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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

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Chang Mo-kei’s parents are the owners of a pair of magical swords and some clans are desperate to get their hands on them. In the process of this struggle, they are forced to commit suicide by rival clan leaders and young Chang Mo-kei is given the Jinx Palm curse which prevents him from being able to practice martial arts. He is taken in by the Wu-Tang clan leader but a young rival manages to cast him out. He is released of his curse by a crazed monk he comes across who is strapped into a rock and teaches him the Great Solar Stance. Chang Mo-kei vows to take revenge on the clan leaders responsible for the death of his parents. Two rival clan sects are also fighting each other for ownership of the 2 magic swords and Chang Mo-kei also sets out to sort this feud out not realizing that it is a ruse by the government led by a woman who looks very much like his dead mother. The government wants to reduce the amount of power that the martial arts clans have. Will Chang Mo-kei be able to deal with everything on his own?

This martial arts fantasy epic which is packed full of spectacular action sequences was supposed to be the first of a 2-part movie series but unfortunately due to it being a flop the 2nd movie was cancelled which is a big shame as I really enjoyed it. You’d think with such a distinguished cast which included Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Chingmy Yau, Richard Ng and Sharla Cheung, this movie should have been a runaway success so I’m not really sure why that wasn’t the case? It leaves the story dangling on a bit of a cliffhanger at the climax of the movie. The story has been adapted from a long running TV series called Dragon Sword & Heaven Sabre and trying to cram around 60 hours of the TV series plot into 90 mins was always going to be a struggle for the scriptwriter. There are apparently 2 Shaw Brothers movies from the 60’s (not sure of the movie’s titles) that more or less follows the plot of this movie and continues with what would taken place in the proposed sequel.

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I think part of the reason why this movie divides so many martial arts fans and didn’t do too well is because of it’s overly complicated plot but thankfully this is balanced out by the wildly choreographed fight sequences which was directed by Sammo Hung. Don’t expect any standard kung-fu antics here as there is a lot of wire involved. It’s fast and frenetic stuff but always great as expected by Sammo. It will take a viewer with a lot of concentration to understand the plot completely from start to finish. I’m sure to many it will make no sense at all but don’t worry because the numerous action sequences that litter the movie will take your mind off the baffling plot. You never have enough time to digest what is going on before another fight or skirmish happens. All the famous martial arts schools you may have heard about is featured in this movie plus some fictional ones thrown in such as the Ming Sect which is depicted as being evil and led by magical people with OTT names as Green Bat (a vampire) and Gold Lion. I’m quite amazed at the rather offensive dialogue that I come across in some Asian movies. In this movie you have 2 cowardly comic characters who disguise themselves as Red Cross workers and jokingly say they are going to rape a woman. I’m not sure how joking about a serious offence as rape can be considered funny.

Jet Li is rather good in the leading role and he is given the very gorgeous Chingmy Yau as his partner in crime and love interest. Always pleasing on the eye, she looks fabulous in her costume but so does Sharla Cheung who pops up in 2 roles in this movie. First as the mother of Jet Li’s character when he’s a child and then as the government official behind the clans fighting each other. Sammo and Richard Ng don’t have that big of a part in this movie.

Despite the convoluted plot, I loved this fantasy movie and thought it was a lot of fun. If you’re into a movie with fast and furious action set-pieces and not that bothered if the plot goes above your head then you may perhaps enjoy this movie. Give it a go and see what you think.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Journey to the west

In a small village by a river, a mysterious large demon creature attacks the father of a young child which is then killed by a fake Taoist priest. The creature is revealed to be a manta ray and is proclaimed dead by the priest. A demon hunter named Sanzang appears on the scene warning that it is not the real demon that attacked. His pleas are ignored and he is captured and tied up in ropes high above the river. The demon creature comes back and kills a number of villagers but thankfully Sanzang who is able to release himself manages to beach the creature which turns into a man. Sanzang begins a ritual by using a book of nursery rhymes and singing to the man. The man becomes agitated and attacks Sanzang. Another demon hunter, a female warrior named Duan enters, capturing the man inside a blanket and turning him into a puppet. Sanzang isn’t happy at being upstaged by Duan and complains to his master who tells him that his way of trying to pacify the demon and reforming them is good. He is ordered to try and tame the Monkey King demon who has been trapped by Buddha. During his travels he becomes entangled again with Duan after battling a pig demon in a restaurant. After days of travelling he finally finds the Monkey King but not before being captured by Duan’s gang, rejecting her advances and battling the injured pig demon again. Will Sanzang be able to tame the Monkey King or does the demon have a trick or two up his sleeve?

Those of a certain age in the UK will remember a TV programme during the late 70’s/early 80’s called Monkey. It was a dubbed version of a Japanese programme based on the Chinese novel Journey To The West. This movie isn’t a new version of that story but rather a prequel of how the main characters got together. It’s directed by Hong Kong comedy legend Stephen Chow who it seems now is content to be behind the cameras rather than in front of them. Perhaps with his movie CJ7 not being as successful as he thought it might be maybe he doesn’t want to act again? Then again I’ve heard that he has some politicial ambitions so that could be the reason for his scaling down of movie activities? Chow has covered Journey To The West before in the 2-part comedy movie A Chinese Odyssey. His trademark OTT action, romance and humour is prevalent throughout this movie – he might not appear on screen but everything from the comedy to the great action scenes is quintessentially Stephen Chow. The lead character of Sanzang would have been ideal role for him. The Journey To The West story has been done many times over the years but Chow somehow manages to make it feel fresh even though it does get bogged down in the middle section when it focuses more on Duan trying to seduce Sanzang which gets incredibly ridiculous and boring too.

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There’s a memorable start to the movie with a fantastic and imaginative choreographed attack on a small village by a water demon which is really exciting to watch as Sanzang tries to rescue a young girl from being devoured by the demon. It does go on for a little bit too long but it doesn’t half hook you into the story. The scene leads you to believe that the danger has been eliminated by a fake priest when a manta ray is killed so when the real demon does appear it’s more of a surprise to the viewer. The same technique of showing red herrings to the viewer is used again in the instance of the pig demon and the Monkey King. A lot of symbolism is used in the movie which is lost on myself as I don’t know a lot about Chinese mythology. It probably makes a lot of sense to Chinese people but to Westerners they won’t have a clue what they’re on about. There are a couple of excellently staged action scenes which culminates with a battle between The Monkey King and Buddha after the Monkey King tricks Sanzang into freeing him from the cave in which he’s been imprisoned for 500 years and he’s not too happy about it. Production values for the movie is quite high with plenty of money having been thrown at it as the CGI effects is very good. It matches what you might see in a Hollywood movie. It’s only right at the very end the viewer sees characters they recognise as Sanzang becomes Tripitaka the monk and he along with Monkey, Piggsy and Sandy (3 ex-demons seeking enlightenment) begin their journey to the West to recover some sacred texts for Buddha. Perhaps Stephen Chow will continue the story in a future movie?

It’s up to Wen Zhang to carry the movie as it’s leading character Sanzang and he does extremely well. Sanzang makes for an instantly likeable character with his vulnerabilities. Zhang is able to do comedy and action effortlessly, exactly like Chow used to do. I wonder if Chow showed Zhang how to play Sanzang as he would have done it? For Sanzang’s female foil, Chow employed the beautiful Shu Qi as the aggressive demon hunter Duan. Both Zhang and Qi bounce off each other so they’re a good combination together. It’s very easy to believe that Duan is an effective demon hunter with the way she dispatches them violently. She tries to get Sanzang to love her but he’s so devoted to being a monk he cannot reciprocate her feelings which leads to all kinds of troubles in their relationship. Huang Bo is superb and makes for an engaging villain as the sly Monkey King.

