Archive for April, 2012

Mario is a reckless drug dealer who after blasting his fellow cons in a bar in Sao Paolo returns to Japan from Brazil 1 year later to rescue his gorgeous girlfriend Kei who is in the process of being deported. In an audacious plan, Mario steals a helicopter to stop the bus that is transporting Kei. The two escape only to be harassed by Ko, a merciless Chinese Triad who also happens to be Kei’s ex-lover. Mario and Kei purchase fake passports and plan an escape to a far away land. After an unorthodox wedding and a visit to Mario’s ex-lover Lucia and his blind love-child Carla, the two are almost on their way. To help fund their escape Kei and Mario interfere with a yakuza drug transaction, but instead of winding up with the money, they’re left with a suitcase of cocaine and even more yakuza on their trail. When the ship they were meant to stowaway on sinks before they ever get on it, the two are left with a new challenge to face. How are they going to get out of the country? With the triads and the yakuza on their tail and now with a bargaining tool thanks to them kidnapping Carla, Mario is not going to have an easy time in rescuing her.

Whilst not possessing quite the same intensity or shock value of other Miike masterpieces like Dead or Alive for example, this is still nevertheless a fast moving slick production which oozes with style and balances it’s manga tall tale surrealism expertly with plenty of violence, sick humour as well as a doomed love story – what more could you ask? It is not a run of the mill generic, mediocre, forgettable action movie that most film directors are churning out these days. The action is fast and frenetic and all the while Miike manages to inject a cruel wink of black humour such as a midget who keeps going to a toilet! The movie is also a sly dig at the many different cultures that live in Japan these days. You have to witness the incredible CG animated cock fighting sequence which replicates a scene from The Matrix. It was completely unexpected and I just couldn’t believe when I saw it – but what else do we expect from the vivid imagination of Miike! I wonder if the Wachowsky brothers have seen it and what do they make of it? I think the biggest draw in this movie is in it’s tongue in cheek presentation – that what makes it work so well. There’s also a very unique take by Miike on how Kei receives a spider tattoo on her shoulder.

The great multi-culture cast was an inspired choice by Miike. Teah is awesome as the Brazilian gangster Mario who speaks through actions rather than words and what can I say about the stunningly beautiful Michelle Reis as Mario’s girlfriend Kei. I loved the scene where she grabs a bottle of vodka, take a big swig, spits it out on the face of a Russian male collaborator and then lights the vodka so that it burns the man’s face. The rest of the supporting characters do a good job in their roles too. The little girl who plays Carla is very cute.

City Of Lost Souls is one wild ride to experience and even though it’s not one of Miike’s best, it’s still a very interesting movie which you should check out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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This movie has been split into 3 parts. The first part named Kamen Rider Decade: Final Chapter follows the series cliffhanger ending at the climax of the Rider War in which Decade accepts his place as the Destroyer of Worlds and Tsubasa is running amok taking on all the other riders in order to claim their cards. Can any of the Riders left alive stop Decade? The second part of the movie Kamen Rider Double: Begins Night investigates the origins of Kamen Rider Double as briefly shown in the opening of the series’ first episode, referred to in the series as the “Begins Night” and how Phillip and Shotarou’s boss Shokichi met his end. The Movie Wars 2010 is the third and final part of the movie, a convergence of the two parts that brings the casts and characters of Decade and Double to finish the fight with Super Shocker together.

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider W Decade Movie War 2010 was a fun movie. Having not watched a lot of Decade or W I wasn’t sure if I’d be lost with the movie’s plot but fear not because it didn’t really matter. The action’s great as usual with these Kamen Rider movies. However it’s a little uncomfortable especially in the first part because it’s largely Rider-on-Rider violence, and the deaths are fairly graphic, with Riders really exploding, chunks and all. You won’t see any blood or anything as this is a kids movie after all but I never thought I’d see the day when Kabuto’s head horn would be blown off! The character of Tsukasa as Decade is a nasty bastard make no mistake about it. He’s ruthless and seems to enjoy destroying the other riders. For him to get killed by Natsumi in her KR Kivaata form was a bit lame in my opinion. He’s gotten past all the other tough riders and it’s left to her to finally make the breakthrough to finish him off. Sorry I didn’t buy it. Just a minor gripe though and a great opening part to the movie.

As for the KR Double segment of the movie, I also really enjoyed this as well. Unlike Decade where I did manage to catch a third of the series, with Double I switched off after 2 episodes as I thought it had too many young characters for my liking. Now after watching this movie I might actually go back and watch the entire series. This part of the movie gives a good backstory to the series which builds up to a satisfying conclusion. It’s the characters that actually make this part work so well even the annoying Akiko which was one of the main reasons I disliked the series so much. We also get to see the appearance of KR Skull who looks cool with his hat. The action is top notch.

So now onto the final part where Decade and W team up to defeat Super Shocker but Decade also brings along a few other friends along to counter the threat – 9 Heisei Riders. This sequence might not have the grand scale feel of All Riders vs Dai Shocker but it’s still amazing to see. The only problem is what semblance of plot and logic you had going in the first 2 parts is thrown out of the window in the final segment. It didn’t really matter because the action is so good you don’t really care about it.

