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)
“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.
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
“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.
Published: January 13th, 2016
Written by: Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: John Romita Jr., Ron Lim, Steve Ditko, Whilce Portacio
Marvel Comics, 465 Pages
The first issue of Daredevil that I ever picked up came from his stretch, collected here. This also covers about the first half of Ann Nocenti’s incredible Daredevil run. A run that sold me on the hero and made his comics ones that I would pickup monthly for years.
Other than the Typhoid Mary-centered issues, this is the first time that I’ve really reread Nocenti’s Daredevil material since the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Overall, this era is fucking great and if I’m being honest, I actually like it on the same level, if not more, than the Frank Miller era before it. While this can read lighter than Miller’s run, it still gets really damn dark and stays true to the core of what Daredevil became because of Miller.
What makes this even better and also keeps the tone right is the art by John Romita Jr. Even though I didn’t know it in 1989, when I first got hooked, Nocenti and Romita Jr. were one of the best creative duos of the time and certainly a better combination of writer and artist than Marvel has put together in modern times.
In my opinion, this is still Romita Jr.’s best work and the legacy he should hang his hat on. And yes, I say that knowing that he still works, today.
As far as the stories go, this starts with the debut of Typhoid Mary, which I’ve reviewed on its own (see here), but it also goes into some follow up stories with her character. This also happens during the major Inferno crossover event and sees Daredevil tie-up with demons and even Mephisto. In fact, the Mephisto-centric issue is one of the greatest Christmas comics ever produced.
This is just great. It’s one of the best stretches of my favorite comic book series. Revisiting it now didn’t leave me disappointed.
Also known as: Kurenai no buta (original Japanese title), The Crimson Pig (literal English title)
Release Date: July 18th, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on: Hikotei Jidai by Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Shuichiro Moriyama, Akio Otsuka, Akemi Okamura, Tokiko Kato, Sanshi Katsura; English Language: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, Bill Fagerbakke, Frank Welker
Japan Airlines, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, 94 Minutes
“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.” – Porco Rosso
I’ve gotta say, I went into this with no real expectations but it kind of blew me away and impressed me a great deal.
The humor in this is fantastic and up to the point of this film’s release, this may be Studio Ghibli’s best use of comedy. It helped set the film’s playful tone from the get go.
The story is about an ace pilot during the World War I era. He’s Italian and work as a bounty hunter around the Adriatic Sea. He’s also been cursed with the head of a pig, even though he’s a pretty normal human being.
Over the course of the film, he develops a rivalry with an American ace and loses a contest against him. He then is convinced by a young girl that she can design and build a better plane for him, even though he doesn’t initially like the idea. Over the course of the story, they develop an incredible bond and Porco Rosso sets his sights on redeeming himself against the American ace.
While this is more of a comedy than a drama, it has very strong dramatic moments and I think it’s those parts that make this pretty great.
I watched the English dubbed version and I thoroughly enjoyed the voice acting. I especially liked Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes as the voices of the two rival aces, which made their banter pretty entertaining.
As far as the animation goes, this is exactly what you should expect from a Hayao Miyazaki picture. I also think this has a lot more energy than many of his films, as it features so much aerial action.
While I doubt that I’ll ever discover a bad Studio Ghibli film, this wasn’t one that I expected to be really impressed by. In the end, it did just that and I think this may be one of my favorites of the bunch. But I still have many to get through, that I haven’t seen.
Release Date: January 21st, 2013 (Sundance)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Written by: Alex Gibney
Music by: Will Bates
Cast: Julian Assange, Heather Brooke, various
Jigsaw Productions, Global Produce, Focus World, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes
“You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war.” – Julian Assange
This has been in my queue for awhile but I finally got around to seeing it. Granted, I know the story of Julian Assange and Wikileaks rather well. I spent extensive time writing about it all a decade ago.
Overall, this is a fairly decent documentary but it also didn’t have nearly the amount of time it needed to dive as deeply as it probably needed to. I also can’t say that it’s completely accurate, as there are some biases thrown in whether that was the intent of the filmmaker or because of certain people in this trying to steer the ship in their own way.
However, this is still a good primer and starting point for those who might not know the story of Assange and his “infamous” website without the always present mainstream media slant.
Politics aside, this does present a good defense for Assange. He wasn’t the person that initially leaked all of this information, he just provided the platform for those who wanted to expose some dark secrets.
In the end, if this stuff interests you, this is probably worth a look. However, as with all things touched by political motives, it’s still best to not take all of this at face value. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
Release Date: November 30th, 1993 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Zaillian
Based on: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz
Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 195 Minutes
“It’s Hebrew, it’s from the Talmud. It says, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”” – Itzhak Stern
Schindler’s List is nearly thirty years-old but I hadn’t seen the movie until now. I knew the story of Schindler but I also had assumptions about this movie that I found out weren’t entirely true after having finally watched it.
I expected this to be immensely depressing and also very, very long. The combination of those two things is why I could never get myself to sit down and watch it.
Additionally, based off of the footage I had seen over the last few decades, I assumed this was going to focus on the actual horrors of the Holocaust primarily and that the story would be pretty minimal. I was glad to learn that this has a very layered and deep story, more so than I could have anticipated.
Sure, I assumed it would be superbly acted and it most definitely is. Liam Neeson is incredible, as are Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and Embeth Davidtz. Yet I was still blown away and surprised by how good their performances were and I was much more moved by that than the specific horrors that happen in the movie. It’s those performances that kept the horrors and tragedy grounded and genuine.
I thought that this was going to be more docu-drama than a narrative driven, performance driven motion picture.
This may also be Steven Spielberg’s best work behind the camera, as some of the shots aren’t just incredible but they’re almost otherworldly. I love that he did this in black and white, which makes it kind of timeless, but also makes it tonally darker.
I really enjoyed John Williams’ beautiful score and it is certainly one of the greatest things he has done in his long career, as a composer who has probably made more memorable movie themes than any other.
The subject matter, here, is really hard to digest. However, this is a story that should be known by everyone. We can’t forget these atrocities because we’re doomed to repeat them in the future, as insane and implausible as that may sound.
After watching this and Grave of the Fireflies just a few days apart, I really need something uplifting because that was a lot of dark human shit that I had to experience in a short span.
Published: October, 2021
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Graham Nolan, Jason Johnson, Kelsey Shannon, Butch Guice, Daniel Brown
Based on: The Expendables franchise by Sylvester Stallone
Splatto Comics, 50 Pages
Out of all the comics that I’ve backed through crowdfunding, this is one of the few that I anticipated the most. Not because I’m a massive Expendables fan but because it was really neat seeing Sylvester Stallone work with comic crowdfunding maestro Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Ya Boi Zack and writer Chuck Dixon, who wrote some of my favorite G.I. Joe stories. Since G.I. Joe is very similar to The Expendables, it makes Dixon a pretty solid choice for this project. Plus, he had already worked with Stallone before.
Additionally, I really liked that this featured art by Graham Nolan and a sweet as fuck cover by Kelsey Shannon. There were other variant covers as well but the Shannon cover just nailed it for me and he’s also a hell of a nice comic creator in an industry full of psychotic, narcissistic shitheads.
So while I might not be a massive Expendables fan, I still enjoy the hell out of those movies because they feature so many badasses from the action films of my childhood. Also, they’re just fun, insane movies with a bunch of likable alpha males trying to out alpha each other while also being brothers on the field of battle.
The story is pretty self-explanatory, as it sees the Expendables actually go to Hell. Once there, they learn that Hell is constant war and they find themselves at odds with tyrants of the past while also having some historical heroes becoming their allies. Also, some of their deceased friends and foes appear.
The comic is pretty straightforward, doesn’t waste time and just gets to the action. It’s a pretty cool comic if this stuff is your cup of whiskey.
All in all, I was really happy with it and thought it was certainly worth the wait.
Now if we could only get an Expendables and Jawbreakers crossover or that long-awaited sequel to Stallone’s Cobra that I’ve been dying for since 1986.
Also known as: Hotaru no haka (original Japanese title)
Release Date: April 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Based on: Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka
Music by: Michio Mamiya
Cast: Japanese Language: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi; English Language: Adam Gibbs, Emily Neves, Shelley Calene-Black, Marcy Bannor, Andrew Love
Shinchosha Company, Studio Ghibli, Toho Co. Ltd., 89 Minutes
“[first lines] September 21, 1945… that was the night I died.” – Seita
Man, this is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen but it is also one of the greatest anime pictures ever crafted. It’s a massive gut punch to the soul and it’s also one of the sweetest, beautiful films I’ve ever experienced.
This was made by Studio Ghibli and it was the first film they did that was directed by Isao Takahata, as opposed to Hayao Miyazaki. Upon its release, it was paired up with another Studio Ghibli film, Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.
The story is about a fourteen year-old boy and his four year-old sister, whose father went off to war and whose mother was burned alive by an American attack on their town during the height of World War II. The orphaned kids go to live with their horrible aunt but eventually, she rejects them and they have to try to survive on their own, living in a cave by a lake. They have no money, no food and eventually the little girl gets very sick. Once the boy finds out that his father is most likely dead, things really, really get dark and whatever hope these kids had is gone.
Yet, in spite of all that, the bond of these siblings is powerful and there’s nothing but love between them and that’s what makes the picture so precious and so heartbreaking once you reach the tragic, immensely depressing end of the film.
I respect that this movie shows the horrors of war and also that it shows it from the perspective of the other side, at least for those of us in America. I think it’s an important story to tell, as these are things that most people don’t want to think about. Especially, when our government is at war with another government because its not the regular civilians that are generally doing the fighting but it’s those people who are the victims of the fighting, more times than not.
The fact that this is a story about kids is supposed to make the message more powerful.
Grave of the Fireflies is an incredible, beautiful and emotional picture about what can happen to innocence when it’s confronted by the worst parts of humanity. The film is astonishingly effective and it not only accomplishes what Isao Takahata wanted to say but it greatly exceeds it.