Review: This Boy Can Fight Aliens

This Boy Can Fight Aliens.jpgThis Boy Can Fight Aliens

This boy can fight aliens, in thirty minutes or less.

This Boy Can Fight Aliens is a 30-or-so minute short film produced by CoMix Wave, which hit gold in recent years by distributing the solo-works of animator Makoto Shinkai (Voices of a Distant Star).  This, too, was the product (mostly) of one person, a woman named Soubi Yamamoto.

Because of its length, there’s not too much I can say about the movie without giving away the whole plot.  Basically, aliens have come to Earth, and each day they send down one organism to fight a particular boy, Kakashi.  Kakashi has lost his memory and was taken in by two government agents, the feminine Arikawa, and the older male supervisor he lives with for some reason, Shiro.

Now knowing what his life is like, and if he has anything worth fighting for, Kakashi begins to question his motivation in fighting the aliens.  That’s a suitable enough premise for a short film, but it doesn’t resonate too well because the alien fights aren’t shown to be particularly difficult for the boy.  If he were truly suffering, then the question of going on would be just; as it is, he just comes off a little selfish and lazy.  The three characters are well-defined but aren’t developed much; again, this is largely a function of run time.  The resolution is a bit of a deus ex machina, although it does ties everything together more-or-less satisfactorily.

The animation is very limited.  There’s a lot of panning over still images and endlessly repeated short cycles (like grass blowing back and forth).  The coloring is done in a ridiculously-flashy way, with glowing (and sometimes moving) patterns, which serve somewhat to hide the faults in the basic movement.  Stylistically, it looks a lot like His and Her Circumstances, with its lanky characters, mix of styles, and mountains of text.

This Boy Can Fight Aliens is nice for what it is; just keep your expectations in check, there’s only so much you can do in 30 minutes.  The Blu Ray from Sentai Filmworks looks good.  Video is unaltered (with Japanese titles and credits).  Extras include three, even shorter films from the same director.

Review: Conan The Adventurer

Conan the Adventurer.jpgConan The Adventurer

Conan is a work of modern mythology.  The character, created by Robert E. Howard, was created in the early ’30s, and follows a barbarian as he travels with his friends and kills monsters.  It takes place in a made up era called the Hyborian Age, which is after the fall of Atlantis, but before the rise of ancient world as we know it.  It mixes recognizable ancient history with magic and monsters, not unlike Greek Mythology.

Conan The Adventurer is a Saturday morning take on the story.  It’s somewhat sanitized, but the setting and sense of wonder shine through.  Conan is a very civilized ‘barbarian’ in this series.  He’s helpful, he protects animals, he doesn’t kill anyone.  And yet, it still comes across that he’s a warrior, relying more on brute strength than strategy or training.  He’s a little out of place compared to the rest of the Hyborian civilizations, who have developed large cities and pants.

The plot of the series is that a ‘serpent-man’ wizard, Wrath-Amon, is trying to collect ‘star metal,’ which he will use to release his serpent-god Set.  Conan and friends all have weapons made out of star metal, the weapons having been fashioned by Conan’s father, and sold at market (it just so happens that those that bought it were brave, strong, and just).  Wrath-Amon comes to Conan’s village to get the star metal his father was selling, and failing to find any, turns Conan’s family to stone.  Thus, Conan sets off to defeat Wrath-Amon and find a cure.

One of the examples of sanitation comes with how the serpent-men are dispatched.  When touched by star metal, a vortex opens above the serpent-man, sucking him into the other dimension which currently houses Set (there’s even a scene in which Set tells Wrath-Amon that the serpent-men are with him, lest the children watching worry what happened to them).

The Hyborian Age draws influences from much of the ancient world.  There are barbarians, of course, as wells as Veniermen (vikings) , the Wasai (and African tribe), and something like the Romans and Egyptians.  It makes for an engaging setting.  The familiar cultures keep it from getting bogged down in made-up minutia, as many fantasy worlds do, while at the same time, the ancient world has a kind of mythical quality to it by its nature.  Its a world you want to explore and see more of.

There’s a punctuated continuity to the series.  All the characters are introduced one at a time, and then show up in random combinations to accompany Conan on one of his quests.  It’s clear that some episodes take place in a certain order, but there are a number of stand alone ones as well.

Accepting the constraints of Saturday morning TV in the ’90s, Conan is a well developed series that respects its audience.  The wonder and adventure of the original Conan stories are carried through to the series, even without the sex and violence.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable show that holds up very well for those who watched it as a child.

Review: Decadent Evil

Decadent Evil.jpgDecadent Evil

The official run time of Decadent Evil is 67 minutes, but the end credits start at the 59 minute mark.  Add to that two or three minute long opening credits and the seven or eight minutes of reused footage from an earlier movie called Vampire Journals, and you’re not left with much time to develop anything of great depth.

A red dressed woman named Morella leads a vampire clan consisting of two subordinate vampire girls who work as strippers.  They’re named Sugar and Spyce (with a ‘y’).  There is some kind of vampire legend that says if a vampire can kill 10,000 people and ingest their souls, they will become a super-vampire with invincibility and the power  to control other vampires.  Soon after the start of the film, Morella needs just three more.

Morella used to be in love with a human, but he cheated on her, so she turned him into a homunclous, which she explains is a prehistoric half-man/half-reptile (though I only have a layman’s knowledge of evolutionary theory, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t represent a part of our history).  For a character with such a prominent role, the puppet they made for him is rather cheap and unconvincing, which makes it hard to sympathize with him later on.

Her failed relationships of the past have made her bitter, so Morella is upset to learn that Sugar has fallen for a young human man and orders her to call it off.  Morella is hard to understand.  If she were simply evil and power-mad, why not force Sugar to bring her boyfriend to the house to be the next victim?  It’s like she wants to protect Sugar’s feelings, but that’s not trait worthy of an evil vampire.  But then, no one’s motivations in the movie are considered that deeply, everyone seems to be moved by base emotions, instinct, or the needs of the plot.

Into this mix comes Ivan, played by Phil Fondacaro, a vampire hunter who shares a past with Morella.

I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about the movie.  The acting is fine, the plot is serviceable.  But the fact that it’s only about 50 minutes long prevents anything from being developed.  The characters aren’t so much people as they are tools to move the plot forward.

Ivan wants revenge, Morella wants power, Spyce (I’m not sure what she wants), and Dex and Sugar are in love.  That’s all we really learn about any of the cast.  And we don’t even learn it so much as we are simply told it.  We never really see anyone being ‘human’ and thus, we never connect with any of them.

Once again, director Charles Band has produced a competent but undistinguished effort.  There’s a few neat twists to the vampire genre, but a short run time and pervasive shallowness keep Decadent Evil from ever becoming special.

Review: AD Police

737187005091.jpgAD Police

What is a human?  Is it defined by one’s body, or emotions?  If one replaces his or her body with a machine, are they human still?  And if a pure machine developed emotions, does it remain just a machine?  These are the questions underpinning AD Police, a three-episode OAV series set in a near future where technology is developing far faster than humans are able to adapt to it.

AD Police is a prequel to Bubblegum Crisis, a series about four women who don mechanical suits to fight crimes involving Boomers (humanoid robots with varying degrees of realism).  The AD Police are the official, government-sanctioned force tasked with the same goal; though with only machine guns and light armour, they aren’t as effective at it.

BGC features a romantic subplot between one of the Knight Sabers (the four women) and an AD Police officer named Leon McNichol.  AD Police follows Leon’s days as a rookie and his veteran partner, Jeena Malso.  Despite being the protagonists and appearing in every episode, we don’t really get to know them that well.  The series feels more like an anthology, with each episode spending more time on its guest stars than on the central cast.  Leon and Jeena spend most of each episode working in the background.  It’s kind of a shame, because what we do see of Jeena is interesting.  Compared to most anime heroines, she’s very mature and somewhat jaded.  She’s an actual, believable adult woman.

Each of the three episodes deals with a different level of human/machine integration.  The first involves an android that was used in the sex trade that seems to develop emotions (albeit, negative ones).  The second is about a woman who has had some of her organs replaced, and no longer feels like a whole person.  The third is about a man who has his entire body replaced, save his brain and tongue, and is now becoming detached from humanity.

On a superficial level, AD Police is a satisfying action/procedural show.  The crimes are interesting, and the investigation is well-paced with a logical solution.  But what makes this show special is its introspective side.  The producers clearly spent time hashing out what a world with advanced robotics would look like, and how that technology would affect people; not only only practically, but also emotionally.  It’s that rare breed of hard science fiction that actually requires you to think.

This OAV series is dark; not only thematically, but also in its visual style.  Most of it takes place at night, and everything looks dark and murky.  It’s almost as if the city the story takes place in has become a giant mechanical body that everyone is trapped in.  The animation of is fairly high quality, as most OAVs from the ’80s were (back then, the producers thought they had to put effort into these things to get fans to buy them.  Now they just pump out something cheap and empty, knowing that they fans will clamour to get it).

Local Comic Book Shop Wednesday – J & J Cards & Collectibles

It’s  a bit of a cheat to call J & J a comic book store.  All they have in the way of comics is a couple long boxes on the floor of one aisle with some single issues and old trades.  But if you like the other stuff that comic books stores sell, namely toys and board games, you might find something here.  Board games in particular seem to be their specialty.  They have a really impressive selection and pretty good pricing.

I like that they gave the outside the facade of a castle, along with a cartoonish blue and red paint job – it certainly lets you know what you’ll find inside.

Website: http://shop.jjcards.com/

Address:230 Weber St N, Waterloo, ON

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Review: Buried Alive

Buried Alive Movie.jpgBuried Alive

Dumb college kids go to a remote cabin and are hunted down by a monster.

Zane’s ancestors used to own a gold mine; but despite taking millions of dollars worth of metal out of the ground, the money never materialized.  It seems that great grandpa mined the gold only to hide it away somewhere.  Zane, who has mental problems and was just kicked out of college, thinks that finding the gold is his best hope for the future.

Rene, Zane’s cousin, with whom he shares a near-incestuous closeness embarks with him on a road trip to the family mine (though she doesn’t know his true intent).  They take with them Danny, Rene’s terrible boyfriend; Phil, the computer nerd who Zane conscripted to research his grandfather (because Googling something requires the rarified intelligence that only a geek can provide) and two dumb girls (dressed as a cow and dog) who are pledging to Rene’s sorority.

Cow is the dumbest of the lot.  In an early scene, she’s shown to be unable to distinguish between live and stuffed animals, even after petting them.  She has a sex scene shortly thereafter which just comes off as creepy and exploitative given her issues.  Rene, likewise, creepily orders her to undress several times, and you can’t help but think, ‘Rene’s a bitch, I hope she dies soon.’

I’m not quite sure what the plot is.  I take it the grandfather’s first wife was ‘buried alive,’ then came back as a ghost, killed his family, and continues to kill his ancestors (and anyone else that happens to be around).  The one thing that can stop her is a Native American totem symbol, which is carved into a necklace once owned by wife number one, and now by Rene, and also happens to be tattooed on the back of Dog’s neck (which we discover during a lengthy scene in which she dances in her underwear).  Dog is the only remotely likeable character in the movie; her only real character flaw is that she associates with such awful people.

The ghost kills with an ax, usually cutting people in half.  The effects are graphic, but I’m not sure if they’re anatomically accurate (there’s just a lot of indistinguishable red stuff inside the kids).

Buried Alive looks okay, the acting is tolerable, and the make-up is detailed (if not always believable); but the story is underdeveloped, and the characters are mostly just annoying.

Review: Crying Freeman

Crying Freeman DVD.jpgCrying Freeman

The Complete Collection

Eastern Star

Crying Freeman is a six episode adaptation of a famous manga by Kazuo Koike & Ryoichi Ikegami.

Freeman, once a famous potter, is brainwashed by the Chinese mafia into becoming a killer.  Despite carrying out his orders, he is internally conflicted, and cries for his victims (hence the title).

He doesn’t seem to mind the brainwashing much, and the 108 Dragons (the Chinese mafia) don’t hold it against him either; so he soon becomes their leader and commits himself to protecting the organization; which he comes to see as his family.

Each episode is an hour long, though the first three feel like two separate episodes put together.  Typically, each episode focuses on an assassin from a rival gang who threatens the 108 Dragons in some way.  Freeman goes after them, and sleeps with one of the beautiful women involved in the action (either one of the victims, or one of the killers); and it culminates in a big fight at the end.

Speaking of which, Freeman’s preferred fighting style is to take off his clothes and holds a knife between his toes as he tries to kick/cut his enemy to death.  I can’t see how that would be effective against most opponents, but it seems to work for him.

The series has a deadly serious tone, with the possible exception of Freeman’s ‘sister,’ the overweight woman who was to be the heir of the 108 Dragons before Freeman’s ascension.  She acts rather childish most of the time,  not in a terribly exaggerated way, but enough to keep her from fitting in with the tone of the series.

The series is dark.  Freeman always wins, of course, but there’s a pretty harsh cost to it.  Added to that is a bleak, overwhelming sense of hopelessness that permeates the series.  There’s a complete lack of ‘good’ in the world, and the only virtue is blind to-the-death loyalty to your gang.

The animation is fine, about average TV quality for the time.  The character designs are on the realistic side.

This current set is from Discotek (Eastern Star), though the show was formally released by ADV Films.  This release uses ADV’s subs and dub, but presents the video totally uncut with the original Japanese credits/titles.

Video is about what you’d expect from an 80’s oav without major restoration work.  It’s well encoded, but the source material is a little faded.

If you’re a fan of 80’s action anime, like Golgo 13 or Fist of the North Star, Crying Freeman should work for you.

Local Comic Book Shop Wednesday – Conspiracy Comics

Conspiracy Comics is Burlington’s premiere comic book store.  It’s the one I went to all through high school (it being one of the only sources of anime and manga around at the time). The store managed to outlive all its competition and now, around 20 years later, it’s not only still standing, it has even expanded to four locations.

The store keeps a wide selection of comics, trades and manga, along with toys, anime, and merchandise (though the non-books are fairly expensive).  It’s a dependable store for new releases.

Website: http://conspiracycomics.com/

Address: 2388 Fairview St, Burlington, ON

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Review: Call Girl of Cthulhu

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 6.41.25 PM.pngThe producers of Call Girl of Cthulhu raised a little over $25,000 on Kickstarter to make this movie; and I think the backers got their money’s worth.

The movie is about a virginal artist named Carter Wilcox who falls for an escort, Riley Whatley.  Said escort is unfortunately also being pursued by a cult who wants her to mate with Cthulhu. Carter himself gets dragged into the fight when a couple of cult fighters enlist him and his art skills in their plan.

The plot moves along briskly as the multiple storylines weave together into an ending that is very satisfying, with some nice and unexpected twists along the way.

A terrible person might watch this movie and then whine about it not reaching the technical standards of Infinity War; but the fact is, it’s a fun, entertaining movie made by people that clearly cared about delivering on their promise.

It’s a light-hearted movie, though maybe a little too cute at times – my wife noticed that every scene change was prefaced by a line of dialogue that referenced the next scene. i.e. ‘we have to close the door!’ is followed by a shot of a door closing. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s pleasant.

The characters are likeable and well developed.  The acting is pretty good as well (another observation from my wife – the director must have a thing for girls with short brown hair).

The effects, mostly practical, are quite well done; especially the monster at the end.  Even the cult’s costumes, while very cheap and simple, are none-the-less evocative and believable.

Call Girl of Cthulhu was recently released on Blu-ray by Camp Motion Pictures and looks wonderful.

Review: Don’t Answer the Phone

2a94a8ac0b1e76bde2c295f42e4b239b.jpgKirk Smith is an amateur photographer.  He works mostly in the genre of fetish porn.  At the end of each shoot, he strangles and sexually assaults his models (which is never shown in the movie, only talked about).

As someone who’s done a lot of nude photoshoots, I can attest that most shoots do not end that way.  A handshake and a ‘thank you’ is sufficient for most people.  Of course, there are creepy photographers out there; so the character of Kirk Smith is not completely without grounding.

The title of this movie, on the other hand, makes not sense what-so-ever.  The only time the phone comes into play in the story is when Kirk calls a radio psychologist, Lindsay Gale, to brag about his kills.  The phone calls lead the police directly to the killer, so really, she damn well SHOULD answer the phone.

Don’t Answer the Phone is essentially a slasher film, but with very little on-screen slashing (well, I guess there’s on-screen strangling).  Kirk drives around town looking for victims; some are models, others just random women in their homes, all of whom find an excuse to get topless prior to dying.  Meanwhile, the police (two dull, forgettable detectives) track him down with some little help from Lindsay.

Since the killer is introduced to us in the first scene, there’s no suspense or mystery to the story.  It’s just a 94 minute exercise in who he will kill next, and when the police will stop him.

Don’t Answer the Phone is utilitarian horror – it checks all the necessary boxes, but brings nothing notable or exceptional to the table.  The Blu-ray, lovingly produced by Vinegar Syndrome, is great, though.