‘The Forest’ Review

forest_ver2

Director: Jason Zada

Writer: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai

Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, and Eoin Macken

Synopsis: A woman goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Aokigahara Forest aka The Suicide Forest, or Sea of Tress, at the base of Mount Fuji is a real place. Aokigahara is actually very famous for being a common suicide site and being associated with demons in their mythology. So in other words, it’s prime for a horror movie setting. So, first time director Jason Zada along with Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer set The Forest within the famous and eerie location in their subpar horror film that has some issues that keep it from being more than just a generic horror film.

The Forest starts off when Sara (Dormer) has a nightmare about her twin sister Jess running in a forest. Her “twin connection” makes her feel that Jess is in trouble and Sarah decides to fly off to Japan where Jess is teaching at a school. What Sarah eventually finds out is that Jess went into Aokigahara Forest, which she finds out is the Suicide Forest. Despite what some people she encounters are saying, Sarah is convinced that her sister isn’t dead and wants to go into the forest to search for her.

4098_d026_00099_r1449276243

Sarah also encounters a travel writer, Aiden (Kinney), who along with local guide Michi (Ozawa), say they will take her into the forest to look for Jess. However, once there Sarah is constantly warned by Michi to stay on the path and not be fooled by what she sees in the forest, because it is all in her head. He also warns her to stay close because she is filled with sadness, something the forest thrives on. From there, what follows is supernatural occurrences and Sarah’s mission to find her sister and get out alive.

The Forest is not that great of a movie, however, it’s not that bad of a movie either. There are some things that really work for it and I’m quite impressed with how great the cinematography was by Mattias Troelstrup. It probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since Zada is music video director and some of the shots in the film, especially some tracking and swooping shots of the forest are beautiful to look at, in fact the way the film is shot, makes the forest feel like it is its own character. There’s one particular sequences right before the final act of the film that is a major highlight for me personally and is, arguably, the creepiest part of the film.

MV5BNDE2OTAzMTEyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDI3NzM5NjE@._V1__SX1216_SY537_

The other best part of the film is Natalie Dormer. Her first real leading role playing twins is pretty fun to watch. Although there is a nice scene between the twins around the start of the film, we follow Sarah from start to finish as she journeys into Aokigahara Forest. Dormer handles herself very well in the horror genre and you believe her when she has to deal with everything that is thrown at her. Although The Forest isn’t the best movie for Dormer to showcase her talents, she even seems to phone it in at the beginning, although I don’t necessary blame her for that, Dormer’s Sarah is still a good lead to follow.

The rest of the supporting cast, which aren’t many mind you, are a bit one-note. Taylor Kinney’s Aiden is a mixed bag as his intentions are left unclear and unanswered, which more on that in a bit, but his character is met to be shrouded in mystery. There’s also Yukiyoshi Ozawa’s Michi, who could have been a great character if he was given more to do than just be the guide into the Suicide Forest and warning Sarah about the dangers of it. Eoin Macken pops in as Sara’s husband, who shows up in the beginning of the film and just disappears and isn’t really mentioned until the end.

b0fddbd41b34cf018c0f6a7067009bdb

Now, going back to the unclear and unanswered statement I made, The Forest, had potential, but it’s overall a missed opportunity because of some big unanswered and unclear questions that the film brings up. There is also a big setup that adds to Sarah’s story and plays a factor later on, but the payoff is underwhelming with how it plays out which is a shame because it could have been powerful. The Forest also deals with a pacing issue which thankfully gets fixed by the end of the film, but it is a bit distracting for a good chuck of the film. There are quite a few pop-up scares that are scattered throughout, and some work more than others, but thankfully the ones that do are memorable.

The one thing you’ll probably be left out on Aokigahara itself. The movie just brushes past a lot of its history and simply uses the forest as a mere set-piece and backdrop for Sarah’s story. It isn’t too much of a bad thing, but the movie tries to put some emphasis on the importance of Aokigahara Forest, especially telling us that the souls of the lost in the forest are not ghosts, but trapped souls stuck there forever that are called Yurei. While the thought is appreciated, they could have put a little more thought into it, but the movie is Sarah’s story, so I can see why they wouldn’t go down that route.

Another thing that will divide audiences is the ending. I’m indifferent about it to be honest, because for me it lacks the extra punch because of the pacing and unclear/unanswered questions the movie leaves before the final shot.

MV5BNjZlNDA5M2EtYTA3YS00NWMxLThkYjAtNjJkZjI1OGRiOGU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjYwNDA2MDE@._V1__SX1216_SY581_

All in all, The Forest is an okay horror movie for January – dare I say the best one since Mama (for me anyway) – and while it leaves a lot of things up in the up, Natalie Dormer, the cinematography and a few standout horror/creepy scenes are worthwhile.

 

The Forest

3 out of 5

’47 Ronin’ Review

https://i1.wp.com/www.piercingmetal.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Poster-47-Ronin-2013.jpg

Dir:  Carl Rinsch

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi

Synopsis: A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*

 

The movie tells the legend, based on real events (most likely with some liberties), about 47 loyal samuri who become ronins –masterless – when their leader is forced to commit ritual suicide after he’s accused of attacking a Lord named Kira.  It’s one of the most well known legends in Japan and is one of the most beloved stories about vengeance and showing the virtues of the Bushido code.  Needless to say, the ronin go to avenge their lord.

