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Everything posted by Takuma

  1. Random films. Contributions, comments, etc. welcome. To give it a proper kick off I'll start the topic with a couple of bigger bunches of reviews covering some of the more interesting stuff I've watched during the past 6 months. ******************************************************* Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Japan, 1972) – 4/5 Possibly the best women in prison film of all time, director Shunya Ito’s debut movie is a rare clash of exploitation and exceptional audio-visual skill. It comes with all the genre raunchiness from sadistic over-acting guards (classic pinky violence trio Fumio Watanabe, Hideo Murora & Shinzo Hotta) to graphic violence, gratuitous shower scenes, and the longest hole digging episode in the history of cinema. It also comes with stunning surreal visuals (a long, theatrical flashback scene where sets are build “on the fly” being the standout), terrific soundtrack, and an excellent leading performance by Meiko Kaji – an actress who is way above the genre standards. As her role is almost dialogue free – reportedly because she felt the manga source material was too obscene and ridiculous – she acts with her eyes. The film was followed by 5 sequels, Kaji returning to the first three of them. Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972) – 4.5/5 Shunya Ito’s more grown up follow up to Female Prisoner Scorpion – a state of art exploitation film and one of the most artistically impressive Japanese movies of all time. The misleadingly titled film is, in fact, a surreal road movie with 7 prisoners escaping from the prison. Ito loads the film with non-stop visual feast and provocative images: rivers turn into blood, scenes are played against theater sets, Japan’s war crimes are brought up, and Meiko Kaji carries a cross like Jesus Christ. The stunningly beautiful Kaji, once again acting with her eyes (she only has two lines of dialogue), contributes several songs to the soundtrack. All in all, one of the best movies of the 1970’s. The Killing Machine (Japan, 1975) 4/5 Only months before portraying his real life master Masutatsu Oyama in the Karate Trilogy, Chiba starred as Oyama’s rival Doshin So, the founder of Shaolin Karate, in yet another historically “accurate” biopic. Helmed yakuza/pinky violence director Norifumi Suzuki just prior to his major mainstream streak with Truck Yaro (1975-1979), it’s one Chiba’s most story driven karate films. Set in the slums of post WWII Japan, the film is quite heavy on drama and “social commentary”, including crying children and ill fated women (the relatively talent free Yutaka Nakajima in a risky dramatic role). Chiba himself, as expected, overcomes hardships by breaking skulls and sending evil doers to hell. Strong action scenes, solid storyline, and Chiba’s charisma – this time with a few more acting moments than usual – make it one of Chiba’s best karate films. Dragon Princess (Japan, 1976) – 4/5 Toei’s 1976 genre-star Yutaka Kohira (karate, biker gang, and WIP all in one year) takes Chiba protégé Etsuko Shihomi under his direction in an ultra-entertaining karate actioner. Blessed with top notch girl action and groovy soundtrack its one of the best showcases for the ever so sweet Shihomi whose persona and willingness to perform all the own stunts and action compensate for the slight slowness in some of her moves. Supporting cast is absolute gold with yakuza legend Bin Amatsu (evil karate instructor), forever-evil Masashi Ishibashi (blind assassin), cult machine Yasuaki Kurata (mysterious man), little bro Jiro Chiba (family man), and of course the eye patched Sonny Chiba himself. The fast moving storyline was slightly altered in the original US version, which added a random sex scene in the middle of the film, among other changes. The Man Who Stole the Sun (Japan, 1979) – 4.5/5 Misfit junior high school teacher steals plutonium from a nuclear power plant and starts building his own A-bomb. Legendary director Kazuhiko Hasegawa’s cult satire, scripted by Paul Schrader’s brother Leonard Schrader, is one of the most interesting movies of the 1970’s. Pop star Kenji Sawada stars as a teacher who threatens to destroy Tokyo if the government doesn’t invite The Rolling Stones to Japan. Tough guy Bunta Sugawara is sent to chase him down. While the action packed ending could perhaps do with less exaggeration, the film is unforgettable. The soundtrack is amazing and there's a chunk of iconic scenes, including the ones with Sawada walking the streets of Tokyo with a ticking A-bomb in his bag. L’Ilya (Japan, 2001) – 2/5 Everybody wants to die in Tomoya Sato’s semi-documentaristic short film. The 40 minute movie tries an interesting spin on the topic, adapting the view of a cinematographer turning suicides into disco-entertainment and video art. Shot harsh and grainy the pic looks pleasing but doesn’t have the courage to go to the satirical pop-dimensions of Sion Sono Suicide Club. Sato’s film is, in the end, a far more conventional offering with dramatic soundtrack and preachy message. It’s unable to bring anything of its own to the topic, mainly aiming at drawing affirmative audience reactions such as “yes, it’s a sad world indeed“. It soon becomes more frustrating than poignant. Blue (Japan, 2002) – 3.5/5 Hiroshi Ando’s slow burner film takes a little while to get into. The manga adapted story of two high school girls lacks any melodrama and cinematic fireworks: no comic reliefs, no flashy club scenes, and no pop music, in fact, almost no background music at all. Instead Ando plays it very low key and often uses very long takes with only the two leading actresses in the frame. Admittedly, Manami Konoshi’s one-dimensional character is little more than story catalyst for the protagonist played by the wonderful Mikako Ichikawa. Her terrific performance as an introverted high school girl is much like the film itself: the longer it runs, the more fascinating it becomes. A beautiful movie. Sky High (Japan, 2003) – 1/5 The guardian of the Heaven’s Gate (=CGI shack) battles with supernatural killer in Ryuhei Kitamura’s beyond-embarrassing fantasy film. Adapted from a TV show, the film looks like z-grade TV film blessed with a screenplay that has difficulties holding interest even for 5 minutes. Action choreography – poor as camel’s ass – consists of laughable poses and stage fighting with zero illusion of people actually trying to hit each other. Over-length (2h+) doesn’t make the suffering any easier. The only positive about the pic is the stunning black dress worn by Yumiko Shaku and Eihi Shiina. Gonna get one for kanojo when I get back to Japan if it doesn’t cost fortunes. Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn (Japan, 2003) – 1.5/5 Pink director Daisuke Goto deserves credit for being a storyteller. This was evident in his near excellent romantic comedy Blind Love that just happened to be a pink production. His earlier film, Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn, is less successful. Playing its story with poker face, it follows senile old man mistaking his dead son’s widow as “cow”, hence milking her every morning. It doesn’t come out as ridiculous as it sounds, however, the pic is dragged with dull sex scenes. Worse more, its storyline and characters aren’t nearly well enough crafted to engage the viewer. Despite Goto’s best attempts to tell an unusual love story, Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn is, in the end, a rather conventional film. Kimi to aruita michi (Japan, 2005) – 3/5 Based on the song ”Thank You” by Shogo Hamada. One of the more unusual film projects, director Naoki Hashimoto set to make a double feature inspired by the works of singer / songwriter Shogo Hamada. The first film, Catch Ball was a poorly executed drama-comedy featuring two noisy kids (or chubby elementary school comedians, if you will) travelling to see their father. Kimi to aruita michi, a junior high school film, is the far superior of the two. Beautifully shot with strong colors, slight grain and bright image, its visual appearance is slightly reminiscent of Iwai, Yamashita, and Ishikawa. Hashimoto is not in the same league, though. His impressive images are coupled with songs that don’t quite blend in, and narration that sometimes brings it to the verge of accidental genre parody. Furthermore, the last five minutes is puzzlingly (and amusingly) bad in its uneven trendiness. But then again, taking a little less critical view on what came before it’s is actually rather nice little movie and certainly easy on the eye. Some might criticize it as bad film, but I’d be tempted to call it a good one. Frog Song (Japan, 2005) – 3/5 Shinji Imaoka’s slice of life pink, with two troubled girls making friends and sharing passion in manga and frog suits. Somewhat poorly acted (despite primary lead Konatsu’s solid performance in the same year’s Blind Love) and 30 minutes too short for its own good, it still somehow manages to be more pleasing and natural character drama than 90% of mainstream productions. Imaoka blends in the sex scenes with decent success, has relatively interesting characters to play with, and plenty of nice scenes between the two leads. And oh yes, dancing and singing to the Frog Song (Kaeru no uta, the original title which can also possess dual meaning as a “song for returning home”). No wonder Imaoka’s upcoming Underwater Love will be a full-fledged pink musical shot by Christopher Doyle and scored by Germany’s Stereo Total. Strange Circus (Japan, 2005) – 3/5 Sion Sono goes ero-guro with a mixture of psychology, pedophilia, splatter, and cinema poetry. It certainly makes for a wild ride, but proves relatively little depth in closer inspection. Being a far more staged movie than most of Sono’s works, Strange Circus is missing the freshness of Sono’s best pop and guerilla films. That does, however, line with the strong horror shocks that were deservedly granted an R-18 rating. Masumi Miyazaki’s strong performance in multiple roles stands out in the middle of carnage and madness. Teketeke (Japan, 2009) – 2/5 Koji Shiraishi’s standard horror film released in theaters as double feature. This first half is an idol driven film follows high school girls attacked by a supernatural killer who lost her legs in an accident. Shot cheap and quick, with some CG-enhanced SFX and gore, there’s little on offer that hasn’t been done better before. Considering Shiraishi’s recent track record it’s certainly a lazy effort. A Night in Nude: Salvation (DC) (Japan, 2010) – 3.5/5 Takashi Ishii, now mostly stuck with low budgets S&M films, was once Japan’s most interesting noir director. A Night in Nude: Salvation marks his long awaited return to the genre. The film continues from where Ishii’s original neo-noir bravura A Night in Nude (1993) left off, with a private detective/entrepreneur Maraki once again getting caught between yakuza and femme fatales. While not looking as refined as the original film, Salvation is instantly recognizable Ishii with its neon-lit Tokyo and mental case yakuza running the night life. It does step into a psychological landmine towards the end – even more so in the extended Director’s Cut version, but strong screenplay and excellent performances compensate. Takenaka is excellent as usual, supported by the stunning (and surprisingly well acting) gravure idol Hiroko Sato, and Nikkatsu legend Joe Shishido as the film’s biggest sleazebag. Sketches of Kaitan City (Japan, 2010) – 4/5 Kazuyoshi Kumakiri has come a long way since his ultra-violent political splatter Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts that sent him into world wide fame in 1997. In his latest film Sketches of Kaitan City he doesn’t have anyone brutally killed. Based on an unfinished novel by Yasushi Sato, Kumakiri has picked five stories set in the fictional Kaitan City (portrayed by Hokkaido’s breezy port town Hakodate), all connected by a common theme: the fear or losing something. Bravely distancing the film from any easy entertainment, Kumakiri shows small pieces of life from Kaitan City, often starting storylines from the middle, and moving on before the conclusion has been reached. Kumakiri’s directorial touch is passive and coldish, if slightly hopeful, supported by steady tech credits, excellent performances, and former US-rocker Jim O'Rourke’s (United Red Army, 2007) impressive soundtrack. Very much a slow burner with characters that can’t be interpreted in 10 minutes, Kaitan City is no doubt one of the strong films of 2010.
  2. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    High Noon for Gangsters (白昼の無頼漢) (Japan, 1961) [DVD] - 4/5 An excellent, racially and sexually charged heist thriller with gangster Tetsuro Tamba blackmailing 4 foreigners (a black G.I., a racist white American and his wife, and a Korean) into robbing an armoured vehicle with him, girlfriend and yakuza bro Sone. "$300 000 for me, $200 000 for the six of you, that's $50 000 a head" Tamba says, and remarks after being told his math is off "school math won’t do, at least two of you are gonna die, that’s $50 000 a head". There's terrific tension throughout and some witty dialogue in both Japanese and English (Tamba interpreting his Japanese lover for the American wife: "She said you're pretty charming for a pig"). The foreign cast is passable, and the white American actually speaks fluent Japanese while Tamba speaks understandable English. The heist itself is a bit rushed and there's an uninspired twist here and there, but only noticeable because the film is damn good overall! Fukasaku’s 1st full length film. - A Man's Showdown (男の勝負) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 1.5/5 Hideo Murata was a pretty big ninkyo star in the 60s despite lacking anything resembling charisma. His enka singing career ensured his popularity. This is a co-starring vehicle for Murata and Shigeru Amachi, an actor who did better when portraying suffering, morally compromised tough guys (e.g. Yellow Line, The Tale of Zatoichi). They make a rather dull heroic duo against crooked Bin Amatsu. Young Sadao Nakajima directed this under Masahiro Makino’s supervision. The film feels more Makino than the Nakajima. Not so much a terrible film as just a boring one. The only energetic scenes are in the mid third: a duel between Murata and Amachi, and a stylishly executed sakazuki scene. Delinquent Street (不良街) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 2.5/5 Lightweight yakuza romp with a cool Hiroki Matsukata theme song and an ultra-violent finale, where the heroes massacre at least 40 bad guys. Matsukata, Hayato Tani and a moustached, sun glassed Shingo Yamashiro make a three man punk gang. Girlfriend Mari Tsutsui hangs around in revealing tops, and Bunta Sugawara shows up in two scenes. Yukio Noda directs with a tad more seriousness than some of his other films, and Yamashiro is surprisingly tolerable, even cool. It's just regretful the film is another waste of a great title: there is no delinquent street here. - Hobo General (Kinkin no lumpen taisho) (キンキンのルンペン大将) (Japan, 1976) [VoD] - 1/5 A forgotten Teruo Ishii comedy, by far one of his worst films. Kinya Aikawa (Sugawara's co-star in the Truck Yaro series) is a silly country bumpkin in Tokyo without home or friends. Extremely tame, childish, unfunny gags and some weeping follows. Imagine the comedy segments from the Abashiri Prison series extended into a feature length film minus all the yakuza stuff and you are... still not low enough. This is a far cry from the naughty comedy genius of The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno which looks like a Stanley Kubrick picture in comparison. Taiyo no koibito: Agnes Lum (太陽の恋人 アグネス・ラム) (Japan, 1976) [TV] - 2.5/5 A Toei curiosity that misleadingly occasionally pops up in Pinky Violence context. This isn't actually a movie, but a 25 min gravure film with Hawaii beauty Agnes Lum. Japanese men had such a crash for Lum (familiar from magazines and commercials) that Toei sent action director Atsushi Mihori (Criminal Woman: Killing Melody) to Hawaii to film this piece, and unloaded it onto screens as theatrical youth triple bill with Gang of Men: Delinquent Prison and Detonation: 750cc Tribe. Difficult to evaluate from the cinematic side - it largely lacks one - but for what it's worth, Lum looks stunning and (the costume department) has impeccable taste in bikini. Includes slow-motion running in bikini, and the Hawaii locations provide additional eye candy. Lum comes off sweet and naive, and the single interview scene where they try to force her talk about her body feels nasty and exploitative (unless her reactions were scripted for the pleasure of sadist Japanese viewers). - Best Guy (ベストガイ) (Japan, 1990) [VoD] - 1/5 A miserable Top Gun derivative from Toru Murakawa. The biggest problem is that while it's as superficial as Top Gun, it's not any wilder, imaginative or exploitative, it's just duller. The characters are cardboards, the Canadian band doing the music awful, and the film goes on forever at 114 min. The action, with some decent flying clumsily mixed with cast insert shots and background projections, seems half-watchable at first but even these scenes drag to no end. The title supposedly refers to a Japan Air Self-Defense Force rank, but it conveniently also works as a Karate Kid reference (known as “Best Kid” in Japan).
  3. Takuma

    "Ghost Stories Of Japan" series

    I think the series you’re talking about is Nihon kaidan gekijo (日本怪談劇場) (1970). It had 13 episodes. Amachi was in episode 13. I have not seen the series myself. It has been released on DVD in Japan several times, first in 2001 by King Records (4 DVDs, 3-4 episodes on each disc), the again by M3 Entertainment (4 Disc box set) in 2007, and finally in 2014 (6 DVDs, 2-3 episodes on each disc) by a company whose name I can’t quite figure out (it’sスバック in Japanese, maybe Svac or Sbac). All should be without subs of course.
  4. Not quite. Those figures haven't been adjusted for inflation. For example The Exorcist made over 900 million in the US theaters alone if counted in 2019 currency. The news love to report how every new hit film is the most successful ever, but that just isn't true. This list gives some perspective...Top Lifetime Adjusted Grosses (US) https://www.boxofficemojo.com/chart/top_lifetime_gross_adjusted/?adjust_gross_to=2019&ref_=bo_cso_ac Not a single film made in the 2000s fit the TOP 10
  5. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    King Kong vs. Godzilla (キングコング対ゴジラ) (Japan, 1962) [VoD] – 3/5 Fun entry with an awesome monster pairing, a more watchable than usual media satire storyline, and perhaps the most awesomely ridiculous Godzilla discovery scene in the whole series. Osman Yusuf appears for a few seconds as well. Version reviewed: Japanese. Son of Godzilla (怪獣島の決戦 ゴジラの息子) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] – 2.5/5 Godzilla teaches toxic masculinity to his son. Intelligent kaiju film was 50 years ahead of its time. The X from Outer Space (宇宙大怪獣ギララ) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] - 3/5 A pleasant surprise for a non kaiju fan. The opening half is dull as they tend to be, but then you get Guilala, the Nicolas Cage of giant space monsters! From there on it’s non-stop destruction with a wonderfully monotonic score, an exciting car vs. giant monster chase, and the infinitely charismatic antenna-headed space-bird on drugs, Guilala. - Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (ゴジラvsスペースゴジラ) (Japan, 1994) [VoD] – 2/5 The cutest minilla ever almost saves this watchable but unremarkable entry. The end fight has potential for an epic, but comes off unfocused. Megumi Okada from Hana no Asuka gumi co-stars, the score rips off You Only Live Twice. South to the Horizon (南へ走れ、海の道を!) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] – 3/5 Three Okinawa punks fuck with the yakuza and pay the price. Fast forward one month and shift gear to revenge film as combat vet older brother Koichi Iwaki comes out of the jungle for vengeance. The main target is yakuza boss Hideo Murota. Delightfully violent b-action film disguised as Shochiku studio production, by former porn director Seiji Izumi who splatters the walls with blood and can't even resist wielding some chainsaw. Plenty of bad writing, several gaijin supporting actors (mostly good, not bad guys) and music cues so bad they shouldn't suffice even for b-cinema. And it's all rather enjoyable; the kind of action cinema Japan wasn't producing anymore in the 80s. You just need to get past the deceivingly dull opening act. Director Izumi’s 80s mainstream work has been a discovery: he also did the renegade biker cop film On the Road (1982) and the gritty delinquent girl rock picture Majoran (1984), both minor cult classics. - Four Days of Snow and Blood (226) (Japan, 1989) [VoD] – 1.5/5 Dull military drama tries to humanize the men behind the infamous Feb. 26 1936 coup d'état attempt. This is of the few male-centric films by late Hideo Gosha who had switched almost exclusively to women’s cinema in the 80s. It makes no difference, the man was long out of touch. The only points of interest here are the ridiculously packed cast – stars like Tetsuro Tanba, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hiroki Matsukata and even Takuzo Kawatani popping up in 2 minute roles, sometimes without a single line of dialogue (Nobuo Kaneko) – and the perspective which is strictly with the renegade military men. The other 2/26 film I've seen, the 1962 Ken Takakura film The Escape, focuses on the prime minister hiding in the house (barely featured in this film at all) and the police trying to save him. For those who slept in their history class, the incident was about a conservative military wing trying to assassinate Western minded politicians, the prime minister being the prime target. They invaded the prime minister's house with several hundred men, but lacking smart phones and Google Image Search they committed the fuck-up of the century and killed the wrong man (the brother-in-law posing as the prime minister) without ever realizing their mistake. The real prime minister managed to hide in the house for several days and finally escape.
  6. Graduation Photo is actually surprisingly watchable. The script is by Haruhiko Arai, my favourite screenwriter of all time, and though obviously not his best work it still has a bite. Yoshihiro Kawasaki was a B-director, but he occasionally had a breezier, more energetic touch than most other late Nikkatsu directors, and this one one of those films. Sins of Sister Lucia was a complete bore IMO. It's a shame that US distributors are almost exclusively releasing standard sex flicks from the Roman Porno catalogue even though there are also real gems and cinematic masterpieces. It's as if the horror genre was covered by releasing nothing but Friday the 13th sequels, Sharknado films and Halloween flicks films while completely ignoring the films of Argento, Polanski and Cronenberg. From my Top 30 Roman Porno films only 3 have been released in the US.
