Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

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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The evil King Horn and his troops attack a small village in his quest to retrieve the mystical Dragon Pearls (of which there are 7). A young girl flees from the destruction as her father and the majority of the villagers are seemingly killed. The movie then introduces us to teen martial arts master Son Goku who after testing his skills on his grandfather (Master Roshi) runs into a pretty young woman named Bulma. She is riding around in her jeep. Both come under attack from King Horn’s flying raiders led by his trusty generals Zebrata and Maria who are on their way to Goku’s grandfathers’ residence to steal another Dragon Pearl. Son Goku and Bulma race back but find that Goku’s grandfather and the Dragon Pearl are gone. They team up with people they meet on their travels: Westwood, a boy who is afraid of girls; Jade (the girl who fled from her village at the start of the movie) and Piggy, a pervert who can change his shape at will. Minus Westwood who is sulking, the others travel to the Turtle Master’s island to ask for his help in defeating King Horn. The Turtle Master is a bigger pervert than Piggy who is constantly thinking about sex. He can command a magical cloud which can take him anywhere he wants. It’s not long before King Horn’s raiders appear in the skies and totally destroy the Turtle Master’s home on the island. King Horn now has 6 Dragon Pearls in his possession and needs only 1 more to complete the set and that belongs to Westwood. Our heroes decide to take the fight to King Horn’s HQ which has been set up in Jade’s village. Will they manage to defeat King Horn and his mighty army?

I’m not that familiar with the Dragon Ball franchise except through the crappy live-action US remake that tanked in 2009 and by reading a little bit about it online. I know the names of the characters more than anything. This Taiwanese version shot in Thailand which was made back in 1991 is one of the most cheesiest, OTT fantasy movies you’ll ever get to see with some ridiculous hammy acting by some of the cast. The story is loosely based on the first couple of episodes from the anime on how the characters all met up for the first time and the version I saw has some of the worst dubbing ever in a foreign movie. For some reason the filmmakers decided to change the names of the original characters so now Son Goku is Monkey Boy and Bulma is Seito etc. It could be that this happened due to copyright? I’ve read that the actors were told to exaggerate some of their acting because the anime is somewhat OTT as well. I wouldn’t know having not seen the anime. The less said about the atrocious special effects the better (e.g cardboard spaceships superimposed on screen!). It looks incredibly bad and embarrassing. Who would have thought that King Horn’s troops prefer to use machine guns to laser weapons!! For a family movie there is a fair amount of sexual humour so be warned if you intend to let your children watch this. They would ask questions when the Turtle Master buries his face in Bulma’s breasts and when the characters talk about rapists! There’s a lot of kung fu wirework which is amusing and explosions going off but they don’t really excite you. To be perfectly honest the script isn’t up to scratch with dialogue that will have you laughing as it’s so awful, no character development at all and the villains/minor character are so one-dimensional, dull and completely forgettable. Did I mention that Goku has a fight with a talking crocodile in a river!!! Some of the characters (Turtle Master/Master Roshi) come across as very annoying.

I did find myself chuckling a lot whilst watching the sheer ineptness of the production. What were the filmmakers thinking when they made this but it’s still miles more entertaining than the 2009 remake as it’ll make you smile in disbelief. There’s a Korean version that was made as well so I’ll be sure to check that out in the near future too. Also there’s a new updated version of this movie which sees the old special effects replaced with new CG effects. As for this movie I can only recommend this to die-hard Dragonball fans otherwise steer well clear of this disaster.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

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In 689 A.D., the Empress Wu Zetian is building a 66m high statue of Buddha for her inauguration as the first empress of China under the objections and conspiracy of the other clans. When the engineer responsible for the construction mysteriously dies by spontaneous combustion, the superstitious workers are afraid since the man removed the good luck banner charms from the main pillar. There is an investigation by Pei Donglai after another person also bursts into flames. Empress Wu assigns her loyal assistant Shangguan Jing’er to release the exiled Detective Dee from his imprisonment for treason to investigate with Donglai and Jing’er the mystery of the deaths.

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate thing with Tsui Hark’s movies. Some of his work such as Once Upon A Time In China movies for instance I really enjoyed watching but others like Green Snake and Zu Warriors I just can’t warm up to them at all. Detective Dee is a movie which I’m finding it hard to be enthusiastic about. It’s a prime example of why I’ve never been a fan of HK’s wirework costume dramas they made years ago. The Detective Dee character is based on the Chinese folk hero Di Renjie who remains a popular figure from China’s Tang Dynasty who ruled from the 7th to 10th centuries. The story is engrossing enough and comes across as being fresh and inventive. We don’t usually see many (if any?) Chinese detective movies set in the past. Where it goes wrong is by using too many CGI effects in that some of it looks bad but admittedly the large Buddha statue which is the focus of the movie looks impressive. The action sequences which were choreographed by Sammo Hung is good and exciting but once the characters start flying about on buildings and trees I started to lose interest. Even a sequence with Dee fighting off a herd of ‘magic’ deer had me rolling my eyes. When the movie concentrates on the mystery itself and how Dee goes about trying to solve the bizarre spontaneous human combustion cases the story excels but it veers off too many times for my liking. The running time could have been cut by a good 30 mins to make the pacing a bit better. The sets and the lavish costumes are nice. Andy Lau gives an assured performance as the wary but inquisitive Dee. He gets strong support from Li Bingbing as a beautiful femme fatale. Carina Lau also performs well as the hardened Empress who has managed to thrive in an altogether male-dominated political world.

Whilst I might not like Detective Dee that much as I probably like my HK movies to be grounded in reality, I’m sure this movie will have a lot of fans especially with many people saying that this movie represents director Tsui Hark back on top form.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Mushishi (2006)

At the turn of the last century, a young boy and his mother are travelling to a nearby town. It is raining heavily and unfortunately a landslide occurs which comes crashing down on the boy’s mother. The boy is discovered looking for the body of his mother by a female Mushi master Nui. The Mushi are mystical insect-like creatures that causes illness to human beings and a Mushi master can usually cure a person of an affliction. Moving ahead in time, we follow another Mushi master called Ginko who is looking for a place to stay out of a snowstorm. He finds an inn and discovers several people in the area have gone deaf in one ear. Ginko suspects the Mushi are behind the ailment. After curing them, he is asked by the innkeeper to look at her granddaughter who is hearing voices and sprouting some horns on her forehead. After piecing together some facts from her, he manages to cure the little girl and the horns drop off her head. Another more serious case occurs when Ginko is summoned to visit an old friend Tanyo (a fellow mushi master) where a more deadly Mushi is threatening her life. To cure his friend, Ginko will have to go up against a familiar face from his past and start to remember some repressed memories from his childhood.

This is based on a long running manga that started in 1999. Mushishi is an interesting movie that tends to become too complex for it’s own good and drags a lot at times. Visually it is really beautiful to watch and sets the scene for it’s mystical storyline perfectly with mist covered mountains and lush colourful forests. The production values are high. The biggest problem is the plot itself. It starts out being intriguing but then it just sort of dies out and goes nowhere. The story is fragmented – half of it is Ginko’s backstory told in flashback and the rest is Ginko dealing with the mushi. The deliberate slow methodical pace also hinders the movie. I’m not saying the movie is completely bad because there are some positive aspects to it. The back story to Ginko and how he became a Mushi master is captivating and engaging but I fear some viewers being put off by the long dialogue about dark mushi and one eyed fish that rears it’s head from time to time. They could have cut a good half hour from the running time and it would have quickened the pace of the movie considerably. The cast is pretty good from Joe Odagiri as the mellow Ginko to Makiko Esumi as Nui, the Mushi Master who cares for Ginko as a boy. Aoi has an excellent role as Ginko’s friend Tanyo. There’s a tiny element of gore to the proceedings as Tanyo’s grandmother tries to cut the mushi infection out of her body by cutting her arm with a knife. As the bad black mushi infection clears, there’s a huge fountain of red blood that sprays from Tanyo’s arm everywhere on the walls. It just seems out of place to the rest of the movie.

If you’ve got the patience for a slow paced movie, you might enjoy the movie. I think this will appeal more to Mushishi manga fans more than the casual viewer. Average.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Set in 5th century China, it centers on Ti Ming-chi, a young innocent from the West Zu army who wandered away from the battlefield and into a magical underworld filled with demons and murderous swordsmen. When his life is saved by the noble warrior Ting Yin, Ti joins forces with his band of fighters — including a Buddhism monk named Abbot Hsiao Yu, his klutzy underling Yi Chen and a fearsome old wizard named Long Brows — in their quest to save the world from the terror of the Blood Demon.

This is a film that was the border of the old era in Hong Kong and the beginning of the new. The plot of a bunch of warriors taking on a great evil had been done before but there was something about the way it was done here that made everyone sit up and take notice.

Personally I’m underwhelmed by this movie. The special effects are dated and the plot is somewhat confusing. I had wanted to see this for a long time and I was expecting something epic but truthfully by the time I actually saw this I was so hyped up that there was no way it could ever live up to what I was expecting. There’s a good cast in this movie from Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Brigitte Lin.

If you like martial arts movies, or even action fantasies, try this, its not bad, its just not the be all and end all I know some people claim it is.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Ashura (2005)

The film takes place in the 19th Japan where a war between demons and their slayers is fought. Izumo, an Kabuki actor with a demon-slaying past, meets and falls in love with Tsubaki. However, something is not right as mysterious marks appear on her body as time progresses. At the same time, it is announced that Ashura, the queen of all demons, will be resurrected and bring destruction to the universe.

An OKish movie based on a play. The acting isn’t particularly good and the special effects is quite bad at times but the setting and the costumes are great. A couple of nice swordfights too. Just average for me.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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