Archive for June 5th, 2012

Set during The Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.) in China, an old soldier from the state of Liang who has faked his death during a big battle which has seen 3000 soldiers die captures a young general of an enemy state and takes him on a long journey to collect the reward. The old soldier hopes to use to the reward to retire and become a farmer. During their journey they encounter the general’s younger brother who is pursuing him, abductors, swindlers and other difficulties …

Jackie Chan’s movies in the past couple of years have been a bit hit and miss. This one isn’t too bad I suppose. Jackie wrote the story for the movie himself. He waited nearly 20 years to see his dream finally being made. As this is his own project he injects the story with his customary comedy and acrobatic fights and for the most part it works but there’s just something lacking to make it truly great. He also wanted to portray the younger general but as he’s not a spring chicken anymore he had to settle for the older role instead. The plot is simple enough but is one that is refreshing, and the story progresses through witty plot devices and some funny situations. JC’s various gadgets used for feigning death showcases his trademark slapstick humour which we all have come to enjoy over the years. While the plot’s strength lies in its simplicity, it threatens to throw the viewer off by wearing too thin at times, and the lack of major turning points makes the movie less engaging than it could have been. The action scenes are adequate, despite being slightly less ambitious than those in JC’s other movies, both in complexity and in quantity. His stunts may be less outrageous and his fighting less impressive than it was twenty years ago, but he brings a warmth and genuine presence to his role. The strength of the movie comes from how the two main characters contrast with, and how they rub off their respective ideals on each other. JC plays his character well and the sheer luck and street smarts he has to rely on to get out of sticky situations make him a likeable character even though at times he is a bit cowardly. I’m not too familiar with Leehom Wang but he manages to give a decent performance as the young general and shares some fine chemistry with JC.

This is probably one of JC’s better movies from ther past 10 years considering the crap he’s been doing in Hollywood. The sooner he leaves there and returns permanently back to Hong Kong to make some quality movies I’ll be happy. It demonstrates that JC still has what it takes to deliver a good fun Chinese movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Nami is a woman who walks into the office of a small company one night that touts that it will “do anything” and asks its harried owner Tetsuro Muraki to give her a tour of Tokyo. After visiting numerous places, she checks into a top class hotel, hides a knife under her pillow, and dresses to kill in a red miniskirt. Previously, her yakuza lover stripped and raped her as his cohort watched. She’s enslaved by him financially and sexually. He will not release her so that she can get married so the only option left for Nami is to kill him. As she waits for him in the hotel room, she quietly plots her revenge. Unfortunately, he discovers her plan and ravages her again. While her erstwhile boyfriend is taking a post-rape shower, she takes knife in hand and stabs him to death. As Muraki had an appointment the next day at her hotel room, he turns up and finds she’s checked out but not before he sees the body in the shower! With panic setting in, Muraki grabs a suitcase from his place, stuffs the body inside and packs it with dry ice. He then impersonates a police detective to find some information on where Nami is living so that he can return the suitcase and it’s contents to her. Unfortunately for him, this journey will include a lot of pain for him as the yakuza boss’ brother bursts into the hotel room demanding to know where he and Nami is. As he knows absolutely nothing he gets a severe beating for his troubles. When he does find Nami, he leaves the body inside the suitcase in her apartment. He is therefore surprised when another call comes from her asking him to do another job – she wants him to bury the body. He refuses to do it. She tries to do it herself by digging a hole in some woods but hasn’t the strength to finish the job properly. When yet another call comes saying that Nami is being held by the yakuza boss’ brother at her apartment with him demanding that the truth behind his brother’s murder be explained, Muraki enters the Tokyo underworld to find a gun so that he can rescue her.

This is an interesting neo-noir crime thriller by director Takashi Ishii. Ishii delves into the seedier side of Tokyo with it’s sleazy characters and sadistic beatdowns in back-alleys. It’s a side of Tokyo you don’t see often enough in movies. The directing and cinematography is top notch especially the bleak dirty landscape of Tokyo’s underworld at night. It’s not a place you’d want to get lost if you were visiting the city! There’s a very cool dream sequence of a gun being slowly pushed inside Muraki’s head accompanied by some appropriate squishy sound effects. I’ve never seen anything like that before! Ishii always brings something new and unexpected to his movies. He may not be a hugely popular director to many Asian movie fans but I quite like his work.

Excellent acting by Naoto Takenaka as Muraki, a man who finds himself getting deeper and deeper into trouble as he gets implicated in a plot in which he didn’t really do anything wrong and has to endure several nasty beatings at the hands of the yakuza. The only thing he was guilty of was taking the job of accompanying Nami around town in the first place. There’s a good mix of characters in the movie from a man desperate to get his money back from the yakuza boss to Muraki’s transvestite gay friend. Takashi Ishii even gives a small tribute to Psycho when Nami stabs her lover in the shower. The make up effects is fantastic as we see close up shots of Muraki’s beaten up face. If you’re at all offended by nudity, some gore and rape scenes (though never explicit) then it would be best if you stayed away from this movie.

If you find yourself wanting to watch something a little bit different from the norm, give this little gem of a movie a whirl. It’s well worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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The movie begins with the revelation that the master thief Lupin The Third is dead and police inspector Zenigata is full of glee that his long time nemesis has gone and met his maker or has he? After revealing that he’s still alive, Lupin embarks along with his constant companions Jigen and Goemon to the pyramids of Egypt where he wants to steal The Philosopher’s Stone from the tomb of one of the pharaohs. As always Zenigata is in hot pursuit and determined to capture him! With the precious stone gained, Lupin is double crossed by the beautiful and devious femme fatale Fujiko who takes the stone to a reclusive billionaire named Mamo. Fujiko’s betrayal causes a rift between Lupin and his friends who want him to cut off his ties to her. Lupin is eventually captured by Mamo and transported to his secret island in the Caribbean where he reveals that he has acquired immortality by cloning himself for the past 10,000 years and has been interfering in the affairs of mankind. His overall aim is to destroy the world by launching nuclear weapons leaving the planet as his own paradise. Can Lupin save the day?

This is the first Lupin The Third movie. It’s an exciting non-stop action packed adventure which is full of great humour. The animation for it’s time whilst inevitably not up to today’s high standards is still quite solid. A little bit rough around the edges perhaps but it adds to the charm of the movie. The story which is crazy and OTT is a lot of fun. Lupin is up against a psychotic midget with a god complex, and it leads to some very strange things which includes a cameo from Adolf Hitler!! Plenty of thrills and spills featuring an excellent car chase which starts out in Paris and into the surrounding countryside as our trio are pursued at first by a machine gun wielding helicopter and then by a huge monster truck. Unlike the friendly camaraderie you’ll find for example in the well known Castle Of Cagliostro movie between Lupin, Jigen and Goemon, this is more true to the original manga in that there’s more tension and arguing between them – the source of the in-fighting being Fujiko who uses her wily feminine ways to great effect to get what she wants from Lupin. Maybe some Lupin fans will not like seeing this arguing although I enjoyed it. This isn’t a movie for younger viewers either as there’s some sexual references and Fujiko is seen nude on more than one occasion. The action sequences are imaginative enough and actually make for some thrilling edge of your seat viewing and the globe trotting adventure takes us from Egypt, Paris, Madrid, an island in the Caribbean and finally to Colombia. The only thing I didn’t like was Lupin’s strange behaviour. He drops everything just to please Fujiko and this is a woman who has betrayed him more than once! You’ll get used to it as it happens in nearly every Lupin movie!! The plot does get a tad surreal and science-fictiony as we near the climax as Mamo clearly isn’t what he seems and is basically a massive brain! This is probably the weakest part of the entire movie.

The Secret Of Mamo is a wild ride that’s constantly entertaining to watch. Gravity-defying chases, beautiful women, and some of the most devious escapes imaginable which were traits of the anime series are all present here. Although Hayao Miyazaki improved everything in Lupin’s next story, this is still a brilliant start to the Lupin movie franchise.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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