August 30, 2006

Poll Results: 80s - Favorite Decade for Cyberpunk Movies

Blade Runner Screen Capture


Cyberpunk Review members have spoken: The 80s are your favorite decade for cyberpunk movies. After 51 votes, the results are as follows:


What’s your favorite decade for cyberpunk movies?

  • Prior to 1980: 2% (1)
  • 1980 - 1989: 45% (23)
  • 1990 - 1999: 29% (15)
  • 2000 - current: 24% (12)

Total Votes : 51


Terminator Screen Capture


The 80s

And truly, it’s not that suprising. There are a bunch of terrific cyberpunk movies from the 80s that are very influential, and very well known. In looking at my Star Ratings, the movies I rate with either 9 or 10 stars from the 80s include:



Couple that with other wildly influential flicks like Akira, Bubblegum Crisis and Tron, and you have an absolutely rockin decade! The Golden Age of Cyberpunk was more than just the books.


Ghost in the Shell Screen Capture


The 90s

However, I have to say that I’m still pretty torn about my favorite decade. Some of my absolute favorite cyberpunk flicks come from the 90s, especially for animes. Just for animes, the 90s brings us my all-time favorite anime, Ghost in the Shell, not to mention



For films, the 90s, which came in second overall, is still fairly decent, with films such as The Matrix, Hardware, Dark City, Hardware, eXistenZ, Twelve Monkeys, and Terminator 2.


Avalon Screen Capture


The 2000s

I consider the current decade the most creative for cyberpunk movies. Here we get a plethora of terrific, unheard of, and sometimes low-budget cyberpunk flicks, a number of interesting experimental flicks, not to mention bunches of great animes. All too often we hear the comment that there are no longer any good SciFi movies being made. I strongly contend that there are more great ones than ever - they just rarely come from the big studio houses. Relatively obscure but terrific movies from this decade include:


  1. Avalon
  2. Casshern
  3. Cypher
  4. Immortel
  5. Natural City
  6. One Point O {Paranoia 1.0}
  7. Puzzlehead, and
  8. Save the Green Planet


Other than Save the Green Planet, I don’t think any of these got anything but a DVD release, and Save the Green Planet had a brief theatrical release 2 years after it was out. In addition to these, we get a ton of awesome animes like GITS: Innocence, GITS SAC, Fragile Machine, Texhnolyze, Metropolis, and Wonderful Days.


La Jettée Screen Capture


Prior to 1980

While it’s not surprising that only one person voted for movies prior to 1980, there are clearly some terrific ones not to be missed, including the original cyberpunk movie, Metropolis. Other MUST SEE films include La Jetée, THX-1138, Alien, and A Clockwork Orange, if you consider that cyberpunk.


So what did I choose, you ask? I picked the 90s. :)

This post has been filed under Poll Results by SFAM.

Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society Poster


A new movie in the Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex series is coming out in Japan on the SKYPerfecTV! satellite television network on September 1st. Production IG is going to release this on DVD on November 24, and plans to release it in the US sometime in 2007. Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society was made for 3.2 million dollars, and supposedly has high quality theatrical production values. Here’s the trailer:



Interestingly, the distributor, Bandai Entertainment, is planning to crack down on Fan Subs. We’ll see how well this actually works, but it seems to me a better solution would be to do a worldwide release instead of doing the Japan-only DVD release followed by a subtitled version later.

From Production IG, the plot is as follows:


A.D. 2034. It has been two years since Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9. Togusa is now the new leader of the team, that has considerably increased its appointed personnel. The expanded new Section 9 confronts a rash of complicated incidents, and investigations reveal that an ultra-wizard hacker named the Puppeteer is behind the entire series of events.

In the midst of all, Batou, who was stalking the case on a separate track, encounters Motoko. She goes away after saying, “Stay away from the Solid State Society.” Batou is left with a doubt in his mind. Could Motoko be the the Puppeteer?

The series of intriguing incidents that Section 9 faces gradually link together almost artistically. Who is the Puppeteer? What will happen to Batou’s relationship with Motoko? What is the full truth behind this carefully planned perfect crime? And what will the outcome be? Mysteries surround the Solid State Society…


Hopefully, one of our posters from Japan will be able to watch GITS SSS and at can give us a nice review of it.

This post has been filed under Upcoming Movies by SFAM.

Fragile Machine Screen Capture


Introduction: A few weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of spending over an hour talking with Ben Steele, the director of the indie cyberpunk anime, Fragile Machine. Ben Steele, Darren Dugan, singer “X” and the rest of Aoineko created a very creative, wonderfully rich anime that deserves significantly more attention than its gotten. I refer to it as a cyberpunk operetta due to the intense interplay between the music with the visuals.

