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: To Have and Have Not (1944)

Also known as: Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not (complete title)
Release Date: October 11th, 1944 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Howard Hawks
Written by: Jules Furthman, William Faulkner
Based on: To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
Music by: William Lava, Franz Waxman
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael

Warner Bros., 100 Minutes

Review:

“Drinking don’t bother my memory. If it did I wouldn’t drink. I couldn’t. You see, I’d forget how good it was, then where’d I be? Start drinkin’ water, again.” – Eddie

I don’t know what it was about the pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall but all four of their movies are absolute classics. This one is no different and it’s the last one for me to review.

But maybe their chemistry was just infectious. They ended up married in real life and their passion just comes through every time you see them together, even as just fictional characters.

However, a lot of the greatness of these films can just be because the star was Bogart and at this point in his career, he was on top of the world. His pictures got the best directors, the best scripts and usually a pretty strong budget. His films really encapsulate what Hollywood was in his era.

I really like the story in this one though and it has some strong similarities to the setting and tone of Key Largo.

This takes place on a different island, however. The film is set on Martinique but it has a similar ’40s tropical island ambiance that gives the picture a somewhat magical quality.

The story is about an American boat captain that helps transport a French Resistance leader and his wife. It’s set during World War II, which plays a lot into the plot and the film’s political climate. Also, between all of this, the boat captain tries to romance a lounge singer he meets while on the island.

Overall, the plot was really good but everything is greatly enhanced by the performances of Bogart and Bacall. But a lot of credit should also go to director Howard Hawks, who has made some real cinematic magic in his day, this just being just one of his many great pictures.

To Have and Have Not also boasts some stellar cinematography from Sidney Hickox, whose resume is longer than a cross country drive on a moped.

Everything just looks and feels majestic and wonderful in this picture. While not a pillar of perfection, it should definitely sit pretty high up on anyone’s list of best classic film-noir pictures.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other films that team up Bograt and Bacall, most notably Key Largo.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike (Atari 2600)

This game is absolute shit.

I’m not sure what this has to do with G.I. Joe other than it using the franchise’s logo and then having a giant cobra that spits pixels on little army men.

And that’s basically all the game is.

There’s a giant, slithery cobra that spits pixel venom, Army dudes run from one building to another for some reason and then there are two little guns that I guess are used to shoot the snake while you also have to move some Pong paddle around while trying to deflect the pixel venom.

It’s poorly designed with shit controls, an objective that isn’t very clear and nothing but absolute and utter repetitiveness.

Couldn’t they have just made a game where you play as Duke running through the desert punching Cobra troopers?

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: jenkem.

Film Review: Iron Eagle (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Kevin Alyn Elders, Sidney J. Furie
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Gedrick, David Suchet, Larry B. Scott, Caroline Lagerfelt, Tim Thomerson, Shawnee Smith, Melora Hardin, Lance LeGault, Jerry Levine, Robbie Rist, Michael Bowen

Delphi Films, Falcon’s Flight, TriStar Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“I wonder what a Cessna looks like splattered all over those rocks?” – Packer

This doesn’t survive on nostalgia points for me. Honestly, I didn’t even like this film as a kid. I mean, I enjoyed the last half hour, as that’s where the action comes in but everything leading up to that was really damn boring.

Seeing this now, and it has been at least thirty years, I was surprised that I wasn’t pulled into it a bit more as it features two teen actors from the time that I really liked: Larry B. Scott and Jerry Levine.

But the real problem with this movie is that it’s too damn long. I mean, this is nearly two full hours and only the last half hour is actually somewhat enjoyable. And to be honest, they could’ve lobbed 30 to 40 minutes off of this thing and no one would’ve noticed.

Additionally, even though the actual mission at the end is fairly fun, it’s full of flaws and errors that are distracting.

The main thing that sticks out is the editing. There are multiple moments in the movie where the video loop behind the pilots’ heads resets. So you’re looking at closeups of pilots in the cockpit talking and the background goes from a clouded sky to a quick jump of clear sky.

Plus, there are mistakes in how the action is edited that don’t make sense from a logistic and physics standpoint.

I think the thing that may irritate more than the shoddy editing is the models used for the planes, as every time one explodes, it is obviously a miniature and made of wood. Fighter jets don’t splinter like a balsa wood chair in a Chaplin movie. But I get it, it’s the ’80s, CGI didn’t exist like it does now and the film had a modest budget. But no one could call in a favor to one of the guys that worked on model making for the Star Wars or Star Trek films?

The acting is pretty bad too. And even though Louis Gossett Jr. has shown that he has chops, I think that it is this movie that actually wrecked his career. He went from An Officer and a Gentleman to this? But hey, at least it allowed him to have his own franchise, which he would then have to rely on over the course of three shitty sequels.

Seeing Iron Eagle now, I don’t hate it. It just would have been much better with a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and a bit more refinement in the film’s action packed climax.

I’m going to completely ignore the fact that the plot is stupid because this is the ’80s and it was escapism for kids, trying to capitalize off of the popularity of movies like Red Dawn. But in case you don’t know what the plot is, it’s about a decorated Colonel that helps a teenager steal an Air Force fighter plane to attack an enemy country in an effort to save the kid’s dad. Let that marinate for a minute.

So if I ever do watch this again, I’ll just skip to the finale and ignore the plot details.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: probably its subpar sequels and other ’80s and ’90s teens movies that throw kids into war or combat like Red Dawn, The Rescue and Toy Soldiers.

Film Review: Red Zone Cuba (1966)

Also known as: Night Train to Mundo Fine (original title)
Release Date: November, 1966 (los Angeles)
Directed by: Coleman Francis
Written by: Coleman Francis
Music by: John Bath, Ray Gregory (theme)
Cast: Coleman Francis, Anthony Cardoza, Harold Saunders, John Carradine, Lanell Cado, Tom Hanson, George Prince, Frederic Downs

Hollywood Star Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“That’s my daughter. She’s been blind and all, ever since her husband was killed in the war.” – Cliff

Coleman Francis movies are synonymous for being actual poop on celluloid. Thankfully, three of them were shown on episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which are the only versions of these movies worth watching.

Red Zone Cuba is exceptionally bad, even for MST3K standards. It is almost always featured on bloggers’ lists about the worst films featured on the show and honestly, I agree with the consensus.

There is not much redeeming value in this film, unlike other mega-schlock like Manos: The Hands of Fate or Space Mutiny. This is just a slow, boring, ugly turd.

But hey, at least it has John Carradine in it! Granted, he mostly did a lot of crap pictures after his heyday.

Anyway, to solidify my point about how bad this movie is, the voice of Tom Servo, Kevin Murphy, has often times referred to it as the worst picture he had to watch while working on and writing for MST3K.

The film’s plot sounds kind of interesting but this is Coleman Francis, so it is terribly executed and presented.

The story revolves around an ex-con that recruits other ex-cons to get involved in the Bay of Pigs while also looking for hidden treasure in Cuba.

Frankly, this is a monotonous dud. It’s even hard to watch on MST3K and I really only revisited it this time because I’m trying to review every film featured on the show and I’ve put this movie off for far too long.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: other Coleman Francis schlock but watch the MST3K versions of them all.

Comic Review: Space Battleship Yamato – The Classic Collection

Published: April 9th, 2019
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto
Art by: Leiji Matsumoto

Seven Seas, 644 Pages

Review:

Being that I loved Star Blazers, as a kid, and that I just revisited the show because it’s been decades, I wanted to give the source material a read.

So when this complete collection dropped on Amazon recently, I had to get a copy. Plus, it was nice looking and a hardcover book. I also bought all three hardcover volumes of Captain Harlock, as well. Those will be reviewed in the near future.

Anyway, I’ve been a fan of everything I’ve seen that has been a product of Leiji Matsumoto’s mind and this manga is no different.

While this differs from the television series that was based on it, it was cool seeing where all these ideas, concepts and characters came from. Also, this has a little cameo in it by Captain Harlock, tying these two franchises by Matsumoto together.

This is a space opera of the highest caliber and a true manga classic. Each chapter was great and made me more invested in the overall story.

I really dug the hell out of Matsumoto’s artwork and his splash pages and spreads were all breathtaking. Sure, there are a lot of sequential pages without dialogue that are just full of action or the majestic body of the Yamato traveling through space but each and every one was superb and poster worthy.

I really loved this book. It’s stupendous from start to finish and if you’re a fan of Star Blazers you really should treat yourself to this original manga.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Matsumoto’s other manga work, such as Captain Harlock.

Comic Review: Transformers ’84 – One-Shot

Published: August 21st, 2019
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Guido Guidi
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 38 Pages

Review:

Lately, I feel like I’ve been having bad luck with IDW’s Transformers comics. However, this was kind of cool and actually achieved what it set out to do, which was to tell the story that set up the events of the original Marvel Comics Transformers run.

More than that though, this also gave us some solid art that felt true to that original Transformers era, even down to Megatron’s black helmet.

While this is far from a perfect comic it was enjoyable and hit the right notes.

The art really drew me in from page to page. I loved the illustrations, the inks, the colors and the shading techniques that were reminiscent of ’80s newsprint comics.

This was also pretty hefty for a single issue one-shot, which is another plus.

Honestly, I wouldn’t want to mess with Marvel’s ’80s continuity but I’d be a fan of a Transformers comic book series that was done in this style. It brought me back to 1984 and while nostalgia is a tricky mistress, I didn’t care because I was happy with the end result.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Marvel Transformers comics, which this is a prequel to, as well as other IDW Transformers titles.