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For many, Alan Rickman will always be the criminal mastermind in Die Hard, while younger moviegoers know him as Harry Potter’s professor. But the multi-talented Brit is also an accomplished stage actor who has recently returned to the director’s chair. A Little Chaos, which has been selected as the closing film for the Toronto International Film Festival, is Rickman’s first directorial effort in over 15 years, in which he also has a role. “I’ll play Louis XIV, the Sun King,” he said recently at the Giffoni Experience festival in Italy. Working on both sides of the camera, he directed Kate Winslet as a gardener whom Louis awards the coveted assignment of designing the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. Rickman was honored with a special award at the fest—not surprising considering kids from around the world serve as jurors and the actor appears in all eight Harry Potter films. Rickman told the young crowd the boy wizard has parallels to his own life. “My father died when I was 8 and I felt different from other children who had ‘normal’ family situations,” he said. “Luckily I attended a school where difference was a value and children were encouraged to study subjects very different from one another.” Will Rickman be focusing on directing now? “It took 18 months to finish [the film],” he said. “I’m not getting back behind the camera soon.” The Toronto International Film Festival will run Sep 4-14. Kevin Mcgue


By: Kevin Mcgue | Aug 29, 2014 | No Comments | 99 views

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Tokyo Disneyland and the success of Frozen prove that Japan is a key market for the House of Mouse, but there’s never been a Japanese hero in a Disney film. That will change with Big Hero 6, set in the futuristic city San Fransokyo. The animated adventure centers on teenage tech whiz Hiro Hamada, who builds a robot and leads a misfit team of crime fighters. Hiro is voiced by 18-year-old Ryan Potter, who was born in Oregon but spent his early childhood in Tokyo, where his mother was studying Japanese. Returning to the States, Potter picked up martial arts, which helped him land the lead on the Nickelodeon show Supah Ninjas. Despite a 60-year age difference, he bonded with co-star George Takei over a shared interest in all things Japanese. The older actor also instilled in Potter, who is half Japanese, a sense of responsibility in representing Asian Americans, which he took with him to his Disney role. Potter was a surprise guest at last month’s Comic-Con in San Diego but didn’t stick around for the clip he introduced, explaining he wants to wait until the whole film is finished. Big Hero 6 will have its worldwide premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and if its young star attends, he can finally see it then.

The Tokyo International Film Festival will run October 23-31 at Roppongi Hills and other venues.

By: Kevin Mcgue | Aug 18, 2014 | No Comments | 559 views

“There have been a lot of Japanese zombie movies, but they have all been comedies or parodies,” director Norio Tsuruta tells Metropolis. “I wanted to make Japan’s first proper zombie film.” That’s a tall order, but Tsuruta was the right person for the job, having cut his teeth on the TV series Scary True Stories and installments of the Ring franchise. The result of his ambition is Z: Hate Naki Kibo, with “Z” being the term the authorities use for the undead in the film and the rest loosely translating as “undying hope.” The story starts with two high school girls discovering that Japan is being taken over by flesh-eaters. They team up with a teenage sword master and hole up in a hospital where a few people are determined to make the human race survive. The summer release of the film is no coincidence. “Japanese summer is so hot and humid, so people would listen to ghost stories to give themselves goosebumps and forget the heat,” Tsuruta says. “Another factor is obon, when spirits of ancestors are believed to return home. It isn’t celebrated so much today, but it is a century-old tradition, and Japanese people still associate summer with ghosts.”

Z: Hate Naki Kibo opens at Cinemart Roppongi and Cinemart Shinjuku July 26.

By: Kevin Mcgue | Jul 25, 2014 | No Comments | 974 views

Studio Ghibli is known not only for its award-winning animation and engaging storytelling, but also its careful selection of pop songs from hit makers such as Yumi Matsutoya. For its upcoming film When Marnie Was There, the studio tapped Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn for the job, and the half-Korean musician provided her single “Fine on the Outside.” The track will be the first in English to appear in both the Japanese and international versions of a Ghibli film. Ahn’s acoustic guitar and ethereal vocals suit the look of the film, and the song she wrote while still in high school gels with the teenage alienation found in the source novel by Canadian writer Joan G. Robinson—about a lonely girl who makes a rather mysterious friend. “I feel like this will be a very good film for everyone to see, especially young teens,” Ahn said during a recent “Ask Me Anything” event on Reddit. “But I feel like anyone who’s ever felt alone before can relate to this film.” The singer got to tour the Tokyo studio when animators were putting the finishing touches on the film. “All the backgrounds of the film are painted by hand,” she says. “I know this, because I saw them actually painting them!” When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Marnie) opens nationwide July 19.

By: Kevin Mcgue | Jul 17, 2014 | No Comments | 229 views

With Blu-ray quickly overtaking DVDs and 4K Ultra HD TVs creating the need for yet another format, most people hardly remember VHS tapes. Not so the fanatical collectors in Rewind This!, a documentary on the cultural impact of the invention that allowed people to watch movies at home and control their own TV schedules. It was a worldwide revolution that started in Japan. “I wanted to have an international element to the film, and Japan seemed the best place to go,” director Josh Johnson told Metropolis after the Tokyo premiere. The doc uses archival ads to recount the history of  two Japanese companies, Sony and JVC, as they fought the war of  Betamax vs. VHS (for those who missed it, Sony lost). After a Kickstarter campaign to raise airfare to Tokyo, Johnson interviewed Tom Mes, a writer for the Japanese film site Midnight Eye. Mes recounts how Japanese filmmakers embraced direct-to-video films, called “V-Cinema.” “It is interesting that Japanese directors would go back and forth between V-Cinema and major films,” Johnson says. “In America, if a film goes directly to video that is a real stigma.” Prolific performer Shoko Nakahara, who’s interviewed in the doc and attended the premiere, made a more personal statement: “If it weren’t for VHS, I would never have been an actress.” Rewind This! will screen at at Uplink in Shibuya from July 27.

By: Kevin Mcgue | Jul 9, 2014 | No Comments | 117 views

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