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Hula Girls [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Yasuko Matsuyuki , Etsushi Toyokawa , Sang-il Lee    DVD

Price: 13.50
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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  65 reviews
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feel Good Movie with Heart & Soul 5 Oct 2007
By Ping Lim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
For those that have watched the Full Monty, Brassed off, you have a good idea of what to expect. Yes, the story might be cliche but it's done very effectively in this offering. Yet again, this is based upon a true story in a rural township in Japan in the mid-60s when the mining town is facing the dire situation of extinction as the main industry of mining coal is coming to an end. A scheme is suggested to revive employment there by having a purpose built bath resort with a Hawaiian theme. To do that, it needs hula girls. In the beginning, recruiting the dancers is a tall order as Japan during that time is still conservative and baring too much flesh is a definite no-no. However, there is a stubborn girl who steadfastly refuses to give up even though she's being excommunicated from her mother who happens to be a mining comittee member anti progressive movement. However, she has a loving and supportive elderly brother who encourages her to follow her dream. She would subsequently become the lead dancer. Normally, a Hollywood offering would concentrate in training those misfits into successful people and we would sit through the routine of artificial gags to make us laugh. For this instance, there is actually character development through the dancing teacher who is recruited from Tokyo. She has a ferocious temper and running away from her demon for not being able to hit the big time in Tokyo. As time progresses, as she sees commitment in eyes of those miners' daughters, she suddenly discovers herself by having a goal to turn the fate of the dying town around. Hula Girls is a surprisingly touching movie and I'm deeply moved by it. It's really amazing to read the end credit to say that Hula Girls are still running strong today and that the same teacher is still doing her thing at that resort now. Highly recommended for a shot in the arm to follow our dreams.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bright flowers blossoming from dark coal mines 7 Jan 2008
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Probably the biggest surprise of "Hula Girls", and what gives it such impact, is how it comes out of left field with its depth and emotion. What appears to be a by-the-numbers feel good movie, about a bunch of fish-out-of-water types who aspire to something more, to the tune of "Shall We Dance?" or "The Full Monty", ends up being a brutal and violent tale, filled with prejudice and entrenched small town thinking. This is "Billy Elliot". This is "Coal Miner's Daughter".

Life is hard for coal miners, and during the mid-60s when demand for coal dropped off and the mines started closing, it became harsher still. One of the lofty dreams of Japan at the time was the concept of life-time employment, where a company was your family and they looked after their employees faithfully. Many such projects as the Joban Hawaiian Center were started at that time, attempting to replace vanishing industries with tourism and supplying new employment for company workers. It was an admirable goal, rather than just discarding unneeded laborers to fend for themselves. Most of the time it ended in failure, and the various "Canada Lands" and "Holland Centers" that populated the Japanese countryside are now all barren ruins. The Hawaiian resorts still stands though, and the Hula Girls are still dancing.

Very loosely based on this true story, director Sang-il Lee artfully mixed the dull colors of the mining world with the bright promise of a better future in the flashing colors of Hawaii. Korean-Japanese, Lee knows something about the harshness of attempting to bring new thoughts to a closed community, as he has shown in his first film "Chong". He also understands the freedom and resilience of youth, having adapted Ryu Murakami's youth-rebellion novel "69". All of the actors shine as well, especially Yu Aoi as the lead dancer Kumiko.

Some of the appeal of "Hula Girls" will probably be lost on Western audiences, especially the performance of Shizuyo Yamazaki as the giant girl Sayuri. Yamazaki is a famous comedian in Japan, known for her gruff manner and wearing guy's clothes, so seeing her dance around in a hula skirt is especially charming. She also puts enormous depth into her character, something I didn't think she was capable of as an actress, and was quite moved by.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost in translation 8 Jun 2008
By Stephen Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I haven't seen the U.S. version (with English subtitles) yet, but just watched the Japanese version again. The fact that this is a true story, and that I happen to have been to both Iwaki and Joban Hawaiian Center, makes it ring all the more authentic for me. And being from Hawaii, of course, I'm proud to know that this project (the center, not the film) actually accomplished what it set out to do.

The only thing I feel bad about for viewers who don't understand Japanese is that the Iwaki dialect is probably completely lost in translation for foreign audiences. It would be like watching "Fargo" with Japanese subtitles (and I have), where a lot of the subtlety comes as much from the local accent as from the words themselves; the Iwaki accent is easily as distinctive, and carries the same sense of rural innocence, as the exaggerated Minnesota accent employed by the Cohen brothers. Key is a scene on the bus, as the troupe is heading towards a performance. The teacher, who is from Tokyo (and resolutely so), says a few words in what is clearly an Iwaki accent, indicating both the passage of time since she arrived, and her newfound willingness to let go of her urban identity and get closer to the girls she teaches.

Unfortunately, there is just no effective way of communicating the dialect in subtitles...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible dancing!!! 8 April 2010
By D. J. Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Yes, this is truly a fine, feel-good movie. However, I haven't read any mention by other reviewers of the absolutely incredible dancing performed by the actresses. As a former professional Polynesian dancer myself, I have danced in and seen many, many Polynesian dance reviews and have Never seen anything that tops the perfection shown by these actresses. More amazing is the fact that they only had around 9 months to learn all the necessary dance skills and routines, which they performed so flawlessly.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Every Hula Move Has A Meaning Behind It" 28 Jan 2008
By Brian E. Erland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Note: Japanese with English subtitles.

The '06 release `Hula Girls' which is based on an actual event is an absolutely exhilarating film that will immediately draw you into the storyline and have you rooting for the irresistible band of would-be hula girls from beginning to end. No wonder it won just about every major award in the '07 Japanese Academy Awards. I honestly cannot think of one negative thing to say about this production. It's dramatic, poignant, bittersweet and downright funny. The storyline is well conceived, the dialogue believable and the retro-Hawaiian soundtrack is in the perfect contrast to the drab landscape of the Japanese coal mining town where the new Hawaiian Center is being built.

This is a film I could watch over and over again and for me that's the bottom line in judging any film. By the way, did I forget to mention the charming and beautiful Aoi Yu in the role of Kimiko. I couldn't take my eyes off her, what an incredible smile!

There is also a second disc containing:
- The Making of Hula Girls
- How to be a Hula Girl
- Hula Girls: The Real Story
- An Interview with Jake Shimabukuro
- Original Japanese Trailers

My Highest Recommendation!!
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