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

Film Reviews and Release Comparisons
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HungFist
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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The Shogun and His Mistresses (大奥(秘)物語) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] – 2/5
Lavish women's cinema by Sadao Nakajima. This is exceptionally feminine for a Toei film and void of any notable male characters. Reportedly the costumes alone cost over 30 million yen, which is about the same as many other films’ entire production budget, because Toei did not have a tradition of grand scale women’s jidai geki. Indeed, this is one film that more than the average Toei fan, his mother is likely to enjoy. Toei of course advertised it as a peek into the women's hidden world, even if suggestive sensuality was as far as the film went. That was still enough for Eirin to slap it with an “adult” rating. There is also some evidence to suggest that Toei's period eros line may have actually initiated from here, and sometimes Teruo Ishii's History of the Shogun's Harem has been seen as the 4th film in the "Secret" series that this film started. Shigeru Okada was the producer on all of them.

Kyomaiko satsujin jiken: Kyofu no uwaki shutcho (京舞妓殺人事件 恐怖の浮気出張) (Japan, 1980) [TV] – 1.5/5
Teddy bear family man Hiroyuki Nagato visits Kyoto on business, soon has a dead geisha in his hands and the police on his tail. Annoying TV film / Kyoto travel advertisement full of "funny overacting" and "old man does silly mistakes" scenes as Nagato tries to hide from the police. Awful musical score completes the wreckage. Phenomenal waste of talent in the casting: pink hip girl Kahori Takeda as travel guide co-star (also does a tiny bit of awful karate), fellow Roman Porno star Junko Miyashita as older (alive) geisha, Escape From Reform School runaway Fujika Omori as younger (dead) geisha, Tatsuo Endo is in the film too, and even Etsuko Shihomi appears for about one minute as a lady cop. And the film is directed by bloody Yuji "Shogun's Sadism" Makiguchi! And written by Atsushi Yamatoya! Shows how Japanese TV can turn men into pale shadows of their former selves, except there's not even a shadow left here. The title translates roughly as The Kyoto Geisha Murder Case: Horrifying Illicit Business Trip. Should've been The TV Viewer Suicide Case: Horrifying Boring Movie Experience.

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

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The Third Murder (2016) *½
Pretentious, ponderous Japanese legal drama.
The story changes from scene-to-scene,
by the end you won't care who did what to whom or why?
John Grisham this isn't.
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Ivan Drago
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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FISTS OF BRUCE LEE (1978)

Bruce Li directs himself in this modern day crime thriller (if you can call 1978 modern ;) ) which...actually I'm not entirely sure what is going on here, as the plot seems needlessly complicated, owing in part to the worse-than-usual dubbing, and that the script requires everyone to talk in passwords. It seems Li is an undercover cop hired by a reclusive millionaire as an electronics expert to make his house more secure. As assorted hoodlums and weirdos convert the usual Maguffin, Li finds himself getting entangled with the millionaire's eccentric and shotgun-wielding daughter.

As usual for me, style wins the day, with a truly awesome pirated soundtrack that is late 70s heaven - everything from Bond music to a Henry Mancini cover of an Average White Band tune. The decent fights include an awesome playground setpiece that looks forward to POLICE STORY 2, and the assorted cast includes Bruce Lee veterans (Wei Ping Ao), Lo Lieh swinging a metal hand on a chain, and the eccentric looking Robert Kerver, who is the bizzare result you get if you gene-splice Bruce Lee with Shaggy from Scooby Doo...

6/10
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Post by Ivan Drago »

THE IMAGE OF BRUCE LEE (1978)

A mainstay of public domain releases for years since its early VHS release, this Bruce Li outing has him as a police officer on the trail of counterfeiters...led by The Big Boss himself, Han Ying Chieh, with his son Johnny Cheung (later to cripple Bruce Lee in Dragon The Bruce Lee Story) and his long lost niece Dana joining the family business (oh, and Bolo is along for the ride too as a "Japanese" crook).

This film is certainly entetaining (and not just because Dana and clothing spend a lot of time apart from each other), but for some reason it feels like there are too many fight scenes! Maybe it's the police procedural setting, but the endless fisticuffs (and the three looped fighing cries) do wear one down after a while, before the decent finale. This isn't as funky as other Bruce Li films, but the sight of him attending a suicide attempt decked out in a yellow tracksuit is one for the ages, capped when the scene ends on a wonderfully macabre note.

Ammusingly, the film uses the theme from Taxi Driver but NOT for the scene where Bruce poses as a taxi driver!

6/10
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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The Age of Shadows (Korea, 2016): 4/5

Well acted period thriller - reminded me of Lust, Caution.

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

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Beautiful, Goodbye (ビューティフル、グッバイ) [Nippon Connection Online] - 1.5/5
A stuttering introvert on the run from the police picks up a pretty girl who's been killed by her boyfriend but came back to life as a zombie. I do not wish to be too hard on this because it was clearly made by young, perhaps still student filmmakers. But the romantic arthouse road movie with one revisionist zombie suffers from the same problems as a lot of modern Japanese indie films. It's way bloody too long at 2 hours, feels pretentious and ultimately quite unoriginal despite the somewhat original premise (that doesn't lead anywhere). You can tell the filmmakers would disagree, like someone who invented the wooden wheel in the year 2018 thinking he was the first. Someone should have told them the rest of us have already got Pirellis. At least the film looks pretty solid from a visual point of view, particularly for an indie.

Lone Kanto Yakuza (関東やくざ者) (Japan, 1965) [TV] – 3/5
A standard ninkyo film with honourable yakuza Koji Tsurura going against merciless, but not entirely rotten businessman gangster Tetsuro Tamba. There are too many talking heads scenes and a storyline that isn’t awfully interesting, but also solid filmmaking and drama that sneaks into the film almost unnoticed. Tamba is always interesting, and the bloody final sword duel against him is quite powerful. There’s also some old fashioned charm stemming from an extensive use of songs, which shouldn’t necessarily be surprising since Toei’s prominent enka singer actors Hideo Murata and Saburo Kitajima are both in the film. This was the 2nd movie in the Kanto series, one of Toei’s early ninkyo series. Shigehiro Ozawa wrote and directed them all five of them. While I have not seen the others, it appears Tsuruta plays the same character only in the first two, and different characters in the rest.

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

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Nothing But Bones (骨までしゃぶる) (Japan, 1966) [VoD] - 3/5
Poor daughter Hiroko Sakuramachi is sold off as courtesan in Tai Kato's convincing adult drama. It's impressively cold and critical (particularly one scene with Sakuramachi in the foreground and men casually discussing her as merchandise in the background off-focus) but it also has decent enough characters to care for. Quite a bit better than Sadao Nakajima's similarly themed Ooku / Secret films.

Shape of Red (Red) (Japan, 2020) [Nippon Connection Online] - 4/5
Excellent, progressive gender role critique dressed up as a trendy love story. Kaho (from Gentle Breeze in the Village and Puzzle) is devastatingly good as a young mother who realizes her happiness may not be with her daughter and husband, but in an extramarital affair with ex-boyfriend Satoshi Tsumabuki. Her dilemma cracks open the traditional belief of home, marriage and children as the basis of woman's happiness: a way of thinking so deeply rooted in Japanese society it's rarely questioned even by women. There is a key scene where she is asked why she started a family, but can’t answer because she never realized there was another way to happiness. Most people around her still don’t. Another incredibly powerful and well acted scene sees tears of happiness and guilt flow down her face at the same time as she has sex with Tsumabuki. One can’t help but to wonder how director Yukiko Mishima managed such an intimate, poignant portrayal of a young woman. Perhaps she's just a damn good director. Or maybe women making a film about women is, after all, an equation that can bear more fruit than male directors guessing what women must be thinking. Anyhow, the film is so strong you forget it’s yet another tale of someone dying of cancer! And so non-judgemental of its protagonist it won’t be well received by all audiences, even women.

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

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Tokyo Fundoshi Geisha (東京ふんどし芸者) (Japan, 1975) [VoD] - 1/5
An absolutely horrible geisha sex comedy that is sometimes considered a 7th film in the Hot Springs Geisha series, just without hot springs. It certainly was a production follow-up, courtesy of producer Kanji Amao and writer Masahiro Kakefuda. But this is even worse that the worst of the Hot Springs films. Yukio Noda helms it in much the same way as the most unbearable of his idiotic Delinquent Boss films, with retarded comedy mixed with boring drama and silly sex scenes. The film climaxes with a 25 minute geisha vagina duel (Shingo Yamashiro is the judge, of course) where two contestants perform tricks with their pussies, e.g. calligraphy, rope pulling and playing a trumpet (ok, I laughed there). The actual storyline I'm not too sure about since the film is unwatchable and I could only make it to the end with extensive fast-forwarding.

