17 October 2014

Vampire Hunter D (Japan, 1985)

In a far-future time ruled by the supernatural, a young girl requests the help of a vampire hunter to kill the vampire who has bitten her and thus prevent her from becoming a vampire herself.

I have already written about Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) before, but this version from 1985 I left out because I felt that it wasn't nearly as good as Bloodlust. After re-watching it I can happily say that I must have been blinded by the greatness of Bloodlust, because this 1985 film is a phenomenal, Gothic adventure. It's disgustingly graphic, full of gore and presents a ton of nightmarish creatures and evil vampires like there's no tomorrow. Just like Bloodlust it has an awesome blend of genres like science fiction and dark fantasy. Cyborg horses and vampires? No problem. The world of Vampire Hunter D is a place hard not to get interested in, so luckily there's a whole franchise of this stuff.

While watching it I couldn't help but make some striking connections between this film and the video game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997). I guess that's only natural, since both deals with vampires and Gothic themes. Both D and Alucard (the main character in Symphony of the Night) are a sword-wielding dhampir, which is the child of a vampire and a human. They both fight their way through an army of vampires using supernatural powers and graceful sword techniques. 

                                                 Alucard                                           D

I also saw a resemblance in the women that Alucard and D encounter during their travels. 

                                                  Doris                                        Maria 

Just some fun and interesting observations. Great movie and great game.

Genre: Animation/Action//Horror/Sci-Fi

15 October 2014

Blood: The Last Vampire (Japan, 2000)

In Japan, the vampire-hunter Saya, who is a powerful original, is sent by her liaison with the government, David, posed as a teenage student to the Yokota High School on the eve of Halloween to hunt down vampires. Saya asks David to give a new katana to her. Soon she saves the school nurse Makiho Amano from two vampires disguised of classmates and Makiho witnesses her fight against the powerful demons.

The Last Vampire is the first part of the whole Blood-franchise. Later it would spawn anime series, manga sequels and a live-action film. But it all started with this 45 minutes long film about a schoolgirl slaying the demons of the night. The animation quality is high and the action fast and intense. Production I.G is the studio responsible for making this film, and they've made too many great films to count but Ghost in the Shell (1995) is probably one of the biggest. 

Blood: The Last Vampire is a cool and bloody vampire hunt, albeit a short one and you'll wish it went on longer when the credits roll. Still, it's a warm recommendation to fans of vampire films.


Genre: Animation/Action/Horror

13 October 2014

Black Coal, Thin Ice (China, 2014)

An ex cop and his ex partner decide to follow up on investigation of a series of murders that ended their careers and shamed them, when identical murders begin again.

I remember wanting to see this film for the longest time, and now it's here. With full force. Black Coal, Thin Ice feature some of the best cinematography that I've ever seen from China, It looks amazing and really fits the noir-ish feel of the film. What also elevates the film is the great story and pacing, this isn't your average cop thriller but an extremely well-made and clever film. There's literally nothing stupid about it, is another way you could describe it. 

So all in all, Black Coal, Thin Ice is realistic and dark and exactly the kind of crime films I want to see from China in the future.

Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery

12 October 2014

Doomsday Book (South Korea, 2012)

A Brave New World, a mysterious virus brings the city to ruins and zombies flood the streets of Seoul. The Heavenly Creature, a robot reaches enlightenment on its own while working at a temple. Its creators regard this phenomenon as a threat to mankind and decide to terminate the robot. Happy Birthday, a little girl logs into a strange website and puts in an order for a new pool ball for her billiards-obsessed father. Soon an unidentified meteor heads toward Earth and all human beings flee to underground bomb shelters.

Doomsday Book is an anthology film consisting of three different stories, but all taking place in the future. it ranges from being about a zombie apocalypse to a robot that practices Buddhism and believes he's Buddha. The second segment was written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, whom you've should be very familiar with by now due to his filmography (A Bittersweet Life, I Saw the Devil). Despite all these facts, Doomsday Book got lukewarm reviews and it failed to live up to expectations. I think it's worth a chance due to it's interesting themes, and the biggest complaint I have is that it would have been much better if it had been an half hour shorter (it's two hours long). Otherwise it's a good film and a welcomed entry here due to the lack of sci-fi on this blog.


Genre: Comedy/Drama/Sci-Fi

10 October 2014

Broken (South Korea, 2014)

Sang-Hyun, who lost his wife, lives with his daughter Soo-Jin. One day, Soo-Jin is raped and murdered. Frustrated by the lack of progress in his daughter's case, Sang-Hyun gets a mysterious hint by an unknown voice. He learns the identity of the two men who killed his daughter and the address of one of those two men. Sang-Hyun then goes to the home of that man and finds some evidence. Full of anger, he picks up a rifle and goes after the boy who took his daughter from him.

Broken is based on a book written by Keigo Higashino, who also wrote a book that the film White Night (2009), another film which has been featured on this blog, was adapted from. Here we follow a desperate father who seeks his own kind of justice when his only daughter has been killed in a horrendous manner. While watching the film I pondered over the question of what I would do in the fathers situation, if I had the means and the ways of finding the people responsible. Probably nothing this extreme, I think. 

A Japanese film, called the The Hovering Blade (2009), was also based on this same story and I've heard that it's really good. Unfortunately I've yet to see that one, but Broken is by all means a film you should check out if you're a fan of Asian revenge thrillers.


Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller

9 October 2014

Murderer (South Korea, 2013)

Joo-Hyub is a cold blooded serial killer, but he tries to live unnoticed in a small village with his son Yong-Ho. His son becomes friends with Ji-Soo who is a new transfer student at his school. Ji-Soo soon realizes that Joo-Hyub is a serial killer. Joo-Hyub decides to kill Ji-Soo for himself and his son.

Here's a film which I don't reckon made too much noise when it was released. Probably because it doesn't exactly do anything better than most other thrillers that are being released nowadays, but I definitely think that it belongs on this blog. What surprised me was that the relationship between the two students had me far more interested than the actual story about the killer. The films cover and synopsis may lead you to believe that it's a stone-cold and brutal film but it focuses more on other stuff than just killings. The running time is also far from going overboard, clocking in at about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

A good thriller with unexpectedly tender moments.

Genre: Thriller

4 October 2014

Symbol (Japan, 2009)

A man wakes up alone in a brightly illuminated white room with no windows or doors. When he presses a mysteriously phallic protuberance that appears on one wall, a pink toothbrush materializes from nowhere, clattering to the floor and setting in motion a genuinely bizarre chain of events. Soon the imprisoned man is engaged in absurd attempts to escape the gleaming room, releasing random objects from the walls, Meanwhile, in a dusty town, a green masked Mexican wrestler known as Escargot Man prepares for an important match.

Symbol is a film that's half hilarious and half crazy. It's wonderfully incomprehensible for the larger part of the film, until you start to see the bigger picture. It was made by the same guy who directed the also very funny and also bizarre Big Man Japan (2007). If you want to see something whacky and different from most other films, Symbol is one of your safest bets.  


Genre: Comedy/Fantasy

3 October 2014

Gohatto (Japan, 1999)

Set during Japan's Shogun era, this film looks at life in a samurai compound where young warriors are trained in swordfighting. A number of interpersonal conflicts are brewing in the training room, all centering around a handsome young samurai named Sozaburo Kano. The school's stern master can choose to intervene, or to let Kano decide his own path.

Gohatto (a.k.a. Taboo) is one of the first films I've seen that deals with homosexuality in the shogun era. It features two of my favorite actors, Tadanobu Asano (Last Life in the Universe) and Takeshi Kitano (Hana-bi), which elevates the film considerably. It's nice to see a samurai film that doesn't tell the same old story about two battling clans or where a group of bad guys must be defeated. Instead, Gohatto delivers a fresh approach and tells the story that goes on between the sheets.    


Genre: Drama/History/Thriller

2 October 2014

Noriko's Dinner Table (Japan, 2005)

A teenager called Noriko Shimabara runs away from her family in Tokoyama, to meet Kumiko, the leader of an Internet BBS, Haikyo.com. She becomes involved with Kumiko's "family circle", which grows darker after the mass suicide of 54 high school girls.

Noriko's Dinner Table is the prequel to Sion Sono's Suicide Club (2002), and fleshes out the story surrounding it.  I'm not the biggest fan of Sion Sono, and Suicide Club is probably the best movie I think he's done. So it's only natural that Noriko's Dinner Table will appeal to me. It's 2 hours and 40 minutes long, so it's a lengthy one, but somehow it manages not be too long. After I reviewed Suicide Club on this site, I've heard a rumor that it was made due to the fact that the Japanese government wouldn't take action against the alarming rate of suicides the country was suffering from. To me, that gives the films a new meaning other than just it just being a fantasy from the mind of Sion Sono.

So, all in all, if you liked Suicide Club then by all means watch this one. And if you haven't seen Suicide Club you should take time to amend that as quick as possible.


Genre: Drama

1 October 2014

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Japan, 1992)

Sequel to Tetsuo: The Iron Man, this time has the Iron Man transforming into cyber-kinetic gun when a gang of vicious skinheads kidnap his son. When the skinheads capture him, they begin to experiment on him... speeding up the mutative process.

The first time I saw Tetsuo II, my expectations were far too high. As I've said before, the first Tetsuo is one of my favorite films so I wasn't expecting anything less than amazing. So of course it came as a huge let down when it didn't even was nearly as good as the original. Since then I've gone back to the sequel with an open mind to see if I made some bad calls, and of course I did. Sure, it's still miles away from being as great as the first one but Tetsuo II is by all means a worthy sequel. The plot is less chaotic and it takes more time to develop a story, and Shinya Tsukamoto is still a cyberpunk wizard behind the camera. Just like the first one there's some really cool use of stop-motion and practical effects. So if you're a fan of the first one, give this one a chance because it really deserves it.


Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi

30 September 2014

All Around Us (Japan, 2008)

In 1993 Kanao and Shoko are a Tokyo couple awaiting the arrival of their first child. Although both have studied art, Kanao works as a shoe repairman which doesn't stretch his rather laid-back style and Shoko works in a small publishing firm. Their home life is marked by some clashes between her attempts at regimentation, including scheduling their sex life on a calendar, and his flirting with other women. Kanao is offered work as a courtroom sketch artist and becomes a witness to the most sensational murder trials of Japan through the next 8 years.

All Around Us is a film I didn't even knew existed until just a while ago, and for being such a good movie it's strange that it had passed by my radar undetected. It's a film with a very steep emotional curve. In other words, the low points are very dark and thick with depression and anxiety, while it as easily can entertain you and have its happy moments. Nonetheless, the characters goes through some very tough times and the performances are effective and convincing. 


Genre: Drama

29 September 2014

Rubber's Lover (Japan, 1996)

A powerful and secretive corporation is conducting underground psychic experiments utilizing Digital Direct Drive, otherwise known as DDD. While under the influence of the drug ether, the human subjects are outfitted in rubber suits and bombarded with DDD with extremely intense sound. Though the experiments are successful in unleashing psychic powers in the test subjects, the results are usually fatal. As a result, the corporation attempts to shut down the experiments against the wishes of Motomiya and Hitotsubashi who are in charge of the research.
Rubber's Lover goes in the same vein as Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), which is an amazing movie. This doesn't have the same level of quality, but still is a recommended watch for people who like bloody body horror and gritty cyberpunk. 

Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi

28 September 2014

Pornostar (Japan, 1998)

Arano knows no fear. When questioned or threatened, his first response is to lash out with a knife. Before long, his natural viciousness is harnessed by some callow pimps against their Yakuza bosses, but Arano (who dreams of knives raining down from the sky) is more of a psychopath than any of them imagined.

Pornostar (a.k.a. Tokyo Rampage) is the directorial debut of Toshiaki Toyoda, who later would make the absolutely brilliant Blue Spring (2001) and also 9 Souls (2003). While not as good as those, Pornostar still is a cool film about a guy who really hates the yakuza and is looking for trouble everywhere he goes.


Genre: Crime

27 September 2014

A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn (Japan, 2003)

A young widow, Noriko, lives with her senile father-in-law, Shukichi, on a farm. He believes his favorite cow, long gone, is still alive. Noriko pretends to be the cow and lets him milk her - a satisfying arrangement for them both.

Probably about 8 out of 10 people will dismiss this film as a very weird soft porn film or perhaps a pink film with a cow fetish (I can't believe I wrote that). All I can say is, sometimes you got to be careful with what you wish for. I wanted to see something  strange and utterly bizarre, and I certainly got just that. Is it too weird? For some, yes it is. But when you been living in the world of the mainstream movies for too long you crave something completely different, but Jesus F. Christ you'd think there'd be a limit to how weird a film can get. 

On the other hand, I love the fact that there's movies such as this one. I mean, in what other film could you find a woman having sex with her father while impersonating a cow. Whait, what?
There's also a lot of explicit content, so mature audiences only.


Genre: Drama/Romance

20 September 2014

The Human Condition (Japan, 1959-1961)

A Japanese pacifist, unable to face the dire consequences of conscientious objection, is transformed by his attempts to compromise with the demands of war-time Japan.

The Human Condition is an epic movie trilogy based on a six-volume novel. Yes, six novels. Every film in the trilogy is around three hours long so it's a mammoth of a story. Unfortunately, I don't think that many people will find the patience to sit through a well over nine hour long trilogy, and that of course is a shame. Those who will though, are going to experience an unforgettable tale of pain, suffering and humiliation. All the horrors that war causes, and also how war changes people.  



Genre: Drama/History/War

Tokyo Twilight (Japan, 1957)

Two sisters find out the existence of their long-lost mother, but the younger cannot take the truth of being abandoned as a child.

Tokyo Twilight is a film by the master Yasujiro Ozu, the director of classics such as Tokyo Story (1953) and Floating Weeds (1959). Tokyo Twilight feels like a relatively dark Ozu film, and I won't spoil anything but let's just say there's not much room for happy faces. 

I've talked about Ozu's film style before, so let's just say it's beautiful. The angles, the placement and the overall stillness of his camera are just perfect.

A fantastic, low-key story about confronting the past.


Genre: Drama

19 September 2014

The Naked Island (Japan, 1960)

Deals with the intolerably hard life of a family of four, the only inhabitants of a very small Japanese island in the Setonaikai archipelago. Several times a day they row over to the neighboring island to fetch water for their miserable fields.

The Naked Island is known for having no dialogue, and I am all for movies with little or no dialogue when it's done well. People who follow this blog may have noticed that I praise South Korean director Kim Ki-duk a lot for making movies with barely any spoken words. There's just something about that I find very interesting and different from most other films.

Other than that, I should say that I hope you brought your patience with you because The Naked Island has a slow tempo. It depicts a tough life where there's lots of carrying water and lots of harvesting crops. It may sound boring but you just have to be in the right mood, because it's a good film with great cinematography.


Genre: Drama

18 September 2014

Crazed Fruit (Japan, 1956)

Spending their summer on an exotic beach, two brothers fall for the same beautiful girl, whose charm and looks may hide more than they they bargained for.

Love can truly be the most thing in the world. It can also be the worst. As much as it can make you walk on clouds and feel such a deep happiness, it can bring out the very worst in you and make you taste horrible feelings like jealousy and hate. Without spoiling too much, Crazed Fruit shows the full spectrum of romance and not just the good parts. 

Not too long, so it doesn't drag on. An oldie but goodie, for sure.

Genre: Drama