Sunday, February 28, 2016

Movie Review: Big Man Japan (Dai-Nihonjin)

Big Man Japan (Dai-Nihonjin)
RealProduct, Yoshimoto Kogyo Company, Japan, 2007.
Big Man Japan (Dai-Nihonjin) title
Masaru Daisatô (Hitoshi Matsumoto) a.k.a Sato has an unusual job. He seems to be a regular unhappy middle-aged man but when necessary he is powered up and he turns into Big Man Japan battling monsters threatening Tokyo. His family life has suffered because he has to be always on alert. His Manager Kobori (Ua) takes care of PR and sells ad space from his skin. She also rips him off. The public does not like him because the battles cause damage to infrastructure and he is fat. Someone paints insulting graffiti on his house walls. Also a TV show about his fights gets poor ratings. In the old days monster fighters were respected and celebrated. 
Hitoshi Matsumoto
Masaru Daisatô
Lisää kuvateksti
Manager Kobori
Sato's Grandfather (Taichi Yazaki) was also Big Man Japan, but the continuing electric shocks caused dementia. When mysterious North Korean monster appears and beats Big Man Japan, the ratings of his show suddenly surge. Then series of monster-related scandals eat away the popularity again.
Strangling monster
Ad space for sale
Leaping monster
Presented in pseudo-documentary style the movie is quite slow, it is kind of anti-Marvel movie. The hero is not young or energetic but a downbeat middle-aged man who is just doing his job and continuing the family business. The rituals performed before his transformation are more for keeping up the old customs than really necessary. The origin of the monsters are never explained but they ascend to heaven when they die. There is also satire about the historically troublematic relationship between USA and Japan.
This is the Spinal Tap of the superhero movies. Although advertised as hilarious comedy this is actually quite tragic comedy. The humour is dry and deadpan and it is easy to miss the subtle comedy. This is contrasted by the monsters who are absurd and surreal, "only in Japan." Also the ending takes an absurd turn spoofing Japanese superhero shows and America saving the day. "We're all living in America, America ist wunderbar."
The Super Justice Team

Part of The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge (#24. Movie that is located in a place you have always wanted to visit: Japan)

Rating: Good

Starring: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Haruka Unabara, Tomoji Hasegawa, Itsuji Itao, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Takayuki Haranishi, Daisuke Miyagawa, Takuya Hashimoto, Taichi Yazaki, Shion Machida, Atsuko Nakamura, Daisuke Nagakura, Motohiro Toriki, Keidai Yano, Junshirô Hayama, Kôichi Kitamura, Norio Nakayama, Toshihiro Koike, Atsuo Tanaka, Yoshio Takahashi, Yoshihiro Kasuya, Yumiko Ise, Roselyn Yoshio, Kaho Okajima, Jeong-Suk O., Yoshihisa Shimazaki, Katsumune Ônuki, Norihito Kobari, Masayuki Sekine, Takumi Matsumoto, Ryushin Tei, Tatsuya Ôba, Salam Diagne, Yasuhiro Roppongi, Yutaka Mishima, Hidetoshi Ito, Ai Nagano, Kiyozumi Honda, Satoya Ishii, Seijirô Nakamura, Yûki Baba, Shunsaku Yajima, Hiroko Toda, Tetsuya Kume, Yuka Kamebuchi, Hiroko Nohara, Miho Silica Nakajima
Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto     

Friday, February 26, 2016

Movie Review: Flubber

Walt Disney Pictures, Great Oaks Entertainment, USA, 1997.
Flubber title
Professor Philip Brainard (Robin Williams) is trying to save his college's funding with new energy source. He is absent-minded and forgets his own wedding with Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden). The Professor has two robot helpers flying robot Weebo (Jodi Benson) that looks like something from "*batteries not included"  and Weber, a more generic worker robot. His former partner Wilson Croft (Christopher McDonald) stole some of Phil's inventions and profited with them. Wilson tries also take Sara from him.
Robin Williams
Professor Philip Brainard
Marcia Gay Harden
Just before the wedding Phil invents a living rubber thing Flubber. Hoenicker (Raymond J. Barry) is unhappy that the Professor flunked his son Bennett (Wil Wheaton) in chemistry and decides to get revenge. Hoenicker sends goons Smith (Clancy Brown) & Wesson (Ted Levine) to spy on the Professor.
Christopher McDonald
Wilson Croft
Raymond J. Barry
Ted Levine and Clancy Brown
Wesson and Smith
Phil tries to win Sara back by demonstrating the usefulness of Flubber. Possible uses for Flubber are energy source, basketball sneaker additive, and a component of flying car. Soon everyone tries to steal Flubber.

