Film Review: Berserk – The Golden Age Arc Trilogy (2012-2013)

Release Date: Part I: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part II: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part III: ….ber ..th, 2013
Directed by: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Written by: Ichiro Okouchi
Based on: Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu, Susumu Hirasawa
Cast: Hiroaki Iwanaga, Takahiro Sakurai, Toa Yukinari, Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen

Studio 4°C, Madman Entertainment, Viz Media, Kazé UK, Lucent Pictures, 76 Minutes (Part I), 91 Minutes (Part II), 107 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“Heed my words, Struggler. Soon a rain of blood, the likes of which you cannot imagine, shall fall down upon you. It will be a storm of death. But take heed, Struggler. Struggle, endure, contend. For that alone is the sword of one who defies death. Do not forget these words.” – Skull Knight

Since I watched the anime television series that served as a sequel to this first, I had a very different perspective going into this trilogy of anime films.

Being that I knew where these characters would end up, actually made me a lot more interested in how they got there, which is a place very far from where they start at the beginning of the first movie in this trilogy.

I also now have all the context regarding the three main characters in these films and it’s made me want to go back and watch the anime series again, as I think it’ll have even more of an impact.

I guess whatever order you watch these in is up to you and you probably should watch the animated Berserk material in order. If you’d prefer to do it that way, you should start with the original animated series from the late ’90s, which I actually haven’t seen yet. But I’m going to watch it in the next week or two, coming off of the high of this.

As far as these three films go, they’re pretty fucking exceptional.

The story and the relationships of the three main characters is what made this so great. A lot happens in these three films and by the end of them, you’re left exhausted and emotionally overloaded. And to be honest, I didn’t expect this to end with such an emotional punch to the gut.

It’s fucked up, tragic and you find yourself pretty fucking angry over what a particular character ends up doing to those you assumed he loved. Especially, after everything they went through together over a pretty long passage of time.

The animation is also pretty damn stellar. Overall, this looks better than the show that followed it.

As these three films rolled on, I wasn’t sure how all of this would pan out and whether or not there’d be a grand, worthwhile payoff. This exceeded any expectations I could have had for it and from my perspective, I’d call the entire body of work a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Scorpion King (2002)

Release Date: April 15th, 2002 (Netherlands – Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Written by: Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, David Hayter, Jonathan Hales
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tyler Mane (uncredited)

BT Film, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you, after a hard day of looting and pillaging, there is no greater city than Gomorrah… except maybe Sodom.” – Arpid

This was the first ’90s Mummy-related movie that I didn’t see in theaters and that’s mainly because it just didn’t interest me, even though I love The Rock and I love sword and sorcery flicks.

I was just turned off from how bad the Scorpion King character was presented at the end of The Mummy Returns and the trailers for this looked terrible.

Visually, I thought that this looked more like a TV production that had more in common with The Beastmaster TV show than something epic and cool like 1982’s Conan the Barbarian or the original and awesome Beastmaster movie.

I wasn’t wrong, as the finished product does feel like a television level production and that’s just one problem with it.

Beyond that, the story is cookie cutter shit. You never care about any of the characters or their situations in the film and that’s kind of an amazing feat, as Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the most charismatic people on the entire f’n planet. But somehow, this made him come off as boring and uninteresting.

I also never liked Steven Brand as the villain, as he just didn’t look like a guy that could remotely be a threat to The Rock. In the movie, his character is smaller and he’s just a dude that’s really good with swords.

I truly wish that this would’ve been The Rock’s Conan and that we’d get sword and sorcery movies with him in it every few years. However, this is a dud in every way.

But hey, at least it was better than that third Mummy movie.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: Kamen Rider: The Next (2007)

Also known as: Masked Rider: The Next (alternative English title)
Release Date: October 27th, 2007
Directed by: Ryuta Tasaki
Written by: Toshiki Inoue
Based on: Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider V3 by Shotaro Ishinomori
Music by: Goro Yasukawa
Cast: Masaya Kikawada, Hassei Takano, Kazuki Kato, Miku Ishida, Erika Mori, Tomorowo Taguchi, Goro Naya

Toei, 93 Minutes

Review:

As I stated in my review of the previous Kamen Rider film, I remembered liking this one a bit better. Well, seeing it for the first time in a long while, that’s still true.

