As many of you will know, alongside my love of Japanese culture and art, my other big passion in life is the movies. With Christmas comes a couple of weeks of vacation time, and what better time to go and see a movie at the cinema than during the holidays?
Also, if, like me, you are fortunate enough to have Christmas day off work, then you will find that the cinema itself isn’t that busy, as since Japan is not a Christian country, Christmas is not a national holiday here and does not carry any real significance in terms of your working schedule. So, most of your Japanese friends will be working that day as usual. This gives you ample opportunity to get out and go see that favourite movie.
So, what movies will be the big ones to see at the Japanese box office this Christmas?
Here, today, I present my own selection of favourites. I’ll hopefully get to see at least a couple of these great movies over the holiday period.
So, here, in no particular order is my top 5:
1) Creed, opening December 23rd, starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan.
Like me, I’m sure many of you will have fond childhood memories of watching the many entries in the long-running “Rocky” saga of boxing movies. As time went on, the premise of each movie did seem to get more and more ridiculous, but I still loved them all the same, with the exception of Rocky V of course. Whilst the late Tommy Morrison did make for a compelling villain in his portrayal of young upstart Tommy “The Machine” Gunn, the film ultimately fell flat and its rather depressing premise, where Rocky loses his entire fortune seemed like quite a depressing way to round off the series.
The saga enjoyed a resurgence with its most recent entry however, 2006’s “Rocky Balboa” which had a 60 year old Rocky coming out of retirement for “one last shot” at the then world heavyweight champion Mason “The Line” Dixon. The film’s upbeat ending seemed to be a good way to round off Rocky’s story.
However, the Hollywood money making machine being what it is, Rocky was too good a cash cow to just let him wander off into the sunset. So, he finds himself back under the cinematic spotlight, this time not as a fighter, but as a trainer, for the next generation.
Fans of the series will recall the death of Rocky’s former foe, and later best friend, Apollo Creed, in Rocky IV at the hands of the steroid-enthused, Soviet Superman, known by the ominous nickname “Death From Above” Ivan Drago.
As the title suggests, this latest entry in the franchise follows Apollo’s legacy, through the eyes of his illegitimate son. Having never met his father, Michael B Jordan’s younger Creed initially rejects his lineage. So naturally, it’s up to Rocky to step up and take the young man under his wing, in the hopes of protecting him from meeting the same fate as his father. Already released in the states, the movie has enjoyed favourable reviews thus far and looks set to breathe new life into the Rocky franchise, as the torch is passed to a new generation.
2) I am Malala, opening December 11th, starring Malala Yousufzai
Whilst many of us enjoy the glamour and lustre of a star-studded movie like Creed, others perhaps prefer something a little more grounded in reality at Christmas time. In the modern cinematic world dominated by the escapist exploits of superheroes, secret agents and other action movie fodder, it’s all too easy to forget the power of cinema as a medium to inform and educate us about issues in the real world. For something a bit more hard hitting this holiday season, you may want to check out this undoubted Oscar contender.
I am Malala, tells the story of the brave little girl, who became the international poster child of the “war on terror”. Malala was only 11 years old when cowardly Taliban thugs burst into her school in Pakistan and opened fire. This pathetic attack was part of what they called their “ongoing campaign against the evil that is women’s education”.
Despite being shot in the head. Malala not only survived, but went on to become an international celebrity and symbol of hope to oppressed women all around the world. She met presidents and other dignitaries the world over and even addressed the UN congress on the issues of combating terrorism and spreading education to women the world over.
I am Malala is a tremendous story of courage and the importance of speaking up for what is right, in an increasingly dangerous world.
3) Yokai Watch: The Movie, opening December 19th.
Photo : MIKI Yoshihito on FlickrOk, I’ll be honest, Japan’s kids anime is not really my forte. Unlike some westerners who come to Japan, I’ve never really been into animation and I couldn’t tell a Dragonball from a Pokemon!
However, amongst all my friends in Japan who have kids, this particular anime seems to be the current flavour of the month.
In fact, this franchise is proving so popular, it even has its own area in Osaka’s world famous Universal Studios resort.
So, if you have young kids, or you’re a big kid at heart and you want an alternative to that other big movie that’s opening on the same weekend, then Yokai Watch might just be the one for you.
4) Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening December 18th, starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher
Where do I start with this? A movie 32 years in the making, The Force Awakens will finally show us what happened next in that “Galaxy far, far away” after the climactic events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. After the commercially successful, but critically panned Episode’s I, II and III, the Star Wars saga returns after a 10 year hiatus under the new ownership of Disney and the guiding hand of director JJ Abrams. Will Luke Skywalker restore the Jedi order? Will new villain Kylo Ren prove as intimidating as Darth Vader, will we ever see another character as singularly rage-inducing as Jar Jar Binks?
All these questions and more will be answered on December 19th.
5) Home Alone
Ok, I know this isn’t a movie coming back to cinemas anytime soon, but on this, its 25th anniversary, it seems only fair that it gets a mention. Every Christmas I watch this movie, without fail, and this year will be no different. There are of course the old-time classics like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, but as a child of the 80s and 90s no movie captures Christmas for me quite like Home Alone!