Friday, March 30, 2007

Death Note 2 review, and nearing the milestone

This is the 99th post of the Golden Rock, which I am quite proud of. I suppose a state of the blog is in order as well, then:

The blog started in mid-December of 2006, with a goal to be a source of just news that interests me and some number crunching that not a lot of Asian cinema blogs do. It started at an average of only a few readers a day (when I was on vacation, there was actually a day when nobody visited), and now it's averaging roughly 60. It's not a particularly huge number, but it's a pretty good increase over 3 months, considering about 50% of my visitors are new. I'm glad to have started this blog, and I'm glad to keep doing it. Thanks for reading, and let's keep on truckin'.

- Watched the second half of the Death Note saga last night. Again, having no knowledge of the manga nor the anime whatsoever, I am only judging this as a film. Maybe that makes me more qualified, or that makes me less qualified, I don't know. I don't care that they're trying to cram in from the source material to satisfy fans, I just wanted to watch a movie. And with that:

Why didn't they just make a drama out of this?

Death Note has a pretty cool Gothic concept - Notebook dumped onto earth by a God of Death, self-righteous human picks it up and begins to kill people with it. It inspires fear for criminals and hope for people. How dark, how bizarre, how cool. Then they had to add the detective elements; the mind games, the chess-playing, and the talking. The endless talking. If I were to sum up all the scenes between our bad/good guy Kira (owner of the Death Notebook) and strange detective L, it might go like this:

Kira: "I want to capture Kira."
L: "But you are Kira."
Kira: "I am not."
L: "I hope you're not"
Kira: "Great, let's capture Kira together."
L: "....but you are Kira."
Kira: ".....and I'm going to kill you."

In the first film, it took director Shusuke Kaneko 2 hours of screen time to set up the heart of the story - the head-to-head match between Kira and L. In the second film, it took him 2 hours and 15 minutes to, well.....make it not much of anything. One of the more suspenseful parts of the first film was seeing how Kira's clever scheming helped him get away, although I mentioned I didn't know whether that was the original creators' work or the film's screenwriters'. In "The Last Name" (That's the title of the second film), a second and third (!) Kira are established, killing more people than ever, but it all gets a bit tiresome. How many more scenes of people talking about the ethics of Kira do we need before the filmmakers can pat themselves on the back for asking "the tough questions?"

Back to the schemings. "The Last Name" takes Kira's schemes to a whole new level - he would do something, and you won't even find out until 30 minutes of screen time later just what the hell he was up to. It was clever in the first film when it didn't take that long to find out what really happened, but it just seems a bit too much in the second film. True, the stakes are higher, so the schemes need to go further, but how unbelievably smart are these people supposed to be for them to do so much damn scheming? The review linked above pointed out that nearly everything that happens in the film happened in the manga, but is that needed? While an adaptation can satisfy fans by including everything, if you still can't include everything with 4 and a half hours of screen time, you just have to get creative and get the story across in a simpler way. Cramming everything from the original shows that you like the manga, but a more creative filmmaker would make the adaptation stand on its own.

So is Death Note: The Last Name better than its predecessor? Can't really answer that, since they're really one film split into two, but the Death Note saga as a whole is only a pleasing commercial effort thanks to its concept. It's a routine adaptation with uninspired acting, directing, and some clever screenwriting in between. It's not something worth running out to see if you have no familiarity with the original work, but it's not a bad way to occupy a couple of hours just to see that Japanese commercial cinema can be just as mediocre as American ones.

And now, on to the news:

- There's still reports coming from Variety about Hong Kong's Filmart (which wrapped last week), mostly just new distribution deals. If you're in Japan, you'll be glad to know the Daniel Henney invasion is coming your way in the form of Seducing Mr. Perfect, one of the films I reviewed for Yesasia this month.

- Los Angeles is a great down for movies (duh), and here are a few reasons why.

