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Takuma last won the day on May 5

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About Takuma

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    Eternal Jade Emperor
  • Birthday 08/27/1986

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    Japanese movies, Sonny Chiba, a Japanese girl

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  1. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Front Row Life (かぶりつき人生) (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 2/5 Tatsumi Kumashiro's debut film about a moody gal whose fat mother is a stripper. The daughter gets a bit into the same trade, and runs into some unpleasant men, one of whom wants her to star in a pink film. Kumashiro fans should enjoy this as it’s unmistakably his work; I wasn't that impressed by it though, nor were the audiences at the time it seems. Kumashiro was back to assistant duties until Nikkatsu went Roman Porno. This film is tame compared to those, a character drama with mainly talk, but there are a few (non-striptease) scenes that show brief glimpses of nudity while pretending to be part of serious narrative. You get the feeling they calculated how much they could get away with. The Turkish Bathhouses of Japan (札幌・横浜・名古屋・雄琴・博多 トルコ渡り鳥) (Japan, 1975) [TV] – 3/5 A Toei documentary exploration of "Turkish baths". The film features toruko-wanderer Meika Seri employing herself in the country’s many brothels in a fictional frame story into which documentary footage and interviews with real pros are inserted. Shingo Yamashiro narrates, Tsusai Sugawara pops up, and there’s footage of foreign prostitutes and a visit to a women’s toruko with male workers. The most obscure thing we learn: 90% toruko girls own a pet because they are lonely! Some of the lengthy footage with bubble specialist sex workers doing their thing is also interesting, though marred by tons of fogging, and this being an exploitation doc you can never be quite sure what’s staged and to what extent. The structure works pretty well anyway, with real footage balanced with a fictional road movie drama and not too many boring moments. A bit better than Sadao Nakajima’s similar pictures from a few years earlier. Note: Turkish baths were re-named into Soaplands in the 80s after the Turks took offense. The younger Japanese are no longer familiar with the term “toruko”. - The Day of No Return (Kaerazaru hibi) (帰らざる日々) (Japan, 1978) [DVD] - 3/5 A young man (Toshiyuki Nagashima) returns to his hometown and recalls his youth, including an unlikely friendship with a brutish bully (Jun Etô), and a girl (Kahori Takeda from Pink Hip Girl) whose father (Atsuo Nakamura in a Yoshio Harada role) was a yakuza. Told in parallel in 1978 and 1972 with plenty of period detail. Another good, though not exceptional film by Japan's top youth film director of the 70s, Toshiya Fujita. He's ironically best known abroad for his most atypical film, Lady Snowblood. Perhaps that makes sense though, as revenge films travel better, and serious youth dramas are a genre the Japanese are for some reason much more comfortable with than the rest of the world. Prey (餌食) (Japan, 1979) – 4/5 Yuya Uchida x Koji Wakamatsu x Reggae. Uchida is a pot smoking ex-rocker back from the States. He hooks up with a small community of ex political radical, a bozo zoku style lone youngster and a teenage girl while growing increasingly concerned about the heroine trade conducted by gangsters in the show biz back-stage. A little more laidback than your average Wakamatsu fair, with an amazing non-stop reggae soundtrack and no graphic sex. Not the director at his most intense, yet unmistakably Wakamatsu all the way to the ending where Uchida goes postal in bright daylight and starts shooting random people on the street. Shanghai Rhapsody (上海バンスキング) (Japan, 1984) [35mm] - 3/5 Enjoyable but overlong Shanghai musical set in the 30s and 40s. With Fukasaku's usual frantic pacing I was quite enjoying the film until at 45 minutes I realized there's still two thirds to go (most directors would’ve taken 80 minutes to get that far). Plenty of singing and dancing in night club context, a gwailo gangster speaking English and Japanese in the same sentence, and a brief, hysterical Etsuko Shihomi karate scene (she has the film’s biggest supporting role as Chinese girl marrying a Japanese musician). For a while I though the film was drawing a naive depiction of Japanese-Chinese co-living until I realized the war just hadn't started yet. When it does, it’s Japanese soldiers executing children on the streets. Not what the target audiences expected perhaps, but this wouldn't be a Fukasaku film without that kind of brutal honesty. Big Magnum Kuroiwa Sensei (ビッグ・マグナム黒岩先生) (Japan, 1985) [DVD] – 3/5 “Violence education is my motto”, explains one of the new teachers at the School without Honor and Humanity, an institution full of delinquents, neo nazis and girls flashing their breasts (imported Nikkatsu actresses, I believe). And by "violence education" he means using violence in education. But the real badass in the school is the other newcomer, Kuroiwa sensei, a harmless looking old man who is actually a secret agent armed to the teeth, sent by the Board of Education! A relatively insane Kazuhiko Yamaguchi high school action comedy runs out of bullets at the end when the educational Rambo has to clear the school of bad boys without actually killing anyone. Lame. It's because the film was a family friendly mainstream comedy manga adaptation, released just prior to the 80s high school action boom (Be-bop High School and Sukeban Deka followed soon). It's still a good bit of fun, though. - Railroad Man (鉄道員) (Japan, 1999) [VoD] - 1/5 Old man devoted his life to work instead of family and spends most of the movie seeing b&w and sepia toned flashbacks. Popular Takakura movie could just as well have been women's sappy TV drama because nothing sets it apart from those other than the occasional widescreen landscape shot. Shinobu Otake's wife character so exceedingly tailor made for female TV audiences that any other viewer's head is likely to explode à la Scanners.
