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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 Face Of Another Review


Excellent
Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara didn't make many films before his death in 2001, but he left behind quite the cinematic reputation, most notably with the weird and unforgettable Woman in the Dunes (1964) and The Face of Another, an almost surreal Twilight Zone-like exercise in the ultimate identity crisis that has enough going on in it to fuel several film school dissertations.

We meet the bandaged Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) as he is recovering from an industrial accident that has destroyed his face. Wrapped from the neck up like a mummy with eye and mouth holes, he's actually in decent physical shape and is sitting around at home wondering what to do with his life while his understandably skittish and distant wife (Machiko Kyo) darts around the apartment.

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Pistol Opera Review


Terrible
A recent article in Entertainment Weekly explains why Hollywood heavyweights from Tom Cruise to Brad Pitt are casting their creative nets across the Far East for new ideas. Who can blame them? In terms of succulent storylines, Asian cinema often appears light years ahead of an American film community knee-deep in sequels or remakes of cookie-cutter television fare.

A perfect example of the no-holds-barred well of creativity bubbling overseas is Seijun Suzuki's Pistol Opera. A sequel to the Japanese director's 1967 cult piece Branded to Kill, the film sets the stage for a wondrous tale of violence, betrayal, vengeance, and death. But while the film is gorgeous to behold, it winds up being strange without being interesting.

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