Five years ago, acclaimed Japanese fashion photographer and music video director Kazuaki Kiriyamade an explosive and groundbreaking assault on the movie world with his directorial debut feature, the visually stunning and hugely ambitious sci-fi epic, ‘Casshern’. Now, Kiriya returns in his own inimitable style with the equally spectacular period, fantasy action-adventure, Goemon.

Produced by Kiriya and legendary producer Takashige Ichise (The Ring; Dark Water; The Grudge; Shutter) and boasting a star-studded cast that includes Yosuke Eguchi (Shaolin Girl), Takao Osawa (Ichi; Sky High), Jun Kaname (Blood; K-20; Casshern), Tetsuji Tamayama (Norwegian Wood; Casshern) and Susumu Terajima (Casshern; Ichi The Killer), Goemon is based on the exploits of the film’s eponymous, ninja bandit hero – the Japanese folklore equivalent of Robin Hood.

The year is 1582 and the ruler of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, has been brutally murdered leaving the country in a state of political chaos. Meanwhile, a chivalrous thief known as Goemon, whose loyalties lay with Nobunaga, has risen as a hero figure amongst the populace thanks to his propensity for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Goemon’s latest haul, stolen from one of his arch-enemies, includes a small wooden box of Western origin which he believes to be worthless and accidentally bestows upon a young street urchin. In truth, the box is a priceless artifact - a true Pandora’s box that holds a deep secret coveted and sought by Japan’s most powerful and deadly warlords.

Realising his error, Goemon seeks to regain possession of the box before it falls into the wrong hands. But its existence has also attracted the interests of a legendary swordsman, Matahachi, the legendary ninja Hattori Hanzo, and Goemon’s fearsome former friend and current rival, Saizo. With such a prize at stake, the stage is set for a series of bloody frays between Japan’s most skilled and deadly ninjas and swordsmen in a conflict that will have a profound effect on the country’s future.

Goemon (15) is released by Momentum Pictures and opens at selected UK cinemas on 23rd July 2010.


Kiru

New York inhabitants seeking to extend their filmic Japanorama need look no further than the Japan Society's upcoming screening of Kenji Misumi's 1962 breakthrough film, Destiny's Son (Kiru.)

Forming part of their Monthly Classic Series, The Double-Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu and Ichikawa Raizo, Destiny's Son sees Misumi (Zatoichi, Lone Wolf and Cub) set the formidable Raizo Ichikawa on a visually stylistic journey of revenge and redemption. 

Destiny's Son screens Friday Feb. 19th at 7.30pm.

See Japan Society for tickets and more info. on current and upcoming events.


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Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi Hausu (House) is an unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi's deranged fairy tale Hausu (House) is one of Japanese cinema's wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.

Distressed by her widowed father's plans to remarry, Angel sets off with six of her schoolgirl friends in tow for a summer getaway in her aunt's isolated mansion. But all is not well - in this house of dormant secrets, long-held emotional traumas have terrifyingly physical embodiments and the girls will have to use all their individual talents if any are to survive.

A rollercoaster ride without brakes, Hausu is by turns sinister, hilarious and curiously touching, with ceaseless cinematic invention and a satirical, full-blooded approach to the horror genre. A gigantic smash upon its original release in Japan, the Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present its UK premiere on DVD, released on 25 January 2009.


Wandering Ginza Butterfly 1 and 2

Synapse Films are releasing DVD Meiko Kaji's (Lady Snowblood, Female Prisoner #701) Wandering Ginza Butterfly and it's sequel Wandering Ginza: She-Cat Gambler. The sequel see's her joined by the legendary "Streetfighter" himself Sonny Chiba. Both films are directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess, Sister Street Fighter).

In Wandering Ginza Butterfly Kaji plays Nami, a girl boss who kills a local mob boss and spends a few years in jail. On her return to society she once again finds herself embroiled in underworld violence. The sequel see's her in the same role, this time however she is on a quest for revenge seeking the man who killed her father when she was a child.

According to Twitch Film (you can find expanded plot details and trailers there as well) the DVDs features include New, fully restored, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer mastered in high-definition from Toei’s original vault elements. Japanese language with newly-translated, removable English subtitles. Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Chris D. (author of Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film). New, exclusive video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. Original Japanese theatrical trailers for both films. Reversible cover with original Japanese poster artwork.

www.synapse-films.com

Via: synapsefilms.blogspot.com


Trailer for The Machine Girl Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi (Sukeban Boy) and starring former Japanese porn star Asami (Sukeban Boy) alongside hot, up-and-coming newcomer Minase Yashiro.

Boasting more arterial spray than any gorehound could ever wish for, this fun celebration of gratuitous violence features everything from graphic, bloody dismemberment, decapitation, necrophilia and yakuza ninjas to chainsaw- and machine gun-wielding girls, a flying guillotine and – the showstopper of them all – a flesh ripping drill bra!

The Machine Girl is released on UK DVD and Blu-Ray 18th May 2009. The US edition has been available since last year.


Kiyoshi Kurosawa – the hugely acclaimed Japanese director famous for his groundbreaking, existential horror films such as Cure and Kairo [Pulse] – set Cannes alight last year with a surprising change of pace to, that staple of Japanese cinema, the family drama.

When Ryuhei Sasaki (played by Teruyuki Kagawa) is unceremoniously dumped from his ‘safe’ company job, his family's happy, humdrum life is put at risk. Unwilling to accept the shame of unemployment, the loyal salaryman decides not to tell anyone, instead leaving home each morning in suit and tie with briefcase, spending his days searching for work and lining up for soup with the homeless. Outstanding performances; serene, elegant direction; and Kurosawa's trademark chills are evident as he ratchets up the unsettling atmosphere and the grim hopelessness of Sasaki's unemployment.

Tokyo Sonata is showing theatrically in selected cinemas nationwide (UK) until June 2009 and is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 22 June 2009.

www.tokyosonata.co.uk


Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

In this the *final entry in the long running Zatoichi series released some 15 years after the previous entry we catch up with the character as he enters his twilight years. A living legend and master of the quick draw sword technique Zatocihi continues to roam the dusty tracks of Edo Period Japan. To most who pass him he is just another blind masseur. How ever though blind from the age of 2, his other senses have been heightened to near supernatural levels and this makes him not only a formidable swordsman, but also a gambler with few piers. While these skills have enabled Ichi to wander as he wished making a living from gambling and massage and safe from anyone who would underestimate his bumbling walk and lack of vision as a weakness he has also built a reputation that follows him where ever he goes.

The Zatoichi movies made their star Shintaro Katsu a household name in Japan and a cult icon abroad. This entry in the series finds him not only as the star, but also director and producer. The actor like his iconic character has by this point entered the twighlight of his own life and career. In many ways this film is almost like Katsu's love letter to the character that gave him so much. At times it's slower paced than other entries in the series feeling more like gentle world cinema (not in a bad way) than the films of the 60's and 70's but when it does get violent the ageing Katsu still manages to look, very, very impressive with a sword in his hand and the finale is fantastic.

The tale is a slightly confusing one which see's rival Yakuza gangs and a crooked officials vying for power in a time of change. Zatoichi as ever wanders into town with the intent of making a little money and keeping to himself. How ever when you’re a legend in your own lifetime things are never that easy and soon Zatoichi finds himself pulled into the chaos. How ever he also gets time to meet old friends and make new ones including a baby chick that he hatches from an egg.

Shintaro Katsu's movie is beautiful and balances the gentle with the violent perfectly; he spends a great deal of time giving you a feel for Zatoichi's world and the everyday characters that inhabit it. It's amazing that this is the 26th movie in the series; in many western franchises part 4 or 5 in a series would normally be straight to video nonsense. This is quite noticeably a very musical film (Not that they all start singing) just music and sound are used to great effect here with the only hiccup being the 80's style song used about an hour into the movie. Whether you have seen all, some or even none of the other films I would highly recommend this movie. Certainly if you saw and loved Takeshi Kitano's 2003 take on the character (Which he apparently was inspired to make to scupper the Tarantino and the Weinsteins plans to re-imagine the character) you will surly love this. This film should appeal across te board to fans of Kurosawa classics like Yojimbo (A character Zatoichi meets in an earlier film) to those that enjoyed Ryuhei Kitamura's more recent manga-in-motion Azumi.

Although not as well known in the west as he should be Zatoichi is one of the greatest characters ever to appear on screen and this film should be an essential purchase. 9/10

*Starring Shintaro Katsu

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman - Clips


The Machine Girl On UK DVD

The Machine Girl, is the debut release from Cine Asia's new imprint, Cine Asia Extreme. This super gory and hilariously over-the-top Japanese exploitation splatterfest has had genre movie fans in an anticipatory frenzy ever since its amazing trailer debuted on the internet.

Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi (Sukeban Boy) and starring former Japanese porn star Asami (Sukeban Boy) alongside hot, up-and-coming newcomer Minase Yashiro, THE The Machine Girl is the ‘grindhouse' movie Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof) and Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) can only dream of making. Boasting more arterial spray than any gorehound could ever wish for, this fun celebration of gratuitous violence features everything from graphic, bloody dismemberment, decapitation, necrophilia and yakuza ninjas to chainsaw- and machine gun-wielding girls, a flying guillotine and – the showstopper of them all – a flesh ripping drill bra!


Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned in first-time director Shunya Itô's superior Women In Prison film. Attempting a daring break in broad daylight, Matsu (Meiko Kaji) and Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe) are brutally captured and sent right back to prison to endure such punishment as cold, wet blanket torture and hot miso soup to the breast torture. Whilst held captive in the leaky depths of the prison, Matsu has time to reflect on the wrongdoing which took her freedom away. In a nightmarishly creative flashback we see she was set up by the man she loved, betrayed and left to be raped by a gang of yakuza's. It is at this point that Matsu turns into the 'scorpion' of the title, a deadly lone assassin fuelled only by hate and on a mission to gain vengeance. Back in the present, Matsu’s fellow inmates are also being punished for her stubborn behaviour and a riot ensues, giving Matsu the chance to escape once more and wreak her revenge against those who have wronged her.

