Film Review: Space Battleship Yamato (2010)

Also known as: Space Battleship (Japan – English title)
Release Date: December 1st, 2010 (Japan)
Directed by: Takashi Yamazaki
Written by: Shimako Sato
Based on: Space Battleship Yamato by Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Naoki Sato
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Meisa Kuroki, Toshirō Yanagiba, Naoto Ogata, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Maiko, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Reiko Takashima, Isao Hashizume, Toshiyuki Nishida, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Isao Sasaki (narrator)

Abe Shuji, Chubu-nippon Broadcasting Company (CBC), Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Robot Communications, Sedic International, Toho, 138 Minutes

Review:

“Space stretches into infinity. Countless stars die as others are born. And thus, space is alive.” – Narrator

I wasn’t aware of this film’s existence until a year or so ago. Being that I loved the Star Blazers TV series way back in the day and revisited it recently, as well as reading the original Yamato manga, I felt that I had to see how this live action adaptation stacked up.

Well, it’s pretty enjoyable and where it’s good, it’s pretty close to great. However, it does get bogged down by things but at the same time, it’s still a worthwhile and impressive take on Space Battleship Yamato.

The big thing that hinders it though, is that the original Yamato story is a friggin’ epic. It’s massive, it’s long and a ton of stuff happens on this crew’s journey into deep space to find the MacGuffin that will save the world.

The problem with that is that they try to wedge in as much of the grand story as possible into a two hour and eighteen minute movie. It is like narrative overload. And where it really effects the overall flow of the picture, is that you don’t notice the passing of time until it’s referenced towards the end of the film. That could’ve been fixed easily with captions on the screen that said Day 187, Day 429, etc.

It also could have been fixed had this just told a part of the story or left a lot of the extras on the cutting room floor and focused on just the main objective: fly deep into space, grab the MacGuffin, fly back to Earth and save humanity.

If telling as much of the full story as possible was something that they wanted to do, they could have also made multiple films. Sure, that takes more money, more time and this was still unproven as a live action movie but I’d rather have a good part one than a movie that feels like a kid’s toy box that’s so overloaded that you can’t close the lid.

This is very obviously a fan service movie though, but it’s an example of how fan service can get in the way of storytelling and flow.

But let me stop harping on all that because there are things I loved.

For one, the action is superb and it almost makes up for the film’s problems. For a Japanese space opera, the special effects are impressive. Every time the Yamato has to have a big space battle, I was sucked in like a little kid and couldn’t turn away.

Plus, the human action scenes were also superb.

I also really liked the cast, especially the two leads. They were convincing and their tender moment at the end was pretty touching after this long and arduous journey.

Ultimately, Space Battleship Yamato is an ambitious attempt at adapting a beloved franchise. It did a better than decent job and had some pretty solid high points. While I’d rather see this play out over a longer period of time, be it extra movies or as a television series, it still shows you what can be done with this property in a live action presentation.

I hope that someone else eventually comes along, learns from the mistakes of this production and gives us something next level.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all other incarnations of Space Battleship Yamato, as well as anything created by Leiji Matsumoto.

Film Review: Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf (1992)

Release Date: December 23rd, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Hiroshi Fukutomi
Based on: Fatal Fury: King of Fighters by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi, Toshio Masuda

Fuji Television Network, Nihon Ad Systems (NAS), Star Child Recording, 46 Minutes

Review:

There were Street Fighter kids, there were Mortal Kombat kids and then their were Fatal Fury kids.

I was a Fatal Fury kid and actually loved all the fighting games put out by SNK on the Neo Geo. And that’s not to say that I also didn’t play the shit out of the other two games but the style of those SNK fighters lured me in.

So when Fatal Fury animes started coming out, I bought them all and watched them almost weekly. I just dug the hell out of these films.

This one, the first of three, is the shortest and probably the worst but it’s still worth a watch for fans of the franchise that would evolve into the uber popular King of Fighters game series.

The story isn’t super exciting and it’s standard fighting game story fare. A bad guy, in this case Geese Howard, killed the two protagonists’ father. The two brothers decide to get revenge when they’re adults ten years later. They meet a Muay Thai ally and all three go to war with the scumbags ruling the city. They also kick ass in a big fighting tournament and draw the attention of the big bad guy.

The main issue I have with this film is that it’s too short. The story could have been better and richer but this just cuts to the chase, sets everything up quickly and then lets the characters duke it out.

If you aren’t familiar with these games, then this probably isn’t something you’ll give a shit about. If you are an old school Fatal Fury fan, this is worth checking out if only to build up towards the third film, which was pretty fantastic from my memory.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the two Fatal Fury movies that follow.

Film Review: Black Rain (1989)

Release Date: September 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw, Luis Guzman, Stephen Root, Richard Riehle

Paramount Pictures, Jaffe-Lansing, Pegasus Film Partners, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I usually get kissed before I get fucked.” – Nick Conklin

Ridley Scott has done some great films. While Black Rain isn’t often times in the discussion of Scott’s best works, it is one of his best looking motion pictures.

Being that this is pretty much neo-noir, it shares a lot of the same visual style as Blade Runner. However, instead of seeing a futuristic Los Angeles on the screen, we are given modern day Osaka. Or what was modern day in 1989.

Sure, this doesn’t have Replicants and flying cars but it does show us how late ’80s metropolitan Japan wasn’t too far off from Scott’s vision of the future.

The story follows two cops played by Michael Douglas, in maybe his coolest role, and Andy Garcia. They witness a Yakuza hit in New York City, capture the criminal and then have to escort him to Japan, where he escapes and they then have to work with the Osaka police in an effort to catch him and bring him back in.

What the cops soon find out, once their stay in Japan is extended, is that the Yakuza guy they caught is in a massive gang war. Now these two find themselves in the middle of it all while the local Osaka police are slow to act due to their hands being tied by their strict laws.

This is also like two buddy cop films in one, as Douglas’ Nick Conklin works with his New York partner for the first half and then has to work with his assigned Japanese partner for the remainder of the film. But unlike your typical buddy cop formula, we’ve got two guys from very different cultures, clashing but ultimately finding respect for one another. It’s kind of like what we would get with the Rush Hour movies nine years later and with less comedy and more testosterone.

The thing that I really like about this flick is not only the clash of cultural styles but the mixing of genres. You’ve basically got a neo-noir Yakuza biker movie. It also has a pretty hard edge to it and is unapologetic about its violence and what modern critics would deem “toxic masculinity”.

Black Rain is a cool fucking movie, hands down. While it is sort of a Yakuza movie seen through Western eyes and made for that audience, it really isn’t too dissimilar from the best films that genre has to offer. Ridley Scott doesn’t specifically try to replicate Japanese gangster cinema, so much as he just tries to make a film within his own style that just happens to take place primarily in Osaka. And frankly, it all seems to fit pretty well together.

Unfortunately, Scott had issues filming in Japan due to the budget. He actually had to shoot the big finale back in California. I really would have loved to have seen a sequel but I’m assuming that Nick Conklin only got one outing because of the financial strain of going back to Japan for another movie.

Then again, Scott didn’t really have much interest in sequels to his films until more recently. So maybe we can get Black Rain 2? Assuming Michael Douglas can still go at 75 years-old. But hey, Sylvester Stallone is bringing Marion Cobretti back, so why not?

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Blade Runner, Someone to Watch Over Me, Rising Sun and ’80s neo-noir.

Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.

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.