Overall, this movie was fantastic and it was a great way to end Decade’s story although he would appear in other KR movies after this. Definitely recommended for KR fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Intentions Of Murder (1964)

Sadako is a plump, bored housewife, cursed by generations before her and neglected by her common-law husband who is having an affair with a work colleague. Looked down by virtually everyone, especially her mother-in-law, Sadako stays at home doing some knitting for money but is desperate to end her miserable life but cannot due to her son Masaru. Then one night whilst her husband is away, she falls prey to a brutal thief who rapes her. Sadako is continually hounded by her rapist, who shows up again and again professing love for her and a desire for them to run away together. At the same time, her husband becomes suspicious that she is having an affair, which causes him to treat her with even more vicious contempt. Meanwhile her husband’s lover steps up in her campaign to become his real wife and starts following Sadako with a camera in order to gather evidence to show to Riichi what she’s up to in the hope of catching her indiscretion.

In detailed fashion, the movie investigates the troubled psyche of a dull, uneducated lower-class housewife in a backward northeastern province of Japan. The woman is so stupid that she is scarcely aware of the drabness of her life with a petty, bickering husband and his whining mother or of her own thwarted sensuality. The movie delivers a powerful message about the human instinct to escape stifling existence. You could also say that it’s a perversely twisted domestic melodrama about how Japanese society allows pathetic men to manipulate and control the women in their lives. But Sadako comes through her experiences a stronger person as she begins the movie without claim to her son or husband, not respected by her mother-in-law, and potentially in danger of losing everything. It takes harrowing circumstances to correct these problems, but she emerges, despite the psychological scars, with a more stable situation, and one far better than if she had ignored the rape. Masumi Harukawa gives quite an outstanding performance as Sadako and is probably the only person that you really care about in the movie. The rest of the main characters are all obnoxious people even her 6 year old son is starting to turn into a person that’s been taking advantage of Sadako over the years. There is some deeper meaning about this movie but I’m not the right person to start going on about that! There’s also plenty of symbolism in this movie about Sadako’s situation such as the two mice which are running aimlessly in their cage and one devours the other eventually.

Intentions of Murder is beautifully directed by Shôhei Imamura with its black & white cinematography, stark shadows and wonderful scenery. Recommended for fans of the director’s work.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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As the movie begins, we see a depressed Japanese man called Kenji attempting to hang himself but being thwarted by the doorbell of his apartment going off. Kenji lives in Bangkok, Thailand and works in a library there. He doesn’t have a girlfriend and he seems to be an impeccably clean person judging by the rigid state of his apartment where all sorts of books have been stacked around in alphabetical order and the place looks spotless. A person with an OCD disorder perhaps? His brother arrives to see him because he’s in trouble which starts chain of events in Kenji’s life. Kenji murders two people in his apartment and is about to throw himself from a bridge when he sees a young Thai girl Nid in a Japanese school uniform who’s having an argument with her sister Noi. He had noticed her earlier at his workplace and was transfixed by her. When Nid is distracted by Kenji, a passing car slams into her instantly killing the young girl. This tragic incident brings Nid and Kenji together when he asks if he can crash out at her dirty apartment for a couple of days. Thus starts a peculiar romance between the two where they gradually become to depend on each other. When Nid’s gangster ex-boyfriend sticks his nose in her business once more and 3 yakuza arrive from Osaka to see Kenji, the stage is set for a collision.

What an impressive movie this was and so interesting to watch. It’s a surreal romance of sorts (not of the ordinary sort) and also a clash of two differing cultures in more ways than one. Nid being a Thai girl and such a slob, not really giving a toss about cleaning up her place in comparison to Kenji a Japanese man who’s too much of a neat freak for his own good. However the two of them together seems to work, bonded by tragedy. I guess the term ‘opposites attract’ is perfect for the situation. They find solace in each other as both are lonely. The movie is touching, entertaining, and even hilarious at times especially when the 3 yakuza characters come to Bangkok. One of them with a plaster underneath his eye goes around asking every man he comes across if he’s Kenji. The stupidity of his action usually follows with a swift slap across the head. It really is funny to see. Takashi Miike plays the head yakuza gangster by the way so that kind of explains why we see a movie poster of Ichi The Killer shown in the library where Kenji works.

The two leads are excellent. We know what Tadanobu Asano can do as he is such a remarkable actor and he excels again in this movie as Kenji. I’d never seen Sinitta Boomyasak before but she is equally as good in her role as Nid. Seeing Kenji and Nid try and communicate through broken English, a little bit of Japanese and Thai was so good as you can see the chemistry between them. Their mis-understandings of language are juxtaposed with their understandings of each other. There is nothing so clear as body language and this movie relies heavily on the physicality of the two leads. You know that both like each other but have difficulty in expressing their feelings. Their quirky relationship is a joy to watch.

Last Life In The Universe is a fantastic Thai movie which deserves to be seen more by Asian movie fans. Director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang has to be congratulated for weaving such a beautiful tale. The pacing may be too slow for some and the action (if I can call it that) is sporadic so be aware of that. Highly recommended and unmissable.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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City Of Life And Death (2010)

The movie takes place in 1937, during the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Imperial Japanese Army invades the then-capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing. What followed was known as the Nanking Massacre, a period of several weeks wherein massive numbers of Chinese prisoners of war and civilians were killed.

