Saturday, July 31, 2010
The continuation of my movie reviews for the month of June!
あばしり一家 「Abashiri Ikka」- Also released with the English title of “Abashiri Family”. This is based on Go Nagai’s comic (creator of “Devilman” and “Cutey Honey”) of the same name. This stars Erika Tonooka (member of the idol group Idoling) with a bunch of other character actors such as Yakan Nabe, Ijirii Okada, and Mai Endo (another member of Idoling as well). I haven’t read the original manga so I couldn’t give you an opinion on how well the characters of the live-action matched. Anyway, its more low-budget fun. Of course I doubt that you will find this in your foreign film section, but what they hey! Also gotta love the cover of the package.
YEAR ONE (2009) – Another Jack Black vehicle along with Michael Cera and directed by Harold Ramis. Very silly, but what they hey, I love silly movies. Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera) are members of a tribe of hunter/gatherers. Unfortunately, Zed is a lousy hunter and Oh is a shy, meek gatherer who has his eyes on one of the babes of his tribe. One day, Zed eats the Forbidden fruit of a tree, is caught and then exiled. This being a Jack Black flick, he mouths off that he’s going to start his own tribe. A bigger and better one, and that anybody is welcome to join him. Of course nobody does. Well, Oh follows him and they meet a bunch of people from Biblical times such as Kane and Abel. But Zed and Oh find that there tribe has been captured and their women made slaves. Being the manly men they are, they decide to save the women they love from the clutches of some evil priest (played by Oliver Platt). “Life of Brian” this is not, but still quite entertaining.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (2009) – This is based on the children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett. Flint Lockwood has always been a little different from the other kids. It is his desire to invent something useful to become famous. With the support of his mother, he invents all sorts of gadgets but none of them ever seem to work the way he wants. Then his mother passes away and his father says he should give up his dream and help out at the bait shop his father owns. You see, on their island of Swallow Falls, the main source of income is herring and the herring cannery. But the factory has closed and now the island is in an economic slump. Flint wants to help the community by creating invention which can turn water into food. His experiment goes awry and his machine flies up into the atmosphere. But what do you know, the following day it starts raining hamburgers and such. The mayor sees this as an opportunity. However, when Flint notices that there is something wrong with the machine, the Mayor convinces him otherwise and this results in a even worse calamity than the economic slump.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) - This got so much hype in Japan even before it was released that I just had to check it out to see what all the fuss was about. After watching it, I feel the need to express my opinion as William Shakespeare would have said, “Much Ado about Nothing”. This is another film that follows the “Blair Witch” filming stye. A regular couple are being haunted in their newly bought home. Hubby thinks it would be great to get some of this paranormal activity on film and buys a video camera and sets it up in their bedroom. Wifey doesn’t really like the idea and tells hubbie she’s been bothered by some malevolent spirit since she was eight years old (uh, did she not bother to tell hubby this before getting married). Oh, and it seems the spirit has been following her around ever since. Hubby being Mr. Skeptic doesn’t take his wife fears seriously. Anyway, we get to watch what the video captures while the couple are asleep. Nothing much happens until sometime around 2am. It had some good points. But to claim this is one of the scariest events of the year is saying a bit much. The video includes an alternate ending as well. Good thing they stuck with the original.
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY (2007) – I saw a preview of this on another DVD I rented and it looked like it might be very funny. After all, it does star Adam Sandler and the guy that was in “Paul Blart : Mall Cop”. This time Sandler takes on the theme of Gay Rights. Chuck and Larry are a couple of New York City firefighters. Chuck is a playboy who seems to get any woman he wants (a bit over the top even for Sandler but heck, this is the movies), while Larry plays a single parent whose wife had passed away three years ago. But not revising his insurance policy right away, Larry has run into a bit of problem as his insurance won’t cover his kids. But a lawyer friend says there is a loophole in the system. He could marry a guy and receive “domestic partner” benefits. As Larry had once saved Chuck’s life, he asks him to be his “domestic partner” for his kids sake. Chuck reluctantly agrees, but “domestic partner” investigator (Steve Buscemi) thinks they are running a scam is out to prove that the partnership is a sham.
