Matt Wilce gets a close-up of the Tokyo International Film Festival's hottest tickets.

Sometimes it seems as if the latest Hollywood blockbusters get stuck mid-Pacific, stretching the time from their US debuts to their Japanese release from here to eternity. But don’t despair, the movie industry is about to descend on Tokyo for the 14th International Film Festival, bringing sneak previews of many of the winter’s must-see flicks to the big screen.
This year, in addition to the regular competition movies, Nippon Cinema Classics series, Cinema Prism and Nippon Cinema Now, are other strands that include the Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival, Tokyo International Women’s Film Festival, Disney Film Festival and Korean Cinema Week. With 140 movies from 24 countries crammed into nine days, Tokyoites are spoiled for choice. Here’s our guide to the hottest tickets and the ones to watch.

Off the drawing board
Perhaps because 2001 is the centenary of Walt Disney’s birth, TIFF is set to open and close with animated features. Kicking things off is the star-packed CGI-fest Shrek, which stormed the US box office with a US$264.7 million take that blew Pearl Harbor out of the water with the highest gross of the summer. Voiced by Cameron Diaz (who will be in town to promote the movie in atonement for skipping the festival’s premiere of Charlie’s Angels last year), Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow (“Third Rock From the Sun”) and Mike (Austin Powers) Meyers, this story of an ogre’s odyssey offers plenty of laughs. A rude send-up of Disney-esque classic fairytales, the clever comedy from DreamWorks-makers of the hit Antz-will appeal to adults, while kids will marvel at the animation and good-natured action romp of a story. Catch it at the festival before the pre-Christmas holiday hype makes getting a seat impossible.
The festival aptly closes with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Disney’s latest opus that takes the Mouse House into new territory-and that’s not just a reference to the story’s mythical setting. This is what Variety calls an “all-talking, no-singing, no-dancing” animation (they also admittedly added “no-fun” to the list) that offers nods to the Indy Jones franchise and Jules Verne. An honorable move away from the music-driven anthropomorphized usual Disney fare, this action anime- perfect fodder for the newly opened DisneySea-comes from the team that produced Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Even more Mouse can be found at the Disney Film Festival, where audiences will get the rare chance to see such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella on the big screen as well as more recent hits such as Toy Story and a special large screen format of Beauty and the Beast.

Human Nature
Charlie Kauffman, the man who told the world what it’s like Being John Malkovich, follows on with this hirsute comedy that bears the same brand of eccentricity and offbeat humor as his worldwide hit. The eclectic cast of characters features Tim Robbins as a 35-year-old virgin scientist, Patricia Arquette (True Romance) as a horny, hairy woman and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) as a newly civilized wild mountain man. Music video wiz Michel Gondry-whose back tracks include promos for Beck, The Foo Fighters, Björk, The Rolling Stones and Daft Punk-directs the slapstick and sub-philosophical musings.

Following the lead of Ten Things I Hate About You’s reworking of The Taming of the Shrew, Cruel Intentions’ take on “Les Liasons Dangereuse,” and Clueless’ update of Jane Austin’s “Emma,” comes O, a teen-friendly spin on Othello. Face-of-the-moment Josh Hartnett stars as best friend of popular basketball jock Odin (Mekhi Phifer), the only black kid at school. Combining teen angst with a classic plot is nothing new, but the timing of this reworking proved problematic for Miramax, who shelved the high school tragedy for two years following the Columbine massacre.

The Man Who Cried
Sally Potter recaptures some of the glory she garnered for her critically acclaimed Orlando, casting Johnny Depp as The Man Who Cried. The all-star cast includes Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Christina Ricci (The Adams Family, Buffalo 66) and John Turturro (The Luzhin Defence, Miller’s Crossing). The Anglo-French co-production focuses on a young Jewish Russian émigré’s search for her roots in prewar Paris and reunites Ricci and Depp, who were also on-screen lovers in Sleepy Hollow.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
A musical about a partly emasculated East German transvestite rock star who falls for an American GI-kind of an anatomically incorrect Miss Saigon-may seem unlikely material for Hollywood, but this indie hit has already garnered prizes at Deauville and rave reviews from the broadsheets. Director, writer and star John Cameron Mitchell reprises his off-Broadway titular role on celluloid in this Rocky Horror-esque take on glam-rock cabaret.

