Whale of a Tale Productions

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Space Battleship Yamato by Yamazaki Takashi (2010)

Well I was so excited for this that I rented all I could of Star Blazers on Netlix (they are missing some discs though) and watched all the movies, and some of it was great, but only some. The casting was good, the production design and sets, and the actual Yamato looked awesome, but the story they totally fucked up! As a fan, I just wanted to see an adaption of the seminal Anime series that I grew up watching as Star Blazers, and this is unfortunately not that. This is a whole new beast, where they changed the story, and not for the better. The Aliens they call the Gamilas, are more a Halo enemy than the Gamilus from the Anime, and much less scary for it. The changes made are arbitrary and don’t add to the story, and the ending is much more the failed Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato than the successful series (where they destroy the ship and crew), and while I am impressed by the actual effects, the small size of the Yamato’s bridge really distrubed me. And the lack of Desklock and a human like enemy that you could really hate, and who could eventually become friends hurt the story as much as the arbitrary changes. I like the effects and casting, so I am glad I saw it, but still wish for a more accurate depiction of the original anime.

In the year 2199 the earth has been under attack for 5 years by the evil aliens the Gamilus, and they have turned the Earth into a irradiated planet without a chance for life, and humans have moved underground to live. An Earth Defense Force Fleet led by Captain Jyuzo Okita (Yamazaki Tsutomu). His fleet is destroyed, and he is saved by another captain Kodai Mamoru (Tsutsumi Shinichi) who dies to save his commander. Fighter pilot Mori Yuki (Kuroki Meisa) also survives. On Earth former Ace Pilot Kodai Susumu, Mamoru’s younger brother works searching for hidden metals on Earth’s surface, but while out, something crashes, and he finds a probe, but is badly irradidated, and should die. He is saved by Okita’s ship, but blames the captain for his brother’s death. The doctor Sado (Takashima Reiko who is OK, but not as good as the older male character from the Anime) thinks Kodai should die. The message contains plans for a new engine, and space coordinates. Okita gets the Earth defense to let him have the Earths last Battleship the Yamato with the new engine, to instead of evacuate Earth with the best and brightest to follow the plans to give Earth Hope, and they ask Civilians to volunteer.

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Ichi by Fumihiko Sori (2009)

Being a huge Katsu-shin fan, and especially Zatoichi fan, I was reticent of the first Zatoichi remake by Kitano Takeshi, and rightfully so. While it was an enjoyable Kitano film, it was not an impressive Zatoichi film, with it’s digital blood, and unimpressive storyline. Sure it had an a musical number, but it was not Zatoichi, so I have to admit to being reticent about seeing a Zatoichi remake with a female lead, but I watched it anyway, and I am glad it did. This is a gorgeous re-imagining that can actually be thought of as a sequel, with a great cast, a great story, and absolutely gorgeous cinematography. I did not think I would like it, but instead I loved it, and am ready for another film. Sure I called a major plot point pretty early, but it had to happen to allow this to be the first film of a possible series, of which I would love to be a watch them all if they are going to be this good! A beautiful and well done film, which shows that digital blood has come along way (especially with some judicious fake blood used as well). Ayase is excellent, not doing the closed eye thing of Katsushin, but instead keeping her eyes open and blank, and by the end you really care for this girl. I really enjoyed it, and the US blu-ray looks fantastic, so certainly check it out if you get a chance.

Ichi (Ayase Haruka from Cyborg She) is a poor homeless goze singer, a blind singer and entertainer who has been cast out of her home. We know this happens when a goze singer has relations with a man, but we are not shown exactly what happened to her, but she is not an ordinary goze singer, she is also a master swordsman who uses a unique underhand sword style, and the power of her amazingly trained ears to dispatch any opponent. She is taking shelter at the house of another cast out goze, this one now now working as a prostitute. The gangster who sleeps with her does not pay though, and she is beaten by him and his two men. Ichi does nothing, but then they see her, and she is much more beautiful than the other, so they begin to bother her. She is about to draw her sword, when the slightly bumbling Toma (Osawa Takao) shows up and challenges them, but then starts shaking when he tries to draw his sword, so he tries to buy them off. They take the money, and then plan to kill him anyway, but Ichi quickly dispatches all three. Toma is blown away and starts following her, and he says he lost all his money because of her (it was cut in half when she killed the Yakuza). They run into a kid while going into town, who takes them to a gambling house. Toma tries to earn some money, and Ichi gives him hints, using her exceptional ears, earning back his 10 ryo. As they leave some gangsters come on them and are going to kill them for the money, but Ichi quickly kills them all. The local town chief’s son comes upon them, this is Shirakawa Toraji (Yosuke Kubozuka) who thinks that Toma has done it, and hires him as the family bodyguard to protect them from the evil Banki (Nakamura Shido) and his henchmen.

