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Japanese Sci-Fi Porn... Yum!
IKU: This film, titled I.K.U., which simply translates from Japanese to English as "orgasm" as in "I'm Coming!", is quite the mixed bag of feelings for me. First off, it's tag line of "This Is Not Love, This Is Sex. A Japanese Sci-Fi Porn Feature" already hands us the delightful notion that this is going to be chock full of Oriental nudity and hopefully plenty of great looking Japanese gals engaging in softcore sex. But not only that, these glorious scenes of gratuitous nudity will be splapped into a snazzy science fiction, computer animation enhanced cyber-punk action flick. Right? Nope! I was wrong. It's EXACTLY what female Taiwanese director SHU LEA CHEANG claimed it would be... PORN, pure and simple. Not so much as in straight hardcore "stick it in and pull it out" triple X adult video store porn but more like an attempt to be an "avant garde" experimental sex film. I mean it's loaded with niffty camera angles, neon lighting, quirky CGI effects, futuristic set pieces, and a techno/industrial soundtrack performed by the SABOTEN Band. Oh, and not to mention, the most appealing aspect of all, lots and lots of sex. Story, as if we need one, goes something like this... the Genom Corporation (no relation to the classic Anime series BUBBLEGUM CRISIS) makes beautiful female replicants, or better put, "sex-droids" who venture out into the public and engage in "love making" acts with various lucky fellas of a future Tokyo. They record the orgasmic pleasures (both his and hers) and return to the home office where this "sex info" is uploaded into Genom's main computer databank. This information will later be used to make some sort of ultimate virtual reality sex program, or game, or a better "love-bot", or hell, I don't really remember anyway. I lost track of the so-called story after the first naked Japanese babe showed up on screen. And there's a-plenty of them to go around too. The featured "robo-chick" is named Reiko of the XXX Generation (played by the elf-like actress TSOUSIE, who could be the closest thing to an Oriental TANK GIRL) and she can assume numerous different appearances throughout her multiple sex encounters. Whatever her sexual partner desires, I suppose. This also gives us, the audience, the chance to catch lots of other gorgeous "real life" pornstar Asian hotties in some down and dirty sweat sessions. Casting credits go to actresses AYUMU TOKITHO as Reiko #1, MARIA YUMENO as Reiko #2, YUMEKA SASAKI as Reiko #3, MIHO ARIGA (!) as Reiko #4, MYU ASOU as Reiko #5, and ETSUYO TUCHIDA as Reiko #6. And well, believe it or not, that's pretty much it for the film. There's actually some other stuff happening now and then but nothing really important since you're here for the exact same reason I was, to see those good looking Japanese sweeties in their birthday suits. However, let me warn the guys out there though, please fast forward past the "underground parking lot" chapter if you're easily offended by homosexual activity. There's a scene where two dudes get way too "friendly" with each other that was so sickeningly foul to watch, it nearly ruined the whole movie for me. Steer clear of it, trust me on this. But other than that, IKU certainly wasn't bad at all if you know what you're getting into from the start. Don't let yourself be surprised like I was by expecting a regular movie-type movie here. This isn't one, but hey, if you think about it, Japanese porn is ALWAYS a great thing to see no matter what.
