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JAPANORAMA - Gang of 3 BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgTop Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita

Happiness of the Katakuris (カタクリ家の幸福, Katakuri-ke no kōfuku): a family move to the country to realise the father’s dream of opening a Bed and Breakfast – but it gets a bit weird when all of their guests start dying. The film opens with clay-mation sequence, and throws a load of equally unusual elements at the viewer for the duration: musical numbers (some with Karaoke sing-a-long), zombies, trippy dream sequences, a flying sailor, and a whole lot of gallows humour. To say it’s eclectic is definitely an understatement. Most of the characters are simply drawn, single-attributed batshit crazy people, which makes for entertaining viewing. There’s loads of jokes, but the humour is like no other, a mix of absurd, random and surreal. A re-make of the Korean film “The Quiet Family” (it went down the straight-faced, black-humour route), Happiness of the Katakuris couldn’t be more different. It’s one of those “crazy Japanese films” that could only really come from Japan, and that makes people think that every Japanese film is mental. It’s a tough one to score and review: you couldn’t really call this “a great film”, but it’s definitely unique, original, and every bit as entertaining as it is baffling.

Score: 6/10

Middle Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 09 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 06 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 04 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 07 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 08 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 03 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 01 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 02 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita 05 Happiness of the Katakuris, Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Yoshiyuki Morishita

Your Highness: when a lovely damsel is kidnapped, her heroic husband-to-be and his useless brother set out on a quest to save her. With this big budget, cast, and timeless mix of fantasy / peril it would be hard for this to go wrong… Above all, this film is pegged as a comedy, and for me it delivers, particularly if you enjoy some reductive and juvenile toilet humour. The special effects are turned up to eleven in parts – to keep the kidz of 2010s amused, and my nemesis (shaky cam) appears big-time during the last big set piece. The entire cast all play it well; Franco and Portman appear to be having fun and role-reversing both their Oscar-nom roles of 2010; Danny McBride does more of what he’s good at, as does the ever wide-eyed offbeat Deschanel – basically everyone is perfectly cast to play to their strengths. Big fights, dragons, magic, damsels, knights, nudity, swearing, hot pixies, drug jokes, robots, and the most unsettling ‘great wise wizard’ in cinema… what more could you ask from a rompalicious comedy? Laugh-a-minute, potty mouthed x-rated kids film.

Score: 7.5/10

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec: Based on the Jacques Tardi comic books, this follows a female adventurer in 1911 Paris who is traveling the world to find a cure for her comatose’d sister. With pterodactyls, mummies, bandits, hunters and a ton of other stuff, it’s all a bit crazy – landing as a PG adventure not a million miles from Indiana Jones / Jumanji / The Mummy etc… Louise Bourgoin is a great match for the quirky, strong, sexy, determined, action heroine, and to top it all of, out of nowhere… BOOM… nude bath scene (in a kids film!?!?). With Luc Besson behind the camera the film’s in good hands, it’s executed interestingly, but even he couldn’t put all of the randomness together seamlessly. It’s French, it’s crazy, and it’s quite an enjoyable adventure romp despite the absurdity.

Score: 6/10

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3D) – Jack Sparrow and Barbossa set sail for the Fountain of youth, but have to outrun Blackbeard and the Spanish. The story gets from A-Z coherently enough, but clunks from segment to segment, with very little flow. Being the 4th film in the series, the old-fashioned adventure feel of the original is all but gone – drowned out by big/loud CGI. The one thing that does remain impressive is the original score, which is about the only fully effective aspect of the film’s components. Cast-wise, the mammoth franchise reels in some equally big names, and while they all earn their money you get the feeling that they’re nobody’s really trying any more – there’s also the most gratuitous Cruz cleavage since Volver. The 3D’s pretty sharp & impressive, and more subtle than other recent flicks. In the end, Pirates 4 is passable, but not much more than a quite boring, overlong money spinning, summer blockbuster.

Score: 3.5/10

Pandorum: pseudo-psychological space thriller about humans re-populating an earth-like planet. It’s essentially half Alien and half Sunshine. The shaky-cam turns all of the promising action scenes into a blurry mess, and all the ‘scary’ moments were just really cheap, and loud, jumps. A lot of the events are a bit convenient, but the technology’s believable and there’s some space-cleavage thrown in for the lads. The ending felt a bit rushed, rubbish and pretty predictable. Middle of the road space flick that offers up nothing new.

Score: 5/10