Movies: Mifune: The Last Samurai, Julieta, Silence, A Monster Calls

The question was asked ‘Where were the film reviews from last week?’

The answer:  There were no new films released (that we were aware of) in the last  week of the 2016.  No worries!  There are several new releases the first Friday of 2017.  Here’s what we have seen:

Mifune: The Last Samurai

The latest Documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki is focused on the career of Toshiro Mifune and Director Akira Kurosawa who together made 16 incredible films during the post WWII Golden Age of Japanese Cinema.

The documentary is narrated by Keanu Reeves and features commentaries by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Wataru Akashi, Kyoto Kagawa and Hisao Kurosawa.

It is important to note the influence of these movies on the American film industry.  They inspired films like the Magnificent Seven, A Fistful of Dollars and ultimately Star Wars.  Think Samurai’s future as Darth Vader!

It is hard to say if this will be nominated for any major awards but it is worthy of a look from any serious movie fan.  It is also an intriguing look at the Japanese and American film industry of the mid 20th Century.  The genre is Art House and International Documentary.  Run time is 80 minutes.  English and Japanese with English subtitles.



This is Spanish Director Pedro Almodovar’s best work in many years.  It is the story of heartbreak and guilt.  It is both a thriller and melodrama.  The film spans 30 years in the life of Julieta.

The core cast includes over 14 actors, most notably Adriana Ugarte as the younger Julieta, and Emma Suarez as the older Julieta.  The amazing Rossy de Palma gives a great performance as the disapproving housekeeper.  Daniel Grao gives a compelling performance as Julieta’s husband.

The story is unique, well executed and great storytelling. Rated R for adult themes.  Listed as a Drama/Romance and running 1 hour 39 minutes.  Spanish with English subtitles.



Martin Scorsese delivers an epic story about the introduction of Christian Missionaries into 16th century Japan when Christianity was outlawed by Japan’s rulers.  The film is based on the 1966 novel authored by Shusaku Endo.

The film has an R rating for graphic violence and torture.  It is not always easy to watch.  At the same time, it is beautiful, often magnificent and masterfully filmed.

It boasts another large cast including lead performances by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuit Priests, the prolific Liam Neeson, and a long list of talented Japanese actors.

This may well be an Oscar worthy movie.  It is listed as a History/Drama with a hefty 2 Hour 41 minute run time.  English and some Japanese with English subtitles.


A Monster Calls

This story is about a boy, his ill Mom, her Mom, and of course a monster.  It is listed as a Fantasy Drama with a PG-13 rating. It is beautifully crafted, well acted and remarkably creative.  That said, the subject matter is pretty mature for children and adolescents.

It has a great cast.  Liam Neeson is the monster, Felicity Jones plays the mother, Signourney Weaver is Grandma and Lewis MacDougall plays the young boy Conner.

The screenplay was adapted by author Patrick Ness.  At times it can be emotional and heart wrenching.  It is also innovative, complex and wildly creative.  Run time is 1 hour 48 minutes.  Even with the often serious subject matter, we liked this movie, a lot!


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