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L: Change The World
[Death Note 3 ]

Genre: Non-Supernatural Crime Procedural

review in one breath

Picking up where the two Death Note films leave off, mastermind L has only 23 days to foil a global plot involving chemical weapons and thereby save the world! At his side throughout are Near, a 6 year-old mathematical genius and Mika, a genetically aberrational school girl. With evil-doers hot on their trail, the clock is ticking as L and his pre-pubescent sidekicks try to isolate the threat and create an antidote to the deadly weaponized virus. This is a spin-off sequel to the Death Note narrative and is directed by "Ringu" director Hideo Nakata.



Sky High
[Sukai Hai]

Genre: Supernatural Crime Drama

review in one breath

Sky High is based on the popular manga by Tsutomu Takahashi. (Takahashi also authored another manga entitled Alive which director Kitamura Ryuhei cinematically recreated one year prior to this film.) This theatrical version by Kitamura serves as a prequel to the very popular 10-part TV series (entitled Sky High) produced for TV Asahi (which aired in March 2003) for which Kitamura directed the 10th episode. While the TV series focused predominantly on the predicament and adventures of Mina (Shaku Yumiko - who plays the same character in the movie), the Keeper of the Gate through which slain, departed souls must pass, this theatrical version focuses nearly exclusively on the events whereby Mina becomes this Gate Keeper.



Shinjuku Triad Society
[Shinjuku Kuro Shakai: China Mafia Sensou]

Genre: Extreme Cop Versus Crime Syndicate

review in one breath

"I know a love story that's both sweet and sickening.
That's the way love really is."

These are the opening lines to Shinjuku Triad Society and this is precisely what this film delivers in eye-popping manner; a complex, disturbing, yet absolutely gratifying story of violent sacrifice for the sake of one's parents and sibling.



Cross Fire
[Pyrokinesis]

Genre: Fiery ESP Crime Thriller

review in one breath

Cross Fire (2000) is directed by Kaneko Shusuke whose other directorial work includes Gamera 1, 2 & 3 (1995, 1996, 1999), Gakkou no Kaidan 3 (1997) and Azumi 2: Death or Love (give me love, Azumi!). And if that list isn't diverse enough in terms of genre (ranging from large monsters to ghosts to sexy samurai), then add to that an ESP-fueled crime thriller under review here. Mixing ESP with crime drama is nothing new in Japanese film (see the bizarro Isola for evidence) but director Kaneko does bring to the scenario a satisfying degree of special effects and action. And by "special effects and action" I literally mean humans spontaneously bursting into immense balls of flame, screaming and flailing about in amazing duration until they are reduced to charred ash. Hell (no pun intended), this happens at least a dozen times in this film!



The Black House
[Kuroi Ie]

Genre: Sexy Psycho-babble Thriller

review in one breath

Although The Black House is generally categorized as belonging to the "horror" genre it is in fact a non-supernatural psychological thriller exploring the making and mind of a "psychopathic killer". The backdrop of the story involves the intricacies of Japan's insurance agencies and the various types of questionable claims for compensation they receive. There are, for example, the yakuza who conjure up various schemes to fraudulently benefit from insurance policies. There are also the category of people officially referred to as yubikarizoku, those who inflict injury upon themselves to collect insurance payments. And then there are those who go to the extreme of injuring others in order to collect on policies taken out on behalf of the victim.



Another Heaven
[Anaza Hebun]

Genre: Inexplicable Sci-Fi Horror Crime Thriller

review in one breath

Grab your showercaps boys and girls! Tokyo is being plagued by brain-eating WATER FROM HELL and no one is safe! Especially not the hunky, brooding Tokyo cop Manabu Hayase and all the many cute girls who dig him!



Hakuchi no torima

Violence at High Noon

Genre: Existential Drama (Extreme)

review in one breath

"Love is incapable of changing anyone."

Director Nagisa Oshima's movies often are portrayals of intense love relationships and the social alienation caused by them. His earlier Cruel Story of Youth (1960) and the later In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and In the Realm of the Passions (1978) are of this sort. All three of these tales involve the violent clash of innate passion with societal convention, usually ending in the "triumph" of social convention and a sad demise for the couple. Violence at High Noon is a variation of this same theme, though here the tension exists between human passion and sheer human evil. Our characters are pitted against themselves rather than against society, and the human soul is portrayed as the source of great harm rather than apathetic collective convention.



