Tag Archives: Mark Hammill

Adultimation – The Guyver: Bio Booster Armour (1989)

In the next instalment of the Adultimation Series, Matt Lambourne explores the world of global conspiracy, the human genesis story and a deadly alien weapon. Dust off your VHS collection, as we delve into the brutal world of one of Matt’s all-time favourite Anime series’.

By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)

guyver 1What would you do if you were a normal teenage boy, who stumbled upon powers that made you the deadliest weapon on the planet? That’s a pretty far out question for most of us to wrap our heads around. It’s a theme that was recently explored to great effect in 2012’s Chronicle whereby several youngsters accidentally gained superpowers and struggled to contain their ego’s given their new found ability.

In 1989’s ‘The Guyver’, Sho Fukamachi is posed the same question. He is taking an afters school stroll in the woods with his best pal Tetsuro, when upon investigating a distant explosion; they stumble onto a strange mechanical unit. Sho attempts to touch the unit and is immediately engulfed by the unit, which extends tentacles that consume Sho and eventually bind to his body.

It appears Sho is being killed by the machine as he screams in pain as he falls into a river and briefly disappears, however the worst is yet to come. Quickly in pursuit of the unit are agents of the Chronos Corporation, who threaten to kill Tetsuro if he doesn’t hand over the unit whom are concealing a dark secret.

In order to have Tetsuro cooperate, they morph into hugely powerful monsters known as Zoanoids, a higher form of being that is significantly more evolved from humanity. As they are about to kill Tetsuro, a dark figure emerges from the water, covered in armoured plates and loaded with weaponry.

The figure dispatches the Zoanoids in brutally violent fashion, before eventually coming to a halt and Sho’s consciousness regains control. He is now the Guyver, a hugely destructive and powerful weapon system brought to Earth by an Alien race many thousands of years ago.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the Guyver, the armour is akin to how you might imagine the Japanese would make RoboCop. Its steel armour, with Samuari Sword-esque blades attached to the elbows, a small laser from the head and a chest cavity that be opened up to unleash a near-nuclear strength blast that annihilates anything in its path.

There is a catch though; Sho is not entirely in control of the Guyver, and in Peter Parker style reluctance, he struggles to accept his fate, the power and the responsibility of being the bearer of this armour. And with good causes, as the Chronos Corporation which is bent on world domination through the first of their genetically enhanced Zoanoids will not rest until the Guyver unit has been reclaimed from Sho.

Guyver 3

My body…. I have become a monster!

The Guyver is difficult to review as it’s pretty flawed in many ways. Again for a pre-90’s anime it’s not the best animated and the dubbing to English is quite cheesey, however it does become quite memorable for that reason as lot of early Manga crossovers were.

The series takes place over 12 x 30min episodes and for the first half of those, the series is exciting, suspenseful and to a degree, quite frightening. One of its greatest achievements is that you always feel a sense of peril for Sho, you’re never quite sure he’ll survive any episode and is thrust into harm’s way repeatedly throughout the series, and it’s his gradual understanding of his powers that help him to overcome the foes he faces in each episode against the odds.

However, the sad thing is that the series was based on an Anime comic that was still running far after the release of this video series and the plot falls off enormously towards the end. In fact it’s almost reduced to an X-Files style ‘Monster of the Week’ dirge which at times becomes slightly tiresome.

But let’s focus on the positives. The Guyver is IMMENSE in its action. Sho and his fellow Guyver, the mysterious Agito Makashima, come up with imaginative ways to use their powers to dispatch of the Zoanoids in each episode and it is exciting watching them become more powerful in every episode.

The design of the Guyver armour itself is very cool, a sleek Robo-Samuari armour that whilst incredible powerful is also highly vulnerable, particularly as it shares a Symbiotic relationship with teenagers that struggle to contain its power.

The series also explores a fascinating human-genesis story, whereby it is revealed that Humans are of alien origin and were brought to Earth by the same race that built the Guyver, deployed to new worlds as weapons to exterminate their inhabitants. It’s quite a shocking revelation and a theme that is repeated in the Alien Vs Predator movies, and something that the protagonists struggle to comprehend in their journey.

guyver 01

“You probably don’t even know the meaning of the word, Guyver. It means OUT OF CONTROL. It doesn’t fit into any category, nobody knows what the Guyver truly is, but we know one thing for certain. The Guyver is a bio-weapon”

It is a huge shame that the series wasn’t given its own direction and a diversion from the plot from the comic so it could have tied up the series after 12 episodes. Unfortunately it is left wide-open and is ultimately an unfinished and abandoned work, which ran out of steam towards the end.