- Yunjin Kim, who many may know as the Korean woman from Lost, really caught my eye from the Korean blockbuster Shiri. For some reason, I never really saw her in another film until she showed up on Lost (she did appear in Korean films before that - just ones I haven't seen). Anyway, in a bit of homecoming, she's been casted in the Korean crime thriller Seven Days. I don't know if the film will be any good, but I wonder if Lost will make this film any more successful that it would've been.

- So what's the best way to beat a movie you want to protest against? In India, they seem to have found the answer to be: Just ignore it.

- Apparently, The Host has become the fastest Korean film to reach the $1 million mark in the United States box office. That's because Korean films have a history of not doing too well here. Oh, well, a good thing is a good thing, I guess.

- Oricon rankings are out. On the singles side, Utada Hikaru's Flavor of Life, as predicted, fell to third place behind new singles by boy band News and pop group (I think they're a man band) Kobukuro's latest, which also served as the theme song for the drama version of Tokyo Tower.

As for the album ranking, Mr. Children hangs on for the second week, but after a huge drop to 180,000 copies after last week's 680,000 copies sold. Mika Nakashima's latest also hangs on for a third place for its second week, while Koda Kumi's compilation (the album that beat Mika last week) drops to 5th behind Exile. After the firing of one of its own, Morning Musume's latest, the creepily named "Sexy 8 Beat" (considering most of the members are even adults yet), could only muster an 8th place debut.

- Eiga Consultant analyzed the flop that is the fable Argentine Hag (Japan Times reviewed it two weekends ago). Hoga News has a translation, so I'll let it speak for itself.

- Hoga News also reports about the directorial debut of comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (half of the comedy duo Downtown that hosts the hit music show Hey Hey Hey AND does those "No laugh or get beat" games). Details are sparse, but the title is "Dai Nippon Jin" (or Big Japanese Person, or Super Japanese Person. Either way, the translation is open to interpretation), and it'll open on the same day as Takeshi Kitano's latest "Kantoku Banzai!" Joint marketing, I smell...

- Twitch has a clip to the press conference done for Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip's latest Flashpoint. Don't worry, the only reason I'm mentioning it is because it has footage. Good ones, too! It's looking like this will be Wilson Yip's attempt to emulate John Woo, so it might just be a lot of fun.

- India has started its own version of the Academy Awards, and what do they do at the launch? Talk about global warming, of course.

- A few weeks ago, Lovehkfilm mentioned that their "most underrated performance" award to Andrew Lin Hoi for The Heavenly Kings was actually noticed by the man himself. Turns out it didn't stop there - they actually met up and Kozo presented him with a real award!

- I waited for a few days to post this - not on purpose, of course, I simply forgot - but here's Jeffery Wells' well-written review (certainly far better than what I wrote up there for Death Note) of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino trashfest Grindhouse.

- I enjoyed Brian Helgeland's revenge flick Payback, starring Mel Gibson. I didn't think it was a masterpiece or anything, but it was enjoyable enough. Turns out it was meant to be a complete thing altogether, as apparent by the review of the soon-to-be-released director's cut on DVD. It's not just another one of those director's cut that adds a couple of minutes. No, the entire palate was redone, the whole third act was redone, and it's like another movie altogether. It might just be worth checking out.

Next, the 100th entry, which is the song of the day.


Don said...

Well done for reaching magic 99 - hope you can keep it up. Thanks for plugging Ryuganji too. Looking forward to reading more.

Kozo said...

Congrats on reaching 100 Kevin! Keep it up and I'm sure you'll attract more readers very soon. One surefire way, however, is more pictures... ;)

GoldenRockProductions said...

Thanks for the comments, all.


Glad to plug Ryuganji, it's really one of my most important sources, especially that new rss feed on your page!


Yeah, pictures is something I want to put more of, but it's already taking me enough time to write the text everyday. Plus, pictures somehow mess up the font for some reason. But yeah, I'll work on your advice, thanks again!