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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Unlucky Monkey (アンラッキー・モンキー) (Japan, 1998) [TV] – 1.5/5
Sabu made it an early career trademark to film the same movie again every year. This third rendition of an unlucky loser on the run is the worst of his first three films, an exceedingly contrived tale of a bank robber burdened by guilt and unlucky coincidences. The swift pacing of his debut Dangan Runner and the heart of his follow up feature Postman Blues are both missing from this picture which feels more like second grade copy made by a talentless imitator. One of the dumbest and annoyingly long segments sees the on-the-run protagonist holding an environmental speech at a citizen's convention after he got pushed into the building by chance. An intertwined second plot with dumb gangsters trying to deal with a dead body fairs a little better, featuring an odd bit of wit here and there, but it's all undone by the worst, most drawn-out and plain idiotic ending imaginable.

Apartment Wife: Adultery in Broad Daylight (団地妻 白昼の不倫) (Japan, 1997) [TV] – 3.5/5
I don’t usually warm up to pink marital dramas, and even less to apartment wives, but Toshiki Sato and Masahiro Kobayashi can make it work. Contrary to the title, there’s little adultery in broad daylight or otherwise in this film. Eight years into a marriage, the film’s central couple (Hotaru Hazuki and Kikujuro Honda) have merely grown apart. The introvert wife can’t even get a morning kiss from the husband, who has come to see her as a roommate. “How dull”, she says to herself. But there’s low key magic arising from that dullness. Little encounters gain monumental meanings, such as the husband energized by meeting the beautiful neighbour (Yoko Chosokabe) only in passing every morning. Meanwhile the wife heads to a bowling alley where she’s briefly instructed by a young man (Yota Kawase) who might be interested in her. There’s evident stiffness to the acting performances, but that suits the passive nature of the characters and is echoed in their dialogue. And yet in this context every single word seems to matter worlds. The best scene sees the husband and the neighbour meeting at night and concluding that they both think their spouses are probably cheating on them. And then they both freeze up, being unable to decide or articulate what next. I cannot think of another pink film where I was so interested in seeing what choices characters would end up making, and what words would come out of their mouths. Also much kudos to Sato for how skilfully he captures the era and locations on film, essentially throwing the viewer back in time to the streets and apartment buildings of 1997 Japan.

Reviewed here is the R-15 version which may, but is unlikely to, differ substantially from the original theatrical R-18 version released under the same title. There is no mosaic or noticeable cuts, but re-framing of some shots may have taken place.

