• The Crazy Family

    The Crazy Family

    ★★★★★

    When it comes to Japanese cinema, people often think about family dramas. Yasujirō Ozu and Hirokazu Kore-eda are the first two directors who immediately come to mind. Ozu cemented himself as the master of the family drama with his silent films and his entire output during the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema. Hirokazu Kore-eda has made many contemporary family drama hits, with most of his movies getting wider releases and garnering universal acclaim during their festival runs. While these two…

  • Asia Strikes Back

    Asia Strikes Back

    ★★★½

    Asia Strikes Back is another overlooked work from the great Gakuryū Ishii. It is not his best directorial effort, nor is it his most sensational sensorial experience either. However, it is an excellent piece to examine for Ishii's ability to marry music and moving images magnificently, as well as his undeniable influence on the Japanese cyberpunk films that would become a fixation for independent cinema lovers all over the world.

    Perhaps better viewed as an extended music video rather than…

  • Shuffle

    Shuffle

    ★★★★

    Shuffle may not have much to offer in the form of narrative or characterization, but it does possess an astoundingly exhausting atmosphere and a unique origin story. It is an adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's short story Run (1979), and Ishii, funnily enough, did not ask for Otomo's permission until after he had already made the film. This fun fact makes for an interesting footnote, as Ishii's own Crazy Thunder Road (1980) and Burst City (1982) would provide an aesthetic blueprint…

  • Crazy Thunder Road

    Crazy Thunder Road

    ★★★★

    Where to even begin when talking about Gakuryū Ishii's Crazy Thunder Road? The more you learn about the film's production, the more impressive it becomes. In an interview included on the Third Window Films blu-ray release, Ishii explains how he made the movie for his graduation project, using the university's equipment but having to pay for the actual film itself. He also mentions how he tried his hand at various creative endeavors as a teenager and young adult as he…

  • Charge! Hooligans of Hakata

    Charge! Hooligans of Hakata

    ★★½

    Gakuryū Ishii's first feature-length film, Charge! Hooligans of Hakata, is best viewed as the embodiment of independent filmmaking and punk sensibilities rather than some resounding success or remarkable work. Nevertheless, it is a work full of promise, and it signaled a significant transition in the Japanese film industry. The film is nearly plotless, following a group of gangsters who exist on the lowest rung of the criminal ladder. After shooting a yakuza boss's son, they find themselves caught in the…

  • Solitude of One Divided by 880,000

    Solitude of One Divided by 880,000

    During Gakuryū Ishii's first year of college, he released his first project — a 15-minute-long 8mm short titled Panic High School. It was a fiery debut in which Ishii directed generational rage toward societal structures that step over people rather than support them. The short depicts a high school boy dying by suicide because of the unreasonable expectations and stress placed upon him by Japan's educational system. After the fact, a fellow student wishes to discuss the tragic event and…

  • The Grudge 3

    The Grudge 3

    ½

    It is remarkable that these Ju-on films somehow keep getting worse. Although I must note that The Grudge 3 is a special type of terrible. It attempts to remedy some of my long-standing complaints throughout this franchise-watching endeavor. The chapter-like story delivery and the reoccurring scares wore me out tremendously, yet they persisted throughout every installment. Finally, though, a Ju-on film tried to do something different. It opted for a more straightforward storyline and spent more time with specific characters.…

  • The Cave of the Yellow Dog

    The Cave of the Yellow Dog

    ★★★★

    In The Cave of the Yellow Dog, director Byambasuren Davaa captures the life of the Batchuluun family, a real Mongolian family with no prior acting experience who live a nomadic lifestyle. The filmmaking resembles a quasi-documentary approach, with the camera highlighting what everyday life is like for the family. The story is simple — the family's eldest daughter, Nansal, discovers a dog and hopes to make it a part of their family unit. However, Nansal's father worries that the dog…

  • School Ghost Story F

    School Ghost Story F

    I will refrain from rating due to a lack of quality English subtitles. However, to be clear, I am primarily indifferent about all of the segments here. They are not particularly scary, but they make for fascinating exercises in horror. Two of the parts are from Hideo Nakata (Ringu and Dark Water), while the other is from Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

    It is okay if early J-horror similar to Ju-on is your thing. I mention Ju-on because School Ghost Story G, which…

  • The Revenge: A Scar That Never Disappears

    The Revenge: A Scar That Never Disappears

    ★★★

    The Revenge: A Scar That Never Disappears is the second and final part of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's revenge tale starring Show Aikawa. Several years have passed since Anjo decided to quit the police force and dedicate his livelihood to enacting revenge. He lost his parents and sibling as a child and lost his wife as an adult. In essence, he has lost everything.

    Caught between the cop and criminal codes, Anjo is now a vehicle for violence, and reaching any of…

  • The Revenge: A Visit from Fate

    The Revenge: A Visit from Fate

    ★★★½

    The Revenge: A Visit from Fate is a familiar feeling crime drama film. A family gets murdered due to unpaid debts, but the criminals spare one member. In Kiyoshi Kurosawa's film, the lone survivor is a young boy named Anjo. Yet the traumatic event never leaves Anjo's mind, and his thirst for revenge becomes an integral part of who he is and what he does with his life. Once an adult, Anjo (played by the always reliable Show Aikawa) becomes…

  • The Grudge 1.5

    The Grudge 1.5

    ½

    The Grudge 1.5 is nothing but terribly animated and voiced promotional material for the movies. If I was not unwell already, I am now.