July 18, 2014

Fly Over: ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Return of the Living Dead’

Marcy Copeland and Grace Lee



‘Memoirs of a Geisha’

It’s not every day you find a movie that is just as good as the book it’s made. With “Memoirs of a Geisha,” fans of the original novel and first-time viewers will not be disappointed. Having watched the movie first, I was surprised how much the original “Memoirs of a Geisha,” written by American author Arthur Golden, coincided with the movie.
“Memoirs of a Geisha” follows a young girl named Chiyo Sakamoto (Suzuka Ohgo), who is sold by her parents with her older sister into a life of enslavement. Sakamoto is bought by a woman known as Mother from a geisha house, while her older sister is sold to a house in another geisha district also known as the “pleasure district.” At the okiya or geisha house, Sakamoto meets another young girl named Pumpkin (Youki Kudoh) who befriends Sakamoto and shows her the way things are run. She also meets the highest ranking geisha in the house, Hatsumomo (Gong Li), who is condescending and doesn’t take a liking to Sakamoto.
Pumpkin and Sakamoto are geisha pupils, whose main job is to attend geisha training to one day become geisha themselves. While Pumpkin has already accepted her future as a geisha, Sakamoto’s only concern is to escape the okiya and be reunited with her older sister. In an attempt to get rid of Sakamoto and use her to do her ill bidding, Hatsumomo tells Sakamoto she can tell her where to find her older sister if she swears herself to her. Sakamoto agrees and Hatsumomo provides her the information. The night of her intended escape, Sakamoto slips and is injured. Mother finds out and demotes Sakamoto to a slave to pay off her debts and calls off her future as a geisha.
Sakamoto accepts her new fate and carries on her life until she meets a man who changes her perspective on her purpose forever. Known as the Chairman, he sees her and buys her a shaved ice cone and gives her a coin along with his handkerchief. He shows her she is special and to not look away from him. Sakamoto falls for the Chairman and makes a wish to be a geisha so she could one day see him again.
Her wish begins to materialize years later when Memeha (Michelle Yeoh), one of Kyoto’s top geishas, takes notice of 15-year-old Sakamoto (Zhang Ziyi) and her potential. Memeha convinces Mother to let her mentor Sakamoto and pay for all her geisha training. In exchange Sakamoto will pay off all her debts to Mother, but Mother will not be entitled to any future earnings.
One of the first things Memeha does is rename Sakamoto to Sayuri and she begins to take Sakamoto from a timid, shy girl to one who moves with elegance and is confident. Sakamoto’s popularity grows and Hatsumomo turns Pumpkin against Sakamoto since Pumpkin’s inheritance of the okiya is on the line.
While a geisha’s job is to entertain and bring men into a different world, one area where a geisha’s earning potential is shown is in the selling of one’s mizuage, or virginity. Sakamoto broke the record and had the highest bidding to date even after surviving Hatsumomo’s multiple attempts to sabotage her as a geisha.
Her time as a geisha is stopped at the start of World War II, and she is sent far away into hiding. The question is whether she will once again be the geisha she once was and will her dream of being with the Chairman come true?
One of the greatest difficulties with creating a movie based on a book is ensuring things match up and don’t go in a totally different direction, and screenwriter Robin Swicord did a wonderful job fitting the main aspects of the novel into the movie. They focused more on Sakamoto’s adulthood which was a good choice in my opinion. Another advantage of the movie was that it was in English rather than Japanese, so there was no need for subtitles.
I learned later that many of the actresses, whom were Chinese, had to learn their English lines phonetically. I was impressed with their English because even though they had an accent, it added character to the movie.
Actress Li did a great job playing Hatsumomo, a cold, cruel geisha who also had a soft side in that she also hoped for love. Ohgo exemplifies who Sakamoto is to a T with her gentle and quiet but powerful presence. I’d recommend “Memoirs of a Geisha” to those who like romance and those who have an interest in Japanese culture.
“Memoirs of a Geisha” is rated PG-13 for mature subject matter and some sexual content.


And also on DVD:


‘Return of the Living Dead’

“The Return of the Living Dead” features Clu Gulager (Burt), James Karen (Frank), Don Calfa (Ernie), Thom Mathews (Freddy), Beverly Randolph (Tina) and Miguel Nunez Jr. (Spider) in this 1985 cult classic release.
When Freddy lands a job at the “UNEEDA” medical supply warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, he is shown the ropes by Frank. He instructs him about the different aspects of the profession and even introduces him to split dogs for veterinarian school and a freezer that houses cadavers for medical schools.
Tina is Freddy’s girlfriend and hangs out with a group of social reject punk kids (gotta love the 80s). Walking around the streets of Louisville with nothing what-so-ever to do, they determine that picking up Freddy from work is the best option since he always knows where to party. Sadly, Freddy doesn’t get off work until 10 p.m. The group seeks a ride from their very disturbing-looking friend, Suicide (Mark Venturini).
Parked in front of the medical supply warehouse, the group quickly becomes bored and decides that the cemetery next door is the ideal place to kill some time. Unfortunately, next door Frank and Freddy embark on the dumbest course of their lives.
Sitting in the office, Freddy asks Frank what is the weirdest thing he has seen in the warehouse. Frank goes into detail referencing the original “Night of the Living Dead” movie in which the corpses returned from the dead to eat the living. Frank claims the movie was based on actual events, but was changed around due to a government warning to keep it quiet. Frank then informs the young and ignorant Freddy that the military containers the bodies were sealed in, accidentally ended up in the medical supply warehouse and were still sitting in the basement. The morbid excitement propels Freddy from his chair to go investigate the containers.
Examining the containers, Frank slaps the side of the barrel and it cracks, spewing the foul smelling 2-4-5 trioxin gas into their faces, rendering both men unconscious. After awaking sometime later, both men fall ill and decide to try and cover up the incident until they hear screams coming from the cadaver freezer. At this point the men decide to call the boss, Burt.
After Burt arrives, and verbally thrashes Frank for going near the containers, the men decide to kill the screaming cadaver with an pick axe to the brain, because we all know that injuring the brain kills zombies … but not in this movie. The cadaver just continued to scream for brains and puts up a fight to get them. Their next course of action is to chop up the body with a bone saw and transport it to the mortuary and ask Ernie, the cemetery embalmer, for his help and use of his crematorium.
After lying to Ernie, Burt decides to come clean and empties one of the garbage bags containing the reanimated dismembered corpse. An arm flops out and grabs Ernie by the ankle, making the awful truth a reality for Ernie.
The corpse is burnt into a tiny pile of ash. The men think they are scot-free but are not in the clear yet. Frank, on the verge of vomiting, runs outside away from the crematorium. Burt drags him back inside and both Frank and Freddy look as if death is at their doorstep.
As the smoke from the crematorium escapes the chimney into the night air, a storm begins to thunder and lightning fills the sky (here you can see a skull in the clouds) and the clouds burst wide open with rain. The rain catches the smoke which contains the chemical trioxin and spreads it all over the graveyard. The water seeps into the ground and into the coffins of hundreds of buried corpses. This begins the return of the living dead and sends the punk kids and the medical supply warehouse employees running for their lives.
So this movie is the worst zombie movie you can watch and not because it’s a terrible movie, but a zombie movie that presents one of the scariest scenarios for a zombie apocalypse. What do you do when a zombie cannot be killed?
This movie is one of my favorite zombie movies. They cannot be killed. The zombies are intelligent, reasoning corpses with all of their prior reasoning skills. The urge to ease the pain of rotting can only be obtained by eating living human brains. How much better can a movie get?
This movie is rated R for sex, nudity, violence, gore and profanity.

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