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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

the-kung-fu-cult-master-cover

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.

kung fu cult master screenshot

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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Deadful Melody dvd

A little girl and her brother are forced to flee with the family’s magic lyre when their parents are massacred although they are split up during the pursuit by their enemies. The magic lyre has the power to kill and certain people are desperate to get their hands on it. 16 years on and the little girl named Snow has grown into a woman. She is the current owner of the lyre and hasn’t forgotten about what happened to her parents. She sets out to seek vengeance on those that wronged her. Snow has a plan which will draw out her enemies by asking a courier Lui Lun to transport the lyre to a certain person. She knows that if her enemies find out about the lyre, they are certain to attack the courier in order to steal it. Lui Lun’s father is killed by the villains only for him to discover that he wasn’t his real father. He was adopted when he was a child and that he is really Snow’s sister. Although angry with Snow at first for getting him involved with her plans of revenge, he is eventually reconciled with his sister. They team up together to fight off their enemies once and for all.

This HK wuxia movie isn’t that well-known over in the West but it has all the ingredients of what makes the genre so much fun to watch (which includes people fighting through the air, a ludicrous plot, some OTT characters and plenty of swordfights). The story starts out very promisingly with an exciting action-packed sequence and this sets the pattern for the rest of the movie with the energetic and inventive action scenes coming thick and fast with hardly a pause in between them. At least nobody will be able to complain that the movie is boring!! Viewers could get confused with the complex plot as there is so many characters and trying to fathom which side each of them are on might make your head spin!!  Then again this isn’t a movie to be taken seriously so let the plot go over your head and just enjoy the spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

Deadful Melody screenshot

The plot as you’d expect from this genre is totally bonkers and the lyre in question when played properly can kill a person (in fact they explode in a cloud of multi-coloured dust!!). It seems to me like the filmmakers went in with an ‘anything-goes’  approach to the action scenes. I’m glad they did as that what makes this movie a joy to watch. You just never know what the hell they’re going to come up with next. The special effects and the wirework scenes are exhilarating. The humour in the plot is funny at times as well – some of the colourful dialogue in particular will make you smile! Unfortunately there isn’t a resolution to the story which suggested to me that there was a sequel being planned (which obviously didn’t take place after all).

Some might say that Brigitte Lin is typecast once again in a cross-dressing role but I thought she was great in it. You can always count on Brigitte to give a good performance which came a year before she quit the movie business. Her character isn’t quite so straight forward as you think – her mind has been so consumed by revenge she’s close to becoming just a cold hearted murderess and not somebody that’s out for justice for her parents. Yuen Biao holds his own with Brigitte Lin but he sure looks his age in this movie. He also doesn’t get to show a lot of his usual acrobatic martial arts skills because it’s more about sword-fighting so I felt a bit let-down because of that. Biao and Lin complement each other quite well in this movie. Although she’s not in a lot of scenes, Siu Wing-Sang is stunning as a witch who is deadly with a whip and the reliable Carina Lau is also funny as a feisty woman. The actors playing the clan leaders who are after Snow and her lyre also give good performances

If you’re a fan of OTT wuxia movies you should find this enjoyable enough. It’s far from being a classic but it will hold your interest due to the enthusiastic action scenes. I had fun watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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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!

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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

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In the ancient kingdom of Yamato, two princes are born. The Emperor’s advisor, a dark sorcerer named Tsukinowa tells him that having twins is a bad omen and that one of them should be killed.  It is ordered that the youngest son Ousu is to die and he is taken by Tsukinowa to a very tall cliff and dropped. However, the goddess Amaterasu isn’t happy with this and sends her White Bird Of Heaven which catches the young baby as he is falling and flies him away to safety where Ousu is raised by his aunt with two men Seiryu and Genbu who will guard him at all times.  As Ousu turns 10, he receives a magical amulet that gives him tremendous power when he grows angry and he learns that his destiny is to become a warrior for the gods. When Ousu enters adulthood, his father the Emperor takes him  back into his court even though he is still suspicious of him. Tsukinowa tries again to kill Ousu but this time the power of the amulet protects him and he transforms into a wild man. He is later accused of murdering his brother and mother. Desperate to rid himself of Ousu, the Emperor orders him to go to the kingdom of Kumaso to kill the King, a rival of the Emperor. He is accompanied on his journey by Seiryu and Genbu and they meet the beautiful young priestess Oto Tachibana who joins them and has a talent for shooting fireballs from her hands. Meanwhile in outer space, a large ice crystal is heading towards the Earth. Inside the crystal lies the body of the dark God Tsukuyomi who was imprisoned in the structure and sent into deep space. Thousands of years previously Tsukuyomi assumed the form of Orochi, an eight headed dragon to try and destroy the Earth. He was foiled but now he is coming back and is after his dark sword which can give him his full powers back.  Back on Earth, Ousu manages to kill the King of Kumaso and is ordered by his aunt to retrieve Tsukuyomi’s dark sword. It is then that Ousu’s destiny is revealed and that his true mission is to save the planet and stop Tsukuyomi.