  2. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Modern Path of Chivalry (現代任侠道 兄弟分) (Japan, 1970) [TV] - 2.5/5 Chris D. described this film as “soulful”, “lyrical” and “genuinely touching”. He's not entirely wrong, but I don't think those elements come through as strongly as he suggests. Sugawara is an honourable gangster who goes to prison and later meets relatively decent but short tempered yakuza Machida who now serves rotten oyabun Watanabe who has taken an advantage of Sugawara's wife. Not bad modern day ninkyo film with a melancholic tone, but the story and context are hardly unique, and the form a little less impressive than I expected. The theatrical poster is a beauty. Bloodstained Clan Honor (血染の代紋) (Japan, 1970) [35mm] - 2/5 Unusually bland Kinji Fukasaku film about the yakuza exploiting port slums in post war re-construction era. Fumio Watanabe is the rotten one, Bunta Sugawara an honourable boss who receives no thanks from the blind common folks to whom yakuza are all the same. Unlike most Fukasaku films, this movie proceeds at leisurely pace and plays out more like a ninkyo tale, only without the romantics and with very few points of interest. One of Fukasaku's least recognizable pictures. Unrecognizable is also the first of the film’s two theatrical posters which depicts (and credits) Tomisaburo Wakayama and Junko Fuji, neither one of whom are in the film. What happened? Three Pretty Devils (三匹の牝蜂) (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 3/5 Enjoyable lightweight sukeban style film mostly void of violence, with Reiko Ohara, Yoko Ichiji (both very cute) and Daiei's Junko Natsu having fun fooling horny men out of their money. Lots of disco scenes, brief nudity courtesy of Ichiji, some yakuza elements with white suit Asao Koike whipping the girls, and don't forget to adjust your ears for some lovely Osaka accents (how accurate I have no idea) with Expo ‘70 serving as backdrop. Also features the always reliable Tsunehiko Watase, minor appearances by Yumiko Katayama, Osman "you interested in Japanese girls? Oh yes, of course" Yusuf and gay pop singer Peter (who had a pretty good voice). An obvious cinematic relative of Stray Cat Rock (even briefly featuring the wooden Akiko Wada) which Nikkatsu put out 5 weeks earlier, and Toei's own Delinquent Girl Boss, which followed two months later. - Three Brothers' Identical Dice (ゾロ目の三兄弟) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 1.5/5 Akira Kobayashi, Tsunehiko Watase and X Tanaka goof around and fight some bad yakuza at the end. None of it matters as far as the audience is concerned. The one bit of semi-originality: the "final walk" is done by car instead of foot. It's sad 60s ninkyo master Kosaku Yamashita sank to such dull and unimaginative programmer pictures in the 70s. Gang of Men (男組) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 3/5 Part high school film, part prison flick, part karate actioner, all comic book movie. And it's got rugby too. Righteous delinquent Nagare Zenjiro (uncharismatic Masato Hoshi) spends the nights in youth prison and the days in high school at the request of desperate principal Hideo Murota who's hoping to bring some balance to the school terrorized by a high school gang. Mostly standard manga madness, but the fun part is that the gang is employing a bunch of miscellaneous of fighters, including Korean exchange student Bruce Lee. Also, throughout the film the hero wears (exceptionally manly) long handcuffs that do nothing to hinder him but rather function as weapons! There’s a nice upwards quality trend with best parts saved for the last. The karate finale on a rocky beach is unexpectedly good, with effort and excellent cinematography making up for Hoshi not being a martial arts star. - Bakamasa Horamasa Toppamasa (バカ政ホラ政トッパ政) (Japan, 1976) [Netflix] - 1.5/5 Light-on-action businessman type yakuza film was a few years ahead of its time in that it is hopelessly dull. Bunta Sugawara leads a pack of three criminal/businessman/no goods. Nothing interesting happens, in fact, nothing much at all happens. Gang of Men: Delinquent Prison (男組 少年刑務所) (Japan, 1976) [DVD] – 2/5 Sequel/remake with new cast and director. The storyline is the same as last time with delinquent Hiroshi Tachi sent to a high school to fight an evil schoolboy gang (yes, my brain is still a bit confused about the logic). Then there's a new transfer student, a French speaking girl who worships Satan and holds black masses. And martial arts action. And rugby. Unfortunately the film doesn't focus on any of those enough. The martial arts scenes are run of the mill with some of the most blatant ignorance of continuity between shots in recent memory. And that’s despite Japan Action Club brought in to do them! But there are some delirious details and scenes, like the opening fight against sunset, human sacrificing for Satan, and Hiroshi Tachi, who is better than the previous film’s Masato Hoshi. Director Akihisa Okimoto only did a handful of films on his career, including the cool The Classroom of Terror (1976) and the miserable Yokohama Underworld: The Machine-Gun Dragon (1976). -
