Ken Watanabe

The Last Samurai

Year: 2003
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: John Logan, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz

RYAN’S REVIEW

For the second film in a row we have a movie about the last member of a dying culture, starring a white man.  The titles of the films and casting make great fodder for comedians but I do think both movies are great. When this film came out I specifically remember seeing Paul Mooney talking about this movie, his punchline was that he was going to make a movie called “The Last N**** on Earth” starring Tom Hanks.  In fact, with this movie much more than The Last of the Mohicans I hear people making jokes to that affect.  I think that has more to do with what people think about Tom Cruise than it does the actual movie though.  This is an epic movie and I am usually a fan of them when they offer such incredible battle scenes.  I love the portrayal of Japanese culture in this movie and love the specific time in history it covers. The invention of the gun changed warfare forever.  It was the end of the warrior and the ascension of the soldier.  There is a great History Channel special on the subject in the special features of the DVD. I think this film is a glowing example of what westernization can do to foreign cultures, and how in the end greed always wins no matter what is right.

I think Edward Zwick is a very talented director and specifically good at these period pieces.  I like his portrayal of other cultures and think he does an exceptional job of educating his viewers about them. I for one am not overly familiar with Japanese culture but fell in love with this films portrayal of it and hope that it is accurate. I think the character of Nathan Algren has an incredible transition that I have always admired.  He is very much the American man. A good man in truth, but haunted by his experiences and flawed with arrogance.  He is proud, as any heroic American should be, but he has lost his way.  Living with this foreign culture he grows to appreciate and eventually love it. Learning to appreciate this unfamiliar culture he finds a way to live with himself again. He learns to believe in something and he learns that there is more to the world, it’s a realization that humbles him.  There is nothing more riveting to me personally than to see a character in a movie humbled and for that character to learn from the experience to go on and redeem himself. It’s an incredible thing really, and I think the Algren character does it as well as any I have ever seen.

I am and always have been a sucker for a great battle scene.  I sincerely think this movie offers some of the greatest I have ever seen.  Not only are there guns but there is plenty of sword fighting, and sword fighting is always cooler. The Samurai were cool in so many ways, but there is one thing nobody can ever take away from them and that is their bitchin armor.  These guys are scary looking and they are attacking with a dizzying array of weapons with a speed that is unbelievable.  It’s shameful how they are gunned down in the end.  It was a coward that stood behind that gun giving the order.  A coward that sat on a pile of money and was motivated by greed more than anything else.  Not even half the man that any one of those riding after him were but it didn’t matter with the kind of weapons he had at his disposal.  He may be shamed in the end but he still won. and his winning cost the lives of so many incredible people.  He does lose when all is said in done, but only after winning and taking far too much in doing so. As much as what happened sucked, there really is nothing more heroic or powerful then seeing men ride to their death.  Knowing there is no hope but choosing to go anyway because you believe in something so greatly; it’s an inspiring thing to watch. It’s even more inspiring to see the Japanese soldiers bow down to them in the end.  These men were part of their heritage but they had become blinded and done something unspeakable in the name of expansion.  Their show of respect in the end is very moving.  It is a great way to cap one of the best battle scenes I have ever seen.

I think the character of Nathan Algren was incredible and very well written.  I think there are probably many great actors who could have pulled off the role with varying differences.  Yet Tom Cruise played the part and he did an incredible job.  I have said time and time again that I am no fan of Cruise but I thought he gave an incredible performance in this film. I think it is a bit much that Tom Cruise is the man to change Japan in the end of the movie but what are you gonna do? Sometimes you have to accept something ridiculous in light of so much that was great.  Ken Watanabe is really the greatest actor of the film.  I think Watanabe has been great in everything I have seen him in, he has a great voice and pulls off badass really easily.  As Katsumoto he was incredible and I think he was robbed of the Academy Award that year.  He was nominated but lost to Tim Robbins for his performance in Mystic River. It’s a shame but regardless I think his performance was one to remember.

