Thursday, January 17, 2019

Fantasia 2018 Catch-Up 03: The Traveling Cat Chronicles, The Outlaws, Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, Knuckleball, Fireworks (2017), Lôi Báo, The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, Parallel (2018), I Am a Hero, Luz, The Witch in the Window, and Inuyashiki

So it's been (quickly checks Blogger) just about seven weeks to write up these twelve reviews, with another thirteen to go before I can drink the last Canadian Crush that I brought back from Montreal. It's really kind of absurd, especially considering that I haven't spent that much time since then writing up new/mainstream releases for eFilmCritic. But I've got confidence that I'll make it to the end before the next big, time-consuming blocks of movies. That rate isn't so bad, considering I'm working from Letterboxd first drafts and notes taken in darkened theaters. But we really should get more people on that site so that I can try and blitz through them more.

I don't know that a little more time and ability to consider things has changed my opinion of anything drastically. A bit more clicked together with Luz, The Witch in the Window, and Inuyashiki, but those were ones I'd already liked. I think all three benefit a little from me having a little time to ruminate and find some more universal themes - I don't know that I would have necessarily seen the demon in Luz as basically everything that tries to control women like the title character without more time, for instance. On the other hand, I like to think that it was just the act of writing that revealed The Witch in the Window as about a certain type of loneliness making ghosts out of people, or Inuyashiki playing with how people of different ages interact with technology. In some cases, it might be stretching to try and find more to write about than surface thrills that aren't quite so fresh six months later, but who knows

One thing I wondered about with Luz was whether its small scale does more to make every decision meaningful than would perhaps be the case in a bigger story in the same genre. I am, in general, less than enamored with how movies with big stakes will reduce the action to something small and relatable, but Luz never really does that; instead of making the fate of the world hinge on what's happening to one young woman, she's buffetted by forces in large part outside her control, and the pettiness of those around her is more relatable than trying to make one person's life connected with the greater world.

Luz is the one in this batch I hope gets to make the biggest splash in North American come 2019, but it's not alone - I;m sure that many of the folks who get stunned by Korean action films when I dig them up would love The Witch Part 1. And I must admit, every time I saw the trailer for A Dog's Journey Home this December (and even more so when I saw the reviews), I wanted to drop The Traveling Cat Chronicles on an American audience and really let an animal-voiceover picture tear at someone's heart.

Tabineko ripôto (The Traveling Cat Chronicles, aka Tabineko Report)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

The Traveling Cat Chronicles was the first film to play the festival lineup on this day, and it was a canny bit of scheduling not just because this was a more family-friendly movie than what makes up the bulk of this genre-heavy schedule, but because it's unapologetically sentimental in a way few other movies playing the event are. So, fine, let's get the day's crying done early and have fun with the rest of the movies; it's not like that will be unearned.

The film is narrated by a once-proud stray cat (voice of Mitsuki Takahata) who mentions that she as yet has no name, though has been living with Satoru (Sota Fukushi) since he found her on the side of the road. Satoru is a young man, at a point where one's life is often in flux, and there is no space for a cat in this next phase, but he's also a cat lover who wouldn't dream of not making sure Nana does not find a good home. So he travels up and down Japan meeting with childhood friends Kosuke Sawada (Ryosuke Yamamoto), who is recently divorced, and Yoshime (Tomoya Maeno), who has recently adopted a kitten; former classmate Sugi Shusuke (Takuro Ono) and ex-girlfriend Chikako (Alice Hirose), now married and running a pet-friendly B&B; and his aunt Noriko (Yuko Takeuchi), who raised him after his parents' death and whose itinerant work as a judge prevented Satoru from having a pet as a child. None of them, unfortunately, are quite able to take in a cat who has grown attached to her human.

There has, obviously, been a fair amount of tragedy and upheaval in Satoru's life already, and each time Satoru visits a friend there is an accompanying set of flashbacks to how Satoru met them, how they were separated, and some story about how they bonded over a cat. The stories inevitably fall into a bit of a pattern, but director Koichiro Miki makes that a good thing, telling some funny stories that glide into a bittersweet place; they point at where the film is heading while still misdirecting the audience a bit. Where the story is heading is both a surprise and not by the time it gets there, but that doesn't matter; the film is generally about taking both animals and people who need it in, even when it's difficult and leads to some heartache, and never loses sight of that.

