I have just gotten around to watching Punished, the Johnnie To produced kidnap thriller starring Anthony Wong, Richie Jen and Maggie Cheung.
A top notch cast show their chops with this gritty tale of a kidnap and ransom gone wrong. Wong shows that he is still box office draw with a great performance as a real estate developer Wong Ho Chiu, whose wayward daughter is kidnapped for a hefty HKD$50 Million pay off. Chiu entrusts his loyal bodyguard Yiu Kai Chor (Richie Jen) to track down and take out each of the perpetrators involved in the botched kidnapping but he has to live with his decisions as Yiu keeps him appraised every step of the way. Continue reading →
Set first in Hong Kong and then in San Francisco Chinatown, this Shaw Brothers classic pits studio favourite Alexander Fu Sheng against the Venom Mob.
Fu Sheng plays Tan Tung, an illegal immigrant to Hong Kong where is tries to find work to help his Grandfather. His unlucky streak starts after he saves a young girl from a prostitution ring and ends up fighting the local gangs. The gang leader frames him on a drugs charge and he has to flee Hong Kong for San Francisco. Here his luck carries on as he ends up fighting the local gangs again.
One of the better contemporary films to come out of Shaw Brothers Studios. Although the seventies look to the film has its moments. There’s a great scene where Tan Tung gazes longingly at a digital watch in a jeweller’s window, which is to become a theme through the movie . where if you own a digital watch then you’ve somehow ‘made it’.
The comedy still holds up to a certain extent and the fight scenes are of a typically good standard, although they are quite bloody and violent depending on which version of the film you watch. The added gun play (unusual for a Shaw Brothers film) adds to the Americanisation of the film but doesn’t detract from it’s genre roots. Continue reading →
•Action •Comedy 136min | Release date in South Korea : 2009/12/23
Written and Directed by Choi Dong-hoon, JEON WOO CHI : The Taoist Wizard takes us back 500 years when Wizards and Goblins do battle in order to possess an all powerful Pipe. Woochi (Kang Dong-won – Secret Reunion, M, The Duelist) is a Wizard in learning but spends most of his time tricking people (including the King) for his own gain.
When Woochi’s Master is murdered for the Pipe he becomes the prime suspect and locked away in a painting for 500 years by Hwadam (Kim Yoon-seok – Chaser, Running Turtle) and three Taoist wizards…
Now it’s today and Woochi is needed to help restore the Pipe and vanquish the same Goblins that once conspired to possess the Pipe in the past, because if they succeed the world will fall into chaos and disorder!
Over two hours of action and fun with plenty of laughs. I just finished watching this and couldn’t wait to recommend it. It’s a bit of a departure from Choi Dong-hoon usual fare, Tazza: The High Rollers and The Big Swindle, but it delivers a wicked punch up the throat to recent films that have failed dismally to deliver when it comes to action/adventure films.
A stellar cast including Kang Dong Won, Lim Soo Jung (Happiness, A Tale of Two Sisters), Kim Yoon Seok (The Chaser) and Yu Hae Jin (Truck) pull off such a major event that it’s not surprising it held South Korean box office audiences enthralled gathering in a massive six million admits during the Christmas 2009 period.
Available from Yes Asia on Blu-ray and DVD First Press 2-Disc Edition comes with cast and crew commentary, pre-production (storyboard, casting, training, photo gallery), making of (CG, production design, action, special effects, lighting), out-takes, trailer, and other special features.
Mix some dire dialogue and some awful over acting and you get?
Actually you get an hour and a half of no-brainer enjoyment.
Note: May contain spoilers!
This low budget effort struggles to get off the ground plot-wise but succeeds in an opening sequence that has some of the best choreographed camera work I’ve seen just recently. This some pretty fair sword-play and some decent martial arts work and is capped off with the appearance of the protagonist Yoshie, the “Robo-Geisha” herself.