This is a remake of "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1961) and produced by John Hughes. Robin Williams tries to be funny but the humour relies too much on "Home Alone" style slapstick and it gets repetitive and dumb. Flubber has fun cartoon-style dance scene but feels otherwise underused as mostly it just bounces around. The film loans some ideas from Hughes' other films such as "Weird Science" when Weebo creates human avatar.  It was also nice idea to have Weebo show video clips to demonstrate her thoughts. The remake does not rise even close to the level of the original but remains as an average kids' film of the era.
Dancing Flubber
Weebo's reaction screen
The good cast feels underused in the generic roles, surprisingly the best role is made by the Weebo robot. Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage worked in the special effects crew. Nancy Olson from the original 1961 film makes a cameo role as Ford Company's secretary.
Nancy Olson
Ford Company's secretary
Part of The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge (#16. Movie whose main character is working in your dream job: Scientist)

Rating: Bad

Starring: Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Ted Levine, Clancy Brown, Raymond J. Barry, Wil Wheaton, Edie McClurg, Jodi Benson, Leslie Stefanson, Malcolm Brownson, Benjamin Brock, Dakin Matthews, Zack Zeigler, Sam Lloyd, Scott Michael Campbell, Bob Sarlatte, Bob Greene, Tom Barlow, Scott Martin Gershin, Julie Morrison, Antonina Henderson, Elmer J. Howard, J.D. Walker
Director: Les Mayfield

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Movie Review: Sunday School Musical

Sunday School Musical a.k.a Sunday School The Musical
Faith Films, USA, 2008.
Sunday School Musical title
Zachary (Chris Chatman) sings in the Hawthorne Church School's (Afro-American) gospel choir. In choir competition they and the Crossroads Choir (White) are selected for the state competition. The competition looks like an easy win as the Crossroads Choir can not sing. The much-needed prize money would save the Hawthorne Church. 
Krystle Connor, Chris Chatham and Hitcliff Leigh Tan
Aundrea, Zach and Trevor
Zachary and his friends Aundrea (Krystle Connor) and Trevor (Hitcliff Leigh Tan) dis the Crossroads Choir. Zachary's nurse mother (Millena Gay) gets fired (it's the recession). Zach's father is on the military tour, so the family must move temporarily to Zachary's aunt Janet (Rae Silva). Zachary must change schools and what a surprise! Zach's new school is the Crossroads High School. Zachary sees that Aundrea cared for him only because he could sing. 
 Shane Carther Thomas, Chris Chatham and Millena Gay
Zach's family
Chris Chatham and Krystle Connor
Zachary and Aundrea
In the new school Zach meets Savannah (Candise Lakota). The other kids shun him on Bible study class, especially Miles (Robert Acinapura). Savannah is a hard-working student and crams the order of mitosis with her dad Pastor Joe (Mark Hengst). Zach's studies, on the other hand, begin to suffer.
Candise Lakota
Robert Acinapura
Mark Hengst and Candise Lakota
Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telephase!
Zach gets detention for not making his homework so he has to clean the class room while the choir is practising (oh my ears hurt). He gives tips to Crossroads Choir. The choir wants Zach but Miles is opposing. Zach's old friends abandon him so he joins the choir.

Miles and Savannah have artistic differences and try to sink each other into a bog by singing. Zach gets ultimatum from teacher: unless he gets B or better on the next test he will not be allowed to sing in the choir. Also Savannah has her problems. Her father shrunk her favourite shirt! Meanwhile Hawthorne school is closing down because they haven't got money. Zachary must get the rivals to cooperate to save the church.
Musical fight!
You shrunk my shirt!
Crossroads Choir
Produced by Faith Films (religious movie division of The Asylum). Basically this is a Christian mockbuster of "High School Musical."

