Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius (1991)

silent-mobiusSilent Möbius: The Motion Picture [サイレント・メビウス] (1991)

Starring Naoko Matsui, Chieko Honda, Gara Takashima, Hiromi Tsuru, Masako Ikeda, Toshiko Fujita, Kouji Nakata

Directed by Michitaka Kikuchi & Kazuo Tominzawa


I went into this film with a bit of trepidation since I had found the TV series to be a rather boring drag. I was more tolerant of this version, perhaps because it came in at less than an hour long, but it’s still far from a masterpiece. At first I thought it was a condensed version of the series, but the 1991 release date surprised me. I didn’t think the series was that old — mainly because it isn’t. The TV series didn’t release until 1998, which means this film was fully meant to stand on its own.

Silent Möbius tells a pretty generic tale of an all-female police squad fighting mystical monsters in the future. There’ve been tons of similar anime over the years, and Silent Möbius is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s got a typically diverse cast of girls who each have their own gimmick going on, but you won’t see much of that for this film. It centers on one particular member of the team, Katsumi Liqueur, as she first learns of her magical heritage and comes to terms with her powers. It’s a pretty traditional call-to-adventure arc that could have worked a lot better than it did. But I suppose it could have been a lot worse as well.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Silent Möbius (1991) →

Reefer Madness (1936)

reefermadness_1Reefer Madness (1936)
AKA Tell Your Children, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, Love Madness, The Burning Question

Starring Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Lillian Miles, Dave O’Brien, Thelma White, Carleton Young, Warren McCollum, Patricia Royale, Joseph Forte, Harry Harvey Jr.

Directed by Louis J. Gasnier

Expectations: Low.

onehalfstar


When a movie remains in the cultural consciousness for as long as Reefer Madness has, you expect it to be of a certain quality. But Reefer Madness is the type of movie that would be rotting on the back shelves of some forgotten fruit cellar if it weren’t for its reputation. It was originally titled Tell Your Children and produced as an educational film for a church group, but its legend was set in stone when a producer named Dwain Esper bought the rights in the late ’30s, re-cut the film and re-titled it Reefer Madness. He then unleashed it on the exploitation circuit where it flourished.

Reefer Madness begins much like you would think an educational film produced by a church group would begin: with lengthy texts warning of the dangerous, deceitful nature of this new drug menace called Marihuana (as it’s spelled in the film), followed by a man giving a lecture on the same content to a group of churchgoers. Eventually, this gives way to the story of the film, a cautionary tale about the dangers of the drug working its way into the lives of even the most promising of teenagers! As the lecturer relates this tale to his rapt audience, the picture fades from the church hall to the city streets, and we experience the story first-hand.

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The Thunderbolt Fist (1972)

TheThunderboltFist_2The Thunderbolt Fist [霹靂拳] (1972)

Starring Shih Szu, Chuen Yuen, James Nam Gung-Fan, Wong Gam-Fung, Tung Lam, Fang Mian, Chen Feng-Chen, Gam Kei-Chu, Wong Ching-Ho, Chu Gam, Kam Kong, Gai Yuen, Shum Lo, Hsu Yu, Kong Lung, Chow Yu-Hing, Austin Wai Tin-Chi, Stephen Tung Wai

Directed by Chang Il-Ho

Expectations: Moderate, but I’m pumped because I haven’t seen a Shaw film in months.

twohalfstar


Up until the last 20 minutes or so, The Thunderbolt Fist is a fairly boring and average Shaw Brothers film. Since I’m a huge fan, I still had a good time watching it, but this definitely isn’t the film to jump into the Shaw Brothers on. I shake my head once again as to how Shaw films like this find their way to a US DVD release, while legitimate classics are still only available in Hong Kong. Anyway, The Thunderbolt Fist!

Since this isn’t an innovative film, The Thunderbolt Fist is a pretty basic Chinese vs. Japanese tale. It begins with the ridiculously evil Japanese riding into a quiet Chinese town. They assault the townspeople, take over their businesses and strong-arm their way into controlling the supply lines, forcing the Chinese to buy and sell their goods from them. When a lowly picker of ginseng pleads for mercy, the wicked Japanese swordsman chops off his hands in one quick swipe!

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Stephen reviews: WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 (2002)

wxiii_patlabor_the_movie_threeWXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 [WX3 機動警察パトレイバー Wasted 13: Kidō Keisatsu Patlabor] (2002)
AKA Patlabor WXIII, Wasted 13: Patlabor the Movie 3

Starring Hiroaki Hirata, Katsuhiko Watabiki, Miina Tominaga

Directed by Fumihiko Takayama


Though Mamoru Oshii has left the scene, the third Patlabor film definitely inherited his influence. And although I wish I could say that it inherited his stylish visuals, oddball sense of humor, or knack for finding unique thematic content, I’m afraid that all this film inherited was his sluggish pacing. It’s clearly trying to imitate Oshii’s distinct flavor, but it learned all of the wrong lessons from him and none of the right ones. It uses a lot of Oshii’s techniques from the earlier Patlabor films, but where Oshii used them for a reason, WXIII only uses them to disguise itself as a Mamoru Oshii film.

The story centers on two police detectives (I’ve already forgotten their names) trying to figure out who or what has been wrecking all the labors, the giant robots of this particular series. One of the guys is young and inexperienced while the other guy is old and grizzled. It turns out that there is a giant monster swimming around out in the bay, and soon the creature graduates from wrecking vehicles to eating people. The investigation turns into a quest to find out where it came from and how to stop it. It has elements of a police procedural, horror film, psychological thriller, buddy cop flick, and just a dash of giant monster action. All this doesn’t mesh so much as it turns into a pile of mush. In its attempts to accommodate all of those things it winds up sabotaging all of them.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 (2002) →

Video Book Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films

What’s this? That’s right, I did a video review! I’ve considered doing things like this, as well as appearing on podcasts, for a while now, and this art book presented a perfect opportunity to try out the video review thing. It’s a completely foreign thing for me to do, and surprisingly I recorded it all in one take with no edits! I also did all my own stunts. Paper cuts are a real concern when you’re doing something like this. While I was unable to secure the insurance necessary for the shoot, I threw caution to the wind and shot it anyway! Take that, you bastards in suits!

Anyway…

WATCH as I nervously try to think of what to say next!

SEE as I fumble with turning pages while on-camera!

LISTEN as I go on tangents about CG ruining film and make jokes about apes!

READ what is probably the longest post title you’ll ever see, unless I’m intentionally trying to make one longer!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films was released by Titan Books on July 8, 2014 and it is available now via Amazon and other book retailers! If you’re a fan of the films and are also interesting in filmmaking, definitely consider picking up a copy (preferably by clicking that Amazon box above)!

Disclosure: Titan Books provided me with a review copy of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians_1Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Haddock, Sean Gunn, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Fairbank

Directed by James Gunn

Expectations: Super, super high. If I don’t like this, I’m going to be crushed.

threehalfstar


Guardians of the Galaxy is easily one of the best Marvel films yet. Other than The Avengers, I don’t think a single film in their line-up comes close to the amount of pure entertainment on display in Guardians. Pinpointing exactly why Guardians is such a successful piece of entertainment isn’t something that needs to be done, but if I want to write more than, “OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH GUARDIANS WAS DOPE!” I have to come up with something to talk about, right?

So let’s talk about the characters. While every Marvel movie is generally known to be a hit before it’s even close to a release date, Guardians of the Galaxy was a different story. Where characters like Iron Man and Thor allow most of the audience to bring some knowledge into the theater, most people have never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I read a lot of Marvel comics growing up and I only had a very limited, passing knowledge of their existence. This was Marvel’s first attempt at a film without the name recognition of a big character, and it was a huge gamble. But the film’s success proves that the public doesn’t specifically care if they know who’s who before entering the theater; they care more about seeing a fun movie, regardless of origin. So if you’re a big shot Hollywood exec reading this, take note! Stop raping our collective childhoods for rebootable franchises! The public will always be hungry for original content! (And yes, Guardians is technically adapted and not original content, but in the eyes of the average moviegoer this is an entirely new thing.)

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The Legend of Hercules (2014)

the-legend-of-hercules-posterStarring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Johnathon Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale, Sarai Givaty

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Super low. I just want swords, sandals, and fun.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


The Legend of Hercules has a fairly bad reputation, even for a film that’s only been out for a few months. The score on Rotten Tomatoes score is 3% for God’s sake! So leave it to me to make it something of a priority to watch it, and then to enjoy it thoroughly. Don’t mistake that for me being blind to the film’s bad qualities — oh, did I ever notice them! — but the film entertained in spite of this. It’s really subjective, though, so I don’t recommend hastily running out in your loincloth to rent the film, but know that there is the possibility that you might find something to enjoy here. I guess that makes me part of the 3%, which is in no way related to the American elitist assholes who make up the 1%. I promise.

So in the face of the huge wall of adversity coming at this movie, I thought that if I reviewed it I shouldn’t waste any time on why it’s bad. I’m sure within the 97% there are plenty of critical diatribes describing exactly why The Legend of Hercules is a horrible blight on the world that is so horrendously bad it actually sucks other things into its strange, cinematic black hole. So there’s no point in rehashing these points. I will say that I don’t think the movie is anywhere near bad enough to warrant such hate, but I understand why. Director Renny Harlin has definitely been in better form than aping Zack Snyder’s ugly, unnecessary slo-mo that filled 300, while also trying to appeal to the Twilight crowd with a tender love story and star Kellan Lutz. Did I like these aspects? Of course not, but I knew they would be there and I expected them, so I was able to let them roll off my back as confidently as the film’s actors delivered their historically inaccurate, “Any American movie set in the past is made better by phony English accents” English accents.

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