In any event, after doing the best I could at writing up our conversation, I sent this to Ben, who along with a brief read through by Darren, provided the responses you see below. This is my first of (I hope) many interviews, so I hope you enjoy.



Fragile Machine Screen Capture

Ben Steele (Director, Writer, Music) on the left, Darren Dugan (Writer, Editor) on the right


Cyberpunk Review (CR): So how long did Fragile Machine take to make?

Ben Steele: Far too long! When I started doing animations back in 2000-2001, one minute would take me 5 months! By 2002, a 2 minute clip would take me about 4 months. Fragile Machine was planned to be three 3 minute music videos, based off a web project of mine called “Sentosa Mikano.” I thought it would take about a year. It just kept growing and growing, to the point where the finished film was 34 mins. We sped up as we went along though. In doing the film, it was a far more organic development process as opposed to a straight forward, scripted process. And I guess that while it took 3 years in total, I’d say the actual serious production time took about 19 months.


CR: How did you get into directing?

Ben Steele: I started off in visual design, and sort of went form there. Back in 2000, Aoineko was doing works for museum exhibitions, including a project called “subterranean” which was shown at the Biennal de Valencia in Spain and the National Museum of Art in Rome. Then “superelectronic” was shown in Tokyo as it had won honors in the Canon CDCC competition. As a result of that win I was featured in a national print campaign for CDCC, which was cool. Superelectronic was also exhibited at UCLA and NYU. Sentosa Mikano was produced for Ars Electronica, although apparently the picked the videogame “Rez” for inclusion instead of us (those jerks. :-P). The next project was “Living Spaces” shown at the Mugler Gallery in Paris and most recently, a very high profile event – IDN DesignEdge in Singapore. From there, we got into music videos, and eventually to animated films. Although I studied at film school, I annoyed the teachers by doing everything differently. I think this! helps in that it has allowed me to take a unique approach to film making that perhaps I wouldn’t have done had I accepted the rules of that formal training.

Aoineko came together when X and my friend/guitarist Garth started working with during superelectronic. Years later, Darren Dugan joined on, and Garth’s brothers Cliff (guitar) and John (drums, flute) both helped on Fragile Machine.


Aoineko Subterranean Show Screen Capture

A page from the Aoineko Subterranean Museum exhibition in Spain


CR: What are your (or Aoineko’s) major anime influences?

Ben Steele: From anime, it would be Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Innocence, etc.) and Watanabe (Cowboy Beebop), but also I was influenced by some of the classic Japanese film makers like Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu. I don’t really differentiate anime film makers from live action directors. If the film is good, it can influence the direction you take. One movie that influenced me a lot was Giants and Toys by Yasuzo Masumura (1958). This film is bright and colorful with lots of satire that really captures the nuclear family idea. Another anime influence would be the composer Yoko Kanno, who is consistently inspiring to me musically.


CR: In terms of themes and visuals, there seemed to be a number of linkages to Oshii’s work. Not only the soul (ghost) within an android body (shell), but there seemed to be some linkages between your use of the elephant (which seems to represent Mary Nea) and Oshii’s use of a dog.

Ben Steele: That’s an interesting parallel because I’m actually using the elephant in my next movie as well! This blue elephant was a favored stuffed animal I had when I was a baby in my crib. I think they stand for different things, but yeah, as a convention there are definitely similarities. Though I must say, I thought the dog was a bit overused in Innocence. I found its subtle expression in the first GitS film to be more satisfying.


CR: I’m interested in this whole phenomena we see with Indie animation. Talk about the difference in making an Indie animation versus a large scale animation? We haven’t seen too many productions like Voices of a Distant Star make it big. Are we seeing this trend more favorably now? What were the key limitations you had to work around and how have you marketed Fragile Machine?

Ben Steele: Obviously the whole distribution aspects are a big challenge. But we’ve done really well targeting advertising towards niche markets. For instance, if we spent $1000 dollars on advertising Fragile Machine, we’ll always get back at least $1500 in DVD sales. But truly, most of our advertising is word-of-mouth type stuff. People don’t stumble upon Fragile Machine unless they’re already looking for something different. For those that have found it, we’ve had had a great response.

And while you don’t have the flexibility and capability as some of the larger production houses, the indie approach gives you incredible freedom in how you create your movie. I would like to see the market for these type of films increase, but mostly I’m just grateful that it’s large enough already to give me the opportunity to focus on my work completely and live the life I want. Interestingly enough, Darren Aronofsky was only paid $50,000 to direct Requiem for a Dream, and since I was also functionally the executive producer of Fragile Machine, I made a comparable amount even though the number of people who’ve seen it is about 1/100th of that who’ve seen the other film. Though I would hope he made an additional amount on royalties as well.


CR: Fragile Machine doesn’t at all “look” like a US animation; if I didn’t know where the director was located, I’d guess it was Japanese. How would you characterize an anime versus most US animated movies?

Ben Steele: The visuals in Fragile Machine overall come a mixture of the Eastern artistic tradition of Minimalism combined with the Western Baroque and Rococo traditions of oil paintings. But yeah, the definitions of anime aren’t really agreed upon by all. Some see this as a style in animation whereas others look at it purely as animation coming from Japan.


Fragile Machine Screen Capture


CR: The visuals in Fragile Machine are absolutely breathtaking. I’d love to know the process that generates these. Do you storyboard or do paintings prior to rendering these?

Ben Steele: Nope, no storyboarding. Visuals are designed in various graphics packages including Lightwave and Photoshop. I’m also developing a proprietary tool called the Aoineko GL which is hard to describe, but should prove to be most useful. I have an idea of what I want, but then I just take it and play with it. We often will create layers over layers to provide a complex overall effect. The end result should hopefully look like a piece of art that we can turn and look at from different angles.


CR: Your cinematography approach seems to involve lots of sweeping pans across 3D environments from various angles - it almost comes across as a bullet-time type speed. Was this in part a response to your limitations in making smooth animation?

Ben Steele: Certainly. In terms of the quality of the animation in Fragile Machine, one problem we had was I was the only one doing animation. While I love doing some styles of animation, I hate doing character animation. I find it to be very tedious work. I might spent 20 hours rendering a small environment scene and then do an entire character animation in three hours! In our next film, we’re having a lot more people involved in this, so thankfully I won’t ever have to do any character animation again (Woohoo!). With each new project, we’re adding more people and talent, and this will show. Also, you’ll see a major step up in the quality of our animation. Over the next two films, by 2010 we expect our animation quality to be on par with Final Fantasy type Advent Children style animation. You’ll see some significant improvement in our next film, and then a bit more in the second one. We’re working on the character animation skin textures! , as well as cloth and hair dynamics, for instance.


CR: Where do the Visuals of the Cityscapes Come From? These seem very similar to other well-regarded animes.

Ben Steele: Regarding the cityscapes in Fragile Machine, I spent a year living in Taiwan, and Darren visited Japan frequently. We both really love Asia and miss it. The cityscapes are my attempt to get back to that and pay my respect to it.


Fragile Machine Singer X Taiwan Screen Capture

Fragile Machine singer “X” from a performance in Taiwan


CR: In looking at the integration of music with the narrative in Fragile Machine, clearly, a large part of the narrative is told through music. Describe this process if you could. Is this a case where you had the story first and melded the songs to accommodate, or was something else going on?

Ben Steele: Music is a big part of what I do. We’re all musicians and certainly see this as a big part of what Aoineko does. We’ve moved from music videos to animated films, but we still see the music as an integral part of the overall experience. And yeah, we certainly had an interplay between the songs and the film itself. Fragile Machine had 9 songs if memory serves. I think as we produced the animation we wrote about 30 songs and then picked the ones best suited to the story, adding emphasis to them in certain ways to compliment the narrative arc.


CR: The story comes across as more of a post-modern narrative similar to some of Chiaki Konaka’s stuff. Both the visuals and story seem to bounce back in forth almost in waves. What prompted you to use this method of story telling?


Ben Steele: We produce Fragile Machine very different from most animation houses. While we have a basic idea of what we’re shooting for, for us, the process of film making is very organic. We are constantly working and improvising with all of the scenes, and in the process of putting them together, we realize we either need more character development, more symbolic linkages or a different setting exploring some other aspect of the film. In this way, the film “grows” to become what it is. This is also reflected in the editing approach.

Fragile Machine really is a character study. It’s not story driven. This differentiates it from most anime which is mostly story driven with standard character archetypes. I really like watching classic character studies like some of Louis Malle’s works or Welles’ Citizen Kane. In putting together Fragile Machine, we really wanted to get into who she was, and what her motivations were.


Fragile Machine Screen Capture


CR: So do you actually consider this a post-modern method of film production?

Ben Steele: Yeah, we actually realized this midway through the process of creating Fragile Machine. In some cases this can make the process go far longer than a traditional approach. For instance, in the forest scene, Darren Dugan, who edited Fragile Machine, ended up having to edit it three times. He did it the first time, and while it looked really good, we weren’t totally happy with one of the songs in that sequence. Cliff Hockersmith and I came up with a song we liked better for that sequence, but once we put it together, it became clear that the film needed to be edited again to fit with it. After Darren did this, we ended up re-ordering the songs, which again caused Darren to edit it a third time! Which, was, ironically enough, the first song we chose after all. He was not too happy about that. While this is far from optimal, the approach does tend to make everything really fit together. You’ll notice the action in the animation mimics the rhythm in the son! gs, and often the words link up with the visuals. This would almost be impossible to plan. And truly, we find this method of free-form film making to be very liberating.

