Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Intruder

You know you've got a winner on your hands when a film opens with a driving, plastic-jazz synth beat only to be cut off the moment an overweight Tommy Chong knocks down an old lady (gracefully called "Lady hit by car" in the credits) with his reckless driving, and follows it all with a spouting of misogyny.

You also know you've got a real winner when your hero is a poodle-haired bum with a gravity-defying bouncy ball, who announces that he is "RAMBU", just in time for the title card to declare him "THE INTRUDER" just as the plastic-jazz synth melody kicks back in. Words fail me simply at the opening of this review, I could go on about how the success of First Blood and the second Rambo movie spawned countless foreign knock-offs that were somehow trying to leech off their successes, but that wouldn't exactly cover The Intruder. This Indonesian effort is definitely modeled after First Blood, but this thing is really in a league of its own. 'Unbelievable' is a fitting way of summing the whole movie up in one word, if we were to break it down? 'Hilarious' might just about fit too.

Rambu (full name Alex Turambuan, yes I guess they had to come up with something to justify his name sounding similar to "Rambo") laments the risible job market of his location (welcome to the recession, sonny boy) and lives with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, overweight-Tommy Chong-lookalike Charlie kidnaps the daughter of someone who has failed paid to pay a ransom and forces her to dance on stage to an audience. They couldn't sound any more joyfully delighted at how a girl has been kidnapped and is being threatened with rape on stage. Lucky for her though, the sturdy arm of Rambu thrusts its way into shot to stop Charlie's evil amusement. Whatever the reason he had for being in such a smutty hive we'll never know, he must have sensed it needed his justice. After a bar room brawl, Rambu pins up Charlie and calls over the girl to deliver punishment: "I-I can't hurt him..." she bleats, "what do you mean you can't hurt him? He was ready to hurt you, go on and show him what it feels like! Slap him!", and so Charlie's punishment for attempted violation is a series of out-of-sync slaps to the face. Justice is served.

The girl's name is Ella and she, Rambu and his friend Bobby hightail it out there while a still-conscious Charlie just seems to give up on the floor. Charlie is just one of the many footmen of crime boss John White, a connoiseur of cocaine and curator of strange guns (shotguns with the butts of submachine guns?), who makes sure to contrast Rambu's tender moments with his girlfriend with scenes of him getting it on with his own girlfriend, complete with a funk-tastic porn groove anchoring his scenes. Meanwhile, a guy called Andre has taken a lot of interest in Rambu, because "he sounds like a real crime fighter", and so sends out one of his friends called Steven to interview him. Steven opens up with this goldie when Rambu asks how does he know him; "well we have a lot in common, we both love justice and hate crime", sorry Steven, but mutual interests in justice and crime-fighting make Rambu and the likes of showa-era Kamen Riders good friends, not schmucks like you.

However, things take a very personal turn when Charlie and his men brutally rape Rambu's girlfriend, and he's going to deliver a bit more than just slaps to the face...

This is an outrageous, over-the-top affair filtered through the no-budget lens of Indonesian exploitation. With Mr White's constant meddlings in drugs, rape and the way his women are even advertised to him as if they're prizes in gameshows, villains don't get much slimier. Similarly, heroes don't get much more super-powered than Rambu; a man who is able to beat up a gang of hoodlums while blinded and not even reel much from the blows of metal bars are the very least of his feats. To discuss this film's more insane aspects may be spoiling it, but needless to say, scenes of a three-wheeler van cavalry going head-to-head with roves of bikers have to be seen to be believed. Add to the greasy mix some very choppy editing, side-splittingly horrendous dubbing, impossible guns, non-existant muzzle fire and a score that seesaws between sounding cheap and pornoraphic and sounding like it belongs in Eraserhead, you have... a film beyond films. Its minimalistic locations and sets make the entirety of it look so barren and unusual, almost unintentionally surreal (couple this with the film's many other crazy elements, and you certainly have a recipe for something borderline surreal).

Star Peter O'brian has to be one of the most peculiar-looking Stallone imitators around, seemingly appearing muscular and undernourished all in one, and at other times looking as if he belongs to an AC/DC tribute band. Even with all the First Blood knock-offs out there, this one is without comparison, and I don't think there will ever be a finer action hero who is jobless to boot. To everyone who worked on The Intruder so many years ago, under what ungodly conditions, we salute you for turning out one of the most euphoric films in existance, it's a film that deserves its audience.

  • Music: 1/5
  • Editing: -2/5
  • Being one of the wackiest experiences in film: 4/5 
-James, 31 May 2011

Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshout source: Unsubtitled VHS

Title information
  • Production company: Parkit Films
  • Year of release: 1986
Alternative titles:
  • "Pembalasan rambu", <Retaliation beacon> (Indonesia)
  • 超人ランブー, "Choujin ranbu" <Superhuman Rambu> (Japan)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Super Powerful Man

There are no words…

There are simply no words that could accurately put across the hate I have for this abomination.

Despite what certain sources say, I refuse to acknowledge that this, is any way, shape or form, some kind of sequel to any incarnation of Riki-Oh, specifically the movie. I’m thankful that the characters in this film actually have completely different names because if they were named after Riki-Oh characters, I would be furious. You know what? I ripped on the second anime OVA, Child of Destruction, for being a piece of shit, I would take it over this in a flash and enjoy every minute of it, because at least it’s Riki-Oh, proper Riki-Oh.

Alright, Super Powerful Man (or Dint King Inside King, whatever that means, probably a bad translation) appears to be loosely based off the second story arc of the Riki-Oh manga in which he leaves the prison to find out about his lost brother. To be fair, I did not see this with English subtitles, as frankly, no subtitled bootlegs exist, so I was not entirely sure what was going on. Plus, I hate his movie so much that I don’t even want to re-watch to recall everything that happens. Assuming this takes place in the same location as the second story arc, a dictator (who I guess is Washizaki but I refuse to compare him to such a great villain, so instead I’ll just call him Captain Dick, also he fucking loves tracksuit bottoms, because those scream pure class right?) creates havoc for some people living there by dispatching three very fruity assassins to kill innocents. A baby who is meant to be Riki-Oh I guess (I know he’s apparently called He-Shen in this, so I’m sticking with that, though personally, calling characters by their given names in this is too dignifying for it) survives because he’s locked away, I really don’t know how he gets out or anything. Also, judging from this movie’s (long) prologue, it apparently takes place in the far future and global warming has fucked up the earth, just like in Riki-Oh, though you could never tell in this piece of crap, because everything has been filmed on a bright sunny day with nothing to give you the hint that this is the grim future. It should be noted that the prologue is much fancier than anything in the film because of all the stock CGI in it.

Time skip, and Captain Dick (assuming it’s him still) has created a cyborg that, I swear to god, goes round fucking women consensually. Also, because there’s absolutely no budget to show that this guy is a cyborg, he just looks like any old human. In the middle of all this, He-Shen is all grown up and has way too many lovey dovey moments with his girlfriend (who is called “Lala” if my ears are hearing the Chinese correctly). For a long time nothing really happens, our protagonist doesn’t even fight until thirty minutes into the movie! By the way, it’s even harder to discern what’s going on in this thing because of how few sets there are; everything seems to be shot on one big, vague location. He-Shen seems to look up to some professor as a father who pushes him through bizarre training that presumably gives him his superhuman strength (because of the non-existent budget, this guy doesn’t do a single feat like Riki-Oh can).

The three fruity assassins from the start are back and randomly kill some scientists, so He-Shen goes batshit and kills all of three of them. The cyborg, after fucking enough women and reading enough porn, goes to fight He-Shen because He-Shen presumably killed his friends. More drama happens between He-Shen and Lala and other characters that I can’t understand, the professor who He-Shen looks up to seems to be dying, he dies, as does some old woman. He-Shen fights dozens of henchmen who look more like film crew members carrying whisks, he fights and kills the cyborg, and then he fights and kills Captain Dick.

Apparently the plot of this all the time was that Captain Dick forced the old professor to train an army of super fighters, He-Shen was trained the same way and is the strongest of them all. So assassins are dispatched to try and eliminate He-Shen, but to no success, so Captain Dick sends out his foster son, the “God of War”, (I’ve called him Cyborg but I doubt he even is, I only called him that because I adamantly thought he was meant to this robot character from Riki-Oh), who has been fighting over He-Shen for the love of Lala for some time now.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking that I’m being really ignorant because I have no idea what’s going on and that I should only judge this if I had it with subtitles. I agree, but I doubt it would make this movie any better, because this is a truly bad movie! For what is trying to pass itself off as a sequel to Riki-Oh: Story of Ricky, there is not an ounce of gore in this piece of shit! No, I am not counting the blood the characters sometimes spit from their mouths! That doesn’t amount to anything! There is absolutely nothing in this that convinces me that this takes place in a dystopian future, and the Final Cut Pro special effects are abysmal. I just can’t believe this thing has the balls to consider itself a Riki-Oh sequel, loosely base itself off it and even go so far as to the cast the same actor who played him and even give him the character’s signature camouflage poncho! This movie has been shot with the utmost amateur skill as there are more Dutch angles here than in Battlefield Earth (probably an exaggeration because this thing angered me so much), but at least it doesn’t use any obnoxious slow-mo (though any actual slow-mo in this is just poorly done). Fight scenes are a little interesting but get boring quick and just look really silly in a lot of instances (fuck me I gave it some praise?). The music though is just unnoticeable, feeling incredibly stock; it makes Story of Ricky’s music sound good (EDIT: All the music is stolen from the anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross!).

