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700 days of Battle us vs. the Police–Probably the Funniest Non-English Film I’ve Ever Seen.

This movie for all of its great lines and comical scenes is a movie Hollywood simply would never make.  Why?  because it is too simple.  There are no action scenes, unnecessary subplots or super-graphics, merely a bunch of teenagers having fun with an uptight policeman.  As I’ve said in the past, Hollywood films nowadays are nothing more than a bunch of special effects and action scenes strung together with a “plot” to fill in the space.  This movie is different, 700 Days is an episodic look at the escalation of the war between a group of mischievous high school students and a strict, uptight new cop in town.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The showdown begins when one of the team is caught speeding on his bike past a hidden radar gun and is given a ticket.  Not to take this lying down, his fellow group of prankster-teens decides to retaliate by taking revenge on the new sheriff in town.  It starts with simple speeding through the radar trap on bicycles to annoy the waiting policemen but gradually moves to more elaborate and bizarre tomfooleries.  Like running past the speed camera with a brass band trying to disrupt the radar gun, planting pornographic manga around the police station and stealing fireworks.  Though the actions and results of these pranks may, in the grand scheme of things, seem to be of little significance, the officer eventually finds himself brought down to their level and retaliating with similar means, hence starting a small-town war with no end in sight.

On the surface there may not seem to be any real plot progression, however, the irreverent and outrageous humor makes the film increasingly engaging as each side tries to one up and out-fox the other in order to claim king of the mountain status.  Director Tsukamoto even does it with style, making moments of the film literally look like frames of a Japanese comics—apparently this film is based on a very popular manga (a Japanese comic that people of all ages read covering a vast array of topics) and Fukada keep the laughs coming almost constantly, making for a pleasurable comedy.

Often there is not too much one can say in a review of a film like this without giving away the store except that the right chemistry is evident between the cast of characters making their performances lively, funny and convincing.

 

Typically foreign comedies don’t translate well into other languages—not this one.  Hollywood should take some pretty damn good notes on this movie’s methods and writing if they ever want to produce something original besides the usual dreck they force on an innocent public.  Not everything has to be a $50 million special effects season bonanza or some idiotic Martin Lawrence and whoever he currently teamed up with in some cliché bad cop movie to get some laughs.  The fact of the matter is, is that at every high school in this country you will find some unsung heroes like the gang headed by Granny bike leading the charge against unjust, unjustified and absolutely unnecessary oppression by narrow-minded fanatics who have nothing more in life other than their petty rules and torments.  The sooner Granny Bike & Co. push them over the edge so they get over themselves the better off we all are since little healthy rebellion never hurt anything; in fact it makes our kids stronger giving them the backbone to stand up to a system which may not have their best interest at heart.  Again, this simple premise is lost on today’s motion picture studio decision makers in their concern with some nonsensical sappy requirement to have every base covered in the last scene so that all loose ends are tied up letting everyone go home feeling nice, neat and complete.  They are nothing more than a bunch of chicken shits in my mind.  This film has more humor in the first 20 minutes than all the comedies produced in 2012 combined.  I dare you to remember back to your youth and not admire or reminisce about some of the pranks these guys pulled in a couple hundred days.  And if you can’t, you sure missed out on a great portion of life that you will never get back.

Too simple for Hollywood, no question about it.  Too bad of course.  Based on the clips I have included you are really getting a taste of what this movie is about.  You’d be a fool not to watch this film and urge our formulaic unoriginal and clichéd film industry to produce at least something like this just once in a while.

I hope you enjoyed it and please watch when you get a chance.

 

JPFMovies

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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That is right the co-founder of JPFmovies DT comes in from out of the cold and looks at 13 Assassins (the 2010 version) Or Vigilante Justice—Samurai Style.

The film is a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 black-and-white Japanese film of the same name, Jûsan-nin no shikaku and is based on a true story.  The film opens up with a bang as a nobleman commits seppuku to make an appeal to the Shogun (it sure must have been an important appeal) because the younger brother of the current Shogun (the equivalent of a prince) is roaming the country committing atrocities against his own people.

