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Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris is a giant mixed bag of a movie. If you have seen his much-celebrated Audition, you should not go stumbling into this film expecting something akin to that. This is actually a musical comedy horror movie. Somewhat like “Audition”, you might regret watching it the next day, but for largely different reasons.

Now here’s a spoiler alert: I do reveal plot details. If you’re the type who doesn’t like that, then take heed now!

Anyway…

It’s oddly not a bad movie, despite my critiques below. It’s just not all that great. It’s tricky to pinpoint exactly what I didn’t care for about it, and I could probably rewatch it at some point. The best, most immediate critique I can mention is the movie’s irrelevant opening. It really seems to have nothing to do with the overall story, and it can easily lead one to be confused or frustrated. That being said, it is a goofy sequence, most certainly deserving to stand on its own. Because it has a strange creature in it, I initially assumed it was called a “Katakuri” and the story would be about it. That is not the case. So what about the rest of the movie?

‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ Makes the Mind Wander

The basic premise is that a family patriarch, Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada), purchases a home to use as a bed and breakfast, hoping to capitalize on a major road being constructed nearby. Things don’t go as planned, and the few guests they receive provide major problems (they die under freak circumstances, basically).

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A good horror movie commands attention. Sure, they often have slow parts to build tension or familiarize us with characters’ personalities and situations, but there are usually peaks and valleys (so to speak). However, some movies come across as more scattershot, like it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. For better or worse, ‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ draws thoroughly from that well, and it ends up being a little too zany for its own good, or not zany enough (not quite in that Sam Raimi-esque Goldilocks zone).

Now, I’m making a complicated critique here because, maybe if I had been in a better mood, I would have appreciated this movie more. However, I found my mind wandering away from The Happiness of the Katakuris throughout, and I don’t think it’s just me being a bad viewer/reviewer. Yes, an occasional body appears, and the Katakuri family is forced to face the grim fact that the inn will no longer exist if they don’t hide the corpses, but it’s a premise that stretches thin after a while (especially when paired with corny musical numbers). Plus, because the film isn’t quite as weird or gross as Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, it doesn’t quite stick to the ribs in the same way (I mention that in case someone assumes I’m incapable of liking horror musicals).

What Might Have Been

There are a few moments in The Happiness of the Katakuris where it seems the police are investigating the scene. However, much like the film’s intro, these moments don’t really build up to anything that clearly connects to the overall story. I can’t even say they distract from the overarching story, because they’re not interesting enough to be a distraction.

So, basically, when the movie ended, I was more interested in contemplating what I would have done with the story. For example: Maybe the tragic deaths ultimately drive the Katakuris to sell their bed and breakfast house and leave the neighborhood, with the family as a failure. Then, of course, you could have the construction of the road, making it more of an ironic tragedy (also relatable to anyone who’s lost a business due to frustrating circumstances, or who knows someone that has).

Also, I imagine a film that alternates between “now” and ten years later, when Masayuki (Shinji Takeda), Masao’s former criminal son, explains how his father’s bed and breakfast and a road brought him back to a life of crime. To me, that could have been a pretty interesting framing device. Hating a road project not being finished is a unique frustration, and potentially fairly interesting and funny. Or, of course, one might delve into the consequences for Masao’s daughter, Shizue (Naomi Nishida), as another example.

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Final Thoughts

I don’t know what the point of The Happiness of the Katakuris really is, nor do I understand why the dad decided to call their business the “White Lover’s Inn.” What is a “white lover”? Still, I might re-watch this film some other time, perhaps where I’m simply in a better mood, where I’m more susceptible to its particular eccentricities. Despite how this looks like a “bad review,” I do think part of the failure may have been on my part. Like at least a few of Takashi Miike’s movies, this one likely requires some work from the viewer. That’s sometimes true of the best movies out there, and I have a feeling I was missing something here.

What are your thoughts on The Happiness of the Katakuris? Let us know in the comments!

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The Target

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s Fallout was equal parts funny and bloody. This almost always leads to a good time.

