Chocolate (2008) Thai Martial Arts Film

I fell in love with the star and this film when I first watched it. Its a superior martial arts film and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Outrage (2010)

After a long absence from the Yakuza films that made his name, Beat Takeshi, aka Takeshi Kitano is back on form in this violent Yakuza film. Enjoy!

Skull Full of Kisses by Michael West: A Short Story Stradivarius

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Skull Full of Kisses is a ten story collection of Michael West’s short fiction. I can tell you know, that if you go to read this collection, you will find no two stories alike. Each and every one is different, unique and damned scary.

There is a short story in there for everyone.

Interested in Japanese culture? Fascinated by the Yakuza and Japanese Demons? Well Jiki will be right up your alley or basement, in this case.

West gives us glimpses of the horrific haven of Harmony, Indiana and a look at the Lovecraftian village of Colonial Bay; where you definitely don’t want to ask the question – What’s a nice girl like you, doing in a place like this?

There’s a great little place that’s just out of reach in the desert unless you take Einstein’s Slingshot; a one-way ride into the realm of nightmares and things that like human flesh.

If you ever dreamed of being an astronaut, you’ll want to avoid the story To Know How To See, which feels like a Twilight Zone episode with tinges of The Outer Limits.

While I’d love to set here and give little “teasing” clues about what is in the book and the themes of each story, I won’t.

What I will do is urge you to read these…quickly…while with friends…and in the daylight. If you attempt to read these alone, slowly, or at night, you might just have bad dreams. Or more correctly nightmares.

When Michael West tells a scary storynothing can be considered safe. Not even your loving girlfriend who never wants to let you go (For Her).

At the beginning of this post, I said that all the stories were scary. I will hold my hand up and  admit that this is a lie. I will not divulge the title of this particular tale. I’ll let you stumble upon as I did, by reading this collection. It is, I think, my favourite and no, it is not scary in the traditional sense, but is it very good.

West has a little “afterward” in his collection where he talks about what gave him the idea for each story and when it was originally published. It is a fascinating look into the mind of a horror writer. He warns about not reading this section before you read the stories as there could be spoilers hidden there.

I would listen to him. If you skip to the back, he might find out. And, I don’t know, you could wind up in one of his stories.

Now where I might find that entertaining (there’s nothing worse than one of those people who jump to the back of the book) if you are one of those people, I cannot think of a better punishment. Because as much as I love being scared by West’s scary denizens in his stories, I’d hate to have to deal with them.

Another great addition to the Michael West collection I already own and I will now wait (not so) patiently for his next offering of terror.

A real 5 out of 5 for creative and non-repetitive horror. If this collection was a musical instrument, it would be the Stradivarius of its peers; playing with a deeper and more resonant sound than other stories in the genre.

Read it.

Author Michael West and a fan.
Author Michael West and a fan.

Junk Shiryōgari (2000): Yakuza, Robbers and Zombies

Filmed in 1999 this schlocky bit of fun is a remake of a Japanese Mafia film called Score. Both were directed and written by Atsushi Muroga and both films pay tribute to the films Reservoir Dogs although Junk specifically pays tribute to Re-Animator and the original Dawn of the Dead. [Courtesy of Wikipedia]

The film is about a joint American/Japanese science experiment that deals with re-animating dead tissue. Due to a mistake, the experiment creates zombies. While the experiment is going on, a bunch of thieves rob a jewellery store that belongs to a Yakuza gang.

The thieves run for their lives being chased by the police and the Yakuza. The thieves take refuge in the building where the experiment has gone awry and pretty soon it’s every “man” for himself as the military, Yakuza and jewel thieves all fight zombies and each other.

Now this film is not going to win any awards for the acting. It is a real toss-up between the American General and the Japanese scientists English speaking as to who comes off worse. For my money it is the General hands down. I have never laughed so hard as during the scene where someone comes into the General’s office. His acting in the scene should have won a giant Raspberry.

But bad acting aside, it is one hell of a fun movie to watch and the main zombie (complete with white hair) is kind of scary and pretty much indestructible. Things do get a bit confusing in the middle and there could have been a few more Yakuza, but it all works out at the end.

The main has to do with the drug that the two governmental agencies have developed. The drug gets out of control with a bit of help by the first zombie. It then reanimates every dead thing it comes in contact with; creating an army of aggressive corpses.

There is a sort sub-plot about the scientist and the dead girl that they are experimenting on. She is either his fiancé (or rather was) or girlfriend and he’s hoping that the experiment will bring her back in a good way. But she comes back with scary white hair and one hell of an attitude that shows just what a bad idea this was.

