Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Weird’ Category

As_the_Gods_Will-p1

A number of students are forced to play a number of deadly games at their school in which their lives are put on the line. The first challenge involves them playing ‘statues’ against a talking Daruma doll. Somebody has to hit the button on the doll’s back to stop a clock which is counting down to zero but it isn’t easy to do because if the doll catches a pupil moving when it turns around to face them their heads explode in a burst of blood and red marbles spill out of every orifice they have. A lone survivor, a teenage boy named Shun Takahata survives the massacre but his nightmare is only beginning. Out in the hallway, he meets a girl he likes called Ichika. Both make their way to the school gymnasium where they see many pupils have dressed up in mouse costumes. All of a sudden, the wooden floor opens up to reveal a giant mechanical talking beckoning cat (maneki-neko) with a spring attached head. The cat attacks and devours those dressed in mouse costumes. Again there is a countdown clock going down to zero and this time the only way to stop the clock is to shoot a basketball shaped bell through a hoop on the cat’s neck. Other challenges include singing kakeshi dolls and Shun facing off against an evil classmate. Will anybody be able to survive the ordeal and why have the students been chosen to play these games?

This was the first movie I watched after coming to Japan in November. With director Takashi Miike you’ve come to expect the unexpected from him and this movie is probably the craziest one he’s ever done. With a bigger budget at his disposal and loads of CG effects, Miike lets his creative juices flow and he doesn’t disappoint. The movie has been adapted from a popular manga. From the get go of the movie, viewers are immersed into a bloodbath situation inside a classroom in which heads explode in a fountain of crimson and it really does hook you in. The violence on show might be gory as hell but it is done in such a cartoonish way that you can’t really take any of it seriously and Miike is certainly having fun with this story. What’s interesting about the surreal childhood playground games that take place is all of them involve something associated with Japanese culture. It’s amusing to see these traditional cultural icons become instruments of death. The maneki-neko has to be the most insane creation I’ve seen in a Japanese movie for a while. The story moves from one lethal game to the next with plenty of long talking sequences inbetween and part of the fun in watching the movie is seeing what Miike will come up with in the next game. A subplot has a massive floating white cube hovering above Tokyo Tower with the games being broadcasted on screens for the general public to see. The school pupils have been chosen as God’s Children to test their survival skills in order to prove that God exists which sparks off street riots and unrest. Do they eventually find that there is a God out there? Well a large wooden evil polar bear and a talking fish are represented as Japanese Gods in the movie.

As the gods will screenshot

The story’s protagonist Shun is your typical good looking Japanese teen hero. He may be responsible for putting his classmates through their ordeal due to becoming bored and wishing for the uninteresting world he lives in to be destroyed. The game masters are quick to give Shun a polar opposite of himself in a classmate Takeru that likes to inflict pain on his peers and during the climax both clash in a fight to the death. Although it might look on the surface that an alien force could be behind everything at the school, there’s a hint that human hands could be the mastermind of it all as it shows a reclusive computer geek in a room controlling things. At two hours long, it’s inevitable that the movie begins to run out of steam during the 2nd hour and although the movie on the whole is interesting, nothing can top the opening spectacle in my opinion. If there’s a social commentary about religion by Miike in the movie, it’s been lost on me due to not understanding Japanese properly. That’s the problem with watching a foreign movie RAW with no subtitles. In order to fully enjoy this movie, I will just have to wait until a subtitled DVD version comes out.

Overall, even though this movie is great to watch, it’s certainly not one of Miike’s best. I enjoyed it up to a point. There was just too much talking going on in some sections for my liking. I did find the set-pieces very inventive and unique but the story did become tiresome as the movie wore on. I felt Miike was trying to lengthen the movie too much. A good 20-25 mins needed to be cut for the pacing to be better. It’s definitely worth a watch though for Miike fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 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 »

Zipang (1990)

zipang movie

Jigoku is a samurai outlaw who is on the run with his motley bunch of followers. There’s a bounty on his head with a cute female bounty hunter named Yuri The Pistol who’s an ace gunslinger hot on his tail. He immediately falls for the woman due to her gutsy spirit. Jigoku is shown a map that can lead to some treasure. Dodging many booby-traps, he comes across a golden sword in a cave which is stuck in a rock. After managing to free the sword, he finds out that it is the key to reaching Zipang – a mythical City Of Gold which is full of untold riches and ruled by a Golden King. He keeps a woman all locked up in an ice prison as he despises love. The woman’s lover (a near naked man who looks like a Samoan warrior) who was locked away with the sword that Jigoku has taken is released and he goes after Jigoku as well. Adding to Jigoku’s woes is a Lord who orders his blue ninja army to pursue and steal the golden sword away from him.  After finally arriving in Zipang, will Jigoku be able to defeat the evil Golden King?

