11 Movie Releases To Watch In Japan This Year

You'll laugh, You'll Cry, You'll Rethink

By Jes Kalled
August 21, 2018
Art & Culture, New In The City

The sun is hot, hot enough to retreat indoors to your favorite cinema that is most likely very, very air-conditioned.

It’s 2018 and it sometimes feels like the world is falling apart. (Kind of, right?) But the movie theater is here to help. Not only can we escape into a world of beautiful and yet tragic realities, we can also witness the influence of the chaotic outside world on our contemporary screens in an elegant storyline. So take a moment to excuse yourself from the rumble and tumble of the realities in your own life and step briefly into the lives of the following movies. Refreshing, heartbreaking, exciting — these new releases will give you some inspiration, some food for thought, a lot of laughter, and maybe even, a new direction in life. Enjoy!

1. Ocean’s 8

Fashioned in the same universe as Hollywood’s favorite men-who-look-cool-stealing-things series, Ocean’s 8 makes a fresh entrance with a brave and funny female cast. A parallel story where Sandra Bullock leads the way as Debbie Ocean, the leader of a team of specialized crooks all prepared to make a huge heist at NYC’s annual met gala after getting out of prison. Think fashion. Glamour. And thrill. Think, Anne Hathaway ironically and humorously filling the role that the public gave her a few years back as a people-pleasing beauty until…plot twist. Prepare for laughs and excitement with a cast whose chemistry will have you wondering which badass heist member you’d be.

Now playing at: Shinjuku Piccadilly, Toho Cinemas, Movix, Aeon Cinema and other theaters across Japan.
Watch with: Your boss lady coworkers or best friends — just to feel even more BA.
Japanese title:オーシャンズ8(エイト)』(Ocean’s eight

2. Tully

A funny, honest, and empathetic look at a modern family who’s about to embark on the journey of having their third child. Made in collaboration with the same directors as Juno, this film focuses on the raw humanity of what it truly means to give birth to a baby, to take care of said baby, and to continue wearing the baby weight despite being on camera. Tully, a nanny that comes in to save the day is too good to be true — until she isn’t. However, perhaps overriding the importance of the story in this film, is simply how beautifully it pays attention to the physical, emotional, and humorous tides of being a parent, and more especially, a mother.

Now playing at: Toho Cinemas Chanter (Hibiya), Shibuya Humax (From Sept.1) and other theaters in most cities in Japan. (Release dates defer according to regions)
Watch with: Anyone feeling empathetic. Maybe a close friend. And your partner.
Japanese title: 『タリーと私の秘密の時間』(Tarii to watashi no himitsu no jikan) 

3. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

The energetic and charming sequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia!, tells the backstory of Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, and how she came to meet Harry, Bill, and Sam, while also telling the present day story of Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who is making preparations to re-open her mother’s hotel whilst expecting. An exciting past and present flick that doesn’t hold back on the ABBA, the drama, the dancing, nor the reuniting of all our favorite characters.

Playing at: Toho Cinemas, Shinjuku Piccadilly, Humax, Aeon Cinemas, 109 Cinemas and other theaters across Japan Aug. 24.
Watch with: Your besties. If possible, your mom.
Japanese title:『マンマ・ミーア!ヒア・ウィー・ゴー』(Mamma mia here we go) 

4. The Insult

Selected as the Lebanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Venice Film Festival, and nominated for an Oscar, The Insult is a drama that captures the power and consequence of shared words and the emotional distress that can turn an insult into violence. Highlighting the delicate intricacies of prejudice and propaganda, this drama follows tensions between Tony, a Christian Lebanese man, and Yasser, a Palestinian man in Lebanon, when the two have an altercation and a punch that breaks two ribs. In the courtroom, debates arise as people are reminded of the Lebanese Civil War, Palestine, and Israel. At first, both men are so convinced that they are right, that neither hire lawyers and both represent themselves. Watch things unfold as the words that began the conflict are revealed.

Playing at: Toho Cinemas Chanter from Aug. 31
Watch with: Someone you like to discuss things with.
Japanese title:『判決、ふたつの希望』(Hanketsu, futatsu no kibou) 

5. Tell Me Lies

In 1967 Peter Brook made a drama about the controversial involvement of America in the Vietnam War based on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatrical production, “US.” It was briefly released in the UK and NYC during that time, but has since fallen under the radar after being banned at the then-Cannes Film Festival — until it’s now surfacing again (surely for a good reason).

The plot follows a young couple who sees a magazine photo of a baby that was mutilated by napalm. The film documents London’s varied staged conversations and opinions about the moral implications of the war in a very unique, at times musical, and at other times cinema-verite fashion. The movie poster reads “Does the truth make you nervous?” Watch if you dare.

Playing at: Theater Image Forum Shibuya from Aug. 25. In other regions in Japan: Sendai, Aichi, Osaka and Okinawa.
Watch with: Someone as quirky and as curious to know the truth as you.
Japanese title:テル・ミー・ライズ』 (Tell me lies) 

6. Finding Your Feet

Sandra discovers her husband is having an affair with her best friend after 35 years of marriage. In an effort to forget these unpleasant details, she hightails it to London and seeks out her free-thinking sister, Bif, Sandra’s polar opposite, for a change of pace. A romantic comedy to its core, Sandra is forced to try things she wouldn’t normally try, such as community dance class, and a second shot at romance. She literally “finds her feet” as she more or less gets swept off them in a lovely escapade to Rome where the community dance team is offered a gig after their successful flash-mob goes viral online. Late-life love is possible, but despite being a rom-com, this movie doesn’t forget to remind us of the other realities of what it means to be in the golden years.