Overall, this was an excellent action comedy with a lot to enjoy for Stephen Chow fans. He can still churn out a good movie even though he might not be acting in it and the mix of action, drama and comedy is perfect. I only hope Chow fans like myself won’t have to wait so long for his next project and that he can be coaxed to actually appear on screen next time. We wait with baited breath! Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Parasyte Part 1 (2014)

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One night, parasitic alien organisms come to Earth and begin taking over human beings by entering their bodies through the ears and then controlling their brains. Teenager Shinichi Izumi lives at home with his single mother. One of the parasites make their way to Shinichi’s home but find their usual entrance to the human body blocked as Shinichi has fallen asleep listening to music with earphones. On Shinichi waking up unexpectedly, the alien burrows it’s way inside his right hand instead. He prevents the alien from reaching his brain by applying a tourniquet to his arm. The next day at his room desk a pair of eyes starts appearing on Shinichi’s hand. He tries to extract it but it only angers the alien which totally emerges from the hand to give Shinichi the fright of his life. The alien which is given the name ‘Righty’ by Shinichi appears to the teenager as a small entity embedded in his hand with a single and a mouth that talks. Unlike his fellow aliens which have begun devouring humans for food, ‘Righty’ is content in having a peaceful relationship with his host. Shinichi is content not to interfere with the other aliens until his own mother is taken over and then things become personal for him. The alien threat has even infiltrated his high school with his science teacher now an alien host. But what can one individual do against a hoard of ferocious alien hosts?

This is the big screen adaptation of the manga ‘Kiseiju’. There has literally been dozens of alien invasion movies done over the years but this one even though the plot may sound unoriginal is still unique in its own little way. You may be tempted to think when you see the trailer that this could be a comedy or a children’s movie of some sort but believe me, this is no family friendly tale of a symbiotic relationship between a teenage boy and his alien controlled hand. At times the movie gets extremely dark and there’s plenty of gory scenes throughout. After the initial stealth takeover by the parasites, the first hour of the movie concentrates on Shinichi’s relationship with his new alien host, his would-be girlfriend Satomi and his mother. Shinichi’s right hand can contort and twist at will which shocks the teenager, it almost reminds me of the Stretch Armstrong toy. The alien’s intentions are not made clear to the viewer in this movie though you may have guessed what it is. It’s obvious from the start they’re hostile but for now they are quietly taking over key personnel such as a slimy politician and when the time is right their invasion plans will come to fruition (the filmmakers have made sure this scenario takes place in Part 2). Not all of the aliens though are focused on killing/eating humans. Shinichi’s female biology teacher Ryoko Tamiya, herself an alien host is fascinated by the relationship between the pair and rather than wanting them killed she wants them observed instead although her fellow aliens are not quite so keen on the idea. Ryoko is seen to be pregnant but I’m not entirely sure if it’s one of the aliens that has impregnated her or not?

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You might think this movie is full of action and gore. Yes, there are some gruesome attacks by the aliens throughout the movie which includes a bloodbath near the end at Shinichi’s school when the corridors are littered with bodies but it does slow down considerably until the last 30 mins. The emotional strand of the story comes down to Shinichi’s decision to kill somebody very close to him. Shinichi is quite happy to be passive about the invasion until his caring mother unfortunately gets taken over when she comes to inspect a wounded alien creature. He realises that the mother he knew no longer exists and it’s heartbreaking to see him going on the offensive and fighting her until he manages to eventually kill the alien host. This act places a heavy burden on Shinichi’s mind and make him even more determined to destroy the aliens. The CG effects showing the true face of the alien hosts emerging is incredible – the head splits open into 4 and what comes out is something with a large mouth filled with eyes and teeth which can consume human beings in one bite. They can also produce various sharp bladed weapons when their heads open wide as well. It is said that some fans of the manga are not best pleased with the changes made as Shinichi’s father is alive and well in the manga but in the movie he’s dead. I think fans have to realise that movie adaptations of a manga, novel, game or anime will always have some minor changes made by the studios.

