TV Review: G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 (2005-2006)

Original Run: September 10th, 2005 – October 28th, 2006
Directed by: Kobun Shizuno
Written by: Masaki Wachi, John Touhey
Based on: G.I. Joe by Hasbro
Music by: Russell Velazquez, John Siegler
Cast: Eric Stuart, Michael Sinterniklaas, Scott Rayow

4Kids TV, G4, The Hub, 26 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

If G.I. Joe, a great franchise, was rebooted into a show for really young Millennial kids with mediocre anime and obnoxious techno blaring at every turn, than this would be that show.

It’s friggin’ terrible. Seriously, it’s one of the most atrocious things I have ever seen with the G.I. Joe brand on it. Sure, maybe the DiC TV series from 1989 is a hair bit worse but this is just as unwatchable. Granted, the art style is actually much better than the DiC stuff but it isn’t what I would call good anime.

I hate the character design, I don’t like the CGI bits, which there are a lot of, and the people chosen for this much smaller Joe team are baffling choices. Sure, you need Duke, Scarlett and Snake Eyes but that’s about it. The rest of the Joe characters here seem like they were just picked randomly. Granted, I’ve always liked Tunnel Rat but he’s hardly iconic and his reinvention here is dogshit. I mean, the first thing you even see him do is eat a cockroach off of a sewer pipe.

Additionally, the Cobra characters are fairly decent choices but none of them have the presence of the old school G.I. Joe cartoon from the Marvel/Sunbow era. Destro and the Baroness are the first two that you see and they just don’t have charisma and seem like poorly crafted caricatures of their old school counterparts.

I really wanted to give this a shot, as it’s no secret that I’ve been on a massive G.I. Joe kick lately. I’ve been reading through the entirety of the IDW Publishing G.I. Joe comics and I recently revisited the original animated show. Sigma 6, sadly, didn’t come close to the quality of the two things I just referenced, however.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this to anyone. Not even a six year-old boy obsessed with anime, Americana and obnoxious nose bleeding techno.

All that being said, this must be put through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: Banging your head against the bar in an obnoxious techno club in Estonia.

Film Review: Branded to Kill (1967)

Also known as: Koroshi no rakuin (Japanese)
Release Date: June 15th, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Written by: Hachiro Guryu
Music by: Naozumi Yamamoto
Cast: Joe Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Annu Mari, Mariko Ogawa, Hiroshi Minami

Nikkatsu, 98 Minutes

Review:

“This is how Number 1 works: first he exhausts you, and then he kills you.” – Number 1

While I have only seen a handful of Seijun Suzuki’s motion pictures, he has become one of my favorite directors of all-time. Between this and Tokyo Drifter alone, he has proven to me that he is a true auteur with an incredible eye, an enchanting style and impeccable craftsmanship.

I thought Tokyo Drifter was one of the coolest, if not the coolest, movies I have ever seen. Branded to Kill is nearly as cool and just as perfect as Tokyo Drifter.

Suzuki has a way of taking something pretty standard like a Yakuza picture and making it much more interesting than it needs to be. But that is also why his films are so unique and incredible and not just forgettable chapters in a massive genre of Japanese cinema.

The bizarreness of this film can’t be understated. The main character is an assassin for hire and is ranked Number 3. He is in a battle with the other ranked assassins throughout the film but is specifically being targeted by Number 1. He also has a fetish that sees him obsessively inhaling the aromas of freshly boiled rice.

The movie is mostly a series of assassin battles playing out, as these killers try to outwit and survive one another. The story also has strong film-noir elements in its visual style, use of a femme fatale and constant twists and turns. It is one of the most artistically sound Japanese neo-noirs of all-time, right alongside Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter.

It is easy to see where some other noteworthy auteur directors were influenced and inspired by Suzuki’s work here. The film almost has some David Lynch qualities too it, decades before Lynch really emerged and crafted his own interesting oeuvre. It would also influence John Woo, Chan-wook Park, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino.

Interestingly enough, this film made no money upon its release and Suzuki was fired for making films that “…make no sense and no money.” Suzuki successfully sued the studio and caused a major controversy within the Japanese film industry, which resulted in him being blacklisted. He didn’t make another film for ten years and became a sort of counterculture hero. Because of this, he became recognized as an artist with something more to say than just a standard director pumping out low budget gangster movies for a paycheck.

Nowadays, this film is heralded as an incredible body of work and even has its own Criterion Collection edition.

