Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March 12th, 2010

The 2nd installment in this 4 part movie series starring Meiko Kaji as the heroine prisoner Matsu (Scorpion).

As the film opens, Matsu has been left to rot in solitary confinement for 1 whole year since the events of the 1st film. The prison has been quiet with none of the other female prisoners rebelling since Matsu’s been sent underground. However during a visit of the prison by an inspector, Matsu embarrasses the warden in front of the inspector which makes him a laughing stock in front of everybody. The prisoners try to riot but it is easily quelled. As punishment everybody is made to work in a quarry. Matsu though is mock crucified to a tree trunk. The warden out for revenge asks 4 of his guards to take care of her. Watched by everybody to see, Matsu is violently raped by 4 masked guards. All the while the warden is gloating from above the quarry. When Matsu catches him with a smirk on his face, she gives him one of her infamous dark stares and you can guess then how this whole sorry episode is going to end.

During transportation from the quarry back into the prison, 6 female prisoners led by Oba beat the crap out of Matsu. Believing that she’s dead, the wagon carrying the prisoners stop whilst the guards can check that it’s true but Matsu is more resilient than that. The 2 guards are overpowered and killed by the prisoners. One is left naked with a large tree trunk impaled in his privates. When the bodies of the 2 guards are found by the warden, a large manhunt is started to find the prisoners. Matsu and the rest find an abandoned village in the wilderness. The only inhabitants are a pack of feral dogs. They are killed by the prisoners who eat them. After various confrontations with guards and 3 male tourists who rape one of the prisoners to death, the 7 prisoners take some people hostage on a bus. How will this situation end? Will Matsu have her revenge on the vicious warden?

Fantastic. I was impressed with the 1st film in the series but this one take Matsu’s story up another level. Meiko Kaji has lost none of her touch from the her debut as Matsu showing that action speak louder than words. Matsu is beautiful, captivating, deadly and a true survivor in every sense of the word. She’s only given 5 words to say in the film but she manages to dominate the entire time she’s onscreen just by giving one of those looks that kill. This time her vendetta is with the warden himself who has a deep grudge against her.As with the 1st film in the series, the director Shunya Ito uses more innovative techniques that I’ve never seen before. Sudden silences, brilliant use of colour in certain sequences and surreal moments. The director is a genius and should be commended for trying out something different. Jailhouse 41 is full of violence and brutality. Not much of a plot with little character development but that’s not really what you want to see is it. What everybody wants to see is Matsu get her payback on those that have wronged her. This series just gets better and better. You can watch this even if you haven’t seen the 1st movie but it would make sense to see it as you’ll get the story on Matsu’s background. Two thumbs up. Go see.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Swing Girls (2004)

A group of girls decide to skip remedial math class as an excuse to take lunches for the school baseball team as they’ve forgotten them. The trip to where they’re playing is a calamity but they finally arrive there but not before the lunch boxes have gone off due to being exposed too much in the sun. Naturally those that eat the lunches start being violently ill and get carted off to hospital. Even the school band gets ill. The band’s leader Nakamura has to audition for new members whilst they recover so he gets the girls to take their place or he’ll inform the teachers that they were the ones responsible for making everybody ill. So they join up and Nakamura decides to change the concept of the band to a big band instead of a brass one. Besides it’s an excuse for the girls to avoid going to math class. None of the girls have touched instruments before so Nakamura’s task of teaching them how to play is a difficult one. Time goes on and the girls somehow manage to be competent in playing their instruments. But just as it’s time for them to debut in a baseball match. the brass band members return having recovered from their illness. They are no longer needed. This thrills the girls as it was only an excuse for them to dodge the maths classes. However once they step outside, they all start crying and realise how much they liked playing.

To cut the story short, some of the girls and Nakamura decide to reform their band and raise some funds to buy cheap crappy instruments. They enlist the help of their maths tutor who’s a big jazz enthusiast to guide them. Their performance improves dramatically. A high school band festival is announced and the girls send off an audition tape so they can take part in it. The only big band to perform there as the rest of the entrants are all brass bands. Will they succeed and triumph against all odds at the festival?

