Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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EDF 5 Truly Bugs Me (But That’s A Good Thing)

 

EDF_5Okay, at this point I’m hoping the planet doesn’t blow up just so I can get my grubby little paws on the three upcoming Earth Defense Force games coming from Japan where the earth is in danger of getting blown up after yet another massive alien invasion by what looks like everything great from a wide range of Japanese sci-fi flicks.

In addition to the absolutely insane-looking Earth Defense Force 5, Original developer Sandlot is teaming up with developers Clouds Inc. and Giga-Rensya for Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wing Diver The Shooter (set for a digital release on PSN) and veteran developer Yuke’s is handling the work on Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which is coming sometime in 2018.

Oh, here’s the same trailer but with English subtitles just because you might get why I’m so cuckoo about this long-running series:

 

 

For the record, the series has NOTHING to do with the old Super Nintendo shooter Super E.D.F., so that non-fact needs to disappear off the internet, stat. Anyway, EDF 5 is in Japan on 12/7 and I’m kind of in a mental bind trying to decide on whether or not to take the plunge and buy it soon or wait for the localized North American version. My Japanese is pretty terrible and even though I’ve played through previous games in the series and completed them, I kind of want to experience this entirely in English just so I don’t need to stop playing and look up a weapons guide or other gameplay tips.

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And nope, my decision isn’t at all bound by this gal and her seductive stretching (oh, Japan – you’re too much, but it’s all good):

 

 

Anyway, I’m leaning towards waiting it out, but man, is it going to be rough. I know of a few folks who will get the import, but I’ll avoid discussing anything with the because I want to go in totally cold and get my 100+ hours in and learn what’s what. Actually, I haven’t a clue as to who will be publishing this in North America, but a heads-up from a kindly PR person who wants to keep me calm might help out a little lot.

*Sigh* And so, the wait begins anew…

-GW

 

.hack//G.U. Last Recode – Launch Trailer: Time to Deep Dive Back In

 

Good gravy, veteran developer CyberConnect2 is made of of some incredibly busy and possibly crazy (in the best possible manner) people. Those power-packed Naruto games they’ve been doing great work on have set and raised a few bars in the anime to games scene and now, it’s .hack//G.U. Last Recode getting a superb-looking and super-polished remaster, now available on PS4 and PC.  I’ll need to grab this one when I have actual free time as I’ve been a big (but silent) fan of the .hack series since the PS2 days and while I was hoping the originals would get full remakes with new assets and features, this update of the second series will do more than nicely.  So, yeah – go add this one to your want list as it sure is coming in hot and pack to the gills with new stuff.

 

-GW

Random Film of the Week: Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya)

Tokaido Yatsyua kaidanI don’t believe in ghosts at all (an unapologetic non-flaw of mine), but I do believe in a good ghost story when it works flawlessly in delivering the spine-chilling stuff that leads to a restless night. That said, Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 masterpiece Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya) is one of the more frightening horror films I’ve ever seen. Given that it’s based on Japan’s most popular ghost story (written as a kabuki play and originally performed in 1825), Nakagawa’s film is memorable on a few fronts, melding its stage origins with the director’s perfectly placed camera as he brings us a tried and true tale of murder and vengeance, Japanese style.

You may initially feel sorry for rōnin Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) as he begs for the hand of Iwa (Katsuko Wakasugi), but that feeling will vanish about a minute later after Iemon kills Iwa’s father and retainers and his scheming lackey Naosuke (Shuntarô Emi) disposes of the bodies and comes up with a perfect alibi. He later goes to visit a grieving Iwa, but she and her sister Sode (Noriko Kitazawa) want revenge on the man Iemon claims murdered her father. Of course, this doesn’t happen and instead, a respectable samurai named Yomoshichi (Nakamura Ryozaburo) who had a chance with Iwa is tossed off a waterfall thanks to Iemon and Naosuke wanting the two women for themselves. Clearly, Iemon and Naosuke are right bastards, ladies and gentlemen.

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Review: Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PS4)

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How great is UFO Interactive’s Raiden V: Director’s Cut? So great that I went and grabbed the previous installment on the PS3 (which just so happened to be part of this past weekend’s PSN Flash Sale and was $2.99 very well spent), slightly kicking myself (ow!) for missing it a few years back. I’d been cutting back on arcade shooters for a while, but something about this well-aged series has always drawn me to it. It’s probably because it brings back certain good memories, but it also helps that it’s been a consistently entertaining set of games despite some lesser console versions not being as fun.

This newest installment is more polished visually and aurally and thanks to its busy color palette and tons of explosions, it really looks and feels a hell of a lot busier to the eyes and reflexes. There’s so much going on that I found myself laughing out loud (to no one in particular, as usual). Skilled developer MOSS has reworked the traditional vertical arcade game screen so it’s packed with information to the point of distraction should your eyes float to the left or right of where the real action is. But you won’t let that happen, right?

Hey, the future of the planet is at stake, pal – eyes on the prize and all that.

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Raiden V: Director’s Cut Blasts Onto PS4, PC

 

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Holy Cats – bullet hell pioneer Raiden is a quarter of a century old. Actually, it’s 27 if you go by purely chronological order, but I believe the series took a tiny bit of time off between installments and developer changes. Anyway, UFO Interactive and developer MOSS are finally jetting out the PS4 and Steam versions with added content (it seems Xbox One owners who got this last year are missing out) as Raiden V: Director’s Cut .

