Who are the Battle Beasts? Let’s get to know each and every one personally!
Laser Beasts, Part II!
Laser Beasts were the next line introduced, which were pretty much only released in Japan (with a few making it to the States or Europe really briefly.) As the propaganda says: “The Laser Beast army is a group of 36 warriors who made Tigerburn their great leader. They develop Battle Machines and Powerful Weapons using modern science!” The Lasers seemed to function as an Evil Horde-style group of second villains with their own motivations, except they weren’t really that evil, just a really old race that got sick of the upstarts screwing around with their planet. Perhaps you shouldn’t have gone underground or where ever you were, Laser Beasts.
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The Host is one of the best monster films to come out in years. End review.
Okay, I’ll continue. I’ll be doing this two-fold. First, a general review up top, and then a full recap of the film after a break with warning, so if you wish to avoid spoilers, you will know when to stop. As the American release has been pushed back again, and based on many other films might never show up in American theaters outside of film festivals, so TarsTarkas.NET is plowing ahead and taking it on ourselves. Take that, terrible American foreign film distributors!
The delightful opening sequence when the monster runs amok is a nice change from the films that spend forever building up and then end up insulting the audience with disappointing action sequences and a creature with no personality. Godzilla from 1998 is a good example, and why that monster is called GINO (Godzilla In Name Only.) As people run around in panic, the sense of chaos is portrayed by the handheld camera shots and the people running for their lives. The monster is not always in view, at times we don’t know where it is, as the scenario would be like to anyone caught in the middle of the action.
With actors who’ve played characters in great Korean treasures such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Memories of Murder (the latter was done by the same director), The Host has collectively some of the best actors in South Korea. The characterization and acting in the film are top notch, another thing missing from many monster films (the too numerous to mention Sci-Fi Channel films would be a major contributor.) Song Kang-ho is Park Gang-du (or Kang-doo or Kang-du, depending on which translation scheme you use) who is a single father working in his dad’s food shop by the Han River. Gang-du had a tough life growing up, and now spends lots of his time sleeping. His professional archery competitor sister Nam-ju is played by Bae Doo-na (or Bae Du-na), one of Korea’s best young actresses. Her hesitation costs her at tournaments. The third sibling is Park Hae-il as Nam-il, a burnt out college graduate who has no job besides crawling into a bottle to forget his unemployment, and is a die hard pessimist. The father of the clan is Park Hie-bong, played by Byeon Hie-bong, who is great as well. Relative newcomer Ko Ah-sung plays the young daughter of Gang-du, Park Hyun-seo, who is trapped in the Creature’s lair.
Yo-Yo Girl Cop
aka Sukeban Deka: Kôdo nêmu = Asamiya Saki
Aya Matsuura as Saki Asamiya
Rika Ishikawa as Reika Akiyama
Shunsuke Kubozuka as Jirou Kimura
Yui Okada as Taie Konno
Erika Miyoshi as Kotomi Kanda
Yuki Saito as Saki’s Mother
Riki Takeuchi as Kazutoshi Kira
Directed by Kenta Fukasaku
The power of my yo-yos cannot be denied. From their first appearance around 500 BC, the designs have improved and become more deadly. Now, they are the most powerful weapon in the world today, and may treaties limit their use on the battlefield. Wait, all that is a pack of lies, unless you live in the universe that Yo-Yo Girl Cop takes place in! Based on a manga named Sukeban Deka by Shinji Wada that became an 1980′s Japanese TV series, it’s now been updated for the 2006 audience. In fact, the movie is a continuation of the old TV series, as the previous Yo-Yo Girl Cop is the mother of the current titular character. There also has been three previous live action movies, some of which are on Amazon so hopefully I’ll see them at the rental places. Being that this is Japanese fantasy, this film is packed with Pop Idol girls, many of which beat the crap out of each other. This has the only yo-yo chick fight I have seen in a movie to date, so it stands out in that respect. The movie is a turn your brain off type movie, but also deals with the issue of bullying, which has become a controversial topic in Japan recently, as it has lead to a few suicides. Yo-yos are not a prevalent.
