Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

ghost_in_the_shell_poster_01Ghost 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) →

Stephen reviews: Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1995)

macrossplus_1Macross 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) →

Forgotten Silver (1995)

forgottensilver_1Starring Peter Jackson, Jeffrey Thomas, Costa Botes, Marguerite Hurst, Leonard Maltin, Johnny Morris, Sam Neill, John O’Shea, Lindsay Shelton, Harvey Weinstein, Thomas Robins, Beatrice Ashton, Peter Corrigan, Sarah McLeod

Directed by Peter Jackson & Costa Botes

Expectations: High. I love this.

threehalfstar


First Peter Jackson crafts the goriest film of all time, and then he follows it up with an Oscar-nominated indie drama. So what does he follow that up with? An incredibly enlightening documentary about a largely unknown figure in the history of film, that’s what. Forgotten Silver chronicles the quest of Peter Jackson and Costa Botes to uncover the legend of late New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie, probably the most important figure in early film history.

Psych!

Ideally, it’d be best to see Forgotten Silver with no knowledge that it isn’t real, because directors Peter Jackson and Costa Botes have pulled off one hell of a sustained illusion. I did notice one overt clue for knowledgeable film fans (a Russian interviewee named “Alexandra Nevsky”), but even if you miss that one it’d be hard not to miss just how over-the-top and wild the life of Colin McKenzie is made out to be. For instance, after some stories of how Colin built his first camera onto his bicycle (and therefore created the first tracking shot), we’re told that he also made his own film stock, with an emulsion layer made of egg whites. CUT TO: a newspaper clipping that reads: “2000 Eggs Stolen.”

Continue reading Forgotten Silver (1995) →

Judge Dredd (1995)

Judgedredd_1Starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Maurice Roëves, Ian Dury

Directed by Danny Cannon

Expectations: Really low. I remember this being pretty awful.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


In the Third Millennium, the world changed. Climate. Nations. All were in upheaval… The Earth transformed into a poisonous scorched desert, known as “The Cursed Earth.” Millions of people crowded into a few Mega Cities where roving bands of street savages created violence the justice system could not control. Law as we know it collapsed. From the decay rose a new order. A society ruled by a new elite force… a force with the power to dispense both justice and punishment… They were the police, jury and executioner all in one. …They were the Judges.

You pumped? Seriously, this movie has so much going for it. Of course, there’s one of my all-time favorite action stars, Sylvester Stallone, cranking out all kinds of awesome crooked mouth yells. It also has dope robots, a cyborg who’s a member of a hillbilly desert cannibal family, and massive explosions. And let’s not forget about the kick-ass, flying future cycles, the cloning (and the incredible half-cloned, skinless dudes!) and Jurgen Prochnow’s German accent. And the villain’s name is Rico! C’mon! Judge Dredd is a perfect big-budget B-Movie. I know this isn’t a position many will agree with or defend, but I can’t help it if I like this kind of dumb stuff, can I?

Continue reading Judge Dredd (1995) →

Alluda Mazaaka…! (1995)

Alluda Mazaaka…! [అల్లుడా మజాకా] (1995)
AKA Alluda Majaka

Starring Chiranjeevi, Lakshmi, Ramya Krishna, Rambha, Ooha, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Giri Babu, Brahmanandam, Mallikarjuna Rao, Chinna, Srihari, Manthena Ramalingaraju, Allu Ramalingaiah

Directed by E.V.V. Satyanarayana

Expectations: High. Jasper sent me the opening action sequence on YouTube and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, ever.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Holy shit, if there was ever a movie that one review could not contain, this is it. Alluda Mazaaka…! is nuts, packing in everything you could ever want in a movie as well as tons of shit you never knew you needed to see until now. Alluda Mazaaka…! is the gift that keeps on giving, opening with one of the most exciting and explosive action sequences I’ve ever seen and holding my attention consistently through its near three-hour runtime. Alluda Mazaaka…! is an insane movie, and I only hope I can do it some justice here.

The story is a twisting, hilarious affair of betrayal and double-crosses but at the heart of the tale are Seetharam and his sister. Seetharam is a man unjustly accused of murder, and is being sent to the gallows as the film opens. His last request is to visit the temple of his village. Mourning his loss in advance, the women weep, the men lament the situation with frustration and calls of “Why?”, babies cry and small children cling to his feet as he enters the bus that will take him to his ultimate fate. Seetharam is a dude that inspires much love. But as they’re driving into the town to hang him, Seetharam spots a wedding taking place and absolutely loses his shit, unleashing one of the greatest and most destructive action sequences of all time.

Continue reading Alluda Mazaaka…! (1995) →

Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (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) →

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Starring Clarence Williams III, Joe Torry, De’aundre Bonds, Samuel Monroe, Jr., Tom Wright, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Michael Massee, Duane Whitaker, Brandon Hammond, Rusty Cundieff, Paula Jai Parker, David Alan Grier, Corbin Bernsen, Roger Guenveur Smith, Lamont Bentley, Rosalind Cash

Directed by Rusty Cundieff

Expectations: Low, I’m not an anthology fan. I do love the poster, though.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I’ve never been one for horror anthology films, but my love of Tales from the Crypt, and my ideas that this would be a fun, black version of that, won me over and led to me giving this one a shot. Well… it ain’t pretty. There’s not a whole lot that’s good here, but thankfully, what’s good is excellent. But those excellent bits I’m referring to are the FX, which realistically are about 1% of the actual runtime. Everything else is just painful, or boring, or both.

The film opens with a title sequence that involves the camera slowly moving around a skeleton decked out in locs, a bandana and smoking a fat blunt. While I found this funny, and therefore kind of expected something of a horror comedy from the film, I was sorely disappointed when the first tale began with extreme, racially charged violence from a group of asshole white cops. It’s not really offensive as it takes stereotypes and plays them up for the purpose of crashing them down with giant horror payoffs, but it was still jarring. I’m willing to buy into the movie for those payoffs, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to get involved completely in any of the stories except the final, Clockwork Orange-inspired one (which coincidentally ends with the worst payoff of the entire film).

Continue reading Tales from the Hood (1995) →

Page 1 of 3123

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 34 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

Will's Reviews
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Crash and Burn (1990)
King Boxer (1972)
Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic (2007)
Shrunken Heads (1994)
Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985)
The Angry Guest (1972)

Large Association of Movie Blogs