But it does leave quite the legacy. There were 2 western movies made on the back of the popularity of the anime series. One being 1991’s ‘The Guyver’ (or Mutronics) for which Mark Hammil receives top-billing for despite not being the lead character. It’s very poor and a little too ‘Power Rangers for adults’ for my liking. Whereas the sequel ‘Guyver: Dark Hero’ is a respectable B-Movie sci-fi romp with decent action and is worth a watch.

The animated series was also rebooted in the 2000’s as Guyver: The Bioboosted Armour which can be found on Netflix, bringing the franchise to a new audience. Overall, the Guyver is a spoiled master-piece, that starts off strong but leaves you needing more than it provides at the end. That said, it is a piece that fans of classic Anime simply must check out!

A Decade In Film: The Eighties – 1983

A continuing series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema and choose their favourite films from each year of that decade. Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1983

. 5. Superman III

Superman3“Well I hope you don’t expect me to save you, ’cause I don’t do that anymore.”

Often disregarded by fans of the ‘Reeve Quadrilogy’, Superman III is in fact my favourite of the series. At the heart of the story is computer programmer, Gus (Richard Pryor) who is taken under the wing of Lex Luthor stand-in, Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) who is keen to utilise Gus’ more unscrupulous computer skills for financial world domination.

To do so, Gus hacks into a US weather satellite to create storms in Colombia to destroy their coffee crop, however this is thwarted by Superman early in proceedings. Webster, realising he must remove Superman from the equation, instructs Gus to create a synthetic Kryptonite using computer analysis of its core elements.

The movie deals with some darker themes not seen previously in the series. The synthetic Kyrptonite not only weakens Superman but, due to its corrupt Earthly ingredients, makes Superman become evil. Christopher Reeve is excellent at playing the ‘Dark Superman’ and the film features a particularly violent battle between the Dark Superman and Clark Kent who is attempting to break the harmful grip the Kryptonite has on our hero.

The film is most memorable for the climatic battle where the villains hide out in a base at the Grand Canyon, armed to the teeth with missile defenses and a powerful computer designed by Gus that has taken on a mind of its own. The machine takes captive one of the villains and forcibly entangles her in metal and wire creating a powerful cyborg adversary for Superman, a very graphic and shocking scene for a family movie and one that certainly leaves a lasting impression, even if she does look like a zombie Dot-Matrix from Spaceballs!

Pryor doesn’t get to unleash the more effective adult nature of his comedic genius, but he does provide suitable comic relief to the movie. Reeve shows some diversity in the role by being able to portray a sinister side to his nature as the Dark Superman in a very enjoyable performance. A much grittier rendition of the classic Superman adventure, this is a more than sufficient warm-up for the fanboys awaiting this summer’s ‘Man of Steel’.

4. WarGames

MSDWARG EC001“How about a nice game of chess?”

Continuing with the theme of mis-use of computers, WarGames is a tale of a curious teenager whose skills in computing lead him into big, big trouble with the US government and the potential launch of World War III.

The main protagonist is David (Matthew Broderick), the one and only person who knew how use command-based operating systems to do anything remotely interesting back in the early 80’s. In fact he’s clearly a genius, as we see him hacking his high school network to alter his grades and book flights to Paris to show-off his skills to love-interest, Jennifer (Ally Sheedy).

Unfortunately David’s curiosity leads him to unwittingly dial into an anonymous computer offering him the opportunity to play games such as Black Jack and Poker, but David naturally is more interested in the option for ‘Global Thermonuclear War’ and assumes the role of the Soviet Union. After being summoned by his parents to do some chores he exits the game, however when he awakes the next day he is startled to see that the US military responding to an actual threat of nuclear attack from the USSR.

Where this film really shines, particularly in hindsight, is that it was way ahead of its time. The movie prominently features hacking, phreaking and dial-up remote access; all subject matters that few would have believed would have existed in 1983. I can imagine seeing WarGames as an 80’s kid it must have seemed incredibly far-fetched, yet time has proven that the techniques used in the movie were entirely legitimate and have become incredibly common-place.

Yep, the antics in WarGames would be an InfoSec worker’s worst nightmare. It’s easy to see how this has influenced films that have come after it, particular 1995’s ‘Hackers‘ and 2001’s Swordfish but it does so in such a manner that it will appeal to a family audience, not just those who are fascinated by the technology. Broderick presents the cool persona that he later repeats as Ferris Bueller and is a wholly likable lead for the film. How did someone with so much 80’s cool end up marrying SJP?

The film spawned a low-budget sequel, yet it’s the modern reboot continually hinted at that will garner the most interest in the legacy left by this excellent thriller.

3. Return of the Jedi

ReturnoftheJedi“You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again.”

Following along nicely from my 1980 movie of the year, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ROTJ is the final piece of the original trilogy, as the all-star cast return to stop the Empire’s construction of an all new Death Star.

Originally titled as ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ the film deals with much darker tone than the previous 2 movies. This is best illustrated by Mark Hammill, returning as the now fully trained and qualified Jedi, ‘Luke Skywalker’. He is entirely confident, almost somewhat arrogant in his abilities and manipulation of ‘The Force’.

His personality is somewhat chilled following his first encounter with Darth Vader; the loss of his hand and Vader’s revelation have removed some of the positive aura that surrounded the hero. He seems more steely, colder, calculating and I think this makes him a much more believable handler in the art of death than he has ever depicted at any point during the trilogy.

However, ‘Jedi’ is probably often most criticised for its use of (often annoyingly) peripheral characters, such as the Ewoks which was a clear warning shot from George Lucas for what we’d see in the modern prequel trilogy.

That said, all the ingredients that make the previous movies so successful feature again here. There are some more sinister cords in the score from John Williams, particularly whenever the Emperor is on screen, that are used to dramatic effect.

The action set-pieces are fantastic, the battle between the rebellion and Imperial forces on Endor is highly satisfying, particular when that Ewok is crying over his dead comrade!

Jedi wraps up the trilogy in fine fashion, it’s not the strongest part of the series but it does feature the most appealing incarnation of Luke Skywalker. However it is a great shame that Mark Hammill was never able to shrug off the shadow of this character for the rest of his career.

2. The Fourth Man

The Fourth Man“The essence of my writing is, I lie the truth”

The inner circle behind Failed Critics are all too aware of my admiration for the direction of Paul Verhoeven. ‘The Fourth Man’ is Verhoeven’s final piece made for Dutch cinema before venturing off to Hollywood and my goodness it is some piece to sign off with.

The film starts off as it means to go on. The main protagonist, Gerard, awakes with his hands shaking due to the effects of his alcoholism. He stands up, wearing only a t-shirt to greet the audience to a full frontal male-nudity scene. You could be forgiven for thinking this is a little unnecessary and distasteful. It’s merely a means for Verhoeven to inform the audience of what they are letting themselves in for; a fully adult-orientated psychological experience.

This is why I love Verhoeven films, he makes films strictly for adults, there is rarely a silver lining or any inkling of morality in his movies. Gerard is an alcoholic, bi-sexual and a writer. Everywhere he goes he sees metaphors for death. He constantly battles against those which are meant for him and those that are meant for others but he struggles to interpret what he is seeing and what it truly means.

Gerard travels by train to host a lecture on his writing and meets a handsome young man at the station, whom he is instantly attracted to. He is frustrated at not being able to talk to this man as he watches him depart on a train to Cologne. Gerard travels to his destination where he meets the beautiful Christine, a widow who is a fan of his writing, and they spend the night together.

At Christine’s home, Gerard discovers a picture of Hermann, the man he saw at the train station, and realises he is Christine’s lover. He plots a means to bring the three of them together so he can seduce him for himself, but in doing so discovers that Christine is actually a three-time widow and that she is offing each of her husbands. Gerard struggles to find the meaning of the premonitions he has been seeing of late and how they relate to this bizarre love triangle and if it is he, or Hermann, who is intended to be Christine’s ‘Fourth Man’.

Jeroen Krabbé is sensational as Gerard, he is as charming and playful in character as he is sadistic and desperate for that which he desires. Renée Soutendijk plays the simply luscious Christine and I’m regretful to see that she has done little outside of Dutch Cinema, other than a little known Sci-Fi film ‘Eve of Destruction‘ which I remember seeing on Sky Movies a very very long time ago.

The film is classic Verhoeven and much of it is repackaged for Hollywood in 1992’s ‘Basic Instinct‘. It’s humorous, it’s intelligent, and sexy. Yet, its perverse undertones will seriously challenge the comfort zone of most mainstream cinema goers, this is very much one for the serious world cinema fan.

Speaking of which, the film ranks in Empire magazine’s top 100 films of World Cinema, and earned the 1983 International Critics’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival as well as the 1984 Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Foreign Language film.

