TV Review: Gekisou Sentai Carranger (1996-1997)

Original Run: March 1st, 1996 – February 7th, 1997
Created by: Toei, Yoshio Urasawa
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kobayashi
Written by: various
Music by: Naritaka Takayama (themes), Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Yūji Kishi, Yoshihiro Masujima, Yoshihiro Fukuda, Yuka Motohashi, Atsuko Kurusu, Rika Nanase

Toei, TV Asahi, 48 Episodes, 20 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Fans might see these characters and recognize them from Power Rangers Turbo but like all things Power Rangers, the majority of the action came from Japan’s Super Sentai franchise. In the case of Turbo, they borrowed heavily from this series, Gekisou Sentai Carranger.

Overall, this was one of the weaker Sentai series that I have seen but it still had really enjoyable parts and characters I ended up caring about.

In the American version, they had to create a new female villain character, as Zonnette from this show was way too scantily clad and there were scenes that featured too much sexual suggestion. I guess Japanese kids are more mature at dealing with sexy hot chicks in their television shows than the American kids are. Or, at least, the American puritan censors.

The premise for this show is one of the most bizarre, even for Sentai standards. The heroes here are “fighting for traffic safety” and they get their powers from some sort of automobile-themed cosmic force.

The big villain, who doesn’t appear until the last dozen or so episodes, has the grand scheme of building a network of super highways in space. I was never quite sure why that was even a bad thing, other than he wanted to destroy other planets and specifically their roads in order to achieve this strange goal.

Here’s the thing, though, Sentai doesn’t have to make any sort of logical sense and it rarely does. In a lot of ways, it’s all a self-parody of tokusatsu tropes and it’s very self-aware. While I’m not quite sure how Japanese kids interpret this stuff, it still makes for wacky, bizarre, entertaining television for those who are into really bonkers shit.

One thing that Gekisou Sentai Carranger did have working for it was the designs of the characters, specifically the villains and secondary heroes. Also, the Bowzock ship was one of the coolest I’ve seen in any sci-fi show or movie. It’s basically a mechanical orb made of what looks like moving, tangled razorwire.

Overall, there are much better Sentai series out there but this was still fun and enjoyable if this stuff is up your alley.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Office Space (1999)

Release Date: February 19th, 1999
Directed by: Mike Judge
Written by: Mike Judge
Based on: Milton by Mike Judge
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Richard Riehle, John C. McGinley, Paul Wilson, Michael McShane, Alexandra Wentworth, Greg Pitts, Todd Duffy, Orlando Jones, Joe Bays, Mike Judge (uncredited)

Cubicle Inc., 3 Arts Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 89 Minutes

Review:

“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.” – Peter Gibbons

Office Space just kind of came and went when it hit theaters in early 1999. However, once it hit VHS and everyone was able to rent it, it developed a cult following, which then became so large it wasn’t “cult” anymore and was more or less, mainstream.

This is a movie that nearly everyone loves because nearly everyone can relate to it on some level. Also, watching it now, I realized just how timeless it is, as the corporate world hasn’t changed much and many of us have very similar work lives to the characters featured in this story.

The core characters, here, are all pretty likable. So much so, I know that many people wanted a sequel just to spend more time with them, even though the story doesn’t need to be explored more than it was in this movie. I hope that ship has sailed and that Mike Judge would never actually sign-off on such a thing.

What I found most impressive about this now is that all the jokes still land and a lot of the anti-office stuff is still relevant.

The film also benefitted from being so well cast with Ron Livingston being such a great lead. Plus, all the other actors are pretty perfect in their roles.

Oddly, Jennifer Aniston is the only one that feels somewhat out of place but not because she was bad but because her role almost felt unnecessary. The story didn’t need a love interest and those scenes felt like they were in the way of the main plot.

However, Aniston’s character and her issues with working in the chain restaurant industry probably inspired the film Waiting…, which was a pretty enjoyable flick with similar themes.

Overall, Office Space was one of the best comedies of its time and it is still one of my favorites, today. I don’t think I’ll ever be sick of it and it’s one of those movies that you’ll just stop and watch if you walk into a room and it’s on. 

