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Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura.
Written by Isao Kirayama and Ryuhei Kitamura.  Based on a comic book.
Starring Hideo Sakaki and Ryo.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  2/12/03

Commentary on the Oscars and my annual Oscar Pool Picks will come around the first of March.  In the meantime, let it be known—John C. Reilly was actually nominated for an Oscar.  Armageddon will follow soon after. 


The San Francisco Independent Film Festival is going on now here in town, and I had to check at least one of these films out before the Festival finished its run.  Unfortunately, I picked one of the worst films available.

“Alive” is a film by Japanese wunderkind director Ryuhei Kitamura, who also directed the acclaimed action/horror film “Versus” back in 2000.  Starring Hideo Sakaki as death row inmate Tenshu Yashiro, “Alive” follows Yashiro as he is first sent to the electric chair, NOT KILLED because he was tough enough to absorb most of the shock treatment of the electricity running through him (???), then used as a guinea pig for a device found in outer space (???) called the Displacer, which allows its wearer to displace his immediate space to avoid gunfire and fight at a level that is best described as “Stolen from ‘The Matrix’” to dispatch bad guys.

Should the Japanese ever steal ideas from American films in this day and age?  Should the martial arts in a Japanese film ever be worse than those in American films?  No and no.

But, there they are in plain view in “Alive”, a film that opened to so-so reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and in my showing (the American debut of the film), had at least a few folks boo and hiss on occasion.  The 120-minute film has almost no action, and when it finally does give us some action, it mostly sucks.  I fell asleep two separate times for about five minutes a piece and I hadn’t even missed anything!  The film is a good-looking Japanese production with some good-looking shots of sets and actors.  Besides this redeeming value, “Alive” is almost totally worthless.

My friend Max, who came with me to check out “Alive”, thought that “Versus” was much, much, I will have to hunt out that one to see if this guy Kitamura is all he is cracked up to be!!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09