Basset Hounds are Cyberpunk AF

Yesterday Netflix released Duncan Jones’ Mute (2018), the cyberpunk movie the director had been gestating for some sixteen years. Loosely connected to his debut Moon (2009) and starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux in a near-future Berlin, I found it unevenly paced but totally engrossing – well worth a try from any subscriber, even if the director himself has said it’s a Marmite kind of filmBlade Runner may have set the template for cyberpunk visuals but Mute managed to remind me of the even filthier, cheaper, more run-down and lived in worlds of Harebrained Schemes‘ Shadowrun games – especially, of course, the Berlin-set Shadowrun: Dragonfall.

Halfway through the movie, as Paul Rudd’s uncharacteristically unpleasant Cactus Bill skulks through graffiti covered streets, what should walk prominently across the shot but a Basset Hound?

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A Basset Hound in Mute (2018)

Of course, I can’t help but assume this is a reference to my favourite cyberpunk series, Ghost in the Shell:

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Batou and Gabriel in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

Mute: cementing that Basset Hounds are cyberpunk af

Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Given my love of Ghost in the Shell in all its many iterations, I would be remiss in not reviewing Ghost in the Shell (2017) ghostintheshell2017poster– the US remake from director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) and starring Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Under the Skin) as the Major. Remakes in general are always a tough sell, and while I think there are some good examples on both sides of the equation (The Ring is a strong adaptation of Ring, Yurusurezarumono is a fantastic adaptation of Unforgiven) the general expectation is that any piece of world cinema being adapted for Hollywood is going to lose something in translation. I wanted to approach it with some degree of open-mindedness – perhaps it could be one of those rare examples of a remake that transcends its source material, or if nothing else, perhaps it could stand alone as a decent film even if in failing to surpass the original version it winds up feeling unnecessary (not unlike the recent RoboCop remake).

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Review: New Battles Without Honour and Humanity: The Boss’s Head (1975)

Where New Battles Without Honour and Humanity was essentially a remake of Kinji Fukasaku’s own earlier film, in The Boss’s Head (1975) the director returns with an original story that nevertheless reunites much of his earlier cast.New_Battles_Without_Honor_and_Humanity_The_Boss's_Head Bunta Sugawara stars as Kuroda, a wanderer who takes the fall for a murder on the understanding that when he gets out of jail, the Owada crime family will take him on-board and pay handsomely for his service. When his heroin junkie contact (Tsutomu Yamazaki, A Taxing Woman) in the family lets him down, Kuroda stops at nothing to get what he feels he deserves.

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January in Review

A month into 2018 and we’ve revisited an Akira Kurosawa classic in Rashomon, met another Nikkatsu Diamond Guy in Toshio Masuda’s Red Pier, experienced more of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s horror expertise in Creepy and Pulse, and returned a kaiju-dominated Earth in Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.

Unexpectedly, Creepy is my pick of the bunch. It’s imperfect, but it’s weird thrill ride that Kurosawa’s own Pulse can’t match. On the other hand, while a lot of pop culture is deeply indebted to Rashomon, I’ve now seen better takes on the same multiple narrative-style storytelling, and Akira Kurosawa’s own filmography includes far better works.

Of course, I didn’t just watch Japanese films…

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Review: Pulse (2001)

Veteran director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Sweet Home, Creepy) has built a career dipping in and out of the crime and horror genres. pulse posterIt would be easy to dismiss Pulse (2001) as another relic from the age of late-90s J-horror that coasted in on the success of Ring, replacing that film’s cursed VHS premise with a fear of the early internet age. Instead, Pulse is a different beast altogether, with a wildly different tone of creeping, quiet apocalypse and a totally different approach to its scares.

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Review: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)

As Netflix plunges more and more cash into original content, one of the areas it has ramped up production in is Japanese drama and anime. godzillaplanetofposterThe acquisition of Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) for global distribution was a big symbolic gesture, one that teamed Netflix up with Polygon Pictures (Blame!) for another CGI anime movie. The result is the first part of a planned trilogy of movies pitting the future remnants of humanity against a massive, nigh unstoppable Godzilla that has conquered the Earth and now rules a kaiju planet.

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Review: Red Pier (1958)

Continuing a dive into Nikkatsu’s vault we have Toshio Masuda’s Red Pier (1958). Red-PierIt stars Yujiro Ishihara as “Lefty” Jiro, a ‘50s gangster laying low in Kobe after killing a civilian over a drug smuggling racket. When he falls for the victim’s sister and starts to let slip his involvement, his low-key criminal underworld starts to come unravelled.

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Review: Creepy (2016)

From Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director of Sweet Home and with a long career dipping in and out of the horror genre, comes Creepy (2016). Ex-cop Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) Creepy Posterleaves his job hunting serial killers to become an academic specialising in criminal psychology, but when his new job is unfulfilling he re-opens the cold case of a missing family on the side. In a parallel story, his wife becomes perturbed by their unusual new neighbour Nishimoto (Teruyuki Kagawa). But as Takakura tells his wife – serial killers are usually nice to their neighbours, so she has nothing to fear from the socially graceless Nishimoto. Right?

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Review: Rashomon (1950)

Opening 2018 with another Akira Kurosawa classic seems like a good way to get started, rashomonposterso here’s Rashomon (1950). An inventive story that retells the same event from the point of view of multiple unreliable narrators, Akutagawa’s storytelling and Kurosawa’s interpretation echo through pop culture – with my personal favourite being the King of the Hill Episode, “A Fire Fighting We Will Go”. The film presents multiple layers of narratives within narratives as a wandering traveller happens upon two other men seeking shelter from the rain in the huge, cyclopean ruin of the titular Rashomon gate.

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Happy New Year from Kino 893!

明けましておめでとう!

Welcome to 2018 and welcome back to Kino 893. Last year, I set out to explore Japanese cinema in a way I never had before, pushing myself to hunt down everything from classics by Akira Kurosawa to B-movie action and horror unearthed by niche publishers like Arrow, Eureka, and Criterion. I’d always had a soft spot for Japanese films given my time spent living in or studying Japan over the last decade, but 2017 marked the first time I sat down to check out a lot of films I really should have seen before.

I started Kino 893 to chronicle the different movies I was watching and hopefully over time build up an eclectic collection of reviews. For many of the more obscure films, I was also encouraged by the fact very little information on them exists in English, and I wanted to try and include as much as I could for other film fans looking to track this stuff down. I was aiming to release a new review every week for the whole of 2017, but ‘real life’ occasionally got in the way – but still, 45 out of 52 isn’t bad! In 2018, I hope to hit my target, as well as releasing the occasional ‘bonus’ review still relevant to the site – Hollywood movies set in Japan, the Western films of Japanese directors, or Japanese dorama, anime, or videogames.

With the holiday season now behind us, if you missed my reviews of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence or Tokyo Godfathers, be sure to check them out now. New reviews will start arriving this Friday, January 4th, with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon leading the pack. As ever, follow and subscribe to get updates on new reviews and articles, and I welcome comments on reviews whether you agree or disagree with my takes.