Yes, this is the sort of movie that tries to soften a blow with cute animals, but since it's cats instead of dogs (as is more common), it's kind of no-nonsense about it. Nana is smart and not sentimental in her narration (or his; the subtitles use male pronouns despite the female voice, but I suspect that will be fixed if this gets any sort of official release), with Mitsuki Takahata giving her a default tone of annoyed indignation that matches the feline performer without ever seeming aloof (and occasionally being quite emotional). It's just enough tartness on top of a sort of simple, child-like vocabulary to feel like a cat. There are some other animal voices (though mostly confined to the present where Nana can relay them), but Takahata's performance sets the tone.

Full review at EFC.

Beomjoidosi (The Outlaws)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

The Outlaws is a basic as heck cop movie, the sort that starts with its cops and hoods on casual terms with each other and doesn't really start getting intense until the very end, even though the outsider invading the territory is constantly bringing the violence. The filmmakers know how these things are shaped, and are willing to give the fans what they like without a whole lot of new ingredients.

It's based upon "The Heuksapa Incident" of 2007, a concerted effort to crackdown on crime in Garibang, Seoul's Chinatown. As the film starts, the Venom and Isu gangs are constantly scuffling over territory, but cops like Ma Suk-do (Ma Dong-seok) and Park Byung-sik (Hong Ki-joon) tend to keep it tamped down because they're either trustworthy locals or the right kind of mildly corrupt. That changes with the arrival of Jang Chen (Yoon- Kye-sang) and his Black Dragons, notably the vicious Wei Sung-rak (Jin Seon-kyu) - Jang is quick to play the established gangs off each other and decapitate and consolidate what's left. It leads to a level of violence that the police can't ignore, although by the time they're ready to act, Jang has dug in enough to make it difficult.

There's not any sort of particular twist in the offing, and that's fine; a lot of people are just at a genre film to enjoy the familiar and maybe laugh at the moments when people just assume that everything will be all right, and this supplies it. There are dry-witted cops, frustrated gangsters, and the occasional lady just trying to make a living working in the casino's back rooms. It's the sort of gangster movie that celebrates equilibrium, where the new arrivals aren't just more violent but also a threat to a mostly functional system, and filmmaker Kang Yoon-sung does well to not be entirely pragmatic about it: There's just the right amount of discomfort around the old gangs that the viewer gets the sense that this sort of system is always going to be ready to fall when someone gets too ambitious, even as the new influx of greed and violence obviously demands a response.

Once that time comes, the film has a good time letting it play out. Kang and co-writer Lee Seok-geun rightly figure that if The Heukspa Incident was big enough to be named, it deserves the sort of overview where the audience can see what's going on while still playing out at a one-on-one scale when it can. There are shootouts, yes, and fights where getting slashed with a knife seems like it's mostly irritating, and they do well to stage them to feel both larger-than-life and grounded in the reality of the true story. Then there's the big throwdown where the big guys let loose, making a mess of everything around them. It's not an all-timer, but it's fair material for a movie mostly intended to do well on VOD.

Full review at EFC.

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival: Action!, DCP)

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires does the thing where it spoofs dumb, tacky movies by being dumb and tacky in the same way only much louder, trying to legitimize a guilty pleasure by slathering a lawyer off irony on it so someone can say they like how it mocks those attitudes. It's not really fooling anyone, if it's trying; if you're inclined to react to the real thing with "not cool", you'll likely have the same reaction here, and the same likely goes if you delight in that sort of over-the-top excess.

As you may expect, "Chuck Steel" is the name of a cop who plays by his own rules, to the immense frustration of his captain Jack Schitt and whatever poor bit of cannon fodder is assigned to be his partner. His wife has left him and the department wants him to shrink Dr. Alex Cular, but he's the only one noticing that there's something really weird happening with the local homeless population aside from British weirdo Abraham Van Rental, who claims to be a vampire expert (well, "trampire" expert, specifically). And what's this all got to do with the governor, who wants to outlaw booze?

