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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: GAMERA THE BRAVE (2006)

We're closing in on the big day for Godzilla.  In preparation, my son and I created a list of several dozen Japanese-style monster movies to watch before May 16.  (Check out the list HERE.)

Today's movie is Gamera The Brave (2006).

I'll go first.
After the fantastic Heisei films, it would be a safe guess to think they'd carry on in that same vein for any new Gamera films.  Right? 
They didn't.  Sure, it'd be easy to connect the two films ... At the end of Gamera 3, the titular turtle was being swarmed by Gyaos.  At the beginning of this film, Gamera is also being swarmed by (far fewer) Gyaos. ...  But that's not what the filmmakers did.  It's easy to feel a little let down that they didn't continue that story, but it would have been an uphill climb for anyone to follow that trilogy. 
As it stands, Gamera the Brave sets out on its own and it works for the most part.
An older Gamera self-destructs to kill several Gyaos.  Decades later, a lonely boy finds an egg that hatches a special turtle. 
Now, if you've seen all of the films, you probably had "Tibby" flashbacks like I did.  Thankfully, we don't go that route.  The turtle and the occasional turtle special effects are cute, but it grows quickly.  And it retains its cuteness. 
Not so cute?  The evil monster of the flick, Zedus.  He's got Barugon's stabby tongue.  Other than that, he's goofy looking.  I'm not a fan of this particular kaiju. 
Although he does eat people ... which is pretty metal. 
This film does something new with the formula.  This time around it's "Children are friends to Gamera" instead of the reverse.  It is the children who save the monster and the day.  Of course, you'll remember that the insinuation of children into a film's events is one of many things that sucked hard about the original Gamera series.  Here, though, there seems to be some mystical bond between the kids and the turtle.  It works, for whatever reason. 
What else works?  The special and visual effects.  Holy crap.  It's a damn shame that this is the last "suit-based" monster film on the list because they've got it down to a science.  The compositing between real life and miniature sets and guys in suits is very often flawless.  The buildings are impossible to differentiate between model and legit.  Minus some dodgy CG flying Gamera, these are truly some of the best effects we're ever seen.  It's just a shame it's wasted on Zedus and Kid Gamera. 
(Also, I think it would have been far better if Gamera's first fireball came after he swallowed the red stone and not as a throwaway Guiron joke when the baby turtle blasted a kitchen knife.) 
Gamera the Brave ... yes, it's a kid's movie, but it's a nice one.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this one is the last Dinosa- I mean, the last Gamera movie. I liked it because Gamera is awesome in this one, i don't like it because Gamera looks like a baby. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.7 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
Up next, The Host.  (Yikes.  Cinematic whiplash.)

(GIF from doomsdaypicnic)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: GARUDA (2004)

My eleven-year-old son and I are still moving through the BIG LIST, watching and reviewing more than eighty films before Godzilla opens May 16.

Today's is Thailand's first kaiju effort, Garuda (2004).

My son, James, will go first:
Well, this one is never-ending because there are a lot of slow-mo replays, the cast couldn't shoot right, the main characters won't die, and monster won't kill them all.   
So, rating wise, i'll say 1.7 out of 5 Atomic Yawns of Boringness 
My turn:
This movie's runtime is ninety minutes.  It should have been much, much less. 
What takes up all that excess time?  Slow-motion shots.  Slow-mo shots of guys walking.  Slow-mo shots of dust blowing.  Various shots of guys with guns, standing around and trying to look cool.  Shots of guys with knives, cracking their necks, trying to look badass.  Shots of a woman holding her necklace over the edge of a building.  Lame Matrix-knockoff shots of guys fighting and of guys talking around a planning table.  And, most maddeningly of all, shots of guys aiming their guns at the titular monster and NOT SHOOTING. 
My son and I both, several times throughout the film, were shouting at the screen, "Shoot!"  At one point, my son put on his best Muldoon accent and quoted Jurassic Park: "Shoot her!" 
Being a Thai film, we get hints at a culture I've not seen in monster films yet.  In particular, thanks to the lead character's half-French/half-Thai heritage, we get a taste of the distrust that remains between the native Thai and their former invaders. 
Unfortunately, beyond some grunting and yelling about foreigners, we never get much deeper than that. 
There's also the tantalizing fruit dangled before us of science versus faith.  Since Garuda is an important national symbol and part of Buddhist and Hindu faiths, the research the lead character (Leena) wants to do seems blasphemous for a hot second. ... And then it's forgotten. 
Instead of depth, we get an obnoxiously shot quasi-military team who fancies themselves as cologne models (I'm guessing) and more than an hour's worth of pointless anger and yelling.  At one point, one of the military guys even blames the scientist for her research, as though she's the one to blame.  Moron, your people were the ones who came in packing heat and landmines. 
There's one American in the movie, Tim.  A paleontology assistant, he's an annoying character and an annoying actor.  Also, there's a cackling evil guy, not unlike the goofball in Gamera 3.  He's annoying, too, but he's not in it long. 
Oh, yeah.  The monster.  I almost forgot. 
He's OK.  It's CG and it looks cheap, but he's mean, smart and pretty effective.  I'll say this: rarely have I cheered for the monster to kill so many characters. 
Unfortunately, everything else about this movie annoys me. 
Garuda ... a fine example of (attempted) style over (unattempted) substance.  1 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Next, finishing another franchise off with Gamera the Brave.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977)

If I keep adding movies to THE LIST, I don't know how we'll finish.

This rewind is to The Last Dinosaur (1977).

(Note: GIF may not be from The Last Dinosaur.)

I'll go first:
A co-production between Rankin/Bass (yes, the classic Christmas special people) and Tsuburaya Productions, Last Dinosaur is pretty straightforward.  At first. 
A crazed millionaire big-game hunter also happens to be an oil baron thanks to polar exploration.  One such expedition finds dinosaurs and we're all set to think that this guy is ready to go hunting for a Tyrannosaurus
It takes a turn, though, and not one I saw coming.  Yes, they find dinosaurs, pterosaurs and a large extinct mammal, but their capsule goes missing and they end up living there.  For months. 
It's a twist, but it gets boring.  Sure, there are some cavemen to scare off a few times and the tyrannosaur shows up a few times, but it's just dull.  Then a couple of the people decide to leave once they find the capsule.  But not the rich hunter guy.  He decides to stay to kill the "last dinosaur," and, thanks to Nancy Wilson's singing, we understand that he, too, is the "last dinosaur." 
Because it's a Japanese co-production, the dinosaurs are realized thanks to guys in suits.  Yes, they look goofy and cheap.  What did you expect?   
Complaints?  For a wartime photographer, Joan Van Ark's character seems awfully prone to cliché accidents and she doesn't take many pictures.  The cavemen don't pose much of a threat.  The borer capsule seems mighty small and light.  Richard Boone (Have Gun, Will Travel), who plays the rich hunter, seems prone to vocal volume control issues and bursts of anger for no apparent reason.  My biggest problem with the movie is actually part of his character: they can't seem to find a pair of sunglasses that fit his face: 
The Last Dinosaur ... this was probably a waste of time.  0.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this one is Horrible because there are multiple Dinosaurs,so it's not The Last Dinosaur.  And the special effects suck.  And the charcters are annoying. 
So, rating wise i'll say 1.22234 out of 5 Atomic Farts of Awfulness
Here's the whole dang movie (at least kick it up to the 2:30 mark so you can hear Heart's Nancy Wilson sing the title song):

Up next, Garuda.

(GIF from foodlegs)

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Still going though the BIG LIST.  We're entering the final decade.

Today's movie is the last of a franchise ... until May, that is.  Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

