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Archive for September, 2010

Fish Story (2009)

The year is 2012 and a huge comet is set to strike the Earth. An American attempt to destroy it has failed and there’s a last ditch effort using an Indian spaceship to blow up the comet. Cities are abandoned as people flee to higher ground to avoid the resulting tsunami after the impact. In a tiny corner of Tokyo, a record shop is open and the 2 people running the shop are listening to a very special song called Fish Story by a failed 70’s punk band. This song is set to save the world!!

Smart and witty movie about how a forgotten punk rock song (with a mystery within the song) links the lives of several characters who mostly never meet each other. It is set in 4 time periods: 1975, 1982, 2009, and 2012 – with each period having its own set of characters (in essence we’re getting 4 movies rolled into 1). From the ominous setting of 2012 and the end of the world scenario we go back in time to the origins of the song itself and the group that recorded the song, and how the song has touched several people who will become champions of justice and heroes. They include a timid college student in the 1980’s, a man and a doomsday cult in 1999 and a cook who gets involved in a ferry hijacking in 2009. Each story is intriguing and adds another piece to the puzzle and we don’t know how each time period links together until the incredible ending which is fantastic. The acting from all of the cast is brilliant. Fish Story is a magical experience that will entertain and engage you from start to finish. Go see!

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Big Tits Zombie (2009)

Professional stripper Lena has recently returned home to Japan from working in Mexico where she finds herself forced to take a gig at a dead-end small town club, alongside four other similarly down on their luck strippers. But in the absence of customers, the ladies have very little do to occupy their time, outside of the odd catfight. Happening upon a secret room under the club, they uncover a treasure trove of rare occult paraphernalia and literature, amongst which the resident Goth Maria finds a copy of  the Book of the Dead. One innocently murmured incantation later, and the Stripper Five suddenly find themselves faced with a considerably larger audience, who are hungry for flesh indeed.

The majority of viewers will watch this movie based on the title alone. It’s not too bad considering how low budget the whole production is.  There is very little nudity on show which will be disappointing to fans of the AV idols that are the stars of the movie – they look great mind you.  Plenty of cleavage on show if that turns you on!  The gore is predictably CG which I’ve never been a fan of . The comedy is OK though nothing special. What did you expect out of this movie? – something along the lines of Tokyo Gore Police! This is sold largely on sex and nothing more. The American movie Zombie Strippers which has a similar sort of storyline is better than this. I can’t really recommend this unless you’re fans of the AV idols. It’s  a shame as this could have been awesome.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 out of 5

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Memories Of Matsuko (2006)

A young man in his late teens/early twenties, who dreams of becoming a pop star musician and who therefore has left his hometown for Tokyo, is lost somewhere between the vast city and his porn movies compensating his loneliness. He is unexpectedly addressed by his father, whom he hasn’t seen or heard from in 2 years, who tells him that his aunt Matsuko has recently been murdered. He consecutively tells his son to deal with Matsuko’s “aftermath”, including an unbelievably messy and run-down apartment and, more important, the disturbing story of her sad life.

An absolutely amazing movie that blew me away. This masterpiece is so original, so entertaining, and so tragic that its hard to deny its brilliance! While I would say it was fairly sad at times, and you’ll shake your head at the life choices the lead character made, the movie will stay with you. It definitely has tearjerker moments, major ones. It is magnificently crafted, every scene showing a unique beauty in both camera and composition. It sometimes changes to anime and music, making it a very special experience to watch. The character of Matsuko is brilliantly played by the beautiful Miki Nakatani – a performance of a lifetime from her. She truly shines as Matsuko for her effortless ability to switch from drama to comedy. If you’re going to see this movie be prepared to be moved by it. It’s a bitter-sweet drama/comedy that will make you cry but will also touch your heart in a way few movies do. A must-see for any movie fan.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 out of 5

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Symbol (2009)

The 2nd movie by one half of the popular Japanese comedy duo Downtown. If you’re expecting Matsumoto’s 2nd movie to be like his first (Big Man Japan) then you’re in for a surprise as it’s completely different in tone but no less funny nevertheless. Symbol see-saws between two stories and is shown in three chapters which are labeled Education, Implementation and Future. There’s the story of an out-of-shape Mexican wrestler known as “Escargot Man” as he prepares for a title fight in some tiny dusty little village. And simultaneously, there’s the story being told of a Japanese man who awakes to find himself in a large, all white rectangular room with no doors or windows. How are these two stories linked together – well at first they don’t but just wait until the final third when both plots start to combine together in a very hilarious way.

