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Archive for August, 2012

During an argument with his father, a rebellious student named Shotaro who likes to carry a flick knife on him accidentally hurts his mother who is rushed to hospital. Sitting in the hospital corridor and waiting for his mother’s condition, he gets into an argument with a rival from another school who has had his ribs taped up for fighting. It ends up with both boys connecting with a punch to each other’s face. However, the punches also create a crack in the fabric of time and space hurtling the 2 boys from the hospital and landing up in a field. They have some idea where they are but on going into town they find they have arrived in the year 1981 when Shotaro’s parents were still at school. Whilst his future mother is a model student, Shotaro sees that his father is a yankee who rides a motorbike. Shotaro’s arrival in the past has come in a pivotal moment in his future parent’s relationship as they are due to take a photo together in a tower later in the day. This photo takes pride and place in Shotaro’s household. Nothing must interfere with this moment or Shotaro might never exist in the future. When a small gang of thugs kidnap and threaten Shotaro’s future mother – Shotaro, his rival and future father must team up to defeat them. Somehow Shotaro’s girlfriend and friend also arrive back in 1981 determined to help things out as well but Shotaro’s rival begins to fall for his future mother which complicates matters…………………

TSY: Time Slip Yankee is a comedy time travelling movie which shares a lot in common with other titles in the same genre. It’s fair to say it doesn’t have much of an original script. The story has been done countless times in movies and this one is OK but nothing special. Whilst the method of time travel is different (whoever heard of a punch sending a person into the past!) it’s never explained just how something like this can create a crack in the fabric of time and space and how Shotaro’s girlfriend and friend can follow them to the exact time period. It’s got some funny moments as Shotaro meets his future parents and even has a scrap with his father but it’s only right at the end when things start to get interesting as the plot takes a bit of a twist but even then this kind of thing has been done in other time travel movies before. There are a couple of good fights in the movie including a lengthy rumble between our three heroes and some hoodlums near the climax. The filmmakers have been a bit careless with mistakes as there are modern cars in some shots that is supposed to be back in the early 80’s. Those kind of silly mistakes should have been edited out. It wouldn’t have been that much of an effort to erase them out. As for the cast, they’re pretty decent in their roles. The movie just about held my interest but to be honest I don’t think it’s worth your time. Average.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Following the death of his scientist father at the hands of the evil Sigma organisation, secret police officer Yutaka Daimon pairs up with his mighty robot friend and partner Zaborgar who is armed with weapons, an expert in karate and also able to transform into a motorcycle. When Daimon finds out about a plot by Sigma to steal the DNA of politicians and scientists and use it in a robot weapon, he and Zaborgar square off against the robotic Miss Borg, the female sidekick of Dr Akunomiya, the brains behind Sigma. However, an interesting development occurs as Daimon and Miss Borg fall in love with each other and have a passionate moment in a cave. Zaborgar who isn’t happy with this sacrifices himself and Miss Borg which results in their destruction. During the explosion a big egg appears with 2 babies inside. Fast forward 25 years into the future and the threat of Sigma rears its ugly head again this time in the form of Daimon’s son and daughter which resulted from his sexual encounter with Miss Borg all those years ago. His daughter Akiko transforms into a tall skyscraper robot and starts smashing up a city. Can Daimon and the newly resurrected Zaborgar save the day?

From the warped mind of Noboru Iguchi comes this parody and remake of a 70’s tokusatsu show which is set up as a 2 part episode. You’ve got our two heroes facing flying heads, a kissing samurai robot, a trio of American football fembots with demon heads coming out of their breasts and arses, bulldog tanks and other weird creatures. It’s a typical Japanese wacky movie from Iguchi! Zaborgar himself is quite a cool robot as he has remote control car feet and a helicopter coming out of his head for surveillance duties. It’s quite a fun movie to watch but I don’t think it’s as funny as some of Iguchi’s other works. It is entertaining though and it will make you smile. The gore content is surprisingly low which was a disappointment to me. Iguchi has made this movie as realistic as possible to the original Zaborgar series and has made a commendable effort as you’re able to see clips of the 70’s show during the end credits to see how uncannily accurate he got this movie right.