Itô's casting of the already iconic Kaji (Stray Cat Rock, The Blind Woman’s Curse) was spot-on for Matsu. A year before she cemented her role as a figure of female vengeance in Lady Snowblood (a film which, like Female Prisoner #701 was an influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill), she perfected Matsu's almost silent presence and cold gaze full of intent for this, one of her first features for the Toei studio after her move from Nikkatsu.

Not only is Female Prisoner #701 a highly impressive debut, but also an unusually decent entry into the Women In Prison genre. Though there are still plenty of the expected exploitative elements intact (nudity, sexual violence, lesbianism, sadistic wardens, gruelling punishments), Itô's film takes them to a more cinematic level. Fusing the revenge and W.I.P. genres together, Itô's confident direction sees surreal visuals incorporated for an unusually stylised treat, with the nightmarishly theatrical shower scene the most potent. Where Matsu is the embodiment of calm rage biding its time, Itô externalises this through the dramatic score and visuals almost akin to psychadelia.

Spot lighting and plenty of low angle shots add both an inspired and trashy element to this 'rise of the underdog' story. Feminist in its portrayal of rage against the confines of patriarchal rule, it also exemplifies the status quo of Japanese cinema where sexual and violent boundaries were pushed in order to regain identity. Female Prisoner #701 is typical of this now cult cinema, where iconic stars and high-end production values met with the sleazier, exploitative draw.

An astonishing debut from Shunya Itô mixes generic elements and bold visuals to make this a superior entry to the usual exploitative fare 8/10

Female Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: Scorpion

www.eurekavideo.co.uk


Blood: The Last Vampire - Poster

UK Poster for director Chris Nahon live action adaption of Blood: The Last Vampire

On the surface, Saya is a stunning 17-year-old, but that youthful exterior hides the tormented soul of a 400-year-old “halfling.” Born to a human father and a vampire mother, she has for centuries been a loner obsessed with using her samurai skills to rid the world of vampires, all the while knowing that she herself can survive only on blood like those she hunts.

When she is sent onto an American military base in Tokyo by the clandestine organization she works for, Saya immediately senses that this may be her opportunity to finally destroy Onigen, the evil matriarch of all vampires. Using her superhman strength and her sword, she begins to rid the base of its evil infestation in a series of spectacular and elaborate showdowns. However, it is not until she forms her first human friendship in centuries with the young daughter of the base’s general that Saya learns that her greatest power over Onigen may well be her ability for human connection…

Gianna Jun (My Sassy Girl, Uninvited) stars as government sponsored half breed vampire Saya. Liam Cunningham, JJ Feild, Koyuki and Colin Salmon also star.

Blood: The Last Vampire - Trailer

www.bloodthelastvampire.co.uk 


A family on vacation is car-jacked and kidnapped by a couple of criminals. To elude the authorities, the criminals take the family deep into the woods that is cursed by the spirits of the undead. There, the group must face their inescapable karma and destiny.

Yoroi: Samurai Zombie is the second feature directorial effort from the baddest zombie killer himself, Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Death Trance). Sakaguchi once again teams up with screenwriter Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus), for a film that is not only sure to satisfy your blood thirst but also offers some incredible next generation “real action” stunts (no CG or camera trick) by Sakaguchi’s own action stunt team, Team Zeros. (Synopsis courtesy of AFI Dallas)

Official Japanese Website

Via: rude-e.stumbleupon


Another Lonely Hitman

Tachibana is a Yakuza henchman who has just served a ten year prison sentence for the very public execution of a rival gang’s boss. Back on the street he finds things have changed, the Yakuza members no longer adhere to the old codes of honour and he is now an atavism. He forms a relationship with the prostitute he is given as a “welcome back present” and a friendship with a young gang member who see’s him as a hero.

Director Rockuro Mochizuki 1995 movie is a Drama with Yakuza characters far more than it is a violent Yakuza crime movie. Tachibana played by Ryo Ishibashi is not really the hitman that the title conjures up, merely a disposable Yakuza pawn, who was convinced to get loaded up on heroin and kill a rival gangs’ leader. So high on smack Tachibana does this but in the process shoots a young waitress in the leg and then asks that the police are called thus landing himself with ten years inside.

Described by some reviewers as Ultra violent and ultra stylish, Mochizuki’s film is neither of these in my opinion. The films opening which follows Tachibana’s hit on the crime boss in a busy restaurant is indeed nicely done and realistically violent, but after that initial scene the film changes pace and settles down into being a slow paced character study. Not that the lack of stylish visuals and violence mean this is not an interesting movie, just I feel it has been some what over hyped and mislabelled. This is really a film about not belonging, about damaged relationships and to some degree redemption.

In many ways there is nothing new in terms of plot to be found in Another lonely Hitman, if you have seen a few films about ex-gangsters back on the street trying to fit in again, you will have a pretty good idea of the route the storyline will take. Where Another lonely hitman shines is in the interplay between the various characters, especially between Tachibana and Yuki, for whom he provides something more than just money barterd through sex and pimp slaps.

The interesting thing about Mozcizuki’s choice of character for his lead is that Tachibana is not cool and from the glimpse of him as a drug addled hitman a decade earlier never was. He’s not Carlito back on the street with great poolroom tricks and a swish leather jacket. This guy is damaged goods right down to the fact those ten years inside have left him psychosomatically impotent. Sure he can kick some ass, but he can’t fuck and I for one know which attribute I would prefer.

Back on the streets Tachibana finds himself paired up with a younger gang member, who see’s him as a hero, a representation of the old now forgotten days after all he is the man that wiped out a prominent rival in broad daylight. Problem is that gang came out on top anyway and now Tachiban’s old crew fall directly underneath it in the yakuza structure, meaning his actions really achieved nothing in the greater scheme of things. As Tachibana try’s to find a place for himself he guides the younger Yakuza and forces Yuki the prostitute to kick her heroin addiction as well as beating down her pimp, but can these actions bring some form of redemption to his life and can he make himself whole again? In director Mochizuki’s vision a man can run from everything except his past, something he would cover again in his 1997 film Oniba: The fire within.

Bleakly shot on grainy film stock and featuring fitting Jazz track which has brought the film some comparisons with the film noir style of film making. Another Lonely Hitman is an interesting film if a little slow and slightly generic in its plot. If you enjoyed Miikes Rainy dog and the general downbeat grim of the Black society trilogy then you will probably find a lot to like here. If you’re looking for stylised violence and hip characters this film may not be for you.

Fans of quality Japanese cinema and the Yakuza genres will want to seek this out and I suggest they do, but be prepared for a downbeat look at life at the bottom of the Yakuza food chain.

A bleak uncompromising look at a broken man as he struggles to come to terms with a world he no longer belongs to. 


Red Vertigo

In the final film in the Nikkatsu Angel Guts series (there was a sixth movie produced after the studio closed) the central character Nami is now a nurse. Nami is having a very bad day; her patients attempt to rape her, she finds her photographer boyfriend in bed with a glamour model and then she is hit by a car, the driver of which instead of taking her to hospital decides help would be best administered through a quick attempted raping (This is Angel Guts remember).

In this film the central character Nami is both naïve and yet streetwise at the same time. Her main naive is that caused by love, she comments on how much the model in the photo seems to trust her boyfriend and he tells her it's just part of his work. However, she is very trusting (naïve) as his studio doubles as the bedroom in the flat they share.
This film opens in classic Angel Guts style with a rape scene; some patients in the hospital ring the bell and when Nami goes to attend to them, they pounce on her in an attempt to rape her. However, their unhealthy state means they fail to totally subdue the feisty Nami and the main perpetrator becomes too excited and prematurely ejaculates before managing to penetrate her. After this harrowing event Nami flees the hospital and heads her to get some much needed comfort from her boyfriend. Unfortunately for Nami when she gets back so early from her shift she catches her man inflagranto with the model from the photo. Nami flees the house and runs blindly into the road were she is struck by the car of Muraki, a stock trader who has blown his clients money and whose life has gone into freefall. Murika believes he has killed Nami and instead of checking to make sure he drives around with her in the car finally stopping in a remote area and attempting to have sex with the unconscious passenger, Nami then wakes again and avoids being raped but for the second time that day is the victim of an attempted sexual assault. The now conscious Nami flees into an abandoned warehouse, pursued by Murika who again attempts to assault her, this time Nami is overpowered and it looks like she now has no way of escaping a full rape however, Murika can’t get it up and for the third time Nami escapes being raped. At this point Murika tells Nami he just wanted to have sex because he felt that would bring him luck, which seems to be TAKASHI ISHII's (finally directing one of his own Angel Guts stories) attempt at showing the audience that rape is more than about sex, it is Murika's attempt at regaining his masculinity by exercising power over another human being through sexual dominance. However, after this somewhat worthy look at rape Ishii's film takes what is maybe the dodgiest turn of all the Angel Guts films. Nami forms an emotional and sexual relationship with her would-be assailant Murika and quickly appears to fall in love with the failed stock broker. Murika is reinvirgured and can now “get hard” and Nami is happy to drift with him as they spend the remaining money on his credit card and drive aimlessly around towards the films tragic finale.

The Nikkatsu studio which was in financial freefall itself at this time appears to have let Ishii make this movie as a favor/thank you. Knowing he had always dreamed of directing they seem to have let him take what limited finances there were to realise his dream of getting behind the camera. Its low budget shows even compared with the limited budgets of the other movies in the series. For me this is the least interesting movie in the series. It does have some great ideas about the roles of masculinity and femininity within sex and sexual assault, but for the most part it drags a little too much and lacks the stylistic flair of some of the earlier movies. Towards the end of the movie there are some stand out moments both stylistically and plot related, but I can help but feel these are too little too late. The twisted relationship of the main characters is an difficult thing to stomach, not because of any visual extremes like the earlier movies, but just the message it conveys of the rapist being an “all right guy really”, it's not the most healthy. That’s not to say two people in the mind state of these beleaguered characters could not form a relationship, just that it’s certainly a questionable thing to present on screen, but then part of the strength of this series is that it makes you think about issues beyond that of normal exploitation movies.

To sum up this is certainly a movie that's worth seeing and its finale is a worthy goodbye to the Nikkatsu series, however it can’t match the power of its predecessors.

Buy it from amazon.com or buy 'The Angel Guts Box Set' from amazon.com


Azumi

A general stands alone with a priest on a bloody battle field. On the ground amongst the body’s lies that of his own slain son. Victory has come at a huge cost and there seems no end to the constant warring of Japans feudal war lords. The priest how ever has a plan; he believes that a group of highly trained assassins could be the answer. He believes that if power hungry war lords are assassinated before they can start wars Japan will be at piece. The general pledge to make the priests wishes a reality and sets about searching for suitable orphaned children who can be turned into obedient killing machines. He searches the war torn countryside and finds 10 orphans all male accept one, a girl named Azumi, who just might grow to be the deadliest of them all.

The general takes his finds to a remote mountain hut where they live an idyllic life although filled with rigorous training. There they become skilled beyond most of the outside world in the deadly art of dealing death.  All the time they are reminded they live only to fulfil the mission they master has planned for them. When the time comes they are given one final test before they leave. This turns the idyllic existence on its head with its shocking and cruel hearted nature. (Well it would be shocking if all the reviews, synopses and trailers on the net did not give it away). Leaving their home forever they finally embark on a mission that will see them take on some of Japans deadliest warriors and end with a body count so high even the bloodiest gun toting 80's hero would have to stand back an salute little Azumi.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Sky High, Godzilla: Final Wars) and based on the popular manga by Yu Koyama, Azumi is "Manga in motion" at its best. The Japanese seem to be able to adapt Manga comics to the screen while keeping very much to the spirit of its comic origins. Where as in the west adaptations seem to be ashamed of there comic source and try and force reality, romance and melodrama where it’s neither welcome or needed. Western Directors always talk about making the character "real" and giving them real world problems, often missing the point of escapism entirely. Either that or they play up horrific camp angles which are just as unwelcome. Not so with Ryuhei Kitamura adaptation of Azumi, which captures the feel of a manga and put it’s into live action with fantastic results. Though Ryuhei Kitamura's films have been very hit and miss, Azumi is defiantly the former an exhilarating and bloody ride.

Aya Ueto who was still in her late teens when Azumi was shot is excellent as the diminutive female assassin. The supporting cast which features many heavyweight Japanese actors as well as newcomers is fantastic. There are so many great characters you would be hard pressed to pick a favourite, though I think mine would be the "monkey faced ninja". Sure some of the characters are slightly camp, but they still retain a hard edge and never become laughable, those that are meant to be evil may be exaggerated, but when the swords swing and the blood flows you never doubt their capacity for violence.

Azumi is an excellent film for its type, beautiful, fast paced, emotional, exciting and brutally bloody. Featuring mad characters, deadly swordplay and blood spraying by the gallon. The director has really gone for excitement and delivers it in spades Azumi is pure entertainment from start to finish and the finish is has to be seen to be believed. If you’re a fan of violent action and swordplay and you have not seen this what the hell are you waiting for, get hold of it now!!!

Azumi_1Azumi_2Azumi_3Azumi_4Azumi_5Azumi_6

Buy Azumi / Azumi 2 - Death Or Love from amazon.co.uk


Shinjuku Triad Society

Tatsuhito (Kippei Shiina) a “dirty cop” is on the trail of gay Triad warlord Wang (Tomorowo Taguchi), who leaves a trail of sickening crime in his wake. In persuit of this particularly slippery gangster Tatsuhito comes to test his own limits and is forced to confront some painful familial and social issues.

In this first edition of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society,Rainy Dog, Ley Lines), Shinjuku Triad Society makes for some very bleak and complex viewing. Delving into issues way below the surface of its subtitle Chinese Mafia Wars, this story of shadowy underworld dealings is a very raw and unforgiving look at the seedier side of Japan’s criminal underbelly. Filmed in a variation of styles including hand-held, Miike’s camera gives a relentlessly gruelling insight into a gritty and downbeat world where good and evil don’t exist, where there is only bad and worse.

Shinjuku opens with a typically kinetic sequence with some fast-paced crime and some dodgy sexual exploits interspersed with shots of Japan’s hectic club life as the DJ provides the tempo in a nod to Miike’s self-professed style of direction. The frantic pace slows however as we become engaged in our protagonist Tatsuhito and his persistent pursuit of warlord Wang. It soon becomes obvious that our hero Tatsuhito is more of an anti-hero in a scene of such sudden and unprovoked violence that for a moment you are stalled in total disbelief. Policemen of questionable morals are of course not unusual subject matter in film but where we are more used to a character composed of entirely immoral or amoral leanings, like Bad Lieutenant for example, Tatsuhito is less usual in the way we can still relate to him and empathise with his cause. This is of course aided by the absolutely reprehensible Wang, whose vile criminal deals and strange private life convey a character next to whom most people would compare favourably.

What unfolds from this cat and mouse tale of hunter and hunted is far more than a gritty police drama. Away from all the usual glamorising or stylising of the genre, Miike reveals with honesty an unsettlingly grim way of life which is both fascinating and repellent. Surrounding the abhorrent and multifaceted exploitation are some very sensitive and deep seated issues concerning race, identity and sexuality in a society so honour bound as to become a little neurotic about its repressions. This is absorbing from a Western-eye view and a brave move on Miike’s part to depict with unflinchingly brutal honesty such seldom portrayed concerns. Shinjuku is therefore pretty violent and sexually graphic in keeping with its realism and almost utterly bereft of any humour or similar cinematic tool to break up the unrelenting grim. Miike is clearly making no apology for this no-holds-barred representation of the reality of contemporary Japanese life and underworld associations. The screen remains as realistically shadowy as the unpleasant dealings and is a drab and bleak as the mood.

Shinjuku is a refreshingly raw if difficult piece of viewing. Ceaselessly demanding on the viewer, it rewards you with the realism gleaned from a rare view of a world stripped bare and sodomised like one of Miike’s unfortunate characters. This isn’t what you would necessarily describe as “entertainment” in a popcorn-munching beer with your mates on a Saturday night sort of a way, but it is thoroughly enthralling, thought provoking and directed with such bare-bones honesty that it is a must-see for anybody wishing to look past Hollywood and to a darker side of crime. You may want to have this one with a stiff drink though.

An excellent if harsh and difficult piece of cinema. Fascinating and distressing, it’s every bit as enthralling as it is reprehensible. An honest, brave and accomplished film from Miike once more proving he's no one-trick pony


Kamikaze Girls

Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima (Memories Of Matsuko) has rapidly earned himself a reputation as a hugely talented and idiosyncratic auteur whose genre-busting films have been favourably compared to the work of directors such as Tim Burton (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Big Fish), Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge; Romeo And Juliet) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (A Very Long Engagement; Amelie). Now, the pop culture phenomenon that has taken Japan by storm, Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls, comes to DVD courtesy of Third Window Films.

Based on the bestselling novel-turned-manga by cult author Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls concerns 17-year-old Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), a self-absorbed dreamer and ‘Lolita' fashion obsessive whose love of all things Rococo sees her fantasizing about fleeing her backcountry home and living life in 18th Century Versailles.

While selling off her father's supplies of bootleg designer fashion goods in order to fund her expensive obsession, Momoko unexpectedly meets the rebellious Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya), a rough-and-tumble ‘Yanki' biker chick. The girls begin a tentative and unlikely relationship that soon sees the two seemingly incompatible misfits forming a unique friendship. Together, they embark on a vividly coloured, sugar sweet, hyper-stylized odyssey of female bonding all set to a pounding J-Pop beat.

Starring J-Pop idol Kyoko Fukada (The Ring 2; Dolls) and pop star turned actress Anna Tsuchiya (Dororo; Sakuran), Kamikaze Girls is delightfully exuberant trip through teenage alienation terrain in the company of two of the most fun and endearing girls ever to grace the screen.

www.thirdwindowfilms.com


Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman On Joost

Internet TV network Joost which recently dumped its software application in favour of 100% browser based viewing carries a varied range of programming. In amoust the channels tagged retro tv, is a channel carries episodes from the classic Japanese TV series Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman which stars Shintarô Katsu as teh titular hero. Katsu played Zatoichi in over 20 movies and 100 tv outings. His real life brother Tomisaburo Wakayama, starred in the nearly as legendary Babycart / Lone Wolf and Cub / Shogun Assassin series of movies.

There are around 26 episodes available over at Joost running around 45 minutes each. I am not sure however which regions they are available in, as licensing restrictions continue to dog legal internet TV's abilty to really take advantage of the webs inherent world wide nature.

Watch the episodes of classic Japanese series Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman on joost.com


Takashi Miike, best known for cult classics "Audition", "Ichi the Killer", and "The City of Lost Souls", redefines the Spaghetti Western with Sukiyaki Western Django, a tale written in blood. Two clans, Genji, the white clan led by Yoshitsune, and Heike, the red clan led by Kiyomori, battle for a legendary treasure hidden in a desolate mountain town. One day, a lone gunman, burdened with deep emotional scars but blessed with incredible shooting skills, drifts into town. Two clans try to woo the lone gunman to their sides, but he has ulterior motives. Dirty tricks, betrayal, desire and love collide as the situation erupts into a final, explosive showdown.

View the US trailer in Quicktime at apple.com/trailers  

View the teaser in Quicktime: High | Low

View the second teaser in Quicktime: High | Low

Official Japanese site | North American Website | Myspace 

Via: www.sukiyakimovie.com/


Sex and Fury

A young girl witnesses the murder of her father who is a detective and the only clue to his killers are three cards which carry the pictures of a deer, a boar and a butterfly, but what does it mean?

The years pass and the girl has grown into a beautiful young woman who goes by the name of Ochô Inoshika, played by Japanese exploitation superstar Reiko Ike (. Having survived a tough life as a female orphan in patriarchal Japan, Ochô has to been strong and streetwise and prepared to use whatever means she had at hand, which quite often means her naked body. A skilled gambler and blade wielding streetfighter, Ochô finds herself thrown into a deadly confrontation with powerful, scheming factions whose true identity could be the key to her own revenge.

