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Archive for March 13th, 2010

The opening sequence finds a young schoolgirl battered and bruised wandering the streets of Shibuya in a daze with a bomb strapped to her chest. The countdown on the bomb is ticking down and she finds herself slapbang in Shibuya Square which is full of people. She shouts a warning to the people around who scatter before the bomb explodes instantly killing the girl. But this is no ordinary school girl judging by the shattered remains of a metal yo-yo after the blast. She is a “special detective” schoolgirl cop.

A plane lands in Tokyo with a young girl in a straight jacket and a mask a-la Hannibal Lecter in Silence Of The Lambs. She is Saki Asamiya, deported from the US for having kicked the shit out of a couple of police officers. She is placed in a maximum security unit but before long Saki breaks out and tries to escape but is overpowered. Hung out to dry in chains she is given a choice by her old mentor (Saki is a schoolgirl cop who went on the run and escaped to New York to be with her mother). Go undercover in a school which the authorities believe the students are accessing a website which is used to show them how to make bombs. The students are then coerced into becoming “human suicide bombers”. The same website also shows a clock with the words Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the first Atomic bomb on Japan) is also counting down which suggests a massive bomb is scheduled to explode. Saki befriends a bullied girl at the school and makes enemies with the popular bitchy trio under the leadership of Reika who is a renegade “special detective”. Saki manages to get some information somehow about the mysterious organisation behind the website and sets about to stop them but before she is able to do that, she is lured into a trap and beaten up. When she wakes up in an old abandoned factory a bomb is strapped to her with the 3 minute countdown starting to tick. Just about throwing the explosive device in the nick of time before it detonates, Saki dons a skin tight battle suit and armed with her trademark steel yo-yo heads to an old warehouse for the final encounter with the organisation. Does she manage to succeed and stop doomsday?

This is the 4th entry in the popular Sukeban Deka movies which started out in the late 80’s and before they came out there was a TV series which lasted a couple of years. I’ve only seen the first movie and that was pretty good but how does it fare with the new one. It wasn’t too bad. The two leads were both in the idol industry at the time of the movie’s release which boosted the number of people watching it in Japan’s cinemas. Aya Matsuura and Rika Ishikawa did well in their roles but this is popcorn fodder at the end of the day. You’ve seen it once and you’re unlikely to want to watch it again.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Blue Light (2003)

17 year old high school boy Shuichi Kushinori is planning the perfect murder. His stepdad Sone has come back into his life when things between himself, his mother and his stepsister have been idyllic. His natural father died when he was young so his mother remarried. Then his stepdad began to become abusive and violent due to his alcoholism. Eventually Shuichi’s mother divorced from Sone but all of a sudden years later he turns up on the doorstep and his mother lets him back into the house. When the same pattern of abuse begins again, Shuichi fears for his mother and stepsister and vows to protect his family by getting rid of Sone. After some inspiration from a TV documentary he’s watching, Shuichi gets the necessary parts to implement his dastardly plan. Firstly he injects his stepfather’s carton of Sake with cyanide – enough for it to weaken him. Then the deadly act of murder happens when he skips out of class from school, races back home whilst his stepfather is asleep and electrocutes him. The police questions him but eventually they come to the conclusion that Sone died from natural causes. Shuichi thinks he’s gotten away with it as he has hidden the instruments that did the deed on a beach far from his home. However, there’s never such a thing as a perfect murder as Shuichi is about to find out.

A classmate of his who has also been skipping school corners Shuichi where he works at a local convenience store and tells him he knows he’s killed his stepdad as he followed him home from school the day he murdered Sone. He blackmails Shuichi into giving him some money which he agrees. He comes up with a plan that whilst he is working at the store late at night his classmate should fake a robbery by threatening him with a knife and taking the money from the shop till. However during the fake robbery, Shuichi changes his mind and after a brief struggle on the floor behind the cash counter stabs his classmate to death. Again the police comes calling and when they begin to investigate 2 deaths linking to Shuichi he thinks he can also get away by bluffing his way through questioning. But the net is closing on him with his stepsister and female classmate also asking whether he has killed somebody and the police beginning to mount the evidence against him. What does Shuichi do?

The Blue Light stars 2 famous popstars in Japan. First off the male lead Kazunari Ninomiya who plays Shuichi is in the popular J-pop male group Arashi whilst the role of his female friend Noriko in the movie is portrayed by former Hello!Project soloist Aya Matsuura. A very interesting film which asks the question – how do you get rid of somebody who is ruining your family life? Is it by legal means or do you go down the route of Shuichi by murder instead. I loved this film – a great script with some excellent acting from Ninomiya and Matsuura.

