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Daniel J. Hamlow RSS Feed (Narita, Japan)

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Sex Is Zero
Sex Is Zero
DVD ~ Chang Jung Lim
Offered by goodusedbookscom
Price: $16.95
23 used & new from $4.53

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Korea's answer to Fast Times and American Pie, September 22, 2007
This review is from: Sex Is Zero (DVD)
I grew up watching teen films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Porky's, and those are two reference points of partying, raunchy teen flicks. American Pie throw in male bodily fluids in the formula. Now, from South Korea, comes Saekjeuk Shigong, which combines elements of those movies, and it's quite enjoyable.

One can see the influence of Fast Times from the opening sequence using the Go-Go's "We Got The Beat," albeit in an abbreviated version; it features a host of hotties doing an aerobics workout, while the first year college students are undergoing a gnarly initation ceremony.

One of them is inept Jang Eun-shik, recently having finished his military service, who's often at the receiving end of an accident that lands him in the hospital or leads him to jump out of windows. He's also in Songgchuk's martial arts club involved in spiritual concentration, which amounts to basically bashing each other on the heads with phony wooden sticks or doing silly stuff like doing a headstand in a bowl of water. His three roommates are the goofy Changsu, an unnamed nerdy bushy-haired guy--these two seem to do nothing but watch porn on their computer--and a sissy boy, Taehak, who's not too athletic. When he sees a mouse, what does he do like a girl? Yup, you guessed it!

As for male bodily fluids, there's a funny one involving said fluid, some rat poison, a sandwich, and Eun-shik accidentally eating it. That leads to a hilarious chase scene where his roommates try to catch him so he can spit it out.

Eun-shik falls head over heels with Lee Eun-hyo, a willowy beauty who's an aerobics star and sub on the national team. When he casually tries to steal looks at her, she twigs on, and suddenly, spreads and opens her legs quickly, causing him to spit rice. Her girlfriends are a funny lot, too, including the short-haired Kyoungiu, self-conscious about her breasts who is told, "if someone put two raisins on your back, no one would know the deifference between your chest and your back--but eager to score. After a night at a club, Eun-hyo's friends end up with each of Eun-shik's roommates, with hilarious results. For a grossout scene, one of them who has drunken a lot makes some really horrendous barfing noises, spewing Linda Blair-like at one point, then gives bushy-hair a sloppy barf-laden kiss. Charming, huh? Poor Kyoungiu ends up with the unassertive Taehak with hilarious results.

There's the aerobics prima donna, a pretty but stuck-up girl named Ji-Won, who's dating the hunk Han Sangwook; there are some steamy scenes between them. Things heat up when Sangwook dumps her in favour of Eun-hyo. However, he's quite a cad and when he gets Eun-hyo pregnant, leaves her high and dry, kind of like Mike Damone and Stacy Hamilton in Ridgemont High. While the topic was superficially done in RH, Eun-Hyo angrily tells Han when he seems casual about it, "You and I both have birthdays, but this baby is never going to have one! It's just waiting to die!" It veers into drama at this point, when Eun-shik nurses Eun-hyo, trying to cheer her up with his exercise routines. Although a goofball, he proves to be actually very caring and devoted, with Bread's "If" used as the love theme in this scene.

Then there are two thieves, one with a Moe Howard-like haircut, who end up trying to hard to avoid discovery and end up becoming voyeurs, playing uno, and I DON'T mean the card game.

Yes, the intense drama part is quite a change from the earlier silly raunchiness, but it's a comedy with some heart in it, saved by the aerobics competition set to some snazzy techno music, really well choreographed. And yes, the two thieves are right there doing that crazy hand jive at one point. Heck, all the hot actresses in there are enough to make anyone do that!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2010 9:17 PM PST

Taste of Tea, The: Limited Edition
Taste of Tea, The: Limited Edition
DVD ~ The Taste of Tea

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tastes....refreshing!, September 19, 2007
In comparison to his rough and tumble indie-feeling gangster flick, Samehada Otoko to Momoji Onna, despite having little or no plot, Ishii Katsuhito's Ocha No Aji is a more serene offering, with humour that alternates between subtle, visual, and wacky, drama, and quirky visuals. He introduces us to the Harunos, a family of five living in a nice house in the Tochigi Prefecture countryside.

The parents seem normal enough, anime artist mother Yoshiko trying to make a comeback, while her husband Nobuo is a hypnotist. The cute six-year old Sachiko is plagued by a giant double of herself that appears from time to time. Sometimes it is seen as a head popping out of the ground; other times, it gazes at her, lying on the playground looking in the classroom. One wonders if it symbolizes her fears.

The oldest child Hajime is a first year high school student who has a fear of women due to two incidents and the moving away of a classmate he wanted to confess his love to.
However, he is given a new lease on hope with the appearance of Suzuishi Aoi, a transfer student from Tokyo. His adolescent hormones are recharged, to the point that he bikes like a demon all the way back home instead of parking it near the train station like he normally does. Though low-key and shy, Hajime's my favourite character. It's simply heart-warming to see his joy when he finds a way to get closer to Aoi, by joining the go club, and when he waves at Aoi in the soaking rain--after swiftly tossing his umbrella before the bus door closes.

To say the grandpa is eccentric is like saying Bill Gates is rich. An old man with a funny face and a quiff of white hair standing up, he uses a tuning fork to make sure he is in tune, makes funny martial arts like poses as well as impromptu songs, and at one point, does a duet with Yoshiko's brother Ikki, an anime artist with a pudding bowl haircut, wearing cheesy Vegas style suits and singing a song titled "Yamayo!"--"Oh Mountain," the song's only lyric. Anything he does easily prompts a laugh.

Veteran actor Asano Tadanobu plays Uncle Ayano, a sound mixer who has come to the countryside to relax, but also to come to some closure with an ex-girlfriend. He tells his nephew and niece about his first outdoor sh^t in the forest as a kid, which somehow led to the ghost of a scary-looking yakuza to haunt him. Upon hearing how Ayano's doing a backflip led to the vanishing of the ghost, Sachiko thinks maybe that's the way to get rid of her double. There is a perfectly rational explanation for Ayano's story, which adds to the hilarity element. More hilarious is his reaction to the "Yamayo" song. The look on his disgusted face is like, "My god, this is so effed up," and he later says of Grandpa and Ikki, "They look like perverted aliens from another planet."

The appearance of Sachiko's double, the train coming out of Hajime's forehead, and two otakus who ride the train wearing ridiculously bulky costumes are just a few visual wonders in this film. If Suzuishi Aoi is familiar, that's because it's Anna Tsuchiya, who played the biker Ichigo in Shimotsuma Story--a.k.a. the inappropriately titled Kamikaze Girls. She's quieter in this film, with more of a natural beauty. Supporting roles include Anno Hideaki, best known for directing the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime.

Trivia: the station where Hajime and his father get off is Terauchi Station on the Moka Line. That is five stops from where I live! The place where Ishii shot his movie is Motegi City, whose station is the terminus of the Moka Line. Yet the train used is not the Moka train, but something specially designed for the movie. And the narrator of the film also has a role, as Mr. Haruno's patient at his clinic, and she's quite funny.

Maybe the rich refreshing flavour of green tea one savours is why this odd but pleasant film is titled such, because it sure refreshed me!

DVD ~ Bruno Ganz
Offered by kylakins
Price: $14.96
52 used & new from $7.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping portayal of the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich, September 8, 2007
This review is from: Downfall (DVD)
Der Untergang is based on the memoirs of Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, Until The Final Hour, and Joachim Fest's Inside The Bunker, and chronicles the last days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, beginning from his 56th birthday to the surrender of Germany to the Russians. However, there is a brief aside in the beginning, in November 1942, chronicling the scene where young doe-eyed Traudl Humpts is hired as der Fuhrer's secretary.

