Friday, August 28, 2020

Harrison Ford in The Call of the Wild (2020)

The Call of the Wild starring Harrison Ford

The Call of the Wild (2020)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Cara Gee

My Rating: ★★★★

Harrison Ford is one of those pillars of my life. He's just always been there, ever since I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was four-years-old. He's also one of those actors that people aren't really on the fence about; they either like him or they don't. I happen to like him.

The idea of him being in The Call of the Wild fascinated me because I've never read Jack London's book and I'd also never seen a single adaptation of it into a film. So watching this movie was a brand new introduction for me to the story and Harrison's presence in the film piqued my interest to make me try it.

There's a lot of heart behind The Call of the Wild.

I feel like Harrison just wanted to make this movie. That he's reached an age where he can sort of do what he wants, and unapologetically be who he is. I admire that about him now, and so there's a relaxed comfortableness he exhibits while playing John Thornton. There's very little artifice, but a tired, older man who's running from his demons and nightmares until his fate intertwines with the fate of this dog, Buck.

Animal movies have never really been my thing, which is weird because most people LOVE them. I guess they make me sad in some ways? Buck goes through a hard time. He's kidnapped from his home and shipped off to the Yukon because they're short of sled dogs. He's abused by his kidnappers to train and tame him. His first owner in the Yukon runs the mail sled and he and his female partner (possibly his lover/wife?) are very kind to Buck and the other sled dogs, as kind as you can be in the Yukon. His second owner in the Yukon is a cruel man named Hal, played by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens as it happens, but John Thornton rescues him. Buck's journey to finally being at John Thornton's side is not an easy one.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Lessons Learned

Something bad, possibly criminally bad, happened and so my former favorite Japanese pop star is in big trouble. He should be in big trouble. It makes me wonder if he's actually always been this way or if this was just an incredible lapse in judgment and common sense. I honestly don't know. He may have been a bad egg for decades and no one ever caught him until now. Or he may just have made this one mistake and will strive to never repeat it going forward if he can even go forward.

I want to forgive him. Just like all of Japan probably wants to forgive him. But there's a difference between forgiving someone and trusting them. I don't know if he's trustworthy. Only time will tell if this was just a weird one-off moment of crazy. I'd like to think that he's serious and wants to make amends, that he realizes the severity of what he's done, and is genuinely sorry. I know he's sorry for hurting his fans because he's said as much. But that's not the same thing as being sorry for his actions because he realizes they were wrong.

He wants to return to being a "spiritual pillar," but I don't even know if that's possible. The problem with Japanese idols is that they are considered role models. They are held to a very high standard so when they crash and burn, it's severely bad. He may have lost everything because of one choice, one moment. Was it worth it? Was the risk, the thrill, the enticement worth it? I doubt it and I'm pretty sure he's realizing that right now. Half the story may even be false news reporting (the rumor mill) and if it is, well, then it's not as bad as it seems to be right now. But if he is fully guilty of the entire thing, then it's bad. 

If anything, this situation has reminded me that it's wrong to esteem people so highly. Because people are going to let you down. I was shattered this week because of his stupid sin nature. But I shouldn't have been. I let myself get too attached to a flawed, sinful human being. I put him on a pedestal and when he fell off, well, it rocked me. But people are going to fail, they're going to sin, and they're not perfect. I should know since I am one of those flawed, failing, sinful people myself. There's only one Person who will never let me down. And I need to spend more time thinking of Him than focusing on infatuations that will disappoint me.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Drama Review: Tatta Hitotsu no Koi (2006)

Japanese drama cover - Tatta Hitotsu no Koi (2006)

Tatta Hitotsu no Koi or Only One Love

  • Year: 2006
  • Episodes: 10 episodes, 45 minutes each
  • Country Japan
  • Genre: Romance 
  • Starring: Kazuya Kamenashi, Ayase Haruka, Koki Tanaka, Yuta Hiraoka, Erika Toda
  • You can find a list of my Japanese drama reviews on my Japanese Drama and Movie Reviews page.

