Saturday, June 20, 2009

Return of the Street Fighter(1974)

The first time I watched the original Street Fighter, which wasn't really that long ago, I said to myself, "How the fuck did I pass up something QT suggested to me so long ago?" Being the fan of Hong Kong cinema that I am, I felt that I had committed a crime against humanity by not exposing myself to Sonny Chiba years ago. Not only did this movie have all the best elements of HK Kung-FU (action,revenge,ridiculousness,ect)it also had some of my most prized elements of exploitation cinema, like gore and a soundtrack that could put a blaxploitation piece to shame. From then on I have out after as many Sonny Chiba movies, even going all the way back to the Golden Bat. For some reason, I wanted to hold out on watching Return of the Street Fighter. I think, deep down ,I know that sequels hardly ever hold a candle to the original and I didn't want to have my image of Terry Tsurugi knocked down off the pedestal I put him on.

Well I finally watched it, and Tsurugi is still on the pedestal, but grappling by his fingers.

The plot is pretty close to the original and I can be summed up in under a paragraph. Terry gets hired for a job. Terry completes job flawlessly with maximum damage. Said contractors Terry to do another job. Terry refuses for moral reasons. Terry is pursued by said contractors aka mafia-fronted corporation. Terry almost dies, comes back with a vengeance, and kicks the living shit out of everyone. Fin.

It sounds like it could be as awesome as the original, but there were several points I would like to make as to why it wasn't.

1.Sidekick: During the original, we had the bumbling sidekick, who helped liven up the serious of Chiba's straight guy with comedic elements. It's unfortunate that character got killed, because he was far better than the hip, young female annoyance that played the part in this flick. Not only was she not funny, but whoever voiced the dub-over needs to have a fuckin' hole poke into her neck with a two-fingered death move. They should have brought back a new bumbling, fat man.

2.Flahbacks: If your going to give me arty, B+W flashbacks, keep them to a couple seconds here and there. There is really no reason to flashback entire action sequences from the first movie. At times, I felt it was going to get as bad as The Hills Have Eyes 2, which is one of the biggest atrocities in horror. If I wanted long flashbacks, I would drop a large some of money on a sheet of Purple Jesus, but I won't, so keep the flashbacks to a minimum.

3.Regurgitated Villains: Did they really need to bring back the criminal from the first movie? Seriously, if your throat gets ripped out by Sonny Chiba, you should be dead forever. No technological advancement can bring you back from that back in 1974. It probably couldn't even be done today. I don't care how much money you have. No way, No How!!!

4:Shoddy camera work: I'm assuming Michael J. Fox was not the cameraman, but if he was, he would have problem done a better job. There is no reason to shake the camera so much during action sequences, it doesn't add to the excitement of a karate fight. That shit might work for a giant monster attack (not!!)but it just confuses the action sequences in a martial arts flick.

Despite starting out with the negative aspects of the movie, I didn't hate it. There was actually enough awesomeness in it to keep me awake and enjoying it. First off, Sonny Chiba was in it and he kicks ass. By itself, that's all I really need to enjoy the movie. Despite the camera work, some of the fight sequences were fucking amazing. The spa episode was bar far my favorite seconded by the police station. And the movie does try to stay true to the first in keeping with the level of grotesque kills. I learned that Chiba's hits WILL cause eyes to leave the skull.

I would recommend Return of the Street Fighter for any martial arts or Sonny Chiba fans. If you have seen and loved the original, don't go into it expecting the same level of greatness, but don't discount it either. It is still an entertaining action movie.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bride is nothing without Meiko Kaji

Quentin Tarantino. For some the name conjures images of gangsters, gimps, afros, kung-fu, and the Twist. A brilliant storyteller who pays homage to the forgotten, grindhouse cinema he grew up on in every movie is has made. Everything from blaxploitation to spaghetti westerns has been emulated in one or more of Tarantino’s movies. To many, Tarantino’s movies have helped open up the b-movie floodgates and exposed us to many movies that might have fallen through the cracks. If it wasn’t for Tarantino, would actors like Pam Greer and Sonny Chiba have the careers and cult followings they do today? I doubt it, but who am I to give an opinion? I know if it wasn’t for QT, I would never have had the urge to watch Return of the Street Fighter like I will be doing tonight. Thank you Tarantino!!!

For others though, the mere mention of the name brings violent outbursts and feelings of deep hatred. Yes folks, this is the other side of the genre-cinema-fan coin. Those who curse Tarantino for being a rip-off artist, a charlatan, and a hack. Those who claim Tarantino doesn’t have an original bone in his body. An Exploiter of Exploitation if you will. It seems to have become quite fashionable to have this approach these days. I can understand the opinion for those old enough to have lived and experienced the 42nd Street days. But if you happen to be my age or younger, I kinda look at it as biting the hand that feeds you.

Obviously, I am of the first opinion, but this blog isn’t about licking Tarantino’s asshole. I don’t even know if this article is going to do QT justice. In fact it might fuel the fire of Team Hater.

This article, my friends, is about the Bride. Rather, the archetype the the Bride is based on. Yes, we all know of Lady Snowblood and how some of the scenes in Kill Bill are almost filmed shot-for-shot, or so it seems. It happens to be my opinion, as powerful as such a thing is, that the character of the bride wasn’t based exclusively on Lady Snowblood, but more on the stereotypical roles played by the actress who portrayed Snowblood, Meiko Kaji.

Anybody who is familiar with the Pinky Violence genre will know the name Meiko Kaji by instinct. During the 70’s, she was the poster girl for all the embodied “Bad Ass” in Japanese cinema. In many a movie during this time, she was the perfect instrument in the name of feminine revenge. Whether she played a gang girl, a prisoner, or a murderous geisha…it ended in a bloodbath most of the time. Meiko Kaji was also quite the pop star during her reigning period as screen queen. QT even included one of her songs in the OST for Kill Bill(hmmm???).

So now I present a series of videos to you that prove, to me, the the Bride was based less on a character and more an amalgamation of characters all played by the same person. Granted, I could just be completely wrong and this is more about exposing, to the world, my love for Meiko Kaji. Either way you look at it, Meiko Kaji is incredibly nice to look at, especially when she is kicking ass.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My undying love for Ultraman

If you have followed my blog for the last 6 months, you will know that I have long been a fan of Japanese cinema. I would have to say I have been a fan for about 30 years. That’s right, 30 fuckin’ years!! And I’m only 35. With many o my generation, my first exposure to Japanese cinema came to me on Saturday afternoon with what many TV stations referred to as the “Creature Double Feature”. This earliest exposure came in the form of a gargantuan lizard with a penchant for breathing fire and destroying Tokyo. That’s right kids…Muthafuckin’ Godzilla, or as I like to refer to him in the proper manner these days, Gojira! Back in the day, there was nothing cooler than watching grown men in monster costumes duke it out over model cities. As a child I didn’t have the jaded outlook of an adult, as I do now, so Gojilla and Mothra were just as real as ghosts and UFO’s. Over time, I would realize the socio-political aspects that went along with the Gojira mythology, and would come to enjoy the same movies of my youth with a different appreciation.

During the same period of my life, I also encountered a television show the would further exploit my budding love for Japanese cinema/tokusatsu, and the name of this TV show is Ultraman. As a friendless first-grader attending a new school in Oklahoma City, I found Ultraman to be a step above Gojira for a number of reasons.

First off, by the time I was 7 or 8 I had stopped believing giant monsters were real, but robots and aliens held a new place in my heart. To my naïve eyes, Ultraman was both a robot AND an alien. Completely more believable to someone who had recently made the jump from ghost stories to Jules Verne. Aliens are still believable to me almost 30 years later, while my obsession with cryptozoology has long passed.

Secondly, Ultraman was a good guy. This is long before I found a taste for the cinematic anti-hero as I do now. Gojira was never really anything more than a destructive force of nature surviving on a reptilian core. The concept of good vs. evil could never apply to him. I never really understood why at the time, but good vs. evil are very important concepts to a kid obsessed with sci-fi and comic books. Ultraman was truly good. He never destroyed Tokyo and killed countless innocents, as Gojira had. Ultraman protected humanity, never disregarding it as a lesser animal as Gojira did most of the time. Again, Ultraman wins.

Last, and perhaps the most important reason as to why Ultraman won out over Gojira…regularity. Gojira movies were on TV four times a month at the most. Ultraman, on the other hand, was given to me 5 times a week, which is far superior to 4 times a month. Even though the mid-60’s Ultraman available in the USA only consisted of 38 episodes, it was still on every day before school.. To a 7 year old, quantity is much more important over quality.

I have recently started watching the Ultraman series again, over 20 years later since last I had seen most of the episodes. I have to say, like watching Gojira, it is still entertaining, but on a different level. Instead of each episode being all about the Kaiju battle, I find much more interest in the story. Subject matter such as death and political corruption are not things you would find to be existent in children’s programming of today. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. If I wanted to point out all the adult subject matter I’ve come across, I would have to write a separate review for each and every episode. Maybe in the future when I have a blog devoted to nothing but Ultraman, but I don’t have the time for that right now. Instead, I will just watch the episodes of my past and enjoy them from a whole new perspective.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Japanese Film Blogathon June 15-21

As many of you who read the cinematic rantings here know, I love Japanese film. I tend to focus on film from the 60's and 70's but occasionally wander into the other areas depending on the director and style. Starting Monday, I, and several other bloggers will be entering a Japanese cinema Blogathon. This means you will find at least a dozen or so film dorks such as myself writing as much about the films from The Land of The Rising Sun as we can. For me. I'm going to try for one review a day, or at least some kind of write-up. It will not only test my boundaries as a movie reviewer, something I've been neglecting heavily as of late, but my ability to spend the time watching at least one movie a day. Again, something else I've been having a hard time doing over the last couple of months. I will try to stay as focused as I can be, while still delivering as much excellent content as I, the CdT Master, can put out. I'm sure it will be a challenge with most of us. But I think the end result will be more fun than we intend it to be.

So stayed tuned starting Monday. This Blogathon will probably be more triumphant than we all intend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sound on Sight and Carradine the Man

10 days into the month and I give you my first post, aren't I the fuckin' slacker!?! Yeah well, the weather is nice so I haven't been writing as much as I used to, but that will all hopefully change. Recently, I was given the opportunity to write for Sound on Sight and will be contributing to there awesome website as much as possible writing horror/genre film news and quite possibly movie reviews. I had been suffering from writer's block over the last month or so, but with the death of David Carradine last week, I found my chance to write about it. Let's just hope I can keep this roll going. The article I wrote can be found here. I wanted to write a eulogy for CdT(this site, asshole!), but I have come to feel I can pay the man more respect by enjoying and reviewing his contributions to the world of cinema, which you will hopefully see over the next couple of weeks.

So check out Sound on Sight. Read the reviews, listen to the podcast, feel the power of pure awesomeness. Sound on Sight are also part of the Pop Syndicate family, so feel free to stroll over there and check out the plethora of greatness they have to offer.