Playing at: Cine Switch Ginza and Shinjuku Musashinokan from Aug. 25 and other theaters across Japan (release dates vary depending on the region)
Watch with: Good friends, new friends and your cool sister(s)
Japanese title:輝ける人生 』(Kagayakeru jinsei)  

7. Call Me By Your Name

If you haven’t heard of this film yet, you haven’t been paying attention. It’s 1983 in Italy. Cue nostalgia. Elio is introduced to Oliver and the two men cascade into summer with long bike rides, lively discussions, and swimming in lakes. Cue melancholy. This is a coming of age story that carries with it an effortless, tender awareness of what it means to be young, vulnerable, and in love. In a speech that will bring most to tears, Elio’s father (Oliver’s professor) is the role model we all wish we had. Unlike other films where homosexuality is weighted down by the oppression of the world, this film allows for love to have its own life, its own story, its own end.

Playing at: Uplink Shibuya (The coolest indie theater you’ve ever been to), Iidabashi Ginrei Hall (from Sept. 22), Meguro Cinema (from Oct. 27) and Waseda Shochiku (From Nov. 10). Nationwide: Aomori, Saitama, Tochigi, Kochi and Gumma (check website for details and release dates).
Watch with: Friends, lovers, no haters.
Japanese title: 『君の名前で僕を呼んで』(Kimi no namae de boku wo yonde) 

8. Carrie Pilby

Carrie is smart. Really smart. But sometimes too unhappy to enjoy it. A bit of a genius misfit in NYC, and struggle-busing rather comically with growing up, Carrie embarks on an adventurous journey to do “normal things.” Her therapist gives her a list of things to do to help her engage with “normal people.” Take care of a pet, go on a date, make friends. Based on a novel, this coming-of-age story gives the audience an interesting look into an interesting girl’s life as she begins to change her own mind about humanity, and people in general. It’s an upbeat, easy to follow comedy that strives for the acceptance of awkwardness. An inspiring relief for those who relate to Carrie, as the amazing actress Bel Powley brings her to life.

Playing at: Shinjuku Piccadilly, Movix Kameari, Movix Akishima, Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho and Shibuya from Oct. 20. Also in theaters in Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Sendai, Sapporo and other cities.
Watch with: People who love to laugh, a friend or coworker that needs to be inspired.
Japanese title:『マイ・プレシャス・リスト』(My precious list) 

9. Christopher Robin

Everyone loves Pooh. A family story for those who like to indulge in existential nostalgia will love seeing their favorite bear come back to life. Christopher Robin, played by Ewan McGregor, is all grown up, laden with too many adult responsibilities, and hasn’t been to the Hundred Acre Wood in decades. Pooh, who has watched his world grow foggy and disappear in Christopher Robin’s absence, travels to London in search of him. After they are reunited, the two go on a journey together to try to save the Hundred Acre Wood, all of Pooh’s friends who have faded from existence, and subsequently Christopher Robin’s imagination and joy. A heartwarming, but heart-tugging adventure movie.

Playing at: Toho Cinemas, United Cinema Toyosu, Humax, 109 Cinemas Futakotamagawa, Movix and other theaters across Japan from Sept. 14.
Watch with: Friends, family, your partner, and coworkers you don’t mind crying or having a bit of an existential crisis with.
Japanese title:『プーと大人になった僕』(Pooh to otona ni natta boku) 

10. Kamera Wo Tomeru Na! (One Cut Of The Dead)

Zombies. And meta cameras. Kametomu opens with a 37-minute shot of absolute chaos. No cuts. The story follows a team of filmmakers who are making a zombie-apocalypse film in an abandoned military-esque warehouse. Subsequently, a true zombie appears, real violence ensues, and the director keeps the camera rolling. Horror and comedy have teamed up to create a new avenue for the zombie movie; a self-aware film that is conscious not only of itself but also the classics that share its genre. What began as a small indie film with a limited release, Kametomu has spread to all major theatres with its entertaining satire, and its surprisingly lovely dose of character detail. Don’t sleep on it.

Now playing at: Toho Cinemas, Eurospace (Shibuya), 109 Cinemas Futakotamagawa (from Aug 31) and other theaters across Japan.
Watch with: Someone with a strong stomach and a good sense of humor. Also, no need for super nihongo skills.
In Japanese: 『カメラを止めるな!』(Kamera Wo Tomeru Na!)

11. Shoplifters

Known widely as the auteur that pulls on an audience’s heartstrings, Hirokazu Kore-eda strikes again with his newest drama, Shoplifters, which took the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Shoplifters follows a Japanese family that survives on petty crimes. One day, the father and son find a young girl who looks hungry. What begins with one meal turns into a kind of unofficial adoption as she is steadily becoming more and more part of the family. The audience is left struggling with how to define morality when it’s given such a clear picture of crime, and yet a family that can offer so much love and connection, of which its crimes committed are a direct result of the economic crisis the society has placed them in. More conflict and mystery ensues when they find out that the girl’s parents are looking for her.

Now playing at: Toho Cinemas Shibuya, Hibiya, Shinjuku; Shinjuku Piccadilly (From Aug. 24) and other theaters across Japan.
Watch with: Family, friends, your partner, and coworkers. Anyone you don’t mind crying with or discussing life and family with after the credits roll.
In Japanese: 万引き家族(Manbiki kazoku) 

What’s your favorite on the list? Let us know in the comments! 

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