This is such a fantastic feel-good comedy. There’s nothing like a film about zeroes who get to be heroes. It’s a winning formula in a movie and one we’ve seen countless times – the underdog overcoming adversity. So why am I recommending this film then? Firstly the script – it’s got plenty of laughs and sight gags aplenty. The mood of the film is such that you’re always grinning whilst watching it. That’s the aim of Swing Girls really – to make you (the audience) come away after watching with a smile on your face and it works fantastically well. There’s nothing new or original in the story. The typical high school stereotypes you get in teenage films are all here for you to see and you can guess how the plot will take shape but there’s nothing wrong with that. None of the characters are fleshed out at all and you get no backstory on them. This film concentrates solely on the band’s rags to riches story. Stand out moments in Swing Girls include a brilliantly staged wild boar chase through a forest punctuated by Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World tune in the background (you really have to see this sequence to see how superb it is) and the finale involving the battle of the bands. I guarantee this will get some of you toetapping (it did with me anyway). What amazes me more is that this is like a true story of sorts. The cast had never played instruments before at all so they really did have to learn how to play properly. It is really them playing as a band in the film. They even had a small tour in Japan to prove to people how good they had all become. There’s just so much to recommend about this film. A funny storyline, great cast of characters and an ending that gives a warm glow in your heart. Sometimes it’s a film with a simple formula that’s the best.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Search-and-rescue diver Daisuke Senzaki finds himself in a life-or-death rescue situation that not only tests his will and physical limits, but forces him to come to terms with personal issues of love, trust and redemption.

Umizaru is apparently a popular franchise in Japan and as such has had a 11 part dorama series and 2 movies released. It’s more or less an action film to show how great the Japanese Sea Diving Rescue Units are. I enjoyed the film but thought there was far too many slushy sentimental bits between Daisuke and his girlfriend. Maybe it was just me but I was dying for them to ditch this crap and just get on with the rescuing. The special effects are pretty decent with many pyrotechnics going off interspersed with some CGI stuff thrown in as well. I’m assuming that character development was shown during the dorama series as there isn’t any at all in the movie. The makers obviously assume we know the characters from having watched the series and the 1st movie so they just go straight into the disaster scenario. The action sequences are very good and provide a lot of excitement for the viewer. It’s obvious why this movie and series came to be so popular. In the lead male character of Daisuke Senzaki with his sense of loyalty to the diving team we have a rugged good looking man whom the ladies will swoon over, for the men they’ll love the exciting heart pounding action. There’s something for everybody here. If you thought that only the might of Hollywood could deliver action movies will be surprised by how good the Japanese are at making one. It’s decent enough and has got plenty to keep anybody entertained but you won’t find anything new by watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Read Full Post »

The End Of Evangelion (1997)

End Of Evangelion is a replacement of sorts for episodes 25 and 26 of the anime series. The Angel threat is over for NERV but the mysterious SEELE organisation has plans of it’s own. After realising that Gendo Ikari has his own agenda with the Human Instrumentality Project, SEELE plan to take control of NERV by force. They try first to hack into NERV’s three super computers The Magi – Melchoir, Balthazar and Casper (named after the 3 wise men). That plan fails when the creator of the computers Ritsuko Akagi sets up a system to protect it. And so with the Japanese Strategic Self Defence Force (JSSDF) army at their disposal, SEELE launches a huge attack on NERV headquarters. Although NERV has successfully withstood each Angel’s attack, it doesn’t take that long for the JSSDF to enter the headquarters and start massacaring the personnel inside. But what about the Eva pilots – where are they to defend the base? Shinji is cowering in a corner distraught at recent events which have split his mind and Asuka is in a coma after the attack by the 16th Angel. She’s been placed in her Eva unit and dropped to the bottom of a lake to spare her life. The other Eva pilot – Rei Ayanami confronts Gendo Ikari about his plan to initialise Third Impact, end the world and reunite with his dead wife.

With the remaining NERV staff holed up in their command centre willing to make a last stand, Captain Misato Katsuragi finds Shinji, manages to eventually persuade him to defend the base in his Eva but not before she’s mortally wounded. Asuka meanwhile has awakened from her coma and launches her Eva unit from the lake to take on SEELE’s new mass produced Eva’s. She manages to wipe all of them out within the time limit the battery power of her Eva unit has left. But SEELE’s Eva reform and rip Asuka and her Eva unit apart, supposedly killing her inside her cockpit. In this time Rei has initialised Third Impact and the world starts to come to an end. A black moon (the Egg Of Lilith) emerges from the Geofront which was underneath NERV’s base. Human AT Field disappears and all life forms revert back to LCL (a yellow liquid). Shinji in his Eva unit is given a choice – let all the human race return back to liquid or choose life. What will Shinji decide to do?