Depending on what you find funny, you might find this movie rather annoying and childish. It was OK in my opinion but nothing more. It’s silly, cheesy and rather corny and it did make me laugh a bit but I’ve seen better from Iguchi.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Riding The Metro (2006)

Shinji Hasebe is a salesman for a small underwear company who travels on the Tokyo metro every day to work. On stepping off the train one day he receives a call from his brother to say his father is seriously ill and dying in hospital. Shinji’s father is a very successful businessman and in the same line of business as Shinji but has gotten involved in many corruption scandals recently. He isn’t a nice man at all – he’s frequently drunk and hits his wife. Father and son haven’t really got on for many years with Shinji blaming his father for causing his older brother’s death in 1964. Shinji has even legally separated from his family and taken his mother’s name instead. One day he meets his old school teacher on the metro station platform who remembers Shinji and his brother and reminds him of the circumstances of his brother’s death (the anniversary of which is today). As Shinji says goodbye to his teacher and heads up the stairs for the exit he thinks he sees his dead brother in exactly the same clothes he wore on the night of his death. He follows him up to the exit and outside to the street and finds himself back in 1964 just as the Tokyo Olympics are starting. He tries to change the past by meeting his brother and telling him not to go out of the house that night in order to prevent his death but on returning to the present day he realises that nothing has changed. Shinji is warned however that there will be a ripple in time because of his actions. Subsequent trips to the past sees Shinji in other eras (post and pre WWII) with his mistress also finding herself being involved in his time travelling journeys. What is the reason for Shinji to go back in time and is it for him to sort out the only real problem in his life – his father?

This is a very interesting and intriguing movie about fractured family relationships which uses time travel as an aid for the main character to confront his past especially his difficult relationship with his father. It’s not really explained what sets off these time travel jumps for Shinji and how he is able to go back to the past – it’s my theory that his old school teacher isn’t what he seems to be – perhaps an angel of sorts? All we are shown is a shot of a metro train speeding through a subway tunnel and when he wakes up he is back in the past. It does make the viewer wonder at times if Shinji is actually dreaming the entire scenario. It’s a nice plot device for Shinji to gain a better understanding of how his father turned out the way he would be in the present and as Shinji’s mistress Michiko tells him he’s not really that much different from his father in that he is distant and cold to his own wife and son. The only difference as such is Shinji isn’t as ruthless as his father and definitely not as abusive. Gradually though through his travels in the past he comes to understand, admire and even love his father which is enough to spark a reconciliation between the two in the present day before he passes away. He sees a side to him during his time travelling he didn’t know before. That’s not to say that his father has miraculously changed his behaviour for the better by this time but Shinji knows the reasons why he is the way he is and so he changes his feelings for him. I did find it difficult to believe that he forgave his father as easily as he did considering the deep hatred Shinji had for him. There is a tragic aspect to the storyline as we come near the climax involving a secret about Michiko which affects her relationship with Shinji.

From my own personal experience of riding the Tokyo metro I loved the shots inside the stations and the platforms which made me long to be back in Tokyo itself. As with the Always trilogy which lovingly recreated the past so the filmmakers in this movie need to be congratulated for bringing the streets and metro trains of Tokyo before, during and after the war to life again. You really do believe you’re back in the past.

I enjoyed this time travel story which has a couple of unexpected twists along the way. Great acting by the cast.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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This movie charts the rise and fall of the United Red Army terrorist group which grew from students protesting in the late 60’s about the US-Japanese security treaty and the Vietnam war to wanting to take down the Japanese government to bring about a world revolution. Two communist left wing factions decided to merge. By the early 70’s most of the group’s leaders had been arrested by the police but those that were still on the run had small bases up in the Japanese Alps where they held training camps for their members. During the evening they would hold ‘self-critique’ sessions where a member would be asked what they had done wrong and how they could improve themselves. Any wrong answers would result in a beating by the rest of the group and for some it would also lead to their death. Some members decided that they didn’t want to hang about for their own ‘self-critique’ and fled the camp. With the net closing in by the police, the group decide to split up. One group is arrested by the police, the last 5 members armed with weapons hole up in a snowy mountainside lodge and take the female proprietor hostage. The lodge is eventually surrounded by the police but the terrorists refuse to give in. How will the situation end?

Based on a true story, controversial director Koji Wakamatsu’s acclaimed docudrama is a fascinating account of a turbulent period in Japan’s history in which many left-wing organisations sprung up in Japanese universities across the country in the late 60’s outraged at the interference of the US in their country’s affairs and involving them in the Vietnam war. Wakamatsu had friends in the URA (United Red Army) during the early 70’s and even joined them in Palestine as a trainee in which he made the movie ‘Red Army/PFLP: Declaration Of World War’ which was released in 1971. That movie was probably biased towards his friends’ ideals but in this movie he insists he is sitting firmly on the fence and only wished to educate the youth of today about something that they might not know about. This 3 hour plus movie is basically split into 3 parts: the first hour gives us the background to the URA on how they formed from news documentary footage, still photographs and re-created incidents. The second hour takes place in the URA’s camp up in the mountains in which we see their training methods and their self-criticism sessions. Just the most trivial of things like not cleaning guns properly would start these sessions off and would usually end in beatings, torture and killing fellow members if their answers weren’t good enough for the URA’s leaders. 12 members would eventually die from these sessions including an 8 month pregnant female. The final hour highlights the February 1972 incident at the Asama Mountain Lodge and the stand-off between the last 5 remaining URA members who had barricaded themselves inside and the 1,500 police/security forces deployed.

Even though I did find the movie rather interesting I just thought it was way too long which made it hard to watch and the middle section of the movie was rather repetitive especially the ‘self-critique’ sessions which forced members to confess their shortcomings and then have other members beat them to death. It just goes on and on. The two main URA leaders Mori and the female Nagata are basically making things up and handing out death sentences to anybody they please. Nagata who is a picture of hatred throughout the movie is seen to particularly pick on other females who she doesn’t like or is prettier than she is. She takes delight in making sure their faces is a mass of bruises and destroying their looks before killing them. I was also disappointed with the mountain lodge stand-off. It was a bit of an anti-climax. We only get to see small glimpses of what’s going on – a tear gas canister through a window or a water hose being aimed at one of the terrorists shooting at them. There’s hardly any shots of the so-called 1,500 police/security forces outside the lodge. The siege is all told from the inside of the lodge. Perhaps this movie only had a small budget so that’s why the final battle was only shown to a minimum or director Wakamatsu wanted to make it a bit claustrophobic and tense as seen from the terrorists’ viewpoint?

Despite it’s faults and the long running time, I still found it at times a gripping and uncompromising movie. It was an interesting history lesson about something I had no knowledge about. Even though the siege at the lodge fails, the ending gives us more information about what happened next with the formation of yet another left-wing group called The Japanese Red Army which would carry out terrorist atrocities for nearly 30 years before dissolving itself in 2000.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Maborosi (1995)

A 12 year old girl called Yumiko witnesses her grandmother running away from home saying she wants to go back to her hometown to die. She is never seen again by her. Fast forward years later and we find Yumiko as an adult and she’s settled down in Osaka and is happily married to Ikuo and they have a young son. Yumiko’s happiness comes crashing down when her husband fails to come home one night and a policeman comes knocking on her door. Ikuo has committed suicide with a train killing him instantly. Yumiko doesn’t understand why he would do this as he gave no indication that anything was wrong. As time moves on, Yumiko’s neighbour matches her up with a nice man (also a widower) and she marries him. Yumiko and her young son move from Osaka to a beautiful and quiet fishing village. She is happy again with her life with a wonderful and caring husband. But a trip back to Osaka for the wedding of her brother brings back unpleasant memories of Ikuo’s suicide and when she comes back home to her husband her mood has changed to being sombre and depressed. The thoughts of the suicide weighs heavily on her mind once again, trying to understand the reason behind it. Then she disappears from home and her husband searches frantically for her………

Maborosi is a movie all about overcoming grief and what it can do to a person especially when the death of somebody close is sudden and unexplained. The story plays out slowly and delicately by director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Having watched and enjoyed several of his other movies I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. We follow the main character Yumiko first in Osaka and then in a small fishing village around her daily life – doing normal things that other young mothers would do – preparing food in her home, cleaning, picking up her son from neighbours etc. The movie is filled with dramatic pauses, minimal dialogue, plenty of long shots and is full of atmosphere. I liked the overall look of the movie. Emotions are portrayed through facial and bodily expression so you don’t see Yumiko being hysterical or crying after the loss of her first husband. Some viewers might say that Yumiko should cry her grief out of her system so she can move on with her life? Before she moves to the fishing village there are too many reminders of Ikuo to haunt Yumiko and the way he died around her home such as the bike that he stole and repainted green, the train tracks right outside her front door and the emptiness inside her home. But not even a change of location can entirely remove the painful memories from the deepest corners of her mind. Grief affects people in many different ways and the way that Yumiko tries to bury it at first but has to eventually get over it is what this movie is all about.

In every sense you could call this an “art movie” because some of the long shots are like living paintings. The cinematography and lighting is outstanding. The scene featuring two kids running around the edge of a lake which gives a reflection of their figures is stunning but that’s only just one I can point out. There are many beautiful images to make you sit up and admire them. Excellent performances from the cast but especially by debutant Makiko Esumi who plays Yumiko. The way she portrays her grief is brilliant by the way she looks wistfully at the sea from her home. Although only in the movie for the first 30 minutes, Tadanobu Asano gives a good account of himself as Yumiko’s first husband Ikuo.

A very good and brooding movie but it won’t be for everybody. I imagine a lot will find it boring and uninteresting but for the patient viewer it is very rewarding and the ending is very moving. It also explains the title of the movie for you. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Tough no nonsense girl Kitty is on the police wanted list in HK after avenging the murderers of her father. Traumatised cop Tinam who has a problem with handling a gun (he spews his guts out every time) due to accidentally killing his brother is charged with his partner of trying to track Kitty down. Before she can get arrested by the cops, Kitty is recruited by mysterious assassin Sister Cindy who trains her up to becoming a professional killer and gives her a new identity.  They become a formidable duo in offing the bad guys. When Tinam’s investigation leads him into Sister Cindy’s house and he sees Kitty, they begin a relationship although Sister Cindy warns Kitty that falling in love with affect her as an assassin. Danger lurks though when Sister Cindy’s former student – the psychotic Princess sets her sights on taking Kitty as her lesbian lover. Princess has been leaving a trail of blood soaked male corpses in the city by mutilating their private parts. Sister Cindy is fatally poisoned by Princess and it’s up to Kitty and Tinam to settle the score with her in an explosive finale.

This is one of the most famous and notorious Cat III productions to come out of HK and is a huge cult favourite in the West. It’s not hard when you watch it to understand why it’s such a memorable and special movie in the eyes of many HK movie fans. It’s an erotic action packed movie with plenty of OTT violence, stunning and deadly femme fatales, girl-on-girl sex scenes and some sick humour as well. Some have said this is like La Femme Nikita mixed with Basic Instinct. It rifles along at a fast pace leaving you breathless by the time the end credits show up on the screen although I did find the movie ends rather abruptly. It’s a very entertaining and enjoyable movie with a great plot. This was the movie that propelled actress Chingmy Yau to becoming a big star in HK and it’s probably the only movie that director Wong Jing will be remembered for which isn’t a bad thing.  Some people may be offended by what they’ll see in this movie such as Kitty’s training in the basement of Sister Cindy’s house which involves her being locked in a room with a salivating rapist and having to kill him first before he can rape her. There’s also a sick gag involving the police searching for a man’s penis in his house after Princess has killed him and hacked it off and one of the stupid detectives accidentally eating the penis thinking it’s a sausage!! You do get a little bit of gore when Princess kills a man by smashing two barbells on the side of his face resulting in blood being sprayed on the camera.  I suppose some shots of testicular stabbings will have some men wincing! No wonder this movie was cut in the UK for many years but thankfully the version I saw was uncut.