My son will go first:
Well, this one is one of my favorites. I liked it because a lot of the monsters like Gigan and Keizer Ghidorah. But Gigan was a little dumb because he cut his own head off. I hated it because the humans actually did something other than running or screaming. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.7 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!
My turn:
Toho's fiftieth anniversary effort didn't blow up the box office, but it blows plenty up on screen.  (Yes, I mean that both ways.) 
There are homages and easter eggs all over the place.  The flying, drill-tipped ship is named Gotengo (as it was in the film Atragon); the fictitious planet about to strike the Earth is named Gorath (after the film of that name); the music being listened to by people at an Antarctic station is from the score of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla; the aliens, the Xiliens, wear New Wave-like sunglasses, quite like their namesakes in Invasion of Astro-Monster; actors and actresses from the preceding five decades have roles of great importance ... The history is thick. 
Mankind stopped fighting each other years ago in order to fight monsters and now aliens have arrived, claiming to aid mankind against that planet which will hit our own.  It's a lie and the aliens are using the monsters to weaken mankind so they can use us like cattle. 
That's all fine and dandy.  Even though it's familiar, it's simple.  But they manage to screw it up.  They add mutants to the mix, and in so doing, tip the balance of the action away from the monsters and toward the humans. 
This is the movie's biggest failing.  I like the thought of these mutants having some sort of millennia-old connection to the aliens that can be flipped on like a switch, but that part is over so quickly and, somehow, has no further bearing on the rest of the film.  As for the rest of it, someone saw The Matrix and decided to jack up the martial arts and fight sequences, including wire-executed "bullet time" shots, and Neo-style mid-air laser beam stopping.  It's done well enough, but it's all over the top and it gets old.  Fast. 
In the first hour-and-change of the movie, there's about five-to-ten minutes of monster action and then about fifteen minutes of plot.  The rest is stupid Matrix-style action biz.   
Despite what many action movie fans will tell you, wall-to-wall action doesn't make for good movies.  It desensitizes the audience and can actually tire the viewer.  After all of the fighting in the first hour or so, by the time the real monster action gets going, you feel worn out and somehow bored by it.  
Well, at least I've felt sleepy by the time the monster fights really start up in the second hour.  But maybe that's just me. 
What else isn't so great?  The music.  I don't mind the pulse-pounding beats during the action scenes, but there's some sort of music all of the time, including schmaltzy synthesizer tunes during quiet moments.  It's more annoying than anything else.  The acting?  Over-the-top, in large measure because it goes with everything else.  But c'mon. 
Alright, alright.  I'm sure you're thinking I utterly hate this movie.  But I don't.  It's largely fun.  Big, dumb fun.  If I'm able to tune out during most of the Matrix crap in the first half, I can get comfy and enjoy the big battles in the last half. 
Zilla gets his quickly enough. 
I like Anguirus' speedball attack: 
Gigan is now utterly badass: 
Rodan gets some nice moments after a painfully stereotyped scene in New York between a pimp and a cop and a homeless guy: 
The three-on-one fight between Anguirus, Rodan, King Caesar and Godzilla is fun: 
Mothra isn't in the film too long, but her death is spectacular: 
Yes, most of the monster stuff is great.  The action is well done and the special effects are top notch. 
What's not good about the monsters?  Simply put, not enough time is spent on them.  The battles are painfully brief and the opponents seem to be no match for Godzilla (especially Hedorah, despite his apparent power in its first appearance).  Oh, and then there's Minya (Milla): 
The parts with him, the grandfather and the boy feel shoehorned in, and his appearance at the end of the movie is just odd.  It feels like it's from a different film. 
Godzilla: Final Wars ... if you can get past the people, there's a good hour's worth of monster fun.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Next, a brief rewind to 1977: The Last Dinosaur.

(GIFs from televandalist, gameraboy, astoundingbeyondbeliefkholendx78 and tokumonster)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S. (2003)

My son and I are coming into the home stretch on the BIG LIST of movies to watch before Godzilla opens.

Today's film is Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003).

My son goes first:
Well, this one is like Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla, but with Mothra and Kiryu takes Godzilla with him (at the end of the movie) to the bottom of Tokyo Trench, where he started ... I like this because it's like the last movie, but with more twists and connections to the first Mothra.   
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.7 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
My turn:
A direct continuation of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, this movie succeeds because it continues a different movie, too. 
Yes, MechaG and Big G tear it up some more, but the new addition here is Mothra.  Along with Mothra, we also get Dr. Chujo (Kiroshi Koizumi), who appeared in the big bug's first film appearance back in 1961. 
We get the Fairies/Cosmos/Elias/Shobijin girls, too.  Something about them seems a bit off to me ... maybe it's their Casual Friday island wear this time.  They don't feel right. 
The plot is basically the same as the last movie: use this machine built upon OG Godzilla's bones to kill that other Godzilla.  But Mothra inserts itself into the situation by saying if humanity doesn't return Godzilla's bones to the ocean floor, Mothra will declare war on mankind. 
Wha?  Seems extreme and out of left field.  Plus, the Fairies' admonition that man shouldn't "touch the souls of the dead" is just strange.  Yes, the franchise will occasionally take a turn toward the fantastic, but c'mon.  Mothra's spokeweasels keep saying this over and over again in the film and no context is given ... until the very end when Dr. Chujo says, basically, mankind shouldn't mess with the natural order of life.  That makes a bit more sense than "don't touch the souls of the dead," don't you think?  Still, it's a very far-fetched reason for Mothra to declare war on humanity in my mind.  I guess they had to give the humans some reason to want to get rid of MechaG. 
Whatever.  The action is good.  Kiryu is mostly repaired and manages to seriously rough up Godzilla but good: 
Godzilla's wound from the absolute zero weapon in the previous film hasn't completely healed.  MechaG goes after it with those hyper masers and a hand drill, too, that cuts deep. 
In the end, Kiryu's brain switches over to old Godzilla again, but instead of tearing up the city, it grabs a Silly String-covered Godzilla (thanks to Mothra larvae) and flies them out to sea. 
I found the Kiryu reawakening to be overly coincidental, to say the least.  Plus, the Godzilla spirit in the mecha is apparently sentient and friendly, saying goodbye to the mechanic before he bails out.  That was a bit much. 
Akane (the heroine from the previous film) is in this one for a hot second and then she's gone.  That was a big mistake in my mind because I don't really care for Dr. Chujo's mechanic nephew all that much.  Or pretty much any of the other new characters they crammed in here.  It would have worked better if Akane was still the pilot and she had some sort of semi-adversarial and platonic relationship with the mechanic.  At least we would have a pre-existing connection to Akane.  But ... they didn't do that. 
A few beats from earlier Mothra films feel copied, especially the double-stuft egg routine.  Also, the landing of Mothra at the school was similar to the airport scene in the original film ... but seeing the symbol arrayed via schooldesks was a nice sight. 
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. ... I'd like to know what they were planning with that DNA freezer post-credits scene.  3.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here are a few Japanese commercials for the movie:

Next, Godzilla: Final Wars.

(GIFs from tokumonster, gameraboy and sweetdreaminglullabies)

Friday, April 25, 2014


If you're just joining us, my son and I set out several months ago to watch just about every kaiju/tokusatsu (that's Japanese-style scifi) movie we could get our hands on.  The result is THIS LIST of eighty-plus films.

Today's movie is Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002).

I'll go first:
Another movie, another redo of continuity. 
This time, however, more than just the 1954 film is included.  We get Mothra and War of the Gargantuas, too, but with some revisionist history.  It seems that mankind's weaponry, particularly the vaunted maser cannons, succeeded in eliminating those monstrous threats. 
At the beginning, we get a Godzilla attack and we're introduced to Akane, a maser cannon operator.  She fires and hits the beast, but Godzilla is unfazed.  Many soldiers die and she's brought before a hearing on her actions.   
This is a point that is confusing for me, and it may only be because of poor English dubbing.  Akane's superiors say she missed and she concedes the point.  Well, she didn't miss.  I'd be willing to let that slide, thinking the military was too confident in their weapon and Akane was too guilt ridden to argue.  Except ... in the very next scene, in the prime minister's office, the characters discuss Godzilla's imperviousness to maser beams.  Seriously?  I really hope it's a translation problem. 
A good bit of the next act is about creating Mechagodzilla and it's one of the coolest origins of any character in the franchise. 
They take the bones of Godzilla 1954 from the ocean floor and build a mecha from them.  Not only that, but they also take a cell and create a DNA computer for the machine.  This creates problems later. 
I mean, how cool is that?  Using Godzilla's ... cousin, perhaps, as a skeleton for their mechanical menace?  I love that. 
Even better?  It's haunted.   
When it first fights Godzilla, the Big G roars and something inside MG clicks.  The ghost, if you will, of the original Godzilla awakens and Mechagodzilla goes ... 

