Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2014

Violent Panic The Big Crash poster

Bank robber Takashi and his partner in crime have been targeting banks across the country and they agree to do one more job before they can flee to Brazil. Unfortunately the heist does not go as planned and Takashi’s partner is killed by a car during the escape. On the run from the cops, Takashi picks up a girl from a bar called Michi who has a bit of a mental problem. Although he says that he’ll take her with him to Brazil, he has no intention of doing that and will dump her before he leaves the country. Meanwhile the brother of Takashi’s dead partner in crime comes looking for him as he wants a share of the loot that was stolen from the bank and he blames him for his brother’s death. Takashi manages to escape but for how long? Will Takashi be able to get away with the cops and this man on his tail?

Prolific Japanese director Kinji Fukusaku gave it a break from making yet another yakuza movie in 1976 to create this insane crime/villain on the run caper. I’m not sure if Fukusaku meant for this movie to be light-hearted but I found it hilarious.  However he had to put in a dash of unnecessary sleaze into the movie too – that means plenty of nudity which involves a policeman (the movie’s main comedy relief) who is screwing a sexy female colleague but gets jealous when he finds her unfaithful with another male colleague! There’s also a side-plot involving a garage mechanic who keeps vandalising a client’s car so that he can keep on repairing it as he is so obsessed about the car but when he gets caught by the client (a gay doctor) he is subjected to being raped by him. The mechanic pays him back in kind by murdering him.  Why this side-plot is even in the movie I’ve no idea as it has no bearing on the main storyline whatsoever!

violent7

Whilst the majority of the movie isn’t special in the least and doesn’t come close to being Fukusaku’s best, it’s during the final third that it really goes crazy as Michi and Takashi go on the run in a car from some cops and his dead partner’s brother. A motorcycle gang being interviewed by a TV crew are rudely interrupted by the pursuit. Both the gang and the TV crew angrily join in the chase. Then even more cars get involved and it turns into a farce of ridiculous proportions. Random cars circle each other and then begin to crash into one another, some explode and it descends into some kind of slapstick demolition derby comedy sketch. People start fighting each other as well!! Whilst all of this stupidity is happening, Takashi and Michi quietly slip away from the melee thanks to a boat which is conveniently tied close by on a river. One thing comes out from this mess and that is Kinji Fukusaku cannot film a car chase at all. When it comes to yakuza stories and in your face brawls he might be fine but it’s like he couldn’t be bothered with the chase and just ordered everybody to smash into each other and see what the result would be like! Up until this point the movie wasn’t too bad but this silly chase spoiled everything.  Tsunehiko Watase plays Takashi who acts all tough and cool. He gives a good performance. A familiar face to fans of 70’s pink violence movies will be Miki Sugimoto who plays Michi. This would be one of her last movie roles before she disappeared completely off the scene as the delinquent girl boss genre had run it’s course by 1976.

Fans of Fukusaku’s yakuza movies will more than likely not be impressed by this at all but those that want to see some unintentional comedy will get a kick out of it. I didn’t take this movie seriously at all and if you come into watching it with the same attitude I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

TwilightCockroaches poster

Naomi and Ichiro are a part of a tribe of cockroaches living in Saito’s apartment. As a human bachelor, Saito isn’t the cleanest person on the planet and all the bits of food that’s left around the cockroaches take for themselves, The cockroaches live well, have the grandest of parties and the freedom of Saito’s apartment who doesn’t bother them one bit. They can even appear out during the daylight hours knowing that nothing will happen to them at all even though the elder cockroaches frown upon this behaviour. A heroic cockroach from a rival colony by the name of Hans who takes Naomi’s heart comes with tales of cockroaches fighting for their lives in other apartments. Naturally they don’t believe the stories until Saito gets a new girlfriend who decides to move in with him and wants to clean his place up. She is horrified in seeing the cockroaches there and she declares war on them. The cockroaches decide to fight back against the humans but is this a fight in which they have no hope of victory?

This is an interesting mix of animation and live action in which the plot is seen from a cockroach’s point of view. It’s got a compelling story of survival as the roach colony in Saito’s apartment faces mass extermination at the hands of 2 human beings who are determined to wipe out all of them. Many people have said that this is seen as something like the Jewish holocaust – that’s up to the viewer to make that assumption. It doesn’t start out as being a genocide movie at all as the roaches are enjoying their lives in relative peace and quiet in Saito’s apartment. Seen as a slob, he doesn’t seem to care how dirty his apartment is until that is he catches sight of the woman living in another apartment complex opposite from his own. Saito’s apartment is like a kind of a utopia for the roaches and they cannot comprehend when Hans and his rival colony state that they’ve been in a life or death struggle where they come from. As Saito’s relationship with his new girlfriend progresses she moves in with him and that’s when the human/roach war breaks out. The young roaches seem to have the same problems as their human counterpart i.e relationship matters etc. Naomi is shown cheating on Ichiro with the dashing heroic rival roach Hans.

