Archive for July 31st, 2013

The Aimed School DVD

Aka School In The Crosshairs

Pretty young schoolgirl Yuka is one of her school’s most popular pupils and she’s also the top of her class with her work though she does have competition from the likes of a male classmate called Arakawa who isn’t happy with Yuka’s status. Yuka has a male friend named Koji whom she likes who is more interested in kendo practice rather than his schooling and he is under constant pressure from his parents to improve his grades. His parents suggest that Yuka tries to help him out. As Yuka and Koji are walking home from school one day, a young boy on his tricycle steps out in front on an oncoming truck. Just as an accident is about to happen, Yuka manages to stop the boy with her psychic powers by turning back time which she was unaware she had. With her burgeoning powers, she also manages to help Koji in a kendo competition.  A mysterious caped individual Kyogoku who also has similar psychic abilities confronts Yuka to embrace the powers she has. Soon after a new female transfer student Michiru Takamizawa arrives in Yuka’s class and she also has psychic powers. She makes it perfectly clear that she dislikes Yuka and plans to undermine her popularity. This she does by trying to sabotage the class election in which Yuka is aiming to become their representative. Her plan fails but this isn’t enough to stop her. Michiru’s next action is to create an army of pupils to stamp out bad behaviour at the school and the teachers approve of it as she is able to use her powers to manipulate them. Any student that opposes her will is attacked. It appears that Michiru and her demon mentor Kyogoku are unstoppable. Can Yuka and Koji stop them?

You might think at first that this movie directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi is going to be quite restrained and even normal by his standards but I should have known that the man just cannot help himself and it turns out to be another insane effort. Not that I dislike the insanity that is abundant in his works because it’s makes his movies wholly unique and original. This is similar to a superhero type movie as we have 2 schoolgirls with psychic powers battling for supremacy of the school they attend.  Obayashi seems to like directing movies with schoolgirls in the lead roles and he even throws in a dance sequence from the cast into the story. From the previous movies I’ve seen from him the special effects are no different and cheap matte effects are used once more. Some might call the special effects quirky but I’m not a fan of them at all as it looks ancient and primitive. The storyline is fairly easy to follow and as the movie was targeted towards the young teenage market it’s quite safe for them to watch unlike some other movies from him which has some dubious scenes and makes them unsuitable for families to watch. The plot starts out very sedately and follows the everyday lives of Yuka and Koji and although things pick up when Yuka realises she has incredible abilities under her control, it is only when Michiru appears that the story really hits it’s stride and the good versus evil scenario comes to the fore leading up to a satisfying conclusion. The chilling scenes showing Michiru’s unit marching through the school in their uniform does look very much like the SS of Nazi Germany with Michiru as the dictator in charge.

the aimed school screenshot

Hiroko Yakushimaru is a quintessential Japanese schoolgirl heroine in this movie and she performs very well in her role. She’s a likeable enough character and although goody-two shoes characters can be seen as being boring, Yuka comes across as engaging and interesting. It would be Hiroko’s next movie role in Sailor Suit And Machine Gun that would propel her into superstardom in Japan. I much prefer her nemesis though – the cold and calculating Michiru with her glowing red eyes played wonderfully by Masami Hasegawa. She makes a great foil for Yuka and even appears in a couple of scenes in a red super-villain costume. Then there is Toru Minegishi in an OTT and rather camp role as Kyogoku, the demon with his permed blonde hair, flowing cape and a drawing of an eye on his chest who is trying to get Yuka to be on his side and use her powers for the wrong reasons.

I got quite excited seeing the main location for the majority of the shoot as it was filmed in Shinjuku Central Park which is a small green oasis near the Tokyo Government Metropolitan Buildings. I used to stay on my first couple of trips to Tokyo in a hotel just across the road from the park and it seems to me that the hotel isn’t there in the movie but the viewer can see that there is major construction work going on so it could be the hotel was being built at the time. There is also no sign of the TGMB as construction only started on it in 1988 so the skyline of that part of Shinjuku looks very different to what it is now. A lot has taken place in the area since 1981!

Overall, The Aimed School is another strange but entertaining movie from Nobuhiko Obayashi which I enjoyed.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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this girl is Bad-ass promo

Jukkalan is a tough young orphan woman living with her Uncle Wang who runs a bootleg DVD shop.  She’s employed by 2 crime bosses into discreetly delivering ‘certain’ packages to each other by bike. These packages although never said is presumed to be drugs. The street smart woman has also been dipping her grubby fingers into the packages and stealing some of the drugs so that she can sell them herself and make some money but also trying to get the 2 gangs to be at each other’s throats.  Before long the 2 bosses find out what she’s been doing and send their cronies after her. They’re no match for her fighting skills but still the bosses will not stop in their pursuit of her and she’s given an ultimatum to cough up. Jukkalan also has her eyes set on a long haired rock guitarist who lives next door which doesn’t please an old childhood ‘friend’ Duan who likes her a lot and wants her to notice him but she keeps beating him up. Will Jukkalan manage to come up with the cash she needs to get the 2 bosses off her back?

Ever since Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin burst onto the scene with Chocolate, the rest of her work hasn’t been up the high standard I expected it to be and I’m not sure why this has been the case. With such a great title for this movie I had high hopes that this was going to be a return of form for Jeeja but my hopes were dashed immediately during the first 15 mins. Let me give it to you straight: this is more of a comedy movie than a martial arts one so all of you out there thinking that just because of the movie’s title it’s going to be a rip-roaring action fest are going to be disappointed. The problem is this movie has been sold as a martial arts movie for Westerners when clearly it isn’t – it’s a comedy movie with a couple of action scenes thrown in which is due in part to the director who’s a comedian himself. The thing is Thai audiences love that kind of thing but Western audiences like seeing more action content than comedy in this type of movie. The action sequences are too short to be really great though I did like 2 decent fights – one in which Jeeja uses a bicycle to fend off some baddies which somewhat reminded me of what Jackie Chan used to do years ago in that he’d pick up an object and use it in various ways to fight an opponent. The rest of the fights are underwhelming and I found them lacking. The main plot of the movie is a bit basic, rather weak and the pacing throughout is very uneven. I would suspect due to a lot of viewers not being familiar with Thai pop culture that some of the jokes contained in the movie fall flat. The comedy when it does work is really funny and I did laugh during certain scenes.

this girl is bad-ass screenshot

The sub-plot with Jeeja falling for a handsome guitarist who turns out to be gay and Duan, one of her ugly male friends trying to win her heart is rather pointless though he does get some great gags revolving around him. This part of the movie is meant to show a softer side to the tough image that Jeeja usually portrays in that she can be cute and adorable as well. As for the rest of the characters in this movie the words camp and oddball springs to mind from one of the gangster bosses who speaks with a high squeaky voice to some stupid cops who can’t shoot properly, midget muay-thai wrestlers and a weird looking character going around on a wooden horse with wheels in which he has to bounce up and down to move. They’re all played completely OTT and purely for laughs.

It’s a shame this movie didn’t live up to what I thought it would be and the title of this movie is very misleading (perhaps they should have stuck with the original name Jukkalan instead). There’s too much lame comedy and not enough action for my liking. I find Jeeja being wasted in these comedy movies but hopefully we’ll see her back at her kick-ass best in Tony Jaa’s The Protector 2 which should come out sometime in 2014. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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