Apocalypse Now Redux
One of the 20th century’s greatest cinematic epics returns to the screen in an entirely new version re-cut from the original dallies by director Francis Ford Coppola and editor Walter Murch. Rather than just adding in scenes trimmed from the original version, Coppola chose to reappraise the whole film, restoring several key scenes such as the legendary French plantation sequence that had languished in film canisters for more than 20 years. Almost an hour of unseen footage was restored after Coppola saw the movie on British TV and was struck that the movie that had been seen as “so demanding, strange and adventurous when it first came out” now seemed relatively tame.

Spy Kids
Although this smart kids' flick was a surprise hot ticket stateside this summer, Robert Rodriguez’s savvy juvenile-Bond movie-which he produced, wrote, directed and edited-has yet to open this side of the Pacific. Starring Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino (Snake Eyes) as rival agents who end up getting hitched and later kidnapped, the action romp has enough to keep adults interested while providing plenty of gags and gadgets, such as electroshock bubble gum, to keep pre-teen spy kids happy. Bona fide Bond-girl Teri Hatcher (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Goldeneye baddie Alan Cummings pop up, adding a further nod to the 007 series-with a sequel already in pre-production, the next-generation spy franchise may give an aging Bond a run for his martini. The movie will be screened for the first time in Japan as part of the Fantastic Film Festival, which will feature other hits such as teen-terror spoof sequel Scary Movie 2, horror flick Jeepers Creepers and killer trucker movie Joy Ride.

The Others
Slightly more low-key than the ebullient Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman’s other star vehicle this year is this creepy period piece which teams her with Christopher Eccleston (Elizabeth, Gone in 60 Seconds). Alejandro Amenabar directs-he also wrote and composed the score-this old-school suspense film set on an island off the British coast. Packing a twist in its tale, the film offers the audience a taste of what horror movies were like before special effects began to steal the show. American showbiz gurus E! likened the movie to the last year of the Cruise-Kidman marriage: “scary on occasion, cold to the touch and downright creepy at times.” And even former Carry On… comic Eric Sykes plays for chills rather than laughs.

Asian attractions
One of Japan’s hottest young directors, Takashi Miike (The Guys from Paradise) is still editing his latest movie, Agitator, but seeing as he regularly shoots five or six features a year, that’s nothing unusual. The movie will have its world premiere at TIFF and another of Miike’s films, The Happiness of the Katakuris, is one of the festival’s special screenings.
Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau is cast against type as Fatso, the obese friend and dieting partner of heartbroken Mini (Sammi Cheng) in Love on a Diet. When her brief relationship with a slimmer man fails and her weight balloons, Mini enlists the help of Fatso but fails to anticipate their own burgeoning romance. Director Johnnie To helms this romantic comedy that forms part of the Cinema Prism strand.

Just the ticket
The festival will run from Oct 27 (Sat) to Nov 4 (Sun) at Bunkamura and other venues in the Shibuya area. Admission to competition screenings is ¥1000 for an advance ticket and ¥1200 on the day-pretty reasonable when you consider regular theater prices. Screening at Cinema Prism will be all reserved seating (¥1500) and Nippon Cinema Classics screenings at Le Cinema will be ¥800 in advance and ¥1000 on the day. Advance ticket sales begin on Oct 6 at all Ticket Pia counters or by calling 03-5237-9999. General information is available from Hello Dial on 03-5777-8600 (7am-11pm) and from the TIFF Ticket Guide on 03-3563-6407 (10am-6pm, closed Sun & holidays). Or see TIFF’s official website  Movies in the Nippon Cinema Classics series will not have English subtitles.
A limited number of special competition passes are also available for ¥10,000 and are valid for all 14 movies in the official competition screened at Orchard Hall, and also for the opening and closing movies and the screening of the winner of the Tokyo Grand Prix on Nov 4. To reserve a pass, call the TIFF Ticket Guide and then send a registered cash envelope to the office with your payment. The pass will be issued by mail.

Opening and closing ceremony tickets can only be reserved by telephone at Ticket Pia or by calling direct on 0570-00-0062. All seats are reserved and tickets are ¥1500 (maximum 2 tickets per film per call).



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