SAILOR CATS Review: A mad mission through time in search of the ultimate fun.
Three beautiful girls wearing sailor Moon costumes, travel through time to help Hattori Hanzo in a deadly mission that can change Japan´s history forever… Mad premise for a crazy adventure, in which all this craziness is where relies all its charming.
STATION (駅) (1981) Review: When life is a station where trains of regret never stop coming
Ken Takakura and Chieko Baisho screen romances were something special that went beyond any definition that words could express. They were restrained and quiet on the surface but passionate and intense underneath.
This classic from Japanese cinema directed by Yasuo Furuhata (Demon Yasha) hides on its plot a story of vengeance that is caught into a love story. 2 hours and 15 minutes of feelings put into images and two terrific actors that put on display their incredible talent in an acting masterclass, to tell a story about regrets, in which Ken Takakura plays a detective training to be a sharpshooter at Olympics who goes out of his way to crack the case of a serial killer specialising in policeman murders when his coach is gunned down by a fleeing criminal.
Ken Takakura leads the story, being restrained and serious but filling every scene with his smashing screen presence, showing us why he was the toughest man on the history of Japan, playing a character who suffers multiple tragedies who begins an affair with a middle-aged woman as escape from the pain, but just reliving his past mistakes.
Chieko Baisho appears here prettier than ever, portraying a lively and memorable character that makes us forget her unforgettable portrayal of Sakura in the Tora san series, making the audience fall into her dangerous clutches of love, at the same time that Takakura´s character does it.
The films that Yasuo Furuhata and Ken Takakura made together were exquisite and technically beautiful, telling heartbreaking and touching stories wrapped into a warming melancholic tone that made them unique and special, becoming instant classics that moviegoers around the world really need to discover. So, dear movie fans around the world, if in your cinematic journeys there´s a chance to stop in this STATION, don´t hesitate in going down to the platform and enjoy one of the most beautiful films that you could ever watch.
BOXER ボクサー (1977) Review: Losers Building Dreams That They Can Believe In
A pessimistic, darker, and probably more realistic vision of the boxing world than most movies of the genre,that tells the story of an old glory of boxing played by the legendary Bunta Sugawara, who becomes the coach of the man who accidentaly killed his brother in a construction site, in order to make him pay his debt with him and more importantly achieve again boxing glory, but this time as a coach. Here there’s no fanfares or inspirational heroes, just two hopeless losers that need each other to build a dream that they can believe.
DEMON/YASHA Review: Even the toughest guys live passionate romances
Ken Takakura plays Shuji, a retired Yakuza gangster who lives in a small coastal town trying to put his dark past behind him, but when a gorgeous young woman (Yuko Tanaka) also from Osaka comes to town to settle down, the world of our cold and ruthless Yakuza seems to stop. She becomes a forbidden passion for him, and we all know that passion blinds reason and is guided by heart. So our cold protagonist lets his weakness for the beautiful Yuko Tanaka, (gorgeous as always), guide him back to that past he left in Osaka, for just one and only reason, LOVE. Because when real tough guys as ken Takakura falls madly in love, all the passion they keep inside their soul, explodes in glorious violence splashing the screen for the enjoyment of movie junkies and moviegoers all around the world.
A restrained story full of silences, complicit glances, and silent passion, that follows two characters in search of a redemption that constantly eludes them, in a ruthless world leaded by treachery and violence, in which they may find hope in each other to survive.
Exquisitely shot with a beautiful cinematography and memorable images of some of Osaka’s iconic sites like Dotonbori street, which has been a part of so many other unforgettable movies, this Demon/Yasha from 1985, directed by Yasuo Furuhata, is an essential classic from Japanese cinema, that belongs to a wonderful collection of movie romances in which Ken Takakura, gave really useful masterclasses on how a real man should love
If you love cinema, you can´t miss it
SAMURAI MARATHON Review: A Marathon To Defend A Nation, Turns Into A Race Of Survival Towards A New Era
An original and different kind of samurai movie that is really worth it to watch.
BURNOUT NEO Review: Asami’s Badassery At Its Finest Expression
Revisiting Asami´s filmography, I came to the conclusion that Burnout Neo, must be one of her finest works, at least in terms of martial action, but also might be one of the most unknown and unfairly forgotten, which means that despairly needs to be reivindicated.
FAN COLUMN: Yuji Shimomura’s RE:BORN Is A Masterful Evolution Of Modern Action Filmmaking
Re:Born is a new Japanese martial arts action thriller film by Yuji Shimomura, probably one of the greatest action coordinators, stuntmen and directors in the small, but entertaining action scene of Japan, re-uniting with Tak Sakaguchi of Versus fame and Shimomura’s previous and only other feature Death Trance, the legendary martial artist and the underrated filmmaker have made not only their second and best film to date, but also one of the best action films of the year, whichever year you saw it in, because of its screenings in numerous film festivals starting from 2016.
