Film Review: Arcadia of My Youth (1982)

Also known as: Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth (English title), Vengeance of the Space Pirate (US dubbed version)
Release Date: 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Yoichi Onaka
Based on: Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Toshiyuki Kimori

Toei Animation, 130 Minutes, 101 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“At the end of their lives, all men look back and think that their youth was Arcadia.” – title card

I never really knew who Leiji Matsumoto was. As a kid, I loved Star Blazers though and I had heard of Captain Harlock but I never knew that they were associated. Had I known that, I probably would’ve watched this film when it came Stateside.

Now, I’m trying to rectify the injustice of not watching Matsumoto’s other work. So I started here, as this was free for Prime members and because I’ve always been intrigued by Captain Harlock, even though I’ve never seen any of his shows or films.

Maybe I should have watched the earlier anime series first but this does serve as a prequel to it, as well as a prequel to one of Matsumoto’s other creations, Galaxy Express 999.

This is a space opera at its core but that was Matsumoto’s modus operandi and he was able to craft fantastic tales within the genre. Arcadia is no different and ultimately, this made me want to watch the earlier Harlock series.

The thing that really works and makes this so compelling is the tone and the atmosphere. Visually, it’s both dark and fantastical.

The opening scene with Harlock in his biplane being confronted by the spirit of a witch that haunts the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea is pretty breathtaking and lures you in like you’re being pulled by a powerful phantom’s grip. And maybe that’s the witch coming through and having an effect on the audience. Point being, the opening is so well crafted that it made me a fan of this picture from the get-go.

Everything that follows is also pretty fascinating. This is a story with a lot of drama but most importantly, high adventure.

The hero is cool, most of the other characters are great but most importantly, the design of the ships, vehicles and the universe they inhabit is imaginative and stunning.

The audio is presented in mono and I’m not sure if a remastered stereo version exists but the mono sound kind of adds to the atmosphere. Granted, that could also be nostalgia triggering in my brain, as it gave me the same experience I had watching old VHS tapes of Star Blazers and Voltron.

If anything, this feature film sold me on the franchise and further strengthened my appreciation for Matsumoto.

I’m not sure where my odyssey through Matsumoto’s oeuvre will take me next but watching the original Captain Harlock series, as well as the Galaxy Express 999 stuff is a must.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)

I fed this arcade game so many quarters in 1990 that I never had money to buy anything else. I usually had to persuade my mum into giving me more quarters, as well as giving me an extra allowance just for comics.

Anyway, I’m glad that I can play this whenever I want now and the quarters are free because with MAME, I only have to hit “select” to add credits.

This was and still is one of the all-time greatest side scrolling beat’em up arcade games in history. Sure, the genre was going strong by the time that this came out but it took things to a new level. Maybe that’s because the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing in pop culture in 1990 but even then, this is such a perfectly polished and energetic game that it’s greatness can’t be brushed off simply because it’s associated with a massive franchise.

The controls are superb, the gameplay is fluid and this isn’t a beat’em up that gets dull or all that repetitive. Each level feels fresh and new, the levels aren’t too long and even if you are fighting a dozen enemies at once, you don’t get so overwhelmed that you have to blow through quarters just to get off of one screen.

What’s also great is that this was a four player game. So you and four of your friends could jump in together and kick Foot Clan ass. Even if you didn’t have friends with you at the arcade, there was never a shortage on kids ready to jump in and give you a hand. I actually met some friends this way.

This was an arcade game that I would often play to completion. It was perfectly balanced on its difficulty and every kid felt like they could beat it without completely going broke. There are days where I played through it twice in a row.

The Nintendo port that came out after this was never as good. It always felt like the cheap, incomplete and buggy version of its superior arcade father. Granted, the NES version did add some interesting new levels and characters.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up arcade games from the era, especially involving turtles.

 

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2

Published: February 28th, 2018
Written by: Erik Burnham, Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Schoening
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis

IDW Publishing, 132 Pages

Review:

It’s not this particular comic’s fault but I think I’m suffering from IP crossover fatigue. I’ve read a ton of crossovers between different intellectual properties over the last year or so and they all follow the same tired formula of smashing two franchise together via a portal or a dimensional rift whether it be through science or magic.

That was how these two franchises came together in the first place and that’s also how they come back together for a second time. So I can’t fault it as a plot device here, it’s already been established. However, with that trope, we also get other tropes with stories like this that make them all pretty predictable and just more of the same.

Now this was still amusing and I enjoyed the banter between the characters. However, the story itself felt like a clusterfuck. The main reason, is that it takes this portal/rift trope and multiplies it by a thousand.

There is so much dimensional jumping that the plot becomes overly complicated and confusing. It’s like someone took an entire season of the show Sliders and tried to wedge them all into a five issue comic book arc.

Crossovers like this used to feel cool and special. But there are so many of them and IDW is a big part of the problem, as they own the publishing rights to so many franchises. When the regular comics don’t sell, you smash the titles together and try to capitalize. It worked for awhile. I just don’t think it’s working anymore.

Props to Dan Schoening on the art though. This was a nice book to look at in that regard.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other IDW collections for both Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Video Game Review: Pit Fighter (Arcade)

Pit Fighter was kind of the precursor to Mortal Kombat. It’s nowhere near as good or iconic but it gave us real people digitized to create the fighters in the game. To an eleven year-old in 1990, this game looked badass.

However, this is just a straight up button masher. There’s no real strategy, just don’t get hit and hit the baddie more than the baddie hits you. However, if you’ve got a pocket full of quarters or infinite quarters thanks to playing this on MAME, you can just buy your way to the finish.

The controls are fluid and work well. However, the game itself isn’t fluid and the action can be kind of wonky. While it’s a decent attempt at a next gen fighting game (for its time), it’s bogged down by its sloppy play and it’s pretty repetitive. Also, the three fighters you can choose from aren’t really to dissimilar because they don’t really have any sort of unique move sets. You can punch, kick and jump: not much else.

Still, revisiting this and beating it was fun for the half hour or so that it took.

Also, the arcade version is much better than any of the versions that were ported to consoles.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other arcade fighting games from the early ’90s.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution

Published: September 28th, 2011
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Leonardo Manco, Jerome Opena

Marvel Comics, 108 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted to pick up Rick Remender’s run on X-Force for a long time. But there are so many comics I want to read that the mountain is always growing. I finally got around to this one though, the first of seven volumes and a good setup for the series.

If you’ve read the X-Force series where the team becomes a black ops squad for Cyclops, handling the really dark shit that the X-Men can’t, then you should know what you’re getting into here. This picks up after that run but Remender shuffles the group’s members and makes things more interesting.

Where I’ve been critical of Deadpool in the past, these are the types of stories that he tends to flourish in. He is still comedic and has his quips but it works better having him lighten the dark mood than just starring in his own comic and giving us straight comedy or superhero parody.

I really like the duality that is explored here with Warren Worthington, as he phases between his Angel and Archangel personas and because of that, has real trust issues in his relationship with Psylocke.

This team also features Wolverine in a leadership role, as well as Fantomex, who I honestly don’t know. But he seems like an interesting enough character and I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

The threat in this story sees the emergence of a new Four Horsemen of the Apoclypse, as X-Men baddie Apocalypse has returned in an interesting form.

Where this is going is hard to tell and this volume doesn’t work as its own story. It reads like the first chapter to a much larger book. And while that may irritate some people that want a resolution within the covers of their trade paperbacks, I’m committed to seeing this whole series through.

That being said, this lays the groundwork without giving you too much of an idea as to what’s on the horizon. I hope the surprise is a pleasant one.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.

TV Review: The Boys (2019- )

Original Run: July 26th, 2019 – current
Created by: Eric Kripke
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Boys by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cast: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Kapon, Karen Fukuhara, Nathan Mitchell, Elisabeth Shue, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Esposito, Giancarlo Esposito, Haley Joel Osment, Brit Morgan

Sony Pictures Television, Amazon Studios, Kripke Enterprises, Point Grey Pictures, Original Film, Kickstart Entertainment, KFL Nightsky Productions, 8 Episodes (so far), 55-66 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

If I’m being honest, the trailer for this show hurts it. When I saw it, I thought it looked cheesy and way too edgy boi. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the show was something much better than what the trailer alluded to.

In fact, this is the best superhero show on television. Now I’m saying that only having seen the first season, as that’s all we’ve got at this point. However, I have a good feeling that it should maintain its quality, at least for another season or two, as it ends in a pretty profound way like a stiff, solid gut punch.

Like Preacher, another television show adapted from the comic book work of Garth Ennis, this is a dark tale that shows some people at their very worst while still providing enough lightheartedness to help take the edge off.

The cast is absolutely superb in this. Every single person that’s a regular on the show is putting in some top notch work. Karl Urban kills it in everything and that should go without saying. However, I don’t know much about Jack Quaid but I’m a fan now. The real standout though is Anthony Starr, who plays Homelander, who is this universe’s version of a Superman. Except this Superman is a total asshole that does some unbelievably heinous stuff.

I wasn’t completely sold on the show until episode four, which was the halfway point for this short season. Starr’s Homelander takes center stage and shows you the type of mad god that he is. While powerful superheroes turned evil and running amok is nothing new in the genre, this was some next level shit. And it was a moment that could have made the show or broke it. It certainly made it, as its perfectly executed, giving off the right sort of emotion and context, adding real depth to two of the main characters.

Since I loved the hell out of this show’s inaugural season, I don’t want to spoil too much. But if it’s not hitting the right notes for you early on, give it until the end of episode four. At the point, it’s hard not to go on.

The Boys is solid storytelling, solid character building and maybe the savior of the superhero genre, which is starting to get redundant and tiresome like spaghetti westerns by the late ’70s. And maybe that’s because this isn’t a standard superhero story, it’s real drama with high stakes and there are a lot of narrative threads and different avenues that the show can explore.

In only 8 episodes, it perfected world building and gave us something special… something I definitely want more of. Only two other shows really ensnared me like this in the last ten-to-twelve years: Mr. Robot and Breaking Bad.

Now the rating is pretty high but it just represents the first and so far only season. Hopefully, The Boys can maintain its quality moving forward.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: another Garth Ennis comic turned television show: Preacher.

Video Game Review: RoboCop (Arcade)

I used to love the hell out of this game whenever I’d see its cabinet glowing in the corner of my local arcade. I used to pump quarters into this thing like an old lady at a slot machine in Circus Circus. But I remember dropping serious coin and never being able to get very far.

Now that I can run this on MAME, I have infinite quarters, so I wanted to revisit it and play it all the way through.

I’ve got to say, this game is a beast. And I don’t mean that complimentary. Maybe there is a difficulty setting I can alter on MAME but you get overwhelmed by enemies and killed pretty damn quickly. It’s amazing how quick you get overwhelmed and really early in the game. Sure, I can keep continuing and I did but you only get one life and the continue screen freezes the gameplay action, bogging down the gameplay flow and your momentum. It’s kind of tedious, actually.

And hell, it’s been nearly three decade since I’ve played this and I could just suck really bad at it. But this era of arcade games are my cup of tea and I’m a pretty good player in most cases.

I still love the graphics and the game runs smooth as hell. The real high point is the music and the sound effects, which are top notch for this game’s generation.

It could have gotten more creative with boss battles, as you fight ED-209s a half dozen times and even fight two at the same time towards the end.

This isn’t too dissimilar from the Nintendo RoboCop game but it is harder and the levels feel more repetitious than its NES counterpart. For instance, for those familiar with the NES game, the City Hall level isn’t in this version.

All in all, this was fun to revisit but it’s insane difficulty made it a chore after the first ten minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era.