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Archive for September 4th, 2011

Tokyo Trash Baby (2000)

A fascinating little story about a weirdo girl Miyuki who falls big time for the grungy guitarist who lives in the apartment upstairs from her own. She likes him so much she grabs the trash he throws out and goes through it daily – piercing together his life and personality – what he eats, smokes, the shampoo he washes his hair and all of his secrets.

This movie is bizarre tale of adoration and the behaviour of Miyuki is very creepy. The story does have some charm to it, with some intriguing and spirited characters thrown into the mix. Especially at the café that Miyuki works at. Mami Nakamura is great as Miyuki and we do sympathise with the way her character behaves. Kou Shibasaki has a nice supporting role as Miyuki’s slutty colleague who constantly boasts about her sexual conquests.

I think this is a movie that divides opinion – some will like the quirky storyline about an off-beat character whilst others will think it’s too weird for their taste and find it dull. If you want to see a Japanese movie that strays off the usual beaten path then you’ll enjoy this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The 4th in the Men Behind The Sun movie series. This is a harrowing piece of horror/war drama directed skillfully by Tun Fei Mou. It tells the story about the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers when they invaded the city of Nanking during World War 2.

Mixed with real film footage and photographs of the actual events, the movie really shows the atrocities of war. It’s mostly told from the Japanese point of view, and several conversations between Japanese commanders and soldiers are chilling. There are some exploitative gross out moments, like an unborn baby being pulled out of a pregnant woman’s stomach via bayonette and several scenes of crowds being mowed down by machine guns. The movie is unflinching in it’s brutality. The sequence of dead Chinese bodies being burned on the riverbank is truly powerful – the sight of these enormous flames racing across an entire landscape of dead people is especially hard to forget. The movie is well-made and acted, and the photography is simply stunning. Definitely not for everyone due to some graphic material, but recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Goemon (2009)

The year is 1582, and the most miserly warlord in Japan, Oda Nobunaga, promptly falls prey to an assassin’s blade and is succeeded by his own right-hand-man, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Unfortunately, all is far from well on the sociological front: a huge chasm exists between rich and poor, and evening things out is super-thief Goemon, who spends his day redistributing wealth to the poor. Fate takes an intriguing turn when Goemon acquires a small, ornate, handcrafted box of foreign design that he swipes from a merchant and hands to a homeless kid. Also after the box is an associate of Hideyoshi, who sends a vicious ninja out to take care of Goemon and retrieve the item; Goemon recovers it first, however, while saving the young homeless boy from a swordsman. In no time at all, Goemon finds himself being pursued by everyone under the sun and re-encounters a lost love from his past, Cha Cha.

Goemon proved an Asian box office hit on its cinematic release. Helmed with a bold fresh eye for visuals by Casshern director Kiriya Kazuaki, Goemon is a multi-layered historic action epic tinged with fantasy and impressive swordplay. With elements of Western legends such as Robin Hood and the mythical Pandora’s Box thrown in, Goemon is ultimately the story of one man’s battle with his need to be free and his destiny.

The movie perhaps would’ve been better in two parts, or even as a trilogy, to allow time to completely unlock each integral character’s own story and ambitions. Goemon is a stunning visual treat though I’m not a big fan of CG overuse and it’s too convoluted in essential plot points. Undoubtedly watchable, it falls short of the epic it wants to be by simply trying much too hard.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Tokyo Fist (1995)

Tsuda is a frustrated insurance salesman who lives a life of quiet desperation with his girlfriend Hizuru . His job yields little fulfillment, his relationship lacks passion, and he feels perpetually fatigued, as if overwhelmed by the inhuman scale of Tokyo. His life takes a bizarre turn when his old high school acquaintance Kojima pays him a visit. The wild-eyed professional boxer attempts to seduce Hizuru, driving Tsuda into a jealous fury. When he confronts Kojima, he ends up in the hospital and Hizuru ends up with the boxer. Seeking revenge, Tsuda begins boxing training with insane intensity. Watching his former high school chum thrash his sparring partners gives Kojima a rise of some form, bolstering his sagging career in the ring. Meanwhile, Hizuru begins her own brand of self-discovery though self-mutilation, from relatively mild tattoos and nose rings to driving metal stakes into her flesh. What develops has to be one of the most bizarre, masochistic love triangles ever committed to celluloid.