Red Shadow: Akakage (2001)
The Future of Japanese Ninja Flicks
THE RED SHADOW: I've seen the future of the Japanese "new-age" ninja / samurai cinema and it's the supra-hip RED SHADOW film directed by HIROYUKI NAKANO (of SAMURAI FICTION fame) and starring ANDO MASANOBU (the absolutely psychotic, but absolutely cool Kiriyama from the Greatest Japanese film of all time, BATTLE ROYALE). Hopefully this movie will do to the "new-wave" ninja genre what SEIJUN SUZUKI (BLOOD, PISTOL OPERA, BRANDED TO KILL) and TAKASHI MIIKE (FUDOH, DEAD OR ALIVE, TOKYO MAFIA) did for the modern "neon-pop" Yakuza scene. But all that aside, RED SHADOW, simply put, is a flashy, hip (I know this word keeps coming up), stylish, "live-action" comic book, martial arts comedy made into one long jazzy music video. Just sit back and enjoy because it's nothing but colorful, snazzy eye-candy mingled with mindless high-gloss fluff and it's very, very fun to watch. As for the plot of the movie itself, Ando stars as the ninja, AKA KAGE (the RED SHADOW) and along with his bumbling ninja-buddy, the BLUE SHADOW and their female partner (and love interest), ASUKA (or ASKA, however you wish to pronounce it), they go out on important missions to capture or steal information for their master who's goal is to keep the peace throughout the kingdom which is about to erupt into civil war. As the movie progresses, we meet all kinds of samurai (both good and bad) and the many "specialty" warriors (zany characters you'd see in a fantasy Anime). But the real story starts to take shape when we meet the newly crowned, PRINCESS KOTO (played by MEGUMI OKINA), who's in jeopardy of loosing her castle and army to a traitor from among her own family members. And if this person succeeds, this will surely bring the entire kingdom to the brink of war. So, it's up to the RED SHADOW and company to expose this threat, save the Princess from the evil-doers, and prevent the impending civil war. So from what's you've just read, you can expect it to be very traditional, very simple, pretty basic, and straight to the point. Which (in this case) actually works excellent for this movie. There's no real plot twists to worry about or mysteries to baffle the viewer (the "bad guys" are shown right from the start and their intentions are stated very early on) so it's an hour and a half of quirky, martial arts foolishness (very similar to the much overlooked SCREAMING MAD GEORGE zany KUNG-FU RASCALS flick) and wacky characters doing wacky things. I used to always say that JET LI's super-hero, Kato-inspired, action frolic, THE BLACK MASK was the closest thing to watching a comic book on the tv screen but RED SHADOW now grabs that coveted title. So, kick back, check it out, and simply enjoy.
Excellent Korean Horror
TELL ME SOMETHING: I'm truely surprised that the Korean cinema hasn't caught on here in America. From what I've seen from them, I've never been let down. First, there was SHIRI, a big budget terrorists vs the government Hollywood style movie. Then the spectacular MUSA, and well, you know my feelings on that one. It was just fantastic. One of my favorite movies of all time. Next was BICHUNMOO, a grand martial arts Kung Fu Theatre epic. Then NO. 3 (aka NUMBER 3 KILLER), a quirky gangster PULP FICTION type of film. And now we have CHANG YOON HYUN's TELL ME SOMETHING, a very good serial killer murder mystery flick. It's also what I call a "Sunday afternoon movie". You know, it's 6 or 7 pm and there's nothing on television to watch so you nab a nice thought provoking drama or crime/suspense flick from the video store and you kick back and watch it. Director DAVID FINCHER's movies like THE GAME and SE7EN are good examples. And this is just as good. But what's so special about this particular one is that you not only get a great "thinking movie" storyline, it also supplies the pleasant blood and gore that most Hollywood films of this sort only hint to or simply happen off-screen. HAN SUK KYU (from SHIRI and NO. 3) stars as troubled police detective Cho on the trail of a terrible serial killer that chops up the bodies of the victims and spreads them throughout the city in black plastic garbage bags. But the niffty new trick here is to mix them up. In bag #1, you may get the arms, head, and heart of victim A. In bag #2 located somewhere else, you find the legs from victim A but they're mixed up with the guts and hands of victim B. Then in bag #3, there's the head and heart of victim B with the legs and guts from victim C. And so on and so on. Get the picture? So after discovering several bags and finally piecing them together like a puzzle to identify the corpses, he finds one link between them all, a lovely young museum currator named Su-Yeon (actress SHIM EUN HA). She's had affairs with all the male victims at one time or another so maybe she's gotta be the killer, right? Well, as I said before, this is more of a "thinking" movie so it's never who you'd expect. There'll be plenty of other suspects to point the finger at as the movie goes on. So without giving away any more details that may spoil the movie, I'll wrap this review up rather short. All in all, this was just another example of how good the Korean film industry has been for me. I hope they continue to impress and maybe, just maybe, they'll find a home here in America.