Pop Idol Aya Matsuura is Saki Asamiya, the Yo-Yo Girl Cop. Saki Asamiya is the code name for the special agent yo-yo girls, who are not police but a different unofficial agency. Aya Matsuura (nickname Ayaya) has many albums and even hosts a weekly radio show. Following Japanese famous girl tradition she has a bunch of photo books as well. Her personality style of bubbly and happy is a stark contrast to Saki Asamiya, who is a tough street girl. She pulls it off well, I am curious to see in her a happier role now. The evil yo-yo girl Reika Akiyama is played by Rika Ishikawa, another J-Pop star. She’s a former member of Morning Musume (along with 90% of the women in Japan) and currently in the female trio v-u-den when not hosting the TV show Hello! Morning, which is one of the shows of the Hello! Project, the megaconsortium behind Morning Mesume and 9000 other girl acts in Japan. She’s joined by fellow v-u-den member Yui Okada, who plays the bullied girl Taie Kono. Rika Ishikawa must have had lots of fun spending the entire film teasing her coworker Yui Okada, where else can you strap bombs to someone you work with and not get arrested? The last v-u-den member is Erika Miyoshi, who spends most of the film not talking as Kotomi Kanda. I hope it is not because she’s a terrible actress, but you can’t find out from just this film. This is all brought to us by Kenta Fukasaku, son of famous director Kinji Fukasaku, he finished up the abomination that was Battle Royale 2. This film is far less an embarrassment to cinema. The use of yo-yos allows such wonderful terms as yoing, yo-yoing, yoed, yo-yo attack, you got yoed, and yo-yo Joe!
Escape from Hell
aka Femmine infernali
Antonio De Teffè as Doctor Farrell
Ajita Wilson as Zaira
Christina Lai as Vivienne
Cintia Lodetti as Katie
Luciano Pigozzi as Warden
Serafino Profumo as Martinez
Yael Forti as Marika
Anna Maria Panaro as Marie Antoinette
Directed by Edoardo Mulargia
Women in prison (WIP) movies have a special place in many people’s hearts. The shining stars of exploitation cinema, they can be incredibly entertaining pieces of filth, or so poorly made you wish flaming death to reign down upon its creators. Which one is this? Let’s just say I’m cooking napalm in my backyard and taking flying lessons. Escape From Hell is a complete pile of junk. Made when Italy was pumping out films faster than you could blink, the directors there were bridging into areas that pushed the boundaries of good taste (including cannibal films with real footage of animals being slaughtered.) There is no animal death here, but there is plenty of brutality, rape, and disgustingly greasy people both male and female (and she-male as it turns out!) If you’ve suspected from that list that Troma is involved, you are right, as they produced the most recent DVD release. You expect a deal of filth in WIP flicks, but there is a limit that when crossed turns it from a naughty pleasure into a disturbing look into the director’s psyche. The major flaw of this film is the fact it takes itself far too seriously, not letting us have fun with the violence, lesbianism, or other nonsense. The serious tone makes the film far more depressing than it should be, as the exploitation factors become troubling to sit through.
Another film called Savage Island was spliced together from both Escape From Hell and Hotel Paradiso with 10 minutes of new footage starring Linda Blair. The two original movies shared some of the same actresses, but they were playing very different roles, and thus when combined together it makes an incoherent mess. Which means it’s only slightly less coherent than Escape From Hell is by itself. Escape’s few attempts at a good plot pop out with the alcoholic doctor, who became so embittered by the horrors around him he crawled into a bottle and never came out. The rest of the film seems to be the standard WIP cliché list. We have lesbians, a sadistic warden, rapist guards, an evil female turncoat guard who used to be a prisoner, beatings, lesbians, women tied up and left to die, the one good employee who helps the escape, posses, lesbians, gun battles in the jungle, and lesbians.