Symbol is a very odd situational comedy. It’s silly yet artsy, thoughtful in parts, anarchic in its delivery and overall plain crazy. I have no idea what it was about though, its meaning or what it’s meant to symbolize. It defies attempts to categorize it. Very unique and entertaining throughout, even though the last fifteen minutes get really bizarre and kind of artsy. This movie is not to be missed. You will probably never see anything quite as weird and funny like this. I loved it. Hitoshi Matsumoto is a clever and intelligent comedian. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Cyber Ninja (1988)

It’s the near-future and the Dark Overlord’s Mechanical Army is attacking the Suwabeh Clan, trying to kidnap Princess Saki. In the heat of the battle, a man’s brother dies. This man’s body was taken by the villain Raimei and transformed into the Cyber Ninja. Years later, the Cyber Ninja’s memories are starting to resurface and he wants to stop Reimei’s plans. That plan, I should mention, is the spilling of Princess Saki’s blood which will bring Dark Overlord back to life!

Quite a decent tokusatsu movie which has an exciting mixture of Kurosawa samurai epics, TRON and the original Star Wars trilogy. Some of the special effects can look silly at times such the Mecha Ninja troops running at double-playback speed. I liked the concept of cyborgs and robots fighting with swords, wearing samurai armors, and knives shooting out from hands. Plus you have to admit that putting ammos into katanas is kind of cool. Not to mention different types of robotic ninjas. This movie isn’t for everybody but if you’re into Japanese tokusatsu then there’s much here to enjoy.

No trailer but here’s the first part of the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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Assault Girls (2009)

Four mercenaries who are taking part in a virtual reality game called Avalon F must team up with each other to defeat a giant sandworm in order to advance in the game.

Visually Assault Girls looks stunning but there’s a lack of plot and character development in this movie. Hardly surprising considering it only runs for 70 mins. This is supposed to be the sequel to the 2001 movie Avalon. There are some great action sequences showing the 3 beautiful mercenary women hunting the giant sandworm with some cool weapons but also there’s a nod to the game Mortal Kombat in which 2 of the mercenaries square off against each other. I think the majority lured to watch this movie by the trailer will ultimately be disappointed – the introduction takes far too long and then there are sequences of the characters walking around desolated landscapes which is boring. The cast is good especially Meisa Kuroki but I think it’s Rinko Kikuchi as Lucifer that steals the show. Overall this movie is far from a classic and from what I’ve come to expect from Mamoru Oshii but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete failure. It’s still very watchable.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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Another fun adventure with Luffy and the crew of the Going Merry. When their ship is taken from them whilst they’re relaxing on a beach, the Straw Hat pirates bump into the Thief Brothers who lead them to the culprits behind the taking of the Going Merry – The Trump Pirates. Things go from bad to worse when Nami also ends up being kidnapped. Eventually the trail leads Luffy and his crew to Clockwork Island which is full of deadly traps. Will they able to save Nami who’s going to be forced to marry the Trump Pirates’ boss and get their ship back?

If you’ve seen the first One Piece movie then you’ll know what to expect from this one. It’s a rip roaring adventure with a good plot and full of comedy, excitement, thrills and spills. The animation is brilliant as always. I really enjoyed this anime movie and look forward to watching the 3rd One Piece movie very soon.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

No trailer for this movie either so got this trailer for Season 2 instead.

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Mother (2009)

A superb and enthralling Korean movie. A simple young man Do-joon (he’s not retarded) gets drunk and, as he goes back home to his worrying mother, he follows a young girl down a seedy path looking to have sex with her. She ignores him and he returns home, as planned…but on the following morning, the girl is found dead on a rooftop and an object placed at the scene of the crime leads to Do-joon. The police guesses he’s guilty, they present him with a document where he pleads guilty which the silly Do-joon signs in his naïveté. Having accepted the guilt for the crime, he’s imprisoned, much to the rage of his affable mother. She knows him better than anyone and is sure he’s not guilty, but the police won’t hear otherwise, and she has no money for a lawyer to thoroughly investigate the case. So, like any concerned mother, she starts playing detective around town trying to solve the mystery behind the girl’s death so she can acquit her son. But as truth after disturbing truth is uncovered, the mother will stop at nothing to save her son’s freedom.

