This is a movie that I spent more time at the drive-in trying to make 2nd base than actually watch this movie, so I'd actually like to see this again sometime. I know that it's a typical low-budget biker movie from the late 60s/early 70s, so, no big expectations, and I hear that William Smith steals every scene as the biker gang leader, Moon.
Two ambitious men have dreams of breaking away from their impoverished, war-torn village. One of them, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) wants to make more money selling his pottery at the larger city, Nagahama; despite, his wife Miyagi's (Kinuyo Tanaka) desire to work the farm, stay close together with their son, and not take chances with the various armies and pirates. Being able to buy good food and nicer clothes for his wife and kid is irresistible to Genjuro.
The other man, Tobei (Eitaro Sakae Ozawa) wants to become a Samurai. He is ridiculed by his wife, Ohama (Mitsuko Mito) for being a dreamer. In town, Tobei begs to become a loyal vassal to one of the Samurai, just to get his foot in the door, but is quickly told that he must have his own armor and spear to go to war.
Both men dedicate their energies to another run at selling their wares in Nagahama, despite an attack on their village, by pillaging soldiers. With more money, Tobei can buy his armor. On their next trip, Tobei leaves his wife to join the army. Ohama runs after him only to be abducted and raped by some soldiers. She becomes doomed to prostitution.
Genjuro meets an enchanting noble woman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) who desires more than his pottery. The ghostly beauty and her luxurious home hypnotizes Genjuro and talks him into marrying her.
It's very Buddhist in it's story-telling that the suffering of the world is because of desire. Despite the desire for riches by Genjuro and fame and prestige of battle for Tobei, both men are not happy.
Be careful what you wish for.
The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
The sad sounds of Japanese Kabuki theater are shown in Keisuke Kinoshita's film about an impoverished village where the elderly are carried off to a nearby mountain to die. The film is all shot on sound stages with beautiful sets that show the different times of the season. Curtains will drop in the background to create the dark evenings. I'm not a fan of musicals normally, but the Kabuki style balladeer narration is kind of cool here, although it evokes the depressing tragedy.
Granny Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a healthy, generous, and productive matriarch. She turns 70 and is looking forward to her trip up to the Narayama mountain to meet the mountain deity. Her widowed son, Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi) deeply loves his mom and appreciates all that she does for the family, but it is an expected tradition in the poor community. In fact, many in Granny Orin's family are anxious to see her leave the house.
She finds Tatsuhei a wife to make sure that his family is well taken care of and even shows the wife her secret fishing hole that helps to feed the family. This film was re-made in 1983, and even that was award-winning.
Onibaba means literally, Hag, but the alternative title for this film is Demon Woman.
Two impoverished women live by killing and stealing from samurai who wonder into the tall reeds in the wetlands where they live. They strip the bodies, drag, and then drop them into a deep hole. The mother (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) live in a tiny shack.
The mother's son Kichi and a neighbor, Hachi (Kei Sato) were taken by the military to fight in the prolonged wars between two fighting Shoguns, so their farming has suffered, but they are able to survive selling off weapons, armor, and clothing of the dead.
One night, Hachi returns to their hut and tells them that he and their son had escaped the fighting but had been attacked while trying to steal food from some local farmers and Kichi was killed. The mother suspects that low-life Hachi may have even killed her son.
Now the two lonely (and horny) women have been eyeing Hachi, the daughter in-law especially. Hachi and the young widow have been secretly seeing each other. Even Kichi's mother would like to have sex with Hachi too, but she's too old for Hachi's taste.
Angry and jealous, Kichi's mother tries to trick her daughter in-law into not seeing Hachi anymore with tales of demons. The mother wears a Hannya Noh demon mask. Ironically, the Hannya mask is an embodiment of a obsessive, angry, jealous, and heartbroken female demon.
Directed and written by Kaneto Shindo, who based this on a Buddhist parable, did an excellent job. It's well photographed too, with the tall reeds bumping into each other. The only thing that I didn't like was the ending, which left you in the lurch. Other than that, I love this movie.
