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Special delivery from Weekend Specials
Commander Toad in Space is one of the many Weekend Special adaptions of a book. In this case one by Jane Yolen. Weekend Specials also adapted another of Yolens books, Dragons Blood. Features the voices of Nichelle Nichols and Mark Hamill.
Commander Toad is a live action movie that features puppets for all but one of the crew and details the misadventures of the mostly reptillian and amphibian crew as they try to get an interesting mission and end up getting what they wished for.
This is a fun little movie. The puppets are well animated and the human actor plays off them well. The story moves along fairly well with only a few slow points. The characters are bemusing and each has their own quirks. A mostly humorous piece in comparison to the dour Dragons Blood showing Yolen's writing versatility.
Woody Woodpecker (2017)
Another live action atrocity.
Woody Woodpecker continues the trend of these live action remakes of cartoon characters and then the film makers showing just how much they despise the cartoon and anyone who liked it.
Woody Woodpecker though tries to outdo the others by being as vile and offensive as possible. This was an ordeal to sit thorough. It makes the Underdog movie look good. Why does Hollywood keep making these things.
Avoid this one at all costs.
Robin and the Dreamweavers (2000)
Toons vs Porn???
This 2000 animated pilot rates up there on the weird-o-meter. It is a sort of anti-internet-porn theme. And yet there's quite a bit of adult themes in it that aren't part of that message. There's even some brief nudity. The pilot was done by one of the directors for Filmation so that may explain the peculiar tonal shifts. Its akin to the shifts in more serious shows like Blackstar.
The story is peculiar as the main character is a sort of hybrid VR/Real being and eventually comes to work in a VR nightclub. The overall tone is very cyberpunk with the main villaness XXX plotting to extend her power to the physical world as well as her BDSM ideals.
Things take a turn for the strange as various cartoon critters are introduced and take up the battle against XXX and her minions and help Robin learn her powers.
Only this pilot was ever created from the proposed multi-media ideal the Dutch backers for the show had planned so one can only wonder what else they would have done with this had it been picked up.
In the end its just kinda there. The animation isn't bad. Though there are some notable shortcuts and lesser quality moments. The style is reminiscent of the New Johnny Quest or Stripperella... But the pacing is all over the place as is the dialogue.
Is it worth having a look at? Yes? No? Maybe? It is such a disjointed show that its hard to say who it might appeal to. There may be too little adult action to interest, or too much to allow kids to see. While at the same time the toon elements may put off some.
It is though more entertaining than Cool World. So least there is that.
Argaï: La prophétie (2000)
Fantasy World meets Cyberpunk. With Talking animals.
Argai was a French animated TV series created in 2000 about a medieval fantasy world of animal people. But then everything shifts to a cyberpunk dystopia in the future and we are introduced to the title character. Prince Argai, a lion knight who has been thrown into the year 2075 where his nemesis Dark Queen Oriale, a serpentine sorceress, has taken over the world.
From there Argai gathers a group to help him save his girlfriend whom in the past Oriale placed under a spell to steal her youth. Shown at first in flashbacks to events leading up to Argai's quest.
A rather involved and unusual plot and a fairly competent villaness too. Each episode moves along fairly well and does not get repetitive. What does get repetitive though is the animation which sometimes cuts corners by re-using sequences. Though usually at least well used. The art style is interesting and overall well animated as well with distinctive appearances and a good voice cast as well.
Better yet the series has a distinct start and finish rather than ending incomplete as so many series do now-a-days.
Damsels and Dragons (2009)
All girl LARP?
Damsels and Dragons is an 8 episode series comprising 3 to 4 minutes each. The episodes alternate between the Cleric and Thief who are trying to rescue the Warrior and Wizard who are locked in a chamber after an encounter with the Monster splits the group.
The women are playing a simple yet engaging LARP, or Live Action Role Play: people acting out an adventure, in this case a fantasy one with a moderator who sits on the side observing events, describing what the players see, clarifying questions and calling hits as needed.
Bemusingly they are playing the LARP in costume in an urban setting that looks like someones forested back yard and room. Which adds to the surreal feel of the story as it unfolds.
The acting is surprisingly good and it does not feel silly or a parody despite the whole premise.
There are also a set of 4 pre-game player introductions I have not yet seen.
All-in-all it was an enjoyable tale.
AFK: Heroes of Prophecy (2011)
Nice idea ruined by bad ending
the oddly named AFK is yet another indie movie based around a LARP, or Live Action Role Play. Though in this movies case it is presented as a parody with little resemblance actual LARPs.
It tells the tale of a player who discovers his shallow girlfriend has left him for his nemesis at the local LARP event. He is joined by his totally gung-ho buddy who just wants to be a hero at the event for once and divert his dejected friend from watching his former girlfriend constantly sucking face with the arrogant rival.
********** Warning Possible Spoilers Below ************ Things go from depressing to worse when a pair of GMs inadvertently release a demon sorceror from a real fantasy world into the event. The sorceror proceeds to kill and convert unsuspecting players armed with foam weapons into his minions.
The hero and his sidekick rescue a girl from the growing hoard and together they try to warn others of the threat. Eventually the demon sends the players to the fantasy realm where they are tasked with freeing the sleeping goddess from imprisonment. Along they way they have several odd encounters before the final showdown.
Unfortunately the movie does not end with the demons defeat and instead shifts back to another confrontation in the real world where the heroes prove helpless. Here is where sitting through all this falls apart. Instead of a payoff of the heroes defeating the demon once and for all. Instead they are beaten and it is the rival who pulls off the victory and claims the accolades and the girl. Worse off, the girl they rescued who has been romancing the sidekick turns out to be equally shallow and promptly drops him for her boyfriend who left her to die. This after all this. The two heroes get nothing and are still losers. The only bright note is that the hero has regained his sense of fun for the game.
