Memories

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Memories is an anime anthology film comprised of three separate segments. I know of a couple other animated movies that did this, though this is the only ones I’ve seen. The majority of the film is made up of the first segment, Magnetic Rose, which most consider the best part of Memories. I completely agree with them. In fact, I’m not really a fan of the other two.

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The second segment, Stink Bomb, is what I personally consider the low point of the movie. It’s about a scientist who takes an experimental pill that turns him into a living bio-weapon. He begins to release a lethal gas that kills everyone around him. I’ve heard it’s based on a real case that was also the inspiration of an X-Files episode. It seems to be a black comedy, which I’m certainly not against, but I found the protagonist way too unlikable to even be able to stand the segment.

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As someone who’s seen his share of B movies with illogical, if not mentally regressive protagonists, watching this guy’s antics was torture. It’s almost hard to believe that the same guy who wrote Magnetic Rose was responsible for this one. He’s just so poorly written, I’m unable to just have a “don’t take it too seriously” attitude. Seriously, how is he a scientist? Homer Simpson worked at a nuclear power plant, but the whole joke was that he was an unqualified worker put in a position requiring a lot of responsibility, where he constantly screwed up and slacked off. This is just a scientist who proceeds to do a lot of dumb things, in the process killing off hundreds if not thousands of people.

memoriesScreenshot (295).jpgI think most of the humor comes from him doing stupid things and getting more people killed. But I already kind of ranted enough about what I thought of that. There’s a lot of action in the movie, with tanks and fighter jets and explosions, if that’s what you’re looking for. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being unfair to this segment because I can’t find a guy who’s unwittingly committing death on a genocidal scale likeable.

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The third segment, Cannon Fodder, seemed like it was setting up something incredible, then immediately ended after what felt like a few minutes. The story is about a society at war with an enemy that ultimately may not even exist. And they use cannons. So there’s the title. It does have a message, as anti-war satire that seems to hint at the ability to use war to control the masses.

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Still, that doesn’t change the fact that nothing really happens. I watched the 1970s remake of Nosferatu and loved it, so I don’t have such a terrible attention span that I can’t enjoy a movie where I’m waiting a while for something to eventually occur. It’s entertaining on a visual level, but Cannon Fodder just feels like a setup to a story that never started. Maybe it worked better as a short story.

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I figured I’d talk last about the main segment, Magnetic Rose, which is clearly the the best. In fact, I consider it great enough on its own to warrant buying the movie, even if you dislike the other two parts. It’s about a space crew that comes across an abandoned station that has sent out a distress signal, where they find an opera singer who has hidden in seclusion since the death of her loved one.

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The story is amazing, and far more mature than what people would typically see from an animated film, even one from Japan. It has a message about focusing on accepting loss, rather than choosing to live in the past. It’s interesting in how the segment blends elements of space adventure, drama, and the paranormal. Though I feel I need to note that what might be the first case of literal space opera wouldn’t fit within that genre.

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Fortunately, Magnetic Rose is by far the longest segment, probably making up around half the movie. For this reason alone, Memories is worth seeing. But regardless of my personal opinions on the whole package, Memories is interesting because of how widely different each segment with the tone, style, and animation.

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Guyver: Dark Hero

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Guyver: Dark Hero is based on the Japanese comic (or manga if you want to get technical) Guyver. The comic streches back to the ’80s, and I believe it’s still going on to this day. Though a largely unknown series, it’s been a fairly influential one.

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The story is about a corporation named Chronos, which has developed a way to mutate humans into monsters called Zoanoids. The main character, Sho Fukamachi (or Sean Barker in the American movies) is a young man who discovers one of three Guyver units, an alien technology which operates as a sort of armor that grants him a wide array of powers.

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As this is the second film, it picks up from where Sean has already discovered the Guyver unit and destroyed the Los Angeles branch of Chronos. Sean is trying to learn more about the Guyver, and it leads him to an archaeology site that has discovered an alien spacecraft, where he encounters Chronos again.

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The actor portraying Sean is different in this movie, with a far more serious tone, not to mention being a lot better. This is in part because it’s Solid Snake, or rather David Hayter, known for providing the iconic voice for the character in western releases of the games.

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The director of the movie was one of the co-directors of the first, Steve Wang. He’s perhaps most well-known for his amazing work as a makeup artist. Just stop reading this right now and check out some of his work. RIGHT NOW. He really shows off his incredible talent in this film, with an impressive display of creatures. It’s amazing how great these pre-CGI creations look, especially considering since this was a low-budget, direct to video movie.

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The action is incredible, coming off like a mix between a martial arts film and a superhero movie. There are lots of well-choreographed fights with plenty of wires, monsters, and Japanese superheroes.

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The previous film was at times goofy. For example, one of the characters was basically JJ Evans from Good Times as a monster. The result is an evil Jar Jar Binks. And yes, he says THAT line. He also raps, because it was the early ’90s, and white people were just finding out about that thing. The sequel, however, is far closer to the original comics. It’s dark and brooding, with little in the way of comic relief, and no goofy slapstick fights.

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Unlike the original, Guyver: Dark Hero has a cult following to this day. Will we ever see a sequel? David Hayter, who’s written screenplays for movies like X-Men and Watchmen, proposed an outline for a third film to Steve Wang. However, the rights for the franchise are currently held by the original owners in Japan, whoever that is. Here’s hoping something comes along to make a sequel a reality, if only so we can see a movie that doesn’t rely on CGI monsters once again.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

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I’m not really a horror fan. I don’t dislike the genre, but it’s generally not my thing. It doesn’t help that a staple of horror movies for the last several decades has been non-stop gore, as though that’s all it takes to scare people.

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Killer Klowns isn’t a typical horror movie. It’s more of a horror comedy, and seems like it may have been inspired by Gremlins, like many horror movies of the ’80s. But instead of being more literal with any attempts at mimicking Gremlins’ success, by just having tiny little monsters (Critters, Ghoulies, etc.), Killer Klowns has a combination of the humor and originality which made Gremlins such a classic.

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The idea behind the monsters is that they’re aliens stopping on Earth for food, and were probably the inspiration for clowns. We know all this because these are the uneducated guesses made by the characters. Okay, I won’t question that.

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There’s a plot here besides just killer aliens that have to be stopped, with a love triangle and stuff. But it’s basically just screen filler between the parts with the clowns (Or is it klowns? Do they actually call them that in the movie?). Fortunately, clowns make up like 90% of the movie.

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There’s not much gore in the movie. The only example I can recall is a quick shot of a guy getting his head punched off. And he has it coming, managing to make one of the mass-murdering, man-eating clowns look sympathetic. For a moment.

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What I find charming about this movie is how original it is. Not the premise of killer clowns, but the ideas used throughout the film. From balloon animals that track scents, to shadow puppets that eat people, to deadly cream pies, the clowns put a lot of effort into killing people. They’re far more entertaining to watch than someone like Jason Voorhees.

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And that’s what makes this an enjoyable film like Gremlins. It’s not about scares. It’s not about gore. It’s about having fun. And killing people.

The NeverEnding Story II

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The sequel to the classic film The NeverEnding Story, this movie seems much like the original. At least on the surface. Unfortunately, the different style soon becomes apparent.

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The original film only covered about half of the novel it was based on, so a sequel makes sense. It’s like The Godfather. And I’m sure there are a number of similarities between The Godfather Part III and The NeverEnding Story III.

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The sequel once again focuses on the character Bastian. Differing in many ways from the novel, II is about him reading the book again, this time getting sucked inside. So he can save it from emptiness. I’m not really sure. The plot was too advanced for me to follow.

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The story is dumb. Just very, very dumb. So you’ll like it more as a kid. It’s not so much dumb, perhaps, as it is “I don’t understand the logic of the characters.” And the moral of the story is about overcoming your fears so you can make the swim team, I guess. That’s something to think over.

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No one from the original returned for this movie, except for Thomas Hill as the bookstore owner, who can magically make his store disappear whenever he wants in this movie. It’s interesting to note that the director is George Miller.

No, George T. Miller. The guy who did a movie about a dolphin falling in love with a dog.

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This movie is odd at times. There’s one scene where Bastian ends up in some random unexplained place, where he proceeds to talk to a man made of either mud or feces, a woman who always plays a harp and needs to sing every line because why not, and a woman (seen here in her second scene, because they needed to bring her back), whose only purpose is to stand there in front of a blowing fan.

Okay.

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Due to being on a budget, the movie relies more on matte painting backgrounds than the blue screen effects seen in the first. It’s obviously not as good, but I think it’s still aged surprisingly well. But that’s just my opinion.

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Regardless of special effects, the sequel lacks the charm and quality of storytelling found in the original film. It’s worth a watch if you enjoyed the original, or you’re just looking for the kind of old fantasy movies they don’t really make today. It was panned by critics at the time of its release, probably more harshly than it deserved. I mean it’s still better than the third movie.

 

Also, the movie had a commercial in Japan where a bunch of people sing along to the theme song. It is incredible. Just incredible.

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The Running Man

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The Running Man is about a dystopian society where there’s a popular game show reminiscent of old gladiator games, where they watch people get killed for sport.

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It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose name I still can’t spell without looking up every time. He goes around killing bad guys, in between spouting catchy one-liners. So it will probably look familiar. It’s not Arnold’s most well known movie, and while it’s not not in the same league as Terminator or Predator, it’s far better than the stuff that came later in his career like Last Action Hero or Junior. Or Batman and Robin.

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Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a wrongly convicted man forced to compete in a deadly game show where inmates are given a chance at freedom if they can survive the competition. There are plot twists to be found, but you’re probably going to care more about the witty banter and action scenes, unless you’re one of those guys who tries to analyze the deeper meaning of The Matrix Trilogy.

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Believe it or not, this was based on a Stephen King novel (under a pseudonym). Yeah, they…they changed some things. Schwarzenegger has said that the original director, Andrew Davis, had intended for a deeper and more politically aware story than what became of the movie under Paul Michael Glaser.

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As a result, the movie is often typical of a summer blockbuster action flick. Though in Glaser’s defense, Schwarzenegger has pointed out that the new director was a last minute replacement after the studio fired Davis, so he had little time to study the source material thoroughly.

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The Running Man was fairly influential, inspiring things like the TV show American Gladiators (just look at Jesse Venture’s character, Captain Freedom) and the arcade game Smash TV. The idea of a ludicrously violent competition where competitors regularly face death is a bit of a cliche now, but this movie is probably what most people think of when the concept comes to mind.

Running Man (805).jpgWhile you’re sure to be disappointed if you’re expecting a movie with thought-provoking social commentary about things like a privatized and for-profit prison system or increasingly desensitizing reality television is fun for what it is. Which is Commando meets American Gladiator.

Johnny Mnemonic

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Johnny Menom…Mnomic…Just Johnny is a ’90s cyberpunk film based on William Gibson’s short story of the same name.

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Keanu Reeves plays Johnny/Just Johnny, a courier who stores data directly in his brain. Since traditional means of storing data can be easily hacked in this world, couriers like Johnny are the only means of transferring data securely. Johnny has to take on one major (and hopefully last) job before leaving this line of work. But things don’t go as planned, as the data he has to carry for the job is too large, and something something about it leaking into his brain or whatever, so he has to get the data out within a limited amount of time, otherwise he’ll suffer severe brain damage and die.

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Also, the job is interrupted by the yakuza. They were hired to acquire the data Johnny possesses, even if that means cutting off his head. It was the early ’90s, so obviously America still had an obsession with the Japanese business world. This was before it gained an obsession with Japan because of anime. The yakuza members hunting him seem to be evil for evil’s sake, as Johnny’s willing to give them the data for free by the end, just so he can get it out of his head and survive. But they’d rather kill him, because…?

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Keanu gives a brilliant performance this time. No authentic English accent like in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but he still performs wonderfully in the role of a cyborg. Or whatever they were going for. I think.

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The environments are drenched in cyberpunk, to the point where you only ever see sunlight during a flashback. If you like these kinds of dystopian worlds with inhuman corporate societies contrasted against rundown grungy settings, you won’t be disappointed.