My first impression on watching this was how incredibly similar to the crazy movies of the Shaw Brothers from the 60’s and 70’s it was. It starts off as a parody of samurai movies but then gradually it becomes a little bit more serious with some gore thrown in. Don’t even bother in trying to put some logic to the plot because it’s not worth it. The story is set in a slightly futuristic version of medieval Japan where ninjas have high powered binoculars with zoom lens and shuriken stars that can also take photos.  Every ninja or samurai stereotype you can think of is made fun of in this movie – yes, even Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman is lampooned. There’s even an appearance by none other than Cyrano de Bergerac! You will even see a sequence copied from Raiders Of The Lost Ark in the first part of the movie as Jigoku seeks out the golden sword. I’m sure many viewers will be racking their brains to remember from which movie certain elements incorporated into the story have been taken. The characters in the story are almost comic book in style – the filmmakers even throw in a small rubber elephant as one of Jigoku’s gang though he isn’t onscreen for very long. Masahiro Takashima makes a fine hero as Jigoku with Narumi Yasuda providing some nice eye candy as the pistol packing Yuki.

zipang screenshot

The plot is wafer thin but to be honest the viewer won’t be really interested in that at all. It’s the fun, OTT action sequences that prove to be more interesting. An example of this is where Jigoku is seen to slaughter an almost endless line of ninjas on a wooden bridge with not a drop of blood shed. I found it strange that as Jigoku is slashing his sword and killing one ninja, the others are waiting for him to finish that person off before another one charges in to attack. How polite of them!! I’m not sure why director Kaizo Hayashi felt the need to introduce some gore into the plot. It felt out of place with the rest of the movie to see a hand being chopped off and the sight of the golden sword being plunged deep into a person’s chest shown in close-up. As the movie is a comedy after all, bloodletting should have been left out. I did like the various genres that Hayashi has employed into the movie and I thought they gelled well together. Sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, swordplay, romance and slapstick comedy are all represented in the story. As you can see in the screenshot above even a robot is thrown into the plot! If you know your history well enough you will know that Zipang was an ancient name used for Japan by Marco Polo but in this story the name is just used for a City Of Gold….well it’s not a city per se but more of a large castle. The pace of the movie is quick with never a dull moment in it. It’s one of those movies in which it’s best to switch off your brain and just enjoy the wackyness that’s unfolding before your eyes.

Zipang is an enjoyable silly movie featuring very likeable and interesting characters. It’s got its fair share of exciting fight scenes, comedy that will make you laugh and it’s just so unique that I don’t think there’s another movie like it out there. The director did a great job in making a very funny tongue-in-cheek parody of classic samurai movies. I’m sure you will like it too if you give it a chance.

No trailer but here’s a clip from it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The Aimed School DVD

Aka School In The Crosshairs

Pretty young schoolgirl Yuka is one of her school’s most popular pupils and she’s also the top of her class with her work though she does have competition from the likes of a male classmate called Arakawa who isn’t happy with Yuka’s status. Yuka has a male friend named Koji whom she likes who is more interested in kendo practice rather than his schooling and he is under constant pressure from his parents to improve his grades. His parents suggest that Yuka tries to help him out. As Yuka and Koji are walking home from school one day, a young boy on his tricycle steps out in front on an oncoming truck. Just as an accident is about to happen, Yuka manages to stop the boy with her psychic powers by turning back time which she was unaware she had. With her burgeoning powers, she also manages to help Koji in a kendo competition.  A mysterious caped individual Kyogoku who also has similar psychic abilities confronts Yuka to embrace the powers she has. Soon after a new female transfer student Michiru Takamizawa arrives in Yuka’s class and she also has psychic powers. She makes it perfectly clear that she dislikes Yuka and plans to undermine her popularity. This she does by trying to sabotage the class election in which Yuka is aiming to become their representative. Her plan fails but this isn’t enough to stop her. Michiru’s next action is to create an army of pupils to stamp out bad behaviour at the school and the teachers approve of it as she is able to use her powers to manipulate them. Any student that opposes her will is attacked. It appears that Michiru and her demon mentor Kyogoku are unstoppable. Can Yuka and Koji stop them?

You might think at first that this movie directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi is going to be quite restrained and even normal by his standards but I should have known that the man just cannot help himself and it turns out to be another insane effort. Not that I dislike the insanity that is abundant in his works because it’s makes his movies wholly unique and original. This is similar to a superhero type movie as we have 2 schoolgirls with psychic powers battling for supremacy of the school they attend.  Obayashi seems to like directing movies with schoolgirls in the lead roles and he even throws in a dance sequence from the cast into the story. From the previous movies I’ve seen from him the special effects are no different and cheap matte effects are used once more. Some might call the special effects quirky but I’m not a fan of them at all as it looks ancient and primitive. The storyline is fairly easy to follow and as the movie was targeted towards the young teenage market it’s quite safe for them to watch unlike some other movies from him which has some dubious scenes and makes them unsuitable for families to watch. The plot starts out very sedately and follows the everyday lives of Yuka and Koji and although things pick up when Yuka realises she has incredible abilities under her control, it is only when Michiru appears that the story really hits it’s stride and the good versus evil scenario comes to the fore leading up to a satisfying conclusion. The chilling scenes showing Michiru’s unit marching through the school in their uniform does look very much like the SS of Nazi Germany with Michiru as the dictator in charge.

the aimed school screenshot

Hiroko Yakushimaru is a quintessential Japanese schoolgirl heroine in this movie and she performs very well in her role. She’s a likeable enough character and although goody-two shoes characters can be seen as being boring, Yuka comes across as engaging and interesting. It would be Hiroko’s next movie role in Sailor Suit And Machine Gun that would propel her into superstardom in Japan. I much prefer her nemesis though – the cold and calculating Michiru with her glowing red eyes played wonderfully by Masami Hasegawa. She makes a great foil for Yuka and even appears in a couple of scenes in a red super-villain costume. Then there is Toru Minegishi in an OTT and rather camp role as Kyogoku, the demon with his permed blonde hair, flowing cape and a drawing of an eye on his chest who is trying to get Yuka to be on his side and use her powers for the wrong reasons.

I got quite excited seeing the main location for the majority of the shoot as it was filmed in Shinjuku Central Park which is a small green oasis near the Tokyo Government Metropolitan Buildings. I used to stay on my first couple of trips to Tokyo in a hotel just across the road from the park and it seems to me that the hotel isn’t there in the movie but the viewer can see that there is major construction work going on so it could be the hotel was being built at the time. There is also no sign of the TGMB as construction only started on it in 1988 so the skyline of that part of Shinjuku looks very different to what it is now. A lot has taken place in the area since 1981!

Overall, The Aimed School is another strange but entertaining movie from Nobuhiko Obayashi which I enjoyed.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

The-Drifting-Classroom

Set at Kobe International School, an arrogant young boy by the name of Sho goes to school one morning after a major falling out with his parents unaware that a major catastrophe is about to happen. From out of the blue a tornado appears from the sky which teleports the entire school from it’s location and dumps it in a barren desert alien wasteland leaving a massive hole in the ground where the school should be. The pupils of the school which consists of native Japanese kids and Westerners surmise that a timeslip has occurred and they try and figure out a way of going back home.  Problems soon occur when food and water become scarce. With no solution anytime soon and with the days ticking by, some of the kids start becoming mad and monsters attack the school. Will the school ever return back to Earth?

Based on a manga, this cult 1987 movie is yet another that has never been officially released on DVD although there have been various rumours over the years. To be perfectly honest it’s a good thing it hasn’t because this movie isn’t very good and it is very strange to boot. It suffers from a lot of problems such as the story itself, the international cast, the special effects and the dialogue. The biggest problem of all is the bad miscasting of the Westerners. The majority were not actors but real pupils from the actual Kobe International School so I don’t blame them for their non-existent acting skills having being thrown into their roles with no training. There’s a famous American actor from the 60’s called Troy Donahue in this movie. No idea who he is but his character named ‘My Teacher’ by one female Japanese pupil is mostly redundant and bland. The Japanese cast fare little better as they speak dialogue in stilted English. It makes for some unintentional comedy at times! None of the cast stand out at all and I found a lot of the characters to be annoying, obnoxious or both. I’m not exaggerating when I say the acting is bad, it REALLY is bad! Most of the movie’s dialogue is in English. I’m not sure if the filmmakers did this in order to reach out to a wider audience or not? I found the story to be a bit odd and the kids must be really clever as they assume straight away when they land that they’ve been involved in a timeslip as if it’s a common occurrence in their lives! Certain scenes are so strange that I haven’t got a clue why it’s in the movie such as a bunch of the kids singing a musical medley so horrible it nearly made me throw up!! Another instance sees a small alien that the kids have come across giving some of its piss for them to wash their faces! I know that director Nobuhiko Obayashi made the great movie House and whilst there were scenes in that which were bizarre this one goes off the scale completely. The various genres (horror, comedy, musical, drama) don’t gel well with each other at all.

The Drifting Classroom screenshot

It’s difficult to know if the story was targeted towards kids or teenagers due to various death scenes in the movie. One scene shows some of the pupils coming across a female teacher that has drowned in some sand and we see it pouring out of her mouth. The viewer gets to see some giant cockroaches lay siege to the school and eat some of the kids. There’s also some rather inappropriate sexual behaviour right at the start of the movie which sees Sho grope his mother from behind whilst naked. It continues near the end where it is seen that there’s no hope for the school in returning back to Earth so the kids contemplate copulating with each other which results in the line “I want to have your baby”!!

The special effects have to be one of the worst I’ve seen in a Japanese movie. The matte paintings for the background look cheap, nasty and very unconvincing. The camera work for the movie comes across as amateurish at times. The shaky shot for when the school is teleported away goes on for far too long and is enough to make viewers rather seasick. It’s hard to really know what’s going on in the scene as its dark. All I could see was some sand filling up a room and some characters screaming.

The premise of The Drifting Classroom had some potential with it’s fight for survival on an alien world scenario but the filmmakers looked like they weren’t sure how to go about adapting the classic manga into a movie and which target audience to go for so what we have here is one almighty mess instead. Granted it must have been difficult with a 13 volume manga what to put in and what to leave out. There’s absolutely nothing to recommend about this movie apart from Joe Hisaishi’s musical score. It’s really is terrible. If you’re after a unique cinematic experience and if you can get hold of a bootleg DVD of the movie by all means give it a watch. Just be prepared for some major weirdness!

No trailer but here’s a clip of the small alien pissing into the faces of some kids!!

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 star out of 5

 

Read Full Post »

Dead Sushi (2012)

dead sushi

Keiko is the daughter of a sushi chef who runs away from home when her father’s demands to combine martial arts and sushi making proves a bit too much for her. Landing at a remote resort hotel, she finds a job as a waitress where one of her first customers is serving for a president of a pharmaceutical company and his colleagues. Unknown to all of them, Yamada, a former researcher at the company who was framed and thrown into jail thanks to the president is also in the area and living as a vagrant. He’s angry at what happened to him and thanks to his research has found a way of creating killer sushi. Soon a horde of flying killer sushi is let loose in the hotel and the only people who can fight back is Keiko and former sushi chef Mr Sawada plus an unlikely little ally named Eggy!!

To be perfectly honest, when I first saw the trailer for Dead Sushi many months ago I immediately dismissed it as a load of crap and I didn’t have any intention of watching it. However, when the opportunity arose to buy the DVD I did hesitate at first whether I was doing the right thing but seeing as Noboru Iguchi has entertained me in the past I thought what the hell and went ahead in purchasing it. I wasn’t really expecting much with this movie but I have to eat my words as this is such a fun nonsensical movie which had me laughing a lot. It’s completely insane and I didn’t expect to be entertained quite so much. Iguchi pulls out all the stops in this low budget movie to create a hilarious OTT camp gory comedy horror movie which has to be seen to be believed. So inventive with a lot of incredibly bizarre sights and great gags! If you’ve seen his other works you know by now what to expect. We get to see flying sushi with sharp teeth which have squeaky voices and start attacking staff and guests at the hotel, two sushi having sex and producing offspring, sushi rice zombies, a sushi armed with a flame thrower, a sushi battleship and even Yamada being reborn as a human sized tuna after eating sushi which has been injected with a serum. Then there’s the added pleasure of hearing an egg omelette sushi singing!!!!! As expected with this kind of movie the cheesy CG blood is spurted around like there’s no tomorrow with some eye popping, exploding facial skin, a chef hacking off his own nose and half his face with a kitchen knife, a decapitation and a woman being eaten alive by mini sushi until only her bloody bones are left!

deadsushi screenshot

I really don’t know how the cast managed to keep a straight face on whilst filming this movie but one can imagine there was much merriment going on during the production. A lot of why this movie is so good is down to the wonderful Rina Takeda as Keiko who is fantastic. She’s such a likeable, cute and endearing actress. Rina has said in the past that she’s a big fan of Jackie Chan and his movies. Here she gets a chance to demonstrate his style of comedy with her acting in this movie. I’m not sure if Rina didn’t want to be typecasted in just serious martial arts roles so that’s why she’s shifted recently to comedy? I do hope that she’ll go back to doing a serious martial arts/action movie in the future. She does have some fight scenes in this movie and even gets a chance to making fun of Bruce Lee in one scene with the climax seeing her square off against Yamada the mad axe tuna man and his secret weapon. She even gets to use sushi nunchakus!! The rest of the cast are obviously well up for the silliness of the plot with the women walking around in various stages of undress and one couple parodying a moment from the classic movie Tampopo specifically the egg kiss scene.

Those that love these kind of Japanese splatter comedy movies will find this movie very enjoyable and director Iguchi really delivers on gore and laughs. I thought Dead Sushi was hilarious. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

A Snake Of June (2002)

A Snake Of June DVD

Rinko Tatsumi works as a telephone counselor for a Tokyo-area suicide hotline. Her husband is Shigehiko, an older, workaholic businessman, that has a obsessive compulsive order for cleanliness. Their marriage is a sexless relationship, that seems to be more cordial than intimate. Rinko soon receives a packaged in the mail that contains photographs of herself sitting by her window and masturbating in a semi open public view. Another package arrives with a cell phone. The photographer calls and identifies himself as one of Rinko’s past clients that is not interested in money. Instead, the caller wants Rinko to confront her unfulfillled desires and sexual fantasies. From there a relationship between the stalker, Rinko, and Shigehiko occurs in a tense game of hidden desires.

From the twisted mind of Shinya Tsukamoto comes this tale of a repressed woman’s sexual awakening. The first half of the movie is straight forward and easy to follow but in the second half when the story switches to focus on Rinko’s husband it goes a little bit weird with all kinds of strange and surreal sequences. It’s not something I enjoyed watching to be honest. Actually I thought I was beginning to understand this story in that I believed Tsukamoto was telling the viewer to live their life to the full and they should free themselves from their inhibitions. As the movie goes into full-on bizarre territory I gave up trying to make sense of what Tsukamoto’s intent was and just let everything fly over my head. I also began to lose interest in the movie. It’s one of those movies which you’ll either love or hate depending on whether you like some of Tsukamoto’s other movies. There’s no doubt of the man’s creative talent as a director but some of his work I’m not really keen on. Take for example Tetsuo which nearly everybody harps on about being brilliant but I can’t say I was a fan of that movie at all.

A Snake of June screenshot

I do like how the movie has been shot in blue-tinted monochrome which gives it a unique look and it compliments the many scenes with rain in the background. Rain features a lot in this movie which fits in with the title of the movie as June is when the rainy season hits Japan. There’s a lack of warmth in the movie due to the way the director has chosen to film the story the way he has. I’m quite impressed with Tsukamoto’s visual style in the movie, it’s got his stamp all over it. It’s just a shame that the story about desire and voyeurism which I was beginning to really get into just turned into what I would call a mind-bender during the second half. Despite what you’ve read about the plot above it’s not as exploitative as you think it is.

The performances by the 3 lead characters especially by Asuka Kurosawa is fantastic. Kurosawa made a brave decision to take on such a daring role and she excels as Rinko oozing sexiness as she parades in a micro-skirt around the streets of Tokyo prompting looks by everybody that passes her. You can see how she has become so repressed as her much older husband Shigehiko prefers to spend his time scrubbing the bath rather than pleasing his wife sexually. Is it any wonder that Rinko resolves to buy herself a vibrator! A lot of male fans will like the scene when she decides to strip off naked outside in the pouring rain. Iguchi, the blackmailer who is dying from cancer that is telephoning Rinko to follow his instructions is played by none other than the director himself. We don’t know what his intentions are at first other than trying to make Rinko fulfil her innermost desires.

A Snake Of June will probably be enjoyed more by surreal art-house lovers and those that like to be intellectually challenged rather than casual Asian movie fans who will most likely be left baffled.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Baptism Of Blood (1996)

Matsuko Uehara is a successful actress who hides a blue birthmark on her face with plenty of makeup. She quits acting as she finds it hard to hide the mark. The story shifts many years ahead as Matsuko is now older, is seen limping and has a 15 year old daughter Sakura who is a talented pianist under the tutelage of a man called Tanigawa. He is trying hard not to lust after Sakura despite the fact that his wife is about to give birth to his child. Matsuko and a mad doctor have created a machine down in the depths of the mansion where she lives which can transplant brains from one person to another. Matsuko has plans to transplant her own brain into the body of her daughter. Although Sakura tries to escape when she finds out, she is eventually caught and goes through the horrific ordeal of having her brain removed. Matsuko wakes up in Sakura’s body and sets about seducing Tanigawa who doesn’t take that much resistance to fall for her charms. Matsuko plans on emptying her account and running away with Tanigawa to France but then strange things start happening to her. Sakura’s forehead starts developing a small blue birthmark (the same on Matsuko’s old face) and the police start snooping around………..

This is a very strange mid 90’s J-horror about a disfigured woman on a quest for wanting an unblemished and young body which isn’t that good if I’m being honest. The title is somewhat misleading as there’s no baptism as such. The ludicrous plot which has elements from movies by David Cronenberg has some awful acting, crappy pacing and a ridiculous ending with a twist which comes from nowhere. It’s like the scriptwriters couldn’t think of a way to finish the movie so they came up with a lame excuse of a climax. It’s also quite dull. The only saving grace of the movie is a marvellous bloody scene featuring the brain surgery which is performed by a big machine. It’s gory, extremely graphic and very well done. A pity the rest of the movie is a bit of a mess. Rie Imamura who plays Sakura is a very stunning young woman who you think that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth if it wasn’t for the fierce angry looks she makes at times. Even though she makes for some good eye candy, it doesn’t hide the fact that her acting is terrible. The story does have some eroticism and perverse themes. When you think about it – seeing a minor sleeping with her piano tutor is just plain wrong even if it’s an adult brain in her body! Is it any surprise that director Kenichi Yoshihara hasn’t made any more movies after this clunker. I suppose the criticism he got for this movie put him right off from directing anything else.

Despite a plot which I thought would be interesting, this was a major disappointment in my books which only got worse by the mediocre ending. Give it a go if you want to watch something which has some unitentional hilarity about it. Poor.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Tokyo Trash Baby (2000)

A fascinating little story about a weirdo girl Miyuki who falls big time for the grungy guitarist who lives in the apartment upstairs from her own. She likes him so much she grabs the trash he throws out and goes through it daily – piercing together his life and personality – what he eats, smokes, the shampoo he washes his hair and all of his secrets.

This movie is bizarre tale of adoration and the behaviour of Miyuki is very creepy. The story does have some charm to it, with some intriguing and spirited characters thrown into the mix. Especially at the café that Miyuki works at. Mami Nakamura is great as Miyuki and we do sympathise with the way her character behaves. Kou Shibasaki has a nice supporting role as Miyuki’s slutty colleague who constantly boasts about her sexual conquests.

I think this is a movie that divides opinion – some will like the quirky storyline about an off-beat character whilst others will think it’s too weird for their taste and find it dull. If you want to see a Japanese movie that strays off the usual beaten path then you’ll enjoy this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Rampo Noir (2005)

Four short films, based on stories by Japanese mystery writer Rampo Edogawa, explore dark themes of obsession, sex and death. In “Mars Canal,” a naked man wanders alone through a swamp recalling a former lover. “Mirror Hell” follows a serial killer with a fixation on hand mirrors. “Caterpillar” centers on a crippled veteran, his sadistic wife and their unhealthy relationship. And in “Crawling Bugs,” a chauffeur plots to seduce a starlet.

Starring art-house regular Tadanobu Asano as almost different characters spanning across the shorts, this movie, to put it mildly, should excite art-house lovers since it stars one of their idols, but everyone else, unless you have spare capacity for the bizarre, would likely want to steer clear of this. For omnibus movies, you’d come to expect varying standards and levels of enjoyment, and this one is no different. I did enjoy the 2nd short called “Mirror Hell”. The other 3 shorts were just plain too weird for my taste and I got bored. There’s more visual style than solid substance here in driving the movie. I’d only recommend this to people that are into their art-house movies and have a long attention span as this movie drags on for over 2 hours.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Young-goon is convinced she’s a cyborg. When she cuts herself at work with a knife and inserts some wires into the wound thinking it’ll recharge her batteries she’s carted off into the nuthouse. There she enters into a relationship with another patient Il-soon who’s job is to get her to start eating again or she’ll die.

This is an orginal, inventive but strange movie with a bizarre lovestory. It has a weird cast of mentally disturbed people. It does have some funny scenes and the screwed up version of Silent Night made me laugh. This isn’t a movie that everybody will enjoy as it’s rather off-beat.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

A championship wrestling match pits Koji Taguchi against Crush Volcano, the latter no match for Koji’s signature move, the Torture Ring Strangler. Koji beams as he clutches the Champion Belt, only to have it snatched away by a mysterious new challenger in the ring–a giant squid! A giant squid, in fact, who not only evades Koji’s key attack, but destroys him with a Northern Light Suplex! Koji’s fiancee Miyako watches tearfully, though there’s something about this Calamari Wrestler that seems familiar to her.

Got to be the most bizarre and surreal movie I’ve ever seen of a man reborn as a squid who makes a comeback into the wrestling ring. The premise of this movie sounds preposterous but believe me this movie is great fun if you don’t take it all too seriously.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Weird and wacky Japanese comedy set in a high school which has a gorilla called Whoopi, a robot and a mute Freddie Mercury lookalike as pupils. Some of the jokes are a bit hit and miss but there’s a wonderful spoof of The Exorcist involving the school robot and a cat! Things get even more strange when an alien ape from space called Gori invades and plans to conquer the Earth (Gori was a character in an old 70’s sci-fi show called Spectreman). I think this movie is an acquired taste and not everybody will understand and like it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Big Man Japan (2007)

A middle-aged slacker living in a rundown, graffiti-ridden slum, Daisato’s job involves being shocked by bolts of electricity that transform him into a stocky, stick-wielding giant several stories high who is entrusted with defending Japan from a host of bizarre monsters. But while his predecessors were national heroes, he is a pariah among the citizens he protects, who bitterly complain about the noise and destruction of property he causes. And Daisato has his own problems—an agent insistent on branding him with sponsor advertisements, an Alzheimer-afflicted grandfather who transforms into a giant in dirty underwear, and a family who is embarrassed by his often cowardly exploits.

One half of the Japanese comedy duo Downtown – Hitoshi Matsumoto stars in this weird movie done mockumentary style of a 40 year old loner who transforms into a tall giant called ‘The King Of Pain’ to defend Japan from a concotion of strange monsters. There’s one monster he fights with an eye penis which has to be seen to be believed! The movie is definitely tongue in cheek and a spoof somewhat of Ultraman. It’s fun, silly and entertaining throughout.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »

Executive Koala (2004)

Tamura is a successful businessman apart from the fact he’s a koala in human form. When his girlfriend is brutally killed, the police investigate and Tamura is made prime suspect. Even though he thinks he didn’t murder her why are there gaps in his memory?

All I could say after watching this was WTF!! This is a weird dark comedy movie to watch and you have to tell yourself you’re not on any drugs!! Only the Japanese could have made something so insane like this!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Read Full Post »