Sex and Fury is in many ways summed up by its title, as the character, Ochô's personality is easily summed up by both. A woman driven by a burning inner fury who will use sex as a weapon if she needs to (and this being an exploitation film it's pretty much guaranteed she is going to need to … a lot.) Reiko Ike (Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom, Girl Boss Guerilla, Female Yakuza Tale) is Joined in the film by Swedish exploitation sex-bomb, Christina Lindberg, best known for the Tarantino-influencing cult classic Thriller, A Cruel Picture AKA They Call Her One Eye. So, you know there is going to be a serious dose a naked. Christina plays Christina, a British spy and devil at the card table in the employ of a sleazy Brit on a mission to destabilise the emerging power of Japan and start another Opium war. Unknown to her boss, Christina became a spy to travel to Japan to find a former lover, a Japanese son of a man wronged by the same powerful group that Ochô is taking on. Needless to say, a degree of co-operation ensues to take on the mutual foes.

Enough of the plot, though, as needless to say it really performs as a vehicle to drive the sex and fury onscreen that exploitation audiences hunger for, including a Lady Snowblood-alike scene in which Reiko Ike strips naked and fights her male attackers in a snowbound courtyard. Most of the performances are very good, although the English speaking characters acting and delivery leaves a lot to be desired. I can only imagine the Japanese director was unaware of how bad they sounded, but that's OK as there is nothing wrong with an element of cheese in an exploitation movie and they don’t have a lot of dialogue. I guess I don’t need to tell you that the woman are sexy, the bad guy's eeeevil and the blood flows; it's a prerequisite of this type of movie after all. Reiko Ike is a great actress who really warms up the screen and has a very expressive face. which means she can convey many emotions without saying a word.

As exploitation films go, director Noribumi Suzuki has created a very attractive film; mixing pop art décor, funky seventies kitsch music and creating a great feel of an Eastern nation colliding with, and absorbing, elements of Western culture into its own. Many of the key exploitation elements are there; naked flesh, lesbian encounters, inter-racial love (maybe not exploitative now, but remember its 1973,) torture, gambling, organised crime, prostitution, extreme violence, rape and even a slice of nunsploitation and blasphemy. Fans of female Cult sirens will certainly want to watch out for the scene in which Christina Lindberg dons a swade cowgirl outfit and is made to whip a half naked and chained Reiko Ike.

While it will no doubt draw comparisons to well known Japanese cinema of the period including many samurai films, and the gambling scene at the begging is very remanisant of a Zatoichi movie, Ochô's outcast status similar to that of Ogami Ittô from the Lone Wolf series, it is perhaps Lady Snowblood which will draw the most comparisons and, in terms of setting, it can at times feel like Ochô could pass Meiko Kaji in the street (the same manga was the inspiration for both films). However, the characters are very different; Snowblood's Meiko Kaji is a trained and deadly emotionally controlled beast of vengeance, while Ochô is an emotional, wild spirit of fury, deadly with a blade but she is a rough and ready streetfighter and should the two have ever met in fantasy vs. land you get the feeling Meiko would dispatch Ochô without breaking a sweat. Both films where made in 1973 and both have there place in the collection of any serious fan of Japanese Cult cinema. So leaving aside comparisons and fanboy vs. dreams, Sex and Fury as an introduction to the "bad girl cinema" of Japanese studio Toei is an incredibly entertaining film. Packed with pretty much everything you could ever want from a well made exploitation film and its sequel Female Yakuza Tale is just as good.

Glorious bad girl action, Reiko Ike is indeed sexy and furious, as she slashes and sleeps her way to deadly revenge! 8/10

Sex and Fury - trailer


2 clips from "Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman" the 26th and last film in the long running series.


Lynch Law Classroom

The super strict School of hope which prides itself on taking delinquent teenage girls and making them into suitable fodder for wives and mothers receives three new students. Amongst the three is Noriko AKA "The boss with the cross" and she has an agenda which has nothing at all to do with being turned into a respectable member of Japanese society. How ever the school is run by a pack of girls who form a disciplinary committee and with the backing of the corrupt vice principle they run things with an iron hand.

Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom opens with a semi naked schoolgirl being held against her will in the science lab. She is surrounded by a group of girls wearing red surgical masks and armbands. The girls have set up some pipes and jars and placed a needle and tube in her arm and have convinced her they are going to bleed her to death. Hysterical she brakes free and runs out onto the roof of the school, her tormentors drive her to the edge and force her to fall to her death. The girl they killed though was lieutenant in the gang of Noriko the cross and now she has come to the school to find out just what happened, believing her lieutenant was not easily defeated. Once she gets there Noriko finds more than she bargained for as the school is completely corrupt with girls used by the administration for sex and rampant bullying performed by the disciplinary committee.

Lynch Law Classroom is directed by legendary Japanese exploitation director Norifumi Suzuki, who is maybe best known in the west for Sex and Fury as well as exploitation classics like School of the Holy Beast, Girl Boss Guerrilla and a slew of Terrifying Girls' High School films. While not a match for Sex and Fury, Lynch Law Classroom is excellent fun and a great example of Toei’s classic 70's bad girl cinema. All the ingredients are there, cute girls who are not afraid to bear some flesh, soft-core sex, lesbians, girl on girl violence and a dash of rape. Though described as pink cinema these films differ a lot from the artistic brutality of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno films like the Angel guts series and Watcher in the attic. Although exploitative the sense of fun is much stronger as is female empowerment (all be it within the realms of a very masculine fantasy). Both Toei’s top girl stars are present for this slice of funky girlie fun. Reiko Ike (Female Yakuza Tale) plays second fiddle though in this outing to rival starlette Miki Sugimoto (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs) who takes the lead role as Noriko.

As you can imagine a sexploitation flick centring on Japanese schoolgirls is not exactly a film that's going to be crammed with politically correct imagery. In the opening scene which see the girl driven from the roof the camera spends as much time zooming in a the subjects knickers as it does her face. This does make you feel kind of wrong watching it. The plot is pretty threadbare and plays on the classic youth vs. the system theme which has comes up in a lot of Japanese cinema. How ever you didn’t start watching this for plot you came for the funky music, the kitsch fashion and most of all semi naked Japanese girls hitting each other and the films delivers on all those counts.

So if you love, 70 films, funky music, exploitation, Japanese cinema this should be for you. If you’re a fan of Norifumi Suzuki, Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto and their friends this is also for you. Fans of Pam Grier's 70's blaxploiation movies should also find themselves pretty much at home with this film as theme tough women who don't mind if their clothes come off at some point in the film theme is pretty similar as is the sonic background. The film does get slightly weaker towards the end, but it makes for fun viewing all the way through. 

Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom was featured as part of Panik Houses Pinky Violence Collection, but is now available on it's own.

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Ryuhei Kitamura's hyper violent girl with a sword movie Azumi is to get a limited theatrical release in North America on 21st of July 2006.

Orphaned in 19th century war-torn Tokugawa Shogun period of Japan, Azumi is found and raised along with nine other orphans by Ji, the mentor. The Shogun, sickened by innocent lives lost in senseless warfare, had commissioned Ji to cultivate assassins that could eliminate warlords before they could strike.

... Even if you have seen Azumi, which I expect many of you will have, it should be great fun to catch on the big screen. If you have not seen it yet there are plenty of versions available on DVD including the UK disc which you can pick up from amazon.co.uk


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Trailer for Cult classic Burst City coming June 27th 2006 on DVD from Discotek Media. Boasting an impressive lineup of early 80's Japanese punk bands, including The Stalin, Battle Rockers, The Roosters, and Inu. Never before available in the US. This is the film that started the Japanese cyberpunk films. Directed by Sogo Ishii whos work has inspired everyone from Takashi Miike to Shinya Tsukamoto.


Em Emalming (Enbamingu)

Young female embalmer Miyako is called in to restore the body of a young man who has committed suicide, before the funeral. While performing the embalming process she finds herself pricks by a needle buried deep in the boy’s flesh where it should not be. During the night the head is removed from the body and stolen, Miyako begins a desperate search for it so she can finish her work. Miyako search finds her encountering organ harvesting, religious cults, incest, psychopathic schizophrenics as well as some very dark secrets from here own past.

EM Embalming, is one of those movies that does not really fit into any definable genre, art house with horror elements might be the best description, but it also dips in and out of many other genres at will, as is common with many movies from the east, having no respect for the rules Hollywood set in stone of the ability of stores and video libraries to put the film in an appropriate section. Directed by Cannes award winning director Shinja Aoyama and starring Reiko Takashima (Black Angel) as well as featuring a fabulous Dead Pan performance by Toshio Shiba as the mysterious man with a very dark past Dr Fuji.
Some people have been calling this a masterpiece and sure there is a lot to enjoy there, but I get many of these people have kind of gone oh well its foreign and glossy so it must be great. Actually what makes this film great for me is not the “art house” visuals and deep character study, but the fact that the plot is like some kind of warped “sunset beach” style soap opera on acid. With each new scene more and more ridiculous revelations are made about the various characters and there pasts as if the script is constantly trying to up the stakes and top itself for ridiculas revelations as the film moves forward. There where points where revelations that where meant to be dark and forbidding had me in stitches as fi (Who was also watching) and I waited for the director to through in kitchen sink wielding aliens.
 
So I guess your wondering about the notorious embalming scenes and if they are nasty (You freaks you), well yes while this is not a horror movie the subtle and cold embalming scenes are very nasty and very realistic as bits are hacked off, organs are scooped up and large needles are inserted …blood pours down the embalming table and things get nasty.
As with much art house it’s character study where this film really works (even though many of the character are ridiculous and there back story’s insane). Myko striving to “understand death” through her embalming. The crazy sect leader seeking to use needles to cure the insane, the worst cop in the world seeking to be constantly in Miyakos company, the twisted girl who seeks to revive her dead boyfriend, The fabulous Dr Fuji (he needs to return in his own film) and his dark past and the politician parents who seek only to preserve their honour.
I don’t want to give away much of the plot in the form of spoilers because it’s the insane plot which makes for the high point in this movie, but Dr Fugi and his specially equipped organ harvesting truck is certainly a high point to look out for.

This is the stuff cult movies are made of, there is no way it can appeal to the mainstream and even some cult movie fans will be put off by the art house sensibilities, but the art house style pretentiousness combined with a plot so ridiculous I am smiling as I think about it now makes this a movie many lovers of “Wierdsploitation” will see as a collection must.


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