A very powerful, harrowing and bleak movie depicting the atrocities that took place in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation of the city during WW2. It’s a documentary-like testimony to the cruelties of war. It holds nothing back. Superbly filmed in black and white, the camera seems to capturing events as they happen and the images that you witness in this movie will live with you long after the end credits has finished. It’s heartbreaking and upsetting. One such scene in particular is really gutwrenching: it’s where captured Chinese soldiers are led to a place where they will be executed, and just before getting mown down by machine guns the soldiers shout “Long live China” and “China will not die”. The movie will make you think long and hard how human beings can do such terrible to each other. As this is a Chinese production, you’re probably wondering if this just national propoganda as I’m fully aware that the Chinese people have never really forgiven the nation of Japan for what they did to them during the war. The wounds run deep and the hate for the Japanese especially among the elder population is very real. This isn’t a movie that takes sides at all. The story is told through the eyes and feelings of a few characters (Japanese and Chinese) thus giving us a point of view from the two sides. It was a good idea by the director to have a sympathetic Japanese soldier Kadokawa so that the viewer doesn’t just hate the lot of them. There is also no real character development to speak of, since most of these characters are just trying to stay sane or alive. If ever there was a movie to show us that war is hell then this is it thanks to writer-director Chuan Lu and cinematographer Yu Cao. Its as much anti-war as you can get. There is great horror shown from the normal horrors of warfare, to numerous and frequent graphic rapes, nastiness involving children and pretty much every kind of cruelty you can think of.

City Of Life Or Death is a masterpiece and a remarkable movie experience that everybody should see, telling us about a dark chapter in world history which will never be forgotten. It’s a difficult movie to watch, that there is no doubt but see this and be prepared to be moved. Outstanding.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Two orphan girls are trained from a young age along with a boy by their foster father Fok on how to be assassins once they grow up. Fok and his ‘children’ live completely above the law doing contract hits in which both ‘sisters’ carry out with ruthless efficiency. During a mission ordered by Fok in which an ambush has been arranged, a van full of children are unfortunately killed. This traumatic incident plays on the mind of one of the sisters ‘Silver Fox’ when she begins to have nightmares about it. They are ordered to go to Bangkok, Thailand to retrieve a floppy disk which has some important information that could implicate Fok. They complete the mission but they barely escape from the Thai military. In the ensuing escape, both sisters are split up. Silver Fox is injured and bangs her head hard against a tree before losing unconsciousness after falling into a river. Meanwhile a Chinese brother and sister (Rocky and Lan) are running bar called The Cabin Pub. Lan is a former HK policewoman. Her brother Rocky is desperate to become a Thai boxer and in a bout proves how talented he is but this bring him to the attention of a gangster Mr Chin who is putting a lot of money on Rocky to win his fights. A traffic accident makes it impossible for Rocky to compete in a fight which pisses off Mr Chin and Lan tries to get him to back off from using Rocky in his gambling racket. However Mr Chin doesn’t give up easily and applies some pressure on the siblings. Into this situation comes an amnesiac Silver Fox who drops on the floor of The Cabin Pub. The siblings help her out and Rocky starts to like her. Once she’s recovered they begin to ask her questions but she has no idea who she is so they assume she’s a refugee, give her a new name ‘Gold’ and give her a job at the pub. Silver Fox’s sister is still searching for her across Bangkok and her brother comes over to help with the news that their ‘father’ isn’t happy. Mr Chin attacks the Cabin Pub with machine guns where Silver Fox once again bangs her head which makes her memory return. She takes out all of Mr Chin’s men. The other sister finally reunites with Silver Fox who does not want to go back to HK. She has been ordered to kill Silver Fox if she refuses. Her sentiment towards her sister gets her killed by her brother Scorpion. Rocky is killed as well in trying to save Silver Fox. Fok comes to Thailand to retrieve the disk for himself. The stage is set for a showdown between Ko, Scorpion and their forces against Silver Fox and Lam who want revenge for losing somebody close to them.

One of the best Moon Lee/Yukari Oshima actioners with some fine acting by not only the pair but by actress Sibelle Hu as well. The story is very well done with some interesting plot elements that combine to create a great mix. For a HK actioner, a good deal of character development which is well paced is shown. Usually in these kind of stories, the plot would just be strung together as an excuse to highlight the action set-pieces, however it’s different in this movie. The plot is equally as important as the action. If you want top notch shootouts and martial arts fights then this movie gives it to you in droves along with some great kickboxing matches. Many have complained that the matches are simply used as filler material to expand the running time. That may be the case but I enjoyed watching Rocky’s matches against his superior opponents even when the odds are heavily stacked against him.

Moon Lee gives a rather sensitive performance for a change as the flawed and guilt ridden assassin Silver Fox. She takes an extreme amount of punishment in this movie even getting shot in the leg twice and also in the arm. How she’s still standing in the end I do not know!! Yukari Oshima also delivers in what was a memorable role for her. She has a knack of showing how good an actress she is by not just speaking dialogue but from the expressions on her face which is impressive to see. Both women look gorgeous together and make a great combination. It’s easy to see why they were placed together in so many movies during the early 90’s. On saying that it’s probably Sibelle Hu’s wisecracking chainsmoking bar owner Lan that was the best character in the entire movie. In what’s quite a serious movie, her character provided just a small amount of humour to give us something to smile about. Ben Lam is also very good as the naive Rocky. I liked Hsu Hsia as Scorpion (the girls’ brother) who kills without a trace of emotion and stands out in his white outfit looking ever so cool!

Dreaming The Reality is a solid HK actioner with excellent acting by all the cast and is directed competently by Simon Yun-Ching. If you haven’t seen this yet, try and seek it out. It’s well worth watching and you will not be disappointed.