Oh yeah, after learning about the actual plot of this, I figured that even if I knew what the characters were saying, I’d still find it incredibly crappy, there’s way too many talky sequences that go on for ages that are just there to establish “HE-SHEN LOVES LALA”, “CYBORG FUCKS WOMEN BUT LIKES LALA TOO”, “CAPTAIN DICK TALKS ABOUT HIS LIFE”. This was the director’s first movie and he has not made another movie since, and this was apparently the writer’s last film.

I really should give this thing more time and talk about it more, but I really don’t care, I hated everything I saw. I will however, expose this thing to the world because no one outside of China seems to have seen it.
Just so you know, what you're reading in this paragraph is new writing as of the 28th of May 2010, I originally wrote this article months ago but had to put it on hold, for a while I decided it was incomplete. After giving this a re-read and taking into consideration about what the movie it is, I feel like it doesn't need any new additions, because Super Powerful Man is quite simply fucking bad, and you can watch it if you wish.

-James is fuckin' pissed off, 28 May 2010 (original date)

Review source: Chinese DVD
Screenshot source: Chinese DVD

Hawk The Slayer

For those of you who inhabit this website it is clear to you as a writer that I am a fellow nerd, yet funnily enough the swords and sorcery genre is one casket of history I have yet to fully uncover. My only real exposure to the lands of picturesque mountains and clunky silver helmets is sparse at best containing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Krull and to a certain extent Highlander. However there was a very special tale that I would like to share with you all; a tale of heroic deeds from one man against the legions of darkness. A tale of rubber rapiers, obvious matte paintings and robotic acting the likes of which you have never seen. This is the story of Terry Marcel's 1980 possible inspiration for many a LARP (Live Action Role Playing Game for those who don't read the internet): Hawk The Slayer.

Once the narration of heroic deeds and valour set the stage, we meet our main villain Voltan (Jack Palance in a genre defining role) while he is commonly referred to as the 'Dark One' I much prefer my mantra: Voltan the Lord of Depth Perception. Seeing as how he comes complete with a half covered Darth Vader mask and all. You know, because he is decidedly evil. Voltan stumbles upon his father, in what looks like a recreation centre jacuzzi draped in gold paint (complete with precisely one guard) and stabs the guy just for the hell of it. Out of nowhere our hero Hawk appears, presumably following Voltan the entire time.

However he is too late as our panto reject escapes into the darkness. We learn from the dying old man that Hawk and Voltan were brothers and that they worked on the opposite sides of the good and evil spectrum. Hawk inherits a family heirloom, a sword of 'incredible' power known as the Mindsword. You can tell it's magic because it glows green, herp derp. Hawk in one of the only instances where actor John Terry emotes, swears revenge on Voltan stating that he will die by the sword.
After the opening credits complete their course we cut to a survivor of one of Voltan's village raids known as Ranulf, wielder of a crossbow (trust me it's very important). He seeks refuge in a nearby church where the resident nuns heal him by amputating his injured hand. To be fair though the nuns must have been lying because the arm is still the same length but covered by a sock and tape. Moving on, Ranulf explains how Voltan is 'a son of Satan' who slaughters women and children. You know, because the audience hasn't guessed he is pretty evil already.

To emphasise this point to the brink of madness, Voltan meets (through lots of loud shouting) with a being known as the Dark Wizard who is basically his weekly eye fixing GP. Immediately after that discussion, Voltan arrives at the church, kidnapping the Abbess for ransom in exchange for all the gold in the church. Ranulf tries in vain to help but one of Voltan's men manages to underarm throw a knife at his chest. Bear in mind this DOES NOT kill him somehow.

Ranulf soon leaves for help travelling to the largest matte painting of an abbey ever created, to seek counsel with the High Abbot. He tells of the location of a brave and noble warrior, Hawk naturally. Hawk rides through the woods, passing through the same stretches of land about three times from different angles. Soon enough, he spots a blind woman being accused of witchcraft about to be burned. By the way in the ending credits they label this character as 'Woman', Lars Von Trier eat your heart out.

After a few Eastwood-style staring contests, Hawk dispatches the evildoers and the sorceress awards him by allowing him to seek out his companions in his quest to hunt down Voltan. Basically each encounter with a companion goes something like this: Companion meets with strangers, strangers nearly kill companion, Hawk arrives in nick of time, villains get comeuppance and everyone is happy. Repeat around four times.
Hawk's companions include Ranulf from before, Crow the most wooden elf character in a fantasy film ever, Gort the giant (played by Bernard Bresslaw of Carry On fame) and Baldin the dwarf. Interspersed with the companion hunting malarkey are scenes of Voltan and his son (sort of maybe) Drogo pissing about and annoying the locals. Sounds like my local corner shop every Friday night; also is it just me or does Drogo look like the bastard lovechild of Rutger Hauer and Adrian Chiles? Two names I thought to be never used together.

Hawk reminisces about the good old days with his late girlfriend Elaine through the use of honey glazed visuals. Voltan still with his dark cloak and helmet mind, was jealous of his brother as Elaine was the woman he loved and accuses Hawk of stealing her. As Voltan tried to steal Elaine, she pokes him in the right eye with a flaming torch giving us the no doubt 'shocking' revelation of why Voltan is half blind. Girl power does not prevail however as Elaine is shot in the back with an arrow, leaving Hawk a little miffed. Believe me when I say that's how deep this movie gets in terms of story.

After trudging through gateways leading to obvious jump cuts, bedsheet wearing priests with flaming arrows as well as spit spewing hunchbacks, our merry band of LARPers arrive at the church where the nuns are no doubt pleased that Jack Palance hasn't returned for his cheque yet. One of the nuns (credited as 'Little Nun') is wary of their actions believing that the way out of this struggle is to pay the ransom. Where is the plot twist kids? It's behind you!

Drogo however tires of his father's leisurely pursuit of Hawk and persues our hero himself, with the help of a disposable Eric Idle lookalike. Drogo attempts to invade the church through his 'message of death' but is instantly overcome by Hawk's Mindsword and Crow's fancy editing trick to fire more arrows. Drogo passes away after returning to Voltan who subsequently deilvers a tear jerking speech. A few shit fits later, Voltan decides enough is enough and prepares to ride to the church with the help of the adorable little nun from earlier. Oh yeah and in between this we get lots of sub-par comic banter between Gort and Baldin about how much food they both eat... don't ask.

Hawk and the others also decide the time has come to overthrow Voltanand plan a raid of his headquarters (represented by a few manky looking tents). After a heroic massacre of the enemy, Hawk's brain thinks 'herp derp, Voltan's gone'. The gang excluding the blind sorceress head on back to the church and are immediately captured allowing Voltan to mug at the camera and overact some more. While Voltan approaches Hawk ready to burn his face, Baldin steps in and boots Voltan in the face subsequently being stabbed. Note the second and only other time John Terry emotes in this entire film.

But what of the sorceress, will she help her possibly dommed companions? Why yes, through the power of green silly string.....of course. Well it is supposed to be a magical weapon of some sort but really this was probably Terry Marcel's way of saying 'look at my opus guys.' This attack is laughably easy as all but one of Voltan's guards were sleeping and none of them were alerted by the incredibly loud silly string attack.
Either way, the sorceress unbinds Hawk and the others as they lay to rest our comic relief character. A fluorescent bauble and feather party ensues as the final battle begins, numerous lackeys are slaughtered, Ranulf is killed, Crow is injured and Gort is briefly knocked out after tearfully holding a dying nun. So now it is the epic confrontation, brother against brother and good against evil. So how do Hawk and Voltan turn up the epic dial on their brotherly conflict? Put simply, the hammiest and most unintentionally comic slow motion brawl ever filmed; trust me when I say the entire battle is filmed in this way.

We also get to know that Voltan is certainly rough around the edges when it somes to sword fighting, all Hawk needs to do is dodge very slightly and Voltan either clumsily bumps into a wall or unceremoniusly trips. Voltan activates his rage time and lunges wildly at his brother who rather nonchalantly slashes him through the side. The dying warlord curses his brothers power over the Mindsword with one last act of jealousy and slips into death's hands. our budding director however hints at Voltan's return as the Dark Wizard warns of his slumber being cut short. Do I need to explain that the Wizard is basically a floating bedsheet with glowing eyes?
Hawk and Gort are awarded with some of the precious gold while Crow stays to be healed by the nuns (sounds naughty), the two ride off to the South as we are informed of a gathering of Dark Wizards to set up the sequel. Cue end credits.

Hawk The Slayer is one of those cult movies that to judge seriously and claim that it is one of the worst films of all time would be considered blasphemy. The film has grown a small but surprisingly devoted fanbase defending this film either as an underrated classic or a tongue-in-cheek send up of the fantasy genre. While I don't truly agree on either of those opinions, I found the film to be like an elaborate pantomime; the story is extremely typical of the fantasy genre ticking the entire list of cliches from magical tales effortlessly.
While the plot and narrative is incredibly hackeneyed as well as derivative, it's paced well and is oddly enjoyable. The main reason for this is because of the wildly inconsistent acting and a low budget that would make a grindhouse director roll on the floor howling with laughter. For example, the liberal use of the same forest locations over and over again (very easy to spot in the horse riding montages). Adding to these are the hilariously bland costumes, rubber weapons and of course matte paintings; only two whole indoor sets were used for the film too.