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

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Black River (黒い河) (Japan, 1957) 4/5
directed by Masaki Kobayashi
What a really great, dark movie.
Outside a military base, surrounded by cheap bars and cheap women for US Soliders, is a seedy rooming house, with the dregs of humanity living in it. Director Masaki Kobayashi doesn’t just show us, he invites us inside this world. Contrasted against this is a clean cut University student, played by Fumio Watanabe, who comes to live there (to save money), and falls in love with a sweet innocent waitress (Ineko Arima). Unfortunately, the local young bad guy, Tatsuya Nakadai, lures her in, and we’ve set the stage for drama. This triangle builds through the whole movie, leading to the uncompromising finale.
Within all of this is a plot to tear down the housing for financial gain, put together by an outside source, the young bad guy and the landlady (played with delightful zeal by Isuzu Yamada). They’ll use any means necessary to get it done with no consideration of the tenants.
Director Masaki Kobayashi (as well as writer Zenzō Matsuyama) creates a believable group of characters - both the bad guys, the poor trashy tenants (and the land lady!), and the two good people - never falling into the trap of cleaning it up too much for the mainstream - this must’ve been a little shocking to 1957 Japanese audiences…
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Everything Goes Wrong (すべてが狂ってる) (Japan, 1960) 3.5/5
directed by Seijun Suzuki
Jiro is unhappy with his mother dating a married man who gives her money. He feels it’s prostitution. He runs with a crowd that is sexually promiscuous and commits petty crimes to earn a living. One of the girls is in love with him, but because she’s been with others, he sees her as a prostitute as well.
How Jiro processes all of this will lead to trouble and eventually tragedy. This is sort of Seijun Suzuki’s ‘Rebel WITH a Cause’, sort of a Rock n Roll Sun Tribe movie (complete with a Japanese pop rock band).
All of the actors are really enjoyable to watch, especially Yoshiko Nezu, playing the girl who falls in love with Jiro (Tamio Kawachi) and her friend trying to get money for an abortion. Their characters ALL make BAD decisions in trying to do the RIGHT things.
“Today, goodwill between people can’t exist anywhere. Everything goes wrong.”
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Youth in Fury aka Dry Lake (乾いた湖) (Japan, 1960) 3.5/5
directed by Masahiro Shinoda
The movie starts off with a group of wealthy ‘sun tribe’ young people as they party together, playing sexual games, showering together(!!) … when one of them finds out her father committed suicide. From here, director Masahiro Shinoda shows us how we’re all just pawns in a system manipulated by those with power and money.
“Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to in this world”
Headstrong Yoko (Shima Iwashita) is told this by her mother while explaining why her sister is sleeping with a top politician (one who is directly responsible for the father’s suicide) to pay their bills. That money also pays for HER education.
She can’t accept that.
In the mix, is Tokuya (Shinichirō Mikami), a rebel who sneers at the rugby team, drinks, has pictures of Stalin and Che Guevara (and Hitler!) on his walls and sleeps with multiple women. About halfway through the movie, the political action committee on campus kicks him out of their group. They oppose a treaty between Japan and the U.S., Tokuya believes that aid from the U.S. is necessary for the working class.
At a party with his wealthy friends (from the opening), he watches as the young, wealthy sadistic Michihiko (Junichiro Yamashita) makes one of their female friends strip, walk around the room, and then sing, for 2 million yen. She had come to him for the money because her family company was failing, thinking she’d maybe just have to sleep with him for it.
Tokuya thinks maybe violence is the only remedy for change…
Shinoda says a lot here by his character’s actions and dialogue, and honestly, I could watch an entire TV series about these characters. If you’d have told me, this was made in 1967-68, I’d have believed it. I had no idea this level of rebelliousness existed in Japan in 1960…
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Office Lady Journal: Wet Bundle (OL日記 濡れた札束) (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 3/5
I’ve never held director Akira Kato in a particularly high regard, but this melancholic Roman Porno drama suggests his work might deserve a re-evaluation. This film, loosely inspired by a real life incident where a female bank clerk (Aoi Nakajima) stole money for her gambling addict boyfriend, is actually rather complex, following its protagonist in several different phases of her life and moving back and forth in time throughout the film. It’s a slow-burner and I don’t quite agree with some of the highest praise it’s getting, but there’s certainly something about it, and the closing shot is absolutely great. Kato also works great with Nakajima, who gives a convincing portrayal of an ordinary woman who is no eros queen, but nevertheless beautiful in her own ordinary way.

Tale of Company Boss (次郎長社長と石松社員) (Japan, 1961) [Streaming] – 2.5/5
A mediocre opening to New Toei’s salaryman comedy series, which produced six films from 1961 to 1962 and was probably Toei’s attempt to get a piece of Toho’s urban comedy pie. The series is perhaps better known by its Japanese title Jirocho shacho to Ishimatsu shain (“President Jirocho and Employee Ishimatsu”). Katsuo Nakamura stars as a clueless new employee Ishimatsu who enters old man Jirocho’s (Eitaro Shindo) women’s underwear company after passing the entrance screening solely because the president liked his name. Those well versed in Japanese history will immediately get the joke: the names are borrowed from the 19th century yakuza / folk hero Jirocho Shimizu and his henchman Mori no Ishimatsu, with whom these characters probably share not all that much despite President Jirocho supposedly being a late descendant of the legend. Anyhow, this is a rather mediocre though entirely watchable comedy largely based on one repeated gag: young Ishimatsu enters the company without having ever seen president’s face, and then ends up interacting with him outside the office without knowing who the man really is. Other than that, Ishimatsu works for department manager Ko Nishimura, has trouble with the company’s lovely elevator girl Yoshiko Sakuma (who mistakes him for a molester), and is asked by another woman help fend off an old man who has a crush on her (spoiler: that man turns out to be president Jirocho). It’s lightweight fun and a nostalgic relic from an era when Toei was between eras - the old samurai films and the soon to come ninkyo yakuza movies - and was investing heavily on modern day tales, including contemporary romantic comedies like this.

