Category Archives: T

Review: Tokyo Raiders

Tokyo Raiders is brilliantly good fun. The plot is a little convoluted, there are some bad guys and some good guys and some bad guys who become good guys and good guys who might be bad because they told a lie, but then are good because the lie was actually for a good reason. It is the kind of reluctant buddy movie everyone likes, but with the additional fun element of those buddies having to protect a pretty lady, and having loads of other pretty ladies to help them whenever they need it.

You know from the first fight though, when unidentified man number one glues his opponents shoes to the ground in order to beat him senseless, that this film isn’t taking itself too seriously. All of the pretty ladies, just by virtue of them being pretty, has a hint of sexism about it, but it’s all played rather knowingly, whenever anyone gets in trouble, it’s a pretty lady who gets them out of it again. There is also some weird stuff going on with nationalities. Everyone sort of ends up having to announce where they are from, where they were born and if they speak the language of the country they happen to be in at the precise moment – the film is set in China, Japan and the USA. There may be some cultural subtleties going that I am not picking up on, but I am pretty sure the film would have worked just as well if it had just been set in one place. Anyway, in spite of these idiosyncrasies, it’s a good fun film, speeds along nicely, and will make you smile most of the way though. Did I mention it has a bmx/skateboard chase, which is possibly the most brilliant action movie chase I have ever seen.

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Tokyo Zombie

Tokyo Zombie, the second of this weeks Tokyo themed movie offerings, is entirely the more strange of the two. Evoking a kind of Mighty Boosh surrealism mashed up with all the zombie movies, its all really good fun. We follow our two heroes, workers in a fire extinguisher factory that seems to have no other employees, as they traverse a newly zombified Tokyo and the epic social changes that occur in the wake of the zombvasion, something that no other film/tv show has managed in quite such a socially scathing, but equally hilarious fashion. It might have something interesting to say about the class system, friendship, family and … perverts, but to be honest all this stuff is sort of ancillary to the martial arts. Yep, martial arts are a very significant part of the film. So is nonexistent cancer. As I said, it’s all rather surreal. Everyone has the same skewed moral compass, which makes them all the more endearing when they actually do something lovely. There is a beautiful part where one of the main characters recites a poem because what he has to say is too difficult to speak about normally, but just before you feel too sad about everything its back to martial arts. Check out Tokyo Zombie if you like Japanese comedy, zombie movies, surreal stuff, gore and, well … jiu-jitsu.

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Tokyo-Ga

I have been lying to you. All this time, all those films. All of them were lies. It all goes back to some point last year when I accidentally told the dvd renty people that I wanted to rent every single Wim Wenders film ever made. Rather than cancel said order I just let them all come, a wave of Wim if you will. It was a good, it slightly weird time. Eventually they stopped coming, replaced with meaningless stuff like Transformers II : Age of Empires. Or whatever it was called. They never did send every single one of his films, they had apparently lied about having all of them. Anyway, about a week ago I was looking through the list of films I had previously rented, and noticed…Tokyo-Ga. It was on the list, but I never wrote about it. For all the time the ‘every’ in EFIHR has been a fraud. A lie! For this I truly am sorry. It is made all the worse by the fact that the film is so brilliant. I decided to re-watch to make it all better. There is a moment where Wenders describes the power of unplanned, unscripted film moments, the shining beacons in the gloss and manufacture of Hollywood. It is perhaps self conscious, but no less brilliant then that one of the perfect moments of Tokyo-Ga is when one young man, dancing with his friends in the park and sharing their unique take on Americana, accidentally hits another in the face. The resulting apology says as much about Japanese culture as the meeting itself. Tokyo-Ga invites these kinds of reflections. It is kind of, something like Mr Wenders ode to legendary film director Yasujiro Ozu. Its so much more than this though. Really, it is one of the most honest travelogues you’ll see. Its like poking around Tokyo with a slightly aimless, philosophical wanderer. Sometimes Wims ramblings are a little detached from the visuals, but they are universally thought provoking, and its powerfully good film making, never boring and completely visually captivating. How much is it actually about Ozo? We’ll to be honest, its not about him very much at all on the surface of things, but as you watch you realise that really he is there all the way though, like a sort of ghost. It makes the final scenes all the more heart wrenching, and moving. Finally, with the appearance of Chris Marker and Werner Herzog its a kind of whose who of philosophically grounded cinema. One day the rest of those Wenders films will turn up at my door, and I promise not to forget to write about a single one of them.

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Transformers : Age of Extinction

Good things about Transformers : Age of Extinction

Nice Cars

Optimus Prime and Bumblebee

Dinobots

Bad things about Transformers : Age of Extinction

Almost irresponsible amounts of product placement, not even inconspicuously in the background, like, actual beer bottles in the middle of a fight scene.

The moment when someone says “The Mongolian Desert” whilst gesturing at a map which clearly labels “The Mongolian Desert”.

A main female character, who is completely useless.

American football in China.

Kissing.

How the dinobots turn up.

Romeo and Juliet.

Beats by Dre speaker.

A secondary female character who is good at fighting.

Chinese security guards inexplicably saying one line in English.

For some inexplicable reason, the belief that Texas is the best place in the world.

Annoying fighting phrases.

Prime only says ‘Autobots roll out!’ after a load of other rubbish.

Ending not the ending.

Chicago destroyed, again.

Racial Stereotypes.

Transformers juggling humans.

Everything in ‘China’ having way too much written on it.

All of the Transformers except for Optimus and Bumblebee.

Cigar Smoking Robot.

The character with the puns leaving after about fifteen minutes.

Calling the all spark a soul.

Nolan Batman music in a not Batman film.

Inexplicable armchair room.

Overly complicated plot lines.

Bumblebee not having an awesome body all movie.

Race car boyfriend.

Explaining every single thing in way too much detail.

Fully automated US army – Made in China.

Sunglasses.

Fat Transformer

Equally gratuitous overseas product placement.

Thousands and thousands of people die.

“Its a big magnet”…”its sucking up metal and dropping it”

Bronies

Seriously, racial stereotypes

Nearly passed the Bechdel test…but didn’t

Victorias Secret Bus.

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Tokyo Gore Police

Tokyo Gore Police is absolutely as ludicrous as its name suggests. I have previously criticised films for taking themselves too seriously when they are in fact rather silly. Tokyo Gore Police works for precisely this reason though. The violence is absolutely brilliant, there are more limbs removed in this movie than characters with lines, and it’s all done with such a straight face that it simply becomes sublime. We follow Ruka, a member of Tokyo’s now privatised police force fighting against a new threat, the engineers, criminals who have modified themselves so that when they are injured their wounds re-grow as weapons. It’s just that ridiculous. All the action is intercut with little vignettes and adverts which are overtly satirical, but exceptionally well done, I just can’t commend them enough. As the weapons the engineers grow become more insane Ruka becomes more morose, her dedication to the police becomes something more akin to a personal vendetta and the film begins to stray into slightly more sexualised shocks. It’s like Brookers black mirror, exploring ultimate outcomes of current cultural trends, and I am afraid this means we’re all going to have our hands cut off. Its hyper violent body shock schlock, but as far as I am concerned it is essential family viewing.

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Transcendence

Starts off pretty good, middle is also good, end is just ridiculous. The fun thing about the movie, and to some extent, arguably, the point, is that all of the technology is either already in existence, or is vaguely viable, the thing which makes it all function in a nice apocalyptic way is the addition of intelligence. Its a pretty good twist on the old ‘artificial intelligence goes nutso’ trope, given that the intelligence is actually that of a human, which nicely serves to accommodate a good ‘absolute power corrupts’ message. It could have been a powerful commentary on drone warfare, or the dangers of over reliance on technology, or even, a really good disaster movie. Instead the whole thing is eschewed for a stupid ending which relies on technology which is so fundamentally different from anything we have available now that it really becomes un-relateable, boring and stupid. Having an evil intelligence bent on taking over the world living in the internet is pretty scary, its not remotely scary when that intelligence literally thinks up the same wonky technology that the terminator movies came up with in 1991. Beyond this the apocalypse has no scope, it occurs in a crappy town in the middle of no-where. There was so much potential here to show people dealing with a technological meltdown, but the best thing we see is someone use a laptop as a door stop, as if a laptop is really a very effective door stop, more effective say than, a door stop.