Although I saw the twist at the end coming a mile off, it still manages to shock you. You feel and sympathise initially with Shuichi’s plight on why he wants to protect his family from the nasty stepdad but all the sympathy goes out of the window once the murder takes place and especially when the 2nd one happens. Loved the Pink Floyd song Post-War Dream which plays at the beginning and the end of the film – rather appropriate for how the film finishes if you listen to the lyrics carefully. I found watching this movie quite refreshing from the normal Japanese action/drama ones I usually see. A very enjoyable drama film which takes it’s time with the plot. A taut script, brilliant directing and 2 superb leads make this a great film to watch. Recommended for anybody that wants to see something different from the usual Hollywood/Asian blockbusters. Two thumbs up.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Horobonai is a small town in Hokkaido. Once a prosperous place to live thanks to a Canadian village theme park but is now a deadbeat town as the theme park has gone under. Into this town rides Eikichi Onizuka on his bike to teach at the local school. On his way to the school, Onizuka witnesses a young boy Raku trying to committ suicide by laying across some railway tracks. Whilst distracted by Onizuka staring at him the young boy moves out of the way of the oncoming train. Onizuka grabs the boy and takes him to school where another drama is being played out. Yet another suicide attempt is taking place as a young girl Ayano, daughter to the local businessman who built the Canadian theme park and more or less controls the town is on the roof of the school ready to jump to her death. Onizuka drags Raku to the roof and tell him if he wants to kill himself properly he should do it like her and jump first. Ayano meanwhile decides not to jump but Raku loses his balance on the ledge of the roof and grabs Onizuku. Both fall off the roof but luckily a large mat has been placed underneath them which breaks their fall. This is Onizuka’s introduction to the new school in which he’s teaching.

Onizuka takes Raku home to his farm and is invited to stay there by his parents. He finds that Raku does not have any friends except for his pet calf Patricia, is bullied constantly and is in love with Ayano. Ayano also has no friends since the rest of the class think she’s a spoilt rotten teen with plenty of money. She seems to have given up on everything around her. Besides she’s scheduled to move to London by her father who has plans to demolish the school and build an incinerator which could revitalise the town back to it’s glory days. One day Raku is dragged by 3 of his bullies to the back of the school where they have plans to beat him up. Onizuka grabs Ayano and takes her and the rest of the class there to see what’s going on. Once there he starts to takes bets on who will win a fight between Raku and the chief bully Chiyubusa. He tells Raku to stand up for himself as Ayano might like him. Although badly beaten up, Raku takes his punches like a man and even manages to get the bully on the deck with a good smack. This seems to make his classmates appreciate his bravery until Onizuka tells them friendship isn’t about taking sides in a fight.

Meanwhile a young female journalist is in Hokkaido on the trail of a serial criminal and the evidence points to Onizuka.

GTO was a popular manga in the 90’s about a former biker who becomes a teacher and how his unusual methods of teaching turns around the lives of the pupils that he teaches. It was then shown as a dorama starring Takeshi Sorimachi before being turned into a movie. This movie marks the end of the live action franchise of GTO and it was a good one at that. None of the characters in the series and special appear in the movie. Nothing seems to have changed about Onizuka. He’s still got the same old swagger about him and comes into town to stir things up for the disinterested townfolk and students. This movie ignores all the previous storyline and goes off on another tangent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it would have been great to see some kind of finality on what happened to his previous students, school and love life. A fantastic movie to end the live action franchise on though and I will be sad not to see anymore new episodes/movie on Onizuka. A suitable way to say goodbye to Onizuka. Let’s hope they revisit him sometime in the future, preferably with Takashi Sorimachi in the role. After all Onizuka is Japan’s favourite teacher.

No trailer but a clip from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Message From Space

The people of the planet Jullucia have been overrun by an invading army called the Gavanas led by Emperor Rockseia. The Jullucians pray to their Gods who sends out 8 “liabee” seeds into space. Princess Esmerilda is asked to follow the seeds in her ship – a flying sailing ship! The seeds find their way into the hands of space speed-racers Aaron and Shiro, spoilt rich kid Meia and General Garuda who’s been fired from the military for giving robots under his command a funeral!! Whoever finds one of these glowing seeds (which resemble a walnut by the way!) is chosen to fight for the Jullicians and no matter if they throw the seeds away it’ll always come back and seek the chosen person out. When the Gavanas invade our Solar system using a flying planet (no, you have read this right!), the Earth sends out 3 battlecruisers to counter the threat but it ends in failure. The Earth is held at ransom and the citizens asked to surrender. To show the power of the Gavanas, they destroy the Moon. It’s all down to the chosen ones to defeat the Gavanas and restore peace and justice to the galaxy.