The film is a little bit predictable in the ending, with the two characters that most people will pick as the obvious survivors. Until the end though the action is fast and furious and at times almost claustrophobic in places; it’s a great ride and the Yakuza with their bad-boy attitudes are quite funny.

If you are looking for a witty doppelgänger for Shaun of the Dead or the scariness of the Dawn of the Dead remake, you’ll be disappointed. But if you like your zombies wild, wacky and damn near unstoppable you’ll love Junk.

If you get a chance to see this you should. The atrocious acting by the American actor (who was obviously taken off of the local US Army base or the American Embassy) in his scenes with the scientist are worth the price of admission alone.

Not a “star” movie by any means, but a movie that is just so much fun to watch; you won’t forget it. Like the dead corpses that are inadvertently brought back to life (repeatedly) in the film, it will keep popping up in your head long after you see it.

 

Moon Child (2003) I’m Just a Teenage Vampire, Baby.

Cover of "Moon Child"

Directed by Takahisa Zeze (RaiyoDog Star),  Moon Child was co-written by Zeze, Gackt  and Kishû Izuchi. The film marks the film début of both Gackt and Hyde. It’s cast also features Tarô Yamamoto (Battle Royale, Get Up!), Ryo Ishibashi (The Grudge 2Audition) and  Susumu Terajima (Brother, Ichi the Killer).

Moon Child has two distinctions, it is the first and only feature film written by Gackt and it features not one, but two film début’s of Japanese rock stars, Gackt and Hyde. Although Gackt had been in a television short feature, Hero’s Hero in 2002.

When Moon Child opened it was savaged by critics. Even the usually more than fair Snowblood Apple, gave the film a very poor rating and pretty much disliked everything about the film.

While the film was mainly aimed at the two rock star,s fans, it is still a decent film and one that I felt had not been done before.

Moon Child opens with three children inadvertently robbing a Yakuza gang member. As the children start to die as a result, Kei (Hyde) comes to their rescue. Kei is a ‘teen’ vampire who one of the kids (Sho) had helped before the incident and Kei is returning the favour.

Several years pass and the Sho is now a young adult. His ‘gang’ comprises his brother Shinji (Susumu) and his child-hood friend Toshi (Yamamoto). These three cross paths with Son (Leehom Wang,) who is out to avenge his sister’s rape by another gang. The gang now numbers four with an ‘unofficial’ number of five with vampire Kei.

 

Given that the film opens in 2014 and that the Japanese economy has been decimated, the film could almost be prophetic. We are treated to three different time periods in the ‘gangs’ life. The first time period, deals with bonding and death.

In actual fact all three time periods deal with bonding issues and death. Not surprising when you consider that they all operate on the wrong side of the law.

The film deals with life, death, love and loyalty. Unfortunately, both Hyde and Gackt are quite obviously new to the acting field, it shows, but they do remarkably well for first timers. The other actors being more experienced to save the film to a degree. Yamamoto gives a heart wrenching performance as the ‘less than sharp’ friend who dies quite early in the film.

In fact my only complaint, was that we didn’t get to see enough of Yamamoto,  Ishibashi, or Terajima. The film tries very hard to emulate director John Woo‘s style of story telling. There are a lot of shoot-outs and wire work stunts. Unfortunately the limited budget does slightly affect these scenes.

Overall I really feel that Moon Child does not remotely deserve the hammering it initially received and still gets today. It was a sterling first effort by Gackt and Hyde. The story was different and despite the minimal characterisation of the main players you still grew attached to the main protagonists.

So despite the poor reception and the poor reviews I think that this film is a must-see. Especially is you are a Gackt or Hyde fan. To be honest the main reason I watched the film was to see Tarô Yamamoto. I had just fallen in love with his performance  in Battle Royale. I wanted to see something else he had done.

I can think of no other film that is a Gangster/Vampire film. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. The fact that they have used this as the basis of their film is commendable. That they haven’t made the film only about that is admirable. You could really call Moon Child a ‘coming of age’ film. We are allowed to see the character’s grow-up and change as and when it is necessary.

Kei the vampire is easily the films most tragic character. Trapped in a Peter Pan world not of his choosing, his world is a bit more simplistic than that of his comrades. The other members of the gang must deal, with death, revenge, betrayal and heartbreak.

But don’t watch the film expecting to see a ‘Count Dracula’ type film. The film is not about Kei. It is about how Kei sees the gang and his interaction with it.

I guess you could say it is a human interest film about a vampire and his friends.

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