Third Window Films Release “DANGAN RUNNER” on November 12th on DUAL FORMAT Blu-ray/DVD

Third Window Films are back again with the release of a 90s classic Dangan Runner by the director SABU (Mr. Long, Happiness, Miss Zombie). It is his directorial debut and is the world’s first Blu-ray and remastered DVD release and it contains a treasure trove of extras including an interview with the director. It gets released on November 12th on Blu-ray and DVD. Here are the details.

Special Features:

Dual format DVD & BLURAY

First 1000 copies come with collectable slipcase

Interview with director SABU

VCinema: A Video Essay by Tom Mes

Audio Commentary by Jasper Sharp

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Ren Osugi (September 27, 1951 – February 21, 2018)

Veteran actor Ren Osugi passed away earlier today from heart failure. He was only 66. It’s not often that I write about someone’s passing but I can’t let Osugi’s go by without a few words.

I’ve grown up watching Japanese films and one person in particular kept cropping up and that was Ren Osugi. He has worked on projects directed by Takeshi Kitano, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, SABU, Shinya Tsukamoto, Sion Sono, Takashi Miike, and other major directors my generation have been influenced by. Usually it was a small part such as a detective in some horror movie or a gangster in a Kitano film but he had such skill and versatility as an actor that he appeared in many more films and doramas and he could hold a film down and bring depth to his characters, no matter what their place in the plot was.

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Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)

Bitter Honey    

Mitsu no Aware Film Poster
Mitsu no Aware Film Poster

蜜のあわれ 「Mitsu no Aware

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Gakuryu Ishii

Writer: Takehiko Minato (Screenplay), Saisei Muro (Original Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Ren Osugi, Yoko Maki, Kengo Kora, Masatoshi Nagase, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Seiko Iwaido,

Website    IMDB

Director Gakuryu Ishii made his name with crazy indie films fizzing with punk energy, works like Burst City (1982) and Crazy Thunder Road (1980), but that is just one aspect of his career since he has an imagination capable of covering different genres from gloomy serial killers films like the brilliant Angel Dust (1994) and talky apocalypse movies like Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012). I recommend watching them but of his other works, The Crazy Family and August in the Water are my personal favourites. Most of his films burst with voluptuous visuals and costumes, dense dialogue, and big name actors and over his long career he has maintained his flare for shooting scenes in energetic ways, something much needed here in a story that takes a while to get traction despite an exuberant performance from Fumi Nikaido as a goldfish turned human.

Based on a 1959 novel by the author Saisei Muro, Bitter Honey is set in 1950’s Tokyo. Although shot in a few outdoor locations like a yokocho, some streets, and temple grounds, most of the action takes place indoors, particularly the well-appointed house of an old male writer (Ren Osugi) who is busy making works of literature that will stand the test of time. Well, he would be if he wasn’t enthralled with a red goldfish who is able to transform into a beautiful voluptuous young woman (Fumi Nikaido).

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Don’t Look Up (1996) 女優霊 Dir: Hideo Nakata

Happy Halloween! This is the time of year when people celebrate the supernatural and ghoulish aspects of popular culture and national myths. I do my part by highlighting horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzaiPOV: A Cursed Film and Charisma. This is the fifth year of this strand
and I am doing it in Tokyo, Japan. The last two weeks has seen the city go into img_1496Halloween overdrive and I am told it is a recent phenomenon. For my part I have viewed things from afar (such as from on top of Roppongi Hills and down onto a parade) rather than get stuck in what looks like a proper melee in jam-packed crowds (boring, I know, but I want to eat my ghost cakes and pumpkin Kitkats and drink my Halloween juice).

Anyway, this year’s film is from the ‘90s and it came from a young director who is now a familiar name thanks to a scary person who curses people via VHS. This isn’t Ringu, it’s an earlier film…

Don’t Look Up   jyoyurei poster

女優霊Joyu-rei

Release Date: March 02nd, 1996

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Hideo Nakata

Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi (Screenplay), Hideo Nakata (Original Story)

Starring: Yurei Yanagi, Yasuyo Shirashima, Kei Ishibashi, Ren Osugi, SABU, Daisuke Iijima, Naomi Kojima, Reita Serizawa,

IMDB

We are in Japan in the ‘90s. A promising young director, Toshio Murai (Yurei Yanagi), and his beautiful lead actors Hitomi Kurokawa (Yasuyo Shirashima) and Saori Murakami (Kei Ishibashi) and the crew are working hard on a film in a studio that has been around since the Second World War. It’s a huge place with a set that is built like a traditional house from the 1940s, props and scenery and other feature both modern and from the time of the studios construction as well as a lot of film canisters containing rolls of films from forgotten television shows and movies. It is an ideal location for the war drama being filmed and also place with a lot of memories. There is nothing so out of the ordinary at first glance and with so many people on set it looks like a lot of fun. Unless one looks up.

jyourei-2

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Third Window Films Release Takeshi Kitano’s Dolls on Blu-ray on March 14th

Third Window Films are releasing a series of films by Takeshi Kitano on Blu-ray as Office Kitano updates the titles with 2K masters. Regular readers will know that I have reviewed Hana-bi and Kikujiro and next Monday I hope to review the latest film to get a release in the series, Dolls.

I was in high school when this was released and I must admit to being turned off by the obvious artiness of it, which isn’t to say that it’s bad so much as my taste ran more to his more violent gangster films. When I was in university I came to love his more sedate films like A Scene at the Sea and Kids Return. Like those two films, Dolls doesn’t feature Kitano acting on screen and it features a score by Joe Hisaishi (his last collaboration with Kitano). I suppose now is a great time to see how far my views have changed since it’s getting a release on March 14th!