Is Chuck Steel (both film and character) more than a bit crass? Oh, yeah, it leans pretty hard on getting laughs based on political incorrectness and gross-out humor, with the gags based half on being unexpected, whether because it seems like kind of a non-sequitur or because one doesn't expect the filmmakers to follow through on the crude potential of a set-up. It's not entirely shock-based humor that falls apart once you're expecting it, and it kind of works to filmmaker Mike Mort's advantage that he doesn't exactly go small: The gray area between "obviously a spoof of a thing" and "basically that thing" is huge, but he does all he can to get into the spot where it's obviously a joke.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Knuckleball is a solid little thriller that gets an occasional raised eyebrow for how ruthlessly capable its young main character can be; it makes some thematic sense at the end and has been hinted at, but, still, hmmm. That goes a bit for the plot in general, which has an awful lot of stuff that probably comes as a package more often than you'd like in real life, but seems a bit excessive for a movie.

It starts with Henry (Luca Villacis) being dropped off at his grandfather's house; he hasn't seen Jacob (Michael Ironside) much; the old man lives out in the sticks and Henry is the sort of kid who loves his phone. His parents don't have any place else to put him while they're at a funeral, though, so it's just for a few days. The trip is shaping up to be a mixed bag, between the forgotten charger, the chilly house, the chores, and, on the other hand, the discovery that Jacob played minor league baseball back in the day and might teach the kids something, but then his neighbor Dixon (Munro Chambers) stops by, and he seems kind of sketchy. A half-overheard conversation between the neighbors sounds really sketchy, and then…

Well, you can guess some of the basic shape; it's not the sort of movie built around people sitting down, having a heart-to-heart, and finding forgiveness for long-buried secrets. No, this is the sort of movie where the secrets use an axe to escape whatever cupboard they've been locked in, which is all well and good, but there aren't a whole lot of moving pieces for much of the movie. Filmmaker Michael Peterson and his co-writers have opted to keep the core very lean, and even getting to the film's 88-minutes-including-credits length means it occasionally has to be goosed a bit. It's the sort of movie where calling the cops or having some other neighbor come by may bring about enough violence to keep the viewer from wandering away but won't materially chance the course of the story; it's just keeping things moving until the big finish

Full review at EFC.

Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka? (Fireworks)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival: AXIS, DCP)

Go figure - a couple years ago, we were talking about whether Matoko Shinkai could be the new Miyazaki, and now Fireworks is being promoted in large part by how it's like a Shinkai movie and from a Your Name producer, though it's also noteworthy for being based upon a TV-movie made by Shunji Iwai. Time sometimes marches on fast! It may not be quite at the same level as those filmmakers' best, but it's an enjoyable youth fantasy that should certainly appeal to fans of those filmmakers.

It takes place in the small town of Moshino, starting just before summer vacation. There will be fireworks, and middle-schoolers Norimichi (voice of Masaki Suda), Yusuke (voice of Mamoru Miyano), and Jun'ichi (voice of Shintaro Asanuma) have been having an argument over whether they explode in the shape of a disc or a sphere, plotting to climb to the top of the town's lighthouse to see what they look like from that perspective. There's also Oikawa Nazuna (voice of Suzu Hirose), a girl not long for their class, as her divorced mother is about to remarry and move away; spotting Norimichi and Yusuke at the school's swimming pool, she challenges them to race, saying she'll meet the winner that night during the fireworks. She finds a strange bauble at the bottom of the pool, but it's Norimichi who will eventually discover its strange power.

It's a plenty charming story, though it's not quite Your Name. It's a cute, likable tale of young love and potential separation, but its fantasy isn't quite so sharp - compared to Your Name or Penguin Highway, the fantastical parts of the story seem a bit more grafted on as opposed to being part of the natural part of the world these kids inhabit. It fits with the story the filmmakers are trying to tell; the alternate timelines and attempts for the kids to change their destiny are able to show both how small changes can send young persons' lives in different directions and how those young people can be powerless. The relaxed pacing often feels like repetition and padding that doesn't reveal quite so much on second glance as one might necessarily hope.

Full review at EFC.

Lôi Báo

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival: Action!, DCP)

For a movie whose basic premise is goofy enough to include head transplants, this doesn't play as nearly the bit of madness it could have. Granted, you've got to scale expectations down a bit for Vietnam - the effects budget it's not going to be huge - but there's still a feeling of rather mild ambition here, of taking the superhero stuff in stride because you know the beats.

