aka 追捕 2017 Script by Lip Wang-Fung, Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, and James Yuen Sai-Sang
Based on the book Kimiyo Funno no Kawa wo Watari by Juko Nishimura
Directed by John Woo
John Woo returns to the world of action cinema to show us that he still….uh…he still can make a movie? With some action scenes? That’s about it, because Manhunt is decisively not in the tradition of classic John Woo action and is more in the tradition of ridiculous scenes wrapped around an overly complicated plot. So basically it’s like a benchwarmer Hong Kong action flick. It isn’t terrible, but it’s like Gordon Ramsey making you waffles and they taste worse than McDonalds. Part of the problem might be that this is a big coproduction between China and NetFlix, packed with a great cast who get parts that are either wasted or follow trajectories that we already know their outcome. Tragically, some of theme don’t even get to ham it up before they buy the farm!
Lawyer Du Qiu (Zhang Han-Yu) , the best lawyer in all of Japan, is leaving his cushy job at a pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate for another position. But the pharmaceutical company is up to no good, and before Du Qiu can move to Bel Air, he’s framed for murder and is on the run! Don’t worry, there is also a super duper detective named Satoshi Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama ), who is hot on Du Qiu’s trail despite figuring out that Du Qiu is innocent and there is a bigger story at play. Hey, he’s still got to do his job! Du Qui and Yamura’s disagreement on whether Du should be sitting in a cell while they sort out what is what causes the crux of a lot of action sequences, as Du Qui manages to escape large police pursuits again and again. Toss in a mysterious woman (Stephy Qi Wei as Mayumi) whose almost husband used to work for the villainous megacorp (and was later killed on their wedding day after losing a big case thanks do Du when he tried to stop what was going on) and Ha Jiwon and John Woo’s daughter Angeles Woo as two female assassins who randomly show up to shoot everyone (when Ha Jiwon and Du aren’t talking about old movies), and you got a film that can’t find its focus. This is before it suddenly goes all Marvel. But more on that is spoiling things… Continue reading →
aka シン・ゴジラ aka Godzilla Resurgence 2016 Written by Hideaki Anno
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
New facial cleanses have gotten out of control!
Godzilla was on one of his occasional breaks after his Final War while the US developed their own Godzilla franchise. But after that monster hit, Godzilla reawoke in Japan to return with a spiritual successor to the original Gojira that is also one of the most successful films in Japan. Godzilla is back as a force of nature, the appearance and response directly referencing the Japanese Fukushima earthquake/nuclear disaster. Much of the film is spent in a West Wing style series of high level government meetings, in which entrenched minsters and officials do little of consequence in order to avoid looking bad if their actions don’t have the desired effect. While that sounds like it could be terrible, it’s actually really good, the scenes are cut quickly and innovatively to keep things moving briskly along while still giving you the feeling that the characters were in long unproductive meetings.
Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were given free reign to tell their story, the pair having collaborated on Evangelion, with Anno subsequently directing cult live action films such as Cutie Honey and Higuchi doing effects work on the Gamera trilogy and directing the Attack on Titan features. Their strong pedigree promised that we would get something unique and entertaining, and the pair delivered with a strong entry.
The effects are a bit mixed, the final form of Godzilla is well done, but the earlier forms look goofy and some effects with them seem more rushed. While most of the music is new, there is some nice Akira Ifukube put in at the right time, with tanks driving around and blasting away that helped made the scene come together, you won’t care that everything is now CG instead of models and a guy in a suit. It really is modern mixed with the past, besides the retro tank fight, we have unmanned drones attacking Big G at one point, and the final sequence has a bunch of industrial and civilian vehicles that make up the heart of Japan’s economic might being used to save Japan. Continue reading →
In a world where Japan avoided going to war with the US, the Meiji Era nobility continues to exist in 1949. This has created a huge divide between the rich and the poor in the capital city of Teito. Yes, Teito. Stay with me here. No social mobility leads to a massive poor underclass and a tiny fraction of superrich. This playland for the rich is not without costs, as a masked villain known as K-20, the Fiend with 20 Faces, drives fear in their hearts as he steals their money. K-20 is not a noble thief or a Robin Hood, he is just a jerk who robs jerks.
There are also police zeppelins that drop police gyroplanes, because that always happens in comic books.
Series creator Edogawa Rampo is a popular horror and mystery writer whose work has been turned into cinema since 1927. After WWII, most samurai and similar films were banned, and Edogawa Rampo’s vast contemporary work was quickly put on the big screen. The K-20 stories originate in a Boy Detectives series launched in 1936 that lasted 26 years. Edogawa Rampo’s character of The Fiend With Twenty Faces is a mysterious master of disguise, and Detective Kogoro Akechi is called Rampo’s alter ego. Other early Rampo films include 1946’s The Palette Knife Murder (Palette Knife no Satsujin) and 1947’s Ghost Pagoda (Yurei To) and Phantom With Twenty Faces (Kaijin Nijumenso), which is the same Phantom story that inspired the novel this film is based on.
Said novel is the 1989 work from playwright Soh Kitamura, which updates the classic Rampo Akechi tales. Kitamura’s completely new take on the tale caused much controversy among Rampo Edogawa’s fans, much like many remakes.
More about Edogawa Rampo: Yes, Edogawa Rampo is not his real name, Taro Hirai named himself after Edgar Allen Poe! His first writing successes were in 1923, his erotic horror style is called eroguro-nansensu. Other Rampo stories on film include 1969’s The Blind Beast (Moju), 1969’s The Horror of Malformed Men (Kyofu Kikei Ningen), 1976’s The Stroller in the Attic (Yaneura no Sanposha) and 1968’s Black Lizard (Kurotokage). Rampo eventually became a character in mystery films of his own, in the movie Rampo (and this film has two wildly different versions.)
Heikichi Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) – A poor circus acrobat finds himself framed and in the middle of a giant conspiracy involving super-criminal K20. Totally hates thieves, until he becomes one. Takeshi Kaneshiro is half-Japanese and half-Chinese, and shows up in both Japanese and Chinese films, including the recent The Warlords and Red Cliff.
Detective Kogoro Akechi (Toru Nakamura) – Baron Detective Kogoro Akechi is the nemesis of K20. Has fought him for years, but has a terrible secret. Toru Nakamura was last seen on TarsTarkas.NET in 2009: Lost Memories
Yoko Hashiba (Takako Matsu) – Duchess Yoko Hashiba is the daughter of a creator of a device based on Tesla’s work, as well as a privileged aristocrat who realizes that society is corrupt after seeing the truth. And she likes to fly gyroplanes! Takako Matsu is a hard working actress/singer/theater actress in Japan and is the only idol to never have to wear a swimsuit.
Genji (Jun Kunimura) – Circus gadget maker and thief, who pals around with theives. Helps rescue and save Heikichi, in addition to making him tools to help him get back at K20. Jun Kunimura is probably best known to western audiences as Boss Tanaka in Kill Bill or Funaki in Ichi The Killer.
Yoshio Kobayashi (Kanata Hongo) – Boy assistant to Akechi who is part of a Junior Detectives squad which is related to the original serialized stories but only make a brief cameo in the film. Can figure out insanely complicated plots with little or no clues.
Shinsuke (Yuki Imai) – kid friend of Heikichi who worked at the circus until the police destroyed it and he had to get a job being an orphan who takes care of dozens of other kids. Helped out by Yoko Hashiba once she realizes not everyone is rich.
K20 – The Fiend With Twenty Faces – Kaijin means Fiend, thus the K for K20. Or maybe he is the 20th K. Brother of Special K. A thief who steals from the rich and also from the poor, and is a jerk. Just be a Robin Hood thief like you should be, dingleberry!