The Shogun’s administration goes to any length to cover up the prince’s behavior to prevent embarrassing the Shogun and his lineage.  But the prince goes too far, he rapes a young lady while staying at an inn and when his deed is discovered by her newlywed husband, the prince kills him and out of shame she kills herself.  To make matters worse, to protect himself from any revenge and against direct orders from the Shogun, the prince murders all of the victims’ relatives—including women and children—save one, a women whose limbs were cut off and tongue taken out that the prince left alive as a “toy.” The senior advisor to the Shogun shows a friend of his (who was also victimized by the prince) what is left of the prince’s handiwork and gives his tacit behind the scenes directive to kill this maniac.

 

The samurai begins his mission by recruiting ten men from his own clan to volunteer for what looks like a suicide mission and even convinces his lay about nephew to join the cause (so we are at 11 assassins at this point).  After assembling these 11 warriors from within, he hires one ronin for 200 ryo (the currency at that time) and in a rather ballsy move goes to meet with his former classmate who is in charge of protecting the sadistic prince and in a roundabout way says they will soon meet on the road under combat conditions.

 

The band of assassins begins preparing themselves to carry out their mission.  They know that the prince is in transit to his home province and realize that their only chance to kill him is before the prince makes it to his castle.  While the prince’s procession is en route, they try to take a different road through the territory of another clan, but the procession is stopped at the border and told to turn around because the lord controlling the province will not have anything to do with the prince and his procession. 

 

So the procession is forced to take the conventional route which passes through a village the assassins had engineered to maximize their chances of killing the sadistic prince.  On the way to the village, the samurai get lost and come across a mountain man trapped in a tree.  They free the trapped man because they find out the man has been tied up simply for hitting on his lords wife.  To thank the samurai the mountain man offers to be their guide and get them back to the village.  Once they arrive at the village the mountain man expresses his distaste for samurais and their arrogance as well as their adherence to some abstract outdated code.  The procession begins to arrive shortly after the tongue lashing and the samurai tells the mountain man that this is not his fight and he is free to go.  The mountain man retorts that the samurai are not god’s gifts to warfare and that he is going to stay and fight to show them a thing or two by using his sling and rocks.  Because they have no time to argue, the mountain man becomes the thirteenth assassin.

 

As the battle begins the prince’s soldiers begin to die left and right, but the odds are still against the assassins as it is thirteen against 200 and they make a tactical mistake by not fully utilizing their own defenses and start to fight hand to hand before they need to.  Just watching these guys get through obstacle after obstacle to get to the prince is exciting but exhausting.  Eventually, two assassins corner the prince and kill him.  Then the mountain man (who has a short sword stuck shear through his throat) shows up and the remaining three of the 13 left leave the scene.

Back at the ranch, word of the prince’s death reaches the castle.  The administration needs to save face so they put out the official story explaining that the prince died of an illness rather than being killed by vigilantes.

Over all I think the movie kicks ass and is an all-around excellent film.  The movie not only has great martial arts action, but the story engages you to the point of making you wanting to revolt with the 13 assassins as well.  On a different level, the film relays problems of the samurai way of life, showing the huge self-imposed burdens samurais carry on their shoulders and does a very good job of depicting the amoral aspects of the samurai code.  For instance, the prince’s protector always justifies and rationalizes his conduct by saying it is not his place to question but only to obey.  The movie shows how the samurai fall because there is no room for that way of life in the modern age—because the samurai used words like honor and duty to defend the indefensible, their way of life needed to come to a close.  The irony really hits home at the end when the slacker nephew is told by his dying uncle to drop the way of the sword and seek a new way of life.  The mountain man asks the nephew what he is going to do and the nephew replies that he will become a bandit and take a boat to America. 

 

This movie also distinguishes its self because in today’s typical Hollywood film all of the loose ends would have been tied nice and neatly with the good guys winning over the evil prince and everyone goes home happy.  13 Assassins, however, does not leave you with the typical good triumphed over evil feeling.  Instead, it is more of a tragedy because all of the truly righteous samurai have died during the mission while the amoral (even corrupt) samurai depicted by the nephew survives drops the way of the sword and wants to become a bandit outside of homeland Japan.  I think the final line of the movie was brief but powerful with lots of layers that comment on the state of Japanese society.  What may look like on its face as a simple samurai ninja movie is actually a complex commentary on the inevitable changes in Japanese whether they be for better or worse.   