Under Your Bed (アンダー・ユア・ベッド) (Japan, 2019) [Nippon Connection Online] – 4/5
A great opening scene in this romantic stalker thriller: a lovelorn hero hides under the bed and feels the mattress as the love of his life has sex on top of it. When he isn’t under the bed, he’s peeking into the house from the opposite building… until his zoom lens catches something more threatening than himself. The premise is Hitchcockian, the shocks DePalma (this is rated R18+), but the social context strictly Japanese with an otaku-like protagonist who has fallen outside the social circles and destined to live alone as an invisible man. The film draws an overly romanticized image of the (stalker) hero, which is something sure to rub foreign audiences in the wrong way, but also a way to create an interesting character and “a cleaver love story” (as praised by Kiyoshi Kurosawa). But a true otaku he isn’t as he’s got fishes instead of video games, a cool hair instead of a terrible one, and he’s played by the boy from the girls’ daydreams: Kengo Kora. Perhaps that was one of female director Mari Asato’s inputs. She helms the film with style, pace and loads of sympathy towards her two protagonists (wonderfully played by Kora and Kanako Nishikawa), creating something not too unlike the mix of love, cheerful naivety and brutal violence in True Romance (1993).

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

Post by loempiavreter »

'Violent Streets (1974)' [DL] 3.5/5
My intro into Hideo Gosha. Some nice scenes (the shootout with Bunta!) and scenography (the chicken barn!). Comic booky henchmen did good in my book too. Story is ok. Soundtrack has some nice spanish flamengo moments, but also that cool 70s toei musical stuff.

'Violent Panic: The Big Crash (1976)' [DL] 2.5/5
The lead has some of the best 'savoir faire' for 70s male leads. Miki Sugimoto, was a little to desperate and needed a mind of her own. I love the free jazz narrative that weaves all the subplots into the chaotic Blues Brother-esque final. The thing is... I'm not a fan of Kinji's preference for throwaway framing and bleach white colour grading. He does his kinetic camera stuff, but I want to oogle at something too. Soundtrack is decent.

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Broken Blossoms (戦場のなでしこ) (Japan, 19) [DVD] - 2/5
A sappy hospital melodrama about a bunch of Japanese nurses in Manchuria under soviet command immediately after losing the war. Tears, flag waving and ‘oh Japanese are such good people after all’ moments. Later a handful of them are forced to serve as soviet comfort women (yeah, this didn't age well) but nothing juicy ensues. There are quite a few foreign actors in the cast and loads of Russian dialogue, though none for Osman Yusuf in a minor, non-speaking moustache role. Teruo Ishii helms it all with professionalism, but there is no spark. Had he directed it 8 years later, it could've been an amazing exploitation picture. Now it's merely toothless.

New Abashiri Prison Story: Honor and Humanity, Ammunition That Attracts the Storm: (新網走番外地 嵐呼ぶダンプ仁義) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 1.5/5
More fourth wall jokes in the opening with Takakura, Shishido and palls cheering and sobbing to a Brutal Tales of Chivalry film in a prison screening. Shishido gets himself killed before the opening credits roll, and Takakura goes on to work for a dump truck company once he's out. More comedy and tiresome yakuza shenanigans ensue. The truck plot is simply a variation of the usual good labourer gang vs. evil labourer gang plot done before with dock workers, railway builders, horse breeders etc. This was the 8th and last NEW film, made when the series was way past its prime and void of any inspiration. It still ranked 3rd at the annual box office, but the B-film that opened with it, Girl Boss Guerilla, had frankly much more vitality.

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

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Song of the Night: Isazaki District Blues (夜の歌謡シリーズ 伊勢佐木町ブルース) (Japan, 1968) (1969) [VoD] – 1.5/5
Instantly forgettable 4th entry with Tatsuo Umemiya pimping Junko Miyazono to old man Junzaburo Ban in largely comedic scenes. The second half gets more serious with just-out-of-prison Teruo Yoshida coming to redeem what he considers his. The rest of the storyline escaped my mind before I had time to write this. Osman Yusuf appears in the film for about 3 seconds.

Song of the Night: Nagasaki Blues (夜の歌謡シリーズ 長崎ブルース) (1969) [VoD] – 3/5
Part 5. Hiroki Matsukata’s only appearance in the series. Pretty boy Hayato Tani arrives in Tokyo and gets scouted as host / hooker by Matsukata. Big sis Junko Miyazono comes to rescue from Nagasaki but fails to convince either one of the men to give up on their easy-money lifestyle. Matsukata then falls in love with Miyazono who already has a fiancé: small time gangster Tatsuo Umemiya. There’s also Reiko Ohara as Matsukata’s young but wealthy customer who wants to own the man. A pretty functional script (by Kazuo Funahashi) and good performances make this work, even if Ryuichi Takamori’s direction is just average. The most interesting thing about the film is how men are constantly treated as cheap merchandise and sex objects – something that usually only happens to women.

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