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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Fearless Comrades (不敵なあいつ) (Japan, 1966) [VoD] – 3/5
The man with the guitar is back. This plays out much like a follow-up to Akira Kobayashi's earlier Wandering Guitarist and its sequels. Kobayashi is a musical yakuza who breaks up with his gang after growing sick with their inhuman practices. He arrives in a new town and finds work in a hotel / bar, but of course they are also harrassed by the local yakuza. The owner's daughter takes a liking in Kobayashi, as you'd expect. Kobayashi is also accompanied by a side-kick guitarist, who is a complete idiot! This is another good Shogoro Nishimura film, but also a reminder why he never gained much critical acclaim. He was a skilled technician capable of bringing tremendous entertainment to the screen, as well as just serviceable films. But he rarely made a number of himself behind the camera. He didn’t have many trademarks, concurring themes or messages. This film is a Kobayashi show inside out, with little indicating Nishimura of all people stood behind the camera. It suffers from lack of originality & stand-out scenes, but still works just fine as a slick, harmless time waster. Three sequels followed.

Police Department Story 22 (警視庁物語 全国縦断捜査) (Japan, 1963) [TV] - 3.5/5
Another strong 60s entry - the late films in the series were generally better than the early ones. This film also somewhat ushers the series to a new era. Opening with an unusually brutal killing shown in detail and then proceeding with a nationwide manhunt, this has a strong, gritty docudrama feeling. The best seqment takes place in US occupied Okinawa where the documentary touch is especially strong. Throughout the film there’s also a highly effective mix of wide shots and tight close-ups. None of that is necessarily new in the series, but the intensity is now in line with the various other hard hitting Japanese gangster, crime and samurai films that begun deconstructing cinemic myths around 1963-1964. Oh, and one odd thing: young Hideo Murota appears briefly, but is voiced by someone else (he might have been too hungover to record his own voice – just a guess). One of the best, and longest at 82 min, entries in the series.

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

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Il Mare (S. Korea, 2000) - DVD first time viewing: 3/5

Touching romance about two people living in different times (?) who communicate through sending letters with a mailbox at a house called Il Mare (The Sea). I liked it but wasn't quite sure how it was resolved in the end Was it happy or sad? Was the girl delusional because of her car accident and she was really talking to her ex in the present and not the other guy from the past? Then at the end they finally do meet?
The subtitles certainly aren't the best, and could be improved if this was released again today.
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Cobra Girl (Hong Kong, 1977) – 1.5/5
A chaste countryside girl falls in love with rich playboy returning from abroad to family farmlands. But the guy’s sexy female cousin and deceitful childhood friend have already crafted a shortcut to riches for themselves, and the new girl is in the way. This is a strangly dull non-horror from the director of The Human Lanterns. Despite the title and poster, it never decends into proper terror, and exploitation is limited to the sexy cousin losing her clothes and shagging her partner 2 or 3 times. There is an actual cobra in the film, but surprisingly enough she’s the main character’s pet and righteous guardian angel who comes to aid shen she’s bullied by bad guys! Basically, what this film really is, is a long, tame romance melodrama with 15-20 minutes of thriller and cobra violence thrown in.

Hawk of the Harbour (波止場の鷹) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] – 3/5
Hardly innovative but otherwise decent Nikkatsu Mood Action with Yujiro Ishihara as the head of a small shipping company who gets harassed by the yakuza. When he refuses to take part in their smuggling business, they try to force him and even get Ishihara’s sister killed. Stoic Ishihara resists resorting to violence to the point of the audience’s frustration. This is another pretty solid effort by invisible director Shogoro Nishimura. My review of the previous year's Nishimura film Fearless Comrades could be reused here with minor edits: this one could do with stronger finale, but the welcome lack of comedy evens things out. What this film really has going for it, besides the rock solid art direction expected from Nikkatsu films of this era, is heavyweight villain actor Toru Abe as Ishihara's loyal, short tempered employee. Though he wasn't always cast as bad guy, rotten yakuza bosses had become his bread and butter by the mid 60s to the extent that most genre film fans probably have never seen him play anything else. Here, in a rare good guy role, he gets to stretch his acting muscles a bit more than usual, which makes for delightful viewing for yakuza film fans.

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

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Suriyothai (Thailand, 2001) - first time: 2.5/5

Epic period movie about a Thai queen around the 16th century, some of the acting and staging is good but I found it a bit boring and tough to get through :(
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Killer Constable (HK, 1980) - first time: 4/5

I found this a very cool swordplay/action movie. Chen Kuan Tai plays a ruthless constable who kills criminals first and asks questions later, going after a gang who robbed the treasury of 2m taels of gold - and there are some really inventive fights - in THE SEA, in the rain, in pitch dark :o
The ending is a tragic one - wasn't expecting that :( Seems a bit different from the Shaws norm.
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Fist of Legend: Extended Edition (HK, 1994): 4.5/5

This is the first time seeing the Taiwan extended version of this classic Fist of Fury remake. TBH I haven't seen it for so long I couldn't tell what was new, I don't remember Ho Yuan Chia's corpse being dug up, it definitely feels more grounded and realistic than Fist of Fury - Bruce was Superman and beat everyone fairly easily. Fist of Legend is also more tolerant to the Japanese side especially with Chen Jun's relationship with Mitsuko.
The sole Mandarin track isn't as big a problem as I thought it would be - during that period the movie is set I'm guessing most Chinese would probably be speaking Mandarin anyway (and Fist of Fury's original soundtrack is Mandarin) - however it feels odd hearing all the Japanese characters speak Mandarin.
The subtitles certainly are a blast from the past - burnt in Chinese/English with some grammar errors and things have changed for the better these days. Weirdly sometimes a word in Japanese will have something in brackets next to it in the subtitles for translation. Does anyone know what the opening/closing text (characters displayed down the screen) means?
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Hand (手) (Japan, 2022) [DCP] – 3.5/5
Of hands and lonely souls, through the eyes of young woman keeping scrapbook of all the middle aged men and dates who substituted for her own distant father over the years. Until she falls genuinely in love with a guy of her own age. It should come as no surprise that Daigo Matsui, one of the few contemporary Japanese directors worth keeping an eye on, delivers with this film that is the first in Nikkatsu's 2022 Roman Porno Now project. His earlier films include the charming coming of age film Our Huff and Puff Journey, and while working with a bit older characters here he still manages to deliver a couple of the cutest (sex) scenes you're going to see anytime soon. It's also a delicate, thoughtful, beautifully acted and ultimately surprisingly touching film. On the negative side, it's also very much cinema of its day, another tale of non-cinematic characters in search of identity in the middle of everyday greyness, complete with compulsory narrator voice. And it runs 99 minutes, something the old Roman Porno never did, save for the rare daisaku double features. But perhaps that's alright, because this is Roman Porno now.

Violent Gang Overcome (暴力団・乗り込み) (Japan, 1971) [TV] – 2/5
It’s always good for a yakuza film to have at least one original scene that hasn't been done to death in the hundreds of other similar films. This one has two. The first comes when Akira Kobayashi is holding one of Toru Abe's hoodlums as human shield and then very casually decides to set his hair on fire! Wow! The other one comes at the very end, but it is better left unspoiled. Unfortunately those two scenes are pretty much all this contemporary Nikkatsu gangster film has going for it. Made during the brief Dainichi era (a distribution joint venture between Nikkatsu and Daiei, both of whom alone struggled to deliver the industry standard of two new feature films every two weeks for a double bill) before Daiei's bankruptcy and Nikkatsu's Roman Porno switch, it still sports stylish production design and a big name cast (hero Kobayashi, reckless pal Eiji Go, lone wolf Rinichi Yamamoto, and no real reason to be in the film Meiko Kaji). But it lacks energy and emotion, and resorts to the kind of dry, talkative and corporate-like depiction of the underworld that doesn't give the viewer much reason to care. The ending is good at least.