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dangerous paid tribute on her site to Japan in light of the natural disasters. So I hereby interrupt this Burt Reynolds tribute to do the same. Ichikawa Raizo stars in the Japanese classic “The Third Shadow” (1963)—you had better turn on the lights.

The Third Shadow (1963) is set circa 1567 in the mountain regions of Hida and stars Ichikawa Raizo as a peasant’s son named “Kyonosuke” who dreams of becoming a samurai.  Kyonosuke gets his wish not because of his abilities or character, but because he looks almost exactly like their lord Yasutaka, allowing Raizo to play one of the Lord’s doubles.  Well, actually triples in this case, as Raizo is the third of three “shadow men,” but is the one who by far looks the most like Lord Yasutaka.

Sure, as a shadow you get to sleep with the Lord’s beautiful concubines and receive numerous other perks, however the job has its drawbacks too.  In order to be convincing as doubles, the shadows must not only act like the Lord, but also maintain their physical resemblance as well (like limping from a sprained ankle).  Also during the constant civil wars that plagued Japan in the 15th and 16th centuries lords went into plenty of battles.  As part of their bravado, Lords often lead troops into savage conflicts resulting in serious wounds.  As a shadow, if the Lord gets a wound, so do you.  When the Lord loses his left eye during a battle, one of the shadows flees, knowing full well what is in store for them, but when he fails to escape he is brutally killed.  The two remaining shadows (including Raizo) are blinded in their left eyes with a burning poker in order to remain good doubles for their Leader.

When the Lord loses an arm in another battle, only Kyonosuke (Raizo) is in a position to help him.  He now understands this will mean one of his own arms will be chopped off, so he decides to kill the Lord and get out of Dodge to continue his pursuit of a samurai career elsewhere.  Unfortunately Kyonosuke (Raizo) doesn’t get far and must replace the Lord so that no one finds out he (the Lord) is missing or dead.  No one other than Kyonosuke (Raizo) himself knows that he, the Lord’s shadow, killed the missing Lord.
The movie so far has been excellent for its adventure and action.  The film takes an interesting turn and develops into an eerie fight for personal identity, similar to Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (1980), when the lord’s imposter (Tatsuya Nakadai) feels he is dying as armies are wiped out before his eyes, even though in fact he has no real connection with those armies.  Raizo wants out but no one believes Kyonosuke’s raving insistence that he is merely a peasant, not the Lord, and he ends up locked up as a madman for the rest of his life, the Lord’s insanity becoming the clan’s most closely guarded secret.  His dream to be a samurai leads to ironic tragedy in this example of the genre roughly translated as “cruel historicals” or zankoku jidai-geki.

The Third Shadow is a nearly unknown masterpiece with amazing use of shadows and darkness as part of its scenes.  Add a plot that is worthy of the cruelties and identity conflicts of Kafka transposed to the samurai era and you have an powerful film.

If you like Asian cinema like I do and can get your hands on the film make sure to see it.  If you can’t get your hands on the film but have a sincere desire to watch it, let me know and we’ll see what we can do for you.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Operation Petticoat is an early (1959) a post WWII comedy directed by Blake Edwards (the Pink Panther Series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Great Race, “10”, Victor/Victoria and others) filled with a cast that were either big names like Cary Grant or rising stars like Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), Marrion Ross (Happy Days) and Gavin MacLeod (the Love Boat) and others.  The movie could even be seen as an early attempt at bringing feminism to the big screen and the precursor to the rash of 1960’s sex comedies that soon followed.