Kazuya Kamenashi and Ayase Haruka in Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

My Story Synopsis for Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

The setting is in Yokohama, near the bayfront. Hiroto Kanzaki ( Kazuya Kamenashi) is tired. He spends every day hard at work at the small ship repair factory that he inherited from his father, along with all the financial worries and burdens that go along with it. His mother has to work as a hostess at night because at least that brings in extra income, and his younger brother Ren suffers from asthma so severe that sometimes he's confined to a wheelchair.

Not that Hiroto resents his family. He adores them. They are his all, his reason for going to work each day. But he's forgotten to live his life for himself and he's forgotten how to smile and how to dream. Having never gone to college, Hiroto is destined to be under-privileged his whole life, trapped by his circumstances.

When Hiroto encounters wealthy jewelry store heiress Nao Tsukioka ( Ayase Haruka), his future starts to change. Nao is a forthright girl who speaks her mind because she knows life is too short to spend time wondering what other people think or have them worrying about what she thinks. She would rather just say it outright. And she's fallen for Hiroto, hard. Much to the horror of her family and the concern of his mother.

A pair of star-crossed lovers, are they strong enough to fight tradition, class status, and familial expectations and make a life together?

Kazuya Kamenashi and Ayase Haruka in Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

My Thoughts on Tatta Hitotsu no Koi

Tatta Hitotsu no Koi is one of Kamenashi's more popular dramas from his youth. And I admit, the role suits him really well. I remember watching it back when I first started in dramaland, but it had been so long that I decided to watch it again. It's what I was expecting, both good and bad.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (2020)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

For those who are somehow unaware, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel published in 2020 to Suzanne Collins' series The Hunger Games.


A ballad takes its time to tell a story, and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does exactly the same thing. I don't want to get into plot specifics because if I do then I'll accidentally give details away and I don't want to ruin the book for you. But I will say that it is a bit of a slow-mover. It took me maybe 2 weeks to read it, which for me is a long time, but is kind of the timeframe that this book requires. So keep in mind while reading that it's a slow-burn book. I'm not saying that's good or bad, it just is.

It's fascinating to read about Panem and the Capitol before Katniss Everdeen was even a twinkle in her parents' eyes. The Hunger Games format is brutal at this point in their history. The kids are mistreated and starved before going into the Hunger Games. They're abused and they're kept in what was an old animal exhibit in the local zoo. So it's actually harder to experience the Hunger Games this way because at least Katniss and her fellow tributes were treated like cherished possessions instead of trash.

One odd aspect is that for the first time readers are experiencing the Hunger Games from outside the games themselves. We're not in the ring with the tributes. Instead, we're merely observing the Games through the eyes of Capitol citizens. So there's a bit of a disconnect between what's happening in the Games because we're not actually with any of the tributes, feeling what they're feeling, seeing what they're seeing. We're almost forced to be impartial and that's a little chilling.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Japanese Drama Review: Second Love (2015)

Second Love (Japanese live-action drama series)

Year: 2015

Episodes: 7 episodes / 50 minutes each

Starring: Kazuya Kamenashi, Kyoko Fukada, Akari Hayami, Yumi Aso

My Story Synopsis for Second Love

Twenty-seven-year-old ballet/modern interpretive dancer Kei Taira (Kazuya Kamenashi) has had it all. International acclaim when he joined a German company in his teens, the winner of several awards and competitions, but now, well, now he's struggling. Jobs aren't coming his way anymore, and the idea of being a dance teacher galls him. Emotionally wrung out and depressed, he's just about reached the end of his strength when Kei spots a woman at an all-girls school, standing on an elevated walkway, the wind blowing her white lab coat and her arms stretched over her head. She mesmerizes him.

This woman is thirty-three-year-old Yui Nishihara (Kyoko Fukada), a woman equally bored with her mundane life, but unable to make a move towards anything more. Dreams are always for someone else, not for her, and so she teaches chemistry to a group of unruly teenage girls who could care less about the subject. But in the middle of a rainstorm a young man, the same young man who's been spotted lurking outside the school and sent the faculty into a dither as a potential stalker for their students, strides confidently up to her and slips a piece of paper into her hand with his contact information. No conversation, just the barest touch of their hands and a new destiny.

So begins a whirlwind romance of epic proportions. Kei is a maelstrom of sensual longing and melancholy and Yui finds herself sucked into his world. What neither of them could have imagined was that Kei would actually skyrocket to popularity again. Whereas before she was his entire world, now his world has expanded to include a busy schedule of choreography and dance, with barely time for his former muse. Can they survive the tumultuous relational ups and downs of a couple where one has a dream and the other has never dared to dream?

My Thoughts on Second Love

I've seen Kazuya Kamenashi in multiple dramas, listened to his music from the pop band KAT-TUN, and now I've had the remarkable opportunity to just watch him dance. Honestly, his dancing was the true motivator for me to watch Second Love, but I ended up liking the drama for its own merits. And yes, I chose to use a different drama cover for my review. Because I hate the one usually used.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Allow me a moment of giddy excitement

My favorite guy is doing well!

I'm not on IG often since I tend to be more of a blogger than a social media/picture person, but I've been thinking of him ever since his latest song Nights Cold, released. Actually, that's not true. I've been thinking of him since I rediscovered my love of Japan in May. Two guys immediately came to mind when that happened: Tomohisa Yamashita and Kazuya Kamenashi. Kame was my favorite back in 2012, but Yamapi eclipsed him somehow.

In the whirlwind that is COVID, Yamapi's music has been a lifeline for me. I can physically feel myself destress when I put on one of his albums, and I'm especially in love with his latest single Nights Cold. He's fluent in English, which is awesome (wish I was fluent in Japanese, but that's years away), so Nights Cold is an inspiring blend of English and Japanese. It's actually available for purchase on Itunes or Amazon digital, and that's the first time I was able to purchase any of his music digitally. So cool! Thanks to YouTube, I've also now got my daily workout routine timed to Party Don't Stop and Pari Para, which profoundly amuses my sister. She's so good to me.

But really, Tomohisa Yamashita just makes my heart happy. You would think that a woman in her mid-thirties would be past the crush stage of life, but it hasn't happened yet. Probably because I'm single and have nowhere else to put the romantic attraction right now, which is fine. If I'm meant to be married then the right guy will come along. All I know is that every time I see Yamapi's face, every time I hear his music, every time I watch one of his dramas, I naturally break into a huge smile. He has made this time of COVID and social distancing and canceled plans seem not quite so bad, and for that, I hope I get to thank him someday. I don't know how, but he calms me. Whatever he has, it's a gift.

I'm also over the moon today because my DVD set for his 2008 series Buzzer Beat came in the mail from Amazon! Which, I hope, means that in my own small way, some of what I paid will actually go to him since it's official merchandise. Anyway, Buzzer Beat is my favorite of his dramas for so many reasons, but mostly because he plays such an amazing character. I've discussed this before in my Why I'm Letting Go of Personality Types post.

I know that I took a risk purchasing this set for two reasons. One, it might be bootlegged. I'm about 95% sure that it isn't bootlegged, so that's a relief. And two, it could have terrible English subtitles. But I trusted one of the reviewers who said the subs were good, and that person was spot on. To think that I can watch this series on official DVDs, in great quality, and with pretty awesome subs! I'm so excited I don't even know what I'm doing! Now I'm hoping that I might be able to purchase other DVD sets from the same company. I'm thinking maybe the Death Note drama series, not the movies, but the series, because it is INCREDIBLE. Kento Yamazaki was born to play L, that's all I'm saying.

Okay, since I just patted myself on the back for starting to learn Japanese, I suppose that I should actually go and study. It's not going to learn itself and I have to be diligent. After I go exercise. Since I patted myself on the back for that too.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who participated in my We Love Lucy Blogathon! It was a lot of fun, and I love how many people participated. As you can tell, my brain is back to its regularly scheduled programming of all things Japan. ❤

Friday, August 7, 2020

Lucille Ball and John Hodiak star in Two Smart People (1946)

Two Smart People (1946) movie poster

Movie Review: Two Smart People (1946)

starring Lucille Ball, John Hodiak, and Lloyd Nolan

a blog post written for my We Love Lucy Blogathon

My Summary of Two Smart People

Two Smart People is what happens when two con artists try to pull a con on the same person and then manage to cheat each other of their mark. Ricki Woodner (Lucille Ball) and Ace Connors (John Hodiak) are quite a pair. Connors is on the run with stolen bonds glued into the binding of an ordinary cooking book while Ricki is always on the lookout for her next victim, yet somehow, fate has brought them together.

Fly Feletti, Connors' partner in the bond heist wants his share, but Connors isn't paying up, so as an old acquaintance of Ricki, he spills that Connors has a fortune in bonds stashed on him somewhere in the hopes that Ricki might be able to squeeze them out of him. Ricki pretends indifference, but in reality, she immediately sets Connors up as her new mark (just not partnered with Fly), a dangerous game to play with a man who's as equally clever as herself and can recognize when he's being played.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Lucy on the Radio: Dinner at Eight (Campbell Playhouse, 1940)

Lucille Ball and Orson Welles in 1940

a blog post written for my We Love Lucy Blogathon

Edna Ferber's theatrical play, Dinner at Eight, was adapted for radio by the Campbell Playhouse in 1940. One of Orson Welles' productions, Dinner at Eight guest-starred Lucille Ball in the role of his wife, a character much like her role in Fancy Pants with Bob Hope, slightly uncouth and uncultured.

A farcical look at upper-class arrogance and oneupmanship, Dinner at Eight never actually shows the dinner, but all of the events leading up to the meal, including the hostess' difficulty in obtaining the correct number of people from the correct social class. She's forced to invite a couple from Texas, played by Orson and Lucy, who are potentially her least favorite people in the entire world due to their coarse manners and habits.

Go to my Classic Hollywood page to find all my Classic Hollywood reviews!

I'm a bit of a radio buff and a huge Orson Welles radio fan, so it only made sense that I would eventually stumble across this play, but what I wasn't expecting was Lucy. In fact, I hadn't even paid much attention to the credits at the beginning as I was listening, and then Lucy's voice woke me right out of my reverie. 

Welcome to the 2020 We Love Lucy Blogathon!

Lucille Ball 2020 Blogathon graphic

Happy 109th Birthday, Lucille Ball!

I've been thinking back and trying to remember how old I was when I first watched an episode of I Love Lucy. I honestly can't recall a specific year. Lucille Ball has been such an integral part of my love for classic Hollywood that it feels like she's always been there. I do know that it all began for me with I Love Lucy. I've seen every single Lucy episode at least 40 or 50 times. Back when I was a kid we had a VCR and recorded the episodes on videotapes and my sister and I pretty much wore them out with how often we played them.

It was only later that we both realized there were snippets of scenes missing!

You know how tv stations abridge movies nowadays so there's enough space for the commercials? Well, they did that to I Love Lucy. So it was a real eye-opener when we first watched I Love Lucy on DVD and realized we had never seen a full episode of the show. Thankfully all of our old recorded videotapes have gone to the great beyond and I own all of I Love Lucy on DVD now, but I will always laugh when I remember the epiphany of realizing someone had dared to chop bits and pieces out of I Love Lucy.

Throughout the years, as I've grown into a woman in my thirties, Lucille Ball has always been a constant companion. Whenever I had rough patches or just needed cheering up, I would pull out a disc from I Love Lucy or The Lucy Show and pop it in the DVD player. She's always made me laugh.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ryusei Yokohama recovered from Covid

Ryusei Yokohama

On July 20th, 23-year-old Japanese idol Ryusei Yokohama was hospitalized due to contracting COVID, and on July 31st, he was released. Hallelujah! I can breathe easily again knowing he's recovered. I've prayed for him every day since I found out.

With nothing less than the sincere respect for his country and his peers that I've come to expect from the Japanese, Yokohama-san was concerned about the burden his illness put on his fellow actors and business partners due to his 11-day stint in the hospital and is deeply thankful to the hospital staff who cared for him. According to his IG, he's encouraging people to continue washing their hands religiously and wear those face masks whenever going out.

This is why I like Japan, people. They're not imploding. People follow the rules because of the bigger "we/us" picture, not just the "me/I" that is so prevalent in America. Yokohama-san is 23 and it would never occur to him to do anything that would endanger others on purpose.

To date, I've seen 2 movies ( Wolf Girl and Black Prince and L♥DK: Two Loves Under One Roof ) and 1 drama series ( A Story to Read When You First Fall in Love ) starring Yokohama-san and I think he's got terrific promise. There's a certain mischievous wit and sarcasm he brings to the screen in a style similar to Kento Yamazaki that's just fun to watch.

In other words, he makes me laugh. Just like Kento.