This is a movie that I felt I learned from and it has lesson I do my very best to carry with me everyday.  The lesson I take from it is to not judge other cultures.  We see the Americans in this movie completely disregard the Samurai, referring to them as savages with bows and arrows.  Yet there is so much more to these people than meets the passing eye of an arrogant nation.  Algren learns that because he had no other choice but to take the time to do so.  Had Algren not been captured he might have just as easily continued seeing them as savage people but when he is held in captivity he has nothing to do but study the people holding him.  I think we all have the capacity to judge people we don’t understand in this way and far too often we fall victim to that judgement.  We won’t all have the opportunity to see what Algren saw beneath the surface, but we should all be aware that there is always more than meets the eye.  Foreign cultures always seem confusing and aloof to people who don’t know any better and too often those people have no interest in knowing any better.  I think the kind of arrogance that leads people to be judgmental is shameful.  I do my very best at all times not to be that kind of person and this is one of the many movies that taught me that. Another lesson, one I’ve also taken from several movies, is the danger and shameful nature of arrogance.  We all fall victim to it now and again but it does us no good in any facet of life.

This movie can be easily dismissed because the title and leading star can make it seem ridiculous but I am telling now that isn’t the case here.  This is a rich and beautiful movie with plenty to appreciate about it.  I love this movie as I love any movie I feel I learn from. Aside from all of that is the great action the movie has to offer, the battle in the end is epic and emotionally moving.  Having said all of that I think this movie is without doubt worth your time to see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

AMBER’S REVIEW

O, yay. Another last of something that isn’t even the something. I think you guys know my stance on these types of movies already, and if you don’t please read The Last of the Mohicans. I am not going to go and elaborate again on how stupid it is to have a movie where a white guy is the last of something he can’t possibly be the last of. So sorry Tom Cruise…you can’t be the last samurai! You. are. from. New. York

The-Last-Samurai-character-poster-3

Oh my god. Are you serious? Let’s just kern the shit out of the top billing so it stretches across the entire top. And let’s be lazy as possible and just center the typography, and cheese it up by putting a chinese symbol behind it. I understand you have to put Tom Cruise on the front, and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but do you see my point? He can’t be the last samurai  GAH, SMH.

NEXT MOVIE: Layer Cake (2004)

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Inception

Year: 2010
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie hit theaters back in 2010 Amber and I were front and center, eagerly waiting to see it.  I distinctly remember sitting there thinking about how I really had no idea what this movie was actually about.  The advertisement was specifically vague and didn’t offer much insight into the plot.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what it was about though.  It was the new Christopher Nolan movie and it was going to be awesome.  With Nolan, the fact that it is going to be awesome is practically guaranteed. Needless to say, the movie was awesome and I went on to see it in the theater three times overall. That’s a steep number by today’s standards but it says something about how incredible the film is.

This movie hits on all levels.  It’s made by one of the best in the business; it has an outstanding cast, and a story that is truly original in a time when original ideas aren’t hitting the big screen. This movie came out when 3D ruled more than any other time.  For this movie to be so visually dazzling without that effect says more than can be put into words about the director.  Christopher Nolan has been on the rise for some time and this was to date the best he has done. As for the 3D effect I will say this, it was badass when James Cameron did it but everything else has been only a waste of time.  Nolan is a director smart enough to know that and he specifically doesn’t use it in his film.  Clearly, he doesn’t have to. In this movie he made something that can’t be matched, and the scenes without gravity are truly incredible.  Nolan also has an interesting ability to convey violence without actually showing it.  This ability allows him to get the PG-13 rating coveted by studios because of the extra money it brings in.  If I remember correctly this movie was an idea Nolan created in his youth, and he waited for the technology to be available to film it.  I was ill when I first heard about this movie because I was impatiently anticipating the next Batman movie and the making of this would only delay it.  When I saw the movie I didn’t mind but it only made me anticipate Nolan’s next film more.  Too much in fact because I was really disappointed with The Dark Knight RisesMy disappointment over Nolan’s final Batman notwithstanding I still believe in him and I will be excited about any film he is involved with.

The cast of this film is jam-packed with talent. It begins with the lead role of Cobb.  In which Nolan chose to cast the best in the business.  Leonardo DiCaprio in my opinion is the cream of the crop, greatest actor of his era hands down.  His track record speaks for itself and how he has managed to not win numerous awards is beyond me.  The Academy doesn’t like him for some reason but that doesn’t change the fact that he is the best there is. He has worked with nearly every important director out there and he has been in some of the best movies I have ever seen.  I think he is a bit out shined in this movie by some of the others but if anything it’s only because being great comes so natural to this guy. DiCaprio performs his part so deftly it’s easy to take his talent for granted. DiCaprio may be the best in the business but in this film Joseph Gordon-Levitt outperformed him.  I have watched Gordon-Levitt since his days on Third Rock from the Sun and I am thoroughly impressed with how his career has blossomed.  He owns it in this movie and deserves to be remembered forever for the performance. This was the first movie I had seen Tom Hardy in but he left an impression as well.  I am a big fan of Ken Watanabe and obviously Christopher Nolan is too because he casts him often.  Nolan likes Cillian Murphy as well and I think that’s cool because the guy fits into all his movies perfectly. I always liked Tom Berenger and really liked seeing him in a significant role in a new movie. This was one of the last movies Pete Postlethwaite appeared in before his death, he was a significant loss as he has been part of many good movies.   Last but not least, although his role was small Michael Caine still managed to bring plenty to the film.  Nolan has cast him in every movie he has made over the last several years and for good reason.

The female leads were just as good as the male.  I had never heard of Marion Cotillard before seeing this movie but I am aware she has had a long career in foreign film.  I think she was terrific in this movie. She has a look that can turn you cold and her character is wildly unpredictable. I was also unfamiliar with Ellen Page but I think she brought a lot to the film too. She infuses the cast with youth and fits the part of the college student well. Most people know her from the film Juno, but that it still sitting on my “to-watch list” and has been for some time.

The biggest thing that makes this movie great is that it’s a movie unlike any you have ever seen before.  It has a wildly imaginative story that is truly original in an era where most of what is hitting theaters are remakes and continuations of outdated franchises.  I think this movie proves there is still a place in the industry for original ideas, whether they confuse half of the viewers or not. This movie did seem to confuse a lot of people but I don’t know why.  It may be a bit much for the close minded viewer but I didn’t have any problem at all following it.  In the end when the Cobb’s top keeps spinning I think that it suggests that he is in fact still in limbo.  The fact that he walks away before seeing it fall simply means that he no longer cares if he is or isn’t in reality anymore.  He would rather see his kids again regardless what it means.  Cobb may have never come back to reality but it was possibly still a happy ending for him despite that.

This movie was very successful when it came out two years ago and for a while became the thing everybody talked about.  If you managed to miss it then it is more than worth your time to try to see it now.  With an excellent cast, one of the best directors out there, and a story that thinks outside of the box it is definitely a must see.  I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I love this one. It reminds me a lot of my favorite movie of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I like the intricacies of this film. It is so in depth and if you aren’t paying attention to every minute, it is easy to get lost. This movie was made for movie lovers. The ones that watch and take everything in. The ones that are judging every scene, every sentence, everything. This movie is unexplainable; all that is explainable is that it is worth watching. Period.

This is one of my favorite ones to write about. I really like this poster. The world is turned up on itself, which is pretty much what happens when you dream. The laws of physics do not apply. I like the allusion to this in this poster. The font choice is bold and red is a perfect color. Once you have seen it, or even if you have seen this trailer, you can almost hear the “BOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG” sound when you look at the title. The only thing I think is unfortunate about this one is that the cast is standing in the street like that. I understand that they were trying to give as much billing to the characters as possible, but they have them standing around in the street and it looks like a Christian Rock group’s cover photo. Just my opinion, of course…but I don’t like it. It’s campy. Otherwise, this is a beautifully done poster.

NEXT MOVIE: The Incredible Hulk (2008)