Moon Over Tao--Makaraga (1997)
Starring: Yuko Moriyama, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Hiroshi Abe, Taka Aki Enoki, and Sayaka Yoshino.
Director: Keita Amemiya
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars
"Moon over Tao--Makaraga" has everything... a spell-casting monk, a hard-bitten samurai, and a plucky roguish girl sidekick on a quest to stop an evil sorcerer and uncover the secret behind a magical sword; a pair of superpowered, sexy alien women on a quest to retrieve a weapon forged by their hyper-advanced culture before the evil sorcerer uses it; and a giant rampaging monster that threatens to destroy Earth if our heroes can't stop it.
I'm not much for having bizarre monsters like the one here in live-action movies, but everything else in the flick is perfect! The script is well-crafted, featuring excellent pacing, interesting characters, and witty dialogue. The fight scenes are equally well-staged. This film also does quite well in the special effects department... which is where many Asian films fall down when compared to American standards. Heck, even that goofy giant monster is tolerable because of the well-done costuming and animation work. The cinematography was also well above average for what I have come to expect from this kind of movie. Last, but far, far from least, "Moon over Tao" sports an excellent cast of actors. Everyone gives top calibre performances, even the woman playing the aliens... a remarkable feat since she hardly shows any emotion. She radiates presence, though.
"Moon over Tao--Makaraga" is a fine merging of several Japanese film genres, and it is well worth a look. It features *some* graphic violence, just enough to earn it an R rating--I don't recall anything worse than what I've seen in "slasher flicks"--so it's probably not appropriate for kids.