This ultra rare Japanese B-movie came out in 1978, jumping on the Star Wars bandwagon a year after it came out and there are plenty of elements ripped from it as well. I was lucky enough to find a copy on Ebay from a guy in Hannover, Germany. Only cost me a couple of quid so it was a bargain. This movie is one of those that’s so bad it’s great. There are some English personnel in the movie as well which includes the American actor Vic Morrow who plays General Garuda. Surprising to see the fabulous kick-ass actioner Sonny Chiba who was huge in Japan during the 70’s in this sci-fi flick. As I was saying earlier there are some Star Wars set pieces that have been blatantly copied from it such as a Death Star trench-like run during the finale, a sword fight very much like the Obi-Wan/Darth Vader duel, the destruction of the Moon (Alderaan) and a cute little robot called Beebo who’s the sidekick of General Garuda. British viewers might recall a Japanese puppet series called Star Fleet (X-Bomber in Japan) during 1982 that featured a flying sailing ship called The Skull – I’m sure that once you see the sailing ship in this movie it will jog a few memories of that great series. I’ve no idea why Kinji Fukasaku who directed this movie wanted to copy stuff from Star Wars or Star Fleet. As far as I’m concerned there’s nowt better than the Japanese for coming up with originalality in movies. They might not have the greatest of storylines but they’re just so imaginative and that’s why I love these type of films. Good old fashioned good vs evil movie – you just can’t beat ’em.

The plot of Message From Space is terrible, the acting is horrible at best so the only saving grace really is the colourful costumes the characters have plus the wonderful special effects during the dogfights in space, the ground battle between the Jullucians and Emperor Rockseia’s troops not forgetting the superb explosions on display as Aaron and Shiro assault the Gavanas fortress in their ships. The acting and plot may be bad but it’s all good fun.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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My Sister My Love (2007)

As children, twins Yori and Iku were very close to each other. So close that Yori made a ring from flowers and said that he was going to marry her when he was older to his parents. They laughed it off. Now they are teenagers and Iku finds her brother giving her the cold shoulder and she doesn’t understand why. The truth is that Yori is surpressing the distinctly unsisterly feelings he has for Iku and the only way he can do that is by avoiding her. This isn’t easy as both share the same bedroom. One evening, Yori has a conversation with his sister on her bed and kisses her. She doesn’t stop him from doing so and both sleep in the same bed that night. After they’ve gone to school the next day their mother tidies up the bedroom and finds that Yori’s bed has been unslept and she starts suspecting what’s going on.

The twins sneak off to a science lab in school for a kissing session but a female admirer of Yori’s finds out what’s happening though she keeps it all to himself. A boy called Yano Hiruka also likes Iku and he seems to know of the incestious relationship but he also keeps it to himself. Nobody else at the school knows what’s going on. Their mother starts to quiz about their love life over breakfast. Yori states that he has a girlfriend but his sister hasn’t got a boyfriend yet. This seems to partly satisfy her curiousity.

Doubts start to come to Yori’s mind if the relationship will ever work out and he should really stop it thanks to Iku’s friend Tomoka when she points out that it’s wrong for him to love his sister. To get over Iku he goes out with her but he treats her like dirt even though she doesn’t seem to mind this. This upsets Iku who starts dating Yano. It doesn’t seem to make any difference though. The siblings feelings for each other are so strong that both their respective partners know that they can’t win over their hearts. But this is one relationship that will not be tolerated by society. What will happen to both of them?

Being that the subject matter is about incest, it was only natural that this movie about forbidden love would be controversial. I think it’s a beautiful movie about a doomed romance between brother and sister. Many will find the movie boring as it does drag on at times but make no mistake the final scene between Iku and Yori in a field makes it all worthwhile and some might find it moving enough to shed a tear. I don’t expect people to really like this movie, for a lot of you will find it uneasy to watch.