This is a very entertaining fantasy/kaiju movie by Toho Studios which reminded myself of some classic Ray Harryhausen productions.  Directed by Takao Okawara who helmed  a couple of the Heisei Godzilla movies, this movie has the same style as them and even features 3 kaiju as Ousu battles a monster made of molten iron which is really impressive, a huge tentacled creature and Orochi himself who looks like the bigger cousin of King Ghidorah (Orochi has 8 heads, 2 more than King Ghidorah). By the end of the movie, the plot veers from fantasy into tokusatsu territory as Ousu transforms into a giant robot complete with a lightsaber-like weapon to fight Orochi. The story is based on a mixture of ancient legends (including Arthurian and Greek) but is mostly on Japanese Shinto mythology as the first scene talks about how the gods gave birth to the islands of Japan.

Orochi screenshot

It’s got all the ingredients of a good fantasy movie but with a little bit extra thrown in. If you’re idea of a fun movie is about a handsome hero who turns into a beast when he’s mad and can shoot lasers from his eyes but who also has to battle various monsters with a dash of some HK wire work then this will be for you.  It’s got some cool special effects and it looks great visually – obviously a sizeable budget has been given as the production values are high. It looks better than many current movies which use awful CGI effects. The choreography for the fight sequences are good and exciting.

The acting I wouldn’t say it particularly strong but viewers with a sharp eye will notice a young Abe Hiroshi as the human incarnation of Orochi. He’s probably the best out of all the cast. There’s hardly any character development but not to worry as in this type of movie it’s hardly necessary.

This was supposed to be the first in a trilogy of movies but sadly it didn’t do as well as expected in Japan so the other 2 planned movies were scrapped. That’s a bit of a shame considering how much I enjoyed this movie as I would have liked to have seen further adventures with Ousu.

Those that enjoy classic fantasy tales such as Jason And The Argonauts will love this movie even if the boundaries of fantasy is blurred a little bit with tokusatsu. I found the movie on the whole to be very entertaining.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Here we go with last month’s movies that I checked out. Those that I’ve reviewed will not be in this list:

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Kamen Rider W Forever: A To Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate
3 stars out of 5

The Isle 2000
The Isle
3.5 stars out of 5

Satan Returns 1996
Satan Returns
2.5 stars out of 5

Ah My Goddess movie
Ah! My Goddess! The Movie
3.5 stars out of 5

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Blade Of Fury
2.5 stars out of 5

Riding Bean
Riding Bean
3 stars out of 5

Utsushimi
Utsushimi
3 stars out of 5

Boukenger vs Super Sentai
GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai
3 stars out of 5

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Cops vs Thugs
3 stars out of 5

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Kamen Rider Agito: Project G4
3 stars out of 5

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Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
3 stars out of 5

Sailor Moon S The Movie
Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice
3.5 stars out of 5

Stone Age Warriors
Stone Age Warriors
3 stars out of 5

intoadream
Into A Dream
3 stars out of 5

Hot For Teacher
Hot For Teacher
4 stars out of 5

Street Mobster
Street Mobster
4 stars out of 5

Wolf Children
Wolf Children
4 stars out of 5

Megalopolis Expressway Trial
Megalopolis Expressway Trial
3.5 stars out of 5

pleasure-kill-poster
Pleasure Kill
3 stars out of 5

Labyrinth of Dreams
Labyrinth Of Dreams
3 stars out of 5

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Sixty Million Dollar Man
4 stars out of 5

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Red Peony Gambler
3 stars out of 5

About Her Brother
About Her Brother
3.5 stars out of 5

Eros High School
Eros High School: Feels So Good
2.5 stars out of 5

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Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Go-onger: GinmakuBang!!
3 stars out of 5

Charisma
Charisma
3.5 stars out of 5

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Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game
3.5 stars out of 5

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Origin: Spirits Of The Past
2.5 stars out of 5

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Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack
3.5 stars out of 5

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Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
3.5 stars out of 5

Mardock Scramble Second Combustion
Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
2.5 stars out of 5

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Alone Across The Pacific
3.5 stars out of 5

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Late Chrysanthemums
2.5 stars out of 5

Planzet
Planzet
3 stars out of 5

Guzoo
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part I
3 stars out of 5

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Angel’s Egg
2 stars out of 5

Raise The Red Lantern
Raise The Red Lantern
4.5 stars out of 5

red-spell
Red Spell Spells Red
3 stars out of 5

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aka Kitaro and The Millennium Curse

