Monday, 16 September 2013

Battle Royale (3 Stars)

Yesterday I signed up for a trial account with Netflix. It's free for a month, then £5.99 a month afterwards. (That's about $9.50 a month for you Americans). A lot of people talk about Netflix enthusiastically, as if it's the future of home cinema. Watch whatever you want, whenever you want, in the comfort of your own home. I disagree. It might be an increase in flexibility and ease of use, but as far as the technology goes it's a backwards step, just as MP3's are a backwards step from CD's. I watched my first film today, which I'll get round to discussing soon, and the picture quality was visibly inferior to Blu-ray, the current state of the art. In addition to that, where are the extras that film freaks have grown to love? The commentaries, the making of featurettes, the interviews with the cast? I don't criticise Netflix though, it has its place in our society. Netflix is a hamburger, a Blu-ray is a three-course meal from a top restaurant.

That adequately describes my attitude towards Netflix. I prefer fine food, but every now and then I drop into McDonalds and grab a quick burger if I don't have the time to cook for myself or the money to visit a large restaurant. Nowadays people criticise fast food, but there's nothing wrong with it, as long as you don't eat it every day. That's why I signed up with Netflix. Usually I buy DVDs and Blu-rays, because the prices are so low in England, much lower than in America. Or at least, they're low if I wait a few months after the initial release. Sometimes I'm interested in a film, but it costs more than my usual self-imposed price limit. Sometimes there's a film that I'm not sure whether I'll like it or not. That's why I signed up for Netflix.

I must admit that my first impression is that I'm disappointed with the selection. I had a short list of films and tv series that I wanted to sample, and none of them were available for streaming. Neither "Sleeping Beauty" (2011) nor "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) is available. I've read in forums that Netflix in the UK offers less films than in the USA. Is that true? If you live in America, please check if those two films are available.

I did find "Battle Royale", the first film that I've watched. This film has achieved cult status, but the film's premise put me off. It's one of those films that other fans of Japanese films say to me, "Why haven't you watched it yet?" Well, today I did.

School Photo

The premise is that in Japan there is a problem with overcrowding and unemployment, so the government has passed an emergency act to alleviate the problems. Under strictly controlled circumstances children are allowed to kill one another. A 10th grade school class goes on a school trip. While in the bus they are knocked out with sleeping gas. They wake up in a military compound on an otherwise deserted island. They are told that they have three days to kill one another. The survivor can go home. If there is more than one survivor they will all be killed.

Girl #13 Chiaki Kuriyama

The film's premise is its greatest weakness. There are 42 children in the contest. We are introduced to about half of them by name, but that's still too many. As viewers we can't get to know and identify with so many characters. In a few cases the director takes the trouble to tell us someone's background story, but oops! A few minutes later he's dead. A similar film was made in 2005, "House of 9", obviously influenced by "Battle Royale", in which nine people have to kill one another to survive. That worked better, but I would have cut the numbers even more and made it a "House of 5".

Girl #13 again -- isn't she cute?

Somehow I doubt I'll continue with Netflix after the free trial ends. I have a month to decide. I'll let you know.


  1. Now that you've discovered you can configure Netflix to watch things from different countries I'll be curious to see if you do keep Netflix after the free trial is over. Please be sure to let the rest of us know how you like it after using it for a few weeks.

    1. I will. I doubt my general opinions as stated at the beginning of this post will change, but now that I've found out how to use Netflix to access the American film selection I'll be using it slightly more. The American file selection for Netflix includes both "Sleeping Beauty" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's".


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