A Great Entry Into The "G" Franchise
GODZILLA: GMK: Whether you call it GODZILLA GMK or GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: ALL OUT ATTACK or by it's Japanese name GODZILLA: DAIKAIJU SOUKOUGEKI (GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK), one thing's for damn sure, the Big G's latest outting is another truely entertaining viewing experience. Directed by the fan-adored GAMERA maestro SHUSUKE KANEKO, it's kinda a "what if" or "alternate world" epic this time around definitely in homage to the older 70's G-Flicks in style and "old school" monster melee, where Godzilla (who appears to have had one too many buffets) is an evil spirit of vengeance risen from the dead (since his "original" death way back in 1954 from his very first film) to seek justice for all the men and women who died in the South Pacific during World War 2. Yup, that's right, in this new tale, none of the other twenty-something movies Godzilla appeared in ever existed and the only mention of any other giant monsters comes in the form of a sacred book called the "Yamato Prophecies" where it states that when Japan is threatened, the spirits of the "Monster Gods" (BARAGON, MOTHRA, and KING GHIDORAH) will appear and save the beloved Land of the Rising Sun. And well, you can pretty much guess what's next, when Godzilla goes on the rampage, the other three monsters show up ready for a scuffling and it's a free-for-all, rubber suit style the likes of which only the Japanese can create. It's a no holds barred, take no prisoners super battle that's guaranteed to send fans of the genre into sheer heavenly kaiju bliss. And the fights, oh my, they're straight throwbacks to the earlier fun-loving movies where punches, bites, tail whips, and wrestling moves are in glorious abundance and they'll quickly have you up and sitting on the edge of your seat cheering (or booing depending on which giant monster is your favorite). Not really intended for children, the monsters aren't "nice" so to speak and there are deaths galore in this with the crunching of tiny human bodies under foot reminding me of SHUSUKE's previous giant monster masterpiece, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS (aka INCOMPLETE STRUGGLE) film where we finally got to see all those people die while the beasts were wrecking the cities. One terrific scene that really stands out in memory is where we've got Godzilla stomping through town and he looks down and notices all these little people running away from him and screaming. He stops, and while taking a gander at his surroundings, we get the niffy opportunity to see things through his eyes as he focuses in on one person in particular and nukes the entire city block with his super CGI rendered breath weapon. Now he didn't have to do that, ya know, go that far. But that's why we love these movies anyway. Needless to say, other than the 2001 GODZILLA vs MEGAGUIRUS romp, GODZILLA GMK is a mighty leap forward for the Godzilla franchise since the disappointing GODZILLA 2000 and the just totally terrible American travesty. Even sporting a surprise ending and with yet another rematch against his arch rival MECHAGODZILLA off in the Japanese filmmaking horizons, GODZILLA GMK has things looking up for the Big G, I must say. Watch it, you won't be disappointed.
Krai Thong (2001)
Hmmm... If It Wasn't For The Babes...
KRAI THONG: This was my first Thai horror movie experience and it was... just plain lousy! I won't condemn the Thai film industry with this one though because I really enjoyed their quirky gangster flick, BANGKOK DANGEROUS and I've read lots of things saying how good their ghost movie NANG NAK is. So trying to keep things positive for the Asian Cinema (in all it's many forms), I'll discuss the better points (there are actually a few) about this film. First, the story must be based on an old legend because it has that fable "feel" to it. Also, towards the end of the movie, there's a part where it seems that the actual legend ends and the director takes over with full creative control (similar to the point towards the end of the French action / fantasy flick, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) where "somewhat based on an actual occurance" turns into "how much do you think we can get away with". Anyway, the story is about a giant crocodile that has been terrorizing the countryside. It's really the devil-god, CHALAWAN, who can change from man to crocodile at will. He, along with his two Gator Girls (love slaves who can also transform into crocodiles) are causing so much trouble for the townsfolk that the mayor declares that if any man can kill the evil reptiles, he will be rewarded riches beyond his dreams and his two beautiful daughters as wives. Damn, what a prize?! These girls are fine too! Well, CHALAWAN gets wind of all this and kidnaps one of the mayor's daughters. After raping her and placing a curse on the poor girl, the action begins as our hero, KRAI TONG, sets out to kill the monster-people and get alittle snooky along the way. But don't be fooled by my quick synopsis. It's NOT as good as it may sound. And honestly, I couldn't tell if director SUTHAT INTARANUNPAKORN wanted to make a romantic film, a horror movie, or a porn flick. Again, don't get excited about the "porn" word either. There's LOTS of sex in here but no real skin shots to speak of (!) and even with 4 gorgeous Thai vixens walking around half-naked, we only get a brief nude scene from one of the lovely ladies. But luckily, it was (my personal favorite Gator Gal) LUAM who shows off her breasts through a water soaked white dress. So all in all, a rather boring, badly acted (and I can't even speak Thai), straight-to-video attempt to cash in on a few good looking Asian girls in skimpy outfits (who'd be better off doing porn anyway). But I will say that the half-human crocodile-baby at the very end was really quite funny to see and almost better than the whole damn movie itself.