I wanted so very badly to put this as my number 1 movie for 1983, however there is a very special film to top it… barely. The Fourth Man is a diamond of a movie that will sit anonymously on your DVD shelf, a dirty little secret for yourself to enjoy that has escaped the attention of the masses for 30 years. The fact it has done this makes it all the little bit more special.

1. Scarface

Scarface“In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women”

I did say it would be a very special movie to top ‘The Fourth Man’, I do hope I did not disappoint. Brian De Palma’s Scarface is a remake of a 1932 gangster movie, re-badged and re-packaged for the 80’s in spectacular style.

It follows the exploits of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who struggles to make a life for himself in America, cleaning restaurants and committing petty crime until his big mouth earns him the attention of some local big-time gangsters. From petty criminal to the king of the drug trade in Miami, Tony’s rise to the top is as violent and brash as it is meteoric, but it is only a matter of time before Tony’s greed and constant yearning for more power results in his undoing.

Beautifully shot with constant contrast between 80’s Neon and the bleak reality of life on the street and the criminal sub-culture, Scarface is not only highly decadent entertainment but it lives on with a strong legacy on modern pop-culture. This is most notably evident in the Urban/Rap music culture, whereby the movie is often used as a source of inspiration for those trying to escape their mundane lives, and often those seeking to ruin it.

Pacino is remarkable as Tony, the maniacal underdog that you know you shouldn’t root for, but cant help getting attached to. It is no doubt equal to his most famous role of Michael Corleone in its grandeur. It also features some excellent supporting roles from Michelle Pfeiffer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio to provide some female balance to what is otherwise a very male dominated movie.

The film is primarily driven by male characteristics, love, lust, money, greed, power, betrayal, and they all feature in abundance. Scarface sets the template for the popular anti-hero and any crime epic that has followed it.

One of my very favourite films and featuring at a very respectable number 128 in the IMDB Top 250, Scarface is a must see for all film-fans, and my movie of 1983.

A Decade in Film: The Eighties – 1980

A new series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favourite films from each year of that decade, and discuss the legacy those years have left us.

Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1980.

5. The Big Red One

“I still got my cock… I STILL GOT MY COCK!”

Before Saving Private Ryan and all the other fair-weather bandwagon mid-90’s WWII movies, The Big Red One painted a somewhat mesmeric picture of War. Entirely unrelenting and brutally depicted, it lacks the polish and the set-play wow-factor of Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach assault, but lends far more to the viewer than a WWII highlight reel.

The story follows the Sergeant (Lee Marvin) and his patrol of 4 Horsemen (yet more comparison to Private Ryan) through a multitude of WWII theatres of war, which adds to the desperation felt during the film. Just as the protagonists survive one mission, they’re immediately sent to another and seemingly there is no light at the end of the tunnel for these men.

The film is crammed with snappy dialogue, much more than you see in many of the mid-90’s WWII efforts and life is expended with much more abandon, perhaps making it a somewhat messier depiction of the war than it’s more recent points of comparison but more than likely a more realistic one.

The movie is best summed up in a single scene, whereby the troupe liberates a Sicilian village being used as an Artillery battery by Axis forces. As the troops take downtime, a young girl presents the Sergeant with a florally decorated helmet and there is a brief moment of escape from the madness of war, however just as the Sergeant kisses the girl goodbye she is shot by an Axis sniper and dies in his arms. It’s fleeting moments of rest followed by wave and wave of cruelty.

Mark Hamill also stars in the 1st of 2 of my choices in 1980 as a hotshot yet gun-shy trooper, but ultimately he brings little other than the big name draw to this film, it’s Lee Marvin who steals the show here.

 4. Taboo

“It happened, and I gotta tell ya.. I want it to happen again”

Not being afraid to pull any punches in my line-up  I decided to think outside the box for my next choice. Taboo is a monumental piece of adult-cinema, not only for pushing the boundaries of taste in its subject matter, but it arguably was the debut of the now very mainstream ‘MILF’ genre.

The story revolves around Barbara (Kay Parker) whose husband walks out on her at the beginning of the movie for being too boring in bed. The plot explores her quest to become more sexualized and her attempts at dating other men, which fall spectacularly array as she refuses to sleep with them at the first date.

Eventually she is invited to an orgy, attends but does not participate but this seemingly unlocks Pandora’s box and she begins to have feelings for her son, Paul… and as the title would suggest, they cross the line during the movie (twice!).