Over thirty years later, Suzuki filmed Pistol Opera for Nikkatsu, the studio he had the falling out with. That film was a loose sequel to this one.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter, as well as some of his other films: Youth of the Beast, Pistol Opera and Gate of Flesh.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. The Wolfman (1983)

Also known as: Densetsu-no Kyoju Ookami Otoko tai Gojira, lit. Legendary Beast Wolfman Against Godzilla (Japan)
Release Date: Never released in a completed form (made in 1983)
Directed by: Shizuo Nakajima
Written by: unknown
Based on: Godzilla by Toho Co. Ltd., The Wolf Man by Universal Pictures
Music by: Akira Ifukube (stock music)
Cast: unknown

Unknown Running Time (about 15 Minutes has been released)

Review:

Godzilla vs. The Wolfman is a motion picture that was never completed. So I guess it is hard to review the film as a full body of work but being a big fan of Godzilla and the Wolf Man, as well as kaiju movies and “what ifs”, I had always been curious about this unfinished film.

This has been something that I’ve heard about for a few years but wasn’t sure whether or not it was some wild rumor or actually true. Well, I have now seen the footage that still exists and even shared it below, as opposed to the typical trailer I throw at the end of my film reviews.

From what I know of the plot, there is a werewolf loose in Japan. He happens to get irradiated and thus, grows to kaiju size. Godzilla crosses paths with this new menace and a big battle ensues. Godzilla is more similar to the ’50s Godzilla and what we would see a year after this in The Return of Godzilla. What I mean by that, is he isn’t the happy and heroic kid friendly kaiju of the late ’60s and early ’70s, he is more of a badass that doesn’t really care whether or not he ruins your town.

The werewolf transformation looks a lot like what was done in An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, a few years before this was made. For limited resources and not being made by an actual studio, it isn’t half bad.

The full-size giant Wolf Man suit is pretty damn cool. He looks like a white, arctic wolf and resembles a lynx more than an actual wolf but I dig it. As a monster, he is certainly very different than anything Godzilla has faced before. I love the unique take on the classic Wolf Man character. I guess he would be most similar to King Caesar from 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla but even then, he is his own kaiju.

While this film did employ several people who had worked on Godzilla pictures before and after this, this was not being made by Toho like all the other films. This was essentially a fan film made by real kaiju movie makers.

Filming started in 1983 and went into the mid-’80s. The editing, sound design and visual effects production is still ongoing from what I’ve read. Currently, the clips that exist have Akira Ifukube’s old school Godzilla scores mixed into the action. I’m not sure if it is a place holder for something else to come or if this will even be completed. It’s hard to say but director Shizuo Nakajima claims that there is over ten hours of raw footage.

It is really well done for what it is and seeing it actually come together one day would be really cool. I just don’t know if Toho would ever allow that, as they’re very protective of the Godzilla brand.

As for now, I guess the world will have to enjoy the only footage that exists but at least we have something real to look at, as opposed to just rumors and speculation as to whether or not this film was just legend or fact.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: It’s pretty unique as a Godzilla movie but the tone is probably most like 1984’s The Return of Godzilla.

 

Film Review: Sanjuro (1962)

Release Date: January 1st, 1962 (Japan)
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Written by: Ryūzō Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni
Based on: Hibi Heian by Shugoro Yamamoto
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yūzō Kayama, Reiko Dan, Takashi Shimura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takako Irie, Masao Shimizu, Yūnosuke Itō

Kurosawa Production, Toho Co. Ltd., 95 Minutes

Review:

“You tired of being stupid yet?” – Sanjuro Tsubaki

Sanjuro is a sequel to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which was such a success for the director and Toho that the script for the novel that this was based on, was rewritten to include the famous Toshiro Mifune character from the previous movie.

Yojimbo would go on to inspire Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name” character over his trilogy of films. It would also inspire countless other spaghetti western movies and other samurai films, as well. But this here, is the one and only true sequel to the Yojimbo story.

The best part of this film is that it was a sequel made by the original director, a true auteur, and its original star. Granted, Kurosawa and Mifune were no strangers to one another and worked on several films together.

This isn’t the masterpiece that Yojimbo is but it is still a damn fine motion picture of the highest caliber for its time and for its scant budget when compared to the rest of the motion picture landscape, which was dominated by bigger budget Western films.

In this story, the famous ronin helps a group of young samurai combat a corrupt politician, who is involved with organized crime and who has framed and imprisoned the uncle of one of the samurai. The story has several twists that make it interesting and unpredictable. Most of the time, Sanjuro puts a plan in motion and somehow the young samurai find a way to muck it up. It isn’t until the end, that they follow Sanjuro’s orders and succeed.

