Hanzo the Razor

So I’ve been watching my box set of Hanzo the Razor. I got it back in 2007 I think. Somehow won a competition on an anime forum. It was weird and surprising; I think I was entered automatically by joining it. Either way, I was given this, watched it, and have only just watched it all again.

There are three movies. Sword of Justice. The Snare. Who’s Got the Gold?

They follow back to back, with the events of the earlier ones showing up later on. For example, Hanzo gets a scar on his face in the second and still has it in the third. The movies all deal with him, as a police officer in Tokyo under the Tokugawa Shogunate, fighting corruption in the highest levels. Rather than watching him fight the scum and downtrodden, he uncovers plots by people in power. He openly detests rank. Each film is an individual thing, with only Hanzo, his chief and his two sidekicks reoccurring, but they do fit together very easily. Same themes, same concepts.

You might be thinking: wow, he sounds like a non-nonsense cop, taking risks and doing what’s right. He sounds like one rough, tough mother. Bit like Shaft!

Well that’s pretty much what Hanzo is. The Japanese Shaft. The samurai version. Complete with funky 70s music. Yeah, that’s not a joke. It has a soundtrack a blaxploitation film would enjoy.

That’s what I want to talk about, rather than the movies themselves. The plots are okay, the acting fine. I particularly enjoyed the police chief’s comedic antics. But I just have to mention what an odd experience it is watching these movies. It feels so wrong at first but you kind of get into it. It seems such an odd blend, forced together just so Japanese cinema can latch onto what was currently cool. But, to be fair, Hanzo is still a samurai movie at heart. He feels just like so many others I have seen – strong and stern, but giving a damn about those less fortunate than him. This isn’t a carbon copy of Shaft.

Of course, when talking about Hanzo we have to mention one thing in particular. One big thing. Our hero has a rather large appendage, which others talk about and we catch odd, distorted glimpses of. We also see him honing it. He beats it with a stick and then thrusts it into a straw container of rice. You see, he uses it in interrogations of women to get the truth from them, so he needs to work it over. He is not only a renowned swordsman but famous for his effective member.

So that’s where the most uncomfortable aspect lies. Obviously the film doesn’t depict it as such, and the women involved are criminals or at least helping them, and he knows this. He also tortures men, at least this is stated in the films but never seen. He does, however, go through torture himself to understand what it does. This is the underlying premise. He knows the pain and its effect so finds sexual interrogation of women to be the better path. In one film he does torture a priestess who was selling girls to rich men, but then changes course. To paraphrase Hanzo’s words to her, she experienced hell, then she saw heaven.

But dress it up all you like, our hero essentially rapes women. Yes, they love it. They beg him not to stop and so confess all, and he treats them well and protects them afterward. But it is that typical, tired concept of the damsel falling for the rogue, despite – or because – of his rough treatment. I don’t outright condemn it because it was made in a time when this was a common idea and because it portrays it in a way that explains, almost justifies, what is done. Hanzo is certainly not a bad man and repeatedly protects the weak against the strong. But it is really uncomfortable watching him ‘have sex’ with them. Not least because they are often tied up, due to having been arrested.

So these films are very much products of their time. Our hero is a real macho type, who can love women physically and also care for them, and yet doesn’t become bound to any of them. He can defeat those who do wrong, either by killing them or exposing them to justice. He is meant to be an anti-hero, and yet that sexual edge is something I could really do without. Watching a woman bounce up and down on his lap while bound in a net does not create a romantic scene, no matter how much light music you play over it. It is a 70s exploitation movie and then some.

One thing I will add in defence of Hanzo. When he arrests the priestess, she is overseeing a girl in the hands of a man who has paid for her. This girl is drugged and the man has her bound while standing, then beats her bloody. Hanzo bursts in and takes over. He then forces the man to grab a pillar and beats him with the same stick. In another movie, he surrenders to a group of killers to save a lowly maid, who is held hostage by them. He values women and hates seeing them mistreated. There is a reason he does what he does, to how he does it. Still, that doesn’t change what he does. It is non-consensual sex, justified by the women’s enjoyment.