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1996
Directed by: John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley (uncredited)
Written by: Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson
Based on: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Mark Dacascos, Ron Perlman

New Line Cinema, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Well, things didn’t work out. Moreau wanted to turn animals into humans and humans into gods. But it’s instinct and reason, instinct and reason. What’s reason to a dog?” – Montgomery

Well, here we are. I’ve already reviewed the other Dr. Moreau film adaptations and so I figured I’d save the best worst for last. Well, it’s considered the worst by many and in fact, it’s considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, that’s definitely not true, as there are many, many, many movies that make this thing look like a masterpiece.

The thing is, I actually kind of like this movie in spite of its issues, most of which were due to this legitimately being one of the most poorly managed productions in motion picture history.

Frankly, this is a “bad” movie but there’s so much about it that’s kind of cool and intriguing that it actually overshadows the bad shit, in my opinion.

To start, Stan Winston’s special effects in this are really good. I like how he designed the creatures and applied it, giving different humanoid animal species distinct features and fur, allowing the mind to easily differentiate between them. But the makeup also works so well in the moments where the creatures lose their humanity and slide back into their wild, animalistic tendencies.

Also, the cast is as good as it can be, all things considered. But if you want the full story of the insanity that was this production, especially regarding the personal issues between Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, as well as the two different directors, you should watch the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which I reviewed here.

At times, the acting can be a mixed bag but it’s not any worse than similar mid-’90s sci-fi productions. This has a lot of characters, more than the previous adaptations, but it does a fair job of trying to balance them, even if the movie had to shoot around their temper tantrums and bullshit.

I like some of the narrative changes but this one is the bleakest of all the films, tonally and in how it ends. Although, it works for what this story deals with and the questions it raises.

In the end, this is certainly far from great but it’s not a total dumpster fire like people have claimed for decades now.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: The Mummy (1999)

Release Date: April 16th, 1999 (Portugal)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Hyde, Kevin J. O’Connor, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, Tuc Watkins, Omid Djalili, Aharon Ipale, Bernard Fox, Patricia Velásquez

Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“I only gamble with my life, never my money.” – Rick

I was a big fan of this movie when it originally came out. However, in the years since, it’s kind of gone down the memory hole due to its sequels and spinoffs, which each seemed to get worse. Also, the more I saw from Stephen Sommers, the more I disliked him as a director.

However, I wanted to see this with pretty fresh eyes, as its been nearly twenty years since I last watched it and a lot of the details have been lost. Granted, these details came rushing back to me, as I watched the picture again.

I loved this so much in 1999 because of three reasons.

The first is that I had been yearning for something Indiana Jones-like since that series ended ten years earlier with 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The second is that I have always loved the Universal Monsters franchise and this reboot of one of Universal’s classic monsters was something that got me really excited.

The third is that this starred Brendan Fraser as a lead in a blockbuster. I was a fan of the guy and loved watching him move up the Hollywood ladder since seeing him in the early ’90s in Encino Man and School Ties.

So seeing this now, I pretty much fell in love with it again. It also made me wish that Hollywood could just stop with the crap and make fun summer movies again. Sure, the occasional fun blockbuster comes out now and again but these things used to be really common and they were also made to entertain the audience and allowed them to get lost in the magic of Hollywood for a few hours. This reminded me of how big blockbusters coming to theaters were really big events in pop culture. It feels like that’s been gone for a few years and not just because of COVID; it started before that.

While I felt like the overall story, here, wasn’t particularly strong, it didn’t matter as much as the spectacle and scope of the film. This was ambitious for 1999 but it succeeded and probably much more than what was anticipated for it.

The special effects wowed audiences and they are mostly still good, even though some of it does look a wee bit dated. However, the big CGI heavy sequences still play well and nothing really pulls you out of the movie.

I really like the cast of this picture and thought that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were a good pairing with nice chemistry. I also thought that Fraser and John Hannah had solid camaraderie and it grows throughout the movie.

Arnold Vosloo was a pretty solid choice for Imhotep. He didn’t have to say anything but did a fine job acting with his facial expressions and body language. He was believable as an undead mummy trying to resurrect his long lost Anck-su-namun.

All in all, 1999’s version of The Mummy is much better than the recent Tom Cruise take on the franchise. I’m sure they’ll attempt yet another reboot in the future but this is a hard one to top outside of the 1932 original with the legendary Boris Karloff.

