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Archive for August 15th, 2014

Laundry (2002)

Laundry 2002

Teru is a 20-something young man who works for his grandmother at a coin laundry. His job is basically sitting right outside the place and looking out for anybody that tries to steal people’s underwear. Teru is rather simple but there’s a reason for that. When he was a child, Teru fell down a manhole and sustained a brain injury. One day a beautiful woman by the name of Mizue comes into the coin laundry and forgets one item of clothing in a washing dryer. Teru rushes after her to return the clothing and a friendship starts between them. Mizue is going through some problems of her own having been dumped by her postman boyfriend on her 25th birthday. Since that time she’s been doing some petty thieving but she doesn’t keep the items. She usually puts them in postboxes. In time the pair begin to depend on each other and an unlikely love story begins…….

It’s refreshing to see a love story which doesn’t dispense any of the saccharine aspect of a relationship between two people. Basically this is a portrait of two lonely people with problems finding happiness in each other and living a simple life. The pacing of the movie is rather slow but as I was so absorbed in the wonderful story that unfolds it didn’t bother me one bit and the 2 hour running time flew by. Apart from the two leads, the movie features some quirky characters that appear every now and then such as a boxer who is confident of winning his next fight but when he doesn’t he oddly climbs inside one of the washing dryers at the coin laundry and looks out through the window!! The supporting character who has the most screentime though is a kind hearted and sometimes angry man named Sally who gives Teru a ride to find Mizue in her hometown somewhere in rural Japan. Sally takes a shine to Teru and promises him that should he ever want any help in the future to come and look for him. That opportunity comes round when Teru is made an orphan after his grandmother passes away suddenly after losing her laundry business to a swindler. Sally makes Teru a helper in his business in which he raises white doves that are then used in weddings. He also gives Teru and Mizue a place to stay in his pad. Suddenly Sally makes an announcement that he is leaving everything to Teru and Mizue (his house, car and his business) as he has a desire to find a foreign wife abroad as he hasn’t had any luck with a woman in Japan. I liked his farewell scene when he stops a car full of young people outside his house and forces himself inside it before it drives off. Teru and Mizue are left to just get on with it and for a while things look good for the young couple until Mizue’s sticky fingers habit comes back to haunt her and shatter their lives.

Laundry screenshot

The two leads are brilliant in their roles. Yosuke Kubozuka in particular delivers a wonderful performance as the sweet and innocent Teru. Even though Teru is mentally handicapped it’s nice to see that he is never tagged as being that. He doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body and he has this slight smile on his face all the time whilst wearing a beanie hat on his head (presumably to hide the childhood wound). The only time the viewer sees any outpouring of emotion from him is surprisingly not when his grandmother dies but when Mizue is arrested after trying to steal one too many a time from a shop and she is given a jail sentence of 12 months. To be fair on Teru, he doesn’t abandon Mizue at all and he uses an ingenius way of capturing her attention when she is finally released from jail 12 months on and uses the bus to come back home. Koyuki is also very good as the brooding Mizue. Even though she has a problem with thieving you sympathise with what she’s going through and can sense that the acrimonious breakup with her former boyfriend has affected her badly. She is really hurting inside but thanks to her interaction with Teru the viewer feels that being with him has a healing effect on her. You’ll grow to like the pair as the story wears on and hope for a happy ending for them. I thought that Kubozuka and Koyuki had great chemistry together and were suited to their roles.

I really liked this touching and uplifting romance movie. It’s got a sweet storyline about two vulnerable people which I really got into. It’s directed extremely well by Junichi Mori. The acting, cinematography and soundtrack combine nicely to give the viewer an amazing experience. If you ever have an opportunity to watch this movie, I’m sure you’ll grow to love it as well as I have. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Angel 2 (1988)

Angel-II-1988

Aka Iron Angels 2/Fighting Madam 2

After the Angel team complete their latest mission to save a kidnapped businessman, they go on holiday to Malaysia where they meet Alex’s old college friend Peter who is a successful businessman. Alex doesn’t know that Peter harbours an ambition to overthrow the government and has amassed a small army in the jungle where they are awaiting orders. When he’s not training with his army, Peter enjoys watching footage of his idol Adolf Hitler! One of the Angel team Elaine has fallen big time for Peter and when she stumbles upon his plan she hides underneath his private helicopter to see what’s going on in his jungle hideout. She witnesses a CIA agent Marco being murdered by Peter and unfortunately is discovered in the process before being captured. Alex and Moon call up fellow agent Karina (and her 2 male helpers) to aid them in a frontal assault on Peter’s hideout to rescue Elaine.

This is great sequel to the first Angel movie which was released in 1986 after it proved to be popular and the leading trio of Alex Fong, Moon Lee and Elaine Lui return to reprise their roles. It can’t strictly be classed as a ‘girls with guns’ feature because instead of focusing strictly on Moon and Elaine, this movie is more about Alex Fong’s character and his association with the villain of the story. It opens with a fantastic action packed rescue of a businessman from a group of killers. After dispatching the majority of them, one of the baddies puts a grenade in the mouth of the kidnapped man. Alex shoots the baddie in the head but in falling down dead he pulls the pin out of the grenade. Alex quickly kicks the grenade out of the businessman’s mouth before Moon catches it and throwing it quickly out of a window before it explodes. It’s a fast paced and action packed start to entice viewers to the movie.

Iron Angel II screenshot

The plot slows down in the middle section for the viewer to be introduced to Alex’s friend Peter in Kuala Lumpur and his plans to dominate Asia. There’s a big brawl in a bar to interest action fans as Peter and Alex take on a transvestite gang and a small car chase through the jungle! After Elaine is captured by Peter and his associates, it gears up for the superb finale as Alex, Moon and Karina load up with a variety of weapons (machine guns, grenades, crossbow, blowguns etc) and head off to take on Peter and his army in the jungle. The introduction of Karina is a good one as she’s one bad-ass lady. All manner of explosions go off as everything in Peter’s camp is blown up. Moon Lee gets to do an incredible stunt from a look-out post up a tall tree when it explodes after a small missile is launched from a rocket launcher and she falls from a great height before crashing through the roof of an explosive store. She also has a brief fast and furious fight with one of Peter’s henchmen played by the action choreographer Yuen Tak before the movie finishes with a bloody and brutal fistfight between Alex and Peter near a waterfall. I wished the scenes would have been swapped about as Moon’s scrap is much better than Alex’s one and would have made for a far better ending for the movie. Although Alex is a capable enough fighter, he doesn’t come close to what Moon Lee was able to achieve. The movie makes you wonder how this small army hoped to overthrow the Malaysian government if they couldn’t deal with 6 people as they are completely decimated! I thought the movie suffered a little bit by not having a strong enough villain. The first Angel movie was blessed with having Yukari Oshima and Hwang Jang Lee as the evil bad guys. Ting Wai-Chin is OK as Peter but he’s just not threatening enough. There’s also less intense action but that’s only a minor quibble. The movie is still very entertaining and I enjoyed it.

Overall, Angel 2 is a competent action movie which would have been better had it not been for the middle section (although I’m sure the sight of seeing Moon Lee and Elaine Lui in black bikinis by the swimming pool is a welcome sight for a lot of people!). The first and last third of the movie will be enough though to satisfy most HK action fans. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Moon Lee.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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