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Archive for December, 2013

Shinjuku Outlaw dvd

Yomi is a yakuza henchman in Hiroshima. His boss is dying from cancer in hospital and the clan members are worried that his impending death will make their rivals move in on their territory. Yomi volunteers to kill the boss of a rival clan so that any idea they’ve got of trying to moving into their turf will be quashed. A plan is arranged that once the job is over Yomi will be picked up by the police should he survive. He tracks the rival boss to a bowling alley where he is having fun with his family which includes his young granddaughter. He manages to kill the boss but he isn’t so lucky in escaping and he is mown down in a hail of bullets by the boss’ bodyguards. He survives the ordeal but only just. He falls into a coma as he arrives at the prison hospital and wakes up 10 years later where many things have changed. His trusted friend Eto has moved to Tokyo and taken Yomi’s girlfriend Ayumi with him to run a Filipino prostitution ring. Eto has run himself into some debts and when Yomi comes to visit him he is kidnapped by those he owes money for. To the surprise of many people, Yomi decides he’d like to help Eto out. Everybody thought he’d kill Eto for stealing his girl. The Shinjuku yakuza hear about Yomi’s arrival in Tokyo and make him an offer that he simply can’t refuse by forcing him to work for them. In doing so, Yomi gets himself entangled in a situation which involves a corrupt cop and the Taiwanese mafia.

This is one of Takashi Miike’s earliest yakuza works and although this movie isn’t quite as extreme as what he would release later in his career, the viewer will quite clearly be able to see that some elements are beginning to come through (a yakuza is beaten up in the street by a Taiwanese mafia member who then urinates on his prone body before shooting his brains out!). If there’s one thing you can say about Miike’s yakuza movies they are entertaining as hell and so different to anybody else. Even a low budget yakuza movie such as this one by Miike is better than what many established directors can come up with in the genre. The plot is interesting about the Japanese yakuza having some issues with the Taiwanese mafia who are hoping to take over their rackets. The movie also has some quirky characters – a staple feature of Miike’s movies. The pairing of Yomi with a streetwise Filipino prostitute working for the Taiwanese mafia is a good one although there’s a twist in their relationship right near the end of the movie. You can see it coming a mile off that something is bound to happen between them.

Shinjuku Outlaw screenshot

If there’s one thing Miike doesn’t shy away from in his movies is in his depiction of violence against women. One scene features a young woman being battered in her apartment by a yakuza member. It’s a vicious prolonged assault which has the unfortunate woman being thrown down some stairs, getting her head smashed into a wooden door before it ends with her collapsing into a heap in her bathroom. It’s an uncomfortable scene to watch so be warned if you don’t like seeing violence against women. Was it necessary to have such a scene in the movie? Probably not as it doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever but that’s Takashi Miike for you. He also ups the violence factor in the final third as the battle between the Japanese yakuza and the Taiwanese mafia spills out into the streets. The brutality of the Taiwanese gang members is there for all to see as the viewer witnesses a montage showing one member shooting one of the yakuza whilst dancing. You could only see something as bizarre as this in a Miike movie!

Hiroyuki Watanabe is great as the lead character Yomi. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything before. He carries the role really well although all he has to do if I’m being honest is try to act tough but the same thing can be said about all of the cast members playing yakuza members. They’re not going to win any awards for their acting that’s for sure. Ruby Moreno is also solid as the Filipino actress playing the character of the prostitute that Yomi strikes up a relationship with.

Shinjuku Outlaws will never be one of Takashi Miike’s best movies but if you want to see the great man at the start of his career where he honed his skills as a storyteller and director, I’m sure this movie will more than satisfy anybody.

I’m sorry but there’s no trailer for this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Demon Spies (1974)

Demon Spies

A couple are travelling through the Japanese countryside when they are confronted by a group of children wearing masks. They are soon slayed and the viewer discovers the children have been recruited by a group to become demon spies. They are forced to wear masks and if that mask ever leaves their faces during training they are more or less executed instantly. The training is long and hard and takes 10 years. Not all of them survive the tough conditions set out by their masters. Only 5 of them survive and by now they’re adults which consists of 4 males and 1 female and they are ready to continue with the next part of their training. The next part of their training is in the art of sexual skills. Eventually the lone female has had enough of what she’s gone through and decides she no longer wants to be a demon spy. One male chases after her and after a short fight both of their masks comes off. They are captured and are ready to be executed when suddenly the 3 other recruits unmask themselves ready to free the other two until their teacher suddenly praises them all and says they are now fully fledged demon spies. They are sent on a mission to try and stop the Kushu clan who are planning on overthrowing the Shogunate. They have to infiltrate the clan and destroy the armoury before their plan can come to fruition. Will they succeed in their mission?

