1990s

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.

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.

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.