Tag Archives: Japan

Critics Choice at Beau Cinema: Silence

Silence movie posterAs pointed out by Wynter Tyson (one of the curators of the #CriticsChoice series at Beau Cinema) during his introduction to this screening of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the revered director has, throughout his career, often explored elements of faith in his work.

From the more obvious in the The Last a Temptation Of Christ to references in Gangs of New York to, arguably, a mirroring of a kind of corrupted faith in Wolf of Wall StreetSilence though follows Last Temptation in being a more direct take on the subject.

The film tells the story of a pair for Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) on a mission to Japan in the 17th century to continue the development of Christianity in the country and seek out the fate of their teacher, Padre Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

From the start, a fog shrouded scene featuring severed heads and a particularly unique and specific form of torture being administered to a group of Christian priests told from the point of view of Ferreira, it’s clear this is going to be a deep, dark journey and exploration of faith, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Silence movie - Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver

Garfield and Driver

While Scorsese is perfectly adept at everything from b-movie style fare to bright modern drama, here he more than proves why he is as regarded as he is as one of Hollywood’s best directors.

Every moment of Silence feels created with all aspects coming together to create something all-encompassing.

The sound design particularly stands out (as the title might suggest) being very low-key but highlighting what it needs to without resorting to the grand sweeping orchestrations or stereotypically ethnic sounds a lesser director might.

Silence - Liam Neeson

Neeson

This allows the visuals, which range from the rusticity beautiful to the genuinely brutal, to really stand out and strike in a way that is never melodramatic, giving the whole thing a sense of realism that is really absorbing.

While Liam Neeson’s appearance feels something like an extended cameo in the mould of his turns as Qui-Gon Jin in The Phantom Menace or Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins (just a little more serious) and Adam Driver brings an impressive intensity to Padre Francisco Garupe, it is Andrew Garfield who owns the film.

Garfield, as Padre Sebastião Rodrigues, is the film’s centre and really, despite the historical themes surrounding him, it is his journey that is the central plot.

We watch him struggle with his faith both physically and psychologically in a way that is (for the most part) brilliantly understated but gradually works its way into a truly effective and effecting place that shows a side to him I honestly never thought possible based on his pair of outings as Spider-Man (an unfair comparison I realise, but it makes the point).

Silence - Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson

Garfield and Neeson

While I’m not sure the film effected me on the spiritual level that it would Scorsese, or indeed anyone of a more religious or spiritual bent, Silence is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema.

It both manages to capture a period of history I knew not as much about and also allows space for a very real feeling story to be told without resorting to typical over the top cinematic tricks to manipulate its audience or rushing to explain every last thing, meaning it will likely sit in the back of my mind for a good while to come.

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PUNiK – F**k Yeah!!

PUNiK - Fuck Yeah!!I first properly encountered Japanese punk four-piece PUNiK when they headlined the first night the 2016 Chaos weekend and they made an instant impression. Their debut album, Fuck Yeah!! does just the same as it delivers intense, energetic blasts of no frills punk rock in twelve tight packages.

P.U.N.i.K!! starts the disc off as it means to continue with an assault of trebly, buzzing guitars, snappy, rumbling bass and ferocious drums, all with the band hollering over the top.

From there its much of the same, and all the stronger for it, as frontman Tagu rants in a mix of Japanese and broken English with bass man Nigel’s gruffer vocals providing a strong backing, while Makoto’s lead guitar provides some suitably manic solos and Osamu’s drums never let up.

Throughout about the only intelligible English words are (arguably) unprintable in most reputable publications but set the scene and really tell you all you need to know with ‘Fuck you its rock ’n’ roll’ (in Fuck’N’Roller!!) and ‘Got no money, got no future’ (in Punk Bomb!!) being two of the more choice moments.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Stand Up!! breaks things up a bit with a slightly slower, more bass driven feel, before Hello!! gives the album its one ‘conventional single’ type track that, if you’re looking for a more accessible example of what PUNiK can do, is a spot on piece of pop-rock run through a scuzzy punk ’n’ roll filter.

