Posts tagged "Takayuki Yamada"

13 Assassins (Review)

13 Assassins

aka Jusan-nin no shikaku aka 十三人の刺客

Directed by Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike can make any type of film imaginable. He loves cinema, he loves to work, and his output is legendary. Miike crosses genres like they’re T’s, smearing the lines and creating unique works. His pattern of excesses give his films a tone that cannot be matched by other directors, even as the tones differ based on which excesses he is exercising for the film. From family-friendly fare to ultra-violent yakuza film, Miike puts his heart into everything he does. He pushes limits, test boundaries, and kicks butt.

Due to Miike’s initial popularity in cult movie circles in the West due to movies like Ichi The Killer, Audition, Fudoh, and Dead or Alive, people naturally assumed that he only made ridiculously violent films. I’m sure watching The Great Yokai War, Zebraman, or Yatterman blew their minds to smithereens. 13 Assassins has returned Miike to notice in the international scene, but again it is for a film that features a lot of violence. Most of the violence waits until the end of the film, and instead we go through samurai life, political drama, honor, and journey and preparation. I could say that I was one of those people who like to watch samurai films and am totally into the whole samurai code blah blah blah thing, but I actually don’t like samurai films (nor other period dramas known as jidaigeki.) Frankly, I don’t really care to watch stodgy guys sit around worrying about their honor for 90 minutes until a brief swordfight happens. This probably makes me a bad nerd and bad movie reviewer, but, whatever. I’ve avoided other recent samurai films, and only saw this one as Miike is attached to it. Miike manages to keep things interesting better than I hoped, preventing what could have been a dry and slow buildup with good characterization, planning, and the fallout when things don’t go according to plan and you end up wandering around the woods. There are even supernatural elements hinted throughout the film, the more you pay attention the more you realize where they are.

13 Assassins is a remake of 1963’s Jusan-nin no shikaku (The Thirteen Assassins), a film many (including myself) haven’t seen. In fact, my favorite part of the reviews for this is everyone bringing up Seven Samurai (including this review) while hardly anyone mentions the original version of 13 Assassins. It actually took a while to find a good site comparing the two films, and from what I can see Miike follows the original’s story fairly faithfully, but brings it down to a more human level.

Shimada Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) – The leader of the group. A war weary, former decorated Shogun’s Samurai who is hired to carry out the mission. probably best known in the West before this for roles in Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel
Kurnaga Saheita (Hiroki Matsukata) – A veteren samurai who is second in command. He brings in many of his students to the group. Hiroki Matsukata starred in The Magic Serpent
Shimada Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada) – Shinzaemon’s nephew, who has lost his way as a samurai, but joins up to redeem himself and his honor. Takayuki Yamada was in Battle League Horumo
Kiga Koyata (Iseya Yusuke) – A wild hunter who guides the samurai when they get lost in the forest and joins as the 13th assassin. His character is awesome, but I liked Sahara Heizo (Arata Furuta) better. Obviously referencing Kikuchiyo from Seven Samurai, here are hints throughout the film as to what Kiga actually is, including his beloved Upashi being seen eating raw meat, and his fate in the final battle.
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki) – This cruel heir to the Shogun’s throne rapes and kills at will, and no one stands in his way because of his power. So a plot is hatched to save the people and honor.
Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura) – Lord Naritsugu’s chief guard and samurai, who is also a rival of Shimada Shinzaemon. It is painfully obvious that Hanbei Kitou is dead meat. In fact, the same character dies in the original as well.

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2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Categories: Good, Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Battle League Horumo (Review)

Battle League Horumo

aka Kamogawa Horumo

Directed by Katsuhide Motoki
Based on the novel by Manabu Makime

All of us who have been to college know the excitement of the day where all the clubs get to set up tables and try to convince people to join up. Chess Club, Young Democrats, Free Tibet, that club that build a solar car, and the club where you command armies of demons to battle other demons. What, your school didn’t have a Horumo Club? They’re the greatest thing ever if you like CGI demon sprites (called Oni) beating each other with clubs while the human controllers make weird gestures commanding the troops. I commanded a Horumo squad back in my days at Mizzou and we won all sorts of battles: the Battle of the University Bookstore, the Battle of the 7-11 near campus, the Battle of Jesse Hall, the Battle of Stop Raising Our Damn Tuition, the last one being more of a riot than a battle and demons in riot gear had to be bussed in from East Hades.

But, still, Horumo battling was the fourth best time of my life, behind only my marriage, writing for this site, and the time I found a green ring and became a lantern or something.

Battle League Horumo is from Japan, because Japan specializes in stories about humans controlling various tiny things in battle with each other. That and cartoon seizure robots. BLH (as I’ll call it from now on because laziness rules) is based on a book by Manabu Makime that I haven’t read because I can only read Japanese children’s books.

BLH suffers from one major flaw – it is totally slow. The plot drags on and on. I am not sure how they got it to drag so slowly as Japan seems to specialize in films clocking in at barely over an hour. But BLH manages to be two hours long! Looks like Korea is influencing cinema again. So if you got a movie where people control CGI demon sprites, shouldn’t you show the freaking sprites before 50 minutes into the movie? But don’t let me complaining in the intro satisfy your urge, let’s complain as the movie unfolds!

Akira Abe (Takayuki Yamada) – Akira Abe is just a college freshman who gets dragged into the world of Horumo due to his stomach and his wang. And while his stomach gets full, his wang never gets the satisfaction of being inside Kyoko Sawara like it wants to. But as he ends up with Chiaki Kuriyama, he can’t complain. SPOILERS!
Fumi Kusunoki (Chiaki Kuriyama) – I find Chiaki Kuriyama more fitting for the hot babe role played by Sei Ashina, even with the glasses and wig, but Japan seems to be suffering from “girl with glasses = ugly” syndrome so popular in the US. They explain her look as that of some 80’s comedienne referred to as the “licking lady.” I have no idea if this is a real person or just a joke from the book that made it into the movie. It probably doesn’t really matter, but maybe at some point five years from now someone will read this review and leave a comment with the answer. And minds will be blown. In any event, if you don’t know who Chiaki Kuriyama is, then you probably don’t belong on the internet because this is nerd knowledge of the most basic degree.
Koichi Takamura (Gaku Hamada) – Akira’s buddy from America who gets dragged into this Horumo business despite being the kind of person who cracks under pressure. Getting punished by the gods is just another Thursday for Takamura.
Kyoko Sawara (Sei Ashina) – Kyoko Sawara is the hot babe of the group. She’s Akira’s crush, but then he finds out her terrifying secret – she’s dating a jerk. Maybe he should have asked her out in the year or so he had where they were just friends. You might have seen Sei Ashina in the movie Silk, but then again, no one saw that movie.
Mitsuru Ashiya (Takuya Ishida) – The bad boy of the group because he is angry. I didn’t even know he was supposed to be a main character until 2/3rds of the way into the film. And thats with all the extra padding they put in that was supposed to add flavor and characterization.
Makoto Sugawara (YosiYosi Arakawa) – The current head of the club, 499th president. He takes charge of everything and is in a lot of the movie, but we don’t really get a feel for just who Makoto Sugawara is. Someone who writes songs about rainbows? A lover? A dreamer? Me?

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - August 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , ,