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Let’s get back to some quality Asian entertainment: Ogon no Buta a/k/a The Golden Pig (2010) a 9 part Japanese T.V. series. Any show named after swine has got to be interesting.

Lately the movie reviews posted here at JPFmovies have been western entertainment—something we typically take a dim view of given the current state of the (mainly) American entertainment industry.  So, our dedicated reviewers embarked on a search for some Asian media worth taking a look at.  We found an often overlooked Japanese T.V. series entitled The Golden Pig—intrigued by the show’s title we couldn’t resist taking a look.

First a quick discussion of the genre The Golden Pig and many other well-liked Japanese series embody.  In Japan, many shows/movies are based on “manga.”  For those who don’t know, a manga is a style of Japanese comic book or graphic novel, aimed at adults as well as children.  Manga covers the entire spectrum of topics from super-heroes to business to adult themed sexuality.  When a manga becomes popular enough it is often made into an animated series or a live T.V. show and maybe even a movie.  One subset of the manga world is a variation of westerns and samurai ronin genre where the protagonist gets “transferred” into a corrupt environment and brings about change.  This story-line is termed the “extended transfer student” genre and is a staple of J-drama which serves as a channel for social commentary and criticism while Japanese society stagnates through political corruption and social rigidness.

The Golden Pig is an “extended transfer student” Japanese drama series set in the government’s internal auditor agency (the equivalent of the U.S. Inspector General’s Office).  The Board of Audit’s Special Investigations Division hunts down civil servants that cheat and waste the tax payer’s money.  The Golden Pig’s main character, Shinko, is a former con artist that is hired by one of the Division’s maverick commissioners.  When we say Shinko is a former con artist we mean it-she has spent several years in prison and the terms of her parole are quite strict.  Hardened by her time in the joint, she is not intimidated by power or influence and mercilessly pursues corrupt officials.  When she is brought into the agency’s fold, Shinko is paired up with an elite rookie who is a graduate of Tokyo University and comes from a distinguished family of government officials.  Naturally, the friction between the savvy and street-smart Shinko and her blue-blooded colleague provides some great entertainment as Shinko is able to use her criminal experience to quickly sniff out scams while her partner’s head is often stuck in an ivory tower so to speak.

The series also examines the politics of power within the civil service itself.  The episodes explore the rough waters that career civil servants must navigate in order to be promoted or else they can end up in a “window” position; that is, the unlucky civil servant is essentially stuck in a room looking out of the window with nothing to do.  The potential for the career civil servants to be passed over for promotion can lead them to back-off or otherwise close their eyes to corruption if the investigation involves a very politically connected or powerful person.  Again, this conflicts with Shinko’s scorched earth policy and her idealistic partner’s naivete with respect to the blow-back that happen when someone too powerful is provoked into taking action to save their own skin.

While the viewer may think that the formula for each episode is the same i.e. after some maneuvers by both the division investigators and the cheaters, the good guys win in the end you would be sorely mistaken.  While each episode ends with exposition of the case, if you are paying attention, the penalties for embezzling millions of dollars’ worth of Japanese yen is quite lite.  In truth, it is the government white washing the whole thing so it maybe a relief when the gang does not always go for the big shots involved with the central government which is actually mentioned in the series.  This is usually when Shinko pulls out her trademark big shiny blinged out calculator to sum up the total amount of money embezzled.

In sum, “Ogon no Buta” is a great and fun series.  It has great characters, interesting cases, and over the top villains that everyone loves to hate.  But don’t take our word for it, JPFmovies reviewer at large SJ thinks:

JPFmovies:     SJ so what is your overall opinion of The Golden Pig?

SJ:       It is excellent!

JPFmovies:     What do you think of the series main character being a convicted swindler?

SJ:       It is cool to compare how a thief would do things versus fancy people in suits.

JPFmovies:     Is this your favorite Japanese T.V. series?

SJ:       Yeah.

JPFmovies:     Why?

SJ:       Spaghetti squash (a character nick named by Shinko).

JPFmovies:     Who is your favorite villain?

SJ:       The scientist lady because she wasn’t actually a bad person but they had to punish her anyways because that is their job (Note a famous scientist who misuses government grant money).

JPFmovies:     Does The Golden Pig remind you of any American T.V. series?

SJ:       Yeah “Psyche” because they are both a “commoner” who has to work with officials to fight crime.

JPFmovies:     Very interesting.

JPFmovies:     Is there anything you would like to add?

SJ:       Um . . . make sure you calculate the conversion rate from yen to dollars so you know how much was stolen.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Apparently this guy is a neurosurgeon on Grey’s Anatomy. “Run” (1991) Starring Patrick Dempsey.

I have never seen this “Grey’s Anatomy” show but I understand it is (or at least was) quite popular.  I also can’t remember Patrick Dempsey as anything other than an awkward and annoying (in my opinion) teen in such 80’s films as Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) and Loverboy (1989) (also staring Kirstie Allie).  The movie Run (1991) seems to be a mere continuation of those rigidly formulaic 1980’s teen coming of age type of movies except this film is nothing more than a “chase” movie pure and simple.  This one is so bad it shines in the “you have to watch it because it sucks” category.

 

I’ve seen porno movies with more complex plots that Run, but here we go anyway:  Dempsey plays Charlie Farrow, a Boston law student, part-time mechanic and of course never can lose poker player who is asked by his boss to drive a new Porsche 911 from Boston to Atlantic City.  The car, however, breaks down—those damn Germans–and while Farrow waits for the car to be repaired, a cab driver (who mistakes him for an Atlantic City card shark) takes him to an underground casino run by the mob to get something to eat.

 

While waiting for his return ride to the garage, Farrow decides to play a couple of hands of poker.  He ends up soundly beating Denny Halloran (Alan C. Peterson), who is really pissed off and embarrassed this kid took him to poker school.  Of course there is a resulting fight where Denny corners Farrow but trips over a potted palm, and accidentally hits his head on the sharp corner of a counter, and dies.  To add an exciting element (sarcasm) (I really need to invent a ‘sarcastic’ font) Denny happens to be the son of mob boss Matt Halloran (Ken Pogue), who not only owns the casino but most of the law enforcement in the area. 

 

Farrow finds himself on the “Run” (very clever) from cops and the mob henchmen, all of whom want to collect a $50,000 dollar bounty the boss has placed on his head.  He finds Kelly Preston, yes, that is right, Kelly Preston wife of Travolta and even better, the 1990 former fiancé of Charlie Sheen’s but she had to end the relationship shortly after he accidentally shot her in the arm.  She plays Karen Landers, Farrow’s only friend who, and you are never going to believe this, gets shot in the arm (I’ll bet she wasn’t even acting having some “real world” experience with it only the year before).  Like every “B” film, the bodies start to pile up as the couple dodge flying bullets, bowling pins, explosions from a nice selection of military grade assault weapons and other shrapnel and twisted auto parts and oh yeah, the Porsche didn’t make it more than 15 minutes into the film.  The chase takes him through racetracks, amusement parks, bowling alleys and a shopping mall.  Dempsey certainly covered a lot of ground in this one. 

 

Farrow and the mob boss go head to head at a dog track and here is the best part, the mob boss gets impaled by the mechanical pace-rabbit that was speeding around the track and was now circling back toward him.  I could not believe it!  He got impaled by the rabbit the dogs chase at the track!  Wow!  I sure didn’t see that coming.  I was on the edge of the couch for that thriller.

 

Well, they sure don’t make them like Run anymore and I believe they should to give guys like me something to bitch about.  Be that as it may, I am glad to see at least one Hollywood type who pulled himself together and changed the direction of his career.

 

All hail Dr. H for recommending this one.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is our third and final installment of our tribute to Burt Reynolds: “Malone” (1987).

When looking at Malone I think it is important to put the film in the context of Reynolds’ career, by the mid ’80s his heyday was unfortunately over, and he ceased to be the superstar he once was.  Box office duds like Stick (1985) and Rent-a-Cop (1988), along with unfounded rumors that he had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide.  The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid drama, Reynolds’ career (and product endorsement contracts) nosedived.  He made Malone right in the eye of this storm.

Now let’s get one with it.  Malone is a 1987 movie, starring Burt Reynolds and written by Christopher Frank and based on a novel by William P. Wingate.  In addition to Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and Lauren Hutton also play major roles.

Malone (Burt Reynolds) has been a “wet” operative for the CIA for many years, serving his country by performing assassinations.  He was tired of his job and wanted to get out of “the company” (as it is typically called) and live a “normal” life.  He is driving through the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to settle down, when his much-cherished classic Mustang has transmission problems and breaks down outside the town of Comstock.  Reynolds manages to get to a small gas station and is treated like family by a Vietnam veteran, who owns the station, and his daughter.  They are suffering from the nefarious activities of the local big cheese (Cliff Robertson) to take over all the land in the city and turn it into to some quasi- Posse Comitatus haven for “patriots.”  By beating or killing some of the town’s hillbillies (in self-defense), Malone soon runs afoul of the town sheriff who is basically an employee of the developer.  By the end of the film, though, he eventually wins the Sherriff’s respect.  Starting with the most inept of the sinister henchmen, Malone is gradually drawn into the town drama until he achieves his final pyrotechnic victory and moves on—like Minfune’s Yojimbo or Eastwood’s man with no name.

Meanwhile, the CIA is none too pleased to hear of Malone’s intended retirement and sends a succession of hit-men after him to ensure that he divulges none of their dirty secrets.  Malone destroys the first two killers at some cost to his own well-being.  The next assassin turns out to be a woman who is susceptible to his charms.

As we know from Sharkey’s Machine, Reynolds is actually not a bad actor when he’s not trying to be “a good old boy” all the time.  Cliff Robertson goes eerily over the top while Lauren Hutton is beautiful, brave and loyal (and I would expect nothing less).  So what do we do with the formulaic movie clearly made by Reynolds because he needed the money?  There is nothing evidently wrong with the film—it doesn’t look low budget, everyone seems to play their parts and get their lines straight.  My advice to you is to enjoy it for what it is a damn good bad movie.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Final Look At the B-Movies: Four Brothers.

This film only has a handful of main problems, which I shall outline below:

1) Terrible storyline 2) Terrible script 3) Terrible acting.   But that is why it is a B Movie I suppose.

Often a bad movie gets a bad rap after time passes.  However, too often this is not the case with some bad action movies, especially the movies that contain some decent action but besides that are completely worthless. This is the case with Four Brothers, the storyline is thin, and the acting is poor. Frankly, if I didn’t have guest over that wanted us to review it I would not have watched the who thing.

The clichés are all over the place in this plot. The two-bit hustler turned crime boss, the dirty city councilman who appears to be trying to clean up the neighborhood while he’s secretly in cahoots with said crime boss, the dirty cop killing his partner, the one good cop who really seems to care, the plot twist that leads them to wrongly suspect one of the “brothers,” the weakest brother dying because he was a little too brash, the boxing match to settle all scores ad nauseum.

The acting in this movie is just plain terrible. The best example is the Bobby Mercer line, as their running from the bodega to look for the guy with an afro who says something to the effect of, “that wasn’t a holdup, it was a contract killing. Let’s go!” They all take off at a brisk jog.  Clearly the writer/director/producer believes that a lot of stupid people are going to watch this film so they need the characters to spell out the plot “twists.” But why are they running? And why does Mark Wahlberg have to deliver each line like he’s reading a comic book? Honestly, that line should have been followed by the horn section doing the original Batman theme.  Moreover, given the different accents the characters all have, if this movie was to be in Detroit, the least they could have lead us to believe that the characters might actually be from Detroit.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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