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JAPANORAMA - Kinkie BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAAir Doll 01 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo

Air Doll (空気人形): a lonely singleton falls in love with the blow-up doll that has replaced his girlfriend; and one day she comes to life (this could only be Japanese). The first five minutes are an explosive combination of funny, creepy, peculiar and entertaining. The remaining two hours however is essentially a grating portrayal of childhood innocence, but here’s the kicker: it’s played through the eyes of a sex doll!omfg!! The moment you notice this is the moment this film bursts. It’s full of ludicrously whimsical and increasingly pretentious ‘life lessons’ about what makes humans human, played through a handful of seriously irrelevant stories and sub-minor characters (which I guess is to beef up the runtime). It also features one of my biggest pet hates: the doll gets a job in a DVD rental store so the director can crowbar in a bunch of his favourites / influences / kewl moviez. Worst. Trope. Ever. There are a couple of funny-ish cultural confusion moments, but they’re balanced out by several close-up shots of a removable rubber vagina being washed in a sink: can you say “shock value”? In fact, the only saving grace is the lead actress Bae Doona who does a great job and for the most part doesn’t feel the slightest bit human. Other than the first five minutes this is literally – and figuratively – as exciting as spending almost two hours watching something slowly deflating in front of you. Air Doll comes off the rails far too quickly, never picks back up.

Score: 2/10

Air Doll 02 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo,Air Doll 03 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo,

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgAzumi, Aya Ueto, Yoshio Harada, Shun Oguri, Masatō Ibu, Naoto Takenaka, Kazuki Kitamura, Aya Okamoto, Yuma Ishigaki, Joe Odagiri

As part of the JAPANORAMA feature I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This post is from Andy at Fandango Groovers Movie Blog, a very busy site full of reviews, features, monthly run-downs of all the latest movies… and plenty James Bond articles. You can also follow Andy on Twitter.

Azumi (あずみ): Set in seventieth century Feudal Japan and based on the Japanese manga series of the same name created by Yu Koyama, Azumi is the story of an orphaned girl who is raised along with nine other children by a master Samurai.  After years of training they have to face one final test before going on their first mission. The test is nothing short of brutal. Their mission is to kill three warlords preventing a civil war that will be devastating for the country. The main reason the film works is the lead character Azumi (played by the impossibly cute Aya Ueto), as proved by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you can’t go far wrong when you give a beautiful woman a sword and drop her into the middle of the male dominated action genre.  Directed Ryûhei Kitamura who made his name in the totally bonkers (but brilliant) Versus, this possibly his most accessible movie.