Archive for July, 2012

Okatsu The Fugitive (1969)

Okatsu Makabe is a beautiful young woman that’s about to get married to a young samurai named Shinzaburo and this has made her parents very happy indeed. Okatsu’s father Kazue finds out that various top ranking officials are a part of an illegal tobacco smuggling ring. As Kazue knows one of the people involved – a castle superintendant who goes by the name of Judayo, he warns him that if he doesn’t stop he has written a document which has been hidden implicating him and his associates which will bring them down. Kazue is arrested by Judayo and tortured by an ancient waterboarding method using a large spinning wheel but he refuses to tell Judayo what he wants. Okatsu and her mother are summoned over by Judayo whilst his men ransack the Mukabe house in their search for the document but they fail to find it. Judayo tries another method in extracting information out of Kazue and that’s by throwing Okatsu’s mother in a cage and having 4 sex-starved males who have been stuck in jail for a month to ravish her and have Kazue watch the whole ordeal but still he refuses to say anything. Eventually Kazue decides that he and his wife would rather die than tell Judayo anything and he manages to grab a sharp object which he uses to stab himself and his wife to death but not before telling Okatsu the location of the hidden document in the house. Okatsu escapes from Judayo after being raped and her fiancée, the slimy Shinzaburo decides to work for Judayo in order to further his career. He is tasked with tracking down Okatsu’s every move and if he has the chance to steal the document which is hidden in a hairpin on her head. Okatsu comes across a ronin Hayato Inugami during an ambush by Judayo’s men who is running a small temple orphanage but it’s not long before Shinzaburo has informed Judayo who sends his troops out to get Okatsu. They burn the temple down by flaming arrows and everybody manages to escape unharmed. This further infuriates Okatsu who will do anything in her power to destroy Judayo but succeeding is another thing altogether especially when she has to also face the teacher who taught her how to fight with a sword.

This is the 3rd and final movie in the Poisonous Seductress trilogy starring Junko Miyazono having had the chance to watch the 1st movie Female Demon Ohyaku a while back. The 3 movies aren’t linked together as the main character is different in each. The only thing between them is having iconic actress Junko Miyazono as the lead. Miyazono is a remarkable actress – she has the perfect balance of looking elegant and having an aura of toughness about her. Many have pointed out that all 3 movies have the same kind of plot and that this movie is the weakest out of the three. Despite that, there’s some violence and action including Okatsu stabbing a villain in the eye with a sword to make this movie watchable and near the climax the red stuff starts to flow. The final revenge sequence at a murky water pit with a gallows hanging above it is filmed beautifully. The sword fighting scenes are competently done and Miyazono looks comfortable wielding a sword. There are some unfortunate plot holes which doesn’t make sense such as when a load of Judayo’s troops have got the advantage over Okatsu and instead of pressing forward their superiority they decide to retreat instead. Who in their right mind retreats when they’re on top of a situation? It’s like a general in the middle of a big battle just about to take victory when he tells his troops to fall back as it’s time for a cup of tea!!! It’s sloppy writing like that which ultimately brings this movie down. It’s been said that the filmmakers were running out of ideas by the time they started filming this movie and couldn’t deliver anything new to add to the plot so they just rehashed the same old story from the other 2 movies in order that they could finish off the trilogy. It certainly looks that way. I’m not saying this movie is completely bad, it does have some interesting moments but they are far and few between. Too much talking and not enough action for my liking. For a pink violence movie this is quite tame with no nudity at all. Miyazono’s acting is probably the only real highlight in this tired looking movie.

Sadly Okatsu The Fugitive is a ‘by the numbers’ revenge movie and once seen it’s likely to be forgotten soon after. A movie to watch when you’ve got nothing better to do and have 85 mins to spare.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Maki is the leader of the girl gang The Black Pearls who are always getting into some sort of trouble, mostly by fighting rival Yuri and her gang. A perverted monk gets swindled of 6 million yen after being seduced by Maki and then she settles the score with Yuri one final time in a challenge to unify both gangs. Maki wins it. Unbeknown to Maki, the cheated monk and Yuri have joined forces with one of Kyoto’s strongest yakuza groups. The head of the group sees an opportunity to use Yuri’s girls as prostitutes in order to make money which isn’t what Yuri had in mind when joining up with them but she has no choice but to obey. The head also wants Maki’s Black Pearls as prostitutes too. Maki gets romantically involved with Yuri’s ex-boyfriend Eiji who has a score to settle with the yakuza boss. When 2 of Maki’s cohorts steals a car with a briefcase full of illegal guns, the yakuza gang race to the scene and capture Maki. The other 2 girls manage to escape. The yakuza torture Maki before Eiji comes to the rescue but in the beating they give him he loses an eye thanks to being smacked by a golf club. Yuji and the rest of the prostitutes take Maki and Eiji before fleeing from the yakuza hideout. The yakuza give chase and during a shootout, Yuri is killed. In a final act of defiance and anger, Eiji takes a long knife and decides to launch a solo attack on the yakuza HQ to try and kill the yakuza boss but fails miserably as he is outnumbered. When Maki hears of his death, she is heartbroken and decides on a revenge mission but will she manage to kill the yakuza boss whilst he is surrounded by his cronies?

