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Yakuzas, Ninjas, Sailor Suits: The Machine Girl

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Yakuzas, Ninjas, Sailor Suits: The Machine Girl

V-Cinema has a fabled history to the Western audience. Under the Japanese studio system, it acted as a training ground where future talent like Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Takashi Miike could embrace the international genre spotlight. It is known for frantic schedules, heavy emphasis on shlock effects and plots so thin that you could execute masterful calligraphy with them. And this is why The Machine Girl is so confusing.

I promise you won’t find a better splatter film for the next few months, as writer-director Noboru Iguchi has welded together so many genres—yakuza, revenge, cyber-punk by way of Cronenberg and Shinya Tsukamoto—that the film holds despite a real incoherence. But even at 96 minutes, you feel the strain of the plot. After all, the infamous “gatling gun arm” is used in the first five minutes. But then we’re left with a half hour of build up as to why such a thing exists in the first place.

So, to start, Ami (Minase Yashiro) is the popular, athletic everygirl who even has a pseudo-lesbian stalker. She puts up with her otaku-ish brother, who has, along with his friend, somehow fallen into a high school gang’s extortion scheme fronted by the son of an actual Yakuza boss. Iguchi treats this backstory with care, but not nearly enough to answer the question, “is this a satire or not?”

Sure, a casual viewer of this wonderful crap (i.e. me) could see The Machine Girl as a hilarious send-up of the revenge film mixed with over-the-top visual gags. And I do. But mainly because I’m used to it. A casual viewer, going solely off the infamous trailer, will be sorely disappointed. The fact that the Yakuza family is descended from Hattori Hanzo will delight Kill Bill fans, but will make anyone remotely familiar with the genre burst into laughter. In fact, an appearance by the kung-fu staple flying guillotine is sure to invoke a mixed reaction: on one hand, “awesome!” On the other, “Hah! I can’t believe they’re using that for this.”

It then spills that Ami’s parents were falsely accused of murder, but, out of shame, killed themselves. When Ami accosts one of the bullies’ parents and demands he step forward to admit his crime, the parents turn homicidal and wind up deep-frying Ami’s arm. This drives her to accept her murderous impulses and kill all her brother’s torturers—including the son of the ninja yakuza family. Of course, this is when Girl kicks into its’ weird and wacky action phase.

There are some truly twisted shots: the various parents of the bullies mourning their children’s deaths decide to become zombified killing machines for the Yakuza, each with their child’s photo and name pinned to their chest; a chef must eat his own sashimi—made of fingers; and yes, the drill bra does exist. But by the time it comes into play, we’re moments from the end and it feels thrown in at the last second. The heroine is no longer struggling and it turns out having two spinning breasts thrust into you won’t hurt as much as you think if you’re about to kill someone.

And don’t fret—there is a training montage. It’s all of two minutes long.

The Machine Girl is a mixed bag, to be sure, but it is foremost a shock-shlock film distributed proudly under the Nikkatsu badge—even with U.S. production backing it. And that certainly isn’t a knock, it’s a compliment of the utmost measure. This is for the people who’d like to see Tetsuo as if helmed by Takeshi Kitano and assisted by Miike.

John Lichman is a freelance writer who contributes to The Reeler, Primetime A&E [print only] and anyone with cash. He works odd jobs to afford his vices, sleeps on couches and can drink Vadim Rizov under a table.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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