  3. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Teruo Ishii x 5 Gang vs. G-Men: Safecracker Gang (ギャング対Gメン 集団金庫破り) (Japan, 1963) [TV] – 2.5/5 Part 6 in the Gang series, with Koji Tsuruta in familiar role as an ex-con sent to infiltrate a safecracker gang. A bit dull first half hour, but the rest is pretty good with an execution often as precise as the gang's work. Tetsuro Tanba stands out most as tuberculosis gang member. Typical early 60s Teruo Ishii, but not as exciting as the similar Gang vs. G-Men (1962) by Fukasaku, which was an earlier entry in the same series. An Outlaw (ならず者) (Japan, 1964) [DVD] - 3.5/5 Badass Ishii/Takakura action thriller with Takakura as betrayed hit man in Hong Kong and Macao. The plot is purely programmer stuff with a doll full of drugs that everyone is after, but the film is so cool that it doesn't matter. Takakura's character is colder than his usual (especially later) ninkyo heroes and the film features what is probably Yoko Mihara's first topless scene ('64 was the year when nudity went mainstream in Japanese cinema, but for her scene to happen in a Takakura film is amusing). Tetsuro Tamba and Mariko Kaga steal the film in their cool/heartfelt supporting roles. And Ishii excels at what he’s best at: location work. The only problem is that half of the film is spoken in Chinese by the Japanese cast (e.g. most of Mihara’s lines) and their pronunciation sounds atrocious even to someone who doesn't speak the language. - Tattooed Ambush (いれずみ突撃隊) (Japan, 1964) [DVD] - 2.5/5 Regrettably low budget war tale with tattooed yakuza Ken Takakura and other hoods finding themselves in front line in China. Unfortunately the film doesn't do anything too interesting with the concept. The best handled aspect is actually the men interacting with a unit of women assigned on double duty as both nurses and prostitutes (one of them Yoko Mihara, who else). Occasional noirish bits and a decent climax deliver additional entertainment, but the action is low key for the most part. One would expect more from director Teruo Ishii. There was a film called Military Comfort Women made 10 years later by Ryuichi Takamori from an Ishii script that expanded the women sub-theme into feature film, and re-used the "pissing on a machine gun" joke from this one. It wasn't terribly good either. For a more poignant yakuza x war film, see Masumura's gruesome black comedy and military critique Hoodlum Soldier (1965) with Shintaro Katsu. The Settlement 2 (続決着) (Japan, 1968) [TV] - 2/5 Routine Teruo Ishii yakuza pot-boiler with lone wolf Teruo Yoshida and playboy Tatsuo Umemiya going against nasty Toru Abe. Professionally made, yet there is nothing particularly engaging or memorable about the picture, except Umemiya getting to do an ultra-emotional crying scene. Who wouldn't want to see that? A sequel to The Settlement, which I haven't seen. Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love (異常性愛記録 ハレンチ) (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 2.5/5 Mediocre Abnormal Love entry with the most perverted villain yet: a homosexual! Sweet Masumi Tachibana is a Kyoto girl being harassed by pathetic/psychotic ex Eiji Wakasugi, who is not only a momma's boy who wants to see women pee, but also a cross dressing okama! The film is a mix of early giallo elements (possibly coincidental, only a few like Death Laid an Egg had been released in Japan) and overwhelming mondo doc influence (they’d been coming out in plethora in Japan, even leading to domestic productions), especially evident in the club and orgy scenes. But the film is hopelessly dated with conservative woman-is-weak-and-motherly portrayal and homophobia that ceases to be amusing as the silliness goes on forever. In fact, Sadao Nakajima's mondo Twisted Sex (1969), from which Ishii copies an SM scene (with Maki Carrousel) was far more open minded! The best thing about Abnormal is the romance between hero Teruo Yoshida and every-boy's-dream Tachibana. Ishii films it with charming 60s pop romantics and colourful aesthetics that have aged wonderfully. And then he throws in an occasional roaring giallo shot. Also, kudos for split personality (?) villain whose BOTH personalities are perverts! -