This was the 2nd out of the 7 movie Girl Boss pink violence series. This movie stars the delightful Reiko Ike. The plot for these kind of movies is more or less the same barring some tweaks to make it look like it’s different. A girl gang gets involved in one way or the other with a shady yakuza group who wrongs the gang and then it’s a question of trying to get revenge on them. Why change the plot if that’s what made these kind of movies so successful in the first place so you’ll be hard pressed to find a pink violence movie that changes the formula described above that much. There’s plenty of exploitation on show – an example of which is Yuri’s gang shaking up bottles of Pepsi before opening them and spraying the contents up a rival girl’s private parts! Maki herself is stripped and subjected to a nasty beating by bamboo sticks by the yakuza boss. Naturally there are plenty of gratititous nudity shots as was the standard for these kind of movies. They aren’t totally serious movies despite the violence that you get to see and humour plays a fair part which makes them quite fun to watch such as a male diver unexpectedly finding his way into a female onsen all the while ogling Maki and her gang bathing naked whilst he is underwater. His explanation that he is lost doesn’t garner any sympathy with the girls!! There are plenty of incidents happening to make sure the viewer never gets bored with this movie which contains several hilarious cat fights.

Director Norifumi Suzuki’s style is pleasing to the eye and he takes us on a journey into Kyoto’s seedy underworld full of dimly lit bars, dodgy clubs and places populated by the lowlife of society. The acting is top notch especially by the always enjoyable Reiko Ike. There’s a tiny cameo by Miki Sugimoto who would become a huge pink violence star in her own right soon after completing this movie. When you talk about the biggest pink violence female stars of the 70’s in Japan after Meiko Kaji – the names of Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto are synonymous with the genre.

Whilst this might not be the best pink violence movie you’ll ever see, it is still a very entertaining watch and worth a look.

No trailer but here’s a clip from the movie:

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Kikou is a college student who works part time in a love hotel along with 4 other odd employees who are a card short of a full deck. His job is to clear out the rooms after the customers have left which isn’t nice considering that he has to get rid of condoms and other filth. Coming home one day, he witnesses a schoolgirl with a limp and a scar on her leg being mercilessly bullied by 3 girls. Instead of trying to help, he hides, watches and finds that he’s enjoying seeing the girl being bullied. In time, he begins to develop a taste for abusing the girl. Kikou becomes obsessed with a pretty neighbour Hitomi who works at the checkout of his local convenience store. He collects her trash where he starts collating all the personal information he can about her, eats and drinks her garbage including half eaten sandwiches and fruit juice cartons and the most disgusting of all – making a collage on his wall of his apartment of all the sanitary towels she has discarded! Meanwhile, two schoolgirls rob a man of his money at the love hotel and escape but not before one of them drops her ID card. Three of Kikou’s colleagues decide to track her down and teach her a lesson in a junkyard where she is raped by all of them. Kikou is hiding nearby and watching. After they have left he takes her back to his place where she is chained up to a bed, her body measured, fed with maggots and tortured by a hair dryer before Kikou ends her life. Her body is disposed at a nearby incinerator. During a work shift at the love hotel, Kikou’s neighbour Hitomi comes there with a man who’s a regular at the place. Feeling betrayed by the woman he loves, this is enough to take Kikou over the edge and what happens next is not for the faint hearted……….

This is probably the most disturbing movie in the All Night Long trilogy and if you’ve read my other reviews on the first 2 installments you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. The tagline of “Human Beings Are Garbage” seems an appropriate one for the depravity you’ll witness here. Certain scenes definitely push the boundaries of acceptable taste. None of the characters in this movie bar the schoolgirl and Hitomi are sympathetic. The difference between this movie and the other two is that the main character is f***ed up already. I felt that the director was only interested in trying to shock the viewer so there’s only a thin plot to string things along from one depraved act to the next. Women haven’t been treated very well in the previous 2 installments and the same happens in this movie as well. The horror is ramped up in the final third which includes a beheading, a bullet to the eye and a dismemberement of a female corpse in a bath. It’s not as bloody as the 2nd movie though. Yujin Kitagawa is chilling as Kikou. It’s easy to see that he’s the type of person that wouldn’t take a lot to turn into a rampaging psychopath.

A bleak, sadistic and nasty movie to finish off the twisted horror trilogy. Although it is billed as being the final chapter, it has been followed by 3 more in the series which I’ve yet to see. Exploitation fans and that of sleaze cinema will no doubt relish this movie.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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The Crazy Family (1984)

The Kobayashis are a typical Japanese family that have moved to a new house. The head of the house Katsuya is a salaryman, his wife Saeko stays at home to look after the place, 13 year old daughter Erika has aspirations to become a famous singer and son Masaki studies hard in order to enter Tokyo University. The family are happy with their lives but that all changes when Katsuya’s father comes to stay at their place. They think it’s only for a small visit until Katsuya finds out that his other brother had enough of his father and turfed him out. Due to the limited space in the house as it is, Saeko has to sleep in the corridors instead of her own bed thanks to Katsuya’s father. The tension between the family members start to increase with the situation. Katsuya goes to desperate methods to make room for his father. He tears up the living room wooden floor and starts digging a massive hole to make a new room! Soon other members of the family start acting strange: Saeko begins to become fed up of her role in the house and starts doing sexy dances for Katsuya’s father and his friends, Erika starts to think she’s a famous superstar and dresses very provocatively whilst Masaki is building some weird contraptions like a glowing pyramid, studies most of the time in his room and has taken to stabbing himself in the leg with a knife if he begins to fall asleep!! But that’s nothing to when Katsuya finds a large nest of white ants underneath the house. He goes berserk and attempts to kill the nest by fire and by smashing it with a large drill. His attempts make him break through the water main pipe which shoots up like a fountain. Katsuya decides to board up the entire house from the inside and takes drastic measures against his family. He believes they are all mentally ill and the best course of action is to kill them all. Asking them to join him for a cup of tea in the middle of the night, he puts insect poison in their drink but as Katsuya’s father goes ill after taking one sip, the rest find out his evil plot. Katsuya says it’s for their own good. Then all hell breaks loose between all of the family members……..

What an enjoyable dark comedy this was from director Sogo Ishii. It’s a biting satire on Japanese family life and American sitcoms of the 80’s. What happens in this movie is outrageous but very funny. It all starts innocently enough but as madness starts to take hold of everybody it ends up in a massive battle royale as all 5 family members try to kill each other with any weapon they can get their hands on – a baseball bat with the small family dog strapped to it, a chainsaw, a large drill, a cactus plant, pots and pans, golf clubs and many other sharp instruments. The grandfather transforms into his WWII persona complete with uniform and threatens to rape his own granddaughter who thinks she’s a pro wrestler in her lycra tights. There’s a hilarious nod to The Shining which will make people smile. The battle ends in an explosive style!

Considering the low budget the director had for this production, the movie looks great. It’s paced very well as the situation worsens in the Kobayashi house. It’s quite clever what Ishii has done in this movie in that he’s taken a look at each family member and the stereotypical image they have and taken it to the extreme. A lot of the jokes that attack the family life culture in Japan goes over my head as I’m not familiar with it. The plot, awesome soundtrack, the comedy, cinematography and the characters combine together to give the viewer an absolutely unique experience that will never be forgotten!

This is such a wacky and surreal movie which deserves a much wider audience. It’s a wild and sadistic comedy and is probably my favourite Sogo Ishii movie so far. Highly recommended.

I can’t get a proper trailer but I did find this fanmade clip on Youtube:

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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This movie is split into 5 parts:

1. Meteors start falling from the skies and the legendary 7 Riders (basically the first 7 incarnations of KR) try to stop the evil Foundation X from taking core medals and developing astro switches.
2. The 000 section of the movie sees our first 2 exclusive movie only KR – Kamen Rider Aqua who has come from the future through a wormhole in the sky and has been taken over by an evil force KR Poseidon. Eiji tries to take him on but is defeated but KR Aqua isn’t the only thing that’s come through the wormhole. Future Ankh also appears and together with Eiji they manage to free KR Aqua from the nasty KR Poseidon. All 3 combine to defeat KR Poseidon. KR Aqua returns to his own time after their victory.
3. Onto to the very brief KR W part of the movie as Shotaro is seen chasing a Foundation X convoy and attacked by two creatures from 000’s universe. With Philiip preoccupied, Shotaro transforms and takes them out by himself but in the process a silver sludge called SOLU (Seeds of Life from the Universe) is released accidentally down the sewers.
4. The silver sludge turns up in Fourze’s section of the movie as Gentaro catches a girl falling from the sky. The girl’s name is Nadeshiko and when the forces of evil turn up she transforms into KR Nadeshiko. She and Fourze team up to beat the baddies. He starts falling for her until he finds out she’s not human. Foundation X attacks once more and Nadeshiko is killed and turned into an astro switch. Enter Eiji who asks Gentaro and the Rider Club for their help. Gentaro and Eiji move across time to……
5. A random parking garage where Shotaro and Phillip await the two. The four of them along with the legendary 7 riders combine together to defeat Foundation X.

Some fans are saying that this is the best Kamen Rider movie ever. All I can say is it’s not by a long shot, it’s probably one of the worst KR movies over the past few years. It started out quite well with a nice appearance by the first 7 riders and the 000/W part was good but then it just fell apart during the Fourze section. Talk about being awful and cringeworthy. The acting by the cast is incredibly hammy with some embarassing slapstick comedy by the guy who plays Fourze. I knew I’d made a great choice in not following the KR Fourze series. It’s way too silly and immature and I just couldn’t take it seriously. I was surprised to see Hello!Project idol Mano Erina turn up as KR Nadeshiko but her acting was quite wooden. Maybe it’s just me but take away the Fourze scenes and the movie might have been decent. I’ll probably get some heat for saying that. If anyone out there can say that KR Fourze improves over the course of the series please tell me. I’m only judging it by the few of the early episodes that I saw. I have to take into consideration that this is a kids series after all and not targeted for adults.

There’s tons of energetic action to enjoy and there’s a very painful scene where the actor who plays Eiji is thrown into the air by an explosion and lands on his head on the ground. I wondered if the actor or the stuntman who took that fall was injured as it looked like a nasty bump. The exclusive movie riders apart from Nadeshiko were interesting and played an important role in this storyline. On saying that, KR Nadeshiko does get to kick some major ass and that’s the only positive thing I can say about the character. The legendary 7 riders although in small supporting roles gets to showcase their signature moves on Foundation X’s goons as well.

I was disappointed unfortunately with this movie and apart from the the first 3 sections, it went downhill after that. A shame really as I always look forward to seeing these annual KR movies but this movie didn’t really impress me at all.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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A bomb explodes in a busy Tokyo shopping mall and during the aftermath that follows maverick cop Yusaka Hayakawa think he may have found the suspect and gives chase only to collide with a vet on a bicycle who is on his way to work. With the suspect apprehended, he goes with the vet to his place of work where he helps with the delivery of 4 puppies to a German Shepherd dog. When it seems that one of them, an albino is thought to be be stillborn, Hayakawa somehow manages to get the little pup breathing. Back at his work, Hayakawa is pulled over by his boss. The suspect he arrested is not the bomber after all and as punishment he is sent to the police dog squad. Hayakawa struggles to adjust to his new post and can’t seem to fit in with his new colleagues. However his outlook changes when he comes face to face with Shiro, the white albino German Shepherd he saved as a pup. The dog isn’t doing that well in his training to be a police dog. Hayakawa is paired up with the dog. His initial bonding with the dog is a failure as Shiro won’t listen to Hayakawa’s commands but gradually the pair begin to understand each other and form a tight bond. The mad bomber threatens to strike more high tech corporations and the dog unit is called up to try and find the device. Unfortunately for them the bomb goes off destroying a car and injuring a police dog. The bomber disguised as a security officer manages to escape once more. The future of the dog unit is called into question by senior police management. With the bomber becoming increasingly cocky, he calls up the police and issues another threat for a special event involving a high profile figure. The police dog unit turn up and is given 1 final chance to prove themselves. Will they manage to find the bomb and arrest the suspect?

I had low expectations for this police dog drama but it turned out to be pretty good movie which shows the important role of dogs in the police force. The only other movies I’ve seen featuring police dogs have been American comedies (K-9/Turner & Hooch) so it was refreshing to see a serious movie about the methods in training police dogs and the close bond that has to exist between master and dog to ensure a good working relationship. The movie emphasis on teamwork within the dog unit. There’s plenty of suspense involving the devious and calculating mad bomber who has a vendetta against high-tech companies. It was unfortunate that when the movie was released in Japan last year, it coincided with the death of Steve Jobs as there’s a scene featuring a character with the name of Steve Jubs who even looks like him. As the scenes with this character feature in an important tense part of the movie, it would have been stupid for the movie studio to have edited the scenes out afterwards although I’m sure there were calls to remove them in order to show some sensitivity for Jobs’ death. What I thought was also great was seeing real explosions taking place as most Japanese movies these days tend to use CGI explosions . It gives the movie a more realistic impact when they show the bombs going off.

As far as acting is concerned – Hayato Ichihara fares very well in his role as the headstrong Hayakawa and shares some great chemistry with his four legged companion Shiro. Erika Toda also delivers a strong performance as the very serious police dog trainer who initially doesn’t get along with Hayakawa at all but their frosty relationship soon thaws by the time of the climax. Ryoya Wakaba is chilling as the sinister bomber who likes to get close to the action whenever one of his devices goes off. All of the cast are good in their roles.

I was surprised how much I liked this movie but then again I do like a good dog story! An enjoyable drama for the family.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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A Korean man Mun and his family consisting of wife Mi-ja, elder son Tae-yang, daughter Tae-mi and younger son Tae-Poong have settled down in Bangkok, Thailand where the father runs a Taekwondo school and the mother runs a restaurant. An expensive Thai treasure valued at $30 million dollars called the Kris Of Kings (basically an ancient long dagger) has been returned to the country and already a gang of Korean thieves take the opportunity to steal it but luckily the Mun family is nearby and manage to thwart the robbery. The gang of thieves escape and the family gets to be famous thanks to their efforts. However, the leader of the gang refuses to accept that the family have humiliated him and sends some of his thugs to the Mun restaurant but again they come away defeated. Mun decides to send his kids away to an old family friend who runs a small zoo in the countryside thnking that it’ll be safer for them there. Eventually though the gang find out where they are and kidnap Tae-Poong. The only way Mun and his family can have him back is to steal the Kris and hand it over to the gang leader. Will they be successful in stealing the Kris and rescuing their young son?

Whilst there are plenty of action movies from Korea, Korean martial arts movies are few and far between. This movie tries to readdress the balance but is it any good? Well, the answer is not really. This was the first joint movie project between South Korea and Thailand. The plot is nothing new, in fact the story is wafer-thin and just an excuse for the continuous action and whilst there are a few decent martial arts fights, it just wasn’t enough to make the movie rise above anything else than plain average. There’s even a dull side plot about Mun pushing his elder son to succeed at martial arts because he failed at the Olympics 20 years previously but all Tae-yang is interested in doing in taking part in dance auditions. It didn’t help the movie one bit that terribly cheap CGI effects was used at times such as a scene in a crocodile pit. It just looks bad. The villains aren’t even that menacing, there’s a distinct lack of any drama and the comedy I thought was lame. The highlight for me is near the end in a fight inside one of Bangkok Zoo’s enclosures where Tae-yang jumps on top of empty animal cages and has to fend off the villains all the while trying to avoid several spinning metal fans dangling from the ceiling. Quite an inventive scene and very exciting but sadly that was the only scene that really got me going. Maybe I was expecting director Prachya Pinkaew to come up with the goods seeing as he gave us the excellent Ong Bak, Chocolate and Tom Yum Goong but he doesn’t come close to emulating those movies with this one even if it does feature a dancing elephant!!

The cast I didn’t think was particularly good either apart from the 2 young Koreans who played brother and sister. Na Tae-Ju as Tae-yang is probably the best actor in the movie and I enjoyed his fighting style. He’s very nimble and acrobatic. He incorporates some dancing moves in keeping in line with his character and some taekwondo to kick some ass. Kim Gyeong-suk as Tae-mi who plays his sister fares well in her fighting scenes as well. That’s to be expected as both are major Taekwondo stars in South Korea. The rest of the Korean family is a bit bland. Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin is horribly underused and doesn’t get the chance to really show off her skills. After all, even though the movie is set in Thailand, it is mostly a Korean production (they funded 75% of the movie) and the filmmakers obviously didn’t want Jeeja to overshadow the main stars. Those expecting her to feature in some bone crunching action like in her 2 previous movies (Chocolate/Raging Phoenix) will definitely be disappointed. I know I was!

The Kick might have it’s moments but overall I found the whole movie very underwhelming. Instantly forgettable.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Young and reckless cop Cheung and his CID partner Hoi stake out a band of thieves, when two traffic cops accidentally interfere and the situation escalates to a full blown shootout. The criminals led by Yuen escape in a hail of bullets followed by police officers. The chase takes them through the streets of Hong Kong, past a simple traffic accident where some news crews are filming. When the news crews see the pursuit, they follow, and everything after that is documented on live TV. The criminals shoot several police officers during their escape, and in one case an officer falls to his knees and begs for mercy. They eventually escape, and the Hong Kong police is humiliated on live TV. Naturally this won’t do. The chief of police demands immediate action! Enter Deputy Commander Rebecca Fong. She recognises the seriousness of the situation and suggests a new course of action: The police needs to get back at the criminals, and they need to do it in the public forum. When the criminals’ new hiding place is exposed by Cheung and his colleagues, Fong orders every available PTU officer to the scene, and alerts the media. The criminals are about to get their comeuppance… and a very public one at that.

From the enthralling opening scene of a dramatic shoot-out on a Hong Kong street during which a stake-out has gone horribly wrong, director Johnnie To instantly grabs our attention in this excellent movie. Despite a very simple plot idea of a criminal gang holed up in an apartment with hostages, it is never allowed to become just an action movie. Yes, there is plenty of gunplay and explosions but Johnnie To cleverly adds an intelligent parallel satire plot that has to do with the news media and how the government will manipulate the news to best meet their needs. Even so it seems the police are doing what they can to make themselves look good, the criminals aren’t beyond playing the game too and start uploading their own footage through the internet to the media to show that the police aren’t telling the whole truth. I did enjoy the cat and mouse aspect of the movie between the gang leader Yuen and the Police Inspector Rebecca Fong who are trying to outsmart each other. The movie moves along at a fast pace throughout it’s 90 min running time with the best sequence being that of the opening 7 minutes which was shot in one continuous take. It looks awesome thanks to the clever camera work on show. The script is well written and the story is different and innovative from other police/criminals dramas you might have seen.

The cast is rather good with Richie Ren rather menacing as the gang leader Yuen. Nick Cheung is also excellent as the determined cop Cheung who will not give up in his pursuit of the gang despite repeated instructions to back off from his superiors and finally we have the gorgeous Kelly Chen as the icy cool and calm Inspector Rebecca Fong. It’s just a shame that the great Simon Yam just has a cameo role near the beginning.

Breaking News is probably one of the best Johnnie To movies I’ve enjoyed. Filled with suspense and superb action scenes from the get-go, this is a solid and entertaining HK movie which is well worth checking out. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The movie more or less focuses on a rather dysfunctional family with the main character being an alienated young man who plays football along with his rather odd man-hating sister who has a sexual thing for her pet rabbit, his grandmother who likes stealing money from people and his perverted unemployed father who’s a peeping tom.

I’ve seen quite a fair strange Japanese movies over the years but this experimental psychedelic one takes the biscuit for it’s weirdness. It’s really hard to describe. I’m still not sure what the director Shuji Terayama is really trying to tell us through this tale? Is it a rallying call for disillusioned Japanese youth at the time to stand up, take action and rebel against society – who knows? There’s no structure as such in the movie, just a collection of loosely strung together vignettes. There are a couple of bizarre funny scenes such as a young girl and boy sticking up a penis shaped punching bag on a lamp post in a busy street for people to smack and a group of schoolgirls stripping off topless whilst singing about becoming whores and cleaning their lovers with a bar of soap. Other scenes you’ll see is a disturbing gang rape in a shower and a series of dating service videos of lonely sad people pleading for companionship. Blue, green and pink sepia tinted scenes are used along with a cool sounding soundtrack of angst ridden songs (the only good thing I can really recommend about the movie!). I guess each viewer will have their own interpretation of what the director was trying to do here.

Overall this was just too odd for myself and I can’t recommend it to anybody but those that like to see something way out there and as far away from a mainstream movie as possible. It’s just one big mess in my opinion.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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Set along the ‘Bridge of No Return’ in Panmunjom, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. During one night, 2 North Korean soldiers are fatally killed; the suspected marksman is a South Korean soldier who is found wounded in the middle of no-man’s-land. This incident has grave repercussions. Both North and South Korea regard the incident as an act of deliberate provocation. The North accuses the South of having committed a ‘terrorist attack’, while South Korea suspects the North of having attempted an ‘abduction’. Both sides appeal to the authorities of the neutral states (NNSC) for help and ask them to investigate the affair. A female Swiss army captain of Korean descent is then sent to Panmunjom to investigate the death of the 2 North Korean border soldiers.

I was very impressed with this superb anti-war Korean movie by Park Chan-wook which is billed as a murder mystery. The movie is seperated into 3 chapters – the first from the viewpoint of the investigators, the second is the backstory to what took place from the soldier’s point of view and finally the conclusion and what really happened on the fateful night of the murders. Through flashbacks and interviews, the real story gradually unfolds where nothing is as simple as it seems. Like the rest of Park Chan-wook’s movies that I’ve had the pleasure of watching – it’s directed extremely well and the pacing is just right. Whilst the movie showcases the volatile tension between North and South Korea, it also touches on the topic of friendship amidst all the hatred. I was moved by the sad story of the 4 ‘brothers’ which shows just how tragic and unnecessary war is. The performances by the 4 main leads could not be bettered and their total immersion into their roles leaves you fixated and emotionally involved with what happens to them. It portrays how different people can set aside their differences and see themselves in their purest form in that they are basically the same as each other.

JSA is a masterpiece and an incredibly powerful movie. The heart-warming story has something for everybody to ponder over. If you’ve haven’t had the opportunity to see JSA yet, put it down as a movie you must watch soon. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Shunichi is your stereotypical bespectacled otaku who enjoys sculpting hentai anime dolls. He’s bullied at his school by a gang of thugs led by a homosexual who carries a mini blowtorch and a small blade in his pocket. Shunichi tries to avoid the gang as the leader is sexually fascinated by him but is unfortunately ambushed one day and beaten up by them. He is threatened with even more beatings if he doesn’t cough up a lot of money. To show they mean business the gang stub out a cigarette on his penis and destroys his precious anime doll! Shunichi tries to go online to get some help and is answered by a person that calls himself GOOD_MAN who offers to help him out. The homosexual gang leader comes round to Shunichi’s and invites him out for dinner at his apartment with the intention of seducing him. He is also shown a pet he keeps – not only a gerbil but also a young woman that has been raped, drugged up to the eyeballs with heroin and had her fingernails torn out on both hands. She’s his personal plaything where she’s nothing more than a dog. Shunichi starts taking part in torturing the poor girl but eventually leaves. After GOOD_MAN leaves a message asking to meet Shunichi the next day, he fails to turn up but several people who also had the same message come to the same location. Shunichi and the people seem to get on like a house on fire and they all go to Shunichi’s place to have some food and drink. However, the great time they’ve had doesn’t last for long because the homosexual leader and his gang turn up and all hell starts to break loose. How much longer can Shunichi take this abuse before he snaps?

There’s no doubt that when it comes to showing extreme sadism and brutality in movies, the Japanese are up there with the best. This, the 2nd in the All Night Long trilogy shows some pretty sick images which may see some viewers scampering for the toilet bowl afterwards to throw up! If you thought things couldn’t get any more brutal after the first movie then you’re wrong. The violence on display in this movie goes up a notch – very twisted and insane. It is definitely shocking and disturbing as we see Shunichi’s innocence evaporate over the course of the movie to the point where he finally gives in to the violence all around him and he turns into an even more merciless killer than those that tortured him. There are a lot of graphic scenes throughout the movie so you have been warned. An example of what you’ll expect is right near the end of the movie which sees Shunichi tie up the homosexual leader on a chair and use the mini blowtorch on his face. That’s only one example though and there’s plenty more nastiness where that came from. The only 2 female characters in the movie are treated horribly at the hands of the gang and subjected to various degradation and humiliation.

For a movie that delves into the darker side of humanity, All Night Long 2 works extremely well so if you’re into extreme cinema this will be right up your street. It is rather unpleasant to watch particularly in the last third and the images you encounter may linger in your mind for a while afterwards.

No trailer but here’s the opening 3 mins of the movie:

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The Insect Woman (1963)

The movie follows the life of a woman Tome Matsuki from her birth in 1918 right through to the Spring of 1961 though not ending with her death. Tome’s miserable life begins at a mountain village when her half-wit father starts to have sex with her whilst she was a child. As Tome enters adulthood, she bears a child which is named Nobuko. As the child won’t suckle on her breasts, her father sucks the rest of the milk from her. This is something that Tome is seen to enjoy. Years down the line we find Tome has become a union organiser in a factory but on a false pretence that her father is seriously ill she is forced to go back home to work on the family’s farm. Her odd family pressurises her to use her body in order to get favours with the rich family that rent the farm’s land to them. Eventually Tome moves to Tokyo and works as a maid for a woman called Midori where she constantly listens in on Midori and her American serviceman husband having sex. Whilst listening in on one afternoon, she neglects to pay attention to Midori’s child Cathy who dies after an accident. Moving to another job as a cleaner in a brothel, she finds herself being promoted to becoming a prostitute. When she confesses to the cops what her female boss is doing and who is jailed for running the brothel, Tome takes over the running of the joint and changes some aspects of the work the girls does in order that they won’t be busted again. Tome’s daughter Nobuko eventually joins her mother in Tokyo asking for a large loan so that she can have a farm of her own. Tome’s lover, a lecherous businessman ditches her and starts an affair with Nobuko instead…….

As you can see from the plot summary above, this story isn’t a bundle of laughs and is actually quite depressing. Did Shohei Imamura have something against people that lived in the mountains? Did he have a bad experience with them during and after the end of World War II as in several movies that he has these people as characters they are portrayed as the most vile creatures you could ever come across who only have a tiny bit of humanity inside them. They act like animals and see something that’s so disgusting as incest to be normal. Just to let you know, the title of the movie has nothing to do with a woman turning into an insect at all!!! It’s more to do with Tome’s life mirroring that of an insect’s behaviour in trying to survive. From the beginning you get a sense that Tome will not have any success in trying to escape from the miserable life that she’s had so far. Raised by people who have no morals inside them, it is sad to see that the endless cycle of abuse she suffers continues with her own child thus moving onto another generation. There are quite a few disturbing scenes in the movie – all involving the stupid dumb father who sexually abuses his own daughter and then his grand-child but Tome and his daughter think there’s nothing wrong with it. Seeing Tome offer milk from her breast to her father on his death bed is sick. There’s no blame attached to Tome or Nobuko as everybody else in the village is doing the same. Even when Tome gets lovers she insists on calling them “Papa” to remind her of her past. Tome isn’t exactly a likeable character, she’s just trying to make the best of what opportunities come her way in order to survive. There’s no ambition or anything inside her. She’s not blessed with any brains but she does what she can to adapt to any situation. Due to the high position she has in calling the shots in the brothel, you’d think she’d perhaps want to escape from this lifestyle but no, all that Tome is doing is passing the abuse she’s suffered down to other girls who are being sold as sex objects to businessmen. Even though I dislike the main character, actress Sachiko Hidari gives a memorable performance as Tome.

Shohei Imamura’s directing is brilliant and well crafted though he does some strange things such as freeze framing some scenes with a voiceover. It gets a bit annoying when it happens a lot during the 2nd half of the movie. The story also moves painfully slow at times and seems to drag too long in certain scenes. It might test the patience of some people.

Overall, The Insect Woman is a fascinating portrayal of a woman whose journey through life is a harsh and fruitless one. It’s not a movie that you can really say is an enjoyable experience but it is thought provoking and a worthwhile watch.

I can’t embed the trailer but here’s the link to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym7Hkvgpw-w

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Black Rat (2010)

A young teenage girl Asuka commits suicide from her school rooftop. Several months later her 6 closest friends receieve a text message from the dead girl telling them to come to a classroom at the school at midnight. When they turn up they are confronted by a girl in a rat mask. Communicating by the use of flashcards, she asks each of the assembled why she is coming after them before grabbing a baseball bat and swinging for their heads! The group scatter amongst the school and find the doors chained up so there is no escape for them. Who will survive the night as the rat girl is obviously on a revenge mission?

This 75 minute teen slasher movie although it tries to be different to other J-horrors is nothing more than being plain formulaic in the end. I can understand why people are getting bored and turned off by the J-horror genre if all we keep seeing is the same thing repeated over and over. Nobody seems to be offering anything new to make us interested anymore. Anyway back to this movie – the storyline moves between the past and the present with flashbacks showing us why the characters are being targeted by the rat girl. It seems that Asuka was planning a dance based on a story about 7 rats and each of her friends was suuposed to represent a rat but nobody was really that keen on doing it. They begin to turn against her and this drove her to kill herself. What makes this movie a little bit interesting is whether the rat girl is Asuka that’s come back from the grave or somebody else acting on her behalf? The answer is of course revealed eventually. For a so-called horror movie there is a distinct lack of gore and even with the murders that happen, the camera freeze frames and pulls away before the fatal blow of a kill is shown. It’s all very disappointing. I didn’t find a schoolgirl wearing a rat mask to be even particularly frightening. The acting by the teenage cast isn’t worth writing home about either. I would have rated this even lower if it wasn’t for the twist that was introduced in the final third.

Black Rat has one or two suspenseful moments but it never rises above being anything more than average. Unless you’re a fan of generic horrors, it’s not really worth your time.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Instant Swamp (2009)

Haname Jinchoge is the editor of a not very successful Japanese women’s magazine. Over the years she has suffered a succession of bad luck which she puts down to a black cat talisman statue she threw into the swamp near her house when she was 8 years old at the time her father walked out on her mother never to return. When Haname’s mother nearly dies after trying to capture a water kappa and is in a coma at hospital, she discovers an old letter from her mother to her father. When the magazine she’s working for finally stops publishing, she decides to track down her father from her mother’s letter. She finds him running an old messy junk shop and looking like a hippy. He’s called Lightbulb and is assisted at times by a punk rocker named Gas. Haname introduces herself as a distant relative of his and this starts a series of adventures for her involving a large King Tut fortune telling machine and a building full of instant swamp!

Having enjoyed several Miki Satoshi movies previously such as Adrift In Tokyo and Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, I knew I would like this before popping the DVD into the machine and watching it. My hunch was proved correct. It’s a feel-good quirky fun movie which makes you smile a lot. It’s full of surprises. Whilst there are plenty of random moments which is completely unrelated to the main storyline, it is only near the end that you find out what the title of the movie is all about. If you haven’t seen any Miki Satoshi movies before, it might take some time for you to get used to the type of humour that’s employed in the movie. Expect the unexpected with the comedy in any Satoshi movie. An example of this is a recurring gag which sees a salaryman coming home from work and looking up towards Haname’s apartment with it’s window open and she’s either screeching her head off or doing some odd stuff like jumping about or throwing money around her place. It’s enough to scare the salaryman silly! Some of the surreal zany stuff might be silly at times but that’s what I like about these type of movies. You just never know what’s going to happen next! Satoshi never likes to keep the viewers comfortable and just when you think things are becoming a little bit stale and predictable, he dishes out another odd moment to keep us on our toes.

A lot of why this movie worked so well is because of the delightful cast and the feisty interplay between the characters. Aso Kumiko is brilliant as the likeable Haname Jinchoge and Morio Kazama is wonderful as her father Lightbulb. Even Ryo Kaze as the punk Gas is a great character that brings a lot to the storyline. The rest of the supporting cast also contribute highly to make this movie the way it is. The acting is superb and strong throughout.

Miki Satoshi delivers yet another cracking, creative and original movie which hits the right buttons. There’s plenty of laughs to be had. However, I can see that not everyone will appreciate the story with the ridiculous events that happen. It’s fine if you like Miki Satoshi’s style and OTT quirkiness because I guarantee you’ll love this movie but perhaps others will not GET the humour. As for myself, I definitely recommend this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The Discarnates (1988)

Hidemi Harada is a successful TV drama scriptwriter but whose personal affairs is in a bit of a mess. Having divorced his wife and barely seeing his own son, his life is knocked for six by his best friend who works with him. He states his intention to marry Harada’s ex-wife which shocks him. That night at his apartment he is visited by a lonely woman called Kei who offers champagne and company for him but seeing as he’s not in the mood for anything he rebuffs her. Contemplating how low his life is right now, he visits a Rakugo comedy show and sees a familiar face in the audience. It is of a person that look exactly like his father who passed away 30 years previously in a tragic accident. The man invites him over to his house for a beer with his wife who looks like his mother. They don’t even hide the fact that they are his parents. Harada isn’t quite sure what the hell is going on but he doesn’t care as his parents are back in his life once more. He visits their apartment time and time again and he feels happier than he’s ever felt for a long time as it’s an escape from his miserable existence. He even begins a sexual relationship with Kei. She insists though when they have sex that he never asks to look at her breasts as she says she has a terrible scar from a burn on them. Friends and work colleagues start to become worried when Harada begins to look the worse for wear – almost like a zombie. When he explains to Kei that he is visiting his dead parents she tells him to stop as they are ghosts who are draining away his life energy. But can Harada stop himself from going back to see them and what is the mystery that surrounds Kei?

Directed by the man who helmed the bonkers psychedelic horror House, this Japanese chiller is unlike anything you’d expect in a Western ghost story. The ghosts encountered here aren’t ones that jump out or scare you out of your wits. They look like ordinary people and are kind. The ghosts however aren’t the real focus of the movie, they’re just there to show how Harada is trying to recapture his lost childhood and forget about his current situation. The affect this is having on him is shown in the fantastic special effects that show his face beginning to change for the worse. It is never fully explained what Harada is experiencing is merely a hallucination or something else. Although this is mostly a character driven movie, it does turn somewhat darker as the horror aspect of the movie comes to the surface during the last 15 mins when the dark secret that Kei has been hiding is finally revealed. Whilst I’m reluctant to spoil what exactly it is, it all goes back to the night that Harada rebuffed her at his apartment. I thought this was an excellent scene which was done really well.

The performances by the cast is very good and Morio Kazama goes through a range of emotions as Harada. Happiness as he gets to have a second chance to spend time with his loving parents but sadness as their reunion is cut short. You really feel and identify with him. Thankfully the experience whether it was real or not gives him a chance to accept and put the past behind him before finally being able to move on with his life. It was a satisfying conclusion to an incredible story. The soundtrack which uses Puccini is also superb.

Overall, this is a wonderful movie which is well paced and brilliantly directed. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started to watch it. I was delighted that it was so enjoyable. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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