A fitting end to what is one of my all time favourite anime series. It’s a shame to see so many of the characters in the anime series get bumped off in the movie including the awesome Misato. To see them killed in such a brutal and horrifying fashion is hard to take in especially when you’ve grown attached to them. The action really cranks up in this movie with many exciting set pieces including the storming of NERV HQ by the military but for me it’s Asuka’s battle against the new Eva’s that provided the best sequence for me as it made me happy at first that she had totally destroyed them but that soon turned to despair when they reform and tear Asuka and her Eva limb from limb. It’s very hard to watch. The music for the movie also plays a huge part with the best being the suicide song Komm Susser Todd (German for Come Sweet Death) played as the world comes to an end and the classical piece Air On A G-String during Asuka’s scrap. End of Evangelion is a superb movie that’s full of emotion, is explicitly violent and filled with brilliant animation. For anime fans that have never seen Evangelion then what are you waiting for? Go out, see the series and then watch the movie. Evangelion is the best anime of the 90’s in my opinion.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Survive Style 5+ (2004)

A man who’s just murdered his wife and buried her corpse in a forest upon returning back to his homefinds she’s come back from the dead and out for his blood! A young woman who makes TV commercials thinks the odd situations she makes up in her mind for new commercials are so funny but nobody else is impressed by them. A trio of young burglars break into houses with two of them fighting to control their new found feelings for each other. An executive man takes his wife and kids to a hypnotist show only to find himself being turned into a bird. When the hypnotist is killed onstage, the man has to stay as a bird and finally a British hitman along with his translator who’s come over to Japan to do a job and is interested in what people do with their lives. These are the 5 plotlines in this movie.

Survive Style 5+ is one of the most bizarre but also the most wildly inventive movie I’ve ever come across. It’s also incredibly funny filled with dark humour. Definitely one of the most original and totally over the top plots coupled with surreal dialogue and situations. The person that came up with this movie deserves a big pat on the back.

It’s about 5 separate storylines which intertwine with each other at some stage or another. My favourite is without a shadow of a doubt the one with the dead wife who just keeps coming back again and again to torment and kick her husband’s ass all over the house in which she’s been murdered. He tries several ways of getting rid of her including stabbing, a bottle over the head, hell even cutting her up into parts but she just won’t stay dead. She’s immortal. It’s really hilarious when she comes back for the 5th or is it 6th time with detachable arms which when fired pursue her husband. The most weird story in this movie is the one about the hypnotised man who thinks he’s a bird. All of the cast do extremely well in their roles and I liked Vinnie Jones as the gaijin hitman who in a parody of the usual character he portrays asks the people he comes across “what is your function in life”! Truly a one of a kind movie. I guarantee you won’t have seen anything like this before so for that I would tell everybody to check this superb movie out.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

The movie begins in 1973 when Gamera dies fighting a group of his arch nemesis Gyaos. In the present day Toru, a young boy, is dealing with the death of his mother a year before. The boy notices an odd red light on an island in the harbour. Swimming over to investigate Toru finds a glowing red stone and an egg from which hatches a tiny turtle. Toru names the turtle Toto, then takes it home as a pet. He is forced to hide Toto as his father won’t allow a pet. To Toru’s amazement Toto begins it grow rapidly and in a few days is almost as big as Toru himself. More amazing is the fact that Toto can fly. Meanwhile there are reports of missing ships in the sea. No one is sure what’s going on. Whats going on is a giant monster (Zedus) from under the sea has begun to develop a taste for human flesh and he soon comes ashore where there are plenty of people to feed upon. Will Toto be able to grow fast enough to save his friend Toru?

At it’s heart this is a kids film and completely different from the trilogy of Gamera movies that came out in the 90’s where it was more of a serious and darker tone. I still like this kaiju flick though. Very surprised at the liberal amount of blood – human and monster considering that the target audience was specifically kids. The movie also serves as a nice introduction to those that might not have seen or heard about Gamera before – chronicling his past very briefly and also his rebirth. The story might drag a little bit and you’re just waiting until a monster comes and start smashing things up. The action short though it is – is definitely worth waiting for. The special effects are superb especially for the monster Zedus who’s like a huge lizard with spikes all over his body.