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

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Red Cliff (Special Edition - HK/China/Japan/S. Korea, 2008/2009): 3.5/5

First time I saw this one. Starts off rather slow but overall this is more entertaining than I thought it would be, well acted and the battle/war scenes are very well done. Sometimes it was quite confusing remembering and identifying who was who
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Godzilla Minus One / Minus Color (ゴジラ-1.0/C) (Japan, 2024) [DCP] – 3.5/5
Going by my memory alone, I'd say this black & white edition works a tad better than the color version I saw last year. Deducting the color doesn't particularly add anything to the film – it's still the same piece of modern digital filmmaking as before – but it might have made the CGI stand out slightly less and hence less distracting. I have a number of small complaints (e.g. was it really necessary to have Godzilla do an angsty teenager pose right at the start? A monster movie ought to have more patience and build suspense first), and a bigger one with having to put up with all the CGI (some of which is admittedly well done, but a lot of which is not, and that always pulls me out of the story) that comes with the modern maximalist must-show-everything approach. However, the film's dark tone is done just right, the 1940s Tokyo-in-ruins setting is perfect, the depiction of the post war trauma works quite well, and the musical score is absolutely majestic! Godzilla himself is depicted as a stiff, God-like monster and a near-unstoppable force of nature, save for an occasional athletic Instagram pose. I suppose a modern giant monster movie has done enough things well when someone like me, who is lukewarm to tokusatsu and appalled by CGI, goes to see it twice in the theatre.

Tale of Company Boss Part 2 (続次郎長社長と石松社員) (Japan, 1961) [Streaming] – 3/5
A superior sequel that improves on the original by adding more laughs and smoother storytelling. This one picks up from where the previous film left off, with Jirocho and Ishimatsu now working together and aware of each other’s identities. The film’s best addition is a yellow haired gaijin played by an actress named either Lee Smith or Lea Smith (impossible to tell from the katakana spelling). Only a half-fluent Japanese speaker, the character’s various misunderstandings of the Japanese language are actually quite clever and frequently hilarious. The funniest bit must be when a colleague calls Ishimatsu a “baka yaro” (“dumbass”) in front of her. Realizing she doesn’t know what the word means, he tries to save his face by telling her it’s just a way to refer to someone in Japanese. She then proceeds to refer to him as a baka yaro for the rest of the film, blissfully ignorant of its rudeness. Another thing the film has going for it is its naïve and charmingly old fashioned touch to storytelling that keeps everything bright and cheerful, unaffected by evils or worries. Also something to consider: there are two women’s underwear companies in the film, and both have all-male board of directors. Was this meant as satire, or just a reflection of the real life Japanese business environment?

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I Saw the Devil - Unrated version (S. Korea, 2010): 4.25/5

This version has more violence (!) than the UK Blu Ray, I didn't notice much difference apart from scenes where human flesh (?) is eaten. VERY dark and disturbing but there's a reason for that imo
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Metade Fumaca (HK, 1999 - DVD): 4/5

Nice drama/romance movie, good performance by Eric Tsang, and prime Shu Qi is something else :)
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Gojira aka Godzilla (Japan, 1954) Criterion: 4.25/5

Audiences at the time in Japan must have found this as scary as hell, it was made less than 10 years after atomic bombs destroyed Japan and (as far as I know) around the same time as a nuclear disaster involving a boat called The Lucky Dragon. In part it could just be a cheesy monster movie but it has a much darker, more serious undertone because of real world events imo. Very good movie.
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In The Mood for Love (HK/France, 2000): 4/5

A slow burner romantic drama, I hadn't seen this in many years so treating it as a rental. The acting, clothes and music really captures the tone of the film.
I think the main characters do kind of grow to fancy each other and fall in love, but a romance would be taboo because of the time, so they can't do anything about it.
In one of the deleted scenes, it looks like they almost have sex but don't go through with it?
Some of the 'roleplaying' (?) and 'repeated' scenes seemed Groundhog Day-like.
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2046 (HK/France, 2004) - first time: 4/5