The effects alternate between love outdoor sets and chroma-key backdrops that look like they are from the 80s at times. The acting though is solid at least and everyone plays their roles well. And there are some bemusing jokes along the way. But the movie drags and drags and drags at every turn.
All in all this was a movie that could have been bearable were it not for the very low ending. You do not make people sit through nearly 2 hours of very amateurish effects and comedy and then deny the payoff to kick the dog at the end. and it does not represent actual LARP events well at all, further lessening the whole thing.
Just do yourself a favour and avoid this one.
Chaotic: From CCG to Flash to Animated Series
Chaotic is one of any number of the dieing breed of collectible card games AKA CCGs. As with many CCGs now there is oft a TV series tie in, similar to how in the 80s there were action figure based animated series.
Chaotic the series starts off with pretty good Flash style animation, its still stiff and mechanical as virtually all Flash style animations are, but its well done and they improve as they go. The 2nd and 3rd seasons shift to standard animated cartoon style art with the usual gratuitous CG tossed in randomly. The art here too is very well done and animated with clean lines and good motion.
~~~~~~~~ POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW ~~~~~~~~
The series itself mainly follows two Tom and Kaz players of the CCG Chaotic who are drawn into the secret games played in and around the worlds the game is based on, by somehow splitting and re-merging the players personality between the two worlds. They explore the new world seeing to scan locations and characters to used in the Chaotic battle arena where each player takes on the form of the characters selected, and then have at it. Its pretty interesting to see play out and is a novel approach vs the usual Summons/Upgrade battle type series.
And in the background plays out the struggles between the various factions of the realm as they strive for dominance. In the second season this becomes much more important as a new invading faction is introduced that forces new alliances to combat the spreading invasion. At some point along the way quite a number of characters get showcased.
There are also a few unusual side stories such as a clique of conniving players who seek to win by any cost, and a secret organization who maintains the contests and invites new players into the realm.
When watching the series do take note that the first season is *very* different from the rest. The episodes are mostly stand-alone and the aforementioned Flash animation style, while the rest of the series has a more overlying plot with standard drawn animation.
Give the series a try. Its got a-lot of characters! Really!
Space Battleship Yamato (2010)
Live action Yamato: Sadly lacking in action
Space Battleship Yamato has been a long standing anime series in Japan, ported to the US as Starblazers. The three series and multiple movies spanned vast space battles and wove a very potent tale of first the Earths battles with the Gamilas Empire and their Leader Dessler, all the way to these two becoming allies against ever increasing odds.
The movie starts off promising enough with that battle that sees the Earth Defense fleet decimated and Kodai's brother sacrificing his ship to save Captain Okita. Except that the actual sacrifice is never shown, thus forewarning of what is to be the recurring trend in this movie. Pacing and action sequences are unusually and frequently lacking to a high degree. Enemy ships are almost never shown after the first battle and in one instance the Yamato fires at a ship off in the distance and all you ever saw of this threat was the explosion. And so it goes. The CGI work though is good (when its actually in use) and the Yamato interior sets and crew costumes are also well done at least.
The actors are well selected for their parts at least and everyone looks like the character they are representing in flesh. Though with three notable exceptions. Most glaringly is the character of Yuki, (Nova in the US.) Here she is no longer a willowy blond sensor op and part time nurse. Instead she is a tough dark haired fighter pilot with an attitude. Dr Sane is now a female doctor, but at least otherwise more or less intact and with cat. Lastly is the near total lack of the skirt chasing robot Anayzer, who spends most of the movie as a hand-held computer and does not make appearance till almost 2/3rds into the film as a battle robot.
Also missing is Starsha and more or less Iskandar, which are now agglomerated together with Trelena and Telezart. Mix in bits of the Comet Empire battle and things become a hopelessly muddled mess made more-so by the abrupt pacing and further troubled as the SFX crew try to save budget by almost only showing the Yamato during battles and hardly any of the enemy vessels.
The plot can best be summed up thus. The earth is being radiation bombed by the alien Gamilons. A message from Iscandar crashes on Earth and is found by Kodai who blames captain Okita for the death of his brother in a previous space battle with the Gamilons. The Earth has very little time left and Iscandar offers a method to save the Earth. A Spaceship is built under the shell of the original Yamato and launched on the immense journey to the distant star.
And from there the plot starts to diverge more and more as the movie drags on and on. Things happen abruptly with no sense of distance or action to them. Attacks happen out of the blue half the time it feels and then a lot of crew talking about the journey, family, or just being beat up by Yuki a few times. ahem...
At the 2/3rd mark the plot becomes a hopeless mish-mash of the Gamilon and Comet Empire series, but without the sense of dynamics the anime had, even during a climactic ground battle that mirrors the struggle to get to the core of the Comet Empire.
----------SPOILERS BELOW------------ The biggest failure unfortunately is how the Gamilons are presented. For they are not really in the movie nor is Dessler in any real sense. Instead the Gamilons in this movie are some sort of bio-organic robot housing "energy beings" of some sort.
All-in-all a surprisingly disappointing movie that feels more like a fan made film. Just with a larger budget.
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (2001)
About as vile as it gets.
In 2001 some git had the bright idea to perform the equivalent of character rape on the old Kroft superheroine series Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. That this actually got greenlit for production and aired somewhere bespeaks of just how must hatred someone must have had for the original series. I caught part of this on its original airing and could barely make it through the first 10 minutes!