Based on a manga by Kazou Koike (who also created Lone Wolf & Cub/Lady Snowblood), this is a blood soaked exploitation action movie about a group of kids that are secretly trained to become demons in order to destroy any threat against the Shogunate. I’m not sure if the 16 selected kids right at the beginning are orphans or not but it’s quite uncomfortable seeing them attack and kill an innocent couple. The bizarre plot features a premise that these trained demons are supposed to kill anybody that threatens the peace of the country. They are forced to forsake their humanity and put on a traditional Japanese mask they have to wear on their faces at all times (punishment for taking the mask off whether intentionally or otherwise is death!) They are different from ninjas as what sets them apart is the masks they wear which is supposed to strike fear into their enemies. It’s pretty strong stuff in the first third for the viewer and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The plot starts out as an ninja-like adventure but soon turns into a survival horror movie as the 5 are captured and tortured by the Kushu clan who want to know their plan.

DemonSpies screenshot

If you’ve seen movies based on the writer’s other works ,you’ll be familiar with the fact that major bloodletting is a common theme in all of them and this movie has gallons of the red stuff being sprayed about like there’s no tomorrow. Every cut from a blade results in a spray of blood being splattered everywhere with limbs even cut off.  Hell, in one gruesome scene the lead teacher kills himself as a graduation gift to his students by cutting off his own demon face with a sword! The action bloody as it is only comes in short spurts, this isn’t an all-out action extravaganza. In fact I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as action packed as I hoped it would be.  It moves along at a good pace though so it never becomes boring. There’s a very disturbing scene early on in the movie during the training the 5 are having when they have to learn some sexual skills and the lone female is gang raped by the other 4 students on orders by their teacher. It was a rather unnecessary scene as this sexual training they’ve gone through isn’t even used in their mission.

Even though it’s enjoyable , I didn’t think it was half as good as say the Lone Wolf & Cub movies which was far more interesting, creative with a lot more carnage but I would think that anybody that has seen the Lone Wolf movies will like this one as well.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Merry Christmas!

May I wish everybody that visits this site a very happy Christmas!

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in-the-line-of-duty-5-middle-man-poster

Female HK police inspector Rachel Yeung is looking forward to seeing her cousin David who has served in the military overseas. They haven’t seen each other for a while and she hopes they can spend some time together. A fellow officer in the military Alan arrives in HK with David and he’s involved in some shady dealings with some people in the intelligence community about selling secrets to foreign buyers. When Alan is murdered by some thugs by accident, David is framed for the crime. He tries to clear his name but this only makes things worse as people from the CIA to the local crime organisation are either trying to kill or kidnap him! The only person that can testify to David’s innocence is May, a teenage girl. Rachel is convinced of her cousin’s innocence but her job is not helped by her superiors wanting to bring David in for questioning. Rachel has always been one to do her job by the book but this time she might have to break the rules if she’s to save her cousin’s life which means going all the way to South Korea to sort the mess out.

Coming off the back of ITLOD 4 which was one of the very best in the franchise, there was a lot of expectation that this movie might be just as good but sadly it isn’t. This movie is the point at which the franchise gradually went down. It does have it’s moments but it just doesn’t stand out from any other generic action movie that was coming out of HK at the time. The uninteresting espionage plot doesn’t help things either. The movie does start off on a bang as Rachel Yeung is chasing after a suspect in a car park and she does a flying kick through a windshield of a moving car before the pair continue scrapping through an alleyway and onto a couple of other moving vehicles. Sadly though, apart from a couple of other good fights this movie is lacking in any real excitement.

In the line of duty 5 middleman screenshot

The fight choreography whilst competent enough isn’t as good as previous entries because Corey Yuen and Yuen Wo Ping wasn’t involved. Still, I will watch anything with Cynthia Khan and she performs well as Rachel Yeung – dodging bullets and kicking ass. She takes part in a couple of good stunts, one of which has her dangling off the side of a skyscraper! Another sees her chasing after a speedboat at a container terminal which ends with the bad guys’ boat being smashed to pieces by a falling cargo container. The highlight of the movie has to be the girl-on-girl fight between Cynthia and the Australian blonde Kim Maree-Penn (a stuntwoman) in a room full of breakable glass which turns into a swordfight.  She also has a good fight with Billy Chow.  Thankfully even though the plot is a bit dull, there’s enough action sequences to keep this movie from being boring – one of the stunts to watch out for is a man falling from height and destroying a car roof. The word ouch springs to mind when you see it!!  Taiwanese actor David Wu is rather lacklustre as the soldier on the run and I noticed a lack of chemistry between himself and Cynthia Khan.  Alvina Kong is wasted as May as she doesn’t have a lot to do in the movie. The same goes for Kim Maree-Penn and Billy Chow.

Tinkering with a formula can play havoc in a successful franchise and that certainly did happen in this movie. The humour that was present in the previous movies has disappeared completely and they go for a deadly serious story instead with more emphasis on the drama. It just doesn’t work out as well as the filmmakers thought it would be.

Overall, this is a movie that will appeal more to Cynthia Khan fans more than anyone else. There’s nothing that really stands out and the plot doesn’t really grab you at all. By all means take a look if you’ve seen the previous 4 movies but I’m sure like myself you’ll end up feeling a little disappointed by the end.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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the-secret-of-the-telegian

A former army officer Tsudo is seeking revenge on his former greedy comrades who tried to kill him during the war. He targets them one by one by murdering with a bayonet, the same method they tried to kill him. The first of his victims is stabbed to death at an amusement park ‘Cave Of Horrors’ attraction with the killer leaving a dog-tag behind as his calling card. Tsudo has been working as an assistant to a scientist who has created a brilliant machine called the Cryotron. This is a machine that allows a person to teleport themselves anywhere and Tsudo has been using the machine without his boss’ permission to help him in his revenge. He can appear and disappear at will. A reporter, his friend who’s a police detective and many officers start investigating the mysterious murders. Clues lead them to a military themed cabaret club run by a man who is trying to hide something that took place many years previously which involved stolen gold bars. Will the police be able to capture Tsudo?

This is an interesting movie by Toho Studios which can be lumped in the same category as The H-Man and The Human Vapor which was released around the same time. It is played out like a police murder mystery/thriller which was directed by Jun Fukuda in only his 2nd feature and his first special effects movie. He would later go on to direct several Godzilla movies. It’s an exciting and suspenseful movie with an intriguing premise about a man who uses secret technology to gain revenge. You could argue that there’s a bit of a film noir feel to the movie as well. I just wished the movie would have focused more on Tsudo rather than the police investigation. Whilst the method of how Tsudo appears isn’t as cool as the criminal in The Human Vapor (a misty cloud), there is something very creepy about Tsudo’s form when he teleports. His body is enveloped by electricity and he appears almost like a holographic image.  The viewer is shown via a flashback sequence why Tsudo has taken to carrying out his mission of vengeance in which he was nearly killed inside a cave and left for dead.

Secret of the Telegian screenshot

The special effects are done brilliantly by Eiji Tsuburaya (a veteran of creating special effects for Toho kaiju movies) and it still looks decent even 50 years on. Add to that a really effective and eerie score by Sei Ikeno and you have the ingredients of a good movie. It is well paced and the story never lags. Fukuda builds up plenty of tension and delivers a couple of good shocks. You can sense the frustration by the police as they have no idea at first how the killer manages to escape from the crime scenes. Tadao Nakamura is menacing as Tsudo, a bitter person who is itching on gaining revenge on his former war colleagues.

Despite the claim by many kaiju movie fans that this is one of Toho Studios’ weakest efforts (even though it isn’t technically a kaiju movie), I enjoyed it. Those that have watched Toho’s other 2 titles that I’ve mentioned above might want to check this one out too so that you can compare between the three which is the best.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The King Of Pigs (2011)

King-of-Pigs-2011

Two men who haven’t met in 15 years get together over a drink. Kyung-min and Jong-suk who are going through some problems reminisce about their high school days and the boy that changed their lives forever. In their youth, the two were constantly bullied by the gang in their class. The gang consisted of boys that had rich parents and the teachers allowed them to do as they pleased. They called themselves The Dogs. Everyone else was deemed lower than them and were called Pigs. The gang loved to humiliate their fellow pupils. Then one day somebody challenged their authority. Chul was a boy in their class who resorted to violence in order to stop the gang. He befriends Kyung-min and Jong-suk and says the only way to beat the gang is to even more violent and evil. To demonstrate to the pair how to combat the gang, he meets them up at the place where he is staying. He pulls out a knife and stabs an angry cat that he has chained up and tells them this is the only way to get them back. He offers them his knife and to go ahead with stabbing the cat. Jong-suk is fine about this and takes out his frustrations on the animal but Kyung-min isn’t quite so sure. The tit-for-tat violence continues at the school until Chul goes too far and he is expelled. With Chul out of the way, the gang continue to attack Kyung-min and Jong-suk. They still meet Chul outside of school.  He proposes a plan to the pair that will mean The Dogs will never be able to remember their school days with any joy or happiness. Will Chul go ahead with his plan and why has Kyung-min mysteriously asked to see Jong-suk after all this time?

South Korea isn’t renowned for it’s anime movies having only released a handful of them so far. This is a violent and hard hitting award-winning anime on bullying. The story is mostly told in flashback and returns every now and then to the 2 men talking in the present day. It is certainly not an anime for kids and even though it is about two boys reminiscing about their high school days it has a dark and depressing storyline which doesn’t shirk away from portraying the brutality that takes place in Kyung-min and Jong-suk’s school. A school which turns it’s back on vicious bullying and lets students who have rich families to do as they please. The pair are humiliated several times during the course of the movie by a gang of rich boys in their class. It is obvious that the violence the pair were subjected to has haunted and shaped how their lives are run in the present as adults. It is assumed but never confirmed right at the start of the story that Kyung-min has killed his wife by strangulation and as for Jong-suk – before heading out to meet Kyung-min he beats up his wife so the 2 men have a lot of issues stemming from their past.

The king of pigs screenshot

This isn’t the easiest of anime to watch because of the raw violence that’s shown which only gets worse once Chul comes on the scene. Chul is a loner who decides that enough is enough and he dishes it out to the bullies with a ferocity that’s unflinching. His doling out of pain to the bullies provides a respite to Kyung-min and Jong-suk who becomes friends with him but seeing them aligned with Chul gives the bullies an even more reason to target them. Chul’s reasoning to combat the bullies is to fight fire with fire and even take it a step further! It’s disturbing to see Chul showing the pair on getting their own back by killing his chained pet cat with a large kitchen knife. Although Kyung-min runs out of Chul’s place after witnessing Jong-suk copy Chul in stabbing the cat, he comes crawling back and vents his fury on the poor defenceless creature. It’s all fine for the pair when Chul is around but once he’s expelled that protection is gone and the bullying goes from bad to worse for them. This bullying mirrors allegedly what really takes place in South Korean schools where this type of behaviour is rife.

Just when you think that this anime movie is about to conclude without anything major happening, there’s a huge twist which takes the viewer by surprise. Chul has a plan to make the bullies never forget their schooldays. It involves him going to the school roof and jumping off but he chickens out at the last minute until Kyung-min sees Chul’s body falling from the roof and hitting the ground in front of the whole school. Everybody thinks it’s suicide until Kyung-min notices a familiar figure pushing Chul off the roof. He never mentions anything to anybody but this secret that he’s kept for 15 years is about to be unveiled and it is the main reason why he has tried to seek Jong-suk after all this time.

Unlike Japanese anime, the style of animation in this movie especially on the faces of all the characters is different and whilst a lot may not like it, it made a nice change. This movie only had a small budget so the backgrounds are quite limited and simple. It was good enough for me.