RUSH HOUR 3 (2007) – I had been planning on renting this for the longest time, but as luck seemed to be on my side, it was aired on network television. Result – good thing I did not waste any money renting this worthless piece of Hollywood trash that even Jackie should be ashamed of. Chris Tucker is still annoying as hell (his character that is) and should be shot and hung out to dry. Okay, so here in the “cashing in on the sequel” flick takes our two heroes to France. This film is just so bad in so many ways I can’t even begin to write what I really think of it. I would have to use a lot of expletives and such. This is one sequel to avoid at all costs, even if you are a Jackie Chan or Chris Tucker fan. Do yourself a favor and go rent some of Jackie’s Hong Kong action films.
リアル鬼ごっこ 「Real Onigokko」 (2008) – I saw the preview of this on another DVD and wasn’t expecting anything special. It seemed like a fairly decent B-movie. The English title is “The Chasing World”. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this flick. I think it’s a grade above B but not quite an A movie. The plot centers around the theme of parallel worlds. Our protagonist is transported to a parallel world where people with the family name of Sato are being hunted down by the tyrannical government in power. Of course our protagonist’s name is Tsubasa Sato! We learn that his mother and sister had the power of travelling through both worlds and that his mother conceived Tsubasa in the world he is in now. But Mom took him back to the normal world to escape his father – who turns out to be the head of the totalitarian government (played by Akira Emoto). So, in the totalitarian world, once a Sato is captured, his/her parallel in the normal world dies of unknown circumstances. You see, if one of your parallels die, then so do you (or something like that). Still, I found this rather entertaining and one of the better low-budget movies to rent.
曲がれ！スプーン 「Magare! Spoon」 (2009) – A cute movie starring Masami Nagasawa. Nagasawa portrays an assistant director for a television program that goes in search of real psychics. In fact, the English title of this movie is “Go Find a Psychic”. The show features two panelists, one who believes in all sorts of psychic phenomena while the other debunks the mysteries. But all the people the AD finds, turn out to be frauds. The producer says to the AD, don’t come back until you find some real psychics! So, off the AD travels around the country going in search of people who claim to have special powers. One of the people she interviews tells her that he can sustain the poison of a venomous spider. But of course, after dude is bit, he needs to be rushed to the hospital. Before heading back to Tokyo, she is to meet one more person. But unknown to her, the café where they are to meet is a haven for real psychics! This is just silly, feel good movie and you really can’t go wrong with having Masami Nagasawa star in it.
サイドウェイズ 「Sideways」 (2009) – Here is a surprise treat I found. A Japanese remake of a Hollywood film. You don’t find too much of those around. I had seen the original and had enjoyed it, but I think this Japanese treatment is even better. The plot is similar, a blend of midlife crisis and one last fling before getting married. In the Japanese flick, which stars Fumiyo Kohinata and Katsuhisa Namase, Michio (Kohinata) is an aspiring screenplay writer who also teaches writing at a college. His friend Daisuke (Namase) who currently lives in the States and was the star of Children’s program is about to be married and wants to have one last fling in Vegas before heading down the aisle. Of course, plans don’t work out the way you want, and the two embark on a journey through Napa Valley. The two almost meet their old classmate and Madonna Mayuko (Kyoka Suzuki), along with her friend Mina (a Japanese American played by Rinko Kikuchi). Daisuke and Mina really hit it off, much to the annoyance of Michio who keeps reminding that Daisuke is going to be married the following week. Gotta love the red Mustang though.
VAN HELSING (2004) – It was on television. The first time I rented it, my television was on the fritz so I watched the entire flick in different shades of blue. So, I was kind of happy to watch it in living color. Van Helsing is a monster hunter, hunting all those creatures from vampires and werewolves and befriending Frankenstein’s monster as well. Van Helsing is no Wolverine, but is portrayed by Hugh Jackman. In this flick Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula who has plans of his own to rid the world of humans.