***Spoilers may follow*** Where to start on this? Electra Woman is now some sort of embittered ex-heroine, divorced, her husband having run off with Dyna Girl no less. Sprinkled throughout the movie are more sex references than one would expect on a TV show such as the bemoaning of the loss of a vibrator! I kid you not. And this was originally a children's show that the writers are doing this to now.
The plot, such as it is, involves mostly the efforts of a fan trying to get Electra Woman to come out of retirement and the advent of a new Dyna Girl. Toss in an old villain for good measure.
There's really nothing to redeem this movie. It was made for people who despised the original so they could snicker and sneer at whats been done to these characters. If you are a real fan of the original series then avoid this thing like the black plague. It is a pity there is not a rating below 1 as this garbage deserves a -10.
Uchû no senshi (1988)
Best Starship Troopers movie despite the lack of bugs
Uchû no Senshi is the little known 1988 Japanese anime OVA adaption of Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers. This was produced as a 6 part OVA series comprising each episode being about a half hour long, for a total runtime of around 3 hours, a little less if you clip off the opening and ending credits. Sadly this series has never been released in the US so far.
The animation is good, about average for the nascent OVAs of the time and the character and equipment designs are good. The only real flaw all this are two things, the downplay of the governing system of the book, and the rendering of the alien bugs as instead some sort of double beaked goo spitting tentacly lobster/squid things.
Where Uchû no Senshi really shines above and beyond the horrid Verhoeven movie is that it follows the novel more closely and about 50% of the movie focuses not on the combat, but on the characters and how they develop and grow, and the trials they must endure to become soldiers. The other great boon this movie enjoys is that the troopers are actually shown properly in their power suits.
---spoilers may follow---
The first episode mostly sets the stage with Johnny Rico applying for the military and the reactions of his friends and family and the beginnings of the war with the aliens.
The second episode works through the beginnings of boot camp training as Rico is assigned to the harsh Mobile Infantry division which employs power armour suits in battle.
The third episode covers Ricos power suit training and the problems with dealing with a strict military code of conduct.
In the 4th episode we finally get to see some actual combat as the recruits advance from basic trainer suits to combat capable units and their training shifts from the Moon to Mars and ends with a disastrous training skirmish on the red planet.
The 5th episode covers the surviving members re-assignment to the spearhead invasion of one of the alien worlds and the new interactions with fresh team mates and advancement to fully operational suits.
The 6th episode finishes with a huge battle on the alien planet.
Since the OVA was never released in the US, a fan-subbing group has since taken up the task of translating the entire set. Hopefully one of the major anime release companies will pick this up! If you are looking for wall to wall battles and little else. This OVA is definitely not for you. But if you like a lot of character development and and an adaption closer to the source material. You may well enjoy this if you can find it.
.Hack//SIGN: MMO meets part Murder Mystery.
.Hack//SIGN is an anime series with a very unusual setting and premise. About 99% of the series takes place within an online MMORPG called "The World of Twilight", or simply "The World". The series is set in the very near future and there is little sci-fi elements to the series since almost all of it takes place within the fantasy setting of the game the players interact in. Despite the sophistication of the characters depicted in the game world, they seem to be standard controller or keyboard controlled, with the addition of a VR headset instead of a TV screen. The players do not actually "jack into" the game physically or mentally. But as the series opens we are introduced to Tsukasa, a young boy playing what is the games equivalent of a wizard. After meeting a mysterious and mute cat-like player and opening a chest within a dungeon zone things start to go seriously awry. Tsukasa discovers that he now cannot log out of the game, in fact he is *in* the game now. When accosted by a self-appointed "policeman" and questioned roughly he discovers he also has a guardian that is capable of defeating any opponent. But it is also learned that anyone the guardian defeats is left in a coma in the real world. From here the anime covers the attempts of various players who meet Tsukasa to try and decipher the mystery of what has happened to both he and the victims. All the while though Tsukasa retreats further from contact with people while being constantly hunted by more self-appointed police yet at the same time forming a bond with the organizations leader. Every thing slowly converges towards revelations as to who gave Tsukasa his powers and the reasons for his being trapped in the game.
.hack//SIGN, despite being set in a fantasy world of swords and sorcery is *VERY* spartan with its few fight scenes. Quite often what in any other anime would be a massive battle will in this one end abruptly or never be shown at all. Characters then usually speak of what happened after, or have brief flashbacks. The characters though do *ALOT* of talking and wandering around. If you approach the series as more a sort of murder mystery rather than an action film then you will likely get more out of it than those looking for flashy brawls. Unravelling the mystery is what drives this anime.
The series has three "extra" episodes that were left out of some DVD releases in the US. One is a sort of grand party which has tie-ins with the Playstation RPG which picks up where the anime left off, and one is a very bizarre comedy-parody while the last is a recap of the series.
Check it out of you are interested in more cerebral fare and are not looking to see lots of swords and sorcery.
Death Race (2008)
Car Wars: The Move - Ruined by Distastefull Foul Language
First off. What would otherwise have been at least an interesting Car Wars style movie was for me totally ruined by some really disgusting language scattered throughout. Especially near the end. This dragged what would otherwise have been a 6-8 rating straight to hell. The fact that it has virtually nothing to do with the setting and premise of the original movie further lowers its potential. As one viewer noted. Its also Twisted Metal: The movie.
***SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW***
Death Race deals with a near future where corporations now run privately huge prisons. From this developed brutal death match arena battles and then when that lost interest. There developed a form of Combat Racing called Death Race. Prisoners drive around a track and try to both win and blast each other to smithereens with heavily armed and armoured cars. The winner of 5 yearly tournaments gets their freedom. Absolutely none of this has anything to do with the original movie where the race was cross country and a form of population control to boot.