Similar to ITMFL in some ways, but with sci-fi bits for some reason. What's so special about the year 2046? Just that it was far enough away in the future (in 2004)?
The beginning shots reminded me of Blade Runner or something similar.
Sometimes I thought Tony Leung's character was a bit of a dick to be honest. Zhang Ziyi is so :o :love:
Is Maggie playing the 'same' character as in ITMFL? :?
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grim_tales wrote: 06 Feb 2024, 22:34 What's so special about the year 2046?
2046 was supposed to be the last year of the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it was under British colonial rule. Not a promise that was kept, I'd argue (see: Hong Kong National Security Law, 2020), but there was no way WKW could have known at the time the film was made.
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Amorous Tales of Genpei (好色源平絵巻) (Japan, 1977) [Streaming] – 2.5/5
An odd and at times unexpectedly ambitious Toei Porno, based on a historical account of the Heiji rebellion in the year 1160. It starts out as a relatively down-to-earth depiction of the rivalry / hatred between Kiyomori of the Taira clan and Yoshitomo of the Minamoto clan, which culminated in a battle between the clans and Yoshitomo’s demise. The latter’s wife and children flee in hopes of not being caught by the sex crazed Kiyomori, who is not content with merely abusing his enemy’s severed head but wants his woman as well. This is despite him having no lack of women of his own, though most of them are “killed in action” by his Hanzo the Razor like tool and stamina (I’m not even going to write about a certain scene that follows, which would not be out of place in a Noboru Iguchi directed porn feature). Needless to say this is where things get strange, and the film more than earns its porno labelling (somehow the first 20 minutes didn't feature any nudity). All in all, a strange, somewhat interesting and decently made, but ultimately a bit flat narrative with no likeable characters or big payoff. It may very well prove a pleasant discovery to fans of obscure cult and eros, but it’s a slightly smuttier and lower-key picture than many of Toei’s bigger budgeted erotic spectacles of the 60s and 70s (Suzuki, Ishii, Sekimoto etc.). Director Michinori Fukao seems to have directed only two theatrical features on his career, this and 1973’s Toei Porno A Diary of A Woman Doctor, in addition to miscellaneous AD and writing credits ranging from Nagisa Oshima’s Death by Hanging (1968) to Sadao Nakajima’s Modern Yakuza: Three Cherry Blossom Brothers (1971).

Yakuza of Seki (関の彌太ッペ) (Japan, 1963) [35mm] – 3.5/5
Future ninkyo master Kosaku Yamashita struck early gold with this gorgeously photographed matatabi yakuza film that was only his 4th movie. Kinnosuke Nakamura plays a wandering yakuza who saves a little girl from drowning and reluctantly escorts her to safety after her father is killed. Years and seasons pass, but he never forgets about the girl, who grows up without knowing what happened to her saviour. Rightfully considered a genre classic, this thoroughly entertaining film is nevertheless just a little less moving than it could be. The storyline is good, and the characters are solid, but there’s a slight feeling of emotional distance in the drama, which doesn’t doesn't click quite the way the film’s visuals do. Speaking of which, the 35mm print viewed at Laputa Asagaya was breathtakingly beautiful and yet another reminder of the cinema magic that we are missing in the modern digital era.

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Guro Taku wrote: 11 Feb 2024, 14:23
grim_tales wrote: 06 Feb 2024, 22:34 What's so special about the year 2046?
2046 was supposed to be the last year of the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it was under British colonial rule. Not a promise that was kept, I'd argue (see: Hong Kong National Security Law, 2020), but there was no way WKW could have known at the time the film was made.
Thanks - I never knew that :) This must be different from the period Hong Kong was leased to the UK until 1997, I'm guessing :?
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grim_tales wrote: 13 Feb 2024, 14:42
Guro Taku wrote: 11 Feb 2024, 14:23
grim_tales wrote: 06 Feb 2024, 22:34 What's so special about the year 2046?
2046 was supposed to be the last year of the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it was under British colonial rule. Not a promise that was kept, I'd argue (see: Hong Kong National Security Law, 2020), but there was no way WKW could have known at the time the film was made.
Thanks - I never knew that :) This must be different from the period Hong Kong was leased to the UK until 1997, I'm guessing :?
What Guro Taku means is that the British rule was supposed to be followed by a 50 year transitional era, during which Hong Kong would be allowed to keep its political/economical autonomy despite becoming part of China, hence "One Country, Two Systems". But as it turned out, that only lasted about 25 years until China forced the mainland system to Hong Kong during the COVID years.
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Bonds of Love (愛のきずな) (Japan, 1969) [35mm] – 3/5
A jerk travel agency employee (Makoto Fujita) falls in love with a pretty girl (Mari Sono), only to learn too late that she’s secretly married to a violent criminal (Makoto Sato) who’s about to be released from prison! This is a pretty good and stylish passion noir with an evident Hitchcock vibe, based on a Seicho Matsumoto story. Also nice to see Mari Sono tackle a real film role – some of her other movies were superficial idol vehicles designed to support her pop star career. Some of the film’s plot turns do feel a bit forced, however. Viewed from a phenomenally beautiful 35mm print that did full justice to the film’s cinematography and art direction. Why can’t modern movies look half as good?