The music is surprisingly good for a low budget British production but it is certainly unusual for the genre combining orchestral and synthesizer sounds along with some very spaghetti western sounding twangs. What steals the show here though is the acting which truly makes Hawk The Slayer stand out as a camp extravanganza. On one hand you have Hawk played by John Terry whose acting is beyond wooden and becomes almost leaden. Special mention to Crow the elf who is more robotic than the average Star Wars droid. Jack Palance as Voltan is at the opposite end of the bad acting spectrum truly excelling as one of the most overripe, maniacal villains in the genre. The rest of the acting is very bog standard with no-one else really standing out and coming off as very bland. Never mind the character development though, the film does not really go beyond the archetypes it portrays in any meaningful way.

But really, does that matter in this film? Most bad movie and fantasy aficionados older than their mid 20s are most likely aware of the film (my father remembers the film fondly). In any case Hawk The Slayer is probably one of the most accessible and watchable 'bad' movies around. If there was any excuse to have a drunken night at the movies, make Hawk The Slayer your first port of call.
  • Surprisngly catchy soundtrack: 4/5
  • Lack of budget: Painfully obvious
  • Jack Palance as Voltan: Deserves an Oscar 
-Oli, 30 December 2009

Review source: US DVD
Screenshot source: US DVD

The Raiders of Atlantis

When I think of exploitation I tend to think of three specific categories they apply to. There are those that take a specific genre and amplify the dark side of these particular films in order to create a piece of sheer glorious excess, case in point Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper. Others decide to take one particularly profitable movie and create their own interpretation of said work, culminating in cash ins that can be both completely unoriginal yet also have that undeniable cheese factor that turns them around to becoming enticing. No better example here than Bruno Mattei's Strike Commando.

 Finally there are features that are almost beyond reasonable comprehension, when trying to describe the plot of these films you would make the average film goer question whether such a thing could possibly exist. A film so deranged, off-beat and just downright insane that viewing of it should be made compulsory in all educational institutions worldwide.

That just skims the surface of Ruggero Deodato's 1983 actionsploitation 'masterpiece', The Raiders of Atlantis. Ruggero Deodato is the director responsible for what is considered the ultimate exploitation film Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most controversial movies of all time. Now with this reputation, the idea of Deodato treading the waters of the actionsploitation sub-genre was to say the least a tantalising proposition. Good thing too, that he decided to go all out with this film in terms of both action and narrative.

The title sequence sets the scene: Miami, Florida in the year 1994. Never mind that it still looks like 1983 and that the greatest disco anthem ever produced is playing in the background, just go with it. We follow two mercenaries Mike Ross (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammad (Tony King) who raid a mansion, dispatch a few guards and kidnap an old guy draped in a blanket. Well I guess to show your good guys are hardasses, kidnapping crippled old men for cash is the way to go. After receiving their sum of 50,000 dollars, Mike and Mohammad banter about what to do with it all the while we have an out of place running gag about how Mike refers to Mohammad as Washington while Mohammad frequently corrects him. After a while he just goes with the name so at least the joke does not outstay its welcome; it could have been worse mind you, he could have gold teeth and transform into a car but that's another story.

While riding a boat to Miami, Manuel a guy who just so happens to be tagging along spots a nearby helicopter piloted by Bill Cook (Ivan Rassimov) travelling to an oil rig carrying Kathy a female archaeologist. For some reason this takes place over the most abusivly long helicopter landing in film history, perhaps the editors were on a lunch break. Kathy at first is a tad disconcerted over her sudden trip to this oil rig, turns out the US government have been using a Russian submarine to investigate a large object beneath the sea. Further compunding this problem is a 12,000 year old stone tablet which Kathy conveniently enough knows how to decipher; she soon learns it is possible that the tablet is the key to the lost continent of Atlantis. A dramatic pause may be wise but let us not forget that the mystery was spoiled in the title of this movie anyway.

Meanwhile, a seemingly ordinary businessman raids the locked cupboard of Mad Max accessories and stumbles across a plastic skull mask in turn holding up to the screen. A massive storm suddenly occurs raising Atlantis from the ocean abyss causing everything to malfunction Star Trek style and decimating the oil rig. At this point the business man cum villain named Crystal Skull proceeds to begin his assault with his merry band of punk bikers complete with spiked Beetle car. How did Atlanteans learn to style their hair and build such snazzy motors? It's magic... you know.

 But wait a sec this is Ruggero Deodato right? Where's the gore? Crystal Skull starts his rampage by murdering a couple by shooting an arrow at a woman's jugular vein and driving towards the husband (who happens to be Mike Monty). Kathy along with the helicopter pilot Bill Cook as well as the founder of the oil rig Professor Sanders escape and stumble onto Mike's yacht. No one is especially concerned with the fact there is a supposed giant dome in the water that wiped out a good number of people. Sod it, let's focus on Mike and Kathy bonding over the prospect of a Spinach dinner. Yummy.

Without warning the other dude on the boat Manuel goes batshit insane holding Kathy hostage, Mike stops him and he abruptly dives into the water. Our intrepid explorers dock at San Pedro island which has gone completely tits up: hung bodies, destroyed buildings, blazing fires and stray horses all remind us of how one group of bikers has caused so much chaos. They decide to hold up in a large mansion-esque home complete with stuttering record player. Manuel suddenly runs towards them demanding they run away from the fast approaching Crystal Skull, thereby getting slashed (alcohol not included).

One of the group who suddenly has a name, Frank, decides the best cliche in this situation is to ask for peace. Sorry mate, a slash to the gut and face for you. Proof that turning the other cheek never works in action movies... ever. Mike and the gang fend off a few of the raiders with one getting casually pushed out of a window by Mohammad. Notice that in this movie when the Atlanteans die they have an echoey scream reminiscent of the Zentraedi from Macross, never explained obviously. After another of their numbers is dragged by Crystal Skull in chains, Mike throws caution to the wind and continues to move with the rest of the group through the island. On the way they decapitate a mohawked dude with wire in a fantastically grisly scene, shoot a few other bikers and soon find a drug store stocked with rifles and an almost infinite supply of Molotov cocktails.

Crystal Skull declares that our group has no place on the Earth and that the Atlanteans must rule over them; naturally a battle ensues. Hiding in the building our a few survivors, a couple with who I am guessing is the wife's sister or something. Who cares right, as the 'sister' is torched by a flamethrower and the wife is shot through the mouth with an arrow in the most blatant use of a model head I have seen since... still, the husband is left whimpering in the corner. Anyway Kathy is suddenly kidnapped by the Atlanteans and they retreat from the battle. Professor Sanders who does not seem terribly worried about the situation explains that the tablet Kathy deciphered details that Atlantis was sunk to the ocean floor by a long civil war and that their plan is to rule the Earth once again. With that, Mike teams up with a new obviously German sidekick Klaus and the group hitch a bus to ride to a nearby helicopter.

Another action scene ensuse as Mike now with a pimped up M4 blazes his way through a squad of Atlantean bikers, two of them are so humiliated that they got shot that they decided to go out in style; one decides to just drive off into the sea as if he didn't get shot in the first place and the other does the most over the top synchronized dive you will ever see. After getting to da choppa, the motley crew reach Atlantis which just looks like they landed on an island in the Phillipenes. Sanders rectifies this by saying that the Atlanteans are at harmony with nature for their technology. There are three major problems with this statement:

1. How did the Atlanteans infiltrate Florida in the first place and how the hell do they know how to ride motorcycles?

2. Thats just an excuse to not have any pricey props on the island.

3. I think we have discovered where James Cameron got the idea for Pandora from.

Either way as Atlantis has some invisible pull from a tractor beam of some sorts (never really explained, figures), the helicopter lands seemingly stranding Mike and the others. They decide to split up with Mike and Klaus seeking out the location of Kathy, while Sanders, Bill and Mohammad locate the nuclear submarine and deal with the rest of the Atlanteans. As Sanders tinkers with the sub he is soon shot by the guy taken by the Atlanteans in chains a while back called Jacob who is immediately blasted by Mohammad without a second thought. Speaking of which, anybody want to know the answer as to why Jacob was secretly an Atlantean? Oh whoops, sorry there isn't one.

On the other side of the island, Mike and Klaus press on dispatching more fish-flopping Atlanteans via bullets as well as the odd spike trap, which Mike somehow makes within the span of 30 seconds. God bless Macguyver reruns. We cut to Kathy who is suddenly in slightly futuristic garb, controlled by a large computer at the centre of the island apparently containing the souls of many Atlanteans (?). As she was the only one who could decipher their tablet, the Atlanteans could use her as the key to reviving the lost and dying civilization. Never mind she looks like she is wearing a baby bib for a collar. Carrying on with the good guy body count, Bill is shot from behind but has just enough strength to shoot backwards at his opponent as well as aim precisely at another guy soon slumping on the marsh. Mohammad suddenly has a fit of man rage, spraying his gun desperately. Despite seemingly being half a kilometer away from his line of fire, one unlucky Atlantean is hit and falls from a nearby cliff. Mohammad has officially invented homing bullets.

After Klaus is soon disposed of in a rather anticlimactic shootout, Mike reaches the cavernous Atlantean stronghold confronted by a pissed off Crystal Skull. A few close up shots and quick edits later, Mike butts the guy on his glass mask leaving him covered in protruding spikes and is defeated. Soon Mike suddenly faces a massive door guarded by a human faced eagle statue that fires reflective lasers. Fortunatly he dodges the shots so fast it makes the 'Han shot first' scene from Star Wars irrelevant. Out of nowhere (because Deodato remembered to cover up this plot holes this time), Mohammad appears and takes out the statue.

