CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: YÛKO MORIYAMA!

MZNJ_cult_classic_cuties

Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

**************************************************

YÛKO MORIYAMA

photo by Kouki Nishida

This installment of Cult Classic Cuties, much like our focus on Daniela Doria, is going to profile an actress who starred in three genre films for the same director during the course of her short film career. Yûko Moriyama was a Japanese TV and movie actress who had a brief acting career from 1991 to 2000. She had Japanese anime girl looks and at only five foot four could convey a toughness and strength that made her believable as an action star. She worked for Keita Amemiya in three films ranging from 1991 to 1997, including his breakaway hit, Zeiram. In all three she played women warriors and that seemed to get her typecast as such for the rest of her short career. She made an impression, however, that has earned her Cult Classic Cutie status, despite acting for less than a decade.

(You can read my full reviews for her three collaborations with Keita Amemiya by clicking the highlighted titles below!)

**************************************************

bars

As sexy, alien bounty hunter Iria in Zeiram!…

Reprising her role as Iria with a slightly new look in Zeiram 2!…

As aliens Abira, Marien and Kuzto (in that order) in Moon Over Tao!…

**************************************************

photo by Kouki Nishida

Moriyama apparently retired from acting after 2000 with her final film being a Hong Kong flick set partially in Japan called Tokyo Raiders. The actress is still a cult favorite among fans for her portrayal of Iria and it’s disappointing that she left acting so soon and never reunited with Amemiya at least one more time to make the Zeiram flicks a trilogy.

**************************************************

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here for the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: THE COLLABORATIONS OF KEITA AMEMIYA AND YÛKO MORIYAMA

MZNJ_ICFA

now playing

bars

THE COLLABORATIONS OF KEITA AMEMIYA AND YÛKO MORIYAMA

Keita Amemiya is an artist and designer who got a start writing and directing for TV before breaking into feature filmmaking in 1988 with Murai Ninja, a film that was a mash-up of ancient Japan sword epic and Star Wars-esque sci-fi flick. The film showed evidence of a director still in need of some experience at the helm, but it also had a unique look and design that displayed some interesting potential. Amemiya lived up to that potential in 1991 with the now cult classic Alien, The ThingTerminator, hybrid Zeiram and hasn’t stopped working since.

Yûko Moriyama was a Japanese TV and movie actress who had a brief acting career from 1991 to 2000. She was very pretty and only five foot four, but could convey a toughness and strength that made her believable as an action star. She worked for Keita Amemiya in three films ranging from 1991 to 1997, including his breakaway hit, Zeiram. In all three she played women warriors and that seemed to get her typecast as such for the rest of her short career. She made an impression, however, that has earned her cult status despite acting for less than a decade.

Zeiram had a beautiful bounty hunter from space coming to earth to hunt a biological weapon which could absorb the genetic material of victims and use it to it’s advantage. That beautiful bounty hunter was named Iria and played by the adorable yet tough yuko, who was twenty-three at the time and it was her first feature film. The flick became an instant fan favorite with it’s live action anime style and the incredible creatures, costumes and gadgets from the mind of Amemiya. It also made an instant cult star out of Moriyama, whose Iria had the beauty of a Japanese anime girl and the kick-ass combat skills of Natasha Romanov. The FX were quite good for a low budget flick, ranging from animation to prosthetics to old fashioned stop-motion. There was plenty of action and the film is now considered a cult classic of Japanese fantasy/sci-fi cinema.

Three years later Amemiya brought his genetic horror back and his leading lady with him, as Iria returned to Earth to battle another Zeiram creature, this time infused into a combat robot. Her A.I. partner Bob was back, too, as well as, her bungling earth sidekicks Teppei (Kunihiro Ida) and Kamiya (Yukijiro Hotaru). Zeiram 2 wisely kept it fresh by having a different look and abilities for it’s title creature and for Iria as well. The sequel once again featured the stunning and unique design work of it’s visionary director and the traditional genre mixing action. Moriyama was sexy and cool as Iria and while the film didn’t quite live up to it’s predecessor, it is still an action-packed, fun flick with the trademark look of an Amemiya film and with bounty hunter Iria being kick-ass as ever. Unfortunatley for fans, it would be another three years before director and actress would team again…

The artistic director and his leading lady worked together one last time, but sadly not a third go around for his heroine from space, Iria and her arch enemy. Moon Over Tao took place in feudal Japan with an object falling to earth that contains a hideous and almost indestructible creature that would kill anything it crosses paths with if unleashed. The ever-pretty Moriyama plays not one, but three alien women, Abira, Marien and Kuzto, who all have come to Earth to reclaim the object for their own personal reasons. The actress doesn’t disappoint, being beautiful and badass as usual. Amemiya would provide yet another entertaining genre mash-up with three times the Moriyama. The flick is a gory good time and once again has some very unique design work, but still doesn’t quite equal the fun and action of his 1991 cult classic. 