With Godzilla now officially in semi-retirement, it’s been left for Gamera to pick up the baton for kaiju movies. Unfortunately Gamera The Brave bombed big style in Japan but I’m still hoping that new movies will be made in the future. I’m sure hardcore kaiju fans were left sorely disappointed by this effort – minimal fight sequences between the creatures and a storyline involving too many children. But hopefully with Gamera now a fully fledged adult the studios can produce something a bit more dark again. My dream would be to see Godzilla take on Gamera but it’s unlikely that scenario will ever happen. Those that were expecting something like the 90’s Gamera movie trilogy will be left wanting.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Young lad Tadashi and his mother move to his senile grandfather’s place in the country after his parents divorce. During a local shrine festival, Tadashi is bitten on the head by somebody in traditional dragon costume. As this has happened, Tadashi is given the prestigious title of Kirin Rider – a person who’s the local protector of peace and justice. Folklore stories state that the Kirin Rider should climb a local mountain to claim a sword guarded by the Great Goblin. Strange things are happening in Japan as children are snatched from their homes by unknown beings and soon enough robotic monsters made from the metal junk that people have thrown away start attacking human beings. A note from his grandfather saying he’s on Goblin Mountain makes Tadashi attempt to conquer his fears and rescue him. But it’s all a trick and soon enough on the mountain he sees a couple of weird and wonderful creatures in front of his eyes which includes a kappa, the beautiful river princess Kawahime and the man who was leading the dragon costume at the shrine festival. He explains that the creatures are all yokai (beings who live amongst humans but never let themselves be seen). They come in all shapes and sizes – humanlike or otherwise. Tadashi was specifically chosen to be the Kirin Rider as the yokai need his help. The evil Lord Kato and his henchwoman Agi are planning to invade the human world and destroy mankind by using all the rage of the world that have been collected. If Tadashi and the good yokai don’t stop him, Kato could become the ruler of Earth. Will Tadashi fulfill his destiny as the Kirin Rider and defeat Lord Kato?

The Great Yokai War totally blew me away in all departments – from the wonderful story to the awesome special effects to the superb design of the yokai creatures. It’s just a joy to look at. This excellent fantasy movie was directed by the maverick Takashi Miike and for him this was quite a tame one considering he’s more akin to using gore and horror. A totally inspired choice for a director. The person to garner my attention in this movie and the main reason I watched this was for the alluring Chiaki Kuriyama, probably the greatest villianness to ever appear on the big screen. She’s absolutely mesmerising in this movie as the sadistic dressed in white Agi. Watch for the totally surreal sequence when she punches the shit out of Sunesokuri (who’s a sock puppet). If you’re interested in Japanese folklore then you’re gonna love The Great Yokai War. As a family movie I think the kids will enjoy it just to see the monsters and yokai on display – they might not like the subtitles though. Just sit back and prepare to be entertained.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

Read Full Post »

One Missed Call (2003)

A college student named Yumi is out in a bar with a bunch of her friends when suddenly one of them called Yoko receives a call with a strange ring-tone on it. She gets the message “One Missed Call” on her phone. Upon checking the call, she finds a voicemail that originates from 2 days in the future from her own cellphone which ends with Yoko screaming. Sure enough at the exact time and date of the odd phone call, Yoko calls her friend only for it to end with the same hideous scream. She has thrown herself from a railway bridge in the path of an oncoming train. Then another one of her friends who was also at the same party falls down a lift shaft on campus after getting the same call. But worse is to come with Yumi’s best friend Natsumi receiving the dreaded “One Missed Call” message with a video of her face. She loses it completely and this allows a television crew to exploit the situation and make a vow to protect her by performing an exorcism live on TV at the appointed hour of her forewarned death – not that they care for her but it would make good ratings. The exorcism fails however and Natsumi dies a terrible death live on air. Suddenly Yumi’s worst fears come true as it’s now her turn to get the death call. Teaming up with a stranger Yamashita whose daughter also died in the same circumstances, can they solve the mystery before Yumi dies? Who or what is behind the calls? Why does each victim have a candy stuck in their mouth?