The Third Reich is on the verge of collapse throughout this film. Certain bigshots are positioning themselves, whether to remain in Berlin, loyal to the end (Goebbels, Martin Bormann) or to flee (Heinrich Himmler). Hitler himself is told by his architect Albert Speer that he must be on the stage when the curtain falls. And acts of desperation also take effect on that stage. Josef Goebbels has recruited defenders of the city, many of them in their early teens, who are impressionable enough to want to become heroes. Sadly, most of them end up as shell fodder for the Russians.

As for the Fuhrer, he is out of touch with reality, the divisions on his map existing only in his imagination. He still believes that two divisions can regroup and take the Russians from behind, but alas. And when things don't go his way or he hears reports of lines having fallen, he blames the generals and soldiers, even going out of his way to insult them. It's ironic how his ideology placed the Germans as the superior race, but when the end is near, he dismisses them of being unworthy of survival and deserving to die. Quite an about-face there...

Traudl aside, there are others of honourable mention. Professor Dr. Schenke is concerned with the fate of the civilians during this critical time and is one of the more humane characters involved, as he risks going into Russian held territory to get medical supplies for the wounded. And as for the wounded, the scene of the limbs being dumped into plates, saws used to amputate, and the sight of the injured are pretty grim, but then again, Germany was up the creek without a paddle, so to say.

Eva Braun's life of the party personality boosts flagging morale during those last days, in the impromptu parties she stages, leading to dancing and drinking. She even befriends Traudl, confiding in her at one point how she hated Blondi, Hitler's dog and even kicked it when the dictator wasn't looking.

One debit for Nazi history buffs is the where certain major players aren't clearly identified. Only later in the epilogue, do we realize, "oh, that was supposed to be Goering, Jodl, Martin Bormann etc."

I marveled at Bruno Ganz's performance as the angel Damiel in Himmel Uber Berlin, and he outdoes himself as Hitler in this movie, getting the dictator's nervous twitch in his left hand to a tee. He exhibits bouts of madness, outright callousness, and a man totally out of touch with the reality of the situation. Yet, he is shown to be gentle and caring to certain individuals, such as his secretary and to Eva Braun. When one of his trusted henchmen Albert Speer announces his decision to flee, Hitler is saddened, even heartbroken at this desertion. Ulrich Matthes's portrayal as Josef Goebbels is amazing, as when comparing him to photos of the propaganda minister, there is a striking resemblance.

Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl) is the other great performer that boosts Der Untergang. Not even a strong National Socialist, she still remains loyal to the Fuhrer, believing in him till it becomes apparent that Germany's defeat is certain. With the real Traudl Junge bookending the movie in two scenes, I have to say she is hard on herself for not realizing the atrocities that went on during the Reich, even though she wasn't an avid Nazi.

But it's Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels, she who believed that there was no future in a world without National Socialism, and coldly poisoned her offspring, making her with someone with more backbone than her husband. The actual scene when she poisons her children is also quite disturbing.

One of the best movies on Hitler, with the best ever portrayal of him in a movie. To accompany this, I also recommend the documentary Death In The Bunker, whose events parallel that of Fest's book and this movie.

Cromartie High - The Movie
Cromartie High - The Movie
DVD ~ Takamasa Suga
Price: $25.98
8 used & new from $13.48

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad live action version of surreal anime, September 8, 2007
This review is from: Cromartie High - The Movie (DVD)
The trouble with making movies based on TV series is that there has to be a strong central plot in a movie that also justifies any duplication of what took place in the TV series, be it live-action or animated. But if the central plot is weak enough and only for the sake of having the skits based on the TV series as highlights, then the movie fails.

Cromartie High School, based on the manga by Nonaka Eiji, avoids much of that. It parallels the original story, being about a normal student, Kamiyama Takeshi, who was smart enough to apply to any high school, but went to Cromartie because he wanted to be with friend of his who defended him from punks. Trouble was, his friend was so lacking in the brain department, he failed, leaving Kamiyama amidst a jungle of rowdy students who fight, smoke, and are sans clothes; in a scene that duplicates the manga, a tough named Masa eats an entire stack of pencils Kamiyama spills on his desk.