So, if you want to know what a more kinky, Japanese version of Shaft would be, check out Hanzo. I won’t pretend that the movies are that great. I find the action a bit slow and clunky. Some obvious edits. I’m pretty sure there is a sense of awareness about how over the top it is at times, but it is hard to tell. Hanzo being buried in a graveyard so he can sneak into a temple is fine. The fact he is dressed up in funeral robes is either very funny or bizarre. Either way, Hanzo the Razor’s trilogy is a decent set of samurai movies, mixing in some funky tunes and outdated eroticism. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch them again. They’re not in the same class as Lone Wolf and Cub, despite being made by the same company. But they are the type of movies that, having watched again, I felt the need to talk about them.

Mixing Genres

So I’ve been thinking about the movie Predator a bit recently. This is mainly due to having watched it the other night. I have seen it lots of times and have it on DVD (with an excellent director commentary) but this was the first time for some while that I’ve sat down and watched it all from start to finish.

I love this movie. It has great atmosphere and music, as well as engaging characters and intense action. But the thing I had forgotten a bit was how much of a horror movie this is.

First, let’s be clear. Predator is a scifi action movie. But it is also part horror. Possibly it is more horror than action, as the action itself is restricted to a few sections. Most of the film is this group of soldiers prowling through the jungle, going deeper and deeper into dangerous territory, growing more uneasy as things develop, before they find themselves being outright hunted. There is a lot of talk of the jungle, of the jungle coming alive to claim Hawkins, of how dense and tough to get through the jungle is. The environment is a threat to them.

Predator follows the classic horror steps. A group of characters enter into a situation, often not that unnatural to them, but exciting nonetheless. These characters soon see warnings that things are not as they seem. Soon the threats and warnings escalate. There is often a moment when they realise that they’ve been deceived or lured. Then things get really bad as the monster/killer/threat comes for them. Often the characters are offed, one by one.

This is a broad sweep of horror steps, I admit. Still, Predator follows them along when you look at it. We also have that horror classic of one character losing his mind a bit, even predicting their deaths.

Another good point to make about Predator is that we don’t see the alien itself much at all. It remains a shimmer against the jungle, stalking them, waiting to strike. Because of this, it is always malevolent. This creature could be a demon or something. It is also fun to note how quick and lithe the alien is while this way. Once the disguise is removed and we see this big hulking thing, it becomes slow and clunky, especially in later movies. Put simply, a big man in a big costume can’t leap around the trees.

That brings to me one criticism I have, or perhaps just a wish that would have improved the film for me. If they hadn’t started with the ship in Earth’s orbit, possibly toned down a couple of other scifi things, this film could have been much more ambiguous about what is after them. The characters themselves have no idea and often talk in supernatural terms. The audience could have been sat there wondering if a demon hunted them or a ghost or … ahem … an alien. I just think that would have made the plot more intriguing and the revelation more important.

So yes, I would consider Predator a horror. It is still scifi and action, though. It is all three. It has gory scenes, characters breaking under the stress, and doesn’t really go into the science of the Predator. It could easily have been a demon using magic to disguise itself while casting fireballs. We don’t get an analysis of the alien or the science behind it. Dutch’s team stand little chance against it too. It might as well be a monster hunting normal people for all they can do to stop it.

Alien is a great horror scifi. So is the Thing, one of my favourite movies of all time and currently on tv right now. Cool, huh? I don’t see the need to separate them into one thing or the other. Aliens is more action scifi. But again, it has the horror elements. It is a great thing to watch different genres be combined by talented directors, giving us a cohesive story to enjoy.

What A Summer

So the last couple of months have felt like almost a year. I mean that in a good way, though. In a great way, really.

 

My fiancée came over and we did a lot of walking and visiting and enjoying ourselves. In doing so, I found out just how fulsome my small home town is, full of little places to have a quiet meal in. I also discovered that the nearby cinema is an excellent place to go watch a movie. We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. The first I found to be a really engaging movie which had a very contrived plot. I didn’t mind it. Like I said to the missus, if I care about whether an orangutan called Maurice is alive or dead, you know the film has done something right. Still, there were parts where my brain was having a good grumble. Also, I would love to watch a movie just about the apes. Humans tend to pale in comparison in these films. Guardians was fun, but flawed. It took me a while to get into it. I think the moment where we have the gang altogether, breaking out of the jail, is when things really kicked off. The character interactions were the best part of it for me. This was also the first time I saw a movie in 3D. I do not approve. Hated wearing the glasses, really put me off, and I gained no benefit I could tell.

 

Anyway, my fiancée and I got married at Avebury in a quick and sneaky ceremony she designed. Just a few family members bore witness. We think some walkers saw us and went another way to give us some peace, which was very considerate of them. The legal side of things has yet to be sorted, but has very little importance to us. The commitment made by each other to each other is what counts.

 

I also had one of my best friends visit briefly. That was a surreal experience. I’ve been a loner and shy bloke all my life, and then one day I have two hot women in my bedroom. Just watching movies, mind you.

 

Add to this my mother retiring, her birthday, my wife’s birthday, my own birthday, along with numerous other little moments, and the summer of 2014 has been a hectic and intense but wonderful time. Now I’m back to the usual slower pace, but this taste has left me knowing that I am ready, and willing, to change my life. I’ve found someone I can comfortably share my life with and have been able to look after people I’m deemed responsible for. The trip to the hospital was a big revelation moment in that regard.

 

So, back to the grindstone but with more purpose. A friend is beginning to build something and wants my help. Plans are afoot. The future beckons.

Lynton Crosby’s staff deleted valid criticism from Wikipedia

uppitymonkey:

Have to reblog this. For one, to show the truth. For two, to show what people do in order to hide it. Fortunately for us, they seem to be pretty poor at it.

Originally posted on Politics and Insights - kittysjones :

The Conservative election guru’s staff engaged in an ‘edit-war’ to delete details of his links with the tobacco industry and his election strategies from Wikipedia.

A Channel 4 News investigation has found that substantial sections were removed from the Wikipedia page of Lynton Crosby, an Australian political strategist, by staff at the Crosby Textor consultancy firm that he co-founded.

On 15 July last year, accounts linked to Crosby Textor staff deleted multiple times sections on the controversy when the Conservative party dropped its policy for plain cigarette packaging.

The policy on cigarette packs has been revived after a review, but at the time the press linked the policy being dropped to Crosby Textor representing the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

The deleted section includes a call by a Liberal Democrat MP for Lynton Crosby to be sacked.

Wikipedia editors reverted the changes, leading the Crosby Textor linked-staff to again make the…

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A Little Trip to the NHS

I haven’t had time to write this up and I don’t have much now so I’ll keep this brief. But I wanted to say something about an event from last week. It deserves a mention.

So one evening my wife complained of having asthma issues. Her puffer had no effect – in fact, things got worse – and soon she was struggling to breathe while complaining that her arms and legs were getting tingly. A phone call was made and we soon had a paramedic out. Her name was Julie and she was incredibly friendly. A large part of her time was spent reassuring my wife. She did various tests but she managed to calm my wife down, tell her things were working well, and soon she was breathing a lot better.

Yet an ambulance was called out. My wife wanted one. She still had a pain in her chest and, with her medical history as well as that of her family’s, it was worrying her a lot. We could all see that she wasn’t going to totally relax until she knew what was wrong. As the ambulance pulled up, Julie remarked: “I hope they’re nice.” Clearly she was concerned that this had been called out to a woman who was now chatting away, despite the fact she could barely talk when Julie had arrived.

The two ambulance men were very nice as well. One did most of the talking, asking my wife a lot of questions about her health and what happens in the US (where she is from). He was a funny bloke who sat in the back with us on the way to the hospital and explained a lot of issues my wife had suffered earlier, such as the limbs getting tingly due to her taking in too much oxygen by breathing fast. The other man was quieter with a dry sense of humour that amused us.

Once at the hospital, we were seen right away. Admittedly, it was just after midnight on a week night, so things were quiet, but it was still great to be spoken to by a doctor almost instantly after getting settled. He asked a number of questions and listened as my wife explained her issues and medical history once again. Then came more tests, carried out by a highly amiable male nurse who was giving the thumbs up and saying cool throughout our time there.

Speaking of which, our time there was brief. We were warned we could be there a few hours minimum, but after tests and x-rays she was allowed to leave. It had taken about two hours. Not that she didn’t have a problem though. The pain in her chest was an inflammation, pressing against her ribs. She had been given certain medicine soon after the doctor first spoke to us but the pain had persisted, so we were given a strong painkiller to take home. She was instructed by the doctor to take it, get rest and it will get better. Why it had become inflamed was unknown, it was just one of those things that can happen. Rest and it will heal.

The staff at the hospital were fantastic. Kind, chatty, helpful, informative, professional. In the end, we joked about how the whole thing had been a fun trip. But it hadn’t started out that way. My wife had been rasping for breath at one point. Even later on, when she was better and talking, the pain persisted and she would never have calmed down without knowing why this pain was there. Going to the hospital solved that.

As I mentioned earlier, my wife is American. She is also low income. She was astonished by the treatment of the NHS. Let’s put aside the cost for now, as that’s an obvious one. But she loved being talked to rather than talked at and being treated rather than shipped about. She had trouble explaining to the NHS staff that in the US she gets tested and given medicine and then ushered out. So she struggled to answer some of their questions. In the US, she has been messed about, let down and left reeling by the doctors she has dealt with. She also openly despises the system where a change in insurance means a change of doctor. My family has had the same one for years. But when we were leaving the hospital, she was asked to fill out a small form to reveal how she had felt about the hospital. She gave it glowing marks and wrote that it was ‘the best hospital ever!!’ My wife is prone to exaggeration, I admit, but from her view she wasn’t kidding.

I don’t go to the doctor much, let alone a hospital. I think the last few times I have been to one it has been to visit someone else. But seeing someone I care about being treated, made better, truly looked after, and her reaction as she realised that this would cost me £8 for the medicine, made me appreciate the NHS so much more than usual. My dad is a big supporter of it and often moans about the way it is portrayed in the media. He isn’t wrong. But that night, I saw first-hand how well it can go, with friendly, helpful staff, and the low cost. Obviously, this isn’t a blanket statement about the entirety of the NHS. I know it has issues. But I saw what it can be. How important it is to us. How it needs to be supported more. The NHS isn’t there to be profitable. It is there for people who need it and who would struggle to pay the savage costs of private care.

That night, I was proud of it. My American wife was in awe of it. I think that speaks volumes.

Lughnasadh

uppitymonkey:

I got married yesterday and my wife loves the pagan rituals and the celebration of Lammas. So I wanted to reblog this to show her later on, and again in the later future.

Originally posted on juxtaposed:

Lammas
Lament and Desire
Assemble
For the blessings of the sinking Sun
The sacrifices undergone
The victories won
By fire and fire
The reaping come
And the feasting of the first fruition
Gather in
The lessons
And the growth created
Celebrate
Thy Will be done
And store
For darker, colder times
As nourishment and contemplative fuel
That will initiate renewal
To thine own Kingdom, Come

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True Advertising

So the slogan for one advert runs as ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’.

I can now declare that this is something I will say, genuinely, to anyone I meet who has issues with their glasses. Especially in getting new ones.

My fiancée had broken her glasses on her trip over to the UK from the US. We asked at the local opticians about getting them fixed. This could not be done. In particular, we needed her prescription. Getting new glasses has always been a costly hassle for her. We failed to get her prescription as they sent it to the wrong email address and then the person was on holiday. Or something. Basically, nothing got done.

We went to Specsavers. They booked an appointment for us and explained on how to get an eye test for only £5, bypassing having to deal with her usual opticians. So we went back and everything was quick and cheap and easy. I mean quick, too. The test took about 20 minutes, yet was thorough, and the glasses (two pairs) took two hours to make. My fiancée was able to get some new glasses as well as prescription sunglasses so she could walk around in the bright sunshine and see properly for the first time in her life.

I paid for it all and she was very happy.

So, I have to admit, the friendly people there, the fast work that has turned out so well (the glasses are helping her so much) and the costs have left me highly impressed.

I am a bit suspicious of new things and wary of the quick and easy option. I am against big companies, swallowing everything else up, and doubt that anything good will come of commercial behemoths that spew out production lines of goods. I value the smaller crafts and enjoy looking round in specialist stores.

But in this case I was pleasantly surprised and honestly impressed. I’m not going to sell them to anyone. They have their own advertising for that. But I have to tip my hat and say, well played, big company. I am glad we came to you.