Like a classic video game, one hard level of puzzles leads to another. The two are greeted by a giant spiked fan pulling them towards it. Through a superlative example of hammy acting, they dodge the fans by holding hands, moving from the left to right of the fan with a little sing-a-long. Okay, the last bit didn't happen. The final door opens to Kathy however Mike and Mohammed can't just rush in and grab her because 'they are immobilized.' The computer goes schizo as the tablet which Mike was conveniently carrying gravitates to the center of the computer seemingly absorbing Kathy. She warns of the island starting to sink and our two heroes begin to haul ass. As soon as they get there, Kathy is there in her normal clothes and hairstyle again with you guessed it, no explanation as to how she teleported there. Well at least that means our team escapes the sinking fishbowl island and there will be a spinach dinner for everyone.

If you haven't gathered from what I have stated before, The Raiders of Atlantis is arguably one of the most insane and purely nonsensical action movies ever released. Funny how Deodato moved from a gritty and powerful grindhouse epic to an ultimately cheesy but unforgettable slice of sci-fi action bonkers. From the large body count, head scratchingly ridiculous plot, funktastic musical score and quirky sense of adventure Raiders of Atlantis is one hell of an entertaining ride. If you are at all into actionsploitation or Deodato's other works, this is essential b-movie insanity.

  • Nonsensical narrative: Off the scale
  • Disco music: Black Inferno baby
  • Christopher Connolley: R.I.P.
-Oli, 19 December 2009

Review source: Dutch VHS
Screenshot source: Dutch VHS

Double Target

Strike Commando would not be the first (and certainly not the last) time Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso would rip-off Rambo: First Blood Part II; Double Target is slightly outgunned by the more famous Strike Commando, but is a more tightly put-together movie, with just enough plagiarism. With Strike Commando and similar Rambo-styled movies much loved around these parts, how does Double Target hold up?

Taking up the helm as the bulletproof force of American strength this time around is Miles O’Keeffe; O’Keeffe plays Robert Ross (less impressively known as “Bob Ross” throughout the film, though he's an artist with the bazooka here), a Vietnam veteran (what else?) who had a short relationship with a Vietnamese woman before her death and now wants to bring his son back to the States, but is unable to due to official circumstances. His attempt to persuade a councilor to get his son back invariably leads to an encounter with one Russian colonel Galckin (Bo Svenson) before being rescued by American forces. Ross is dropped in front of Senator Blaster (Donald Pleasance) and is given the mission of going into Vietnam to confirm their suspicions of Russian activity, Ross takes this opportunity to also get his son back, but Blaster has given him the limit of getting the mission done in a number of days counted on one hand, and of course, is a complete dick about things. There is an opening scene concerning suicide squads attacking various British and American military personnel, but it really does have no bearing on the story.

It’s a Rambo copy through and through, any scenes Strike Commando did not rip off get their treatment here but with slightly more dignified executions, as far as can be for an unoriginal reproduction (the movie models itself more after Rambo, rather than outright repeat what that film did). The stoic action is interspersed with plenty of cheap acting (watch out for the many instances of extras throwing themselves before a bomb blast actually happens) and oddly-inserted comedic moments that seem to welcome themselves on in. Junkies for things that explode will get their money’s worth; action scenes are delectably filled with screen-filling fireballs the way only Mattei could do them. Keep an eye out for how Robert Ross destroys an entire warehouse with a infinite grenade launcher alone, as well as how the rescue operation of a village involves the destruction of every last hut; Claudio Fragasso, your logic is boundless! Not to mention, the helicopter climax from Rambo resulting in a fistfight between O’Keeffe and Svenson aboard a chopper. Feeling higher-budgeted than most of Mattei’s other flicks, the film has actual helicopters instead of stock footage with the model of chopper constantly changing, as well as some well-masked miniature setpieces. In fact, so lacking in stock footage it is (aside from some footage that may or may not be from Strike Commando, it’s actually difficult to tell as both of these were seemingly made the same year), the only instance of actual recycled film is absolutely gratuitous; it’s a mix of shark documentary footage as well as model shark footage taken from The Last Shark, to make a laughable scene of Robert Ross blowing up one of the predators. It really brings home the film’s B-Movie quality, almost needlessly too, but it seems they had to have something to put a spin on the departure scene from Rambo.

Music, possibly recycled from a few sources, is of higher quality than Strike Commando’s synth medley and lends itself to some well-shot scenes with decent success, rendering some instances in the film quite beautiful (shocking for a film of this calibre, right? Let’s not doubt Mattei’s cinematic eye too much), while the end credits song, a love piece, inappropriately fits itself in but is welcomed thanks to all the other B-grade antics before it. While Miles O’Keeffe is lacking the transcendent exuberance of Reb Brown’s Mike Ransom, he has enough charm to carry the film on his husky-toned sharpness, making up for his wooden style fairly well. Donald Pleasance, no alien to B-Movies despite his major actor status, only ever appears in one set in the entire film, giving the impression all his scenes were shot first so he could get out early, and given O’Keeffe’s performance’s similarity to Snake Plisken (not to mention, not looking a hell of a lot different), he probably felt he was still on the set for Escape from New York. Bo Svenson lazily gets by with an evil grin throughout and an accent that can’t quite decide whether it’s fake Russian or not, he has quite the cold look at least. Other actors include stalwarts and extras of Italian exploitation, such as Mike Monty reprising the exact same role as he did in Strike Commando as the Col. Trautman rip-off, Massimo Vanni rocks his Chuck Norris look as a Russian battling his friend Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, who appears in this as a Belgian aid to Ross. Let’s not forget the pseudonymous Edison Navarro as Ross’ son, acting just as awfully as he did in Strike Commando too. There are plenty of ineptly shot scenes that punch up the questionably unintentional comic factor (the amount of opportunities Ross should be easily gunned down, such as Galckin having his gun right next to his head during a bizarre escape scene), balanced out with some impressive aesthetics, with Miles O’Keeffe smugging his way through the action. It’s an instant recommendation for fans of B-grade cheese and 80s action, Double Target hits everything right.

-James, 22 July 2010 (original date)
  • Explosions: 4/5
  • "FUCK YEAH": 5/5
  • Gratuitous shark: 3/5
Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshot source: Japanese VHS

Title information
  • Production company: Flora Films
  • Year of release: 1987/88
Alternative titles:
  • Los Heroes Jamas Se Rinden <The Heroes Never Surrender> (Argentinia)  
  • Double Target - Cibles à abattre <Double Target - Targets to Kill> (France)
  • Der Kampfgigant <The Giant Fight> (West Germany)
  • ダブル・ターゲット, "Dabaru taageto" <Double Target> (Japan)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Highlander II: The Quickening

(This is a review of the 86 minute cut of Highlander II The Quickening from the UK video with the original plotline.)

Much like the series' titular characters, Highlander is a franchise that is seemingly immortal. Since the first film in 1986, it became one of the largest and most popular fantasy franchises for the next few years with a rabid fanbase to boot; the franchise in total has five live-action films with a planned remake in the works, a television series that spanned six seasons, an animated series and an anime movie by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Needless to say, that is one hell of an achievement for a series mostly reviled by film critics. However, there is one part of the series that many fans have tried to sweep under the rug since its release in 1991, four subsequent cuts exist of the film today to try and 'fix' the story and even the director who also helmed the first movie Russell Mulcahy deems it 'a fucking mess.'

Now as a kid who was certainly late to the party, I personally really enjoyed the original Highlander. It has practically everything I could have asked for in an 80s piece of fantasy hokum. A soundtrack by Queen, a badass cast of actors including Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, swordfighting aplenty, a few romantic bits along the way and to top it all off it was released by Cannon; to me the film defines the term 'guilty pleasure'. As I learnt about the smorgasbord of technical issues surrounding this sequel I became ever more intrigued. The unusual shift in setting and plot, the blatant disregard for continuity not to mention the almost Joel Schumacher-esque hate towards the film itself. But unlike the hardcore fans with a scimitar where the sun don't shine, I decided to give this film a chance expecting to loathe it. Prepare yourself, this one's plot is a doozy.

We begin in the familiar far future of 'movie' 1999, our returning protagonist Connor Macleod (with token girlfriend from first movie noticeably absent) is now a successful scientist who has created the perfect shield for the Earth's ozone layer. Subtle ecological messages, what are those? The shield is a resounding success blanketing the Earth in an ethereal glow that leaves every man happy and cheery. But as we all know in 'dystopic science fiction 101', every revolutionary piece of technology has some form of dark consequence and 25 years later Connor is in the ditch. His newly mortal life from The Prize has left him a withering, dying man complete with the greatest wheezy voice ever conceived. Driving through a futuristic landscape that Syd Mead would sue for, Connor explains how the shield has pretty much turned the world to anarchy and chaos (represented by the lighting bathed in an EVIL red). The company that invented the shield has disowned his presence and now fleeces the populace to power the shield leading to everyone not particularly liking our hapless mortal.

In a nearby opera house, the disembodied voice of Ramirez communicates with Connor about the good old days on the planet Zeist 500 years ago. Cue hundreds of Highlander fans hissing at the screen. While subsequent versions of this movie have been redubbed with new dialogue which I will explain later, this original version explains that the Highlanders are not actually Earth-born but are a race of aliens from a distant world and that Connor as well as Ramirez were banished to the Earth to fight in the Gathering as Immortals. Now take a deep breath, the Zeist history lesson is far from over.