The ad campaign stresses two things: Keanu Reeves and fantasy.  But don’t be fooled, despite Keanu being one of the main characters, this movie also belongs to Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine) who plays Oishi.  Oishi is second-in-command to Lord Asano and Sanada gives a great performance ranging from honorable soldier to a lost and broken man to a man that will do anything for his men.

Reeves plays Kia, a “half-breed” and as a child was found by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) in the forest.  Despite claims that taking him in was a bad idea he took him in.  As Kia grew up he then started to develop a relationship with Asano’s daughter Mika.  But their love can never happen because of Kia’s social status. Reeves does his usual thing acting wise so there’s nothing really to say about him.

The other notable face is Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) who doesn’t have a name and is only referred to as The Witch.  She helps our other villain Lord Kira played by Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Ichi the Killer) who is trying to take over the land and then takes Mika (Ko Shibasaki) as his bride.

Kira taking Mika really pushes the story and she serves (next to the revenge aspect) as the damsel in distress, although she isn’t entirely helpless. She also serves as the romantic arc for her character and Kia, which is the only real reason Kia decides to go along on the mission despite knowing the now-ronins never accepted him in the first place.

Getting past the cast, 47 Ronin is beautiful to look at.  The costumes and practical sets are very detailed and every time something new is shown your eye goes right to it.  The other great part of the movie is the action.  Being a samurai movie you know there is bound to be great swordplay and in truth there is.  The final attack on Kira’s palace is one of the better set-pieces and sequences.  Everything that was built from the moment our samurais become ronins pays off.

The ending I know will have some people questioning but personally I found it bold. And bold in the sense that I’m glad they didn’t try to change anything.

All in all, 47 Ronin is a movie off a tale of vengeance, love and honor.  Although not perfect the movie is a lot of fun and has great action sequence to please anyone that watches it.

 

47 Ronin

4 out of 5

‘The Wolverine’ Review

5301_612298128786053_508438459_n

Dir: James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee and Famke Janssen

Synopsis: Summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, Wolverine becomes embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. But, I do have to say this…Stay for the credits scene, I won’t say what it’s about but it is a great scene.”

 

While some people say this is better than Origins: Wolverine, it really isn’t saying much since Origins, although having some moments wasn’t a good movie. But, it looks like the commercials are right. This is the Wolverine movie we’ve wanted, for the most part.

Jackman once again goes full in, embracing the character that fans fell in love with in the pages of the X-Men comics or the movies if that was your first encounter with him. But, you also have to give credit to James Mangold and his screenwriters smartly avoid the clutter of mutants, like Origins, and just make the movie about Logan. The movie is inspired by the famous Japan story-arc in the comics but is also a continuation of the X-Men film series serving as a some-what sequel to The Last Stand but is a separate adventure as well.

When we first meet him here, Logan is living like a hermit in the Canadian wild. He is also still mourning the loss of Jean Grey (Janssen) that comes to him at times in a dream-like environment asking the question that Wolverine deals with “Why keep going?” After an encounter in a bar he meets the mysterious Yukio (Fukushima) who is there to bring Logan to Japan to say good-bye to Yashida (Yamanouchi) a man he saved during World War II. Reluctantly he accepts and soon discovers that the man wants to offer Logan an end to his immortality in return for saving his life that day. Of course Logan finds out nothing is what it really seems.

Logan eventually finds out that his healing factor is affected after being poisoned by mutant Viper (Khodchenkova) when he starts to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto). After that we get introduced to the other characters in Mariko’s father and Yashida’s son Shingen (Sanada) and Harada (Yun Lee) who is under orders to also protect Mariko.

Like I stated before the movie is inspired from the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Japan storyline from the comics. However, it does take some liberties which are welcome. Maiko isn’t necessarily a damsel-in-distress and Yukio has a bit more meat to her character. It should be noted that this is the first film for both actress’ and they did a good job with such big characters. Khodchenkova’s Viper is maybe a bit too cartoony when it comes to being a villain but considering she isn’t the main villain it’s a bit okay.

However, despite all this the movie doesn’t really become a “comic-book” movie until the third act. Not saying it’s a bad thing either. The movie sets up Logan as a haunted character dealing with this “curse” and what the effects are to that and what happens when it goes away but it also tries to play Logan as a legend in some sense. This is probably makes the movie better and puts it ahead of Origins (although again not saying much). The movie isn’t worried about connecting it back to the X-Men movies (with the expectation of Jean) or about the fate of the world, it’s only concern is Logan and his story which is fantastic to watch.

The action is also stepped up and although they are spaced apart every sequence has a something on the line. People are talking about the bullet train sequence (I had my doubts about it in the beginning) which is pretty cool and maybe to some a bit cartoonish but it still works. Also for those wanting blood on the claws you can finally put that aside.

All in all, The Wolverine has finally given us a movie where we see the Wolverine that we all love. Jackman has truly made the character his own in every way and I feel for the person who has to take over after Jackman leaves. Filled with action, humor, and a love story The Wolverine is what I hope for in future installments.

 

The Wolverine

4.5 out of 5