Archive for March, 2012

This is a spin-off feature from Tokyo Gore Police and centres on 3 characters from the movie who are each given a short story telling us how they became an “engineer”. The first is about a retarded construction worker Dokata who can’t speak properly but is looking for love and gets more than he bargained for, the second about a schoolgirl attacked by 3 people who’s transformed into a dog of some sort and the final story is about a man who witnesses a fight between a woman who has a penis for a nose but also instead of hair she’s got a head full of penises and another “engineer” who looks like a red indian.

I absolutely loved TGP when it first came out. It was imaginative, hilarious and I had never seen anything quite like it before so when I had a chance to see this short sequel I was over the moon. It does not disappoint and continues in the same vein as TGP in that it’s off-the-wall, bizarre, surreal, downright crazy but also extremely funny. It only lasts for 45 mins but in that time it really entertains you. Gore hounds will also love this movie as it has copious amounts of blood as heads explode, limbs are cut and there is splatter galore!! The first 10 minutes is basically a highlights reel of TGP. Each short story is preceded by an advert – my favorite is the one about foreigners who break the immigration visa rule. To punish them their fingers are put in a device that cuts them off and leaves an imprint of their fingers on a piece of paper! Another ad features a family using their dead grandfather’s flesh as household items such as a lampshade!!

For such a short feature, director Yoshihiro Nishimura has not cut back on the OTT visuals. It’s hard to pick which story I liked the most. Each one had an aspect to it which I thought was very funny. I suppose the second story featuring the schoolgirl who gets her limbs put into a grinder was the most interesting and weird. Her old limbs are ground down and mixed with blood, urinated into and then force fed down her throat!! Finally the bloody stumps where her limbs used to be are then replaced by big pencils. No, this isn’t a typo mistake!! She’s turned into a human pencil dog who walks on all 4 pencil limbs!! Seriously, if you thought you’d seen it all before then you haven’t until you see this movie. Fans of TGP – do not miss out. It’s a blast which will have you laughing in disbelief. I loved it.

I wished there was a trailer for me to show you but there isn’t.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Bored bar girl Hijiriko steals some cash from her workplace and a car. Across town, gangster minion Jiro is helping his boss and his cronies kill somebody when they turn on him. He manages to take off in his boss’ car along with 5 million yen. Both Hijiriko and Jiro crash into one another but instead of arguing about whose fault it was, they take off together in another stolen car. As they start blazing a trail of crime across the country and succeeding in pissing off every person they meet, they mistakenly get locked inside a steel container. After being released when the container arrives at it’s destination, Jiro and Hijiriko nab a pump action shotgun from a hunter after killing him. They begin a murderous spree which not only attracts the local police but also the gangsters that have been after Jiro from the start of the movie. Realising that Jiro is heading to his sisters place in the town of Tango near Kyoto, the gangsters set up a trap in a lonely wooden cabin up in the mountains. Will Hijiriko and Jiro manage to evade the trap by the gangtsters and escape from the police?

This isn’t a well known movie for Western viewers even though it’s got 70’s exploitation queen Meiko Kaji in one of the leading roles. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because of that it’s not any good because you’ll be missing out on a brilliant movie. With it’s Bonnie & Clyde storyline, this is a fantastic action thriller which motors along at a cracking pace. It has a hint of dark humour running throughout even though the story is serious and has quite a bit of excessive violence. We’ve all become used to seeing Meiko Kaji in roles as a cold, emotionless woman so it’s quite a change to see her display a little bit of emotion in this movie even though she is certainly her usual frosty self for the first half. As the storyline moves into the second half we see that Hijiriko has developed some feelings for Jiro and they start a relationship. It’s not often we see Kaji in a movie showing a romantic side to her. Hijiriko and Jiro make an interesting combination.

