Going to the cinema in Tokyo this month? Our writer has rounded up some of the options from the latest releases, whether you are interested in horror, blockbuster fantasy or thrilling spy action…
With a cast including Bilbo Baggins, 007 himself and Harry Potter (albeit in another guise) December is a great month to get out there and watch a movie or two on the big screen, says Christopher O’Keeffe.
As 2012 draws to a close the action at the cinema is not letting up as some of the biggest films of the year are still to be released.
Over the past few years Hollywood has come under fire for its reliance on sequels and a lack of original ideas, but this summer saw the release of some huge films that were interesting, entertaining and proved to be hugely successful at the box office. The likes of The Hunger Games, Prometheus, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises were smash hits around the world after months of anticipation by fans and yet there’s more to come.
Squeezed into the December schedule are three more big-budget franchise works that should keep the cinemas packed over the Christmas period. As the Twilight Saga ends The Hobbit is just beginning his journey, and with the success of Skyfall abroad James Bond shows no sign of being ready for retirement just yet.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec 14)
After a lengthy development period involving legal-wrangling and staff changes the highly anticipated adaptation of the JRR Tolkien novel and prequel to The Lord of The Rings has arrived. (Watch the trailer)
It was originally intended that the The Hobbit would be directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who made the dark, beautiful fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, but while it would have been interesting to see his vision of Middle-Earth, few can complain about the film ‘returning’ to the hands Peter Jackson.
The film studio (or its bank managers?) has, somewhat controversially, split the tale into three films, with a new part being released each year, like the earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy that came out each Christmas between 2001 and 2003. The Hobbit is generally considered a simpler book than its follow-up in both content and style and so it will be interesting to see how the story will be divided.
Taking up the role of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins is Martin Freeman, while returning cast members include Ian McKellan (as wizard, Gandalf), Andy Serkis (as Gollum) and Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett (as elf lords Elrond and Galadriel). The adventure begins when Gandalf brings a group of Dwarfs, led by Richard Armitage’s leader, Thorin Oakenshield, to the home of Bilbo upon which they set off on a quest to reclaim a great treasure from the terrible dragon, Smaug.
The Lord of the Rings films were critical and commercial hits which set new standards in visual-effects and ambitious story-telling and this film will be equally unmissable for fans of epic fantasy.
The Woman in Black (Dec 1)
Attempting to prove there’s life after appearing in a hugely successful franchise is Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, appearing in his first film since the end of the series that made him a household name.
The Woman in Black sees Radcliffe, taking on a more mature role in this old fashioned ghost story.
Radcliffe’s young Edwardian-times lawyer, Arthur Kipps, is sent on a job at an isolated old manor haunted by the mysterious and terrifying Woman in Black.
Based on a novel by celebrated writer Susan Hill, with a screenplay by Jane Goldman (who has been making a name for herself with recent hits Kick-Ass and X-men: First Class) the film was developed by legendary horror production company Hammer, and is a spine-chilling, old-fashioned haunted house tale.
Skyfall (click for our full review) (Dec 1)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of British secret agent extraordinaire James Bond’s first appearance on the big screen in 1962’s ‘Dr No.’ Skyfall is the 23rd film in the series and the third starring Daniel Craig in the title role.
The story begins with a thrilling chase atop a moving train as Bond attempts to recover a computer drive that contains the names and aliases of all active undercover agents known by MI6. Bond is unsuccessful and the chase results in his apparent death. The loss of this list puts the head of department, Judi Dench’s ‘M’, under the threat of forced retirement, but first she must retrieve the list, find out who is responsible and why they have a seemingly personal vendetta against the agency.
American Beauty director Sam Mendes is at the helm, in his first stab at a major action film, attempting to find the necessary balance between action and drama. There are some real heart stopping set-pieces including the thrilling chase in the iconic pre-titles sequence and a brutal fist fight in front of the neon lights of a Shanghai high-rise.
Locations include London, Shanghai and Macau as 007 enters a ludicrously decadent floating casino, to meet stunning Bond Girl, Berenice Marlohe. Fans will be happy to see the return of series staple ‘Q’, Bond’s supplier of guns and gadgets, after an absence in the previous two films. British actor, Ben Whishaw, takes up the role, and is accompanied by fellow new comers Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris.
Frankenweenie (Dec 15)
Frankenweenie is the third stop-motion animated feature film from producer Tim Burton. In typical Burton style (you’ll remember his Nightmare Before Christmas) the film is a quirky, horror-themed tale with an odd but charming cast of characters and a distinct visual style.
Actually a remake of a 1984 Burton short, this is a black and white parody of Frankenstein with plenty of classic horror cinema references. It follows young Victor Frankenstein as he uses science to resurrect his beloved dog, Sparky, “the best a kid could have,” with, how shall we say, electric consequences.
Charlie Tahan, who is just 14, stars as the voice of Victor with Catherine O’Hara (who you may remember as the mother in Home-Alone) as Mrs Frankenstein and Winona Ryder as classmate Elsa Van Helsing.
Twilight: Breaking Down – Part 2 (Dec 28)
The Twilight Saga began in 2008 with the first film adaptation of Stephanie Meyers’ best selling series of fantasy romance novels. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 sees the return of the three principle cast members: Kristen Stewart (as Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (as vampire Edward Cullen) and Taylor Lautner (as werewolf Jacob Black) to complete the story.
The film kicks off where Part 1ended and involves a battle between rival vampire clans that will leave anyone who hasn’t seen the earlier films a little lost. While the past films haven’t been received entirely positively with critics, the series has been hugely successful with its teenage fan base who will no doubt be eager to catch this final chapter.
Written by Tokyo-based film writer Christopher O’Keeffe, who also runs and writes for the Seven Cinemas website.