Nominated for an Oscar last year, this is a story about a mother who does anything to make sure her son is released free from prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Played to perfection by Kim Hye-ja, she’s an over-protective, extremely affectionate woman who sells a variety of herbs and medicinal plants and who performs acupuncture to her rich customers in a South Korean city of no name. A good plot will have you guessing right until the very end. A great plot takes it one step further by taking you to the edge. I can’t say enough of how much I was blown away by the story. That’s not to say there aren’t some borrowed elements but they are not so cliché as to make this movie unoriginal. What’s also great is the near absence of music to create suspense and mood in this movie as you will find that it relies almost solely on the characters and events to set the tone of story. It has very simple camera work and doesn’t use fancy techniques or other distracting technical magic to make it work, it just does. This movie comes highly recommended. It won’t disappoint you.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)

Leiji Matsumoto’s classic anime gets a movie sequel. Set several years after the end of the first movie, young Tetsuro is older, wiser and now a freedom fighter with the universe still in the grip of the Machine Empire. A message from Maetel urges Tetsuro to once more board the Galaxy Express 999 train. They visit Maetel’s planet where she was born in the hope that he’ll see her there but he doesn’t. Finally on the planet Mosaic they reunite and go on another adventure. Tetsuro passes the point of no return with the train now set to go right into the heart of the Machine Empire and stop at the terminus on the planet Great Andromeda where Tetsuro hopes to defeat Queen Promethium once and for all and end the tyranny of the machines.

A brilliant movie which ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. It was supposed to bring about a conclusion to the whole saga with Tetsuro leaving his childhood behind and becoming an adult. There are old and well known characters returning. Aside from Tetsuro and Maetel, we have the conductor, Queen Emeraldas and Captain Harlock who is given a more prominent role in this movie. New faces include the mechanical woman, Metaimena who takes over for Claire, who sacrificed her life for Tetsuro’s sake in the first movie. She comes across as rather haughty and self-centered. As with the original, the animation is fairly good for the time and does a fine job of featuring the interestingly bleak and overtly mechanized future that spans the entire galaxy. Top stuff from Matsumoto. One of the best anime ever.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Panic High School (1978)

After a boy commits suicide because of falling grades and a harsh Maths teacher refuses to let a discussion about the incident take place and displays a lack of sensitivity, a disgruntled male pupil runs away from school, steals a rifle with plenty of ammo and goes back to school to kill the teacher at point blank range. Injuring a female classmate and with the police called, he tries to sneak away from the premises but finds the exits and his escape routes blocked. After a chase through school buildings, he is finally cornered in a room where he takes some classmates hostage. With his behavior becoming more erratic, can the tense stand off between himself and the police come to a peaceful solution or will the Special Armed Police Response Unit have to take him out?

A gripping school drama about the failings of the Japanese high school system and it’s effects on pupils. The system places high importance on pupils gaining a university place. They are relentlessly drilled that if they don’t cram up and get into university their future is bleak. The fear by the pupils in failing drives some to kill themselves. Every year there are many suicides in young pupils because of the pressure and still the Education Ministry never learn. The storyline has some foreshadowing of the terrible shootings in Columbine, Ohio that would take place in the US 20 years later. For his directorial debut, Sogo Ishii created a cult gem that’s well worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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A Slit Mouthed Woman 2 (2008)

AKA Carved 2 or The Scissors Massacre.

Three sisters grow up on a chicken farm in a small town of Gifu. The oldest sister, Yukie Sawada, is engaged to be married, the middle sister, Sachiko works at a beauty salon and the youngest, Mayu is on the track team in high school. Their happy , carefree lives are changed forever when Yukie’s ex-boyfriend Suzuki commits an atrocious crime with Mayu as the tragic victim. Half-crazed and bent on revenge against the Sawada family, Suzuki mistakes Mayu for Yukie and pours acid all over her face. Overwhelmed by physical and psychological trauma, Mayu sinks deeper into depression and isolation, unresponsive to her sisters’ encouragement… Meanwhile, chilling news of a serial murderer, who preys on the alumni of Mayu’s high school, sends shock waves through their small town…

Based on a supposedly true story in the 70’s, this is an alternative take on the Japanese urban legend of the Slit Mouthed Woman with a completely different story from the first movie. Although it’s a horror movie, you’d be surprised just how little blood and chills there is in the first hour apart from a nasty stabbing and the tragic acid face attack on the innocent schoolgirl Mayumi who eventually turns into the scissors killer. For the final third, we’re in full bloody horror mode as Mayumi takes her revenge on those that have crossed her. You do feel some sympathy for Mayumi’s plight – ignored by her former friends and subjected to whispers by the rest of the high school pupils for something she didn’t ask to happen to her. However, that sympathy goes out of the window once she goes crazy with the scissors. For those horror fans who are willing to be patient they’ll be rewarded with some great gore by the end. I still think the first movie is better – much more frightening and the killer is more sinister and brutal but this movie is pretty good in it’s own way once it gets going.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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The Warlords (2007)

