Blu-ray Review – Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Joshû 701-gô: Sasori) (1972)

First time Director Shunya Itō delivers us the story of Female Prisoner #701, Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji). A young woman imprisoned after being seduced by a detective (Isao Natsuyagi) who is in-with the Yakuza. The detective convinces Matsu to infiltrate a gang of business class marijuana dealers. The gang rape Matsu without hesitation and are only stopped when they are caught by the detective. Upon the realisation that she was used as bait, Matsu attempts to butcher the detective with a kitchen knife. This results in Matsu’s sentence and this is where the Matsu transform from timid young woman into the deadly inmate Scorpion begins.

Firstly, the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is my first exposure to the Japanese female prison exploitation genre. I had a rough idea of what to expect – rape/revenge etc. I shouldn’t have been surprised when we see dozens of inmates giggling and laughing as they soap up for the shower scenes displaying their ‘assets’ and their collage of nasty sailor tattoos. There is also generous helpings of violence, boobs, girl/girl seduction! It is a entertaining watch, just see how Matsu is going to get out these situations. Prison isn’t kind to Matsu at all – the guards, wardens and hell even the inmates are hellbent on breaking her psychically and mentally.

Itō was not shy with some of his directing choices in this feature, when Matsu was running from a rival inmate who is wielding a large shard of glass – the distorted overly theatrical effect of the face paint and the lighting was a bizarre choice. I can only imagine that this was the directors vision on how reflect Masaki’s rage/seeing red (or blue in this case) and Masaki eventually striking the warden. Similar artist choices are used when Matsu is raped by the leering businessmen, whilst being raped on a frost glass floor, they were able to light the floor to further emphasise the seething fury seen in Matsu’s eyes as she realises that the crooked Detective had betrayed her.

I do feel I need to make it clear that whilst this is a Brand new 2K restorations, the film still looks as if you’re watching it on an old telly with a knackered ariel – it’s note grainy, it’s snowy! But what can you expect from a film of the seventies, I can’t imagine their being any stellar copies being kept in the Toei Vaults.

The Blu-ray special features include three interviews (roughly 50 minutes), one with director Shunya Itō recorded originally for the German DVD back in 2006 and two new interviews shot for this release with assistant director Yutaka Kohira and an appreciation of the series from The Raid director Gareth Evans. Shunya Itō talks of his inspirations and influences in film-making that led him to making this feature, whilst Yutaka Kohira talks of the experiences on set and working on the controversial fourth feature. Gareth Evans segment is a nice feature, he breaks down how Female Prisoner #701 popped up on his radar as a teen, his appreciation of the series and how Shunya Itō’s work bleeds through into Evans own features.

Other special features include a 50 second translation of the ending credits sequence and a set of four trailers for each of the films in this collection. Overall it’s a decent film with a decent set of special features to match!

Film 3/5

Blu-ray 3/5

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Blu-ray) – 6/10

FEMALE_PRISONER_EXPLODED_UK_V1Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is part of the Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection – Limited Edition Dual Format Blu-Ray + DVD available from 8th August 2016.

TV Review: Geeking Out (Comic-Con Special)

Excited hosts Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg helm AMC’s new Pop Culture late night talk show. Boy are they excited, they show plenty of energy/enthusiasm, I’m used to seeing Kevin Smith being this excited, but seeing how excited Greg gets, I’m not sure if he’s trying match Kevin’s energy or if he really is this excitable dude – he is always so straight faced when he’s in television roles and films.

Okay so we’re told this episode is the San Diego Comic Con Special, not your typical episode of Geeking Out. I am more or less going to break down each segment and give you my brief opinion on each of the segments.

First Segment – Star Trek Beyond. Greg’s on the red carpet of the outdoor premier at Comic Con, it looks like an amazing experience! Greg’s energy is high – to the point when he’s talking shop with Simon Peg and refers to the film as Star Wars instead of Star Trek – Geek faux pas! The cast and crew seemed pleased to see him, J.J. Abrams joking about Greg and his camera crew being to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The boys cut to Comic Con where they interview the likes of the Preacher crew (Gareth Ennis, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg) and Dominic Cooper reflecting on their thoughts of the season. Then we get Greg delivering a nice on the spot interview talking with artist Jim Lee and what he needed to do to protect his million dollar hands! Segment finishes with Greg talking with Luke Cage executive producer Cheo Hodari Coker about how epic Luke Cage will be – I’m still not convinced.

Tiffany Smith is introduced, showing off her Lord of the Rings ink – they fire her off to Comic Con to cover the cosplayers – the imagination and the creativity is always outstanding, although I could empathise with some of the blank expressions of knowledge or interest in what the cosplayers beavering over.

Cut to Kevin Smith being reunited with Matt Damon for a miniature interview/Jason Bourne plug. Having Kevin feed Matt lines from DC characters that could possibly play across from Affleck’s Batman in the future. Damon reading lines as Death stroke, Captain Marvel and in particular Green Arrow is particularly well acted.

Kevin and Greg finish with a joint interview with Charlie Hunnam to promote the new Guy Ritchie movie; King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Hunnams stories of working under Ritchie’s direction were amusing. Kevin brings up the film Excalibur which brings around of awkward high fives between the threesome. The interview ends with the trailer being show, I was surprised to see that it seemed more entertaining than I imagined, it’s got the Guy Ritchie Lock, Stock charm to it whilst looking like something as uninteresting as Dracula Untold and hey it’s got famous people in it too!

As the credits roll we’re given a little sizzle reel of what to expect when the show properly starts in august, Kevin directing The Flash, interviewing J.J. Abram and even the director from Training Day!

DVD Review – Police Story: Lockdown (2013)

Captain Zhong (Jackie Chan) is miserable and his life is in tatters – the film opens with him slumped in a drunken stooper in the back of a taxi heading to a mysterious nightclub. What’s someone his age doing at a nightclub? It’s Christmas and he has received an invitation from his distant daughter, Miao Miao (Tian Jing) offering him an olive branch.

Clearly out of his element in the industrial hipster bar, Miao actually brought him here to introduce him to her boyfriend – the club owner; Wu Jiang (Ye Liu). Not impressed and left arguing with Miao, Zhong is ready to high tail it back to the taxi – but he’s suddenly struck down by masked Santa Claus!

It turns out that Wu Jiang has something a little more sinister planned for Captain Zhong and his daughter this Christmas.

From Little Big Soldier writer and director Ding Sheng, he delivers a decent thriller with minimal relation to the original Police Story franchise that Jackie Chan shot to fame with back in the 80’s. But, I will admit they definitely earned the subtitled LOCKDOWN, Wu’s nightclub does go on full lockdown when the masterplan is revealed in the story.

When it comes to acting chops Ye Liu steals the show, his quiet intensity shows him well as a cool, calculated villain – sure, we’re show glances into his Muay Thai background, but his brains seem to be as fatal as his brawn. Tian Jing doesn’t have a lot to work with, it’s mostly crying for her father as he’s put in further peril. For Jackies acting chops, he has adapted to these darker thrillers where he’s needing relay more on his acting rather than his lightning fast reflexes, he has come a long way since his other dramas, the likes of The Shinjuku Incident etc.

Whilst I did overall enjoy the film, I did find the double-take/fast-forward sequences from Zhongs perspective happen far too often and became annoying when you mistake a surprising twist for just another daydream. Director Ding Sheng did use this technique previously in Little Big Soldier when Jackie Chans character was sparing with his co-star and accidentally kills him with a blade – which had some excellent comedic timing to it, but it didn’t work for me this time.

Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment were kind enough to supply us with a final copy of the UK DVD for this review. Here’s our thoughts on the Special Features included:

Behind The Scenes (5 minutes) as you can expect focusses on the big action and stunt sequences peppered together some of Jackie Chans cheeky chappy nature, snapping photos of sleeping costars, throwing the thumbs up when something goes right and of course – recycling.

The disc also includes several Interviews with the Director and the primary cast. Ding Sheng (4 minutes) explains the differences between his film and the previous instalments in the PS franchise. He continues by going into detail on his thoughts on the leading cast and how well they worked together. Tricking Jackie Chan into the role by teasing it wasn’t a physically demanding role, that is until he reached the set and asked him throw the occasional extra punch etc.

Liu Ye (6 minutes) gave us his impression on playing a villain; the inclusion of Muay Thai into his characters skill set and his worries of having to fight with Jackie and being encouraged to “hit harder!” Jing Tian (6 minutes) talks fondly of getting to film in the Beijing subway in the early hours of the morning and learning to cry on cue. As well as the unforgettable experience of working with Jackie Chan, the energy and knowledge he brought to set.

Overall, it’s a good thriller, certainly worth watching once – Jackie and Liu Ye were excellent, adding them together with Wu’s elaborate plot and the story behind it.

Film: 3.5/5

DVD: 3/5

Police Story: Lockdown is available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Monday 25th July 2016 and for download from Monday 18th July 2016.


DVD Review – The Trust (2016)

Set in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip, The Trust follows the story of two LVPD cops Stone (Nicolas Cage) and Waters (Elijah Wood). They aren’t the most conventional cops, Waters is slacker and Stone frustrated by being overlooked by his peers. Stone makes an interesting discovery when he’s sent a menial task, this discovery could lead him and Waters to a lot of money. But, are they smart enough to pull of this off without getting caught or worse, killed?

Nic Cage and Elijah Wood, team up to provide the star power to give directors the Brewer brothers enough recognition in their debut feature film. How was it? Decent.

It’s not the strongest story, the premise is great, but the eventual payoff comes across a little wobbly. The discovery and the planning of their ‘heist’ is fun, seeing Cage infiltrate and become a kitchen porter delivered in a nice little montage sequence.

I can imagine Cage reading the script to this and relishing the thought of character being slightly unhinged, a bit zany – the real overly positive figure. It’s only right to have Wood play the uncertain and questionable opposite to Cage. The acting is what you can imagine with these juggernaut leads, Cage being crazed is a doddle and Wood playing a man on the verge of a breakdown is brought with ease.

Other notable faces that pop up in this feature include Ethan Suplee (American History X) as a crooked detective with a unhealthy obsession with Russian roulette. Cinema veteran Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) stars as the father of Nic Cages character Stone – a former and more credible detective. In the latter half of the film this sausage party is broken up with the introduction of mystery woman played by Sky Ferreira (The Green Inferno).

The end of the film was a little more surprising that I originally expected, without spoiling it, I would have little the ending to have been fleshed out a little bit more – just to see what we were dealing with.

We were lucky enough to have been provided a copy of the DVD release of The Trust – the sole special feature on this disc is a 12 minute Behind the Scenes feature. We get some interviews with the primary cast and the crew talking highly of the story and their experiences working on set and their experiences with Nic Cage and Elijah Wood. It’s a decent feature, but it’s unfortunate that this is the sole feature.

DVD 2/5

Movie: 3/5

Blu-ray Review – Sunshine On Leith (2013)

The plot of Sunshine On Leith follows the story of two Scottish boys, Ally (Kevin Guthrie) and Davy (George MacKay), returning to Edinburgh after a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Ally returns to his girlfriend, a nurse called Liz (Freya Mavor) who also happens to be Davy’s sister, and Liz introduces Davy to her work colleague Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) and the two start dating shortly… after a song or two.

We also follow the story of Liz and Davy’s parents, Rab and Jean (aye, this is awfully Scottish!). While preparing for their 25th Wedding Anniversary, Rab attends the funeral of a past lover and discovers that he has a 25 year old daughter. And as the story reaches the 25th Anniversary party, our story takes a turn for the worse, but in true Proclaimers fashion!

A little background: Sunshine On Leith is based on the 2007 stage musical featuring a soundtrack from The Proclaimers, Scotland’s favourite speccy twins from Auchtermuchty. This review may be a little biased – yes, I’m Scottish and this musical is set my favourite city, Edinburgh! Although saying that, the movie is fun but it is also testing at times.

The musical element to the film is a joy, the songs are great, in each musical scene everyone joins in a right “auld” sing song and it’s wonderful. The only downside to the film is the drama, it can be a little overbearing at times, Rab’s child from a past affair and his impending 25th Anniversary is dramatic in itself, but it’s taken one step further and it just spoils it. However, the film will win you over by the end, and the finale flash mob sequence in Princes Street to the tune of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ is a genuine toe tapper!

The Special Features on the Blu-ray release are pretty thin, we’re given five deleted scenes lasting around 20 minutes, and the only scene of particular interest is the alternative ending, a budget ending I would expect, taking place in a hospital corridor rather than Princes Street, Edinburgh. We’re also treated to one additional scene featuring The Proclaimers themselves.

Overall Sunshine On Leith is a decent little musical and it’s a bonus if you’re Scottish!


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