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Police Department Story 23: Confession (警視庁物語 自供) (Japan, 1964) [TV] – 2.5/5
This one starts out much like any other entry in the series, with a dead man floating in a river. But what awaits at the end is a family tragedy sobbing marathon that would not be out of place in a domestic drama made for housewives. Here it may be, as touching as it is. Coming in the heels of the gritty and modern part 22, this feels strangely dated and regressive in comparison. Newcomer Michio Konishi (who debuted earlier in 1964) helms the picture otherwise competently, but without particular energy or personal touch. The running time is back to 58 minutes after the longer than usual part 22.

Safe Word (愛してる!) (Japan, 2022) [DCP] – 3.5/5
When Nikkatsu announced their directors for the Roman Porno Now project, it was not hard to guess Daigo Matsui would fare well, and Shusuke Kaneko would deliver a stinker. But Koji Shiraishi tackling S&M was a complete question mark. Happily for us, this may be the best of the bunch. The gloriously bonkers, endlessly uplifting and sympathetic tale follows a female pro wrestler gone badly performing idol (phenomenally good, funny and cute newcomer Misako Kawase) scouted by an S&M club owner (almost equally good non-binary model/talent Ryuchell) as dominatrix. Only she doesn't initially realize it's an S&M job, and requires going through the "slave" part first, which results in lots of extremely funny reactions, especially since she sports quite an attitude and a wrestler's physical responses. This film is really quite the opposite of a vintage Nikkatsu S&M film where noble Naomi Tani would be subjugated to a blue collar male power / sexual get-even fantasy. Shiraishi's film instead is a female empowerment piece and a love song to being a happy pervert. Here all the "S" is committed by women to men, or by women to women, who all enjoy it. Shiraishi shoots it in his trademark faux documentary style (done well enough for you to stop noticing it almost immediately) and lets the film run too long (10-15 min could have been snapped from the 94), but the first grade direction and superb performances really make this quite a cheerful experience. And yes, not to belittle Shiraishi, but this feels like early 2000s Sion Sono in more ways than one.

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When the Rain Falls (百合の雨音) (Japan, 2022) [DCP] – 2/5
The last of the three Roman Porno Now pictures, helmed by Shusuke Kaneko who hasn't done a decent picture in nearly two decades (his fame dates back to Death Note, 90s Gamera, and to a lesser extent a handful of original Roman Porno pictures from production line's twilight years). Expectations were accordingly low, further lowered by the lesbian theme that has proven tricky for many filmmakers. That is perhaps an issue here too: even with a female screenwriter this can never quite avoid the feeling that there is a straight man behind the camera (though thankfully the results are nowhere near as embarrassing as in Hideo Nakata's White Lily from the previous porno batch). But it might be unfair to lay the blame on Kaneko's gender and assumed sexual orientation. Here he does art and metaphors, and does them both clumsily, and probably wouldn't have done much better even with a straight tale. Acting is merely ok (above pink standards, but way below Hand and Safe Word), and the visual look of the picture is that of a not particularly accomplished modern digital production (with added dream-like softness). Oh and the plot: a young office lady seeing black & white flashbacks of lesbian high school girl encounter falls in love with an older, unhappily married woman. It feels like television drama with sex and nudity cranked up to 11. But the storyline does work on a basic level at least, making this somewhat watchable.

Easy Money (あぶく銭) (Japan, 1970) [TV] – 2.5/5
Routine modern day Daiei ninkyo that should've been better considering the exciting premise: Shintaro Katsu as a gambling den robber. Unfortunate there is too much talk, not enough robbing. However, patience is rewarded at the end when the final massacre arrives, set in heavy rain with sun shining through simultaneously and painting the streets and buildings orange. That is truly something you won't likely ever see in any other ninkyo film.

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Decision To Leave (S. Korea, 2022) - first time (cinema): 4.25/5

Park Chan-wook's romantic (?) mystery/thriller is confusing at times, but it has a gripping story and an intriguing watch.
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Brotherhood AKA Tae Gu Ki (South Korea, 2004): first time: 4/5

Slow burner but a powerful and brutal war drama/action movie about 2 brothers fighting in the Korean war who wind up on opposing sides. Feels rather familliar as I'm sure I've seen similar themes before but the story and acting is very good, and like a lot of Korean cinema I've seen, it doesn't shy away from sadness and sucker punches.
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HERO (1997) is a bit of a mess. A lush expensive production suffering from crude comedy, OTT acting (Yuen Wah is horribly miscast) and some ridiculous gore that is contradicted by the characters being perfectly fine in the next scene. And it has the fakest horse in Asian cinema since that toy one in FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD...
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It Comes (来る) (Japan, 2018) [TV] – 1.5/5
Tetsuya Nakashima deserves some credit for making bold movies - a rarity in Japanese cinema these days. One just wishes they were a little better - or a lot better in this case. The premise is interesting enough: a family man (annoying Satoshi Tsumabuki) with a vicious curse on him resorts to third party help against the violent spirit. In comes troubled redhead punk of a psychic (mostly excellent Nana Komatsu), then her big sister (embarrassingly bad/miscast Takako Matsu trying to act strange), and finally a whole army of exorcists. There are some moments where the film actually works, mostly scenes with Komatsu, or characters being treated unexpectedly brutally. However, as Nakashima continues to raise bets to turn the film into an epic, it gets silly to the point of becoming laughable. Were this set in a rural community it might work, but not when it takes place in central Tokyo with everyone from civilians to the police taking all that happens in the film at face value. Nakashima's trademark music video aesthetics and use of supposedly trendy Western music doesn't exactly help either. Nothing could save the film from its train wreck CGI finale, however. Ultimately there's nothing here that 80s Shaw Brothers horror films, or The Wailing for a more recent reference, didn't do 100 times better.

Three Ex-Con Brothers (懲役三兄弟) (Japan, 1969) [TV] – 4/5
A very entertaining post-war ninkyo tale set in an onsen town. Bunta Sugawara and Kyosuke Machida star as mischievous but ultimately honourable punks (Ryoji Hayama is the less featured 3rd brother) who go against Tatsuo Endo and Bin Amatsu's awesomely dressed Chinese gangsters. It all feels very “early 70s” with a breezy, humoristic touch, despite having come out during the peak of the old school 60s ninkyo wave. For a film somewhat stuck between two eras, and is frankly nothing profound storywise, this is however spectacularly enjoyable. There's a nice laidback touch to the entire film, and a sense of hanging out with characters. Sugawara, starring in his only second lead role at Toei (the first one was in Modern Yakuza, released three months earlier) is clearly eager to establish himself as a new leading man. He and Machida both play it fresh and reckless, setting themselves apart from the more stoic Ken Takakura. Speaking of Takakura, he and Tomisaburo Wakayama both appear as quest star, and are as good as ever. Great film and one of the best of its kind: laidback but heartfelt, with plenty of humour but none of the routine filler that similar lightweight Toei pictures from the early 70s often come with. P.S., this also know as “Brothers Serving Time”, a misleading title considering the film’s prison segment comes right in the beginning and lasts less than five minutes.

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Raped by an Angel 2: The Uniform Fan (Hong Kong, 1998) [BD] – 2.5/5
Somehow, five years after the original CAT III thriller, this non-franchise was reborn in form of unrelated CAT II follow-ups. This first sequel is a mash-up of romance and rapist thriller, with bits of dumb comedy thrown in. A small-time gangster just out of prison falls in love with a tough lady cop. By coincidence, her little sister is being stalked by a dentist-by-day, rapist-by-night creep. The bad luck gangster punk makes an easy scapegoat for the rapist... This works alright with bits of late 90s Hong Kong nostalgia and a charming lack of good taste. But it's no match for the wilder, more energetic early 90s Hong Hong films (CAT III or otherwise). As for the cats, there's topless nudity by a couple of supporting actresses and a few rapes, but as stated before, the film is restrained enough to have landed the CAT II rating rather than III.