Samurai Fiction (1998)
Along the same lines as Pulp Fiction, featuring many different characters with their own agendas. Most of this movie is in black and white with some scenes in color. As is typical for many Japanese movies, there's comedy, drama, romance, and some adventure.
A young, talented samurai, Rannosuke Kazamaturi (Tomoyasu Hotei) is given the boring duty of guarding a samurai sword that was a prized gift from the famous shogun Torenaga. Rannosuke was found unsheathing the sword and was accused of trying to steal it. Defending himself, he killed a high ranking official and took off with the sword.
Heishiro Inukai (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) is a noble samurai and the son of a loyal retainer. He sets out to find Rannosuke and return the clan's prized treasure. In the attempt, one of his childhood friends is killed by Rannosuke and Heishiro is wounded. An equally skilled ronen Hanbei Mizoguchi (Morio Kazama) was able to save Hieshiro from Rannosuke's final death strike.
Hanbei and his lovely adopted daughter Koharu Mizoguchi (Tamaki Ogawa) nurse Hieshiro back to health and try to persuade him to not try to fight Rannosuke again.
Hitting the Apex (2015)
This is a difficult film to find, so if you get an opportunity to see this, be sure to view it. It deals with the top international motorcycle racers of the Moto GP during the 2014 year. Narrated by Brad Pitt and shows the incredible riding skills of these racers.
The DVD Apex Collection box set features three discs.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
Celebrating 500 years of Christopher Columbus's discovery of the new world, this beautifully-filmed movie came out in theaters. Nobody does the middle ages better than Ridley Scott, and he was true to form with this movie showing the grander, and yes, the cruelty of early Spain.
An Italian foreigner, Christopher Columbus (Gérard Depardieu) is trying to get financing and ships from Queen Isabel (Sigourney Weaver) to prove his ability to travel West to arrive to the East to trade in the riches of China and India. He's having to deal with the entitlement of the Spanish nobility, the superstitions of the day, and the violence of the Spanish inquisition and battles with the Moors.
Then there's the realization that this discovery wasn't the riches of China or India, but of an innocent society of island natives. No gold and silver; no bridges and buildings, and because he is the new governor of this new land, it's harder for him to leave and explore further.
The cinematography was beautiful, but two and a half butt-numbing hours is a little too much even for the best of movies.
Interview With the Vampire (1994)
It's San Francisco in the 1970's and Louis (Brad Pitt) tells a young reporter, Malloy (Christian Slater) about his becoming a vampire in 18th century New Orleans. Louis was distraught, almost suicidal over the loss of his wife and baby, and soon comes in contact with a foppish vampire, Lestat (Tom Cruise) who changed his life.
Interview is not your traditional Christopher Lee vampire blood fest as much as it is a melodramatic costume drama, but if you're a Anne Rice fan, this is the movie for you. It features some of the most handsome young actors of the time, including a very young Antonio Banderas as Armond.
The Shadow (1994)
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. Some of us know Lamont Cranston from the re-broadcast radio programs from the last century. When in Mongolia/China, Lamont learned his psychic powers and the ability to cloud men's minds to fight crime. Lamont has a shadowy past when he was truly evil, so he knows.
Despite this being a favorite radio, pulp, and comic book character, this movie showed a lot of promise. However, this movie didn't really take off like many of the other superhero movies did. Please don't let the spilled popcorn or the rotten tomato scare you away from this movie.
I thought it was a good movie with some fantastic actors and special effects. The 1930's look and feel was excellent. Lamont's girlfriend, Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller) was super hot, especially with those silky, backless gowns. This movie was back when Alec Baldwin was very handsome.
Lamont's nemesis is Shiwan Khan (John Lone), a descendant of Genghis Khan, and remembers Lamont when he was Ying-Ko (Eagles Beak), and opium smuggler and warlord before he was kidnapped and changed by the mysterious Tulku (Brady Tsurutani) who gave Lamont those powers and caused him to use those powers for good.
The movie is tung in cheek and doesn't take itself too seriously, and is filled with some nice humor, not without the help of Jonathan Winters as Wainwright Cranston.