I’ve always been a fan of Takashi Miike’s work (in my opinion the guy’s a genius) but at the end of this movie I was left scratching my head and asking myself “what the hell is going on”? It just made no sense whatsoever the ending. It’s a shame as I thought One Missed Call was a worthwhile horror movie. He was probably trying to make something similar to Ringu, I don’t think he succeeded in topping it anyway. That said though, One Missed Call is dripping with atmosphere, full of dread and foreboding with some nasty deaths involved (watch Natsumi’s death for pure horror!). The blurred camera angles, gore and that creepy tune on the cell phone really add another dimension to what could have been another predictable J-horror movie. It would have given this 4 or more stars had the ending made some sense. It spoiled what was a great scary movie for me.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Nana 2 (2006)

The movie continues straight after the events of the first with Nana O and Ren having reunited with each other. During the annual Summer fireworks display, The Black Stones members and Nana K make a wish of what they desire – Nana K wants a boyfriend and Nana O hoping that it’ll come true. However cracks soon start to appear in the once solid friendship between the two girls when Nana K allows herself to be seduced and bedded by TRAPNEST leader Takumi, this after being warned by Nana O that he’s bound to break her heart. Nana K is so embarrased by what’s happened that she doesn’t tell Nana O. Their relationship is further eroded by several other episodes. One night when Nana O comes home she finds the place empty and Nana K has moved out. This marks an all time low in both girls’ relationship. Can both Nanas rebuild the relationship with each other?

I’ve got mixed feelings about this sequel, it just didn’t provide the warmth I felt in the first between the two main characters. Nana K has changed completely from the sweet and cute woman to being well how can I say this nicely a slut! It doesn’t take much persuading for her to jump into bed straight away with a man. Her attitude leaves a lot to be desired especially hurting Nobu’s feelings. I really didn’t like her at all in this movie. As you see both Nana’s relationship between them eroding you just know that things will never be the same again. The highlight for me in the movie was Mika Nakashima who shines once more as the cool rocker Nana O. There was a couple of cast changes for Nana 2 which really didn’t help things either. The makers of Nana failed to see that it would become a runaway hit so when they fast tracked plans for a sequel, 3 of the actors (Aoi Miyazaki, Ken’ichi Matsuyama and Ryuhei Matsuda) were either not interested in coming back or couldn’t because they were tied into other projects. It does hurt the sequel especially the role of Nana K. Yui Ichikawa does her best but she’s not a patch on Miyazaki. .The strong music so prevailent in the first doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. I always knew it would be hard to top Glamorous Sky. That said the music isn’t poor or anything – it’s just not memorable that’s all. Disappointing is all I can say. I was expecting so much more from the sequel. I just didn’t like the conflict aspect between the 2 friends and the complete turn in character from Nana K.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Nana (2005)

Nana Komatsu is heading to Tokyo on a snowy night by train to join up with her boyfriend Shoji who’s doing an art course there. She manages to grab a seat by a punk singer also heading to the big city. The other girl also shares the same first name with her – Nana Osaki is a vocalist with a group called The Black Stones. They bond immediately on the train and part when they arrive at their destination. Their paths cross again by coincidence when both try and buy the same apartment. Rather than fighting over the place, they decide to share it together. Even though the two girls look so different in style and in attitude they become quite close friends with Nana Osaki calling Komatsu – ‘Hachi’ as she thinks she shares the same characteristics as a puppy dog – cute and fluffy but becoming dependent on a lot of people.

A tale of 2 completely different people who becomes firm friends and depend on one another in times of need. What really stood out for me from seeing Nana was the outstanding music in it. Glamorous Sky is a belter of a tune. The two lead actress (music artist Mika Nakashima and Aoi Miyazaki) are superb in their roles. Mika as the independent Nana O might look tough and hard on the outside but is really nursing a broken heart whilst Aoi as the sweet and slightly annoying Nana K is heading for a broken heart and also providing us with a narrative throughout. Mika looks painfully thin in the movie (is she like that in real life or was this method acting?) and it made me think that if you grabbed her she’d snap in half very easily. That said she does look cool in the rock clothes she wears. As I said Nana K is annoying at first but you do get to like her by the end even sympathising as she’s dumped by her two-timing boyfriend. Well rounded characters and a sound plotline keep the story chugging along and by the time it’s finished just a shade before 2 hours has passed by.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »