Film Review: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Also known as: Tetsuo (original title), The Ironman (alternative English title)
Release Date: June, 1989 (Italy – Fantafestival)
Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Music by: Chu Ishikawa
Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto

Japan Home Video, K2 Spirit, Kaijyu Theater, 67 Minutes (cut down version), 69 Minutes, 77 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“Together, we can turn this fucking world to rust!” – Metals Fetishist

While there are some things I appreciate about this film, I actually hate it quite a bit.

It’s an absolute clusterfuck and while that’s what it set out to be, that doesn’t mean that putting the idea on celluloid is a good one.

This film looks like an industrial band’s music video from the late ’80s. And I’m not talking about a good industrial band on a major label, I’m talking about an unsigned band of college kids that have little to no talent that “borrowed” some film equipment for the weekend.

In fact, my only real experience in seeing any part of this film was when clips would be playing on screens in goth clubs in the late ’90s and early ’00s. In that setting with goth rock and industrial blaring through the club, it worked. As a film, not so much and in fact, not at all.

The only thing in this film I can really give props to is some of the special effects. While they’re not mind blowing by any stretch of the imagination, they are at least effective. The drill penis is a scary appendage no matter what side of it you’re on.

Apart from that, this is a shrill, spastic and seizure inducing fever dream. It’s really hard to watch and to digest, as none of it makes a lick of sense and it’s insane just for the hell of it because, you know… it’s fuckin’ art, maaan…

This is pretentious crap that gives films like Eraserhead some actual merit because at least there was something competent in that picture that allowed its director to grow into something better and more refined. Granted, I can’t say whether or not Shinya Tsukamoto actually got better, as I have no urge to delve deeper into his oeuvre after this unwatchable skull fuck.

If you have ever wanted to stare straight into the twitching eye of insanity while loaded up on a cocktail of uppers and hallucinogenics, than this might be your movie. But if it is, stay the fuck away from me, please.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: industrial music videos by bands that never got signed, as well as Japanese surrealist gore flicks.

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: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara
Music by: Vince DiCola
Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill

Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime

I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.

Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.

I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.

However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.

For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.

Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.

The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.

Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.

That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.

Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Film Review: One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Also known as: Kamera o Tomeru na!, lit. Don’t Stop the Camera! (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 4th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Written by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Music by: Nobuhiro Suzuki, Kailu Nagai
Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Ngaya

ENBU Seminar, Panpokopina, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, it is impossible to really talk about this film without spoiling it. So if you don’t want it spoiled, you might not want to read any further.

For a couple of years now, just about everyone who has seen this movie has really talked it up to me. I’ve been told it’s clever, a game changer and that it’s just too cool to be missed. However, I’ve grown pretty tired of the zombie subgenre of horror, as well as modern horror comedy. If you can’t top The Return of the Living Dead, why even try?

Side note: No one will ever top The Return of the Living Dead because it is perfection. Also, filmmakers should try because maybe someone will prove me wrong.

Anyway, I finally saw this due to it being featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In. Joe Bob really seemed to love the film as well, so I figured that I since I’m already fully committed to whatever Joe Bob wants to throw at me, I’d give this movie a shot.

I guess I’m the only person on Earth that didn’t really like it. Granted, I can appreciate it and the work that went into it, specifically the first 37 minutes that were filmed in a single take. It did take them six tries to get the take right but it’s still a tremendous feat and I love it when filmmakers put a real effort into doing something special, even if they’re far from the first to attempt it.

My problem with the film is that it is never really clear what this is supposed to be. The plot structure is bizarre, which is fine, but it doesn’t gel in a way that makes it all come together for me.

The first 37 minutes are a horror movie within a horror movie. It follows its characters who are in an abandoned World War II facility where they are filming a zombie movie. However, real zombies show up and they have to fight to survive. It’s not a wholly original idea but what is in horror, these days?

This sequence ends with credits rolling and I guess some people left the theater thinking this was just a short film. What follows is the second act, which goes backwards in time to show how the production of the film started. This is all pretty boring and it slows things down quite a bit.

The third act of the film is a return to the location of the first act. Except, this time, we see the events play out from the production standpoint, showing how the opening of the film was shot and made. Then it all ends and I was left wondering what the hell I had just watched and what the point of it was.

From what I understand, the film was produced on a true micro-budget and it was made by film students as their final project. Frankly, that’s exactly what this feels like and looking at it through that lens, it is damn impressive, as it required a lot of technical skill and it looks really good for what it is.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can give it a free pass. Sure, I can respect what went into it and appreciate that stuff but ultimately, it just makes me want to see what the people behind this could do with the right resources behind them.

I don’t think I’d ever have the urge to watch it again but it’s still something I’d recommend to people that want to see what can be done with little to no resources in the modern era of filmmaking. Also, just because it doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with others. As I’ve said, most people seem to like the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Japanese horror comedies and zombie comedies in general.

Documentary Review: Forever Hardcore: The Documentary (2005)

Release Date: February 15th, 2005
Directed by: Jeremy Borash
Cast: Terry Funk, Konnan, Sabu, Shane Douglas, Francine, The Sandman, Tod Gordon, The Blue Meanie, Axl Rotten, Raven, Jerry Lynn, Joey Styles, Terry Taylor, Pitbull Gary Wolf, New Jack

Big Vision Entertainment, 128 Minutes

Review:

In concept, Forever Hardcore should be the better documentary than WWE’s The Rise and Fall of ECW.

Reason being, it doesn’t need to have the WWE slant on history, which all their documentaries have because for some reason, Vince McMahon likes to put his personal influence into everything his company commercially releases to the world.

However, this doesn’t live up to the hype that it had when it was coming out.

I definitely enjoy the interviews and insight of all the people involved but the editing and overall narrative felt choppy and disjointed.

Additionally, this didn’t get as many people as the WWE release and it didn’t really give a comprehensive history of the ECW promotion with the depth and detail of Rise and Fall. Plus, it wasn’t as organized in how it presented the story.

This is still a good companion piece to the better documentary, though. It gives different perspectives from people that the WWE didn’t bother to interview or those who chose not to participate in that one because of their own reasons and preferences.

The real highlight of this, for me at least, was Terry Funk. He sat out of WWE’s piece and saved his stories for this one. It was also cool hearing Sabu actually speak and give his two cents on the angles and history that he was directly involved in.

For die hard ECW fans, this is definitely worth checking out. For the casual fan, it probably won’t mean much.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: WWE’s documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW.

Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

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.