TwilightCockroaches screenshot

This isn’t what you would call a typical anime movie. It’s rather different from the norm and it’s certainly hasn’t got a cutesy storyline. The roaches are given friendly human faces possibly for the viewer to sympathise with them? The mix of live-action and animation is surprisingly well done. The pacing of the story might be a bit slow but that’s only because it takes it’s time to acquaint us with all the characters. Don’t expect to see any character development at all. There’s even an appearance by a talking turd years before Mr Hankey in South Park!! It did make me laugh seeing that. The storyline does get a little sad as the roaches are massacred either by getting squashed by feet, roach spray or a bug bomb. Hans who turns into a right Adolf Hitler like character launches a last desperate attack on the humans but it is doomed to fail. Nevertheless there is a ray of hope for the roaches at the end as Naomi is shown to be pregnant so not all of them are killed.

It’s depends on how you view cockroaches whether you’ll like this movie or not. If you hate them I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing them being slaughtered! I enjoyed the movie even if the storyline was a bit depressing at times. Well worth seeking out this unique movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Quick-draw_okatsu

Okatsu Makabe is a master swordswoman who is helping out in running her adopted father’s dojo. Her adopted brother Rintaro isn’t all that interested in the school or in being a samurai and this has made his relation with his father a bit strained to say the least. He would rather become a farmer with his girlfriend Saki who is pregnant with their child. Rintaro is also a gambler and the gambling den owner sets him up to lose a load of money. Okatsu with the help of a feisty young swordswoman Rui also hides local peasants who are oppressed and bullied by the corrupt local commissioner Shiozaki. When Rintaro fails to pay off his gambling debts, Okatsu trades herself in so that he can escape with Saki and hide out with an old associate of her adopted father out in the hills. Unfortunately the associate isn’t quite so nice anymore and fuelled by the hate filled poison spewed by his wife decide to kill Rintaro. It seems this was Shiozaki’s plan all along to get Rintaro in debt so that he could finally have Okatsu as his lover. Okatsu’s adopted father tries to trade himself in so that Okatsu can be set free but the local commissioner who hates him as he doesn’t approve of his ways and vetoed his marriage to Okatsu captures him instead and he is tortured to death. Okatsu herself is raped and sent to the local brothel. Thankfully Rui is able to free Okatsu who vows to be a demon avenger on behalf of her dead family. The commissioner hires a bounty hunter to take Okatsu out.

The 2nd in the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress trilogy is a sequel in name only to Female Demon Ohyaku. There is no connection to that movie at all here. Some of the cast return to this movie but the characters are completely different. Whilst FDO was in black and white and only shot the previous year, this movie is in glorious technicolour. The English title might make some viewers think that Okatsu is a gun toting woman who goes around blasting villains with her guns but that’s not the case. She carries a sword and not a gun. Why they didn’t stick to the Japanese title which translated to Okatsu The Killer I do not know as it conveys the plot of the movie better. I actually thought that this movie was better than it’s predecessor. It’s more of a straight forward revenge drama. Many have classed this as a precursor to the pink violence movies that flourished in the 70’s though I must say that this isn’t quite as sadistic and bloody as some entries in the notorious genre. That’s not to say there aren’t any gruesome images on display such a sword to the eye or foot torture by candle. It’s obvious to see that this had an influence on later movies such as Lady Snowblood.

quickdraw_okatsu

The story takes it’s time in setting up the plight of some of the characters (beatings, torture, rape) so when the shit does hit the fan, Okatsu and her friend Rui take no prisoners in meting out their own brand of justice on those that deserves it. Junko Miyazono as Okatsu is one of the most beautiful women you’ll ever see. Graceful and elegant in her garb but deadly if you push her the wrong way. She isn’t that impressive wielding a sword and I’d say her female co-star Reiko Oshida looks much more fluent with her sword skills. There is one brilliantly long wide shot by the director of the two floor brothel that Okatsu has been shipped off to by the commissioner. As Okatsu and Rui begin slaughtering the villains, the viewer is treated to witnessing them cutting them down with their swords upstairs and downstairs with the camera not moving and as if watching from close by.  I thought it was a very clever scene. Although Kenji Imai is the main villain as Shiozaki, it is Toshiko Sawa that deserves the plaudits as the best villain of the movie. She plays the wicked Okiwa who persuades her husband to kill Rintaro. Over the course of the movie she beats women up, sells them to prostitution brothels and isn’t averse to performing crude forced abortions.