Taboo is a delightful film in many senses, you feel equally as awkward enjoying it as the characters likely did in their self-indulgence. The beauty of the movie is the impending curiosity it enforces on the viewer, you really need to know if they can go through with it. It’s one of the first adult movies that couples would enjoy together in a theatre, almost breaching that mainstream line yet not quite relinquishing the shame factor.

If you’re looking for a movie to provide a lasting legacy, it affectively created a sub-genre and spawned 22 sequels, however none of them come close to the impact of the original on the industry.

3. Airplane!

“I am serious! And don’t call me Shirley!”

Airplane is one of those special movies that has you smiling from ear to ear for the full duration. From the intro-scene with the Airplane tail-wing spoofing the Jaws shark fin, you get a good idea of what you’re in for, 80 minutes of silliness.

There is a love story at the heart of the movie, but generally speaking it plays almost zero significance, the title’s main protagonists have the least impact in terms of humour. That is saved for the brilliant Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges who serve up a tri-fector of witty jokes and clever innuendo.

It must be said that Airplane stands the test of time. There are few movies that at 32 years old can still make me laugh as much as this. It’s a perfectly sized portion of laughter at just 80mins long, it’s over long before it could ever get dull and remains enjoyable time and time again.

If you like your jokes dead-pan, straight faced and somewhat ridiculous, this is a must-see for you!

2. Shogun Assassin

“They will pay with rivers of blood”

I stumbled upon Shogun Assassin many years after it’s release. Back in the day I was a massive Hip-Hop fan and got my introduction to the movie via a number of cuts of the movie’s intro inserted into the GZA’s(Wu Tang Clan) 1995 album ‘Liquid Swords’.

It stirred enough of my curiosity to find the source and thus started a bit of a love-affair with modern Jidaigeki movies such as ‘Ninja Scroll’ and Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi. The movie even shares connections to the 60’s Zatoichi movie series with the lead actor Tomisaburo Wakayama whose brother produces the movie and was the original Zatoichi.

The movie follows the story of ‘Lone Wolf’ who is the head executioner for the paranoid Shogun who eventually orders his death. However they strike down his wife and thus begins a bloody rampage of revenge as the Lone Wolf and his son become vagabonds walking the plains of feudal Japan in search of the Shogun.

It’s easy to see why this movie is such an inspiration for the Samurai worship in Tarantino’s Kill Bill, the kill scenes are often unceremonious and death is handed out nonchalantly yet with elegance, it’s not killing for killing’s sake.

There is also purity to the Lone Wolf character that demands respect, this is best demonstrated in a very stirring scene in which the Lone Wolf saves a female Assassin from a burning boat and then proceeds to strip her against her will. Just when you think he will breach his code and rape the woman he draws her close to him and his son for the three to keep warm after jumping from the burning boat, it is a very powerful scene and reveals a human element aside from the killing-machine that Lone Wolf is portrayed.

Shogun Assassin could be considered a messy edit of 6 classic Japanese ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ movies, but I hold a special place for this movie amongst my collection, it’s one of few dubbed foreign movies I can tolerate. The dub somewhat adds to the reverence, it’s dramatic and offers something more to the grandiose nature of the entire movie.

If you enjoy movies with lots of blood, subtle swordplay and Japanese tradition, you’ll go absolutely crazy for Shogun Assassin.

1. The Empire Strikes Back

“Join me, and we can rule the galaxy as father and son”

The original Star Wars might have been the defining movie of a generation, but it’s this episode that cements the mythology of the Star Wars universe. I’m not actually a big ‘Star Wars’ fan and as blasphemous as this my sound, I actually saw ‘Empire’ before I saw ‘A New Hope’ as a child. I think with that, the original could never hold up to the special place that ‘Empire’ has in my heart.

TESB takes the winning formula of the original Star Wars and amplifies it, ten-fold! The action sequences are bigger, bolder and more flashy than anything in the original, the lightsabre fight scenes are much more dramatic and satisfying and there is a real sense of despair in the film as the Empire unleashes it’s full force on the tiny rebellion.

The film is of course responsible for one of the most iconic scenes of the 80’s, the Dark Vader revelation is cinematic gold, no matter how many times you see it, it always delivers impact. But it’s the character development in ‘Empire’ that makes utterly unforgettable. The love story between Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) provides entertainment throughout, the emerging power of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) demands more respect from the viewer than the somewhat wet characterisation in ‘A New Hope’.

However, it is Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prose) that stands out as the iconic image of the movie, a much more menacing and darker figure than in the previous film, he solidifies himself as one of the all time great movie bad-guys!