RSS

Ok JPFmovie fans here is Part 2 of Heaven and Earth (1990).

In part one of the Heaven and Earth review we talked about how equally matched these 2 warlords were.  Now we are going to look at what is probably a pretty authentic recreation of the battle formations used during that period of Japanese history.

Kenshin’s “Winding Wheel” vs. Shingen’s “Crane.”

We briefly discuss to the “Winding Wheel” employed by Kenshin and Singen’s “Crane” technique.  According to Japanese historian Stephen Turnbull the “Kuruma gakari” (wheel) this formation, drawn like a spiral, envisages successive units of an army being brought against the enemy ‘as the wheel winds on’.  It is famously described in the Koyo Gunkan as being the formation adopted by Uesugi Kenshin for his dawn attack against Takeda Shingen at the fourth battle of Kawanakajima in 1561. It is essentially an idealized representation of a tactical move that replaces tired units by fresh ones without breaking the momentum.

Singen’s The Woodpecker pecks at the tree, and the vibrations scare the insect out so he can eat it. Kansuke (a Singen General) suggested sending a garrison up the mountain by a round-about route late at night to “peck” at the Kenshin’s troops in the early hours, flushing them down to the plain below where the bulk of the Takeda forces would be waiting!

The plan was approved, and troops went up the mountain, however when they arrived, the Uesugi, whether through having guessed the maneuvers or from having been tipped off by spies, had moved down the opposite side of the mountain in the darkness, and positioned themselves on the plain where the Takeda would not be expecting them for a another few hours.  This did not help Takeda’s cause at all.

Kenshin’s tactics for so effective that they broke through Singen’s lines and were able to personally attack the Takeda himself who received some cuts until some of his bodyguards were able to come to his aid and help fight of Kenshin himself as well as other in cadre.

The battle was costly for both sides.  a costly battle for both sides. Kenshin had lost 72 percent, or roughly 12,960 men, while Shingen, although taking 3,117 enemy heads as trophies, had lost 62 percent, or 12,400 men. In one of the largest battles ever fought in Japanese history, the “Crane’s Wing” formation, when executed by well-disciplined troops, could only temporarily stop that of the “winding wheel.”

Once again, these two rivals managed to fight to a stalemate—nothing ever being settled between the two they even died within months of each other.

The JPFmovie staff all recommend this film.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two equally matched daimyo (warlords) one concerned with heaven the other concerned with earth. Part 1 of the Japanese film Heaven and Earth (1990).

JPFmovies is excited to get back to quality Asian films.  There is a reason Heaven and Earth was Japan’s number one film in 1990: it is one hell of a flick.  Most Japanese films of this genre look at the battle of Sekigahara; for those of you that don’t know this was the bloodiest battle in Japan’s history and finally united the country.  Heaven and Earth, however, centers around the battles of Kawanakajima which was series of 7 battles over 20 years between two equally matched rivals Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin that lasted until 1564.

Shingen and Kenshin could not have more contrasting leadership personalities and styles.  Kenshin fought wars “to bring peace to his people” versus Shingen who wanted to expand his empire “to the seas.”  Shingen (the more famous of the two) is often portrayed as some sort of liberator treating his people well but in truth, he was a cruel as many of the other warlords of the time-routinely massacring peasants and prisoners of war unlike Kenshin who took a higher road.

One of the main reasons Shingen wanted the lands occupied by Kenshin is because the were very fertile which was a precious commodity in Japan that does not have much agriculture.

Back to the film.  Heaven and Earth also presents the audience with two interesting items.  The first is a letter that survives to this day that Kenshin sends to his allies asking for men, equipment and other items necessary for war.  The second are two very accurate formations from each side:  Kenshin’s “Winding Wheel” vs. Shingen’s “Crane.”  The film does a great job of recreating the relatively complex fighting formations.  The winding wheel was an offensive maneuver allowing units that had become exhausted or depleted to be replaced with a fresh unit, thus enabling the attacker to maintain the force and momentum of the attack. A very carefully organized and complex maneuver, its use indicates that Kenshin’s troops must have practiced it to the point of perfection. Kenshin’s vanguard was commanded by his younger brother, Takeda Nobushige, and as Kenshin’s winding wheel fully engaged the Takeda front ranks, Nobushige was killed in the desperate close combat.

Kenshin’s leading units were mounted samurai, and as the “wheel” wound on, the pressure on Shingen’s force began to tell as unit after unit was driven back from its position. Shingen’s “crane” was an offensive formation and not designed for the defense, but the troops executing it were well disciplined and the formation was managing to hold its own.  The momentum of the “wheel” brought Kenshin within reach of the Takeda headquarters where Shingen had been fervently trying to control his hard-pressed army.  This resulted in a rare face off between the two leaders.  Shingen was personally attacked by none other than Kenshin himself.  Unable to draw his sword in time, Shingen, rising from his camp stool, was forced to parry Kenshin’s mounted sword strokes with his heavy wooden war fan. Shingen took three cuts on his body armor and a further seven on his war fan until one of his bodyguards charged forward and attacked Kenshin with a spear. The spear thrust glanced off Kenshin’s armor and struck his horse’s flank, causing the animal to rear. Several other samurai of Shingen’s guard then arrived and together they managed to drive Kenshin off.

Exciting?  Yes! And by all accounts as historically accurate as one can really get looking back hundreds of years.  Stay tuned for part 2 of the Heaven and Earth review.  Next time we’ll look at the Wheel vs. the Crane too!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Who ever said that white men can’t jump obviously didn’t see the TV series The White Shadow (1979-1981). A show way ahead of its time breaking the “Welcome Back Kotter” and its idiotic “Sweat-Hogs” mold.

The White Shadow had the potential for really cliched premise for a show: a former NBA player forced to retire because of a knee injury returns to his old high school which is not the place it used to be. The school’s principal just happens to be his former roommate from Boston College and talks him into taking the job of basketball coach at their high school alma mater.  But there is a catch, these kids are tough and the times (and the kids) have changed and not for the better.

It’s tired story that has been overdone, like the White Shadow’s very popular contemporary “Welcome Back Kotter” for example, but “The White Shadow” was so much more than a Kotter redux. Produced by Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s father) and MTM productions (the same folks who brought you “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Rhoda”), this wasn’t simply a basketball version of the insanely popular WBK.  The White Shadow was serious.  For the first time a prime time network show was centered around teenagers (black and Hispanic teens to me more precise) that didn’t reduce the characters into caricatures.  Everyone had their own complicated personality which saw the world as shades of grey rather than the often over simplified black-white or good vs evil typical of then network TV like WBK.  If you think about it, for all of the Sweat-hogs’ tough talk, the audience never saw those chumps get into a fight.  There have been a lot of stupid things forced down the throat of the America public, but “Welcome Back Kotter” is one of the dumbest.

Instead the “White Shadow” brought a real gritty reality to prime time television and showing the audience that modern teenagers didn’t live the life of Reilly and that the kids living in the ghetto are constantly bombarded with outright dangerous influences. From gangs to point shavings to drugs to high school prostitutes and even a member of the team getting gunned down in a liquor store before the city championship, if you were a Carver High graduate, you’ve pretty much seen the entire gambit of human misery. And it would’ve been easy for the writers to go the complete opposite way of like Kotter kids and make each episode a weekly “After School Special” about the danger du jour. They didn’t do that.

Unfortunately, The White Shadow didn’t garner the high ratings it deserved but the show received marked critical acclaim and paved the way for later more realistic dramas such as Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and My So-Called Life.

Fun fact: The show originated from (coach) Ken Howard’s own experiences as a high school basketball star at Manhasset High School on Long Island.  Howard was one of the few white basketball players at the school and the only white player in the starting lineup and had been nicknamed “The White Shadow.”

When the JPFmovies staff acquired the DVD’s they were not easy to find, but given today’s availability of virtually any show ever made if you want to see something groundbreaking which themes and gritty techniques are still used today give The White Shadow a look, chances are you won’t regret it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As promised here is the “original” late 1990’s La Femme Nikita cable TV series that actually died and them came back to life like the ladies in the shows.

The followup to the film Point of No Return, La Femme Nikita the late 1990’s basic cable TV series appearing on USA differs from the original film version in one fundamental aspect: Nikita (Peta Wilson) is innocent she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Section One sets Nikita up to be accused of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life in prison where she supposedly commits suicide and is brought into Section One.  Like in the original film though Nikita will be killed (or “canceled”) if she fails to comply, she is forced to carry out the organization’s ruthless methods of fighting terrorism, while attempting to keep her moral integrity intact. This personal struggle becomes the primary conflict of the series.  A key scene in both the film and the series involves Nikita’s first assignment—to murder a VIP in a crowded restaurant. Although the Nikita of the television series eventually does become, by necessity, a ruthless killer, in the television version of this first mission she uses her ingenuity to avoid having to kill the VIP (whereas the film versions of the character complete the assignment). However, despite the machinations of others in power around her, Nikita retains her compassion and humanity.

La Femme Nikita was the number-one drama on basic cable channel USA Network for its first two seasons.  It had been “green-lighted” by the network’s founder and “cable network pioneer” Kay Koplovitz and nurtured by former USA Network president Rod Perth, a “key player” in its development.  However in 2000 it was canceled but its dedicated viewers mounted an extensive fan campaign to revive it and were successful!  These fans sent in over 25,000 letters and the network made a truncated 5th season.  According the JPFmovies research staff, such a resurrection happened only a couple of times once when Firefly was canceled after one season but due to fan demand the network made a full-length film an Family Guy which was brought back after three years on the shelf.

The LFN original series was not bad for its time and given the fact that it was brought back from the dead does tell you something about it.  If you do decide to take a look at it, watch for the ruthless character Madeline—she is as cold as it gets and she is another one you love to hate.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Let’s take a look as some beautiful, but dangerous, woman: La Femme Nikita the original series (1997-2001) based on the film Point of No Return (1993)—also reviewed starring Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Byrne. Stay clear of blonds with guns.

Anyone who is a film buff has come across the term “femme fatale” which is a French term that’s translated to “fatal woman.”  Films over the years have made these characters into beautiful, but dangerous, women.  These characters are the ones you love to hate.  The JPFmovies staff has looked into some femme fatale entertainment and decided to review the La Femme Nikita franchise.  First there was the film starring Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel, Anne Bancroft and Olivia d’Abo in Point of No Return (1992).  All fine performers and all         quite young in this film.  Bridget Fonda is literally a child, Keitel and Byrne look like they are in their late 20’s.  The JPFmovies staff was particularly excited to watch a film with Bridget Fonda in it—you don’t see her in too many films.

Our femme fatale, Maggie Hayward (Bridget Fonda), is a violent and unstable drug addict found guilty of murdering a police officer, and is sentenced to death by lethal injection.  A secret government organization fakes her death because they need to have a young female operative in the field.  Agent Bob (Gabriel Byrne) is charged with transforming her from this renegade youth into a sophisticated assassin. She is given a makeover by senior Operative Amanda (Anne Bancroft) and training that turns her into not only a beautiful woman, but also a trained killer.  The pressure is on though as she is only given 6 months reach operative level efficiency otherwise, she will literally get a bullet in the brain.

She passes her final test: an assassination of a VIP eating at a restaurant. Maggie kills the VIP and his bodyguard and then is pursued by a team of the VIP’s bodyguards and then escapes by jumping down a laundry chute. Maggie is relocated to California and finds her first relationship with J.P. (Dermot Mulroney). She promptly performs her first two assignments, both hit jobs, but she begins to hate her work.  Naturally she wants out but the agency has other ideas.  She is told that if she can pull off one last job Bob will try to get her out of the agency.

 

Maggie and her partner have trouble with this job and it goes sideways.  In a early version of The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, Victor, a “cleaner” (Harvey Keitel) is called salvage the mission. Unknown to Maggie, he has also been ordered to kill both agents as well because one failure results in death. After killing the wounded Beth in front of Maggie, he drives her to Fahd’s home she gets what she needs to.  The cleaner is supposed to kill her as well but she is crafty enough to turn the tables and gets away.  Bob (her handler) takes pity on her and falsely tells his boss that Maggie is dead setting her free.  The last scene is Maggie walking away in the pouring rain as she starts anew.

The JPFmovies staff is a big fan of Ms. Fonda and excited to see this film.  Seeing the early version of Keitel as Mr. Wolf as the “cleaner” is frankly hilarious.  Byrne, who also made a great 1990’s film The Usual Suspects, looks like he is in grade school in this movie.  Yeah kinda cliché but all in all not bad if you look at this film as the start of successful franchise depicting secret government organizations transforming young, beautiful, blonde trouble making girls into deadly women.

 

The moral of the story is never trust a blonde with a gun.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

That right JPFmovies fans check out page 4 of our movie review index provided for your convenience.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 
 
%d bloggers like this: