Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jmovie review: High Kick Girl

Looks like Chun Li's taichi stance to me..

One of my most anticipated movies since I saw the trailer a year ago. Its got Takeda Rina, a 'karate champion' in a seemingly hard hitting martial arts movie. The only other Japanese martial arts movie I've seen in the last 10 years would be Black Belt, a very disappointing Karate movie starring real life karate practitioners. If Black Belt proved one thing is that having martial arts experts alone does not guarantee a good fighting movie.

Pantsu mieta... wtf she's wearing shorts???

Coincidentally Naka Tatsuya, who was the baddie in Black Belt plays Takeda Rina's master in High Kick Girl. The story like all martial arts movies is pretty straightforward. Takeda Rina's character is a brown belt and likes to hunt black belts in order to get her master to acknowledge her skills and give her a black belt. She unwittingly goes for a test to join a group known as the Destroyers who want to use her to lure her master so they can get their revenge.

I only agreed to get my head kicked in to see Takeda Rina's pantsu and she wears shorts???!!

Sounds simple right? Unsurprisingly, even the Japanese can easily fuck up a simple story. Problem no.1 is the Destroyer group claims that they have been unable to find Matsumura sensei for the last 15 years. If this evil organisation can't even find a sensei who runs a dojo for 15 years, they are the dumbest evil organisation ever. Problem no 2 is that though the movie is called high kick girl, Matsumura sensei is the main hero can gets the long fight scene at the end. Talk about bait and switch.

Pantsu, pant... wait is she wearing shorts?????

Problem no 3 is that you've got this boss baddie who's just been released from prison and and old boss baddie who manages to slap Takeda Rina and they can't even put up a decent fight against the sensei. It is law that martial arts movies must have an exciting final battle where the hero is in grave danger and they can't even do that? Instead the two bosses go down like scrubs. Problem no 4 is that Takeda Rina who can defeat multiple black belts stays down after getting slapped once and doesn't even try to fight the two destroyers who follow her to her sensei and instead acts like a damsel in distress.

Majisuka rock n roll...

Seriously, story is not as important as action. I don't expect this to be Bourne. Ong Bak didn't have a story but it was freaking awesome. High Kick Girl has real martial artists so the fights are gonna be real and brutal right? This is where the ineptitude of the director comes in. The biggest downfall of High Kick Girl is the super overuse of slow mo replay. And its not even slow mo replay of a super stunt move like in Ong Bak. Its the constant slow mo replay of fight sequences.

That's not how you do a hadouken you idiot!

You watch Takeda Rina do a couple of kicks and beats 3 ppl in 10 seconds and then you watch her do it all over again in 20 seconds. Everytime they do a slow replay of an unimpressive fight sequence I just want to fast forward. Maybe it just a lame way to extend the scant 1hr 20 minutes running time. The movie would probably only be an hour with all the slow mo replays taken out.

Say goodbye to your kids!

I understand the intent of slow mo replay is to show that the movies actually connected. What the idiot director didn't realise is that slow mo also exposes many flaws of the choreography. For example, it becomes blatantly obvious when the baddie throws himself instead of being thrown or someone turning their head way way before the pulled punch comes out a kick is bent in order to minimise the impact. Basically its more like watching a stunt fighting practice video rather than a movie. If the director had actually watched Ong Bak or Chocolate, slow mo replay should only be used for outrageous stunt sequence.

Oops, slipped on a banana peel.

The last fight is basically like a kata rehearsal with bad guys waiting in line to be taken out by one move from Matsumura sensei. Zzzzzzz. The best fight in the movie is Takeda Rina vs the cute schoolgirl. That was the only fight that had a story and flow and didn't seem like random moves strewn together.