Young women disappear one after another in drizzling rain. They all hear the cursed chanting of the Cage Song before they vanish into thin air. Kitaro and his friends investigate these mysterious cases when they meet Kaede Hiramoto, a high school girl who finds herself involved in this mystery. She has been cursed and this has caused scales to appear on her hand. With the help from the librarian of Yokai Library, they find out that the curse was caused by an evil Yokai that was released from 1,000 years of sealing. To save Kaede, they are to gather the 5 ancient musical instruments and perform the ritual to seal the evil Yokai again, which has to be done within 48 hours! In search for the ancient instruments, Kitaro and his friends depart for three different points that the ancient map indicates. Kitaro & Kaede head to “sky”, the sacred mountain in Hakone, Cat-girl and Ratman head to “land”, Mt. Takao, and Sand Witch and Old Cry Baby head to the “ocean” off the coast of Miura peninsula. But the evil Nurarihyon is determined to stop them. Will Kitaro be able to stop the curse, protect Kaede and the human beings from the evil Yokai, and also, overcome his destiny?

With the success of the first Gegege no Kitaro movie, the studio behind the live action project swiftly filmed this sequel while interest was still high. The main cast from the first all appear in this one too. The storyline is better and the budget is significantly bigger. Even though you could watch this movie without having watched the first, it will diminish your enjoyment slightly if you’re not familiar with the yokai characters you see though there is a small flashback about Kitaro’s origins right at the beginning of the story. The pace of the movie is a bit slow at first but it does quicken though I will say that with the running time (2 hours) it’s about 20 mins too long. Don’t get me wrong, the story doesn’t drag or anything and it never gets boring but the movie would have flowed better. The CG effects are pretty good with the main highlight near the end when a massive giant skeleton incarnated from thousands of dead souls comes to life and threatens to attack a coastal town before Kitaro comes to the rescue. The action sequences are competently done with a dynamic fight scene between Kitaro and Yasha (a foreign yokai from a far away land who hypnotises victims with his music). There’s plenty of excitement on display.


Eiji Wentz shines once again as the half human/half yokai main character Kitaro though I’ve always enjoyed watching the supporting cast more than him. Kii Kitano is the young schoolgirl Kaede and she pulls in a fine and sympathetic performance. She looks so fresh faced and this movie came out just as her popularity was increasing. These days she’s not just an actress on the TV and in the movies but a pop star as well. I confess to having a soft spot for Rena Tanaka who plays Cat-Girl so I liked all the scenes she was in very much. For somebody that was 28 years old at the time of filming she looks incredibly young so perhaps that’s why she was chosen to play a teenage character. The rest of the supporting cast (Kitaro’s eyeball father, Ittan Momen (a piece of white long cloth that can fly like a magic carpet) and Nurikabe (I can’t really describe what he is except maybe he looks like the NHK TV channel mascot Domo but Nurikabe is grey, taller and has no mouth and teeth!) have a part to play in pushing the plot along and kids will laugh watching the antics of Ratman and his farting hijinks.

Overall, this movie is a great family/kids movie and it will entertain them no end. There’s a couple of scary scenes which could frighten them but nothing too bad. Quite an enjoyable movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Akira is a teenager who is haunted by a “bouncing ball” song his mother used to sing to him when he was a child. He is desperate to find the origins of the song and in his ‘journey’ he comes across a nymphomaniac who’s lost in her mansion and other odd characters.

This surreal 40 minute avant-garde erotic experimental feature by director Shuji Terayama is a strange but interesting movie about a young man’s dream that turns into a nightmare. The story defies logic but from what I can gather Akira is just about starting to get sexually active in his life and he’s constantly smothered by his mother who doesn’t want to see her son growing up, he is then seduced/raped by a female neighbour seemingly lost in her own house and his mother gets angry at this. She ties him up to a tree and paints kanji characters on his body and clothes so that the woman can’t use her ‘devil’ powers to tempt him. In addition there’s something about a bouncing ball which gets bigger as the story progresses and a fertility stone which makes a woman pregnant if she touches it. As if the tale wasn’t bizarre than it already was, there’s a group of odd people (some of which have been painted all over in white) which start to jeer Akira and chase him around. Perhaps the nightmarish vision that Akira is experiencing is some sort of sign of him wanting to break free from his overbearing mother and it has manifested itself in his dreams? That’s only my interpretation and somebody else could say something completely different. Even though nothing makes any kind of sense, I did like the way the movie has been shot as it’s very colourful with great cinematography. There’s some tasteful nudity on show as well. Terayama had a habit of making movies that only certain people seem to understand. I wasn’t too keen on Throw Away Your Books, Rally In The Streets but thankfully this was better.

Too weird for mainstream viewers, this will only appeal to those that like a taste for bizarre movies.

I can’t find a trailer.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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