Tagged: vintage sci fi

VHS Verdict: 1980’s Japanese Robot Craziness – CYBER NINJA & MIKADROID!!!

Well the quarantine rages one! So naturally I’m taking advantage of the situation by watching as many cool movies as I can get my hands on! I checked out some pretty excellent Japanese movies from the late 80’s/early 90’s the other night and I won the jackpot as somehow BOTH movies delivered the damn goods! I mean that rarely ever happens when blindly grabbing two oddball movies I’ve never heard anything about.

First up was was 1988’s “Cyber Ninja”, which obviously by the title showed some true promise! This wild sci-fi action film tells the story of a cyborg ninja who’s battling an evil empire that uses giant dinosaur like robots along with a gang of robotic ninja’s of their own to wreak havoc upon a kingdom of samurai warriors. Yeah basically that’s the story, nothing fancy here just a bunch of wild action and robot ass kicking for a lean 80 minutes. There’s some cool martial arts as well and really sweet robot designs at play here that mix feudal japanese elements into their look. There’s these giants mechs in particular that have a sort of Japanese tree house melded as the control center, kinda of like a play on a Star Wars ATST walker. There’s also a ton of that ultra colorful hand painted laser/electricity/energy blasts fx that accompany the martial arts mayhem. It’s a ton of fun and it seems this was perhaps an inspiration for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? The movie was release by Namco, which later merged with Bandai, both famous for their video games. Cyber Ninja is must watch if you dig weird, 80’s action and fantasy stuff & was great little viewing surprise that doesn’t require your attention span to be in full swing either.

 

Next was 1991’s Mikadroid, also known as “Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disoclub Layla”. With a title like that you know you’re at the least in for something quite unusual and yeah it brings quite an intriguing little tale of terror to the screen. It’s super lean run time of 73 minutes also makes it much less of a commitment and the perfect companion to Cyber Ninja in more than one way. I’d say at it’s core, it’s really more of a horror movie, and go as far to even call it a “proto-slasher”. It follows a World War II soldier who was experimented on along with two others for a super soldier program.

However they went a step further in a secret underground bunker to transform him into a cyborg/droid and ends up looking like something straight out of a Hellboy comic. We flash forward to 1991 to a discoclub that was built on top the hidden bunker where some electrical issues awaken the WWII super solder robot from his long slumber (I guess a real Captain America kind of thing going on here more than I originally realized). The droid heads up into the parking garage where he conducts his killing spree on the oh so stylin’ Japanese party animals after their wild nights of drinkin’ and dancing the night away.

This movie’s certainly a unique slice early 90’s cinema. It’s quite beautifully shot as well as having a pretty kick ass looking robot and some really stunning underground locations. I was hoping for a bit more from some of the kills but the strange story is the true highlight. Enough so that this little oddity by it’s end unfolds into something truly unique for it’s time and relative obscurity. Released by Toho, it was originally intended to be a full on horror film for the straight to video Japanese Market. Originally set to be a a zombie horror film having the WWII soldier an undead killer instead of a robot . The day before filming began a child murderer was arrested, who had an open passion for horror films, and it resulted in almost all horror movies being essentially blacklisted from production at the time. The film’s plot was frantically reworked into a “sci-fi” film while still keeping the basic premise intact. That all being said, the changes made I think likely added to the movie’s bizarre but ambitious plot. If you go into the movie with few expectations you’ll find a truly charming little feature that firmly lands it in a league of it’s own for the time. 

Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’: What True Trekkies Have Actually Been Longing For?!

I’ve had this discussion several times over the past year with fellow Star Trek fans, what most seem to fear is Quentin Tarantino getting his dirty mitts on the franchise! But like it or not, it seems Tarantino might actually be taking the reigns on the next movie, which has also been rumored to be his last film ever in the director’s chair. Most seem to fear he’s going to totally ruin Star Trek, planting over the top violence & F-bombs around every damn corner of the movie & if it’s ‘Rated R’ like he’s proposing, there’ll surely be some of that. It makes me wonder does Star Trek need to be rated R? Probably not, but if it is I’m pretty curious just what that would look like exactly. That all being said, I really don’t think he’d turn Star Trek suddenly into ‘Kill Bill’. I feel like Quentin just might actually be the right person for the job, especially if you’re longing for a classic Trek adventure ala The Original Series, The Next Generation or classic movies like ‘The Wrath of Khan’.

Let’s face the facts folks, the JJ Abrams ‘Star Trek’ stuff was fun (at least the first and third movies in the trilogy), but it felt way more like ‘The Fast & The Furious’ than an actual Trek adventure. The classic Star Trek/Next Generation stuff had a much different vibe than these fluffy, bloated CGI spectacles we’ve been recently served up. The classic stuff most often explored a more cerebral side of science fiction story telling. Sure even in ‘The Original Series’ there was great humor and a certain degree of spectacle, but the stories almost always had something interesting to say and often times left you thinking. This side of the Star Trek storytelling, in my opinion, has been seriously missing in these modern attempts. So hear me out, think of what era of film Tarantino truly loves beyond anything else, it’s all of the stuff from the 60’s & 70s. I’m certain he spent some serious time neck deep in those original Star Trek episodes and absolutely adored the banter between Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew. Their witty conversations on the original series actually remind me in many ways of the dialogue Tarantino serves up in his own films. I can easily picture his influence on Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock & Karl Urban’s McCoy fitting perfectly in spirit with the original series in a way we’ve yet to see for this latest cast.

Tarantino thrives in the vintage era of filmmaking that Star Trek was first introduced in, he gets it and it’s obvious that it’s all a huge influence on pretty much everything he’s ever done. Almost all of his movies are a callback to that exact era when Star Trek was first originally thriving. The grindhouse movies and tv of the 60’s and 70’s is exactly what fuels Quentin’s entire soul. It’s why I think just maybe people are wrong to fear Tarantino taking on Star Trek. If you’re a fan of the classic stuff, then there’s honestly probably not a better person to be grabbing the ‘Trek’ bull by the horns and putting it back on course to it’s true roots. Quentin would likely serve us up a more compelling, thought provoking science fiction story to digest as well. He never delivers the predictable Hollywood fare. I don’t see his film making style at all being just a giant CGI spectacle. He’s never been into that. I trust he’s not going to work with a flimsy script either, especially if it is indeed planned to be his final movie. His films have always had more dimensions to them than the average generic summer blockbuster.

I think he’s got the wit, the understanding of what made the original material great & the vision to blend it all into a package that feels classic while at the same time something Trekkies have never quite seen before in a Star Trek film. To me “Tarantino Star Trek” really makes sense. I’m just not interested in seeing another mindless, bloated blockbuster of a Star Trek film again. Let’s go back to what made the series stand out from the herd. In order to do that it really needs someone who understands the franchise and isn’t just trying to make a boat load of quick cash off the masses. Star Trek needs a different style of film maker this time around, that’s certainly clear and I think taking a chance on Quentin is as good a bet as any to give the franchise a bold boost into new territory…