Daisuke Tengan

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13 Assassins Review


Good
Carefully paced to draw out the internal warfare as much as the blood-and-guts variety, this samurai showdown packs a potent emotional wallop. If the first half feels a little dull, the hour-long battle scene makes up for that.

In 1844 Japan, young Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki) is such a sadist that he's about to end a long period of peace. And his merciless rampage of rape, torture and death goes unchallenged because he's the Shogun's half-brother. Shocked by where this is heading, top samurai Shinzaemon (Yakusho) assembles a team of 12 warriors to take him out. It's clearly a suicide mission. And they pick up a wild-eyed 13th colleague (Iseya) on the way to setting an elaborate trap for Naritsugu and his 200-strong entourage.

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The Eel Review


Weak
Takuro Yamashita is a bland, efficient little man who worked nine to five in your standard office job, going off on fishing excursions during the weekend. He hardly emotes at all, and when he discovered his wife sleeping with another man one night he dispatched her in a chilly, businesslike manner then immediately turned himself in. He spent eight years in prison.

Shohei (Black Rain -- not the Michael Douglas version) Imamura's new film, The Eel, documents this quiet, eccentric character during his first several months of parole. What starts out as the story of a murderer shifts gears to become a quirky character study with more than a little touch of farce as he attempts to start his life over as a village barber in a small seaside town. He doesn't seem to like people very much, spending most of his time confessing to his eel, which "listened to him" as his pet during those hard years in prison.

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The Most Terrible Time in My Life Review


Excellent
Asian cinema always seems to have its own voice, its own reasons, and its own functions. Kaizo Hayashi's The Most Terrible Time in My Life is a great example of amazing cinema that has been emerging from the Asian Pacific Rim in the past decade.

The Most Terrible Time in My Life is the first installment of a three-part series concerning Maiku Hama - a punk-turned-respectable private eye whose office is located in a movie theatre. A gritty, violent tale of gangland warfare, missing people, and friendships, and betrayal, Maiku's exploits begin by defending a waiter at a local mah-jongg parlor from two Yakuza thugs, culminating in Maiku getting part of his pinky finger sliced off. The waiter, Hai Ting, then hires Maiku to find his brother who has gone missing for a year since arriving in Japan. Maiku contacts his old cabby buddy Hoshino and finds out the Taiwanese and Hong Kong mafias are planning an all-out turf war in Japan.

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Audition Review


Excellent
Starting right with its cover shot of demure Japanese model Eihi Shiina wearing a chemical-safe, black rubber glove and clutching an enormous syringe, we know we're in for something extremely wrong with Takashi Miike's Audition.

And in a way, that's the problem. Audition starts out as the sweetest little love tragedy you can imagine. Poor Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is nursing his wife during her final hours on her deathbed. She passes away and he's left to raise their son alone. Years later, he has finally gotten over the loss of his wife and consults his friend on how a widower finds a girl these days. The friend proposes a clever idea: Hold an audition for a movie that will never be made. Ask the girls whatever you want, then pick and choose the perfect one for a wife.

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Warm Water Under a Red Bridge Review


Excellent
Girl: To you, I must appear like a slut.

Boy: (bemused) You certainly do!

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11'09''01 - September 11 Review


OK
Simple premise: Eleven filmmakers each get 11 minutes to put their thoughts about September 11, 2001 into film. Documentaries about 9/11 have certainly been made to date -- I'd be surprised if less than a dozen had been released -- and this very format has even been done before too (see our review of Underground Zero).

What September 11 has that the other films don't is star power and international perspective. The 11 directors who submit work here represent a walk of fame of international cinema. Though I'm not familiar with the work of Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran) or Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina-Faso), to name a few, names like Penn, Lelouch, Iñárritu, Nair, and Loach represent some major names.

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