The story

We begin this episode with the birth of some puppies that look like they’ve had a rough start to life. Each one is weighed, with the ones who fall short being incinerated.

One pup who is just below the correct weight gets a bit of a thumb on their scale. The scientist weighing them, Wilzig, writes down the proper weight. He later takes the puppy home to raise instead of putting them into what looks like an unforgiving training program.

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Eventually, we see Wilzig put some blue glowing thing into his neck. When a soldier comes for him, Dog attacks the soldier, and the two escape.

Ella Purnell in Fallout.

We go from there to the wilderness, where Lucy is recovering from the last episode and enjoying a campfire at night. Wilzig and Dog come out of the shadows, saving Lucy from a bug monster. Wilzig tells Lucy she should go home. And if she’s not going to go home, she needs to evolve.

The next day Lucy finds her way to a town called Filly. As a Pennsylvanian, it hurts me to spell it that way. Lucy is entranced by this town, though clearly put off by the fact that no one is very nice here.

She eventually finds her way to a shop run by a delightful woman named Ma June. Ma doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping Lucy. Or, frankly, having Lucy in her shop.

Or in her town.

Eventually, Wilzig is tracked to this same shop, being tracked by The Ghoul. This is our final primary character. Lucy defends Wilzig, being aided at the last moment by Maximus.

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Maximus, by the way, has been having a terrible time. After finally becoming a squire he’s disappointed to find that his knight, Knight Titus, is a terrible person.

Fortunately, Maximus doesn’t have to put up with Titus for long. After Titus gets the bright idea to go hunting, he’s attacked by a mutated bear. Maximus freezes, unable to save him. Then, well, he decides not to save him.

It was Titus’s idea to go hunt the bear, after all.

What worked

Walton Goggins in Fallout.

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the shootout scene at Filly. This scene checked every box a fight scene should check. It was fun to watch, with great effects. But it also gave us insight into the characters. Lucy is a decent fighter and has a strong moral compass. The Ghoul is callus and desensitized to death. And Maximus continues to be, well, sort of bad at this whole fighting thing. But with enough moral fortitude that we have a hard time blaming him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dog. Who’s name, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is just Dog. Which is fine. He doesn’t need to have a name to be a very good boy. He’s sweet, loyal, and fearless.

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Also, puppies. Puppies are always great.

Finally, I’d like to shine a spotlight on Lucy’s reaction to the world at large. She is both amazed and terrified by everything. And while she certainly doesn’t want to be rude, she also doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. The best example of this is when she stops to ask for directions with a bright smile and a gun.

Once again, I don’t have anything bad to say about this episode. It was funny, dark, and fun to watch. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Fallout, The End

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Launching with worldwide excitement, Fallout is based on the extremely popular game series of the same name. Fans of the series have waited with anticipation and trepidation to see if the Prime series would live up to the game.

Having now watched the first episode I can say that, so far, it’s successful.

The story

Our story begins with a children’s birthday party. A performer is there with his daughter, giving horse rides and taking pictures with the kids.

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As much as the adults try to focus on the party and the kids, it’s impossible to ignore the looming threat of war that’s on everyone’s mind.

Of course, it’s during this party that war comes, and the bombs drop.

We then cut to after the war and into one of the vaults established to protect humankind and the American Way. For future reference, this is Vault 33. We meet Lucy, our first main character, who’s petitioning to be married to a man from Vault 32 to ensure DNA diversity.

On the wedding night, though, Lucy and the rest of Vault 33 are met with a horrible surprise. The group they let in is not in fact from Vault 32, but is instead a team of raiders from the surface. The raiders kill a lot of the vault dwellers and kidnap Lucy’s father.

We are then introduced to our second main character, Maximus. He is in training to become a Knight in the Brotherhood of Steel. And, well, he’s not doing great.

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Things get worse when his best friend Dane becomes a squire before him. But when Dane is hurt, Maximus gets their spot.

Aaron Moten in Fallout.

We then go back to Lucy, who has decided to leave the vault and find her dad. Of course, the council of her vault doesn’t want her to go. So she is aided by her brother Norm and cousin Chet in a wild escape.

What worked

The first thing that deserves attention is the exceptional character work. Our three main characters are fleshed out and relatable right away. We feel sympathetic for The Ghoul before he’s even introduced as such. We love Lucy’s nativity and selflessness. And we love Maximus for his honesty and passion for his cause.

While these characters are their own people, they also exhibit the three responses we might expect to see in a post-apocalyptic world. We have the hopeful optimist who doesn’t understand how bad things are. We have the aspiring hero who wants to make the world better by force. And we have the self-serving individual who’s given up on the rest of humanity and is only focused on surviving.

Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the balance of humor and gore. Because there was certainly enough blood and guts for even the most hardcore horror lover. We had a violent sabotage, a brawl with raiders, and even several nuclear bombs.

But there were a lot of funny moments as well. Usually from Lucy. Her overall goodwill and fearless gumption are absolutely hilarious, especially given the horrors she’s facing. It never ceases to amuse me.

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Ella Purnell in Fallout

Both of these aspects are done perfectly. The jokes land and the bloody scenes pull no punches. It was delightful.

All in all, this was an exciting start to a much-anticipated series. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the landing.

For more tv shows based on video games, check out my review of Witcher. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Ave Hestia

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Episode seven of American Horror Story Delicate was a classic AHS flashback episode. If you were excited to see what Preecher had to say to Anna at the end of the last episode, I’m sorry to say that you will not get that satisfaction. However, we did learn all sorts of other fascinating things about the strange coven hunting Anna. And, we learned all sorts of things we didn’t know about Dex’s first wife, Adeline.

The story

We begin our story with a woman giving birth alone in a barn. When it becomes clear that she’s not going to be able to deliver vaginally, she pulls out a knife and cuts her stomach open to pull out her children.

For whatever reason, this is when the coven of witches decides to make themselves known.

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Ashlie Atkinson in American Horror Story.

We then cut to 2013, when Dex was still married to Adeline. In true Dex fashion, he’s surprised her with a puppy.

While that sounds great in theory, dogs are something a couple should talk about, not gift each other with as a surprise. An adult would know that. A trust fund boy like Dex does not.

Adeline owns a vegan restaurant called Ave Hestia. Love that name. She seems to be living a great life. She has a career she’s passionate about, friends who love her, and a husband she seems kind of fond of.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want a puppy. She already had one.

Of course, things aren’t as good as they appear. We soon find out that Adeline was one of those babies we saw at the start of the episode. The other baby was Sonia, the painter.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones in American Horror Story.

And yes, both of these characters are played by Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Adeline has stepped away from their family, and whatever dark things they do. But the family isn’t happy with her decision. And if she isn’t going to come back willingly, they’re going to make her.

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What worked

To start with, I loved the character, Adeline. She is fierce, she is fearless, and relentless. I feel like this would have been a far different story if Adeline had been our main character. It was astounding to see her interact with the same people Anna has, and get a completely different response. It’s clear now, how much everyone around Anna resents her for simply not being Adeline.

I also appreciated that there was just a shocking amount of blood in this episode. From the start when Adeline and Sonia are born, to the climactic end of Adeline, this episode is just drenched in blood.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the changes in this season from the book it’s based on. Because absolutely none of this was in the book. Compared to this, the book is heartwarming.

The book is kind of heartwarming even without the comparison.

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But I love the fact that, even with just two episodes left in the season, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I do not know what Anna is carrying. I do not know if she’s going to survive this. I do not know what these people want with her.

But I can’t wait to find out.

What didn’t work

All that being said, it is a bit frustrating to have no forward momentum in this episode. This was all backstory, and it felt like there wasn’t enough backstory to fill a full forty minutes. Because of that, it dragged. There were a lot of scenes that just didn’t need to be as long as they were. It felt like they could have cut that down considerably, and had some time to check in with our main characters at either the start or the end of the episode.

There are only two episodes left in the season, and I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going to happen. But so far the story has been dark, bloody, and provocative. So I hope they can manage to end it on a high note.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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