There are some variations from the manga and anime. Hayashida, he with the wild pink Mohawk hairdo in the original, instead is seen with a kind of ponytail. He is also portrayed as someone who is repeatedly late for class and who is so dumb that his math book is titled "Subtraction for Sillies." And the portrayal of Freddy isn't too much like Freddie Mercury per the manga. OK, he doesn't say a word per the manga Freddie, but a few bouts of singing would've helped. Obviously, Mechazawa, the simplistically designed cylindrical robot with red T-shirt with the characters "konjou" or "guts" is duplicated well enough.

Then there's long-haired preppy-looking Hokuto Takeshi of the Hokuto conglomerate. He wears a white elite high school uniform, clueless that CHS is a municipal school, and proclaims himself student leader. He tries to wriggle out of his dilemma by telling outlandish stories of trying to overthrow his father, the shadow prime minister. Guess what? Kamiyama, Hayashida, Freddy, and the gorilla join him, and they form the Earth Defense Forces, marching through town in khaki uniforms as heroes of justice.

And when Cromartie's toughest thug, Yutaka Takenouchi, gets involved with two hijackers, he is stranded somewhere in South America, captured by a primitive tribe, and set out to be the husband of a b^tt-ugly native woman who looks like Ronnie Corbett from the Two Ronnies, even down to the glasses. His replacement is one of the hijackers, who wears a ski-mask, but the students are too dumb to know that he's an imposter, so he is accepted as Mask de Takenouchi.

The central plot involves the arrival of gorilla-like aliens, Gori and Lla (get it?) who are a nod to the cheesy Japanese sci-fi shows or movies of the 60's and 70's, who want to take over the earth, and do so by enslaving the delinquents. Before long, the shirtless delinquents are sporting antennae headbands and doing exercises and routines that obviously parody the Shaolin kung-fu films.

As for real laughs, there is an Exorcist parody involving Mechazawa who pukes green and even emits the profanities uttered by Linda Blair, as well as the brightly lit doorway scene. And the part where Kamiyama tries to educate his classmates on the dangers of smoking is a highlight, at the expense of Masa and Mechazawa. It shows how delinquents think smoking is cool, but they need something to do with their hands.

Some scenes are duplicated but fail due to the real-life portrayal. The scene of the show Pootan, the surreal comedy of two guys dressed in plush suits, and Noboru Yamaguchi, the Afro-ed punk who tries to figure out why Pootan is popular, seems pointless due to lacking real oomph.

Takamasa Suga is the heart of this movie as the straight-laced Kamiyama, and does a bang-up portrayal of the manga and anime counterpart. Kaneko Noburu as Hokuto does the manga Hokuto pretty good. It helps if you've seen the anime or read the manga, but if not, it might catch you in a silly frame of mind.

Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs
Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs
by Joan Sinclair
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.61
39 used & new from $14.98

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the pink box, July 27, 2007
Joan Sinclair's photographic voyage through the adult clubs of Japan is anything but boring. Far from it, it shows the exotic and erotic side of what's presumably a very conservative culture. The most prominent places are in Shinjuku's Kabuki-chou, the red-light district in Tokyo that's also home to the yakuza, and in Osaka. The sad thing is that if one is a foreigner, chances are zilch that one can experience this fantasy world because they cater only to their own, and given how conservative the yakuza are... need I say more?

I just have to admit how imaginative my countrymen are in those businesses in the red-light district. Naturally, the Japanese high school girl in her uniform is a figure of fantasy regarding sex, so yes, there are high school girl cosplays. They have been targets of perverts on trains, such as groping or pinching, so yes, in image clubs, they have mock trains where one can do those things to the girls there. There are also OL (office lady) cosplays, where one can choose the colour of stockings and uniform worn by the lady they choose. The sign outside reads "OL--Sexual Harassment Office." Then there is the nurse costume, stewardesses, waitresses, I am reminded of one fast food burger chain whose motto was "make it your way." Some clubs, like the Reijo Club C'est Bien, have a menu--polaroids are a 1000 yen (about $10), pantyhose a 1000 yen, strap-ons are 2000 yen, and S&M goods 2000 yen, to give a few examples. And there's a multiple choice questionnaire where the customer circles what one wants the girl to do.

