Tokyo Tribe (AKA Tokyo Tribe2, トウキョウ トライブ トゥー, Tōkyō Toraibu Tū): near future Tokyo is divided into sections ruled by street gangs; but war is about to breakout when one gang tries to take over. Just when you think you’ve seen everything from Japan they throw out a West Side Story style film, acted out almost entirely though musical rap battles – a Hip-HOpera! It’s a sweet idea to begin with, but at two hours long it’s stretched to the limit; the continually repeated drum breaks become grating, and forcing the lines to rhyme means the dialogue feels clunky in parts – although it could be lost in translation. Also, because modern music videos have massive production, parts of this look a bit cheap in comparison. The set and character designs are impressive, epic sprawls of graffiti’d urban decay, futuristic nightclubs, and a grand dining room. Not that this needed it, but the manga origins give this licence to be crazy with some hammy acting (Buppa), big haircuts, robo-mecha babes… classic Japan! The action is well executed, and the large-scale finale battle is particularly impressive. It feels like the director knew that the rap-battles would only be novel for so long (it doesn’t help that the narrator / central character is uncharismatic) so he throws up something risqué every 5 mins or so to perk you up; gratuitous nudity and fondling, or provocative and controversial dialogue. From the director of Love Exposure and Cold Fish, this couldn’t be more different – but it’s an even more ambitious, unique, and admirable feat than those.
Tokyo Decadence (トパーズ, Topāzu): a specialist prostitute with a very particular set of skills is doing some very strange things with salarymen in the hotel rooms of Tokyo. The opening scene has a girl strapped to a chair, gagged, blindfolded then injected with heroin – if that makes you uncomfortable, this film’s probably not for you. It starts of feeling like an exploration piece/eye-opener focusing on an extreme (sub)culture. The film portrays some extremely ‘out-there’ acts, without appearing to be overly leery or vulgar. It keeps upping the ante scene by scene until there’s nowhere else left to go; then it implodes during an ending which, out of nowhere moves the film from a risqué/explicit/shock melodrama into plain old existential pompousity. It’s packed with rough cutting and hard editing; difficult to know if it’s intentional/stylistic or just budgetary constraints. If you like a bit of smut dressed as art or ‘world cinema’ then this is about as wild as you’ll probably get; and if you dig S&M, Bondage, BDSM, Dominatrices etc etc then it’s probably a must own. As a film however, Tokyo Decadence is fairly unremarkable, and if you took away the controversial/notorious S&M scenes it would be a completely unremarkable 2-hour instantly forgettable snooze-fest.
127 Hours: true story of a climber who got an arm pinned between a boulder and rockface, and did the unthinkable in order to survive. I first heard about Ralston way back here, but never, ever thought it would become a movie (well, at least not the factual part). For being 75 minutes of a man who can’t move, Boyle is superb – utilising every trick and effect in the book to keep the story moving, interesting and avoid reparative profile shots again and again… you’d never think someone stuck in one place could be this cinematic. Franco is great; and gets to cover every kind of acting there is – overacting, subtlety, madness, super-cool, heroic and desperate… it’s all there, and it’s great to watch. Surprisingly, he’s not the only major thing in this; it may sound stupid but he could share the credits with his arm, video recorder the boulder, water, sweat – which are all personified to perfection and play pretty pivotal roles in the story. My only real problem was a lack of empathy; mostly because the situation would be totally avoidable if you were sensible and cautious! 127 Hours is a great interpretation of an unfilmable story, Franco is fantastico and every second feels like it genuinely counts.
Angry Boys: Australian comedy mockumentary (12 Episodes) that follows 6 people – Identical troublesome teenage twins Nathan and Daniel; a kid’s hip-hop star S.Mouse; mother & manager of American-Japanese skateboarder Jen Okazaki; veteran juvenile prison officer Gran; and former surfing world champion, Blake Oakfield. There’s a 50-50 split between the better and more believable stories/characters (the twins and Gran) and the ridiculous stereotypes of Okazaki and S.Mouse – Blake just feels like filler. Six comedy characters is a large remit for shape-shifting Lilley, but he throws himself into the roles well. Not unlike his previous outings smut and shock provide the most laughs – although every episode only has about one or two proper laughs, and the rest is just ‘funny enough’. It’s also just as politically incorrect, and with a the Asian and Black characters there’s some line-treading racial stereotypes. There’s no real story convergence until the very end and the ‘big finale’ is quite the let down; although would have been almost impossible to execute. Angry boys is entertaining enough to push through the season, but not by much more. The scope of 6 characters and 12 episodes diluted and hid some of great material and characters in the script.