August movie releases in Japan: epics lead the way

Movies & TV - August 1st, 2013
This film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Henry Cavill as Superman in "Man of Steel." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Clay Enos)

The list of August movie releases in Japan is led by some epic summer blockbusters – but then what else would you expect?

With just about every film on the big screen seeing the world threatened with destruction in one way or another – be it by zombie apocalypse, monsters from the centre of the earth, terrorists from both the present and future or a good old-fashioned alien invasion – if you believe what you see on the screen then we’re in big trouble…

By Christopher O’Keeffe

World War Z

On release August 10

Finally reaching our screens after some pretty troubling production problems and from-the-set reports comes this Brad Pitt zombie apocalypse thriller.

After script rewrites, major reshoots and reports of in-fighting between Pitt and director Marc Forster, things did not look good for the big budget production, but issues were quickly brushed aside upon release and the film has raked in the cash at box-offices around the world.

Brad Pitt, who stars in World War Z, was in Tokyo at the end of July to promote the film

Brad Pitt, who stars in World War Z, was in Tokyo at the end of July to promote the film

Based on Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name, which documented a 10-year war against zombies in the words of its survivors, the film takes a different approach, as Pitt’s character Gerry Lane travels the world attempting to find a cure for the epidemic. Fans of the book may be disappointed by the changes to the source, which took a more global, political view of the pandemic, but the film is worth checking out for yourself.

Pacific Rim

On release August 9

Since Godzilla first stomped his way onto cinema screens in 1954, Japan has had a love affair with the ‘Kaiju’ (giant monster) movie that has baffled the rest of the world. After the giant monster explosion, giant robots, or ‘mecha’, were not far behind, as anyone who has seen Odaiba’s hulking Gundam statue can attest. While Hollywood has mostly avoided these very Japanese genres, it has jumped in with both feet for Pacific Rim.

Co-written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who made the visually stunning Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy series, the film is set in a near future in which colossal monsters have erupted from the Earth’s core, threatening to destroy humankind. To combat this menace, enormous humanoid robots controlled by human pilots – ‘Jaegers’ – have been created.

The film stars Charlie Hunman (the face of TV series Sons of Anarchy) as Raleigh Becket, a pilot coaxed out of retirement for one last shot at defeating the monsters. Idris Elba, who rose to fame in the hugely popular series The Wire and was seen in last year’s Alien semi-prequel, Prometheus, plays a tough commanding officer and Japan’s own Rinko Kikuchi, the actress nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 2006 movie Babel plays Becket’s co-pilot, Mako Mori. The film has received extremely positive reviews and in a sci-fi heavy summer could prove to be the stand out hit.

Man of Steel

On release August 30

After a torturous wait (the release is nearly three months after the rest of the world) the latest reboot of the Superman franchise finally arrives on these pages. Zac Snyder, the director know for visual opulence – he was behind the likes of 300 and Watchmen – was the man chosen to get things soaring again after the less than successful Superman Returns back in 2006.

“Clark Kent has grown into a drifter, moving from place to place in an effort to hide his powers from the world”

Helping Snyder in a production capacity is Christopher Nolan, who steered Batman to new heights with the Dark Knight series. Heading up the cast is Henry Cavill (pictured at the top of the page), donning the iconic suit as the Man of Steel in what is by far the young actor’s biggest role to date.

Amy Adams plays intrepid reporter Lois Lane, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane make wonderful returns to the screen as Superman’s adoptive Earth parents and Russell Crowe is Jor-El, Marlon Brando’s role in the 1978 version.

Significant changes are made to what you may know of Superman’s transition from alien son to Kansas farm boy and ultimately in his becoming Earth’s finest hero. Clark Kent has grown into a drifter, moving from place to place in an effort to hide his powers from the world, but when General Zod, one of the last remaining survivors of Krypton, comes to Earth looking for a chance to rebuild his world, and destroy this planet in the process, he must decide what kind of man he wants to become.

Star Trek Into Darkness

On release August 23

After successfully re-launching the Star Trek franchise in 2009, director J.J. Abrams is back with this first sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. The crew of the Enterprise, led my Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk and aided by Zachary Quinto’s Spock, return to tackle John Harrison, a mysterious former member of Starfleet who launches a terrorist attack on London before attempting to wipe out the senior members of Starfleet Command.

After escaping to the Klingon homeworld the hunt is on for the Enterprise to find Harrison and bring the rogue agent to justice. The returning crew is filled out with Zoe Saldana, as communications officer Uhuru, Karl Urban as Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy, Simon Pegg as chief engineer ‘Scotty’ and John Cho as Sulu.

Benedict Cumberbach shows his evil side in a promo shot for Star Trek Into Darkness

Benedict Cumberbatch shows his evil side in a promo shot for Star Trek Into Darkness

Playing the villainous Harrison is star of the BBC TV series, Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, who will be back on screens later in the year, though in a very different form, as the voice of the dragon Smaug in the second part of The Hobbit trilogy. Abrams was credited with making a Star Trek film both appealing to old Trek fans and accessible to newcomers and he has worked his magic again on this entertaining sequel.

White House Down

On release August 16

For a threat of a more earthly nature  than in some of the other big screen offerings this month, White House Down sees the famous building and symbol of U.S. governance under attack from a paramilitary force. Jamie Foxx stars as President James Sawyer and Channing Tatum – giving his daughter a tour of the White House at the time of the attack – is the cop who must save him, his daughter and the country.

Roland Emmerich, the man behind such films as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 directs, and is clearly no stranger to this kind of big-budget, high-octane film-making. This film may not be the smartest of the bunch but fans of old-school, no-brain action will enjoy the explosive thrills on offer.

There you have it, the August Movie Releases in Japan. For more movie news and reviews see our dedicated Movies page.