The movie starts off with a race in progress and a driver that looks suspiciously like the masked racer Frankenstein from the original movie. Though here with a "Jason" style mask. Things go badly and focus shifts to our main character played by Stratham. After some set up he is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to the Death Rave prison. Here it turns out he is a former race car driver and the prison warden proceeds to blackmail him into replacing Frankenstein in return for his freedom. From here the movie plays out on two levels with the three races on one side and the question of what really happened to his family on the other. The races are very dynamic and well played. Though I was quite surprised when it did indeed take a "Twisted Metal" turn as the cars have to race over specific icons on the track to activate guns and defenses.
Were it not for the truly horrid language the movie would have been more enjoyable. Aside from a slow start it kept a good pace for the rest of the film. As a remake of Deathrace 2000 though its a absolute failure. As a port of Twisted Metal and Car Wars though its not too bad. But I really cant suggest viewing this thing other than to fast forward to the races, and of these only the first two are worth watching. A lot of potential killed dead by unacceptable profanity.
.hack//G.U. Trilogy (2007)
Interesting Recap and closure to the PS2 Game.
Hack://G.U. Trilogy starts off as a prolonged recap of what happened in the 3 Hack://G.U. games for the Playstation 2. Interspersed amongst the things familiar to anyone who has played through are a few new takes on events or elaborations upon what happened. There are though an equal number of shortcuts and alterations.
The movie is all done in CG, the quality slightly above the quality of the CG cut-scenes in the game. All characters are well rendered and the models seem more expressive in the movie. Unfortunately the whole thing focuses only on a handful of characters, well over 3/4ths of the cast is left out...
Hack://G.U. the game and movie is an unusual story of players of a near future online MMORPG who come into conflict with a mysterious force that leaves players in comas. The story starts in a 26 episode anime series called Hack://ROOTS. Out of this develops the player Hasaeo, an Adept Rogue in the game called "the World" wherein his very first adventure ends with him being PKed (Player Killed) by other players. Essentially players predating on other players for the thrill of killing and inconveniencing others, or even robbing the PKed victim (This happens in many modern MMOs unfortunately.) From this Hasaeo is saved by a mysterious Steam Gunner named Ovan, a player with a strange left arm. From there Haseo slowly is drawn into Ovan's search for the "Key of Twilight" a mythical item in "the World" said to give unlimited power to whoever finds it. Ovan collects other players to help him, in particular his assistant Shino, a Harvent Cleric character who Hasaeo slowly comes to like. But as the story progresses, Shino is left in a coma by a strange figure called Tri-Edge and from there quests to gain the power needed to defeat and rescue Shino. Hasaeo gains more and more skill in the game and actively hunts down PKs, becoming a PKK and earning the title of "Terror of Death" after defeating 100 PKs massed in a failed strike to eliminate him.
The anime series end abruptly and the story follows through into the start of the G.U. games. Here Hasaeo finally faces down with Tri-Edge, but is totally wiped out and then "Data Drained" just as Shino was. But unlike her, Hasaeo awakens and soon discovers that his online character has been reduced to level 1 and lost all his powerful equipment.
Thus Hasaeo begins a very long road to recovery, helped by strangers along the way and eventually learning to care for others and gain a deeper respect for those he once though little of. Hasaeo soon meets a girl named Atoli who by co-incidence has a character model that looks much like Shino. Over the course of the story he develops feelings for Atoli. Not long after this he is drawn into a covert group called G.U. who comprise game administrators and players intent on stopping the spreading cause of the comas.
The movie recaps the full spread of the games 3 chapters at breakneck speed, sometimes with jarring jumps and abrupt stops that feel very out of place or inconsistent. Near the end though the movie vastly elaborates on and alters the final critical battles and then draws out a nicely fitting closure to a very specific loose end that the game had left unanswered.
Unfortunately on the down side, most of the side characters are missing, and a few critical ones as well. Central to the movie are Hasaeo, Ovan, and Atoli, secondary are Yata, Pai, Kuhn, and Aina. Missing are Endrance and Alkaid who played key roles in the game, and Sakubo, who played a lesser role, as well as over a half dozen side characters that join Hasaeo's ever growing band.
All in all its a OK movie. But if you do not know the plot of the games then you may well end up feeling more than a little lost as the movie ricochets and leapfrogs through what was a very long and convoluted story.
The Invincible Iron Man (2007)
Iron Man or Iron Dud?
I have been collecting Iron Man comics since the early 70s and always enjoyed the character who is far far from the average clean cut hero and his many and varied enemies. There have been no less than three attempts at an animated series for Iron Man and only the original and part of the second have ever done the character justice. So I was somewhat hopeful that this newest version would be good. Boy was I wrong! The DVD art is VERY misleading and presents an image that is not the movie. Fist off the good, what little there is... The art and animation are well drawn and the writing and dialog are generally good, though with notable exceptions. Character voices are very well selected and each character is distinctive and well acted. Now for the bad... Unfortunately the writers opted to totally screw around with both Iron Man's origin and especially the Mandarin's. On top of that they decided to do Iron Man and his opponents all in CGI. Bad CGI. This makes them stand out almost as badly as live actors would in a cartoon. The CG work is often repetitive and glaring shortcuts are taken at times. The CG battles are clumsy as well, further enhancing the fact that CG and line animation do not mix well. The movie would certainly have fared better had they opted to actually DRAW all the characters. Another problem is that Iron Man is in his traditional Red and Gold suit for all of ONE battle! And its not even the big fight at the end. All this drags the movie down and it never picks up.
