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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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