Director Sadao Nakajima manages to keep the movie interesting and entertaining with hardly any let up in the action right through to it’s bloody climax. As a big fan of Meiko Kaji, I can thoroughly recommend this to anybody that may have only seen her in the Female Prisoner series and wants to expand their viewing experience of her. It’s well worth seeking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The Front Line (2011)

Towards the end of the Korean War, a South Korean battalion is fiercely battling over a hill on the front line border against the North in order to capture a strategic point (Aerok Hill) that would determine the new border between two nations. The ownership of this small patch of land swap numerous times over the course of the war. 1st Lieutenant Kang is dispatched to the front line to join a unit nicknamed Alligator Company by the Americans in order to investigate the rumours that a mole is passing information to the North and that their former captain has been killed in suspicious circumstances. But he gets spiraled into the war that’s more terrifying than death itself when he meets his friend Kim, who has transformed from a meek person into a war machine, along with his unit. As the countdown for ceasefire begins, both sides become more vicious, resulting in deaths of countless lives until the last man can claim the hill.

Unlike the epic war movie Brotherhood of War, The Front Line takes a different approach – concentrating instead on the futility of war itself. It’s not about heroics but about survival so we don’t get to see any war heroes but men deeply scarred by the conflict who just want to go home to their families. Used as pawns by their superiors in a back and forth battle for a useless piece of land which sees countless die. The movie doesn’t start out as a straight forward war movie though but as a mystery as we follow Kang in his mission by his superiors to track down a mole and a potential traitor in Alligator Company. Director Jang Hoon gives us a viewpoint from both sides in the war – one ingenious plot device is by the way of a drop box hidden inside a bunker in which the soldiers exchange letters and alcohol.

The characters (which most viewers will be familar with already from similar war movies) we encounter are all sympathetic to the viewer, showing their hopes and fears, questioning why they are fighting. As we near the end we see their joy as the armistice has been signed signalling the end of the war but that joy is shortlived when they are told the ceasefire will not take place until 12 hours later and their superiors demand one last battle out of them to capture Aerok Hill. You sort of sense that some of the characters will not survive this final skirmish. The battle scenes are spectacular and explosive putting us right in the thick of the action, showing the immense effort that Alligator Company have to give in order to capture Aerok Hill with the North soldiers dug in bunkers and mowing down the soldiers of the South with their machine guns. The sub-plot with the company coming under fire regularly from a female North sniper they nickname ‘Two Seconds’ was really good.

The Front Line suffers a bit with it’s long running time. Take away around 30 mins and the movie might have been better. The downtime between the battles I thought at times were fairly dull and padded out. Thankfully unlike other war movies there isn’t any melodrama here. The only real criticism I can give is there was just too much talking and not enough action for my liking. The cast give a really good account of themselves in their roles. Whilst I admire the director for trying to give us something a little bit different, I still rate Brotherhood of War as the ultimate Korean war movie I’ve seen.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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All Night Long (1992)

One morning in Tokyo, 3 teenagers lives are turned upside down when an innocent high school girl is murdered in a frenzied attack by a weird salaryman in front of their eyes. The traumatic incident bonds the three lads together and they become friends. To overcome what they’ve seen, they decide to have a little party in a couple of days and each one has to find a female partner to accompany them. Two have no luck whatsoever – one is tricked by a feminist and is handcuffed to a fence with his pants hung around his ankles, the other thought he had a date with a girl but finds she’s been stolen by a classmate. The last of the trio does find romance with a schoolgirl but their happiness together is bought to an abrupt end when a gang of delinquent thugs attack them. He is helpless as they rape, torture, cut the girl’s ankles with a pair of scissors before eventually killing her. Seeking revenge, he turns to his 2 friends for help in finding the ones responsible and teaching them a lesson they’ll never forget. Bringing a shotgun owned by the rich kid’s father, the three take off in a car and hunt down the gang. But how far will they go to prove their point?

Opening with a shocking and bloody stabbing sequence at a train crossing that’s easily one of the most nastiest murders you’ll ever see onscreen, All Night Long is a dark, twisted and disturbing movie that has a clear message: violence lurks in each and every one of us and it only takes a trigger of some sort to make us snap just like the 3 characters here. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor – if you’re pushed too far, any human being is capable of such brutal and violent behaviour. The 3 main characters all come from different backgrounds – a nerdy bookworm, a rich kid and a bright kid with a promising future as an airline mechanic. The fateful encounter at the train crossing uniting them together. Normal people you’d meet every day perhaps but whose behaviour changes once events are set in motion. You might have read that this movie is very gory but I can assure you it’s not all about blood and guts. Only in the beginning and end do we see the red stuff splattered around. The revenge dished out by the 3 teenagers you might say is deserved to the callous and vicious gang but through their actions all of the 3 young lads have turned into the thugs they sought out. They’re no different to them. Their insane laughter reminding me of the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange. The ending I think is particularly chilling as the only survivor of the encounter – the one person you’d least expect to turn violent but did (the nerd Shinji) gives the camera a smile, as if to say ‘ha I got away with all of this’ before blending into the scrum of the crowd in a busy Tokyo street.

The acting by the cast is quite good and I like the style that Katsuya Matsumura employed in directing this movie coupled with a haunting soundtrack and great cinematography. This is a bleak and depressing movie with no happy ending whatsoever but I still thought it was very entertaining with it’s dark storyline. I would certainly recommend it though gorehounds might be disappointed by how little gore there is. Those that are easily offended or with a weak stomach would be wise to stay clear of All Night Long. There are a couple of other sequels in this franchise which I’m keen to check out. I just hope they’re as good as this one.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Graveyard of Honor (1975)

This movie follows the life of an archetypical yakuza thug that rose from the refugee camps of World War II in Tokyo but unlike his peers in the Kawada clan who follow a code of conduct, Rikio Ishikawa follows his own set of rules which puts him on a collision course not only with his own gang but other factions as well. After nearly starting a gang war and then killing his clan’s godfather, he is imprisoned for 18 months and banned from joining any yakuza clan in Tokyo for 10 years. Resurfacing in Osaka after his release from prison and being pulled into the world of drugs by a prostitute, Ishikawa comes back to Tokyo and stirs up a hornets nest between the various gangs in the city. His old clan is none too pleased he’s back in town. Attacking and killing yet another godfather who was once a close friend of his, Ishikawa is once more made an outlaw. With the clans all gunning for him, can Ishikawa escape with his life or does he not even care that he could die at any moment?

An excellent yakuza movie by Kinji Fukasaku which is on a par with his Battles Without Honor and Humanity series. If you’ve seen one or two of those movies you might be tempted to think this is similar in storyline. Well it is a bit but instead of following a young yakuza’s rise to the top, we follow a self-destructive yakuza member whose reckless violent behaviour threatens to destabilise the clan he is a member of. He lives for the moment regardless of the consequences and obviously doesn’t listen to his boss. Fukasaku filmed this movie in a documentary/biopic style with narration during some parts, some cool sepia effects and skewed camera angles. This mix adds another dimension to this brilliant picture.

Tetsuya Watari is awesome as Rikio Ishikawa. Ishikawa is a character that hasn’t got any good qualities that makes you want to root for him at all – he’s just a crude, nasty, violent rapist and gangster. He has no respect for anybody, just as long as he gets his own way. You only have to look at the way he treats his only real ally (the geisha girl Chieko) in the movie that he doesn’t really care for her at all. Maybe some viewers will think he deserves what’s coming to him as the movie enters it’s finale? There’s plenty of violence onscreen in the movie that puts you slap bang in the middle of gang fights which is shot in Fukasaku’s unique style. Bright red blood is spilt in abundance especially in the unforgettable final scene.

Graveyard of Honor is an unmissable and memorable movie for those that love the yakuza genre. Takashi Miike made a remake of this movie in 2002 so I’m quite intrigued how that movie compares to this one. I’ll have to make sure to check it out very soon.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Blind Beast (1969)

Blind sculptor Michio kidnaps a female model Aki whose body he admired from a sculpture in a gallery. He takes her to his secret studio prison which is adorned by a massive torso of a female body in the center of the room and other large parts of the body that are on the walls. Michio wants Aki to help him create a masterpiece of clay using her body as the template simply by using his touch alone. Michio isn’t alone in this endeavour as his mother attends to his every needs. As Aki’s plight turns to desperation having tried the easy way to escape, she goes down another path which is seduction in order to drive a wedge between Michio and his mother. His mother gets jealous and in a tussle between the three of them she is accidentally killed. Michio blames Aki for this and repeatedly rapes her, however she starts to like what he’s doing to her. They begin a bizarre sexual relationship. As Aki herself starts to go blind due to being surrounded in total darkness for 24 hours, both herself and Michio descend into the limits of their depravity and masochistic tendencies which involves biting, whipping and using knives to draw blood so that they can drink it. But that isn’t enough for Aki who wants to experience the ultimate pleasure and pain!

