Archive for February, 2012

Site Update

Over the next couple of months I’ll be creating an index for this site – putting the movies I’ve reviewed into alphabetical order on a new page which will make it easier for site visitors who want to click on a specific movie review rather than trawl through the whole site. Whilst I’m doing that I’ll revisit most of my old reviews and expand on them. I know a lot only had a couple of lines about a movie so I definitely want to improve them. Also some of the trailer links have expired so I shall update them also. I can’t say when the new page will be up – juggling a full time job and also updating my other website will take up most of my time but I’m hoping at the end of Spring/beginning of Summer it’ll be ready.

EDIT: The alphabetical movie index with links is now 100% complete.

EDIT 2: There’s about 200 or so Asian movies which I’ve seen during the past couple of years but haven’t written a review for them yet so in addition to updating the rest of the reviews already up on this site, I’ll try and do them as well.

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Paradise Kiss (2011)

Yukari Hayasaka is a teenage girl who isn’t too bright but with hard work and determination has managed to fight her way through into one of Tokyo’s most prestigious high schools. One afternoon whilst shopping in Omotesando, she is scouted by a young man called Arashi Nagase, a student who attends Yazagaku fashion school. He wants Yukari to be a model for the school’s 3rd year fashion graduation assignment which will see a participating group and their model of choice parade up and down the catwalk in their design. Arashi is a part of an independent fashion label called Paradise Kiss which is made up of 4 members. It is led by flamboyant rich boy fashion designer George Koizumi, transsexual Isabella, Arashi and his girlfriend Miwako. Yukari takes much persuading to become their model but she relents in the end. But Paradise Kiss have a battle on their ends in the assignment. With the label’s clothes failing to sell on the open market, the only hope for the label to survive is to win the assignment competition otherwise they will have to break up. George’s female rival is determined to win with her group. Fate doesn’t seem to be smiling for the group as during rehearsals, Yukari botches her catwalk appearance – strutting up and down like a robot. George isn’t happy at all. As the clock ticks down to the fashion parade proper, can the team overcome the odds and win the assignment competition or will Paradise Kiss close it’s doors forever?

Paradise Kiss is a very popular manga by Ai Yazawa. She was also behind the hugely successful Nana manga which spun into 2 movies so it was only a matter of time before Paradise Kiss was going to be turned into a movie. The story isn’t that original but it’s competently done. The character of Yukari is torn between carrying on studying in high school or ditch it for the glamour and fame of the catwalk. Having had to study hard by her mother from a young age, this is Yukari’s chance to forge her own path in life. I guess this is the message of the whole movie – do you live your life on your own accord or through other people. A lot of the fans who enjoyed the manga/anime version of Paradise Kiss have said that the movie is so disappointing. Without reading and watching either I can’t judge whether the movie is inferior or not but I liked it. There’s some comedy of sorts, drama, romance – something that the target audience of the movie which was young teenage Japanese girls would like.

Keiko Kitagawa makes for a great Yukari Hayasaka though I can see many viewers disliking her pouty, icy attitude at times. I thought she fitted the role pretty well. She’s a very appealing actress and one that I’ve enjoyed watching for many years. The supporting cast was fine apart from Osamu Mukai who I didn’t think was that good as George Koizumi. He was quite dull from the get go (a stereotypical rich kid of the likes I’ve seen in other movies) but at least the others especially Isabella were better. Seeing her backstory in a small flashback sequence was nicely done. I felt sorry for the very young boy actor that had to wear a dress for that! The characters are unique and highly likeable. For fashion fans, there’s plenty of interesting fashion creations for them to enjoy. Paradise Kiss should appeal to those that this movie was intended for but as for the rest I’m not too sure. I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Harakiri (1962)

It is the early 1600’s in Japan during the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate. Starving and jobless samurai warriors roam the country after the end of the civil war. Many are turning up on rich people’s estates asking to commit harakiri (ritual suicide) as they find it too humiliating to go around begging for work like peasants. The only honourable thing to do is commit harakiri. One such samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo turns up on the doorstep of Lord Kageyu Saito asking for assistance in killing himself but the Lord is suspicious of his intention thinking he’s trying to ask for a job or money. He tells the story of what happened to the last samurai who turned up asking for the same request – a young man called Motome Chijiiwa who was made to perform harakiri by using a blunt bamboo sword. The Lord thinks that what happened to Chijiiwa will persuade other samurai warriors not to come calling at his place. Tsugomo tells his own story whilst waiting for for his own death and how he was associated with Motome Chijiiwa.

