• Takashi Miike's greatest movies

    by kluseba | created - 57 minutes ago | updated - 3 seconds ago | Public 

    I discovered my first Takashi Miike movie ten years ago at the tender age of twenty years. As time went by, this director's vibrant, expressive and experimental style has become my favourite. While it was difficult to find his movies a decade ago, things have improved thanks to globalization. I have now watched twenty-six of his movies and continue to discover new films every now and then. Please take a look at this list of my favourite Takashi Miike movies, ranked from best to worst. Give this unique director a chance!

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    Blade of the Immortal
     
     

    1. Blade of the Immortal (2017)

    18A | 140 min | Action, Drama

      6,8
     
      10
     
    72 Metascore

    Cursed with a life of immortality, a samurai is tasked by a young girl to help avenge the death of her father. Based on the manga series by Hiroaki Samura.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Takuya KimuraHana SugisakiSôta FukushiHayato Ichihara

    Votes: 14 592 | Gross: $0.15M

     
     

    98% - This dynamic action movie with its unique characters, stunning locations and surprising plot based upon a popular manga is as epic as it gets.

    Audition
     
     

    2. Audition (1999)

    16 | 115 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

      7,2
     
      9
     
    69 Metascore

    A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ryo IshibashiEihi ShiinaTetsu SawakiJun Kunimura

    Votes: 70 872


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    94% - This movie starts as a fragile drama that slowly turns into a gloomy mystery thriller and ends as brutal horror film.

    Les affranchis de Shinjuku
     
     

    3. Les affranchis de Shinjuku (1995)

    16+ | 100 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

      6,7
     
      9

    Amidst a Chinese and Japanese mafia war, a lawyer for the Chinese mob finds a rift forming between him and his corrupt police office brother.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Kippei ShînaTomorô TaguchiTakeshi CaesarRen Osugi

    Votes: 2 020


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    93% - The director's breakthrough movie that defined his career convinces with complex characters, revolting decadence and some food for thought.

    Gozu
     
     

    4. Gozu (2003)

    16 | 129 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

      7
     
      9
     
    58 Metascore

    A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Yûta SoneKimika YoshinoShôhei HinoKeiko Tomita

    Votes: 11 047 | Gross: $0.05M


     
     
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    92% - This highly experimental and at times surreal gangster movie pushes its genre boundaries in an astonishing way.

    Kamisama no iu tôri
     
     

    5. Kamisama no iu tôri (2014)

    117 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

      6,5
     
      9

    A group of high school students are forced to play a game of death without knowing who, why or how.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ryûnosuke KamikiLily FrankySôta FukushiShôta Sometani

    Votes: 4 351

     
     

    89% - This dystopian science-fiction movie based upon a manga doesn't only offer stunning special effects but also some food of thought.

    Ichi the Killer
     
     

    6. Ichi the Killer (2001)

    18 | 129 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

      7
     
      8
     
    55 Metascore

    As sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara searches for his missing boss he comes across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of achieving.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Tadanobu AsanoNao OhmoriShin'ya TsukamotoPaulyn Sun

    Votes: 51 517 | Gross: $0.02M


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    84% - This satirical, overwhelming and brutal gangster movie might be Takashi Miike's roughest film to watch.

    Yakuza Apocalypse
     
     

    7. Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)

    R | 115 min | Action, Comedy, Horror

      5,5
     
      8
     
    62 Metascore

    In the ruthless underground world of the yakuza, no one is more legendary than boss Kamiura. Rumored to be invincible, the truth is he is a vampire-a bloodsucking yakuza vampire boss! Among... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Hayato IchiharaRiko NarumiShô AoyagiKiyohiko Shibukawa

    Votes: 3 711


     
     
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    83% - This unpredictable, satirical and overwhelming gangster movie includes comedy, drama and science-fiction events that make for an unforgettable ride.

    Family 2
     
     

    8. Family 2 (2001 Video)

    80 min | Crime, Drama

      5,3
     
      8

    In this continuation of "Family", it is discovered that the one who gave the order to assassinate the Mitsumikai Boss is the one and only Boss of the Japan Mafia: Mr. Nishiwaki. Hideshi ... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ken'ichi EndôKôjirô HongôNaoko InoueKôichi Iwaki

    Votes: 39

     
     

    82% - This complex gangster movie in two parts convinces with a detailed story line that is intellectually challenging and visually impressive. The unforgettable ending offers much room for interpretation.

    Dead or Alive 3
     
     

    9. Dead or Alive 3 (2002)

    Tous publics | 89 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

      5,7
     
      8
     
    34 Metascore

    The ace cop of a totalitarian police force and a drifting android play their parts in a post-apocalyptic society. They are destined to fight. Their encounter will change them forever.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Shô AikawaMaria ChenRichard ChenJason Chu

    Votes: 2 313


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    81% - This quirky science-fiction movie has a plot that is so strange that it gets more and more addicting as the film progresses.

    Shield of Straw
     
     

    10. Shield of Straw (2013)

    117 min | Thriller

      6,2
     
      8
     
    35 Metascore

    A team of cops must protect an accused killer with a billion-yen bounty on his head.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Takao OsawaNanako MatsushimaGorô KishitaniMasatô Ibu

    Votes: 2 344

     
     

    80% - This gritty, realistic and sinister action-thriller follows a cop who must protect a despicable murderer with a bounty on his head.

