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The Great Yokai War

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Japanese director Takashi Miike, best known for gruesome and sadistic shockers like Audition and Ichi the Killer, makes a left turn into family entertainment with this colorful and wildly imaginative fantasy (2005) inspired by Japanese folklore (as rendered by the venerable manga artist Shigeru Mizuki). A timid little boy from a broken home is drafted to save humanity from an evil mistress and her horrific army of giant, rattletrap robots; coming to his aid is a crazy assortment of forest goblins, or yokai, including a humanoid turtle, an armless creature whose blue head inflates like a balloon, a woman with an infinitely elastic neck, and a one-eyed parasol with a huge, lolling tongue. With its scenes of mass destruction in Tokyo and its climactic mushroom cloud, the movie owes a psychic debt to the atomic-monster movies of the 50s and 60s, but its overriding tone is one of endless, giddy invention. In Japanese with subtitles. 124 min. Facets Cinematheque.

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