What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Minato no Yoko, Yohohama, Yokosuka (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4/5
A crazy disco dance youth film plays out like a Japanese Saturday Night Fever with a murder suspect plot. A young girl (16 year old Ai Saotome) is looking for her runaway sister and ends up finding new life at a night club. Expect psychedelic discos, dance-till-you-drop-dead all night dance marathon competitions and Downtown Boogie Woogie Band, whose song gave the film its title and plot, and who appear in the ultra-funky intro scene. What a discovery!

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The Defensive Power of Aikido (Japan, 1975) [35mm] – 4/5
Sonny Chiba left the leading role to his brother Jiro Chiba in this excellent, though very loose biopic of Aikido founder Moriehei Ueshiba. For entertainment's sake, the film focuses on Ueshiba's somewhat reckless early years. Chiba himself shows up in a slightly villainous supporting role as a bodyguard for a villain gang. Aside terrific action and cool soundtrack by The Street Fighter composer Toshiaki Tsushima, the film benefits from a surprisingly good screenplay Koji Takada, who uses themes of honour, duty and brotherhood similar to old school yakuza films. One of the best Japanese martial arts films of the 70s.

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Rugby Yaro (Japan, 1976) [35mm] - 3/5
The success of Truck Yaro (1975-1979) initiated a whole load of movies that put "Yaro" in their title, including this semi-bonkers sports comedy/drama. Sonny Chiba's brother Jiro Chiba stars as a Rugby player whose team must find a way to beat the opponent. It's a standard storyline without any major surprises, but works surprisingly well. Training scenes are relatively nuts; much better than the actual matches actually, which tend to go on forever. There is no sex, nudity or graphic violence, making this a family friendly affair. Sonny Chiba appears for about 7 minutes during the last third as a truck driver who comes to Jiro's rescue. It's not a classic film, but a pretty decent time waster.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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The Yellow Sea (2010-South Korea-USA-Hong Kong) **½
Ultra-violent, sometimes exciting thriller, marred by confusing plotting and ridiculous shaky cam (throughout).
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Spriggan (Japan, 1998) [35mm] - 1/5
A truly awful anime film that is too violent for kids and too childish for anyone else. It reminded me of Ryuhei Kitamura on an especially bad day, although the truth is even Kitamura could not helm such boring, stupid action. I kept falling asleep for short periods during the last 30 minutes and probably didn't miss anything worthwhile.

Akira (Japan, 1988) [35mm] - 4.5/5
The only reason I stayed till the end of Spriggan was that Akira was playing next. This is the second time I see Akira in 35mm within two years and it's always a blast. One of the best sci-fi films ever made.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 33

Machine Gun Dragon (Japan, 1976) [VoD] - 1.5/5
A comedic yakuza film with Bunta Sugawara and his gangster mom robbing a bagful of mafia money. Of course they get in trouble when the mafia sends their finest hitmen, including Toei's black actor Willy Dosey, after them. There are two great things about the film: Sonny Chiba as a high kicking passport forger and Bunta Sugawara's theme song. Both last for about two minutes. Nothing else is great about the movie. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous but rarely in an amusing way. One of the weakest films Chiba appeared in in the 70s.

Jail Breakers (Japan, 1976) [35mm] – 3/5
Sonny Chiba is a master prison breaker in an entertaining, but slightly underwhelming action comedy loaded with impressive stunt work. The film was a return to the "modern stunt action" that had initially made Chiba famous in Key Hunter (1968-1973). The film has a tremendous opening in which Chiba escapes prison grabbing to ladders from a helicopter, changes his clothes in the air, jumps down to a moving truck and then jumps to another moving vehicle to make the escape. Jackie Chan would do something similar a few decades later in Police Story 3. The rest of the film is a less inspired mix of action, comedy, and criminals taking turns at deceiving each other. Director Kosaku Yamashita was a master of old school ninkyo yakuza films, but he never seemed quite as comfortable with modern day movies.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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School of the Holy Beast (Japan, 1974) [35mm] - 4/5
Norifumi Suzuki's nunsploitation film is by far the best thing the genre ever produced in Japan. Nikkatsu's nunsploitation films never came close to this one in terms of quality. The film's got the usual ingredients - lesbianism, whipping, sadistic priest, disco scene, revenge plot - but what puts this in a class of its own in the extremely stylish, moody and occasionally surreal visuals that resemble Suzuki's earlier pinky violence film Sex & Fury, and even the films of Dario Argento to some extent.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 34