The owners of the establishment also take the time to protect their girls, as they have signs requesting customers not to force their girls, to refrain from rough touches or language. And the real thing is a no-no in those clubs. One might think the girls are being exploited, but as one girl says, "It would take a year to earn the money for my purse if I was working in an office."

Then there are clubs where there aren't any women. The doll club are for customers who are shy to be with real women so there are life-sized silicone dolls where customers can choose the face, hair length, costume, and the V-word. The fee is the same for spending time with a real woman.

The peeping rooms are clubs for anonymously spying on girls who never see the customers, the distance separated by one-way mirrors or lucky holes. For something bizarre, how about 2000 yen to play inside a tub of green gel? And in Club Mammoth, there are two very hefty girls, who are still cute, and are worth being sandwiched inbetween.

There's also a "pink dictionary" of terms in the back. Explicit, elegant, and cute, and in a pink plastic cover. Well worth reading for those interested in that side of Japan.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.17
1683 used & new from $0.01

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All good things come to an end, July 27, 2007
Those who have accompanied Harry Potter, "the boy who lived," and friends for the first six books will be wondering how the concluding volume, the Deathly Hallows will end. With each book getting progressively darker, one also might wonder about the marketed age group. DH is indeed the grimmest and darkest of the heptology, if one can use that word. It also wraps up the loose ends and sets the stage for the climactic confrontation between Voldemort and those loyal to Dumbledore, the late headmaster of Hogwarts. Even the wedding between Bill Weasley and Fleur de la Coeur is fraught with tension, especially with Harry incognito.

As things begin, Voldemort is in control of the Ministry of Magic. The Death Eaters are out hunting for Harry, who has a huge price on his head. And the repression continues with the establishment of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, a nod to the Nuremberg Laws on Citizenship and Race designed in Nazi Germany. And the new Hogwarts headmaster? No, it isn't Minerva McGonagall. Hint, his first and last name begin with the letter S.

Much of the book has Harry, Ron, and Hermione on a mission for Dumbledore, setting out in search of the missing Horcruxes, the remnants of Voldemort's soul that he stashed in various objects--the diary in Chamber of Secrets was an example. A lot of the ongoing tension has to do with their being on the run in the forest, scrounging for food, having to hide in a tent where Hermione performs spells to make them invisible. However, they also resort to Polyjuice Potion and Harry's Invisibility Cloak to sneak inside the Ministry of Magic to find one of the Horcruxes, in possession of ex-Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge (q.v. Order of the Phoenix). But the connection between Voldemort and Harry remains, as the latter is able to see the Dark Lord torture people in search of something.

Part of the book also deals with Dumbledore's life. Rita Skeeter, the odious gossip columnist for the Daily Prophet, has come up with The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, a work clearly meant to savage the late headmaster of Hogwarts, especially regarding the death of his sister. However, some parts of the book have an element of truth. So what are the Deathly Hallows? Basically three objects of immense power that when united, makes the possessor the master of death. And Harry has had one of them sometime during the first book.

As for the death count, quite a few, but keep in mind that Rowling is not one to let evil go unpunished, so make of that what you will. But there are sacrifices nonetheless of good guys as well.

As for the Malfoys, they seem to be on the verge of falling out of favour with Voldemort. Draco, Harry's nemesis is quite ineffectual here, even when Harry and friends are captured. It's Draco's aunt, the wicked Bellatrix Lestrange, who cuts quite the character as she isn't above enacting the Crucio curse on Hermione.

Perhaps it was more the Hagrid-sized hype surrounding the book on the Net and elsewhere that made me less than enthused. I enjoyed reading it, but I must admit to being over-Harryed, plus I was expecting more deaths, though not on the scale of the final episode of Blake's 7 or a season finale of Dynasty. So, does J.K. Rowling give Harry a decent send-off? Well, given the wild rumours on the Net, I'll say she gives him an unexpected but decent one nevertheless. I will also comment that she probably ended DH the way she did for the reason that she wanted to retain her fan base for any future books she writes about. I only hope if anyone else writes any prequel series or Hogwarts The Next Generation, it is Rowling herself.