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Tokyo! by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax & Bong Joon-ho (2008)

An anthology film with director’s looks at the city of Tokyo! The trailer was amazing, and I was so looking foward to this, and was a bit let down. I loved Gondry’s surreal short, though it is incredibly strange, and Bong Joon-ho’s is at least interesting, but I did not at like the film of Leos Carax. It was strange and not the least bit enjoyable. Just off the wall for it’s own sake. It might be worth seeing the first and the 3rd short, but just skip the second, because it brings all 3 down. A pretty strange little anthology.

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Shaolin Girl 少林少女 by Motohiro Katsuyuki (2008)

I had high hopes for this Shaolin Soccer in Japan, and with cute Japanese girls in the lead. It has the Producer and director of Bayside Shakedown, Kameyama Chihiro and Motohiro Katsuyuki, appearances by two Shaolin Soccer cast, Tin Kai Man And Lam Chi Chung and is executive produced by Stephen Chow, but this film did not come through at all. In fact the film is really a total mess, without the fun of Shaolin Soccer, and even the cute girls can’t help pull this ridiculous mishmash of a story out of the toilet. The end is like a cheesy version of Game of Death, but with a non-martial artist in Bruce’s part (Jeeja Yani from Chocolate has really ruined for me seeing cute girls do martial arts because she is so talented) but with cheesy effects, and some elements from Star Wars (the Dark Side and the light Side), though it all seems to be saved by love. I was really hoping for a Shaolin Soccer with girls about Lacrosse, but they really only touch on that, and then veer into other territory with a weird story of the University President who is running some evil training school on the school grounds, and wants to fight Rin for no reason whatsoever, and it never really makes sense, nor is it brought together with the rest of the story, it is like a second story grafted onto the first that has some of the same characters, but doesn’t really fit together, and then for the credits they actually do the Shaolin style Lacrosse games, and that made me actually wish that was what the movie was about, instead of, uh, I am not sure exactly. Kitty Zhang Yuqi who plays the student who befriends Rin and gets her into Lacrosse, is super cute though, really reminds me of a young Cecelia Cheung, before the whole sex scandal thing at least! She will go places I am sure.I can’t recomend this one, even the cheap Chinese Region 3 DVD which I picked up doesn’t really make this worth it.

Rin (Shibasaki Kou) has just completed her 3000 days of training at Shaolin in China, and she is to return to China, though her teachers worry that she could turn to the dark side. She returns to China, and with her enthusiasm tries to recruit every person she can find to do Shaolin Kung Fu, but no one is interested. She returns home to her dojo and finds it closed and completely run down, and goes to seek out the old students to find out what happened to the dojo, and no one seems to know exactly. At a restaurant she finds Fatty (Lam Chi Chung) and Tin (Tin Kai Man) and she finds her former Sifu Iwai (Eguchi Yosuke) is the chef, and a Chinese student named Minmin (Kitty Zhang Yuqi) works there. Minmin is the only one interested in Shaolin Martial arts and makes a deal with Rin to teach her martial arts if she goes to join the lacrosse team. There is a cross story going of the evil university president (Nakamura Toru) who is using the university to make money and train students in a special facility, but it doesn’t really intercross. Minmin introduces Rin to the other girls, and she shows her strength, though it doesn’t make her accurate with a lacrosse ball, and she gets permission to join the team.

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Cyborg She 僕の彼女はサイボーグ by Kwak Jae-Young (2008)

A science fiction version of My Sassy Girl, directed by the original director in Japan. This film is fun, and quite ridiculous, with some major faults in logic (the birthday cake pushing being something that doesn’t quite work out), but it has good visual effects, and the performance of Haruka Ayase while not quite up to Jun Ji-Hyung, is still quite good and enjoyable, and she certainly is damn cute. It does borrow liberally from the Terminator, including the lighting with time travel, and all gets a little too convoluted at the end for it’s own good, but it is a lighthearted Korean love story, so it has to end well somehow. Certainly worth checking out, especially if you are a My Sassy Girl fan, but don’t expect anything deeper, this looks like they really wanted him to make more of the same, and that is what Kwak did here.