After a sort of misdirecting opening depicting a scene from a comic book Tam (Cuong Seven) is writing and illustrating, the audience gets to know him a bit better - he's pretty well-liked in his neighborhood, although people do make a few comments about how his wife Linh (Tran Thi Nha Phuong) is supporting Tam and their son with her coffee shop. It seems likely to be his last; he has terminal cancer, although it turns out that Linh's Uncle Ma (Hoang Son) is doing more than creating a few hybrid crop strains on his farm, and an otherwise-healthy man about Tam's size has been shot and killed nearby. It's a miracle and then some, because Tam has inherited athleticism and fighting skills that he uses to rescue people and fight crime, disguising himself as his character "Lôi Báo" - but this "cellular memory" also pulls him toward the dead man's home and girlfriend Dr. Tue (Ngoc Anh Vu). What he finds in the house leads him to believe that this Nghia fellow was not a good person, working for organ smuggler Mr. Dao.

Does this make any sort of sense, science-wise? No, not really, but it is by and large the kind of dumb pseudoscience a viewer can roll with; it hits the right wish-fulfillment buttons and taps into the right fears about losing oneself in a new role that seems to be everything one has always wanted. It's not an especially clever story - twists, connections, and betrayals happen almost exactly on schedule, and for a movie with a genuinely loopy premise, it's got a fairly boring, conventional set of villains. Genuinely evil and vicious, sure, but if Tam gets to be something more than himself, maybe the bad guys should as well.

Full review at EFC.

Manyeo (The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Well, okay, you might think as you watch the awkwardly named and punctuated The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, this is kind of an okay young-adult riff on genetically engineered superhumans, but I kind of feel like I've seen it all before, with the shadowy agencies and people in black suits and the hiding things we can kind of predict. Then there's a sudden, extremely violent action scene, and you remember, oh, that's right, this is a South Korean action movie. You still might not be ready for just how much all hell breaks loose in final act, at which point your eyes will probably go really big and you'll want to now why you can't get "Part 2" right now.

To be fair, it starts in dark, bloody fashion, revealing the aftermath of something allowing two children to escape from some sort of lab with security types in pursuit, with the kids' safety not apparently their first concern. The boy is recaptured but the girl, apparently gravely injured, is found by a childless couple on a farm (Choi Jung-woo & Oh Mi-hee). She doesn't remember anything, but grows up smart and athletic, kind of shy until accompanying her friend Do Myung-hee (Go Min-si) a auditions for the Birth of a Star show. Suffice it to say, when someone sees Koo Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) on TV, alarms get set off and it's not long before ruthless hunter Mr. Choi (Park Hee-soon) and his ruthless team of teenagers are showing up at the Koo farm.

There was a point where one might have idly wondered just how popular American superhero comics and their tropes are in South Korea when seeing a movie open with a powerful child being found and taken in by a couple salt-of-the-earth farmers, but by now it's probably pretty safe to assume that yeah, everyone in South Korea knows exactly what writer/director Park Hoon-jung is riffing on there (amusingly, the film was actually made by DC Comics parent Warner Brothers's Korean division). As you might expect from the "subversion" in the film's English-language title, Park is not particularly content to just do an upbeat Korean take on Superman, although the route he does go is also kind of familiar, from the wardrobe to the general mad-scientist set-up, right down to there being someone out there who knows there is more to Ja-yoon than even the person in charge of the program today knows. Park is nimble enough that he never seems to be slavishly following a blueprint or undercutting his intent by being self-referential.

Full review at EFC.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, digital)

Parallel sometimes feels like two or three high-concept sci-fi films sewn together, not always cleanly, and then accelerated with certain bits taken out to increase the suspense in the second half. It's kind of exhausting at times, to be honest, a puzzle box that keeps inventing new rules lest the characters solve it to fast. Still, it's kind of impressive that it doesn't become just frantic.