We liken Aoineko’s process of film making to be very similar to creating electronic music. Usually with rock music, for instance, there’s a structure to the song that most everyone adheres to, be it a three-chord progression, or some other format. With electronic music, you start off with a riff or a rhythm that you work into a sequence. Then you chop it up and play with it. Over time, the song “organically grows” in the process of recording and mixing. While Fragile Machine at a meta-level really follows Dante’s Divine Comedy (the android factory = hell; The forest = purgatory; the ending setting (heaven) = paradise), the story itself is very chopped up and augmented.

One post-modern character study I really liked was François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993). This movie deals with a real person, but tells the story in a series of vignettes, in a very post-modern way. Fragile Machine uses similar ideas in that the character study almost comes across as a series of disconnected vignettes, that, in total, gives you a sense of who Leda Nea is. We often looked at Leda Nea as being in a Diorama, in which we can see everything she does, but she often was completely in the dark. We can lift off the roof and look down on her and see what is really going on, even though she can’t see any of it.


CR: There seems to be an increasing number of post-human storylines in both movies and anime. Would you agree with this, and if so, what’s your thought on this trend, and how do you see it morphing over time?

Ben Steele: Yeah, absolutely. This is definitely an increasing trend. In real life we’re getting closer to actually experiencing this. 100 years ago, people were already thinking about this, with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, for instance, or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) even when there was no chance of actually doing any of this. Now, it’s right around the corner. Examples are all around us, such as the very realistic android that came out of Japan recently. In the near-future, an android will be taking your ticket when you get on your plane ride. It will be fascinating to see how young artists in 50 years are dealing creatively with the technologies they’ve grown up with, ones which we can’t even conceive of today. And I would be very pleased if in my life robotics advances to the point where greater human interaction with them occurs. Asimos flipping burgers for example. ;-)


Fragile Machine Screen Capture


CR: Regarding the use of symbols, Fragile Machine seems very heavily symbolically laden to the point that the narrative cannot really be understood without paying attention to them. Some seem rather crystal clear, such as the challenging of God’s place (and ultimate folly of such action), fallen angel linkages, with the torture in hell type visuals, the crucifixion in nature (water) which seems to purify the soul, and of course the angels at the end. Others seem to require more thought such as perhaps the linkage of the swimming fish in the nature scene with the swimming face/data angel in the heaven portion. Others seemed like homages to other films (like the Planet of the Apes scene with the fallen face statue on the rocks being similar to the Statue of Liberty near the end). I’m really interested in the process you used for coming up with these visuals, and how this correlates to the narrative you were working to relate.

Ben Steele: It’s a natural and really fun experience. It keeps the filmmaking creative day to day. In doing the character study, symbols are a good way to show how everything fits together. The symbols really are a product of the spontaneous, organic film making process. For instance, the Tree of Life in the Forest scene represents heaven, which we see Leda Nea going towards after she leaves her body in the last hell scene. The swimming angel fish in the water mimics seeing Leda Nea as an angel in the later scene where she’s just a face with datastreams behind her, swimming in heaven. I often wish we could do a show where they have nine screens of Fragile Machine running on a constant loop because we have so many scenes and symbols that echo scenes and symbols later in the film, chances are, people would see linkages between the scenes simultaneously.


CR: The idea of embedding a soul within an android body has been the grist of a decent number of stories and movies, each one taking a slightly different tact. What attracted you to the idea of embedding a soul into an android?

Ben Steele: Part of this deals with the idea of relating a spiritual story in a completely different setting. I find it boring to think that we’re all there is, that there isn’t anything that happens after we die. Perhaps post-post modernism, whatever it will eventually be called, will be the “nihilism is boring era.” jk

But doing a straight-up realistic anime that deals with religious aspects could easily run the danger of coming across as preachy. In placing the spiritual aspects in the context of an android with a soul, we’re able to bypass people’s biases. Especially as our interest is “spiritual” rather than “religious”. Theology to me seems inherently limited, yet in a certain context it can be elucidating.


Fragile Machine Screen Capture


CR: Fragile Machine deals with some very interesting religious ideas. One musing I took away from this that was unique is if an android had a soul, what would happen to it when the android dies? If you could, describe the religious message you wanted to get across.

Ben Steele: Really, we’re far more interested in getting people to think about the same questions we have versus providing them with a message. In bringing up religious or spiritual themes, there’s always a danger of coming across as too preachy or dogmatic. We worked hard to avoid that, and were worried at times whether we would be seen as crossing some invisible line. For instance, when we inserted the comment, that Leda Nea was the “first person to made by man instead of by God” we had a discussion of whether this would offend some, but in the end, we decided it was critical for the story.