Blind Beast is a lurid, dark and psychologically unique story that takes us into the extreme side of relationships but is also about obsession, emotional manipulation and the perverse nature of art. The movie is claustrophobic using minimal sets and lighting – the studio prison set is great in that it’s so surreal. I think the character of Aki sums it up best when she says it seems the large pieces of female sculpture parts dotted everywhere have been taken from the viewpoint of a baby. This movie is quite disturbing in that it manages to capture horror without using any gore whatsoever especially during the horrific final sequence. That’s one of the pluses that director Yasuzo Masumura has achieved with this movie – he doesn’t feel the need to show anything, just the sound of objects being used in cutting flesh is enough to repulse you. Although from the plot you might think this is full of sex scenes it isn’t although there’s plenty of nudity involved.

Mako Midori is very beautiful as the captive Aki who knows how to switch between playing the victim and the manipulator. Eiji Funakoshi as Michio plays his role extremely well. Watching him caress Aki’s body with his fingers is very chilling.

Although a shocking movie for the majority, it’s certainly one that you should experience. It’s well directed with brilliant cinematography and superb acting from the 2 leads. I guarantee that you will never have seen anything quite like it!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Villain (2010)

Yuichi Shimizu is a lonely young man who lives in a quiet fishing village but somehow through a dating agency he meets a young female sales insurance assistant from Fukuoka called Yoshino Ishibashi. They go on a couple of dates until one night she betrays him by going off with a rich university student Keigo Masuo in a car even though he’s not really interested in her at all. Yuichi follows them. Tired of Yoshino, Keigo dumps her in the middle of nowhere and leaves. Yuichi tries to help her but she’s having none of it. Yoshino threatens to tell the police that Yuichi kidnapped and raped her. This makes Yuichi snap who throttles her to death before dumping her over the side of a bridge. As the body is found and the police investigation begins, Keigo is made the prime suspect whilst Yuichi goes on with his daily life where he meets a shop sales assistant called Mitsuyo Magome who is also lonely in life. The two begin a passionate affair but by now Keigo has been cleared of his involvement in Yoshino’s murder and the police turn their attention to Yuichi. He confesses his crime to Mitsuyo who persuades Yuichi that they run away together. They break into a cold empty lighthouse but how long can they hold out until the police finally find where they are?

What a compelling movie this is which had me hooked from the very beginning to the end. Whilst Villain might have thinking that the title refers to just Yuichi then that’s a mistake. There are various other supporting characters whose actions make you wonder if they should be the main villain of the movie from the devious doctor who uses his yakuza henchmen to bully Yuichi’s grand mother into giving money to him and also Keigo Masuo who is such a lowlife scum that it will make you be somewhat sympathetic to Yuichi. It is the characters after all that drives this movie and makes it so good. Director Lee Sang-il also focuses some of the plot on the families of the victim and the murderer, showing the heavy burden that have been placed on them. Yoshino’s father in particular who pursues Keigo because he thinks he’s partly responsible for her death. As the circumstances for her death are unknown, he just wants to know why his daughter was murdered. The emotions the character displays is probably typical of someone who has lost a family member suddenly and tragically.

The cast are fantastic all round and the pacing is quite moderate as the movie runs to 140 mins. Eri Fukatsu is really good as Mitsuyo who has her sad reasons for falling for Yuichi but of course it’s Satoshi Tsumabuki who is so convincing as the tormented Yuichi. The story is dark and tough and it tackles some current issues in Japanese society such as loneliness and dating websites. But what I like most about this movie is whilst the majority can point the finger at somebody like Yuichi for being a bad person, how can you judge him when everybody can be evil in one way or another. Villain was one of the most top rated movies in Japan in 2010 which narrowly missed out on the best picture award at the Japanese equivalent of the Oscars. It’s well worth watching if you have a chance.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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