San tau dip ying (1997)
More Excellent Chinese "Mission Impossible"
DOWNTOWN TORPEDOS: Here's the first of three JORDAN CHAN "secret-spy, Mission Impossible, over-the-top stuntwork, supra hi-tech gadgits and futuristic weapons" action movies that have made it to my import DVD collection. DOWNTOWN TORPEDOS, directed by TEDDY CHAN, is one of the better Hong Kong super-spy films and it's the closest thing to watching an American Hollywood movie I've seen from Asia in a long time. It also stars "pretty boy" Japanese actor TAKESHI KANESHIRO (from SPACE TRAVELERS) with co-starring roles going to CHARLIE YEUNG, KEN WONG (also in Chan's SKYLINE CRUISERS reviewed below) and (silent but super-cute) TERESA LEE. It starts off with our group as spiffy international thieves who enjoy big profit, high risk gigs. After completing their latest heist, they are set to retire but (as it always seems to go) they get nabbed by the G-Team (Hong Kong's secret service) and, in return for their freedom, they are forced to work for the government to track down a set of counterfeit American "Supernote" ($100 dollar bills) printing plates. We are now introduced to bad guy ALEX FONG (co-star of CASINO and in Chan's THE CHEATERS reviewed below) and he's the government agent in charge of the group. So the plans are made and everything goes pretty well until they actually succeed in their mission and get the plates back. They are then double crossed which kills their computer-hack expert Phoenix (TERESSA LEE) and from here on, we get a fast paced, twist-a-minute, thrill-a-moment "Who Done It?" storyline that I really can't talk too much in detail about if I want to avoid any plot spoilers. But needless to say, it's loaded with enough Hollywood-style car chases, big budget explosions, dynamic fisticuffs, and heart pounding gun battles that you'll sit back and tell yourself that it's most certainly unbelievable in terms of realism but it's REALLY fun to watch if you leave your brain at the door. DOWNTOWN TORPEDOS is ranked... Thumbs up!
Chuen jik sat sau (2001)
Chinese Action Cinema At It's Finest
FULLTIME KILLER: I think renowned Chinese adrenaline movie director, JOHNNIE TO (probably best known for his gangster-buddy-comaraderie flick, THE MISSION) must have seen the American movie, ASSASSINS with Antonio Banderas and Sylvester Stallone, and decided to make his own version of that film. He really must have liked it because FULLTIME KILLER rocks much ass! It's quite simply a masterpiece of Chinese filmmaking and a "must see" for anyone wishing to step into the genre for the first time (or any time for that matter). And for myself, it also introduced me to Hong Kong's action marvel, ANDY LAU. I have to tell you though, in this film, he is quite possibly the coolest, craziest Oriental hitman to ever grace the screen (watch out, Chow!) of any movie! Further more, after seeing many other ANDY LAU movies since then, I can say that this is probably his greatest role ever, even though many critics say his RUNNING OUT OF TIME (also a JOHNNIE TO movie) performance is his best (and he even won a Golden Dragon award for it too). Anyway, the movie tells the story of flamboyant and reckless hitman Tok (ANDY LAU), who's the number two ranked assassin in China. His goal is to become the best in the business. But first, he's gotta take out the number one ranked hitman, known only as "O" (played by Japanese actor, TAKASHI SORIMACHI). He decides to smooze his way into contact with O by getting involved with O's lady friend, Chin (actress KELLY LIN). This sets up a dangerous love triangle with only ONE possible outcome... the death of either Tok or O. But to make matters worse, hard-nosed Hong Kong detective Lee (played by popular gangster movie actor, SIMON YAM) is out to nab the pair of them himself. So, the three men square off in a war of bold quick-thinking, bullet-riddled, balls-to-the-wall excitement that stretches across the entire city and claims many a life by the conclusion of the film. But it's not really the plot that you should pay attention to, rather, it's the outrageous, over-the-top, seemingly impossible battles of bloodshed that deserve the viewer's attention. Where else would you see a hitman stroll into a police station with a loaded riot shogun stuffed into a box of roses and start blowing to pieces anyone that gets in his way until he finds his target in a locked cell. He then pulls the pin from a grenade, drops it into a bag of a dozen more, and tosses it into the cell. The poor bastard gets about 10 seconds to scramble to find the live one before the whole station goes up. And BOOM! Now that's Hong Kong action cinema right there, boys and girls! There's also assassinations in public places in broad daylight, police car convoys sieged by super assault weapons (similar to the fantastic ultra-realistic gun fight from the under-appreciated AARON KWOK, FRANCIS NG crime film entitled 2000 AD), and several daring cat-and-mouse chases that will leave you just breathless. So if you consider yourself an action movie fan, or an admirer of the Asian Cinema, then by all that's Holy, watch this movie! You will not be disappointed, and that, my friend, is a guarantee!
Junk: Shiryô-gari (2000)
A Japanese Zombie Flick With GUTS!
JUNK: I don't know if it's just me or if it's the constant bombardment of the Asian movies that I watch but I have to admit to the world that I'm a 100% sucker for horror movies where Japanese women are covered in blood and scream in terror. There's nothing sexier to me than a gorgeous tan-skinned, black-haired, dark-eyed Japanese girl caught in the grip of terror or in the midst of a life-or-death situation. And with that being said, this is why I'd rank this Japanese zombie gore, splat-a-minute fiasco alot higher than it really should be. It's a cheezy, bad-acted (especially with the Americans), easy to read plot, direct to video type of "cheap thrill" flick that does little for the "zombie" genre but to add to the encyclopedia of undead munchings and entrail scarfings. It smacks of LUCIO FULCI's Italian gore-fest masterpiece, ZOMBI and owes alot to the camp classic, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. But what's nice about all this, is that it SHOWS so we're not bogged down with it trying to be something that it's not. We're NOT going to compare this to GEORGE ROMERO's epic "life beyond death" series of films, that's for damn sure. Director MUROGA ATSUSHI knew what he liked and gave us a film that longtime zombie fans (like myself) would grow to expect and wouldn't be dissappointed to see. It's predictable, yes, but it's great fun none-the-less. Saki (actress KAORI SHIMAMURA) and Akira (actor OSAM EBARA) are two of four jewelry thieves who's recent heist brings them into dealings with the Yakuza kingpin, Ramon (actor TATE GOUTA). Their staged meeting place just happens to be an undercover military warehouse where scientific experiments to bring the recently deceased back to life are taking place. And you guessed it, the experiments go wrong and the living dead are unleashed onto the gangsters, the robbers, and the military as well. Using a neon green liquid (ala STUART GORDON and H.P. LOVECRAFT's RE-ANIMATOR) called DNX to bring the dead back to life, Doctor Jun (actor ASANO NOBUYUKI) admits his involvement in the program to hopefuly bring his wife, Kyoko (played by the constant nude actress MIWA) back from the beyond. From here, it's a hour of running from the undead, catching a glimpse of a few moist zombie picnics, getting in a lucky head shot or two, and ALOT of screaming! What else could you possibly want from a zombie flick, huh? But in it's defense to set itself apart from the others, there are two scenes that really stand out in my opinion where it really shines. First, when Saki finds her buddy getting the chowdown from a pack of zombies, she hollers out "They must be zombies! Let's get outta here!" and that's something you'd think people in those kinds of situations would realize. How many movies have we seen where they sit there and pretend that this can't be happening and that there has to be another reason for all this madness?! The second, and most distinguishing scene is where Doctor Jun meets his wife, Kyoko for the first time after she's been turned, and well, it's just great filmmaking there. Nice acting, nice setting, nice music, just a perfect movie moment, even when she goes "super freak" All in all, a pretty damn good movie experience. The import PAL Region 2 DVD was rather expensive (about $30) but I'm certainly glad I got the chance to see it and I would NEVER do without it being in my collection.