The production sounds just the right side of four enthusiastic drunk men in a room with some microphones, evoking a sound familiar to anyone who’s listened to their share of DIY music from the 1970s and 80s while the songs at times echo The Damned, The Ramones and Sex Pistols in the best of ways.

While the energy and power of PUNiK is certainly best experienced live, Fuck Yeah!! captures the band’s gang like spirit making for a record that is a raw and filthy pleasure.

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IWA Japan: Kawasaki Dream 1995 – King of the Deathmatch

King of the Deathmatch DVD coverIn the summer of 1995 professional wrestling was in the midst of a transition. The then WWF was trying to recover from Hulkamania with its so-called ‘New Generation’ being led by Kevin Nash’s Diesel feuding with arguably their worst King of the Ring winner Mabel. Meanwhile in WCW Hulkamania was doing its best to run wild but was, at best, faltering a year before the major impact of the nWo began to change American wrestling forever.

While North America was in the doldrums, in Japan business was booming, with the stalwarts like New Japan and All Japan leading the pack and new promotions such as FMW, Michinoku Pro and the then brand new IWA Japan doing a very reasonable trade as well.

With that in mind IWA Japan staged their biggest show to date, Kawasaki Dream, at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium in August 1995 and, inspired by OSW Review’s look at the show, I thought I’d give my slightly shoddy DVD of it another watch as well.

The DVD kicks off with some terrible heavy metal overlaid on the introduction of the show’s competitors (this kind of soundtrack is a strong negative against this version of the show). The main bulk of the card is made up of the titular tournament and entrances of note come from Leatherface (waving his chainsaw through a terrified looking crowd), Terry Funk in cowboy mode complete with horse and Cactus Jack dragging, appropriately given his role here, a barbed wire wrapped crucifix.

Aside from the tournament there are a few other matches highlighted by an NWA World Title match pitting champion Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn against Tarzan Goto, so we see Severn arrive in a not-quite-limousine and show off his gold (also including the UFC #5 championship strap).

Cactus Jack with barbed wire crossCactus Jack with barbed wire cross

Cactus Jack with barbed wire cross

The matches start off with the quarterfinals of the tournament and Tiger Jeet Singh (a Japanese gaijin veteran in the vein of The Sheik and more recently Sabu) against Mr. Gannosuke. Within seconds the match heads out of the ring for an extended crowd brawl, despite the fact this is supposed to be a chain match, and very soon Gannosuke is bleeding in particularly nasty looking fashion.

After about five minutes they do make it back into the ring, not that any actual wrestling happens, and the chain eventually comes into play in fairly typical choke and fist fashion. Throughout its clear Singh either can’t, or isn’t willing, to sell or bump in any real fashion and he eventually picks up the win with his signature claw hold forcing Gannosuke onto a bed of barbed wire for the pin to end a lifeless brawl.

Before the next match we get an excellent old-school Terry Funk promo; serious, considered and respectful before it all kicks off, that shows just why Funk is the legend he is. This is followed by a promo from ‘Leatherface’ (a low-level American veteran in a bad mask) that is in no way suitable to his character and really spoils his potential mystique before he even leaves the dressing room.

The match itself is another Chain and Barbed Wire Board match and is a much more structured affair. Impressively Leatherface hits an early moonsault before the hardcore stuff begins with chainsaw blows to the head (from the body of the device rather than the clearly false blade) before they head outside the ring for a bit of walk and brawl.

The high spot of this match comes as the competitors climb a fence dividing the stadium seating from the arena floor but it’s largely anticlimactic and is followed by a very safe and disappointing table spot from Leatherface before a bloodied Funk connects with a chained fist for the win and we get the more usual for the time ‘middle aged and crazy’ Terry Funk promo as he heads back to the locker room.