Okinawa Yakuza War (Japan, 1976) [35mm] – 4/5
This excellent jitsuroku yakuza film is based on the 4th Okinawa conflict which saw the local yakuza battle the mainland gangs after Okinawa was handed back to Japan in 1972. The conflict was still going on at the time the film was released, and fearing the film might add fuel to the fire, the Okinawan government banned it immediately. Sonny Chiba plays the most frightening character of his career as a psychotic mad dog yakuza with karate skills. The character is basically a combination of two earlier Chiba characters: Otomo from Hiroshima Death Match, and Tsurugi from The Street Fighter. The film's real lead is Hiroki Matsukata, but Chiba steals every scene he’s in with his incredible over-the-top performance. The film does lose a bit of its energy when Chiba is not on screen, but it's still a very solid and extremely violent genre film, just a notch behind Kinji Fukasaku's films.

Karate Warriors (Japan, 1976) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Kazuhiko Yamaguchi was widely considered one of Toei's least talented directors, yet he made some of the most enjoyable action films of the 70s. He compensated his lack of originality and message with an abundance of solid, occasionally exhilarating and technically well-enough made mayhem. Karate Warriors (Kozure Satsujin Ken) is literally a mix of Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami) and The Street Fighter (Satsujin Ken) as well as Yojimbo. Sonny Chiba is a wandering karate warrior who arrives a town ruled by two competing gangs. He tries to profit from the situation, while Isao Natsuyagi's samurai bodyguard with a cub is complicating things. Passable story and plenty of great action. The film is best remembered for the fantastic slow motion effect where a scene is otherwise played in slow motion but the action reverts back to normal speed for a fraction of a second just when Chiba's hit or kick is about to reach its target.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Trail of Blood (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 3/5
Kazuo Ikehiro's take on deromanticizing matatabi / wandering swordsman tales, including the popular Chuji Kunisada character (a Robin Hood like outlaw who also appears in a couple of Zatoichi films), whose men are portrayed as mad dog killers in this film. Ikehiro's movies often fall short of greatness for not being refined enough; however, at the same time they are nearly always interesting for his gritty and energetic approach. Perhaps a good way to summarize him as a director is quote his answer about his favourite spaghetti western: Django (1966) (rather than something by Leone).

The Shaolin Temple (HK/China, 1982) [DVD] - 3/5
Jet Li's first movie, shot in mainland China. Impressive martial arts, but the fights do tend to go on for too long towards the end. For a film celebrating the heroes and goodness of Shaolin, the characters are oddly mischievous, constantly breaking the rules. Just wait for the dog scene! Even our hero's only motivation for becoming a monk is to learn how to kill the bad guy. Filming locations and sets are often gorgeous.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 35

Doberman Cop (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 3/5
Kinji Fukasaku's last crime film for the 70s. This is much different from his nihilist jitsuroku output; a loose adaptation of Fist of the North star author Bronson's manga. Sonny Chiba is a country bumpkin detective from Okinawa, sent to Tokyo to catch serial killer. The case turns out to be connected with music industry. Chiba enters Tokyo carrying a pig in his bag, begins his investigations by visiting a strip club where he basically gets raped by a dancer, and soon befriends a pot smoking motorcycle gang. He's also a trigger happy, karate trained badass who doesn't hesitate to take out bad guys in the film's effective action sequences. It all plays out like a live action comic book, which may take a while to get used to. Beneath the flamboyant surface, there is Fukasaku's usual gritty world view to be found, however. The storyline, which links the show biz and underworld, is more interesting than average.

Karate for Life (Japan, 1977) [35mm] – 3/5
The final film in the Masutatsu Oyama trilogy was also Chiba’s last karate film in which he played starring role. It was the end of an era; the 70s karate film boom had ran its course (new kind of action films with Chiba protégé Hiroyuki Sanada would emerge in the 80s, however). Having battled bears and bulls in the earlier instalments, Chiba now encounters the most frightening beast of them all: an American pro-wrester. It's not one of Chiba’s better films, but it's still quite entertaining if you can accept some clichéd drama featuring orphan children and rather silly fights against wrestlers. The film's best scenes are the cool opening, in which Chiba beats 101 karate fighters, and fantastic closing duel against nemesis Masashi Ishibashi. Okinawa locations are also somewhat well used, and Hideo Murota turns in a good supporting performance as a fight promoter.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Hex 2/5
Don't really get along with the Shaw horrors and this is another example-Abusive husband is killed by his wife and maid and dumped in the local pond..but when it's dragged there's no body to be found...it's not bad of it's type,atmospheric and it's cool to see a few faces from the old kung fu flicks appearing here...but the totally unnecessary killing of a live snake ruined this one for me.
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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saltysam wrote:Hex 2/5
Don't really get along with the Shaw horrors and this is another example-Abusive husband is killed by his wife and maid and dumped in the local pond..but when it's dragged there's no body to be found...it's not bad of it's type,atmospheric and it's cool to see a few faces from the old kung fu flicks appearing here...but the totally unnecessary killing of a live snake ruined this one for me.
I haven't seen this one, but I'd like to.