  4. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Mothra x 2 Mothra (モスラ) (Japan, 1961) [35mm] - 3/5 Entertaining kaiju with a bit of exotic island adventure touch. Editing could be tighter for the 100 min running time, but mostly compensated for by lavish colour cinematography and better than usual cast: Frankie Chan makes a sympathetic lead, Peanuts are Peanuts and Osman Yusuf gets another gaijin henchman role. Only Akira Ikufube's score is sorely missed. Mothra vs. Godzilla (モスラ対ゴジラ) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] - 2.5/5 A bit duller and less colorful picture than Mothra, with less exotics and rather bland characters. The environmental message remains timely, sadly, and the battles between Mothra and Godzilla are quite intense. Director’s Company x 3 Wolf (狼) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 2.5/5 "Running is sex!" A wolf guy runs around Tokyo raping women and punching Renji Ishibashi until he finds a wolf girl (the lovely Megumi Saki from Red Violation and Rape Ceremony) to eat bloody steaks and have sex with. A Banmei Takahashi pink film with a strong Sogo Ishii punk vibe, especially in the punk rock score. Original, but ultimately there isn't that much content other than running, raping and disco partying with an animalistic aroma. Originally released in pink triple bill with Saraba aibo and The Harem Valentine Day, the first productions by Director's Company. - So Long My Partner (さらば相棒) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 2/5 "Rock is sex". Part 2 in the Director's Company pink triple bill, about a wanna-be rocker and his two friends. Rock, sex and friendship struggles. Ryo Ishibashi stars, Rikiya Yasuoka is a yakuza, and Yuya Fuckin' Uchida (that's how he's credited) a junkie in a 20 second cameo. Also contains tons of other rockers from ARB, ANARCHY and others, playing roles like Rape Guy A, B, C and D, and Drunker A, B and C. And it was written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, produced by Banmei Takahashi and directed by actor Ryudo Uzaki. And yet the film is rather dull, executed without the kind of energy that would grab you by the balls. It's watchable with some cultural-historical interest stemming from the cast and crew and the era, but the drama doesn’t work and you won't be left with much... except Yuya Fuckin' Uchida. Harlem Valentine Day (ハーレムバレンタインデイ) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 3.5/5 “Blood is sex”. Death Power director Shigeru Izumiya's cosmic cyber punk pink film set in post Sino-Soviet war future (the film opens with low budget battle footage). A crazed, back-from-the-war soldier wanders in the night searching for his lost girlfriend, who has become a prostitute in some kind of Sogo Ishii / Yoshihiro Nishimura / Shinya Tsukamoto style Blade Runner world. He ends up killing most people he encounters. Like Death Powder, I am not sure if this is a good film, but it is odd, visually stunning and fascinating (especially the soundtrack). Guaranteed to leave even the jaded cult film aficionado wondering "what the hell did I just saw", I can't even imagine how the unsuspecting pink film audiences responded when this opened as the final part of the Director's Company triple bill. - Others x 3 Women Who Do Not Divorce (離婚しない女) (Japan, 1986) [DVD] - 1.5/5 80s human relationship anguish with middle aged people crying and acting stupid. A Tatsumi Kumashiro drama about ordinary, dull people being ordinary and dull. A product of the 80s, an era when Japanese films attempted to capture life at its most unexceptional. Snowy Hokkaido settings add a bit to the film, thankfully. The Most Suitable Profession for Women (女がいちばん似合う職業) (Japan, 1990) [DVD] - 3/5 Interesting, off-kilter neo noir with mentally off-the-rails detective Kaori Momoi entering relationship with murder suspect. It's neither lust nor a grand plan; she just ain't got all the Moomins in the valley and figures in her lonely misery that that might get the investigation moving. Charmingly odd film with director Naosuke Kurosawa's trademark city existentialism, more than a bit of Takashi Ishii influence (they collaborated on the Dream Crimes failure five years prior) and a great Momoi performance. And all the songs on the soundtrack are in French and… Arabian? Persian? I’m not sure. It still falls short of greatness by lacking consistency and a dynamic overall touch - the storyline especially is something of an excuse for mood and character segments - but the film's got several good scenes and it's pleasingly an unorthodox. - the trailer is one of the best I've seen recently: https://vimeo.com/341579769 Pink Salon Hospital: No Pants Nurses (ピンサロ病院 ノーパン白衣) (Japan, 1997) [35mm] - 1/5 I guess having seen a movie called No Pants Nurses in 35mm is something. Too bad this Shintoho pink is 50 minutes of sex scenes bordering on hard-core, and a minimal, Deep Throat rip off plot. It was directed by Sachi Hamano (real name Sachiko, she dropped the feminine ko to hide her gender), one of the few female pink directors. It doesn't really show; I and a friend tried to come up with anything in the film that would distinguish it from the male helmed pinks till he finally said “the women are active in taking their own pants off”. Hmm, maybe. Released in the US by Pink Eiga as “Whore Hospital”.