 

 

If you’re a longtime fan, well you know the drill in this arcade shmup: earth gets invaded by a fleet of alien ships and it’s up to you (solo play) and a partner (if you go co-op) to take out the trash before it blows all over the globe. Actually, those aliens end up invading a few global spaces, so it’s up to your fast reflexes and non-blinking eyes to get the job done.

Game Modes:

•Story Mode – All new story full of twists and turns! The story alters depending on your performance!
•Boss Mission – Defeat bosses under special conditions and compete in the leaderboards!
•Gallery – Dozens of character, concept, and game art waiting to be unearthed!

Features:

Tag in a friend and unleash devastation on your enemies!

Extreme Graphics – Full 1080P support to bring every explosion, missile attack, and Boss Kills to earth-shattering realism on HDTVs and monitors!

Tri-View HUD – New levels of frenetic, heart pounding, pulsing action as real-time game status changes, command center data and gameplay simultaneously update you on the action and your performance!

Fully narrated storyline for the first time in the series!

Fight your own path through a branching storyline!

Choose between three different ships to pilot, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and outfit them with nine different weapon types!

In addition to the game currently available on PSN, gog.com and Steam, you can also download some really nice free themed wallpapers for your PC here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get some eyeball exercise with a side of reflex action testing (or, I’m downloading this as we speak, folks).

-GW

A Triple Shot of EDF Coming To PS4

 

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Well, this one’s a total surprise to wake up to. Sure, I knew we were getting a sixth* Earth Defense Force game from D3Publisher and developer Sandlot sometime this year (and yep, those busy guys really need to update their main website!), but there’s a also an all-new digital-only EDF game spinoff starring Wing Diver (aka Pale Wing here in the US) on the way to PlayStation Network (it’s a vertical arcade shooter!) as well as another EDF game in the works coming in 2018 from veteran Japanese developer Yuke’s that looks to be a more dramatic take on a series known for its campy voice acting but tough as nails gameplay.

(*not counting the portable versions)

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Some Kiwami Films For Yakuza Fans

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With Yakuza Kiwami out now and hopefully selling well for Sega as an evergreen title into the future, overall interest in the long-running series over the past few years seems high enough that I’m thinking some of you folks might be interested in a few of the many Japanese gangster films out there. If you’re new to them, this very short list of recommendations may pack a ton of surprises on a few fronts.

If you’ve played Yakuza 0, Yakuza 4 or more recently, Kiwami (which means “extreme” in Japanese), you’ll very clearly see cinematic influences in abundance throughout the series. Even though the games are set in a more modern version of Japan, most of these films have very similar scenes that show how in general, some criminal behavior never really changes and it’s quite a draw for some who choose to live that lifestyle despite the risks.

Anyway, just step into this alley over here and I’ll set you up right… or set you upright after setting you up, right?

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Cops Vs Thugs * – Prolific director Kinji Fukusaku made a number of great yakuza-themed films, but this 1975 gem is probably his best. Notable for a brutal interrogation scene where an actor playing a gangster is actually beaten by actors playing crooked cops (the rehearsal footage is included as one of the bonuses), that scene is somehow very tame once added to the assorted forms of other violence on display.

When crooked but loyal to a fault cop (Bunta Sugawara) and his equally crooked and loyal to a fault Yakuza pal Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) clash with a gung-ho young detective who wants all corruption purged from the force, plenty of mayhem ensues. There’s not a dull moment at all here and it’s also a case of seemingly minor characters having major roles as the plot twists pile up.

Fukusaku’s candid camera catches it all, sometimes tilting mid-action during certain scenes and freeze-framing during others for added emphasis. The imminent threat of random violence and no clear black and white heroes makes you almost root for both sides. But you’ll see that there’s no winners here when all is said and done. This one’s a must despite the kind of goofy title as well as a great way to embellish your Kiwami experience outside the game.

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Blu-Ray Review: Doberman Cop

Doberman CopYou may (or may not) confuse Doberman Cop with Wolf Guy for some reason and nope, I’d not fault you one bit if you haven’t seen either film and draw that incorrect conclusion. The former film has nothing to do with the latter other than both films were adapted from popular manga and greatly transformed as a result by their respective writers and directors.

In the case of Kinji Fujusaku’s 1977 flick, it’s a far better made movie once again featuring Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba doing his own stunts, loads of violence (but less nudity) and a weird dip into supernatural detecting as a means of solving a series of serial killings. While crackling with a crazy energy, there are a few logic gaps if you pay close enough attention between Fujisaku’s trademark hard-boiled violence that don’t harm the film, but the narrative suffers as a result.

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Earth Defense Forces 5 Presents: His and Her-strionics

 

Oh, these are hilarious. If you know someone who speaks Japanese, have them sit down and watch these crazy YouTube videos for Earth Defense Forces 5 and try to keep a straight face. Set for a summer 2017 launch exclusively on PS4, D3Publisher and busy developer Sandlot are making the biggest and most bizarre EDF game to date.If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language, the subtitled version of the first trailer is here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the usual horde of giant ants and spiders are all in as they should be, but the skyscraper tall alien frogs and soldiers are a total freak-out that are going to make a tough game a heck of a lot tougher. I have questions for the dev team about this and many oher things, of course. But I prefer to just play the game and see how it turned out as that sort of time spent usually answers most questions in the most fun manner.

 

That said, the only truly pressing question I have as I write this is whether to import or wait for a localized version. I should hold off until a western publisher and date are revealed, but previous EDF games take so long to get localized that I may end up biting the bullet early. Hey, I need to practice for the actual invasion force coming soon and knowing the enemy is the best strategy, right? Right. I knew you’d see it my way.

-GW

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