Review: Films Inspired By Japan – Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

Yet another silly movie with p*ss-poor acting but I guess that’s what we’ve come to expect from a low budget independent production company like Troma. ‘Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.‘ is actually a spin-off from the Kabuki-Boy character seen in ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II‘ (1989) which is actually one of the films showing at the cinema (along with ‘BlackRain‘) in the background of an early scene involving the protagonist. Company founder Lloyd Kaufman jokingly mentioned he was making a movie about the character and Japanese investors became interested so you can blame this country for this comical sci-fi cop adventure seeing the light of day!

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Bumbling New York police detective Harry Griswold (Rick Gianasi) goes to the theatre to see some kabuki but things are interrupted when a load of guys wielding machine guns burst in and start firing off shots at the actors on stage. Harry is the have-a-go hero type and retaliates with gunfire of his own and as the oldest actor is dying he gives the protagonist a sloppy kiss. With that action, his old Kabuki-spirit is transferred to Harry.

The super-hero movies may have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years with the addition of many, many newer characters on top of the classics like Batman, Spider-Man and Superman but it really is not a new phenomenon as proved by the much forgotten (never remembered or known in the first place?!!) Kabukiman which does pay homage to the genre with some scenes that rip-off the aforementioned famous super-heroes.

Harry’s transformation doesn’t take too long and before you know it he’s wearing kabukiface-paint and a kimono and is fighting crime and evil with the help of the old man’s granddaughter, Lotus who teachers him to master his new found Kabuki-powers in order to stop the Evil One from ruling the earth.

As well as his police duties, he has to stop something from happening which he does whilst displaying his arsenal of attacking moves. Though still incompetent in his new role, New York grows to love Kabukiman as he gets a grasp of his powers and tackles petty city crime in entertaining ways such as tying a car thief in noodles, burying a guy in mustard wasabi, throwing Japanese footwear, using chopsticks as arrows, fans that blow his opponents away and turning people into sushi.

That’s just a taster of what you get in this film which is full of Troma trademarks like gratuitous nudity (albeit quite sparse compared to other offerings), gross humour, outlandish violence, cartoon-like characters, blood, worm eating, crazy villains, sound effects, narratives explaining what’s happening and so on.

The film really is longer than it needs to be. No-one ought to be subjected to 105 minutes of such entertainment, not even young teenage boys who I guess probably lap this kind of stuff up! I know I would have done at that age whereas now I find it hard to laugh as such absurd and ridiculous action such as the transformations when Harry became Kabukiman. I guess those things are the appeal for many though and I can kind of see why such films can quickly develop a cult following.

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TF Rating 5/10

London Filming Locations: GoldenEye (1995)

After a six year hiatus the James Bond franchise returned in 1995 with Irish actor Pierce Brosnan at the helm as the series was modernised a bit in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War and this ended up providing background for the plot.

Following opening scenes in Switzerland (filling in for the USSR) and Monaco, the capital of England appears as we see the debut of the MI6 building, Vauxhall Cross (below) at 85 Albert Embankment. It would go on to appear in ‘The World Is Not Enough‘ (1999), ‘Die Another Day‘ (2002) and ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) and just so you know that it really is London, a red double decker passes by in the foreground on 36 minutes.

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Over the decades, many world locations have been faked in Bond films and ‘GoldenEye‘ is no exception. Sure, there are a few shots of the real St Petersburg but much of it was shot in the UK in the nations capital. Somerset House (below) at The Strand on 55 minutes doubled up as Russia’s second largest city whereas in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies‘ (1997) the courtyard was seen as 007 is driven to the MI6 HQ. This place is a short distance from Temple tube station and also appears as scenery footage at the start of ‘Love Actually‘ (2003).

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Other “Russian” locations in London to feature include Brompton Cemetry (below) on 58 minutes which is the exterior of the St Petersburg church where Natalya meets Boris by chance. This cemetery can also be seen in the Rowan Atkinson Bond spoof ‘Johnny English‘ (2003) and in ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘ (2015).

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The interior is St Sofia’s Cathedral (below) which funnily enough is on Moscow Road near Bayswater Station.