Random House Japanese-English English-Japanese Dictionary
Random House Japanese-English English-Japanese Dictionary
by Seigo Nakao
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.85
196 used & new from $0.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good enough reference work for home or travel, July 27, 2007
Nakao Seigo-san's waei/eiwa, or Japanese-English/English Japanese dictionary, is a nice-sized quality paperback with enough entries, more than a pocket-sized edition, but nothing ultimate like the legendary Green Giant by Kenkyusha.

The English-Japanese entries have the translations in romaji (written in Latin alphabet) as well as the kana and where appropriate, kanji translations. They also cover homophones, such as bridge (for crossing) and the card game.

However, for those not versed in Japanese, the guide preceding the Japanese-English section is imperative reading, as it covers basic grammatical nuances and rules in Japanese. Regarding words borrowed from English, for example, one might observe how most Japanese words end in a vowel sound, hence Christmas is pronounced "kurisumasu," plastic is pronounced "purasuchikku." Then there are the copular nouns, or "keiyoudoushi" that accompany some adjectives. For example, "an elderly person" would be "toshiyori no hito." "Toshiyori" is elderly, "hito" is "person," which makes the copular noun "no."

There are also some verbs whose infinitives include "suru," which is kind of like "do." For example, "emancipate" is "kaihou suru." Others don't, like "to reside," which is "sumu."

I wore out my copy of this during my 72 day trip to Japan, and boy did it come in handy. This time, for my upcoming stay in Japan, I will treat my new copy much better.

Late Spring (The Criterion Collection)
Late Spring (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Chishû Ryû
Price: $24.99
20 used & new from $15.15

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of Noriko's spring..., July 25, 2007
Late Spring, or Banshun is another of Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro's portraits and commentaries on Japanese social life. The widowed Professor Somiya lives in Kamakura with his daughter Noriko, who is 27. That is way past normal marrying age for Japanese women, and when his sister says something should be done about it, the wheels are set in motion for the destruction of Noriko's harmonious world. Looking after her father, seeing to the cleaning and cooking, is the happiest moment of her life. She enjoys herself in her free time, whether it's going to Tokyo or biking to the beach with Hattori, the dashing young assistant of her father. Marriage is the last thing on her mind, as she still values her independence, but feels that she alone knows her father's set ways and it's best if she stays with him.

Noriko's own observations of marriage include that of Professor Onodera, a colleague of her father's who has remarried. For some reason she thinks it's wrong and calls him indecent, which he laughs off. Like Onodera's daughter Misako, Noriko seems to think that "marriage is the life's graveyard." Her classmate Aya is divorced and working as a stenographer. Though disappointed with the experience, using a baseball metaphor, she optimistically thinks she will hit a home run next time.

However, Noriko's pushy aunt plans to get her niece married off as soon as possible, even cooking up a plan where her brother plans to marry a certain Ms. Miwa. With Ms. Miwa as woman of the house, Noriko won't be of any use. She even sets up an arranged marriage meeting or omiai, a match for Noriko. This upsets Noriko to no end, and even finds her friend Aya forcing her to get married. The way Noriko avoids the issue, whether changing the subject or getting upset is truly childlike. From a Westerner's point of view, one might sympathetically think, "Well, why not let her stay on and heck with tradition?" But with the Japanese, one must follow the custom and expectations according to their role, in "the order of human life in history." Omiai is much akin to the arranged marriages of the noble European families, who married for political alliances and not love, and there is the concept of marrying into a good family and a man in a great social standing, jobwise; in other words, it's more economic consideration.

Professor Somiya's gentle with his daughter, tender even. His talk of happiness in marriage is spoken from a Japanese cultural perspective, but it does give one pause. "Marriage may not mean happiness from the start. To expect such immediate happiness is a mistake. Happiness isn't something you wait around for. It's something you create yourself. Getting married isn't happiness. Happiness lies in the forging of a new life shared together. ... Happiness comes only through effort. Only then can you claim to be man and wife."