Shota Sometani excels in his role as Shinichi and it’s nice to see the filmmakers bypassing the usual good looking male idol actors for such a blockbuster movie and casting somebody ‘normal’ instead. So far he has only acted in indie productions so this is probably his biggest movie yet. He gives a very good account of himself in this movie even though he is seen mainly talking to his alien hand and manages to make his character endearing to the viewer. Shota is apparently even learning English quickly in the hope that if Hollywood will eventually film the English version they might cast him for the lead role. That looks highly unlikely but fair play to him for making the effort. His co-star in the reliable Ai Hashimoto is as good as ever as Shinichi’s friend Satomi. I also liked Eri Fukatsu as Ryoko in the movie too. Kazuki Kitamura and Tadanobu Asano are only seen briefly though I guess their parts will be expanded more in the next movie.

It’s plain to see that this movie is more or less a setup to what takes place in Part 2 when the fate of the planet will be up for grabs. The trailer for Part 2 right at the very end of the credits looks amazing and it features Shinichi and Satomi becoming very close together plus the teacher Ryoko gives birth to her child. I’m sad that I will not be in Tokyo to see this movie when it is set to be released in May 2015

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie despite a couple of scenes dragging. It’s got an interesting alien invasion story with a fair few scenes of bloodshed which are rather frightening. The alien CG effects are fantastic. Coupled with great performances from a solid cast, this is one movie you don’t want to miss out on. I can’t wait to see Part 2. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Charlie Chan (not that Charlie Chan!) is a detective that is charged with protecting the Koran that is being shown at a museum. There are however people that are interested in stealing this precious artifact such as a top fighter named Ma Ju-Lung and a skilled thief called Cho with his daughter. Chan has to keep one step ahead of the two if he wants to prevent the Koran from being stolen. To complicate matters is the fact that Cho’s other beautiful daughter has fallen for Chan and her loyalty become divided. Before the trio square off against each other, they must join forces against a greater threat to their plans. Who will eventually come out on top?

During the late 80’s and early 90’s. Andy Lau starred in a number of movies – some were memorable, others were not and faded into obscurity. This movie isn’t that well known to Western fans but that’s not to say this movie is bad because it isn’t. It’s a fun action heist/comedy caper which is very entertaining. The Westernised title is rubbish to begin with as it’s not the three people teaming up to take on the world, it should be more like Three Against Each Other which is more in line with the plot. I think the proper English translation is something like Dragon Trio Fight Over Treasure. I wouldn’t say the movie is one of Lau’s best at all but there’s more than enough to entertain his fans over 90 mins. Lau is backed by a great cast such as the beautiful Rosamund Kwan, Teddy Robin and martial artist Tsui Siu Keung.

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I believe the lavish sets and costumes for this movie were rehashed from when Jackie Chan was filming Miracles: The Canton Godfather so production values are quite high. This isn’t an all-action martial arts spectacular although the last 15 or so mins has many impressive set pieces. The fight choreography is by Yuen Wah so at least the viewer will know that his standards are usually pretty good. The story is light in tone and although it isn’t a laugh-out-loud movie there are plenty of amusing moments to make the viewer chuckle. Andy Lau also gets to take part in a bizarre piano duet with his co-star Teddy Robin half way through the movie although I’m sure the lyrics have been mistranslated as they sound stupid. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to showcase Lau’s talent as a singer. Double crosses and even triple crosses is the order of the day as each party tries to get the upper hand in trying to get the Koran although most times Charlie Chan has a trick up his sleeve to foil the would-be thieves. It does get a little bit ridiculous and tedious during the second half of the movie as a number of fake Korans are bandied around the characters as red herrings so you don’t have a clue who has the real one. Where the characters have gotten their hands on these fake Korans is never explained? Are they being sold at a local market and anybody can buy them??

Andy Lau is great as Charlie Chan who as well as being likeable is a bit of a charming rogue with the ladies. Although Lau isn’t what people would call a martial artist he does get a chance to show the limited skills he has as a fighter. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rosamund Kwan and I enjoyed seeing her in this movie. She’s absent for the majority of the first half although you get glimpses of her. It’s in the second half she comes to the fore and takes more of an active role in the storyline. Teddy Robin surprises everybody as the character Cho during the climax. Teddy Robin isn’t that tall (not sure if you can call him a midget?) but when you see him take on Andy Lau and Tsui Siu Keung and actually gain the upper hand against the pair it’s incredible to see. The only mistake the filmmakers do is that Teddy Robin’s stunt double is noticeably taller than him and you will notice the height difference during the fight!! I got the impression that the whole cast had a ball whilst filming this movie and it shows in their performances.