    Family
     
     

    11. Family (II) (2001)

    111 min | Action, Crime

      5,6
     
      8

    When the mobster Iwaida Nishikawi is executed by the hit man Takeshi, his family chases the killer. Takeshi's brothers Takashi and Hideshi Miwa try to find Takeshi, who is hidden with the ... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ken'ichi EndôKôjirô HongôNaoko InoueKôichi Iwaki

    Votes: 246


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    79% - This complex gangster movie in two parts convinces with a detailed story line that is intellectually challenging and visually impressive.

    Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha
     
     

    12. Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999)

    16 | 105 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

      6,8
     
      8
     
    49 Metascore

    A yakuza of Chinese descent and a Japanese cop each wage their own war against the Japanese mafia. But they are destined to meet. Their encounter will change the world.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Shô AikawaRiki TakeuchiRenji IshibashiHitoshi Ozawa

    Votes: 7 421 | Gross: $0.00M


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    78% - This quirky gangster movies comes around with an unforgettablle ending that is worth the wait.

    Terraformars
     
     

    13. Terraformars (2016)

    108 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

      4,7
     
      8

    In an attempt to colonize Mars, 21st century scientists seed the planet with algae to absorb sun light and purify the atmosphere, and cockroaches who in turn spread the algae as they feed. ... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Rinko KikuchiRila FukushimaKane KosugiTakayuki Yamada

    Votes: 1 839


     
     
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    76% - This underrated science-fiction film based upon a manga got terrible reviews but this movie is thoroughly entertaining and surprising despite its weak special effects.

    Rainy Dog
     
     

    14. Rainy Dog (1997)

    95 min | Crime, Drama

      7,1
     
      7

    A Japanese assassin stranded in Taiwan must take work from a local crime boss to make ends meet when suddenly a woman from his past delivers a son to him.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Shô AikawaLi Wei ChangShih ChangXianmei Chen

    Votes: 2 270


     
     
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    74% - This calm drama set in Taiwan and centered around a lonely gangster, his mute son and a desperate prostitute takes some time to grow but might be one of the director's most memorable films.

    Shin Jingi no Hakaba
     
     

    15. Shin Jingi no Hakaba (2002)

    13+ | 131 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

      7
     
      7

    A barkeeper saves a Yakuza boss' life and thus makes his way up in the organization. However his fear of nothing soon causes problems.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Ryo AmamiyaNarimi ArimoriYoshiyuki DaichiHirotarô Honda

    Votes: 1 821


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    73% - This remake of one of the greatest gangster movies ever released doesn't reach the quality of the original film due to some lengths but is nevertheless a bleak character study that will haunt you for a while.

    First Love, le dernier Yakuza
     
     

    16. First Love, le dernier Yakuza (2019)

    12 | 108 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

      6,8
     
      7
     
    77 Metascore

    A young boxer and a call girl get caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme over the course of one night in Tokyo.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: BeckyBengalMasayuki DeaiMami Fujioka

    Votes: 4 256

     
     

    72% - This vibrant Yakuza film convinces with quirky characters even though it certainly doesn't reinvent the genre and is at times too predictable.

    Dead or Alive 2
     
     

    17. Dead or Alive 2 (2000)

    12 | 97 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

      6,8
     
      7

    Two contract killers cross paths in the middle of the same job and realize they are childhood friends.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Shô AikawaRiki TakeuchiNoriko AotaEdison Chen

    Votes: 3 457


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    71% - This surprisingly quiet movie that takes some time to grow shows the conflicts, downsides and fates of a gangster career and offers some food for thought.

    13 assassins
     
     

    18. 13 assassins (2010)

    Tous publics | 141 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

      7,6
     
      7
     
    84 Metascore

    A group of assassins come together for a suicide mission to kill an evil lord.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Kôji YakushoTakayuki YamadaYûsuke IseyaIkki Sawamura

    Votes: 61 089 | Gross: $0.80M


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    70% - This remake of an influential sword fighting movie takes the first half to introduce the different characters and finishes with some of the most intense battles ever shown in cinema.

    Toppuu! Minipato tai - Aikyacchi Jankushon
     
     

    19. Toppuu! Minipato tai - Aikyacchi Jankushon (1991 Video)

    93 min | Action, Crime

      5,4
     
      7

    A comedy about a daring policewoman in leotards, who defeats criminals using gymnastics.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Aiko AsanoMinako FujimotoDaisuke NagakuraHiroko Nakajima

    Votes: 67

     
     

    69% - This experimental mixture of action, comedy and thriller elements with four quirky female lead characters was the second movie made by Takashi Miike but the first to be officially released.

    Blues Harp
     
     

    20. Blues Harp (1998)

    107 min | Crime, Drama, Music

      7
     
      7

    Ambitious yakuza Kenji befriends harmonica-playing bartender Chuji, who moonlights as a part-time drug-dealer for the opposing gang. Their friendship is threatened by Kenji's plans for ... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Hiroyuki IkeuchiSeiichi TanabeSaori SekinoMickey Curtis

    Votes: 996

     
     

    68% - This interesting mixture of a drama and a thriller focuses on the dangerous friendship between a bartender and a gangster.

    Redi hantaa: Koroshi no pureryuudo
     
     

    21. Redi hantaa: Koroshi no pureryuudo (1991 Video)

    78 min | Action

      5,9
     
      7

    Two care takers are obliged to tend to a child and take care of him overnight when his mother fails to collect him at the end of the day. It turns out to be a more difficult task than first... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Yoshie KashiwabaraNaomi MorinagaKôsuke MoritaIsao Murata

    Votes: 61

     
     

    67% - This action thriller made on a shoestring budget was the first movie directed by Takashi Miike and already convinces with fluid storytelling and an interesting lead character.