Unfortunately from then on it’s just a little bit too slow and would have benefited from a shorter ‘origin’ plot and got straight to the end battle… however, don’t let this put you off, there is still some storming CGI and a bit of blood and gore too, so it’s not all gone to pot. And, if you like your Japanese movies to be in the traditional vein (a la Godzilla), then the Robot Castle at the end should please you no end!
I have to admit, that the funniest and most deplorable part of this film was the butt-sword fight at the end.. I was in hysterics…
The film doesn’t pretend to be a work of art, it doesn’t try to be anything other than over-the-top fun, and it succeeds at that pretty well.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to the music I listen to, but when I started to become interested in all things Japan my music tastes become somewhat eclectic. At first it was just garage band type guitar music, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant for example, but after becoming immersed in Japanese culture I noticed that I would be looking for places where I could find certain songs that had appeared in a movie. This led me to a wider appreciation of J-Pop as a whole.
Once you dip your toe into the world of J-Pop you can’t help but notice probably one of the most prolific and iconic singers there is – Ayumi Hamasaki. This amazing talent has, to date, had a sting of 22 consecutive number one singles – yes, consecutive!
I had heard a few tracks and sought out a few PV’s (she’s not too bad on the eyes either （＾＿－）☆wink), and on checking out her back catalogue found that she has 11 studio albums, 5 compilation albums and 19 remix albums. She has also released 51 singles (although some are double A sides, so it’s more like 60) and out of those, only 2 have not managed the top spot on the Oricon Daily Chart…
Now we come to her latest release – Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the album last week for review but have only just managed to find the time to listen to it. But I have to say, that it is probably one of her best efforts yet. Obviously this is only a personal opinion, but the CD has such a wealth of variety that you can’t fail to be impressed by it’s diversity.
As with all albums though, there seems to be a trend of putting in pointless little tracks that last for about a minute – fillers, if you like – and this to me seem a bit of a waste. As for the rest of the album, well it ranges is style from soulful ballads like Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ and rocky pieces like Lady Dynamite, to dance tracks like Don’t Look Back and even one which I can’t really define – Sexy Little Things – but at least it sounds fun.
All in all it’s a well rounded album, extremely well produced and should be on your shopping list if you like J-Music…
Sunset 〜LOVE is ALL〜
Don’t look back
Sexy little things
Sunrise 〜LOVE is ALL〜
meaning of Love
RED LINE 〜for TA〜
So, you’re all asking, “Where can I buy this CD?” Well, today I am mainly recommending Yes Asia, where you can pick up the album in a number of formats:
It’s been a while since I bigged up anything from Korea, so I thought I’d spend the next couple of days going through my watched list and pointing you in the direction of decent flicks that are available now or coming soon. To start, a true gem called ‘Living Death‘ 불신지옥 (English release title: Possessed).
Nam Sang Mi(The Ghost, 2005) finally returns to the screen in a horror/thriller directed by débutante Lee Yong Joo, who also wrote the script.
The story centres around Hee Jin (Nam Sang Mi) as she attempts to track down her missing younger sister So Jin, (Shim Eun Kyung (Hansel and Gretel, 2009)), who is suspected of being involved in a spate of local murders and from being possessed by a demon.
The official release date for the Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl DVD is approaching. Pony Canyon are pushing it out on the 26th of this month and there’s a treat for those people who jump on it now as the first pressing comes with the OST included.
Valentine’s Day chocs arrive for high school student Jugon, Monami has made these tasty treats herself and they have a secret ingredient… the recipe for turning people into Vampires!! Jugon’s girlfriend Keiko, is not at all impressed by the other girls actions and follows them to the roof of the school to confront them. However, in a bizarre twist she falls to her death only to be reborn as Frankenstein Girl by her Mad Scientist Dad! Who will be victorious in the deadly battle that ensues?
This is one of those film’s I harped on about when I was keeping the sight a little more up-to-date than I have been doing recently. Unfortunately this release looks as though it’s lacking an English subtitle track, it’s also single sided/single layered with a 2.0 soundtrack – I’m hoping for a better second pressing. However, if you can’t wait then cdJapan are offering this one for ¥4700, which is around the £30 mark. Pricey indeed…
Back on the 11th of January, I wrote about one of the better films to be played at last years Terracotta Film Festival in London -Yoshihiro Nakamura’s ‘Fish Story‘. A film about a Punk Rock band’s final album recording, a song on it that has a strange gap in and the outcome that it causes.
