Tag Archives: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

“If you must blink, do so now…”

“Be bold. Be brave. Be epic.”

Directed by Travis Knight
Starring Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Kubo (Parkinson) lives with his mother in a cliff overlooking the sea, using his mystical power over paper to tell stories without endings to the local villagers (including Takei and Tagawa) for an income to support himself and his ailing mother. When his desire for some contact with his late father leads him to stay out late, he draws the attention of his maternal grandfather, the vengeful Moon King (Fiennes), who sends his twin daughters (Mara) to capture Kubo.

Continue reading Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

The Tomb (2008, or possibly 2009)

This one is going to hurt, isn't it?
This one is going to hurt, isn’t it?

“Death comes to all… but one.”

Directed by Michael Staininger
Starring Wes Bentley, Sofya Skya, Michael Madsen and Eric Roberts

The Story

So, I lined this one up for The Summer of Lovecraft, but it turns out this one isn’t based on Lovecraft’s ‘The Tomb’, but on, well…

This title is far more helpful
This title is far more helpful

The nameless narrator’s marriage to the beautiful, intelligent Ligeia ends with her tragic death. Sometime later, he marries the beautiful Lady Rowena, who also dies, then returns to life, but as Ligeia, who once told her husband that will could overcome death.

The Film

Jonathan Merrick (Bentley) is one of those independently wealthy English lit professors, with a beautiful fiancee named Rowena (Kaitlin Doubleday) and a promising career. But then in walks Ligeia (Skya), a sexy Ukrainian grad student researching the existence of the soul.

Continue reading The Tomb (2008, or possibly 2009)

Ninja Apocalypse (2014)


“Devastation. Mutation. Termination.”

Director Lloyd Lee Barnett
Starring Christian Oliver, Les Brandt, Ernie Reyes, Jr., Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

OK, it’s The Warriors, right, only it’s a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is a member of a different ninja clan with its own special magical mutation. When an enemy threatens the territory of the ninja clans, Grandmaster Fumitaka (Tagawa) calls all the ninjas together, including the mysterious Lost Clan (he calls them, word-for-word, “the mysterious Lost Clan”) led by Ryu from Street Fighter (Oliver). When Fumitaka gets murdered, Ryu (OK, his real name is “Cage,” so he’s from Mortal Kombat, not Street Fighter) and his band of misfits have to fight their way past all the other ninja clans and get out of the underground nuclear bunker and home to safety.

Continue reading Ninja Apocalypse (2014)

47 Ronin (2013)

This is an atypical poster for the movie, in that it has some of the 47 Ronin on it.
This is an atypical poster for the movie, in that it has some of the 47 Ronin on it.

“Seize Eternity”

Directed by Carl Rinsch
Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi

In feudal Japan, the half-European boy Kai (Reeves) stumbles from the demon-haunted Tengu forest and is taken in by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) of Ako, and comes to be loved by Asano’s daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki), although hated by his samurai. When Lord Asano is framed for assault by his rival Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch (Kikuchi), he is forced to commit seppuku, leaving his loyal samurai – led by Oishi (Sanada) – to become ronin, forbidden from seeking vengeance by the Shogun (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).

A year later, Mika is to be wed to Kira to prevent a feud, but Oishi recruits Kai to aid him and the other ronin in their unsanctioned quest for revenge, despite knowing that it will mean their own ignominious deaths. Continue reading 47 Ronin (2013)

Planet of the Apes (2001)


“Rule the planet”

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth

USAF astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) works with trained apes aboard the space station Oberon. Attempting to rescue one of his apes, Pericles, during an electromagnetic storm, he crash lands on a strange planet, where he finds a primitive human culture subjugated by intelligent apes. Using his arrival as a catalyst, General Thade (Roth), the leader of the ape armies, launches a massacre of the humans, but the kindly ape Ari (Bonham Carter) tries to help him escape and learn the truth of the planet’s origins.

What’s wrong with it?

In remaking The Planet of the Apes, Burton quite deliberately avoids sticking too closely to either the original novel or to the 1968 adaptation starring Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, what he manages to do is jettison most of the point in favour of dumb action.

In both earlier versions, the apes live almost exactly as humans do, and vice versa; the humans of the planet are literally dumb animals, incapable of speech and devoid of sophisticated facial expression. In the film they still don’t speak, although they do wear clothes. The apes, meanwhile, have mobile, expressive faces and language, as well as an advanced, scientific culture. The point of it all is not that the apes cruelly oppress the humans they falsely cast as inferior, but that they with the positions reversed, they treat the human animals exactly as humans treat apes.

In this version, the humans are obviously intelligent and sophisticated, and Thade’s father (played by Charlton Heston) specifically describes their power as lying in technology and invention, of which apes are incapable. The apes, meanwhile, are animalistic and instinctive, able to craft hand weapons and clothes and domesticate horses, but lacking any actual science. The role of chimp scientists Zira and Cornelius are replaced by equal rights campaigner Ari, replacing the central issue – the treatment of animals – with a far less controversial anti-racist slant.

The film throws away supporting characters pretty much willy nilly; Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa)’s final duel with his errant pupil Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a pitifully one-sided beat down that does nothing to advance either plot or Attar’s character, while Erik Avari as a ‘house human’ (in case we hadn’t got that this is about slavery) is offed with barely anyone noticing.

The normally watchable Wahlberg phones in his performance, including the worst rousing speech before Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman, and Estella Warren is completely forgettable as his disposable love interest whatshername. Bonham Carter and Roth turn in game performances as the good chimp and bad chimp, but she is saddled with a bizarre love triangle with Davidson (replacing Zira’s “I’d kiss you, but you’re just so damned ugly”) and he with a series of bad wire-work temper tantrums.

Speaking of which, the apes are saddled with some of the clunkiest wire-work yet seen in a mainstream movie, defying gravity rather than leaping convincingly, as well as displaying superhuman strength well beyond that of an actual ape.

The climactic battle is completely enshrouded in dust, but this is not used to much dramatic effect. That the fight is then ended by the arrival of Pericles’s space pod is a flagrant Zaius ex machina.

The ending, in which Davidson returns to Earth to find it ruled by apes – these ones with cars and guns, but revering Thade as their founding father – is just nonsensical, and yet speaks of a better movie that wasn’t made.

What’s right with it?

The set and costume design is lavish, and the ape actors give polished performances, at least when their feet are on the ground.

How bad is it really?

It’s just a mess, which squanders its platform for social commentary by turning the apes into senseless oppressors. Davidson’s claims of human superiority should come across as racism, but the truth is that the apes in this version of the film are inferior, dominated by instinct and driven by rage and cruelty. Ari’s appearance is notably more human than any other ape – more like the make-up of the 1968 version than that of the others in this movie – which serves only to emphasise the human good, ape bad overtones.

It might not be so bad, but the final scene makes the whole thing so nonsensical that it’s hard to interpret the film as anything but a near-death dream before Davidson’s final plunge into an ape-ruled Hell.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The film is perhaps at its best when calling back to the original (“Get your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty human”, “Damn you all to Hell”), but it’s a reflected glory.

What’s up with…?

  • The mighty ape leaps? Apes don’t leap as if they were on wires. They’re also not strong to the point of tossing humans around like rag dolls.
  • Attar’s sudden face turn? He kills his mentor and revels in it, but one sight of Pericles and he’s willing to believe everything Davidson says about the arrival of the first apes.
  • Ape culture? They build houses, make clothes, forge steel cages, but can’t put together a rudimentary bow and arrow?


Production values – The production, as you’d expect from Tim Burton, is gorgeous, although points off for the laser pistol that turns into an automatic between takes. I presume that the automatic was used as a working blank gun for long shots where the gun had to go off, but it appears in close ups as well. 3
Dialogue and performances –  While a number of the actors are giving it their all, Wahlberg and Warren drag the standard way down, and the material only sparkles when riffing from the 1968 film. 14
Plot and execution – The film works hard at putting across a message that doesn’t need to be put across, as no-one who still thinks that rounding up and either enslaving or murdering ethnic minorities is bad is likely to be swayed by a Tim Burton movie, and by going all out it loses any impact on the issues of animal rights or even of the more insidious racism which still affects society. Sadly, at the same time it fails to be an effective movie in its own right. 15
Randomness – Most of the film’s failings are fundamental, but there are a few moments of random failure as well, including a minor sub-plot where a young man tries to prove himself and stuffs it completely, forcing Davidson to abandon his position to save him, as a result of which… well, nothing happens at all. And then there’s the ending; most of these points are for that ending. 10
Waste of potential – The earlier movie was better, the more recent remake was better, and Tim Burton is a good movie maker on his day. This cast, with that director and that basic brief could have made so much more. 16

Overall 58%

From the Archive – Nemesis (1993)

Nemesis (1993)


“In the future, it pays to be more than human.”