Terry Funk and Leatherface

Terry Funk and Leatherface

From there we cut straight to Cactus Jack and immediately Foley’s most extreme alter-ego shows he’s a cut above the other performers on the show (with the exception of Funk). The speech is exactly what a promo should be and makes this whole show sound like the biggest event ever while really getting his slightly unhinged character across. Then Terry ‘Bam Bam’ Gordy rambles something far less impressive that really demonstrates a man out of time and out-of-place following the dissolution of the Freebirds.

The match itself, a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat Thumbtack match, starts with the wrestlers running to the ring to race for the bat and after a few reasonably safe shots both men are brawling on the floor (you’ll notice the theme here I’m sure).

Cactus and Gordy go back and forth out and in the ring with some decent teases of thumbtack spots that do a decent job of building the psychology and mystique of the weapon before Cactus takes a nasty slam from the ropes to the arena floor that is classic Foley of giving far more than he ever needs to.

As the match goes on it becomes obvious Gordy isn’t going to be taking any big hits or falls so Cactus bumps around for him, starting a trend for the whole show, and eventually ends up taking a nasty looking curb stomp face first into the thumbtacks. This is followed by a pair of poorly performed powerbombs that Cactus was lucky to walk away from as Gordy clearly can’t muster the strength to lift the 270 pounder, before Jack hits a DDT into the thumbtacks on Gordy (Jack takes all the impact on his back) for the win.

Cactus Jack and Terry Gordy

Cactus Jack and Terry Gordy

The last quarter-final pits Shoji Nakamaki against Hiroshi Ono in another bat and thumbtack match. Starting off with some back and forth barbed wire bat shots to their well padded chests.

The duo then exchange some seriously stiff looking punches before its back to the walk and brawl which takes them from ring to ring (three are set up around the stadium). While outside both men get busted open in particularly nasty looking fashion before, back in the ring, we get a real wrestling hold, an STF, much to the surprise of everyone.

That out the way the match concludes with a series of thumbtack spots including a brutal looking headfirst back suplex into the tacks before a full nelson facebuster into the tacks gives Nakamaki the win.

In all the first round was hugely underwhelming with little in the way of story or psychology and very few genuinely impressive spots and if it hadn’t been for Cactus and Funk would have been all but unwatchable.

That done we get a break from the tournament with first a lightweight title match that is very loose and features a few good suplexes but sloppy high-flying, culminating in Takashi Otano getting the win over Kid Ichihara to win the WWA Light Heavyweight Championship.

Kamikaze and Iceman

Kamikaze and Iceman

This is followed by a sloppy not-quite-lucha match from a masked duo that has little story or psychology and not even any real high spots to make up for it, before it ends with a series of botched roll-ups giving Iceman the win over Kamikazee (nope, me neither…).

With Cactus Jack in one match and Terry Funk in the other there seemed to be a bit more promise to the semifinal matches of the tournament but, as the first starts out with Tiger Jeet Singh attacking the referee with the handle of his sword it’s not a good sign.

From there Funk interferes and another crowd brawl ensues that soon seems to step over into genuine brutality as Singh jabs and gouges at Funk’s arm with a broken metal chair leg. This all looks hugely unprofessional and, judging by the rest of the night, does seem to do Funk some real damage which is never a good thing to see.

The gimmick for this match is a Barbed Wire Board and Glass match and its Funk who ends up going back first into the bed of glass which, thankfully, the camera spares us a close up of. Its clear throughout that once again Singh is either unable or unwilling to sell or bump, even for Funk, and the end comes with a fairly run-of-the-mill interference spot from Cactus Jack that allows Funk to pin Singh.

Despite Funk’s excellent selling and genuine professionalism in the face of Singh’s ‘work’, this is another sloppy mess of a match.