1975 Japan sees the hapless bunch get a recording contract but for it to go nowhere fast, they decide to go out in a blaze of glory and record their last album as they want to, rather than their appointed producer. They include on the album a song inspired by a book that their manager leaves on the table called Fish Story.
Fast forward to 2012 and the world is doomed, a massive meteor is due to arrive and all attempts at destroying it before it gets here have failed. What can save the day? Surely not that song, Fish Story???
Pretty much my last ‘real’ post of sorts was back in September when I mentioned the long awaited return to the Yakuza genre for Takeshi Kitano. Well, an official web site has been set up for the film over at Office Kitano and it has a teaser trailer to boot. This trailer only really highlights the many stars that are in the film rather than any decent clips but it’s worth checking out for the stellar cast that’s involved.
Slated for release on June 12, 2010, Outrage is the story of a Yakuza syndicate that needs to have a particular matter with a rival gang dealt with, however getting someone to step up to do the job is a little more difficult that it seems. The task is handed down through the ranks until it ends up with Otomo (Kitano) who, for some reason, always gets the crappy jobs.
One of the better films at last year’s Terracotta Festival in London was Fish Story. The film by Yoshihiro Nakamura (The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker), is based around an album recorded by a Punk band in 1975. The story flip flops backwards and forwards through time from the band’s recording of the album in ’75 to the impending doom of the planet as a meteorite plunges inward in 2012.
With a great soundtrack and some quirky performances, this is a real treat to behold.
This dark and moody film is set in Japan’s Middle Ages at a time when Demons collected the souls of man. One particular Demon said to be collecting 1,000 souls from those that come near Gojoe Bridge is nearing the conclusion of his endeavour. The only thing that might be able to stop the killing is if a the converted killer, Benkei, can take on this Demon and kill it.
Since a traumatic experience in Benkei’s life converted him to Buddhism, he has not taken a human life. Not so before, his name was known all to well when it came to killing. In fact it was said that he is a Demon himself, born with a full head of hair and teeth.
After he has a vision telling him to go to the Gojoe Bridge to defeat the Demon, Benkei enlists the help of a master sword-smith, Tetsukichi, who helps him recreate the Demon Killer Sword to cut down and end the Demon of Gojoe’s reign.
With a clever and engaging storyline, this film weaves an integral plot of some making. Taking in mysticism, the occult and religion and pitting it against the sword. Two clans, the Genji and the Heike. The Genji is banished from Kyoto and are plotting their revenge against the Heike and in doing so have weaved a clever way to get to them.
Starring Tadanobu Asano(Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, Ichi the Killer, The Taste of Tea, Zatoichi) as Shanao, Daisuke Ryu(Bayside Shakedown) as Benkei and Masatoshi Nagase(Stereo Future, Electric Dragon 80.000 V, Pistol Opera, Suicide Club, Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!) as Tetsukichi.
Also Known As: Gojoe (Japan) | Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle
Runtime: 138 min
Production Company: Toho | Suncent CinemaWorks | WoWow
Set in the grimy underbelly of Sao Paolo, Yu Lik-wai’s film dissects the dynamic between a man and his adopted son as they weave through the cities counterfeit world.
A dark and mesmeric piece (shot almost entirely on green screen by the looks of it), it attempts to show the congested conflict of a city at war with itself and eventually its people. Anthony Wong(156 projects dating back to 1984!!) plays Yuda, a man at the top of the ladder in the counterfeit market, his empire stretches far and wide and he is a friend of the people. Jô Odagiri(Azumi, Shinobi, Hazard, Adrift in Tokyo) plays Kirin, his son and right hand man. The two get caught in a web of betrayal when corrupt politicians looking for a pension pay off set Yuda up for a big fall. Spiralling into certain doom the father and son team have to fight their way out of jail, gang wars, blackmail and assassination attempts just to try and break even but things go from bad to worse as dark days arrive and they come face to face with their own mortality and destiny.