Those aware of Tsukamoto’s feature-length debut Tetsuo (1988) will be familiar with the basic premise in Tokyo Fist; flawed relationship between man and woman is brutally disrupted by an outside element which challenges the protagonist to a potentially lethal, and eventually soul-destroying duel. Similarly to other pioneers of horror, Tsukamoto chooses to use all kinds of repulsive visuals. Just to give you an idea, if a face almost literally falling off after a boxing match is too much for you, it’s probably best to stay away from this movie. However, the brutal imagery is not completely pointless. Tokyo Fist portrays male anger with such honesty that it is sometimes painful to watch, but that’s really the point since violence is not something to be admired. Fast editing, powerful sound effects and blue colours mark the movie out as Tsukamoto’s style.

For all intents and purposes, Tokyo Fist is a movie which requires a strong stomach and an open mind. But it’s a great achievement all the same.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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A fugitive lord and his bodyguards and followers, all disguised as monks, traverse a forest, where they must avoid capture and outsmart the border guards.

This is the third feature from Akira Kurosawa that shows his talent even with a very limited budget. The acting is superb and Denjirô Ôkôchi performs a very wise samurai. Yoshio Kosugi is annoying and funny at the same time, with his chuckles and facial expressions. The interplay between the characters (from the early exchanges between the “monks” and the porter to the life-and-death wordplay between the “priest” and the border guard) are fraught with tension and suspense and Kurosawa manages to ratch it up to an almost unbelievable degree. The unbroken stares- the understandings that become quite clear between the characters throughout this movie (but which are never blatantly blurted outright)- are the kinds of deft touches that one comes to expect from Kurosawa.The conclusion is a little disappointing and gives the sensation that the story will be continued. Recommended for Kurosawa fans.

I can’t find any trailer or a clip from the movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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This is a collection 7 short ghost stories – some last for more than 10 mins, others do not. Like all compilations, this is uneven. There are stories present which are too abrupt or jarring, too unthreatening, or are completely uneventful and uninteresting.

That said there are gems here. “Night Watchman” is a strange way to open a movie supposed to be about terror … it’s more amusing than anything. It is, however, quite entertaining, and you might get a chill or two along the way. The real standout, in my eyes, is “The Promise”, which is both eerie and strangely touching and might have made a good full length movie to allow for expanded character motivations. “Line of Sight”, while perhaps too reminiscent of Ringu, also managed to give me a shiver or two.

In any case, this collection is worth checking out. You’ll probably have your own idea as to which are worthwhile and which are not, but if you enjoy Japanese ghost stories, you’ll certainly get something out of it. If, however, you’ve never enjoyed films like Ringu and Ju-On, there’s nothing here which will change your mind.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Ikiru (1952)

Upon learning he has terminal stomach cancer, a low-level government bureaucrat leaves his job of thirty years without a word to find meaning in the 6 months he has left to live. He is completely alone in the world — his wife is dead, his son is practically estranged, and his co-workers (the people with whom he has more contact than any others) are little more than strangers. Rather than face death alone, he opts to make up for lost time by going to the bar (for the first time in his life), spending every last yen in his wallet and drinking himself to death. There he meets a black-clad artist who leads him on a hellish (and darkly humorous) tour of the city after dark as the two crawl through every boozer in town. Realizing he has missed nothing, Shimura then sets his sight on a pretty young girl from the office to divert his attention from his looming mortality. She gives him the inspiration to do something meaningful — to leave a legacy, however small, that makes the world a better place.

One of the truly great movies ever put on cinema – a defining post-war Japanese movie alongside the likes of Tokyo Story. It features what I feel is the greatest scene in the history of cinema–the lead character dying and sitting on a swing of the park he has finally been able to get built, singing a song from his youth about how short and fragile life is. The subtext here is we do not truly appreciate life until we are faced with death. Movies can have an impact on people but only a few can change people’s lives – this is one of them. This is the kind of movie that makes people stop, feel and think. A masterpiece that reveals itself as such in every frame its true power becomes all more daunting as one reflects about it afterward. Perhaps more than changing lives ‘Ikiru’ provides an emotionally charged space in which to ponder on how people, no matter how average, can make a change both in themselves and on others. Akira Kurosawa may have been the greatest filmmaker of all time and Ikiru his greatest movie. Ikiru is a movie that can’t be missed, so be sure to see it. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Set in 5th century China, it centers on Ti Ming-chi, a young innocent from the West Zu army who wandered away from the battlefield and into a magical underworld filled with demons and murderous swordsmen. When his life is saved by the noble warrior Ting Yin, Ti joins forces with his band of fighters — including a Buddhism monk named Abbot Hsiao Yu, his klutzy underling Yi Chen and a fearsome old wizard named Long Brows — in their quest to save the world from the terror of the Blood Demon.