Cactus Jack delivers his flying elbow

Cactus Jack delivers his flying elbow

For the second semifinal it’s a Barbed Wire Board and Spike Nail Match between Cactus and Nakamaki that follows the now standard routine of brief in-ring section before bailing to the floor for a scrap.

Unlike the other semifinal, this is a very give and take match with both men feeling the barbed wire before the nail board comes into play and both men feel that too. This looks particularly nasty, though seemingly more due to selling than actual injury.

One of the first proper big ‘spots’ of the night comes as Cactus hits his diving elbow from apron on Nakamaki who is under the nail board before some more back and forth barbed wire spots in the ring culminating in Cactus’s trademark double arm DDT on the wire for the win.

This is the best match so far by a country mile and potentially match of the night that once again shows Foley’s innate ability at telling stories and bringing psychology into even the most full-on brawling hardcore matches and is followed by yet another exceptional Cactus promo.

For another interlude in the tournament we are ‘treated’ to a pair of championship matches.

First up The Headhunters (a pair of enormous twins) take on Los Cowboys for the IWA tag straps in a match that, save for one big plancha spot from one of the Headhunters, is near pointless as the twins do very little while the Cowboys sell and bump. It ends with a Headhunters win but the whole thing is messy and unconvincing and at 17 minutes vastly overlong.

NWA and UFC Champion, Dan Severn

NWA and UFC Champion, Dan Severn

Following one of the worst wrestling promos I’ve ever seen, courtesy of NWA champion Dan Severn, and a good look at the horrifically scarred forehead of his challenger Tarzan Goto, the world championship match gets underway. It actually starts off like a conventional, if stiff, wrestling match which shows promise, but as ever it’s not long before Goto heads outside followed by Severn and what looks like a genuine fight ensues and somewhere along the line Goto tries to use a bottle as a weapon!

The fight soon gets sloppy and overlong before both men are back in the ring and Severn hits a nice and legit looking suplex, but then its back outside and chairs flying around with no real purpose.

Back in the ring again it’s a sloppy sequence that seems as if its meant to look like a shoot, but clearly isn’t, before a lengthy sleeper/choke spot gives Severn the win to retain followed by another terrible promo almost word-for-word repeating his earlier effort

This looks as if it could have been a decent match had it been more structured and booked with more consideration, but ultimately it ends up being a mess like nearly every other match on the show.

From there we head straight into the now legendary tournament final of Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk in an over gimmicked Barbed Wire Rope, Exploding Barbed Wire Boards & Exploding Ring Time Bomb Death Match.

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

The duo excellently play the psychology of the barbed wire ropes, teasing interaction with it before both taste it in different ways. Following this Funk is the first to taste the pyro board which looks spectacular and must have been astonishing to see in person.

As the match goes on the duo head outside, but unlike the other matches every moment feels built to (if at times slightly rushed) and there’s a real story of rivals really fighting for something along with the sense of a torch being passed from one generation to the other.

Despite the brutal nature of the match they still find time for Funk to use his signature spinning toe hold before an unnecessary run in from Singh hasten things toward their conclusion, but not before a hugely anticlimactic time bomb moment that gets a lot of heat from the otherwise surprisingly polite crowd.

Cactus elbow to Funk

Cactus elbow to Funk

Cactus and Funk win them back slightly with back suplex into the exploding barbed wire that seems to be the source of a severe cut to Cactus as well as major burns to his arm as recorded in later photographs. The match concludes with what feels like a slightly botched ladder spot that sees Cactus collapse into the barbed wire ropes before getting the pin on Funk.

In the end though this is, for the most part, the best match on the show and a fitting end to the tournament. That said if it weren’t for where this launched the career of Mick Foley the whole event would have been long forgotten as, despite he and Funk’s best efforts it really doesn’t deliver in any meaningful way and left me wondering if it was really worth it for any of the performers many of whom seemed to be legitimately injured in one way or another for very little gain – especially Cactus Jack who earned his win by taking the nastiest looking moves of the night and getting the worst looking injuries.

