Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 4: Final (1989)

projectako4_1Project A-ko: Final [プロジェクトA子 完結篇] (1989)

Starring Miki Ito, Emi Shinohara, Michie Tomizawa, Tessho Genda, Shuichi Ikeda, Asami Mukaidono, Daisuke Gori, Sayuri Ikemoto, Yoshitada Ohtsuka

Directed by Yuji Moriyama


I can’t say why the filmmakers decided to call it quits at part 4. Perhaps they ran into funding trouble or just ran out of ideas. Maybe it was a case of staff arguing over the direction of the series. Since I’ve never seen any behind-the-scenes info on the Project A-ko sequels (and probably never will), I can only rely on my own unsubstantiated guesses. For whatever it’s worth, I think they realized there wasn’t anywhere else for the series to go and wanted to end the franchise gracefully rather than milk it until it became a stale echo of its former glory.

One of the reasons I say this is because Project A-ko 4 is basically a rehash of the first film. It once again mainly involves an alien invasion that interrupts A-ko and B-ko’s bickering. In fact, the great feud between the two has become so routine that even the other characters are unfazed by it at this point. The big difference this time is that their teacher, Miss Ayumi, is getting married to Kei, so the fight is over him rather than C-ko. This makes C-ko feel abandoned, and she spends much of the film rather depressed.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 4: Final (1989) →

Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody (1988)

projecta-ko3_1Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody [プロジェクトA子3 シンデレララプソディ] (1988)

Starring Miki Ito, Emi Shinohara, Michie Tomizawa, Tessho Genda, Shuichi Ikeda, Asami Mukaidono, Daisuke Gori, Sayuri Ikemoto

Directed by Yuji Moriyama


This time the series takes an odd turn. Cinderella Rhapsody starts off with a sepia-toned scene of several women playing pool. The style is much more realistic, and the tone is closer to film noir than slapstick. It focuses on subtle movements and glances like the slight jostle of earrings when someone tilts her head. It is only with great effort that you can tell the characters are actually A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko. The scene plays out slowly, without any comedy other than A-ko’s break shot literally breaking the balls, and your first thought upon seeing it will probably be, “Did I just put on the wrong movie?”

In a way, this scene is a good metaphor for the entire film. It’s out of place, the jokes are less frequent, it plays its parodies too straight, and it’s just kinda boring. What’s more, the opening scene has some of the best animation since the original film, making it feel like a waste of effort that could have gone into a more interesting scene. Overall, Cinderella Rhapsody is a disappointing entry in the series.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody (1988) →

Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group (1987)

ProjectA-ko2_1Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group [プロジェクトA子2 大徳寺財閥の陰謀] (1987)

Starring Miki Ito, Emi Shinohara, Michie Tomizawa, Tessho Genda, Shuichi Ikeda, Asami Mukaidono, Daisuke Gori, Sayuri Ikemoto, Yoshitada Ohtsuka

Directed by Yuji Moriyama

 


With the success of Project A-ko, it should come as no surprise that a sequel was quickly put out. What is a bit surprising is that instead of a full theatrical film, all the sequels to Project A-ko were much shorter, direct-to-video releases. As a result, Project A-ko 2 suffers from a pretty big downgrade in quality. The animation is nowhere near as good, and the music lacks that memorable charm of the first film. This also adds up to some less satisfying action as well.

With Katsuhiko Nishijima stepping down as director, it might be tempting to blame Yuji Moriyama who took his place. I do think Nishijima did a better job; Moriyama tends to linger over the jokes a little too long, and he doesn’t have quite the flair for exciting action scenes. But Moriyama is certainly no stranger to the franchise. He was character designer, animation director, and one of three screenwriters for the first film, so he didn’t just pop up out of nowhere with no idea what to do.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Project A-ko 2: Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group (1987) →

Stephen reviews: Project A-ko (1986)

projecta-ko_1Project A-ko [プロジェクトA子] (1986)

Starring Miki Ito, Emi Shinohara, Michie Tomizawa, Tessho Genda, Shuichi Ikeda, Asami Mukaidono, Daisuke Gori, Sayuri Ikemoto

Directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima


Thirty years ago Project A-ko took the anime industry by storm. It was one of the biggest names in anime, and thoroughly beloved by just about any anime fan in the ’90s. So now, for its 30th anniversary… well, pretty much nothing is happening other than me writing up this review. The franchise has been dormant for the past 25 years, and people seem to have just forgotten about the whole thing. I suspect there are vast swaths of younger anime fans who have never seen it, possibly never even heard of it.

This strikes me as strange. More than any other title, save for perhaps Akira or Ghost in the Shell, A-ko was the face of anime in the West. And if you ask me, I would say A-ko is a much truer definition of the art form. Akira and Ghost in the Shell were great films, no question about it, but they are the face of anime solely because they have mainstream appeal. People who don’t like anime often like those films anyway, because they don’t really represent what anime is like. Anime is about over-the-top absurdism, larger-than-life action, and exaggerated emotions which cannot be portrayed with live action; because human faces cannot actually contort like that.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Project A-ko (1986) →

Dr. Alien (1989)

dralien_2Dr. Alien (1989)
AKA I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac, I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant

Starring Billy Jayne, Judy Landers, Olivia Barash, Stuart Fratkin, Raymond O’Connor, Arlene Golonka, Jim Hackett, Robert Jayne, Julie Gray, Scott Morris, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Not much.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Looking at the poster, it would be easy to assume that Dr. Alien is nothing but ridiculous, low-budget trash. Even with that weird alien face, it doesn’t look especially interesting to me. But over the last six years of reviewing films here at Silver Emulsion, one truth has continued to resonate: Keep an open mind. It’s a good piece of advice in general life, as well; being closed off to the unknown corners of the world doesn’t allow for much personal growth. I’ve also come to look forward to the David DeCouteau movies, as they are generally some of the better and more interesting offerings among the Full Moon catalog. So I started Dr. Alien hopeful and optimistic, despite not expecting much.

When the film ended 80-some minutes later, with a big grin plastered on my face and my commitment to pursuing artistic, creative endeavors bolstered, I was shocked. Dr. Alien might be one of DeCoteau’s best films; it’s certainly one of my favorites. Sure, it’s got all the dumb jokes and female nudity you’d expect of an ’80s sex comedy, which will definitely turn off some viewers (and keep the film out of the Criterion Collection), but it is a real achievement on DeCoteau’s part to craft a film that satisfies on both a lowbrow and intellectual level. Perhaps I’m overselling it, as the morality only comes in at the end, but regardless, the film excited me thoroughly. I expected sex comedy and nudity, but to leave the film reinvigorated in my appreciation of art as a vital component of the human experience, that’s something special.

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The Occultist (1989)

occultist_2The Occultist (1989)
AKA Maximum Thrust, Waldo Warren: Private Dick Without a Brain

Starring Rick Gianasi, Joe Derrig, Richard Mooney, Jennifer Kanter, Mizan Kirby, Matt Mitler, Anibal O. Lleras, Betty Vaughn, Kate Goldsborough, Doug Delauder

Directed by Tim Kincaid

Expectations: Moderate, but hopeful.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


The Occultist was Tim Kincaid’s final film for Empire, and to be honest I held back on reviewing it for a while. It was the film Kincaid made after the wonderfully bad Mutant Hunt, so I guess I assumed it would be of a similar quality. The Occultist even features the star of Mutant Hunt, Rick Gianasi, who went on to later star as the title character in Troma’s Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD. What could go wrong? Apparently everything! Or nearly everything… as bad as The Occultist is, it is not without a couple of truly memorable charms.

The plot didn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps I missed some key dialogue or something else along the way, but honestly I was confused from the first moments. The film opens with a group of men on a pier overlooking the ocean. This scene cross-cuts with a scene inside an industrial warehouse of a “voodoo dance/skinning an innocent man alive” party. Here’s where I got confused: the guys on the pier are apparently watching the voodoo get-together from where they are… and they don’t like what they see! What? How are they looking inside? Are we to believe that this dark, dingy locale is actually an open-faced building on some island? I just — I don’t even know what to think. But whatever, it’s a B-Movie so I gave them the benefit of the doubt that maybe these guys could see these voodoo shenanigans from their vantage point.

Continue reading The Occultist (1989) →

Top 10 1980s Jackie Chan Films

Is it even a question that the ’80s were Jackie’s best decade? It features the bulk of his directorial career, plus his amazing work with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. As such, narrowing this down was hard! So let’s get to it before I start to cry about the ones that didn’t quite make it. 🙁


#10 Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985)
Directed by Sammo Hung
Reviewed August 24, 2015
TwinkleTwinkleLuckyStars_6

Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars is the weakest of the Lucky Stars for me, but it’s the only one to make this list because the action contained within it is by far the best of the series. Not only that, it’s some of the best and most iconic work in the long and illustrious directorial career of Sammo Hung. This could be clouded a bit by nostalgia because I used to watch the end of this movie over and over when I was in my teenage obsession with Jackie Chan, but whatever, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars has amazing action no matter what colored glasses you look at it with.

#9 Police Story Part II (1988)
Directed by Jackie Chan
Reviewed February 1, 2016policestory2_5

Like Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Police Story Part II isn’t a completely satisfying movie but the action is truly incredible. The playground fight is easily one of my favorite Jackie Chan fights, and all the stuff with Benny Lai is fantastic as well. If you’re a fan, it’s a must.
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