  5. I'm not sure about that. There's been a lot of nation-wide theatrical re-releases in the past 12 months... 2001: A Space Odyssey, Streets of Fire, The Thing, They Live, Last Tango in Paris...
  6. I’m not that much of a kaiju fan, but since I was in Tokyo for Fukasaku, I also went to see a couple of Mothra films in 35mm. The films were playing in Ikebukuro at Shin bungeiza, who have the biggest screen out there for 35mm screenings, and excellent seats. The program is nearly always double features, meaning the same two films played back to back from morning to night. The day I visited they were screening Mothra (1961) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964). It took quite a bit of effort to fit both into my schedule, since I also wanted to see Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza at Laputa Asagaya, and Hokuriku Proxy War at the Film Archive at Kyobashi, all of which are located at opposite sides of central Tokyo. At first I thought it’d be impossible, but after a careful examination and managed to come up with a plan that involved running, strategic choice of trains, and zero error margin. 9:45 Mothra vs. Godzilla (Shin bungeiza / Ikebukuro) 13:00 Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (Laputa / Asagaya) (91min, finish at 14:31) -------- Rush to Asagaya Station (8 min) 14:39 Take Chuo Line Rapid train to Shinjuku 14:48 Arrive Shinjuku Station (Track 8), transfer to JR Saikyo Line (Track 3) 14:51 JR Saikyo Line Local Train to Ikebukuro 14:57 Arrive Ikebukuro Station -------- Run to the theatre (8 min) 15:05 Mothra (Shin bungeiza / Ikebukuro) 19:00 Hokuriku Proxy War (Film Archive/ Kyobashi) As I said, I'm not a huge kaiju fan, but I quite enjoyed seeing Mothra projected from a beautiful 35mm print. It's got nice adventure touch, lavish colour cinematography, Frankie Chan makes a sympathetic lead, Peanuts are Peanuts and Osman Yusuf gets another gaijin henchman role. Better than Mothra vs. Godzilla, which suffers from the usual dull story and characters, though the monster fights are good and the film is one of the better Godzillas IMO. Ad for upcoming Yuya Uchida retro which I missed (which made me want to hang myself, thankfully I don't own a rope).
  7. No worries, SJWs can't tell the difference between China and Korea. As long as it's from the United States of Asia.
  8. I also briefly visited Laputa Asagaya's Kinnosuke Nakamura retrospective. - http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program/kinnosuke_matsuri/ This was a typically massive retro with 35 films (all 35mm of course, Laputa always screens films in their original screening format). I only had time to catch two films, Hideo Gosha's Tange Sazen film The Secret of the Urn (丹下左膳 飛燕居合斬り) (1966), which was weaker and duller than I recalled, and the very enjoyable matatabi/ninkyo yakuza tale Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (沓掛時次郎 遊侠一匹) (1966). Both screened from beautiful prints. Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza The Secret of the Urn The Secret of the Urn + other Nakamura films I also caught Pink Salon Hospital: No Pants Nurses (ピンサロ病院 ノーパン白衣) (1997) in the late show where Laputa is screening their 3rd Shintoho Last Film Show series (the title is supposed to mean that this is probably the last time you get to see those films from 35mm prints since pink cinemas have gone digital... the ones that haven't gone out of business already, and there is little interest in these films among other theatre programmers). - http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program/shintoho-pink3/ I actually sacrificed Film Archive's Graveyard of Honor (1975) screening (that would have been the 2nd time for me, the 1st was in 2014 in Laputa) to see No Pants, and I sort of wish I hadn't. The film is bordering on AV with nonstop sex dullness. Director Sachi Hamano (real name Sachiko, she dropped the feminine ko to hide her gender), one of the few female pink directors. It doesn't really show; I and a friend tried to come up with anything in the film that would distinguish it from the male helmed pinks till he finally said “the women are active in taking their own pants off”. Hmm, maybe. Released in the US by Pink Eiga as “Whore Hospital”. One of the more interesting films included in the series is Sexy Battle Girls (1986). Being a 35mm print, it should (hopefully, though not necessarily) have all the music stolen from Sukeban Deka (the film is a parody / rip off of Sukeban Deka II: Legend of the Girl in Iron Mask) intact. The US DVD by Pink Eiga has all the music removed and replaced because copyrights were invented sometime after the film was made.