Have you seen Boxer's Omen and Bewitched? Didn't care for those?

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Like Sam, I rarely care for the Shaw horrors. It just wasn't their forte. And I have seen the three films you mention. ;)
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Devil's Temple (Japan, 1969) [35mm] - 3/5
Shintaro Katsu plays a bad guy in this arthouse jidai geki by Kenji Misumi. It's good, but feels a lot like a theatre play shot on film. The entire movie is set in only a handful of locations: two rooms and a veranda count for over 90% of the film.

Hanzo the Razor: Who's Got the Gold? (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 3/5
It is not many films that have a plot synopsis like this: "After extracting information by raping a ghost, Hanzo uncovers a plot among high officials to steal the shogunate's gold". Shintaro Katsu is again the Edo era Dirty Harry, only dirtier and hornier. It's a bit less inventive film than the first two, but still enjoyable with an amazing blacksploitation score and Hanzo's interrogation methods that that never cease to amaze. Some might be offended by the treatment of women in the film, but it's frankly so over the top that no one should take it seriously.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 36

Yakuza War: The Japanese Godfather (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 2.5/5
By 1977 the jitsuroku yakuza film genre was nearly dead. Sex and ultra violence weren't the big thing anymore, and producers were telling filmmakers to try and appeal to female audiences. Violence was cut down, more drama added and running times were extended. Novels were often used as source material. It was the beginning of the end. The Japanese Godfather was a sort of transitional film. Toei gathered basically every big name actor they could get for this film, and called it “30 years of Toei men” on the poster. While running way long at 132 min, and lacking an interesting storyline, it still kept some of the ruthless violence and sex. Highlights include enraged Sonny Chiba grabbing a man by the chest and yelling at him AFTER shooting him six times.

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Honor of Japan (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 2/5
This was a sort of companion piece to the Godfather of Japan trilogy (1977-1978), which director Sadao Nakajima put out around the same time, to the extent that it shared some of the same advertising taglines. All of the films were talkative, story-heavy films about organized criminality, featuring a dozen central characters in each film and mostly lacking the hectic energy of the mid-70s yakuza films. They are, despite their ambition, a sad example of where the genre was heading: towards pretentious "serious crime cinema" that emphasized pseudo-epic storylines over mayhem despite not having especially interesting storylines in the first place. Honor of Japan works best during its few violent shoot outs, and when it pits yakuza stars Bunta Sugawara and Sonny Chiba against each other, but like the Godfather of Japan films it suffers from a slow-moving and not all that engaging storyline.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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saltysam wrote:Hex 2/5
Don't really get along with the Shaw horrors and this is another example-Abusive husband is killed by his wife and maid and dumped in the local pond..but when it's dragged there's no body to be found...it's not bad of it's type,atmospheric and it's cool to see a few faces from the old kung fu flicks appearing here...but the totally unnecessary killing of a live snake ruined this one for me.
I struggled with the first half, as it was a very old fashioned rehash of Les Diaboliques and the Hammer knock-offs of that film, with very tedious melodrama. Once it turns into more of a HK film, it gets much better, and has some good scenes of tension and comedy. It's a rare film to make you worry for Hon Kwok Tsui's well-being. Plus you get a naked lady painted in magic symbols, which I'll take over a nude Sammo any day!
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon 4/5
beautifully shot and acted martial arts drama loses a point for the needless 20 minute sequence in the desert.The UHD disc looks marvellous so i imagine the blu ray will as well.
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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The Fort of Death (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 3/5
The second film in the trilogy (following Killer's Mission) is less of a samurai spy flick and more of a Seven Samurai variation. Tomisaburo Wakayama leads a five man army defending a small village from corrupt officials. His trademark gatling gun comes in use. Action, ninjas, silly sex jokes, and an amazing body count provide entertainment even when the storyline and execution fail to rise above average.