This is a film that was the border of the old era in Hong Kong and the beginning of the new. The plot of a bunch of warriors taking on a great evil had been done before but there was something about the way it was done here that made everyone sit up and take notice.

Personally I’m underwhelmed by this movie. The special effects are dated and the plot is somewhat confusing. I had wanted to see this for a long time and I was expecting something epic but truthfully by the time I actually saw this I was so hyped up that there was no way it could ever live up to what I was expecting. There’s a good cast in this movie from Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Brigitte Lin.

If you like martial arts movies, or even action fantasies, try this, its not bad, its just not the be all and end all I know some people claim it is.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Donnie Yen plays a hot-headed ex-cop named Dragon Yau whose attitude has got him in trouble with his bosses and his wife. On a trip to the lawyers, he is witness to a robbery where a suitcase of money disappears and a lot of guys get shot. Somehow, he ends up with lawyer Mandy Chang (Rosamund Kwan) on the run from the cops who think they committed a murder and from the bad guys that think they have the money. Reluctantly they are forced to form an alliance with one of the bad guys, David (David Wu), who has been betrayed by the gang led by Waise Chow (Robin Shou).

Tiger Cage 2 is another classic HK actioner from the 90’s. The plot is simple, but action director Yuen Wo Ping doesn’t stay focused on the plot for too long…he gives the people what they want to see and that’s loads of gunfights, plenty of humour and fantastic fight choreography that hits dead centre!

Donnie Yen shows us some of the solid, hard-hitting, high-kicking action that has made him famous over the years. The man truly does enjoy playing the hard-boiled tough guy who never runs from a fight and never backs down when trouble is near. Rosamund Kwan did a terrific job as Mandy Chan, the divorce lawyer who finds herself in an unpredictable situation and doesn’t have a clue why people are trying to kill her and is plagued with guilt over the death of her best friend Petty. The situations with her and Donnie are just too funny for words as the two can’t stand each other’s behaviour but learn to come to an understanding when they realize they can’t survive without each other.

The fight scenes are amazing: plenty of raw kicking power, sword swinging action and gun-fights galore to keep you on the edge of your seat. The choreography for the scenes is spot on. Tiger Cage 2 is a fantastic movie and I recommend it to anyone who’s into modern day actioners, Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan and the choreography of Yuen Wo Ping. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The Ginza Butterfly Nami is back in a new story that finds her on the hunt for Hoshiden, the man who killed her gambler father when she was only a child. Arriving in Tokyo, Nami takes a job as a hostess in a swank Ginza club, all the while combing the back-alleys and gambling dens for news of Hoshiden’s whereabouts. Local street entrepreneur Ryuji joins her in the search, and eventually in a bloody raid on the yakuza headquarters where Hoshiden now living incognito, under an assumed name is hiding out.

More of a yakuza drama rather than an all out revenge movie. The exploitation and violence we’ve come to expect in Kaji’s movies is toned down a bit and there’s even some comedy thrown in until the final 15 mins when all hell breaks loose as she teams up with Sonny Chiba to unleash a fury on her father’s murderer and his goons. Meiko Kaji delivers as she always does in her movies – playing the tough, hard as nails wandering gambler who won’t take any shit from anybody. This movie is probably on a par with the first Wandering Ginza Butterfly movie. If you’re a Kaji fan then you don’t want to miss out on this.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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The evil G.O.D (Government of Darkness) creates a bat winged frankenstein monster to combat and delay 5 Kamen Riders as it tries to dry Tokyo of its water and kidnap women to drain and drink blood from them in order to gain energy. G.O.D’s army seem to be monsters all named after the Greek gods.

