Blu-Ray Review: Blind Woman’s Curse

Blind Woman's Curse BR_DVD Cover (Custom)One of those wild Japanese films packed with striking imagery and offbeat performances, Teruo Ishii’s 1970 hybrid Blind Woman’s Curse makes for another excellent Blu-Ray release from Arrow Video. It wraps up action and revenge flick aesthetics with a creepy tone, loads of late 60’s era sexiness and violence with a solid performance from beautiful Meiko Kaji. She plays Akemi, the head of a yakuza clan sometime during the 1920’s who’s been released from prison only to find there’s a pretty efficient pair of assassins as well as other folks after her and what remains of her loyal gang.

The main assassin (Hoki Tokuda) happens to be the sister of a rival boss out for her own revenge. Akemi accidentally blinded her during the fierce and beautifully shot sword battle that opens up the film and she now she’s somewhat hard to stop as she whittles down Akemi’s gang. Her assistant, a muttering and really creepy killer with wild hair (Tatsumi Hijikata) is one of those characters who gets under your skin and remains there from the moment you see him. Both he and the black cat that appears during the film lend a supernatural tone to the proceedings that lend the film a nice horror vibe. That said, if you pay close attention, you’ll see that the film tends to toss a lot at you with expectations that you’ll keep up.

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Shining Through: Old Memories Return Thanks To New Friends

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The first Japanese game I ever played to completion with no knowledge of the language outside a few basic characters was Shining and the Darkness for the Sega Mega Drive, later localized as Shining in the Darkness for North America by Sega of America. It wasn’t mad savant skills that got me through this text-heavy role-playing game, but a spoiler-free walkthrough and plenty of maps yanked from a Japanese magazine that came with the game when I purchased it. I’d played a few Japanese MD games previously, but most were shooters such as Gaiares or not quite perfect arcade ports like Golden Axe or Altered Beast.

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I stumbled upon Shining and six of seven other imports at a used book and record store in NYC back around early 1992 and couldn’t pass up buying all of the games at somewhere between eight and ten dollars each. All of those games are still in the library here and some even get pulled out and played on occasion. It took me the better part of the summer to complete SitD because I was only using the walkthrough when I got stuck and was filling in the plot on my own. It ended up being pretty close to what the actual game and English version would be because it was a simple “rescue the kidnapped princess!” story with a few expected and unexpected twists.

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Blu-Ray Review: Retaliation

Retaliation BR_CoverRetaliation (Shima wa moratta), Yasuharu Hasebe’s follow up to his 1967 yakuza flick Massacre Gun is another gem from the director worth a look. Packed with great Japanese actors throwing themselves fully into their roles as gangsters and plenty of full color violence, the film’s only “weak” point is a plot where you can often see what’s coming a mile away. But Hasebe’s technique shines here as the director pulls off some great shots and keeps you hooked in right from the beginning.

Akira Kobayashi plays Jiro Sagae, a gangster fresh out of prison after an eight-year stretch for murdering a rival yakuza. He’s followed from jail by Jo Shishido’s Hino, the brother of the man he killed who’s been planning his revenge for years. As Hino attacks Jiro, Hino’s girl (who’d been following him) rushes in and interrupts the battle, forcing Hino to put off his vengeance until later. Jiro eventually goes to see his aging and indebted to another crime boss Godfather who sends him to pay his respects to his former rival. That Boss makes Jiro an offer he can’t refuse in the form of busting up another gang trying to buy up farmland in a tiny village so a factory can be built. Jiro gets a ragtag group of assistants from a failed actor, a card shark, a pair of singers and amusingly enough Hino, the man who tried to kill him at the beginning of the film.

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Blu-Ray Review: Massacre Gun

massacre gun Arrow_MVDYasuharu Hasebe’s brooding but action-packed Massacre Gun (Minagoroshi no kenjū) is a great example of the Japanese gangster film that’s well worth a look. Starring chipmunk-cheeked Jô Shishido (he has plastic surgery to look that way), the film packs in plenty of beatings and shootings into its 91 minute running time while maintaining its not so sunny outlook for just out everyone in its cast. Then again, when the “happiest” looking guy in the movie is the angry one with the titular firearm you know you’re in for a wild ride.

Shishodo stars as Kuroda, a hit man who turns on his employers after being sent on a job to kill his girlfriend. Kuroda fires himself after the work and teaming up with his brothers Saburo (Jirô Okazaki)and Eiji (“Tatsuya Fuji”, or director Hasebe’s acting persona) also wronged by the crime boss, set off to take down his empire. This trio of men setting out for vengeance on other men thing is a high risk gig and yes, the film has a very fatalistic tone running throughout that works heavily in its favor. Some Japanese gangster films tend to have running themes about codes of honor and men maimed or dying in as respectful a manner possible (well, given the violent ways in which they meet their ends). There’s a lot of that in Massacre Gun, but Hasebe’s fluid, innovative direction and use of a jazzy score make the film compelling even in its most violent moments. That and the film is amusing when it needs to be. Someone gets a nice surprise in the form of a booby trapped coffin and some of the sudden violence can be funny because it arrives when least expected and lasts longer than you’d think.

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Monday Goes All Lost Weekend On Me

Ha. I was supposed to get stuff done today, but other than getting up too early to do laundry, today was a near total bust. Why? Well… my birthday present to myself came early and I was busy playing with myself.

Oh, wait… this is a family show. Oops. Hey, I got pictures as proof! Look:

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What? You were thinking something else? Anyway, Demon Gaze I’ll need to get used to because it’s both great (Wizardry-style gameplay) and pesky (I’m not at all fond of some of the character designs and somewhat icky fan service elements). On the other hand, Earth Defense Forces 2 Portable V2 is amazing on a few levels. Yes, developer Sandlot didn’t change the wacky animation from the original PlayStation 2 game and in fact, Pale Wing slides around and almost tips over like a Weeble even more when she’s not airborne. However, there’s a solid and lovely familiarity to the (smoother) visuals and gameplay that kept me busier than expected. Oops. Well, that Double Nyuutai Pack was a total steal thanks to an overstock, so I’m certainly pleased with my purchase and then some.

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I also got a Blu-Ray to review that’s more of a real “not for the kiddies” deal (it’s a pretty icky horror flick from Arrow Video), so I guess I’ll get to that shortly. Saving the earth from robots and too huge insects can be put on hold for the time being. Maybe.

Konami Kills Silent Hills; P.T. Probably Gone For Good

P.T. RIPIf you own a PlayStation 4, love horror-related games and have yet to play P.T., get ready for a little shock. You only have a few hours before that title (which stands for Playable Teaser and was actually a concept demo for the Guillermo Del Toro/Hideo Kojima Silent Hills project that was to feature The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus as the lead) is probably gone forever.

Konami has canceled the project entirely and will be yanking the demo off the PlayStation Network on Wednesday the 29th. The company still plans to keep creating games in the long running Silent Hill series in the future, but the loss of this demo comes as yet another blow to fans of Mr. Kojima’s work. This latest business decision comes not too long after both Kojima and Kojima Studios’ name were removed from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain after still unrevealed disagreements between the creator and company. Both his name and his studio’s name were also chopped from the P.T. demo site in Japan and it seems that once the free demo is gone, it’ll not even be available to download even if it’s been placed in one’s PS4 queue for play at some point in the future.

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As a bit of a gaming historian and big (but sometimes easily rattled) horror fan, this irks me to no end as well as shows how lousy digital distribution really is in terms of preserving content. Pulling a game demo may not seem like a big deal to many of you and it’s not really a huge deal at the end of the day. That said, given that P.T. showed off more creativity and genuinely freaky scares than some completed games, not having the demo around to show off in the future doesn’t bode well for any other demo or full game deemed disposable by companies who want to erase the past. Foo. Hopefully Konami will reconsider and at some point make the demo available at some point down the road. However, given the company’s kicking Kojima to the curb so abruptly after decades of service (no matter the reason, it’s a shame how things seem to be ending), it’s a bad sign of things to come if other games deemed doomed get dropped on the chopping block.

Anyway, if indeed the demo does disappear forever, there’s always YouTube for watching videos of people playing it. Konami’s official P.T. clips on its Japanese channel seem to be already gone, which is annoying because there were some reaction videos featuring gamers and non-gamers that were flat out hilarious. Oh well. Life goes on… but with a little less great scary as hell stuff to share with like-minded folks.

What a shame.

Godzilla The Game PS4: There Goes The Neighborhood, Toho Style!


 

Sure, it’s all fun and games, but YOU try and get some decent sleep when there are a bunch of over-sized rubber suits banging away on the buildings on YOUR block. BOOM! ROAR! CRASH! “Hey, keep it down!” just doesn’t work on a pair or more of bent on destruction giant beasts like these, you know. Fortunately, all that glorious wreckage is only on the PS3 and PS4 and not for real, as I can see real world property values sinking but also growing back after a short while. You know people would probably move in JUST for the monster battles because humans are dumb and love to watch any sort of fight (provided they don’t get hurt).

Oh, and as for that “Hollywood Godzilla” pre-order bonus, I laughed out loud because for some reason I thought of this film clip when that image and text popped up onscreen. Yeah, I’m a nut. I know, I know. Hey, I didn’t make that old and too loud film. But I did pay good money to see it when it came out (and still want my five bucks back, Mr. Spielberg!).

Review: La-Mulana EX (Vita)

La-Mulana EX CoverPlatform: PlayStation Vita

Developer: Pygmy Studios

Publisher: Rising Star Games

Genre: Archeological Ruins Exploration Action!

# of Players: 1

MSRP: $19.99

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: A- (90%)

“Welcome to the jungle, we got fun and games…”

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Yeah, I see you looking at those handsome La-Mulana EX screens and that exciting trailer and thinking “Oooh, a new ‘Metroidvania’ game to play and beat in a day or two!” Ha. La-Mulana EX laughs at your brimming overconfidence. Let me be the first (or perhaps last, as this review is a bit late) to inform you that going into this game with your dreams of adding a fast notch to your speedrun belt will have you lose that belt and perhaps your Vita right out the nearest window or under a speeding bus or some other method you choose to remove that handheld from your possession.

 

 

No, the game isn’t “bad” by any stretch of the imagination. Not at all. It’s just going to be one of the toughest games you’ll play if you’re not willing to read the digital manual and pay close attention to the basic to advanced techniques you’ll learn. In fact, what’s here will hopefully make you remove the word “Metroidvania” from your gaming vocabulary, as it’s a meaningless description that’s also a bit lazy in how it fails to actually describe a game as deep as this one. Continue reading

EDF 4.1 Update: Japan Gets It While We Still Wait Patiently


 

Holy cats. While there still no localization news about Earth Defense Forces 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair, the game has been out in Japan since April 2 and is getting played to death over in Japan by some lucky gamers who’ve been dropping some truly incredible videos of the game in action on YouTube. Sure, it’s not packing the best visuals when unfairly compared to more polished games for these new-gen consoles or PC. But developer Sandlot clearly knows how to set the tone for some massive scale battles. Wow. Hey, it’s sure cheaper than buying a bunch of toys and wondering where to to store them all, I say. That said if there’s ever a sequel to Pacific Rim and someone wants a tie-in game, I think I know who should get the call.

Arrow Video July Releases: Dead on Target (Again)

Arrow MVD New Trio

The fine folks at Arrow Video continue to whip out releases from their UK catalog through MVD to film fans and collectors stateside well worth buying and July’s three Blu-Ray/DVD sets are a nice trio for your library. This time, it’s an odd triple threat of 1970’s Japanese pop style, a bleak Gallic “spaghetti” western and a fun, funky horror film starring a pre-A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund. That video below of Stray Cat Rock: The Collection should hopefully tease some of you into action in the form of adding it to your want list somewhere or bugging someone to get you it (or all three films) as a nice gift.

Well, I’D bug someone to get me all three of these flicks. Hey, I have unusual tastes in films from unforgettable classic silents to a handful of loud, noisy super-budget blockbusters more easily forgotten. I won’t knock your tastes at all (well, unless you still watch “reality” TV with a straight face and actually get upset at every VERY obviously scripted moment better done the first time and not the 500th). Eeek.