High-school girl’s metaverse (in the facebook sense, not the spider-verse sense) avatar Belle is an instant-hit pop star, but the real girl is bitter and withdrawn, determined to use her internet fame to doxx other users. Belle runs into an infamous dragon-thing who is probably also a damaged high-schooler, maybe even someone she knows in real life. I don’t know because we put off watching the second half for so long that now neither of us feels like finishing it. Practically a sequel to Hosoda’s cool Summer Wars, but just too… high school.

“Kamen” just means masked, he’s a masked rider. More shin silliness, this one hitting some Smoking Causes Coughing heights of absurdity. Professor Shinya Tsukamoto explains all backstory to our Rider (Sosuke Ikematsu, star of Tsukamoto’s Killing) then promptly dies, melting into soap bubbles, as do all deceased heroes and villains. Rider is strong, punching henchmen into fountains of blood, teams up with Ruri-Ruri (Minami Hamabe of the new Godzilla Minus One) to defeat a series of insect-themed baddies.

Some real Evangelion-ish lines, and I like how the movie comes to a full stop for long minutes while a character calmly unpacks their emotions. Android Ruri’s evil brother Butterfly and Rider 1 have a fatal duel, but there’s a second Rider (he and Butterfly were both voices in Inu-Oh) who will carry on the legacy, going on new adventures with Rider 1’s spirit inside his helmet, a Heat Vision & Jack situation. Government guys Tachi and Taki are the only actors who’ve been in all three Shin movies. One villain was Ichi The Killer himself – why do I never recognize him? – another played the wife whose husband is an alien in Before We Vanish.

Mom runs a cheesy household, where things are nice, and the family is always saying “oh how nice,” but as soon as she’s left alone she gets tormented by advertisers. She is Keiko Takahashi of Uzumaki, and her husband (Shiro Shimomoto of Serpent’s Path and Guard from the Underground) is the worst. One day she’s fed up with a pushy guy selling English lessons (Daijiro Tsutsumi of Sure Death 4) and slams his hand in the door, he starts aggressively stalking her. Movie is not great but almost worth it for a climactic long-take chase through the apartment filmed from overhead. She consistently does damage to the stalker, he never gets in any good hits, just keeps getting more and more injured until she does him in with a chainsaw.

They live at the Sportsment:

Bebeco Who / More Hast Less Speed / Produce

High school girl meets hot college boy, but he gets into a situation trying to prevent an interdimensional worm from killing millions of people, and he is transformed into the three-legged chair that the girl’s mom made for her before dying in an earthquake. The girl accidentally transforms the protective stone keeping the dimensional doors shut into a cat, and now she and the surprisingly nimble chair have to cross Japan chasing the cat, closing doors and fighting worms, while missing their exams back at home. Of course this was in the top-five biggest Japanese theatrical films ever.

JW kills some guys in desert, incl The Elder. Whitebeard Harbinger Clancy “Mr. Krabs” Brown tells McShane the hotel has been condemned, then the Marquis kills Cedric Daniels, blows the place up, and sends blind swordsman Caine after JW. Every scene dramatically drawn out – you get the sense that everyone is playing their assigned role according to fate, except for this fuckin’ Marquis guy, who is annoying and evil.

The Osaka hotel goes down next, Hiroyuki Sanada in charge and his daughter Rina Sawayama in the Cedric concierge role, while a dog-loving bounty hunter called Nobody sits back, waiting for the bounty to get high enough to go after JW. Deals are made: Marquis fucks up Nobody’s hand (why would you do this to a hired assassin) and gets him after Wick, and JW agrees to take on a big metal-teethed dude named Killa to get back into his Russian family’s graces so he can duel the baddie. RIP the big baddie and also Wick – happily, this movie was much better than part 3.

As the Marquis, Bill is the campy SkarsgÃ¥rd, who gets murdered in Barbarian before the even campier Justin Long appears. Blind Donnie Yen was in the Ip Man series and some stuff I’ve seen but don’t remember (Iron Monkey is due a rewatch). As “Nobody” (a Ghost Dog reference), Shamier Anderson, who has been in unrelated movies named Bruised and Bruiser. The guy with the metal teeth, that’s Scott Adkins, the dude you all love so much? Y’all really want me to sit through a Jean-Claude Van Damme sequel to see more of this guy?

Doctor Takashi Shimura (lead of Ikiru just four years later) is a drunken gruff pain in the ass, treating ingrate criminals and helpless local youths who won’t stop drinking the swamp water. He tries convincing young gangster Toshiro Mifune (in his first AK film) that his TB diagnosis is serious and to keep himself healthy. As an American viewer it takes a while to realize that both the doc and gangster are blunt and rough in an un-Japanese way.

AK didn’t have his regulars yet, so he borrows a Mizoguchi actor as the doc’s sober schoolmate who runs a respectable practice, and a Naruse actress as the doc’s assistant, hiding out from the gangster she used to be involved with. When that gangster returns to town, he gets his own theme song. Extremely anti-yakuza overall – wonder if the studio got threats. With the stagey acting from the doctor and rough condition of the film print, it feels a decade older than it is, but probably belongs in the pantheon, unlike the last classic Criterion disc I watched.

A sorry follow-up to Shin Godzilla – the editing and camera angles all wacky, dialogue too overtalky. SG was talky too, but it felt like a developing story, while this is more a season of television condensed into a feature. Ultraman saves the day, disappears, turns evil, fights himself… the girl who likes him disappears, turns giant… undersea kaiju are joined by two different scheming extraterrestrials… despite all this, the movie and its kaiju-defense-team characters are mainly concerned with Kaminaga, the handsome guy who uses a wiimote to transform into Ultraman. Can’t say I wasn’t entertained, though.

Unlike in the Godzilla movie, the human team does nothing useful here:

Higuchi is a Hideaki Anno associate, who directed the Attack on Titan movies and did effects for the 1990’s Gamera series. Anno wrote this as the start of a trilogy, is also working on a Shin Kamen Rider, and I didn’t realize the Evangelion theatrical reboot is part of the Shin project. Kaminaga played the rival lawyer in Ace Attorney, his coworker/love interest starred in Before We Vanish and Our Little Sister, and the Drive My Car dude is their boss.

Just a couple of aliens on the swings:

Found another movie from the director of the Maiku Hama series. Silent-ish – no sync dialogue or music score, but we hear sfx and voices on tape. A detective whose thing is that he’s always eating eggs (Shirô Sano of Violent Cop) takes on the case of a kidnapped daughter named Bellflower and is sent on the usual goose chase, but with riddles and gyroscopes. In the end the whole adventure and kidnapping was a ploy to complete a silent film fifty years in the making.

Played Critics Week at Venice along with Assayas’s debut. Relaxed pace and lack of dialogue makes it hazy and dreamy – per the title, it’s not one to watch late at night. Funny that a few hours after watching this, I read: “it made me wonder what it’d be like to see, for once, a cinephilic film that isn’t in any way about cinephilia.”

A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.

Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:

But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.

Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun: