Archive for December, 2011

A greedy Lord who has given what he thought was a worthless pot to his younger brother finds out that it has a map drawn on it which gives the location of a hidden treasure trove worth a million gold pieces. The younger brother Genzaburo and his wife who dislike the pot give it away to some junk collectors. A young boy is then given the pot which he uses for his pet goldfish. After the boy’s father is unfortunately killed, the lazy one armed one eyed samurai Tange Sazen takes him in along with the pot. Meanwhile Genzaburo finds out the worth of the pot and he begins a quest to get it back even if it takes 10 to 20 years though in reality it’s just an excuse as he just wants to spend time away from his wife and go gambling as she’s constantly moaning at him. Will the greedy Lord or his younger brother Genzaburo manage to get their grubby hands on the pot?

This is a fantastic comedy from the 1930’s (Japan’s first golden age of cinema) and sadly only 1 of 3 movies made by director Sadao Yamanaka that has survived intact over the years which is a shame. The story mostly takes place in Tange Sazen’s tavern which has an archery range inside. Even though the title of the movie might suggest that it revolves around Tange Sazen it doesn’t. It’s more about the complications by other characters in trying to retrieve the pot back in their possession. There’s plenty of laughs to be had in watching this lighthearted comedy but also a little bit of action when Tange Sazen squares up against the students of a dojo led by Genzaburo but even that degenerates into a farce. The characters in the movie are well developed and the storyline keeps you glued to the screen.

It’s well worth taking a look at this unique 1930’s Japanese comedy.

No trailer but a clip from the movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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A young 17 year old girl Poppo is raped on the rooftop of a 7 story apartment building by four boys and passes out during the ordeal. Whilst this is happening, a nerdy boy Tsukio is watching on expresionless but not intervening. The next morning as Poppo awakens on the rooftop, Tsukio is sitting down close by and they start to talk to each other which is interrupted when the 4 boys return and rape Poppo again and she asks them to kill her but they refuse before leaving. Tsukio and Poppo embark on a strange relationship as they talk about the troubles in their lives. This isn’t the first time for Poppo to be raped and Tsukio himself has gone through a traumatic ordeal at the hands of 4 people. The only difference is Tsukio killed all his attackers with a kitchen knife. Poppo repeatedly begs Tsukio to kill her but he refuses as he won’t kill without a sufficient reason. As day turns to night, the 4 rapists return again to the rooftop with their girlfriends and turn their attention to Poppo once more. Tsukio though is having none of it as he stabs all of them to death. Again Poppo asks how he can kill them and not her. Will Tsukio grant Poppo her wish or not?

This is a depressing tale of rape, revenge, teen angst and being alone. Given that this movie was shot in just 4 days in 1 location on a tight limited budget, what director Koji Wakamatsu has created is nothing short of amazing. The movie is mostly in black and white which is so beautiful but just occasionally there are bursts of color and blue sepia sequences inserted. It works really well when you see it. The subject matter of the movie isn’t the most joyous, in fact it’s really bleak and it doesn’t end on a happy note either which I’m not going to spoil for you. This movie isn’t sleazy as such and the rape scenes aren’t too graphic but the violence when it happens is brutal. The 2 main stars are fantastic in their roles and Mimi Kozakura as Poppo is naked for a lot of the movie’s 65 minute running time.

Go Go Second Time Virgin is an interesting pinku/art house movie with a fresh take on loneliness that I recommend.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Sector 7 (2011)

Crew members of an oil rig discover a new lifeform at the bottom of the sea – glowing tadpole like creatures. When they bring them up to the surface to study, one silly man lets one of them loose. The tadpole grows into a vicious monster with a lust for blood. As the bodies start racking up, can those that are left kill the creature before it gets them?

I love monster movies so I was looking forward to seeing this movie. Having read some previews for Sector 7 ages ago I did set my expectation way too high. Having finally had the chance to see it, I’m sorry to say I was left bitterly disappointed at what I saw. Korean movie ‘The Host’ set the bar for recent monster movies so if you’re expecting something along the lines of it, you’re going to get a shock. There’s no suspense or scares, it tries too hard to copy ALIENS (which I’ll get to in a moment) and the CG effects are terrible.

As I was saying Sector 7 has copied several plotlines from ALIENS: we’ve got the feisty heroine, the bad oil company with an ulterior motive for drilling where the rig is located, the creature laying cocoons around the rig and then there’s the finale which smacks of Ripley facing off against the Alien Queen. I wouldn’t mind if this had been done alright but it just didn’t excite or entertain me one bit. You’d wish the creature was kept in the dark after you first see it in full – it’s like the bastard child of The Host monster but with tendrils attached to it. Not particularly original and it looks horrible.

The actors just go through the motions as far as I’m concerned – none of them shine at all, not even the lead heroine Ha Ji-won. You just don’t care for any of the characters even when they die at the hands of the creature. This movie could have been great especially with the setting on an oil rig in the middle of an ocean. If you’re happy with a story that delivers b-movie thrills with shoddy CG effects I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I think this movie is instantly forgettable and Korean audiences thought the same too as this movie sank without a trace at the box office. I couldn’t wait for it to finish.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

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Branded To Kill (1967)

A man called Hanada who has a fetish about sniffing boiled rice is the no.3 hitman in all of Japan (though he wants to become no.1). He botches up his latest job when a butterfly lands on the end of his gun. Now everybody is after him from his wife, the woman who hired him to the no.1 killer in Japan.

Chipmunk faced Jô Shisido plays the hitman Hanada and whilst I enjoyed his performance in My Colt Is My Passport, I certainly can’t say the same about this movie as it’s one big mess. It’s not his fault though, it’s just the movie is too weird and incomprehensible to make any kind of sense. Perhaps that’s what the director Seijun Suzuki wanted – I don’t know? I like to watch a movie that I can understand but this one is too confusing by far. Some parts of the movie are very stylish and look good. I can’t fault the action scenes especially the final shootout either but the rest is nothing to write home about. A lot of people seem to praise this movie quite a bit but I’m afraid I’m not one of them. In fact I wouldn’t watch this again. Give it a go if you want and if you understand what all the symbolism in the movie is all about give me a shout but otherwise don’t bother.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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Ocean Waves (1993)

As a young man Taku returns home after his first year away at university in Tokyo, he recalls his senior year of high school and the iron-willed, big city girl Rikako Muto that turned his world upside down.

I’d never heard of this made-for-TV Ghibli movie before but I’m glad that I watched it as it’s a very enjoyable movie about teenage life, growing up into becoming an adult and relationships. This wasn’t directed by Hayao Miyazaki at all. Studio Ghibli wanted to give their younger animators a chance at making a movie with a small budget. Unfortunately for them they ran over budget and over schedule and that was that. I don’t think they’ve had a chance to make another movie which is a shame as this is a very underrated, unappreciated Ghibli feature. Sure, it may not be an epic as the more famous Ghibli movies but you’d be doing yourself a big mistake by not checking it out.  I thought it was a fun movie with a simple, effective and gentle romance storyline and is right up there as one of the studio’s best IMO. The animation is as good as any other Ghibli movie with a brilliant soundtrack. I loved it.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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A gangster and serial rapist named Crimson takes on a young protege who works at a local gas station. Crimson teaches the young man how to rape women into submission by attacking a ballerina at her home one night. The young protege’s feelings about rape soon begin to overwhelm him and he strikes out on his own by going into the woods where several young couples are having sex. The only problem is he can’t seem to climax but that doesn’t seem to stop him and Crimson as they embark on a series of nasty rapes. Crimson is also being chased by a trio of homosexual gangsters whose effeminate leader wants Crimson to pleasure him or he’ll tell all about his rape exploits to the police but after Crimson beats him to a pulp inside a toilet cubicle and escapes through a window, the gang are soon in hot pursuit.

This is probably one of the most controversial of all of the Nikkatsu rape movies (there was a series of these kind of movies released in Japan during the mid/late 70’s) which is not helped by the fact that the women being raped in the movie seem to enjoy the experience and give money for the rapists to come back and do it again!! It does push the boundaries of decency especially during the final quarter when Crimson gets a dose of his own medicine in an empty outside swimming pool by the homosexual gang. Despite the blatantly un-PC storyline, it does have some good acting, tense scenes and a great baroque/classical soundtrack. It certainly packs a punch as well though only the swimming pool scene is truly shocking. The director Yasuhara Hasebe sure knows how to push the viewer to their limit.