I know, I know. Once again its near the end of the month and I finally got around to writing my movie reviews. But I watched so many movies again last month that it seemed best to split the posts into two parts again. Actually, I haven't gotten around to writing the reviews for the last nine or ten films (and don't even ask me about my book reviews yet!). Also, after tomorrow, I will be on vacation for a week, so there won't be any new posts at all for at least a week. I will try to post part 2 as soon as possible. Cheers and enjoy the show:
FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982) – Originally released “Mutant” but then again as “Forbidden World”, which is not to be confused with “Forbidden Planet” and is a low-budget sci-fi flick that seems to be a blend of “The Fly” and “Alien”. One of the freebies I received my friend. Being a low-budget flick, of course there is your nude scene with unknown actresses as well. And don't be taken in by the package as the silver looking stormtrooper is nothing more than a helper robot with a tiny part. Wait a minute, this is "Road Warrior" on the planet Xavier! I could not in good conscience recommend this to anybody.
BIZARRE FOODS WITH ANDREW ZIMMERN COLLECTION 2 (2007) – Zimmern is back with another batch of bizarre foods for us to ponder. First we get a highlight of the foods he’s eaten from the first season. On disc 1 of this collection he travels to Iceland for some rotten shark, St. Petersburg, Russia eating cured pork fat and pickled lamprey, then it’s off to his backyard in Minnesota for some deep-fried stuff and some other local fare, and ends with Guangzhou, China where almost anything that “swims, crawls, or flies is put on a plate”. Then for disc 2, we are introduced to Beijing, China eating stuff like cicadas, grasshoppers, and seahorse and also tries the penis of a donkey! Next, it’s off to Bolivia for some spuds you mash with your feet, then Chile for some bull testicles (we get to see the process of castration as well, eeuuwww). Followed by a trip to Delhi, India for dishes made with cow brains and lamb brains and whatnot. Ending disc 2 is a trip to Phuket, Thailand for squid jerky, stomach sauce, and forest lizards. As Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit!”
I FRATI ROSSI (1998) - My B-movie festival continues with another Lucio Fulci film, also known as [The Red Monks]. Rich dude who owns a large villa in a small village in Italy is charmed by local woman. But the house doesn’t really belong to him. It belongs to a secret sect of monks (who seems to dressed up like the KKK in red hoods. And there seems to be some secret chamber in the house and one strange lady who also takes care of the place and doesn’t seem to like the new bride. But the bride has a secret of her own.
CLASS OF NUKE’ EM HIGH (1986) – You definitely need to be really drunk or stoned out of your mind to enjoy one of these Troma Productions. There so bad, they’re not even funny. They should have just quit with the first “Toxic Avenger” movie. But then again, I wouldn’t mind playing in one of these low budget trash flicks. High school built near nuclear power plant has strange effect on its students. Honor students go punk, weed is grown and sold from dudes at the plant on contaminated soil. Some critter mutates into giant monster and goes on a killing spree. But if you couldn't get enough "Toxic Avenger" with Parts 2 and 3 then maybe this is the film for you. Really, really bad acting and totally mindless plot. If you want a funny and good weed movie, go rent yourself some "Cheech and Chong" flicks! Need I say more?
LO SQUARTATORE DI NEW YORK (1982) - The final DVD in my small Lucio Fulci Collection. This is also known as "The Ripper of New York". Low-budget horror of a serial killer in New York City who talks like Donald Duck! No, I didn’t make that part up, it really is part of the story. Wacko dude talks to his victims in a Donald Duck voice. Oh but the gruesome acts of violence and the way Lucio Fulci gets it on film is worth watching. Before I was given all these DVDs, I didn't even know who Lucio Fulci was but now that I do, I may have to seek out any other films that he produced. These flicks would have been great fodder for "Nightmare Theater" and I'm sure Elvira would have loved to have presented them as well. Gotta love the artwork on the Japanese packages though. They would make great posters!
LEGION OF THE DEAD (2001) – I thought this was going to be another low budget horror flick but I was wrong. This was one damn entertaining horror comedy from Germany! Released as “Zompire” in Japan. You know, zombie and vampires. Two guys get picked up by some psychopath who tells them he’s going to kill them, yet they end up in this small nowhere town where the locals seem to be a little strange. That’s because some major bad dude is out looking for souls to collect so he can have his own dark army and take over the world. Too funny!
ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLDS (1995) – This makes you long for the days of Linnea Quigly. Well, Michele Bauer does make an appearance in this flick but it’s so bad, it takes an effort to watch the entire thing. Bad acting, ridiculous dialogue, and those actresses really need to take more than just acting lessons. Three women join some magazine magnate as finalists for cover girl of whatever. One is determined to win by taking some weird supplements given to her by her plastic surgeon. But being so determined to win, she takes more than the recommended dosage. The next day, what d’ya know, she is now a 60 foot model! Other model wants to know her secret, finds the supplements and BAM! Now you have two 60 foot centerfolds and they're having a catfight in the middle of the city. But hey, Doc is on the job creating an antidote. Bleah!
PAUL BLART : MALL COP (2009) – I suppose it could have been funnier but it was fairly entertaining. Paul Blart wants to be a cop. Unfortunately, he failed the physical test. He is now a mall security guard. As Blart temporarily watches a video store, the mall has been taken over by a bunch of baddies who plan to rob all of the days sales. As the baddies shut down the mall (with Blart still messing around in the video store), it is now up to Blart to save the day! And to also save the babe that he currently has his eye on. It’s “Die Hard” for the underdog. But the funniest part of the film is some old dude singing his heart out to tunes by REO Speedwagon and Bon Jovi! The preview I saw also used Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" but it doesn't look like it was used in the movie itself. One-man "S.W.A.T." in a mall? But what really makes this flick fun is the girl who play Blart's daughter.
ウルトラミラクルラブストーリー [Ultra Miracle Love Story] (2009) - Okay, I only rented this because the director and all the actors in this film use the Aomori dialect (hometown of my wife). Weird story though. Released with the international English title of "Bare Essence of Life". Protagonist seems to be one can short of six-pack. Although he is a little weird, when a new day care teacher, Machiko sensei, from Tokyo comes to town, he immediately falls in love with her. Dude grows veggies to sell at the local market. One day, as he’s playin’ with some neighborhood kid, he accidently has pesticide poured over him. Which somehow makes him smarter. Now he pours pesticide on himself as a daily ritual. But one day, his heart just stops ticking. And yet, the very next day he’s out in his field growing his vegetables. He continues to pursue the Machiko sensei who says she will be with him which makes him really happy that he runs through the woods, gets mistaken for a bear by a hunter, gets and shot and dies for a second time. Yeah, I know, WTF? And to make things even more bizarre, in his last will and testament he leaves his brain to Machiko sensei who in the end feeds it to a bear! I really don’t get that ending!!
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991) – Lance Henrikson seems to be having a great time overacting as the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition. From the title alone, you should know that this is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name. Except I don’t think the original story had anything to do with the Spanish Inquisition. I don’t know, I could be wrong, I can’t remember. In this flick, good ole Torquemada thinks of many different kinds of ways to torture heretics and blasphemers to make them confess to their crimes. His latest endeavor was to creat the "pit and the pendulum" and watch his victims die a slow painful death while the victim is forced to watch the pendulum swing back and forth.
DINOSAUR ISLAND (1994) – The last of the low-budget films that was given me. To tell you the truth, I had already seen this one but how can you not like the Japanese title – “Jurassic Amazaness”? No good army grunts are being sent to prison but their plane crashes and the end up on a deserted island…or so they thought, because one of the guys swears he saw some awesome babe from the beach. The others of course think he’s probably had a bit of shock but they are in for another shock as well. The island if full of dinosaurs!! Or as the Japanese package distinctly puts it as a subtitle, “Big Busty Babes vs. Dinosaurs!” Being an island of just babes, they have no idea what sex is which the men are more than willing to teach them, of course. Gotta have some mindless sex before worrying about being fodder for hungry dinosaurs! Mindless fun!