In terms of science fiction, we take a spiritual-humanist approach, which is actually very rare. Very few science fiction stories focus on anything other than living beings. Most seem to assume that this is all there is. Although the Matrix Trilogy certainly raises these questions, it does so in a metaphorical way, whereas we explicitly include it in the story. To me, I would see life as being kind of pointless if I thought there was nothing after we die. For instance, when I heard John Lennon’s Imagine as a child, I ended up thinking the entire message was kind of lame. Whatever it is, when we die, lets hope SOMETHING happens!


CR: What prompted you to decide to make redemption the central theme of Fragile Machine? Was this an upfront decision?

Ben Steele: Yeah. That’s definitely what Fragile Machine is about. This was something we really wanted to explore. In many ways this is a personal story about X, the singer for the songs in Fragile Machine. When she grew up, her mother was severely mentally handicapped and couldn’t really speak to her. X lost her mother and never really got closure. Interestingly, she had a very personal experience after her mother died in which she actually got to speak to her mother through a surrogate, and was able to come to closure. As many times as she’s seen it, X still cries when she sees the ending of Fragile Machine. In a sense, this was an opportunity for redemption for her mother, to set things right. Fragile Machine takes this same concept and reverses the characters, thus altering the context.


CR: Regarding future projects, what’s Aoineko working on now? Anything we might consider

Ben Steele: The next film is going to be more of a story driven approach, which will be a challenge from an organic filmmaking standpoint. Currently, its code name is “Charity.” I guess if I was pitching it to some Hollywood producer I’d say “It’s a futuristic slacker road trip movie!” but that is a pretty superficial description that wouldn’t do the emotional intensity of it justice. We’re not sure if Charity will be the final movie name as this would be similar to naming Fragile Machine “Redemption” instead. It’s not as dark a story as Fragile Machine is, but there are a lot of cyberpunk themes involved. Interestingly though, the future setting will be more background in that the characters will just be taking it all as a given instead of the “wow” factor some SciFi movies show. I mean, no one in the real world walks around thinking “wow, cars are so cool!” so how come in the sci fi movies the characters alw! ays seem to think the spaceships are so damn interesting?

Mixing forward narrative with organic growth or postmodern narrative requires a new type of structure but hopefully we can find a balance that allows us a good degree of flexibility in modifying and growing it as the production proceeds. We have an idea for the film after Charity, one that’s a bit darker and will deal with even more cyberpunk themes but I really don’t want to give anything away right now. You’ll just have to wait on that!


CR: Ben, I’ve truly enjoyed talking with you. Best of luck to you, Darren and the rest of Aoineko.

Ben Steele: Thanks again SFAM. It was a lot of fun.

This post has been filed under Interviews by SFAM.

August 27, 2006

Future Shock - Cyberpunk on the Daily Show

I don’t know how many of you saw Samantha Bee’s Future Shock segment earlier this Wednesday on the Daily Show. If not, it’s worth a look. It had a number of rather funny robot and nanotech thoughts floating around.


Hmmmmm…sex with robots, coming to a product near you!

This post has been filed under Internet Short by SFAM.

August 25, 2006

Cyborg 2087

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1966

Directed by: Franklin Adreon

Written by: Arthur C. Pierce

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Gareth A7: Michael Rennie
  • Dr. Karen Mason: Karen Steele
  • Rating: 4 out of 10


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    Overview: On its face, Cyborg 2087 sounds like the plot for the terminator: this guy from a dystopic future comes back to the past to stop the development of a new technology with lots of promise, that ends up destroying humanity as we know it; unfortunately, he is chased by these cyborg things who are bent on stopping him. While there are certainly some similarities, the differences are perhaps broader. Aside from the obvious budget differences, the plot in Cyborg 2087 involves a cyborg returning from the future versus a man, and he’s not trying to perform a “retroactive abortion,” he is doing something similar to Sarah Conner in T2 – he wants to stop the technology from being released at that time.


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    The Story Genius scientist Professor Sigmund Marx has created a technology that allows us to guide other people and influence their thoughts. Unfortunately, it turns out that this technology will be subverted by the government and military to engage in mass thought control of the population. In the future, humanity’s freewill has been crushed. Now a race of cyborgs have taken control to maintain stability. A small group of freedom fighters has come upon a method for restoring humanity. They have created a time machine, and intend to send back a cyborg who has had his “control” chip removed – the goal of which is to convince Professor Marx to abandon his experiment, or in worse case, to kill him.


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    The cyborg, Gareth A7 (played by Michael Rennie of Day the Earth Stood Still), doesn’t have access to all his technology when he was sent back. Worse, he has a homing beacon implanted in him that will lead the killer cyborgs, called tracers, right to him. He happens upon Professor Marx’s assistant, Dr. Sharon Mason (Karen Steele), and uses the perfected form of Marx’s technology to overwhelm her freewill and force her to assist him. From there it’s a race. The bad cyborgs from the future have arrived and are sporting killer ray guns. Gareth and Sharon must find the professor and convince him prior to the killer cyborgs finding him.


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    The Acting: The acting in Cyborg 2087 is fairly sub par. Aside from Michael Rennie, who I just enjoy seeing in another flick, the rest of the cast really falls short. Karen Steele over-emotes, as does her secondary love interest, Harey Carey Jr. The tracers are particularly bad, as are most of the bit characters. The Sheriff, played by Wendell Corey, while over the top, is at least well done. The bottom line here, with a budget as low as this one was, the only way Cyborg 2087 could have worked is if the acting paid off – unfortunately it didn’t.


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    The FX: Cyborg 2087 is very low budget, so we can’t expect much in the way of realistic effects. The extent of fanciness here involves making something disappear by taking another shot with the object removed. The ray guns have the cheesy thick white light look, and the outfits are anything but high tech. The opening shot of the futuristic city, which is nothing more than a painting, is at least interesting from the standpoint that it shows you what people in the sixties thought our futuristic cities would look like. At best, Cyborg 2087 tries for the cyberpunk western look, but this too is problematic. Perhaps the worst part of the FX deals with the tracers, who are heavyset guys running around in fake US army costumes. They really coulda spent at least a buck or two to buy an extra who at least was in shape. On top of this, the cartoonish sounding score is especially atrocious. If there were any quality scenes in this movie, the score ensures that they won’t be noticed.


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    Cyborgs: In Cyborg 2087, we are told that the cyborgs are a combination of man and machine, but we really don’t get much more of a breakdown than that. We know that they have wide open spaces in their bodies, and that they have the power of five or six men. Basically, the model we get here is of regular people that basically work like simple computers, and are able to have various computer chips embedded in them. In the end, its not a very believable view of cyborgs, and isn’t even a consistent one. We are told that cyborgs have no emotion, but somehow, Gareth falls in love with Sharon. The movie would have worked so much better had he let her die near the end versus what did happen (the heroic rescue).


    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture


    The Bottom Line: Arthur Pierce’s script for Cyborg 2087 probably mostly decent (aside for the Hollywood happy ending factor), but unfortunately Franklin Adreon’s directing talents are not enough to bring it to a successful fruition. Far too frequently, Cyborg 2087 comes across as poorly done SciFi cheese. Again, had the acting been decent, one could easily overlook the low-qual FX. Unfortunately this is not the case. However, I did find it worthwhile to watch for one reason only – I loved Michael Rennie in the Day the Earth Stood Still, and really enjoyed seeing him in another flick. His acting is pretty much the same (Stoic, serious, impending doom looking demeanor), but at least we get to see him running around and performing action scenes.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, Time Travel, Man-machine Interface, 4 Star Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Cyberpunk movies from before 1980 by SFAM.

    August 20, 2006

    Sorry for the Downtime…

    Puzzlehead Screen Capture


    Apparently my ISP was working on the SQL server and didn’t feel the need to let me know if it was offline. Anyone know how long cyberpunkreview was offline for earlier today?

    This post has been filed under Site Development by SFAM.

    Boing Boing posted a link to a rare Philip K. Dick interview from 1977 on YouTube that was released as part of the Scanner Darkly movie hype. PKD talks about break-ins to his house by government officials, and the relative low-standing of science fiction in the literary community.



    He particularly hates the “box” that SciFi was put in, in that it could only do things like space operas, or westerns set in the future, without sex, drama, etc. Clearly the cyberpunk movement of the 80s dramatically changed the rules. Since then, the entire genre has opened up. No longer are the SciFi/Fantasy shelves filled with mindless “Gonad the Barbarian” books, and literally everyone was forced to raise their game. Clearly, PKD was a precursor of this.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Influenced Books, Documentary by SFAM.

    Made out of Meat Screen Capture


    Mr. Roboto in the Meatspace (Forums) found this cool article on ZDNet about


    Researchers from Australia announced last week that it is possible to guide people movements by remote control. This technique, known as galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS), is not new and has been demonstrated for the first time in 1999. But until now, this technique, which uses electrodes placed just below people’ ears to remotely stimulate their nerves, led people to lose their balance. As Technology Review reports, the researchers have found a way to avoid this feeling.


    While Technology Review posits that this technique could be used “to make virtual reality environments seems more realistic or to help people with vestibular disorders,” I was actually more intrigued by Mr. Roboto’s take on this technology:


    Though the technology is still in its infancy, can you imagine what could happen with remote-controlled people? Develop this alongside human clonning, theoretically, you can create and endless army of disposable “meatbots” to do your bidding.


    This reminds me of the wonderful short, “Made out of Meat” by Stephen O’Regan. Perhaps they were in actuality just observing Mr. Roboto’s army!!

    This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

    Dose Screen Capture


    One of the really cool things happening in Cyberpunk right now is this new webzine called the Dose. Its published as a PDF and has a ton of cool interviews, features and pictures in it. I strongly recommend downloading both the initial issue (issue 0) and the premiere issue. Inside the Premiere issue, among other things, there is a very good interview with Pearry Reginald Teo, director of the upcoming cyberpunk movie, Gene Generation. Here’s a brief excerpt:


    DOSE: The Gene Generation definitely appears to be a cult movie that’s going to appeal to the Gothic, Industrial and cyberpunk subcultures. Your background material, as I had the chance to see, has quite an involvement with H.R. Giger and Beksinski in terms of architectural and visual design, your musical work includes Combichrist and VNV Nation and as for the overall look of the characters, you couldn’t deny the effect of the Gothic and cyberpunk fashion. So how did this involvement with these subcultures start? Do you feel you belong to any subcultures and if so, did you touch more (and which ones) before ending up with one?

    PRT: I prefer to coin the term counter culture. Only because subculture has a word that might infer we even belong as part of something. I like to think of the people and music that I love as an entirety to itself. Its about who we are and how we are different. We never work in society, but rather with society. We are a part of it rather than letting it control us. And I blame this thought process and influence on visionaries who have helped shaped our future with minds that dared to venture somewhere else. Its hard to actually say I belong into a counter culture only because I dont feel I belong to any one of them. Rather, I enjoy the idea of being around them so I can absorb a mood and certain ambience (as well as creativity) before these cultures actually influence me. You probably can tell I have a lot of different references to different things. In fact, I just love mixing things and seeing how beautiful it turns out. Something industrial, mixed with traditional cross cultural shock, makes me happy to see that no matter how different we are, in art, we can come together to make something beautiful. But the one constant, no doubt, is that I am extremely attracted to dark like-minded individuals such as the goth, industrial, EBM, cyberpunk scene. I find no inspiration is rappers, hip-hop scene or pop. In my opinion, I think they are mainly egotistical, and its all about the individual whereas the former definitely lends it style more because of taste and human emotive ideologies.


    Gene Generation Screen Capture


    Still No Release Date for Gene Generation: Unfortunately, Pearry Reginald Teo still hasn’t finalized a distribution deal, so there’s no date on when this much anticipated film is coming out (did I mention I LOVE Bai Ling???):


    DOSE: When can we expect screenings, release dates for DVD? Can you tell anything about the European distribution and screening opportunities?

    PRT: As mentioned before, because we dont have a distributor yet, there is no right answer to it. Even though we have offers now, I really want people to see the final and polished product before anything else. But I can promise one thing, the European distribution avenue will probably be as big, if not bigger than in the US. Especially in Germany and UK. Hopefully, with enough Jedi mind powers, I can coax the distributor to have one opening premier in Germany, one of my favorite countries to be in.


    Ghost in the Shell Screen Capture


    Cyberpunk 101: Among many other cool features, including band interviews and awesome art shots, and hawt chick nude bondage scenes, the Dose has a Cyberpunk 101 section which lists some of the best animes, best extreme Japanese Cyberpunk movies, best cyberpunk albums, and best cyberpunk games. Hopefully we see more of this feature in the future.

    This post has been filed under Upcoming Movies, Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

    August 13, 2006

    Bubblegum Crisis

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1987

    Directed by: Katsuhito Akiyama, et. al.

