Bito Takeshi [ビートたけし] Forget about the expressions oh his face, but there's really something about Beat Takeshi. Some unknown charm and brilliance. He's one of the most respected directors/actors in Japan, and he sure has a lot to prove.
Kashiwabara Shuji [柏原収史] So cute, i'm looking forward to seeing him in other series / films, and being the brother of Takashi Kashiwabara (Love Letter), he's become even more interesting.
Kashiwabara Takashi [柏原崇] Okay, i know i need to watch more of his films.. but this guy is just too irresistable, I am looking forward in seeing him in other drama series and films.
Moriyama Mirai [森山未來] He seems to have that happy-go-lucky type of character that anyone could love, and he sure shows it well on screen. His brilliant performance on WATERBOYS makes him one of my favorite new actors this 2005.
Suzuki Anne [鈴木杏] She has proved to be one of the most sought-after actors in Japanese entertainment industry, as well as the world. I am truly delighted to know how hard-working and talented this young lady is, and I am really excited to see her perfomances in the future, be it in theater, movies or TV. She's a sensation indeed!
Ueno Juri [上野樹里] Juri Ueno. What can I say?
It's very entertaining watching her on screen (haven't seen her much on TV). It's just too bad she didn't have enough lines on Orange Days, but this girl sure can act. She did a brilliant performance in Shinobu Yaguchi's SWING GIRLS (2004). If you still haven't seen it -- well you better do. It's one of the best movies that came out of Japan last 2004.
She seem great on comedy. But it wouldn't surprise me if she does well in a dramatic role. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her on TV or movies. One thing I'd like to see more of -- is her playing the sax (saxophone) yet again. Wooot! GO JURI!!
Ueto Aya [上戸彩] She's charming and pretty much a talented artist.. Her winning smile could tame the coldest heart. She's soo Aya!
Padme's dramas (6)
Ace wo Nerae! [エースをねらえ!] Rating: 7/10 (Watched) Very entertaining.. Aya Ueto was both funny and charming in this series. I haven't finished it yet (although i know the ending since there's the anime series), but I'm looking forward to a some good live-action tennis drama.
Love letter Rating: 10/10 (Bought & Watched) One of Shunji Iwai's most captivating films (amazingly his first). Simply beautiful in terms of story and style. I didn't mind watching it for several times, and I still love it until today.
My Little Chef Rating: 9/10 (Bought & Watched) Truly wonderful. The cast was brilliant, the script was superb, and last but not least the food was simply fantastic! (like I tasted 'em).
Shigatsu no monogatari [四月の物語] Rating: 10/10 (Bought & Watched) Charming and quite funny. Shunji Iwai's fantastic cinematography shines in this movie!
Stand UP!! Rating: 8/10 (Bought & Watched) So far, so good (cos i'm still yet to finish it). Funny, crazy, and charming, Although it may look a little stupid especially in the beginning, this is a drama with a heart.
Water Boys [ウォーターボーイズ] Rating: 6/10 (Bought & Watched) Irritatingly cute and funny. Though i still cannot grasp the boys passion for sychronized swimming.. but i do believe that regardless of all the booboos and shortcomings of this series, believe me you'll be wanting some more once you've finished it.
Padme's drama reviews (4)
Love letter Lovely.. [Rating: 10/10] It seem that it is really rare to see Japanese movies without the gore and horror. Japanese films are known for their bizarre and masterfully horrifying films, such as “The Ring” and “The Grudge” or maybe as disturbing as “All About Lily Chou-Chou” and “Suicide Club” or “Battle Royale.” But before Japanese horror fever swept across Asia, in 1995 one certain film should have grabbed the recognition that Japanese horrors have had these days, as it was truly a rare piece of Japanese drama. “Love Letter” is Shunji Iwai’s first feature film, which gave him a massive commercial success. It is an achingly sentimental, and poetic movie about love both lost and found.
Starring Japan’s famous TV drama queen, Miho Nakayama. She stars as Watanabe Hiroko, a young woman who struggles to recover from the death of her fiancé “Itsuki Fujii”. When she discovers his old yearbook, hoping it could ease her own pain, she writes a letter to Itsuki and sends it to his former address. She doesn’t intend for the letter to reach anyone, but surprisingly, she gets a response -- strangely from a recipient named “Itsuki Fujii” -- a young woman who actually has the same name as her fiancé, more so was an old classmate of the late Itsuki Fujii. Hence starts their odd yet interesting relationship, as they share their memories with each other of the young and grown-up “Itsuki Fujii” that they know.
Set against the picturesque backdrop of rural Hokkaido, “Love Letter” is one of the very few unforgettably charming Japanese films that I have seen in 3 years. Most of the time movies such as this film here, I could only find in an anime (Japanese animation). The film is truly affecting and overwhelms you with its heartfelt emotions that transpire from its characters.
