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.

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: 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.

TV Review: Carnival Row (2019- )

Original Run: August 30th, 2019 – current
Created by: Rene Echevarria, Travis Beacham
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: A Killing On Carnival Row by Travis Beacham
Music by: Nathan Barr
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Simon McBurney, Tamzin Merchant, David Gyasi, Andrew Gower, Karla Crome, Arty Froushan, Indira Varma, Jared Harris, Alice Krige

Siesta Productions, Legendary Television, Amazon Studios, 8 Episodes (so far), 5-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

It took a few episodes for this show to kind of hit any sort of stride. Around episode three or so, I thought I would like it, as it was coming together in an interesting way.

However, I couldn’t finish the first season and it was only eight episodes.

The problem with this show is not that it deals with political and social issues, it’s that it bashes you in the face with them, again and again. It’s so heavy-handed that I don’t even know how it can physically lift its arms to hit its audience and clobber them with narratives and tropes that feel extremely outdated and tired.

That being said, the acting is pretty damn good and this is a really good looking show in regards to its atmosphere, special effects and its rich world. But all that is destroyed by its predictable and tiresome agenda.

Carnival Row is a show that thinks its audience is stupid. It thinks it needs to spell everything out for you constantly because you’re not smart enough to connect dots and understand metaphors. It has to hold your hand like you’re an idiot toddler and drag you through its woke muck.

This feels like it was written by first year film school students with an axe to grind but their professor was too scared to tell them that they’re making trash because college kids today will just get them fired with a hashtag whether or not there is actually just cause in doing so.

Color me disappointed. I saw the trailer, thought this looked really interesting and I was on a high after Amazon Studios just gave us The Boys. Also, I like Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne and Jared Harris. But they aren’t able to make this even remotely palatable in its full form.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other modern fantasy television, none of which I’m crazy about.

Comic Review: The Fade Out

Published: 2015
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Image Comics, 327 Pages

Review:

Several months back, I read the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser. I thought it was cool as hell and I loved the noir meets Lovecraftian vibe. So I wanted to give this a read, as it seemed to be more straight noir without the horror and supernatural elements.

And honestly, I love classic film-noir and wish there were more noir comics in modern times.

This was, hands down, one of the best modern comics I’ve ever read. I’d definitely call this a classic and it just hit all the right notes for me. In fact, overall, I liked it more than the stupendous Fatale.

Brubaker is a master of his craft, especially in regards to the crime genre. The Fade Out is no different but it has an extra layer of awesomeness in that it is a period piece, set in Hollywood in the era of classic film-noir.

This truly is noir but it’s also a dark showbiz story, which usually is a great mix. With Brubaker’s writing talent, he weaved a well structured, multi-layered mystery that just knocks it out of the park.

Additionally, Sean Phillips, Brubaker’s go-to guy crafted some stellar art for this book but his work is always a perfect compliment to Brubaker’s narrative style.

On top of that, Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors give this even more life and after reading this and the Fatale series, I’d say that she is my favorite colorist that works with Phillips. Honestly, Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser are one of my favorite creative teams, hands down.

The Fade Out is damn near perfect. While it may not appeal to comic book readers who stick to primarily superhero and sci-fi stuff, it is a great example of how the comic book medium can be used outside of what it’s mostly known for by today’s audiences.

This really is a solid callback to the crime comics of yore but even then, it’s better than most of those ever were.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other noir-esque crime comics by Ed Brubaker.

Film Review: The Big Sleep (1978)

Also known as: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (UK)
Release Date: March 13th, 1978 (new York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Michael Winner
Based on: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Music by: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone, Candy Clark, Joan Collins, Edward Fox, James Stewart, Oliver Reed

Winkast Film Productions, ITC Entertainment, United Artists, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains!” – Philip Marlowe

I never saw this film until now but I had assumed that it was a proper sequel to Farwell, My Lovely, a film that came out three years earlier and also starred Robert Mitchum as the famous literary private dick, Philip Marlowe.

However, this is its own thing, as this takes place in a contemporary setting, as opposed to being a period piece like the previous movie.

Still, this makes Robert Mitchum the only actor to play Marlowe more than once in a feature film.

Overall, this is a star studded affair with James Stewart, Richard Boone, Oliver Reed, Joan Collins, Sarah Miles and Candy Clark in it. And honestly, everyone does a pretty fine job with the material and you do become invested in most of the characters.

This film is pretty harsh, though. Especially when compared to other films about Marlowe, especially the older version of The Big Sleep, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. And while this is a modernized noir, it’s grittiness is over the top and it loses some of the luster that the Marlowe movies had when they were traditional film-noir from the ’40s.

I did like this for what it was and it’s worth checking out at least once for fans of noir and Mitchum. However, it seems like it is trying to be edgy while not fully committing to the bit.

This isn’t bad and it has a few memorable moments but it’s far from Mitchum’s best and nowhere near the top of the list when it comes to Marlowe pictures.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Robert Mitchum movie where he plays Philip Marlowe: Farewell, My Lovely, as well as other ’70s neo-noir.

Vids I Dig 090: Razörfist: Film Noirchives: ‘Blade Runner’

From The Rageaholic/Razörfist’s YouTube description: To celebrate a Decade of Rage, Razör’s favorite film of all time finally gets the Noirchives treatment: Film Noir and Sci-Fi collide, creating an example of the best of both.

But is it truly Noir? And how did on-set struggles and behind-the-scenes conflict inform this apocalyptic masterpiece?

We need the old Blade Runner. We need the magic.