Posted tagged ‘miike takashi’

Film Review: 13 Assassins (2010)

October 19, 2011

My ‘ssassin Boys

by Ender’s Girl

(Sorry for the lame-o title-o, but a pun on the hit 2001 K-romcom My Sassy Girl was the best I could come up with – though I know not everyone can relate. My apologies.)


The Cast:
Yakusho Koji, Yamada Takayuki, Iseya Yusuke, Matsukata Hiroki, Inagaki Goro, Ihara Tsuyoshi, Sawamura Ikki, Furuta Arata, Takaoka Sousuke, Rokkaku Seiji, Matsumoto Koshiro, Namioka Kazuki, Kondo Koen, Ishigaki Yuma, Kubota Masataka, Ichimura Masachika

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho & Sedic International, 2010

In a Nutshell:
A crack team of 13 samurai battles the odds – and an army of 200 elite guardsmen – in a suicide mission to dispatch an evil lord in late-Edo Japan.

(SpoilLert: Don’t worry, not saying who dies – or lives – in the end!)

“A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in so we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war.”

– Shimada Kambei in Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)

With 13 Assassins, master provoc-auteur Miike Takashi takes on a revitalized genre that, in recent years, has become the playground of veteran filmmakers like Yamada Yoji who favor quieter, deconstructed re-imaginings of samurai slumming it in the relatively bloodless years of the Pax Tokugawa.

In sharp contrast to Miike’s 2010 period opus (and, uh, 183,034th career feature to date lol), Yamada Yoji jidaigeki (Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade) are leisurely explorations of the minutiae of Japanese feudal society – samurai pass their time running office errands, dabbling in a trade, or perhaps, on more exciting days, refereeing (or figuring in) a domestic spat or two. In this era of peace, nobody has time to whinge about not having any civil wars to fight, or foreign armies to repel, or rival daimyo to vanquish (the daily grind of life is a battle in itself). And instead of traditional heroes and villains, Yamada Yoji protagonists are but regular blokes, and the antagonists usually snooty in-laws or petty, opportunistic bureaucrats.

Now enter Miike Takashi’s World, where: “If it ain’t about the killin’, then it ain’t worth filmin’!!!” His samurai and aristos are just. too. cool to trouble themselves with such mind-numbing mundanities; they loaf through the hated peacetime torpor with a bad case of the blahs, willing themselves back to the good ol’ pre-shogunate g(l)ory days of barbarism and bloodshed, when everyone and everything went by the credo “Fight-o ergo sum.” Robbed of their self-validating license to do violence, they longingly finger their idle swords while dreaming of honor and sacrifice, and nursing death wishes of an epic scale to match their own aspirations to immortality.

Goro Gone Bad, after the jump! Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

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Movie Smackdown (Part 1): Crows Zero (2007 & 2009) vs. Volcano High (2001)

September 24, 2010

Battlefield High School

Part One: Counting Crows, Feuding Foes

by Ender’s Girl

A murder of Crows, a violent eruption of teen superpowers… and oh yes, those epic dogfights in the pelting rain and churning mud. Get a taste of high school action, J- and K-style.

Love is a battlefield, as Pat Benatar lustily declared in her 1983 song. Planet Earth is one too, according to John Travolta’s alien Psychlo character from his 2000 intergalactic flop.

Aaaand… so is high school, apparently – a premise that has spawned an entire genre of teen action comedy/dramedy on screens big and small. You need only transplant the barroom brawling and gangsta-mongering from mainstream action flicks into the tamer, more innocuous environs of an educational institution, and voila! – Battlefield High School.

The fact that these stories are set on a high school campus lends a patina of harmlessness to the violent scenarios — even though the plot actually has less to do with academics than with a bunch of overgrown kids fond of rearranging each others’ faces and dislocating random body parts as their after-school routine. To describe these types of productions (most rating not lower than PG-15 or its equivalent) as being “about high school life” is like saying that Titanic was about the, um, iceberg. The school setting isn’t really the point; films like these get made so that teen audiences — ah, those intense little creatures! — can live out their aggressive, hormone-fueled fantasies that continually chafe (futilely, it seems to them) against the carefully imposed strictures of a traditionalistic, “adults rule” society.

Korean director Kim Tae-gyun and Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi tender two alternate interpretations of this proposition with Volcano High and the Crows Zeros, respectively — all diverting, popcorn-friendly fare, but each bearing the unique and heavily stylized stamp of its maker.

Crows Zero & Crows Zero II

The Cast:
Oguri Shun, Yamada Takayuki, Yabe Kyosuke, Kiritani Kenta, Takaoka Sousuke, Kaneko Nobuaki, Miura Haruma

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho Company, 2007 & 2009

In a Nutshell:
Senior toughie Takiya Genji transfers to the notoriously lawless Suzuran All-Boys’ High School. His mission? To vanquish the rival student gangs one by one and earn the title of Suzuran’s top dog – er, crow – and thus prove to his yakuza boss of a father that he has what it takes to inherit the family business. The biggest obstacle to Genji’s mission happens to be Suzuran’s strongest and most dangerous punk Serizawa Tamao and his head-bashing posse of high school hoods.

(SpoilLert: Moderately spoilery.)

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

Vid Clip: Thirteen Assassins trailer (d. Miike Takashi, 2010)

September 3, 2010

Unlucky Them, Lucky Us!

by Ender’s Girl

Prolific cult director Miike Takashi’s remake of Kudo Eiichi’s 1963 chanbara classic Juusan-nin no Shikaku/Thirteen Assassins is currently vying for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, facing stiff competition from a diverse gallery of auteurs ranging from the acclaimed to the quirky to the downright notorious (uh, Vincent Gallo the Brown Bunny Man, anyone? YUCK). The VIFF runs from Sept. 1-11, 2010.

Set in the late Edo Period, the story of Thirteen Assassins is said to be loosely grounded in history: a covert samurai strike team carefully lays an ambush in a remote mountain village. The target? An evil maharajah — er, noble who will be traversing the nearby mountain pass with his retinue — and this being the time of the Shogunate, “retinue” roughly translates to “a small army of badass bodyguards.” It is a worthy plan, but will the stealth and cunning of these doughty warriors prevail against the sheer numbers of their foes? Well, Japan will find out when the film opens Sept. 25th.

Trailer (and some other stuff) after the jump!