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My Most Hated Movie Of All Time And An Insult To The Album
Before I watched this piece of cinematic garbage, my least favorite movie in the whole world was the shallow, badly made "Armageddon", which managed to be dull and boring, even with all the loud explosions, stupid plotting and bad music video editing. "Tommy" makes "Armageddon" look like "Richard III".
I love the album by The Who. It is dark and very disturbing in spots but still manages to sound beautiful and even transcendental sometimes. I literally grew up with the album... my parents would play it at me ever since I was a wee one, so you can understand that I would be interested to see a movie version of it. Oh, God, I wish I hadn't.
This movie takes everything that was good about the album and jettisons it out the window. Look, I don't need the movie adaptation of anything to be 100% accurate to its source material, but please be at least 50% accurate...40%? 20? 5? Ken Russell twists the story into something horrid and ugly, and turns the music into something gaudy and excessive. Gone is the dark subtlety of the album... now we have Ann Margaret rolling around in baked beans and Elton John going glitzy (as is his wont) and Oliver Reed singing badly. And Jack Nicholson "singing". Badly. Russell even manages to mess up having Tina Turner in his movie, with her over-the-top rendition of "Acid Queen"... how can you mess up Tina Turner? That part should have been awesome. And the worst part is that while some directors put offensive or shocking things in their movies to make a point about something, Russell seems to be doing it all just to be shocking - I suspect that he got off on being offensive for the sake of being offensive. And I am no prude - for example, I loved "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" and how rude and funny it was... but there the filmmakers had a point. There is no point coming from Ken Russell, only crude excess.
"Tommy" is a self-indulgent mess of a movie by a self-indulgent mess of a director and I hate it more than any movie in the entire world. What makes it even worse is that the band itself put its stamp of approval on this piece of flotsam by appearing and performing in it (what were they smoking?). This film insults me to my core and I despise everything about it. There is nothing redeeming about it. Nothing.
Seisenshi Dunbine (1983)
Ground-Breaking Above Average Fantasy Effort From Yoshiyuki Tomino
In 1983, after wrapping up "Xabungle," a Western With !GIANT ROBOTS! Yoshiyuki Tomino decided to make a Fantasy Epic ...with !GIANT ROBOTS! Well, he didn't exactly decide. The story goes that Tomino wanted to do a robot-less fantasy show based on some novels he had written but Sunrise pressured him into adding mecha for marketing purposes. So he did, and wow are they different - courtesy of Macross mecha designer Kazutaka Miyatake.
The Story: Japanese motocross racer Sho Zama disappears one night and falls (along with his motorcycle) into the parallel world of Byston Well, where he is recruited (more like drafted) to fight for local warlord Drake Luft. Seems that Sho possesses great "Aura Power" which enables him to fight in a giant insectoid robot called an Aura Battler. There is opposition to Luft's imperialist ambitions, however and Sho is recruited to the rebel side after an encounter with Marvel Frozen, another Aura Battler pilot from "Upper Earth." Now they must fight Drake Luft and his ever growing power - not only to keep Byston Well free, but potentially Upper Earth as well.
Kudos to Tomino for making this one different. This is the first medieval fantasy giant robot show, predating "Escaflowne" by more than a decade. The overall plot is not that original (Person from Our World falls into Fantasy World and must fight Evil Overlord) but it is epic, if a little repetitious. This is my main beef with the show, actually, especially near the end. An example of how repetitious "Dunbine" can be: there is a princess character (every fantasy show's gotta have one) named Elmelie who is constantly rescued only to be captured by the villains again. After about the 7th time I started to keep score of the game of "Elmelie Ball" being played on my screen - seriously, the girl changes hands more times than the Ark of the Covenant from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The characters are a mixed bag. My favorite is Cham Huau, Sho's fairy companion and mascot for the show (she's in all of the commercial bumpers). Bold, spirited (sometimes *too* much so), loving and loyal but sometimes inconsiderate and selfish, and last but not least so gosh-darn *cute* Cham is the most lovable and well-rounded character on the show. Her creator obviously loved her; Tomino basically copied her for his character of Lilith in his next TV series, the sci-fi epic "Heavy Metal L-Gaim." Other characters range from good, like the brave and noble Queen Celia Lapana to average (Sho and Marvel are only so-so as far as leads go) to dull and not all that likable. An example of the latter is rebel leader Neal Given, who comes off as a drip and a jerk most of the time. Also, some characters display the typical Tomino Stupid Character Syndrome (TSCS) and do something completely stupid and (usually) whiny right out of the blue - Keen Kiss I'm looking at you! On the Bad Guy side of things, the villains are never portrayed as being 100% Pure Unadulterated Nazi Evil, but aren't really fleshed out that much either, at least compared to Tomino's other shows - there is no Char Aznable here. The art and animation are standard for 1983, and while that may scare off those used to modern anime it was alright for me. The requisite giant robot battles are adequate - exciting and well done most of the time but not on par with Tomino's best (Zeta Gundam, Char's Counterattack). The music in this show is phenomenal though - the background score is appropriately epic and the opening and ending songs by MIO are awesome.
"Dunbine" was released on Region 1 DVD a few years ago but is now-out-of-print. Good luck hunting it down: some sellers want hundreds of dollars for *the last few volumes alone*. The ADV discs include a sub-par English dub (Sho sounds like he is about 20 years older than he is, and Neal is done by Vic Mignogna trying to do - a... Scottish... accent?). I would stick to the Japanese.
Conclusion: I recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of Yoshiyuki Tomino or giant robots in a fantasy setting - fans of Escaflowne can see where the genre got its start. I can't unconditionally qualify it as a classic though; flaws with both plotting and characterization make this in the end a merely above-average effort.
+ Concept, music, awesome insectoid mecha designs, some characters, epic plot...
- ...that sometimes get repetitious, other characters, TSCS, some of the episodes leading up to the (good) ending.
Urgh! A Music War (1981)
The only place to see the Police and Klaus Nomi in the same picture
This movie puts some of the best punk/new-wave acts together into one of the best concert films of all time (its only competition amongst pure concert films would be Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense"). More than that though, it also captures the feel and mood of what is quite possibly the greatest (and is without doubt my favorite) era in popular music. Some of the acts in here are weird, some rock, all of them are worth watching at least once. Words cannot express how awesome this movie is. Get yourself a bloodhound and track down a copy today! (Oh, and track down a copy of the soundtrack too! I managed to find mine on audio cassette)