Kitamura Jiro is a lonely guy living in Tokyo, without any family left, left to fend for himself on his birthday. At a store he buys himself a present, and while there sees a strange but beautiful girl (Ayase Haruka) stealing clothes, and following him and smiling with him, and finally joining him for a birthday dinner, where she eats like a pig, and then has them run out and get chased by the owner and a cop. Jiro keeps following her, and they end up at his rooftop apartment, and she gets serious, saying that this is where a guy broke up with her, telling her he didn’t even want to see her walk anymore, and she throws a walk through a window. He calms her down, but she takes him to a staircase, before telling him to close his eyes while she leaves, but she stops, and tells him she time travelled from the future, and gets him to open his eyes, before she leaves. A year later Jiro is again alone on his birthday, and buys himself a watch, but the strange girl shows up again, but this time she is a bit different. She goes with him to dinner, and ends up saving him from a madman with a machine gun, and then goes home with him. There her eyes light up, and Jiro is shown a hologram from the future of himself 63 years later. He is crippled, but rich, having won the lottery, and spent years making his dream girl to send back and protect Jiro so he wouldn’t become like him, and that the cyborg can get a soul by living with him.

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Strawberry Shortcakes by Yazaki Hitoshi (2006)

A film based on the manga by Nananan Kiriko, this is a tale of yearning for love and hope following a group of women whose lives at least slightly intersect in the cold and impersonal world of modern Japan. It is a film that slow simmers, where it starts off slow, showing little glimpses into these women’s lives, but also taking you from a non-caring observer to a person with a vested interest in these women’s lives, loves and hopes. This film certainly makes Tokyo seem a lonely place one can get lost in, but still it does have a glimmer of hope in there, and ends on a high rather than a low. A godo film, and I hope to see more out of Yazaki because he did a great job with these actresses.

The film follows 4 different women living in Tokyo, Satoko (Ikewaki Chizuru) who works as a receptionist at an escort agency, and Akiyo (Nakamura Yuko) who works as a prostitute. And an OL or Office Ladey named Chihiro (Nakagoshi Noriko) and her freelance artist roommate named Toko (Nananan Kiriko). And these girls are all out in their own ways to find love and hope and happiness, but they have to find themselves first.

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Kekko Kammen by Nagime Takafumi (2004)

A ridiculously low budget titillating japanese send up of fan service with a nude super hero who saves the woman at a school for television journalists. Also known as Kekko Kamen new, and the film has the wrong listing at IMDB, listing the stats for the next film Kekko Kamen: Mangurifon no gyakushu. This film has bad effects, topless (when full nudity is shown it is blurred by bright light coming from the crotch. This is almost too bad to be good, but still has some ridiculous fun to it.

A young japanese expat from New Zealand named Mayumi (Hoshino Aki) has returned to new Zealand to attend the Mangriffon School for young Journalists, but is having a hard time because she does not know Kanji. The teachers are in fact sadists who use a torture room in the basement to punish their students. Mayumi is soon tortured, but is saved by a naked superhero named Kekko Kamen (Mori Misaki).

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Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea by Sawai Shinichiro (2007)

A Japanese Epic blockbuster of the story of the great Mongol General, that is an enjoyable popcorn film, but does not seem deep at all. The film feels more like a plastic Hollywood film than a great epic, as the film has an almost all Japanese cast, and is all in Japanese and sounds like a samurai film in the performances and dialogue. And the film never has much depth to it, glossing over emotions, even in things like him meeting his second wife. It fells rushed, but the battles are pretty damn intense, with some amazing horse stunts, and there must have been endless extras (it was the most expensive Japanese film of all time, even if it did bomb). I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t recommend it to many.