Three Against The World might not be Andy Lau’s crowning glory in his glittering movie career but if you’re one of his fans you should not pass this opportunity up of watching this movie. The mix of comedy and martial arts works well and I found it a lot of fun.

No trailer but here’s an action scene from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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magic-cop-dvd

In a small rural village, a man (Uncle Fung) who banishes demons for a living and uses old Taoist methods lives there with his beautiful niece. A dead young girl in the village becomes a zombie and it is only through considerable effort she is stopped as even a bullet in the leg does not do anything to halt her. It is found she has been injected with a drug that makes her seem invincible. The man along with his niece heads to Hong Kong to find out who is supplying the drugs. He teams up with 2 police detectives who are only too keen to help him out as both have taken a shine to his niece. They discover that the zombie girl was in fact a drugs mule and soon the trail leads them to a powerful Japanese evil witch who is behind the drugs and using dead people as drugs couriers. Can they defeat the witch who has an endless supply of magical spells at her disposal?

Wrongly advertised in some quarters as the fifth installment of the Mr Vampire series, this movie is hugely exciting and entertaining to watch. The combination of police drama, superb action set-pieces and ghost hunting along with a fast frenetic pace employed by director Stephen Tung help make this movie one of the best HK fantasy actioners from the early 90’s. It is a highly imaginative movie which uses Chinese folklore tales to good effect. Unlike the Mr Vampire series which has traditional hopping vampires and is set in the past, this movie has a contemporary setting and uses zombies instead and one evil badass Japanese witch. Although some elements of the movie does have some humour (mostly involving a bumbling cop helping Uncle Fung), the plot is mostly serious in tone. An aspect of the story can also be taken as the old vs the new with Uncle Fung’s traditional methods coming up against the present in which Fung isn’t too impressed with modern day society especially with equipment such as fax machines etc.

The plot builds up very nicely and during the stunning climax the evil witch goes toe to toe in a long spell casting contest with Uncle Fung in a fabulous fun-filled finale on top of a building. It does get a little bit far-fetched as she is set on fire and thrown down a lift shaft but she comes back up as a flaming corpse to chase the heroes around a room by using sound to track them down as her eyes have been burnt so she can no longer see. It culminates in a satisfying ending to the movie.

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Lam Ching-ying takes the leading role as Uncle Fung. He is brilliant in this movie especially in his fight scenes when he takes on a couple of young and buff fighters in Frankie Chan and Billy Chow before taking on Michiko Nishiwaki. Lam also choreographed the slick fight scenes and instead of concentrating on long scraps he keeps them short and sweet. Seeing him kick ass on a bunch of bodybuilders in a gym is superb. It’s a shame that Western fans only recognise him for doing these kind of roles as he was unfortunately typecast as a monk in many movies. Wilson Lam plays Officer Lam who is highly skeptical of Fung’s Taoist skills and is a bit of a ladies man. Lam and Fung clash as Lam has his eye on Fung’s beautiful niece and he is very protective of her. Fung doesn’t take too kindly to the way that Lam treats his female colleagues (i.e slapping their arses) but gradually the pair set their differences aside to crack the case. Wong Mei-Wa is only in this movie to look beautiful and act in peril as Fung’s niece. Michiko Nishiwaki is superb as the leader of the drugs gang – a particularly nasty witch who seems to molest her pet white cat when she is doing some of her evil spells. Those that don’t want to see a visibly distressed cat should look away from these scenes.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this wild and unpredictable movie with a wonderful performance by Lam Ching-ying. It is well worth checking out if you can get a hold of it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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ESPY

The International Psychic Power Group are a secret society of people with special mind powers (called ESPY) which is funded by the United Nations. Their aim is to stop evil doers from threatening the peace on this planet. One evil group (Anti-ESPY) has already killed 4 delegates on a train in Switzerland who were on their way to broker a deal between the East and West as tensions are already high which could spill over into a war. The Baltonian (a fictional country) Prime Minister who is over in Japan for a conference with the Japanese PM is next to be killed by this group which is led by a super villain named Ulrov. The good guys recruit a racing driver named Miki who is showing extraordinary psychic abilities and his pet alsatian dog Caesar. These abilities helped Miki from having a crash in his racing car on the circuit track. Miki’s first assignment with his new colleagues Maria and Tamura is to help protect the Baltonian Prime Minister. Will the ESPY group manage to defeat their enemy and prevent WWIII from starting?