Eduardo Rodriguez's bloody Mexican horror movie starring Carlos Gallardo (who was in Robert Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" from 1992). Robert Rodriguez is the producer. This movie mixes Mexican black magic, Mexican cartels, and the police. Rodriguez plays it as a perfect B movie. There's lots of flashes of blood, gore, violence (and a flash of T & A) in the same washed-out color.
Don Carlos (Gallardo) is a young man in a small Mexican village. His late father by the same name (Jose Carlos Ruiz) was one of the Curanderos, a type of folk healer or medicine man; sort of a shaman. Although the young Don Carlos doesn't exactly share his Father's beliefs, he does seem to share his visions of evil around him.
A Mexico City police detective, Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea) is looking for Don Carlos to help her cleanse the jail and police station that has been left in a bloody unholy mess when a mass murderer/gangster escapes. Everyone seems to doubt the existence while at the same time fearfully believing in all of this evil, including Don Carlos himself.
If you're a big fan of horror and the crazy pacing of a Robert Rodriguez style movie, then you'll have good time with this one.
The Painted Desert (1931)
Two wondering cowpokes, Cash Holbrook (William Farnum) and Jeff Cameron (J. Farrell MacDonald) ride up on an abandoned wagon, the victim of an indian attack. Nobody is alive except for a baby. The two quickly come to the little fellow's rescue, but it doesn't take long before they're arguing over what to name him and where they should settle down. Guns are even drawn and Cash leaves in a huff with the baby.
These two become bitter rivals years later when young Bill Holbrook (William Boyd) and Jeff's daughter, Mary Ellen Cameron (Helen Twelvetrees) become adults. Cash sneaks his cattle onto Jeff's land to drink from his water and a gun battle almost ensues.
This is where a wondering stranger rides onto the property, Rance Brett (Clark Gable) who offers to be an extra gun for Jeff and Mary Ellen.
Meanwhile, Bill see's the ridiculousness of this feud. Bill has been trying to talk Cash into making peace with Jeff. He's spotted some ore deposits on Jeff's land and feels that together they could make a huge profit working together, while fighting each other, everyone looses.
This is an old western with old stage and silent era acting styles that come off more funny to watch with today's eyes. This is one of Clark Gable's first talkies, and you know he's the heavy in this movie and frankly is the most three dimensional character in the whole film. You know Gable has a big future ahead of him and he is the reason for watching this.
William Boyd, who later is known for TV's Hopalong Cassidy is your typical stiff blond hero in all this.
Although I'm a big fan of James Clavell's Shogun, I thought that his book Tai-Pan was far superior. His book about the early China trade, starting with the Opium Wars and then the taking of the island of Hong Kong by the British was wonderful. This brought a continuation of his characters on the rest of his series of books about Asia.
The movie, Tai-Pan was perfect timing for the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group with the up-coming transfer of Hong Kong sovereignty back to mainland China in 1997. Unfortunately the transfer of this story to film, just didn't work as well. I still think that it covered the book okayl and it's well worth a viewing especially if your a James Clavell fan.
Although Roger Ebert called this movie "The Battle of the Breasts", it does have some of the most beautiful and sexy women of the 80s; Joan Chen, Kyra Sedgwick, Janine Turner, Katy Behean, and scores of unknown cuties.
Dirk Struan (Brian Brown) is a Scottish leader of a fleet of sailing ships in the lucrative trading with China. He deals with pirates, corrupt officials, and competing, villainous merchants. He has to deal with high finance and political intrigue to stay afloat and alive.
This is Laura Poitras's award-winning documentary about deffense contractor for the NSA, Edward Snowden's whistle-blowing about the lies perpetrated by the NSA to the American public about what they are doing. She videos The Guardian Newspaper reporters, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill as they ask him various questions in his Hong Kong hotel room.
The NSA's surveillance system works with; every boarder you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, articles you write, web site you visit, subject line you type, and packet you route is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not. This also shows us what unrestricted secret police pose to democracies.