The flashbacks are one of the most essential parts of the story as they give you a chance to get to know the core and soul behind the string of memories shared by its characters. What makes “Love Letter” even more beautiful is the brilliant storyline and its successful depiction of conjured yet believable sentiments that makes us all human.
As his first feature film, it seem that director Shunji Iwai held this movie near and dear to his heart that he completed it so beautifully. I feel as if he had poured so much time and love on it. “Love Letter” is truly a charmingly wistful piece of work.. a gorgeous masterpiece. Seeing it was indeed quite rewarding.
Shigatsu no monogatari [四月の物語] Shunji Iwai's Magic [Rating: 9/10] Pretty. That’s how I would describe this movie. I don’t know about you, but most of the time I really have an appetite for slow-unfolding films, this time it’s a lovely and pleasing “slow” movie by much-admired director -- Shunji Iwai. There’s really something about Mr. Iwai’s films that they have this meek charm and an unyielding realism, and how I like them. “April Story” is Iwai’s follow-up film after his amiable 1995 directorial debut -- “Love Letter.”
“April Story” tells the tale of a young woman named Nireno Uzaki (Takako Matsu), who has just left Hokkaido, a beautiful snow-filled rural home from the northern side of Japan. She comes to Tokyo to pursue her college studies at a university west of the capital. Gradually Nireno tries to adjust to the different life in the city. Even though the transition is hard, she begins to get use to her new situation – living in her own apartment, meeting new friends, new people, and finally even joining a fishing club in school. Nireno seem to enjoy herself, but we soon find out the real reason why Nireno wanted to study in Tokyo, even more – on why she worked so hard to get admitted in the well-respected and popular university.
The story is really slow-paced, and I am afraid the average movie viewer will have a hard time finishing this film, even when it is just barely over one (1) hour. Mr. Iwai is keen in showing small details; every scene depicts a natural and sometimes nostalgic atmosphere. Camera angles were done in a style as if you were really there, watching the characters closely with much detail.
The music is wonderful, with relaxing sounds of strings and piano, reminiscent of the unforgettable soundtrack from the “Love Letter.” Even the breath-taking sceneries of Hokkaido and Western Tokyo are sure to give you a warm and peaceful feeling. Art-wise, “April Story” doesn’t fail to show Mr. Iwai’s true artistic brilliance. His style is something that I very much admire. Hopefully I would be able to see his other works, such as “Hana and Alice” and “All About Lily Chou-Chou” -- hopefully soon.
So the question is: Would you see it or not? Well, it’s up to you. You may not really find it likable for some apparent reason, but “April Story” certainly was worth my time, and maybe yours as well.
Stand UP!! STAND UP and Do Something! [Rating: 7/10] Right. To tell you frankly I am not a fan of sex comedies that I didn’t even watch American Pie 1, 2 or 3. I saw some bits and I thought they weren’t even funny at all. Hmm if they come up with another one, geeezz I don’t know.
Unfortunately for me, “Stand Up!!” here is what you could refer to as a teen sex comedy (uh oh). Funny coz I am forced to see this series because of the glamorous ensemble this show has to offer. It has like eight (8) recognizable and promising young actors from the Japanese entertainment industry. Most of them are those I am very fond of watching (that includes Suzuki and Tsukamoto).
The story revolves around four teenage boys and their uproaring obsessions with sex. When they find out that they are one of the last few virgins in school, after being humiliated by a bunch of kinky young school girls, they started their confusing fraternity of which they call “the purity group” -- they want to uphold purity and yet they wish so much to have their “first time.” Okay it’s understandable.
During the summer holidays, a girl whom they have known since childhood 11 years ago has come back to their neighborhood. Remembering their childhood attraction towards her, they realized she has become merely a shadow of the “princess” they all have known her to be. Now in their seventeen (17) years, in the height of the summer holidays -- all-grown up yet with so much to learn. These five (5) good friends discover all over again the beauty of friendship, and the bright and hopeful future they have together.
Lead actor Ninomiya Kazunari, he plays Shohei -- babyish and a little insecure about himself, but he respects and loves his friends like no other. He falls for his schoolteacher who apparently admits that she would date anyone younger than her age. Anne Suzuki, she plays Chie. She is sensitive and optimistic, a lovely girl behind thick glasses and a rowdy appearance. She comes back to see his old friends for some secretive reasons. Then there’s Yamashita Tomohisa, he plays Ken-Ken, an honest and sensitive young man who has a weird fascination with railway transports. Despite coming from a broken family and the burdens of having a problematic mother -- he seem to be the most decent and mature of the four (4) boys. Kozi played by Oguri Shun, is the silent but sporty type. When it comes to girls, he can’t seem to say things right to his dismay. He is the team captain of the local youth football club. Although he is a popular player who can pretty much attract any girl, his naivety towards the opposite sex makes him almost gullible and boring. Then there’s Narimiya Hiroki who plays the music-loving guy named Hayato, is the group’s funny and outrageous character. He is obsessed with peeking at girls’ underwear, and he seems to be the most perverted of them all.