  7. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Cat Girl Gambling x 3 Cat Girl Gambling (賭場の牝猫) (Japan, 1965) [BD] - 3/5 Early female gambler film, surprisingly not by Toei or Daiei, but the hip Nikkatsu. Yumiko Nogawa is very good in the lead, extremely beautiful and determined yet somehow fragile in a way most Toei heroines were not. The fact that she does not fight in the film translates to character realism rather than conservatism. The gambling scenes are excellent as well, with the course of the game depicted in detail, which is vital for sustaining suspense and not always done right in yakuza films. There's even the fun game tactic laid out for all the wannabe cat girl gamblers out there: show some thigh and the players are less likely to notice you are cheating! And finally, the film is lower key and void of the pathos of many Toei films. A richer storyline and more focus on the modern milieu would not have hurt, however. As it stands, the film is good but not especially memorable. - Cat Girl Gambling: Naked Flesh Paid Into the Pot (賭場の牝猫 素肌の壷振り) (Japan, 1965) [BD] - 2/5 A direct follow-up with Nogawa now working in a bathhouse where gangster runaway Nitani (different role than last time) seeks shelter. Nogawa’s detective uncle is again investigating the case with young partner Tatsuya Fuji. Nogawa is her usual electrifying self, but the story is dull as dishwater with no gambling until the second half and only about 45 seconds of action in the entire film. Nikkatsu fans may get more out of it than I did. Cat Girl Gambling: Game of Sharpened Fangs (賭場の牝猫 捨身の勝負) (Japan, 1965) [BD] – 2.5/5 The last in the trilogy, notably better than part 2. Nogawa gets acquainted with an honourable gang boss running a strip joint (!) (no nudity, however) who is being harassed by a crook boss. The enigmatic Nogawa dominates the screen, especially whenever someone tries to fuck with her - she's really fantastic, like Meiko Kaji but cuter and spicier. And she wears tattoos perhaps better than any other female star. She also gets to do a bit more action here, in addition to the great dice matches. But as usual, the storyline isn't especially dynamic and doesn't always even feel much like a gangster picture with the softer Nikkatsu drama touches. - Sister Street Fighter x 3 Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread (女必殺拳 危機一発) (Japan, 1974) [BD] - 3.5/5 Fun Shihomi flick suffers from some shaky cam excess, something that director Yamaguchi invented in late '74 (probably a Fukasaku influence) but gradually let go off in 75. It's still a lot of fun with guest star Kurata, Hideo Murota in rare main villain role, sleazy smugglers operating jewels into girls' arses, that awesome apocalyptic shot near the end, and some kiddie porn (is that Eva Ionesco? She seems to have been big in Asia... her Playboy photos are in one of the Shaw Bros.'s Criminals films too) that EVERYONE had forgotten was in the film until BBFC made it front page news. - Return of the Sister Street Fighter (帰ってきた女必殺拳) (Japan, 1975) [BD] - 3.5/5 The most excessive film in the series. Shihomi goes through her entire Chinese wardrobe, wheelchair villain Rinichi Yamamoto organizes a fight tournament reminiscent of Wang Yu films (one fighter is a fucking Zulu!) and my idol Osman Yusuf appears for 10 seconds as strip joint customer. Only a notch away from overly goofy, it still remains on the cool side and is mostly well paced at lovely 77 minutes. Shunsuke Kikuchi's score rocks the socks off as usual, and Yamaguchi thankfully does away with the shaky cam. But the storyline is a rehash of the first two films (how many relatives / friends / friends' relatives to be kidnapped does she have?) and Ishibashi is again denied the finale he deserves, which slightly hamper the enjoyment. - Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist (女必殺五段拳) (Japan, 1976) [BD] - 3/5 The least in the series, yet packed with small pleasures. Shihomi in a hippie costume, future ATG director Claude Gagnon as a US drug lord, and ATG talents Ken Wallace & Michi Love as half-blooded siblings in a ridiculously manipulative yet sympathetic sub-plot. Shigehiro Ozawa helms it as pg-rated affair, which is a stumbling point for many fans. The real problem: a conservative doubt whether girl power goes all the way after all, given in Watase's speech about a woman's place and later verified when he needs to save Shihomi, something unheard of earlier in the series. -
  8. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (USA, 2019) [DCP] – 3/5 Fun, but with a downwards trend. The best stuff is in the beginning. The knife room fight is fabulous, with Keanu in career best form, filmed with very long (but not overly long takes). and choreographed mad creativity. The final fights are less imaginative, and also use quicker edits. Some good bits here and there, like the battle dogs, but also failed opportunities like the motorcycle chase which packs so much movement that none of it ends up having an impact (still way better than the same scene in The Villainess). Cinematography and editing remains acceptable throughout, far above the mess that was John Wick 2, but they could still learn from the 180 degree rule. Oh and why did they have Mark Dacascos speak random lines in clumsy Japanese? There was no need for that, just stick to English, please. Overall, better than Wick 2, not as good as Wick 1 that had more interesting world building. At first when I saw Dacascos in the film, I was like "oh, cool, Kenji Oba".
  9. I'm a little late to the party... saw this three times last month. Breezy ride through L.A. is best Tarantino since Kill Bill Vol. 2. Lovely period depiction with endlessly re-watchable scenes of Brad and Leo cruising up and down those Hollywood Hills, and I’m still in awe of the ending. Thematically closest to Jackie Brown, though not quite on the same level. Could have done with a bit less of Leo in the film sets; some of that doesn’t hold up on repeat viewings and needed tighter editing. Also gotta love the Bruce Lee scene. I can understand the fan concerns, and I can't argue the points Bob raised above, but the little anarchist in me cannot help but to be overjoyed that finally there is a movie that doesn’t have its tongue up Lee’s arse but instead dares to poke a bit of fun of him. How unexpected! And, isn’t Brad much sexier that Leo? No complaints about his topless scene
  10. Agreed. I think it’s interesting as a mirror of its time, Joker being very much the archetype of an incel school shooter, but I don’t think the film is all that deep. The story and the character downfall is extremely derivative, cinematically calculated and superficial. I keep thinking about the film, but not its contents, but the social relevance of it as a product. That being said, I think Joker is the most watchable thing Hollywood's super hero trend has produced since Nolan's Batman films... So that's certainly something!
  11. Also saw this today Joker (USA, 2019) [DCP] – 3/5 Scorsese by Phillips, for super hero audiences. Socially relevant, but too slick to have grit, too superficial to be genuinely challenging.