This anime won’t be for everybody’s taste and makes for unsettling viewing because of the grimness of the storyline but I liked it’s depiction of harsh real-life situations and hierarchical Korean school society where the downtrodden and weak are targeted mercilessly. Debutant director Yeun Sang-Ho has done a remarkable job on this anime. It’s well worth checking this anime out if you’re after a realistic storyline.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Iron Angels 3

AKA Iron Angels 3

Moon is a secret agent working undercover in Thailand who joins a suicide assassin organisation as a Japanese bodyguard called Yoko. Her evil boss is a foreign lady who has a small pet crocodile she carries around on her arm. When Moon has to ditch her secret transmitter on the way to her boss’ mansion, she loses contact with the rest of the team which includes a Thai agent named Kharina, a foreign computer geek and 2 male HK agents. They don’t seem to be overly concerned as they know that Moon can take care of herself.  As Moon tries to get some information from inside the organisation about the mission they are about to undertake in assassinating a group of top government officials at a garden party, the other agents from outside try and stop their plan.

Billed by many as the weakest in the Angel (or in some cases it’s called Iron Angel) trilogy, this is certainly the wildest movie of the lot. The high-octane action is incredible and the finale contains some crazy shit going on with a huge body count which sees well over 100 people being slaughtered but I’ll get into that later on in the review.  I thought this movie had Moon Lee as the central character but she disappears from the movie for a large portion and is not present in the climax at all. For a person like myself who is a huge Moon Lee fan I was really disappointed about this. The plot is paper thin but the action that unfolds onscreen is some of the best I’ve seen in a ‘Girls With Guns’ movie so it doesn’t really matter. The action gets going in the opening scene as Moon Lee is in disguise acting like a ditzy woman on a train who gets inside a carriage with a Japanese female passenger and a man. After getting the guard to remove the man thanks to a false accusation that he touched her up, the viewer finds out that the Japanese woman is really an assassin and a brilliant fight ensues inside the carriage. There’s a nod to 007’s From Russia With Love as the Japanese woman has a blade hidden inside her shoe which springs out ala Rosa Kleb. It ends with Moon Lee shoving the assassin’s head through a window which knocks her out and she assumes her identity! There’s even a first for myself in seeing Moon Lee strip off and change clothes. Moon has probably some of the best fights you’ll ever see her get involved in (barring her scraps with Yukari Oshima from other movies). She single-handedly takes on a mansion full of killers with only her martial arts skills, a sword and a nunchaku when her cover is blown.

Iron Angels 3 screenshot

It’s the pair of Alex Fong and Ralph Chen that takes the majority of screen time in this movie and they make for a good pairing. Ralph Chen plays an agent that gets in constant trouble. If he’s not attracting the attention of a suicide bomber who is selling drinks from a mobile stand and has placed bombs inside fake pineapples, he’s annoying the hell out of Thai agent Kharina who he likes very much but she’s not too impressed by him! The story even goes off tangent when the two male agents go to see a Thai boxing match. After Fong’s character interferes in a match when he saves a man from being killed in the ring, his irate opponent challenges him to a match. The viewer is then treated to an extended and very brutal match between the two.

The best action sequence is saved for last as the evil organisation carries out it’s nefarious masterplan and sends a group of assassins on motorbikes armed with machine guns to gatecrash the important garden party. The Thai army manages to repel this raid until a massive truck smashes through a wall and when the side of the truck opens there’s a whole army of assassins ready to attack. As the Thai army begins to get hammered by the onslaught of the assassins, from out of nowhere who should appear on jet-packs which have twin machine guns inserted in the handles but the 2 male HK agents. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen in a HK action movie as the pair destroys the assassins. It’s literally carnage within the grounds where the garden party is taking place which is completely littered with dead human bodies!! After taking care of business on the outside it’s time for Alex Fong to have a fight with the head of the evil organisation played wickedly by the blonde haired Saskia Van Rijswijk who enjoys torturing her underlings if they don’t perform to her high expectations. It’s hard to say whether there was a joke involved in having Saskia’s character having a pet baby crocodile, it seemed to me like a parody of a Bond villain. I kept waiting and hoping for Moon Lee to appear and perhaps have a one-on-one encounter with Saskia’s character but it doesn’t happen. I have no idea why she was left out of the finale?

For an action movie this delivered on everything I expected and more besides. Moon Lee is still as cute as a button even when she’s kicking ass. A great ending to the trilogy. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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