  The trailer for the film has some surprisingly good elements, however, despite some obvious quirks.

The first questionable element is star Keanu Reeves, who in past performances never seems to play anyone other than the same Keanu Reeves character we’ve seen over and over again.  Maybe beyond the goofy teen in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but not far off the characters he played in Parenthood, Point Break, Dracula, Much Ado About Nothing, Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, The Matrix Trilogy, Constantine, The Day the Earth Stood Still.  You could almost say he is like John Wayne or Arnold Schwarzenegger in this regard, but he’s not remotely as iconic and has yet to have a standout performance despite heading up some big films.

Keanu Reeves 47 Ronin

The trailer shares a lot in common with the preview we showed here at borg.com of The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, released just last week–both centering around a fish-out-of-water white man in Japan.  Was 47 Ronin pushed because the studio didn’t want it to compete with The Wolverine?  Reeves has his fan base, but his popularity wouldn’t seem to stack up against the multi-faceted Jackman.

The new film also seems to echo elements of Tom Cruise’s character and story in The Last Samurai.  The creators had to have contemplated audiences making this comparison.  Again, fish-out-of-water white guy in Japan with ancient cultural themes.  It begs the question of whether Hollywood only thinks American audiences can get sucked into Japanese warrior-themes films without an American or Australian (for Jackman) as designated film tour guide.  The long-term success with American audiences of Akira Kurosawa films such as Seven Samurai, which needs no Anglo character hook, should at some point lead us to create a big-budget picture without the hook.

Check out the trailer for 47 Ronin:

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