Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tetsuo - The Bullet Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2009)

The Bullet Man.

Having read only extremely negative reviews of Shinya Tsukamoto's newest part of the Tetsuo series, I felt like I had to make a decision before watching it. Either to watch it with my expectations set really low, prepared to be disappointed by something that isn't what Tetsuo - The Iron Man (1989) was. Or, I could go in with my expectations through the roof, preparing to see something great in its own right, to see where Tsukamoto takes it and see the films own qualities. Since one of the problems I've had with reviews the last few years is that "everyone" only seems to be looking for a repeat. Especially when it comes to directors like Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike, who have a reputation of making a certain kind of films, even if they are in minority in their bodies of work, overshadowing everything else they have done. Because of that I chose the latter and Tsukamoto did not let me down.

The Bullet Man plays like a culmination of all of Tsukamoto's films so far. It is almost, but not quite, like a remake of Tetsuo, made in crystal clear high definition and in english. I can see parallells to other films of Tsukamoto's that probably weren't expected. The dreams of the main characters' wife coming true and the shots of large cold buildings of Tokyo reminded more of Nightmare Detective (2006) than anything from earlier in Tsukamoto's career. The origin of the bullet man also is like a fusion between later films like A Snake of June (2002) and Vital (2004) and the first Tetsuo. Through love in a kind of afterlife the bullet man is born, and through provoked emotion his transformation takes place creating something with the power to destroy the world. The city is still there as a cold and lonely place, but it no longer seem like the main reason for the characters' decline into loneliness and rage.

As a film, it's not perfect. The story in all its simplicity is still hard to grasp sometimes. The motives of The Guy, the catalyst behind the bullet man's transformation, is somewhat unclear, unless he's only there as a "director" character, making the whole thing spin. After all he is played by Tsukamoto himself, just like in the original. Having it made in english seems somewhat unnecessary because even if it were to attract a foreign audience, the rest of the film is hardly mainstream. The dialogue is also delivered in a stilted manner making the feeling of cold people stronger than that of a society built out of steel and concrete. As I'm a non-japanese speaker, having the english dialogue spoken like this actually strengthened the atmosphere of the film and did not work as a distraction. Had it been in Japanese it probably would have been harder to pick up on. The frantic camerawork and editing is still there, making it hard to see what is actually going on sometimes, but together with the loud industrial soundtrack by Chu Ishikawa it works so well that the film becomes more of an experiance than a film, and I believe that that is exactly what a Tetsuo film should be like.

I wouldn't call this new Tetsuo cyberpunk, it's a bit too polished to be punk, just like I disagree with some calling Sogo Ishii's Electric Dragon 80.000V (2001) cyberpunk, even though they are somewhat alike. But if you draw a line from Tetsuo - The Iron Man through Tetsuo II - Body Hammer (1992) and Ishii's Electric Dragon and then this new film, The Bullet Man makes perfect sense being the way it is, just like it does if you take a look at Tsukamoto's recent filmography and don't expect The Bullet Man to be just a remake of The Iron Man.

This is a new Tetsuo, from a new Tsukamoto, perhaps for an entirely new audience.

Big Tits Zombie (Takao Nakano, 2010)

Aoi Sora in Big Tits Zombie (2010).

The questions were, "Can a film called Big Tits Zombie be any good? Can it be bad?!". The answers are "probably not" and "hell yes".

A group of bored strippers spend their time bickering backstage in the dressing room while waiting for customers who never show up. One day they find a hidden passage leading from their dressing room down into the basement. Turns out the basement is full of old black magic books and a mysterious well, and when one of the strippers read from the infamous Book of the Dead, the dead starts walking the earth. Or at least the strip joint.

The problem, or problems, with Big Tits Zombie is that it fails to live up to the promises of its title. The tits aren't that big, there aren't enough zombies and the general craziness that is expected of a movie with a title like this just isn't there. There are many different ways that an ultra-low budget film like this could be enjoyable, it could be extreme like the many recent gore films produced for the American market like Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl, or it could just be funny or have a lot of nudity. Big Tits Zombie is just bland.

The action is poorly choreographed, there aren't many jokes and the gore isn't very inventive. There is nothing wrong with cheap special effects if done right, but here it just looks bad. But the biggest disappointment of all is the lack of big naked tits. I have a hard time imagining that anyone bought this on dvd or went to see it not expecting to see a lot more of Aoi Sora and the other strippers and not being disappointed when it comes down to just a couple shots throughout the whole film.

On the plus side though, you do get to see a fire throwing zombie vagina.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's here

Finally. I don't care about reviews or expectations, this thing just needs to explode.

Quick takes #7

Josie Ho, lowering the value of some property in Dream Home (2010).

Dream Home
(Pang Ho-Cheung, 2010) - Pang Ho-Cheung does his usual bit of establishing a context of either a social phenomenon or a societal condition and then delivering a film around that subject but in a way that you probably won't expect. This time around it's a gory slasher film about a woman (Josie Ho) having trouble affording an apartment in the pricey Hong Kong real estate market. Pang manages to keep the sharp but still effortless and easygoing tone of his earlier films despite the absolutely over-the-top gore and truly horrible proceedings of the main character. Dream Home is actually the only film I can remember where the gore felt like it was too much to take, despite it being so exaggerated it's shown in a calm and realistic way and Pang manages to make it almost unbearable. With Dream Home, Pang once again shows he's the most interesting director in Hong Kong, can't wait for his next film.

(Kazuaki Kiriya, 2009) - Historical fantasy adventure starring Yosuke Eguchi as master thief Goemon Ishikawa. Directed by Kazuaki Kiriya who made Casshern, Goemon is made in the same style of all CG environments and landscapes with (mostly) live actors. While Goemon is a more entertaining film than Casshern, which felt overly long and slow, I have to say that the computer created world worked better in the sci-fi film than in this period piece. A bunch of great actors in supporting roles do make it a fun time though.

Takao Osawa and Yosuke Eguchi in Goemon (2010).

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge (Takuji Kitamura, 2007) - Supernatural coming of age action drama starring always annoying Hayato Ichihara. Could have been a pretty cool b-movie about a school girl fighting a chainsaw maniac from the moon and getting unwanted help from another kid at school but takes a turn for the more serious, and dull. It has all the afformentioned but still manages to mess it up by making it a story about Ichihara's desire to do something cooler than his friend who passed away in a motorcycle accident. It should have focused on the chainsaw wielding maniac from the moon.

One Million Yen Girl (Yuki Tanada, 2008) - Suzuko (Yu Aoi) moves into an apartment with a friend and the friend's boyfriend only for them to break up. When the ex-boyfriend later throws out a kitten that someone leaves at the door, Suzuko throws out all his belongings but it turns out to be a big mistake as she is sentenced to prison for it. Apparently the guy had a million yen hidden in a bag in his room and pressed charges. When released, Suzuko decides to leave town to make it on her own, and each time she's managed to save up a million yen, she ups and leaves for a new town and a new job. This of course makes it hard to connect with people, not to mention having a relationship with someone. Nice film, both sad and hopeful.

Yu Aoi and Mirai Moriyama in One Million Yen Girl (2008).