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Thread: What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  1. #661
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    High Noon for Gangsters (白昼の無頼漢) (Japan, 1961) [DVD] - 4/5
    An excellent, racially and sexually charged heist thriller with gangster Tetsuro Tamba blackmailing 4 foreigners (a black G.I., a racist white American and his wife, and a Korean) into robbing an armoured vehicle with him, girlfriend and yakuza bro Sone. "$300 000 for me, $200 000 for the six of you, that's $50 000 a head" Tamba says, and remarks after being told his math is off "school math won’t do, at least two of you are gonna die, that’s $50 000 a head". There's terrific tension throughout and some witty dialogue in both Japanese and English (Tamba interpreting his Japanese lover for the American wife: "She said you're pretty charming for a pig"). The foreign cast is passable, and the white American actually speaks fluent Japanese while Tamba speaks understandable English. The heist itself is a bit rushed and there's an uninspired twist here and there, but only noticeable because the film is damn good overall! Fukasaku’s 1st full length film.

    A Man's Showdown (男の勝負) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 1.5/5
    Hideo Murata was a pretty big ninkyo star in the 60s despite lacking anything resembling charisma. His enka singing career ensured his popularity. This is a co-starring vehicle for Murata and Shigeru Amachi, an actor who did better when portraying suffering, morally compromised tough guys (e.g. Yellow Line, The Tale of Zatoichi). They make a rather dull heroic duo against crooked Bin Amatsu. Young Sadao Nakajima directed this under Masahiro Makino’s supervision. The film feels more Makino than the Nakajima. Not so much a terrible film as just a boring one. The only energetic scenes are in the mid third: a duel between Murata and Amachi, and a stylishly executed sakazuki scene.

    Delinquent Street (不良街) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 2.5/5
    Lightweight yakuza romp with a cool Hiroki Matsukata theme song and an ultra-violent finale, where the heroes massacre at least 40 bad guys. Matsukata, Hayato Tani and a moustached, sun glassed Shingo Yamashiro make a three man punk gang. Girlfriend Mari Tsutsui hangs around in revealing tops, and Bunta Sugawara shows up in two scenes. Yukio Noda directs with a tad more seriousness than some of his other films, and Yamashiro is surprisingly tolerable, even cool. It's just regretful the film is another waste of a great title: there is no delinquent street here.

    Hobo General (Kinkin no lumpen taisho) (キンキンのルンペン大将) (Japan, 1976) [VoD] - 1/5
    A forgotten Teruo Ishii comedy, by far one of his worst films. Kinya Aikawa (Sugawara's co-star in the Truck Yaro series) is a silly country bumpkin in Tokyo without home or friends. Extremely tame, childish, unfunny gags and some weeping follows. Imagine the comedy segments from the Abashiri Prison series extended into a feature length film minus all the yakuza stuff and you are... still not low enough. This is a far cry from the naughty comedy genius of The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno which looks like a Stanley Kubrick picture in comparison.

    Taiyo no koibito: Agnes Lum (太陽の恋人 アグネス・ラム) (Japan, 1976) [TV] - 2.5/5
    A Toei curiosity that misleadingly occasionally pops up in Pinky Violence context. This isn't actually a movie, but a 25 min gravure film with Hawaii beauty Agnes Lum. Japanese men had such a crash for Lum (familiar from magazines and commercials) that Toei sent action director Atsushi Mihori (Criminal Woman: Killing Melody) to Hawaii to film this piece, and unloaded it onto screens as theatrical youth triple bill with Gang of Men: Delinquent Prison and Detonation: 750cc Tribe. Difficult to evaluate from the cinematic side - it largely lacks one - but for what it's worth, Lum looks stunning and (the costume department) has impeccable taste in bikini. Includes slow-motion running in bikini, and the Hawaii locations provide additional eye candy. Lum comes off sweet and naive, and the single interview scene where they try to force her talk about her body feels nasty and exploitative (unless her reactions were scripted for the pleasure of sadist Japanese viewers).

    Best Guy (ベストガイ) (Japan, 1990) [VoD] - 1/5
    A miserable Top Gun derivative from Toru Murakawa. The biggest problem is that while it's as superficial as Top Gun, it's not any wilder, imaginative or exploitative, it's just duller. The characters are cardboards, the Canadian band doing the music awful, and the film goes on forever at 114 min. The action, with some decent flying clumsily mixed with cast insert shots and background projections, seems half-watchable at first but even these scenes drag to no end. The title supposedly refers to a Japan Air Self-Defense Force rank, but it conveniently also works as a Karate Kid reference (known as “Best Kid” in Japan).

  2. #662
    I caught Nobuhiro Yamashita's 2018 live action adaption of Takashi Imashiro's cult manga, Hard-Core Heisei Hell’s Bros titled HARD-CORE. The central characters are two social outcasts played superbly by Takayuki Yamada & YosiYosi Arakawa. Yamada is an anti-social loner prone to violent outbursts and Arakawa is a homeless bum (he was born to play these type of roles) who ran away from his hometown after cracking under pressure at his prestigious high school. They end up buddies and Yamada becomes a protective brother towards the mentally challenged Arakawa. Both end up working for a crazy old coot who leads a Nationalist right wing group and spend their weekends working part-time digging for gold in an abandoned mine. The gold will be used to fund a new movement which will overthrow current Japanese society and usher in a revivalist one with old Samurai values at its core. yeah, it's pretty weird but things get even crazier when the two misfits discover an old robot in an abandoned factory. They quickly name it Robo and it becomes part of the family. Despite it's retro looks, the robot was at the forefront of AI development back in the day and with the aid of Arakawa's salary man computer expert brother, they teach the robot to find the long lost gold and then the story goes off the rails involving deceit & murder. There's also a focus on these two losers relationships with women at large. Arakawa is an awkward virgin who scrimps and saves his mining salary to ultimately get laid by a hooker and Yamada's has a volatile relationship with the nympho daughter of the foreman of the mine. I enjoyed this flick as it had some dark humor, black comedy, social critique and sci-fi elements but the screenplay was too convoluted and all over the place. There is a real lull in the middle and doesn't pick up again until the last reveal. Still recommended though especially if you're a fan of Yamashita's off beat humor and portrayal of society's underlings.

  3. #663
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Quote Originally Posted by 47lab View Post
    After catching Nishimura's HAIRPIN CIRCUS recently, I decided to check out his hard boiled action film he did for Toho in 1970 titled ATTACK AT DAYLIGHT aka ATTACK AT HIGH NOON.
    I'll be catching this at the end of the month at Laputa Asagaya's Toho New Action series. I think Nishimura is one of the most under-appreciated, undiscovered filmmakers of the 70s. His debut film Too Young To Die (1969) is an absolute masterpiece, unfortunately not available on DVD. Hairpin Circus (1970) and the heroic bloodshed action thriller A Creature Called Man (1970) (with more similarities to 80s and 90s John Woo films than you can count) are very cool too.

    Quote Originally Posted by 47lab View Post
    I caught Nobuhiro Yamashita's 2018 live action adaption of Takashi Imashiro's cult manga, Hard-Core Heisei Hell’s Bros titled HARD-CORE.
    I've been meaning to check this out. I know Yamashita will never be able to match the perfection of Ramblers () but I kept seeing his new films in theatre until he made Over the Fence with Yu Aoi. There went down two idols at once

  4. #664
    Quote Originally Posted by Takuma View Post
    I'll be catching this at the end of the month at Laputa Asagaya's Toho New Action series. I think Nishimura is one of the most under-appreciated, undiscovered filmmakers of the 70s. His debut film Too Young To Die (1969) is an absolute masterpiece, unfortunately not available on DVD. Hairpin Circus (1970) and the heroic bloodshed action thriller A Creature Called Man (1970) (with more similarities to 80s and 90s John Woo films than you can count) are very cool too.
    I've been wanting to see THE CREATURE CALLED MAN for ages (ever since i read about it in Chris D.'s book) but never got a chance. I know the dvd has been out in Japan forever and one day I'll get around to ordering it. I actually listened to the soundtrack before even seeing the movie because I really dig the Masahiko Satoh score and bought the OST plus it had a cool looking cover.

  5. #665
    Mentioning that OST earlier made me want to hear it again but I forgot where I placed it. After a frantic search, I found it in a crate with a bunch of other CDs. The cover is cool but I forgot the inside of the digipak is a replica movie poster.

    I'm off to see Derek Tsang's latest, BETTER DAYS as it has been causing some buzz lately.