Brotherhood's Honor and Humanity (兄弟仁義) (Japan, 1966) [TV] – 3.5/5
A ninkyo yakuza vehicle for young enka singer Saburo Kitajima, whose 1965 hit song served as the basis. Somewhat unexpectedly, this grew into a seminal yakuza film series with nine instalments until 1971. The start was more modest, however, the first film being produced as black & white supporting feature to the fifth Abashiri Prison picture, and Kitajima only given the 2nd billing after box office insurance Hiroki Matsukata (Koji Tsuruta gets the prestigious guest star billing). This film sets the series’ theme immediately with an opening sakazuki scene (cup exchange / yakuza brotherhood ceremony) that would be followed by many more in the sequels. Kitajima is a gambler rascal who gets caught cheating in the gambling table, but pleads honourable boss Hideo Murata to free him for three days so he could complete his quest to reunite with long lost mother. Murata, upright successor Matsukata and wanderer Tsuruta stake their honour and business to grant him his wish, while rotten rival boss Toru Abe sees an opportunity to hijack their hot springs operations. Future genre master Kosaku Yamashita helms the film – the series provided him with an opportunity to hone his skills (*) – with his trademark eye for giri / ninjo (duty vs. compassion) conflict mixed with big emotions. The finesse of his later masterworks may not quite be here, and the script cuts some corners, but there’s not much to complain besides that. Kitajima isn’t the most charismatic lead, but he has slightly punkish out-of-the-left-field appeal. A solid genre entry.

* Yamashita had been directing since 1961, including some high profile pictures for Kinnosuke Nakamura, but he had not quite become the in-demand top tier director he’d later be known as. Prior to this film he had only directed 9 films in 5 years, whereas a few years later he’d be turning out near similar numbers of films annually.

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Master of the Flying Guillotine (HK, 1975): 3.5/5

Lots of different kung fu styles fight against each other in this crazy movie. The music is cool but the print used for the DVD looks pretty bad.
I thought this movie is a sequel to One Armed Boxer? Is that movie set in the 1700's?
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Brotherhood's Honor and Humanity 2 (続兄弟仁義) (Japan, 1966) [TV] – 3/5
Switch to colour. A higher budgeted sequel to the black & white original, though still paired with yet another Abashiri Prison film. Kitajima redeems his well earned first billing this time as the film's lone lead, with Tsuruta and Murata providing the usual support. They play different characters than in the previous film, as they would in the subsequent films. Kitajima is a yakuza who comes to aid Minoru Oki and his clan to make an honest living in the construction business, but rotten gambling boss Hosei Komatsu starts making trouble until the boss of bosses Murata interferes. Yamashita continues as the director, but he and screenwriter Akira Murao seem to be on autopilot. They handle the film with professionalism and deliver an entirely passable ninkyo film, but there's no particular passion or inspiration evident on screen. Added comedy relief and a filler kid character don't really help. Two thirds into the film it however comes alive big time with a great sakazuki scene and the usual bloody end rampage. Not a bad movie despite its shortcomings, but probably the least accomplished entry in the series.

Centipede Horror (Hong Kong, 1982) [BD] - 3.5/5
A long sought after Hong Kong cult horror isn't quite as original as one might expect, but the last 20 minutes delivers the notoriety is spades. This is yet another tale of urban Hong Kongers venturing to South East Asia were they get a wicked curse laid upon them (the Shaw Brothers made several similar films with higher production values). The film proceeds as an entertaining, but slightly mediocre horror picture until the jaw dropping gross-out last 20 minutes that alone earn the film a minor classic status. Animal splatter is thankfully kept near zero, limited to some mistreatment of centipedes and a chicken losing some of her feathers. The new BD release by Error 4444 offers an optional animal cruelty free version, which however only eliminates about 30 seconds of not particularly shocking footage, alongside the full uncut version.

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Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon (HK, 1990): 3.5/5
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Police Department Story 24: Missing (警視庁物語 行方不明) (Japan, 1964) [TV] – 2.5/5
A slightly different premise this time as there is no dead body or confirmed crime. Two company employees are reported to have gone missing without a trace. The police have to investigate their personal backgrounds to try to figure out what might have happened. This was the last film in the series. It concludes the saga on a rather talkative, low-key note, and probably wasn't intended as a conclusion. The chances are further films just didn't materialize, probably due to television having become a more suitable medium for these type of short detective tales (this one runs 58 min). Indeed, most of the films in the series were later re-edited into a TV series prior to an actual TV show follow-up called Keiji-san in 1965.

Brotherhood's Honor and Humanity: Three Brothers from the Kanto District (兄弟仁義 関東三兄弟) (Japan, 1966) [TV] – 3.5/5
Part 3. Kitajima is a slightly reckless, but good hearted punk who allies with a decent yakuza clan who are looking after the local fishermen. He and clansman Kotaro Satomi eventually become sworn brothers in one of the most touching and visually stylish sakazuki scenes in any ninkyo film. Bad guys Tatsuo Endo and Tomisaburo Wakayama (who is terrific as egocentric boss looking down at everyone) resort to deadly violence, resulting in an even more memorable posthumous sakazuki ceremony involving one of our now-dead heroes. Third brother Koji Tsuruta comes to aid in his usual, but this time rather poorly justified guest role. Honourable but affiliated with the villains Hideo Murata fares much better and gets one of the film's best scenes when he has to choose sides. The ending delivers a typically good massacre, preceded by probably the only instance of ninkyo heroes wearing full rainwear (hat included) that I can recall ever seeing! Admittedly this little detail may not be fully appreciated by anyone but the most ardent genre fans. All in all, this is quite a good film, with director Yamashita's beautifully romantic and old fashioned ninkyo aesthetics and a number of great scenes compensating for what is otherwise a relatively standard tale.

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

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HungFist wrote: 04 Jan 2023, 14:33This is yet another tale of urban Hong Kongers venturing to South East Asia were they get a wicked curse laid upon them (the Shaw Brothers made several similar films with higher production values).
I thought it was interesting that they never actually named the country they went to and instead - at least in the subtitles - always just called it "South East Asia". Other films of this sort made no secret out of the evil black magic residing in Thailand. Did the producers wish to avoid offending a potential foreign release market?
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Legend of the Black Scorpion aka The Banquet (HK, 2006) - first time: 3/5

Lavish Chinese period retelling of Hamlet - beautiful to look at with lashings of balletic action and swordplay, in my view trying to be Crouching Tiger, Hero.. (etc) but not quite reaching those heights.
Zhang Ziyi is gorgeous in it though :)
Who killed her at the end?
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Roaring Fire (Japan, 1981) -first time: 4/5

A fun movie :D Sometiimes it felt like a prototype for the stunt filled Jackie Chan movies that would come along a few years later - featuring standing ontop of a speeding bus and hanging from a sign (Police Story 2) and a cliff-top leap (Armour of God)...

Features Sonny Chiba and the main star of Sister Street Fighter, a villain who smuggles drugs in bananas, a cool theme song and a monkey stealing a girl's bikini top. Only in Japan. :D

The subtitles are understandable but not great, using "i" instead of I and they seem to have been transcribed caring little for grammar.
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Foreign Wife (外人妻) (Japan, 1973) [Streaming] – 2/5
A slightly amusing Nikkatsu Gaijin Porno with clueless American Sarah Burnett following her crush to Japan. The dude, a young Japanese tea ceremony master who didn’t even know she’s coming, is of course in the act of banging other women when she shows up behind the door. He’s from a rich family, with a strict conservative mother and a fat maid who is constantly farting for comedic value. This film was one Nikkatsu’s many attempts to milk foreign women, which also included several pictures filmed in Sweden as well as the domestic Oman films starring the blonde pseudo gaijin Sally May. This film stands out for being a low-brow comedy, and particularly dumb one at that. Lead actress Sarah Burnett is a complete mystery; a one-time actress void of talent and frankly not that much of a beauty either, though that exactly gives her a bit of sympathy appeal. It would probably not be a bad guess that she was scouted on location in Japan or brought in by someone who knew her, for her white skin and willingness to strip alone.