No trailer but here’s a clip from the movie to enjoy.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Young Rantaro is sent to learn the ways of being a ninja by his parents (they themselves were ninjas) by sending him off to ninja school. They have high hopes for him and he promises to be the best ninja ever. At the school he meets his classmates such as the boy with a very runny nose who dozes off in his class and gets his arse beaten by a teacher and an orphan who babysits 2 young kids whilst studying. Each lesson brings a new skills for Rantaro to master such as throwing shuriken stars to climbing a mountain with metal claws. His class teacher is Mr Doi who has a habit of falling in some dog shit when he’s dodging some shuriken stars thrown awkwardly by his students. Ranataro begins to take in what the other grades at the school are doing and realises the effort they put in is making them quite good. But there’s a dark cloud on the horizon as some bad ninjas try to kill some friends of Mr Doi (a couple of camp hairdressers) which is thwarted by his students. To settle the case once and for all, the bad ninjas must have a race with the 1st graders to ring a bell on top of a mountain.

Based on a very popular kids anime called Rantaro the Ninja Boy, this is a first for me – a Takashi Miike movie that I don’t really like. He fails miserably with this slapstick comedy and to be honest I couldn’t wait for it to finish. It just dragged on and on and I was bored which I usually never get whilst watching any of his movies. Miike can do some subtle comedy as we’ve seen from previous movies but something was amiss in this, his first outright comedy. I’m not sure if Miike was trying to make fun of Harry Potter or not as the lead character looks like a young version of the boy wizard. The opening 10 mins gives you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for moving from sight gag to another sight gag and I somewhat liked the first half but I don’t know what happened in the 2nd half as the movie just fell to pieces completely. Perhaps I didn’t like it as the target audience for the movie was young kids and I’m sure the wacky comedy appeals very much to them.

Seishiro Kato does well in his role as Rantaro. He’s a very likeable little lad who will charm the pants off you. The other young cast members exude their lively personalities to the audience too. You cheer for them and want them to succeed as ninjas. At times I thought the movie was like a Christmas panto with men in drag popping up.

A big disappointment from a director I admire very much. I know from reading people’s views online that I’m not the only Miike fan to be let down by this movie. Kids will lap it up and enjoy the humour but I just couldn’t get into it at all. After about 40 minutes it got stale and boring. There is some fun to be had but it’s scarce.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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A former gang member returns from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to present to the Justice Department, in exchange for immunity, a list of members of the Shadow triad gang operating in Hong Kong. The gang member (unfortunately named Jackie Chan!) is placed under the protection of the Blue Angels, an all-female special operations unit of the HKPD. The Angels’ mission is to identify the head of the Southeast Asian Shadows. Chan and his list are to be used as bait to apprehend the Shadow triad gang leaders Don Chu and Chico. The leading Blue Angel, Yau Li  goes undercover by working as a singer-dancer at Don Chu’s night club. Her performance leads Chu’s bodyguard Michael to become infatuated with her but this does not go down well with his girlfriend who is seething with rage. A new member to the Blue Angels team goes ballistic when she finds that Jackie is working with them as he had a part in the murder of her little boy 3 years ago when he and his mother found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Michael’s girlfriend is convinced that Yau Li is a policewoman and sets out to kill her but she’s saved by Michael. When Don Chu finds out that Jackie has no list he orders Chico to kill him. Chico himself is also killed before he can tell everything to the Blue Angels by Michael. The stage is set for the ultimate confrontation as the 3 policewoman head to the Shadow HQ to arrest Don Chu.

Killer Angels has been touted around as being one of the best Girls With Guns movies ever so who am I to contest that claim as it is a brilliant action packed and thrilling ride. It’s got an incredible cast led by Moon Lee and Gordon Liu plus the superb Nadeki Fujimi as a mean, cold, ruthless, unforgiving and efficient shotgun shooting killer. The plot is nothing special and it doesn’t give you anything new and unexpected (just the usual betrayals and double crosses) but did I care about that? Not really, I watched this movie for the action and it delivers big style with many frenetic and hyper kinetic set pieces which I loved from dramatic shootouts to full on martial arts scraps. Moon Lee’s fight with Nadeki Fujimi at the Star Ferry terminal is one of the highlights after Lee has been pursued by Fujimi on a motorbike but the climatic 3 pronged assault on the triad HQ by the Blue Angels team who are loaded up with machineguns is awesome and very exciting to watch. Just a shame it’s so damn short, I wanted the ass kicking to go on for longer.

Moon Lee displays both her cute and sexy side in her role as Yau Li. She looks stunning in her nightclub singing scene all dressed in black leather and you can see why Gordon Liu’s character becomes drawn to her. Hell, I would too!! Surprisingly she’s got quite a good singing voice as well (if that was her voice singing that is?). Lui doesn’t get to display any of his martial arts skills, he just shoots people instead. I thought he would have been given a chance to have a fight with one of the Blue Angels team. He gave as good a performance as any of the cast. Even though Moon Lee’s character is the main focus of the movie, it’s probably Nadeki Fujimi that stands out from everybody. She is excellent in what is a bit part role.  She looks so cool in her motorcycle outfit and dark glasses. Her whole menacing demeanour is so bad-ass. The way she angrily tells Michael that she will cut Yau Li’s tits off gives you the impression that this lady isn’t somebody you want to cross!

Killer Angels is a worthy movie that deserves to be watched by HK action junkies. The fast pace means you’re never far from a set-piece which just gets better as the movie goes on. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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The story begins with a flashback scene as 2 practising geomancer brothers are searching for the holy grail area of Feng Shui in an unnamed country with the hope of locating the ideal burial place when they die. They find the perfect idyllic place based on their theories. The location where they hope to be buried will determine the fortune that will be bestowed on the future generation of their respective families – be it power, wealth or wisdom.  When one brother doesn’t like what the other is saying about where he wants to be buried as he wants his family to be powerful in the future, he makes a run for it with his brother’s mercenary forces in hot pursuit. He barely manages to escape by jumping into a local peasant’s boat but unfortunately the peasant himself is fatally wounded. His final wish is to be buried in the area where his children will acquire some wealth and as gratitude for saving his life the brother carries out his wishes. The brother himself wants to get buried where his son will be granted great intellect. Fast forward 20 years in the future where a young woman Anna who runs a computing company in LA is having dire financial problems and also has to deal with a computer hacker named Wisely.  He is also having his own problems having discovered that he has a brain tumour. It won’t kill him but will make him insane.  Both have a feeling that their misfortune is linked to the burial site of their ancestors and along with an astrologer friend who’s an expert in geomancy and feng shui travel to the country to locate their burial sites. It seems that because an evil person has also been buried in that area the tomb must be destroyed for the bad luck to disappear. However there are complications for the trio when they arrive in the country as the President’s top military general stages a coup and kills the leader. He has plans for world domination using the powers of geomancy, astrology and feng shui. The general’s sister isn’t too happy about this and assists Anna, Wisely and the astrologer with their quest but when the general finds out he goes crazy. Can the trio complete what they originally set out to do and also stop the mad general’s plan with their lives intact?

This is an action packed adventure (a bit like an Indiana Jones style movie) which also contains a mystical element to the story too. It’s to do with feng shui and geomancy which is divination by means of lines and figures or by geographic features. As the movie assumes that the viewer knows something about geomancy in general, this could be why many Western viewers are a little bit confused about the story. No expense was spared with the budget on this production with the movie shot in Los Angeles and in Indochina. The biggest draw in Bury Me High is the superb well staged action scenes with some tanks and heavy weaponry being used. A lot of explosives go off, more than what is usually seen in HK movies. The martial arts is fantastic  – fast, brutal and exciting which is topped off by an amazing three way fight between Moon Lee, Yuen Wah and Chin Kar Lok. The final 20 minutes showcases some of the best intense action scenes in HK cinema you’ll ever see. I also have to mention the beautiful cinematography by Peter Pau. The location they use for the majority of the movie is just gorgeous with a stunning mountain range used as a backdrop. For some reason this movie didn’t do so well at HK cinemas at the time of it’s release. You’d think with the great cast involved it would have done OK but apparently it didn’t. Perhaps the mix of various genres didn’t appeal to audiences?

The cast is uniformly great and play interesting characters from Moon Lee who looks beautiful in her designer outfits (even appearing in a bikini) as the young female tycoon Anna and has some cool fight scenes to Yuen Wah who nearly steals the movie as the mad and nasty villain General Nguen. Sibelle Hu, Chin Kar Lok and even Tsui Siu-Ming (the movie’s director) who play the rest of the 5 leading roles in this movie also contribute hugely to the slick fast paced story.

Despite a bit of a slow start, once Bury Me High gets going you won’t find a better action movie. It’s possible that you may get confused with the storyline. All I can say is just pay close attention to the first 10-15 minutes, take it all in and perhaps then you might understand what’s going on. I loved this movie and I hope you will too.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Sonny Chiba is back as assassin for hire Tukuma Tsurugi who’s working for the mafia. He’s assigned to silence a person who’s been arrested by the police and is being interrogated by them. To do this, Tsurugi deliberately gets himself arrested in a bike chase. At the police station Tsurugi breaks free from his arresting officers, finds his intended target and rips out his vocal chords before escaping from the prison and into a waiting car. The mafia is trying to build a large martial arts academy by laundering money from home and abroad and using the name of Tukuma’s old friend Matsuoka. When Matsuoka finds out about this, the mafia ask Tsurugi to snuff him out.  He refuses as it violates his code of honour. The mafia decide Tsurugi’s usefulness is over and places him on their list for termination.  But the mafia have made a mistake as Tsurugi is not a man that they want to mess with and his payback will be marked with copious amounts of blood! And if things weren’t complicated enough for Tsurugi, an old enemy returns with revenge on his mind.

This sequel (the 2nd in the trilogy) is actually an improvement of sorts on the first movie with more ridiculous OTT action and gore. On saying that though it’s obvious that the filmmakers were desperately trying to pad out the movie and prolong the running time by adding some blue sepia tinted flashback scenes from the first movie and some karate dojo training stuff. It seems to me that Tsurugi has mellowed out a little too and the hilarious face gurning he did before when psyching himself up has been toned down. Instead he resorts to some deep gutteral sounds as if he’s trying to produce a large phlegm from the back of his throat!!! The violent fight scenes are brilliant with great choreography. You just have to see the part when he punches somebody in the back of his head so hard the unfortunate guy’s eyeballs come out! So hilarious! Once the plot has been laid out, the action is relentless with the mafia attacking Tsurugi at a ski resort, a sauna and use a femme fatale to bed him so that she can stab him. There’s no peace and quiet for the poor guy! Prepare to suspend your disbelief during the police station breakout as Tsurugi not only manages to kick everybody’s ass in the station but he also smashes part of a solid wall with his legs no less so that he can jump through a window which has bars, fall down onto a parked car before escaping in a getaway vehicle. The final fight at the mafia’s HQ is also extremely good and exciting with Tsurugi showing why he’s a one man killing machine. It’s obvious for those that like their old school anime that you can see The Street Fighter’s influence in the Fist Of The North Star movie as it displays the same kind of bloody violence. The character of Ken is basically Tsurugi.