If you like Japanese female revenge movies then you should like this one. With a gorgeous leading actress in Junko Miyazono and a good storyline, I found this movie very entertaining. Now to try and catch the final instalment in the trilogy (Okatsu The Fugutive).

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Postman Blues (1997)

postman-blues

Ryuichi Sawaki is a postman who is under surveillance by the cops when he delivers a letter to a yakuza office and for staying there for a while. They think he might be working as a drugs runner for them so they follow him home. The cops have got the wrong end of the stick as Ryuichi is only friends with one of the yakuza Noguchi who was in school with him. When the cops see him entering his apartment with a case of beer they assume that he isn’t the only one there but his yakuza associates as well. The truth is very different though as Ryuichi is only sifting and opening a bag of mail he didn’t have time to deliver. One letter interests him a lot and it’s from a young woman Kyoko who is terminally ill with cancer and is thinking of killing herself because her boyfriend hasn’t replied back to a letter she has sent to him. Sawaki decides he will go to meet her and change her mind. After finishing his round the next day, He heads over to the hospital where Kyoko is staying. He meets and talks with her for a little while and she hands over a letter to him. After leaving Kyoko, Sawaki meets a professional hitman by the name of Joe. Joe relates the Sawaki about the lifestyle of an assassin and about a hitman competition ‘King of Killers’ he was involved in. Watching the pair from afar is some cops who are now even more convinced that Sawaki is involved big time with the yakuza and they think he may have asked the hitman to kill somebody. After coming home and reading Kyoko’s letter, he wants to meet up with her again. He is unaware though that the cops are about to label him as a very dangerous criminal and have plans to arrest him………………

This is a brilliant dark and original comedy movie by Japanese director Sabu about a bored and mostly lazy postman who gets thrown into an incredible turn of events just by meeting and talking to 3 people. It’s a story about coincidences and misunderstandings, of the fears by the police that they are dealing with one serious criminal but mostly it’s about a man who after talking to his yakuza friend re-evaluates his life and his job after being asked a question by him “does your heart ever thump with excitement like it did when you were a kid?”. The absurdly comical twists and turns which occur in the movie include a caper involving a severed finger cut by Noguchi the newbie yakuza and other stuff which I don’t want to spoil but it culminates into a fantastic adrenaline-filled bicycle chase around the city as Sawaki races against the clock to see Kyoko at the hospital unaware that the police are in hot pursuit of him. I didn’t like the ending not for the fact that it was poorly written or anything but as it was so heart-breaking and it made me feel angry.

Postman Blues_screenshot

Sabu populates his movies with quirky characters and there are many in this one such as the clueless police officers who are certain that Sawaki is some kind of perverted drug addicted gang member who likes to dismember his victims. Another female character, an assassin goes around like Brigitte Lin in Chungking Express. What I like about Sabu’s movies is unlike his contemporaries such as Takashi Miike who also likes a lot of his movies to revolve around yakuza characters he doesn’t feel the need to include any shocking or graphic scenes in them and he has his own unique style of filmmaking which sets him apart. In this movie, it’s not the action that makes this movie so great but the bizarre conversations and dialogue between various characters. I guarantee that upon listening to these conversations you will smile as they’re so funny. I do find it surprising that Sabu isn’t that well known outside Japan but it’s only a matter of time I reckon before more people take notice of him. The casting of Shinichi Tsutsumi as Sawaki was a masterstroke by Sabu as he is perfect in the role. The other cast members are no slouches in the movie either.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It’s funny, heartbreaking, the action scenes especially the bike chase is brilliant and everything gels together nicely to make an instant Japanese classic movie. Go watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

A Stranger Of Mine (2005)

Stranger-of-Mine-dvd

Maki Kuwata is a woman that finds herself on the streets after being locked out of her boyfriend’s apartment. He’s been found cheating on her. Walking on the streets feeling dejected with no home to go to with little money she has after pawning off her engagement ring, she arrives in a restaurant to buy a meal. Opposite her table are 2 men having a meal – Kanda and Miyata.  Kanda is a private detective with Miyata being a hard working salaryman. Kanda suddenly invites Maki to join the 2 men for a meal and she agrees. He then mysteriously disappears having said he wanted to go to the toilet. Maki and Miyata are left alone but they share a common bond as Miyata has also been dumped by his girlfriend Yuka 6 months ago.  When he discovers that Maki has nowhere to go, he invites her to stay over at his place. Who should turn up at his apartment just as Miyata and Maki are settling down but Yuka who wants to collect the belongings she had left behind. Thus begins the start of an eventful night for Miyata……….

