Film Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Also known as: T2 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 1st, 1991 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Nikki Cox, Michael Biehn (cameo – Special Edition and Ultimate Cut)

Carolco Pictures, Pacific Western, Lightstorm Entertainment, Le Studsio Canal+ S.A., TriStar Pictures, 137 Minutes, 153 Minutes (Special Edition), 156 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“[narrating] The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor

When I was middle school aged, this film hit theaters. At the time, I thought it was just about the best movie ever made. At that age, it appealed to me more than the superior original but I think that’s because I was roughly the same age as John Connor and I was living vicariously through his experience in the film.

The thing is, this is still an utterly stupendous motion picture and one of the best that James Cameron has ever done. But, as an adult, I can’t put this over the masterpiece that is the original film.

Still, it is an incredible film and a great thing to experience, even for the 38th time watching it. Honestly, I may have seen it more than that as my VHS copy broke years ago.

It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this classic, though. But this was the first time I watched the Special Edition, which added in new scenes and longer cuts. The most important of those is a scene where Michael Biehn returns as Kyle Reese in a dream Sarah Connor has while still locked up in the mental hospital.

There is also a cool scene that shows John defy his mother in order to spare the Terminator that is protecting them. It’s actually a good character building scene that probably should have been left in, as it shows John’s natural leader personality come through and it also amplifies Sarah’s paranoia about working with a Terminator.

The only other notable addition is a scene that shows Miles Dyson and his family. This probably should have been cut but it is nice to see him trying to balance his personal life and work life.

Everything in this movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not be as impressive in 2019, they don’t look bad and for the time, they were lightyears ahead of what anyone else was doing. And it was those great digital effects that made the villainous T-1000 exist and frankly, he is still one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. But I have to give credit to Robert Patrick for that, even if its the effects that allowed him to come into being.

All the practical effects are top notch too, from the opening sequence of the war from the future and all the makeup, prosthetic and animatronic work they had to do for Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second half of the film.

But getting back to the acting, it’s a mixed bag, really.

Linda Hamilton has never been better. Also, Schwarzenegger is pretty perfect but this version of the Terminator character is written in a way that doesn’t require much from him other than what is naturally present in his real personality. That’s not a knock against Arnold, as much as it is a nod of respect to James Cameron for giving us a more human cyborg that is trying to become something more than just a killing machine. The script and the dialogue written for Arnold enhance his strengths and don’t force him to have to deal with his weaknesses. Frankly, it enhances the overall experience.

Now Edward Furlong did okay, being that this is his first film but I felt like his performance could’ve been fine tuned more. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit, I thought he was cool. As an adult, I see some of the problems with his acting but at the same time, he’s far from terrible. Where it sometimes doesn’t work really isn’t his fault either. James Cameron should’ve just stepped in more and helped the kid. But then, I also don’t know how many takes were shot and its possible that these were just the best they could get and had to move on.

I mentioned that I like the first movie the best but this one does a much better job of world building and in that, this feels like the most complete and overall satisfying film in the franchise. Where the first film feels more like a sci-fi slasher movie with guns instead of knives, this feels more like something akin to the epic world building of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

This film certainly has the most to offer in regards to the franchise as a whole. And since nothing after has really come close to its greatness, there isn’t much reason to watch the films that follow. Besides, they all start contradicting each other and this franchise has been rebooted three different times because it became a giant mess.

Eventually, I will get around to the other films just to review them. I already reviewed Terminator: Genisys when it came out back in 2015 but I haven’t revisited Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation since they were in theaters. Plus, I’ve still got to watch the TV show but I’ve heard that it’s actually pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Terminator film. Ignore the sequels after this one.

Comic Review: Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Keung Lee
Art by: Keung Lee

Murakumo Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I first came across this crowdfunded comic when Keung Lee was introduced on an episode of Ethan Van Sciver’s Comicsgate Live YouTube show. Being a fan of the manga style, as well as tokusatsu, this definitely peaked my interest.

I didn’t back it initially, however, but I kept my eye on it for quite some time. After more art came out and Keung Lee spent more time on other people’s livestreams talking about the project, I finally decided to back it a few months after the campaign launched.

Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb is described as manga and tokusatsu presented in the reading style western audiences prefer. It absolutely works and I dig the hell out of Lee’s art style. Everything is so polished and nice to look at.

Beyond that, this also has a sort of cyberpunk superhero feel to it. While it’s not quite as futuristic and dystopian feeling as Akira, Battle Angel Alita or Ghost In the Shell, it certainly channels those franchises in a subtle way. At least, I see similar tropes and tones. Although, this is more lighthearted and taps more into the teen manga style than those darker, more serious books.

This is the first part of a larger story arc. So this serves as the introduction to what will be a bigger world and a bigger tale. It does a good job getting you invested in the characters and their unique world. After finishing this, I wished there was already a second volume to delve into. I guess we’ll have to wait some time for that but I’m pretty sure I’ll also back the follow up.

Out of all the recent crowdfunded comics, this is certainly in the upper echelon for me. It’s got beautiful art, a cool style and it makes you care about the story you’re reading.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: future comics by Keung Lee, as well as other comics under the Murakumo imprint.

TV Review: Psycho-Pass (2012- )

Original Run: October 12th, 2012 – current
Created by: Koji Yamamoto, George Wada, Kenji Tobori, Wakana Okamura
Directed by: Naoyoshi Shiotani, Katsuyuki Motohiro
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Based on: Saiko Pasu by Hikaru Miyoshi
Music by: Yugo Kanno

Production I.G., Madman Entertainment, Funimation, Manga Entertainment, Fuji TV, 22 Episodes (so far), 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been meaning to check out Psycho-Pass for awhile based off of a friend’s suggestion. Seeing that it was on Hulu, I figured I’d binge through it.

Now this show is highly regarded and it has a strong cyberpunk and neo-noir style to it but it just didn’t keep my attention. I’m not sure why, it’s visually alluring, the plot is interesting and I really liked the music.

I guess I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters and everyone just sort of felt generic. Maybe’s it’s that they all dress the same or that each character has weak traits and are pre-loaded with overused tropes.

Honestly, this felt like someone had a trial version of some “build your own anime” software without any add-ons or premium content to work with.

I really wanted to like this, as it taps into a lot of things I’m into narratively and aesthetically but I couldn’t get past a dozen or so episodes before checking out. Granted, I’ll say that the first episode hooked me but then it all slipped away rather quickly.

This is all just my opinion, as again, this is pretty highly regarded and loved by a lot of people. Strangely, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

But it does look and sound great.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk anime: Ghost In the Shell movies and shows, Parasyte: The Maxim, etc.

Film Review: Space Adventure Cobra (1982)

Also known as: Space Cobra (working title), Cobra (Norway, France, Finland)
Release Date: July 3rd, 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Osamu Dezaki
Written by: Buichi Terasawa, Haruya Yamazaki
Based on: Cobra by Buichi Terasawa
Music by: Osamu Shoji

TMS Entertainment, Toho-Towa, 99 Minutes (original), 85 Minutes (video cut)

Review:

I never knew about Space Adventure Cobra or the Cobra character until fairly recently. It must have flown under the radar when I was a kid or it was on a secret adult shelf in the video store due to it having boobies and butts in it.

Delving deep into anime space operas and cyberpunk films that I’ve missed, I did find this pretty quickly down the rabbit hole and thankfully, it was free to stream with Prime.

Had I discovered this as a kid, I would have loved it. Not just because it’s pretty racy but because the main character is cool as hell, this universe is cool and I loved the hell out of the animation style.

Tonally, it reminds me of Arcadia of My Youth while also having an aesthetic that reminded me a lot of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s style in Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku and Ninja Scroll.

It’s part space opera, part swashbuckling and a whole lot of kickass with a character that feels like the best parts of Han Solo and James Bond merged into one being. Plus, he’s voiced by the same actor that played Roy Fokker in Robotech and the character also has a similar look. So that really tapped into my lifelong love of all things Robotech and Macross.

This was just a really cool find and it immediately became one of my favorite anime pictures from its era. Now knowing that there are manga, a television series, other films and OVAs, I want to check them all out. Hopefully, they aren’t too hard to find.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Space Cobra television series, Arcadia of My YouthGalaxy Express 999 and Venus Wars.

TV Review: 8 Man After (1993)

Original Run: 1993
Created by: Carl Macek
Directed by: Yoriyasu Kogawa, Sumiyoshi Furakawa
Written by: Kazumasa Hirai, Jiro Kuwata
Based on: 8 Man by Kazumasa Hirai, Jiro Kuwata
Music by: Ryouichi Kumiyoshi

Discotek Media, 4 Episodes, 25-30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This was a sequel to the original 8 Man anime series and manga, which came out in the 1960s. This was also released as a four episode OVA in Japan but there is also a movie edit of the material. I’m reviewing the episodes that were released as an OVA, as that’s the version I could stream via Prime Video.

While I’ve seen some of the original 8 Man series, it’s been a really long time and I barely remember it. I figured I’d check this out though because since revisiting Akira and Ghost In the Shell recently, I’ve been on a bit of a cyberpunk anime kick.

Now this is far from perfect and it almost borrows a lot from RoboCop but I guess one could say that RoboCop borrowed from the original 8 Man. That being said, I think that this couldn’t help but to borrow some of these ideas, as by the time this was being made, RoboCop was at its peak in popularity, had spawned sequels, comics, toys and television shows. Both are dystopian cyberpunk stories with cyborg heroes and baddies outfitted with their own unique tech.

At the same time, this is also influenced by the other cyberpunk anime like Akira and Megazone 23, at least aesthetically and tonally.

The story is interesting but there’s not enough of it there, even over four episodes. Ultimately, by the end, I wanted more. And maybe more episodes were planned and this just didn’t make enough money. It didn’t even come out in the States till years later, so that could’ve had an impact on it financially.

Overall, I really liked the animation and the character design but the thing that I really noticed and enjoyed about this series was the sound and the music. I loved the themes and the sound effects were pretty neat.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk anime: Akira, Ghost In the Shell, Megazone 23, Neo Tokyo, etc.

Film Review: Ghost In the Shell (1995)

Also known as: Kôkaku Kidôtai (original Japanese title), Armored Riot Police, Shell Mobile Force (alternative titles)
Release Date: September 23rd, 1995 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Written by: Kazunori Ito
Based on: Ghost In the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Music by: Kenji Kawai

Production I.G., Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment, Shochiku, 82 Minutes

Review:

“There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.” – Major Motoko Kusanagi

Many consider Ghost In the Shell to be a masterpiece of the anime genre and style. I can’t really disagree with that, even though it’s not my favorite. That will probably always be Akira. However, this has a lot of similarities to Akira but it’s certainly not a clone of it, which is why it stands so strong on its own.

Like Akira this is a cyberpunk neo-noir that focuses on human experiments, high tech labs, lots of action and just a rich, cool looking futuristic world. But the stories are still very different.

While the plot focuses on a cyborg security agent that fights cyber related crime, the real meat and potatoes of the story is about questioning future technology and the morals dilemmas that come with its implementation.

In a way, Ghost In the Shell serves as both a warning regarding tech run amok, as well as being an examination of a person or cyborg’s rights in a world where physical bodies can be augmented with material owned and controlled by corporations.

The film itself is only 82 minutes, which may not seem like a lot of time to really delve into these complicated concepts and ideas but this picture covers a lot of ground fairly well. Ultimately, it leaves you wanting more and the story feels incomplete but luckily, even if it took awhile, there was a sequel and a television series that dug even deeper.

As a standalone anime film, my only gripe is the fact that this feels unfinished. It’s presentation and plot structure makes it come across like the first OVA in a series that didn’t progress beyond one episode.

However, the animation and the ambiance more than make up for the film’s one main flaw.

Ghost In the Shell is still one of the greatest works in the anime medium and I’m pretty sure future generations will continue to hold it in high regard.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and television spinoffs, as well as Akira and other cyberpunk anime.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.