Sonny Chiba is superb as Tsurugi and pulled in a better performance than the previous movie. Even though he’s still an anti-hero, he’s definitely more likeable than before. I just didn’t like his female side-kick at all. She was incredibly annoying. It was good to see Masashi Ishibashi return as Tsurugi’s mortal enemy who he thought he had killed. Their duel was a bit disappointing, I expected it to be longer and more interesting than it was. The big boss in this movie isn’t that good plus he doesn’t even have the image of a mafia boss. He has a dumb name in Don Costello and is quite a weak character!

Overall, Return Of The Street Fighter was an entertaining non-stop OTT movie if you like your action thick and fast. Roll on with the last in the trilogy – The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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San Te is a student that’s caught up in the conflict between the Han rebels and the controlling Manchu government. Seeing the common people treated badly and oppressed makes San Te angry and this grows when he witnesses a murder of an innocent person. After consulting with his teacher, he chooses to join the rebellion who hope to topple the Manchu government. However when they discover that San Te and his students have sided with the rebels they are all rounded up and his family is murdered. San Te and his friend flee their town and decide to head to the Shaolin Temple to learn kung fu in the hope that when are fully trained they can come back and defend the town.  However they are pursued and San Te’s friend is killed. San Te is himself injured in his leg but manages to crawl to a nearby village where he collapses. The villagers manage to get him inside a large barrel which is bound to the Shaolin Temple by the monks. Once inside the temple itself he’s discovered inside the barrel. The monks nurse him back to help but the head monk of the temple wants him to leave as he’s an outsider. He asks if he can join them. For 6 months all he does is sweep the temple grounds. In the end he grows tired of this and ask if he can learn kung fu. He is asked which one of the 35 chambers he would like to start his kung fu training. He replies at the top – the 35th chamber. Unfortunately he is completely humiliated so he begs to start at the very bottom at the 1st chamber so he can work his way up. Each chamber gives San Te something for him to learn as his knowledge of Shaolin grows. The training is tough and involves using his brains as well as brawn to clear the chambers. Many years pass and San Te is seen to be progressing at a fast pace compared to the other students. As his training comes to an end, San Te is officially exiled from the Shaolin Temple so that he can help his own people against the tyrannical Manchu government. He plans to teach the local people some kung fu. His antics soon bring him to the attention of General Tien Ta, the Manchu Governor who wants San Te dead.

You may be a person that loves martial arts movies but you can’t call yourself a proper fan until you’ve seen this classic Shaw Brothers movie. You might have even heard about the movie but not bothered to take any notice of it. If you’ve thought why should I bother with those cheesy HK 70’s martial arts movies then shame on you as you’re missing out on some sensational stuff and in this one of the very best martial arts movie you’ll ever see. 36th Chamber of Shaolin was the movie that made martial arts movies popular again in Hong Kong which had been on the wane since the death of Bruce Lee. Fans of the genre would have a new hero to worship in the brilliant Gordon Liu and this was the movie that would thrust him into the limelight and establish him as one of the greatest martial artists of all time. He delivers a stellar performance as San Te. It’s a simple enough tale of a young man learning and maturing into a grand master of kung fu.

This may be a kung fu movie and yes, there are some fights along the way but that’s not the main attraction of the movie. It’s the brilliant training sequences we witness inside the Shaolin Temple that stand out more than anything such as the water crossing scenes for example. San Te is an impetuous young man when he starts his training and gradually we see a change occur in him. He becomes more disciplined and is determined to overcome each obstacle he faces. You can feel his pain as he struggles to master each new chamber. Once San Te is exiled from the temple that’s when we get to witness some amazing fights especially the climatic one with General Tien Ta as he battles him with his own invention – a three section staff.

36th Chamber Of Shaolin is a very special movie which has drama, an excellent plot, great characters and some incredible martial arts fights. To put it simply – don’t miss out on it. It might be the ultimate kung fu movie. It really is that good. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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In the 3rd and final part of the Hanzo trilogy, we begin with his two assistants Devil-Fire and Viper fishing near the Shogunate treasury at night. However, their activities are brought to an end when a female ghost appears before their eyes and scaring the shit out of them. Running away to tell their master, Hanzo gets a glint in his eye and wants to meet this ghost immediately as he wants to have sex with her!! But of course this isn’t a real ghost after all but a woman who’s trying to keep away people from the river as there’s somebody on the inside in the treasury stealing gold coins and putting them inside bamboo rods before throwing them in the river where the sharp ends become stuck on the river floor ready for collection later. Hanzo discovers what’s going on and wants some information out of the woman so he carts her back to his place where the old torture net sex technique comes into effect. Just as the woman is about to confess everything to Hanzo she’s killed (that’s got to be a first for Hanzo!). Then all hell breaks loose as Hanzo’s house is attacked by a group led by the woman’s husband who’s an unhappy samurai guard at the treasury. After the group is destroyed, Hanzo returns the money back to the Shogunate but he still wants to find out who’s behind the thieving at the treasury. It seems that those on low wages such as Hanzo’s old samurai friend Heisuke Takei borrow money from a blind loan shark who’s employed by Elder Hotta who gives treasury money away to people as long as they give him more money back with interest after they’ve returned it. In another side-plot Hanzo has hidden a dying rebel doctor who’s been arrested for speaking out against the Shogunate for not adopting Western weapons which would aid Japan against an invasion by foreign countries. Hanzo gives him the task of building a copper cannon.

By now if you’ve watched the other 2 Hanzo movies, you should have become used to the format and structure of the stories and that these movies aren’t to be taken seriously at all. How can you take any of it serious when the lead character states that all men should have sex with a female ghost once in their life as their bodies will be so cold and their private parts will be tight!!! You’d also think that any person attacking Hanzo’s house would be aware from word of mouth that it’s booby trapped to the hilt with weapons and it’s futile to even attempt attacking it but here we have another troop of men going blindly to their deaths!!

This is probably the weakest of the trilogy and it’s a rather tame effort when you compare it to the other two. The exploitation stuff is dealt with in the first 10 minutes. The comedy comes thick and fast from the opening with Hanzo furiously bashing his penis on a block of wood as his 2 assistants Devil-Fire and Viper explain to him about the ghost! It makes me wonder how actor Shintaro Katsu managed to keep his face straight when delivering some of his lines, sometimes I thought I could see a kind of a smirk coming across his face as if he’s trying hard not to break out laughing!

Somehow this movie wasn’t as much fun as Sword of Justice and The Snare. It’s still good don’t get me wrong and it contains an amazing duel as Hanzo takes out a group of 20 men with his sword. All the different plots come together to give a satisfying ending. Overall it’s been a superb trilogy and there’s a lot of fun to be had in watching all of the movies. I’m sure if there was other movies with Hanzo I would have loved to have seen them but sadly there isn’t. Exploitation fans will have a ball with the Hanzo movies. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The nation’s idols are in danger so who you gonna call? Mei, Kai and Yumi are high school students but are also secret police detectives. A threat has been made against the idol group Morning Musume through a letter sent to the police so Mei and her detective sisters are given the task of guarding them. After their concert, the group are driven to their hotel in a minibus with 2 cars (one in front, one at the rear) shadowing the vehicle. Mei has gone along with the idol group to guard them on the minibus but when they arrive at their destination the driver of the minibus stumbles out! Morning Musume and Mei have mysteriously vanished and have been replaced by balloons. Yumi retraces the bus’ route in order to find some clues. What she finds in the woods along the way is the dead body of the minibus driver. During daylight more clues are found including a badge close to where the body was found. Yumi is convinced that there’s a link between the wooden bird nests that have been placed on the trees, a climbing hook and some wire that’s been found dangling nearby. A call is made to the police saying that Morning Musume and Mei have been taken hostage and the kidnapper wants some ransom money. An image of an unconscious Mei is shown tied to a chair in the kidnappers lair. Instructions are given to the police on where to take the money and Kai along with her adult colleague go to Odaiba to the rendevous point as stated in the telephone message. A toolbox from the minibus is found with a cryptic note telling the two where to go next with the money. This leads them to the Kuko River next to a pumping station where another cryptic message awaits. Will the two remaining sisters manage to find Morning Musume and Mei before anything happens to them?

The Keitai Deka (Mobile Detective) franchise has been ongoing since 2002 with 8 TV series so far and 3 spin-off movies. The original first 2 series even had such stars as Aoi Miyazaki and Maki Horikita in the leading roles. The first movie appeared in 2006 with the follow-up released in 2007. This, the 3rd movie came out 4 years later. I had low expectations before watching this movie and I was in fact expecting a silly teenage girl comedy movie but it turned out to be quite a serious detective thriller. It does have it’s silliness at times but mostly it’s played dead straight. What I liked most about the movie was it shows the girls using their reasoning and intelligence to solve clues and piece things together, even showing up their superiors at times. Even with this happening, it is never shown or implied that the adult police officers look down on the girls even if they are only teenage school girls. They are treated with respect and valued for their intelligence.

The 3 leading girls (Aya Omasa/Azuka and Anri Okamoto) are very cute and easy on the eye. They excel in their roles and are backed up by a great cast of supporting characters. This isn’t an idol movie at all and Morning Musume only have around 15 minutes screen time and 7 minutes of that is shown of them performing onstage. They only have a smattering of dialogue given to them. What’s funny is that some of the Morning Musume members (specifically the Chinese duo LinLin and JunJun) had graduated from the group in December 2010 so when the movie was released in February 2011 the lineup had changed!

The plot is lightweight fare but even so it’s still an enjoyable movie. I was surprised how much I liked it. I thought it was great fun. I’d like to see the other two movies someday. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010)

A teenage boy called Sho is staying at his grandmother’s house in the outskirts of Tokyo to rest and gather his strength before undergoing a heart operation. Since the time of his great-grandfather, Sho’s family has spoken of the “little people” who live in the house. Though they have not been seen for many years, they are still there, building their home using things they “borrow” that Sho’s family won’t notice are missing. Sho catches a glimpse of one of the little people when he arrives at the house – a young girl called Arrietty who lives under the floorboards of the house with her mother and father. One night during her first expedition to borrow a lump of sugar and a tissue part with her father, Arrietty is discovered by Sho. He doesn’t do anything but lets them leave peacefully. Though her expedition ended in failure, Arrietty is shocked when Sho leaves a lump of sugar outside the house with a note saying “You forgot something”. Fearing it might be a trap, Arrietty leaves the sugar well alone. Later though she takes the sugarlump which has been half taken by ants and dumps it into Sho’s bedroom who is astonished to see this. He saves her life from a marauding crow. Arrietty and Sho become friends though she doesn’t reveal herself to him at first. But things are about to get complicated when Sho’s grandmothers’ maid Haru is aware that the “little people” are back in the house and is determined to find their hiding place. After Sho stupidly switches the kitchen of the borrowers house with one from a dolls house, Haru discovers what’s going on and captures Arrietty’s mother. Can Sho and Arrietty manage to rescue her mother?

I’ve always adored watching Ghibli movies and whilst I’m rather late in watching this movie as it came out in 2010 it was definitely worth the wait. An anime that appeals to everybody across the board from children to adults. Ghibli always make special movies and I’ve yet to see a bad one from them. Hayao Miyazaki didn’t direct this movie though he had a hand in the screenplay. The honour went to long time Ghibli animator Hiromasa Yonebashi and this was his directorial debut. It’s a beautiful movie and the high standards of what we’ve come to expect of Ghibli continues. I would think that most people know about the story of The Borrowers by Mary Norton, there’s been many TV adaptations (one shown as recently as last Christmas) and yet this movie manages to make the story seem fresh and new. The story is wonderfully written and executed. The animation is superb as you’d expect from Ghibli with every little detail drawn beautifully. The plot works well to keep you entertained containing some excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat – kids won’t be bored by watching this movie I guarantee you that.

What makes this movie work more than anything apart from the animation and the excellent soundtrack is the characters themselves. Arrietty has enough spirit and charm to carry the movie on her own, although she doesn’t have to worry about that. Her anxious yet loving mother Homily and her strong but kindhearted father Pod play out far beyond the caricatures that they usually would be. Sho is a quiet, thoughtful young teenager facing a harrowing heart surgery with a subtle grace and preparation- a nice counter to a lot of characters his age. Even the main antagonist, Haru, is definitely not evil; at worst she is only incredibly overeager and maybe a bit crazy. All the characters are incredibly real.

So on the whole Arrietty is a winner all round and another masterpiece from the studio that can do no wrong. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this movie. I can’t wait to see the next Ghibli project From Up On Poppy Hill by Miyazaki’s son Goro.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Sonny Chiba is Duke Togo aka Golgo 13, the world’s most feared assassin. Togo is given a task by the underworld to snuff out renegade HK drug lord Chow Liu Fong who’s masquerading as a businessman. Three previous assassins have tried to take him out but failed so when you want a job properly done you go and ask for the best and that’s why they’ve asked for Golgo 13. Everything seems to be according to plan for him and his target is in his sights during a ceremony to open a pool but just as he’s about to pull the trigger somebody else does it for him. A female assassin no less. The police led by a determined cop named Smithy are convinced that Golgo 13 is behind the murder and promptly arrest him but with no evidence they have to let him go. Golgo 13 is now on a mission to find out who’s behind Chow’s murder and the evidence points to a Mr Polanski, a diplomat for the country of Porania. Polanski has sealed a deal with the FBI to name and shame major drug dealers and in return will be granted asylum in the US. Golgo 13 will not rest until his task is complete and plans to take out Polanski before he gets the chance to leave Hong Kong.

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment is a gritty grindhouse movie, typical of 70’s Japanese cinema and Sonny Chiba by the time this movie came out had settled into a rather stereotypical role handed to him by various filmmakers – that of a tough uncompromising man. It’s not his best movie but if you’re a die-hard fan you should find plenty to entertain you here. You’ll certainly have to suspend your disbelief at some of the things that goes on – for example Golgo 13 must be one hell of a shot to shoot his target on a helicopter in flight whilst dangling from a cliff! Apparently this kind of absurdness is typical of the director Yukio Noda and you’ll find more than one such sequence in this movie. The story trundles along at a brisk pace full of exciting shootouts and bone breaking martial arts mayhem. There’s a fair bit of nudity on offer too courtesy of the delightful and sultry actress Dana. You would not be wrong to think that there’s a kind of a James Bond like feeling to this movie as the story takes us to several countries and is not just content to stay in Hong Kong. Miami, Kyoto and Macao are several of the globe trotting locations on show though going to these places doesn’t really advance the plot one bit.

Sonny Chiba delivers a solid performance as Golgo 13, a paranoid individual who expects to get attacked by anybody at any moment. He matches the image of the cool anti-hero assassin in the manga and was probably the perfect choice to play the role. The character of Golgo 13 hardly smiles, has a stony expression and snarls his way through the movie. Whenever he goes, death and violence seems to follow him such as when he helps a young woman who kills her violent boyfriend in a sidestreet. He rescues her from the police and then from her boyfriend’s gang who’s out to get her. This comes in handy for Golgo 13 later when he’s shot in the leg during a sequence in a car junkyard. She repays his kindness by helping him treat his leg on her boat.

OK, so the plot of the movie may be thin but then again what we’ve really come to see is Sonny Chiba doing what he does best – kick some serious ass and this he does in spades in the movie’s fight scenes which are very violent (witness Golgo 13 stabbing a man in the mouth with a knife!). A great foot chase sequence sees Chiba going on top of a moving bus that will remind viewers of something that Jackie Chan would do years later to better effect in Police Story 2. Unlike JC, he doesn’t go through a window but grabs a passing pole and swings down to safety below.

This could have been a lot better than what it turned out to be but it’s still a rather good action movie thanks to the presence of Sonny Chiba. I’m sure this movie would have been a damp squib without him.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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