Results tagged “Japanese Cinema”

Graveyards of Honor Blu-ray Review: Grim Yakuza Renegade Dramas

Two adaptations of the same novel, made decades apart, about a yakuza too violent and self-destructive even for gang-life.
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Both Kinji Fukasaku and Takashi Miike were unlikely survivors in their different eras of Japanese cinema. They both were highly prolific, and rare among their peers when the fortunes of the Japanese film industry turned for the worse, they kept working, pivoting into different genres and styles. Fukasaku worked steadily through the '70s and '80s when many of his peers fell by the wayside, and though Miike by all rights ought to have burned out with his amazing productivity (over 100 feature films in three decades of filmmaking, sometimes more than five in a single year) he's still going strong.

Warning from Space Blu-ray Review: Starmen Waiting in the Sky

The first Japanese science fiction film shot in color is as surprisingly stylishly made as it is old-fashioned.
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All science fiction is dated. Even the most up-to-the-minute, forward-looking piece of work is still a work of its time, and time passes. An old science fiction movie is going to look old. The special effects aren't going to look contemporary. The science will not be up to date. The way things work in the story are not the way things actually happen. So how, in the spirit of open-hearted appreciation, can a modern viewer approach something like Warning from Space, released in 1956? The premise isn't going to be new to anyone with a cursory knowledge of even the

Black Test Car + The Black Report Blu-ray Review: Japanese Businessman Noir

Two '60s crime thrillers by director Yasuzo Masumura that explore the dark side of post-war industrialized Japan.
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One of the enduring images of contemporary Japanese culture is the salaryman. The rather anonymous guy in the suit who devotes his life to the company. He might be married and have kids (usually he is: what else would he need to dedicate so much time to work for, if not to keep his family?) but his number one priority is the company. Work 10 hours a day, then go off to drink with your boss, go home to sleep, and come back the next day, six days a week. It's soul deadening, and not the obvious setting for a

Sukiyaki Western Django Blu-ray Review: The Good, the Bad and the Quentin

Takashi Miike takes an inspired stab at the spaghetti Western genre.
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Writer/director Takashi Miike rose to international fame around the turn of the century with a string of audacious cult classic films including Audition, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, and the Dead or Alive series. While he has continued working nonstop since then, his more recent work doesn’t seem to make its way to the West, or at least cause as much impact, as reliably as it did back then. Thankfully, we can cross one release off the 21st century catalog list now with the U.S. Blu-ray arrival of this film from 2007. It ticks all the boxes for Miike weirdness,

Hiroshima Blu-ray Review: Unrelenting Terror

A documentary-style narrative film about the days following first atomic bomb dropping.
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The sky is a pale blue. Big, white clouds float by. It looks peaceful. It won't for long. This is the view from the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945, the day the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. A narrator tells us how the plane left early that morning. About how the pilot Paul Tibbetts had doubts about what he was doing. We see the Hiroshima approach in the distance. The narrator tells us of the destruction of that day. How the bomb killed thousands upon impact. How it leveled the city. The view

Gamera: The Complete Collection Limited Edition Box Set Coming 8/18 (North America) and 8/17 (UK)

For the first time ever worldwide, all twelve tales of the adventures of everyone's favorite titanic terrapin are collected together in one deluxe Blu-ray boxset
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Press release: This limited edition collectors' set traces the decades-long evolution of Gamera, from the "friend of all children" in his more light-hearted earlier films, to the Guardian of the Universe in the groundbreaking 1990s reboot series, often hailed as three of the best kaiju films ever made. COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOX SET CONTENTS Limited collectors' edition packaging, housed in a large-format rigid box, fully illustrated by Matt Frank Casebound, fully-illustrated disc book containing eight Blu-ray discs High Definition (1080p) versions of all twelve films, with lossless original Japanese audio and a complete collection of English dub tracks, including classic American

The Mad Fox Blu-ray Review: Kabuki-styled Cinematic Fantasia

Sometimes kabuki, sometimes animated, always fascinating, The Mad Fox is rife with political intrigue and forbidden romance.
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Tomu Uchida is not one of the big names of Japanese cinema in the West, even though he had been at the game from early in the 20th century - his first credits date to 1924. He's made movies, excellent movies, throughout his career, but only recently have they been coming to light on home video releases. That Uchida doesn't have more recognition is a deep shame because, on the basis of this and a few other of his film available now in the West, he may be one of the Japanese greats, able to stand with his contemporaries Ichikawa,

Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto Blu-ray Box Set Review

Arrow's impressive box set contains a whopping 10 films surveying the career of this film auteur.
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If you’ve seen one Tsukamoto film, you definitely haven’t seen them all, as evidenced by this amazing new box set that houses a dizzying sampling of the many different genres and film formats he has touched on in the past 30 years. As an independent film director, he has the freedom to pursue whatever tickles his fancy at any given time, and as a clearly restless creative force, the results of his experiments presented here are always rewarding. While he may still be best known in the U.S. for his early black-and-white industrial schlockfest Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the films

Inferno of Torture Blu-ray Review: Torsos, Tattoos, and Torture

Another in Teruo Ishii's series of films depicting sadistic practices in Japanese history, all of which involve disrobing women.
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Inferno of Torture is the third of Teruo Ishii's ero-guro (erotic grotesque) films that have recently been released by Arrow Video. Orgies of Edo and Yakuza Law were anthology films, each with three stories ostensibly about the brutal systems of torture used by, respectively, the ruling class and the criminal class. Made in the late '60s and early '70s, these films are framed as historical docu-dramas, but are in fact exploitation films with historical themes. Whatever the intent, the films themselves consist mainly as ways to display sado-masochistic soft-core pornography, punctuated with sequences of gruesome horror. More specifically, topless women

One Missed Call Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Let This One Go to Voicemail

A spooky premise and an excellent set of extras can't save this trilogy of films from getting hung up on.
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A group of friends are hanging out. A cell phone rings, but nobody recognizes the ringtone. Finally, someone realizes it is hers but by the time she gets to it, she’s missed the call. The caller ID says it is from herself. Stranger still is that it is dated a couple of days in the future. There is a voicemail. It is from the girl who owns the phone. It begins with her talking about something innocuous - that it is starting to rain or some such thing - and ends with her screaming. That’s strange, everyone agrees, but it

Millennium Actress Blu-ray Review: Animated Japanese Film Fantasia

Satoshi Kon's second anime feature film about an actress' pursuit of a lost love intertwines fiction and reality.
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It's a love letter to film, a historical overview of early to mid-century Japan, and a biography of an actress told through scenes from her films. Millennium Actress is an incredibly ambitious, assured, and unconventional animated film, but it's unconventional in a different way than most out-there animated films. The animation isn't abstract or particularly mind-bending. There's no bizarre shock scenes or wild camera movements that would be impossible in the real world. Watching just individual scenes, one would think it could be made as a live action film without substantially changing a single shot. But Millennium Actress has such

Ringu Collection Blu-ray Review: Ghostly Revenge, Again and Again

Four weird, gripping and often terrifying films of spectral revenge that began the J-horror boom are now on Blu-ray.
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Horror as a genre tends to go through brief periods of inspiration, followed by long slogs of imitation. If you're unlucky, the inspired breakout hit is something like Saw, and as a horror fan you have to sit through years of vile dreck until something better comes along to rejigger the landscape. In the late '90s, horror was in one of its down-turn phases: the mid-'90s crackdown on letting youngsters into R-rated movies had the effect (still felt today) that to get the primary audience for horror, the young, you needed to be PG-13, which means violence has to be

Ringu Blu-ray Review: One Ring That Started Them All

Arrow Video brings a new 4K restoration of this Japanese horror film that started a movement.
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Japanese folklore has long included ghosts who haunt the living because they died with anger, rage, fear, or some other strong emotion. Many of these myths include a young girl with long, black hair obscuring her face. In 1991, Koji Suzuki updated these stories in his novel Ring. This was made into a 1995 TV movie called Ring: Kanzenban and then again as a theatrically released film called Ringu in 1998 by Hideo Nakata. Ringu made some significant changes to the novel and became a huge hit, becoming the highest-grossing horror film in Japan. It found an international audience on

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Gentle Ozu Comedy

Grandmaster filmmaker Ozu's minor, observant comedy about the growing differences between a middle-aged married couple.
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The first thing to get used to in an Ozu film is the camera perspective. He never (or at least rarely) does the normal over-the-shoulder shot and counter shot for conversations. Ozu tends to shoot things from a constant upward angle. It has been analogized to a POV from someone sitting, in traditional Japanese style on a mat, legs folded underneath. The view is tilted slightly upward, never straight on or from above. The second element of Ozu's filmmaking that has to be taken into consideration is the secondary nature of the plot. There are stories in all of his

Akio Jissoji: The Buddhist Trilogy Blu-ray Review: New Wave Filmmaking, Naked Ladies

Challenging, evocative films from the Japanese New Wave that contemplate aspects of the Buddhist religion, with lots of sex.
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It's difficult to put a modern film-fan in the mind of a viewer from the past, because of the nature of the medium. Editing and compositional techniques that were once avant-garde become incorporated into the language of cinema so quickly that it can be hard to appreciate how mold-breaking films could be, since the most effective techniques of the vanguard rapidly become the de riguer filmmaking of the commercial set. Jump cuts and non-linear narrative used to be wildly experimental - just a decade later they're regularly used in network television, the most staid and crowd-friendly of visual entertainment. This

Godzilla: The Showa Era Films (1954-1975), Criterion Edition #1000 Collects All 15 Films Together for the First Time

This monster of a set will be available October 29, 2019.
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Press release: This October, Criterion celebrates the arrival of spine number 1000, a Blu-ray collector’s set fit for the granddaddy of all movie monsters. This landmark edition gathers for the first time all the Godzilla films from Japan’s Showa era: fifteen kaiju rampages, presented in high-definition digital transfers and accompanied by a slew of supplemental material, including a giant deluxe hardcover book with notes on each film and new illustrations from sixteen artists, new and archival interviews with cast and crew members, and much, much more! It’s a colossal set, and Criterion would have it no other way for their

Yakuza Law Blu-ray Review: Gory Fun Yakuza Anthology

Three fun but gory short stories of the Yakuza taking the law into their own hands, filled with bloody torture.
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Yakuza Law is not even in the top-five craziest movies made by Teruo Ishii, and in it, a man rips out his own eyeball and throws it as his former boss, a thief is tortured by being dragged on the road by a helicopter, and a Yakuza is punished by his friends for stealing is tied to a tree, urinated on, and practically eaten alive by mosquitos. These are just a small sampling of the various horrible goings on in this anthology of short Yakuza stories, each about how the crime syndicates employ their own seedy form of justice. Teruo

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki Blu-ray Review: Return of the King, or Don Quixote?

The legendary anime director emerges from retirement once again, with a documentary crew in tow exploring whether he's still the master or just chasing an old man's folly.
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Workaholic anime legend Hayao Miyazaki has “retired” so many times after completing difficult films that each announcement is met with a great deal of public bemusement. However, after the completion of his last feature film in 2013, The Wind Rises, and the virtual shuttering of his Studio Ghibli production offices, it appeared like his retirement might have a better-than-average chance of success. This documentary opens in that fallow period after his latest retirement, as he whiles away his days puttering around his house and bemoaning his increasing age. It’s an odd choice of timeframe for a documentary, until Miyazaki suddenly

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki Blu-ray Review: Master Filmmaker's New Challenge

An intimate look at Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's return from retirement to make a short CGI film.
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Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement several times throughout his career, but in 2013 it looked like he meant it. Studio Ghibli, the anime studio formed by Hayao and his mentor/producer/competitor Isao Takahata, where he made classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, closed the doors of its production office, and disbanded the staff. Miyazaki was apparently done, leaving behind him a legacy of quality that's unrivaled in most of filmmaking, let alone animated films. But the recent announcement that both Hayao and his son Goro Miyazaki are producing feature films with the studio has made it

The Street Fighter Collection Blu-ray Review: A Thrilling Action Trilogy

Well worth adding to any martial-arts fan's collection.
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Actor Sonny Chiba became an international sensation with the Japanese martial arts film, The Street Fighter, which saw him play Takuma (Terry for those watching the English dubs) Tsurugi, a man for hire that makes the impossible possible, usually at the request of criminals who inexplicably double cross him. Whereas Bruce Lee's fight scenes are graceful and Jackie Chan's are athletic, Chiba's are savage in the damage dished out. Tsurugi returned for two more films, Return of the Street Fighter and The Street Fighter's Last Revenge, and all three are part of Shout Factory's The Street Fighter Collection. Presented in
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