Sha shou de tong hua (1994)
An Often Overlooked Andy Lau Gangster Flick
A TASTE OF KILLING AND ROMANCE: Here's yet another ANDY LAU action, gangster, hitman flick. I mean to tell ya, the man must really enjoy his "likable killer" roles so I guess all these movies aren't too terribly bad because they probably helped him define his character for his greatest role yet, in JOHNNIE TO's gangsta masteriece, FULLTIME KILLER. But this time, it's not hot shot action lead, ANDY LAU that stands out in memory about this film, it's the main "bad guy", actor MARK CHENG. I mean, this guy is hardcore! If you're going to be a "bad guy" in a movie, then by all means, go all out, I say. And he most certainly does! He strangles old women in wheelchairs with plastic wrap. He murders little girls by dumping bleach down their throats. He chops off the fingers of women. He kills male prostitutes by bashing their skulls open with lifting weights. He even goes on to hang his boss and then rapes her dead body. DAMN! This guy's insane! I love it! Oh, the story, you ask... it's simple: Killer A (ANDY LAU) meets Killer B (ANITA YUEN). They fall in love and decide to leave the "business". Their boss sends Killer C (MARK CHENG) to do them in. Throw in a few outclassed detectives on their trail, and that's that in a nutshell. I know, I know, but I can think of worse things to watch on television.
Yeuk saat (1994)
HK Sleaze That's Not Fit For Human Beings
RED TO KILL: Wow! Again, I ask myself why the hell I watch this stuff?! I mean, from my experiences so far, I should know better but damn it, it always seems to start the same way. I get alittle nervous at the beginning. It's that uneasy, quizzy sensation that creeps up from your bowels when the movie first starts. Because no matter how well you think you've prepared yourself, you NEVER really know for sure what to expect, or whether or not you're going to see something that you shouldn't when it comes to these vile Chinese Category 3 chunkblowing displays of moral debasement. And this movie is certainly one of those unredeemable, wretched messes that no one should like to watch, or lord forbid, find enjoyable. Oh, but that's exactly why we LOVE them so much in the first place! But this one wasn't so much shocking to me as it was just plain sleazy. It's the corruption and perversion of innocence in this flick that causes that awful scratching at your principles of what's right and wrong, or at least, it should. Why, you ask? Well, most of the movie takes place in a shelter for mentally retarded young people so the subject matter alone could easily get completely out of control very quickly if you think about all the wonderful possibilities that a creative sicko-twisted mind could come up with. It also stars LILY CHUNG as Ming Ming, yup, you know her all too well. She's the same poor girl who was tormented and repeatedly raped by her father in another supra-sleazy Chinese C3 taboo-trasher entitled DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS. I will give her credit though, she's NOT afraid to snatch her clothes off and perform a mock rape scene in a very visually disturbing, almost pornographic way. So with depraved s**t like that going for it, what's the movie about you're wondering... it tells the story of an insane mental shelter super-intendent who, whenever he sees the color red on clothes (especially girl's panties), he goes totally bonkers and KILLS and RAPES (usually in THAT order too) the woman or young girl wearing it. Yes, I know what you're thinking, I thought the same thing, this is NOT a nice movie and why am I watching it?! But alas, it's not really his fault (or so society would tell us). When he was young, he and his brother witnessed their mother having sex with a strange man and when their father caught her in the act, she killed him with a meat clever. Enraged, she went on to chop up his little brother and ends up killing herself as well, splashing WHAT all over the place? That red, red blood, of course. Hence the name of the movie and why he goes stupid kill-crazy when he sees it. And in the end, it all gets surprisingly real damn moist and just about everyone gets f***ed up some kinda bad. So, all in all, a repulsive idea for a film that shouldn't have ever been made with scenes of detailed filth for which there is no remorse or forgiveness for. The shower scene after retarded Ming Ming's first rape where she tries to "clean" her "dirtied" sexual body parts with a razor knife comes to mind first. Simply nauseating, sickeningly foul, morally-offensive stuff indeed. But ya know, if you really think about it, the whole exploitive nature of the Asian Horror-Shock Cinema just wouldn't be the same without these rare, uncompromising gems of celluloid obscenities.