It’s a huge month for manga fans as three hugely popular series receive the big screen treatment alongside the other films up this month. Spy thrills are on offer from womanizing master thief Arsene Lupin in Lupin III, Ruroni Kenshin takes us back to ancient Kyoto for a samurai adventure and there’s modern-day madness as rival gangs take to the streets in Tokyo Tribes.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
Transformers: Age of Extinction—Out August 8
Hoping to conquer parents’ wallets as if it were the eighties all over again is the fourth installment of the commercially successful yet critically panned Transformers series of movies, Transformers: Age of Extinction. A few changes have been made, chief of which being the departure of lead actor Shia LaBeouf as he pursues a career of delighting the Internet by doing strange things in public, leaving the franchise in the more reliable hands of Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, a mechanic who purchases an old truck only to discover that it’s Autobot leader and chief robot-in-disguise Optimus Prime. Set five years after the events of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the world is now fearful of all the giant morphing machines and it’s up to Kelsey Grammar’s government agent Attinger to hunt them down. While this is causing all kinds of trouble for Cade and his family, worse is at hand as the evil Decepticon robots have found a way to return from defeat and are again seeking global domination. Director Michael Bay, renowned for films containing big explosions and wafer-thin plots, is again at the helm. Things aren’t going to get any quieter with the introduction of the Dinobots—that is, huge robot dinosaurs—to the mix.
Lucy—Out August 22
Lucy is the latest from Luc Besson, the man behind cult hit Léon: The Professional. Besson has taken to more populist fare recently, writing and producing the Taken series of films. In a return to the sci-fi/action genre that yielded The Fifth Element, one of his biggest hits, Lucy stars Scarlett Johansson. Lucy lives in the Taipei of a corrupt, crime-ridden future. Forced to act as a drug mule for the mob, the young woman has the illicit cargo implanted into her body. When it leaks into her blood stream, Lucy becomes able to utilize parts of the brain that are usually inaccessible to us normal humans, and gains extraordinary abilities and special powers, from telekinesis to instantaneous learning. Featuring old-reliable Morgan Freeman, you can expect a more intelligent sci-fi actioner out of this mind-bender. Besson is known for his outlandish special effects when he’s given enough of a budget to play with, and fans of wild visuals will not be disappointed this time around.
Promised Land—Out August 22
It’s been a long time coming to Japan: the film was made in 2012 before seeing a US release in early 2013, but in that time Promised Land’s subject matter, the process of natural gas extraction via hydraulic “fracking” has become a hot topic around the world. The film is something of a pet project for star Matt Damon—the actor co-wrote the script alongside co-star and producer, The Office’s John Krasinki. Damon was also originally attached to direct before stepping aside and bringing in Gus Van Sant (the pair worked together on Oscar hit Good Will Hunting ). In the film Damon plays energy company employee Steve Butler, who is sent to rural Pennsylvania to persuade landowners to lease their farmland to the company for fracking purposes. Opposition comes on the form of Dustin Noble, an environmental advocate who challenges the company about the environmental risks involved in this controversial practice. Noble’s campaigns and tactics seem to be winning over the whole town, leaving a job to do for company-man Butler, who sincerely believes that selling up is the right thing for the people to do.
Sunshine on Leith—Out August 1
Sunshine on Leith is the second directorial effort from Dexter Fletcher, a man well known on British TV screens, but perhaps best known internationally for his role in London gangster classic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Fletcher has followed up his hard-hitting debut Wild Bill with something rather different, an adaptation of a stage musical featuring the hits of Scottish rockers The Proclaimers (those would be the men behind classic ear-worm “I’m Gonna be (500 Miles)”). Dave and Ally are two Scotsmen recently back from fighting in Afghanistan, returning into the lives and homes of their friends and family. Drama abounds as romance blossoms and relationships change all to the sound of the surprisingly familiar soundtrack. The film has received hugely positive reviews and promises to leave audiences in tears from start to finish, in this touching emotional drama.
Lupin III—Out August 30
Arsene Lupin the Third, the master thief with an eye for the ladies, is the instantly recognizable face of long-running and immensely popular manga Lupin III. As is the case with any successful manga character, Lupin III has already appeared in various media, including several anime series and feature-length animated films, the most famous being the debut feature of Studio Ghibli maestro Hayao Miyazaki, 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro. This live-action adaptation contains all of Lupin’s major friends and enemies played by an all-star cast. Shun Oguri (Azumi, Sukiyaki Western Django) takes the title role supported by his ever-present right-hand man Jigen, (Tetsuji Tatayama, Norwegian Wood ), rival thief and sometime love interest, the beautiful Fujiko, (Meisa Kuroki, Space Battleship Yamamoto ), master samurai Goemon, (Go Ayano, Rurouni Kenshin, Helter Skelter ), with Inspector Zenigata, (Tadanobu Asano, Thor, 47 Ronin ), hot on his heels as usual. Expect action, intrigue and double-crossing as the team set about stealing a priceless jewel from it’s high-tech holding place.
Tokyo Tribes—Out August 30
Sono Shion is one of the biggest names in Japanese cinema right now; the director enjoying a huge cult following abroad amongst fans of Japanese cinema who are drawn to his often controversial films of sex and violence. Making his name with 2001’s Suicide Circle, which opens with the image of schoolgirls lined up along a Shinjuku train station platform before throwing themselves en masse into the path of an oncoming train, and going on to the likes of Love Exposure, a four-hour epic about sex, religion and up-skirt photography, the director is at home tackling any subject with films that are fresh, interesting and always unique. For his latest Shion is tackling an adaptation of the manga Tokyo Tribes, a film described as a “battle-rap musical” which sees Tokyo divided up between rival gangs, whose relative peace is threatened after the murder of a boss by a rival leader. Real-life hip hopper Young Dais stars alongside Hentai Kamen’s Ryohei Suzuki in a wildly colorful tale of rap and rivalry.
The Best of the Rest
Ida—Out August 2
Award-winning drama from My Summer of Love director Pawel Pawlikowski. Anna is a young novice nun who is forced to go and find her only living relative before she can take her vows. On discovering she was the daughter of Jews murdered during the war, Anna and her aunt set off on a road trip to learn the truth of the past in this stark and compelling drama. (Polish language)
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno—Out August 1
Takeru Satou returns as the sword-wielding hero Kenshin Himura in this sequel to 2012’s adaptation of the much-loved manga Rurouni Kenshin. The heroic samurai’s short-lived period of peace ends when a new enemy appears, intent on overthrowing the government.
Homefront—Out August 8
We all know what to expect from a Jason Statham movie by now. Here he is playing a former DEA agent who moves his family to a quiet town to live the simple life only to come face to face with a local drug lord. James Franco takes the unlikely role of the villain, while Winona Ryder makes a rare onscreen appearance.
Leviathan—Out August 22
Winning numerous awards at global film festivals, Leviathan is an experimental work comprised of images and sounds shot in the North Atlantic that build an image of life in the commercial fishing industry.
Main Image: Scarlett Johansson in Lucy