This is a cool Japanese cult movie which is part action, part espionage and part sci-fi movie all rolled in one with a teensy bit of exploitation thrown in as well. You could say that this movie is a precursor to the 80’s movie Scanners as it shares similar plot threads. There’s a James Bond movie feel to it as well as the plot goes jet setting over Europe and Japan and features a larger than life super villain who wants to rule the world. The main focus of this movie is not on the newcomer Miki (though it is for a little while) but on the lovers Maria and Tamura who can read each other’s minds perfectly. The psychics in this movie know when danger lurks and can warn one another. They can also use the power of their minds to hurl heavy objects against each other and even stop somebody from pulling the trigger on a gun. Some of the psychics can even use hypnosis and teleportation to their advantage. I’m not sure why director Jun Fukuda wanted to add some sleaze to proceedings when Maria is kidnapped by the bad guys. They lure her lover Tamura to their strip club somewhere in Istanbul, Turkey where he is locked into his seat and forced to watch Maria who is under hypnosis doing a sexy dance in her underwear. If that’s not enough a token foreign black bad guy comes in, rips off Maria’s top exposing her breasts and just when he’s about to kiss her Tamura uses his psychic abilities to tear the black guy’s tongue off!! The violence on display is quite strong as you see people exploding (quite literally!!!).

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The head of the Anti-ESPY group named Ulrov definitely comes from the Bond school of villainry as he hides in a large mansion full of traps for the unwary and has a grudge against mankind. He doesn’t care if WWIII breaks out. Miki’s past comes back to haunt him in the final third after he spends the middle section of the movie moping about after having to kill one of the bad guys and he feels guilty about it. His old childhood friend Julie has sided with the bad guys and wants him dead. She sets a trap for Tamura in his car with a bomb about to explode if he doesn’t get out in 10 mins. Any chance of escape for him looks doomed with the doors and windows locked. Even bullets don’t seem to work but just when you think Tamura is going to die he finds his mojo again (having lost some of his powers after being viciously beaten up earlier in the movie) and he teleports himself out of the vehicle seconds before it’s destroyed. The action scenes are handled pretty well especially the shootouts but I thought the destruction sequences using small models were probably the highlight for myself.

Fans of the Lone Wolf movies can look forward to seeing Tomisaburo Wakayama as Ulrov. He doesn’t cut down anybody with a sword in this movie and his final showdown with the ESPY team is rather short lived. For a character that was portrayed as being a very strong psychic, he’s taken down quite quickly. A far better and more interesting villain is Katsumusa Uchida as a ruthless assassin named Goro. He shows off his skills with a gun in the opening scene of the movie in which he murders 4 UN delegates on the fast moving train from a car by using his psychic abilities. On the good guys side Masao Kusakiri is rather wet as the new recruit Miki who prefers to be in the company of his dog Caesar. The role of the lead ass-kicker in the ESPY team tends to be Hiroshi Fujioka as Tamura. He’s the one that is seen dishing out punches to the bad guys and taking a licking at times as well. The eye candy of the movie is Kaoru Yumi as Maria. There’s something about Yumi that reminds me of Keiko Kitagawa. I did check in case she was a relation of some sort but apparently she isn’t. There are one or two other supporting characters such as the head of the ESPY team and an old Buddhist monk (an advisor to the team) who dies after using up the remainder of his psychic energy to save the team from being killed in an airplane crash after the pilots are hypnotised by Miki’s friend Julie. The trigger of the hypnosis is seeing the aurora borealis.

Overall, this was a fun spy movie with a difference. It has a good pace about it which never lets up so that the viewer won’t get bored. It’s a shame this movie isn’t easily available to Japanese movie fans in the West. I really enjoyed it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Black Butler (2014)

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After seeing the murder of her parents, Shiori Genpo sells her soul to a demon named Sebastian Michaelis who will help her to avenge their deaths. Shiori is a part of a secret force serving the Queen Of The West named The Queen’s Watchdog. They are responsible for stubbing out any criminal elements which are a threat to the Queen. As Shiori’s father ran his own toy company and only males are allowed to inherit his fortune, Shiori has disguised herself as her father’s illegitimate son, taken up the title of Earl and goes by the name of Kiyoharu. Both Kiyoharu and Sebastian have moved into the family’s sprawling estate and mansion which comes complete with a clumsy young maid and other personnel. Kiyoharu and Sebastian are investigating the mysterious mummification of several ambassadors. They narrow their search down to a night club which has organised a special event for certain people. Kiyoharu manages to wrangle herself an invitation to the event but finds her life may be in danger when she discovers what’s really going on.

This live-action adaptation of the popular manga/anime has had a mixed reception amongst fans. Most aren’t happy that the filmmakers haven’t stayed true to the original material. The manga and anime was set in Victorian England but in this movie the timeline has been moved forward to the year 2020 but the biggest gripe of all has been with the character of 12 year old boy Ciel Phantomhive who has been dropped in favour of a 17 year old girl (a descendant of the original Phantomhive family). There’s also a sort of a romantic angle going on between Kiyoharu and Sebastian. I’m guessing the reason for all the changes is to keep the story fresh instead of treading over old ground. Apart from hearing about the anime series, that’s about all I was aware about Black Butler until I watched this movie so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The movie kicks off with a good action sequence which sees Sebastian rescuing Kiyoharu from a human trafficking ring and dispatching all of the bad guys with a butter knife. The movie is fairly dark and involves a plot by an evil organisation to produce a new drug in the shape of a small marble. When the marble is broken and the vapour inside the bottle is inhaled by the person it makes blood comes out of every orifice before the body shrivels up and is mummified. There is an antidote by the evil organization which is only available to them. The movie is a bit of a stop start affair as there are far too many talkie bits just when you think that the movie is about to hit top gear. It hurts the flow of the movie but I guess the filmmakers were trying to drag the running time up to 2 hours. The pace of the movie does quicken near the end which sees Kiyoharu sacrifice herself when a case load of the deadly drug explodes and Sebastian rescues her with the antidote.

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This movie marked the return of actor Hiro Mizushima (best known for being Kamen Rider Kabuto) who had been on hiatus since 2010. He takes the role of Sebastian and performs pretty well in the part of the demon butler especially during his action scenes which are exciting and imaginative. Ayame Goriki does better in this movie than the last one I saw her in (Gatchaman). The verdict is still out whether I consider her to be a good actress or not but I thought she did OK in Black Butler. There’s a weird fascination for Japanese women who enjoy seeing other females dressing up as men (the Takarazaka group for instance) so seeing Goriki disguising herself as a man with an eyepatch will no doubt excite some women even though I don’t think she makes for a convincing man (still looks like a girl to me even with the short hairstyle). That being said, Goriki has a certain charm about her and makes for nice eye candy. The character of Jin the clumsy maid had an unexpected twist to her story though you sorta knew that something was up with her. Near the climax it’s revealed that Jin’s clumsiness is all an act and she reveals her true purpose in the Genpo household. She’s been tasked with protecting the heir of the Genpo empire.  There’s another character whose true intention is hidden throughout most of the movie. Kiyoharu’s Aunt Hanae is supposed to be an ally for her and Sebastian until she betrays Kiyoharu and sides herself with the bad guys. It was quite predictable that was going to happen.

Overall, Black Butler was a decent movie though I wouldn’t say it’s anything special at all. I think it will suit those who have no knowledge of the franchise than hardcore fans. There’s a hint that a sequel might be on the cards seeing that the big boss of the evil organisation is still out there and probably plotting revenge on Kiyoharu and Sebastian.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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