  12. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Heaven Sent (Kamisama ga kureta akanbo) (神様のくれた赤ん坊) (Japan, 1979) [VoD] - 3/5 A surprisingly good road movie drama/comedy with careless Tsunehiko Watase finding out he's a dad to a small kid - maybe. The mother took off and left a list of 5 potential dads. Watase of course figures it must be one of the other 4. Companion Kaori Momoi isn't all too happy but stick along for a road trip to dump the kid to the real dad (the others can be blackmailed out of some money, they figure). One of the funniest segments features Watase catching one of the potential dads… in the middle of his wedding ceremony! Jidai geki & yakuza veteran Kanjuro Arashi (in his last role at 76 years old, he died the following year) is in the film too, in a bit that's bound to bring a smile to any genre film fan's face. Also, the child (child, not baby despite the erroneous Japanese title) is not irritating at all, in fact, he barely does anything but sit silently). Honest crowd pleasing entertainment, but also well made with good pace and script. Haruhiko Arai is credited as contributing writer, but the main credit should no doubt go to writer-director Yoichi Maeda. - Play it, Boogie-Woogie (スローなブギにしとくれ) (Japan, 1981) [VoD] - 3/5 A slice of life picture with a bar / semi-drifter girl, an angry youngster with a bike, a divorced asshole, and a middle aged woman living with him. There's no plot, just one year of gritty life. And it works. Yoshio Harada (the asshole's friend), Hideo Murota (bar owner) and Kahori Takeda (teenage mom) have supporting roles, Kenji Sawada, Akira Takahashi and several others cameos. Toshiya Fujita directs. Time and Tide (時代屋の女房) (Japan, 1983) [VoD] – 2/5 Nice guy antique store owner Tsunehiko Watase meets idiosyncratic girl Masako Natsume, then later another odd girl (also Natsume). A rather dull and very Shochiku-like drama co-scripted by Haruhiko Arai, whose usually identifiable touch is barely visible here, save for the normal guy / strange girl premise. Watase is very good (he's hugely under-rated, with solid performances one after another in both action pictures and dramas), the score is alright and there's some good use of cat-cam, but the film lacks bite. Downtown Heroes (ダウンタウンヒーローズ) (Japan, 1988) [VoD] - 1/5 Deadly Yoji Yamada boredom. Even Hiroko Yakushimaru can't save this as she is barely in it despite being the 1st billed. Yamada is more interested 1940s boy’s boarding school drama and nostalgia than her or, well, anything of interest. Had I had a rope, I would’ve probably hanged myself watching this. Sting of Death (死の棘) (Japan, 1990) [VoD] – 2.5/5 An unfaithful family man and a ‘jealous to the point of mental illness’ wife face each other in a series of heated but unnaturally formal dialogues only interrupted by occasional surreal visions and scenes of almost horror film like dark atmosphere. Not an easy watch at 114 min, nor am I sure if this is good cinema, or just pretentious art. But it is, at least partly, oddly captivating and somewhat memorable, and that's something. 1990 Cannes Grand Prize of the Jury winner. Director Kohei Oguri releases films very sparsely: he has directed only six movies in 34 years, from 1981 to 2015. The Lowlife (最低。) (Japan, 2017) [VoD] – 3.5/5 Exceptionally unbiased examination of women involved in the Japanese AV industry, based on a book by the AV superstar Mana Sakura. The film follows a young AV actress (Kokone Sasaki) whose narrow minded mother keeps putting blame on her over her career choice, a high school girl (Aina Yamada) bullied over her mother’s AV past (the same moral composition as the 1st story but in reverse), and a 34 year old woman (Ayano Moriguchi) who tries AV due to her husband’s lack of commitment to family life. This must be one of the most female centered films I have seen, not only all main and most supporting characters being women, but every scene focusing on how they feel as opposed to what they do. Rather than focusing on the industry; the film deals with people involved in the industry. Thoroughly well acted (with Kokone Sasaki way above her usual level) and directed with unexpected finesse by the frequently disappointing Takahisa Zeze. That is, before the film becomes a crying fest towards the end. Somehow I feel like forgiving that. And no, the film doesn’t shy away from the sex and nudity that naturally accompanies the subject despite being a mainstream film with major female audience appeal. -
  13. Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Sonny Chiba in Tokyo at the Sonny Chiba Film Festival. That event, as well as Chiba himself who turned out to be the nicest guy you could imagine (very energetic, very friendly, and very modest), inspired me to challenge myself to 100 Chiba kumite. In other words, I set a target to see 100 Chiba films. Since I'm now at 97, I think it's time to begin the reporting. Like Chiba in Karate for Life (1977), I'm cheating a little bit. I've also included the films I had seen before last year, so I'm not actually beating 100 Chiba's at one go, and I won't be reviewing 100 films either. But there's gonna be quite a few. I'll begin in roughly chronological order, but I may make exceptions. Discussion, reviews and other contributions by other members are more than welcome: this thread is about Chiba, not about me. With 97 Chiba's under my belt, I can't say I feel one bit tired. If anything, I've only come to love him and his movies more. Like my friend once said, even a bad Chiba film has at least one good thing about it: Chiba. I could easily watch another 100 Chiba films, but I'm starting to run out of films I can get access to. Report and photos from the Sonny Chiba festival can be found in the other thread here: http://www.shaolinchamber36.com/kungfufandom/index.php?/topic/18254-retro-cinemas-and-cult-films-in-tokyo-sonny-chiba-festival-some-content-nsfw/&page=2 Older Chiba thread also exists. I hope you don't mind starting a new one. I just felt like taking a fresh start. Review Index Round 1 1. Police Department Story: Alibi (Keishichô monogatari: Fuzai shomei) (警視庁物語 不在証明) (1961) 2. Police Department Story: 15 Year Old Woman (Keishichô monogatari: 15 sai no onna) (警視庁物語 十五才の女) ( 1961) 3. Drifting Detective: Tragedy in the Red Valley (Fûraibô tantei: Akai tani no sangeki) (風来坊探偵 赤い谷の惨劇) ( 1961) 4. Drifting Detective: Black Wind in the Harbour (Fûraibô tantei: Misaki o wataru kuroi kaze) (風来坊探偵 岬を渡る黒い風) ( 1961) 5. Invasion of the Neptune Men (Uchu Kaisoku-sen) (宇宙快速船) ( 1961) 6. Police Department Story: 12 Detectives (Keishichô monogatari: 12 nin no keiji) (警視庁物語 十二人の刑事) ( 1961) 7. Hepcat in the Funky Hat (Funky hat no kaidanji) (ファンキーハットの快男児) ( 1961) 8. Hepcat in the Funky Hat: 200 000 Yen Arm (Funky Hat no kaidanji: Nisenman-en no ude) (ファンキーハットの快男児 2千万円の腕) ( 1961) 9. The Escape (226 jiken: Dasshutsu) (二・二六事件 脱出) ( 1962) 10. The Kamikazes (Minami taiheiyo nami takashi) (南太平洋波高し) ( 1962) 11. Gambler ( 1962) 12. Love, the Sun and the Gang ( 1962) 13. Gang vs. G-Men ( 1962) 14. Tale of A Company Boss: Part 5 ( 1963) 15. The Loyal 47 Gangsters ( 1963) 16. Yakuza's Song ( 1963) 17. The Navy (Kaigun) ( 1963) 18. Gambler's Love ( 1963) 19. Gambler Tales of Hasshu: A Man's Pledge ( 1963) 20. Here Because of You ( 1964) 21. Dragon's Life ( 1964) 22. Meiji Underworld - Yakuza G-Men ( 1965) 23. Code of Ruffians ( 1965) 24. Sing to Those Clouds ( 1965) 25. Abashiri Prison 4: Northern Seacoast Story ( 1965) 26. Golden Bat ( 1966) 27. Abashiri Prison 6: Duel in the South ( 1966) 28. The Terror Beneath the Sea (Japan/USA, 1966) 29. Kamikaze Man: Duel at Noon (Japan/Taiwan, 1966) 30. Game of Chance ( 1966) 31. North Sea Chivalry ( 1967) 32. Tale of Kawachi Chivalry ( 1967) 33. Organized Crime ( 1967) 34. Diaries of the Kamikaze ( 1967) 35. The Young Eagles of the Kamikaze ( 1968) 36. Human Torpedoes ( 1968) 37. Army Intelligence 33 ( 1968) 38. Delinquent Boss: Ocho the She-Wolf ( 1969) 39. Memoir of Japanese Assassins ( 1969) 40. Yakuza Deka ( 1970) 41. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin ( 1970) 42. Yakuza Deka: Poison Gas Affair ( 1971) 43. Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us ( 1971) 44. Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder ( 1972) 45. Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences ( 1972) 46. A Narcotics Agent's Ballad ( 1972) 47. Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men: Terrifying Flesh Hell ( 1972) 48. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle (1973) 49. Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match ( 1973) 50. Bodyguard Kiba ( 1973) 51. Bodyguard Kiba 2 ( 1973) 52. The Street Fighter ( 1974) 53. Return of the Street Fighter ( 1974) 54. The Street Fighter's Last Revenge ( 1974) 55. Military Spy School ( 1974) 56. Sister Street Fighter ( 1974) 57. The Executioner ( 1974) 58. The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno ( 1974) 59. Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope ( 1975) 60. Bullet Train ( 1975) 61. Killing Machine ( 1975) 62. Karate Bullfighter ( 1975) 63. Karate Bearfighter ( 1975) 64. The Defensive Power of Aikido ( 1975) 65. Rugby Yaro ( 1976) 66. Machine Gun Dragon ( 1976) 67. Jail Breakers ( 1976) 68. Karate Warriors ( 1976) 69. Okinawa Yakuza War ( 1976) 70. Karate for Life ( 1977) 71. Doberman Cop ( 1977) 72. Yakuza War: The Japanese Godfather ( 1977) 73. Honor of Japan ( 1977) 74. Okinawa 10 Year War ( 1978) 75. Message From Space ( 1978) 76. G.I. Samurai ( 1979) 77. Dead Angle ( 1979) 78. Shogun's Ninja ( 1980) 79. Tokyo Daijishin Magnitude 8.1 ( 1980) 80. The Bushido Blade (1981) 81. Samurai Reincarnation ( 1981) 82.Ninja Wars ( 1982) 83. Legend of the Eight Samurai ( 1983) 84. Kabamaru the Ninja Boy ( 1983) 85. Leave it to Kotaro ( 1984) 86. The Last True Yakuza ( 1985) 87. Yakuza Warfare ( 1991) 88. Yakuza Warfare ( 1991) 89. Triple Cross ( 1992) 90. Iron Eagle III: Aces (1992) 91. Immortal Combat (1994) 92. Codename: Silencer ( 1995) 93. The Storm Riders (1998) 94. Explosive City (2004) 95. Sushi Girl (2012) 96. Shuryo no michi 8 ( 2013) Round 2 97. New 7 Color Mask (Shin nana iro kamen) (新七色仮面) (1960) 98. Mid-August Commotion (8 gatsu 15 nichi no douran) (八月十五日の動乱) (1962) 99. Special Tactical Police (Tokubetsu kido sosatai) (特別機動捜査隊) ( 1963) 100. Special Tactical Police: Part 2 (Tokubetsu kido sosatai: Tokyo eki ni harikome) (特別機動捜査隊 東京駅に張り込め) ( 1963) 101. Decree from Hell (Jigoku meirei) (地獄命令) ( 1964) 102. Tale of Japanese Burglars (Nippon dorobô monogatari) (にっぽん泥棒物語) ( 1965) 103. Bitches of the Night (Yoru no mesuinu) ( 夜の牝犬) (1966) 104. Game of Chance 2 (Zoku rokyoku komori-uta) (続浪曲子守唄) (1967) 105. Game of Chance 3 (Shusse komori-uta) (出世子守唄) (1967) 106. Key Hunter (Kii hantaa) (キイハンター) (1968-1973) (TV) 107. The Bodyguard (Za bodigaado) (ザ・ボディガード) (1974) (TV) 108. 13 Steps of Maki (Wakai kizokutachi: 13 kaidan no Maki) (若い貴族たち 13階段のマキ) (1975) 109. The Visitor in the Eye (Hitomi no naka no houmonsha) (瞳の中の訪問者) (1977) 110. Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi) (ゴルゴ13 九竜の首) (1977) 111. Soul of Chiba (Gekitotsu! Jado ken) (激殺!邪道拳) (1977) 112. Roaring Fire (Hoero tekken) (吠ろ鉄拳) (1981) 113. Minefield (Jiraigen) (地雷原) (1992) 114. Young and Dangerous 6: Born to be King (狼たちの伝説 亜州黒社会戦争) (2000) 115. Jitsuroku Kyushu yakuza retsuden kyoken to yobareta otoko (実録 九州やくざ烈伝 兇健と呼ばれた男) (2013) 116. Shuryo no michi 6 (首領の道6) (2013) 117. Shuryo no michi 7 (首領の道7) (2013) 118. Shuryo no michi 9 (首領の道9) (2013) Round 3 119. King of Gangsters (ギャングの帝王) (1967) 120. Wandering Ginza Butterfly: She-Cat Gambler (銀蝶渡り鳥 牝猫博奕) (1972) 121. Detonation: Violent Riders (爆発!暴走族) (1975) 122. The Gorilla Seven (ザ・ゴリラ7) (1975) 123. Four Sisters (山麓) (1962) 124. Legend of Seven Monks (マスター・オブ・サンダー 決戦!! 封魔龍虎伝) (2006) 125. Battle Royale 2 (バトル・ロワイヤルII) (2003) 126. Adventurer Kamikaze (冒険者カミカゼ) (1981) 127. Truck Yaro: Dokyu Ichiban Boshi (トラック野郎 度胸一番星) (1977) 128. Robot Keiji: The Movie (ロボット刑事: 劇場版) (1973) 129. Fighting Fist (覇拳 ふりむけば修羅) (1992) 130. Akumyo: Tough Guys (悪名) (2001) 131. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) 132. The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy (柳生一族の陰謀) (1978) 133. The Fall of Ako Castle (赤穂城断絶) (1978) 134. Hunter in the Dark (闇の狩人) (1979) 135. Sure Death Revenge (必殺IV 恨みはらします) (1987) 136. Shogun's Shadow (将軍家光の乱心 激突) (1989) 137. Seventeen Ninja (十七人の忍者) 1990) 138. Dragon Princess (必殺女拳士) (1976) 139. Blazing Dragnet (燃える捜査網) (1975-1976) 140. Emergency Line (大非常線) (1976) 141. Violent Street (暴力街) (1963) 142. Life of Blackmail (わが恐喝の人生) (1963) 143. Gendai onibabako: Satsu ai (現代鬼婆考 殺愛)( 1973) 144. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (ワイルド・スピードX3 TOKYO DRIFT) (2006) 145. Resurrection of the Golden Wolf(蘇る金狼) (1979) * this is index is still work in progress, and while I cannot provide direct links yet, the reviews are in the above mentioned order, which should help you find them. I will also try to add more original titles in kanji when I have time.
  14. Takuma

    Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

    Hokuriku Proxy War (Japan, 1977) [35mm] – 4/5 This would be one of Fukasaku’s best movies if it wasn’t for the inconsistent tone. The problem is Ko Nishimura and Hana Hajime overdoing their cowardly boss roles to a comedic effect, an example of Fukasaku’s trademark authority hate materializing as comic goofiness instead of nihilism. It’s a shame as the film is otherwise terrific with chaotic violence as shocking as ever, another mother fucker score by Toshiaki Tsushima, and most importantly the snowy Hokuriku locations as a truly freezing backdrop for the action. Hiroki Matsukata is great as a psychotic, opportunistic yakuza (based on real life Kawauchi-gumi leader Hiroshi Kawauchi) and Sonny Chiba appears briefly as an Osaka yakuza boss (based on gangster Jiro Yanagawa). Chiba has two or three scenes, though his mullet is the most memorable part of his appearance. Tsunehiko Watase was also cast, but replaced by Goro Ibuki after he suffered a car accident on the snowy roads during filming. The film was Fukasaku’s swansong for the jitsuroku genre (Sadao Nakajima put of a few more in ’78 and ’79). The same year also saw the final Toei entries in the karate and pinky violence genres. The end of an era. * Original title: Hokuriku dairi senso (北陸代理戦争) * Director: Kinji Fukasaku * Chiba's role: Minor supporting role * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (no subs) Chiba
  15. I thought this might be of interest to some. I’ll try to introduce some of the most interesting cinemas in Tokyo, especially those places where you might be able to catch a Sonny Chiba film or a pinky violence movie on 35mm, post pictures, and give recommendations what cinemas to visit if you’re ever planning a trip to Tokyo. Classics and Genre Films Laputa Asagaya (JP movie retros only, late show often with genre flicks. All 35 mm or 16 mm. The best cinema in Tokyo!!!!) Cinema Vera (various retros from pinky violence to silent films. 35mm) National Film Center (retrospectives on classics, 35mm) Jinbocho (retros from Ozu to Godzilla and Seijun Suzuki. 35mm) Shin bungeiza (from new films to old genre films. Usually 35mm. All nighters often feature BD screenings, beware!!!) Art Center (classics, 35mm). Porepore (indie, arthouse, some times old films on 35mm) Kineka Omori (otherwise mainstream, but interesting weekly double features, e.g Tsukamoto flicks on 35mm) Okura (plays 35mm prints of older films from time to time) Cine Roman (pink theater, sometimes roman porno included) Indie, Arthouse, New Genre Films, Occasional Classics Eurospace (arthouse, occasionally genre films. Roman Porno retros played here in 2012! JP + foreign) K's Cinema (new arthouse films) Uplink Factory (indie, arthouse, docs) Image forum Human Trust Shibuya (new films, inc. genre films) Mainstream Cinemas That Sometimes Have Genre, Indie or Classic Films Cinema Rosa Kamata (usually latest hits, occasionally old films on 35mm, like Red Peony Gambler) Cinema Avenue Waseda Shochiku Humax Shinjuku musashino Ginrei Hall Shinjuku Cinemart Roppongi Cinemart Qualite R.I.P Theater N Ginza Cine Pathos Shinjuku Milano Auditorium Shibuya (indie) Baus Theater Cinema Rise Shinbashi bunka (mainstream + pink cinema. See Roman Gekijo section. Roman Porno's frequently. All 35 mm) For an excellent resource on cinemas in Tokyo area that show non-mainstream films and old movies, see this great Japanese website.
  16. Attack on the Sun and Target of Roses lack DVD releases in Japan. The rest are available. These being Toho, I don't really see them putting them out, although the recent Kumashiro announcement (Failed Youth and Africa's Light coming in December) gives me some hope. Lets hope for the best. The film I most wish would be released is not in this series: Nishimura's absolutely amazing debut film Too Young To Die (1969).
  17. A pretty great Toho New Action series coming up at Laputa. Dying to see Attack on the Sun (1970) and The Target of Roses (1972) by Kiyoshi Nishimura. And maybe Bullet Wound as well. The others I've seen. The whole program: 11/09(土)~11/15(金) 「狙撃」(Sun Above, Death Below) (Hideichi Nagahara, 1968) 11/16(土)~11/25(月) 「弾痕」(Bullet Wound) (Hideichi Nagahara, 1969) 11/26(火)~12/02(月) 「白昼の襲撃」(Attack on the Sun) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1970) 12/03(火)~12/12(木) 「豹(ジャガー)は走った」(The Creature Called Man) ()Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1970) 12/13(金)~12/19(木) 「野獣都市」(City of Beasts) (Jun Fukuda, 1970) 12/20(金)~12/26(木) 「ヘアピン・サーカス」 (Hairpin Circus) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1972) 1/06(月)~1/12(日) 「薔薇の標的」(Target of Roses) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1972) 1/13(月)~1/19(日) 「野獣狩り」(Beast Hunt) (Eizo Sugawa, 1973) Hairpin Circus The Creature Called Man
  18. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman (新座頭市・破れ!唐人剣) (Japan, 1971) [35mm] – 3/5 This is the only film in the series where Zatoichi farts! On someone's face, even! The reason I bring this up is that that fart in descriptive of the film: funny and functional, but rather unambitious, which is a shame for this being Zatoichi vs. the One-Armed Swordsman, Katsu vs. Wang Yu. Pitting the two giants against each other is only right, but doing it on the excuse of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings is just lazy writing. There was potential for more. Also, you’ve got to wonder how smoothly the filming went? Neither one of the two stars are known as the easiest people to work with, and this has them playing their most beloved characters in a Japan vs. China death match. Reportedly an alternative cut was released to HK audiences with additional and altered footage. The War of the Sixteen Year Olds (十六歳の戦争) (Japan, 1973/1976) [35mm] – 4/5 Funeral Parade of Roses director Toshio Matsuda's bloody excellent youth film set in rural Japan. This has one of the best opening scenes I've seen since Kiyoshi Nishimura's Too Young to Die (1969), with a young man arriving a town, and falling in love with a 16 year old girl as they watch the police pull two dead bodies from a river, all against a great rock song (the film's soundtrack is absolutely stunning!). Pure cinema! The film then follows their relationship as WWII traumas begin to surface in the town and lead the film down a far darker - and ambiguous - path. There are some jarring cuts and imperfections that make the film no less fascinating, and an amusingly gratuitous topless scene for Akiyoshi who looked pretty stunning at 19. Filmed independently in 1973, but not released until 1976. This became instantly of one my favourite 70s youth films! Failed Youth (青春の蹉跌) (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 4.5/5 Tatsumi Kumashiro's legendary youth film. This was his first movie for Toho, a departure from Roman Porno. The politically conscious script by Kazuhiko Hasegawa (The Youth Killer, The Man Who Stole the Sun) follows indecisive university student Ken'ichi Hagiwara and hopelessly in love younger girlfriend Kaori Momoi in the midst of young confusion, violent student radicalism and an era where modern and traditional clashed. It's a slow-burner, but excellently acted by Hagiwara and Momoi (also look out for Meika Seri as a street beggar) and filmed with loads of meaningful long takes, including an amazing love scene in the snowy mountains near the end. And the score is just beautiful! Kumashiro's masterpiece, no doubt! The film's obscurity shows just how little Toho cares for their own catalogue titles: chosen by the nation's best known film journal Kinema Junpo as the 21st best Japanese film ever made, Toho has not even bothered putting the film out on DVD (though it’s finally coming in December 2019). Crazed Beast (狂った野獣) (Japan, 1976) [35mm] – 3.5/5 Sadao Nakajima's outrageous action farce that is essentially one 78 min action sequence. Punks Takuzo Kawatani and Ruyji Katagiri highjack a bus which, unbeknownst to them, is already carrying a bigger bad guy Tsunehiko Watase. This is an obvious production follow-up to Kinji Fukasaku's car chase film Violent Panic: The Big Crash (1976), with largely the same cast but more hysterical approach. The bus is loaded with quite some characters and the cops chasing the bus are the most self-destructive bunch I've ever seen. Watase, who had already starred in Violent Panic, got a bus driver’s license and proceeded to do his own stunts, including flipping the bus on its side (the other actors who remained inside the bus were the expendable Piranha Corps. Kawatani, Katagiri and Takashi Noguchi, the rest of the passengers were replaced with dolls) despite Nakajima trying to stop him! I hated this film upon my first viewing about 10 years ago when I expected a serious action drama à la Violent Panic, but found it quite amusing this time. The funniest scene: an old woman consoles children who are scared of Kawatani’s character: "don't worry, that uncle will be caught and get death penalty". Mosquito on the 10th Floor (十階のモスキート) (Japan, 1983) [35mm] – 2/5 Yoichi Sai's debut, a depressing life-is-shit picture with Yuya Uchida as a cop in debt (to the bank, not the yakuza, unfortunately). He proceeds to do... very little. I first saw this on DVD and found it largely a bore; a 35mm screening a decade later did not change my mind. Flat filmmaking and a non-eventful story that Uchida's convincing performance can't save. The Miracle of Joe Petrel (海燕ジョーの奇跡) (Japan, 1984) [VoD] – 3.5/5 Toshiya Fujita's gangster film loosely based on the 4th Okinawa Yakuza Conflict (also the base for Okinawa Yakuza War, 1976) where a Kyokuryu-kai president was shot dead by a hitman. The film starts out a bit dull, but gains momentum when the titular killer flees to Manila (fully fiction from here on) where he hooks up with Japanese small time gangster (Yoshio Harada) who deals anything from women to VCRs. Fujita uses the foreign location expertly, capturing the corruption, dirt, sleaze and beautiful nature, while steering away from the travel show / tourist filmmaker approach that plagues many similar Japanese productions. Leading man Saburo Tokito could be more charismatic and there are a couple of misfire clichés in the action, but overall the film is impressive. Trivia: Toei originally acquired the rights to the novel the film is based on, and intended to make it with Kinji Fukasaku and Yusaku Matsuda. It went into pre-production and reportedly had a sales poster ready, but after various problems (it seems first Matsuda insisted on re-writing the script, then heroine Setsuko Karasuma dropped out because she felt Toei had exploited her in her previous film The Four Seasons: Natsuko (四季・奈津子) (1980) and she wanted nothing to do with the studio, and the release date was closing) the production was cancelled.