There's a thoughtful scene when Onodera and Somiya contemplate the Zen rock garden at a Kyoto temple. Somiya says on the pointlessness of having a daughter. "You raise them up and off they go. If they're unwed, you worry. Yet if they do marry, you feel let down." "But didn't we marry other men's daughters?" points out Onodera.

As in all of Ozu's post-war films, Late Spring features the regular cast of performers he used in Ohayou and Tokyo Monogatari, to name a few. At this point, Hara Setsuko-san is the most beautiful Japanese actress I've seen. With a class and elegance, I see her as Japan's Audrey Hepburn, full of expression in that dazzling smile, but equally expressive in that dark scowl of hers.

Note: when Professors Onodera and Somiya are discussing directions of Tokyo, the ocean, and the shrine relative to Kamakura, instead of the word shrine, the word "hachiman" is used, meaning the famed Hachimangu Shrine inbetween Kita-Kamakura and Kamakura stations.

Ryu Chishu plays a kindly role as Noriko's father. Other Ozu players that appear include Sugimura Haruko as Noriko's aunt and Miyake Kuniko as Ms. Miwa. In Ozu's Ohayou (Good Morning), Ryu and Miyake play husband and wife, and parents to the kids who demand a TV.

With Ohayou, I was taken by Ozu's commentary on Japanese society, but with Banshun, a classic I'd like to watch over and over, I realized that his films harken more to the heart of Japan than Kurosawa Akira.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Offered by TheZoneShop
Price: $9.33
35 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More character development and less magic--still worthwhile, July 11, 2007
As Hermione Granger spoke at the end of the Goblet of Fire, things weren't going to be the same at Hogwarts with the reemergence of Voldemort, the Dark Wizard who murdered Harry Potter's parents and was twice defeated (q.v. the first two movies). Order of the Phoenix confirms Ms. Granger's words. In it, the wizarding world has been torn apart between those who believe that Voldemort has returned, and the majority under Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge who has gone from being a pleasant but ineffective fuddy-duddy to a paranoid trying to hold onto power, thinking Dumbledore is using Voldemort as an excuse to rallying an army of supporters to overthrow him.

Harry finds support in his usual circle of the red-headed Weasleys and Hermione Granger, but he also gains an ally in the loopy Luna Lovegood, a blonde girl who seems to be in her own world, dreamily speaking of charms against nurgles--presumably the wizarding equivalent of gremlins, and who like Harry, can see certain creatures. She also skips down the corridors like a little girl--quite a character, that one. But he starts to have a bit of an attitude, extremely trimmed down from the book, where he was very vitriolic at times. Whether it's being a bit irritated at Ron or speaking out his mind against the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbrage, it's clear he's got the usual teenage issues.

It's because of Umbrage, a stooge for the Ministry who doesn't seem too keen on properly educating Hogwarts's students in the Dark Arts, that Ron and Hermione persuade Harry to properly teach those who want to learn dueling and casting defensive spells. He's qualified after all, given what he's gone through. It also nets him a brief love interest with Cho Chang, the cute Chinese girl whose boyfriend Cedric was killed at the end of Goblet of Fire. Umbrage has a typical sickeningly insincere sugary smile and voice, and dressed in pink and with a hat, she seems a demented version of Margaret Thatcher, especially in a form of torture she employs against the students who disobey her.

Harry's reunion with his godfather, Sirius Black, provides a welcome relief of sorts, as he is the only kind of real family he has left. While the two don't have many scenes together, it's clear that despite the limited amount of time the two spent in the third movie, there's a real family connection there. Black and two ex-professors, sometimes werewolf Remus Lupin and Mad Eye Moody are members of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret countergroup against the reactionaries who don't believe Voldemort's resurrection.

But Harry has been having more visions. In his sleep, he sees Ron's father Arthur being attacked by a snake, which helps the attack from being fatal. And he keeps seeing Voldemort, pretty menacing with that bald, noseless face of his.

Certain interesting portions of the book have been excised, no Quidditch, and we don't see the screaming portrait of Sirius's racist mother, not to mention Harry's Aunt Petunia's knowledge of a few things in the wizard world.