The movie also features William Binney, who is a legendary NSA crypto-mathematician and was instrumental in developing an automated mass data analysis; basically, the use of metadata. It was not long after 9-11 that the government started actively spying on everyone in this country. Then they started taking telecom data and expanded after that. Binney mentions that AT&T provided 320,000,000 records everyday. William Binney tried to make these efforts more constitutionally acceptable and have the courts oversight, until he was raided with guns drawn.
This can't just be blamed on the Bush administration. Presidential Policy #20 was approved just in 2012 by the Obama administration. The surveillance has increased even more, as the film shows mass construction of immense facilities for holding data across the country.
Say what you will about Snowden being a traitor or a hero. Snowden has consistently said that he's not the story here. He claims that this is about state power against the people's ability to appose that power. Snowden has worked with systems to amplify that state power. That the only thing holding back this technology is government policy which can be easily changed. There would be no way of anyone to appose this technology.
This is a very good documentary and well worth you seeing, if you get the chance.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
I always remember the tagline, Live, Die, Repeat easier than this title. It was always printed bigger on the posters. Although this sci-fi actioner didn't do as well at the box office, it can sure improve on DVD and cable viewing.
Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an armed forces PR man, but gets thrown into active combat duty by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). He is pretty much dropped into a beach-head frontal attack (basically a suicide mission) that is being demolished by an alien force that is taking over the planet. When he is killed off, he finds that he is repeating the events over and over again in a constant time loop. Think of the movie, Groundhog Day only with aliens. :-)
He soon meets up with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and finds that he had killed a certain type of alien that allows him to resets the day after each death. Knowing the future, he can use this to his advantage to try to learn from his mistakes, to train, and arrange to destroy the alpha aliens.
This is a good movie with a nice scence of humor and I highly recommend it.
Spike Jonze makes some unusual movies; the same with Joaquin Phoenix. You either like them or you don't. The same for this futuristic movie, Her. I had mixed feelings about it myself. It's slow-moving, meandering, filled with beautiful photography by Cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema.
We already see people having more and more difficulties relating to each other, preferring instead to interacting to the Internet and smart phones, many walking around the streets like zombies. Technologies like Siri and Google Voice developing artificial intelligence has been interacting between machines and people better and better. Will there come a time when AI will be more self-aware than we humans? Many futuristic movies deal or comment on present phenomena and this is what Spike Jonze does in this movie.
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a professional letter writer, who writes sensitive words and love letters for people who lack the sensitivity to do this themselves. Although Theo is a very sensitive person, he has a hard time actually dealing with humans, especially girls. In addition, he is going through a tough divorce.
Then Theo heard about the new technology called OS1 he gets it. The sexy voice who names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johanssen) comes out bubbley, is well organized, smart, and seems very interested in Theo. Through all of Theo's horendous experiences with dating, with some of the most beautiful young women in movies today, by the way, he sort of latches onto Samantha, to the point of falling in love or having feelings like love.
I Am Waiting (1957)
Also called Ore wa matteru ze
This is a nice little Japanese noir movie about two lost souls who meet in the night. It's an early film by director, Koreyoshi Kurahara, who later made The Warped Ones (1960). I personally prefer this one and I love the sad music in it.
Joji Shimaki (Yujiro Ishihara) is an X-boxer who now owns a little diner on the waterfront. He's waiting to hear from his brother who is supposed to be buying a ranch in Brazil. He meets a downtrodden Saeko (Mie Kitahara) on the docks. Is she thinking of jumping into the water? He invites her back to his restaurant for some warm noodles.
Saeko was a classical opera singer until she got ill and lost her voice. Now she works in a night club as a lounge singer. Saeko tells Joji that she may have killed the younger brother of a Yakuza nightclub owner Shibata (Hideaki Nitani) when he made a pass at her. Joji assures her that she should just wait till the morning. If the man was dead, it should be in the morning newspaper. If not, then she shouldn't worry.
Saeko hangs out at the cafe and finds out that this is a favorite hang-out for a lot of people who are down on their luck, including Joji himself, who had killed a man and lost the right to fight in the ring. Somehow all of these characters are inter-related to each other.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
What a fantastic science fiction actioner by James Gunn. This movie is filled with interesting stars deep in make-up, computer generated, and green screen imagery. Combining action with comedy along with keeping with an Marvel Avengers backstory.
Young Peter Quill is kidnapped by space pirates, led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and grows up calling himself Star Lord (Chris Pratt). He's first seen stealing a valuable orb while listening to his late Mom's mix tape of 80s music. What a nice soundtrack.
He soon finds a man is after this orb (besides the normal fence), a seriously evil, Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), who has sent a kick-ass assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it. Gamora is the step-daughter of an even more powerful entity, Chthon, the Other (Alexis Denisof), who is involved in the Avengers story line.
Peter is also being pursued by a bounty hunter, a genetically altered raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his muscle, Groot (Vin Diesel).
In the skirmish, they're locked up and meet vengeance-seeking Drax (Dave Bautista). Rocket figures out how to break them all out, and together, this motley crew must figure out what to do with this orb.
Jack the Giant Killer (1962)
This is one of those great 1960s movie fantasies that Hollywood did for kids. The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1973), and a few others were fun, colorful, movies for the Saturday matinee.
They usually featured veteran character actor, Torin Thatcher, who usually played villainous magicians, sorcerers, or warlocks causing havoc to the hero and his damsel in distress. Many times these movies would have cool boats, ships, or other gadgets, and lets not forget the incredible monsters, thanks to the great single-frame animator, Ray Harryhausen.
Jack the Giant Killer may have been a movie on a smaller scale budget than these others, and it didn't have quite the Harryhausen mastery of other movies. It was also highly predictable. It is rated "G" after-all. But, it's not a total waste of your time.
Jack (Kerwin Mathews) is a handsome young farmer, whose late father fought for the king. Think of the Mickey Mouse's Jack the Giant Slayer and not the Jack and the Beanstalk variety. Pendragon (Thatcher) is a warlock who was banished from Cornwall to an island but has designs of revenge and to be the next reigning king.
The present king's beautiful daughter, Princess Elaine (Judi Meredith) has just been given her tiara and Pendragon, in disguise, has shown up at her coming-out party with a strange gift; a little man who comes out of his box and dances for the princess. That night the little man grows into a giant who kidnaps Princess Elaine. Jack comes to the rescue.
Kamikaze Girls (2004)
Also known as Shimotsuma Monogatari
This is kind of a really strange Japanese teen comedy about Momoko Ryugasaki (Kyoko Fukada) who loves the Rococco style and dresses as a Lolita (frilly little girl dresses). Her father (Hiroyuki Miyasako) is a failed Yakuza gangster who has moved them out of Tokyo and into a farm town in the western provinces in with his mother, where Momoko is the only Lolita in the small town.
With no financial options, she tries to make a little money selling off her dad's counterfeit Versache apparel. This is how she meets Ichigo Shirayuri (Anna Tsuchiya) who is a wild biker girl (well not Bosozuku, she rides a motor scooter) and is a rebel Yanki. They wear long coats with stitching on it, blonde or orange hair and are rather loud and rude; the complete opposite of Momoko's Lolita style.
Momoko embroiders onto Ichigo's jacket, and somehow they strike up a friendship and compliment each other.
Ender's Game (2013)
"Know your enemy!" It's a very old saying to learn how to anticipate your enemy's next move. Know your enemy to destroy them. But, there's another stage to that saying. By knowing your enemy you begin to understand, and even empathize with your enemy. To understand them, you can even learn to love them.
I went into Ender's Game expecting a cool alien shoot-em-up movie with lots of special effects; and there was a lot of that, but there was a lot more to this movie than I anticipated. It was also very thought-provoking too.
Earth had been terribly attacked by these ant-like aliens, known as the Formics. Somehow we had defeated the attack on Earth. Efforts have been made to take the battle back to the Formics home planet, and in the coming years efforts were made to develop and train young people to fight the Formics.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a quiet, but brilliant boy. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) see a promising leader and statistician. Unlike his brother, who is too violent and his sister who is too compassionate, Ender is the right level of both to understand and fight this enemy. But, does Ender really have what it takes to annihilate this Formic threat?