Departures (2008) – Japanese Movie – Review

departures

Departures [Okuribito] is well deserving of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (2009) among its other awards. It’s a film about life and death — or more accurately the life in death and viceversa. Any viewer or reviewer will agree, it plays on emotions extremely well and leaves lasting impressions overall. Not controversial, but discussion-worthy and intriguing — Departures portrays the Japanese ceremony of ‘encoffining’ which is often a very private, traditional and taboo subject matter. Departures is a light-hearted yet dramatic film about a serious, real and humane topic. Directed by Yojiro Takita

The story is about a conflicted man, Dai (Masahiro Motoki) who loses his job and livelihood as a cellist when his orchestra is disbanded. He moves back to his hometown with his wife and finds a new job. By advertisement it appeared to be for a travel agency but really its for a mortuary. And the journey begins — in assisting the dead to the afterlife and much more (for Dai & the audience).

Plot summary
Full synopsis

departures

Photos

It serves as a dramedy for being half about Dai ‘finding himself’ (cliche I know) and half for the ceremony around death — a calm but strong approach at a story about life & death. Somber but true.

Reviews: Rotten Tomatoes // Love HK Film // NY Press (negative) //
Blow reviews: 1 // 2

aparoo says 5/5

You can also see Motoki’s ‘unique’ (and often criticized) style of acting in “The Longest Night in Shanghai“. After seeing both these films, I would agree that his ‘acting’ or ‘style’ is often awkward — but then again that makes it more realistic and human in some sense.

Code Blue (2008) – Japanese Drama (J-drama) – Review

code blue season 1

Think of Code Blue as a cross between E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy for its medical dramatics and character (doctor & patient) stories. But in this case the character stories and romantics are not overly dramatic (like in Grey’s). Another comparison would be to Trauma (which I think tried to copy Code Blue) for the plot concept of ‘helicopter doctors’ and medical response.

I thought ‘not overly dramatic’ would be a good thing but maybe it wasn’t dramatic enough — kinda dry honestly. Maybe they went too hard with the whole disciplined & learning angle because on-screen its like some random people are wearing scrubs and doing medical stuff.

Code Blue comparisons to Grey’s Anatomy

“… A medical team is dispatched to the patients on a helicopter to provide medical care in the field as soon as possible. One day, four young physicians are assigned to this latest medical system. The doctors experience traumatic medical situations, deal with personal ambitions, witness the fragility of life, and they grow personally and professionally.”  –Fuji TV

code blue season 2

I did enjoy watching the team of young doctors (flight doctors-in-training) trying to perfect their craft and work together in season 1. Code Blue stars popular Yampai and my favourite Toda Erika. The supporting characters made it a well-rounded medical drama: nurses, pilot, flight doctor (mentors) and of course the patients.  I never got around to watching the SP or 2nd season. Many scenes were shot with a real helicopter so the only cheesy part is the ketchup-water blood.

code blue heli

aparoo says 3/5 for action, human & medical drama

Viewer Rant (not review)

Viewer Reviews
Season 1
Season 2

Stream
Season 1 & SP: MySoju // Dramacrazy
Season 2: MySoju // Dramacrazy

If Toda Erika wasn’t in this series I wouldn’t have even finished the first season. Toda Erika pics

The Longest Night in Shanghai (2007) Chinese/Japanese Movie – Review

the longest night in shanghai cover

The Longest Night in Shanghai is still both one of my favourite romantic-dramaedies and pan-Asian (co-) productions. The main reasons include: the visually stunning settings, a compelling soundtrack throughout and a cute love story. Directed and co-written by Yibai Zhang. Third Chinese/Japanese co-production set in Shanghai by Movie-Eye Entertainment (Japan).

Synopsis here

Short trailer here

The movie definitely takes you away from wherever you are and along for the romantic ride one night in Shanghai. Thankfully, its not the in-your-face city skylines and scenic images (like in Mirai Yosouzu) that make you a tourist watching a documentary or reading a brochure. — All the reviews I’ve read agree on this point 100%. Instead the setting and story are one in the same — in that the romance unfolds through the city and the city unfolds the romance.

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Its always great when strong visuals have the perfect music to compliment them and this movie follows suit to that notion. As a Chinese/Japanese co-production film, and love story between a Japanese man and Chinese woman, scenes either contain both languages or none — but music to accompany all. This element almost makes subtitles unnecessary because you will understand and feel what’s going on.

Soundtrack (Youtube) // Download

Masahiro Motoki plays the Japanese make-up artist and Wei Zhao plays the Chinese cab driver. One is wound-up and the other is bubbly? As we (the audience) get to discover a city & love story, they (the characters) help each other discover things too — even with barriers to communication. In trying to understand each other they end up understanding themselves more than they could before.

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Some reviews are not too favourable of their chemistry — which I disagree on. I thought it was great (like in 26 Years Diary — a Japan/Korea co-production).  I do however agree on some of the other things these reviews point out like lack of substance in the subplots and side-stories that add little to the main story (even with a diverse cast). (Reviews below)

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Full synopsis & cast here

Reviews: twitch // Variety // thesupermovie

Stream: Youtube (no English subs) // Dramacrazy (English subs!)

Download: AsiaTorrents

aparoo says 5/5, this is my “go-to” cute-flick