The regulars are...well, the regulars as usual. Of the newcomers, Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) steal the show from the regulars. Though only having roughly ten minutes of screentime, Bonham-Carter really makes the long-haired, demented cousin of Sirius Black another memorably villainous creation.

David Yates does a credible enough job on the Order of the Phoenix, but with the dark and serious tones of the movie, one might come away thinking the magic has gone in favour of character development, which is well done. Only the Weasley twins, Fred and George, provide a brief reminder of this, when they mischievously bid farewell to Hogwarts with a superb pyrotechnic display while the students are taking their exams. And a fiery Dumbledore escape leads a wizard to tell Cornelius Fudge, "Dumbledore sure has style." I enjoy this installment, though I rate it in between good and great.

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (Full Screen Edition)
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (Full Screen Edition)
DVD ~ Natalie Maines
Offered by Lunch money
Price: $5.69
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just so you know, I'm proud Natalie Maines spoke her mind., July 11, 2007
I'm reminded of that one song by the Clash, "Know Your Rights," in which there's the line, "You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."

Well, that's kind of what happened to the Dixie Chicks. At a concert in Shepherd's Bush in the UK, right when the US invaded Iraq, Natalie Maines said inbetween songs, "Just so you know, we're ashamed that the president of the US is from Texas." Amazing right? This came not from some dreadlocked, loudmouthed, vegan, intellectual, PC alternative woman, but someone who looked so down to earth, real Middle America.

Then came the backlash, the condemnations from those supporting the war and Bush, attacks from Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, and their being called traitors. Though apologies were forthcoming, as well as the expected appearances on the TV shows, the damage, or should I say, revamping, was done. Even their sponsor Lipton got the jitters enough to send a rep down to assess the situation with the Chicks and their manager, Simon Renshaw. And country music stations across the U.S. boycotted their music. Trash bins and mere foot stomping of their CDs mimicked similar scenes of Beatles records being smashed in the wake of John Lennon's misconstrued remarks about Jesus. What was it Bon Jovi sang in "Wanted Dead or Alive"? "It's all the same, only the names have changed."

The photo shoot for the Rolling Stone cover is there, where the Chicks had the hateful epithets by Bush supporters painted on their nude bodies, as well as deserved ones such as "brave." And the Chicks also have their own playful response to country singer Toby Keith, who condemned them as traitors. Enter the "F.Y.T.K" T-shirts--use your intelligence to figure out what that means, but that also led to "F.U.D.C." T-shirts, so go figure.

If anything, Shut Up and Sing also brings into the fore the "fourth Chick," their manager Simon Renshaw, who's clearly a significant force here during this turning point in their career. He's not only a consultant and advisor to his charges, but treats them as equals.
The documentary also takes a look at the band members and their supportive families. The viewer witnesses Emily Robinson, the brunette, having twins.

If anything, Shut Up and Sing is a well-documented snapshot of the turning point for the Chicks. In the same way that John Lennon's misquoted remarks about Jesus led to a souring of their US fans, and their retreat into studios for soon-to-be classic albums, Natalie's patriotic remarks has now led them to make the kind of music they want, as they lost their traditional fan base to whom they no longer answer. Hence a quick look at the making of songs for their Grammy-winning album, Taking The Long Way Home, including a trip to see producer Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Slayer) Yes, there's that feisty crown jewel, "Not Ready To Make Nice." And the lyrics to "The Long Way Around" recall what happened since their Home album, with references to their tour: "It's been two long years now. Since the top of the world came crashing down, And I'm getting' it back on the road now," and "Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself. I opened my mouth and I heard myself. It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself. Guess I could have made it easier on myself." Well, I'm sure glad she didn't, for our sakes. And the intercut footage of Iraq war deaths and polls showing disapproval for the war gives evidence that Natalie, among others, was right.

Whereas country fans have been traditionally conservative, working class, and southern, Natalie's free speech led that bedrock to toss them away. But it redefined who their fans were, those who stuck with them, meaning a more progressive kind of country fan.

If you love the Chicks and their music AND support what Natalie Maines Pasdar said, shut up and watch this movie. If not, just shut up.
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