The story centers on Toshiro Kuroda (played by Tak) who runs a small convenience store in a quiet town in Japan and looking after his adopted daughter, Sachi. When his blood-soaked, military past catches up to him however, it brings back an old comrade (played by Akio Otsuka, the voice of Solid Snake from MGS series) seeking revenge, with an army of brainwashed soldiers behind him, including a former buddy of Toshiro, known only by his codename, Abyss Walker (played by film’s fight choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa). Toshiro, the reborn ghost, springs back into action with violent vigor.
The plot would seem cliche, rope and stereotypically dull to a naked eye, but imagine my surprise when it introduced elements, characters and a tone rarely seen in action movies of this caliber or premise. There’s a sense of mystery surrounding Toshiro throughout the film, with the mystery behind him viewed as the stuff of legends, told only as fairy tales, but alas Toshiro comes back to show that those were mere understatements. Some of the best characters in the film are the guys Toshiro knows from his life on the battlefield, the battle scarred and disabled Kenji is one, his backstory is quite tragic and at the same time fairly original in the way his relationship works with Toshiro after his reception of the immobilizing wounds and life in the care home.
Akio Otsuka’s Phantom was also quite brilliant, the man is just a great actor, capable of portraying menace through subtlety, control through conversation and anger through action. The aforementioned Abyss Walker played by Inagawa, is more of a physical antagonist, delivering a more than worthy adversary to Toshiro, and the buildup to their inevitable showdown, is interesting and exciting. Also impressive was Tak Sakaguchi’s daughter, Makoto Sakaguchi, who plays probably the quirkiest character in the film, whose innocence is starkly contrasted and countered by her skills in combat. Overall the familiar premise is saved by characters with enough depth and originality that is missing from a lot of the films in this genre.
What is not missing and would be quite hard to miss is all the glorious throat-slitting, artery-dicing, bladed weapon-oriented action of which there is so much, that at times you wonder whether or not the fight crew is able to keep things fresh and entertaining, and again surprisingly, they do. It’s all down to 3 reasons: The brutal, slick, incredibly efficient action choreography by real-life combat instructor and adviser Yoshitaka Inagawa, Sakaguchi’s skill in martial arts and will to learn something new and master it and finally Yuji Shimomura’s lean, mean and compelling direction, assisted by cinematographer Tetsuya Kudo’s fantastic camerawork, that has so much kinetic energy and flair, that the moves, as deadly as they were already, start seeming even more powerful.
The action is dynamic as well, with a lot of creativity, where you can tell that the filmmakers wanted to use their newly invented combat system “Zero Range Combat” in every possible environment and scenario. As such, we get fights in convenience stores, large city courtyards with crowds of civilians, gigantic rural rain-forests (my personal favorite: the damn thing goes on for nearly 43 breathtaking minutes – yes, it was so awesome I counted) as well as a very interesting and claustrophobic fight in a minuscule phone booth.
The abundance of weaponry is also impressive, featuring karambits and other knives of so many different shapes and sizes it easily makes Re:Born the most knife-oriented action film of possibly all time. In addition to Dual Kamas, chopsticks and screwdrivers, a very cute shovel that right after its introduction turns not so cute and an assortment of firearms, and you’ve got yourself an action film that is locked, loaded and ready for the fight. The soundtrack by Kenji Kawai (composer of Ghost in the Shell and Resident Evil: Vendetta), while not being the best among his work, is adequately tense and operatic.
Re:Born is masterful. The plot is simple in execution, detailed in characterization and in terms of action design, coordination and performance, the film is an example piece of hardcore, beautifully shot, edited and directed action filmmaking. Shimomura has finally become an action director to look out for and even aspire to, while Tak Sakaguchi proves that not only can you teach an old dog new tricks, but in turn he can teach you something back.
Special thanks to fellow fan and site reader Andrew Makatsaria for contributing his thoughts on Re:Born upon importing his own copy from Japan via YesAsia.com.
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, KUBO, GODZILLA And More In The Trailer For The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival
The 30th Tokyo International Film Festival is gearing up for a spectacular presentation of its line-up. Films like Fumihiko Sori’s upcoming December release of manga adaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist, as well as screenings of Chen Kaige’s sprawling fantasy, Legend Of The Demon Cat, Travis Knight’s Kubo And The Two Strings, Hara Keiichi’s 2015 anime movie, Miss Houksai, and Steve Soderbergh’s crime comedy, Logan Lucky, are just a morsel of what attendees can expect when the fest launches on October 25.
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