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November 2007 Archives

Nihon Onnen Chizu
[Map of Haunted Japan]

Genre: Geographic-based Documentary Horror

review in one breath

An investigative team sets out to document their search for the mysterious Sugisawa Mura, an historically documented location which has disappeared from contemporary maps. Anecdotal tales link the location with several infamous incidents marked by the sudden rage, murderous acts and suicide of otherwise normal people. Their investigation leads them through a collection of unnerving interviews and locations until they finally arrive at what they believe to be the remote Sugisawa Mura.



Ghost System
[Gosuto shisutemu]

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Genre: Supernatural Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

After receiving a cryptic message from a long missing friend, Misako and Wataru go searching and stumble across a large abandoned facility deep within the forest. Inside they discover a research project gone berserk, tearing down the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living.



The Shogun's Samurai : Yagyu Clan Conspiracy
[Yagy� Ichizoku no Inb�]

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Genre: Quasi-historical Samurai Action/Thriller [Early Tokugawa Era]

review in one breath

This intriguing history-based fiction explores the rivalry between the two sons of Tokugawa Hidetada over the succession to the Shogunate following the sudden death of their father. Following the rules of aristocratic propriety, the brothers must resort to strategically undermining one another rather than open warfare. And here the loyalty of the Yagyu family of swordmasters proves critical, eventually tipping the balance of the outcome.



Marebito
[A Stranger from Far Away]

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Genre: Insanity Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

Videographer Masuoka is obsessed with capturing fringe psychological states on film, ranging from the quiet fear of the paranoid to the terror-filled eyes of the suicidal. Through footage he captured of the final moments of a horrified man's life, he finds clues which point him to the doorway into an underground labyrinth of madness and escape. There he finds a mysterious and beautiful being which gives him a renewed purpose for living while at the same time forces him to descend even deeper into the abyss of madness.



Gunhed
[Ganheddo]

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Genre: Giant Fighting Robot Snooze Fest

review in one breath

The year is 2038 and a rag-tag team of misfits must save the world from the doomsday plan of Kyron 5, the most advanced computer ever built. Their only weapon is Gunhed, a massive talking robot with a soft spot for baseball. This sci-fi film replaces kaijuu with robots but keeps all the miniature scale special effects and explosions.



Parasite Eve

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Genre: DNA-Morphing Sci-Fi Thriller

review in one breath

When the beautiful wife of DNA Researcher Nagashima is tragically killed, he attempts to recreate her using an experimental treatment. The initial results look promising but then quickly spiral out of control when an ancient consciousness within the DNA is awakened and seeks to birth a higher order of being in the evolutionary scale.



Legend of the Eight Samurai
[Satomi Hakkenden]

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Genre: Melodramatic and Colorful Retelling of the Hakkenden

review in one breath

Eight karmically bound warriors find themselves at the forefront of a battle with demonic strongholds over the future of Japan. This is director Fukasaku Kinji's cinematic adaptation of the Hakkenden, Japan's oldest and longest literary epic.



Shinobi: Heart Under Blade
[Shinobi]

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Genre: War and Love Ninja-style

review in one breath

This well-rendered tale covers the last days of the centuries old feud between Japan's two most formidable ninja clans, the Koga and the Iga. After bringing peace to a unified Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu deems both clans of warrior ninjas a threat to his hard won stability, and commands that they face each other in a battle to the death. Trained since childhood as assassins, most gladly dash into battle and thus toward mutual annihilation. Only a secret relationship between the two clans' leaders provides any hope for their villages' survival.



Goyokin [Goyoukin]

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Genre: Classic Samurai Revenge Tale

review in one breath

Years after being forced to participate in a bloody massacre of innocent townspeople, Wakizaka Magobei returns to the scene of the crime after hearing that the regional ruler intends to once again commit the same atrocity. Goyokin is a well-drawn and engaging traditional samurai tale starring the top talent of the era. This is definitely one to see.



Legend of the Devil
[Shuranosuke zanma-ken: Y�ma densetsu]

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Genre: Low Budget Devil-Lacking Samurai Adventure

review in one breath

The brooding pretty-boy samurai Sasaki Shuranosuke finds himself embroiled in a complicated plot involving vanquished ninja clans, hidden treasure, and the mysterious power of a pair of ancient swords. And behind it all are some seemingly indestructible master minds poised to defeat him in order to bring about a diabolical revolution. Sometimes schlock, sometimes poseur, this remains a good rainy-day samurai flick if you need one.



Ronin Gai
[Samurai/Ronin Street]

Genre: Rough and Tumble Samurai Tale

Setting: Late Edo/Tokugawa Era

review in one breath

Ronin Gai is an entertaining classic samurai tale pitting an odd assortment of unemployed samurai (ronin) against a formidable troop of Tokugawan samurai terrorizing the men and women of their small rural village. Filled to the brim with unkempt and morally questionable characters a new twist is added to this tale of honor from unlikely sources, where the underdogs here would in most other films constitute mere scoundrels.



