Archive

Tag Archives: Snow

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgSex and Fury 01 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena IchinoseSex and Fury (不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶, Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō): decades after her father is murdered, a pickpocket finally tracks down his killers. This one’s a mix of period revenge and softcore / (s)exploitation film – better known in Japan as the Pinky Violence genre. Unlike most exploitation films the visuals in this movie are often breathtaking: the entire film is framed perfectly, with creative camerawork, and sumptuous, colourful, pop-art combinations of sets, clothing and make up. I would love to see the damage that one of these visionary Japanese directors could do with today’s equipment and budgets. The set-pieces are equally astonishing; a butt-naked lady chopping her way through a gang of swordsmen in snow – it’s a true spectacle to behold, and never feels seedy. International star appeal comes from an infamous Western actress Christina Lindberg (Thriiller: A Cruel Picture), who delivers phonetic lines with little heart – definitely the weakest link in the picture. It may be unfair to compare as the lead actress Reiko Ike is sensational – she’s sexy, smart, dangerous, and you could get lost in those fiery eyes. There’s lesbians, slaves, gambling, drugs, sex, nudity, violence, fetish, swords, guns, nuns, blood… it’s a full house or B-movie buzz word bingo – and as for the ‘Sex and Fury’, the balance is tipped more towards the knockers than the knives. There’s only two real missteps in the film – the gay “ooohhh eeerrr” character (although he’s only in 2 scenes) and that the focus is split between 3 goodies and 3 baddies, which somewhat over-complicates what should be a straightforward revenge movie. In an era where the UK and US were churning out cheap and tacky Video Nasties with the odd notorious – censored – scene, Japan was putting out full-on high-quality exploitation films: containing 50% blood-fest, and 50% boundary-smashing sexualised nudity. Imagine you took a slasher film and gave leading parts to good actors, had a visionary director, and a major studio behind it! This is definitely part of the golden era of stylish, well directed, well acted, rock solid exploitation movies – 40 years old and still a highlight of the genre.

Score: 8.5/10

Below are a sample of screenshots / screencaps to give you an idea of the film’s style.

Sex and Fury 02 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 03 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 04 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 05 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 06 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 07 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 08 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 09 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 10 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 11 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 12 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 13 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 14 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 15 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 16 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 17 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 18 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose Sex and Fury 19 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena IchinoseNOTE: In terms of visuals, set-pieces, story and tone Kill Bill borrows very heavily from this film (and more generally these keystone Japanese exploitation films), yet even today’s B-movie hero, Tarantino,  couldn’t make a film ½ this ballsy.

Searching for Sugarman Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore, Dan DiMaggio, Steve Rowland, Willem Möller, Ilse Assmann, Clarence Avant, Rodriguez, Sixto Rodriguez

Searching for Sugarman:  two South African super-fans document their search for information on their illusive musical hero – Rodriguez. As a narrative, the documentary plays it’s hand perfectly – the first half is low-key, indie, explaining (and perhaps slightly exaggerating) the legend: second half is uplifting and fascinating. Rumours of Sugar Man’s on-stage suicide: self-immolation, gunshot, overdose… quite the bizarre list. Naturally, the film is crammed with the music of Rodriguez, which has a timeless quality – no references, all universal themes, feelings and descriptions – also helps that they’re decent tunes. Up until the halfway point I was having some suspicions as it mainly consisted of a few fans and label bigwigs talking about his talent; name-dropping comparisons of popularity and talent with Dylan, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Elvis etc etc. In the second-half however, you can’t help but smile when you see the footage of his ‘Anvil Moment‘ and realise that he’s a genuine star in S Africa, it’s electrifying. The majority of the footage is well-shot, with some lovely animations and city-scape footage – although there’s several strange shots of him struggling through Detroit weather while the crew film him from a car crawling alongside. Where the film falls down, and prevents it being great (like the aforementioned Anvil) is that it focuses far more on the legend and backstory of Rodriguez, rather than spending quality on-screen time with him. Searching for Sugar Man is a very good documentary: especially as an eye-opening look at the music industry before the digital age, Wikipedia and so forth.

Score: 7.5/10

Searching for Sugar Man Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore, Dan DiMaggio, Steve Rowland, Willem Möller, Ilse Assmann, Clarence Avant, Rodriguez, Sixto Rodriguez

Found him, LOL!!!

Where Eagles Dare: in WWII a team of Britain’s top agents – accompanied by an American – stage a raid on an ‘impenetrable’ Nazi fortress, but it’s never that simple. For an oldé movie (1968), this has more explosions than you could shake a stick of dynamite at, no vehicle is left uncrashed / unflipped, and the plot, in parts, is almost as hard to follow as Inception – it’s one of the few times where there’s a little too much of the good stuff. The action is great, and very well-directed – cable car stunts in particular are gripping, and Eastwood makes for a total bad-ass quiffed gun-slinging all-American action hero. Between the big set-pieces the pace can drag, and at over 2.5 hours it feels a little overlong. The acting is pretty solid for the genre, and the huge story, grand spectacle, and big names (Burton, Eastwood, Pitt…) really pull you through the laggy parts. This is a classic in every sense of the word: big actors, brilliant OST, gripping spy/espionage plot, stunning locations, a ton of stabbing, shooting and cleavage… even down to the corny stuff like rear projected driving background. Where Eagles Dare is decades ahead of its time; it’s the ‘turned up to 11′ kind of action movie that you rarely saw again until the 1980s. Over 40 years later, it’s still exciting to watch – they really don’t make ’em like this anymore – big, timeless international, studio picture.

