Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II’ (1989)

This ridiculously silly low budget B-movie was actually brought to my attention (though strictly not “recommended”) by fellow blogger tokyo5 who mentioned it in a comment on my ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III‘ review a couple of years ago.

Having heard that this comedy, horror film holds a rare 0% rating on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes website (based on the percentage of approved critics giving it a positive review) I thought that I have got to see this so after forking out a few quid on the dvd I settled down to watch it in the early hours of a jet-lagged morning.

Now, of course I haven’t seen the 1984 original but that doesn’t really matter as what little storyline there is, is often explained in the narrative including the lady from the abominable Apocalypse Corporation explaining to her members the background on the Toxic Avenger and some lame connection to Tokyo which sees the Toxic Avenger come  here to find his father. The first film was a big hit in Japan and was I guess the reason they came here to make the sequel much like what happened in the equally awful ‘The Bad News Bears Go To Japan‘ (1978).

This tripe was served up by those kings of campy movies; Troma Entertainment, with the imaginatively titled Tromaville being the home town of the Toxic Avenger who, five years on from the original, is now around to protect its people from all manner of evil. Once he’s been lured to Tokyo by his shrink (working undercover for the enemy) his absence gives the Apocalypse corporation the chance to take over his beloved Tromaville where they have their sights set on first owning it and then destroying it and turning it into a toxic dump or something along those lines. Of course, its then up to the deformed superhero of superhuman size and strength to save the day.

Japan is first seen 34 minutes into the movie with locations including Tokyo Tower, the Yamanote platform, Asakusa Senso-ji, the area around Harajuku station, a pachinko parlour, Tokyo station, Tsukiji fish market and a tsukudani (small seafood, meat or seaweed simmered in soy sauce and mirin) boutique in Tsukishima.

There seems to be some debate to the edit of the film but my version was the directors cut which, at 102 minutes long, has an extra 6 minutes of gore! Lucky me! In fact the original edit was supposedly over 4 hours long so it was split into two movies so ‘The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie‘ followed 8 months later in the same year. I can kind of see why it’s supposedly a cult film among the younger generation  as the action is often fun in a “so-bad-its-good” way. It’s also got a fair amount of gratuitous nudity and foul behaviour as well as its own catchy theme song at the start to keep them attentive throughout.

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Tokyo Fox Rating 4/10

James Bond ‘Quantum of Solace’ Filming Locations (Panama)

Casino Royale‘ (2006) set the benchmark so high that it was always going to be a tough act for ‘Quantum of Solace‘ (2008) to follow. It may have received some quite negative and scathing reviews but I actually don’t mind it and part of the reason why was that it was visually very exciting for me to see Bond (Daniel Craig) in Latin America.

Due to its diversity Panama doubled up for a couple of countries; Bolivia and Haiti, with the latter first appearing on 17 minutes as Colon fills in for Port Au Prince. I was hoping to make it up to Colon at the Caribbean end of the Canal whilst in Panama but sadly time caught up with me and the warnings of big crime in this slum meant I didn’t want to risk it.  On 18 minutes 007 gets into a bit of a tussle in a hotel and a few minutes after that is the crumbling street which Bond rides along to the waterfront docks in another dangerous part of the city.

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Thankfully, there were a couple of far easier Panama City locations from this film to be seen just a short walk away from my hostel in the historic district of Casco Viejo. Unhappy with MI6 officer Strawberry Fields’ (Gemma Arterton) choice of hotel as part of their cover, Bond takes her by taxi to a far more upmarket hotel on 52 minutes. The Andean Grand Hotel (below) in ‘Bolivia’ isn’t really a hotel but is actually the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) in the World Heritage area of Casco Viejo. It can be seen briefly again on 74 and 77 minutes.

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The main villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), holds a party 54 minutes into the film which Bond attends with Agent Fields shortly after he seduces her. The location of this is of course not La Paz in Bolivia but the Old Union Club in Casco Viejo where all the rich people used to go and party. The ruins were scouted out for the film in October 2007 and is (as it was back then) now like an old shell but believe it or not it was completely revamped for shooting which can be seen in the ‘On Location’ dvd extra. At this party, Bond again rescues the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from Greene. As I explored this place it was quite hard to imagine how it was transformed for filming as it really is in  a bad state these days.

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It seems that the bar scene with Bond and one of his closest allies Felix Leiter on 77 minutes was also filmed in Colon. Leiter tells James to move his ass as the SWAT team descends on the building. This can be seen in one of the dvd extras titled ‘Bond On Location’.

See other James Bond filming locations by clicking on the places below:

Tokyo        London        Prague        Venice        Como        Istanbul        Las Vegas        Phuket        Vienna        Hong Kong        New York

 

Star Wars Traveller – Yavin 4 (a.k.a. Tikal, Guatemala)

Thirteen seconds! Just THIRTEEN SECONDS! That is as long as the ‘Star Wars Episode IV‘ scene in Guatemala lasted. The shot of Tikal, first seen on 98 minutes (and again on 105 mins), features the Millennium Falcon spaceship flying over Yavin 4 which is overseen by a rebel standing on top of Temple IV in the western part of the national park. I have wanted to go to this 550-sq km place for a while now, and believe it or not, long before I even knew it was used briefly in the original 1977 film.

I arrived on the island of Flores (albeit one which is connected to Santa Elena via a 500m causeway) on December 24th following a seven hour bus journey from Antigua via Guatemala City. On Christmas Day I took an early bus to Tikal (not a pre-sunrise one though!) and I have to say that I was far more impressed than I thought I would be. My preconceptions were that it was just a jungle with a few temples and to an extent it is but there’s far more to the place though with thousands of ruined structures dominating the site. I spent the day in the company of a very nice South African couple; Shaun and Kerry, and we had a great day wandering around a fairly deserted place in the glorious sunshine. This was in contrast to the end of the Maya Long Count calendar four days before when by all accounts the place was packed full of people anticipating the supposed end-of-the-world.

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As you can see in the comparison shots above the towering pyramids are of a more glowing golden colour in the film. We reached this lookout point by ascending a series of wooden steps on the back of the 64m temple and the stunning views of the jungle’s green canopy really are the highlight for many. Of course the vast majority of visitors are none the wiser regarding the Star Wars filming location but I was quite surprised to overhear a few people mention the movie whilst we were in the vicinity of the temple. Not sure if they knew that this was the rebel base where Luke Skywalker and co launched their attack to destroy the Galactic Empire’s giant space station; the Death Star, and save his people from Darth Vader grasp.

According to chapter 33 of John Knoll’s ‘Creating the Worlds of Star Wars 365 Days‘ book the Rebel lookout was played by model-maker Lorne Peterson and his perch was erected on site with Richard Edlund of ILM pictured behind the camera in the behind-the-scenes shot (below right) taken in March 1977. According to this article on the Reuters website on December 18th the heavy camera and lighting gear was carried to the top of the temple using a pulley system and a guard protected the equipment with a shotgun for four nights in return for a six-pack of beer! The interior of the Rebel base was actually filmed at Cardington Air Establishment in Bedfordshire, England with the additional helping of a matte painting.

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If you thought thirteen seconds in ‘Star Wars‘ was short then thats nothing when compared to the three seconds which it is on screen for in the James Bond movie ‘Moonraker‘ (1979). 007 travels through the Amazon in search of villain Hugo Drax’s lair, encountering Jaws and other henchmen along the way, before he discovers it supposedly at Temple I at Gran Plaza (as seen in the screenshot below left) though the interior shots were filmed in the studio.

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Across from Temple I is Temple II and despite not being able to climb them (due to people tumbling to their death in the past) they were still awesome to just look at. Beneath the two Temple II pictures below are some photos of other ruined structures as well as the active wildlife in the 16 sq km central area.

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