Inugamike no Ichizoku
[The Inugami Family]

Genre: Early Showa-Era Crime Mystery

review in one breath

When a powerful patriarch demands that the heir to his inheritance be decided in a competition amongst his three grandsons, a nervous lawyer promptly calls on the help of renowned and eccentric detective Kindaichi Kosuke. But no sooner does Kindaichi arrive than the strange series of murders commences. This is renowned director Kon Ichikawa's 2006 remake of his own earlier 1976 film, retelling the classic crime mystery originally penned by author Yokomizo Seishi.



Death Note
[Desu Noto]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

This highly involved and plot-twisting anime series revolves around a supernatural "Death Notebook" which falls into the hands of an over-zealous young man intent on bringing about a new, more "just" world order. Those whose names are written in the Death Note promptly die in a highly untraceable manner, creating the ultimate weapon against Japan's rising crime rate and ineffective judicial system. But the new found tool comes at a price, as soon the deadly line is blurred between justifiable corporal punishment and sheer Utopian ideology. This is the anime version of the highly popular manga and subsequent live-action film versions.



Death Note 2: The Last Name
[Desu Noto 2: the Last Name]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

This is the second and concluding film of the two-part Death Note live action saga. Here Kira continues his strategic maneuvering under the watchful pursuits of his nemesis, the boy-genius "L". Whose name will be "the Last name" written in the Death Note?



Death Note
[Desu Noto]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

When a young man stumbles across and touches a mysterious notebook, his eyes are opened to the supernatural forces of Death Gods or "Shinigami" who work behind the scenes of human mortality. When an individual's name is merely written in this Death Note, that soul dies within mere seconds. Possessing such a flawless weapon immediately requires decisions regarding murder, the Law, an ideal society and above all, Justice. This is a face-paced and highly strategic crime thriller based on the popular manga series.




Nightmare Detective [Akumu Tantei]

Genre: Gloomy Psychic Crime Horror
Director: Tsukamoto Shinya (2006)

review in one breath

Tokyo police are baffled by a series of grisly deaths which at first glance appear to be obvious suicides but after further investigation have all the earmarks of homicide. Eyewitnesses to some of the cases report that the victims violently killed themselves in their sleep while screaming for help. When it is discovered that each of the victims had phoned a mysterious individual known only as "0", a detective calls the number only to soon thereafter die a gruesome self-inflicted death in his sleep. At their wits end, the cops ask the help of a bedraggled psychic said to possess the ability to enter people's dreams.




Sakebi [Retribution]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Thriller
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2006)

review in one breath

Soon after investigating the murder of a young woman, a hardened detective finds that he is haunted by the woman's ghost and discovers several inexplicable clues seemingly linking him to the crime. As he struggles to understand his nightmarish predicament, both inner and outer worlds collide in this disturbing and mind-bending morality tale.



The Demon
[Kichiku]

Genre: Heart-Wrenchingly Abysmal Morality Tale

review in one breath

Sokichi's past and present tragically collide when his mistress Kikuyo, with whom he has fathered three children and then left, suddenly arrives at the home of he and his wife O-ume. The encounter leaves Sokichi speechless and his wife enraged. But when the wife begins heaping abuse upon Kikuyo, it becomes clear that Kiyoku will receive no help in her children's survival. In a fit of rage, Kikuyo abandons her children, leaving them with Sokichi and his hate-filled wife, sending the three younglings, and their father, into a god-forsaken spiral toward visceral tragedy.



Seduce and Swindle [Akumyouden]

Genre: Low Budget Crime Drama bOOb-Fest

review in one breath

When habitual lady swindler Ikki sets his site on one of the most prominent young women in Tokyo, both the cops and other swindlers are soon hot on his tail. Under the thin guise of a barely suspenseful crime drama, moan-filled sex scenes and nipple close-ups prevail. Woo Hoo!!



Zero Focus
[Zero no shoten]

Genre: Contemplative Mystery

review in one breath

When a newlywed husband suddenly disappears while on a business trip, his wife spearheads the effort to find out what happened. Her search brings her to a remote northern town lined with steep cliffs descending into the turbulent winter sea. In a plot filled with twists and unexpected turns, this comes across as a very effective early Japanese crime drama.



Kindaichi Shonen no Jikembo : Shanghai Ningyo Densetsu

[The Jikembo of Young Kindaichi : Legend of the Shanghai Mermaid]

Genre: Pop Culture Crime Mystery

review in one breath

Youth sleuth extraordinaire Kindaichi Hajime is back at it, this time in Shanghai China attempting to solve mysterious and gruesome deaths seemingly related to a spiritual curse. Local lore tells of a cursed mermaid which emerges from the sea to exact retribution on her victims, and each of the murders seem to point to such a fate. Only with the help of Kindaichi's ADHD-riddled pubescent mind will this bizarre mystery be broken open.



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