Score: 7/10

The Front Line (a.k.a. Battle of Highlands): a lieutenant is sent to the front line to investigate potential betrayal and espionage among the South Korean army. The main plot point is as compelling as you could ask for in a War film: North and South Korea sacrificing over 50,000 soldiers to continually fight over one ‘strategic’ hill that would shape the border when the country is divided – control of the hill flipped between North/South over 30 times during the Korean War, it’s unbelievable. Interestingly, it’s politically neutral – there’s no ‘bad guys’ as both sides are painted as simply following the mad orders from above. The battle scenes are scarily realistic and intense, peaking in a brutal, heartbreaking, final 25 minutes, as the story takes one last turn. The performances are solid, soldiers come across as realistic & human, and are developed enough that you care about them – there’s more emotion than most war movies, although there are points where it’s tipped into manipulative melodrama. This also helps the impact of the toll of war on these guys; shell shock / injuries / senseless violence / limb-loss. The side-story about the box used to swap supplies is also a nice touch. There’s not much colour in the movie, grey, greens and white snow are about as bright as it gets, and there’s a hammy song repeated several times, but they’re minor complaints.The Front Line delivers everything required of a war picture, and can easily stand up there alongside Assembly as the best Asian War films I’ve seen.

Score: 7.5/10

Note: this is post #500 since starting the site way back in July of 2009! To mark this, next week will feature guest reviews, several ‘feature’ posts as well as some more regular Paragraph Film Reviews. Thanks to everyone that reads, comments and visits the site, particularly the regulars. You folks are ace!

Seraphim Falls: a determined bounty hunter (Neeson) and his hired guns are chasing a skilled man (Brosnan) through the wilderness for reasons unknown. With two big actors centre screen you’d expect this film to play well… Broz takes his grunting to a whole new level as he’s on his own for most of his part – unfortunately, there’s also a scene where he’s genuinely out-acted by a horse! Pre-heroic re-invention Neeson feels miscast here, and in general everyone looks a bit disinterested. The writing is sloppy, and storytelling has a lot to be desired – an Indian and saleswoman appear – only to facilitate a showdown – and we don’t know why Broz is even being hunted for around 90 minutes – who should we be rooting for? With this, there’s not a whole lot of tension (essential for a decent cat-and-mouse story). It’s partially well-shot, making the biggest reason to watch this some great scenery of wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Overlong, uninteresting and full of questionable acting, Seraphim Falls feels like a bunch of guys walking about in the words, then desert for the most part – it’s is nobody’s finest hour. 3:10 to Yuma is still the daddy of modern westerns!

Score: 3/10

Brotherhood of the Wolf: a French knight and NATIVE AMERICAN WARRIOR (!!) investigate reportings of a murderous wolf-like beast in 1700s France. I can best describe this as a 1980s fantasy fanboy political aristocratic period dramahorror‘; with werewolves, camp comedy, bawdy action, and token European tits. Trying to cover this much ground, it’s simply far too weird and ridiculous for its own good. The acting is theatre at best, the plot is nothing short of batshit mental, there’s also lots of hammy slow mo, rubbish CGI, and a laughable bone-sword. The beautiful Monica Bellucci can’t even save this, as a tracking shot of her naked body morphs into a CGI woman-shaped mountain-scape… really!?!?! The film’s like a wholesale sized can of industrial strength WTF, focus grouped by the biggest nerds in the world – and I love geeky films.

I endured 45 minutes then skipped through the rest of the film, stopping at the action scenes only.

Alternative Plans: sat in the corner of my room – confused, angry and disoriented – bashing head against the wall, thinking why… why… why… why…

The Grey (AKA Wolf Punch): a suicidal wolf-sniper must lead a group of plane crash survivors back to safety when they ditch near a wolf den in Alaska. The biggest shock to me was Neeson‘s star appeal; it was the busiest screening I’ve seen in a long time – and the poster for this is just a close-up of his coupon. While there’s no other A-list actors, they’ve all been around the block and are a solid bunch of hands. The film has surprisingly artistic sensibilities; in particular the opening character building with voiceover, and overall focus / investment on the group, their dynamics, (& latterly the scenery) – instead of fighting wolves every 20 seconds.  The plane crash is overwhelming, there’s couple of solid jumps, the CGI wolves look great, the gore is pretty visual, and overall the continuous threat of attack keeps you guessing. The only real downside is that there’s not a whole lot of wolf-punching to be had, and when it happens the frenetic action cam makes a mess of it all. As for the final scene, I still can’t tell if it is the bravest, dumbest, or most disappointing in memory – definitely a bold move. Neeson gets his token action line ‘let’s sharpen a big stick and ram it up this wolf’s ass’…  as well a several emotional runs through the poem below, oh, and Taglet looks identical to Half Life’s Dr Freeman. The Grey isn’t the action-packed wolf-punching cheese-fest that you walk in expecting; instead it’s a tense, character driven well-made survival thriller; this will be a nice surprise to some, but a disappointment to others.

Score: 7/10

Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.