Assassin: A Job For A Woman!

Gun-Woman

Image credit: Kurando Mitsutake

Kurando Mitsutake exceeds the accomplishments of his previous 2009 film Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf with a much more sophisticated story of gory revenge, action, and perversion. Whereas Mitsutake’s samurai tale relied on an homage to Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns”—which themselves were an homage to Japanese samurai epics, such as Yojimbo—in his 2014 film Gun Woman the references to respected influences like Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita are thoroughly sublimated into the world evoked in Mitsutake’s screenplay. More specifically, the world of Gun Woman is defined by immense wealth that is in the hands of a sociopath, “Hamazaki’s son,” who’s into sadism and necrophilia, and who also kills “the Mastermind’s” wife, “Keiko,” who are played respectively by Noriaki Kamata, Kairi Narita, and Midori Okada.

The driving force of the story, however, is “Gun Woman,” played effectively by Asami, whose numerous previous credits include “Miki” in The Machine Girl (2008). In Mitsutake’s latest endeavor she plays a former meth junkie and prostitute who’s purchased by the Mastermind for the explicit purpose of turning her into the ultimate assassin, who will be the “tool” take wreaks vengeance over Hamazaki’s son. While Asami’s beautifully athletic figure and pretty face make it hard to believe she’s a meth head named “Mayumi,” watching her engage her viewer in what will be a virtually non-verbal performance, excepting a critical single word at the story’s climax, makes you forget about the improbabilities (one of which is the method for smuggling a gun into an otherwise impenetrable secret location). Asami is a tour de force and I had a great time watching her performance! As for how to interpret Asami’s character—Is “Gun Woman” an icon of standpoint feminism or is she merely another exploited woman forced to meet male objectives?—is better left for another time. In the end, I genuinely enjoyed this film. I found the characters interesting and I cared about Mayumi’s, Gun Woman’s fate, whom I admired for both her strengths and vulnerabilities. I wanted her to survive her ordeal!

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“To the Angel, Breathing On Me From the Right”: Mastodon Descends Into The Marquee Theater

mastodon

Photo credit: David Martínez

In any person’s life the first time for anything is typically the most unforgettable, be it your first kiss, first car, first job, you name it, smoking weed, getting a speeding ticket. Doesn’t matter, if the inaugural experience was emotionally and physically moving enough, you will likely remember it for the rest of your life. This includes musical experiences, such as hearing a band for the first time, their raddest album, or seeing them live.

As remarkable as it is for me to think about, the first time I saw Mastodon live was only very recently. Thursday, April 30, 2015, in fact, at The Theater in Tempe, AZ. Can’t say exactly why this momentous occasion was so long in happening, it simply turned out that way for me. In any case, as captured in the video posted here, which I recorded with my phone, the band opened with “Tread Lightly,” which they had been doing regularly throughout their current tour. It was also one of my favorite songs off of their 2014 album Once More ‘Round the Sun.

When the band walked onstage around 9pm, it was after Clutch had finished a killer set, so the bar was set pretty high. However, all four band members—Bill Kelliher, Brent Hinds, Troy Sanders, and Bränn Dailor—entered the venue carrying their instruments like titans taking their places above their domain. Then, as the rapid guitar chords began, the musical phenomenon known as Mastodon transformed an otherwise ordinary rock club into the mythic universe evoked in the band’s six studio albums.

Needless to say, I stood transfixed for the duration of the show. I didn’t realize how much I needed to see this band and hear this music live until it was their happening before me. If you get the chance, you should go see them, too. You’ll never forget it, especially your first time.

Video credit: David Martínez

“I WILL SUFFER NO EVIL, MY GUITAR WILL GUIDE ME THROUGH”: THE VOLCANIC RHYTHM AND BLUES OF CLUTCH!

Video credit: David Martínez

Clutch is one of those bands that has been around forever, but that I never got into in spite of them releasing album after album since the 1990s. However, all of that changed when I finally saw them live! This occurred on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at The Marquee Theater in Tempe, AZ, where Clutch opened for Mastodon as part of The Missing Link Tour.

Prior to seeing this show, I was not certain that I had even heard of Clutch. It was one of those names that sounded familiar, yet I was unable to match the band’s name with a particular song or album. So, I turned to Spotify. I had purchased tickets to see Mastodon, who were the headliners and whose music I was quite familiar. But what about Clutch?

When I sampled the music available on Spotify, it was one of those listening experiences in which I liked some of what I heard but not enough to get me excited about either listening to more or seeing them live. But like I said above, everything changed when they took the stage around 8pm after Graveyard performed and, in my opinion, overstayed their welcome by a good fifteen minutes. Clutch, on the other hand, opened with “The Mob Goes Wild,” which is exactly what happened—the audience went wild! It is a unique force of human nature to see people bond together with the impact of a driving beat, especially when amplified through a wall of speakers, complete with a light show.

I was so blown away by what I saw that it took me a while to realize that maybe I should record some of this. Fortunately, I managed to pull my phone out in time to capture the second song from their set. “Earth Rocker,” which is featured here in a video I posted to YouTube, is the title track to their 2013 album, the band’s tenth studio release. All I can say at this point is to please watch and judge the quality of Clutch’s showmanship for yourself. What I can testify to on their behalf is the fact that by the time they finished their fifteen-song set—a full concert, not just an opening act—I was totally committed to following this band! Now, whenever I hear their studio albums, the same ones I heard on Spotify, I immediately remember down to my toes the volcanic energy that swept through the theater from front to back—and through the roof!

clutch

Photo credit: David Martínez