Also, this is the best movie that Stephen Sommers ever made, as everything went downhill from here.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Only Yesterday (1991)

Also known as: Omoide poro poro (original Japanese title), Memories of Teardrops, Memories of Yesterday (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Based on: Omoide Poro Poro by Hotaru Okamoto, Yuko Tone
Music by: Katz Hoshi
Cast: Japanese Language: Yoko Honna, Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba; English Language: Daisy Ridley, Alison Fernandez, Dev Patel, Grey DeLisle, Tara Strong

Nippon Television Network, Studiopolis, Studio Ghibli, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?” – Hirota, “…cloudy days.” – Taeko, “Oh, then we’re alike.” – Hirota

I would have to consider this my least favorite Studio Ghibli film, up to this point in their history.

Honestly, it just didn’t connect with me in the ways that their other movies have. It’s just okay and pretty dry. It moves at a snail’s pace.

The story is about an unmarried woman being fixated on memories of her childhood. She does what we all do, looks back, overanalyzes the moments that shaped her, and questions where she is in life now.

I watched the English dubbed version, as the most modern English dubs of  Studio Ghibli films are typically top notch. However, I found Daisy Ridley’s performance to be really underwhelming, compared to the performances by voice leads in other films.

It sounded as if Ridley was just reading lines and putting just a bit of inflection in her voice. She felt like a teacher reading a book out loud to a classroom of elementary school kids.

I know that this movie has its audience and that many people love it. I’m just not one of them.

Still, it’s visually and technically sound as far as the animation and production goes.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

Original Run: April 3rd, 1998 – April 24th, 1999
Created by: Hajime Yatate
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto
Music by: Yoko Kanno
Cast: Koichi Yamadera, Unsho Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara

Sunrise, TXN, Wowow, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Decades upon decades of hype and Cowboy Bebop just didn’t live up to it for me. But this is what happens when people, for years and years, claim that something is the “best ever”.

In those situations, I think that a lot of people who hear that, repeat it, as they don’t want to be the asshole that disagrees with everyone else. It’s just this effect that happens with things that are grossly overhyped by a passionate few who are able to push something beyond cult status.

Now that’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over when it was.

I like that it’s unique, features an incredibly jazzy score and finds itself wrapped up in several genres not really committing to any of them fully. It’s a mix of noir, western, cyberpunk and space opera. But it also features real human drama, comedy and often times plays like a crime thriller.

Essentially, I like it for all the reasons that other people do. I just don’t think it’s the greatest anime I’ve ever seen and just because it was unique and fresh when it came out in 1998, doesn’t mean that its some sort of masterpiece.

The show has some weak, forgettable episodes, some of the characters begin to grate on you like the shrill little kid with the barky dog.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not game to check out the animated film that came after or any potential sequel or animated reboot.

In the end, this is still high tier anime and much better than the norm. I’d even call it a classic. However, I can’t look at it as the greatest thing that ever existed in anime. It simply isn’t. But that’s also subjective and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Basquiat (1996)

Also known as: Build A Fort, Set It On Fire (alternative title)
Release Date: August 9th, 1996
Directed by: Julian Schnabel
Written by: Julian Schnabel, John Bowe, Michael Holman, Lech Majewski
Music by: John Cale, Julian Schnabel
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Benicio del Toro, Claire Forlani, Michael Wincott, Parker Posey, Courtney Love, Elina Lowensohn, Paul Bartel, Tatum O’Neal, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Sam Rockwell, Michael Badalucco, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Vincent Laresca, Vincent Gallo (uncredited)

Eleventh Street Production, Jon Kilik, Miramax, 107 Minutes

Review:

“What is it about art anyway that we give it so much importance? Artists are respected by the poor because what they do is an honest way to get out of the slum using one’s sheer self as the medium. The money earned, proof, pure and simple, of the value of that individual, the artist. The picture a mother’s son does in jail hangs on her wall as proof that beauty is possible even in the most wretched. And this is a much different idea than fancier notion that art is a scam and a ripoff. But you can never explain to someone who uses God’s gift to enslave, that you have used God’s gift to be free.” – Rene Ricard

Everyone has a favorite movie or few. This is one of mine and honestly, I’ve put off reviewing it because I’ve found it difficult to put into words what I love about it so much. It’s just more of a feeling and a vibe that it gives off, and as an artist myself, I felt deeply connected with the film the first time that I saw it.

While the picture is a biopic about Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist that rose to prominence and died way too young, it is also an examination of art itself and the artist’s place in the world. It’s a real critique on the art world, especially in the opulent ’80s and the New York City scene. What makes this even more interesting, though, is that this was made by people who knew Basquiat and who were part of this community at the time that he rose up and took the art world by storm.

Honestly, this is probably the most intimate look inside that world and of that specific era that outsiders have ever gotten. It’s an incredibly intriguing place. It’s also made that much more personal by the love of the filmmakers and the passion they put into this motion picture.

This passion goes beyond director Julian Schnabel and the writers, though, as it also comes out through the performances of the actors. And man, this is a movie with an incredible cast from top-to-bottom. For an indie picture about an artist that was here and gone so quickly, the production attracted so many worthwhile actors.

The two that standout the most, however, are Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat and David Bowie as Andy Warhol. These two men gave real life to these iconic figures and their chemistry together was so good that you truly believed in the real life bond between Basquiat and Warhol, a bond everyone else seemed jealous about.

I also loved the scene with Christopher Walken, as a journalist asking Jean-Michel some pretty pointed questions. But this scene kind of shows you where Basquiat is in life, at this point, as everything has moved so fast. Plus, the film shows sections of his life and there isn’t any sort of traditional progression of time, which I liked. Things happen in a dreamlike blur but that’s often times how life goes and you have these random moments that sort of ground you and put things into perspective.

There isn’t a weak performance in the whole film and it features incredible moments between Wright, a newcomer at the time, and well-established actors like Dennis Hopper, Willem Dafoe, Gary Oldman, Parker Posey, Michael Wincott, Benicio del Toro and so many others.

Additionally, the music in the film is just as important as the art and it truly sets the tone in every scene and it’s actually my favorite soundtrack that’s ever been assembled.

By the time you get to the end, the film tries to give you some hope and through a story Jean-Michel tells to his friend, Benny, you fully understand what his place in the world was and still is. Sadly, the writing was on the wall for how Basquiat’s story would end but even with his life cut incredibly short, he created something that would live on forever.

Rating: 10/10

TV Review: Chōjin Sentai Jetman (1991-1992)

Original Run: February 15th, 1991 – February 14th, 1992
Created by: Toei
Directed by: Keita Amemiya
Written by: various
Music by: Kazuhiko Toyama, Hironobu Kageyama (themes)
Cast: Kōtarō Tanaka, Rika Kishida, Tomihisa Naruse, Sayuri Uchida, Toshihide Wakamatsu

Toei Company, 51 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

It’s been ages since I watched a Super Sentai series and because of that, I’m now way behind on the stuff that Shout! Factory has released in the United States. So I figured I really needed to jump on it and experience more of this great, classic tokusatsu program.

For those that might not know, this series was originally intended to be the one that they were going to use to create the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. However, producers of that show ended up using its successor, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger.

With that, this is the first Sentai show that I’ve watched that wasn’t turned into a Power Rangers series. This also makes it the oldest show that I’ve seen in the franchise.

Overall, this was damn enjoyable if kid friendly tokusatsu is your thing.

The thing I liked most was the characters. For the most part, this set of heroes were well-balanced, pretty well developed and they had great chemistry with each other. I especially liked how the bond evolved between Ryū a.k.a. Red Hawk and Gai a.k.a. Black Condor evolved over the course of the show. By the end, these two guys were complete badasses and honestly, either of them could’ve been team leader.

I also really liked Ako a.k.a. Blue Swallow. She was a cool character with some good stories and she might be my favorite female hero that I’ve seen out of all the Sentai shows I’ve watched, thus far.

Like the heroes, the villains were a really cool team that also had solid chemistry. I love that they were only really unified in trying to destroy the Jetman team and to dominate the world. I loved the power struggles between them, how they evolved over the series and ultimately, how they probably could’ve won had they not allowed their egos to make them work against one another.

Looking beyond the cool characters and story, I also dug the hell out of the look of the show. I thought the Jetman team’s costumes were superb and they are definitely one of the best looking Sentai teams of all-time.

This series also had some cool monsters. The real standout, I thought, was the ramen cup noodles monster. He just had a cool design and any monster that shoots out shrimp boomerangs is going to leave an impression.

Chōjin Sentai Jetman is pretty high up on the short list of the Super Sentai shows I’ve watched. However, this is only my fifth and there are a lot more to experience. I think that this one will maintain a spot close to the top, though.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Léon: The Professional (1994)

Also known as: Léon (original title), The Professional (alternative title)
Release Date: September 14th, 1994 (France, Mexico)
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Music by: Eric Serra
Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello, Michael Badalucco

Gaumont, Les Films du Dauphin, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t wanna lose you, Léon.” – Matilda, “You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Matilda. Please, go now, baby, go. Calm down, I’ll meet you at Tony’s in an hour, I love you, now go, go now.” – Léon

While I need to rewatch The Fifth Element in the very near future because I surprisingly haven’t reviewed it yet, I’d have to say that Léon: The Professional is probably my favorite Luc Besson movie.

I first saw this when it came out to rent on VHS and upon seeing it, I had wished that I actually got to experience it on the big screen.

The four main actors in this are phenomenal. Jean Reno is perfectly cast and this is still the greatest thing that I’ve seen him do. Natalie Portman proved, at a very young age, that she had what it took to carve out a pretty stellar career, which she has. Gary Oldman absolutely shined as the movie’s antagonist and came across as a legitimately intimidating, psychotic, piece of shit. Danny Aiello wasn’t in the picture for more than a few scenes but he came across as the real veteran, making those who shared scenes with him even better. I especially liked the exchange between Aiello and Portman.

What’s really odd for me, at least, is that I’ve never been a big Portman fan and I think a lot of that stems from what felt like disinterest in some of the roles she’s played like in the Star Wars and Thor movies she’s done. But here, she is impressive and fully displayed her talent and how good she can be when she cares about the material she has to work with.

This is a violent but tender movie and the fact that it is able to balance the two things so perfectly is what makes it really damn good.

Additionally, the hitman stuff comes across as authentic and genuine. I love the opening of the movie, which shows you how great Léon is at his job. The action is intense and, at times, over the top and stylized for a greater cinematic effect but everything in the movie still feels real and plausible.

I also like the coming of age stuff and how Matilda is entering her teen years, having to deal with that, while also having to survive her family being murdered and essentially being on the run from a very dangerous madman with a police force at his disposal.

There are just a lot of layers to this movie but everything comes together so wonderfully. The fact that it’s so well acted and meticulously directed also makes it a film worthy of its strong cult status.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)

Release Date: July 9th, 1993
Directed by: Robert Klane
Written by: Robert Klane
Based on: characters by Robert Klane
Music by: Peter Wolf
Cast: Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser, Barry Bostwick, Troy Byer, Tom Wright, Steve James

Artimm, D&A Partnership, TriStar Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Why would you need to guard a dead man stuck in a two foot refrigerator?” – Richard Parker

Let me preface this by saying that this is a sequel that never needed to be made. Also, even though I love the first movie, I didn’t see this one when it came out and I actually never committed to watching it until maybe a decade ago.

Back when I first saw this, I thought it was a really weak sequel that jumped the shark almost immediately when Bernie’s corpse becomes a voodoo zombie and I pretty much dismissed it and never watched it again until now.

Having several years to marinate on it, I figured I’d give it a rewatch to review it. Besides, I just reviewed the original one, so why not follow it up with this?

Weekend at Bernie’s II takes a zany movie that was pretty much grounded in some sort of reality and turns it on its head, making a voodoo spell animate Bernie’s dead body. Although, the spell was done poorly, so Bernie only moves when he hears music and then it makes him raise up and walk in the direction of where his stolen millions were stashed. However, he doesn’t just walk, he dances and wiggles his head like a boomer at a Jimmy Buffett concert.

This is just a bad movie, through and through, yet I still found it kind of amusing and even more so, this time around. I think that’s because I was already disappointed by it and knew what to expect. Also, already knowing what parts of this I didn’t enjoy, allowed me to focus more on the positives.

The biggest positive is the return of Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman, who are a charismatic and amusing duo.

Also, Terry Kiser got to up the ante in this picture and they really allowed him to do his thing more. With the goofy added voodoo schtick, it did provide Kiser with the opportunity to move and be more active in a fresh way. It opened the film up to new gags, as opposed to rehashing the same things from the first flick. Looking at the voodoo plot twist that way, kind of salvages it.

This was also one of the last movie’s to have Steve James in it, as he died shortly after this was released. He has a fairly small role but I always loved the guy because of how cool and badass he was in the first three American Ninja movies.

Sadly, Weekend at Bernie’s II just doesn’t come close to what the original was. This is probably why this movie is mostly forgotten but the original still has its fans. While I liked this more on a second viewing, I doubt it’s something I’ll ever watch again unlike its predecessor.

Rating: 5.25/10