ALWAYS 三丁目の夕日 a.k.a. ALWAYS SUNSET ON THIRD STREET

23 April 2006

The movie is based on Japanese manga (comic) written by Ryouhei Saigan in 1973. It tells a story of people in Tokyo urban neighborhood situated near the location where Tokyo Tower was being built in the 33rd Shōwa period (1958.) It was a post-war era when new technology, such as television, washing machine and refrigerator, emerged and economic boom was about to begin. Some people still lived with painful past while the others were looking forward to the bright future…

The storyline of the movie is simple as it opens with an introduction of all main characters whose lives are related in the "third street" neighborhood. The story develops through the change of Japanese 4 seasons from summer, to autumn, to winter and, finally, to spring concurrent with the construction of Tokyo Tower to its completing. This reflected perfectly the Japanese way of life which related highly with the seasons. Japanese cultural remarks are perfectly put into the movie with marvelous visual effects that reproduce the era, including the half-built Tokyo Tower. Thus, the audiences could truly feel the good old memories of Tokyo in the 50’s and be carried way with laughter and tears throughout the movie.

This optimistic and extremely feel-good movie is directed by Takashi Yamazaki and is packed full of veteran and powerful cast and crews. It’s no doubt why the movie is ranked as one of the highest grossing Japanese movie in 2005. The movie also won 12 Japanese Academy Awards in 2006 including Best Picture.

5 Stars out of 5 – You could remember those good old days through this feel-good movie.

Visit the official website (in Japanese) at <http://www.always3.jp/>

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Songkran @ Khao San Road

13 April 2006
Songkran festival, formerly known as Thai Traditional New Year Day, is celebrated during the middle of April every year. And yes…, it’s the time of the year again. Even though our ancestors had never celebrated the festival with water splashing and powder smearing, it seems that the culture itself has been transformed; getting wet and wild has become an essential part of Songkran spirit in recent years.

Khao San Road is one of the most renowned places to enjoy Songkran in its special way. As it’s a foreign backpackers base in Bangkok, from words of mouth to Lonely Planet guide book, Khao San Road has become a well-known tourist destination. Songkran activity here goes virtually around the clock, though the city officials restricted the time to run around and splash yourself like crazy from 11 AM till midnight. Things could get a little out of control, thus you should not let your guard down.

Hopefully, I could survive the insanity at Khao San Road and get a chance to come back and report what was going on there. Stay tune.

Ice Age: The Meltdown

5 April 2006
I have just been back from a special preview of "Ice Age: The Meltdown," the sequel to the hit animation "Ice Age." This time around the Ice Age is coming to an end. The ice is starting to melt and the flood will soon destroy everything in its way. The main characters from "Ice Age" are all back. These include Manny (the Mammoth), Diego (the Sabretooth) and Sid (the Sloth.) There are also new and notable characters including Crash and Eddie (the Possums) and Ellie (the female Mammoth with an identity crisis.) Together, the gang of these ice-age animals has to unite and survive the meltdown. Last but not least, Scrat the Squirrel and his quest for an acorn should never be forgotten. His hilarious attempts to get a hold of the acorn are one of the most enjoyable moments in the movie.

Even though I could notice a rendering effect in some "Meltdown" sequences, the animation in general is smooth and flawless. The storyline is straightforward and easy to follow, which is good for children, while there are numbers of clever lines and funny puns that would make you laugh through the movie. I really enjoy the sound effect and the music, especially a new version of the song "Food, Glorious Food."

All in all, the movie is enjoyable with some good morals suitable for children and adults alike. It’s no wonder why the movie opened at number 1 in North American on the first week with 70 million US$.

4 Stars out of 5 – recommend for family viewing session. If you like "Ice Age," you would probably love "Ice Age: The Meltdown."

Eight Below

2 April 2006
The film is inspired by a true story of a group of Japanese explorers in Antarctica which actually happened in 1958. The adaptation of the story to a movie in Japan (南極物語, "South Pole Story"; released in the U.S. as Antarctica) became a blockbuster hit in 1983. Walt Disney Pictures adapted the film for American and worldwide audiences. Eight Below tells a survival story of eight expenditure Huskies dogs which were left alone at the base camp in the middle of an extreme weather condition of the South Pole for more than six months.

The real stars in this movie are the dogs. The training of these animals for the film is superb.All the shots of Antarctica are extremely wonderful. You could actually feel the cold and cruelty of the nature beneath a beautiful scenery of snows and glaziers. It seems that human cast are there just to fill up the gap in the story and make it be like a movie rather than a documentary. All in all, a survival story of an animal is always inspirational no matter how poor the plot is.

3 stars out of 5, recommend to all dogs lovers, you’ll laugh and cry with all the Huskies. However, do not go to the movie if you couldn’t stand this kind of plot element.