    Gyakuten saiban
     
     

    22. Gyakuten saiban (2012)

    135 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

      6,6
     
      7

    This movie is based on the second and fourth cases in the popular video game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The plot follows Phoenix Wright, a novice lawyer, who faces off against expert ... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Hiroki NarimiyaTakumi SaitohMirei KiritaniAkiyoshi Nakao

    Votes: 2 589

     
     

    66% - This quirky courtroom drama based upon a manga is surprisingly grounded and sympathetic as it shows the director experimenting with a new approach and genre.

    Shinjuku autoroo
     
     

    23. Shinjuku autoroo (1994 Video)

    94 min

      6,4
     
      6

    Shoichi Yomi spends ten years in a coma after a gang fight in Hiroshima. After waking up he immediately sets off to meet up with his yakuza brother Eto in Shinjuku. But it doesn't take long... See full summary »

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: HakuryûYumi IoriRuby MorenoKiyoshi Nakajoe

    Votes: 104

     
     

    64% - This relentless action movie follows a criminal outcast who plans on organizing some changes in his life after having spent ten years in a coma in prison.

    La loi de la rue
     
     

    24. La loi de la rue (1999)

    105 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

      6,9
     
      6

    A group of Chinese youths living in Japan struggle to make their way in life and eventually find trouble with the local crime syndicate.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Kazuki KitamuraTomorô TaguchiDan LiNaoto Takenaka

    Votes: 1 388


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    63% - Ley Lines is rather a drama than a gangster movie as it follows the lives of social outcasts who try to make their dreams come true by any means necessary.

    Sukiyaki Western Django
     
     

    25. Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

    18A | 121 min | Action, Western

      6,2
     
      5
     
    55 Metascore

    A nameless gunfighter arrives in a town ripped apart by rival gangs and, though courted by both to join, chooses his own path.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Hideaki ItôKôichi SatôQuentin TarantinoMasanobu Andô

    Votes: 14 533 | Gross: $0.05M


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    50% - This quirky western sees Takashi Miike exploring yet another genre but the film remains an overall rather superficial tribute to the classic movies of the fifties and sixties.

    Full Metal gokudô
     
     

    26. Full Metal gokudô (1997 Video)

    18+ | 102 min | Comedy, Crime, Sci-Fi

      6
     
      4

    An inexperienced gangster is killed alongside his strong, respected boss and awakens to find a mad scientist has given him a new body made partly of his boss and partly of indestructible bionics.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Tsuyoshi UjikiTomorô TaguchiTakeshi CaesarKazuki Kitamura

    Votes: 1 718


     
     
    Available on Amazon
     

    40% - This violent science-fiction gangster potpourri was made on a shoestring budget and might be too experimental for its own good.

    Crows Zero II
     
     

    27. Crows Zero II (2009)

    13+ | 133 min | Action

      7,3
     
      3

    Tension escalates and violence ensues when a young student unwittingly breaks a non-aggression pact between two rival high schools.

    Director: Takashi Miike | Stars: Shun OguriKyôsuke YabeMeisa KurokiNobuaki Kaneko

    Votes: 4 378

     
     

    33% - This brutal gangster movie based upon two rival high schools overstays its welcome, lacks depth and features too many characters.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    Over the past few weeks, I have watched five quite outstanding Japanese movies released between 1955 and 1975. They have all been released by Arrow Films with plenty of excellent bonus material. In a time when traveling has become difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cinematic world helps us discovering new cultures, landscapes and languages. I have always been interested in Japanese cinema since my early childhood but copies have always been hard to find in the Western world. I'm grateful that this has gradually been changing in a globalized environment and it's particularly interesting to discover some cinematic masterpieces of the past that have never been shown or released in Canada. These movies might be old but they are certainly everything but boring. Please read my reviews about the different sword fight, gangster and arthouse movies below. 

    Chiyari Fuji / Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (1955) - Intelligent drama that criticizes social conventions in feudal Japan - 7/10 

    Chiyari Fuji / Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (1955)

    Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is a chanbara film which means a sword fighting movie. Released sixty-five years ago as we speak, it has become one of the most influential films of its genre even though it has been overlooked by audiences from abroad for much too long. This movie has a particular vibe since the sword fighting only occurs during the last ten minutes of the film which makes for a surprisingly brutal finale.

    Before this unexpected conclusion, this movie could rather be categorized as a drama that quietly and cleverly criticizes social conventions and restraints. The film follows a group of people who travel from the country side to Edo. We meet a desperate father who sees no other solution to pay his depts than selling his daughter into prostitution. There is a traveling single mother and her daughter who earn a very modest living by dancing and singing at festivals. The film introduces a master who likes to socialize with his servants instead of keeping his distance. All these characters and events are connected to the protagonist of the movie who is a spear carrier with a remarkable sense of duty. He wants to help people in need, encourage those around him and even develops a tender romantic relationship on his journey. Just as the movie seems to conclude with a happy ending, a dramatic turn of events leaves the audience on a most sinister impression.

    This intelligent movie convinces in many departments. The characters are profound, interesting and diversified. The numerous side stories are sometimes serious, sometimes humorous but always entertaining. The locations varying from busy town streets over traditional inns to beautiful country roads bring traditional Japan to life in an authentic manner. The camera work is calm and careful and rather observing than flamboyant which fits the tone of the movie.

    The film isn't without its flaws. The numerous side stories can't hide the fact that the movie is missing a precise guiding line. The locations end up being somewhat repetitive. The movie's slow pace hasn't aged particularly well. The fact that the movie only contains a few minutes of sword fighting scenes contrasts the rather gruesome and misleading title.

    If you are however prepared to watch an intelligent drama criticizing social conventions in feudal Japan instead of an intense sword fighting film, you are certainly going to appreciate this hidden gem with its unusual storytelling.

    Yakuza keibatsu-shi: Rinchi! / Yakuza Law (1969) - Intelligent, experimental and brutal gangster anthology that has stood the test of time - 9/10

     

    Yakuza keibatsu-shi: Rinchi! / Yakuza Law (1969)

    Yakuza Law is an anthology that portrays three different stories abot organized crime in Japan. The three stories are presented in chronological order as they take place during the Edo period, followed by the Meiji period and finally present-day Japan when the movie was released. The title is quite ironic since the three tales portray that the common laws don't matter to organized crime syndicates and that they even break with their own conventions when conflicts are at hand.

    This movie has aged quite well since the three tales portray their respective periods in authentic fashion. The cinematography is quite vibrant with dynamic cuts and zooms. The film's pace is frantic without lacking depth. The three different tales offer suprisingly profound conspiracies with a few intersting twists and turns. This movie is also quite violent as all tales end in sinister confrontations. This shouldn't come as a surprise as the opening credits already portray grisly torture sequences.

    In the end, Yakuza Law finds a surprisingly timeless balance between brutal special effects, intelligent plots and dynamic cinematography. Veteran director Ishii Teruo offers one of his most concise films that features numerous skilled veterans such as prolific actor Sugawara Bunta and television star Miyauchi Hiroshi. If you like brutal gangster movie without wanting to sit through the extensive length of contemporary Western cinema, then you should certainly give this overlooked gem a try. 

    Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû / Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) - A murder mystery thriller that turns into a supernatural horror film - 7/10

     

    Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû / Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)

    Horrors of Malformed Men is a quite experimental movie by veteran director Ishii Teruo that has been inspired by the tales of famous mystery and horror author Edogawa Rampo who had himself been inspired by Western authors such as Edgar Allan Poe. This experimental movie at the pulse of its time combines several of these tales. The main issue is that this fusion isn't always fluid and leads to two completely contrasting parts.

    The first half of the movie is a murder mystery tale. A medical student without any recollection of his past is trapped in a sinister asylum. He manages to escape when one of the guards attempts to murder him. The fugitive discovers the photograph of a recently deceased man from a prosperous family who looks exactly like him. The medical student decides to take the dead man's identity to find out the truth about his origins and escape from the police.

    The second half of the movie is a supernatural horror tale. The medical student travels to the island of a mad scientist who transforms perfectly normal humans into hideous freaks to create a better society. He gets captured, manipulated and threatened by the scientist and attempts to escape the island and prevent the scientist's megalomanic plans.

    It's probably a matter of prefence whether you prefer the first or the second half of the movie but they are so different from each other that few people will equally appreciate both parts. The first half is atmospheric, mysterious and surprising as it convinces with clever storytelling and intriguing characters. It recalls numerous European murder mystery films as especially the German Edgar Wallace films and the Italian giallo genre come to mind. The second half is much more brutal, experimental and frantic and ventures into experimental cinematography with hectic camera work, numerous flashbacks and colourful locations. It's a mixture of Japan's very own pink film genre of the sixties and American pre-war science-fiction and horror cinema somewhere between King Kong and Island of Lost Souls.

    In the end, Horrors of Malformed Men is certainly daring, entertaining and unconventional. However, the script is all over the place and the conclusion might even be too unconventional for most open-minded cineasts. Ishii Teruo should have created two different movies here instead of putting together two ideas that don't gel.

    Gendai yakuza: Hito-kiri yota / Street Mobster (1972) - Brutal, entertaining and fast gangster film without much substance - 7/10

    Gendai yakuza: Hito-kiri yota / Street Mobster (1972)

    Street Mobster is a violent Japanese gangster movie by prolific director Fukasaku Kinji who would later on direct influential genre masterpieces such as Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Graveyard of Honor and Yakuza Graveyard. Western audiences know him as the director of dystopian action thriller Battle Royale which was the last movie he was able to complete.

    The story of this movie is rather simple. It follows the life of a violent gangster who attacks the members of an inflluential clan who try to extort money from him and associates. He spends some time in prison but soon forms a new gang that is particularly violent. He ultimately gets injured and is temporarily forced to join a bigger family for protection. When another and even bigger family from Osaka tries to increase its influence in Kawasaki, the film's violent antagonist decides to disrespect common conventions and brutally disrespects the different gangster families. The three involved families come to the only reasonable conclusion: they must cooperate to eliminate the antagonist and his associates to preserve peace.

    The most interesting element about Street Mobster is its violent, nihilistic and egoistic antagonist who isn't interested in compromises, peace or truces. He desires to become the biggest gangster boss in the country by any means necessary. While this character is extremely dislikeable, he is brutally consequent and honest in his actions and therefore more complex and profound than one might think at first contact. The movie impresses with numerous violent scenes supported by dynamic camera work that have aged rather well and can still be considered offensive nowadays. The film has frantic pace and entertains from start to finish.

    On the negative side, there are very few characters to sympathize or empathize with. As opposed to Western gangster movies, even the victims and outsiders in organized crime come off as careless and despicable. The story is also extremely thin and quite predictable. The action scenes are quite intense but also rather repetitive. The movie impresses at first contact but lacks creativity, depth and diversity.

    To conclude, you should watch Street Mobster if you are looking for a particularly brutal, entertaining and fast gangster movie that has stood the test of time. This film certainly entertains while it last but doesn't leave any deeper impression due to its thin story line. Street Mobster is a feast for genre fans but can't compete with Fukasaku Kinji's later works. 

    Jingi no hakaba / Graveyard of Honor (1975) - Gangster movie masterpiece - 10/10 

    Jingi no hakaba / Graveyard of Honor (1975)

    Graveyard of Honor is one of the best and most influential Japanese gangster movies ever made. If it had been more popular abroad, this movie might have the same reputation as The Godfather, Once Upon a Time in America and The Untouchables have today. This film was later on re-imagined by legendary Japanese director Miike Takashi.

    The original movie by Fukasaku Kinji is an adaptation of Goro Fujita's novel of the same title and partially based upon real-life gangster Ishikawa Rikio. The film's antagonist starts as an ambitious gangster who assaults and steals money from numerous families but is unfit to be a permanent member of any family due to to his unconventional and violent behaviour. Things spiral out of control when the antagonist assaults the boss of his current family and is banished from Tokyo for ten years. The gangster spends some time in prison before moving to Osaka and becoming a drug addict that hangs around with unreliable junkies and sick prostitutes. He quickly returns to Tokyo and brutally clashes with the only friend he had left who has become an influential gangster boss. The antagonist is now hunted down by two gangster families and the police as he fights for survival while trying to organize some changes in his life.

    There are many brutal Japanese gangster movies released between the late sixties and late seventies but Graveyard of Honor stands out for multiple reasons. The movie features numerous interesting characters such as the sick prostitute who accompanies the antagonist or his estranged friend that he met in prison. The movie has many violent action scenes that have aged surprisingly well but also some quiet dramatic parts that emotionally portray the downfall of the ambitious antagonist. The cinematography is absolutely outstanding with parts of the movie filmed in black and white as well as in sepia to introduce changes and flashbacks that give the final result an experimental mockumentary style. Despite these unconventional elements, the movie is coherent, entertaining and fluid from start to finish.

    To keep it short, anyone who likes gangster movies should know, buy and appreciate Graveyard of Honor. The movie has recently been reissued in a boxed set with Miike Takashi's re-imagined version by Arrow Films. This boxed set is a little bit expensive but crafted with much care and certainly worth every single penny.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    One of my best friends and I have a tradition that started nine years ago with the movies Dead Meat, Steel Trap and Black Sheep. From time to time, we rent or purchase movies that seem to have terrible plots and have been unfavourably received by critics and fans alike. We watch those movies to make fun of them but the ironic thing is that many of the expected disasters often turn out being decent and sometimes even excellent. The five movies we have chosen this time around were also rather positive surprises with one average flick, three good to very good films and even one movie that we would call excellent in its genre. Without further ado, here are my reviews of the five movies we have recently been watching. Enjoy and continue to give movies, series and cinema a chance!

    Rites of Passage / Creepers (2012) - Don't do drugs - 9/10

    Rites of Passage / Creepers (2012)

    Rites of Passage, also known as Creepers in Canada, is a highly entertaining thriller that is best enjoyed with a couple of friends and some drinks. The movie follows a group of students who are mainly interested in sex, partying and drugs. One of the outsiders in the group decides to organize a spiritual ceremony for one of their classes. Things get a sinister turn when some of the students and the unethical teacher get drugged during the ceremony. In addition to this, the hallucinating brother of one of the students plans on abducting one of the ladies to force her into marriage. As if that weren't enough, a crystal meth cook living nearby plans on murdering that very same lady because she accidentally killed his wife and child in an car crash. Soon enough, what started as an experimental class turns into a fight for survival.

    Many people have criticized this movie for its shallow plot, superficial characters and weak special effects. All these things might be true but the movie is incredibly dynamic, entertaining throughout and memorably grisly. After an introduction to the different quirky characters in the first thirty minutes of the film, the final seventy-five minutes become intense, creepy and breathtaking. The film kept me on the edge of my seat and surprised me until the very end. The movie is very violent but doesn't only focus on simple slasher elements but also on accidental deaths and suicide attempts. The different characters and their back and side stories are also developed fluidly throughout the film. Once the intense ride was over, I immediately felt like watching this movie again.

    In the end, Rites of Passage might not be a profound movie with a surprising plot or charismatic characters but it's an unpretentious, entertaining and dynamic thriller with extremely fast pace. The movie doesn't deserve its negative ratings because it excels in its slasher b-movie genre. The breathtaking, compact and intense Rites of Passage is certainly a better thriller or horror movie than overlong, plodding and pretentious flicks like Midsommar that are heavily overrated. Rites of Passage isn't for you if you only watch dramas nominated for the Academy Awards. This film is for you if you are willing to switch your brain off and have some fun.

    Feardotcom (2002) - Stylish, grisly and entertaining b-movie - 7/10

    Feardotcom (2002)

    Feardotcom might not be a masterpiece by any means with its weird supernatural plot, at times cheap special effects and wooden actors and actresses but it certainly doesn't deserve the loath and ridicule it has received upon release. The story revolves around a dynamic police officer and a clever researcher who investigate a series of strange deaths that have occurred after the victims visited a website depicting voyeuristic torture murder. It turns out that the website is haunted by one of its victims who is seeking for vengeance. The police officer and the researcher attempt to find out more about the victim's case to stop the haunting and arrest the serial killer behind the website to put an end to the violence.

    The movie's main flaw is that its generous budget of forty million dollars hasn't been used very efficiently. The special effects are average at best, the actors and actresses are at times misplaced and the director failed to make a dynamic, fluid and emotional movie out of the script. It isn't hard to understand why this film became a box office bomb.

    However, the movie isn't without its merits. The atmosphere is gloomy from start to finish. The dirty locations blend in perfectly. The lighting techniques and sound effects are employed with care. The idea to show the dark side of the internet back in the early years of the millennium wasn't completely new as it had been portrayed in Pulse, Ringu and Videodrome before but said intention was nevertheless already ahead of its time.

    In the end, you will enjoy Feardotcom if you are looking for a very atmospheric supernatural thriller with some grisly violence. The movie is stylish, gruesome and entertaining. If you are however looking for high-quality special effects, a clever plot and gifted acting performances, then this movie and genre simply aren't your cup of tea.

    Sugar Mountain (2016) - Twisted drama and thriller set in Alaska's winterish wilderness - 7/10

    Sugar Mountain (2016)

    Sugar Mountain is a complex drama set in and around Alaska's winterish wilderness. It tells the story of two extremely indepted brothers who decide that one of them has to disappear on Sugar Mountain to miraculously come back ten days later in order to sell the fake survival story to a newspaper. The shallow plan however quickly spirals out of control. The brother on the mountain gets injured and fails to come home. The other one gets suspected of foul play and faces an obsessive police officer and a violent creditor. The girlfriend of the brother on the mountain starts to have feelings for the brother who has stayed in town. These numerous problems lead to an intense finale with numerous twists and turns.

    This drama and thriller is very underrated and convinces on multiple levels. First of all, the landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. Secondly, the plot is clever, surprising and twisted from start to finish. The evolution of the different characters is also quite intriguing.

    On the negative side, the story has a slow start and the opening thirty minutes are slightly plodding. The lead actors and actresses are solid but the superficial police officer portrayed by Cary Elwes and the violent creditor played by Jason Momoa are underwhelming. It's surprising that the latter two actors are probably the most famous ones involved in this film. It just shows that popularity doesn't always mean talent.

    If you are looking for a balanced mixture of drama and thriller with some superb landscapes, then you should certainly give the underrated Sugar Mountain a fair try. The DVD comes along with an additional very good short movie entitled Cold War that tells the story of a Soviet soldier who is trying to escape to Alaska but meets a grisly fate. Ignore the negative ratings and give this creative and emotional movie a chance.

    House on Willow Street (2016) - For genre fans and Halloween parties - 6/10

    House on Willow Street (2016)

    From a House on Willow Street is a supernatural horror movie that oozes with atmosphere but comes around with a very exchangeable plot that has been used over and over again in similar ways in the horror movie genre. The film revolves around four young friends who decide to kidnap the heiress of a diamond distributor to demand a hefty ransom. The quartet takes six weeks to plan everything and manages to kidnap the young woman without any problems. However, things start to get a sinister turn when the criminals realize that their victim is in terrible shape and looks as if she had been rescued from her family mansion rather than kidnapped. After a while, strange incidents start to occur in the abandoned factory where the group is hiding as static hinders communications, electricty malfunctions and the kidnappers start to see dead people who were once dear to them. Things definitely spiral out of control when the kidnappers are unable to reach the daughter's parents and realize that neither media nor cops seem to be informed about the case. The four friends must find out the grisly secret that the kidnapped daughter is hiding in order to survive a night when the hunters have become the hunted.

    This movie convinces on several levels. It has a gloomy, grisly and mysterious atmosphere from start to finish. The locations such as a sinister mansion and an abandoned factory have been perfectly chosen. There are a few scary scenes that work quite efficiently thanks to decent light techniques and a moody soundtrack.

    On the negative side, the plot is predictable from start to finish which takes away much of the potential tension. The acting performances are only average at best. It doesn't help that the different characters are lacking depth and development.

    Despite its flaws, From a House on Willow Street should appeal to fans of atmospheric horror movies. It's not a particularly creative film but still entertaining from start to finish. Since it's providing a few scary scenes without being overtly complicated, this movie might be a good choice for a Halloween party with some friends.

    Deliver Us from Evil (2014) - Atmospheric horror movie with investigative elements and family drama components - 8/10

     

    Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

    Deliver Us from Evil is a conventional supernatural horror film that still manages to convince with very good acting performances, moody atmosphere and sinister locations. The plot revolves around former soldiers and their entourage who are behaving erratically after coming home from Iraq. A dedicated special investigator who neglects his family and an unconventional priest with a sinister past join their forces to fight the evil that the soldiers have brought home from abroad.

    This movie oozes with atmosphere from start to finish. The diversified locations have been chosen with care. The light techniques blend in very well. The two lead characters might not be particularly sympathetic but they are certainly intriguing and have depth as well as development. The opening thirty minutes show the gloomy downsides of the difficult job of a special investigator and almost remind of a documentary. The different plot lines are brought together during the movie's gradually intensifying rising action that can be seen as the film's highlight. The climax happening at the special investigator's own home quickly develops into an intense falling action as the priest and the special investigator have to make enormous sacrifices to fight an unpredictable enemy with supernatural powers. Only the film's conclusion is shallow and predictable like many similar horror movies. The fact that the movie keeps on insisting that it's based upon facts is also ridiculous regarding the supernatural horror topic.

    In the end, Deliver Us from Evil might not be particularly creative or credible but it's an atmospheric supernatural horror movie with intense scenes, interesting plot lines and profound characters. Genre fans should definitely know this film and even those who usually dislike horror movies might like this one due to its investigative elements and family drama components. Deliver Us from Evil is unjustifiably underrated and one of the better atmospheric horror movies in recent memory.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen,

    I have been fascinated by the fateful Franklin Expedition that attempted to find the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in the mid-nineteenth century for more than a decade now. I have visited numerous exhibitions in different museums, have read several books about it and also discovered Dan Simmons' fascinating historical fiction novel ''The Terror'' and the excellent television series inspired by it. Here are some interesting videos by Parks Canada that show the recently discovered wrecks and some of their secrets. Enjoy!

    Discovering the wreck of HMS Erebus:

    Discovering the wreck of HMS Terror:

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    One of the most intriguing kawaii metal bands has suspended its activities this year. That's why I wanted to take the time to review the idol group's diversified career of six and a half years. Enjoy my reviews of Ladybaby's three highly entertaining compilations!

    Quirky combination of electronic pop music and death metal from Japan - A review of Ladybaby's One Year Best 2015-2016

    Ladybaby - One Year Best 2015-2016 (2016)

    Ladybaby is one of the most intriguing idol groups that has gone through significant changes in its career. The band formed back in 2013 but only released its first official song two years later. This first single called ''Nippon Manju'' was an instant success and brought the group attention from all around the world. The combination of quirky danceable electronic pop music and vibrant death metal instrumentation and growls sounded fresh and unique. The group around aspiring photographic models Rie Kaneko and Rei Kuromiya as well as Australian cross-dressing wrestler and death metal vocalist Richard Magarey, better known under the Ladybeard moniker, would go on to release three successful singles in less than a year. These releases would also end up being the most popular ones in the idol's career. After arguments with the band's management, Ladybeard left the group the next summer. A video album titled First JAPAN One Man Live - Let's Change the Rules of the World as well as a greatest hits collection entitled One Year Best 2015-2016 were released simultaneously just one month after the split. 

    This release consists of eight tracks, including two new tunes with the wonderful folk instrumental ''Overture Oversea'' and the catchy pop song ''School of Hard Knocks'' that would foreshadow the idol's future releases. Aside from the aforementioned breakthrough single ''Nippon Manju'' that remains the idol's most popular tune ever, this releases includes other highlights such as the highly emotional ''C'est si bon Kibun'' that combines brutal riffs and guttural growls with electronic pop and melodic female vocals with Japanese, French and English lyrics.

    The most interesting thing element about this idol group is without a doubt the stunning clash of seemingly incompatible genres. The combination of idol pop music and death metal had never been attempted in such as radical way. Sure, there have been idol groups supported by heavy metal musicians such as Fruitpochette or there have been pop bands with a contemporary rock 'n' roll sound like Band-Maid. However, the facts that electronic pop music and death metal instrumentation are nearly equally balanced and that Ladybeard's harsh vocals are as domineering as the two female vocalists are certainly groundbreaking. As if that weren't enough, even the two female vocalists sound quite distinctive. Rie Kaneko has a very melodic, soothing and uplifting voice while Rei Kuromiya has a low, seducing and soulful voice that is even more unique.

    Sure, releasing a greatest hits record so early in its career with only eight songs and a total running time of thirty-two minutes might seem like a cash grab but it isn't. All eight songs are addictive, entertaining and unique. The idol's future releases would also sound quite different from the material presented here. The only two negative elements to mention are the unimaginative booklet as well as the fact that the idol group didn't record the hectic, nervous and unchained ''Love Innocent Acid Kawaii'' that had only been performed in concert but never been recorded as studio version.

    In the end, fans of kawaii metal, electrocore or unique idol groups should certainly own this release that never gets old despite its short running time. The video album released on the same day is just as great but a little bit more expensive. It's up to you to decide whether you prefer a purely auditory version or also a visual support of the music - or perhaps even both!

    Final rating: 80%

    Artistic emancipation of two idol singers - A review of The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby's Beside U

    The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby - Beside U (2018)

    After Ladybeard's sudden departure from Ladybaby, remaining singers Rie Kanako and Rei Kuromiya decided to continue as a duo. Instead of continuing under the Ladybaby banner, the idol group re-branded itself as The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby which is clearly inspired by a similar move by American pop singer Prince in the nineties. The duo had perhaps lost its most unique member and decided not to replace him by a similar artist. Instead, the band rather adapted a sound comparable to other Japanese rock and pop idol groups with only very few metal influences in form of occasional guest musicians or background singers. The image of the duo also changed quite a bit, moving away from quirky, lighthearted and creative elements to a more serious, profound and emotional tone. The two band members were portrayed as very close friends in the music videos of that era and there were even a few hints at a possible romantic relationship. This direction was certainly inspired by Russian duo t.A.T.u. that had received a lot of controversial attention in the beginning of the millennium.

    The same can't be said about The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby. Even though the three singles released under that moniker performed surprisingly well on the Japanese charts, the duo had certainly lost its unique identity. The duo was never really able to find a new consistent artistic direction. Rei Kuromiya left the duo after a little bit more than a year. A few months later, the greatest hits compilation Beside U, featuring nine songs from three singles as well as one brand new track, was released and also managed to enter the Japanese charts. Sadly, no video album of that era has been released to date. 