Really, this is kind of more of the same but it picks up the story where Kamen Rider: The First left off.

That film was a reboot (or retelling) of the original Kamen Rider TV series. This film was a sequel to that but also a reboot of the second TV series, Kamen Rider V3.

Like V3, this introduces the third Kamen Rider hero and also has him work alongside the previous two. However, there are some very stark creative differences between the original story and this version of it.

The main thing that these films do is that they increase the violence exponentially to appeal to a more adult audience. This one goes even further than its predecessor, which seemed like it was more a test run to see what they could get away with in what’s predominantly been a kid friendly franchise.

I loved the villains in this, specifically Scissors Jaguar. Man, what a sadistic asshole that guy was but for fans of this type of stuff, he was fun as hell to watch.

The special effects and fight choreography in this are pretty much the same as the previous movie but I found myself enjoying the action more.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Private Resort (1985)

Release Date: May 3rd, 1985
Directed by: George Bowers
Written by: Alan Wenkus, Gordon Mitchell, Ken Segall
Music by: various
Cast: Rob Morrow, Johnny Depp, Emily Longstreth, Toni Azito, Dody Goodman, Leslie Easterbrook, Hector Elizondo, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Karyn O’Bryan, Michael Bowen

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, thank you, Baba Rama Nana!” – Shirley

Private Resort is the final film in the Private trilogy, which is comprised of three unrelated sex comedy films. It’s also my favorite of the three, just beating out Private School. However, I haven’t seen Private Lessons since the ’90s and should probably revisit it again for a review and to compare to the other two films.

This is a dumb, goofy, ’80s comedy with lots of raunchy sex jokes and random boob shots. So basically, this is something I loved as a kid back when this sort of stuff was still acceptable.

Sure, things like this were never considered “high art” but people generally enjoyed them because we enjoyed life back then and we also used our entertainment as a means of escape from the problems that come from reality. Everyone needs a break and comedy used to be a great medicine for negative emotions. Boobies are also a great medicine for that but you’re not supposed to admit stuff like that anymore.

Anyway, this stars Rob Morrow, who would go on to be the lead in Northern Exposure, and Johnny Depp, just after he was in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street and before he blew up from his role on the original 21 Jump Street.

The film also features Andrew Dice Clay in one of my favorite roles he’s played, Leslie Easterbrook, Hector Elizondo and a young Michael Bowen.

The story follows two young guys showing up at a beach resort in an effort to get laid. While chasing girls, they draw the ire of the hotel security manager, a jewel thief, a total dick that works at the resort and a buff womanizer.

It feels like half the movie is just zany, slapstick chase scenes throughout the resort’s grounds but I’m fine with that, as a lot of the gags are still funny and they still make me laugh. Granted, I don’t know how well any of this would play for modern audiences that didn’t grow up with these kind of movies.

Overall, this is mindless fun and if you’ve read enough of my other reviews, you know that’s something I’m a fan of.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Rescuers (1977)

Also known as: Bernard and Bianca (alternative title)
Release Date: June 19th, 1977 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Fred Lucky, Dick Sebast, David Michener, Ted Berman
Based on: The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
Music by: Artie Butler
Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Poor Evinrude. Your carburetor is all pooped out.” – Miss Bianca

The Rescuers was a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid. It came out before I was born but my uncle that had access to things gave me a copy, I think before it was even commercially available on VHS tape. I was young, details are murky.

Anyway, I guess this was immensely popular, even though I feel like it’s been forgotten today. In fact, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers originally started out as a Rescuers show. It was changed once The Rescuers were given a theatrical sequel film, being the first and only Disney animated feature of the old hand-drawn style to receive a theatrical sequel. There would end up being many sequels for various Disney films after that, however, except those were always straight-to-video.

Staying focused on this film, however, it still plays well and I think it’s aged tremendously and represents an era of Disney that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.

The Rescuers is also kind of a dark film, even if it is kid friendly. It deals with dark subject matter and a fairly realistic, truly evil woman as its villain.

However, most of the characters are cute animals, so that helps keep the movie from going too deeply into darkness.

I love the characters in this, though, specifically the mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. I think it also helps that they were voiced by the great Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, who already had voicework experience from The Aristocats.

The story is about a kidnapped orphan, an evil woman obsessed with a mythical diamond and how these two mice are on the search for the little girl and ultimately, have to take down the villainess.

I really liked the setting of the film being the bayou. It gave it a very unique look and style and it also provided the right type of place for those two villainous alligators to thrive. I always loved the alligators as a kid but I also grew up on the edge of the Everglades, which isn’t too dissimilar from the bayou.

The Rescuers is still an entertaining movie and my second favorite of the ’70s Disney animated features after Robin Hood.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Mobile Suit Gundam – The Original Trilogy (1981-1982)

Release Date: Part I: March 14th, 1981; Part II: July 11th, 1981; Part III: March 13th, 1982
Directed by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Written by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Based on: Mobile Suit Gundam by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Takeo Watanabe, Yushi Matsuyama
Cast: Toru Furuya, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Toshio Furukawa, Kiyonobu Suzuki

Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, Kodansha, Nagoya Broadcasting Network, 139 Minutes (Part I), 133 Minutes (Part II), 144 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“A mobile suit’s abilities don’t decide a battle’s outcome. I’ll teach you that!” – Char Aznable

Yes, I have watched anime my entire life. Yes, I have loved Robotech and other mecha-centric anime since I was about six years-old. No, I have never watched anything from the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise until now.

While I know that’s basically a crime in nerdom, it’s not that I didn’t want to watch Gundam, it’s just that there is so much of it that I found it overwhelming and didn’t know where to even start. But luckily, one of my hardcore Gundam homies said he’d walk me through it. Also, since a literal fuck ton of Gundam is now on Netflix, I figured there was no better time than the present to finally jump into this massive I.P.

So I started with the original theatrical trilogy of Gundam movies, which aren’t technically the first things released. Well, I guess they sort of are but let me explain.

The film trilogy was created using footage from the original anime series. Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino wanted to streamline it down, omit some of the stuff that didn’t matter as much and then re-edit everything into a three-part epic, telling the main story with the most important parts.

I think that Tomino succeeded, even though I can’t compare it to the original series, as I haven’t seen that yet. But I don’t know if I would consider the television series and all 43 episodes to be a masterpiece and pretty damn close to perfection. I consider this trilogy of films to be exactly that, though.

The lore to this series is so well defined and the introduction to the movies fill you in on it pretty quickly. Beyond the general framework and concept, though, the story and characters all evolve in really unique ways.

While war is the thing that hangs over everyone’s head, this greatly explores the characters’ places within that, as well as their relationships with one another. In many instances, this stuff gets pretty deep and it reminds me of the character development and exploration of relationships in Robotech but this surprisingly does it better and the pain of the characters cuts deeper. It’s a hard thing to quantify or explain, really, but you find yourself caring about these people, even the ones you wouldn’t expect at all, on a pretty profound level for an animated series/movie.

The relationships and the challenges that come with them is actually the main thing that makes me want to watch all of the 43 episodes that were whittled down into these three pictures.

As far as the fun stuff goes, which is the general action, the mecha suits and the big battles, this does all that exceptionally well. This has fast-paced, exciting action and it’s different than the other sci-fi anime properties before it. It just shifts into high gear in a way that anime hadn’t before this.

If you’re like I was, and love this sort of stuff but haven’t seen this yet, you really need to.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Also known as: The Mummy 3 (informal title), Untitled Rick O’Connell Adventure, The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon (working titles)
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Randy Edleman
Cast: Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh

The Sommers Company, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I hate mummies! They never play fair!” – John Carnahan

Fuck me. This was damn near unwatchable and getting through it was a hell of a challenge. But I wanted to complete the trilogy for the sake of reviewing them all.

This was so bad and weird that Rachel Weisz passed on it after reading the script and not wanting to play mother to a twenty-two year-old son. I guess Brendan Fraser came back after they threw like fourteen million dollars at him.

The only other returning cast member from previous films was John Hannah.

Somehow, Rick O’Connell has a kid that’s in his twenties, even though Rick looks the same as he did in the previous two movies. If you remember, the son was like seven years-old in the previous film and he wasn’t even born yet in the one before that. But whatever.

This time Evie is played by Maria Bello. Generally, I like Maria Bello but man was she poorly cast for this role. She doesn’t look like Evie, doesn’t act like her and it just breaks the movie. It’s a situation where the film would’ve been better off having the character omitted, whether that came from being an offscreen death or divorce.

In this story, the heroes go to China and we get a new mummy played by Jet Li. I hope Li got a fat paycheck too because this utilized him poorly.

Additionally, the special effects seem like they’re worse than they were in the previous movies.

Man, this just shouldn’t have been made. It’s absolute shit and I probably would’ve hated it more had I seen it in the theater back in 2008.

At least now, I can say that I’ve seen it, reviewed it and can go on to forget it.

Rating: 3.75/10

Film Review: Kamen Rider: The First (2005)

Also known as: Masked Rider: The First (alternative English title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2005 (Tokyo Film Festival)
Directed by: Takao Nagaishi
Written by: Toshiki Inoue
Based on: Kamen Rider by Shotaro Ishinomori
Music by: Gorou Yasukawa
Cast: Masaya Kikawada, Hassei Takano, Komine Rena, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Eiji Wentz, Ryoko Kobayashi, Sada Mayumi, Issa Hentona, Hideyo Amamoto, Itsuji Itao, Kanji Tsuda

Toei, 91 Minutes

Review:

I haven’t seen this since around the time that it first came out on DVD in the US, which probably wasn’t too long after its 2005 theatrical release in Japan.

This also had a sequel, which I remembered liking better, as it leaned even heavier into the violence and edginess that this strange retelling of the original two Kamen Riders origin introduced.

This plays much darker and more like horror than the standard Kamen Rider television series. It’s a reboot but it was made for an older audience that had grown up with the shows but found them to be too kiddie for typical adults.

For what this set out to do, I think it achieved its goals fairly well. This isn’t in any way superior to the source material but it definitely respects it and still homages it in a good way that captures the aesthetic and vibe. It looks and feels like a modern tokusatsu production but with a bigger budget and without having its hands tied by the creative limitations of a children’s show.

I thought that the acting was decent. None of it as particularly great but also, none of it felt overly hokey or cheesy like typical tokusatsu shows often times deliver.

I thought that the special effects were good. The costumes were top notch and looked impressive. My only gripe in that regard is that I felt like the Shocker foot soldiers would’ve looked a lot cooler if they kept their classic costumes and lucha libre style masks.

Ultimately, this was a really interesting experiment. I think it paid off for what it was and it didn’t do anything to diminish the legacy of the intellectual property unlike just about every Hollywood reboot and remake over the last decade or more.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Release Date: July 7th, 1988 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Charles Crichton
Written by: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Cynthia Cleese, Stephen Fry

Star Partners Limited Partnership, Prominent Features, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole.” – Otto, “How very interesting. You’re a true vulgarian, aren’t you?” – Archie, “You are the vulgarian, you fuck.” – Otto

I remember adults talking about how much they loved this movie when I was nine years-old. I also vaguely remember seeing the John Cleese getting caught naked gag whether from trailers or just seeing it pop up on HBO while flipping the channels.

That’s really all I knew about the movie, though, but people still talk about it fondly, so I figured that I should finally check it out. Plus, I like Cleese, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline. Cynthia Cleese and Stephen Fry also pop up in this.

For the most part, this was amusing and I liked that it was essentially a film-noir structured comedy. Curtis essentially plays a femme fatale without the murder and you never really know which guy she’s screwing over and who she may choose in the end… or no one.

Cleese was as likable and hilarious as always and this really felt like somewhat of spiritual successor to probably his most famous character, Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers. Although, Cleese’s character here is less of a shithead.

Kline is solid as a total bastard and I especially liked his banter and scenes with Michael Palin.

Overall, this is pretty quick paced, whimsical and entertaining. However, it didn’t captivate me on the level that it has seemed to for other people, especially at the time of this picture’s release. Maybe it worked better in 1988 and for an audience that was older than me then. 

Honestly, it reminds me a lot of other comedies of the time featuring a small group of people all trying to fuck each other over. It was kind of a normal comedy trope at the time and with that, I can’t really see this as something wholly original or refreshing, even for its era. While it beat Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to the theater by a few months, it pales in comparison to that by a pretty substantial margin.

Rating: 6.25/10