Huge disappointment. The Koreans did a much superior karate movie Fighter in the wind. The Thai have Ong Bak and Chocolate. The Chinese have 1 thousand martial arts movies and Japan, birthplace of Karate and Akido can't even do a decent fighting movie???!!! Avoid.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hamsapsukebe jdorama awards 2009

Really wanted to wait for the subbing of Soratobu Taiya to finish before looking back at 2009 but at this rate, we're going to have to wait til the 2nd half of 2K10. 2K9 was an ok year but I'll probably remember it more for the really atrocious doramas of Arifureta Kiseki, Mr Brain, Zeni Geba Code Blue, Triangle, Boss, Boku no Imoto, Buzzer Beater and Tokyo Dogs. So much potential and money wasted. The biggest disappointment was Triangle. They had the acting talent but they couldn't even produce a generic thriller script to for it. 2K9 for me was the year where writing overtook acting as jdorama's biggest weakness.

Only jdoramas that aired in 2009 are counted, not jdoramas that were subbed. If not Manhattan Love Story and Ningen no Shoumei wouldbe strong contenders.


Sora Aoi in Jyouou Virgin. A picture can speak a thousand words


Nakatani Miki as Nokaze in Jin

Lots of actresses can probably pull off the prostitute with the heart of gold but few can do it with class and heart.

Honourable mention:

Natsukawa Yui as Hatori Akira in Ninkyo Helper.

Shiraishi Miho as Kanako in Shiroi Haru.


Uchino Masaaki as Sakamoto Ryoma in Jin

Jin maybe the main character but he is the heart of this show.

Honourable mentions:

Endo Kenichi as the baker in Shiroi Haru and Samejima in Fumo Chitai. Truly a great actor with ability to play two very distinct characters.

Yanagiba Toshiro as Kawamata Isao in Fumo Chitai. He did his usual Muroi Shinji stone faced acting but it was very effective.

Nakai Kiichi as the lawyer in Smile. Gah, if only Matsumoto Jun weren't in it.


Ayase Haruka as Saki in Jin

Nope, this screencap is not from Jin. I just couldn't resist using it again.

Honourable mentions

Karina as Aizawa Airu in Love Shuffle. Was going to give it to Karina except it was more her chemistry Tamaki Hiroshi rather then her acting. Its basically a coin toss between the two of them.

Minamisawa Nao as Takemiya Mei in Akai Ito.

Kanno Miho as Kiina. She's good in anything she does.


Abe Hiroshi as Haruo in Shiroi Haru
I should just call this the Abe Hiroshi/Uchino Masaaki award. No other jdorama actor is as good as those two. Abe was fucking awesome in Shiroi Haru. It could have been a KDO level dorama if not for the amateurish directing. Imagine if they had cast Abe as Iki in Fumo Chitai and Shiraishi Miho as Chisato in Fumo Chitai...

Honourable mention:

Tamaki Hiroshi as Usami Kei in Rabusha. With Nodame, Shitaotoko and Rabusha, he's got three must watch doramas on his resume with him as the main actor. It remains to be seen whether he has the ability to elevate the mediocre to good.


Kiina: barely watchable and only for Kano Miho.

Rinjo: Wow. A police show where its actually about procedures in solving crimes instead of characters trying to look cool. Actually, when compared to all the other so called police jdoramas, it should be considered must watch.

Akai Ito: A lot better than what it was suppose to be. Probably the biggest surprise of 2K9 for me.

Majo Saiban: pretty fun show about jury tampering.

Futatsu no spica: Not as good as Akai Ito but still a decent high school dorama. Sakuraba Nanami shows promise.

Ninkyo Helper: Just wished they went a bit darker. A bit of a stretch to accept some of the characters as yakuza. The 'All My Soul' song really saved this show IMO.

Liar Game: Without the ending it just feels too incomplete to be a must watch.

Saru Lock: fanservice + laughs. What more can one ask for?


5) Jyouou Virgin. Obviously this recommendation has nothing to do with storyline or acting. As a midnight dorama, it is the best at what it is suppose to be, next to Tadano Hitoshi.

4) Fumo Chitai. The 1st part of the series was truly an awesome story arc.

3) Shiroi Haru. Actually, I consider Shiroi Haru the best acted show although Jin won 3 of the acting awards. That's probably because all the other actors in Jin really saved the show IMO whereas the supporting actors in Shiroi Haru complimented Abe's acting. I guess I'm penalising the supporting actors in Shiroi Haru for not overstepping their boundaries. Abe is so good in this that this is the one show from last year worth rewatching.

2) Jin. Great concept, a bit contrived at times but great performance from the supporting players.

1) Love Shuffle

Best show of 2K9. Because it more an ensemble show and a dramedy, the chemistry between the actors stood out more than the acting. Awesome script from one of the best jdorama writers ever.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love Exposure/AI no Mukidashi spoiler ramblings

Pretty sure its suppose to symbolise religion crushing the family.

I still can't get Love Exposure out of my head. Its the sort of movie that takes time to digest. Love Exposure has not business being that good of a movie. Its a four hour movie filled with panchira, fanservice and fighting. Your classic recipe for your fun B grade jmovie. However, Love Exposure is more than that. Underneath the mountain of pantsu is a story. A story that makes sense. A story not to try to hold all the fanservice scenes together but rather it is the fanservice that serves the story. I didn't go too much into the story in my review cause I didn't want to spoil the movie. Now I just want to look at the story and themes that the director, Sono Shion wanted to get into. So don't read unless you've watched it.

Ok, maybe I wanted to write more so I could post more pictures of Mitsushima Hikari.

Love Exposure is a story about repression/control by fathers/religion. Yu is pretty much a good kid. Your typical nice guy shounen. However, when Yu's father, Tetsu's affair ended, he was overwhelmed by guilt. He did not know how to handle the fact that he had betrayed his vocation. That he had failed. So Tetsu turned hi frustrations on Yu. Yu was the perfect son but Tetsu wanted to prove/show that no one was sinless. I think he wanted to feel better about his affair by magnifying Yu's imperfections. The more Tetsu got Yu to confess his sins, the smaller his betrayal would seem to become. Perhaps it was Tetsu's way of telling Yu that it was ok to sin. To not hate him for his failure.

Except he didn't expect Yu to embrace sin. Yu doesn't embrace sin directly. Rather it was borne from his desire to reach out to Tetsu and make him respond as a father. His enjoyment of tousatsu was not because of lust but because he was good at it and it evoked his father's anger. If the purpose of his sinning was not because of lust but a pure motive, is it still sin?

This would make a great calender photo...

Contrast Yu's response to his domineering father to Aya's. Aya's father physically abused her and she responded by self mutilation. In order words, she hated herself and probably blamed herself for it. Symbolised by the bird in the cage, she is stuck in the prison of hatred that her father created for her. That is why she was drawn to the Zero Church. She believed her father's words that she was a vile creature and set out to corrupt others. There is no way out for her. That's why Aya targeted Yu.

Cutest Maria-sama ever...

Aya wanted Yu to experience what she had experienced. She wanted to destroy him to prove that any person who had her experience would become what she had become. She had no desire to escape from her cage but rather wanted to put someone else in it. That would be her final victory.

Hhmm, the bird is always snuggling in Aya cleavage...

Yoko also had an abusive father, though not of the religious variety. She resented him for his womanising ways and his lust for her created in her a hatred for men. Her meeting with Sasori gave her a way out. Compared to Yu who faced his father head on and Aya who spiraled into self destruction, Yoko wanted to numb the pain. She wanted to ignore it by channeling all her anger into demolishing houses and beating up guys. Yoko was happy to be brainwashed by the Zero Church because it allowed her to shut down and not have to deal with her anger and resentment.

Yoko is looking for love but is afraid of it. That's why she wanted Kaori to be her friend and not her mom. So she would not have to deal with betrayal and disappointment. Not having known love, she mistakenly believes that what the Zero Church offered her was love. That the shutting down of her mind and heart was an act of benevolence. Contrast that with Yu's life long quest in search of his Maria-sama. He knew what he wanted and knew straight away Yoko was his Maria.

I think the purpose of Yoko's recital of Corinthians 13 to Yu was to tell him she had found what she was looking for. It was a description of fairy tale love. Love that would never betray or hurt her again. Yoko was telling Yu that it was something that he could never offer her. That he would be the last person to ever betray her again.

Yu decides to risk it all to rescue Yoko and in the end loses his mind when Yoko tries to strangle him to death. Its when he realises that his love would not be enough to save Yoko. Aya's plan finally comes to fruition and she runs the katana through herself. She has successfully destroyed Yu and now she can finally end her suffering. Thank god for the happy ending because I was really dreading one of those everybody goes to hell endings normally reserved for softcore movies.

I like how they equate the Zero Church is equated with the fathers in this movie. Like Aya's dad, members of the church are mentally beaten down until they believe they lose all value of their self worth. Their self righteous attitude is not as honest as those of a hentai. There was an attempt to contrast church and the hentai jamboree. The only thing I got out of that was that everyone is looking for salvation but religion teaches that salvation is through denying oneself. Like how Yu's constant erections around Yoko is treated as a bad thing. Instead it was confirmation of his pure love for Yoko and enabled him to move mountains to save her.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jmovie review: Love Exposure/Ai no Mukidashi

After four hours of Love Exposure, I have yet to fully digest what I have experienced but I feel a strong need to try to put to paper what I have just seen. Jmovies has classics like Twilight Samurai and Shall we Dance but Love Exposure is something that I've never seen from jmovies before: an epic that actually works. A 4 hour movie that combines comedy and drama into one of the most riveting movies I have ever seen and that's just not because it has over 50 upskirt shots.

A true practitioner of tousatsu takes pictures regardless of weather.

Ninja skills in the 21st century.

Love Exposure tells its story through three protagonists. The first Yu, is the son a catholic priest who has an affair. Wrecked by guilt, Yu's father forces him to confess his sins everyday. Finding nothing to say, Yu begins to commit sins so that he he has stuff to confess to his father. Its not long before Yu is trained in the arts of tousatsu (upskirt shots) and becomes a natural at it. This is the most hilarious part of the show and I wish I had a master when I was running around shopping complexes trying to look up skirts in my highschool days. Basically Yu is your repressed catholic kid who discovers his true self by sinning and encounters challenges that threaten his love and family.

It is wise to watch Love Exposure with some tissues... for bleeding noses.

This is what the stairway to heaven looks like.

The second protagonist is Koike, a mysterious girl who has a keen interest in Yu after she becomes one of his tousatsu victims. To say more would be to spoil the story but she has an army of followers and her motives are mysterious. Suffice to say she has a dark past and darker intentions.

Some dry humping action is never bad but it all depends on the recipiant...

Ichigo pantsu!

The third character is Yoko, played by the lovely Mitsuhima Hikari, formerly of Folder 5. I used to listen to Folder 5 a lot and only payed attention to Akina but my god, Hikari has blossomed into a very bijin woman and can she act. Yoko is the adopted daughter of Yu's father's former flame and havoc ensues when she enters Yu's life. Like the other two protagonists, she has issues with her past involving her father and has men issues.

So this is heaven...

Yu had a bet with his friends to see who could get the best panchira shot with the punishment being that the loser would have to wear female clothing and walk around town. Yu lost and while walking around as Sasori, saves Yoko from an attack by Koike's goons. Unfortunately, Yoko is smitten with Sasori and Yu is unable to reveal Sasori's true identity.



The mistaken identity part while a tad contrived is very funny and necessary as the story moves in the the darker second act. Suffice to say, Koike's plans are revealed and we get a lot of lesbian scenes. Yes, lots of hot yuri action. If this and pantsu shots are not enough to convince you to watch Love Exposure, nothing will.

It might be wiser to have two boxes of tissues. Its a long movie...

