Film Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Release Date: September 29th, 2003 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: RZA
Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Michael Bowen, Jun Kunimura, Kenji Ohba, James Parks, The 5.6.7.8’s

Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Do you find me sadistic? You know, I bet I could fry an egg on your head right now, if I wanted to. You know, Kiddo, I’d like to believe that you’re aware enough even now to know that there’s nothing sadistic in my actions. Well, maybe towards those other… jokers, but not you. No Kiddo, at this moment, this is me at my most… [cocks pistol] masochistic.” – Bill

The Kill Bill films are my favorite movies from Quentin Tarantino, which makes me happy that there are two of them. I felt that reviewing them was long overdue, so I had myself a little marathon with these two movies and some of the classic Pai Mei flicks I’ve already reviewed on this site.

The two films work really well together even though the first one plays more like a martial arts/Yakuza flick while the second is more akin to a spaghetti western. I think this is probably why they were split into two parts, as opposed to giving us one big epic film. Granted, I’m still waiting for the combined version that Tarantino promised years ago. Hell, I think it’s also about time for the third film, which he also promised years ago.

Anyway, this is a review of the first movie, so let me get to it.

The film is just great from top-to-bottom from the opening scene to the big, action-packed, blood-soaked finale.

My only reservations with it, seeing it for the first time in quite a damn while, is that some of the dialogue came out fairly cringe. The scene with Uma Thurman and Vivica Fox exchanging pleasantries seemed a lot less cool and a lot more forced and unnatural for me. It never really bothered me before but it set them film up poorly and because of that, I thought I was going to be disappointed and discover that this just wasn’t as good as I thought it was when I was a lot younger.

I’m glad to say that even though there is more dialogue cringe, it doesn’t really wreck the film or its dramatic effect. Quentin Tarantino is always getting props for the dialogue in his movies but I’ve never been as big of a mark for it. It’s almost always compelling but it tends to be an example of something that sounds great on paper but doesn’t work as well onscreen. And honestly, I think that’s what happened in some of these scenes and I don’t blame the actresses for it.

That gripe aside, everything else is pretty much perfect and the film moves at an incredibly brisk pace, leading to the big showdown with one woman against an army of Yakuza’s wielding samurai swords.

While Tarantino’s films always look fantastic and cinematically impressive, this one really takes the cake for me. Especially, during that final fight, as the film goes from color, to black and white, to just silhouette. The changes work really damn well and the visual tone helps to set the narrative tone, as it shifts during the battle. It also helps break it out into segments, keeping it fresh, as it does run on for a really long time.

Also, I love how after the fight, it switches back to regular color, where it reveals a giant hall full of downed Yakuza, blood absolutely everywhere and limbs just randomly dropped throughout the set. This whole sequence gives you pure, ultraviolence but you don’t actually see the sum of all its (body)parts until that final moment and its kind of breathtaking.

Additionally, the one-on-one final fight between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii is a beautiful, artful and calculated confrontation that works in contrast to the massive fight before it while also being a stunning exclamation point on the film.

The movie is also full of stupendous dramatic scenes and places where the dialogue is so damn good that it sort of washes away the cringe from earlier in the film. The scenes between The Bride and Sonny Chiba’s Hattori Hanzō are fucking beautiful, sweet and intense.

The closing moments of the movie, where The Bride explains her plan to Sofie is ominous as hell and spectacularly effective, as is the big reveal and twist, delivered by Bill, as the final line of the movie.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is pretty close to being Tarantino’s greatest masterpiece. But then, it is slightly edged out by its sequel, which I will review in about a week.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.

TV Review: Galaxy Express 999 (1978–1981)

Original Run: September 14th, 1978 – March 26th, 1981
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Nobutaka Nishizawa
Written by: Hiroyasu Yamaura, Keisuke Fujikawa, Yoshiaki Yoshida
Based on: Galaxy Express 999 by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Nozomi Aoki
Cast: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Kaneta Kimotsuki

Toei Animation, Fuji TV, 113 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Out of Leiji Matsumoto’s big three series, this is my least favorite. One of them has to be the odd one out, I guess, but it never appealed to me in the same way as the Captain Harlock stuff or Star Blazers a.k.a. Space Battleship Yamato.

This is a much smaller story and even though it has some action and adventure, it isn’t on the same epic scale as the other two franchises. But they all do exist in the same universe and crossover and because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this series, as well.

I also hadn’t seen anything Galaxy Express 999 related in decades, so it was kind of cool revisiting it. A lot of Matsumoto’s stuff is actually free to watch on Tubi for those interested.

Overall, I’d say that I actually like this even less now. I’d check it out when I had access to it in my younger days because it was pretty imaginative and was full of a lot of cool visuals and ideas.

However, the animation doesn’t hold up very well. I guess it’s fine for the time but it just doesn’t feel like it is in the same ballpark as Star Blazers or Harlock. I recently revisited both of those series too and I didn’t seem to really notice any glaring problems with the animation like I do with this. Mostly, it just feels kind of choppy and not as fluid.

The story is interesting enough but I was only able to watch about a dozen episodes and couldn’t commit to the entire run, which I did with the other series. Still, I will probably review the film versions that came out in the same era and see how I feel about those.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Galaxy Express 999 films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Captain Harlock and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

 

Film Review: Lily C.A.T. (1987)

Also known as: LILY-C.A.T. (Japanese title)
Release Date: September 1st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hisayuki Toriumi
Written by: Hisayuki Toriumi
Music by: Akira Inoue

Victor Musical Industries, Studio Pierrot, Streamline Pictures, Discotek Media, 70 Minutes

Review:

“The wall – it ate the cat!” – Dülar Delcassé

Lily C.A.T. is a mostly forgettable anime OVA from the late ’80s but I still kind of like it. Sure, it’s a blatant ripoff of both Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing but that doesn’t make it a crappy film.

Quite the contrary, actually, as these two concepts work well together and shown through the anime medium, they work tremendously well. Really, this film is a visual feast, especially for fans of the ’80s anime style and anime horror.

But I have to call a spade a spade and this is really derivative and uninspiring beyond just the sweet visuals.

I like the story but I also already liked it when I saw it in the films it takes its plot from. There are certain points in the plot that are original but it does feel like most of the characters are basic archetypes. That makes it easy to follow, I guess, but it also makes it really predictable on top of how cookie cutter it already is, plot-wise.

I can’t really recommend this unless you like ’80s anime, sci-fi horror and a bit of the cyberpunk aesthetic thrown in.

Like I said, this is mostly forgettable but at least it’s fun, energetic, a bit badass and kind of cool despite its lack of originality. Plus, it’s a pretty short flick.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the two live-action movies it borrows heavily from Alien and The Thing, as well as other ’80s sci-fi and cyberpunk anime.

Film Review: Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture (1994)

Also known as: Garou Densetsu (original Japanese title), Fatal Fury 3 (informal title)
Release Date: July 16th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Masami Obari
Written by: Takashi Yamada
Based on: Fatal Fury by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Kazukiyo Nishikiori, Keiichi Nanba, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Kotono Mitsuishi, Tomo Sakurai, Shinichiro Miki

Asatsu, Fuji Television Network, SNK/Playmore, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Worthless fool! How can you ever help to beat me? By the next time I’m done with you, there’ll be nothing but stinking meat!” – Laocorn

I really dug this anime series in the mid-’90s when I was eating up all the anime my video store started getting in during the boom. These were some of my favorites due to my love of the Fatal Fury video games, as well as all the other Neo-Geo fighting games.

This third film was by far my favorite and even though I own it on VHS, I hadn’t watched it in nearly two decades due to not having a VCR. However, all three Fatal Fury anime films are available on YouTube, at the moment.

Seeing this again, all this time later, this is still my favorite of the lot and it’s actually a pretty good animated movie, from top-to-bottom.

The art is much better than the previous two installments and the running time is longer, as well. But I guess that’s why this is referred to as a “motion picture”. But the extra care given to this production makes it the best installment in the series.

Additionally, this doesn’t try to tell an anime version of a video game story. It actually branches off into a new direction with new characters and I’m not sure if any of the new villains actually made it into the video games.

This also has a very Indiana Jones vibe to it, as the villains are hunting down multiple MacGuffins in ancient ruins and temples in an effort for their leader to essentially become a god.

Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is just a lot of fun, really f’n cool and is a more refined and perfected version of the two chapters that came before it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the two other Fatal Fury movies.

Film Review: Robot Carnival (1987)

Release Date: July 21st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hidetoshi Oomori, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Written by: Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Isaku Fujita, Masahisa Takeichi

A.P.P.P., Studio 4°C, Diskotek Media, Streamline Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

Robot Carnival is a pretty neat and interesting picture.

The film is an anime anthology where everything in it has the theme of robots. It also has a steampunk and cyberpunk aesthetic throughout the picture. Another interesting thing about it is that most of the film is actually silent in regards to dialogue.

The biggest thing that made me want to check this out, however, is that it features a story by Katsuhiro Otomo before he worked on the film adaptation of his megahit manga Akira.

Otomo’s contribution to this film is the opening and ending scenes. Both are fairly short but they act as the bookends to all the short stories in-between. These segments also feature a massive city structure on treads, rolling over the countryside. It’s actually pretty damn clear, once seeing this, that the Otomo segments were the inspiration behind the novels and film adaptation of Mortal Engines.

All the other stories are pretty cool and unique. It’s honestly a mixed bag, really, but it is cool seeing all of this as a larger body of work where its segments have a nice variance in art style and narrative structure.

This is a pretty chill and kind of relaxing anime to sit through. Each film is straightforward and just a neat, simple concept that has been realized and presented in all its glory. While everything has its own feel to it, the picture, as a whole, has a pretty consistent vibe.

I wouldn’t categorize this as a classic but I can see why many have held this in pretty high regard. I see it as more of a sampler of what many of these creators were capable of before they went off to make their own, larger features.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk and steampunk anime of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Vids I Dig 277: Toy Galaxy: The History of ‘Voltron’: Lions and Cars and Robots, Oh My!

From Toy Galaxy’s YouTube description: In this episode Dan talks about the history of Voltron Legendary Defender, how this robot made of mechanical lions was created and what lead to him being Americanized.

And, after being dormant for a long time, his revival on Netflix.

You’ll also learn about the other 2 versions of Voltron. A lot of people remember vehicle Voltron but there was a third version… sort of.

Vids I Dig 204: Comic Tropes: ‘Akira’: Breaking Down the Themes and Influences

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Katsuhiro Otomo is the writer and illustrator of the Akira manga as well as the director of the anime adaptation. Both were being worked on at the same time and influenced one another. This video takes a look at the cultural and artistic inspirations that influenced Otomo’s work, as well as breaking down his stated intentions. After comparing and contrasting the manga and anime, the video discusses the themes of Akira.