Inflicted by Albert Pyun
Starring Olivier Gruner, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tim Thomerson and Brion James

Right. Alex is a cop, see, and he’s hunting these terrorists called the Red Army Hammerheads. The RAH are cyborgs. Or maybe they don’t like cyborgs. Anyway, Alex gets shot up by them and has to have even more of his meaty bits replaced with robot parts. He pursues his quest for vengeance to “Baja, New America,” where he guns down the people who shot him up. He then confronts the LAPD types who follow him, and tells them he’s quitting.
Good so far?
More time passes, and we find Alex eking out a mercenary lifestyle in the “New Rio net.” He gets bushwhacked by a cyborg and taken to confront his LAPD boss (Tim Thomerson) and his inexplicably European minions. They tell him he’s got a bomb in him and send him off to Java or somewhere to track down some terrorists. Or something. A chip with his ex-girlfriend’s personality (Personality is a pretty strong term for it – The Prophet) on it comes into it somewhere. Surprise surprise, Tim Thomerson was the baddie all along, being in actuality an evil cyborg who replaced the real Tim Thomerson and who now chases Alex and this girl he just met all over hell and gone, shooting at them with an arsenal of high-tech waprons.
Yes, waprons. Goodness defeats wickedness, hurrah hurrah.

What’s wrong with it?

Olivier Gruner fails to bring the necessary tenderness and humanity to his role as a none-too-bright robot. Special effects are crude, fight scenes are stilted and dull, and the love interest was obviously sleeping with the director, which just goes to show that if your name is Albert Pyun, even being a Hollywood director is not enough to get the really pretty girls. He’s going to have to start dealing coke.

What’s right with it?

 Uh, some of the scenery is kind of nice, I guess, when they’re in the south pacific. And Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is funny as a tropical gangster. But he’s not in it for long.

How bad is it really?

 I saw this movie with Happyfett and our friend Tim, and those hardened veterans were ready to gnaw their own legs off to get away. And Happyfett wasn’t even drinking.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Alex and girl-he-just-met fly away from robo-Thomerson in a plane on strings. But the villain clings to the bottom and clambers up to attack! In the ensuing struggle (which is all done in stop-motion; it’s kind of like watching Jack Skellington kick King Kong’s ass), robo-Thomerson grabs Gruner’s head and scrapes it against the plane’s torn bulkhead, peeling the skin off his forehead, revealing gleaming metal beneath!. Course, we already knew Alex was a cyborg, so it’s really not that big a deal.

What’s up with…?

  • “cyborg” meaning “robot” in this world?
  • the New Rio net? It’s totally inexcusable that this was not called “neo-Rio.”
  • “Baja, New America?” “Baja” just means “lower.” Baja what? I mean, yeah, OK, people call Baja California “Baja” for short, but that’s still not its name.
  • the LAPD’s incredible expanding jurisdiction? Not only do they send Alex to chase crooks in Bora Bora or wherever, but when he gets there the crooks are hiding from the LAPD.
  • the haircuts? Whenever Pyun needs to tell us that time has passed, he changes Alex’s haircut, from Moe-cut to mullet to low-top fade. He’s like a one-man Kid ‘n’ Play of the future.
  • the Red Army Hammerheads? I think I saw them opening for Midnight Sunstone Bazooka.
  • gunheads? The cyborg superweapon is this titchy little gun that emerges slowly from the machine’s head. Wouldn’t a pistol just be more efficient?
  • The wapron? It’s this titchy little gun that blows robo-Thomerson into robo-smithereens. Of course, he gets back up, but it’s a very big blast for such a small wapron.
  • Albert Pyun’s strange need to dump tons of backstory on us before the chasing can begin? It’s not like anyone gives a crap about Alex’s motivations.


Production values: Poor, even allowing for it being 1993. Unforgivable in areas like props and armoury, which aren’t that expensive. 17

Dialogue and performances: Nope. 15

Plot and execution: Remember Blade Runner? Well, imagine if it sucked. 17

Randomness: Well, if you mean “random” in the sense of “proceeds with no rhyme or reason” then, well, yeah. 15

Waste of potential: The relationship between humanity and technology has been the basis of many great stories. This is not one of them. 13

Overall 78%