Inferno of First Love (aka Nanami First Love)
[Hatsukoi Jigokuhen]

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Genre: Grim Clash Between Youthful Freedom and Societal Machinations

review in one breath

Two adolescent youth come together in their first attempt at intimacy, only to find that their complex individual histories and situations have created an obstacle to their goal. This is a seminal and exemplar film in the New Wave genre of 1960s Japanese cinema, directed by Hani Susumu who is generally credited with revitalizing Japanese modern film.



Pale Flower
[Kawaita Hana]

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Genre: Bleak Yakuza Tale

review in one breath

After three years in prison for killing a rival yakuza leader, Muraki is released back into his old haunts to find little has changed. There is, however, one new face in the crowd, Saeko, a young and beautiful woman who seems hell-bent on thrill seeking. Together, Muraki introduces her to increasingly high-stake scenarios until they both soon find themselves on the brink of self-destruction. Based on the novel by Ishihara Shintaro, this film will have significant influence over the subsequent formation of the yakuza genre.


Kibakichi
[Bakko Yokaiden Kibakichi]

Genre: Traditional Schlock-Gore Monster Horror

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

review in one breath

When the formidable samurai Kibakichi makes his way to the desolate mountaintop village of Onizo, the haunting secrets of both Kibakichi and the strange villagers are soon revealed. Will Kibakichi maintain his lone-wolf ways or will he reveal all to help the villagers battle an even greater evil? Thoroughly enmeshed in traditional Japanese notions of obakemono and their relations with humanity, this is a fun and (very) slightly educational movie.



Kagero-za
[Kagerouza]

Genre: Taisho Era Ghostly Surrealism

review in one breath

Playwright Shungo becomes increasingly enchanted by a mysterious and beautiful woman he occasionally crosses paths with. His playboy friend Tamawaki jests that it is all an amorous fate, but Shungo's contemplative nature senses deeper realities at play. When he receives a written invitation for a remote rendevouz, his journey of vulnerability brings him face to face with both the cruelties of human nature and the terrifyingly haunting power of love's own justice. This is the second film in director Suzuki Seijun's critically acclaimed Taisho Trilogy.



Zigeunerweisen
[Tsigoineruwaizen]

Genre: Taisho Era Macabre Mystery

review in one breath

When university professor Aochi runs into his former colleague and friend Nakasago, his otherwise placid life takes a sudden turn toward disequilibrium. The circumstances under which they meet and Aochi's quiet observations increasingly cause him to doubt the moral and mental stability of Nakasago. And yet the more certain he becomes of Nakasago's dark nature, the more disturbing and chaotic his own life and relations become. This is a highly memorable horror tale by famed director Suzuki Seijun.



Kibakichi 2
[Bakko Yokaiden Kibakichi 2]

Genre: Traditionally-based Monster Love Story

review in one breath

Well, our monstrous samurai Kibakichi is back, kicking butt and generally scaring the sushi out of everyone; Everyone, that is, except the beautiful blind girl Omatsu, whose friendship and concern soon has Kibakichi rethinking his obakemono ways. BUT hot on his (wolf) tale is the vengeance-seeking Anju and her head-over-heels admirer Sakuramaru, the most violent and frightfully skilled swordsman of the region. And then finally, the REALLY bad guys enter the picture.



Godzilla Final Wars

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Genre: Climactic Kaijuu Extravaganza

review in one breath

This film deliberately marks the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and therefore goes all out regarding CG effects and top-notch contemporary talent. And at the helm of this project is none other than the contemporary maestro of cinematic "duels", Kitamura Ryuhei. This is an EXEMPLAR of the kaijuu genre and is an excellent gold anniversary tribute to Godzilla.



Dogora
[Uchu Dai Kaijuu Dogora]

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Genre: Human Technology versus Huge Jellyfish from Space!

review in one breath

Police investigating a spate of diamond thefts soon discover a strange relation between the thefts and the reported disappearance of several satellites. By the time the scientists and military are called in it appears to be too late, as a huge radioactive organism from space methodically consumes the earth's carbon for energy. Can Japan's leading scientific mind grasp the situation and formulate a remedy before all of humanity is consumed by the JellyFish from Outer Space?!?



Daikaijuu Baran
[aka Varan the Unbelievable]

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Genre: Kaijuu Monster Movie

review in one breath

In pursuit of a rare butterfly species, researchers encounter an enormous monster worshiped by local villagers in the remote mountains of Tohoku. But venturing too close in the name of science proves fatal and soon the military is involved in an attempt to ensure Tokyo remains safe. Directed by Honda Ishir�, the father of the Godzilla films, this is an early classic kaijuu tale pitting monstrous forces of nature against human technology and ingenuity.



Hikari no Ame [Rain of Light]

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Genre: Student Revolutionary Implosion - Based on a True Story

review in one breath

This documentary-style film recreates the infamous Asama Sanso Incident of 1972 wherein an extreme faction of the Students Allied Red Army holed themselves up in a mountainous cabin in the dead of winter. By the time the police finally caught up with them, it was discovered that they had murderously turned upon themselves in a bizarre extension of their radical philosophy. This event virtually marked the end of the Student Revolution.



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