Space Battleship Yamato * * *

Genre: Sci-Fi

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Writer: Shimako Sato, based on the anime TV series Space Battleship Yamato by Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki

Cast: Takuya Kimura, Meisa Kuroki, Hiroyuko Ikeuchi

Running Length: 137 minutes

Synopsis: It is the year 2194. The Gamilas, an enemy of undetermined form, begin an invasion of Earth. The nations of Earth pool their forces and fight back, but their armies are defeated and most of humanity wiped out.

Five years later, in 2199, space-to-planet bombs have polluted the Earth, and those who remain alive have fled underground. Even former top pilot, Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura), has left the military. However, a communication capsule from the far off planet of Iskandar seems to bring hope for Earth. The Defense Force of Earth equips the Space Battleship Yamato with a previously unknown propulsion system, a ‘wave-motion engine’ based on plans found in the capsule. Kodai rejoins the Force, and becomes part of the crew aboard the Yamato. With the fate of the Earth in their hands, the crew blasts off for Iskandar.

Review: If you’re of a certain age group, Space Battleship Yamato (also known as Star Blazers) would probably be part of your childhood memory. This live action “remake” of Space Battleship Yamato has made it to local theatres about three months since its debut in Japan, and whilst there are some niggling flaws, it remains a generally entertaining space opera, very reminiscent of the Star Trek film franchise, especially the reboot in 2009.

From Takuya Kimura’s involvement in the movie to the very respectable special effects in the film, it’s clear to see that a lot of effort (and money) has gone into the making of Space Battleship Yamato. There are some very impressive action set pieces, and the CGI is top notch, almost as good as first-tier American sci-fi productions. Even the end credits song is done by Steve Tyler, echoing the iconic song in Armageddon which was performed by Aerosmith. 

Unfortunately, the actors in Space Battleship Yamato are a bit too prone to hamming it up, and because of the rather melodramatic plot, some of the scenes end up being unintentionally funny. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since one doesn’t come to such a film expecting deep character portrayals, but some of the more potentially poignant moments are really undone by the cheesy acting.

Space Battleship Yamato is also guilty of trying to cram too much into its already-long running time. One particularly noteworthy offender is the romantic subplot, which really stuck out like a sore thumb and never felt like it was well integrated into the rest of the movie. Also, for such a long movie, Space Battleship Yamato still gives short shrift to many characters and their backstories, and the opening reel is particularly confusing because most of the characters aren’t properly introduced till later on. The reason for rushing through these subplots and expositions? Too many action sequences for its own good, which eventually wear out their welcome.

Despite all these imperfections, Space Battleship Yamato works well in the context of a guilty pleasure. It’s corny and cheesy like the original Star Trek series, updated with action set pieces that are closer to the 2009 JJ Abrams reboot, and ends up being somewhere in between, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. Part of why I found the movie enjoyable was the nostalgia factor, so for audiences who are not acquainted with the original anime are likely to find the film toeing closer to mediocrity. 

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)


Morning Glory * * 1/2

Genre: Comedy

Director: Roger Michell  

Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum

Running Length: 102 minutes

Synopsis: When hard-working TV producer Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is fired from a local news program, her career begins to look as bleak as her hapless love life. Stumbling into a job at "Daybreak", the last-place national morning news show, Becky decides to revitalize the show by bringing on legendary TV anchor Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford). Unfortunately, Pomeroy refuses to cover morning show staples like celebrity gossip, weather, fashion and crafts – let alone work with his new co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a former beauty queen and longtime morning show personality who is more than happy covering morning "news." As Mike and Colleen clash, first behind the scenes and then on the air, Becky's blossoming love affair with fellow producer, Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) begins to unravel – and soon Becky is struggling to save her relationship, her reputation, her job and ultimately, the show itself.

Review: Morning Glory is a wildly inconsistent movie – at its best the film is an entertaining and at-times laugh-out-loud peek into the world of talkshow TV, but at its worst it’s plodding and smacks of desperation. Although the screenplay comes from Aline Brosh McKenna, which brought us the superior The Devil Wears Prada, this is not anywhere close to similarly-themed movies like Network and Broadcast News. In fact, it can be said that Morning Glory is just a little too moderate and restrained for its own good, and if the kid gloves came off the film would probably have been much more memorable. 

The best thing about Morning Glory is the tremendous effort Rachel McAdams puts into her role as Becky Fuller. Since both Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are basically coasting along, the weight of carrying the movie falls squarely on McAdams’ shoulders, and it’s on her thespian strength alone that Morning Glory is elevated above mediocrity. Harrison Ford has good chemistry with McAdams, and provides the much needed sparks to perk up the proceedings. Diane Keaton is unfortunately reduced to nothing more than a prop, which seems such a waste as her portrayal of Colleen Peck had so much potential and could have been a foil to both Becky and Pomeroy. 

However, all the acting in the world can’t save Morning Glory from its rather uninspired plot, with tired sit-com clichés that are really only sporadically funny. It’s only when Becky is forced to pull out all the stops and plumb the depths in the programming format for Daybreak does the comedic ante go up. The film does try to make a point about the death of “real” journalism versus entertaining the masses, but this is apparently too serious for the rest of the film and eventually fizzles into nothing. The romantic subplot is completely unconvincing, and Patrick Wilson has the thankless role of playing the bland romantic interest of Becky. 

This issue with the romantic subplot is reflective of a systemic problem that affects the film – so much of the script feels so contrived that it’s almost impossible to draw parallels with anything happening in real life. Although movies are essentially escapist fantasies, the wide disconnect with reality means that it’s hard to care about the movie, its characters and their eventual outcomes. Morning Glory does remain entertaining enough to not make it a total waste of time, and Rachel McAdams alone is worth the price of entry, but if the film was aiming for glory, then it has fallen far short. 

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)