  9. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Kinnosuke Nakamura x 3 Yatappe of Seki (関の弥太っぺ) (Japan, 1963) [DVD] - 3/5 Classic, often filmed matatabi tale of a young wanderer who saves a little girl whose pickpocket father is killed. The second half of the film picks up 10 years later when the protagonist has grown into a full-fledged yakuza wanderer and once again crosses paths with the same girl (now a woman). This Toei version pairs Kinnosuke Nakamura with soon-to-be ninkyo yakuza master Kosaku Yamashita. It's certainly a good film, but perhaps not as much my cup of green tea as Yamashita's “modern ninkyo” films. In this film as well I enjoyed the more yakuza oriented 2nd half the best (it's also beautifully filmed, especially the ending where Nakamura walks into a fight that is to begin after the film's end - the whole scene is just magnificently put together). - The Secret of the Urn (丹下左膳 飛燕居合斬り) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 2.5/5 Hideo Gosha's first Toei picture is below par in his otherwise gripping, visionary 60s filmography. He was reportedly brought in to breathe some final life into the out-of-fashion samurai film genre before Toei would pull off the cord and essentially cease samurai productions. He must have been given a very mediocre script to helm, in this case a new one-armed, one eyed swordsman Tange Sazen tale (the character dates back to the 1920s when he first appeared on screen; there were several Lady Sazen variations as well). Jidai geki legend Kinnosuke Nakamura stars; also one of his last samurai films before Toei brought the genre back big time with '78's Shogun's Samurai. Not bad, with plenty of action and some energetic touches, but nothing special either, though I'm unable to compare to the two dozen earlier Tange Sazen film as I haven't seen any of them. Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (沓掛時次郎 遊侠一匹) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 3.5/5 Tai Kato's adaptation of Shin Hasegawa’s often filmed book (at least 7 earlier films + TV versions). Kinnosuke Nakamura is a yakuza wanderer who is assigned to kill a man whose wife and son he had helped earlier. It’s basically ninkyo yakuza film with a matatabi touch and a bit of samurai film flavor. Masahiro Kakefuda and Naoyuki Suzuki's script is reportedly an improvement over the source material in some ways, adding more depth. Yet, it’s also one of Kato's more old fashioned emotional pictures, which is more to my liking anyway than the cold minimalism found in some of his other films. A classy story drawn in vivid colors, easily recommended. - Hisayasu Sato x 3 Survey Map of a Paradise Lost (ハードフォーカス 盗聴<ぬすみぎき) (Japan, 1988) - 2.5/5 A male reporter meets an underage call girl whose client is into videotaping all the perverted, often violent acts. Sex, VHS tapes, AIDS, slight cyberpunk vibe, and a speech about how beautiful idol Yukiko Okada looked when she lied in a pool of blood on the street after her suicide (1986). You wish the film was longer; the carnal action takes half of the otherwise interesting 64 minutes, though it must be said the twisted sex scenes are surprisingly watchable, and so is the cute-as-hell Rio Yanagawa. Love - Zero = Infinity (いやらしい人妻 濡れる) (Japan, 1994) - 3.5/5 Hisayasu Sato's Shinjuku: a lonely protagonist observing strangers on the streets, a young couple injecting each other's blood into their veins, reports of a vampire killer on the loose, AIDS spreading via medical blood products. Slightly underwritten and falling short for its potential, this is still a fascinating existential pink film with a haunting score and great 90s aura. - Rafureshia (すけべ妻 夫の留守に) (Japan, 1995) – 1.5/5 Horny mother, neglected wife and brainwashed-by-sugar-daddy girl go the sexual liberation route in bizarre pink fashion. Too light and comedic, void of the sharp and nihilist socio-philosophical analysis of better Hisayasu Sato films. It's delightfully light on sex, though.