    The compilation shows that the duo was trying to find a new niche as the different songs are stylistically diverse. ''Pelo'' for instance is a vibrant rock song with a dynamic rapper on guest vocals and a surprising vintage piano break in the middle section. ''Me! Me! Me!'' on the other side is an uplifting pop punk song with a childish but energetic chorus. ''Easter Bunny'' goes back to the group's origins as it mixes cute pop vocals with growls by an unknown backing singer while the music varies from metal over rock to pop influences with even a few slightly jazzy elements. ''Lady Baby Blue'' on the other side is an elegiac, emotional and inspiring alternative rock ballad that enables the two singers to show their skills in five haunting minutes. New song ''Shibuya Crossing'' however is much colder and could be described as trendy danceable electronic pop track with a few dynamic metalcore interjections.

    Beside U might not have a clear guiding line but it's incredibly entertaining and offers multiple soundscapes varying from death metal over metalcore to alternative rock as well as electronic pop music and even even jazz and rap elements can be found. The only guideline are the two vocalists who are obviously much more in the spotlight than before when most people only focused on cross-dressing growler Ladybeard. This record can be seen as the artistic emancipation of Rei Kuromiya and Rie Kaneko and shows how talented they really are. In my opinion, this release represents the group's most interesting and most underrated era and it would have been interesting to see what this duo could have become if it had ended up finding its very own niche.

    This compilation might therefore even be more interesting than the previous output because it includes ten diversified songs with a running time around forty-one minutes and features a generous booklet with forty-eight pages as well as a poster. The release also comes in book format and looks much better than the previous One Year Best 2015-2016.

    In conclusion, if you like Japanese idol music meandering between metal, rock, electronic and pop music, you should certainly get this great compilation. If Ladybeard was the reason why you initially fell in love with the band, you should listen to some songs and watch some music videos first to verify whether the new material pleases you enough to purchase Beside U. In my humble opinion, both greatest hits records are highly entertaining but I slightly prefer Beside U because it has been crafted with much more attention, care and love.

    Final rating: 85%

    Powerful fireworks of juvenile diversity - A review of Ladybaby's Reburn

    Ladybaby - Reburn (2020)

    The idol group Ladybaby as well as The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby seemed to be dead and gone after Rei Kuromiya's exit in November 2017. She went on to focus on her work with BRATS that has released two solid full length albums to date. Rie Kaneko however was on her own and many experts expected her to start a solo career at that point. However, the management had other plans and cast three new singers around her to initiate Ladybaby's third and final phase. Rie Kaneko took on more responsibilities in the line-up as she was in charge of choreography and overall direction of the group. After directing a first music video during the idol group's second phase, she also directed two more music videos in the third phase. Fuka Karasawa joined the group as additional vocalist. Nana Ikeda came in as another singer but also performed as rapper and crafted the group's costume design. Emily Arima completed the quartet as singer, lyricist and harsh vocalist. Especially the latter member became as outstanding as Ladybeard had been with her truly energetic vocals, grunts and growls and her unique style with pink hair. The band's debut single was already released in May 2018 and the quartet would go on to be quite active over the next twenty months. The group released two singles, nine music videos, two concert videos and appeared in radio and television shows. Despite its success, energy and activity, the idol group announced that it would suspend all activities in October 2019. The group released a final music video, played its final concert that would later on be released as concert video and released this compilation of the third phase in January 2020.

    Reburn offers ten out of eleven songs recorded by the dynamic quartet. Sadly, the only song that was left out was the quartet's surprising collaboration with former member Ladybeard in the quirky, energetic and amusing ''Biri Biri Money'' that came along with a particularly memorable music video in which the cross-dressing wrestler trained the four group members to achieve their goals.

    Despite that notable exclusion, Reburn is certainly a very good release featuring ten songs and offering more than forty minutes of diversified entertainment. First single ''Starless Sky'' is the first highlight as it mixes pop music, electronic music, industrial metal and death metal in a highly addictive manner as all four singers manage to stand out and shine. The chaotic ''Haten Ni Raimei'' features a sinister industrial rock song with unchained screams and energetic rap passages. ''Bite Me'' is nearly six minutes long and convinces with numerous surprising genre changes and unpredictable breaks, making it tough to digest at first contact but quite outstanding due to its experimental songwriting in the long run. Final single ''Misogi Island'' goes in the opposite direction with a length below the three-minute mark that still offers all four singers their time to shine while the instrumentation varies from death metal outbursts with sharp riffs and blast beats to epic pop elements with melodic guitar play and smooth keyboard layers. Despite its title, ''Riot Zone'' is the compilation's quietest song with melodic vocals, futuristic keyboard sounds and an overall epic atmosphere.

    Reburn offers even more soundscapes to discover than the previous two compilations. It's a record that might sound somewhat overwhelming at first contact but that is worth to be rediscovered every now and then as it ends up growing with every spin. This release shows how diversified this idol group, how energetic its four unique members and how skilled the songwriters in the background have been. Ladybaby has officially stopped all activities and it's unlikely at this point that the idol group will ever return. The three compilations and especially this last strike however are excellent products of their time and will certainly endure. If you have never taken this group seriously, you still have the chance to change your mind and find out what you have missed out on.

    Final rating: 90%

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