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There’s plenty of delightfully outdated interpretations of futuristic technology.  And payphones. There’s also some 3D scenes showing VR, a forgotten technology that we know will never come back.

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An interesting inclusion to the movie is an almost unrecognizable Dolph Lundgren as a crazed fanatical priest/mercenary. He’s a man with most of his body replaced by technology at this point. Just not on the outside. His character is an unrelenting killing machine, with little understandable motivation except that he’s probably going to kill you, even if it’s not really necessary. Dripping in hamminess, it’s clear that Dolph was having fun with this role, as should anyone else watching this movie.

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Oh hey, here’s Ice T. This was a point in his career where he would turn down no role. He at least has a shred of dignity in this movie, since he’s not playing a kangaroo this time. I don’t know what’s funnier, casting an old rapper as some futuristic anti-establishment rebel with the most absurd and silly sense of fashion imaginable, or the fact that he has a dolphin that can perform brain surgery.

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Is it brilliant? No. But if you’re the sort of person who enjoys films like Total Recall, fun sci-fi movies with unique ideas that moves at an entertaining pace, you should check this out.

Willow

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If you ever wanted to watch a version of The Hobbit with half an hour’s worth of songs taken out, check out Willow. Directed by Ron Howard and written by George Lucas, this is guaranteed to be a fun, entertaining movie. As long as you forget stuff like The Grinch and The Phantom Menace.

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The antagonist of the movie, Queen Bavmorda, is trying to kill a newborn baby, prophesied to bring her downfall. Somehow. It’s never really explained, (and you might want to skip to the next paragraph because SPOILERS) and the queen dies at the end of the movie without the baby really doing anything. So some fucking prophecy. Unless it was supposed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy by making her paranoid to the point of becoming self-destructive. In which case, impressive work by that prophet..

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A midwife manages to smuggle the baby out, and the child’s found by Willow. He’s played by Warwick Davis, who I was ecstatic to find upon writing this article, is in fact NOT dead. Sometimes death reports have a happy internet hoax ending. Oddly enough, though Willow is a father of two, Warwick Davis was only around 17 at the time of filming.

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Willow embarks on a Lord of the Rings sort of quest. Except he’s transporting a baby instead of a ring. And he’s not throwing it into a volcano. Though that would be pretty rad to see. Also, he gets abandoned by his companions fairly quickly, and is left with no one to rely on for help but a selfish yet charismatic and likeable scoundrel.

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Yeah, it was clearly the same guy behind Star Wars. Lucas shows he knows how to write lovable roguish bastards, not just with Han Solo but also Mad Martigan. Played by Val Kilmer, the mercenary regularly steals the show when onscreen.

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There are also two companions to the main characters, little imps or whatever that talk in French Canadian accents. They don’t really do much, other than distract from the action whenever the cameraman feels the need to show them running back and forth doing nothing for half a minute. I guess they’re supposed to be comic relief.

One of them, the one with the rat head for a hat, is played by Kevin Pollock. I know this is going to be hard to believe, seeing how it’s Kevin Pollock with a French Canadian accent, but he’s actually not funny. Instead, it’s more likely to lead you to gouge out your eyeballs and asphyxiate yourself with your own intestines. So, you know, Jar Jar shouldn’t have been that unexpected.

Also, he tries to fuck a cat.

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The action sequences are fun and fast paced, with sword fights, stunts, and excellent special effects, such as a two headed monstrosity which Willow accidentally transforms a troll into. According to Ron Howard, he modeled its face after his brother Clint. So good news if you were hoping for a Clint Howard cameo.

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The movie didn’t do as well as expected, so any chance of a sequel was scrapped. However, George Lucas later wrote three novels with Chris Claremont, which continued the film’s story. Willow also has a few video games, and a comic book mini-series by Marvel.

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Willow’s a fun and enjoyable movie, with a lot of the same charm seen in the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s not a slog like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies can be at times, maintaining an enjoyable pace the whole way through. The characters (except for one or two of them…) are entertaining, and the variety of action sequences will make for an exciting watch. It’s a great adventure film, the kind you unfortunately don’t see much of these days.