  10. The Yellow Sea (South Korea, 2010) [Netflix] - 3/5 Gripping, but uneven thriller told in an overly complicated fashion. It works better when the politics are put aside and the focus is on the sad protagonist, a man from a Chinese / North Korean border town sent to Seoul to kill a man. There are two major chase sequences, the first one of which is brilliant but the second one a shaky cam mess. The closing scene is great, but the ultra-violent last hour is otherwise too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Feels much like director Na Hong-jin ‘s first film, The Chaser. Moebius (South-Korea, 2013) [Netflix] - 2/5 Kim Ki-duk's film about lost dicks. Shocking, but repetitive with one dimensional characters. The film had quite a bit of censorship trouble in Asian countries, including Japan where the film was cut to shreds. The film could only secure an 18 rating in Japan after 5 minutes of censorship cuts to remove "child pornography" (the actor playing “the son” was 15 at the time of filming). Western censors, BBFC included, had no similar objections. How ironic.
  11. Takuma

    First Love (2019) - Takashi Miike's Latest

    Another review: https://theplaylist.net/first-love-takashi-miike-cannes-review-20190523 This could be the first new Japanese movie I see in theatre since Re-Born and the Roman Porno reboots... when Toei releases it in bloody 2020! Half-empty HP: https://hatsukoi-movie.jp/
  12. This is pretty cool
  13. Halloween 4 (USA, 1988) [DVD] - 3/5 Watchable but mind bogglingly stupid sequel plays the slasher concept as an action film. I couldn't quite decide if it was entertaining or just dumb until the last scene... which is fucking brilliant! Almost earns the film a 5 star rating. Halloween 5 (USA, 1989) [DVD] - 2/5 A bit of break for the teens as Michael spends the entire film trying to kill a little child. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Though actress Danielle Harris, 11 or 12 at the time, appears to have been fine with it, it still feels distasteful on both sides of the camera. There's also some nauseating camerawork and a terrible attempts at making the film trendy and modern (dear god at the opening credits). On the positive side, Dr. Loomis is completely insane in this one! I'm being generous with the rating, mainly because the film is at least not boring Halloween (USA, 2018) [DCP] - 3/5 Functional, entertaining and old fashioned sequel with very little in the way of modernizing the series - which is great. There are small things to nag about - forgettable kills, no boobs, occasional stupidity (long barrel rifle for close range combat?) but it's atmospheric, kind of interesting and fun to watch. And the score still sounds great. The Japanese release was late as usual - hit the theatres just on time for... Easter!
  14. Kinji Fukasaku retrospective at National Film Archive 46 films, all in 35mm, plus two TV episodes in 16mm. https://www.nfaj.go.jp/exhibition/fukasaku201903/?fbclid=IwAR3b-myt9CTqCvdchUV2yXIqFQZb-fCOKGdPf9jsMnaveVXks2bJoVEVho8 Managed to drop by for a few screenings... Legend of the Eight Samurai, Bloodstained Clan Honor, Shanghai Rhapsody, Violent Panic: The Big Crash, and Hokuriku Proxy War. Also wanted to re-watch Graveyard of Honor but went to Laputa to see No Pants Nurses instead. That was a mistake... The Bloodstained Clan Honor (血染の代紋 ) (1970) poster is a strange one, with Tomisaburo Wakayama and Junko Fuji depicted AND credited (as 3rd and 4th billed). But neither one of them are actually in the film! (There’s a disclaimer saying something like “You can’t take photos of the posters, however, you can take photos if they feature people in them”. At first I was going gave my friend stand at the side in each photo and crop him out later… but then I realized everyone was taking photos and no one, not even the staff, cared. So I dared to take a few quick shots. I’m sure the disclaimer is some legal formality (other theatres in Tokyo don’t have such).
