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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

A_Night_in_Nude_Salvation

Jiro is a man who can do anything for you for a price. A handyman and part private eye he takes on tasks as simple as clearing out storage lockers to tracking down lost items. That’s what he’s asked to do by a beautiful young woman who shows up at his warehouse living space one afternoon. This young woman asks Jiro to help her track down a lost Rolex watch that she says was accidentally thrown out of a helicopter while she was scattering the ashes of her late father. Jiro knows the story isn’t true, but he needs the money so he and the young woman begin poking around miles of woodland in the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. Miraculously Jiro finds the wrist watch, but it looks to be caked in rotting meat. Needy but not stupid Jiro hands the watch over to a sympathetic police woman he knows for analysis. Little does Jiro know that the discovery of this Rolex will lead to another case, one filled with violence, sex and danger, one that will lead him directly into the heart of darkness.

The first Night In Nude movie was a bit of a guilty pleasure for myself. It’s gritty noir storyline which took the viewer into the seedier side of Tokyo made for an interesting viewing experience so when I had a chance to take a look at the 2010 sequel (made 17 years after the original) I wondered if this one would be quite as good or not. I’m delighted to say it was and in director Takashi Ishii’s capable hands once more it provides an even darker mystery/thriller storyline which involves child abuse and is disturbing to say the least. This isn’t a direct continuation of the plot from the original movie at all. Naoto Takenaga is back as Jiro who is still taking on jobs that no-one else wants to lay their fingers on. In this story he helps a young femme fatale prostitute named Ren who plays the damsel in distress and who needs Jiro to find a rolex watch. He is given a bullshit story about having ashes containing the watch from a relative of Ren’s dropped in the sea of trees around Mount Fuji by helicopter without knowing the full story of how she, her sister and mother murdered a drunken client of theirs in cold blood and dismembered the corpse by grinding it before disposing the lot. This isn’t the first murder Ren has committed with her sister and mother in which they cash in on the deceased’s life insurance policy. After Jiro is successful in finding the watch he’s given another case by Ren to find a missing prostitute named Tae not aware how close he really is to the person he’s after. Thus begins a dangerous path for Jiro which takes him on a journey involving 3 murderous prostitutes where he makes the mistake of falling for Ren. He gets in too deep when the trio plan on killing Ren’s abusive father in order again to cash in on his life insurance policy and the viewer begins to wonder how the hell he can get out of this conundrum he’s put himself into. To say he’s a little naive is a bit of an understatement but is in keeping with his character from the first movie. Whilst the story doesn’t break any new ground, it’s in the way that director Isshi has crafted the movie using his trademark techniques that really stands out. I do like how lighting and darkness is used very effectively in some scenes and the visual effects is quite impressive. Isshi is well known for his movies which involve a lot of sex and violence and he doesn’t shy away from showing plenty of full frontal nudity in the shapely form of former gravure idol Hiroko Sato as Ren with some graphic gore thrown in the opening 30 mins and a couple of explicit sex scenes as well.

a-night-in-nude-salvation screenshot

Naoto Takenaga turns in a solid performance as Jiro. It’s nice to see him not going OTT as he has done in a lot of the roles he’s been given. I thought given the amount of time that had passed since he played Jiro that he would have played him slightly different this time round but Takenaga slips easily back in character. It’s probably Hiroko Sato that stands out more than anybody in a difficult role as Ren who reveals her true intentions in the final third as she plans on killing her entire family and Jiro in a hidden cave system in the woods near Mount Fuji. Yep, Jiro has been suckered and manipulated by a woman just like before. Ren goes a little bit loopy near the climax with her weapon of choice – a taser gun which she goes around zapping her family and the viewer is shown a long drawn out sequence in which Ren imagines she’s naked in the caves and whipping herself to try and forget the pain she endured at the hands of her father who sexually abused her as a little girl and which has made her hate all men. Her psyche has been damaged by what she’s gone through. The rest of the cast aren’t used all that well which includes a female police officer who is tracking Jiro by his mobile phone and suspects that he’s involved with something but she’s not sure what. I hardly recognised legendary Japanese actor Joe Shishido who plays the most sleaziest character in the entire movie as Ren’s father.

