Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Your Average Japanese Yakuza Movie: Sharkskin Man Peach Hip Girl

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Sie Kohinata
Category: Action Comedy

The Japanese title of the movie is "Samehada otoko to momojiri onna".
The only way I can begin to describe this movie is that it feels like a cross between a live action anime and a dark indie comedy. In a good way. The movie begins with two storylines meeting up. The first is the tale of the young maid at a mountain inn who is trying to escape her uncle, the manager of the inn. Her uncle clearly has designs for her, twisted designs. The second is the tale of a yakuza henchman on the run after stealing the mob's money. It isn't clear how he stole it but the yakuza is pissed enough to send in multiple groups of killers from HQ, despite friction between the groups. It is obvious they each have their history with each other. Led by a senior member, they want the money back even though it is not a huge sum by their account. At first I thought it was that they wanted to make a lesson out of him but as the story progresses, it seems that they are as interested in the money as they are the henchman (Sharkskin Guy). The maid (Peach Hip Girl) and the henchmen cross paths. The henchmen first thinks that he is taking her on the run but later realises she too is on the run and decide to run together.
The movie is filled with stereotypes from an anime movie or a manga comic. We have the boss's off-the rails son in ultra-fashionable clothes who fancies himself to be the most ruthless killer around, the senior yakuza boss with a collector's streak, the gay killer for hire who is hired by the uncle to track and kill whoever she is running with and a few more characters that manga readers will recognise immediately. The movie is also very Japanese. There is a scene where the henchman stops by the roadside to buy cigarettes from a roadside vending machine. You read right, a roadside vending machine. Where you would normally find a mailbox, exposed to the elements. Anywhere else in the world, the vending machine would be toast, banged up and broken into. But not in Japan. (Look up their recent conduct after the tsunami and you would appreciate the unique culture of the Japanese).

Monday, April 04, 2011

On my WDTV: Find an old friend on Sesame Street

Sesame Street - Elmo's Potty Time
Update: Mediafly is no longer available on WDTV because they have stopped the Mediafly service altogether. Some of the videos mentioned here is available at the Sesame Street website and at the Sesame Street Podcast

My kids don't know what Sesame Street is and that is a crime. While there are many educational shows on TV right now, all of them owe some sort of debt to the pioneer of education on TV, Sesame Street. I tried finding Sesame Street on the cable channels and it was impossible. All I ended up was with Elmo. I have nothing against Elmo but I prefer the whole gang on the street, from Big Bird to Cookie Monster to the Count. I also prefer the original format with the many shorts on letters and numbers. These are works of art in themselves, ranging from stop-motion animation to skits with the various characters (Kermit the reporter!) and plain old cell animation.
Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 2 (1974-1979)On a whim, I tried looking in Mediafly on my Western Digital WD TV Live  Under the section Kids and Family, there it was, the Sesame Street podcast.
My kids loved it. It was something different than the hard-action, constant motion cartoons they were used to seeing. It also didn't talk down to them, sound condescending or involved too much overacting. But it didn't last long, 10-15 minutes I think. My kids were clamoring for more. I went back, tried scrolling down and trying to find another episode. There was a lot of other podcasts but no more Sesame Street. Rather then disappoint, I played again the same episode. They didn't mind but I knew I would have to wait for another podcast to be posted for them to see another episode.
The podcast itself was a bit smaller than the screen on my TV. I pressed Options on the WDTV remote, looking for the zoom option. As I was scrolling through the options, there it was, the View Episodes option. I clicked on it and it brought up the previous episodes. I chose one from the list and it showed another episode. My kids were ecstatic.