Brilliant acting from the cast with Chingmy Yau at her sexy best as Kitty with Carrie Ng so cool and vicious as her rival Princess. Even though she has a minor role I also liked Japanese actress Madoka Sugawara as Princess’ lesbian lover Baby who gets jealous when Princess turns her amorous attention on Kitty. Kelly Yao is fantastic as Kitty’s mentor Sister Cindy plus there’s the presence of the delightful Simon Yam. The four woman are drop dead gorgeous and that’s what I imagine is part of the appeal of why hot blooded men love the movie so much……..although the insane well-constructed kickass action sequences, dark comedy and hot steamy sex scenes certainly add to the charm of this movie too! It was interesting to note that Anita Mui and Michelle Yeoh turned down the part of Kitty due to the nudity.

Overall, Naked Killer is a fun filled and stylish wild action rollercoaster ride from start to finish with a bevy of beautiful strong women that light up the screen. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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This is the first in the popular Joy Of Torture anthology movie series which is split into 3 different stories each featuring some nasty torture scenes being performed on mostly women. It is set during the Tokugawa shogunate era. The first story concerns a brother and a sister. The brother has an accident and they cannot pay for the medical bills so the sister comes to a sexual arrangement with the local kimono shop owner who will pay the bills for them. This sparks off jealousy from the brother who professes his love for his sister. The doctor finds out about their incestuous relationship and all hells breaks loose. The second story is about a new Mother Superior who comes to a convent and finds herself aroused when she looks at one of the priests working there. The priest is caught having an affair with one of the nuns who is brutally tortured by the Mother Superior. The only way to stop the torture is if the priest confesses his love for the Mother Superior or if the nun says she will forget about the priest. When the local magistrate hears of what is happening at the convent, he goes with a large team of soldiers to arrest the Mother Superior and punish her for her crimes. The third and last story is about a master tattooist Horicho who creates an interesting creation of a woman in agony on the back of a local geisha. The locals are impressed with his work except Lord Nambara who says it’s not realistic as the pain on the woman’s face is wrong. Disappointed with the criticism, Horicho searches for another woman to make the perfect tattoo. When he finds the woman, she refuses his request to make a tattoo on her back so Horicho drugs and takes her to his place. To shame the woman, he tattoos her private parts. Not wanting to make a mistake with the facial features on his new tattoo, Horicho begs for Lord Nambara to take him to Nagasaki where he can watch him torture Russian female Christian missionaries. Horicho manages to capture the agony of their faces perfectly for his tattoo but he can’t quite get the torturer’s face right but he has a plan on how to achieve that……

If you read my review for the sequel to this movie (Oxen Split Torturing) a while ago you’ll have an idea what to expect here. Whilst the opening scene has nothing to do with the three stories, it does set the tone for what you’ll be witnessing: a woman tied up in rope and left dangling whilst an executioner chops off her head and slices her body in half with another woman being burnt at the stake! This movie isn’t as bloodthirsty as the sequel although there are many unspeakable atrocities on show. The violence towards women is disturbing which makes you wonder just why did the Japanese public enjoy these kind of movies? Who in their right mind likes watching women being abused? This movie paved the way for the pink violence/exploitation genre that flourished during the 70’s. The 3 stories vary in quality. The first tale is relatively tame with no bloodshed although it is quite depressing. The second is better with some spearings and crucifixion but it’s in the final story that the more brutal acts takes place: waterboarding, whippings, torture rack usage and women being burnt akin to meat being barbequed on a spit. Production values are high so this isn’t a low budget movie at all. The acting is very good and the stories are interesting and sound in structure. It’s not like the filmmakers cobbled together the 3 stories on a whim just so they could highlight the graphic torture scenes.

If you like these type of movies and expect to see a lot of gore on display then you’ll be disappointed but those with an interest in the history in cinema and who want to see how the exploitation genre began it’s worth a look. It just isn’t for me I’m afraid.

No trailer but here’s a clip from the second story. For those that are easily offended do not watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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