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

Cactus Jack and Terry Funk

The show ends with another excellent promo from Cactus – quite how Foley delivers this given the state he’s in is beyond me – while Terry Funk is shown climbing into an ambulance making for a great ending that keeps the storyline strong, showing respect between the two finalists but maintaining their respective positions of face and heel and selling the events legendary brutality.

Really though, unless you are a completest there is little to recommend here that you couldn’t see in a 10 minute highlight package of which I’m sure many exist floating around YouTube.

Anyway here’s the OSW review of the show which I’m sure is more entertaining than mine…

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The Wolverine (Unleashed Cut)

The Wolverine - posterHaving missed it in the cinema I thought I’d delve into The Wolverine by the extended ‘Unleashed’ cut of the movie that comes with the Blu-ray package. I’m not sure how much is different or added, but it seems the main gist of the changes is that Logan (Hugh Jackman) drops a few more ‘f-bombs’ and there’s a bit more graphic stuff in the fight scenes.

Anyway, The Wolverine tells us a new story about Logan and, thankfully, drops a lot of the over the top sci-fi comic book stuff of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and replaces with something that, at times, borders on feeling a bit James Bond as it takes Logan out of the world we’ve previously seen in the X-Men movies (though this is clearly still the same canon) as we go to Japan and find out about another part of the, essentially immortal, character’s story.

Hugh Jackman in The WolverineClearly inspired by the work of Frank Miller (the man who brought us 300 and Sin City) we are in a more serious world for The Wolverine, especially as we see Logan with his powers (sort of) removed for much of the film and, while it never quite reaches realistic territory, it does give Jackman something different to do with the character and attempts to introduce a bit more peril than there might otherwise have been.

Unfortunately, like most of the current crop of comic book movies, this sense of peril never quite gets to where we need it to. Much like Man of Steel or The Avengers, heading into this movie we already know the hero makes it through and, while it would be easy to assume that of any such movie, having the knowledge that a direct sequel was already in the works (and in the case here already being shot) does lose something in suspension of disbelief, so throughout there really is no feeling that Logan might not make it through no matter how dire the straits might appear.

Yukio in The WolverineFor a fair amount of the movie this is reasonably well dealt with as we get some pretty well executed action sequences that do some interesting things and so distract us, particularly earlier in the movie. A highlight of these is a sequence on the bullet train that mixes wirework with special effects to create something interesting and genuinely exciting.

These action scenes do have a slightly odd feel though as, while we may be used to Captain America or Iron Man knocking bad guys out before going on their way, Wolverine’s mutation of huge metal claws means he ends up inevitably killing a lot of the people he faces so the body count here is heading into Commando territory but without really paying it any notice. While in the era of Commando this was standard, in today’s style of action blockbuster it feels a bit strange as heroes killing people is generally frowned upon, though it does fit better with Logan than if he didn’t use the claws.

The Viper and LoganAs the film continues we get a bit more of Logan’s backstory, although emotionally speaking it doesn’t add much that we haven’t seen in any of the other X-Men films, and a bit more of the James Bond kind of feel, particularly reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, just without the hugely inappropriate make up work on the lead, this soon though gives way to more action, which again is well mounted with samurai swords vs claws being a major motif.

Unfortunately, for the films climactic scenes, we get back into the standard territory laid out in pretty much every Marvel movie of the recent run as a big robot-like thing turns up to have a fight with the lead and, while this does a much better job of it than Iron Man did with Iron Monger, it still doesn’t quite sit with the tone of the rest of the movie and feels very much like it had to be included to make it fit the ‘comic book movie’ style.

Silver Samurai and WolverineWhile Jackman clearly still loves playing Logan, and is excellent in the part, few other characters here stand a chance of being fully rounded leaving something of a lack of an emotional centre, despite the attempt to include a love interest storyline, everyone remains 2D, no matter what glasses you might be wearing.