Love Hunter: Lust (恋の狩人 欲望) (Japan, 1973) [TV] – 4/5
Director Seiichiro Yamaguchi made film and court history when he, Nikkatsu, and even the censorship board were trialled for the distribution of obscene material in the so called Roman Porno case targeting the director’s film Love Hunter (1972). It is generally understood the case was less about the film in question and more about authorities reacting to the ever quickening eroticization of cinema after major studio Nikkatsu had begun mass producing Roman Porno some two month earlier. Yamaguchi responded by making this angry, political / philosophical sequel that follows a stripper (Mari Tanaka) with ties to radical youth movement arrested for obscenity. Much of the film unfolds in interview sequences critiquing the legal system, the hypocrisy of the authorities, and prejudice against anyone, particularly women, who challenge established conservative values. But the film, perhaps surprisingly, doesn't dwell too long on the injustice the director’s alter-ego faces, as it also critically examines the naivety of the youth and the compromising nature of the anti-establishment. Less fascinating is the love affair between the protagonist and a disillusioned reporter who used to be at the forefront of the student movement in his youth but has since stopped believing one person could make a difference. There are some dull sex scenes thrown in to fulfil genre requirements, but the film's political contents, especially when mirrored against the court case that was in progress at the same time the film was made, are so interesting it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. Acting performances are solid as well, by both skin actress gone anti-establishment icon Tanaka and Teruo Matsuyama, who has the kind of world weariness perfect for the cynical reporter role. And last but not least, there’s superb use of music throughout the film.

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New Apartment Complex Wife: Adultery is a Taste of Honey (新・団地妻 不倫は蜜の味) (Japan, 1999) [TV] – 3/5
This Toshiki Sato / Masahiro Kobayashi collaboration very much feels like a follow-up to their earlier Apartment Wife: Adultery in Broad Daylight (1997), not least because it shares three of the four main cast members. The premise is slightly different however, with no big yarning for new love among its two central couples (Kikujiro Honda & Hotaru Hazuki and Jin Murakami & Natsuko Sawada). Instead, it is one wife’s exaggerated and bragging comment about her and her husband’s nocturnal activities that sends the other couple's marital happiness spiralling off balance. “Why can’t we be like them” she laments. Meanwhile the husbands, who are childhood friends and frequently go out drinking together, meet a pair of young women who would clearly be willing to do more than just drink beer together. This film isn't the best of Sato and Kobayashi's collaborations, partly because of a disappointing non-ending, but for the most part it contains the essence of their filmmaking: a low key touch combined with theatrical, existential dialogues that are strangely captivating because they hit close to everyday reality. Also typical to the director / screenwriter pair, they frequently disregard pink film conventions and allow characters to freely develop in ways that feel logical but are not always obvious from the start. In this sense, their films often feel almost like social experiments with fictional characters, rather than something clearly heading towards a pre-determined ending.