In the year 1162 the Mongolian tribes are not united, they all fight with each other, and even steal women from each other, and the leader of the Borjigin tribe Yesugei-Baatar (Hosaka Naoki) steals Houlun (Wakamura Mayumi) from a man of the Merkit tribe, and makes her his wife, though she hopes that her husband will return for her, though he doesn’t. 9 Months later she has a boy and her husband names him Temujin (when grown he will be played by Sorimachi Takashi) and though people think he is Merkit, he takes him as his son. When the boy is 14, and he and Houlun have had more children, he takes Temujin to go and find a wife, and ends up getting engaged to the daughter of a friend of his named Bolte (Kikukawa Rei). He then makes friends with her childhood friend Jamuqa (Hirayama Yuskue), and they make a bond as brothers for life, but then Temujin gets a message that his father has been killed by a poisoned arrow, and he must return home quickly.

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Kamikaze Girls 下妻物語 by Nakashima Tetsuya (2004)

Wow. Let me say that again. Wow. This movie is complete insanity and so much fun it is ridiculous. Just totally off the wall, and yet a great story of friendship as well, but told so stylishly it is just ridiculous. This is a must see, and my only complaint is that the US DVD is not anamorphically compressed, so the image looks only mediocre on my HDTV. And the costumes have to be seen to be believed, they look straight out of fruits.

The movie starts with a Japanese High School student Ryugasaki Momoko (Fukada Kyoko) who is a Lilita girl, or as she say it a Roccoco girl, who dresses in insane frilly clothes, that she spends all of her money (well her father’s money) on. She is riding a scooter, and crashes into a truck, and is thrown through the air, and then cuts back to tell her story and why is rushing to meet her friend Shirayuri Ichigo “Ichiko” (Tsuchiya Anna) who is a Tanki or bad ass biker girl. First we get Momoko’s story, how her father was a low level Yakuza (Miyasako Hiroyuki) who met her mother (Shinohara Ryoko) at a club and had Momoko, but was already cheating with the obstetrician. The Father sold fake clothes, and they got so popular that he had to go on the lam, and his wife had already left in, with Momoko’s strange acquiescence. They moved the the country with his mother. Momoko has no friends, but is happy with it, and just always dressing her way, and going to her favorite story in Tokyo, but then she tries to make some money by selling her dad’s fake clothes an that brings the crazy Yanki girl Ichigo, who starts sticking around.

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Dororo by Koichi Chigira (2007)

I hadn’t even heard of this Japanese adaption of the Manga with the same name until I saw it at Five Star Laser in San Gabriel and picked it up, and I am quite glad I did. The effects might stand up to an American film, but they are adequate to the task, and makes for an enjoyable Wuxia style Chambara film. The characters are fun, and Kou Shibasaki is damn cute even if her original character is supposed to be a bow, and not a woman hiding herself as a man until she can revenger her parents and find a great man to be her husband. The New Zealand landscapes give this a fresh look, and this movie is just. And it is cool to be able to pull off a limb and have a sword inside of your, and then be able to put the hand back and have it work. Nice. I am so looking forward to the 2 sequels to this enjoyable popcorn action film.

The film strangely is set in the future while the manga was set in the Ancient Songoku period, and that is where this seems to be, except in a magical version of the past. The world is at constant war, and one clan is losing badly, so its surviving leader Kagemitsu Daigo (Kiichi Nakai) spends the night in a temple filled with the depictions of 48 demons, where the monk who carved them went mad. Daigo makes a deal with the demons that he will give them his unborn son, so they can carve him up and use his body parts, and they will grant him the world, and Daigo agrees, getting a lightning burned cross shaped scar in the process. We then cut 16 years into the future, and a female thief dressed as a boy and living with no name (Kou Shibasaki) steals some guys purses and runs into a bar, where a warrior who pulls off his hands and has swords under them is battling a spider demon. The man is Hyakkimaru sometimes know as Dororo (meaning little monster) [Satoshi Tsumabuki] and once he defeats the demon, his leg falls off and cumbles to dust, and then causing him great pain his leg grows back. The girl follows him, and talks to a story teller he knows, who tells her Hyakkimaru’s story.

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Drunken Angel written and direct by Akira Kurosawa (1948)

Another Criterion Edition, the only company out that seems to really care about getting amazing editions of all of Kurosawa’s films out in the US, and thankfully they did this film when they did because even after a restoration this print has certainly seen better days. Still with Shimura Takashi and Mifune Toshiro playing off each other in this one, you can’t really go wrong, I don’t think Kurosawa ever had better actors than these two. This is a great look at life for low end, mixed with the Yakuza in the slums around Tokyo soon after the war, and sure some of the locations are obviously sets, and Mifune’s makeup can be a little over the top, but this movie about an unconventional friendship and learning that the Yakuza only uses words like honor, and doesn’t actually believe in them is a powerful and enjoyable film. And Shimura’s gruff anti-hero (he is good, but gruff and always says what he thinks) has become such a staple in later films that you know films like this heavily influenced them, and this film certainly reminded me of Ikage Sensei which was made much later. A must see for any Kurosawa fan.

