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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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