Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Two Best Recent Movies You Haven't Seen

Maybe you have seen them, but I doubt it...

Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya

At first, I thought that there was some mistake. Ayothaya is not a Japanese word. The tag on this movie said that it was based on true people. So I looked it up. Turns out that the Japanese had a trading colony in what was Siam. One of the greatest heroes of this colony was Yamada Nagamasa. Yamada took to the Siamese way of life, learning their language, customs, and martial arts. He rose to great prominence in the Siamese Court, earning the very high rank of Governor of Ayothaya, and even leading 300 Samurai in to battle under the King of Siam's direction. Yamada is honored both in today's Thailand, and in his hometown of Hamamatsu. Ironically, years ago, while I was in Hamamatsu, drunk off my ass, my friends and I rested for a while next to Yamada's statue in a downtown park. I have pictures of his statue and me being... not very respectful.

Anyway this movie is as if Ong Bak, and The Last Samurai got together, killed Tom Cruse, then made sweet love. This movie was born, learned old school Muay Thai, and old school Kendo, to become something wholly kick ass.
The plot follows the predictable "stranger in a strange land" device so familiar to may films. Dude gets super hurt, dude is aided by a strange and kick ass group of other dudes, dude learns strange and kick ass ways, dude goes back with strange and kick ass ways and kills the dudes that put the super hurt on him, dude goes back to strange kick ass place and marries some chick that helped him recover from the super hurt. Only this movie has Buakaw with a crazy mustache in it!!!

The story is simple and a good one. The action scenes are great, in fact the opening sequence has two dudes beating the crap out of each other, when one is victorious, they do a quick Bruce Lee close up, and you see that the dude who won has a handlebar mustache. At that moment, I thought to myself, this will be the greatest movie you have ever seen. On top of the Muay Thai and handlebar mustache awesomeness, you get to see some very cool sword fights... And a couple of very cheesy ones too. Just when you thought that the movie could not get any more kick ass, Ninjas show up. That's right fucking ninjas!! So the Muay Thai guys go all Muay Thai on the ninjas. Epic!!
All in all great movie, good fight scenes and mothereffing Buakaw with a handlebar mustache!!!

13 Assassins

Again, this movie is based on true people. There was an evil lord named Naritsugu, ironically played by one of my wife's favorite Japanese performers Goroo Inagaki, who was to be named to a very high position in the Shogun's court. He mysteriously died on the way to Edo. This movie is about what "might" have happened on the way to Edo if a few Samurai decided that Naritsugu was just too evil to be in the Shogun's court.

What is very very cool about this movie is that the director, Takashi Miike, decided that he wanted to make the move just like Kurosawa Akira would have made it. So, they actually built many of the sets on location, used fake blood, had the guys train Kendo, and all sorts of other stuff, rather than using a bunch of CGI. It gives the movie an old school feel, and makes it very very gritty.

The story is very similar to The Seven Samurai, in that a small group of Samurai need to fight off a larger force and have a specific place to do the fighting. The Mifune Toshihiro character, Shinzaemon Shimada, played by Yakusho Koji first recruits his team, then they go to kick ass. And ass kick they do. The sword play is better than any other Samurai movie I have ever seen. It shows the differences in the two sides, the one guarding Naritsugu as largely ceremonial and soft with a few good fighters, and the one attacking, full of hard practical fighters. A simple, excellent story, spiced up with the complete evil of Naritsugu and the loyalty to death, even to a douchebag, the defending samurai show.

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