  6. #666
    As mentioned I went to check out BETTER DAYS and despite all the controversy regarding this film from the Chinese censorship issue to the accusations of plagiarism of Keigo Higashino's works, I thought it was an entertaining flick (think of it as a Chinese version of the early 80s coming of age flick, MY BODYGUARD but without the light hearted melodrama) but ultimately falls short of being a "must see." Asian cinema has tackled the issue of school bullying with greater nuance and effect in films like BLEAK NIGHT, HAN GONG-JU, PLUTO and ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU CHOU - those flicks are just off the top of my head. But what makes BETTER DAYS a worthwhile watch are the superb performances by the two leads, Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee. Yee in particular as I've only seen him in MR. SIX prior to this film but he really impressed me. His performance reminded me a bit of Yang Ik-jun in BREATHLESS - the same pent up rage & sense of hopelessness. Zhou Dongyu plays the bully victim as realistically as any I've ever witnessed onscreen. There are hints of a budding romance between the two but I'm glad Tsang doesn't force the issue, instead focusing on the bond that both share through the emotional and physical pain inflicted on them. The latter third turns into a police procedural and I think that's when the flick falls a bit flat. Of course, the "crime doesn't pay" epilogue and PSA about bullying mandated by the Chinese censors cheapens the ending as well but that's to be expected of these Mainland films. Well Go has the North American rights, so hopefully they can put out an uncensored director's cut of the film on physical media.

  7. #667
    I'll usually check out a couple flicks on Christmas depending on the mood. I've already earmarked IP MAN 4 and ASHFALL as the two I'll definitely make time for next week.

  8. #668
    Recently re-watched Noribumi Suzuki's TRUCK YARO 5: TRUCKSTER OF GUTS since a nice blu ray rip is available. One of my faves from the TRUCK YARO series. Arrow or Criterion needs to put out the entire series and give it the treatment it deserves. I believe this is the only film in the series where Jonathan's wife and kids don't show with their usual running gag but there is a guest appearance by Sonny Chiba. He plays a roughneck leader of a gang of truckers called JAWS who are decked out in military fatigues and are very territorial about their CB radio band frequency. His love interest is a local truck stop prostitute played by very lovely Yoko Natsuki. I remember her from a couple of other Chiba flicks like KARATE FOR LIFE, SWORD OF VENGEANCE and she was also in one of the SASORI spin offs. Chiba and Sugawara have a great brawl scene where their top notch physical slapstick humor is on display. Also popular enka singer, Aki Yashiro plays a female trucker and one of her songs was a big hit among truckers. Thought that was some nice inspired casting. The Sado Island location shooting was nice too.

  9. #669
    Watched Oxide Pang's 2017 crime thriller, THE BIG CALL. Really enjoyed this and one of Oxide's best in years. The story centers around a multi-national phone scam ring based in Thailand led by a Bonnie and Clyde crime team composed of Taiwanese actors Gwei Lun-mei and Joseph Chang. Joseph is the brains behind the operation and Gwei is the computer/electronics expert who heads the boiler room in Bangkok with a small group of phone scammers. The Taiwanese and Thai police form a joint operation to infiltrate and bring down the crime ring using an undercover female recruit. It was very entertaining and well paced but the star was Gwei Lun-mei as the savvy and vindictive lover of Joseph Chang. She is really an under appreciated actress in the West that doesn't get the name recognition she richly deserves. She has such a wide range and can play such varied roles but I like when she plays the grittier roles like this one and in Dante Lam's THE STOOL PIGEON. Speaking of Dante Lam, the final 20 minutes or so wouldn't be out of place in one of his action movies as it brings the same visceral kinetic action as Mei and Chang take their chances shooting it out with the police to evade capture. I saw the longer Taiwanese version but did not see the shorter HK version, so I have no basis of comparison between the two. Recommended!

    While on the topic of Gwei Lun-mei, her best role was in Dinan Yao's noirish crime thriller, BLACK COAL, THIN ICE. That was a superb film and I'm anxious to see Dinan Yao reunite with Gwei Lun-mei in another crime thriller set to released theatrically next year in the States titled THE WILD GOOSE LAKE. Looking forward to that one.

  10. #670
    I've been binge watching the Yagyu Abaretabi TV series for Asahi in the early 80s. It's 52 episodes total spread out over 2 seasons. I'm still on the first season but I'm enjoying it. A bit of shame that Sonny Chiba as the iconic one eyed Yagyu Jubei plays second fiddle to Hiroshi Katsuno (who plays his brother) in a lot of the early episodes. Chiba certainly has the better action chops but also he's funnier and has the more dynamic screen presence as well. He cast some of his JAC proteges like a Hiroyuki Sanada and he does his usual nice job of displaying his spry acrobatics. Been enjoying it so far but Chiba's YAGYU CONSPIRACY that he did a year earlier for Kansai TV is the better series.

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