Harakiri is a movie that critics have harped on about saying how fantastic it is but I can’t claim to be one of them. It’s a good movie but not brilliant. Beautiful to look at but it just drags on and on. The pace was just too slow and deliberate for me and I couldn’t wait for it to finish. It isn’t like your typical samurai movie. There are some sword fighting scenes but these are kept to a minimum in the 2nd half of the movie. There’s a horrific and graphic scene which features Chijiiwa performing harakiri – very painful to watch. I couldn’t fault the actors at all, they’re very good in their roles. Perhaps I was expecting something with a little bit more action which could be the reason why this movie didn’t get me excited at all. I found the first 60 mins tolerable enough but then I found my mind wandering. I just didn’t find Harakiri memorable and I certainly wouldn’t want to watch it again.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.

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Two inexperienced female cops Grace and Ellen go undercover at a hostess club to catch a killer when a girl is found dead inside a dumpster. One of them accidentally learns that the club owner Chan is a member of a gang whose intention is to go to the very top by killing his superiors. To do this, he hires a deadly Japanese female hitman who’s very handy with a blow gun! After gaining the position he wants, he screws over the Yakuza by stealing their cache of arms. During a car chase and subsequent fight in which Ellen and Grace are chasing the hitwoman on a motorbike, Ellen loses her gun. When the Police Inspector learns about this, he suspends Ellen from duty and Grace is demoted. This leads to a rift between the two girls. Grace continues to investigate Chan and is unfortunately fatally injured by him. Ellen vows revenge but can she take down Chan and his gang alone? Is the mysterious Japanese hitwoman all that she seems?

Beauty Investigator is a very good entry in the ‘Girls With Guns’ genre with a great mix of action and humour. The action isn’t exactly top notch but it’s choreographed well enough. Moon Lee uses a nifty wrist missile launcher during the final showdown, first time for me to see anything like that being used. The only problem I had with this movie is the tone shifts from being comedic to serious after Grace is killed. As for the acting – Moon Lee and Kim Je Kee are funny together as Ellen and Grace. They constantly argue and bicker as best friends do. It’s silly stuff which I found amusing. Yukari Oshima as always is excellent as the Japanese black trenchcoated hitwoman but there’s a twist with her character near the climax. There’s one gratitious nude shower scene featuring Chan’s foreign girlfriend played by Sophia Crawford which was unnecessary in my opinion. Despite some plot weakness and the fact that the movie is low budget, this is still a thrilling and entertaining action movie which will please Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima fans especially the final fight that the two of them have with different opponents.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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This movie follows 2 female police investigators (May and Hsie Wan Chin) who are also good friends. However, that friendship turns sour when both fall in love with the same man (an instructor at the police academy). The man gets engaged to Hsie Wan Chin but continues to have an affair with May. When he breaks off the affair with May, she goes nuts and kills the man with her gun and frames Hsie Wan Chin for the murder. She escapes and teams up with Coco, a car thief to put an end to May who has gone on a murderous spree and to cap it all off has kidnapped Coco’s young son and planted a bomb on him. Can Hsie Wan Chin and Coco stop May?

Having three bad-ass women (Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima) who rocked HK cinemas in the 90’s together in 1 movieĀ  should have been a winner but the filmmakers botched things up big time. Moon Lee was usually cast in heroine roles but in this movie there’s a role reversal as she gets to be a nasty villainess. She plays the role of psychotic May extremely well and it’s nice seeing another side of her. I expected a lot of balls-to-the-wall action scenes but there wasn’t and that was disappointing.The action scenes in the movie are great don’t get me wrong but there’s not enough of it and they’re too short. The movie kinda lost it’s way after 60 mins but bounced back for the final fight in a warehouse between the 3 women which was fantastic. The pacing was off for a lot of the movie. This movie could have been a whole lot better than it was if I’m being honest. Fans of Cynthia Khan, Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima should find enough to satisfy them here even though you’ll find all 3 have been in much better movies.

I can’t find a trailer but here’s the end showdown from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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It is 1913 China and General Yuan Shi-Kai has taken control after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. As the General requires a load of money from Western government by a way of a loan to stay in power, he asks his 2nd in command General Tsao to help get it. What Tsao doesn’t know is his daughter is working for a group who want to start a revolution in the country and she plots to steal the loan documents from her father who has stashed them in his safe. But things don’t go to plan as several people get involved in her activities. One is the daughter of a man who runs a Chinese Opera group, another woman is a thief who has stolen some jewellery, placed it in a box which finds itself landing at the Chinese Opera house and finally we have a male spy undercover who aids the general’s daughter in trying to retrieve the all important loan documents. The four reluctantly team up together but the local law officers are on to them. The daughter has to make sure her father doesn’t know what she’s doing in order for her plan to succeed. Will the quartet manage to get the documents before the law captures them?

The mid 80’s to the early 90’s were a golden period for HK movies and this movie is one you do not want to miss. This classic HK movie has got everything you’d want in a good movie – some comedy, loads of awesome exciting action sequences and a touch of romance. I was put off for years from watching this movie due to the title thinking it was going to be a boring little drama about Chinese opera. My mistake from not reading about the plotline properly. Once I found out that the awesome Brigitte Lin was in the cast I knew I had to see this movie and I’m glad I did. This vintage movie by acclaimed director Tsui Hark is fantastic. The story and the characters are interesting. Brigitte Lin anchors the whole cast together and pulls in a fine performance along with Sally Yeh and Cherie Chung as our three heroines who are each pursuing a different goal. The three have great chemistry together. The action is fast and furious with some excellently staged gunplay. The Chinese opera scenes are vibrant and colourful. The pacing is perfect. You couldn’t ask for more from a HK movie. Definitely worth taking a look.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Zeiram – an alien biological weapon and criminal (who has a small face on the top of his cranium) escapes from his intergalactic prison after massacring an entire unit of prison guards and heads to the planet Earth. A female bounty hunter Iria along with her A.I companion Bob race ahead of Zeiram to Earth and plan on setting a trap called The Zone (a virtual reality area) in which to recapture Zeiram before transporting him back to prison. But Iria didn’t count on a pair of bumbling handymen called Kamiya and Teppei getting involved in her mission. They stumble inside The Zone and must avoid Zeiram from killing them. Iria though manages to capture Zeiram but due to the 2 idiots interfering, the alien manages to break free. Normal weapons seem to unaffect the creature. Even when Iria manages to take down the huge indestructible beast, Zeiram resurrects himself in other forms (think of John Carpenter’s The Thing). With the Zone beginning to break up around Iria and Kamiya & Teppei finding themselves at the mercy of Zeiram, is there any way of stopping the alien once and for all?

It was hard to say whether this was a straight forward sci-fi movie or a comedy at first! Probably a mix of the two genres I’d say though you’d never have thought that after the opening 10 mins. I really enjoyed it even with the stupid comedy which I think spoiled the mood of the movie – thankfully the 2 idiot characters didn’t get too damn annoying. Zeiram is a typical low budget sci-fi movie but a lot of fun to watch. It’s full of interesting gadgets, lots of weapons, explosions, monsters, stop-motion effects and talking computers. Yuko Moriyama is brilliant in her debut role as the bounty hunter Iria playing her as a determined and strong character. Without her no-nonsense portrayal, this movie would be a rather camp affair. The villain Zeiram is your usual Japanese rubber monster but looks an imposing humanoid creature thanks to his wide circular hat and cloak. I really liked the small white masked face on Zeiram’s head (the brain that controls the body) which can extend itself on a tentacle to attack which is no doubt based on H.R Giger’s Alien xenomorph. Some shades of The Terminator and The Thing also find themselves put in this movie. There’s plenty of excitement and the action is decent enough with some martial arts being used to fight Zeiram by Iria.

This is an entertaining little movie if you don’t take it too seriously. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s a good way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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