September Previews: Japan Catches Up with the Blockbusters

Despite being the peak summer month, August was sorely lacking in the major blockbusters that typically define the season, at least of the foreign variety, but then Japanese film scheduling has never been one to follow the conventions of the rest of the world. September, however, is back with a vengeance and boasting a hugely anticipated simian sequel alongside space adventure from a new team of heroes on a quest to save the galaxy. Music documentary, comedy capers, and some great homegrown offerings round out an exciting month on Tokyo’s cinema screens.

Guardians of the Galaxy—Out September 13

The mighty brand of Marvel has hit on a winning formula of action, entertainment and a touch of knowing humor to bring their fantastic stories to life. With so many well known comic names at their disposal, it seems like an odd choice to bring a set of unknowns into their expanding cinematic universe, but that’s exactly what’s been done with Guardians of the Galaxy. The film sees a group of misfits, little known outside the comic’s world, thrown together to form a team and defeat the villainous “Ronan the Accuser” in order to save the universe. Guardians is the first starring role for Chris Pratt, who plays wise-cracking space pirate Peter Quill. Featuring Zoe Saldana as green-skinned alien assassin Gamora, pro wrestler Dave Bautista as the hulking killer Drax, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, a genetically altered gun-toting Raccoon, and Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, a tree-like monster. The film has garnered tremendous critical praise abroad and become and looks likely to be this year’s biggest success story.

Takeru Satoh in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends
Takeru Satoh in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends—Out September 13

Last month saw the release of Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, the sequel to the first live-adaptation of the popular manga and anime series Rurouni Kenshin, which follows a former assassin who turns his back on a life of violence becoming a force for good. There’s still a chance to catch Kyoto Inferno—it’s currently tearing up the box-office—before following it up with this month’s conclusion to the trilogy, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. Rurouni Kenshin, played by handsome leading man Takeru Satoh, struggles to maintain his peaceful existence in the face of the evil, bandage-covered mad man Makoto Shishio, Battle Royale star Tatsuya Fujiwara, as he attempts to bring down the government. Dojo owner Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei) provides the love interest, desperately trying to prevent Rurouni from returning to his killing ways.

Out of the Furnace—Out September 27

Boasting the most impressive cast list of the month, Out of the Furnace tells the story of a man who is forced to go outside of the law to find justice for his brother. Christian Bale stars as Russell Baze, a steel worker in search of his little brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), after the latter disappears following a bad streak of gambling and the involvement of a vicious crime gang. Rodney was trying to repay his debts by earning money bare-knuckle boxing but the scarred war veteran doesn’t go down when he’s supposed to. When he doesn’t return home his brother has no choice but to go after him. The cast is filled out with Zoe Saldana as Baze’s former girlfriend who left him for local police chief, Forest Whitaker, Woody Harrelson as an unstable drug dealer and Willem Dafoe as a seedy loan shark.

Time Is Illmatic
Time Is Illmatic

Time Is Illmatic—Out September 13

Any true hip-hop head is bound to own a copy of rapper Nas’s seminal 1994 debut album The Illmatic, it’s an album that repeatedly tops best hip-hop album lists and sounds as fresh as the day it first dropped in 1994. Time Is Illmatic is a feature-length documentary that looks at the making of the classic album, celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, from the development of Nas as a young MC in his home of Queensbridge, New York, and the economic and social conditions that shaped the music. Nas is one of the biggest rappers in the world today, still regularly releasing new music and touring the world, including an appearance at last year’s Summer Sonic festival.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—Out September 19

The Planet of the Apes phenomenon began back in 1968, but by the turn of the century the series was looking pretty rusty until 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes finally did the franchise justice, delivering an intelligent, entertaining, and visually stunning return which paid homage to the original while paving a way for the future of the series. A sequel has been highly anticipated by the legions of new Apes fans ever since. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place ten years after the original, in a much-changed world where a simian virus has wiped out much of humanity, while the apes that escaped in the first film have thrived in their new forest home. Trouble threatens their peaceful existence when a surviving band of humans enters the forest seeking help. Stunning motion-capture character work by Serkis and Toby Kebbell as lead apes Caesar and Koba, along with some stunning fight scenes and a thought-provoking story concerning nature and survival make this must-see entertainment.

Muppets Most Wanted
Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted—Out September 6

Despite Japan’s fondness for all things cute, you may have missed the last Muppets movie: a global hit abroad, it was surprisingly overlooked in Japan. This month’s release, Muppets Most Wanted, follows up with an all-new cast of human characters, alongside the irreplaceable Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo et al. Taking place immediately after the events of the last film, The Muppets are taken on tour in Europe with the suspiciously named Dominic Badguy, played by comedian Ricky Gervais, as their manager. Badguy is in league with criminal mastermind Constantine, who has just escaped from prison and happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to put-upon hero Kermit. This leads to all kinds of trouble as the villainous duo embark on a mission to steal priceless items from the world’s greatest museums. This crime caper musical comedy ratchets up the action from its predecessor with the presence of the sharp-tongued Gervais hinting at a sharper edge to the comedy, while retaining the Muppet’s brand of nostalgia and heart.

Best of the Rest

Stagecoach (1939) and The Quiet Man (1952) (Sept 27)

Two classics from the late, great John Ford to celebrate the 120th anniversary of his birth, both starring frequent collaborator ‘The Duke’ John Wayne. In ‘Stagecoach’ nine strangers cross dangerous ground with Geronimo on the warpath in the film that made Wayne a major star. ‘The Quiet Man’ co-stars Maureen O’Hara in a film in which a retired boxer returns to his native Ireland finding love in the process.

A Record of Sweet Murder (Sept 6)

A journalist and her cameraman interview a serial killer in a derelict building – in one continuous take – in this violent Korean/Japanese co-production that leads up to a brilliantly unexpected conclusion.

Frances Ha (Sept 13)

Indie comedy drama from ‘Greenburg’ director Noah Baumbach and starring Greta Gerwig as a happy-go-lucky New Yorker trying to navigate her way through life.

Deliver Us From Evil (Sept 20)

Eric Bana stars as New York police officer Ralph Sarchie who runs up against a group of possessed ex-marines in a film based on the terrifying real-life diary entries covering the officer’s time serving on the force.

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