My hats off to Shion Sono for being able to conceive such an outrageous and fantastic tale. His only other movie that I have seen was Jisatsu Club which I never finished because of the gore. The execution of this movie is just fantastic. It doesn't have the generic jdorama look and is not a mediocre throw everything including the kitchen sink at it show like the Odoru Daisousasen series. Truly a visionary filmaker and I am eager to try his previous works including finishing Jisatsu Club.

No words can describe the give it to me scene. How can something be funny, disgusting and a turn on at the same time?

Mitsushima Hikari gives the best and most memorable performance. She is so freaking awesome that she really deserves an award. Her looks and her large amount of upskirt shots may have something to do with my enjoyment of her performance but no one can deny her acting in the intense scenes deserves praise. Which reminds me, her ex Folder 5 mate Akina also showed her panchira in Stand up!

Hhmm, bondage...

Hikari, I'm sorry for not noticing you in Folder 5.

Looks likeMitsushima Hikari has gotten a lot of movie roles after Love Exposure and I look forward to all of them. However, I will not watch the first episode of Bloody Monday 2 for her. There is a limit to my masochism. Nishijima Takahiro does a great job as Yu. After all, he is the center of the movie and the audience goes through most of the journey from his point of view. He may be a singer in AAA but he's not a johnny and he can definitely act.

Truly one whacked out relationship.

Full reveal is never as fun as accidental panchira.

Love Exposure has won many awards and Twitchfilm called it the best movie of 2009. Can't argue with that. There is no reason not to watch it. I can't believe that 4 hours past by so quickly. Love Exposure is more than just an excellent movie. It is a huge milestone in Japanese cinema.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Jmovie review: 20th Century Boys: The Last Chapter

Kenji-kun, asobimashou!

I forgot to write about the second movie but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be though Taira Airi was a bad choice for Kanna. Luckily she didn't have to carry the second movie and it was more about setting up things for the third movie. Before the third movie was released, it was announced that the ending would be changed. I was intrigued. The main thing to change would be Tomodachi's identity.

If only they killed her before casting her in this movie.

Sadly, they have changed more than the ending for the third movie. The writer took the final volumes of the manga, stripped it of most of the intrigue and suspense build up and restructured it into a B grade action film. I can understand changing things when adapting for movies. Similar to LOTR, events were merged/simplified, dialogue was given to other characters and different events were created in order to fit certain characters into a more streamlined movie.

Problem is, 20thCB isn't a straightforward action story. Its a mystery/thriller story. Lots of flashbacks and teasing of clues. Basically a jumbled and slow build up. There can only be two reasons for this. First is time. The Last Chapter runs for 2 1/2 hours and I don't think they want it any longer than that though 3 hours would have done the story justice. Except they waste time with crap like suspecting Yoshitsune to be Tomodachi bit and the Yukiji judo bit. If there's too many characters and not enough time, the script should concentrate and two characters and put everyone else in the background, not try to give every single character their moment in the sun.

Why are we standing in front of a super fake looking robot?

The second problem is of course, budget. The CG in this one is bad. Actually it was already bad in the first one but it wasn't integral to the story. The writer combined the two separate sequences involving the robot into one and made it the climax of the movie. The thing is, its not very exciting in the movie and it worked very differently in the manga. It just looked very bad and they could have made it better but making the attack and night doing very limited full shots of the robot like in the first movie.

The Last Hope looks way too B-movish for something that is supposed to be a serious story. There were times when I felt like I was watching a spin off of Yatterman. I mean look at the above picture of the plastic rocket launcher from the set of a sentai series. Way to ruin what is suppose to an exciting moment. Whoever made this movie needs to learn how to hide a movie's weakness and accentuate its positives.

Chick fight!

The vest way to describe The Last Hope is that its sort of like watching The Departed and realising Scorcese had no idea what actually made Infernal Affairs such a good movie. It resembles the manga but misses what made it so fun to read. If you've not read the manga, watch the first two movies and then read the manga. One good thing at least is the Kenji concert at the end. Besides that, just ignore the third movie even exists.