Here’s some info from a press release!

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Hana-bi 花火 (1998)

Hana-bi   

Hanabi Japanese Film Poster
Hanabi Japanese Film Poster

花火Hana-bi

Release Date: January 24th, 1998 (Japan)

UK Release Date: January 11th, 2016

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 125 mins.

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe,

IMDB

Takeshi Kitano is one of the major figures in the Japanese movie industry. He graduated from television to the film scene in the 1980s with a role in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983). His real impact was felt in 1989 with Violent Cop, the film with which he established himself as a director of crime tales. Soon, his presence became synonymous with the Japanese hardman but it is arguable that his best films don’t feature him on the screen at all as people who have seen A Scene at the Sea (1991) and Kids Return (1996) may attest. When Kitano is present on screen he sizzles with barely restrained energy and coolness and a cracked sentimentality of sorts. No film epitomises this more than Hana-bi (1997), a title where his writing and directing reached its heights of brilliance.

Hana-bi Detective Nishi

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Third Window Films to Release Takeshi Kitano Classic Hana-bi on Blu-ray

Third Window Films are going to release three great films from legendary director Takeshi Kitano this year and the first of those films is Hana-bi. It has been at least over a decade since I last saw it but I still remember parts of it clearly and its impact on me at the time was pretty profound considering what went from a random DVD purchase shot to near top of my most respected films of all time and I went and bought a poster. I think now is the perfect time to get reacquainted…

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Charisma カリスマ (2000)

Charisma

カリスマKarisuma

Release Date: Feburary 26th, 2000 (Japan)

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Jun Fubuki, Yoriko Doguchi, Ren Osugi, Yutaka Matsushige, Akira Otaka,

IMDB

Happy Halloween! This is the fourth year where I highlight horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzai, and POV: A Cursed Film. This year I take on Charisma!

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is my favourite director and for much of his career he has focussed on horror movies. Post Tokyo Sonata (2009) Kurosawa has become more conventional and mainstream as he slides into making dramas and adaptations of novels so it is great to revisit one of his horror films for Halloween 2015!

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License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)

Genki License to Live Film Review Header

License to Live                                     License to Live Film Poster Slightly Bigger

Japanese Title: ニンゲン 合格

Romaji: Ningen Goukaku

Release Date: January 23rdt, 1999

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Sho Aikawa, Lily, Shun Sugata, Ren Osugi, Yoriko Douguchi, Masahiro Toda, Hajime Inoue

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in the west for his horror films thanks to titles like Cure, Pulse, and Retribution being more available than his dramas and crime thrillers. In fact he is adept at working in other genres and there is a large body of work from his v-cinema days during the 90’s missing to those of us outside Japan. Overall his best film is the drama Tokyo Sonata, a masterful portrait of the breakdown of a modern family. License to Live is another drama film with similar themes to Tokyo Sonata but from 1999, ten years prior, and with a lighter comic touch.

Yutaka Yoshii (Nishijima) has just awoken from a ten year coma caused when he was knocked off his bicycle by a man named Murota (Osugi). It comes as a shock to the hospital staff and Murota who can’t forget the story and paid for Yutaka’s medical bills but Yutaka is conscious and so Murota gives him 500,000 yen to put an end to it.

Yutaka’s family might be glad of his recovery but they have all separated having accepted the possibility he might never wake up. His parents are divorced and his sister is supposedly in America. The only person willing to take Yutaka in is Fujimori (Yakusho), an old college friend of his father who raises carp in a fish farm on the Yoshii’s family property.

License to Live Yutaka (Nishijima) and Fujimori (Yakusho)

 

With Fujimori’s help Yutaka begins to grow up but soon his family hear about his recovery. First to appear is his father Shinichiro (Sugata) who travels the globe and has consigned Yutaka to the past. Next is Yutaka’s sister Chizuru (Aso) who shows up on the fish farm with her fiancé Kasaki (Aikawa) but she doesn’t want to stick around. Finally Yutaka finds out about mother Sachiko (Lily) who is the only one to stick by him.

“Your new life is what counts,” others tell him but Yutaka wants to bring his family back together again, even if only for a moment.

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The Guard From Underground 地獄の警備員 (1992)

Genki The Guard From Underground Film Review Banner

The Guard From Underground  The Guard From Underground Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄の警備員

Romaji: Jigoku no Keibin

Release Date: 1992

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Kunihiko Tomioka (Screenplay),

Starring: Makiko Kuno, Yutaka Matsushige, Hatsunori Hasegawa, Ren Osugi, Taro Suwa

Akebono Corporation is a major business and Akiko Narushima (Kuno) is on her way to a new job. She used to be a curator at a gallery and is now the new adviser for the purchases of paintings for the corporation. Akebono are also hiring a new security guard in the rather tall and solidly built shape of former sumo wrestler Fujimaru (Matsushige), a man who is wanted by the police investigating the case of the murder of his lover and her lover, another sumo wrestler…  He was released due to being insane but the police are looking to prosecute again. Akiko starts her first day brightly and meets her new colleagues, the flighty Hanae Takeda, the rather useless Ken Nomura, and anonymous bald dude Minoru Yoshioka (Suwa). Her workmates are great… apart from her lecherous manager Kurume (Osugi), a carefree head of human resources named Hyodo (Hasegawa) and the mighty Fujimaru who takes a liking to her.

The Guard From Underground Security Booth

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