Eight Men to Kill (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 2/5
The last film in the trilogy is the weakest of the three. Wakayama is again a doctor/bounty hunter, this time hunting for stolen gold. Wakayama is good, but the storyline and Shigehiro Ozawa's direction are routine. It's watchable, but lacks highlights. More action wouldn't have hurt either. It's especially disappointing considering this came out the same time when Togo was releasing the far, far superior Lone Wolf and Cub films.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 37

Message From Space (Japan, 1978) [VoD] - 2.5/5
The Japanese were quick to take note of Star Wars' success, releasing a handful of copycats to Japanese screens before the film had even opened in Japan. Message From Space was the biggest budgeted (approx. $5 million) of them. Hiroyuki Sanada, Etsuko Shihomi, and Vic Morrow star; Sonny Chiba has a small and forgettable supporting role. In fact, more interesting than the cast is the fact that the film was based on an old samurai novel. Unfortunately the sci-fi adaptation turned out quite a mess with hardly any interesting characters. Special effects are sometimes good, sometimes not. Tokusatsu fans may still like it, and indeed the film has its fans, but for non-genre fans there are better movies to see. Fukasaku did much better with his second try, Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983), which was a tremendously entertaining pop ballad period fantasy version of the same story.

Okinawa 10 Year War (Japan, 1978) [35mm] – 3.5/5
Sonny Chiba is at his most charismatic in this yakuza film based on the same conflict as Okinawa Yakuza War (1976). This one, however, covers a 10 year period. It was produced after the primary jitsuroku era and one can see the effect: the violence has been toned down a little bit, drama is emphasized with larger (not better) female roles, and there is a comedian included in the cast in a serious role. None of these changes were for the better. Chiba, however, is terrific as a gangster who has a wife and child to take care of. His acting is solid and charisma, partly thanks to the bearded look, is through the roof. Hiroki Matsukata co-stars. Opening credits and advertising materials bill him as the lead, but I would say Chiba is the actual main character with more screen time. The action packed ending is also very satisfying.

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Robbery, Arson and Killer Convicts (Japan, 1975) [TV] - 1.5/5
Strangely unbalanced prison escape film plays out like a jazz tuned buddy flick, except its heroes often engage brutal violence and rape. The contrast is distracting yet too weak to generate any kind of shock value. Truly bizarre, but not in an entertaining way. As it stands, this is another example of ninkyo film master Kosaku Yamashita losing his edge in the 70s. The film kind of works in the beginning until the viewer realizes there is little point to anything that unfolds on the screen. Hiroki Matsukata and Tomisaburo Wakayama star as the odd couple attempting to escape together. One would've expected a far better film from this trio. Third and final film in a loosely linked series of prison films, all starring Matsukata.

Graveyard of Honor (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4.5/5
Devastatingly powerful jitsuroku yakuza film, and one of the darkest, most violent Japanese films ever released to mainstream audiences. The true story follows a maniac small time yakuza (Tetsuya Watari) on the US occupied streets of post WWII Tokyo, ready to fight anyone who steps on his way. It's not a rags to riches tale, but a rags to sewer tale. Nikkatsu actress Meika Seri makes a brief but powerful appearance as a drug addict hooker. Her scenes are among the film’s most tragic and hauntingly beautiful. Kunie Tanaka is even better as another lowlife drug addict who barricades himself in a building with Watari to fight the police. One of Kinji Fukasaku's best films.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 38

Dead Angle (Japan, 1979) [DVD] - 3/5
154 minute, novel based crime drama about a sociopath businessman (Isao Natsuyagi) and his associates who cheat small businesses out of their money with shady contracts in the early 50s. It's a pretty well acted and somewhat original film that nevertheless suffers from the late 70s / early 80s "mammoth disease" that came to plague Japanese cinema. Running time has been extended beyond the necessary point, and the emphasis has been shifted from action to character drama. Thankfully, here it works pretty well. Sonny Chiba has a small but decent supporting role as a small time mobster who becomes partners with the main character, doing some of his dirty work.

G.I. Samurai (Japan, 1979) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Sonny Chiba brought back his early 70s modern action formula for this massive action movie. The film was budgeted at over one billion yen, which was almost as much as Kagemusha (1980) and twice as much as Samurai Reincarnation (1981). The action fantasy mixes science fiction with historical characters. Chiba is a self defence forces commander whose platoon somehow gets thrown back in time to the 17th century. The generous budget has allowed Chiba to design a truckload of great stunt and action sequences. In terms of execution the film may not have the punch of Chiba's best films, and it tones down the exploitation factor a bit, but it's still a highly entertaining ride.

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Train to Busan (2016-South Korea) ***
Suspenseful, thrilling Zombie horror picture makes great use of it's confined setting, though some may find the switching between comic book pulp and mawkishness uneasy.
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Shitakari Hanjirô: (Maruhi) kannon o sagase (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 3.5/5
A pleasantly ridiculous ninja / period drama / sexploitation film with an Iga ninja searching for a mating partner for the shogun. The previous girl gave birth to a snake (yes, a snake) so the folks are understandably a bit upset. A magician them they need to find a woman with a special womb. She will have a mole in her forehead, and her vagina will shine brilliantly when she's at the peak of her pleasure (seriously, I'm not making this up). Shot on film, with great production values, lavish colours and costumes, and without a hint of self irony! Contains unbelievable scenes like Ibuki jumping upside down on a cross to have sex with a woman who is about to be executed and throwing bombs around to keep the guards at a distance. I would have liked more action, but there are two enjoyable fights. Based on a Kazuo Koike manga.

Aesthetics of a Bullet (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Workman director Sadao Nakajima took one film break from Toei's genre pictures to helm this Art Theater Guild production. It is, in fact, not that different from his Toei films, although it has a certain independent film aura with extra attention to realism and detail. The film portrays gangsters as incompetent losers who cannot even start epic trouble. The protagonist is a street thug who makes his living selling rabbits and living off his girlfriend's money. He finally gets a chance to rise through the ranks when he's sent to Kyushu to kill a man. Star Tsunehiko Watase is clearly enjoying playing a bigger loser than usual, although he hadn’t reaches his peak as an actor yet. Pinky Violence starlet Miki Sugimoto is an interesting piece of casting; she'd make a bigger impression a few years later in ATG's Preparation for the Festival, though. Rock band Zuno Keisatsu provides the electrifying soundtrack.

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Shogun's Ninja (Japan, 1980) [35mm] - 3.5/5
A relatively bizarre ninja film mixes period drama, idol appeal, and fantastic action, all set to a truly horrible porno jazz soundtrack. Hiroyuki Sanada is a young avenger returning from exile from China (a perfect excuse for Hong Kong style action choreography, often enhanced with the same awesome slow motion technique introduced in Karate Warriors). Evil Sonny Chiba and his two loyal ninja servants are after his life. The film is insanely uneven, with some beautifully atmospheric scenes followed by utterly ridiculous spider ninjas in very modern looking costumes. Tetsuro Tamba has the film's best supporting role as white beard ninja master, but villain Sonny Chiba also gets his share of great scenes. The opening assassination alone makes the film worth seeing. Etsuko Shihomi appears as well. Suzuki, Sanada, Shihomi and Chiba, however, did much better in the following year's action comedy classic Roaring Fire.

Tokyo Daijishin Magnitude 8.1 (Japan, 1980) [16mm] - 2/5
One of the rarest Sonny Chiba films, a generously budgeted TV film and effects extravaganza. Chiba is the hero when a huge earthquake hits Tokyo. There are plenty of entertaining, if obviously fake miniature work, and some memorable scene like an aircraft flying over the destroyed metropolis. Unfortunately as a character drama the film falls flat, with all the usual clichés from helpless grandmother to dumb children and pets. Chiba, unfortunately, has little else to do that run back and forth in the middle of special effects, and worry about supporting characters constantly getting in trouble. It’s not even an especially physical role since most of the effects are make-believe (e.g. miniatures and visual effects).

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Tale of Meiji Era Chivalry: Third Generation Boss (Japan, 1965) [35mm] - 3/5
A rather conventional ninkyo fare as far as storyline is concerned; however, director Tai Kato's execution is remarkably barebones, with melodrama and stylistic devices played down. I'm not sure that is the ideal approach to ninkyo films, which are basically melodramatic genre films about men torn between duty and personal feelings. That being said, it's a decent film, and Kato's enduring popularity and critical acclaim suggest I'm in the minority with my criticism. The film's ending is where the simplicity in Kato's staging of action really works to a fine effect.

Flower and Dragon (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 2.5/5
One of Tai Kato's early 70s epics, a nearly three hour Shochiku adaptation of the famous yakuza novel. I have not seen the other film versions, but if we compare this to Kato's The Blossom and the Sword (1973), which, unlike this, was written by himself, Flower and Dragon feels more like a literature adaptation. It is not the most visual film out there and the climax comes in form of drama, rather than action. However, there is a really good and sensual tattoo scene that I liked very much. Otherwise I was maybe expecting a bit more, and something a bit different, from the film.

Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 3/5
A female version of the one-armed, one eyed swordsman Tange Sazen. There had been quite a few adaptations, both male and female, since the 1930s. Michiyo Yasuda stars in this one. She wasn't always fast enough to convince with a sword, but in terms of attitude she could more than stand up against male actors. Some action scenes utilizing a stunt double are pretty good as well. As was quite usual to Daiei jidai geki films, the production is all around professional but the storyline doesn't especially stand out (evil lord, valuable sword, women mistreated, drama and action ensue). There is however, an undeniable cult film aura around the film and its concept.

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As a side note, one can easily come across database entries and even a review (!) for a 1968 film called "Lady Sazen". However, no such film exists and never did. Some people, it seems, are a bit too eager to cover rare films without double checking if they were actually filmed or not.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Flower and Snake: Zero (Japan, 2014) [VoD] - 4/5
Most SM films run the same old tired formula. There's a proud housewife in a need of shaming, provided by men who rope discipline her all the way to the morally dubious romantic happy end. Not so here. This one starts with police raid into an underground SM shoot - something that immediately turns into a bloody gunfight. It's a deliriously over the top crime film / S&M movie fever dream with an intriguing mystery plot, violence that occasionally slips to the splatter action territory, and one hell of a climax. It's also very erotic, thanks to stylish direction, attractive cast and decent characters (a blackmailed female cop who does karate, an abducted wife, and a cute giggling young woman who discovers she loves S&M). The storyline frequently (unintentionally) borders ridiculous, but that only works to its benefit. The only liability is that none of the cast look very convincing with guns; that being said, the weapons are "real" and the film is a feast in practical effects.

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Sweet Whip (Japan, 2013) [VoD] - 1/5
Exceptionally nasty, pretentious SM drama and violent porn fantasy following a woman as abducted high school girl and traumatized adult years later. What ensues is two hours of raping, beating and humiliation, mostly shot in two locations. Do not expect to find director Takashi Ishii's once so elegant aesthetics here; those have been traded for porn film close ups of genitals - censored of course (the film is an unbelievable mosaic mess with blurring applied to nearly every scene). Add classical music, a narrator, and a climax you can see coming miles away, and you've got a film that ultimately isn't as offensive as it is incredibly dull, nearly unwatchable. Ishii was once a shining talent of neo noir; now just a dirty old man with camera.

Kigeki Tokudashi: Himo tengoku (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 2.5/5
An alright drama-comedy about strippers and their managers (boyfriends, husbands etc.). Reiko Ike shows some acting range as a good hearted senior stripper and Meika Seri is good as a girl who seems completely out of her head all the time and usually pisses on herself on the stage. It is however cop Takuzo Kawatani who gives the best and funniest performance. Comedy star Shingo Yamashiri is officially the leading man, though. Director Azuma Morisaki shows some eye for drama and occasional realism, but ultimately the film feels like a talented crew improving material that just isn't quite that special.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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HOUSE OF TRAPS (1982)

Mediocre Chang Cheh flick with the usual problem of too many characters, and dull exposition scenes. Fights are decent and the production design for the House is top notch. There is no really effective villian, and poor Lu Feng has what looks like a baby bonnet around his head the whole. Phillip Kwok has goofy head gear too, but his character is looney enough to get away with it. Besides Kwok, the only other actor who stands out is Chin Siu-ho. Sun Chien doesn't even get one fight scene! Bonus points for some awesomely cruel fedual justice, where a man bringing a complaint against the royal house is tortured to ensure his complaint is genuine!

Meh

5/10
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25 (Nijyu go) (Japan, 2014) [VoD] - 1.5/5
Everyone is after a bagful of gangster money in this boring dud, which celebrated Toei's 25 years of V-Cinema. It's a shame it's so bad when the potential was there. The studio gathered just about every major V-Cinema star (minus Riki Takeuchi) and even allowed to filmmakers to go practical with real guns, explosions and (mostly) practical effects. Unfortunately it takes an eternity before the action begins, and once it does, it's surprisingly dull and poorly staged. One of the major problems in the film is that it has a constant comedic undertone, and is acted in a "tongue in the cheek" and "don't give a shit" manner. This was supposed to be badass trash for male audiences, but it's more like a bunch of 50 year old V-cinema stars fooling around and looking intentionally unconvincing.

Aoi sei (Japan, 1975) [TV] - 1.5/5
The first film by Yutaka Kohira, who later helmed a handful of competent genre films (Dragon Princess, New Female Prisoner Scorpion). This one is a Toei youth film about two high school girls who spend time on beach and yacht with a couple of guys. A bit of sex, some rock music, and a fight or two ensue. An unimaginative sun tribe influenced youth film that isn't as much a total disaster as it just fails to engage on any level. Matters are made worse by the fact that the soundtrack contains the awesome Downtown Woogie Bogie Band song Minato no Yoko, Yokohama, Yokosuka, which was also used as a theme song in a Shochiku youth film called "Minato no Yoko, Yokohama, Yokosuka", which was an utterly cool little film and featured an appearance by the band. The comparison makes Aoi sei look even worse.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Death Duel 3/5
Decent Shaw Brothers effort from Chor Yuen stars Derek Yee as Third Master, a top swordsman who just wants to live a peaceful life.Obviously it doesn't work out that way. Some good action along with cameos from Ti Lung,Lo Lieh & an extended one from David Chiang. The HK BD looks decent to my eyes,clearly a massive upgrade on the dvd.
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The Red Silk Gambler (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3/5
Teruo Ishii's female gambler film has several good moments, but suffers from a messy script. Eiko Nakamura is a yakuza searching for a man (Bunta Sugawara) who once saved her life. Unfortunately he is now affiliated with her enemy, including the daughter (Reiko Ike) of a man she killed. This was intended as the first in a new series, but no sequels followed. It's easy to see why. Not only was the ninkyo yakuza genre past its prime, this one doesn't use the genre elements very effectively. There are also too many characters and Nakamura lacked the charisma of Junko Fuji. Ishii does, however, manage many visually stylish scenes and some nicely staged action. He also throws in some nudity and ero guro elements similar to his 60s shock cinema, although in a toned down form. Based on a storyline by Oniroku Dan, btw.

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Keiji Monogatari 3: Song of the Surf (Japan, 1984) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Popular, but seriously underwhelming third film in the series. Karate cop Takeda is sent to a seaside town to look for a missing murder suspect. He befriends the man's family, and end up doing very little else. The film feels like a crossover between a travel advertisement and a television drama. Supporting cast is made of "normal women" with "normal worries". It is all evident the film is flirting with female audiences who want to cry and sympathise with movie characters. Cheap and manipulative. Action is sparse and poorly executed as well.

Keiji Monogatari 4: Song of the Black Current (Japan, 1985) [DVD] - 1.5/5
The series saw a tiny improvement with this 4th film. This time Takeda is kicked out from the police force and finds a new job at a yakuza run night club. The tagline "detective became a yakuza"raises false hopes. The trailer slogan, "the heroine is 7 months pregnant" is more describing. Also, by this instalment, the main character had basically turned into a benevolent teddy bear with no human defects whatsoever.

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Keiji Monogatari 5: Song of the Echoes (Japan, 1987) [DVD] - 3/5
Quite unexpectedly, this is possibly the best film in the series. Takeda is kicked out from the police force again after knocking out both himself and his partner during an arrest, and being carried to safety by the criminal he was supposed to arrest. He gets his job back, however, when another town needs a fresh face to go undercover and protect a dancer who life has been threatened. Not only does the film feature some moments of comedy genius, it's also much better written with a proper storyline and grittier approach to characters than the previous three films. Action is pretty solid as well, and the film looks cinematic.

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Teaser: https://youtu.be/VgR7Yn2KMJ8

Too Young to Die (Japan, 2016) [DCP] - 2/5
Hell is populated by rock bands in this modestly entertaining hell musical, in which a high school boy tries to fight his way out of the damnation. The only way seems to be to impress the evil rock gods of hell. There are some clever and funny moments, and a mainstream comedy like this could certainly be worse, but does it need to run 125 minutes? No. Music and sets are not too bad.

Wet Woman in the Wind (Japan, 2016) [DCP] – 3.5/5
“Times have changed, men have changed, but women’s beauty remains.” Nikkatsu's ad for their Roman Porno reboot captured something essential about the series. At 1100+ films made between 1971 and 1988 the series was incredibly diverse, but always tied to its time. So is this film. The glorious days 35mm smut may be gone, but so are the days when Japanese erotica equalled to women lying on their back and moaning. Wet Woman in the Wind comes with one sexual Duracell bunny of titular character (excellent Yuri Mamiya), a woman who won’t take “no” for an answer from a male playwright seeking peace and solitude by camping alone in the countryside. A sexual war ensues where “he” is the passive party. Loaded with loaded with sex, but unlike most of the 70s and 80s Roman Porno films, there’s both spirit and plenty of laughs to the action. While a drama comedy, the film's tackling of gender issues and social outcasts resembles the films of Tatsumi Kumashiro, whom director Shiota stated as his primary inspiration. With swift pace and solid performances, the only major negative is the piss poor score. A new Roman Porno classic this may not be, but it’s a fun, trendy film, better than 95% of the genre’s original output.

