Time to kick off the new year right with a quick roundup of what's coming out in the next couple of months!
Welcome to the NHK, parts 1 and 2 — this is another anime series that might click with people who normally don't watch it at all. I haven't yet watched it, but my co-conspirator Eric has seen it and from his descriptions, it doesn't just cut: it bites.
I was expecting a Blu-ray edition of Stephen Soderbergh's Traffic at some point, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be offered via Criterion or through the USA Films banner. Either way, as long as we get the transfer it deserves, I'll be happy. (My review is not back out of the archive yet, so look for it sometime soon.
A new outfit named Pink Eiga Inc. has picked up a slew of Japanese productions, most of them from the lower end of the budget spectrum: New Tokyo Decadence - The Slave and S&M Hunter are the opening offerings, and they look like about what you'd expect. That said, some of this stuff (like its Seventies Nikkatsu-created elders) is sometimes surprisingly good, so anything's possible.
The truly masochistic, however, can elect to go with Funimation's reissue of the Geneon Ninja Vixens: Complete Box Set, which features some of the most agonizing direct-to-video trash ever foisted on English-speaking audiences. This isn't "so bad it's good"; this is just bad, period, end of sentence, end of page, end of file.
I still haven't figured out much about ADV's new live-action Razor imprint, but it seems to be along the same lines as what Tokyo Shock does on a regular basis. Maid's Secret and Maid's Secret: Welcome Home look amusing although if they don't have the maids break out machine guns at some point they're missing a bet. They're also reissuing a previous ADV live-action title, Tokyo Majin: The Last Megalopolis, which gets points here for being based on a novel by VHD creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, and while it wasn't great it was still a nifty bit of Taishō-sploitation (is that a word?).
(Also from the same label is Kagaya, about which I know less than nothing thanks to ADV still doing a lousy job of promoting this material in detail. Maybe that's a hint.)
Did you know Sonny Chiba directed a horror-in-the-wild flick? Meet Yellow Fangs, which for all the world looks like the Japanese version of Grizzly (or maybe Trog, if you're really being uncharitable). But hey, it has Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada, so how bad can it be?
Those who have been getting their boy's-love fix through animation are going to be heartened to know a good deal of live-action material in the same vein is out right now or soon to be released. Schoolboy Crush fits into that category; if you like it, go dig up Takashi Miike's Juvenile A and make a double feature out of it.
Speaking of double features ... (ha! segue!) Never Give Up/Resurrection of Golden Wolf are now getting packaged in a two-for-one set. If you haven't yet encountered Yusaku Matsuda's 'fro or Ken Takakura's umbrella, what better way to do it?
I don't know which version of Monkey Magic [Blu-ray] is being offered here, but if it's the Stephen Chow version I'll be happy.
The searing Late Bloomer (check out Ebert's review) caught my attention from the git-go. "You have to meet the film's visual style halfway. It's shot in contrasty black and white, slo-mo, fast-mo, sometimes jagged cutting, sometimes an erratic hand-held camera that suggests the jerky way Sumida must view the world. You watch for a while and the movie is tough going. Then it takes hold and you begin identifying with Sumida. He is a bad, bad man. You can sort of understand that."
Takeshi meets Takeshi in Takeshis' (my review will be back soon), where the Beat meats the Kitano and the two cavort on the beach in slow motion while spent bullet casings drop into the sand. Or something. For a man whose approach to filmmaking is one of the least intellectual of anyone I know, this is a remarkably brainy movie in its own twisted way.
Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 and Ontological-Hysteric Theatre 1 / Sophia: Cliffs (the latter offered through John Zorn's Tzadik label)
With all the screaming I do about Criterion, I need to also throw some props towards the folks at Kino Video. They don't have quite the same reputation as Criterion, but they still manage to pick up and issue some truly remarkable titles. The Haunted Castle and Faust are both coming out a little later, and after the yeoman work they did with Metropolis these are all the more appealing.
Guy (Brand Upon the Brain!) Debord's Careful is also set for a U.S. release. This is another director I mean to sit down and catch up with at some point; he seems like a much more accessible David Lynch — probably not the comparison I should make, but there you are.
Oh, and we're also due for a domestic edition of ... Tokyo Zombie. (Check out the graphic novel.) I'd pair this up with Tokyo Gore Police, and maybe Onéchanbara when that finally comes out here later this year (that is, if Meredith from Media Blasters was on the money about it). My only question about that latter film: will they call it that, or Chanbara Beauty, or Bikini Samurai Squad, or ... ?