************ SPOILERS (or warnings) MAY FOLLOW ************
The movie starts off with an interestingly unusual stop motion credit sequence of machinery, welding and gears. Then we are introduced to what looks like a Chinese temple in the process of being restored, and prominent is a statue of what fans will recognize as the Mandarin. Things go strangely, impeding progress in restoring the temple. Overseeing it is James Rhodes, Tony Stark's long time friend. Seems they plan to actually raise the temple up from the earth, despite opposition by a group who insist that raising the temple will bring about a terrible disaster. Rhodes is captured in a raid. Stark, shown in a hot tub with a lovely lady, is informed of the problems and sets out to personally oversee the project and rescue his friend while in the background his father deals with Board Executives who are pushing to have Tony removed. Tony arrives only to have his armored escort ambushed and blown to pieces. Tony later awakens mortally wounded in the heart and a prisoner of the rebels. He is saved only by quick action from Rhodes and a scientist. Eventually Stark must build the prototype gray iron armor and makes good an escape, but only after some loss of life. While with the rebels he meets a troubled girl named Li Mei, and the two fall in love. The Temple is raised and four elemental beings (all done in CG) appear and proceed to start collecting hidden rings of power. Stark and Rhody find trouble back home but manage to confront the elementals without success in really stopping them, First using the Aquatic Armor, then the more classic Red and Gold Armor and finally everything returns to the temple and Stark is back in the bulky gray armor for a final showdown and a run in with what may be Fin Fang Foom (also in CG.) Here the story takes a major twist as it turns out that the Mandarin needs a host body to manifest. This leads to a somewhat tragic final battle marred by the fact that the Mandarin is little more than a ghost and isn't seen till the last 5 minutes of the movie. ugh...
If you are an Iron Man fan then you will likely not enjoy this outing. And even non-fans may well find the movie somewhat lacking or not.
Kita-kitsune monogatari (1978)
Vulpine Massacre should have been this movies actual title. And the tag-line should have read "Guaranteed to make your kids CRY!" This is a nature drama telling the story of a family of wild foxes in a remote region. Starting with the meeting and pairing of two young foxes and the eventual birth of a large family and the trials of raising them. The only speaking is done in narrative by a tree that stands over the den, giving insight into the animals loves and lives... Lovely scenery and gorgeous filming of the animals. Sounds good huh? Well from there things go straight to hell and then start drilling towards the core...
*** Spoilers Below - Or they it may be a Warning!***
Almost first off we learn one of the foxes is born blind. But seems to get along well enough and there's a beautifully cheerful musical score to accompany him... And then he dies... Next we have one of the siblings adventures. And then he dies... One of the sisters gets her screen-time... and then she dies...And so it goes like some horrific slasher movie as one fox after another is killed off by nature, in traps, just up and vanish, and even by a bunch of snowmobiles! By the end of the movie almost all the foxes have been massacred. Though mercifully no deaths are shown on screen. (Least not in the version we saw.) Unlike say "Tarka the Otter" the deaths in this movie are almost all pointless and border on the sadistic in the way hopes are built up and then snuffed out. One or two losses would have been acceptable. It is a nature film after all. But not nearly the whole family.
Do not go to see this film deceived by the cheery box into thinking its safe for the kids. Watch it with some foreknowledge that things are *not* going to go well at all and that you or your kids may be left feeling very badly depending on how sensitive you or they are. You may enjoy it. Or you may not...
Surprisingly Disappointing? Sadly Yes.
The original trailers for Superman: Doomsday showed so much potential, and did not even hint at the troubles that would drag this movie down. First off the good things before getting to the bad. The voices are good, everyone fits in well and does not sound out of place. The animation is good and does not fall into the "fake-anime" gutter other series have. Fights are dynamic and brutal, but lacked the sense of supreme power seen in the Superman and Justice League series. The music is good, some nice dramatic scores that work well with the action and drama. Thus ends the good points.
Now for the bad. First off are the character designs. No one looks right in some way. Superman looks... old... Lex Luthor looks too thin and angular, Lois Lane looks almost Hispanic in this iteration, and Doomsday looks oddly undefined. The writing, while generally OK, has a marked tendency for toilet humor near the beginning. Un-wanted and not needed. The biggest problem with this movie is that it is Superman vs Doomsday, stripped of 75% of the story. No Justice League. In fact it feels like Superman is the only hero on the planet. This movie has absolutely zero to do with the animated series. The battle with Doomsday, so hyped, was all too brief and lacked any sense of the real violence the creature was capable of. No "Reign of Supermen" story after the much hyped death of Superman. Instead we get a re-hash of an older Bizarro plot idea from the animated series.