This is a period epic in every sense of the word. It covers a lot of ground depicting war and it’s consequences. It tells the story of three “brothers” played brilliantly by Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro who make a pact of brotherhood to one another that consists of killing anyone who harms one of the brothers and killing any brother who harms another brother as they lead an army through war after war taking over city after city. The cinematography is outstanding, the budget is huge, the directing brilliant and the war scenes brutal as can be. The battle scenes didn’t pull any punches either. Blood flies across the screen as limbs roll on the ground. It’s truly fantastic. They are the highlight of the film as the first half seems to not pull away from the battlefield. The film is also extremely colorful. Every scene is stunningly vibrant. There are so many memorable scenes from the film and half of that is due to how they were shot. The Warlords is one of the best Chinese war epics I’ve ever seen.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Tokyo Gore School (2009)

For high schooler Fujiwara, everything in life seems to be going according to plan. He’s good-looking, popular, doing well in his studies and, most importantly, is a good fighter and is therefore able to avoid the attentions of any bullies looking for trouble. His idyll life suddenly ends, however, when he is unexpectedly attacked by a group of fellow students, seemingly without any provocation. His investigation into the attack leads him to the discovery of a series of underground websites linking to known social networking sites and to a mysterious and very violent game that is being spread through the students? mobile phone networks. Forced against his will to join in the game in order to prevent his deepest and darkest personal secret from being revealed to the entire school, Fujiwara becomes a key part of a puzzle that is becoming deadlier by the hour. Soon, he is involved in a fight for his life for reasons still unknown to him. But the terrifying truth is about to be revealed.

A bit of a misleading title as there’s hardly any gore in it. It tries to be the next Battle Royale but doesn’t come close to it. Despite it’s failings, I still found it quite an interesting movie filled with some decent fights and chase sequences. There’s hardly any character development until the end when Fujiwara’s dark secret is finally revealed. The acting is adequate but nothing special. Overall it’s worth taking a look but don’t expect anything as special as Battle Royale.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Art Of The Devil (2004)

A rich architect strikes up an illicit affair with an attractive young girl but when she tells him that she’s pregnant, he panics. Eager to shed his mistress, the guy gives her a lot of money, hoping he can buy her disappearance. But she comes back, claiming the money isn’t enough; unfortunately, her ex-lover thinks it’s plenty, and such a large amount entitles him to invite his scumbag buddies over for a beachside gang rape. Humiliated and lusting for vengeance, the girl turns to witchcraft, and teams up with a mysterious warlock to give her ex-lover a deadly curse. Through the dark arts, she eliminates each and every member of her abuser’s family in gruesome fashion.

An average Thai horror. Whilst it’s not perfect or original for that matter, it does have some messy, inventive deaths and some gorgeous women. The story is fairly uninspiring with a plot device that’s been done to death involving a reporter investigating the deaths. The deaths as I’ve said are pretty good and mostly involve the victim coughing up all kinds of nasty stuff including some razors, nails and best of all a pile of eels!! Lead actresses Arisa Wills and Supakson Chaimongkol are both easy on the eye, and provide a little incentive to remain focused, but, in the end, Art of the Devil proves to be nothing more than an average Asian horror flick.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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An improvement on the first movie. In the sequel, Rena (Airi Matsuyama) takes center stage. After murdering a prostitute and a low-life pimp that tried to scam her dad out of all his money, Rena is caught disposing of the bodies by Keiichi (Goki Maeda) and her friends. Keiichi is initially hurt that she couldn?t come to them for help, but they all agree to keep it a secret between them. Rena is later contacted by Detective Oishi and is given information that helps her begin to unravel the mystery of Oyashiro-sama. Like Keiichi in the first movie, she becomes paranoid and feels like she can?t trust her friends anymore. Somehow Keiichi remembers events from a parallel world (the first movie) in which he was trapped in a similar mental state. Remembering how easily he turned on his friends in that reality, he becomes determined to protect Rena at all costs, whether she trusts him or not. Rena though becomes more paranoid and hold students as hostages at the school with a petrol bomb primed to explode.

This is actually an alternate version of events from the first movie which gives more answers to several lingering questions. It takes a little getting used to, but this style of storytelling allows the original cast of characters to come back for another go even if they died in the original. It’s still a little bit confusing though with the plot involving a meteorite which may or may not have infected the villagers with some alien parasites. Still I enjoyed this movie and the cast performed well in their roles. There’s not much gore in it except for Rena gouging at her throat every now and then with blood and maggots seeping out of the wound! Definitely check it out if you saw the first movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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