Shimura Takashi plays Doctor Sanada, an excellent doctor, and voracious drunk living in the slums outside Tokyo with his grandmother and a nurse named Miyo (Nakakita Chieko) who he looks after (and likes) since her Yakuza husband went to prison. The doctor speaks his mind on everything, and people think he is mean, but that is just how he is. And when he wants to help someone, he will give his all. Matsunaga (Mifune Toshiro) is a punk who runs the local market comes in because he has a bullet in his hand. Sanada fixes the hand with no anesthetic, and quickly diagnoses Matsunaga with tuberculerosis, and Matsunaga ignores him, and attacks him, but is stopped by Miyo. Eventually Matsunaga realizes that Sanada is right, and he must do something, but he still doesn’t want to go get an X-Ray from the successful doctor who is Sanada’s old classmate, as Matsunaga doesn’t want to seem week in front of his men.

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Linda Linda Linda リンダ リンダ リンダ by Yamashita Nobuhiro (2005)

Another addition to the cute high schools girls making a band genre which has been pretty big over the last few years, and include such greats as Swing Girls, but this one has a much more realistic edge than the others, as the girls are only trying to learn 2 songs to do at their school festival, and not become an all around great band. The characters are good, and the story of friendship, even across languages and cultures holds up very well. This is a simple and slow film, with static camera angles, that focuses mainly on the characters of these girls, though showing more of a slice of life than an in depth character piece. Certainly enjoyable, but I do think it may have been a bit overhyped.

3 Friends in high school in Japan have decided to start a band for the school festival, these are the headstrong Kei Tachibana (Yuu Kashii), the cute drummer Kyoko Yamada (Aki Maeda) and the very shy bass player Nozomi Shiroko (Shiori Sekine). Kei has gotten in a fight with the singer though and the guitar player player has broken her finger, so she has borrowed her guitar and is learning it. When Kei sees the singer she is fighting with she decides to pick the next person they see to be the singer of the band, and the next girl they see is the Korean exchange student Son (Bae Doona). Son doesn’t have many friends, and she instantly agrees, though her English is not too good, but she will work hard.

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Love And Honor by Yoji Yamada (2006)

The third film in Yoji Yamada’s samurai trilogy (only a trilogy in the sense of being stories about Samurai and love in the period of decline for Samurai. This is a wonderful tale of love and sacrifice and betrayal, and like all of Yamada’s films also has some great samurai fighting, though mostly being a samurai is peripheral to the love story, and the character drama. I picked up the Taiwanese disc which has English subs and looks great, though it is of course region 3, so you will probably have to wait on this one to be able to see it in the US, and the fact that the first film in the series, the Twilight Samurai was nominated for an Oscar may help it get a release here. We can only hope. I really do need to get my DVD’s of the first 2 films back so I can get my girlfriend to watch them. Yamada is such a talented director, but he isn’t too young, I hope he keeps making films though.

Mimura Shinnojo (Kimura Takuya) is a low level samurai working for a lord. He is happily married to a beautiful and loyal wife named Kayo (Dan Rei) and they are helped by their servant Tokuhei (Sasano Takashi). Mimura is a food taster for the lord, which he thinks is mostly a ceremonial position, where the tasters sit in a dark room next to the kitchen and must take a bite of each food before it is taken to the lord. The thing is, Mimura has some shellfish, and is poisoned, and gets very sick, and the lord is barely stopped from eating it. Mimura is put unconscious and very sick, and it is thought he might die, even his annoying aunt comes to see her sick nephew. Mimura does awaken though, but he has a problem, he can’t see. They tell him he will recover, but the doctor tells Kayo he will probably never get his vision back, and Kayo tries to keep it from him, but he finds out from Tokuhei, who can’t lie to him.