While this is a serious drama, it is also comedic at times, which was a great strength in Kurosawa’s storytelling ability. He lets you know that his characters exist in a somewhat harsh world but he keeps things fairly grounded and lighthearted enough to not allow his films to get too dark. I’ve always been a person that has dealt with pain and tragedy by using humor. So, in a way, Kurosawa’s style speaks to that part of me and I think it speaks to others in the same way.

This film’s action and violence come off as mostly PG rated. Then, in the final showdown, there is a moment where it literally feels like the screen goes red with blood, even though it is still presented in black and white. The final blow to the enemy was violent but effective because it eclipsed anything else in the film and is sort of shocking the first time you witness it. But it is an amazing and beautiful sequence, captured by Kurosawa’s magic.

Sanjuro may even feel a bit more polished than Yojimbo. It doesn’t feel as gritty, anyway. Some of that could be due to a lot of the movie taking place at night where I remember Yojimbo being brighter and happening much more during daylight hours. Plus, Yojimbo was dustier and had the look that would become synonymous with all the spaghetti westerns that tried to emulate it’s visual presentation.

Both movies work so well together and they also compliment each other. Sanjuro gives a little more depth and character to the famous Mifune ronin. If anything, this just enriches the world that Kurosawa gave us in his previous film.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Yojimbo (the film before it), as well as any Kurosawa jidaigeki picture.

Film Review: Hard Rain (1998)

Also known as: The Flood (working title)
Release Date: January 16th, 1998
Directed by: Mikael Salomon
Written by: Graham Yost
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Edward Asner, Richard Dysart, Betty White, Ricky Harris

UGC-PH, Tele-Munchen, BBC, Nordisk Film, Marubeni, Toho, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Mutual Film Company, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Look! We just want the money! You guys can walk away, we won’t kill you!” – Jim

This film has more studios, distributors and countries involved in its creation than I have ever seen. Okay, maybe not ever but there is a whole shit ton of people behind this little action movie.

It also has a pretty big cast for a movie about a town vacated due to massive flooding. But the big cast of characters was actually a benefit as this movie has so many twists, turns and character morality shifts that at its core, this is very much film-noir.

Christian Slater plays an armored truck guard. He and his older mentor, played by Edward Asner, get stuck in the flood waters as they are transporting three million dollars from the small town’s bank to safety. They are quickly overcome by a group of thieves, led by Morgan Freeman. Asner’s character is killed in the initial confrontation but Slater escapes and hides the money away in a tomb. As the water rises further, Slater is on the run from Freeman’s gang, who have acquired boats and jet skis to more easily navigate the flooded city streets.

The town is also protected by a three man police force led by Randy Quaid. They seem like a heroic lot but as the film progresses and greed takes over the hearts of nearly everyone in the film, we see the worst come out in those tasked with keeping the peace.

Minnie Driver is thrown into the film because you need eye candy and someone for the hero to try and hook up with. You also have an elderly couple who stayed behind, played by the great Betty White and Richard Dysart. There is also the town’s dam operator, played by Wayne Duvall.

Hard Rain is a guilty pleasure of mine. I know it isn’t a good movie but it is great, mindless fun for ninety minutes. The action is good, there are a lot of layers to the story and there really isn’t a dull moment. I can’t say that the script is good either but at least the plot moves swiftly, offers up some decent surprises and is interesting enough to keep one engaged.

The highlight of the film is the three male leads, all of whom played their parts well and seemed to be having fun with the material.

This is a quintessential ’90s mid-budget action picture. It doesn’t try to do too much and stays pretty grounded in reality. The premise made for an ambitious picture, especially in regards to how much water was needed to create the scenes, but it never felt over the top or ridiculous. The shootout inside the church is marvelously executed and still looks good today.

This is just a fun movie with a good cast that I have to revisit once in awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Broken Arrow, another Christian Slater action film from the same era.

Film Review: Big Man Japan (2007)

Also known as: Dai-Nihonjin (original Japanese title), The Demon, The Electric Man, The Man of Electricity (Alternate Japanese English titles)
Release Date: June 2nd, 2007 (Japan)
Directed by: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Written by: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu
Music by: Tōwa Tei
Cast: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryūnosuke Kamiki

Phantom Film, Shochiku, 113 Minutes

Review:

Some movies are so bizarre and unique that they sort of just exist on their own and there isn’t much you can compare them to. Big Man Japan is one of those movies.

The film is sort of a parody of the kaiju and tokusatsu genres in Japan. It is filmed in a documentary style and follows Masaru Daisatō, who is his generation’s version of Japan’s protector, Big Man Japan. BMJ, as I’ll call him for short, is a regular man that when electrocuted, grows to kaiju size and fights off evil kaiju that happen to show up and wreck havoc in Japan’s urban areas. The twist, is that Masuro doesn’t really care all that much about his duty and is sort of a lonely drunk that doesn’t have much to do when he isn’t called into action. When the action does happen, he’s pretty out of shape and not very good at his job. Masuro has a wife and child, who he barely sees, as well as a manager that takes advantage of him and sells his body to advertisers while she reaps the benefits and Masuro continues to live near poverty level.

The majority of the film is about Masuro’s life but there are plenty of kaiju battles between BMJ and a bunch of different monsters, each of which is incredibly strange and very original. We don’t have a rehash of GodzillaUltramanKamen Rider or Super Sentai styled giant beasts, Instead, we get humanoid looking giants with weird deformities and unusual powers. There’s a hugging monster, a stink monster, an infant monster, an eyeball tossing monster and a bunch of others. Each battle is different and entertaining but ultimately lead to BMJ fudging it up in some way. The final monster is a devil that BMJ can’t handle but he ends up having help from a family of giant space heroes that are an obvious parody of the heroes from Ultraman. In fact, that whole battle switches to an Ultraman styled fight once those heroes show up. It is a fitting and satisfying ending to the film, especially for fans of the Ultraman franchise.

The special effects aren’t great and are pretty silly looking. The battles aren’t a huge part of the movie, even though there are a lot of them, but the effects during those battles initially pulls you out of the film due to their lack of realism when compared to the documentary style of the rest of the film. However, after a battle or two, you adjust to the effects and they start to work just fine. Besides, they fit within the more modern tokusatsu style but may look cheap and unrefined to someone comparing this to an American blockbuster.

Hitoshi Matsumoto starred in, directed and wrote this film. He exceeded in each task and gave us something highly enjoyable, goofy and really, original. That’s hard to do but Matsumoto really hit it out of the park for his first feature length motion picture.

Big Man Japan might not resonate with everyone and it certainly only speaks to a particular audience, which is pretty minuscule in the United States, but it is so outside of the box that it is a worthy experience for those just wanting something different. I really like the film but I also love the kaiju and tokusatsu genres.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: General tokusatsu television programs from the era.

Film Review: The Lawnmower Man (1992)

Also known as: Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, Virtual Wars (Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1992
Directed by: Brett Leonard
Written by: Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett
Based on: The Lawnmower Man by Stephen King
Music by: Dan Wyman
Cast: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Austin O’Brien

Allied Vision, Fuji Eight Company Ltd., Lane Pringle Productions, New Line Cinema, 103 Minutes, 141 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“…my birth cry will be the sound of every phone on this planet ringing in unison.” – Jobe Smith

What a painfully dumb f’n movie this was! I have always liked Jeff Fahey and Pierce Brosnan but even they couldn’t keep this turd buoyant!

Some films age well, some films age poorly. The Lawnmower Man feels like it was a poorly aged film by 1992’s technology standards. I mean, were there any techie guys on set to help steer the ship towards any semblance of realism? Did the writers actually understand the emerging virtual reality technology that was at the forefront of this movie? Hell, have they even seen an actual video game ever being played?

The filmmakers’ idea of what virtual reality and video games were in 1992 is on par with my psycho religious aunt that once told me that Sonic the Hedgehog was cute because demons designed him to lure stupid, unsuspecting children into the clutches of Satan.

I never watched this movie until now. Why? Because when it was new and I was 13 years-old, the trailer looked like dog shit. The CGI effects were horrible and even if they were better than current video game graphics, they still looked hokey, cheesy and terribly uninviting. The virtual world in The Lawnmower Man wasn’t something I would want to visit as a 13 year-old that was addicted to Sega Genesis. It was ugly, bizarre and to be blunt, completely uninteresting.

This film bears no resemblance to Stephen King’s story of the same name, which is why King successfully sued the filmmakers for putting his name on the film. The only thing that is remotely similar is the scene where the lawnmower busts into a dude’s house and basically eats him.

This movie sucks, it is really hard to get through, yet it is beloved by some people. But some people eat Tide Pods and buy Taylor Swift records on vinyl.

There is a sequel to this because Hollywood has no shame.

So, yes… this is a film that absolutely must be pushed into the unforgiving maw of the Cinespiria Shitmoter! The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Ghost In the MachineLawnmower Man 2Brainscan.