The film story goes something like this, following the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepared to invade the American-occupied Philippine Islands.  During an air raid on the American naval base there almost sink the new submarine the “Sea Tiger.”  The boat’s insistent and professional commander, Matt Sherman – played by Cary Grant – wants to get the Sea Tiger operational at any cost.  After persuading the powers the be who give Sherman permission to make the Sea Tiger sea worthy, he and the remnants of the ships original crew (which has been decimated by transfers because the boat is considered sunken condition) succeeds in raising the sub from the harbor bottom and commence getting her seaworthy enough to escape to Australia before the pending Japanese assault.  Unfortunately the repair efforts are hampered by the bureaucratically-based shortage of necessary parts and supplies.  Enter Tony Curtis as Lt. Nick Holden; an accomplished back-alley smoke filled room deal cutter who joined the Navy to get into a nice uniform which he believes will land him a very wealthy wife.  Alas, having secured a cushy job as an admiral’s aid the sudden outbreak of the war results in all Mr. Holden’s carefully laid schemes sent completely awry.  Thus being at the end of his rope, Holden finds himself assigned as a replacement officer to the Sea Tiger.  Faced with the alternative of being stuck on Bataan to endure the certain Japanese onslaught, he sees it is in his best interest to make up for the seagoing experience he has managed to avoid by becoming the Sea Tiger’s Supply Officer and secures everything the captain needs to get “the . . . submarine” out of there and to someplace where he can get a better deal.

Holden implements his supply procurement program which at best is unorthodox and at worst just plain felonious.  Holden out does him self when he manages to “scavenge” five stranded Army nurses and convinces Cary Grant that he must take them aboard.  From then on the film becomes Cary Grant’s battle to get this backfiring-limping submarine to Australia while avoiding the “exchange of information” about the proverbial “birds and the bees” between the crew and their female guests.  Grant’s struggle becomes more and more complicated as the film moves on to the point where a maternity ward has to be opened on the Sea Tiger to accommodate its passengers.

For those who enjoy MASH (the movie), Stripes or the Russians are Coming this movie is a must see.  A perfect example of how a good comedy can be made without resorting to “blue humor” or three stooges like slap stick.  Fifty years later, the jokes a still witty and story remains fresh.  This film was also one of the first movies to inspire a TV spin-off.  In 1977 Operation Petticoat the TV. series aired starring none other than Jamie Lee Curtis who’s father, Tony Curtis, starred as one of the lead male roles in the 1959 movie.

Per Dr. H—This one is a rose for your bouquet.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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King Rat—A Movie Not Based On A Lie Like The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Recently, my claim that Black Hawk Down is the best war movie ever was challenged by a regular visitor to the site who asked if anyone would remember BHD after a number of years had passed, while pointing to The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Great Escape as examples of “better” war movies, ones that have stood the test of time.  Obviously, we can not know how long people will remember BHD, but we can look at a movie that is head and shoulders above both The Great Escape and The Bridge Over the River Kwai and yet is not as well remembered:  It is King Rat.

King Rat (1965) stars a young George Segal who plays “Corporal King” AKA the King Rat.  King Rat is based on a 1962 novel by J.B. Clavell.  Set during World War II, Clavell’s novel describes the struggle for the survival of British, Australian, and American prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore—a description well-informed by Clavell’s own three-year experience as a POW in the notorious Changi Prison camp.  Peter Marlowe, a significant character, is based upon Clavell’s younger self.  Even some of the actors in King Rat were POWs in the World War II.  Denholm Elliott, (who played Lt. G.D. Larkin) while serving in the RAF, was shot down and taken prisoner by the Nazis.

These P.O.W.’s were given nothing by the Japanese other than filthy huts to live in and the bare minimum of food needed to prevent starvation.  Officers who had been accustomed to native servants providing them with freshly- laundered uniforms daily were reduced to wearing rags and homemade shoes.  For most, the chief concern is obtaining enough food to stay alive from day to day and avoiding disease or injury, since nearly no medical care is available.  But, not so for King, who is well fed and struts around in a uniform that looks like it came straight from the dry cleaners.

Corporal King, not a very likable character, becomes “King” of the black market/underground economy, trading with the enemy for food, cigarettes, currency, etc.  As the “richest” man in the camp, Segal becomes the most powerful prisoner, controlling even the highest ranking officers through his economic muscle and having virtually everyone on his payroll, except one, seemingly incorruptible British Provost, Lieutenant Grey (Tom Courtenay).  Grey has only contempt for the American and does his best to bring him down, but with no success.

