Sunday, July 4, 2010

NYAFF/Japan Cuts 2010: "Alien vs Ninja" + "Mutant Girls Squad"

* Alien v. Ninja (dir. Seiji Chiba, 2010, Japan), July 3 at 6p. The world premiere of the 1st film out of killer new label Sushi Typhoon is coked-up action at its very finest. The extremely transparent title signals the lack of a weighty plot — it really is about aliens (half-dinosaur, half-Gigeresque) versus ninjas, in an endless primeval Japanese cedar forest — but I am 100% OK w/ that when the action is this good. Director Chiba's background is in historical action-drama, and the lead badass ninja, Masanori Mimoto, while simultaneously being a hot slice of manliness, is a ridiculously adept action hero. The swordplay and acrobats were of the caliber I rarely see in films of this vein, so exhilarating that I found myself on the edge of my seat as each choreographed sequence one-upped its predecessor. This goes beyond wires and CGI. Mika Hijii as the super-cute ninja (w/ metal fists reading "the strongest", and she is a total badass) and Shuji Kashiwabara as the slightly primadonna ninja, w/ his floppy hair and sullen 'tude (though he's a badass too), alongside Mimoto, are basically all that stands in the way of several disgusting, slimy rubber-suited aliens, which made brutally quick work of the other ninjas. Watch Mimoto throw a sullen, smouldering gaze as one of his kin gets bloodily dispatched and he swears revenge and cuts up an alien. Watch Hijii and Kashiwabara kick ass, as Mimoto throws more smouldering looks before engaging in a swordfight w/ an alien, who also is wielding a sword. Slap yourself but it'll do no good: you're not dreaming, that really just happened. Yattai, Sushi Typhoon!
Next Screening: July 6, 3:45p (Walter Reade Theatre)

* Mutant Girls Squad (dirs. Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi, 2010, Japan). Ever since experiencing Nishimura's Tokyo Gore Police at the 2008 NYAFF (for you don't just "watch" a Nishimura film), this unique brand of extreme body horror, coupled w/ a cadre of beautiful actresses and deviant humor, has been at the core of my festival experience. Last year everything, all my anticipation, led up to Vampire Girl v. Frankenstein Girl. This year, it had to be the powerhouse team-up and Mutant Girls Squad. After joining Twitter, I added @sentoshojo and got my daily dispatch of Mutant Girls news — this occurred for months, so you talk about anticipation. And the payoff? The gory amalgamation concocted by these three leading minds is a riotous party, loads of off-kilter fun that stays firmly w/in their cherry Sno-cone blood-soaked sphere whilst excelling in the bizarre beyond their previous works. It's saying something when the 1st person who gets sawed in half (like 1.5 minutes into the film) doesn't faze me — more like a gentle comfort that "yes, I'm back with you now!" — yet seeing a girl get her face trisected vertically reminds me: they've found ANOTHER way to do that, awesome! Good news: the talent is hot. Iguchi (and I'm pinning Iguchi w/ this one) has an eye for leads, and the three here (Yumi Sugimoto as Rin, Yuko Takayama as Rei, and Suzuka Morita as Yuki) have backgrounds as gravure idols, though Takayama, the overall meanest of the lot, is also the lead in action drama Hana no Asuka-gumi NEO. More good news: perennial Iguchi/Nishimura collaborators Asami and Cay Izumi — two of the baddest-ass actresses I have the pleasure of knowing — take their action careers to new levels, w/ Asami as the retainer for the Tokyo police force (wielding two swords in what I think is called "niten-ichi-ryuu") and Cay as a Lolita-esque character w/ swords coming out her boobs. Oh I haven't mentioned the mutant girls yet: think of X-Men, only they're all young hot fashion models w/ bizarre, body-horror mutations (ass-chainsaw, the aforementioned sword-boobs) and instead of Professor X we get Tak Sakaguchi in drag (think a svelte Robert Smith). Directors Nishimura and Iguchi both cameo and die. Cay and Asami die as well, rather violently and creatively the both (I must wonder what remains in these directors' bag of tricks for creative killings, but I've no doubt they've got a LOT of surprises remaining). Kanji Tsuda (the wacked-out professor-slash-Dr. Frankenstein in Vampire Girl v. Frankenstein Girl) returns as Rin's smiley dad, but mainly as a decapitated talking head atop her floating birthday cake, in an extremely '80s-psychedelic sequence that recalls that coffee-drinking screensaverish bit on Earthbound, only w/ Tsuda's decapitated talking head atop a floating birthday cake. Another killer juxtaposition: Rin and Rei slow-dancing, inter-cut w/ Sakaguchi as this avian mutation, cackling and killing Tokyo PD, whilst Yuki fights a slashed-up, fire-throwing Sayako Nakoshi (Nishimura's omnipresent "wrist-cut girl"). I loved every minute of it.
Next Screening: July 5, 6p (Walter Reade Theatre)