Also Known As: Dangkou | Purasutikku shiti (Japan)
Runtime: 118 min
Country: Brazil | China | Hong Kong | Japan
Language: Portuguese | Mandarin | Japanese
Subtitles: English | Traditional Chinese | Portuguese
Filming Locations: São Paolo, Brazil
Production Company: Gullane Filmes | Bitters End | Novo Films | Sundream | Xstream
Michael Arias, better known for his work in the animation and digital domain on such features such as Tekkonkinkreet, Princess Mononoke and The Animatrix; lends his hand to directing a live action, Japanese film that’s actually a remake of a German comedy/drama from 1997.
Okay, confusion out of the way – we can begin… Tomoya Nagase (My Boss, My Hero) plays Masato Aoyama, a life-long part-timer with no ambition. After a string of blinding migraine attacks he seeks medical advice only to be told his has an inoperable brain tumor. After being hospitalised he meets Harumi Shiraishi played by Mayuko Fukuda. She has also been diagnosed with a terminal disease and they bond almost immediately.
The film then turns into a road movie as they drink too much tequila, steal a Maserati, rob a post office and in a last ditch attempt to fulfil their dreams – head for the beach.
The lead characters plight is hampered all the way by a vicious man trying to get his hands on his Maserati (and the contents therein) and the Police Chief in charge of their capture. What starts out to be a joy-ride to the ocean escalates into a desperate attempt to make dreams come true.
With a superb screenplay by Mika Omori (My Boss My Hero, Detroit Metal City) [developed from an original story by Thomas Jahn, subsequently developed into a screenplay by Til Schweiger for the original German film], stunning photography, outstanding lighting and a soundtrack that is so subtle but massive supplied by the Electronic Virtuoso’s Plaid – the film takes a bleak theme and turns it into something beautiful and compelling.
Don’t miss the tiniest of cameo appearances by Anna Tsuchiya – I missed it first time around and had to skip back to double check!
The film is available in both DVD and Blu-ray format from Yes Asia.
And I highly recommend you check out the soundtrack too.
I think what has impressed me most about Jackie Chan‘s latest efforts (and I’m talking those films made outside of Hollywood – because we all know that they’re pretty dire…), is the way he’s been able to turn his hand to actual acting. Case-in-point, The Shinjuku Incident.
I picked up the Special Edition, which is also uncut, when I was in Hong Kong just recently. I didn’t get a chance to watch it until last night but I have to say that I enjoyed immensely.
Derek Yee (One Nite in Mongkok), directs a movie following the life of an illegal immigrant – Steelhead (Chan) – from China to Japan, looking for his fiancée Xiu Xiu (Xu Jing Lei). During his time there he manages to bring together the Chinese migrants, establishing a community that should help fend off the oppression of their Japanese hosts. Things progress to a stage where this community starts to be it’s own law and gang fights start to breakout across the Shinjuku district. Meanwhile, Steelhead discovers that Xiu Xiu is now married to Yakuza boss Eguchi (Kato Masaya), and this eventually turns sour as the Chinese and Yakuza come to blows…
Originally written May 1, 2009 ‘Aruitemo Aruitemo’
When it comes to film, it seems as though only a select few are able to capture what’s really trying to be said in a script. This is especially the case in mainstream Hollywood or Europe except for those rare art-house type flicks that come along once-in-a-while, like Garden State or Little Miss Sunshine. Japan, it seems, monopolises the market when it comes to dramas that hit the sweet spot – the unabashed sensibility of stripping down humanity to its core and laying it out for all to see. Something that’s a stark contrast from the Japan that is available to us in real life.
Writer/Director Hirokazu Koreeda has a string of dramas to his name and this time around he opens the suburban door of a slightly dysfunctional family with all the usual issues in place – the generation gap causing an inability to communicate, the shame of being out of work and not being able to say so and the lack of understanding between siblings.
