Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
April 1st, 2009

Tokyo Zombie

Tokyo Zombie --- faithfully follows George Romero's zombie paradigm
Directed by Sakichi Sato
Written by Sakichi Sato
Starring Tadanobu Asano, Show Aikawa, Erika Okuda
Produced by Yusaku Toyoshima, Haruo Umekawa
104 mins

There's one thing that you can say for Japanese horror movies. Actually, there are a LOT of things you can say, but one thing you can say with nigh-total certainty is that these guys KNOW their zombie movies. Plain and simple, every Japanese zombie movie I've come in contact with (admittedly, it's maybe only half a dozen--I can't find terribly many more) follows the principles of the Romero zombie movie SCRUPULOUSLY. Seriously, down to the last detail: zombies shamble, zombies don't speak, zombies are easily distracted, zombies move in groups, zombies can only be killed by destroying the brain or removing the brain from the body.

And sometimes, as is the case with Tokyo Zombie, they'll even add some stuff on. These additions are not necessarily bad, if a bit inauthentic.

Tokyo Zombie is about a couple of inept slackers who work at a fire extinguisher plant and spend most of their time practicing jiujitsu. When their boss comes out to berate them, he's accidentally killed when one of them hits him over the head with a fire extinguisher. Unsure of their next move, the two slackers bury their boss in Black Fuji, an enormous mountain of garbage and industrial waste where, apparently, most Japanese people ALSO bury the various corpses of people who got in their way. There are a LOT of corpses buried in Black Fuji.

Thus, when some of that industrial waste gets a hold of the corpses, it's Zombie Apocalypse time, kids.

The really unusual part about Tokyo Zombie is that it's basically two movies in one. About halfway through, the focus will shift in a totally different direction that I won't tell you about because it's pretty interesting by itself. Picture Land of the Dead taken to its logical extreme and you'll have an idea of what we're working with here. I know, I'm freaked out too.

And it's not just a zombie horror flick--Tokyo Zombie, in that inimitable Japanese style, has added a large dollop of humor to the proceedings that's definitely out of place, but the strange contrast between zombie apocalypse and a rollicking slapstick comedy is compelling to say the least. This is peppermint wasabi, folks, and I'm glad for it.

On the one hand, I'm a bit disappointed. Normally, a Japanese zombie movie is like a George Romero, complete with postulation on how people live after the zombie apocalypse hits. Oh, this HAS that, sure, but it's not very well explored. The second half of the movie will present a concept but this concept is almost so ludicrous as to be pointless. Either half of Tokyo Zombie would have made an excellent movie by itself, given full rein to be fully explored...but since the two are combined it limits what can be done in the same amount of time. Essentially, they tried to do too much, and in the process, wound up not doing ENOUGH.

But that's not to say that Tokyo Zombie isn't an authentic piece of Japanese zombie horror. It is. And it's fairly well executed besides. But the problem is that it's not all that it could have been, thus I'm left a bit disappointed.

The ending features several interesting twists and lots of background that I hadn't even noticed. Or considered, actually...CAN zombies who wear false teeth spread the zombie virus? I'm not all that sure.

The special features include a making-of featurette, a cast and crew interview segment, footage from a store appearance, English subtitles, and a host of teasers and trailers, including some that are only accessible BEFORE you watch the movie, a perennial peeve of mine.

All in all, Tokyo Zombie is a solid and interesting experience, though it disappoints in the sense that it's not all it might have been. Clearly, they tried, and I give them due credit--to borrow from the film, they've won the ninety point match...but they could have won the hundred.


chrysalis --- strange French adventure movie
Directed by Directed by Julien Leclercq
Written by Written by Julien Leclercq, Franck Philippon
Starring Starring Albert Dupontel, Marie Guillard, Marthe Keller, Melanie Thierry
Produced by Produced by Jean-Philippe Blime, Franck Chorot
Not Rated
94 mins

Chrysalis is one of those pieces that's really, really difficult to write about because it pulls you in so many conflicting directions at once.

Chrysalis takes us to Paris, the not too distant future of 2020, where the world is ruled by new and impressive technological advances. One of the biggest is the advent of remote surgery, developed at a Parisian medical clinic. One of the developers of same was involved in a bad car wreck, and used her skills and technology to help save her daughter's life. But part of the surgery involved damage to the hippocampus, and thus short-term memory was affected. Meanwhile, a Parisian cop is chasing a collar of a lifetime, but it turns out he's connected to the aforementioned medical clinic. How does it all fit together? The answer is, I'm frankly not sure.

The thing you'll need to remember about Chrysalis is that it's FRENCH. The French, as we've seen from movies like Ils and Haute Tension (They and High Tension, for those of you what don't parler) have a very singular style in that they'll gladly sacrifice things like making sense and being possible for the sake of VISUAL IMPACT. In other words, the biggest thing for them seems to be about looking good.

And indeed, Chrysalis LOOKS awesome. It's very clean. Very sharp, very orderly, very precise; almost like what you'd expect a medical clinic to look like. It is the razor's edge of a scalpel. It has a sharp, stark beauty to it, like polished steel. The only problem is that Chrysalis has all the WARMTH of that same polished steel. It has all the heart and soul of that same scalpel. It has all the love of that medical clinic.

It's easily one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in a long time-even the fight choreography is beautifully done-but it's almost unwatchable because it's so spectacularly boring. The characters are almost interchangeable null ciphers, one to the next, so much so that it's almost impossible to care about them.

And it's sad, too-I was really looking forward to a sweet science fiction ride, and indeed, Chrysalis looked to provide, with shades of Blade Runner and Total Recall and just a really tiny hint of Bad Cop Bon Cop. Oh, it gave me all of that, sure enough.and it also gave me all the warmth of a slowly melting ice sculpture.

The ending is just a microcosm of the whole film, looking great and being totally useless.

The special features include a making-of featurette, French and English language tracks, English subtitles, and a trailer for Chrysalis, as well as some other trailers at the beginning of the movie, inaccessible from the DVD menu itself.

All in all, Chrysalis is a beautiful but unwatchable movie, filled with ice cold dignity and grace. It's just too bad you can't actually care about any of it.