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: 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.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 1: Godzilla

I recently picked up and read the Famous Monsters – Ack-ives on Hammer Horror. While reviewing it, I noticed that it was the second volume in Famous Monsters new Ack-Ives magazine specials. So when I looked it up and saw that the first one was focused on all things Godzilla, I had to track down a copy of it.

Like the Hammer one, this is basically full of a book’s worth of material in a large, colorful, photo heavy magazine format.

There is a lot here and I really enjoy these releases by Famous Monsters and I hope they keep doing more.

Essentially, these are collected archives of past articles focused on the specific subject. I think that this one was released to tie in and help promote the recent American Godzilla sequel.

Ultimately, this magazine was a treasure trove of Famous Monsters’ best articles on the top kaiju franchise in the world.

For fans of kaiju movies, especially those featuring the King of Monsters, this is definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Comic Review: Godzilla Vs. Barkley

Published: December, 1993
Written by: Mike Baron, Alan Smithee
Art by: Jeff Butler, Keith Aiken, James Sinclair, Dave Dorman (cover)
Based on: Godzilla by Toho Co. Ltd.

Dark Horse, 22 Pages

Review:

I have this weird obsession with collecting product tie-in comic books. This one is based off of the famous Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley Nike commercial.

Here we have a story that was penned by Alan Smithee, meaning that it was written by someone that didn’t want their real name on it. However, comic book great Mike Baron left his name in the credits, as he wrote the dialogue and did the fine tuning.

While this isn’t Baron’s best work, his humorous side comes out and it seems as if he enjoyed the project and made the best of it, giving us a pretty amusing tale with some charismatic characters, despite the ridiculous premise.

I thought that the art was also good. Charles Barkley’s likeness was captured well and the action panels of Barkley and Godzilla going head-to-head on the court were pretty dynamic and fun to look at.

The story is about a boy that’s given a special coin. The coin has magical properties that make Charles Barkley grow to kaiju size when he touches it. Frankly, this is all the plot that you really need because you don’t buy something like this for a compelling story, you just want to see these two behemoths throw down.

I’ve wanted this comic for awhile, so I’m glad that I finally got my hands on a copy. No buyer’s remorse here and I was pretty satisfied seeing my favorite monster go up against one of the greatest sports personalities of the last few decades.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other product tie-in comics, as well as all the other Godzilla comics put out by various publishers over the years.

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.

Film Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Also known as: Godzilla 2, Fathom (working titles)
Release Date: May 29th, 2019 (Europe, South Korea, Indonesia)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Based on: Gojira, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra and Rodan by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathaim, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Morton

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 132 Minutes

Review:

“We opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no closing it now.” – Jonah Alan

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

It’s been five years since the last American Godzilla film and I hate waiting. Sure, we got Kong: Skull Island two years ago, which is a part of this series, but Godzilla is the true king of kaiju and his return has been long overdue. Plus, we were promised a movie featuring King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, so five years was too damn long to wait.

Now I enjoyed the first movie, even if I had some issues with it but I discussed those in that film’s review. As far as this one goes, I still have some issues but overall, this is a superior chapter in the pretty good American Godzilla series.

The film was certainly well cast with its human being characters but that was a part of my problem with the movie. There was just so much broken family drama and bullshit that it dragged the film down. Sure, you need a human story to ground the picture and make it relatable but I want to see giant monsters punching the shit out of each other, as opposed to an episode of This Is Us.

As far as the monsters go, I was afraid that the movie would have monster overkill, as the trailer mentioned 17 “titans”, which is white people for “kaiju”. Luckily, the only ones we really see fight are the main four we were promised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. There are several other monsters that appear, including a new M.U.T.O. and a creature similar to Kumonga, but we only really see glimpses of them and then one scene where they appear at the end, after the big action has already gone down. Kong and Skull Island are also mentioned but Kong does not appear, which does create a bit of a plot hole but whatever, everything has plot holes these days.

The origin of the monsters is different in this film too. Mothra is Chinese, Rodan is Mexican, Godzilla is from Atlantis and King Ghidorah is Antarcticese but is later discovered to be from space, so I guess his origin is the most accurate. Well, except for the fact that he has Wolverine healing powers and can grow back heads like a hydra.

Also, Rodan is a dick in this movie and he’s not an ally to Godzilla and Mothra, as he should be. He comes around in the end, after the final fight, but I wanted to see the classic match up of King Ghidorah vs. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan in a 3-on-1 handicap match.

There’s one point in the film where a general says, “We’ve got a secret weapon…” And my mind immediately screamed, “MECHAGODZILLA!!!” But then the general continued with, “…an oxygen destroyer.” So that was a nice homage to the original Gojira and it was a tremendous use of CGI special effects to make it look much more powerful than the 1954 equivalent but the weapon was used so freely and carelessly that the film missed the whole moral debate over that powerful weapon. However, I guess that was sort of replaced by the humans arguing about this film’s other weapon/device/MacGuffin: the Orca.

But the big monster battles are the most important thing about any kaiju movie and this picture gives us pretty solid kaiju action. At least, it’s much better than the total lack of kaiju action we got with this film’s predecessor, the 2014 Godzilla.

New York Yankees fans will love the big final battle in this film as it takes place in Fenway Park. You see the iconic stadium and all of Boston get leveled. And I’m assuming the Red Sox allowed the film to shoot there, due to some of the specific shots that saw Millie Bobby Brown’s character arrive there for the climax. But I guess the famous saying should now read: “Boston Strong, Godzilla Stronger.”

Anyway, I was mostly happy with the film. The human drama bullshit was grating and Vera Farmiga’s character is an evil, selfish psychopath, no matter how hard this film wants to justify her apocalyptic actions. They kind of try to redeem her in the end with her final act but that bitch wanted to die a hero because of her own ego not because she’s got a heart or anything. Thirty minutes earlier she was releasing giant monsters despite millions of people needing to evacuate from giant monsters. She was an insufferable shithead and her husband, Kyle Chandler a.k.a. Mr. Friday Night Lights was pretty terrible too. But maybe I’m just pissed that he never got killed or arrested on Bloodline.

My favorite moment in the movie was when the deaf chick from that Oscar winning fish fuck movie got eaten by King Ghidorah like a piece of popcorn chicken. I bet she lost a shoe this time too.

This review is probably all over the place but I got shit hammered at the theater, hit the bar pretty hard after and am currently too wired to sleep, so I wrote this now, as it’s approaching 3 in the f’n morning. Thank fuck for spell and grammar check.

But hey, this was a step up from the last one. It had better kaiju action, a better than decent story and good acting apart from the two leads that should have been merked much earlier than Bryan Cranston was in the first flick. Hell, Kyle Chandler survives again and he’s still getting away with killing his own brother and sending his other one to Cuba with his dumb wife that forgot to ditch her phone.

And I’ve also got to ask, what’s with all this need for a plot and shit? Monsters smash monsters, the end! It’s not rocket science! We don’t need story getting in the way of a kaiju Royal Rumble. Other than the original, original Godzilla picture, these don’t need to be thinking movies. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving Stunners to the Undertaker, we didn’t need him to stop before the attack and recite Shakespeare, we just wanted to see him drop the Deadman with a kick to the gut and a yank of the head.

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the American Godzilla film before this, as well as the original Japanese films Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars.

Film Review: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Also known as: Chikyû saidai no kessen, lit. Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth (Japan), Monster of Monsters: Ghidorah (Worldwide English title), Godzilla vs. Ghidorah (Finland), Frankensteins Monster im Kampf gegen Ghidorah (Germany)
Release Date: December 20th, 1964 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Yosuke Natsuki, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yuriko Hoshi, Akiko Wakabayashi, The Peanuts, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara, Susumu Kurobe, Haruo Nakajima, Shoichi Hirose

Toho Co. Ltd., 92 Minutes

Review:

“Yes, it is possible for someone to be saved from an exploding aircraft. If we understand the curvature of space, we know that the continuum surrounding any spherical body such as our world is composed of different dimensions. The force of the explosion created a gap between these dimensions, and fortunately for her, she fell into it.” – Alien Expert

I’ve put off reviewing this film in the Godzilla franchise for awhile. The main reason, is that I wanted to save it for the week that the new American Godzilla movie was coming out, as that one features the same four monsters featured in this film. So if the new American film is remaking anything, it is closest to remaking this film.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster isn’t just one of my favorite Godzilla movies, it is one of my favorite monster movies… ever.

King Ghidorah is, hands down, one of the coolest and most iconic monsters ever created. While he might not be as popular as Godzilla or Mothra, he is most definitely the best villain in Godzilla lore and the true king of Toho’s baddies. He’s also much better than any of the evil kaiju creatures from any other Japanese series whether it be GameraUltraman or anything else. Personally, Gigan is my favorite but I can’t deny the greatness and dominance of Ghidorah.

What’s also really interesting about this film is that it is where Godzilla really becomes a good guy and a protector of Japan and Earth from worse monsters. He teams up with Mothra, after the two of them fought in Godzilla Vs. The Thing and he also encounters Rodan for the first time, which starts off as a big fight but eventually ends with the two of them becoming strong allies.

Ghidorah has three heads, so I guess it makes sense needing three good monsters to fight him. Also, it sort of helps to build up the mystique of the new villain. For the first time ever, Godzilla alone can’t take on another monster. Granted, Godzilla, over time, would evolve to be far more powerful than the standard Ghidorah.

The story of this one is also interesting in that it introduces a monster threat from outer space, as well as bringing in alien races and a new sort of dynamic to the Godzilla franchise, which changes all the movies going forward.

Additionally, this movie was helmed by the A-team of Toho tokusatsu: director Ishirō Honda, writer Shinichi Sekizawa, special effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya and composer Akira Ifukube. It also features the top Toho actors, the real core of the studio’s talent at the time: Hiroshi Koizumi, Kenji Sahara, Takashi Shimura, Akiko Wakabayashi and Akihiko Hirata.

While I like the original Godzilla and King Kong Vs. Godzilla more than this, this chapter in the franchise is almost a perfect storm where everything just sort of went right. It ups the ante in new ways, is a hell of a lot of fun and it’s the one film that really sells you on how menacing and dangerous King Ghidorah is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.