Brotherhood's Honor and Humanity: Return of the Three Brothers from the Kanto District (兄弟仁義 続・関東三兄弟) (Japan, 1967) [TV] – 3/5
Part 4. This is probably the most uneven film in the series, with several good set pieces that don’t quite come together. The tale opens in spring with cherry trees in full bloom. Kitajima is a member of a decent gang who gets in fights with less honourable rivals. As the situation escalates out of control, Kitajima alone takes responsibility, departs with his finger, and takes a hike. A great matatabi montage follows, only to be over in two minutes (a missed opportunity for sure, as this could have lead the series to fresh paths). We then jump forward in time by exactly two years, so it’s the cherry blossom season once again! Kitajima is back with his gang, and the film is back to ground zero. This time he has to watch out for a civilian-turned avenger whose yakuza father got killed in an earlier nagurikomi scene. Unfortunately this character is soon forgotten and only brought back for the climax (another missed opportunity here). The series’ trademark sakazuki scenes however come in plenty, and are as good as one would expect. There’s probably no need to mention about the cherry trees adding to the film’s visual appeal. But the title does require some clarification. Despite being called “Return of the Three Brothers…”, none of the three brothers from the previous film return. It’s just the same actors in different roles. It didn’t matter; it was just 1960s Japanese marketing business as usual.

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

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Festival Champ (お祭り野郎 魚河岸の兄弟分) (Japan, 1976) [Streaming] – 3/5
Norifumi Suzuki made this largely forgotten film between the 2nd and 3rd Truck Yaro films. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it feels a lot like them, only without trucks. Hiroki Matsukata is a fish market worker and a fanatical Japanese festival rascal. He also falls in love with a stripper while delivering his colleague's love letter to her but forgetting to mention it's from another man. As stated, this shares a lot with the Truck Yaro series, from festivals to the mix of drama and comedy (like many Suzuki films, it can accelerate from silly comedy to teary melodrama and then bounce back to laughs in a matter of minutes or even seconds). But the lack of action, save for a number of fist fights, and memorable characters make this a lesser affair. Dead fish are a poor replacement for Dekotora, and there’s nothing to rival the Sugawara & Aikawa pairing of the trucker films. The supporting cast does come with a couple of big names in minor parts, most notably Koichi Iwaki and Etsuko Shihomi, whose Fifth Level Fist was the supporting feature for this film in theatres. Speaking of Shihomi, it’s a real shame she never got cast in any of the Truck Yaro films: she'd have made a great rival driver for Bunta.

Brotherhood's Honor and Humanity: The Truth About Kanto Life (兄弟仁義 関東命知らず) (Japan, 1967) [TV] – 4/5
Part 5. This is the best film in the series! Kitajima is a small time punk who arrives in Yokohama in hopes of making easy money. He and his thugs go against Kyosuke Machida's honourable dock worker clan on rotten rival Toru Abe's behalf. Kitajima is of course being used by Abe, and eventually comes to realize that, but it is nevertheless a novelty to see a ninkyo protagonist play for the evil team for a relatively long time. It's a terrific role for Kitajima, who gets to be both reckless and noble in the course of the film. That mix seemed ideal for him, considering his slight lack of charisma which had to be compensated with a bit of punkiness. Guest star Tsuruta is even better as lighting fast knife fighter Killer Choji, who does a seriously cool entry halfway into the film. If the film and other characters weren’t as well written and directed as they are, Tsuruta would steal the entire show. Much thanks goes to the script which is exceptional: heartfelt, rich in characterization, and full of small unexpected story developments while still delivering all the expected ninkyo goods, including a superb, ceremonial sakazuki scene. The climatic nagurikomi is also excellent, with the small and spirited Kitajima moving through the enemy masses like a tornado. Director Kosaku Yamashita, Toei's perhaps best ninkyo director and particularly skilled at handling complex webs of conflicting obligations among characters, is in his element here. This was his fifth and last contribution to the series; the remaining four movies would be handled by other directors.

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