    Written by: Katsuhito Akiyama, et. al., Toshimichi Suzuki (story)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Sylia Stingray (voice): Yoshiko Sakakibara
  • Priscilla S. Asagiri ‘Priss’ (voice): Kinuko Ômori
  • Linna Yamazaki (voice): Michie Tomizawa
  • Nene Romanova (voice)Akiko Hiramatsu: Akiko Hiramatsu
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    Overview: Bubblegum Crisis (BGC) is one of the all-time classics of cyberpunk animation and anime in general. With a team of hawt chicks kicking butt in cute mecha outfits, while upbeat songs play in the background, Bubblegum Crisis has developed a franchise and staying power that few titles can match. Quite a number of sequels have been created as a testament to this. BGC is influential in a number of ways. Not only has its character animation been widely imitated, BGC was one of the first shows brought over in the US with subtitles. Overall, while there are some dark moments, the original BGC is an action-oriented, mostly light-hearted affair.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    The Story: In 2025 an earthquake destroyed Tokyo. With the assistance of androids and robots created by the omnipresent and ever-powerful Genom corporation called boomers, Tokyo is rebuilt as Mega-Tokyo. Unfortunately, like Bladerunner, sometimes the boomers get out of line, often in fact. Boomers can appear human, but often this is just a fascade for a far more dangerous bio or mecha beast that can break-through the skin. In response to this danger, the authorities have created an under-funded agency called the AD Police, who’s primary mission is to handle boomer incidents. Unfortunately, often the boomers are too strong for the police to handle.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    Enter the Knight Sabers. Headed up by Sylia Stingray, the billionaire daughter of the former Genom Corporation scientist who invented boomers, Sylia has advanced the research on her father’s mecha hard suits, and has recruited a team of three other hawt action chicks who, along with Sylia, comprise the Knight Sabers. All of them have secret identities. Priss is a pop singer, Nene is a hacker who works as a dispatcher at AD Police HQ, and Linna is an aerobics instructor. But all four of them have trained to become mercenaries extraordinaire in defense of boomer incidents.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    Unlike most OAVs, BGC is designed with each episode being as self-contained story. While many of the stories string together, there are no cliffhangers here. Some of the episodes have at least a modicum of intrigue, but generally, when it gets right down to it, the goal is for the knight riders to kick some boomer ass. Action dominates, which works considering the relatively short time allotted to each story (up to 50 minutes). As the series continues, most of the storylines deal with the Kight Sabers foiling attempts by the Genom corporation to secure even more power. A few of the episodes have complex storylines, but the majority are straightforward, with evil genius types (boomer or human) directing boomer machines who create death and destruction.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    For me, my favorite episode is Episode #5, where a two unique bio-based sexroid boomers who need blood for sustenance escape from escape Genaros, the SDPC’s orbital supply station for humanity’s moonbases, and make their way to Mega-Tokyo. The episode is far more complex than most, and touches on similar issues to Blade Runner, in that these Boomers just want to be free to live. Most of the boomers in BGC (other than the major villains) don’t really exhibit any form of sentience, but the ones in this episode (and the continuation in #6) are sentient and multidimensional.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    Influential Visuals: Along with Akira, BGC animation has been very influential in transforming anime to the popular style we see today. Characters with overly large eyes and the familiar facial styles are on display in BGC, as are a bevy of experimental looks and styles. The look of anime changed dramatically from the late 80s to the early nineties – BGC will always hold a place in history due to its influence on this change.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    Mega-Tokyo: BGC took the Blade Runner city visuals and applied them to anime, which was then imitated by most of the shows that followed. The cityscapes are modern looking with a blue background, with various green and red highlights. Grays and blues are shown in abundance, with occasional orange and red daytime scenes. Most of the shots are from above, focusing on the overall city-scape, but there are a number of ultra-modern buildings including the Genom’s Tower (which looks like the Blade Runner Terrel Corporation building) and the AD Police building – same as Blade Runner as well.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    The Action: By far the best quality animation BGC brings is in their action sequences. While the rest of the series is really not very special, the action sequences are very well done. We get a variety of effects and perspectives that driving the relatively quick-pacing. In many of the scenes, the backgrounds show a variety of methods to enhance the speed and action. Often BGC engages in mecha-style battles (many of the bad-guy boomers are variations on mecha characters), but these are different from some in that the Kight Sabers are in nimble, tight-fitting suits, which increases the speed of the action.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    The Music: Very few OVAs have music as recognizable as BCG. BGC is known for being one of the first (or at least one of the most recognized) to essentially embed music videos into their action sequences. The songs play a big part in Bubblegum Crises, with a large number of the action sequences and dramatic moments overlaid with song accompaniment. Almost twenty years later, this innovation has blossomed and morphed into what we see with FLCL for instance, where entire sequences are purely videos intertwined with the story.


    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture


    The Bottom Line : While I’m generally not too excited about mecha anime (this is purely a preference on my part, and not a knock on mecha), I find BGC quite enjoyable. BGC is more like an earlier version of GITS SAC in that the focus is action first, and philosophy second. While a few episodes do explore what it means to be human, in all but a few cases, this is usually done in the context of a fairly light plot and intense action. Perhaps the philosophical aspects would have been highlighted had the series continued, but for legal reasons, BGC was cut short at only eight episodes. On pure enjoyment I’d probably rate the series a 7 out of 10, but due to its significant influence on anime and cyberpunk I’m giving it an extra star.


    Page 2: More Screencaps —>

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Android Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

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