Settlement (決着) (Japan, 1967) [Streaming] – 3/5
Teruo Ishii was first and foremost a director of tough guy films. This contemporary gangster tale is a good example, even if it doesn’t fully work. It’s got style to boot and an excellent hard boiled cast, but is so loosely written than one tends to forget who is supposed to be the main character / lead actor. The answer to that question is Tatsuo Umemiya, starring in one of his relatively few (but not entirely rare) ninkyo roles as a member in old man Kanjuro Arashi's gang, which is being harassed by greedier competitors. It is however Ishii regular Teruo Yoshida who dominates the screen as Umemiya’s charismatic older gang brother. Yoshida was a man of few faces, but Ishii and the dressing department make the most out of them. Yoshida is backed up by an army of other tough guys, almost everyone is dressed in black and wearing either hats or sunglasses. Ishii films it all with tremendous style and packs plenty of tension into the best scenes. But what was the plot all about, and was it even worth caring about? Poor Umemiya gets the shortest straw since it’s his job to carry much of the irrelevant drama. The rest of the guys get to focus on looking cool and blasting each other off in action scenes. Worth a watch for the cool factor alone.

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HungFist wrote: 16 Feb 2024, 17:45
grim_tales wrote: 13 Feb 2024, 14:42
Guro Taku wrote: 11 Feb 2024, 14:23
grim_tales wrote: 06 Feb 2024, 22:34 What's so special about the year 2046?
2046 was supposed to be the last year of the 50-year period the Chinese Government promised to let Hong Kong remain as it was under British colonial rule. Not a promise that was kept, I'd argue (see: Hong Kong National Security Law, 2020), but there was no way WKW could have known at the time the film was made.
Thanks - I never knew that :) This must be different from the period Hong Kong was leased to the UK until 1997, I'm guessing :?
What Guro Taku means is that the British rule was supposed to be followed by a 50 year transitional era, during which Hong Kong would be allowed to keep its political/economical autonomy despite becoming part of China, hence "One Country, Two Systems". But as it turned out, that only lasted about 25 years until China forced the mainland system to Hong Kong during the COVID years.
Thanks Hung - that's interesting :)
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I watched the German blu-ray of Shaws' THE CHAMPION AKA SHANGHAI LIL AND THE SUN LUCK KID (sheesh!) last night.



Celestial's transfer is one of their weaker ones - lots of artificial slow-motion presumbly to hide missing footage - but the movie itself was quite good. It feels a lot more like a Taiwanese imitation of an Angela Mao film, which is to its credit, as I find the Shaws' house-style rather bland and repetetive. Shih Szu and Lee Wai in a girl-on-girl recreation of when Bruce Lee went against a katana-weilding Feng Yi in FIST OF FURY is a particular highlight.
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Revolver Lily (リボルバー・リリー) (Japan, 2023) [In-flight] – 1.5/5
If anyone needed a reminder of the sad state of modern Japanese action cinema, this CGI-soaked revolver opera should do. Uneven indie / mainstream director Isao Yukisada helms the 1920’s set spy-esque tale where a little kid in possession of a government secret is caught in a power struggle between the army and the navy, and his only hope of survival is Haruka Ayase pretending to be an action star. The story is largely nonsensical, as are character actions throughout the film, despite the movie trying to establish itself as something more “respectable” by adding historical context and what the Japanese call “human drama”, which means tears, crying and family tragedies. At the end of this 2½ hour drivel awaits a miserable CGI bloodbath without a single original idea, unless you count Ayase’s white wedding dress as one.

Ninja's Mark (忍びの卍) (Japan, 1968) [35mm] – 3.5/5
Body snatching ninjas battle each other in Norifumi Suzuki’s gloriously bonkers and erotically charged ninja film. There’s even an early scene where ninja magic is used to turn a woman into a fish while she’s having sex with the shogun! A swordsman investigator (slightly miscast Isao Natsuyagi) is assigned to find out who’s trying to spook the shogun off from having offspring. Should come as no surprise that novelist Futaro Yamada (Ninja Wars, Samurai Reincarnation) provided the source material. It’s solid fun, even if a little short on action and not quite as good as Sadao Nakajima’s less goofy Female Ninja Magic (1964), also based on a Yamada novel. From a film historical perspective this film remains noteworthy as one of the early attempts by Toei producers Shigeru Okada and Kanji Amao at capitalizing on the success of independent pink films, though it ended up underperforming at the box office. Insufficient amount of nudity by the studio cast was to blame according to Okada, who went on record to say “Men don’t forgive eros that goes only halfway there”. Wised up from the commercial failure, the Okada and Amao then tried again with Teruo Ishii’s The History of Shogun’s Harem (1968), which became a huge success and the start of the loosely defined Pinky Violence movement that gave birth to many of Toei’s most successful B-films in 1968-1973, most of them produced by Amao under Okada’s orders. Ninja’s Mark of course wasn’t the first time Toei had flirted with eros, but none of the earlier attempts (which ranged from the short lived Female Ninja Magic series to the hopelessly discreet O-oku series, as well as more popular contemporary Tatsuo Umemiya / Mako Midori films) had quite set things in motion the way Okada’s teaming up with Amao would do after this movie. Certainly a film ripe for re-discovery!

Viewed from a breathtakingly beautiful 35mm print (my second time viewing in the past 10 years), which did full justice to the film’s colourful visuals! Toei’s recent HD master is pretty as well, though it doesn’t quite reproduce the beauty of the film print.

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

Post by grim_tales »

Jet Li's Fearless (HK/China/USA, 2006) - first time: 4/5

This was good, felt more like a drama with some action, it's really a biography of Huo Yuanjia, and the story reminded me of Ip Man, Fist of Fury and movies like that TBH. Jet Li is very accomplished in it. I watched the Director's Cut version and I didn't expect the modern scenes at the beginning and end! The fights with the Western boxers etc felt very stagey but maybe that was the point.
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Baby Assassins: 2 Babies (ベイビーわるきゅーれ2ベイビー) (Japan, 2023) [TV] – 2/5
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this film, a sequel to Baby Assassins which was a CGI enhanced piece of post modern garbage. It seems there is now a whole generation of socially insecure film makers who cannot make straight genre films without disguising them, or excusing them, as a joke. Hence our main characters are a pair of quirky teenage girls who work part time jobs, watch TV, go shopping, and complain about everything between heaven and earth, in between killing people. But this is not quite as annoying as the first film due to a genuinely funny bank robbery scene, and a spectacular end fight courtesy of Kensuke Sonomura, Japan’s best action choreographer. The film’s earlier action sequences, particularly the John Wick influenced, CGI ridden gunplay scenes are sadly not half as exciting.

Bullets of Slacker Street (遊民街の銃弾) (Japan, 1962) [35mm] – 4/5
The early 1960s saw Toei put out some of their coolest pulpy action thrillers, as evidenced by this thoroughly excellent thrill ride. A hard core criminal of unknown nationality (Tetsuro Tamba) learns about diamonds hidden inside a US army base from a cellmate / army deserter (Issac Saxson), and starts planning a prison escape. He puts together a pack of international convicts and receives help a second group (Ken Takakura, Harumi Sone, Yoshiko Sakuma) outside the prison who are also after the diamonds. Those who saw Kinji Fukasaku's High Noon for Gangsters (1961) will instantly notice this movie is at times almost a carbon copy of it. It has a very similar premise, the same highly energized jazzy tone, as well as some near identical scenes in addition to being written, filmed and produced by the same people, and sharing half of the same cast. And this is almost as good, a thrilling gangster actioner packed with style, suspense, and fantastic gunplay at the end. At 82 minutes it isn't ruined with excess length either. It is only missing Fukasaku’s deeper psychological edge. As for the similarity between the two films, all was fair under the Japanese genre cinema sky in the 60s when copying was common and sequels were often essentially remakes. This film actually enjoyed European theatrical distribution back in the day, though it has been largely forgotten since then and hasn’t even received a home video release in Japan. Here’s hoping that Toei will wise up and give the film a much needed HD treatment (an old SD streaming version exists). Viewed from a beautiful 35mm print at Laputa Asagaya.

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

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Invincible Shaolin (HK, 1978): 3.5/5

Good enough but why are the training sequences in these kind of movies so long?
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Post by EvaUnit02 »

Gundam Seed: Freedom (2024) - 3.5/5
I haven't seen the parent series, but this film with its "love conquers all" theme and a focus on love triangles seemed far closer to Macross than prior Gundams I'd seen. I half expected the female characters to break out into singing J-pop songs, like in Macross.

Of course there was still were still warcrimes, this is Gundam after all.
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