Those that are easily offended please approach with caution but if you’re a person that wants to sample a slice of extreme Japanese exploitation cinema, this movie is a good place as any to start.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Tatsuya Fujiwara is back as the gambler Kaiji but he’s in debt once more. He’s given a daunting task to redeem himself – make a fortune of 200 million yen in 20 days in order to win the freedom of his peers who had pinned their hopes on him to win them some money but it wasn’t enough. Teaming up with his ex-rival Yukio and 2 more people, Kaiji goes up against the ultimate pachinko machine called The Swamp in an illegal casino but the manager of the place has a few tricks up his sleeve to make sure that nobody gets the jackpot of 1 billion yen. Kaiji though is not daunted by this and has some tricks of his own. Will Kaiji be able to defeat The Swamp?

I’ve never seen the 1st Kaiji movie but was convinced by some reviews in the Japanese press to go down to Shibuya’s Toho cinema to check it out. I was certainly impressed by the twists and turns in the storyline, betrayals, the strategies employed by Kaiji to win his challenges – it really is edge of your seat stuff at times and just when you think Kaiji is about to beat The Swamp, along comes another obstacle in his path. The only problem I had was the running time which was a bit too long. Cut about 20 mins and the pacing would have been perfect. Tatsuya Fujiwara is brilliant as Kaiji and you willingly cheer him on to beat The Swamp and the cunning/devious casino manager Seiya Ichizo.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie very much and I will defnitely go and check out the 1st movie soon. Even if you’re like me and don’t understand anything about the pachinko game (tried it once years ago and didn’t have a clue what I was doing), you’ll still find plenty to entertain you in this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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K-ON! Movie (2011)

The story is set just before Yui, Mio, Mugi and Ritsu graduate from high school. Armed with their new passports, the 4 girls along with Azunyan decide to take a graduation trip abroad to London where the usual language problems gets them into all sorts of mischief! A sub-plot has the soon-to-be graduating members worrying about how they can show their feelings to Azunyan because they will be leaving her behind at school and how they came about writing their graduation song for her.

This was such a great anime movie and I was happy that I got to see it in Shinjuku Piccadilly Cinema complex with all the other K-ON! wotas on December 5th. The filmmakers have lovingly recreated London onscreen and the story is fantastic and full of laughs. I was expecting the characters to spend more time in London than what transpired but I’m not really complaining about that at all. London was only featured for about 40 mins of the 110 mins running time. The animation from Kyo-Ani is crisp, sharp and up to their usual high standards. The songs as performed by HTT is superb and very catchy. The interaction between the main 5 characters is great especially between Yui and Azunyan. You’ll be surprised at the beginning of the movie as the girls’ music goes in a very different direction to what they usually play (though they’re only mimicking a song by their teacher Sawa-chan’s old group).

If you enjoyed the K-ON series then there’s no doubt that you’ll be thoroughly entertained by the movie. Many people seem to think that this could be the end of the franchise onscreen but the ending of the movie didn’t feel that way to me at all. K-ON is just too popular and I’m sure the graduated girls’ adventures in university and Azunyan’s new HTT group will be made into a series not too far in the future.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Election (2005)

The position of chairman for a large triad society in Hong Kong is up for grabs and there are two prominent candidates – Big D and Lok. Despite a split amongst the people that choose the winning candidate, it’s decided that Lok will win but this isn’t a decision that goes down well with the losing candidate Big D. The only way now for Big D to get the chairmanship is by stealing the triad’s precious baton which is being hidden away but that could mean war. Big D is consumed by his greed in getting the baton but Lok, calm and calculated plans on changing Big D’s mind or doing something else……

I’ve only seen one Johnnie To movie before (Triangle) and I wasn’t too keen on that. After seeing Election I’m still not really a fan of his. I should have expected that this wasn’t going to be an all action movie. In between the tons of dialogue, there are bouts of violence, some of it quite brutal at times especially the ending. As for actors in the movie – Simon Yam proves again what a versatile performer he is. I think he’s always better off in a villanious role such as this one rather than being the hero. The story in my opinion was just too slow and deliberate to keep my interest. It’s an OK movie, nothing special.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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