Zebraman

Who'd have guessed that the hypersadistic director Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) would reinvent himself as a purveyor of kid-friendly fantasy? This 2004 superhero adventure never approaches the imaginative heights of its follow-up, The Great Yokai War, but it's endearing for its low-key laughs and nerdy devotion to pop-culture schlock. A meek schoolteacher (Sho Aikawa) lives out his childhood dreams by patrolling the night as Zebraman, the striped crusader from a long-forgotten 70s TV series; he has his work cut out for him after the city is attacked by sinister green goo. This may sound like a Tim Allen movie, but on-screen it's elevated by Miike's well-honed sense of severity. In Japanese with subtitles. 115 min.

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