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Yo Yo Girl Cop by Fukasaku Kenta (2006)

A low budget Japanese action film adapted from a Manga. Low budget fun, and all worth the end showdown with the battles with yo yo’s. The action is fun, the girls are cute, and the story is as silly as can possibly be, but totally fun. I hope they do a sequel. Silly fun.

K (Matsuura Aya) is found with an expired visa in the US, with her mother being suspected as a spy, a Japanese cop is brought over to deal with the daughter, who has caused some serious damage. The cop is Detective Kira Kazutoshi (Takeuchi RIki) who worked with her mother when she was a secret agent. The Japanese use young girls as special agents, and they give K a deal to become secret agent Asamiya Saki with only a metal yo yo that doubles as a police badge, and the deal is that if they do it, they will get her mother released from jail and cleared from spying charges. Saki is sent into a high school to investigate a suspected terrorist web site known as “Enola Gay” and some rumors of explosions, and the last agent sent in exploded in central Tokyo with a bomb strapped to her. Another branch of the government has also sent an agent in as there is a 48 hour countdown and the police need to know to what.

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Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood (2006)

Winner of Best Foreign Language films at the 2006 Golden Globes, this is one of the best war films I have ever seen in my life, easily topping Eastwood’s sister piece FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. Not only is this film done nearly perfectly technically, but the performances of these men is amazing, especially the fact that they know they will die, and yet they continue on, and it is the cowards the vote for suicide which is the easy way out. I highly recommend this film as one of the best films of 2006.

This is the story from the Japanese perspective of the battle for Iwo Jima island in World War 2, the island that was so important to the American’s as a base for planes for hitting the Japanese mainland, so the soldiers were basically given the suicidal task of defending this barren rock in order to slow the advance of American soldiers. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) arrives on the island to take up his post, and finds the island in a dreadful state. The Army and Navy aren’t even coordinated, and the soldiers are being beatings from leaders who don’t know how to defend the Island properly.

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Takeshis’ by Kitano “Beat” Takeshi ??? (2005)

Wow, Kitano does get stranger as he gets older, and here he seems to be completely deconstructing his whole evil gangster persona once and for all, laying it to rest in this strange doppelganger tale filled with a mixture of dreams and reality. In the film he actually plays himself as well as a strange other who has a failing acting career because of his resemblance to the real Kitano, and we see his life from 2 perspectives, on based in reality and one that is fantasy, where he is not popular and he dreams of being his gangster persona for real, but it never quite works out. It has many shades of Hana Bi and Sonatine, and just rips them apart. The plot is constantly wrapping it self back into self so you never know which version of Kitano you are watching or even if there are 2 Kitanos’ in this film at all. I certainly don’t recommend this film to someone who has not seen a Kitano film, but for someone who has seen all of his films it really should be seen in all it’s strangeness.

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Shinobi: Heart Under Blade by Ten Shomoyama (2005)

Yes the action in this film is total anime, though shot live action, though nothing I haven’t seen before, but I was totally let down by this. I mean I didn’t think AZUMI was the best film, but it was better than this. It purports to be a love story about Star Crossed lovers, but doesn’t really work out, and I really don’t believe it. Not only that but the story has huge holes in it, like why don’t these hidden shinobi villages have look outs to see when the army approaches? Yes I did like the fights, but the movie overall was pretty lame, with under-powering performances and a lame as hell ending.

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Versus by Kitamura Ryuhei (2000)

This film blew my mind when I first saw it, as it was unlike anything I had ever seen. This combined genres I never thought I would see combined, Wuxia martial arts action and a zombie film with old fashion John Woo gun fights to boot. It has off the wall characters and a story that doesn’t really matter, and certainly doesn’t make that much sense, but it is just there for the action. Now watching it this time, and with my editors eyes I must say the film does drag a bit. It could easily have been significantly cut down without losing anything, like the 2 police characters that are totally pointless and superfluous, and aren’t as funny as the filmmakers seem to think. And some of the stuff with the Yakuza just drags on and really is not needed. Still an enjoyable film, and I love the shooting style (all moving cameras with canted angles) and the hyper kinetic action that takes this film totally over the top. One interesting note is that I don’t think they had any real guns, as the barrel flashes seem totally weird, and the automatic beretta one of the Yakuza is carrying bears a striking resemblance to my japanese airsoft pistol of the same make.

I have read that in Japan they went back extra action years later for a special edition, and added 10 minutes to the end of more action and gore. I would love to see it, but wouldn’t really want to see the film at 2 hours and 10 minutes! Ha, still would like to see it.

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The Hidden Blade by Yamada Yoji (2004)

Instead of sitting through the entire academy awards by myself, I turned to watching this film, which is Yamada’s next film after the academy award winning TWILIGHT SAMURAI, and very much shares a similar feel. Again this film is set in the waning period of the Samurai in Japan, when guns are beginning to take over, and depicts a very realistic, non glamorous tale of that period. And in my opinion is a film of equal quality. In fact once I have some more work I plan collecting as many more of Yamada’s films as I can find with subtitles. This film is an incredibly well done period drama in a period where the whole country is changing and the lives of the people are in flux, they are used to the old ways, but can’t escape the new ways. I highly recommend this film if you can find it (I have the region 2 Japanese DVD).

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Stray Dog by Kurosawa Akira (1949)

I have been on a real Kurosawa kick of late, and wish I could afford to get more of his films, but this is the last one for a while. This is an early film of Kurosawa’s before his first huge success with Roshomon, but already his flair is starting to show. This isn’t just a crime thriller because it delves into the psychology of the criminal, and we see the cop wavering in his conviction. And I have never seen Mifune Toshiro look so young, and while he does give a powerful performance, through most of the film he is so troubled and is just following in Shimura Takashi’s footsteps trying not to lose himself in his own guilt in the matter at hand. An excellent film, though possibly a bit slow paced compared to modern thrillers.

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Ran by Kurosawa Akira (1985)

This film is the true definition of an epic, and made very late in Kurosawa’s career. Of course heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s King Lear, but with a completely Japanese twist and tone. And unlike his earlier works you can’t even feel sorry for Hidetora who has caused the downfall of his own empire by handing the reins to his sons, and the scheming wife of his elder son. This film is gorgeous, with epic battle scenes the likes of which will never be seen again (at least without computer generated armies) and is the depiction of the downfall of a nation through the cruelty and violence and backstabbing brothers who it is left to. It goes without saying that this is a must see, and the new Criterion disc is excellent with multiple documentaries, interviews and an incredible booklet.
REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Red Beard (Akahige) by Kurosawa Akira 1965

Wow. So this was the last collaboration between the great Mifune Toshiro (usually just the coolest man ever, but here the best man) and certainly one of the all time top directors Kurosawa Akira. This movie is absolutely fantastic. And it really just comes down to not just being a good person, and really realizing about yourself, and learning you may not be what you think, and you are better off being the best person you can be, and really doing all you can to help people, because that is what must be done. I seriously cried for the last 20 minutes, not only for sadness, but just because how beautiful the message of the movie was, and how much it moved me. WHAT AN AMAZING FILM! I really need to get the rest of both of their films, though I honestly don’t think either were ever better than when with each other.

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Gate of Flesh by Suzuki Seijun (1964)

If you have read much of my blog you probably know I am a huge fan of Suzuki Seijun, and have collected every film of his that has been released in the US to date, luckily someone at Criterion is obviously a huge fan as well. Not yet at his completely off the wall insanity stage, but another film with quite a social message about the state of Japan after World War II. Pleasantly this film is in color so we get some of Suzuki’s wild color’s and we also see a scene where the character Sen is lit with a sharp spotlight that moves with her as she moves, and some nice double exposures to show characters inner thoughts. Certainly worth checking out, though not one of the first Suzuki films you should see.

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Samurai Spy by Shinoda Masahiro (1965)

Another great film in the Criterion Samurai collection, but this one much different than the others. This one combines ninja type action with political intrigue dealing with the Tokugawa Shogunate 14 years after it came to power though war, but tensions still arise between other factions. A very enjoyable film, that reminded me somewhat of Shaw films of the period with the Ninja antics thrown in throughout. Excellent performances, and I love the end fight which is almost completely obscured by smoke. The film is really a cold war spy film, but set in the era of the Tokugawa shogunate.

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…

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Sword of the Beast by Gosha Hideo (1965)

Another excellent Ronin film released by Janus Films Criterion edition. These are just great Samurai films, and I hope Criterion keeps releasing more excellent Japanese films that have not been released here as of yet. This film is about the ambiguousness of serving for honor and loyalty to ones clans, when the higher ups will in fact think nothing of throwing you away and killing you once they have used you for their purposes.

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILER…

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