For a kids movie this is a little bit R-rated. One of G.O.D’s monsters is stabbed in the eye and blood can be seen pouring out plus there’s a scene of a woman strapped down to a table with vials behind her full of blood being drained from her body. This is only a short movie running shy of 30 mins but it’s full of action which never lets up from the start. I enjoyed it for the nostalgia more than anything. Great stuff.

It’s very difficult to find anything on Youtube for the first couple of KR movies from the 70’s so here’s a Thai dubbed clip from the 70’s Kamen Rider X series.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The 3rd KR movie once more pits Taki and Hongo against Shocker who have made a base inside Mount Fuji and created a powerful laser to destroy Tokyo Tower. Can they stop this latest Shocker plan?

I thought this movie was definitely an improvement on the 2nd movie. Lots of great action with plenty of pyrotechnics going off. There’s a rather strange motocross chase across land which sees Shocker’s goons fall off their bikes without the slightest touch and explode. Quite a stupid segment in an otherwise solid KR movie. One more slightly weird thing about this movie is Shocker’s minions going about communicating with each other not with human words but like mice (high pitched squeaks). Very bizarre! Recommended for KR fans.

No trailer or a clip from the movie I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Infernal Affairs 3 (2003)

Infernal Affairs 3 takes place in essentially two distinct time periods: the months leading up to the death of Yan, and nearly a year after his death. Here in the present time, Ming has just been cleared of any charges in Yan’s death, a process that was more red tape than actual suspicion of guilt. Still, he hasn’t been sitting on his hands. Apparently, when Ming offed Billy in the elevator at the end of the first Infernal Affairs movie, Billy offered up some interesting news: some cassette tapes were delivered to Ming’s boss, which supposedly contained conversations between crimelord Sam and his moles. The tapes were intercepted by one of the moles, but now months later the tapes have resurfaced in the possession of Security Inspector Yeung. There were five moles, four of which are now dead of missing. Ming knows he’s the last one, but how to make sure no one else finds out?

If you loved the first two ‘Internal Affairs’ movie, then you’ll probably find it easy to also enjoy this concluding part: if not, you may find it more difficult. Part one was a tense thriller; part two, more epic in tone, a prequel that filled in the back story, concentrating on some of the secondary characters from the first movie. But it’s not completely clear where there’s any plot left to fill a third part. What this movie does is overlay the previous stories with an additional layer of romanticism and complexity; but there’s a certain lack of focus to the plot, with almost all of our favourite characters already dead by the end of the second film (although, in flashback, there’s a rebirth for the great Tony Leung, absent from part two). Indeed, the movie works almost entirely by encouraging us to feel differently about scenes we have already witnessed. I still liked this third story and it did succeed in feeling like something more than just a repeat of the earlier movies but it’s not so clear how much it adds to them.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Ashita no Joe (2011)

This is a boxing drama based on a manga and anime about a cocky young street urchin Yabuki Joe from the Tokyo slums who turns to boxing in order to have a match against his rival – a star pro-boxer called Rikishi who he met whilst in jail.

Yamapi and Yusuke Iseya are great and had obviously been training hard to bulk up before shooting and their powerful boxing match does not disappoint. It’s just a shame that there’s too much slo-mo techniques used. Fine to use it once or twice but it’s overused. Depending on those who have read or seen the anime or manga, some might find it disappointing but as I knew nothing about Ashita no Joe I didn’t have any expectations thus I was able to enjoy the story and the captivating performances of the cast. The production values and the sense that you’re in Tokyo of the 1960’s is to be commended. Well worth watching.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Luffy and his crew battle the gravity-controlling pirate named Golden Lion Shiki, who wants to conquer the world and overthrow the world’s government and first on his place to destroy is East Blue where Luffy and several of his ship crew’s hometown exist.

The focus on this movie is on Nami who’s my favorite character in One Piece, the other Straw Hat characters take a back seat to her although they’re involved in some action. The villain Shiki is a decent foil for Luffy but he’s just not a memorable villain like some others in previous movies. The fight scenes aren’t as epic either but that’s a small gripe in what is otherwise a fantastic movie. It’s not my favorite One Piece movie but it does have a solid plot, danger, action and some laughs to keep any fan more than satisfied and happy. Recommended for any One Piece fan.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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