This was quite awkward film. On the positive side Chris Chatman has a good singing voice. Also the other singers are quite good but would need better script and songs to bring out their talents. The story is about as generic as possible. All the problems are solved easily without much thought making the drama weak. Cheesy high school musical is made extra cheesy with lazily included Christianity. There's so much cheese that I want a hamburger! I don't know. Maybe this will appeal to those desperate for any Christian family entertainment as the story is clean and emphasizes co-operation and charity. I would rather watch some "Highway to Heaven" reruns.

As a cherry on the top the UK DVD age rating would be Universal if some brainiac hadn't thought it to be a bright idea to include gory trailers for Asylym's horror films as extras resulting to BBFC rating 15. How did it go, like, um, in your own opinion?

Part of The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge (#21. Movie that is set in school)

Rating: Bad

Starring: Chris Chatman, Candise Lakota, Krystle Connor, Robert Acinapura, Amy Ganser, Millena Gay, Dustin Fitzsimons, Hitcliff Leigh Tan, Mark Hengst, Rae Silva, Kesha Ealy, Shane Carther Thomas, Debra Lynn Hull, Justin Spanko, Daniel J. Roberts, Brian Brinkman, Walter J. Harris, Sharon Diane King, Tom Nance, Cecile del Rosario, Shari Emami, Sharon Stockbridge, Donald C. Turner and over 80 choir members and background persons.
Director: Rachel Lee Goldenberg

Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review: Amelia

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Avalon Pictures, AE Electra Productions, USA, Canada, 2009. 
Amelia title

Based on the biography books "East to the Dawn" by Susan Butler and "The Sound of Wings" by Mary S. Lovell. 

In 1937 Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) starts record flight attempt to fly around the world. She remembers her life before that. In 1928 Amelia tries to get funding for flight across Atlantic from book publisher Mr. George Putnam (Richard Gere). HOwevere what he suggests is a hoax where a pilots Bill Stultz (Joe Anderson) and copilot Slim Gordon (Aaron Abrams) would really do the flying. The first attempt fails because the plane has too much weight. Amalia takes command and orders removal of some fuel to make it lighter. That does the trick. 
Hilary Swank
Amelia Earhart
Richard Gere
George Putnam
Aaron Abrams and Joe Anderson
Slim Gordon and Bill Stultz
The success of Amelia inspires also young female pilot Elinor Smith (Mia Wasikowska). George wants to marry Amelia but she declines because she wants to see the world. Amelia proves her aviation skills with solo flight over Atlantic. Finally Amalia agrees to marry George. Amelia becomes a celebrity but she wants to be free. George is interested in businesses but future Federal Aviation administrator Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) brings out also Amelia's feminine side resulting to love triangle.
Fokker F.VIIb/3m
Fokker F.VIIb/3m
Mia Wasikowska
Elinor Smith
Ewan McGregor
Gene Vidal
George arranges funding for Amelia's round-the-world flight. First attempt of Amelia and navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) fails. Amelia does not want to give up. She wants to show the world that women can fly. Amelia and George find romantic spark again. On the final stretch of the flight Amelia disappears. 
American heroine
Lockheed Model 10 Electra
Lockheed Model 10 Electra
Christopher Eccleston and Hilary Swank
Fred Noonan and Amelia
Swank does really look like Earhart and pulls the tomboyish role well. The film is an interesting character study about woman who wanted to show that also women can be pilots. It was also notable that PR was very important in the pioneering times of flight, as the pilots had to make aviation interesting for the public and get funding from sponsors. The cinematography looks good and flight scenes are beautiful. Richard Gere's character goes through the most character development as at first he seems like a callous businessman but becomes later a trusted and loved companion of Amelia. However Amelia's youth is quickly brushed aside, making no other observation that she was a country girl who wanted to fly.

Part of The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge (#22. Biography movie)

Rating: Good

Starring: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson, Cherry Jones, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Abrams, Dylan Roberts, Scott Yaphe, Tom Fairfoot, Ryann Shane, William Cuddy, Elizabeth Shepherd, Richard Donat, Scott Anderson, Sarah Kitz, Keelin Jack, Jeremy Akerman, Derek Keurvorst, Thomas Hauff, Sarah Dood, Danielle Bourgon, Hamish McEwan, Michael Daly, Jeffrey Knight, Paul Johnston, Michael Richard, Daniel Janks, Ron Smerczak, Kerin McCue, Richard Lothian, Divine Brown, Elizabeth Saunders, Precious Chong, Kathryn Haggis, Duane Murray, Joe Renzi, Geoff Gillespie, Andrea Ciacci, Julia Juhas, Alexandra MacLean, Kristen Munro, Eva Redpath, Jamie Holmes, Brittany Gray, Karissa Strain, Katie Strain, Valerie Saija, Nina Strazzulla, Leanne Melissa Bishop, James Byron, Amelia Earhart, Gillian Ferrier, Michael Malott
Director: Mira Nair

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Movie Review: 9 Deaths of the Ninja

9 Deaths of the Ninja a.k.a Nine Deaths of the Ninja a.k.a Deadly Warrior a.k.a American Ninja 
Crown International Pictures, USA, Philippines, 1985. 
9 Deaths of the Ninja title
1. Ninjas are agile and move at night & cats are agile and move at night. => Ninjas are cats.
2. Cats have nine lives => Cats die nine times.
Conclusion: Ninjas die nine times... Nine Deaths of the Ninja! 

Somewhere in the desert two American ninjas destroy a terrorist outpost. But it was just a drill to demonstrate DART teams strength. DART team are Spike Shinobi (Shô Kosugi), Steve Gordon (Brent Huff) and communications officer Jennifer Barnes (Emilia Lesniak). 
Shô Kosugi
Spike Shinobi
Brent Huff and Emilia Lesniak
Steve Gordon and Jennifer Barnes
In Philippines terrorists butch Honey Hump (Regina Richardson), questionable surgeon Dr. Wolf (Bruce Fanger) and nazi Alby 'The Cruel' Brant (Blackie Dammett)  kidnap bus full of tourists. Their intention is to free their always happy leader Mohammed Rahji (Sonny Erang) and drive away anti-drug operatives. Albert is like parody version of Dr. Strangelove. 
Blackie Dammett
Alby 'The Cruel' Brant
Regina Richardson
Honey Hump
Sonny Erang
Mohammed Rahji
DART team investigates who leaked list of DEA agents to the terrorists. While investigating clues they meet midget assassins. Wut? Also one thug falls about 9 feet and dies. I guess he wasn't a cat. Meanwhile the terrorists have a polka party (!)
Kung fu midgets
Polka party!
Emilia Lesniak and Vic Ordonez
Jennifer Barnes and Major Quirino (Vic Ordonez)
This a weird ninja film. Opening titles are a mix of James Bond- style titles mixed with martial arts film opening where a ninja practises his skills. Kosugi does the ninja stuff, fighting against some randomly appearing ninjas while Huff does the shooting. The characters and events are too absurd to this be taken as a serious action film. Impossible to know if this was supposed to be an action comedy imitating Roger Moore's Bond-films or did the absurdity just make it more comical than intended. On second thought they can not have been serious. Well it does not really matter. With bad acting, silly villains, wacky disguises and ninja gadgets this is hysterically entertaining bad film.

Also Shô Kosugi's sons Kane & Shane offer some backup to the heroes.
Shane & Kane Kosugi

Part of The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge (#8. Movie that has a cover you can use as a mask or "movieface")

Rating: So bad it is good

Starring: Shô Kosugi, Brent Huff, Emilia Crow (as Emilia Lesniak), Blackie Dammett, Regina Richardson, Vijay Amritraj, Lisa Friedman, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Bruce Fanger, Sonny Erang, Aiko Cownden, Jennifer Crumrine, Helen McNeely, Protacio Dee, Judy Wilson, Joji Nagai, Ken Watanabe, Vic Ordonez, Lea Navarro, Ric Segreto, Ron Milhench, Jacques Gervais, Warren McLean, Susan Meyer, Sam Lombardo, Nancy Keaton, James Crumrine, Emebet Aigaz, Des Ayallew, Cynthia Villa-Abrille, Henry Strzalkowski, Ann Milhench, Chantal Manz, Marina Miatke, Allen Beatson, Mike Alejandrino, Timoteo Bismark, Kess Burias, Carissa Carlos, Imelda Dominguez, Gina Valenciano, Mabeth Webb, Lani Fernando, David Brass, John Ladalski, Louie Senn 
Director: Emmett Alston

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