THE APOLOGY KING
The first 2/3rds of The Apology King is freaking brilliant. Abe Sadao steals the show as the guy who runs the Tokyo Apology Center, helping people apologise. The Apology King presents the stories as five separate cases. The first story has Inoue Mao as this Japanese who lived abroad who has trouble apologising and becomes Abe Sadao's right hand woman. The second is a funny sekuhara story with Ono Machiko and the third is about a divorced celebrity couple with the wife played by Matsuyuki Matsuko (Mother). The fourth case, well I won't spoil that.
All three stories were hilariously funny with laughs every minute and event intersected against one another. Then we get to the five story which is about this fictional country of Mantan and that's where the comedy started grinding to a halt for me. First of all, Abe Sadao and Inoue Mao are hardly in the last story. Its their comedic chemistry that is the center of this movie.
Secondly, they could have told the audience the information about what happened and the few jokes as well about Mantan in half the time. This is one of the rare instances I wish someone had gone Harvey Weinstein on a movie. Someone needed to tell the editor that this wasn't a character dorama. If there are hardly any jokes, speed things along and Abe Sadao should never be off screen for more than 3 minutes. They could have easily done most of the Mantan thing in flashback with a lot of fat cut off.
Thirdly, the jokes come from whatever bullshit custom the writers make up about Mantan whereas the first four stories are things that happen, albeit in a much more exaggerated way. The first four stories are taking everyday stuff ie suicides, press conferences are putting them through this absurd microscope. The final Mantan story just drags and drags because really, its only interesting purpose is to tie all five stories together.
Too bad it took what feels like half to movie to get to the end. By the time the music came around, we was dejected. Similar to Blindly in Love, The Apology King is stuck between two movies. Most of the movie is a funny satire on the act of apologising in Japanese society and the third act is trying to be some crowd pleasing generic comedy complete with music video credits. The Apology King makes fun of so much relevant stuff like putting on a show apologising to the general public is more important than the victim. They even made fun of Erika-sama's 'betsu ni' incident although no one in the crowd laughed. We need an Abe Sadao and Inoue Mao Apology King dorama series. In trying to hard to have this great punchline, the writer sort of forgot that its the story leading to the punchline that is more important. Such a waste of potential.
Edit: Fark. Deeply regretting not going to see Mitsushima Hikari and Namakemono in Summer's End instead.
SHIELD OF STRAW
My expectations were low based on comments from those who have seen it. I just wanted to see whether Miike could pull of a modern action movie after butchering Ryu ga Gotoku and he's done a decent job. Its basically the story of Jin sensei and Matsushima Nanako tasked with bringing suspected pedophile killer played by Fujiwara Tatsuya from Fukuoka to Tokyo after the rich grandfather of the victim puts a 1 billion yen bounty of the killer's head.
With so much money at stake, no one is to be trusted and as Jin sensei says, its not random John Doe he fears but people who are have been trained to kill ie police. Dialogue could use some polish but things but quickly enough that I didn't dwell on it too much. The aim of the story is to show the price that people pay to do the right thing and make the audience question what they would have done and it did just that.
There is a scene involving a charging truck that I was happy with cause Miike did not have the money to do a wide money shot so he had to resort to close shots and most importantly he did not use cheap CGI aka Yamato. If you don't have the budget screw money shots as long as the audience can follow the action and things are spatially correct.
There are two things that were too contrived for me. The identity of the driver of the car they hijacked and alarm bells not even going off for Jin sensei at the climax with the dangerous object when he's suppose to this really good SP and not to mention his stupid method of disarming an attacker. Overall it was ok. Needed more Fujiwara Tatsuya as the evil killer. Watchable.
Edit: Two thoughts. Jin sensei probably had the strongest justification to kill Fujiwara Tatsuya near the end but he would have lost himself. I guess SP training is more about protection than neutralising the threat.
Turns out the song that they sang during their mini-live in Odaiba is I'd Ring not Idoling. lol.