Reviews written by registered user
|15 reviews in total|
Takashi Miike of "Audition" and "Ichi the Killer" fame directed this 13th episode of the Showtime series "Masters of Horror" - apparently it was never aired in the USA because the Showtime people were horrified at the episode, and probably with good reason. I like to think that Miike intentionally parodies "Memoirs of a Geisha", and "the last samurai" with this one. He combines the two in the story of a broken down American man who goes back to Japan to find the whore he fell in love with years before - the parallels with the serious movie "The Last Samurai" are unmistakable. The outlandish and over the top crazy costumes mimic the audacity of the costuming in "Memoirs of a Geisha", and the fact that this was done in English rather than Japanese only strengthens the parallels between "Imprint" and MoaG - and yet again Youki Kudoh (who was in Moag) makes an appearance, this time as a deformed prostitute. There are great lines such as "There is nothing on this island but demons and whores", and others less fit for print, but instant classics nonetheless. There are the classic Miike elements - violence, rogue abortions, murder, and incest, and a torture scene only outdone by Audtion. I couldn't give it a full 10 because Miike doesn't seem to work well with just a 1 hour window, and the plot doesn't make for a solid and clean short story, but fans of Miike should try to get their hands on this one, it is worth a look.
This is a character driven movie in which the plot is only corollary to the actual story of a group of characters thrown together in a small town. The marginal plot involves retainers of the Shogun killing prostitutes, but what make this a memorable movie are the characters: 'Bull' - a belligerent drunken bouncer for a drinking establishment who is the spitting image (in spirit) of Toshiro Mifune - 'Aramaki' - an uncouth and dirty ronin and pimp who looks like a Japanese Benicio Del Toro - Oshin - a prostitute and barmaid - Sakichi - who is a former vassal of the local lord who sells birds for a living, and smells eternally of bird droppings, and Horo - who makes his living testing swords on dead convicts. I recommend it if you are tired of the typical range of Samurai movies, and just want an entertaining, well acted drama that just happens to have Samurai with cutting instruments.
'Ichi-1' was a no budget movie with no plot or point until the very end, and even that is simply to tie it vaguely to "Ichi the Killer". It would have served more of a purpose as source footage for some flashbacks to Ichi's past in "Ichi the Killer", rather than a full length movie. In other words, if you liked "Ichi The Killer", you really don't need to watch this movie. There are a few slightly humorous parts though - the movie seems to waver between twisted comedy and just plain twisted. It did have the actor who played "ichi" in "Ichi the Killer", and TEAH from City of Lost Souls, which helps counteract the otherwise amateurish feel of the movie - a few good actors helped float the movie even among the rest of the bad actors and the lack of purpose to this movie. I'd say watch it if you have nothing better to do and can get it real cheap, or if you just have a need to watch every Japanese movie at least once, no matter how bad (like me).
An interesting Japanese political thriller done in Tom Clancy style, focusing on the Prime Minister during a national crisis - North Korea has landed a group of military sabateurs on Japanese soil for some nefarious purposes, and as the situation grows worse, and a Japanese SWAT team is slaughtered by the NK military team, the prime minister has to decide whether or not to unleash the Japanese self defense force to counteract the threat. The story focuses primarily on 3 aspects - the prime minister, played by Ikko Furuya, as well as a group of NK spies in Tokyo, and the battle between Japanese forces and the NK military group on the ground in Japan. This has a higher quality of acting than is typical for Japanese movies, and has a real polished and professional look, it definitely has the look of a bigger budget than the run-of-the-mill Japanese movie.
What sets this movie apart from all the other millions of Yakuza movies out there is the setting - 1950's Japan. "Ando Gumi Gaiden" is the story of the rise and fall of the Ando yakuza gang, led by a quiet and intimidating Watanabe Hiroyuki as Noboru Ando, the leader, and second in command, played with overboard attitude by Aikawa Sho, is Kei Hanagata, the fearless, brutal, and by the end of the movie, probably crazy, gangster who can get hit, punched, stabbed or shot, and all it does is make him mad. Although the unrealistic antics of Aikawa Sho's character work against the movie, a vaguely interesting plot, an impressive and imposing Watanabe hiroyuki, and the fact that the movie takes place in the more colorful and interesting 1950's Japan help to set this movie apart from the rest.
Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai may be a little slow and lacking in action for most, but what it misses in this area is made up by the stylish combination of the soundtrack and cinematography that you don't find in the typical Japanese Yakuza movies. Director Junji Sakamoto uses the music to add directly to the scenes, much like Quentin Tarrantino (and keep an eye out for the scene that inspired the slow-motion walk of Lucy Liu and her cronies near the end of Kill Bill), to great effect. Unfortunately this is only done in a few scenes. The movie is ostensibly a story about two childhood friends who end up taking different paths in life - one becomes a Yakuza, and another a businessman who despises Yakuza and all they stand for. However, there is little interaction or connection between the two until almost the end of the movie, as if them growing up together was little more than a footnote. A better than average Yakuza movie, although slower than many. Not the best Yakuza film out there by any means, but worth a look for the few stylized scenes that interplay perfectly with the soundtrack.
A very simple and skelletal plot and lots of slightly illogical events make up "Donor", directed by Masato Sasaki. Yuka, a brand new nurse to Kamioka hospital, finds herself in a very strange set of circumstances - random violent hysterectomies about, yet strangely enough, the Hospital director nor her doctor husband seem to have any interest in finding out just what is going on. Yuka stumbles on strange experiments involving the stolen uteri, but rather than get the heck out of the hospital like any normal person, she decides to stay to solve the mystery. With this movie, one is left to ask a few questions - why is it always nighttime? Why does the entire hospital only seem to employ 2 doctors and 4 nurses? Perhaps because the hospital only seems to have one patient or so? There are lots of little illogical things going on here. Did the director run out of money before he could hire some extras? Did he only get the hospital to film in for one night? Does it matter? A very formulaic horror plot, only worth a look if you are into low budget Japanese horror movies.
Although the title sounds like it came from an '80s dance movie or a low-budget porn, "Muscle Heat" is actually a fairly decent action movie. Starring Kane Kosugi as Joe (son of Sho Kosugi), it takes place in Tokyo in 2009, although isn't really far out enough to be considered sci-fi. Joe is a US marine who is courtmartialed for refusing to follow orders (revolving around shooting kids), and he is set free by Aikawa Show, who plays Japanese detective Aguri Katsuragi, and given "amnesty" (for reasons that are unclear) to go to Japan (which is in a severe depression and has pretty much gone to hell) to work with Aguri in stopping the illegal drug trade in "blood heat", a powerful and addictive drug, and stopping the lead dealer, Rai (played by Masayo Kato, from Beat Takeshi's "Brother", and Takashi Miike's "Araburu Tamashitachi"). Even though Kane's acting ability consists of a permanent scowl, the actions scenes are good, solid martial arts fighting, and good gunfight action, reminiscent of "Returner". The Sledgehammer fight scene at the end is something new, and worth a look. Not much in the way of complicated plot, but Aikawa Show is always worth a look when he is shooting people, and even though Kane Kosugi isn't much of an actor, he knows how to throw an impressive kick. And keep an eye out for Takenaka Naoto, who plays a greasy street bookie - I swear that guy is in every Japanese movie ever made...
Kyohansha (Accomplice) stars Takenaka Naoto as "Carlos", a good natured yet brutal Brazillian mafioso who comes back to Japan after 8 years in Brazil to retrieve money money owed him from the Ando Yakuza gang. He ends up saving Satomi, a poor abused ramen shop waitress from her abusive husband, and she ends up tagging along, becoming an accomplice on his murderous rampage to get his money back (hence the title). The highlight of the otherwise standard Yakuza crime drama are the colorful characters, particularly the two hit men who are hired to eliminate Carlos before he can get his money back - two bleach-blonde Japanese brothers who are cold blooded killers, one of which has a habit of throwing in all sorts of jive English phrases as he speaks. Worth a look just for the hit men, I recommend it, although it isn't what I would call a "great" movie. Also of note, "Mako" (from all the old Jackie Chan movies) even makes a guest appearance as a Brazillian police agent.
Basicaly, a bunch of "SMAP - The Next Generation" young hip, tanned, and hair-dyed Tokyo dialect speaking guys and one girl for good measure dressed in costumes from the video game 'samurai spirits' are raised in the mountains by "Jii" - a cross between Grizzly Adams and Master Splinter, who also happened to have fought at the battle of Sekigahara years before. Now picture this ragtag group of sword wielding pretty boys and girl on a mission to kill Kato Kiyomasa, played by Takenaka Naoto, then throw in the requisite transvestite swordmaster in a white kimono, a triple-barreled sengoku shotgun and a flying monkey from "The Wizard of Oz", and you have the makings of a really bad movie.
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