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Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers

Suzume has a rather ordinary life. So ordinary in fact that it means she is perfectly qualified to be a spy, a profession she rather unexpectedly finds herself in whilst in search of a little excitement. The thing is though, being a spy requires that you don’t draw too much attention to yourself – be as ordinary as possible. Thats pretty much the whole plot. But I am not sure the plot is really the point. Although Suzume may be quite ordinary, the world she inhabits absolutely isn’t. It is a sort of colour clash of interesting people doing slightly wonky things. The best thing about it is that everyone is enjoying themselves immensely, just going about their everyday lives. I didn’t really want the film to end just because it is so nice to spend time in Suzumes world. I think, lurking somewhere in the day-glo innards of this film is a poignant, and interesting point about the pleasure we take (or do not take) in the everyday and how we conduct ourselves as we go about our boring business. Though if director Miki Satoshi thinks it is important he certainly isn’t that bothered about making it obvious, it seems much more like he just wants you to enjoy yourself. It would be easy to pick holes in this film, as noted the plot is pretty anemic, and if it has a point its willfully obscure and entirely unresolved. For me though this didn’t matter one bit, I’d happily return to Suzumes world and spend a little time just sitting on the park bench, feeding the ants.

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The Train

The Train is about the French resistance and those stalwarts of World War II films, the Nazis. They always seem to pop up in those World War II films, usually as the bad guys. Given the euro centricity of those players you’ll be pleased to know that (almost) everyone is American or English and no one speaks the language that they should. Accent quality varies wildly from ‘most hilariously bad’ to ‘no effort at all’ – leading man Burt Lancaster is the main offender on that second one, and Paul Schofield does some fine work as a Colonel whose motivation is all over the place. The Nazis have decided that they need all the art. I mean all the art that France has. They load it on a train, which foolishly they let some French people drive. About 90% of what then occurs falls into the category of “cool if you don’t think about it too much”, because frankly if this was how the war was fought then its a wonder either side managed to even get out of bed in the morning. With the recent release of similarly themed film The Monuments Men one hopes you’ll get a (slightly) more realistic view of the art issue in WWII – for now though the Train offers a healthy dose of Nazi antagonizing fun with a dollop of slightly ridiculous art whore mumbo jumbo thrown in for good measure.

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Things Are Tough All Over

Racial stereotypes. They are ok right? Oh. They are not? Oh. Well … these ones don’t seem that awful. Any racial stereotype is bad? Oh. Well, at least the drug jokes are still here right! Thats a good thing. There isn’t as many of them though. Oh. Skip to the end. Tough all over is more of the same from Cheech and Chong. It has its moments, as do all of their films, and they work best here when they are making fun of themselves rather than their Arabian counterparts (or the nyphomaniacal French ladies who have an inexplicable appetite for stoners). Much like all the rest the film is a lot of skits stuck together with a pretty loose plot – its interesting to see some of the fun things these guys were doing years ago which have become, and in some cases are no longer, comedy staples. You can do worse than Cheech and Chong if you actually get stoned, or decide to get hold of some peyote, whilst you watch but really don’t expect to laugh to hard at a hairdressers confusion between herpes and hairpiece.

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Transsiberian

This film didnt really have a chance, but then putting out your film in the middle of blockbuster season is a bit like whacking out your schlong in a room full of porn stars. Iron Man, Batman … Will Smith … pretty much with the exception of Wall-E and Sex and the City the biggest films of 2008 had big fat dicks. The nice thing about Transsiberian is that it doesnt really have a dick at all – I mean first of all size really doesnt count – but everything that makes this film good is to do with its leading lady – and I promise it is nothing like Sex and the City. We follow an apparently naive American couple on their few thousand mile train journey from Beijing to Moscow. We pretty soon learn that it is a favorite route for drug smugglers and you can guess the rest. Or can you? Well the film does a pretty good job of throwing you off the scent a few times, ratcheting up the tension until the final, I have to say slightly bonkers (logistically) ending. My only issue is that it does almost as good a job of ratcheting up its Russian stereotypes too, until you’ll be convinced that anyone who isnt a local will amost certainly be immediately killed by any or all Russians upon arrival – representative this is not. But, going back to dicks, or lack of, this film is really all about the power a woman has to make and live with her own decisions. Sometimes they are not the right ones and sometimes she regrets them, but ultimately it is a “I am doing this, join me or dont” situation, or to be more prescise, “I have done this, deal with it”. It is a bit of a spoiler to say (I.E. stop reading now if you are about to watch the film) that this all seems to fall apart at the end, but its safe to say that the main male role here is one occupied by a woman in 99.9% of similar films. A refreshing change, but one that in an ideal world wouldnt even have been noteworthy.

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