The Yokoyama family gather to commemorate and mourn the death of one of their own. This has it’s own problems as they don’t get together too often. The Grandfather now retired from his medical life wished his son to continue in his path – this wasn’t to be and so on meeting his new Grandson he bestows his wisdom on what a worthy life it is to be there for the people.
The son unable to talk about his problems relies on his new wife to do most of the talking, this causes other problems as having married again is not seen to be correct.
From it’s quiet beginning to it’s even subtler and quieter finish, the film strolls along in the summer heat slowly picking out it’s way drawing you in to the hearts of the family as they desperately try to get along.
A wonderful piece of film making that’s well worth picking up.
Also Known As:
Aruitemo Aruitemo (Japan) | Still Walking | Even If You Walk and Walk
Production Company: TV Man Union
Ken’ichi Matsuyama (well known actor in the role of ‘L‘ in the Death Note series of movies) plays a shy young man, Soichi Negishi, whose only interest is to make gentle music like that of his idols – Swedish Pop bands – his music is the kind that only puppies would like. Equipped with obligatory bowl head haircut, he goes to a corner in town, puts his guitar case down and strums to his heart content singing about things like flowers and love. This is getting him nowhere, he needs money to pay bills … the only action is to become a lead singer of a Death Metal Band, thus his alter-ego is born – Johannes Krauser II a terrorist demon from hell, a monster that killed and raped his parents (in that order). He takes his band DMC (Detroit Metal City) on the road and become the largest, loudest thing to hit Japan since the A-Bomb. However, Negishi hates DMC and all it stands for, longing to become the acoustic genius he thinks he is, he struggles with the pull of his obvious stage talent and his need for something more gentile.
Matsuyama shows that he is not only a great actor, but that his range is pretty awesome too. He plays two distinctly different characters in this film – miles apart from his ‘L’ outing and even more charismatic than his performance in ‘The Taste of Tea‘, where I first encountered him.
The story is somewhat strange but then it’s based on an anime that’s based on a Manga which in turn gave birth to this grotesquely funny flick.
All titles available from Yesasia, free postage worldwide.
Apologies for the untidy appearance of this post, I’m having trouble with the formatting in WP.
I’ll be completely honest here, the only reason I watched this particular film is because Anna Tsuchiya appears in it. If she wasn’t on the list, it wasn’t getting in. Which is sheer stupidity on my part. All I had to do was look up the director: Nakashima Tetsuya and see that he not only had ‘Memories of Matsuko’ (which I chatted about here) to his credit but one of my most fave films of all time – ‘Kamikaze Girls’ (which I think I’ve chatted about all over the place). This alone should have booted me into action and got to watching this flick a lot sooner than I did.
What Nakashima has done in this film isn’t all that different from how he tackled his previous projects, i.e. if you don’t want to see something oddball and entertaining – don’t see this film. His sense of humour must be something to behold because it oozes out of the screen and fills the room with ‘fun’. Way over-the-top acting, Way over-the-top scenery, Way over-the-top dialogue and Way over-the-top story-line combine into something strangely wonderful and immensely enjoyable. However, I had trouble trying to figure out what age group the film was aimed at. At first I thought it was a children’s film as the story centres around a little girl who has amnesia and who’s only pleasure is to read a pop-op picture book. However, some of the other things the film touches on, drugs, suicide and the ever present feminine charms of the leading actress’s who manage just to just about fit into their nurses uniforms. So I am in the mind that this film is a fairy tale for adults – and that’s great.
Jaji no Futari | Jersey no Futari | Two in Tracksuits
There is no real premise to this film, it’s just a pleasant journey of discovery for both those on and off screen. From the opening scene where a dramatically over exposed camera setting manages to show us just how unbearably hot Tokyo can be during the summer, to the cool greens used once we leave the city setting for the mountainous backdrop of the family vacation home, you can feel the movie cool down.
The characters add an amazing depth to this film with an astonishingly plain portrayal of a father and son, not really connecting but just about managing to get along. Add to the mix the occasional visitor and you get a chance to get almost Ocean’s 11 with the score as the habitants try on their respective tracksuits. Add to it the strength of unemotion that seems to be inherently Japanese and you feel the struggle to manage each and every scenario the characters are placed. From the grin-and-bear-it attitude that is accepted to the broiling turmoil underneath that is struggling to break free, Sakai Masato (Honey & Clover, The Wall Man) seethes quietly as ‘The Son‘ whilst Ayukawa Makotosomehow nonchalantly tags along for the ride as ‘The Father‘.
Ryuichi HIROKI‘s (I Am and S & M Writer) film from 2000 is one of those films that has you curiously captivated throughout – probably for the wrong reasons but it’s so grotesquely fascinating and at the same time gentle and touching, that your eyes become glued to the screen.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m sure the Japanese have major issues with stalking. It seems to be such a prominent feature in many of the films, books and manga coming out of Japan over the last decade or so that it makes you wonder whether it’s a given pass time for many of the countries inhabitants. In fact, I’m so used to the stalker plot-line that I’m almost convinced that it’s quite normal myself.
Some films use this storyline to an extent that it somewhat dulls the reality of it all and we get a watered down attitude towards it. But Hiroki’s film doesn’t do this, instead it highlights a young womans complexity as she struggles with her feelings towards her victim.
Miyuki(Mami Nakamura – Tomie) lives in an apartment block on a level below Yoshinori(Kazuma Suzuki), the man with whom she is utterly infatuated. Every day she waits for him to put out his trash, she retrieves it and sorts through it in her apartment – which is adorned with all sorts of plunder taken from the treasure trove of finds. Her most prized possessions being his old denim jacket and a crumpled up handwritten music score. She wears the tattered jacket and learns to hum the tune whilst eating the same cereal he does, eating the same instant ramen, smoking the same brand cigarettes he does and cutting pictures out of the magazines he has discarded. However, one day whilst she is happily going through his refuse, picking out the cigarette butts and putting them in a jar, she discovers a used condom. This discovery makes her realise that her stalking approach isn’t really working and that maybe a more direct approach should be taken.
Knowing everything about him, she goes to the club where he plays guitar. When the club is empty, she walks in, sits beside him as he plays his guitar and starts to hum the tune that he threw away. One thing leads to another and they end up going back to his place, which was of course, her plan.
In a somewhat ironic turn, the morning after he mentions to her that he knows about her daily theft of his rubbish he finds it cool and interesting to have a stalker. It’s then that she realises that she is disgusted with him and we watch her purge him from her system by taking all of the items from her apartment, hitching a ride on a refuse tug boat and bury it all in a Tokyo landfill.
The film also features the beautiful Shibasaki Kou of Shaolin Girl and Dororo fame, as Miyuki’s friend from the cafe in which they both work.
Also Known As: Tokyo gomi onna | Tokyo Trash Baby | Tokyo Garbage Girl
Production Company: Arcimboldo Y.K. | Bonobo Co. | CineRocket
After being imprisoned for throwing away her room mates possessions, Suzuko Satô – played by Yû Aoi (Don’t Laugh at My Romance, Welcome to the Quiet Room, Memories of Matsuko, Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers) decides to up sticks and travel Japan from town to town, only moving on after saving up a million yen, enabling her to recoup her travelling expenses and set up home.
A story of bad luck, strung together by moments of happenstance, we follow Suzuko as she struggles with her recent history of imprisonment, the shame it involves and ultimately how she manages to deal with becoming an adult.
From town to town we follow as she gets involved with people, changing their lives as well as her own just enough to make her uncomfortable and subsequently have to move on. From being the Ice Cream aficionado, to the Peach Hip Girl to an employee of a garden centre. She longs to find what’s missing in her life but all the time missing what’s right in front of her.
Cleverly put together, director Tanada Yuki gives us a fascinating insight into the mind of a young girl struggling to find out who she is. With great performances by Aoi and expecially by Ryûsei Saitô who plays her younger brother a great addition to any DVD collection.