Eventually, the camp commandant informs the prisoners that the Japanese have surrendered and that the war is over.  After overcoming their shock and disbelief, the prisoners celebrate – all except King, who realizes that he is no longer the unquestioned (if unofficial) ruler of the camp.

Unfortunately, King Rat does not appear on any popular “top” lists of movies must-sees.  In fact, the reason I watched it was because I was forced to.  In my high school economics class, Dr. Kardsky made us watch the movie as an example of how scarcity affects economic markets that are virtually unregulated.  Now, having seen the movie several more times over the years, I have only grown to appreciate it further.  So. if you are interested in a not-so-glamorous account of soldiers in the war of the century, do take a very worthwhile look at King Rat.

By the way, the Rat in the movie’s title “King Rat” is revealed at the end of the film when King feeds his fellow prisoners rat meat, for which they are grateful.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Zatoichi The Fugitive: Better Late Than Never.

Yes, I know it’s overdue, but here is my personal take on “The Fugitive.”

Zatoichi “The Fugitive” is the fourth in the Zatoichi series that centers on a blind man wandering the Japanese countryside, ostensibly making his living as a masseur. In reality, though, he is a professional gambler, a Yakuza (members of traditional, organized crime syndicates in Japan) and most importantly, an outstanding swordsman.  Zatoichi is a master of the “iaido” style—that consisting of the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking or cutting an opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword back into the scabbard.

Like most blind people, Zatoichi possesses extremely heightened remaining senses.   His senses are so sharp, in fact, that he can hear the way dice role in a cup, differentiate between a man and a woman by their distinctive scents, and use his swordsmanship with deadly precision and lighting speed.  All of these abilities go a long way in keeping him alive in a time and place abounding in death.

In “The Fugitive,” Zatoichi strolls into a town that is in the midst of hosting a Sumo wrestling match.  Ichi decides to participate in the Japanese tradition and wins the requisite five matches to take the tournament, while the local Yakuza loose face, since they were beaten by a blind man.  After the matches have ended, Ichi is enjoying a snack next to a pond when he is attacked by local scoundrel trying to capture the 10 ryo (gold currency used during the period weighing about 16.5 grams) bounty that was placed on Ichi’s head.  Ichi cautions the man to discontinue the attacks, but his warnings go unheeded.  Ichi makes quick work of the man, and while he is dying, Ichi is able to find out the name of the mother of his latest victim.

Ichi sets out to—and does—find the dead man’s mother (herself a Yakuza) and begs for her forgiveness.  While apologizing, Ichi stumbles upon a local Yakuza power struggle, takes the side of the underdog, and eventually restores the balance of power, ending a violent turf war and returning the town to a state of peace.

While intervening in this struggle, Ichi is forced again to deal with the bounty on his head as well as with a skilled, angry Ronin.  In the end, Ichi and the Ronin fight a grueling battle, and Ichi, again, is the warrior left standing.

I must profess–I love the entire Zatoichi series and have all 26 movies.  While the general storyline in “The Fugitive” constitutes the basis for each of the Zatoichi films, they are all enjoyable individually and stand up well on their own.  Many of the original Ichi movies surprisingly contain a fair amount of humor, unlike the 2003 remakethough, which was a grim and bloody tale of the blind man’s journey.

I agree with my counterpart’s (Silver) review in several respects.  First, the Lone Wolf and Cub series (also one of my favorites) plays on the same general theme.  One could easily conclude that both of these series reflect the sentiments of Japanese movie culture popular at the time.  More importantly, I also agree with Silver in that this is not a Yojimbo or some other cinematic masterpiece, nor was it meant to be.  These movies were made to be enjoyed by a more general, mainstream audience and they were obviously very successful at doing so.

Despite its age, the movie is about 40 years old, “Zatoichi—The Fugitive” continues to entertain and provides an excellent representation of period Asian Samurai cinema.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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