If you enjoy watching movies that takes a look into the dark side of humanity and the underbelly of Tokyo that the majority of people won’t be familiar with then you will enjoy A Night In Nude: Salvation.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Shiina is a young man who’s moved to Sendai to study a law degree course at university. He tries to make friends with his neighbour next door but he is unresponsive. One day whilst singing Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind outside his apartment whilst tying up some empty boxes, Shiina meets Kawasaki, a rather strange but cool individual and they both have a common bond in liking Bob Dylan so a friendship is born. After a drink in his apartment, Shiina is coerced into taking part in a robbery by Kawasaki after he mentions how cold his other neighbour was when he gave him a welcome gift. Kawasaki mentions he’s from Bhutan and his name is Dorje and for Shiina not to take his anti-social behaviour so personal. Kawasaki wants to steal a certain Japanese kanji dictionary from a bookstore with toy guns for Dorje as he wants to know the difference between the Japanese words ahiru “foreign duck” and kamo “native duck”. Shiina goes along with it and everything goes according to plan. Shortly afterwards Shiina is introduced to a pet shop owner named Reiko who Kawasaki warns him about, saying she’s not to be trusted. Shiina is also shown a picture of a couple and this is when Kawasaki starts telling a story about Dorje, a woman he dated called Kotomi who previously went out with Kawasaki and a trio of pet killers. The following day Shiina sees Reiko outside his university sitting down and he goes up and starts talking to her. Funnily enough she tells him not to trust Kawasaki and recalls an entirely different version of the story that Kawasaki had said before. So who is telling the truth? He is unsure which story to believe. Shiina is also curious as to why Kawasaki is driving off somewhere in the middle of the night. What is he up to? Reiko and Shiino start their own investigating to find out the truth.

I really liked this cryptic mystery movie and I think the less I say about it the better because I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of it. All I will say is the story is very deceptive with a big twist involved as you’ll find out after the first hour which turns everything on it’s head. The story is clever and interesting and the characters are likeable. It’s one of those stories that you really get into and will demand you ask questions as to what’s going on. I sat transfixed as the story unfolded before me. It really captured my attention. Excellent casting with Eita, Gaku Hamada and Nene Otsuka as the three main characters. However it’s the addition of Ryuhei Matsuda who pops up before the final third that nearly steals the movie. The movie tackles issues such as Japanese xenophobia and culture clash. However confused you may be with the story and it’s flashbacks, everything comes together in the final third to bring about a very satisfying conclusion. I may have explained what the significance of the foreign duck and native duck means in the movie title in the summary but I haven’t said anything about what the hell God in a coin locker is all about. You’ll just have to wait until right at the end of the tale to know what exactly it means but it will make perfect sense to you once you’ve seen a certain scene. Well done to director Yoshihiro Nakamura for weaving us this excellent plot.

All in all, this sometimes complex, engaging and original movie with it’s slow pace had me hooked. It’s a mystery movie with a difference. Movies like this one doesn’t come around very often so I found it quite refreshing. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 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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Goth (2008)

A madman is stalking the Tokyo suburbs, slaughtering young women and severing their hands before posing the corpses in places the police will easily discover them. With each new killing, teenage loner Morino (Rin Takanashi) and her outgoing pal Kamiyana (Kanata Hongo) grow increasingly fascinated by the morbid crimes. When Morino stumbles across what appears to be the killer’s journal, she and Kamiyama try to track his movement in order to get a look at the crime scenes before the police do. But the closer the two friends get to the killer, the greater the danger to their own life grows.

Surprisingly billed as one of the must-see horrors to come from Japan, this is a rather disappointing movie overall. It’s interesting mind you but there’s no real horror in this movie at all. You only get to see severed hands and that’s basically it. What makes this movie interesting is in it’s lead characters – 2 screwed up teenagers who admire the murderer for his artistic killings and try to think where the next body is going to turn up. There’s a rather good twist on the identity of the serial killer near the climax too. Kanata Hongo and Rin Takanashi make a good pairing as we delve into their twisted world of death. I suspect many could find this movie a little bit too slow and boring for their tastes considering nothing major as such happens. I found it rather intriguing and original.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Han Jeong-hoon has an argument with one of his classmates Tae-gyu who is soon found dead in a classroom by him. A shy female classmate nicknamed “Curtain” who’s a fan of detective novels believes Jeong-hoon didn’t commit the crime and soon the pair are on the case as to who’s behind the murder before 4th period comes to a close. It doesn’t help that there’s a school inspection taking place at the same time.  A suspect is found soon, but as time goes by, more and more evidence appears and the case is soon turned on it’s head.

However far fetched this movie might seem about 2 school pupils trying to solve a murder case at their school, it does have an interesting mixture of being a thriller and a high school drama. It’s tense and captivating at times with some great adrenaline moments peppering the movie. Running at a tight 90 mins, this might not be one of the best Korean movies of 2009 but it’s so entertaining and it does have an edgy style which does make it stand out a little bit from other thrillers. Give it a go and see what you think.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Shutter (2004)

Tun is a young photographer who along with his pretty girlfriend Jane go to a gathering one night with his friends. On the way home with Jane driving and whilst she’s distracted talking to Tun, she manages to hit a young woman full on before crashing into a barrier. Looking into her rearview mirror, the girl is prone in the middle of the road. Jane wants to go out and check the girl but Tun tells her to drive away and so she does. Days later whilst Tun is looking at photographs he recently took, mysterious lights and shadows start to appear in them and Jane is having trouble sleeping at night. Though his camera checks out OK and trying to find a rational explanation for the odd phenomenom, it soon becomes clear to Tun that he’s being haunted. A check in the local papers find nothing to suggest that a fatal hit and run accident took place the night they hit that girl. Perhaps she was OK after all? Soon Tun and Jane start to experience strange things happening to them. It gets much worse when several of Tun’s friends commit suicide. It’s all connected to Tun’s past which he tried to hide and it becomes apparent that this restless spirit has him on her death list next. Will he manage to escape her vengeance?

Well what an incredible scary and creepy movie this was and it really made me jump out of my seat several times. The atmosphere and tension is cranked up from the moment they hit the young girl on the road and never lets up for the rest of the movie. It will leave you on the edge of your seat. A great storyline. In a tired market which has churned out these type of movies just to join on the bandwagon over the years I’m glad to say Shutter manages to stay fresh and imaginative. It doesn’t manage however to completely escape from trying to copy stuff from other movies. I just wish that they’d think of another type of vengeful spirit, it gets that bit boring seeing a long haired woman all the time. Can’t they at least try and get away from the image of Sadako from Ringu. Just use some imagination and think of something different – in order for the people watching to say “well we haven’t seen anything like that before”. A nice fresh approach to the Asian ghost movies genre. The script and pace is just right. It’s got some nice twists and turns. Any movie that can make me scared deserves to be praised.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Arch Angels (2006)

Also known as Warau Mikaeru. Fumio Shijo is a newly transferred pupil at an all-girls religious school for rich families called St Michaels situated on an island somewhere in Japan. Here the girls are trained how to act and behave like ladies. Several girls who come from rich families nearby have recently gone missing. During the school’s annual garden cosplay party, a number of pupils disappear. Fumio and two other girls aided by the school’s dog mascot try and locate them. Even though the pupils are forbidden to leave the school grounds, they disboey this rule and head outside. The dog leads them to the quayside by the sea where they find that one of the nuns at the school the sexy Sister Melena and her Italian associates have taken the girls onboard and tied them up below deck. It seems that it was Melena all along who’s been abducting the girls in the area. It’s up to Fumio and her friends to rescue the kidnapped girls and defeat the bad guys.

Based on a manga and starring the wonderful Juri Ueno, Warau Michael is one crazy film which was released in 2006. It’s a mixture of action and comedy containing heavy CGI effects such as the school’s black canine mascot Damian who looks like a devil dog with his bright white eyes, illustrations that reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s work in Monty Python and even some comic effects like they used in the old 60’s Batman series (you know the BOOF, BAM ones they had during the fight sequences). There are a lot of Japanese culture jokes in the movie which I just didn’t understand. The plot is totally ridiculous – an Italian temptress masquerading as a nun in order to kidnap some of the pupils for reasons unknown. But saying that this is just brilliant and it’s such a hell of a fun movie to watch. One you can disengage your brain for 92 mins and just let it go over your head. It did sorta made me think me of Charlie’s Angels in a way that it didn’t take itself too seriously at all and was way over the top. Totally fun, wacky and weird comedy. I thought it was awesome.

I can’t find a trailer or a clip for this movie unfortunately.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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