************ SPOILERS FOLLOW ************
The movie starts off with a nice voice-over by Lex and sets hopes for what is to come. Things go downhill from there. We are introduced to Lex and a heavily re-designed Mercy, and shown what a slime-ball Luthor is straight up. We are shown one of Lex's deep core projects where something unusual is discovered before things move to Metropolis and we are introduced to Perry, Lois, Jimmy, and Clark. In this re-writing, Lois and Clark are not dating and Lois is unaware he and Superman are the same person, though seems to suspect. Later we are shown the romantic relationship between Lois and Superman and some of the turmoil that bring both before shifting back to the deep mine. Here the capsule is being cleared, estimated to have been buried a very very long time when something goes wrong, a warning is given and then the titular monster appears. This starts off well enough and the monster displays its power and ability to kill people. And don't be fooled. People die in this movie and sometimes somewhat brutally. (though never actually shown.) After this compelling introduction we get the first real sign of trouble. The monster turns out to be a robot... And is later stated to be a discarded Kryptonian "Doomsday" weapon. Not a living being despite appearances to the contrary. The monster, never actually named in the movie, proceeds to head for Metropolis for reasons never stated. Meanwhile Lex is erasing all evidence he had a hand in the disaster. Superman rushes to the scene of the monsters rampage as militia and army prove useless against the machine. Here a brutal slug-fest develops between the man of steel and the doomsday weapon. The fight is very dynamic for the most part, with massive amounts of collateral damage as Superman is forced to exert every effort to stopping the thing. Finally and inexplicably he makes a final effort to stop the monster and carries it into orbit, then hurtles them both to the earth like a meteor with massive, and senseless, impact damage. The monster is seen no more and Superman, beaten and bloodied, collapses and dies in Lois' arms. From here things go downhill at an appalling pace. Superman is given a funeral sans any of the Justice League, Lex shoots Mercy, and a new "goth freak" Toyman is soon stopped by none other than Superman risen from the grave and looking no different. But things aren't as they appear and its soon apparent that Superman is a clone created by Lex and under his sway. *None* of the Reign of Supermen replacements appear, No Superboy, No Cyborg, No Steel, and No Eradicator. Just a poor-mans Bizarro without the Bizarro motif. The new Superman begins to show a darker side as he kills Toyman and begins to threaten people for simple violations, and in the end turns the table on Lex. Elsewhere Kal-El is alive too and was merely in a regenerative state and slowly recovering. The militia try to stop the renegade with expected results and Kal-El must fly to confront his doppelganger at a lower power level than the clone. The battle is again brutal, but lacking in some of the dynamics of the animated series again.
Overall the movie was remarkably disappointing. So much potential absolutely wasted.
Exo-Man: Great power armor movie/pilot.
Exo-Man is yet another failed movie pilot for a proposed TV series. In this case as an idea from Caiden after the success of the 6 Million Dollar Man. Unfortunately it did not take off. Too bad as it had a lot of potential and would many years later see a similar concept with the series MANTIS. *** SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW***
The story plays out similar to that of Marvel's Iron Man with some notable differences. In this case we have a Professor being crippled by gangsters, paralyzed from the waist down. But it happens that this scientist has been working on a bizarre new motive force and decides to incorporate it into a power armor battle suit that will allow him to walk and fight criminals.
The suit design is very good and the accompanying sound effects and music give the thing a certain feeling of power. He transports and charges the suit from a special truck and the first combat encounter Exo-Man proves nearly disastrous as the suit has a limited air supply and a stray shot incapacitates the hero, preventing him from opening the visor. Though does give the chance to introduce what would almost certainly have been the obligatory kid companion.
The final confrontation with the criminal boss who had him crippled showed some amazing effects for its time and even now.
The story plods along a little. But then it is a pilot and was meant to set up the characters and background. The action moments are good though and the almost robotic movement of the suit gives the impression of immense power as it advances. The design is good and the acting and music are all well played. Sets are well laid out and bespeak of some thought put into what was to have been going on.
All in all an enjoyable film. Though most certainly not for everyone.
Dragon Strike? Strange but true. Kinda...
Dragon Strike in not in any way the average sort of movie one would expect, as its not. Nore is it quite one of the few "VCR board games" that cropped up in the mid 1990s.
What Dragon Strike is though is a VCR tape packed with a simple RPG board game of the same name. The box comes with a batch of cheap plastic miniatures. None of these even a tenth as fine as what you'd see in games like Hero Quest or the like. The game plays like the middle ground between the actual Dungeons & Dragons game, and the entertaining board game simply called Dungeon. Dragon Strike has easy to learn rules and could have served as a stepping stone to more complex RPGs had it been produced better. But alas this was put out near the fall of TSR when they were vastly over-extending themselves.
Dragon Strike would have heralded a TV series using the same technology by the name of Wildspace had things gone better.
Now on to the "movie" itself. What this is, is a sort of live demonstration of how to play the game, which serves as the frame around the fantasy story that unfolds, showing the characters actions as if real. The Gamemaster narrates and explains rules as it plays out, the unseen players are heard to describe what they want to do against whatever peril is faced, and the "movie" part plays it out.
The SFX range from the interesting to the strange, and employs a sort of digital Chromograph technique instead of blue-screening. Costumes are good for the most part, though the Wizard looks more like a druid... There is one CG dragon tossed in, though unfortunately it is not the much more well designed one from the original promotional.
The movie itself plays out as follows. Some spoilers may pop up below.
We start with a figure fleeing a castle while someone gloats over the creation of a Sunstone which they promptly use to suck up all the light in the realm and create an extended night of terror.
We cut to a different castle and a party being held before King Halvor, along the way we meet the Warrior and the Thief. The figure first seen bursts in and all hell promptly breaks loose. Undead Skeletons rampage and things get hectic from there. Turns out that's not a dagger in the Wizards back. Its a tooth, a Dragon tooth no less. And an elf pops up just to add to the strangeness.
A group is formed comprising these 4 individuals, (Why the Cleric wasn't taken along is anyones guess,) and they set off for the tower of Keraptis where all this started.
Along the way they get strafed by a CG rendered Red Dragon.) Run into a rather goof-ball talking Owlbear, (A sort of bear-like creature with a owl or hawk's head. Kind of like a wingless griffon.) Some even more goof-ball Orcs. A Manscorpion, (a sort of human/scorpion centaur assembly.) and a cranky Dwarf. Add to this a dancing Fire Elemental and finally the showdown with Keraptis.
Quirky humor and the bizarre framing with the game rules and running commentary make this a really unusual viewing.
The boxed set game is now slightly hard to come by. Though oddly the VCR tape tends to show up at sales alone. We did warn you though that its strange...
Endless Quest: The Movie?
That is really what Scourge of Worlds is. It is one of TSR's old Endless Quest pick-your-path books if it were made into a movie. Except here it is an interactive CGI film and from Wizard of the Coast who now own all the old TSR stuff. In this movie there are various points where the film pauses and you are given 2 or so choices as to what you could do. The story quickly branches into two tracks, and from there it branches further and further. A few choices lead to a unfortunate end for the characters, while a few more connect to the other side of the dual track. Thus there are about 50 different branches, 6 of these ending the story and giving you the option to try something else. All this leads to two choices out of 4 possible endings. One good, one so-so, one bad, and one very bad. The choices you made during the movie will determine your final two options. But you cannot fast forward through segments as this tends to mess with how the "score" is kept and can end you with generic endings no matter. But through trial-and-error, and patience you can work through to all the endings.
The movie itself is done in CGI computer animation, and is for the larger part pretty good. The models and terrain are well set up and the textures have a lot of detail to them. Voice acting is good for the most part and the music has a good feel to it. At least a above average amount was spent on getting everything looking right. It is the animation department where things sometimes go slightly askew. For the most part the characters move well, flowing along more than one dimension and rare are the moments when a figure falls into a more mechanical 2D movement. It is in combat that things most often bog down. The characters either move with unusual slowness, or hold their weapons and attack poorly. Another minor problem is that the halfling character's neck acts like its double-jointed or something and looks particularly disconcerting a few times. The elf suffers this odd neck problem as well at least once.
The story itself concerns 3 adventurers, Regdar the human male warrior, Mialee the elven female mage, and Lidda the halfling female thief. These are all characters from the d20 version of the Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks. (With some alterations here and there.) Along the way they meet up with Barathion, a human male priest of Pholtus. Along the way they will meet up with Earth Elementals, a Wraith, Wolves, a Dire Wolf, a Displacer Beast, (a 6 legged panther with tentacles,) Orcs, a Beholder, an Air Elemental, and maybe even the Dragon depicted on the box cover if you are unlucky. The story takes place in the Greyhawk world-setting and the city of Greyhawk is even mentioned a few times.
The story, or stories if you will, move along well with only a few lapses. The characters at one point get from the Greyhawk area to that must be the Sea of Dust area with no real sense of having traveled a great distance. Otherwise its a good story with a few twists, some rather obvious, others not quite so.
All in all a surprisingly good effort. One can only wonder what a second movie would have been like once the crew had a feel for the equipment.
K.O. Beast (1992)
Interesting " furry " anime with a few neat twists.
Originally titled KO Century Beast Musketeers, (Just KO Beast for the Right Stuff version,)this is a remarkable anime series if only for the simple fact that it was accomplished with a mere handful of people working on it. The Right Stuff US release of this series makes some changes though so be forewarned. Mostly its minor stuff, but one of the main characters is renamed totally as are some side characters. Mekka is renamed Tuttle. (Mekka being a play on Kappa, a Japanese turtle-goblin type creature. and Mekka is a turtle...) At least the Right Stuff DVDs detail what all was changed. Though if you watch the series in Japanese with subtitles the changes can be quite glaring. Animation is good, music is good too, and again Right Stuff opts here to remove the original opening credits and switch things around. English voice dubs are good so it is watchable subbed or dubbed. This is a series divided into three parts/DVDs. 1 covers the first installment of 3 episodes, 2 covers the two episodes of the next installment, and 3 covers the final two episodes that wrap the series up.
If you like anthropomorphics, (furries,) or strange post-apocalyptic settings a-la Gamma world, then you may enjoy this.
************ SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!! ************
Series DVD one introduces us to the main characters and the setting. It is the far future with the worked mostly gone back to nature. The people are all a sort of were-beast, able to transform into their humanoid beast form under the right conditions. Into this relatively peaceful setting come Humans and an army of robots, attacking key cities and stealing ancient Totem statues for reasons unknown.
This opens with out main hero Wan/Wan (A tiger-morph) defending the Earth Totem from the Human attackers. He and the totem are captured by V-Darn and V-Sion. (And their little demon imp-girl sidekick who just wants to eat someones soul...) Wan is incarcerated with 3 other individuals. Each being royal guardians of a totem. (We never find out what Mekka's totem was if any.) First is Bud/Bado, a suave bird-morph, next is Mei-mer/Mei-ma (A mermaid,) and Tuttle/Mekka a turtle-morph. Some antics ensue soon as one would expect when you put a cat and a bird in the same cage. Elsewhere Dr. Password entrusts his hyperactive granddaughter Yuni with a special sphere which she promptly uses as a ball. Else-Elsewhere V-Darn and V-Sion are reporting in to Czar Master on progress and such. It doesn't take long for Yuni to inadvertently find the 4 captives and set them free by mysterious means. A free-for-all escape follows that culminates in the awakening of the three totems keyed to Wan, Bud, and Mei-Mer. The heroes make their escape with Yuni, though Dr Password is killed but not before setting them to look for the mysterious Gaia. Thus ends EP1,
EP2 follows with the group stopping at Buds home city, and a trip to a dog town to hunt for Gaia that ends in a confrontation with a massive totem under the control of V-Darn and V-Sion who pursue the group through the series.
EP3 finishes with the group entering into Gaia and running into various traps while Mekka and Yuni are taken elsewhere and Mekka learns more of whats transpiring. Another battle takes place with V-Darn at the helm of a huge Totem/Mecha that triggers the awakening of the heroes Totems true form.
DVD 2 Has the group in even worse trouble (though no explanation is given how they got there,) with some bemusing stakes for a game of Mah-jong. From here they head to Atlas City to restock and repair the damaged Totems. V-Darn opts to attack personally while V-Sion works on a Totem she has found and is repairing. Episode ends with Mei-Mer falling ill.
EP2 Has the group taking Mei-Mer to her underwater kingdom and her rather peculiar mother. Wan and Bub set off to find a special treat for the mermaid girl while Czar Master send in a new officer SP Icegal, to hunt the group and Gaia. Another battle ensues and SP Icegals true nature us revealed under all the armor.
DVD three wraps up the whole thing with the heroes in hot pursuit of SP Icegal which leads to Gaia and a three-way battle among other antics.
The last episode binging it all to a head in a spectacular way with many revelations and twists.
All-in-all a fun little series. Omega
Maps densetsu no fukkatsu (1994)
Interesting OVA series.
MAPS is a 4 part OVA sci-fi anime series telling a familiar story with several twists to it. Animation and music are good and the story progresses in a roller-coaster ride with only a few slow moments. Most notably at the beginning where characters are being introduced and set up. But this is common and expected. The main ship design seems to have been inspired by NELL from Roger Corman's movie "Battle Beyond the Stars"... You'll see what I mean early on. Alien design is interesting but could have used a little more interaction. Still good as is.
A well done OVA.
*** Spoilers may follow ***
MAPS starts out with our main protagonist for the series, Gen, and his girlfriend. Soon though the Earth is visited by a mammoth starship shaped like a gigantic woman. Gen is contacted by the captain of the ship. Lapumera and soon finds himself drawn into a massive quest for the mysterious Universal Key, a map of the universe split into parts, one of which was secreted on Earth by Gen's space-faring ancestors.
Chasing Lapumera though are her sisters, all in similarly statuesque and powerful star-ships, and it is shown soon that Lapumera is more than she appears to be.
Chapter 1 covers the meeting and battle across Earth to gain the first piece. Chapter 2 moves into space as they hunt more parts and become entangled in a interplanetary plot between two warring races. One humanoid, and the other bird-like. They also run into some rather mercenary mercantile aliens that further complicate matters. Chapter 3 continues with a search leading to an ancient being and the truth unfolding more and more as the leader of Lapumera's race reveals herself and her power. Chapter 4 wraps it all up in a spectacular way.
Red Planet (1994)
Interesting adaption of the book.
Red Planet is based on the Heinlein novel of the same name Red Planet: A Colonial Boy on Mars (1949) and is a passable little 3 part miniseries with some very notable divergences. (But then when don't they change things.) Animation looks to be from the same group as was doing the Spider Man animated series at the time and is above average for its production values. Though obviously not a big budget work. Red Planet still looks good. Some minor spoilers may follow if you haven't read the book beforehand.
The series follows the exploits of 2 young boys on the planet New Ares, apparently not Mars for some reason, and their adventures and trials in dealing with an increasingly corrupt and callous governing body over the hard working colonists. The series drops some elements and tosses in many more, such as cyborg bounty hunters, expanding on the desert water-seekers, and a side plot involving a cover-up. Along the way Jim, Frank, and a spunky tag-along little sister learn more than they bargained for about their little friend. Willis, a native creature capable of simple speech and very inquisitive too. And of course the almost mythical aboriginals wandering in the background.
Could have followed the book more. But well done as it stands.
Wasted potential and awful English version.
Tekken: The Motion Picture is based on a popular sort of arcade fighting games and a series of console ports as well. Anime and even live action films based on such fighters are quite common, ranging from series like Street Fighter, to movies like Mortal Kombat and everything in between. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Tekken:The Motion Picture falls somewhere in the "they don't" category.
Before I get to the English version problems I'll start with the animation itself. For the most part the movie plays well with only a few moments of very noticeable poor work. Usually during panorama sequences for some reason. The fights themselves are interesting and dynamic. But all far far too short and some end very abruptly or unexpectedly. The direction and pacing in this movie leave a lot to be desired. but better than some other efforts that seem to end with no real closure or wrap-up. At a mere 60min, Tekken could have seriously used an additional 30 min of fighting and development. And far too much of the film is spent re-hashing at least 3 times an opening moment.
Now for the English version. The voice actors were good at least. ADV does at least keep a good stable of talent and each character has a distinctive voice that fits to one degree or another. Only Jack with his stilted talking came off slightly less, but was still acceptable. The decision of ADV to totally rework the music track though for the most part failed. While none of the music was particularly bad. None of the music fits quite right either. Some more-so than others.
Now for the movie itself and what it is about. Some spoilers may follow. Young Kazuya and Jun have a opening comment that will be replayed several times throughout the movie. Kazuya is hurled from a cliff by his father, Heihachi Mishima and left for dead. But determination and a powerful will for revenge save him. We move forward to the present, which appears to be a near-future date and a government organization that polices the uses of outlawed bioweapons and other problems. Jun is now a member of this force and is by chance mysteriously invited to the Tekken tournament along with wise cracking inter-pol agent Lei WuLong. They plan to investigate mysterious and likely illegal activities on the island while attending the tournament. Elsewhere Lee is plotting against Kazuya and sends Anna to assassinate him. This fails and later Jun and Lei meet up With Jack and a little girl. The story progresses from here to the island and the tournament. We get to see some cameos from main and side characters of the game (Looks to all be Tekken 2 crew,) and some sparring along the way to the climax, which is slightly anti-climatic.
Good for a rental or for those who must collect everything Tekken. not a bad entry really, just not a good one either. Wasted potential in the end. But do give it a try if you like fighter anime. Judge for yourself. You might enjoy it more, or less.