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Corpse Mania (Hong Kong, 1981) [DVD] - 2/5
A masked killer who wants to have sex with dead prostitutes keeps a town in fear. Stranger than the premise is how could it have produced such a boring movie. Decent production values and a few delightfully gross images aside, this period crime/horror film doesn’t have much going for it. It’s been called a Shaw Bros. giallo, but it lacks the style of its best Italian counterparts and gives away the killer’s identity early on. Most of the time is spent with either the police or prostitutes chitchatting. Gore and nudity are present, but surprisingly sparse considering the plot. See the director’s better works instead: The Killer Snakes (1974), Bewitched (1981), and The Boxer’s Omen (1983).

The Joy of Torture (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 4/5
The first film in Teruo Ishii's series of ero-guro films that critics called the low point of Japanese cinema and Toei's own stars (e.g. Tomisaburo Wakayama, Koji Tsurura) bashed. There was even a large protest by the employees of Toei Kyoto during the production of Inferno of Torture. The early films were, or course, smash hits, with this one ranking no. 9 at the yearly box office for domestic films. People these days often forget what a good film it is. It’s the gruesome and exaggerated history of Japanese capital punishment in the Tokugawa era told in three short stories, starting with a deceivingly romantic tale of doomed love, later climaxing with an unbelievable torture orgy where a mad tattoo artist asks an execution/torture squad to help him with inspiration for his to-be masterpiece tattoo “Joys of Torture”. Unlike some other similar films, The Joy of Torture has well written storylines, excellent pacing and lavish production values to support the violence and nudity. They truly don’t make them like this anymore.

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Your Name (Japan, 2016) [Flight] – 3.5/5
Currently the 2nd highest grossing Japanese film of all time, Your Name seems to be will finally earning Makoto Shinkai the recognition he deserves. Ironically enough, it’s not one of his best films. The teenage body swapping film adds a new twist to the cold concept: the hero and heroine only switch bodies for one day at a time, and have no control over when it happens. The film goes from a humoristic and romantic first half to a far more dramatic second half, but doesn’t reach the quality of Shinkai’s best films, such as Garden of Words and 5 Centimeters Per Second, which established him as the best animation director in the world. Also, the compulsory-for-a-big-release soundtrack by a popular band Radwimps is quite terrible as expected. However, it is still an enjoyable film and offers a nice look into life in the countryside vs. modern Tokyo metropolis, which make homes for its two protagonists.

Orgies of Edo (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 2.5/5
There is a scene in this film where a woman is sexually assaulted by two midgets, and it’s not even the film's most politically incorrect scene. That should be considered a merit of some sort, I believe. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as exciting. The film is a follow up The Joy of Torture, again utilizing a three episode format, but this time toning down the violence and focusing on abnormal passions. In plain English: more nudity than blood. Out of the tree, the second story is the best, focusing on a woman who can only get excited by having sex with the "ugliest" and "most abnormal" men she can find. The other two stories are less interesting tales of a naive girl fooled into working in a brothel and a mad lord who enjoys mistreating his female servants. Entirely watchable, but mostly unexceptional.

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Escape from Brothel (Hong Kong, 1992) [DVD] – 2.5/5
Mostly fun, but ultimately a bit disappointing CAT III sexploitation / action hybrid. There’s a functional melodramatic crime plot, likeable characters, and some surprisingly good action. Sex and nudity go a bit overboard, but remain mostly entertaining. The problem is the lazy writing. If you think something bad is about to happen next, that’s exactly what happens, exactly in the way you expected it to happen. And that happens often. Frustrating. Oh, and there is no escape from a brothel in the film.

Yakuza's Law (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Contrary to what many Western fans believe, Teruo Ishii was first and foremost a gangster film director. It is true, however, that the ero-guro films he made in the late 60s were some of his most inventive and enjoyable films. Yakuza's Law’s combines the two genres. Unlike his other films from the era, there’s almost no female nudity on display as the film focuses exclusively on men torturing each other. It's an incredibly violent film; basically torture porn long before the term had been coined. Ears and fingers are cut off, eyes are gouged, faces are burned, and bodies are crushed in three episodes set in the past and modern. The first episode, with Bunta Sugawara, is the most brutal, while the second one with Minoru Oki has the best storyline. The third episode is a super stylised, super violent, jazz tuned action with Teruo Yoshida as the kind of master gunman you might encounter in a Seijun Suzuki film. Oddly fascinating and “cultish”, although not on par with Ishii’s best films.

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