The two Highlanders originally planned a rebellion against the ruthless General Katana (Michael Ironside with a rocking hairdo), this plan failed and the two warrriors are branded with immortality as a form of purgatory until they fight for The Prize. Now all this would sound pretty epic however there is a huge problem, in the original movie Connor and Ramirez never knew each other before they worked together thus the movie contradicts practically all of the major events of the first movie. These include Ramirez' decapitation at the hands of the first villain The Kurgan (originally written to be a henchman of Katana but subsequently abandoned) as well as abandon the notion that the Highlanders are human pretty much shifting genres within one movie from fantasy to science fiction, confused yet?

Moving back onto the main plot, in the flashback Ramirez and Connor become bonded by their power of the Quickening (the way a Highlander absorbs energy, this review has now become a series of glossary notes) so that whenever they need each other they can just call. Sounds very romantic I know. Back in the present day, a resistance group led by a young woman named Louise attempts to infiltrate the shield corporation and disable the shield culminating in failure as well as a retreat into the nearby city, personally I just love how her hair completely changes from scene to scene at times. Not to mention the way a walkway she travels on can also double as a giant ladder, don't ask. Meanwhile on Zeist, Katana after 'ahem' 500 years only just feels like killing Connor once and for all. With that he sends two lackeys who are basically KISS fans with goggles out to kill him, they also have a tendency to talk funny and maniacally laugh for no real reason. Hooray for forced comic relief.

Louise encounters the haggered Connor introducing herself and uttering the cliche of 'OMG I love your work'. Connor naturally assumes she is crazy and tries to ignore her despite her also deciding to ride with him because she wills it I suppose. The two bumbling lackies attempt to assault Connor who promptly shoves Louise into a nearby bin. For a man who is succumbing to old age, Connor surprisingly is still skilled enough to decapitate both of them through a hilarious encounter with cart wheels and trip wire. As is normal amongst Highlanders Connor absorbs the power through an incredibly destructive quickening, survives a head on explosion with a truck and comes out both immortal and young again. Without a scratch obviously. During his electric boogaloo he also decides to call out for Ramirez indicating that he might come back to life through some contrivance later on 'gasp'.

With practically no recollection of Connor's previous remarks about her brash personality, Louise instantly becomes attracted to our newly grizzled hero and gives him the smooch. Connor also does the 'I cannot die' routine as to let the fans know this is definetly still Highlander, honest. At Connor's audaciously large abode, Louise discovers and repeats to an already bewildered audience about the origins of the Highlanders and even stating her confusion as to the whole farrago. Nothing like breaking the fourth wall in a film not intended to be a comedy.

Suddenly we cut to Scotland as a Hamlet play takes place with Ramirez suddenly being warped back into existence. More comic relief begins to take over as Connery questions the play naturally with the Shakesperean actor backhanding him with some insults complete with Australian twang. Our bumbling highlander leaves while uttering 'Farewell, dear shithead.' Poetry in motion I am sure you will agree. Ramirez decides to acquire some new threads in possibly the most homoerotic suit tailoring scene in movie history complete with Connery's bulge. Now I see where Paul Whitehouse got his 'Suit You Sir' idea from.
Adding to this already confusing mishmash of plot points is Connor's assistant scientist Dr. Allen being pestered by none other than Dr. Cox from Scrubs (if you are really wondering his actual name its John C. McGinley and his character is David Blake). Yep, he is in this movie as the new leader of this maniacal corporation complete with all of the comedy faces we know him for. Don't worry though, this sub plot is pretty much dull padding to show we have switched to another movie so thus it has no impact on anything else in the movie. Also Dr. Allen dies, big whoop. Anyway, after his lackeys fail him and his rocker hairdo, Katana finally heads to Earth to deal with Connor personally.

Well before that he decides to hijack a train in a sequence that is basically Billy Idol's Speed music video but with 50% more lightening; to show that he is also a villain he decides to randomly break a guy's neck for staring at him, taunting a smiling kid, trashing a cab because he can and having a quick quip with Connor about the Highlanders power. The guy seems less like an oppressive villain and more like a loiterer with ADD. Assuming that because he is a villain he can have total power, he takes over the shield corporation by simply taunting Dr. Cox and overpowering his men involving more laughing and neck twisting.

Ramirez eventually meets up with Connor and Louise and plan a daring raid of the corporation, well not after Connor and Ramirez remenisce about Zeist. Ramirez decides to proclaim that 'your time is NOW!' and smashes a globe; truly inspring stuff. The two immortals drive right into an armed battalion and are bloodily shot up in a sequence that would make Sam Peckinpah proud. Louise is taken out of the boot of the van by the Aliens trooper rejects and taken to the morgue where our sleeping heroes now lie. Connor and Ramirez soon wake up and the three dash into a secure room with the LARGEST fan in human history about to skewer them. Ramirez being the Scottish badass he is manages to hold the fan up with possibly the single most powerful weapon in the univerese; a power so great it would make the Force irrelevant: bagpipe music.

Soon after the most anticlimactic sacrifice ever, due to Dr. Cox's failure to eliminate everybody Katana grabs him literally through the stomach and chucks him out a nearby window. Louise is left to her own devices to fend off the swarming guards while Connor engages in the climactic battle with Katana. You can tell from the giant laser beam protruding through the floor and whats rather amusing is if you look really closely you can see the green screen effect through the body of the actors. But wait will Connor defeat the evil general through the power of hot laser death? The results are underwhelming, a few slashes to the stomach Katana kneels down and Connor lops his head of. But wait, the laser powers the satellite controlling the shield so in a typical case of protagonist bravado Connor leaps into the laser and deactivates it without a care. Note that suprisingly he is not vaporised completely by this. Connor and Louise make up and stare into the sky as the shield fades into black with the stars shining and the credits roll.

Highlander II in all honesty is not really the worst sequel ever made although it is certainly somewhat weak compared to the original with the plot and narrative in particular being bewilderingly nonsensical; a boiling plot of fantasy ideas that rarely gels into a cohesive plot. Admittedly the change up of the Highlander origins is an interesting concept but feels arbitrary due to its numerous continuity mistakes; even the setting itself while having some unusual Gotham/Syd Mead-esque design choices looks very unpolished with certain model shots looking particularly wonky. The acting is pretty standard, however the presence of Sean Connery as well as Michael Ironside keep the 'Action Movie 101' script from growing too egregious. Some of the dialogue from Ramirez however is amusing, Sean Connery often makes even the worst dialogue sound good. Arguably the best part about the movie is its pacing which for the most part is fairly quick due to the numerous action scenes, no doubt trying to cover up the clueless plot.

Highlander II is not a sequel that was really all that necessary, the first film tied its plot threads up nicely and this installment often feels like a bit of a cash in. However I admire the fact that they had a stab at changing the formula through various means which many sequels often fail to do, even if they don't all quite mesh. No doubt many fans will persuade you to look for the definitive version which rejigs the continuity somewhat with new dialogue which can now be easily obtained under the subtitle of Renegade. In its original form, Highlander II is a passable but mildly fun experiment in mishmash filmmaking. Not quite the new kind of magic it could have been, but an admirable attempt.

-Oli, 07 December 2009 (original date)
  • Michael Ironside + Sean Connery x Dr. Cox = Greatest cast list ever
  • Does it follow continuity of the first movie? Pffft.
  • Opportunities for music videos: 3/5 
Review source: UK DVD
Screenshot source: UK DVD

Dog Soldier: Shadows of the Past

I love Tetsuya Saruwatari, the man has consistently provided some of the most imaginatively violent manga ever with great artwork, and has never succumbed to the ilk of cute art styles, he's very underrated, and I almost like how the standard anime and manga fans don't know of him. The man did the artwork for the manga Violence Hero Riki-Oh, which is most famously known for its Hong Kong movie adaptation, Riki-Oh: Story of Ricky. Saruwatari has a great mastery of surprising the reader simply with how outrageous his depictions are, and if there's ever a moment of bad writing, good god the man can be forgiven for his works being so supremely awesome. The best part is, he still works today.

Perhaps his third most well-known franchise in the west is Dog Soldier/ ドッグソルジャー, and that's only because of the vaguely known 1989 OVA, so yeah, not a lot of people really even know it. It also doesn't help that searching for it online will most likely bring up the horror movie Dog Soldiers, or if you're lucky, another movie called Dog Soldiers about actual soldiers, which is also known as Who'll Stop the Rain. The manga has never been translated but I have been looking through it in its original Japanese; while I can't really decipher the plot, I can tell it's about two elite soldiers known as John Kyosuke Hiba and his friend Masami Fudou being routinely hired by a guy called Takechi to do little dirty jobs all around the world, Takechi regularly gets punched in the face by the two and they usually provide comic relief together when things aren't being serious. The manga is extremely violent and follows a bit of a villain-of-the-week format, and is also quite stupid. It contrasts a bit to the predominant seriousness of Riki-Oh (even though that manga is fucking crazy), it's still highly enjoyable.

The OVA on the other hand? It's a disappointment, and I really wouldn't care for its flaws if it was overly violent, but it really fails to emulate the energy of the manga, and Saruwatari's token extreme violence is nowhere to be seen. In fact, the whole thing is a mess; a cheaply-animated, uncompelling mess that really knows how to make a basic story sound difficult to follow.

The story is about a former green beret called John Kyosuke Hiba and his friend Fudou who are trying to make a living as blue collar workers, but they're called back into action when an American scientist is kidnapped along with her briefcase that contains the cure for AIDS by an arms dealer. The scientist is an old friend of John, a woman called Cathy, but his interest is really sparked when he learns that the arms dealer is a man called Makoto Allen Takamura; in "the slums of LA" when they were just children, these three all stuck together. How Cathy and Makoto ended up in such high positions with this background I'll never know. Makoto, going under the pseudonym of Phantom, sets John and Fudou up on his island while he attempts to auction off the cure for AIDS to all atendees representing third world nations. John and Fudou of course, beat everything Makoto throws at them, but the Americans arrive to start levelling the island, so the representatives attending Makoto's auction all make an escape.

This of course rubs Makoto the wrong way, who makes his own escape with Cathy and the vaccine, only to be halted by John (no Fudou here). Makoto and John engage in a knife duel, but to stop Makoto killing John, Cathy in traditional tragedic character fashion, runs in front of his blade. This leads to her giving a dying monologue on how the two were apparently both the objects of her affection. Being the speech-giving villain, Makoto laughs maniacally and tells them both that the vaccine was a fake all along. Furious, John charges toward Makoto while being fired at, leaps and lands on Makoto's shoulders to thrust his knife into his forehead. It is at this moment Makoto makes a hilarious noise that makes it sound like he's being sick. John pulls out the knife and walks away, only for, Makoto to start talking...

In a dying monologue that's flat-out unbelievable compared to all others, Makoto tells his old friend that he became an arms dealer because Americans killed his Japanese mother and white father, so his plan was to make it look like the Americans have a real vaccine, in hopes that it would turn all other countries against the US. In all honesty, the plot to this is not all that bad, but there's so much going on in the space of 45 minutes it's all been ham-fisted together, and is therefore a bit difficult to all take in at first, especially when it feels like there's just way too many holes in this thing. It's really begging to provide some intrigue and character depth, especially with the history the three central characters all share together, but it just can't. I'm not sure whether to blame this on Saruwatari or the writer of this OVA, Shou Aikawa, as I have not gotten very far into the manga. Aikawa has apparently been accused of being anti-American over this, and I can see why, but still, I'd rather clarify first. The fact that John is meant to be the very best of the best is barely touched upon in some overly unimpressive battle sequences, and Fudou is almost entirely purposeless. Oh yeah, "death merchant" must be a real occupation as Makoto is referred by it ALL THE TIME.

The whole thing is wonderfully dated as it is, what with the whole theme of AIDS being something that will kill us all and Cold War, and how John Hiba is such a blatant copy of John Rambo (as if the name wasn't enough). As well as the richly stereotypical idea of him growing up in America's rougness overlooking the glamour of Beverly Hills. Of course, a lot of this all comes from how Saruwatari used to be in the 80s with a fairly amusing view of America, it should also be noted that stupidity like Makoto's death was also a trademark of Saruwatari, in fact Makoto's body should have just given away if he was holding the full weight of a man on his shoulders. By the way, Fudou's stupid haircut originates from the manga, in which it's sliced down the middle by a bladed boomerang. Clearly, this was aimed strictly at Japanese fans, but due to a possible lack of regulation when things like this were being released overseas by the likes of CPM, background research probably didn't happen, meaning things like this were sold to an uninformed crowd.

The animation is very bad for 1989, recycling several pieces many times over and looking generally lifeless, even the colouring is bad, everything seems to have a pale, blue-ish or washed-out tint to it (notice the running theme in these screenshots already?). Fight scenes are poorly laid out and are not eye-catching, and even though violent things are happening, they just don't feel violent. They lack the gore and 'HOLY SHIT' factor that were both quite abundant in the manga. Much of the music is not memorable, some of it is good but the best piece is the end credits song that kinda fits the solemn mood established at the end. The voice cast of this features some notable stars of the anime business, such as Akira Kamiya and Norio Wakamoto, a dub of this exists and if you are interested enough you can purchase it here, I have never seen it myself but am somewhat interested to do so. Dog Soldier is a title that has been completely swept under the rug and will most likely stay that way, it is an extremely weak OVA, but as a Tetsuya Saruwatari fan, and someone who just loves older anime, I can't bring myself to fully hate this. By all means check out the manga online even if it is untranslated, it's highly recommended for fans of things that draw heavy influence from Rambo.
  • Music: 3/5
  • Knife usage: 3/5
  • Being as good as the manga: 0/5 
-James, 13 November 2009 (original date)

Review source: US Laserdisc
Screenshot source: US Laserdisc

The Humanoid

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of modern anime; the fascination I had with how anime was it all seemed so new, dark and more inspired in the 90s, it's something of a nostalgia trip. Hence why I prefer older anime in general, plenty of classics and nothing as embarrassing as the content that's pumped out today to feed the scary otaku stereotype of modern times. That's not to say all old anime was good though.

The Humanoid was shit, is shit and forever will be a load of shit, much like Roots Search, but I'll be damned if I let this festering piece of trite go to waste without giving it the attention it deserves, because it has a charm. Let it be known that there is nothing good about this OVA, but it's not like the bland title was an indicator of anything good, if anything it was something of a herald of the crap in store (ザ・ヒューマノイド 哀の惑星レザリア apparently translates to "The Humanoid: Sorrow of Planet Lazeria", a step fancier).

Opening up marvelously is a prologue text crawl that's done in the style of Star Wars, at least my ears have not been assaulted by obnoxious trumpets. This useless bit of exposition tells us that on the planet Lazeria, humans live alongside this race of people called the Megalosians, this plot point is pretty purposeless however as the Megalosians are pretty much just humans and the fact they're Princess is there is not touched upon at all, at best these people sound like an old genus of shark.

We're soon introduced to Alan, a guy whose intro tells us he may as well have been in charge of coffee commercialism because it's pretty clear throughout that he fucking loves coffee, enough to put it on a philosophical pedestal. Alan is part of the two-man crew of ship unknown with a mullet-toting guy called Eric, the two of them are bringing supplies back to a scientist called Dr. Watson who resides on Lazeria and Eric can't wait to see his girlfriend there.

Upon this, I'm attacked by what may be the most hilariously garish multi-colour title card ever with mundane footage set to the epitome of generically uninspired 80s pop songs with equally bland gratuitous English. We're introduced to more characters we'll never care for, it doesn't help that their designs are appallingly dull, with all the male characters looking as realistic as can be for this thing's artwork while all the girls have this Magical Girl look about them in which their eyes are unattractively huge. It's distracting and opposes the art style of the male characters, because it makes it feel like you're watching them in a separate world of exaggerated cartoon women. Oh, more coffee fetishism to end the scene.

After remarking like idiots at how temple ruins apparently shouldn't exist in the jungle, Alan and Eric are chased by fighter planes as they leave their ship as it plummets to make a crash landing, it's funny that one of the planes breaks its wing by hitting tree foliage. Meanwhile, some evil brooding asshole called Governor Proud reveals that he wants to dig up an old ship known as the Ixion to one of his ministers called Libero so he can use it to travel back to Planet Megalos, the bald old Libero tells him that last time he explored the ruins of this ship all life was destroyed in the area because of a disaster, even though he's still around to talk about it.

Alan and Eric eventually reach Dr. Watson's lab on foot and we finally meet Antoinette, the robotic star of this snoozefest. She's meant to develop human emotions and have a personality but she's really just pushed aside, also, there's quite a lot of bickering scenes between Eric and his girlfriend Sheri that hardly moves the plot at all.  

The next day, Alan and Eric leave to repair their crashed ship in the jungle. Eric, being a curious gimp, leaves to go check up on the ruins only to find they're occupied by General Proud's robot forces. He's taken prisoner, as is every other character in this because Proud is a dick and wants nothing to get in his way of re-activating the Ixion (which appears to literally be a load of blocks from these ruins). With this, it's up to Antoinette to save the day. Proud makes a getaway to the ruins of the Ixion with the two keys he needs to activate it. Unfortunately, the moment it is activated, all hell breaks loose and he dies, it's all up to Antoinette and the only good 80s song in this OVA to shut down the Ixion. Doing so (sadly, I guess) kills her, and all the characters who aren't dead go home. The thing ends with some poppycock read by Dr. Watson about how machines have life too.

It baffles the mind how so many OVA directors simply slipped up in telling a good story, but the odd 40-minute time frame that appeared to be the norm for these features must have definitely been a drawback. The Humanoid's story however, is a meandering mess that could have been a good tale of a robotic creation learning how to be human with it only to end in tragedy. It doesn't though, thanks to the very vague and incredibly sluggish plot, so Antoinette is essentially a side character. It's almost hilarious how Eric breaks into tears at Antoinette's death, as if we're meant to have accepted these two really knew each other when they hardly spent much time on screen together. Oh yeah, Antoinette cries somehow too. Proud himself is the stockest of stock villains complete with an evil cackle and a motivation that's never really explained other than to be a bitch for everyone else, the most compelling character in this is Alan with his coffee obsession. 

This one is not as outright atrocious as Roots Search, but it's near there. The artwork varies from being interesting to being overwhelmingly dull; none of the locations are intriguing or eye-catching, the shading and the mechanical designs are probably the best thing about this, and even then, the latter of the two still isn't very captivating. Antoinette is the best-looking thing in this, being designed by Hajime Sorayama of robot pin-up fame, whose art is generally excellent. There are a few moments in which the animation is smooth, but for the most part, it's incredibly rough. Colouring is never consistent, as the tints of scenes repeatedly change, much like the oppositional character designs, it's very distracting. Worse, you will often see black borders, largely at the top of the screen, where the animation cuts off with the badly adjusted framing, it reeks of sheer poor quality. The music excels in how average it is, with the song during Antoinette's final scene being the only good thing on the soundtrack, in fact, there's not even a lot of music in this, which would explain the apparent absence of any OST release (I actually found out there was one, interestingly it contains early artwork of its characters). The dub of this however, isn't too bad, but it's pretty much the only thing making it really good.

This thing apparently had the distinction of being "released for the first time in the UK" when it got its Region 2 release as if it was a good thing, it's also funny how the back states that footage of this anime was apparently used in Madonna's Drowned World tour, so I guess it got lucky to be used in such a way, too bad no one seems to remember it. Upon doing some digging, The Humanoid was actually pretty fortunate to get quite a few follow-up releases in the form of books, particularly art ones, I would strongly suspect this thing looked a lot better in its conceptual stages, as bad as it may be, at least it's still a good step above Roots Search.
  • Mechanical design: 3/5
  • Story: 1/5
  • Coffee: 5/5 
-James, 12 December 2009 (original date)

Review source: US DVD
Screenshot source: US DVD

Archangel Thunderbird

Wondering where to watch this? Your only option is YouTube, as this thing is not available on DVD nor does it get reruns, it never has and never will. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4

This is truly something from the depths of obscurity, and never before has there been a beast such as crazy as this. Archangel Thunderbird was the first production Tony Luke ever made under his Renga Studios banner, until he turned it into Renga Media and produced Dominator, a film so insane it deserves to be known, whether you hate it or love it.

This 20-minute short was made to promote the launch of the Sci-Fi Channel in Europe in 1998 and it had record viewing figures, of course, no one remembers it, perhaps due to how it was never really promoted, or because it was an extremely low-budget one-off. Still, one has to ask, once the sight of this has been burned into someone's mind, how can they forget it?

With the first few minutes looking like something from a student film, people probably wouldn't be wrong in guessing that this short piece had a budget of no more than three or four figures; amateurish stop-motion action, laughably ancient CGI, green screen ahoy, and Doug Bradley being the only real name in this thing's cast. Despite my apparent harshness, I don't hate Archangel Thunderbird, it's just for the most part, totally unbelievable, in a way that makes you smirk. What's funny is that this probably would have looked acceptable as a 3DO or Sega CD FMV game, but it actually came out toward the end of the 90s; the style of it all is almost dazzling in a way.

Our plot involves a "renegade scientist" known as John Churchill (Doug Bradley) who discovers ancient texts prophesizing that doomsday will be spearheaded by pre-Christian otherworldly demons. Churchill has gone into hiding after the UN laughed his theories out the door, silly move in hindsight really, because shortly after, Earth was attacked by many giant demons led by the Lovecraftian Baal. Churchill has however assembled Doomshield, Earth's last hope, consisting of soldiers and scientists (a few extras carrying big guns and a guy in a labcoat with crazy hair), along with a very bondage friendly girl called Miki Manson being suspended by wires and tubes (played by Eileen Daly, the only other name in this who at least has some credentials, but I'm being mean). With new recruit Rob (Adrian Bunting, yes you haven't heard of him), who doesn't seem to do much other than turn on Miki, Churchill has Miki control something known as the Archangel Thunderbird, using pages from the Necronomicon, that allow her to shift through giant monster forms.

In all honesty, this is pretty much an accurate live-action depiction of anime; the incomphrehensible plot, insane dialogue, giant monsters killing each other, fetishized-women, and battles with garish special effects, especially when combined with the frenetic feel of the whole thing, and even right down to the inclusion of a cool little end credits song. This pretty much has all the makings of a one-off OVA, it just suffers from being a woefully low-budget live-action product, if it was an anime with money spent on it, it would probably be more well-known. The influence is definitely obvious, and this would probably be good too if it was a well-made kaiju/tokusatsu production.

Many are going to look at this and think it's the worst piece of anything under the sun among the several hundred other films they probably haven't seen yet (the easiest way to say you've seen the worst film ever is of course to just watch Twilight), I still find I have to applaud Tony Luke and his team for getting something as outrageous as this done without much help or without much money, the man may have turned out something really good if he actually did have the proper facilities. It's risible in more ways than one to many, understandably so, but it's a fascinating little hybrid of things, even if it is slightly difficult to watch at a few instances. The highlight of the whole thing are Yasushi Nirasawa's monster designs, which are fantastic as always. Their detailed stop-motion models are very cool, I only wonder where they are now. Also, it's not like Renga acted like they had made something incredible, which is good. I feel pretty mean ripping on such an innocent one-off, one that is not entirely scarce on imagination at all, it's really not all that bad, and if you love cheesy then you might find this is right for you.

I wish I could really extend this article, something like this just feels like it needs more coverage. Like Dominator, there's nothing else like this, and it's been extremely rare up to now, it demands to be watched just for the sheer insanity and novelty that such a thing was ever made.
  • Being made on dirt: 4/5
  • Insanity: 5/5
  • Obscurity: 6/5
-James, 05 November 2009 (original date)

Review source: Original recording
Screenshout source: Original recording

    Southern Cross

    Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross is one of those shows which seems to dwell in the greyest areas of anime limbo; The devout fans of the show are few and far between and its legacy as part of Carl Macek's legendary Robotech has given the show somewhat of a bad reputation. When I was an impressionable youth at the age of thirteen, Robotech for me was like a breath of fresh air in amongst my quickly dying interest in current television which still persists to this day. This could also explain why my taste in media is not very diverse. Admittedly, the Macross portion of the show was my personal favourite and I subsequently went on to adore its Japanese counterpart as well as the movie Do You Remember Love? which currently stands as one of my favourite animated films Japanese or not.

    Despite the universal admiration of Macross, there was little if any fanfare for the middle portion of Robotech created from Southern Cross. In fact even in Japan, the show was a flop and only through Carl Macek's intervention the show had potential to be somewhat profitable. The history of Southern Cross is fragmented and sadly little information on the show has been published in and outside Japan, however I will do my best to explain its origins.

    Southern Cross was released in 1984 and was the third instalment in the 'Super Dimensional' trilogy of TV shows (which are all unrelated apart from staff similarities), preceded by Macross and Orguss. It was the least successful of the three with low ratings making the show last a fraction of its original and much longer intended length at only 23 episodes. It was later adapted and edited as part of Robotech in 1985 as 'The Masters Saga' bridging the gap between the newly edited Macross and Mospeada story arcs. The unfortunate failure of this show remains somewhat of a mystery as their is next to no information on why it failed. Its a crying shame too, as I believe Southern Cross to possibly be the most misunderstood mecha show that was released in the 1980s.

    The show takes place in the year 2120, mankind has colonized new planets in order to escape from an apocalyptic war that waged during the end of the 21st century. Leaving the Sol solar system, mankind now resides on two worlds known as Liberte and Gloire the latter planet being the setting for the show. Our main protagonists are individuals in the vast Glorian army of the Southern Cross as they face their first great adversary. An alien race known as the Zor prepare for a full scale invasion of Gloire in order to take back the planet of their birthplace which they themselves polluted originally. The main objective of the Zor as well as reclaiming the planet is obtaining a plant which is the race's power source known as the Protozor; despite being technologically advanced they are slowly dying both in a physical and psychological sense.

    One of the things that right off the bat seperates Southern Cross from its contemporaries is that the most predominant protagonists in the show are strong willed military women. Firstly we have Jeanne Francaix a brash and reckless liutenant with a distinctive blonde afro. Throughout the series she grows and matures in character from a likeable if very abrasive girl into a capable and very much mature commander of her squad, the 15th Tactical Armoured Corps.

    Secondly we have our resident tough chick with black mullet, Marie Angel once a former biker gang leader now ace fighter pilot. Right from the start of the show she rivals Jeanne in terms of power constantly teasing her ability to command. The most spirited of the three female protagonists, Marie never has quarrels in dealing with airborne alien foes nevermind her notoriety as a 'man-eater' (or Cosmo Amazon if you go by the show).
    Thirdly we have duty-bound law enforcer Lana Isavia, another young woman but a high ranking officer in the Gloire Military Police. Defined very much as a no-nonsense spook, she regularly oversees much of the 15th squadron's activities particularly Jeanne and the two have a friendly relationship evern if their ideals however tend to clash on various occasions. Seeing as how distinctive hairstyles are the norm with these women, Lana sports gigantic, waist length blue hair (sometimes green on certain artwork) and a similarly dark uniform with red cape to boot.

    The rest of the characters are mainly made up of the rest of Jeanne's budding squadron and tend to fit in with various mecha character archetypes. Firstly we have the youngest cadet Bowie Emerson who would have preferred to be a musician than forced into the military by his calculative father Rolf, one of the chief officers of the Southern Cross. Secondly we have our resident techie Louis Ducasse who comes complete with giant goggles. Charles De Etouard is the groups ladies man and Andrjz Slawski is the experienced, muscular giant of the group often being bewildered by Jeanne's actions.

    Behind the scenes of the war with Rolf is the stubborn supreme commander of the Southern Cross, Claude Leon a man who would never risk giving up Gloire and wishes to annihilate the Zor at all costs. Later on in the show we are also introduced to a soldier hypnotized by the Zor and used for their own ends as a spy named Seifriet. He begins his role in the show as the main commander of the Zor mecha known as the Bioroids, interestingly enough his Bioroid colour is red similar to Char Aznable's Zaku in the original Mobile Suit Gundam which might have inspired the mecha designers. After failing numerous times in dealing with the Southern Cross, Seifriet is sent down to regain his former memories and infiltrate the planet unwillingly extracting data for the Zor commanders. After forming a close relationship with Jeanne, he eventually seeks revenge against the Zor for their experiments and endangering the Glorian populace. Along with Jeanne, Seifriet is undoubtedly the most developed character of the series and could be considered the show's tragic hero. Even though his purple glam rock hair will never be taken seriously.

    In terms of the protagonist character development, Southern Cross is admittedly a little mixed in this regard. Jeanne, Marie and Lana are mostly well developed throughout the show playing off one another well. Each of them were for the time unique in that they were military women in control rather than on the sidelines catering to the male characters. In particular these characters grow in personality so that by the end they have become different people by the end of the conflict. Although Jeanne gets the spotlight more here than her rivals. The other characters while mostly on the side are interesting in how they react to Jeanne's actions even if some of the characters aren't very three dimensional. For example, Bowie as the youngest cadet over time seeks counsel with Jeanne in a relationship similar to that of two siblings. However along with the relationship between Jeanne and Seifriet, Rolf and Claude also form a rift in ideals. Rolf on one hand is a tired military general who wants to end the war without resorting to brute force and wishes to learn more about the Zor. On the other hand Claude believes that the protection of Gloire means the utter destruction of the Zor.

    The Zor themselves also have a few main characters at their side, however I thought I would explain as to what makes them alien. In terms of design they are your standard humanoid aliens characterised by pale skin and odd coloured hairstyles; a common feature in most space opera anime. Their main distinction from the humans however is that each Zor has two clones of themselves and thus they act as a trinity; each Zor has a role within the trinity that if broken would cause a psychological collapse. These attributes are: decision, action and information. Firstly we have the Zor commanders who resemble elderly monks, they are unemotional and draconian ceasing to care about anything other than their races survival. The commanders also have various assistants that are mainly scientists once again striking odd designs and many of them are androgynous adding to the alien aesthetic. In fact as observed by the human characters, the Zor architecture is very much akin to a blend of alien cybernetics and ancient Rome right down to the various coliseums and civilian robes. Going back to the characters, the last main Zor character is a young, green-haired female named Musica who naturally has two identical sisters named Musiere and Muselle. As the name obviously implies, Musica is a musician for the Zor who at one point meets Bowie and falls madly in love with him creating an all important relationship between the Zor and the humans.

    The overall design in Southern Cross is pretty unique as well as inspired and innovative. The mecha designs were created by a first-time studio called Ammonite who before only worked on television commercials; some of their concepts are interesting if pretty flawed in parts. For example, the Spartas hovertank is probably the best one of the bunch, transforming from a tank, to a gun emplacement and finally a robot form. The Spartas in general is like a futuristic chariot, bulky but by the same token articulate and powerful. However the lack of a cockpit for pilots has always puzzled me. Same can't be really said for the first few Space Corps fighters, the first type is just your average space fighter with no transformation and the other jet is the Logan which can only be described as a flying boat. It has a guardian mode but it looks incredibly goofy, later in the series it is replaced by the far better if also rather implausible space helicopter vehicle the Auroran. There are other mecha sprinkled throughout the armies of the Southern Cross such as reconnaissance mecha like the Salamander and GMP units which look similar to designs from Votoms and Gundam.

    The Zor have less variants in mecha but their main mecha the Bioroids have various forms. Aesthetically as stated before they look not too dissimilar to biomechanical Zakus complete with bulging robo muscles and cockpits with breathing apparatus. They even come with a hoverboard for transport adding to their arsenal. As the show goes on especially towards the end, the Bioroids change models increasing their power and enhancing their pilots. Unlike human vehicles, bioroids are powered through their pilots transmitting their thoughts through the mecha's nervous system. The Zor also have pretty much one kind of ship, an enormous vessel which is like a mile long metal slab that is almost impenetrable as well as a magenta coloured bioroid carrier.

    However arguably the best part of Southern Cross's design is the incredibly nifty and badass personal armours for the soldiers (also referred to as Arming Doublets). The army of the Southern Cross is split into several divisions from the Armoured Tank Corps, Space fighter pilots, Police officers and even marine troopers however many of the divisions outside of the main characters are rarely seen but can be found in a lot of related artwork. The armour comes across as a form of futuristic samurai uniform right down to the feudal looking headcrests and helmets on some of the outfits. Originally Southern Cross was supposed to be more of a space opera based in a futuristic version of feudal Japan so you can see where the inspirations for the personal armour came from, many of Southern Cross's more elaborate designs that were abandoned would be featured subsequently in Robotech art books based around the aborted series Robotech II: The Sentinels. As well as that some of Ammonite's work on Southern Cross and ideas for The Sentinels were also used in the Zillion anime series.

    The character designs by Hiroyuki Kitazume (Gundam: Char's Counterattack) and Tomonori Kogawa (Ideon, Dunbine) once again are strange but well drawn and are memorable because of how odd some of them are. This can include Jeanne's puffy blonde afro, Marie's scruffy mullet and Lana's elegant blue wave of hair. Characters are decently proportioned so that like most good character designs kee p their shapes semi-realistic without being too lifelike nor too cartoony. No crazy post-2000 watermelon breasts here. The animation for an early 80's mecha show is mostly consistent in quality and in some parts looks rather smooth; out of the three shows that helped to create Robotech, Southern Cross was probably the best looking.
    Now in terms of plot, Southern Cross is relatively slow moving; in fact this appears to be one of the main reasons why a lot of mecha fans have distanced themselves from the show. However I believe the slow pace actually helps the story rather than hinders it; this allows more room for the rather large cast of characters to be likable enough that you care for them. In fact one of the main reasons why I enjoyed Southern Cross was because of how likable the characters were and that there was far more emphasis on the planning behind the war rather than sacrifice the details for more action and fan service.

    That does not mean that Southern Cross lacks action (there are several shower scenes in the early episodes aswell), as there is a decent amount and the last few episodes in particular have several large scale space fights. In terms of plotting and characters, Southern Cross actually bears many similarities to Mamoru Oshii's Patlabor in terms of laid-back but interesting characters as well as a ponderous yet intriguing story. 
    Another reason why I found Southern Cross interesting was that while the show starts off with several comedic touches, the overall narrative becomes rather dark and dare I say bleak. Many of the battles in the show have massive body counts and as the story progresses, it is obvious that our protagonists are fighting a losing war against a dying yet technologically superior race.

    However the main flaw of Southern Cross is quite simply it's length, particularly the ending. Now this is due to the show having low ratings to begin with and unfortunately leading to an early end. Because of this, certain plot points along characters are only expressed and explained in minor detail or analysed to quickly. Examples of this include the orgins of the Zor and Lana's relationship later on with a pilot named Brown. The ending which I admit felt rushed at points was not necessarily bad, more bittersweet than anything else. It was the kind of ending that while in some ways was satisfying, it's bleak atmosphere made me want to learn more about the fates of the characters (which in my eyes, is one of the signs of a good drama).

    As stated before, Southern Cross was edited heavily in terms of plot in order to fit as the Masters Saga in the Robotech chronology. Apart from the standard name and sound changes, the overall plot was changed drastically to fit in resulting in numerous plot holes and quite frankly odd ideas. For example the character of Seifriet instead of a kidnapped human spy, is now a clone of the creator of Protoculture (see the Macross Saga part of Robotech) and Robotechnology known as Zor. The Zor are mainly referred in the Robotech chronology as both the Robotech Masters and Tirolians and come from a different planet altogether as Gloire in Robotech is considered to be Earth.

    Many of these plot points clash with Southern Cross's animation which makes the narrative feel jumbled and confused. (While considered non-canon, the Robotech novels iron out a lot of the animation deficiencies). However a lot of the sombre atmosphere and well established charactes are still present in the Robotech version. The Southern Cross portion of Robotech in its animated form is a good transitional chapter however it does not hold up especially well on it's own. Even after that though, Southern Cross was used again by Carl Macek in 1986 when Cannon Films requested he would splice footage of the show with Megazone 23 Part 1 to create the rare and often hated Robotech: The Movie. But that's another story.

    Little merchandise came out of the show in Japan apart from one artbook and a few model kits that are now growing fairly scarce; the Robotech toy line by Matchbox though did manage to have a small selection of the mecha including the Spartas and Bioroids. There has been no sequels or related OVAs produced after the original show. Only small continuations of the Robotech story with Southern Cross characters can be found, specifically some of the comics including the Invid War and Antarctic Press published series.

    Even with all its flaws, Southern Cross is a show that I personally have a huge soft spot for. If I had the chance to finish one show that was canceled, it would be this one. The plot to me is one of the better and more engrossing examples in the medium; as well as that the characters and themes that run through were rather unconventional for the time and still hold up surprisingly well for me. At times for me the show even felt ahead of its time in its design and narrative execution. Like Macross, I even felt the romantic elements worked well with in the narrative too. Put simply it may not be a masterpiece, but to me is a misunderstood relic that begs to be rediscovered. I am not afraid to say it, I adore Southern Cross.
    • Characters with funky hair: 4/5
    • Transforming hovertanks: Badass
    • Chances of otakus giving it another chance: Sadly not likely 
    -Oli, 03 January 2010 (original date)

    Review source: US DVD
    Screenshout source: US DVD