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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008
Hot tickets: Film
Special to The Japan Times
Fast Food Nation
If Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" made the case that fast food is bad for your body, Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation," adapted from Eric Schlosser's best-selling expose, shows us how it's bad on so many other levels. Schlosser's book was a wide-ranging journalistic investigation into how the industry has impacted America — from its reliance on illegal labor in the meatpacking plants, to its advertising aimed at children. Linklater cross-cuts between a number of parallel stories that add up to portray the big picture.
Greg Kinnear plays a nice-guy exec at fast-food giant Mickey's, tasked with finding out why tests have discovered fecal matter in their burgers; Catalina Sandrina Moreno is the illegal immigrant whose friends all work at a meat-packing plant; and Bruce Willis arrives in a tough-talking cameo as the industry realist who tells Kinnear, "We all have to eat a little sh*t from time to time."
Not at all a lecture — except maybe when motor-mouth Ethan Hawke drops in — "Fast Food Nation" is a smart, sly movie that informs as it tells its protagonists' stories. Warning: the final cow-processing sequence may induce vegetarianism in sensitive viewers. (G.F.)
Opens Feb. 16
Winter can be depressing in Tokyo, where people spend much of their time huddled around space heaters or watching fellow commuters hack and cough (and praying the germs don't drift their way).
In this season, a movie with a title like "Zenzen Daijobu (Fine, Totally Fine)" sounds like a godsend. Fortunately, Yosuke Fujita's debut feature lives up to its title. Warm, funny and even wise, it follows two quibbling siblings who fall for the same misfit girl without resorting to the over-obvious methods of typical Japanese comedy.
Instead, Fujita relies more on the perfectly timed cut to a reaction shot or sight gag than the usual frantic cutting up. Also, though nearly all the characters are decent types, to varying degrees they are seriously screwed up in more or less realistic ways.
The film stars Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Japan's greatest gift to comedy since Kiyoshi "Tora-san" Atsumi. Tall, lumbering, doughy-faced and shaven-headed, Arakawa looks like a goofy kid grown to adulthood without having gone through puberty, but he is a comic of rare talent. Here he plays a developmentally arrested horror fan who dreams of building the ultimate haunted house. His performance alone will lower your blood pressure 10 points and the whole movie will leave you feeling totally fine — and better prepared to brave those germs. (M.S.)
Opens Jan. 26