  19. Takuma

    Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

    Kadokawa x 3 Curtain Call (愛情物語) (Japan, 1984) [VoD] – 3.5/5 Utterly crazy Kadokawa dance flick with an amazing, ultra-80s "Broadway" musical opening which also collects all the black dudes in Japan into one scene! It's poor man's Flashdance, Streets of Fire, Michael Jackson and every 80’s female pop star in one, and it's one of the best manifestations of Kadokawa, whose strategy was to bring Hollywood spectacle into Japanese filmmaking. And this was helmed by the big man himself, narcotics criminal Haruki Kadokawa. The story is about 16 year old Tomoyo Harada going on a trip to find a lost father, then making a father figure of a nice middle aged man (the always watchable Tsunehiko Watase) while training for a musical audition. Showman Kadokawa was less a storyteller and more a monkey in the director's chair. But it works here, and there's no denying the musical scenes, many of which even the most hard-core 80s junkie would admit are cheesy as hell, deliver the fun and the sheer amazement. - Inujini seshi mono (犬死にせしもの) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] - 1/5 Fisherman Hiroyuki Sanada and two pals go pirate in 1947 Japan. A rather miserable drama with awful quirky direction and performances, including a couple of Japanese Richard Nortons. Sanada is the only one who comes off at least half-tolerable. I gave up after 40 minutes and fast-forwarded the rest, which seemed to be even worse. Lover’s Time (Koibitotachi no jikoku) (恋人たちの時刻) (Japan, 1987) [VoD] – 3.5/5 Kadokawa discoveries, part deux. Great opening scene with cute, disturbed girl (Michiko Kawai from Somai’s P.P. Rider) silently watching the sea. She sees a lonely surfer boy swallowed by the waves. The next moment two biker guys emerge and try to rape her. The surfer boy manages to drive the goons away, but gets knocked out in the process. The girl, who seems more irritated than shocked by the incident, comes out from hiding, still minus the clothes which she doesn't seem to mind. As the story continues, he develops an obsession to get her to go out with him. The girl (she lives with an old sculptor as his nude model) then asks him to track down a missing person. There's an odd quality to the film from the very beginning that I kept wondering about till Japan-best screenwriter Haruhiko Arai's (Rape Ceremony, Distant Thunder, Vibrator) name popped up in the OP credits, followed by Shinichiro Sawai's directorial credit. Sawai did Tragedy of W with Hiroko Yakushimaru, and this movie has the same kind of grip and relative grit. Not Arai at his most steady handed, yet endlessly interesting with plenty of unusual character details and melancholy, often captured by Sawai with ultra-long takes against gray Hokkaido fall backdrop. And the score is a by a certain Joe Hisaishi, who plagiarized his own work for A Scene at the Sea. Almost like a film from an alternative universe where idols do nudity and have traded bubblegum pop for dark psychological movies. - Also, the curious thing about Arai is that throughout the 80s essentially every second of his scripts were filmed as a Roman Porno and every second as mainstream or arthouse production, and most of them could've been any of the three with minor or no modifications.
  20. Cut-Throats Nine (Spain/Italy, 1972) [VoD] - 4/5 Nihilist survival western with a sergeant and his daughter left alone with 7 chained killers in the middle of snowy mountains after they've been attacked by robbers. Brutal, unique and captivating if not quite masterclass in execution, unmistakably 70s. A grindhouse cousin to Il grande silenzio. Silent Night, Deadly Night (USA, 1984) [DVD] - 3/5 A ridiculous Christmas trauma overkill followed by a much better second half with some inventive Christmas kills. The reindeer bit is easily the highlight. If you ever wanted to go postal after watching a slasher, this film is probably the best inspiration. "Naughty! Punish!" Blade Runner: Final Cut (USA, 1982/2007) [IMAX / Digital] - 5/5 Finally Blade Runner on the big screen! A 35mm projection of the director’s cut is a life goal that I may never achieve, so this digital IMAX served as an acceptable compromise for now. One of the 10 best films ever made!
  21. Continued… As the day was turning into a night, I headed for my final destination, Shin bungeiza, who were doing a brief 6 film Zatoichi series. The double features were: The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) (DCP) Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965) (35mm) Zatoichi Challenged (1967) (35mm) Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman (1971) (35mm) Zatoichi (1989) (35mm) Zatoichi (2003) (35mm) A slightly disappointing program for me, as I had already seen Zatoichi Challenged in 35mm, The Tale of Zatoichi was a DCP (rendering it useless), and Kitano’s Zatoichi is not worth re-watching anyway. That only left Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, one of my favourites but it played before I got to Tokyo, Zatoichi (1989), which I wanted to re-watch but it overlapped with Failed Youth and Resurrection of the Golden Wolf, and Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman which I did see. An alright film, but pitting genre legends Katsu and Wang Yu against each other on the excuse of language barrier and cultural miscommunication was just lame. There was potential for more. Also, while the 35mm print looked good, it had the same shrill, hard-on-the-ears sound I remember was on the old Animeigo DVD. A fair few of their DVDs had similar issues, e.g. Lady Snowblood and some of the Lone Wolves, but this was the first time I came across the same in a 35mm screening although I’ve seen all the fore-mentioned films in 35mm. A good friend of mine was supposed to join me for Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman but got “stuck in the train, cannot get out because some dumbass pushed the emergency stop button”. So he made it to the late screening only, which was… A Rutger Hauer memorial. The night’s film was the excellent Salute of the Jugger (1989), which I saw for the first time and had a blast with. It was a BD screening, and while I normally wouldn’t pay for such, this time it wasn’t about presentation, it was about being there and now, remembering Rutger Hauer! And while it was a BD screening, the print on the disc looked like an early DVD transfer which nevertheless was not entirely unfit for a film of this nature! Ads for upcoming programs, including a Battles without Honor and Humanity all night marathon... they had this last year as well. We closed the night with some beef, fish and Dutch beer in a nearby Ikebukuro restaurant. It was the annual shared birthday party for us. I gave away my French Cat Girl Gambling BD set away as birthday present, and received some Japanese boobs book, as typical (last year it was a ‘visual guide to breast sizes’, and the year before that ‘Mana Sakura Nude Photo Book’). The following day I’ve already mostly covered in an earlier post. I went back to Jimbocho for Failed Youth, Resurrection of the Golden Wolf and The Mosquito on the Tenth Floor, before heading back to the airport. I had the usual by-the-minute schedule to make it to my flight. I had to rush out of Mosquito the second it ended, and I still missed my sub because I had been looking at a weekday schedule by accident though it was Saturday! As a result I needed to make Hibiya-Yurakucho transfer (500 metres + the ticket purchasing hassle and boarding the next train) in 5 minutes, which by some miracle I did! Etsuko got all wet in the process, but thankfully I had a clean shirt in the bag. I reached the airport 9 min before the check-in closed!
  22. This is a thread for miscellaneous Japanese cinema... films that don't fall under martial arts, action, cult films, or other genres/topics that are the focus of this forum, but nevertheless deserve attention. In other words, one big thread for topics that probably wouldn't be discussed at kfc otherwise. News, opinions, whatever. Of course, if some conversation really takes off it can later be extracted into a topic of its own.
  23. Takuma

    Miscellaneous Japanese Cinema Thread

    All time best Japanese screenwriter Haruhiko Arai about modern Japanese cinema: “You have people who don’t know the history making the films and people who don’t know the history watching them. In other words, idiots make films and idiots watch them. That’s where we are now.” - https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2019/08/28/films/still-pushing-boundaries-40-years-film/?hootPostID=fdcaa1789f0bb2cb8ecc258b7fb22eac#.XXtyjmaRWUl
  24. Thanks. More to come soon. btw, Tokyo is screening Failed Youth this year like it's the end of the world. Shin bungeiza just announced they will be screening it a dozen times next month in a Kazuhiko Hasegawa appreciation, following Jimbocho's 1 week run (the Saturday screening I attended sold out 25 minutes before the screening) and two showings in National Film Center's R.I.P. series...
  25. Takuma

    Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

    Resurrection of the Golden Wolf BD vs. DVD comparison Top: Kadokawa BD (2009 master) (not the 4K mastered new version) Bottom: Adness DVD For uncompressed caps, see here: https://www.bulletsnbabesdvd.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=5316&p=136339