While not a ‘bad’ film The Wolverine is also far from a particularly good one and, while far superior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine of X-Men: The Last Stand, it feels fairly imbalanced and is certainly over long at two and a bit hours, though waiting through it does lead to a ‘post’ credits scene that almost steals the show and sets up things to come in X-Men: Days of Future Past

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A Lion’s Tale: Around The World in Spandex by Chris Jericho

A Lion's Tale - Chris Jericho coverEver since Mick Foley wrote Have A Nice Day pro-wrestling autobiographies have become something of a must for pretty much any performer who ever had even the slightest recognition in the mainstream.

While some, like the aforementioned Foley’s or Ric Flair’s books are fascinating insights into the strange and bizarre multi-million dollar carnival of pro-wrestling, others are clearly cash-ins that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

So where does Jericho’s book come in this scheme?

Thankfully it’s nearer the caliber of Foley’s work than say, The Hardy Boyz, as it takes us largely through the Lion Heart’s time working through the 90s indie wrestling world and in Europe, Mexico and Japan, as well as his time in WCW.

Written while Jericho was on a break from WWE in the mid-2000s the book pulls no punches in its discussion of pro-wrestling, this gives us a truly interesting look at the much misunderstood industry and points out its flaws as well as its good sides from training right through to the big time – although as it ends with Jericho’s WWE debut it does, potentially, let Vince and co off the hook.

Lance Storm and Chris Jericho

Lance Storm and Chris Jericho

That aside we get to see how ‘The last survivor of the Hart Dungeon’ made it from a bowling alley in Calgary to the biggest arenas in the world.

For me the most interesting parts were hearing about how the industry differs from one country to another. While Canada and the USA have all but merged in terms of pro-wrestling the stories from Mexico, Germany and Japan show very different ways of doing things and explain a lot about the different matches I have seen from each region – particularly the European approach where many of wrestlers mentioned have visited Guernsey over the years to flog their shtick of ‘homage’ of famous guys from the US.

What we also get an insight into is how the characters of wrestlers are created, or at least how it worked for Jericho.

Having established himself as a heel (bad guy), Jericho angled to work that role whenever possible but, depending on the bookers (the guys who put the matches and shows together) they would either work with him or impose their ideas and if Jericho didn’t follow he’d be out of a job.

Chris Jericho in JapanThis led to some interesting moments that have been left out of WWE’s official history of “the Ayatollah or Rock and Roll-a” including The Phoenix in Mexico and the one time only appearance of Super Liger in New Japan and how such things effected his journey.

The last chunk of the book deals with the time in WCW and again gives an interesting view of how things were working there as, while it doesn’t exactly paint the likes of Bischoff, Hall, Nash and Hogan in the best light, it doesn’t do a complete hatchet job on them either as it draws a picture of a company running totally off the rails, which cleared up some of my questions about how WCW hit such a peak and then so quickly collapsed before it was taken over by WWE in 2001.

On top of all the wrestling stuff we also get to find out about Chris Irvine, the man who is Chris Jericho, and see how his life has panned out from being a young wrestling fan onwards.

Chris Jericho in WCWIt’s this that takes the book up a level as we gain a real insight into why he does what he does in the ring and how his real life and wrestling life have affected each other over the years.

This is something that doesn’t always come across as, for some, its something that they don’t want to put across (or would spoil their in-ring persona) or there seemingly isn’t that much to tell – here though, much like in Foley’s story, we get a balance of the two that really made me connect with Jericho in a way that the best autobiographies (on any subject) do.

While I’m not going to claim A Lion’s Tale would be a fascinating read for non-wrestling fans, it is one the books on the subject I’ve read which would at least be accessible and, for any ‘Jericho-holics’, is a must, while there is certainly something in there for both more casual fans and even some non-fans to find out more about both the man and the multi-million dollar sideshow world he lives in.

And here’s a little bit of Jericho himself talking about the book:

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