It takes place in Seattle, where a software development team lives and works together in the same house where something weird happened before the opening credits: Noel (Martin Wallström), the business-savvy team leader; Leena (Georgia King), his girlfriend and the team's UX designer; Josh (Mark O'Brien), kind of a doofus with a big crush on a local bartender (Alyssa Diaz) but a good coder; and Devin (Aml Ameen), a more grounded programmer. They discover a hidden staircase in their house, leading up to an attic which includes a weird mirror that lets them walk into parallel worlds. Not weird, "what if the Nazis won WWII" worlds, but ones almost identical to their own, but with a few caveats - the mirror never takes them to the same alternate universe twice, and time runs 180 times faster there. So, if you've got a deadline in four days rather than the four weeks you'd planned on, you may find an opportunity there, as well as all sort of other temptations.

Tech and software development are certainly not the only places where something like this will get misused, but there's a certain fitting ingenuity in setting it there; the freelance workers/contractors, impossible deadlines that require cramming more man-hours than is strictly legal into a week, and frequent decision to outsource development to people in what may as well be another world will likely seem especially familiar to people in that business, as will the sense, in later parts of the movie, that other people see you as a replaceable body, and that people do not know what comes next but are certain that "disruption" is good. Director Isaac Ezban and writer Scott Blaszak seem to have a better grasp on it than a lot of filmmakers do (writers and artists have a different sort of grinding, freelance/gig economy to deal with).

Full review at EFC.

I Am a Hero

* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

I kind of expected the title if this to be a bit more ironic, both from what I've heard of the manga and the way the opening act played; my increasing unease with zombies and the rules that go with them becoming mainstream certainly had me hoping that the filmmakers would be doing something subversive. They don't, but the pretty much standard but well-done zombie action at least makes it one of the bigger and better takes on the material.

Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) has not exactly been preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but he's probably more ready than most in Japan, owning a licensed shotgun and carrying around some resentment in his job as an art assistant to manga artist Koroi Nakada (Jin Katagiri), having also been awarded a "best newcomer" prize 15 years ago. Kicked out by girlfriend Tekko (Nana Katase) he's thus got his weapon with him as the virus spreads, eventually winding up in a cab with schoolgirl HIromi Hayakari (Kasumi Arimura). They make it out of the city to an outlet mall where nurse Yabu (Masami Nagasawa) seems to take a shine to him, while the charismatic young leader of the group taking shelter there, Iura (Hisashi Yoshizawa) thinks they may be helpful, but they've got a secret - Hiromi has been bitten, though she has apparently contracted a mild strain of the virus.

Not having read Kengo Hanazawa's original manga, I can't speak to whether the title was meant to be something Suzuki grows into or hopefully grows out of, and the script by Akiko Nogi isn't terribly definitive on this point, either. It's a question that gets down to what a film in this genre is about - is Suzuki justified in hating the world and seeing those within as enemies, or is he going to be able to tap into a buried humanity in the face of the pure misanthropy of a zombie horde? A filmmaker can have most of the same things happen but make two very different movies depending on how they answer that question, although most of the time they take the same bits from column A and B, and have since the first time George Romero put a bunch of frightened people in the same cottage. I Am a Hero is a little more flagrant about trying to have it both ways, and that limits its ceiling: It can be a well-made genre film, but not the type where something buried within it gets the viewer thinking.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

Tilman Singer's Luz is the sort of film that I suspect makes other filmmakers envious: How many of them, when they were students and able to be a little self-indulgent, were able to make something good enough to cause a stir at festivals? This one is a heck of a nice bit of art-house horror without that qualifier, but for the work of someone explicitly learning the ropes (beyond how everyone is always learning as they create), it's a heck of a starting point.

The film's own starting point is attention-grabbing - closed-circuit footage of a young woman stumbling into a police station and starting trouble, practically begging to be locked up. She's Luz Carrara (Luana Velis), a Chilean immigrant who now drives a cab in Berlin. The police oblige and call in Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) to give her a psych examination where she recalls a seance she and friends did back in Catholic school when her friend Margarita (Lilli Lorenz) thought she was pregnant, but was actually host to something else - something which has followed Luz to Europe and is now possessing Rossini.

Hypnosis is often treated as a sort of magic in horror movies (and elsewhere), a way to hack into a person's mind and reveal something hidden or plant a trojan horse, though that sort of powerful mesmerist is out of vogue. What makes Luz a nifty, disorienting sort of horror movie is the way in which it combines hypnosis and possession, blurring the lines between Rossini's therapeutic tool and the entity's supernatural abilities, creating a sense of lack of control and disconnection that many other films like this may not necessarily lack, but do limit. It's a fascinating way to make what seems like a very small threat into something tremendously tense, but it's not just the supernatural element that is amplified here; Singer connecting these two elements in this particular way amplifies the underlying situation, where a woman who has been violated and attacked finds herself forced into a similar situation in the place where she is supposed to be safe, the line between the clinically intimate and the invasive eventually being obliterated.

Full review at EFC.

The Witch in the Window

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2018 in Salle J.A. DeSève (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Thumbs up to The Witch in the Window being a 75-minute horror movie, which is almost always the best length for movies in the genre to be. May filmmakers' increasing recognition of streaming services as their ultimate landing spot keep them from adding fifteen to twenty unneeded minutes going forward. It's not always going to result in something as naturally compact and effective as this, but that's something to strive for.

For Finn (Charlie Tacker), the horror starts with father Simon (Alex Draper) dragging him north from New York to rural Vermont, where there's no cell phone coverage and the house they're staying in is a fixer-upper that Simon plans to flip; as pretty as the area is, it's not exactly a city kid's ideal summer vacation. Still, he hasn't seen his dad much since the divorce, it is kind of nice to have this much room to himself, and the neighbors seem nice. Still, Louis next door (Greg Naughton) isn't exactly eager to help Simon with the wiring, and eventually the electrician explains why: The previous owner, Lydia (Carol Stanzione), had been sitting in her chair by the window dead for the better part of a month before someone called the police, and that's the sort of story that makes people feel like she never really left.

Despite the film's brief length, writer/director Andy Mitton doesn't push the scares too hard, trying to get to jumps and escalating the danger quickly. He favors the scene where the viewer realizes that there's somebody else in frame when it's quiet enough for the eye to wander, and the question is less when Lydia showed up (she's always there), but what exactly is making Simon or Finn receptive to seeing her. Milton lets the characters' fear drive the story as much as the actual presence of a ghost, letting it spiral, as a frightened kid leads to a father afraid he can't protect his son, and a frightened father makes it worse for a kid.

Full review at EFC.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2018 in Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

As much as the usual position of a fan is to look for fidelity in an adaptation, I was rather hoping that the feature film version of Inuyashiki would fix up a few problems the manga had, most importantly that the creator apparently found himself more interested in the villain than the title character. The filmmakers cut out some of the fat to be sure, but what they've come up with turns out to be a pretty faithful adaptation, warts and all. It's still kind of a blast, and who knows, maybe sequels will let them have a freer hand later.

Ichiro Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashe) is younger than he looks, but that still leaves him in late middle-age, not as far up the corporate ladder as he probably should be, a disappointment to his wife (Mari Hamada) and an embarrassment to daughter Mari (Ayaka Miyoshi) and son Takeshi (Nayuta Fukuzaki). They don't much like the stray corgi he let follow him home, either. While walking Hanako one night, he winds up very much in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a spaceship crashes right on top of him. Fortunately, the alien tech is quite capable of repairing itself and the park, leaving no trace of itself - but part of what it repairs is Ichiro, who wakes up feeling better than he has in years but having no appetite for anything more than a little water. That's because he's a highly advanced android now, incredibly strong, able to interface with any technology, even equipped with weaponry and the ability to fly, although as a timid and non-confrontational man, he's nervous to test these abilities. Trouble is, he wasn't the only one at the park, and Hiro Shishigami (Takeru Satoh) is a teenage outcast mad at the world.

Director Shinsuke Sato and screenwriter Hiroshi Hashimoto don't change much from the manga, and perhaps one of the most notable changes of necessity likely doesn't seem very big: The film's Ichiro is not so extremely old and feeble as the manga. He's certainly not exactly bursting with vitality and comes across quite beleaguered, but that gives star Noritake Kinashi room to put the focus on Ichiro's attitude, rather than just his capabilities. Kinashi projects a simple, genuine decency compared to the villain's detached sociopathy. It's a good but not preachy version of the much-retweeted quotation about not knowing how to explain you should care about other people, and also superhero 101, but effective.

Full review at EFC.

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