I am pleased to say that this isn’t just like most cheap teen flicks I keep on seeing these days. It may seem very silly at times -- thanks to the boys doing some really ridiculous stuff in their quests to have their first experiences. But as the show progresses you start to get used to their silly ways and you begin to acknowledge their immaturity and flaws.
Story-wise, it’s a little different where they throw in all the jokes and silly stuff in the beginning and up towards the end; and unexpectedly the story turns upside down before it finishes. There is a sudden change of atmosphere as the story ends with a somber incident that could have a huge effect on the viewer. I believe the character development was quite good that regardless of how the ending turns up to be like, the audience is still pretty much involved with the characters. But I really think there’s something missing in the plot with regards to one significant incident in the story’s latter part. Apparently it wasn’t resolved properly. I believe they could have had a better and happier ending for it if they included something to fill up that hole.
But anyways, I’m really happy I took the time to watch this. It isn’t just seeing all these young actors in one drama series that makes it interesting; But it was a big bonus to see Anne Suzuki’s acting prowess yet again. She truly is becoming one of the industry’s most brilliant young stars. It’s amazing how well she handled such a complex and almost difficult role. Ninomiya Kazunari, after seeing him in his serious role in “The Blue Light” of which both him and Suzuki starred as brother and sister, it was a quite surprising to see how funny and infectious he can be in a comedic role.
To summarize, I think “Stand Up!!” was quite a good series, not the best though, but it was able to tackle a sensitive subject without being too intimidating or insensitive. There are enough positive messages we could all get from this drama. Teenagers could misinterpret the message of the story, that’s why it was given a rating for adults. However I think young teens should see this provided that they would be wise enough to understand the situations in the story, or better yet be accompanied by someone older.
“Stand Up!!” celebrates the values of family, love, and friendship. Sex isn’t the foundation of a relationship if you’re still clueless enough to understand. Love is wonderful and sacred, and it blesses anyone who values the true reason for it. “Stand Up” for what is right, and you’d be thankful you did so.
Water Boys [ウォーターボーイズ] Can They Synchro?! [Rating: 6/10] And so.. maybe you’re thinking it’s boys making a fool of themselves yet again. Maybe so, but wait till you watch this stupidish yet thrilling TV series. “Waterboys” the series was released by Fuji Television two (2) years after the success of the mega-hit comedy motion picture “Waterboys” directed by Yaguchi Shinobu.
Obviously the Japanese, being so popular for creating numerous drama series each year, it isn’t anymore surprising that they created this television series. And did you know that because of the series’ success, they released a series sequel, “Waterboys 2” (also from Fuji Television), but were not going to talk about that for now, so back to “Waterboys” the first series:
Going back (referring to the movie “Waterboys”), during a summer two years ago, five (5) senior high-school boys brought fame to a small town, as they formed a “men’s synchronized swimming team” to the delight of the locals (and most of all -- the all-girls high school not so far away). Their undying efforts to put up a great show made them the unprecedented town heroes, who made their school -- Tadano High a pioneer for men’s synchronized swimming, on which the school is now popular of.
Now two (2) years has passed since that summer, and the boys of Tadano High School are still eager to keep the “synchro” spirit alive. Unknown to them however, are the improbable obstructions they have to face as the school’s famous synchronized swimming is threaten to be put to an end.
With five (5) new unlikely “synchronites” leading the cast, along with some fresh new faces, and a few not-so-fresh faces, “Waterboys” the series promised some amusing entertainment yet again for it’s viewers. However, compared to the movie, the show seem to have had too much irksome elements added in it’s 45-min-running, 11-episode-series. Along with that are some really annoying characters (those old brothers are immensely irritating) who seem to go over-to-top with their performance.
The lead casts did a excellent job though especially with their pool talents, they however look conversely annoying at times when they try to look all-funny as a few of them tend to exaggerate on their acting which ruins most scenes. Norio Tatematsu, played by little known actor Moriyama Mirai, obviously had the most interesting role. His acting was not just impressive; he was awfully funny as well. His happy-go-lucky character seems so natural, and his boyish-gaggish demeanor simply makes him so adorable. Lead actor Yamada Takayuki who plays Shindo Kankuro was the improbable captain. His acting makes his character convincing, despite the noticeably cheesy script at times, he was able to make his role believable. As for the rest of the cast, of course there are other good ones and not-so-good ones. It’s a relief that in spite of all the imperfections of this series, they were able to pull-off an impressive ending.
Pretty much like the movie, Fuji Television’s “Waterboys” is a light-hearted comedy for all-ages, the series, like the film shows how these young men struggle to master and perform synchronized swimming, and with that, they discover friendship, love, and the real essence of team spirit.