  15. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Internal Sleuth (桜の代紋) (Japan, 1973) [TV] - 3/5 Detective Tomisaburo Wakayama sails in deep yakuza waters in Kenji Misumi's rare cop thriller. Impressively nihilist, but a bit underwhelming considering the talent involved. Misumi goes for a bleak tale of cops interacting with gangsters in a world that doesn't offer instant gratification, but the story could’ve been more memorable and characters deeper. The problem is, not very much happens in the film. The strongest part is the cold blooded ending. - Sex-Crime Coast: School of Piranha (肉体犯罪海岸 ピラニヤの群れ) (Japan, 1973) [VoD] – 1.5/5 Male and female delinquents dubbed as “Piranhas” (no, not the Toei guys) have sex on beach, take captives in a house, then have sex the house. Hitomi Kozue is the main bad girl getting jealous when shag partner Ryuji Nakamura gets intimate with rich girl Masumi Jun. Dull home invasion Roman Porno with a Sun Tribe flavor and a bit of gang content. Director Shogoro Nishimura merely slaps the genre premises together and proceeds to do nothing with them. Last reel action aside, it's embarrassingly unambitious for an early Roman Porno. Writhing Tongue (震える舌) (Japan, 1980) [Netflix] - 3.5/5 A married couple (Tsunehiko Watase and Yukiyo Toake) struggle to keep their faith and sanity when their 5 year old daughter is struck by a painful and potentially deadly disease. Extremely difficult to watch in places, it's also an emotional sledge hammer that is impossible to get through without tears. The leading performances by Watase and Toake are terrific. Towards the end of the film they really look like they haven't slept in weeks. - Fist of the North Star (北斗の拳) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] - 3.5/5 Classic violence anime in post apocalypse setting, easily enjoyed even by a non-anime fanatic such as me. Kenshiro is basically an animated Bruce Lee gone into Sonny Chiba mode, delivering insane punch and kick combos that make enemies explode. The violence was famously toned down after the initial theatrical release and the uncut negatives apparently lost in fire soon after, but the film remains incredibly violent while still retaining a sense of fun, and a mainstream appeal unlike the similar Violence Jack films that upped the sadism (the 3rd one made me sick) and added sex which is absent here. The Shinjuku Love Story (新宿純愛物語) (Japan, 1987) [TV] – 3/5 If you only saw the title, you wouldn't know about the giant machine gun! It's one of the many bits the film seems to lift from Aliens! But there is a better comparison piece than Aliens. In one scene the runaway teen lovers cross a Top Gun billboard. This film is the Japanese youth action equivalent of Top Gun, turbo charged celluloid 80s helmed by pop film specialist Hiroyuki Nasu (Be-bop High School, Lesbians in Uniforms). I initially dismissed Nasu as a hack, but his consistent overblown pop aesthetics and occasionally successful films support a re-evaluation. There are bikes, machine guns, flame throwers, cats, gangsters, high school girls, pop music and idol Toru Nakamura. Not quite as inventive as the first few Be-bop films, and held back by the evident restraint in the violence department (the hero rarely, if ever, aims to kill), but it's still an enjoyable a cinematic personification of the era, like much of Nasu's body of work. Shishiotachi no natsu (獅子王たちの夏) (Japan, 1991) [VoD] – 2.5/5 Slow-burn, very 90s yakuza tale of a young hood (Sho Aikawa) and a family man gangster (Koji Matoba) belonging to rival gangs. Their stories parallel and influence each other but the characters barely even meet. A theatrical production that could've been a DTV film, the film is extremely typical to the era in that it trades excitement for an everyday tale that we are supposed to find interesting for some reason. And yet, it works if you have the patience. Aikawa is good, the girl she falls for (Miyuki Kosaka) kind of interesting, and there is certain 90s ambience captured in a way that feels valuable from today’s perspective. But the film is unbalanced (Aikawa getting much more attention than the other guy) and the storyline is no great shakes. Based on a script Shoji Kaneko (whose “Ryuji” I never liked despite its widespread acclaim) wrote before his death (1983). Distant Justice (DISTANT JUSTICE 復讐は俺がやる) (Japan/USA, 1992) [TV] - 3/5 Vacationing cop Bunta Sugawara goes to USA and within 24 hours his car has been hijacked, daughter kidnapped and wife killed. And those are two unrelated incidents! George Kennedy is the useless police chief buddy, David Carradine a rotten politician in green knickers. Relatively good Toei V-Cinema by Toru Murakawa, who also helmed the slightly slicker New York Cop (1993), another one of Toei's mid 90s America ventures. The build up is slow, but the film is fun in a B-way with old man Sugawara (aged 59 here) punching and shooting people, occasional boobs, wooden acting and a score cheaper than a cheese burger. Sugawara's role is almost entirely in English and he does alright. He's trying too hard and doesn’t sound natural, but he remains quite understandable. - Mumon: The Land of Stealth (忍びの国) (Japan, 2017) [DVD] – 2/5 Modern jidai geki drama/comedy/action with an irritating schmuck of a protagonist and fucking Denden (the world would be a better place is he hadn't overwhelmed everyone in Cold Fish). Still not unwatchable as the storyline kind of wins you over and there are some inspired bits - gotta love the wooden figure diversion and the ending - but this kind of "clever" / "trendy" /" funny" / "touching” / GCI enhanced mainstream bullshit is really quite sad when compared to the 60s and 70s glory days.