Keita Amemiya continues to write, direct and design for films, TV and video games to this day. Moriyama apparently retired from acting after 2000 with her final film being a Hong Kong flick set partially in Japan called Tokyo Raiders. The actress is still a cult favorite among fans for her portrayal of Iria and it’s disappointing that she left acting so soon and never reunited with Amemiya at least one more time to make the Zeiram flicks a trilogy. Their collaborations are available on DVD and for those looking for more, there was a Zeiram animated prequel series that brought the titular creature and a younger Iria back, though Amemiya and Moriyama were not involved.

(You can read my full reviews for their three collaborations by clicking the highlighted titles, or on the movie posters above -MZNJ)

**************************************************

 -MonsterZero NJ

bars

IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: MOON OVER TAO (1997)

MZNJ_ICFA

now playing

moon_over_tao_poster

bars

MOON OVER TAO (1997)

Moon Over Tao is another inventive and fun fantasy flick mash-up from director/writer/designer Keita Amemiya and starring Zeiram’s Yûko Moriyama. This film takes place in feudal Japan and has sorcerer Suikyou (Toshiyuki Nagashima) and warrior Hayate (Hiroshi Abe) being tasked by their Lord to find the source of the swords that are being wielded by a group of local bandits and are made with a mysterious metal with almost magical properties. Meanwhile a young girl living in the forest named Renge (Sayaka Yoshino) witnesses the arrival of three strangely garbed women who seem to come from the sky. Abira, Marien and Kuzto (all played by Yûko Moriyama) are here from another world and are seeking to find an object that fell to Earth from deep space though each for their own personal reasons. In a struggle, Kuzto is killed, but before she dies, she entrusts Kenge with finding the object and keeping it’s contents contained. The fates of these characters are obviously destined to collide as the object contains the Makaraga, a destructive and nearly invincible creature that was created long ago by an alien race as a weapon, then confined by a device called the Tao and hidden on a desolate moon when it became apparent it was uncontrollable. The moon exploded sending the object crashing to Earth, where it was found by dark sorcerer Lord Kakugyo (Takaaki Enoki). It is the metal from the surrounding space rock that Kakugyo is using to make the swords to which our heroes seek and it is the creature in the object that Kakugyo unknowingly has possession of, that Renge and the remaining alien women must find… before it is unleashed! It’s no secret that our creature does get to see the light of day and indulge itself in some gruesome and blood soaked carnage.

This is Amemiya’s most solid directing effort up to this point, though Zeiram is still my favorite of his flicks. There is some solid drama here and some well-staged action especially once his alien killing machine gets loose. The FX are pretty good on a low budget. The massive creature is a combo of CGI and animatronics. The CGI is weak, but thankfully Amemiya uses the animatronic mock-up as much as possible, leaving the CGI for far shots of the creature and for making motions the large mock-up can’t create. The creature’s design looks like a combination of a crab and Tim Curry’s Darkness character from the movie Legend and is original and effective.

The cast are all solid with fans getting three times the Yûko Moriyama and young Sayaka Yoshino holding her own with all the grown-ups and never becoming the ‘annoying child’ character. Both Nagashima and Abe are noble heroes and Enoki is effective as the powerful yet, too smug for his own good Kakugyo. But the real villain is the monstrous Makaraga and it is a formidable adversary for both human and alien alike and it’s lethality is well portrayed by the previously discussed FX work.

Moon Over Tao is basically a fun and sometimes very gory combination of ancient Japan samurai flick and Sci-Fi monster movie and should provide a satisfying 90 minutes of  entertainment for fans of both kinds of these flicks. Swords, monsters and magic, what more could one ask for? Another fun and uniquely designed guilty pleasure from Keita Amemiya.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hot Moriyamas!

moon over tao rating

bars