Jun Matsumoto and Nana Eikura play their roles well enough as does Ayaka Komatsu and Yuta Hiroaka. Any film about incest is bound to be difficult to watch and for many that’s enough not to watch it but this movie is tastefully done. It’s an arty film after all. A lot of you will also find your patience wearing thin by the long dragged out scenes at times but stick with it. You’ll be rewarded at the end by the painful scene. Please give it a chance.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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Low budget zombie splatter fest made as a homage to George Romero’s movies. A UFO crashes into a forest near Mount Fuji with the resulting radiation leaking from it making zombies appear. There are several groups of people going about their business in the forest at the time. We meet a pop singer out for a photo shoot. There’s also a small army group out on manoeuvres, who are dealing with the dead body of someone who hanged herself. There are a couple of gangsters, out in the woods to carry out a hit. Finally, there’s a hotel owner and his pregnant mistress, who are bickering. Unfortunately for them, their lives are all about to change. There are also lots of bodies buried in the forest that are affected by the radiation from the crashed saucer, and a general from the Second World War that is part of a ghostly legend. His body lies in a cave, where his followers have deified him. Since this is a zombie movie, all of the dead people start coming out of the ground and attacking the living.

It’s a very gory comedy drama which has some really gross out moments. There’s even a reference to Peter Jackson’s movie Braindead involving a zombie baby that uses its umbilical cord to strangle and attack people, and can fly!! A pity about the ending which sucks big time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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Romance Of Darkness (2006)

Based on a manga this movie has a young schoolgirl Rikka as the only survivor when a bus crashes from a bridge into a river. However, why she survived and nobody else becomes clear when she starts craving for water and meets another girl with the same name as herself who comes from an underwater race and whose leader wants Rikka to join them.

I thought that this would be an interesting movie after reading the movie plot but it was nothing special really except Keiko Kitagawa. Average at best.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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Koisuru Madori (2007)

Also known as Tokyo Serendipidity and starring the beautiful Yui Aragaki. The story is about a young girl Yui, a college student who moves into her first own apartment, where she begins her new independent life in a big city. Soon after the upstairs neighbor Takashi sparks her interest.

A subtle and sweet movie which has a good slow pace to it. Gaki is such a pretty and charming person to watch. She plays a character who tries to get an estranged couple back together even though she likes the man herself. It’s nice and refreshing to see a concept of a person giving up love for someone else. I really liked this movie especially the happy ending.

No trailer unfortunately.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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When I Turned Nine (2004)

Fascinating movie set during the early 70’s in Korea of a 9 year old lad Yeo-Min, the so-called top man in the pecking order at his school who forms a friendship of sorts with Woo-Rim, a new snotty girl that transfers to his class.

This is a wonderful little movie. A number of scenes will make you wince which includes a brutal beating of Yeo-Min by his teacher who you’ll hate. But even though Yeo-Min might try to act hard he also has his tender side in that he’s saving up all his money to buy his mother who was blinded in one eye in a factory accident a pair of dark sunglasses. The film looks great and the child actors are superb in their roles. I enjoyed it immensely.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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A young woman finds herself in the slammer after killing a member of a yakuza clan who killed her father. 2 years later and out on release, she teams up with her old cellmates to kill the rest of the yakuza clan. As this is pinky violence, you get the usual shenanigans that happens with these type of movies. This has got the great Miki Sugimoto in it’s cast – one of the most popular actresses to star in pinky violence movies. It’s was good value for it’s entertainment.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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The One Missed Call trilogy comes to it’s conclusion with a group of Japanese students that go on a graduation trip to South Korea. Back in Japan Asuka is plotting revenge against her classmates for bullying a girl named Pam until she hanged herself. She forwards a cursed cell phone message to Azusa, one of the bullies. The cursed call includes a message saying that you can get a death exemption by forwarding it to someone else, forcing the people who receive it to choose between being killed or condemning someone in their cell phone’s memory to death. A girl named Emily tracks down the origin of the calls and attempts to put a stop to them before the call gets forwarded to her.

Much better than the 2nd movie with some innovative deaths involved including one by washing machine!! It’s great to see Maki Horikita playing such an evil character for a change although you sympathise that she was bullied at school. At the end there’s still no proper explanation as to what the hell went down but still I liked this movie. A good end to finish off the trilogy.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Akihabara@Deep (2006)

Set in Tokyo’s otaku mecca Akihabara, “Akihabara@DEEP” tells the story of five otaku who drop out of society and end up founding their own successful IT venture called Crook. But Nakagomi, president of an influential electronics company called Digital Capital, will do anything to get his hands on Crook.

A decent size cast, a great villain, interesting enough story and a little insight into Akihabara are the main reasons I liked Akihabara@DEEP.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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