The 2nd movie from director Kenji Uchida is a delightful and clever story about one unfortunate individual caught up in an event that unfolds over one night. Having watched another movie from him (After School) and hearing so many good things about A Stranger Of Mine I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The story is told from 5 different characters perspective. Even though the same event is shown to the viewer many times, the perspective from each of the characters gives a bigger picture of what takes place during the night. What turns out at first to be a simple love story between 2 lonely people balloons into something else entirely. There are so many twists and turns happening with comedic elements thrown in that make this movie so much fun to watch. It has an inventive, witty and riveting storyline with many comparing it to the style of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. It’s kudos to the scriptwriter for coming up with such an excellently written story that grabs your attention and will keep you glued to the screen until the credits roll up.  I loved how you may think you know one character until you see from another perspective their true intentions.  Even with so many things going on, Uchida ties all the loose ends up for a great finale. I’ve decided not to spoil how the final third pans out, I’d rather that you experience the movie for yourself just to see how brilliant it is.

stranger of mine screenshot

There’s a solid cast for the movie with Yasuhi Nakamura leading the way as the gullible salaryman Miyata who is totally oblivious to the shenanigans happening around him. Reika Kirishima plays Maki, the woman who is feeling sorry for herself and left alone with Miyata at the restaurant. She might look like a weak person but she displays a backbone and a strong spirit towards the end of the movie. So Yamanaka is Miyata’s private detective friend Kanda who bails out on him in the restaurant and leaves him with Maki after he spots a couple of yakuza people who are after him. Even though Miyata might be the central character in the movie, it’s Ayumi Kurata’s femme fatale character Yuka that sets off the plot in motion having stashed a lot of cash in Miyata’s apartment without his knowledge and she comes back to retrieve it by lying to him that she’s only back in his apartment to collect the rest of her belongings. Anyway I’m not going to say anymore about this movie!

This is probably one of the best Japanese movies I’ve seen recently. I really can’t recommend it enough for anybody who loves quirky movies. A definite must see for Asian movie fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Colorful (2010)

Colorful dvd

In a sort of a waiting area in the afterlife, a soul is given a second chance in life. The soul will be placed into the body of a recent suicide victim by the name of Makoto Kobayashi, a young 14 year old school pupil who took an overdose on his mother’s sleeping pills. He is given a set number of days to try and find out why Makoto killed himself, learn to enjoy life and discover what was the sin he committed before his death. If he succeeds in his task, he will be able to live permanently as a human being once more. Should he fail though, he will cease to exist.

Based on a novel by Eto Mori, this is an anime movie that deals with a dark subject in teen suicide. It tells the story in a mature way and doesn’t try to skirt around the issue. I may have mentioned before that suicide especially in young people is a major problem in Japan. Over 30,000 people take their lives in the country each year and this is something which the government has been trying to tackle for years with little success. Japanese boys are more likely to kill themselves than girls. Japanese society is all about pressure.  School pupils are pushed to do well by their parents so that they can enter the best universities after they graduate. Sometimes the pressure and expectations placed upon them gets too much and they feel that suicide is the only option left to them. It’s not uncommon to see pupils in their school uniforms on the weekend or during the evening as they head to cram school for extra tuition.

This movie examines the possibility of a soul coming back and being given a second chance to correct a mistake. It deals with a young lad who has a lot of issues to contend with – he’s bullied, his parents are having problems in their relationship and he likes a girl that only sees him as a friend.  Real problems that are believable and whilst the majority of us might be able to deal with them, in Makoto’s case he couldn’t. The movie has a rather grim and painful plot but then again suicide isn’t something to be taken lightly so if you’re after a Ghibli like anime to watch I think you’d better look elsewhere. The soul that is placed in Makoto’s body is given a spirit guide in a young schoolboy called Purapura. Just as Makoto is about to die in hospital, the soul is put in the body and awakens to find himself in a hospital bed. As the soul is unfamiliar with how Makoto was around his family and peers at school before he tried to take his life, some of them notice some subtle changes in his character which arouses suspicion. One of whom is a bespectacled female classmate by the name of Shoko Sano who he finds annoying as she’s rather nosy. As the story develops, the viewer is shown what a sad and lonely life Makoto was leading and the factors that led to his untimely demise – he had no friends, his performance at school was poor (coming last in a class of 32) and he discovered that the object of his desire Hiroko was going into love hotels with strange men for money (the practice of enjo kosai). Makoto also has an estranged relationship with his mother after discovering she’s been having an affair with her dance instructor so he’s rather bitter with her. His older brother Mitsuro blanks him for most of the time at home so Makoto’s home life isn’t a happy one at all. But slowly and surely through his crucial friendship with Saotome, another outsider in his class he can forget about the troubles in his family life, open up about himself to another person and have a good time. He finds he can connect with one of his peers, something which he wasn’t able to do before. Through this process he begins to finally discover and understand himself. Sometimes it only takes one person to break through a dark time in a person’s life to instigate a change and for Makoto that was Saotome.