陰日向に咲く陰日向に咲く 「Kagehinata ni Saku」 - This has the English title of “Flowers in the Shadows” and is based upon the bestselling book of the same name written by television talent and comedian Gekidan Hitori. The literal translation of the title would be “Blooming in the Shadows” but we won’t be picky. I didn’t read the book so wasn’t really familiar with the story. Apparently the book consists of five separate short stories and it seems the film tried to cram three of them into a two hour time. I couldn’t even tell you what the actual plot is, because I just don’t know. There was one guy being chased by loan sharks (played by Junichi Okada of the boy idol group V6), then there was some girl looking for a man who was her mother’s manzai partner, and….maybe I should just read the book instead.
JULIA & JULIA (2009) – Directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Based on the book that was based on the blog created by Julie Powell. The movie actually blends Julia Child’s “My Life in France” along with Julie Powell’s “Julie & Julia” and makes for a heartwarming movie. Of course we all know who Julia Child is (if you don’t, you best go look her up on Wikipedia or something). Julie Powell is just a normal working girl working at a government job she hates, but does have a loving husband. As Julie wants something more out of life, something that might make her life more interesting, hubbie suggests writing a blog or something. The movie is just a tad different from the book as the book doesn’t include bits from Julia Child’s memoir. Anyway, Powell has an epiphany. She will start a blog. She will make all 500+ recipes from Julia Child’s most popular cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within one year and write about on her blog. Cute and fun. Read the book as well. I must also seek out Julia Child’s “My Life in France” as well.
SURROGATES (2009) – Another movie based on a graphic novel (not to be confused with comics or video games). This isn’t a Marvel or DC production. It’s pre-Avatar and pre-I Robot. People can now purchase a surrogate to do all their biddings from shopping to travelling, while the controller never has to leave his/her house. But someone seems determined to destroy the surrogates by not only taking out the surrogate but their controller as well. Now long time cop and surrogate user Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) must set out in his own body to investigate the matter. Of course the makers of the surrogates say that their product is one of the safest things to use and that harm couldn't possibly come to any of their users.
X-MEN ORIGINS : WOLVERINE (2009) – Now, this of course is based on a Marvel character which has become a money-making franchise for Hollywood. As one who hasn’t read the original comics (there’s just too many storylines to follow), I couldn’t tell you which storyline this is based on or if it’s an original screenplay written specifically for the silver screen. This flick lets us know that Wolverine (Logan) had a brother named Victor and that they were born some 200 years ago as mutants and fought in a bunch of different wars. Having enough of that life, Logan quits, becomes a logger, falls in love with a local teacher and wants to settle down. Now, some colonel named Stryker is recruiting mutants as commandos and wants Logan to join him. When Logan refuses, Stryker sends Victor to change his mind and he won’t take no for an answer. Victor kills teacher and forces Logan’s hand. Then we get to learn how his mutant body becomes nearly invulnerable as he is forced to participate in some experiment. However, when Stryker says, “Erase his memory”, well, Logan doesn’t take too kindly to that.
PUSH (2009) – As I wrote on my Facebook page featuring extremely short movie reviews, I summed this one up to be an “X-Men without Costumes”. Really. Normal folk with some type of power. Dakota Fanning on growed up. Fanning sees the future, and she sees her death and the death of our hero Nick. Together, they’re supposed to look for some woman in Hong Kong who may have all the answers about a shadow government called “The Division”. Uh huh. Fanning’s character is supposed to be something like 12 but she looks like she’s in her teens (and is not as cute as she was in “Hide and Seek” or “Man on Fire” but that’s what growing up does I suppose). I am looking forward to seeing her in her next movie “The Runaways” as she will star as Cherie Currie! The rest like I say is X-Men without costumes. The two dudes who use their screeching voice to harm people were really annoying.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Wow, it's been 30 years since the release of Judas Priest's "British Steel" album. I remember going this tour. It was the first I concert that me and my brother went to. I bought him his ticket and said, "Let's go!". We are on the floor near the stage. But when Rob Halford was hitting those high notes on "The Green Manilishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown), my bro was holding his hands over his ears. Halford's voice was piercingly loud!
There was supposed to be some band called DC Cooper opening but they never showed up, or didn't play for some reason or another. But still, being the first concert I saw with my bro gives it a little sentimentality to me.
Anyway, the British rock mag, "Metal Hammer" decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of Priest's best selling albums by including a free tribute CD featuring all the songs on the album. Unfortunately, I was familiar with most of the bands featured and only new the name of one - "Disturbed".
So for you Priest fans (I think most of my readers know that I've been listening to hard rock and heavy metal since the 5th grade, so it won't surprise them), here is the track list:
01. FIREWIND - "Breaking the Law"
02. TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED - "Rapid Fire"
03. THAUROROD - "Metal Gods"
04. BLEED FROM WITHIN - "Grinder"
05. ARTHEMIS - "United"
06. DISTURBED - "Living After Midnight"
07. IMICUS - "You Don't Have to be Old to be Wise"
08. RISE TO REMAIN - "The Rage"
09. STEELWING - "Steeler"
Too bad I missed Priest and last year's "Loud Park", but hey, this year "Halford" is on the bill and I'm sure he won't disappoint his fans and play some Priest tunes as well!
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
One of our favorite noodle shops (which, in our opinion, also makes the best tasting cup noodles), Moukotanmen Nakamoto, has produced a ramen perfect for a hot Tokyo summer. It's a cold tsukemen (noodles that you dip in broth) called "Hiyashi Nikujanmen". Moukotanmen Nakamoto is known for their really spicy ramen, but it seems they have decided to limit the spicyness of this ramen.
私たちが好きなラーメン屋「蒙古タンメン中本」が夏の為にぴったりのラーメンをプロデュースしました。その名は“冷やし肉醤麺（にくじゃんめん）”のつけ麺である。蒙古タンメンの特徴は辛さ！でもこのラーメンは辛さおさえめになってます。When you open the package, you must take out the small bowl, which is for the broth. Add the meat, corn, and green onions to the broth. Then dip the noodles in the broth and eat.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Its kind of nice to know the Tobu Store is still in the same location. I doubt that it was open for 24 hours back then though. When I was with my mom we would stop in here before heading back to the base and she would buy me a triangular carton of milk coffee (you can't find those triangular packages anymore though!)
３８年前も駅の隣にTOBU Storeが居た。まだつぶれてないのはなんか良いな。多分当時は２４時間営業はなかったと思う。お母さんが買い物の帰り、このTOBU Storeで良くミルクコーヒーの三角パックを買ってくれた（今は三角パックなどはないですけどね。）
Back in my elementary days, there used to be a fountain in front of the station. Now it's been replaced by a police box and a public toilet.
Front of Narimasu Station almost 40 years ago / ４０年前位の成増駅前
I didn't think a photo of the public toilet would be so picturesque, but the statue of the little boy with rabbits was kind of cute as was the sign depicting some kind of song.
The entrance to the market street I still remember as well. The book store my mother always went to is no longer there though.
The Mos Burger shop in Narimasu has nothing to do with my childhood, but for your burger trivia, this is the 1st shop of the Japanese burger chain.
Narimasu Skip Mura / なりますスキップ村
I was chatting with the owners of this yakitori shop which they said they had been running for 41 years. And yes, they remembered Grant Heights and all the foreigners who used to come to this area. I believe this is the same place where my Mom would buy my brother and me some yakitori every now and then. They told me where the main gate of Grant Heights used to be, which was where I was headed next.
So this is what the entrance to Grant Heights looks like now. The whole area is one big park called Hikarigaoka Park.
It's a huge park surrounded by a number of apartment buildings.
"Prayer to Peace" monument / 「平和への祈り」
The far end of the park, who knows, it could have been where Tower School used to be located.
My bird watching effort, critter didn't move at all / バードウォッチングで見つけた鳥、全然動きはしませんでした
This looks like it could have been the road the passed in front of our house.
Sometime between 1969 and 1973 / １９６９年から１９７３年の間 （正しい年は分かりません）
Cherry Blossom season in the past / 昔の花見季節
Our house in Grant Heights, the one numbered 815 / グラントハイツで過ごした家 （８１５）