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The Langham Hilton (below) at Portland Place is portrayed as ‘Grand Hotel Europe’ and is seen briefly on 63 minutes.

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One final “Russian” location is Drapers’ Hall (below) on Throgmorton Street near Bank station. It is the St Petersburg council chamber where a General discovers that Natalya has survived the detonation. I visited here on two occasions with the first one being hindered slightly by a lot of visible scaffolding which meant I had to zoom in close to cut it out.

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A couple of years after ‘GoldenEye‘ and this place, which isn’t open to the public, became Russia again in ‘The Saint‘ (1997) starring Val Kilmer.

For other London filming locations click on the links below:

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#ForceFriday – The Journey Towards The New Star Wars Movie Has Begun

It’s still a few months until ‘The Force Awakens‘ a.k.a. ‘Star Wars Episode VII‘ gets its worldwide release but for a while now September 4th has been billed as #ForceFriday; the journey towards the long awaited sequel to ‘Return Of The Jedi‘ (1983).

Much of the Star Wars fan community has been getting very excited about today and the release of new merchandise in stores and fan events around the world to mark the occasion. Principle markets like the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Spain have had midnight openings to allow fans to get their hands on all kinds of new figures, toys, stationery, Lego, clothing, masks, lightsabers and other such accessories.

As much as I tried to find out, I got no answers from Tokyo stores regarding them doing anything for #ForceFriday. Eventually I just decided that I’d check out the huge Toys ‘R’ Us store within Sunshine City in Ikebukuro. Fortunately, my friend Ben mailed me earlier this morning asking if I was going there and so we agreed to meet up to visit the shop just after it opened at 11am.

It took us a while to locate the Force Awakens goodies but just as we were pessimistically thinking there would be one or two Star Wars toys in the whole place we then saw a sizeable section devoted to all the new Star Wars things.

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First point of call was the section displaying the 3.75 inch figures (below) which dominate my collection. The most prominent ones on display were of Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Finn, Rey, Captain Phasma as well as various stormtroopers and sandtroopers. I had no intention of actually buying any of these new figures today and I didn’t! Instead, I got a bit caught up in the euphoria of such an event (which of course was not really an event!) and bought a Kylo Ren bobble head!

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It was all a little overwhelming at first but way more exciting than I thought it would be when I set out in the morning. Whilst this area of the store was far from busy and bustling, there was a constant flow of people (mostly men!) passing through; some with baskets being stocked full of figures and I very much doubt they were for their kids!

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It wasn’t just about the new heroes and villains though as there were also some new figures of classic characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and so on. I imagine the new crossguard lightsaber will be a very popular toy with the kids and with Halloween coming up next month, it will be interesting to see if anyone purchases the new masks and dresses up as a character from a film which still won’t have been released by then!

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One thing that it was lacking though was figures or merchandise relating to the soccer ball droid known as BB8. Maybe that kind of thing is being held back until a bit later in the year. As we left the store one hour later (yes, we spent 60 minutes working our way through almost every single item!) we noticed some Star Wars Lego cardboard display exhibits (below) on the way out although ‘Minions‘ were doing their best to hog the limelight!

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Reconvening later in the afternoon, Ben and I met up again to extend the buzz of #ForceFriday. We went to StarCase; the Star Wars shop in Koenji but there wasn’t much new stock there but for a few new figures. It seems the 7 Eleven convenience stores started selling tickets in anticipation of the December 18th release but you still need to exchange that ticket for the actual cinema seat ticket so we didn’t purchase any. Village Vanguard and AmeComi Senmonten Comic Collectors, which featured in the Tokyo Foxtop 5……otaku shops in Tokyo, were also checked out but had nothing new to offer.

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Later on, I checked out Loft in Shibuya (below) where a huge space has been given over to Star Wars merchandise with even more stuff available than was on sale at Toys ‘R’ Us. An awesome spectacle and had I been tipped off earlier I may well have made this my first port of call.

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Today was just the start of the journey taking us up to December 18th and no doubt the marketing and promotion will step up over the coming months with all kinds of Star Wars tie-ins with all kinds of food and beverage companies. With season one of ‘Star Wars Rebels‘ out on DVD soon, season two starting next month, Star Wars Celebration in London next July, the spin off movie ‘Rogue One‘ in December 2016 and ‘The Force Awakens‘ this Christmas time there really is no better time to be a fan of the franchise.

Cambodia: City Of Ghosts & R-Point Filming Locations

Ever since I saw ‘City Of Ghosts‘ for the first time in 2010 I have been interested in the Old Bokor Hill location which appears towards the end of the movie. Further online research informed me that a Korean movie had also been filmed there which I alerted my friend Mostyn to ahead of his visit to the area in January 2011 and thankfully he bought both films on DVD so I was able to borrow and re-watch them ahead of this trip.

Le Bokor Palace a.k.a. Old Casino Hotel is shrouded in history with tales to tell from within its walls since construction began around a century ago. All fascinating stuff but it is the last decade which is of most interest to Tokyo Fox when ‘City Of Ghosts‘ (2002) and ‘R-Point‘ (2004) were filmed there.

WARNING: Contains spoilers!

The Old Palace Hotel first appears on 90 minutes as Jimmy (Matt Dillon) approaches it  from the south-west but sadly whilst we were there I didn’t visit this particular spot which is a little annoying as I had all the screen shots with me! Instead, I include my first glimpse of the place. As mentioned in the previous post the old structure was obscured by mist and fog when we arrived with visibility cut down substantially. A perfect introduction to a place famed for it’s eerie atmosphere!

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Con artist Jimmy is in Cambodia to collect his share of money from an insurance scam involving his mentor Marvin (James Caan), who at one point in the movie performs the Khmer-language song ‘Bong Sorlang.‘ We are led to believe he is dead in a scene (below) on 96 minutes that was shot on the back left side of the ruin.

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However, he turns up moments later (below) as his high risk scam (involving corrupt Cambodian government officials, high-ranking military and the Russian mafia) is unravelled.

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The back right-side of the complex appears on 100 minutes as that is where Marvin’s car is parked. Having been wounded, Marvin is helped by Jimmy to his vehicle (below) as they escape their situation. Sadly, the old hotel has been stripped in recent years of the dirty, rotten, rusty look which was such a distinctive feature.

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As Jimmy drives his dead partner away on 102 minutes there is a much wider shot (below) of the Old Casino Hotel perched on the hill. The coastline is over 100 metres below and for reasons of elevation the French chose this location for the slightly cooler climate.

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Just a couple of years later and the makers of Korean horror movie ‘R-Point‘ decided to use this place as it’s major location. When I originally watched it I was just expecting a few scenes to have been shot there so was quite surprised that it featured so prominently.

Though it was filmed in Cambodia the story actually takes place in January 1972 in Vietnam with the Old Palace Hotel doubling as a colonial French plantation. On receiving a radio transmission at the South Korean base in Nha Trang from a missing platoon who had been presumed dead, a squad of eight soldiers are despatched to extract the missing soldiers from the rendezvous point or R-Point. They eventually locate a colossal, vacant mansion (below) on 25 minutes which they subsequently use as their base.

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They are given a week by the High Command to find the missing soldiers but as time passes slowly and as R-Point day 2 begins on 46 minutes, one soldier informs his Lieutenant on the front steps (below) of the old building that he can’t find Private Chung.

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Moments later two soldiers are sat on the steps at the back of the place (below) on the right side as you look at it from the front. As they ponder what has happened to Chung, a pretty gruesome and bloody scene solves that mystery.

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R-Point Day 4 starts on 66 minutes at the front entrance steps (below) as the soldiers are ordered to split into two teams to scout the region from the spot where they first arrived in search of the radio operator.

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As the film draws to a close, there is a final front-on shot of the ruins (below) on 104 minutes. The closing credits appear soon after that bringing to an end this tense, atmospheric and tightly controlled war and horror movie crossover.

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You can read ‘Cambodia 2015 Pt VIII: Phnom Penh‘ here