Colorful screenshot

There’s a rather unexpected twist right near the end which if I have to admit I did guess correctly. I’m not going to spoil what this twist is all about but I’m sure the viewer will be able to work out what it is whilst watching the movie.  Director Keiichi Hara delivers a stunningly realistic character-driven movie in which it portrays the hardships that some of Japan’s youth go through and how fragile life is. Usually associated with the silliness of Crayon Shin-Chan’s antics, this shows just how much of a talented director he is. The animation is crisp with well-rounded characters that you can relate to. I was really impressed with this movie. This movie is a prime example of the differences between Western and Japanese anime. The West is perfectly happy with shallow CGI movies (not that there’s anything wrong with that because I find them entertaining) but if you’re after an anime movie which can tell deep, difficult or educational stories about real life then only Japan can give you them.  The meaning behind the title of the anime is also revealed at the climax. This movie comes highly recommended and I do urge you to check it out when you have a chance.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

yokai_spook_warfare_front

In the ruins of Babylonia, an ancient evil demon called Daimon is disturbed by treasure hunters. The powerful vulture demon is a vampire with a penchant for human blood and he kills the treasure hunters with ease. On his journey to Japan to conquer the country, Daimon also capsizes a ship. When he finally arrives in the country he kills Lord Isobe, a magistrate and assumes his human form. He also kills one of Lord’s servants as well. Those closest to Lord Isobe are surprised by his violent change of behaviour but this is due to Daimon wanting to feed on more humans. Soon his attention turns to children and he starts abducting some from the local village for food. 2 manage to escape  and hide at a shrine which is inhabited by some friendly yokai monsters. When they hear that Daimon has invaded their territory, they band together to try and defeat him. One of them, a frog-like water kappa was defeated previously by him so he has eyes on revenge. The problem they have is Daimon may be too powerful for them to defeat.

The first in a trilogy, this wonderful children’s movie is a very imaginative and fun romp with so many weird and wonderful Japanese yokai spirits.  It was only by chance that I came upon this movie and I’m so glad that I did as I enjoyed it very much and I really like these kinds of movies which explore Japanese legends. The variety of incredible yokai creatures on display is superb to see from the frog-like water kappa, to the bizarre one-eyed umbrella monster with a long tongue called Karakasa, a woman with a snakelike neck, another woman who has two faces (one at the front, one at the back), one with a bloated stomach that can show live action images and many more. I adore the yokai designs. I was familiar with some of the yokai monsters in this movie having read about them but the umbrella yokai was a new one on me!

yokai_screenshot

Even though the movie is light-hearted with some slapstick humour and aimed for the kids, there’s a fair amount of violence involving some blood which may frighten some younger children.  Personally I think it’s a bit too strong at times for some of them to watch. Yokai monsters are a big part of Japanese culture and I may have stated in another post how they’re used by parents to scare kids into not doing any bad behaviour or the yokai monsters will get them. Instead of portraying them as evil or scary, the yokai in this movie are a force of good for humankind. The camaraderie between the monsters provides some amusing moments for the viewer with the kappa yokai instigating most of the humour. Some adult viewers might not like the somewhat goofy nature of the humour involved but I found it funny and it made me smile. The movie moves at a fair pace which will ensure that children’s attention won’t wander elsewhere.

The use of special effects, lighting and vivid colour only adds to the charm of this movie. The special effects might not look spectacular but it works well enough for the story. There’s apparently a hint of political context that the director put in the story (Japanese yokai monsters driving a foreigner out of the country) but it’s only the adults that may notice this. It could well have been the director’s gripe about the American occupation in Japan after the second world war? The movie heads to tokusatsu territory towards the climax as Daimon grows to gigantic proportions and the yokai wonder if they’ll be able to defeat him or not. The story builds to a great finale and everything is wrapped up neatly.

Those interested in Japanese legends or weird and wonderful movies may like to check it out. If you’ve seen Takashi Miike’s The Great Yokai War then you should enjoy this one too. I will definitely be seeing the other 2 movies in the near future and hope they’re just as fun as this one.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »