Ghost in the Shell [攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidōtai] (1995)
AKA Armored Riot Police
Starring Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi, Kōichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Ohki
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
It’s hard to imagine Ghost in the Shell as old. But here it is, nearly 20 years later, and the film still feels unrelentingly futuristic, far more than other science fiction films of the time like Total Recall, or even The Matrix which this film inspired. It probably has to do with Masamune Shirow, the series’s original creator, being so in touch with computer technology and engineering. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t just feel futuristic; it feels very real and absolutely believable. And that’s what makes it all the more frightening.
It isn’t a horror film by any means, but the concept of getting brainwashed by a computer hacker is scary as hell. We like to think of our souls, our personal identity, as something beyond the ability of others to touch, but not in this film. This is a future where your memories can be rewritten at any time, and “ghost hacking” is as common as computer viruses are today. For my money, that is far more frightening than any boogeyman jumping out of the shadows.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (1995) →
Macross Plus: Movie Edition [マクロスプラス MOVIE EDITION] (1995)
Starring Takumi Yamazaki, Unsho Ishizuka, Rika Fukami, Mako Hyodo, Megumi Hayashibara, Tomohiro Nishimura, Kenji Utsumi, Shou Hayami
Directed by Shoji Kawamori & Shinichiro Watanabe
Shoji Kawamori is more prolific as a mechanical designer than as a director. It’s been his primary job in dozens of anime, and he even designed several of the early Transformers toys. Directing on a frequent basis has been a fairly recent development in his career, and it was 10 years between his directorial debut, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, and this, his second time as director (unless you count the short film Flashback 2012, which was mostly compiled clips from the original Macross). And it’s a good thing he decided to get back into the game, because this is a complete reversal of the bland rehash that was Macross II. We’re also lucky to have it at all. Due to a nightmare of legal red tape, the only other Macross series to see an official, unedited release in America are Macross II and an absurdly overpriced version of the original TV series.
Macross Plus wasn’t without production quandaries, though. Kawamori couldn’t secure funding for the film version he intended it to be, so he had to make it as a four-part miniseries, releasing one episode at a time. Once the series was completed, he hacked huge chunks out, added a few new scenes, redid the voice acting (or perhaps just used alternate takes), and then rearranged what was left into this movie edition. Throughout high school, the series was my favorite anime by far, so the film version always feels odd to me. The acting seems off since it has different inflection than what I’m used to, and the events feel oddly displaced. It has, however, been a long time since I last watched either version, and that has given me the distance necessary to look at the movie edition with less clouded eyes and appreciate it more as its own work.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1995) →
Starring Gary Daniels, Malcolm McDowell, Costas Mandylor, Downtown Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalona Herron, Melvin Van Peebles, Clint Howard, Chris Penn, Andre Rosey Brown, Isako Washio, Paulo Tocha
Directed by Tony Randel
Now what on Earth am I doing reviewing a live-action American film, you might ask. Well, if your memory reaches back a few weeks, you might remember my review of the anime Fist of the North Star, and this is the live-action adaptation of the series, though not specifically of that 1986 film. It claims to be the first Hollywood adaptation of an anime, and in the absence of any contrary evidence, I’m not going to argue.
The use of the word “Hollywood” implies an impressive big-budget production, but that really isn’t the case. Kill Bill this ain’t. You’re also probably questioning if a live-action American film could possibly capture the spirit of an anime, especially one as absurd as Fist of the North Star. Obviously you can’t expect to see a 20-foot-tall giant turn his skin into steel and trample an entire army. And since shit like that is the main draw of the anime title, you have to go into this version with some vastly different expectations.
Continue reading Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1995) →