The destruction is great and Mechagodzilla's firepower is mighty impressive.  
The story of redemption for the pilot is rather by-the-numbers, but still well handled.  The admiring scientist and his daughter are pleasant enough.  The angry co-pilot, pissed at Akane for her earlier "failure," is predictable. 
So, Mechagodzilla is great ... 
... and Godzilla is boring. 
Yes, Godzilla's suit is the same (well, same design) as the one used in 2000 and Megaguirus, but it is, thankfully, no longer green with purple spikes.  It's well done and all the effects surrounding it are fine.  So why does it seem so rote? 
Godzilla exists.  He comes ashore and attacks.  He goes back to sea. 
Certainly, that's a formula we've seen time and again.  Why does it feel so lacking this time around? 
I think it's because the most interesting Godzilla in this movie is the one under tons of metal. 

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla ... Kiryu is so cool.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this one is awesome! Godzilla bones are found, they make Kiryu, Fails to destroy Godzilla and instead destroys the city. they make Kiryu Version 1.5 and it works. I liked it because Kiryu is destructive, I don't because they used Godzilla 2000's suit. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.6 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!! 
The trailer:

Next, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

(GIFs from destructionmode and kholendx78)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Forging ahead through our BIG LIST of movies to watch before the new Godzilla film ...

Today's film is (deep breath) Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (aka GMK; 2001).

My son, James, is first:
Well, this one is great! Godzilla is bad, and Mothra, Baragon, and King Ghidora are good. That's different and that cool! But the only bad thing are Godzilla had to kill Ghidora three times!! 
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.2 out 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
I'll go next:
Let's be frank.  The Millennium Series hasn't been so hot thus far.  2000 was decent.  Megaguirus was ... (shrug).  Compared to those two, GMK is may as well be The Empire Strikes Back.  On first glance. 
For the third (or just second?) time in this era, we get a wholly different setup for the monster that ties back to the first film and no others (well, there's a quick reference to 1998's Godzilla).  This time, however, Godzilla isn't simply a monster created by the hubristic science-mad actions of humanity.  It is, in fact, a monster.  An evil, pupiless, sinister beast that seeks to punish and destroy.  Godzilla is the collective of victims' souls who suffered at the hands of Imperial Japan in World War II.  And Godzilla does indeed mete out punishment. 
I'll say it right now: I love this concept of Godzilla as a nigh invulnerable force of evil.  Of course, I prefer the version seen in the original films and the Heisei era, but this twist is one I greatly enjoy.  It's different and sometimes different is good. 
We can't have an evil Godzilla stomping Japan without someone to fight, so who do we get?  Baragon. 

The fight goes on for a while but the cute burrower just isn't a match. 
Next?  Mothra. 
Again, it's hard fought, but Mothra falls. 
Finally, Godzilla faces the force of goodness embodied by Ghidorah. 
Wait.  What? 
Yes, that's a stumbling block for me, too.  Sometimes I'm not able to get past it but when I do, I'm able to enjoy the movie more.  But it's difficult, I'll admit. 
I completely understand the reason why Toho went with Ghidorah, but I really would rather have seen the original line up of good monsters: Baragon, Varan and Anguirus.  Varan in particular hasn't had much to do since his solo effort.  But Mothra and KG put butts in seats, so there you go.  (The strategy worked.  GMK is the most successful film of this era.) 

What could have been ... 
Despite the inherent evil associated with this version of Godzilla and the national guilt dripping from the interpretation, in the end, the weight of these elements feels rather light. 
First and foremost, there is a large amount of humor injected into the story.  Mostly in the form of one liners and situational business (like the guy trying to take a leak when Godzilla attacks or the couple at the Baragon fight: "Take my picture and then we'll run") ... there's so much it undercuts the mood.  It's throughout most of the film.  They really should have scaled it back.   
The more I typed the more I realized how much that's the case.  The power and weight of the movie got sucked away at almost every turn because of the humor.  That's a shame. 
Also, there's a problem with the suit.  Not the head.  The head is aces.  When we get street-level angles looking up at Godzilla, it's particularly noticeable.  He ... jiggles quite a bit.  Now pudgy Godzilla suits are nothing new, but with the darker tone, it would have been better if he didn't wobble so much as he walked.  (And it seems to me the actor was moving his arms around a bit too much, as well.  That might be my imagination.)  
Special effects wise, just about everything was great.  The digital compositing is much improved over the previous films.  CG Mothra isn't as bad as one might think.  I absolutely adore the power of Godzilla's breath in that first blast from the film.  Oh, and I'm not a fan of Ghidorah's short necks.  Sure, when he's a simple guardian, but once he gets the power-up from Mothra, maybe he should look more like the Ghidorah we all know and love. 
Other tidbits: I liked seeing the inspector from the Gamera trilogy again ... The reporter's (Yuri) chase of Godzilla is well done, but the end with her and the whole bridge sequence just felt contrived to add more action to an already action-packed finale. 
Remember earlier when I said that GMK feels like Empire ... at first glance?  If 2000 and Megaguirus are Episode I II in this equation, in the end, GMK is really just Episode III.  (But that's fine.  I like Episode III.) 
GMK ... definitely better.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here are a couple of commercials:

Up next, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

(GIFs from tokumonster, destructionmode, killertapir)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


My son and I are still trekking on through the BIG LIST ...

Today's is Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000).

My son goes first:
Well, this one is pretty average. I liked it because it relates back to the first movie, I  hated it because they set up the next movie at the end, but Toho never really made one.   
So, rating wise, i'll say 2.5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
My turn:
As I continue to ruminate on Godzilla 2000, I realize that the movie felt like ... empty calories.  It was definitely a Godzilla movie and it had plenty of enjoyable bits.  Sure, the effects were often crappy, but it felt flat somehow.  I can't quite put a finger on why. 
None of that is different in this movie. 
Megaguirus does, however, endeavor to connect with the first film (though not with the ending of that movie).  It does this with footage from early films and with the newer suit digitally inserted. 
As you can see, it's a nice idea, but the compositing is bad.  Again.  In most of the daylight effects scenes, the wobble is there, the grainy sheen is there, the CG meganula/meganulon look too crisp ... Not much was learned in the months since the previous film was made.  Unfortunately, with all of the flying in this movie, their movements are wholly unbelievable, too. 
People-wise, we don't have the interesting "G-Chasers" to follow.  We have a revenge-seeking major from the oddly named "G-Graspers" unit and a robotics and computer expert.  And his fourth-grade physics teacher.  Nothing compelling at all on the human side of things.   
There is a hint of a conspiracy or something nefarious ... Godzilla is attracted to unnatural radiation and there's something nuclear in Tokyo at the end of the film, but we're given no real explanation for it, no identification for the people responsible and no real comeuppance, beyond a fist to the face of the official who covered it up.  That might have been an interesting thread to pursue, but nothing at all was done with it. 
The big plan to get rid of Godzilla?  A black hole gun.  No, Soundgarden.  Not "black hole sun"; black hole gun.  Let's pretend for a hot second that this can work.  How do they ensure that it won't engulf the Earth?  Regardless, a test of the weapon somehow creates a prehistoric dragonfly, the meganula.  How?  I have no idea.  They say "mutated" in the movie ... so we'll just go with that. 
The little bugs swarm Big G in one of the film's best action scenes: 
Godzilla skunks most of them with his breath before the black hole gun is fired and, somehow, spares the monster.  While they were attacking, they were sucking energy from Godzilla in order to transfer it to another meganulon that then becomes the gigantic Megaguirus.   
For the second film in a row, we get a monster that tries to drain Godzilla of his energy only to have Godzilla blast him thoroughly. 
Not quite the end, though.  The humans fire their black hole gun once more and, somehow, Godzilla survives. 
I'm sorry.  I'm all for the near-invincibility of Godzilla as we've seen in these movies, but G should have been thoroughly spaghettified by this weapon and therefore very, very dead.  (Couple that with the dialogue that suggests the makers of the weapon believed Godzilla would have been transported by the singularity and I think you can agree that the filmmakers didn't really have a grasp on what a "black hole" really is or does.) 
The action is mostly OK.  Nice connections to the past.  'Meh' characters, monsters and science. 
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus ... a step down.  2.25 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Up next, Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (that's a mouthful).

(GIFs from electrickaijuboogaloo and mekagojira3k)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: GODZILLA 2000 (1999)

Back in July, my son and I compiled a list of some seventy-plus Japanese style monster and scifi films to be watched before the release of the new Godzilla film in May.  (Here's the list.)  Since then, the list has grown to eighty-plus and we've got less than two dozen to go.

Today's film takes us firmly into the Millennium Era, Godzilla 2000 (1999).

I'll go first:
Godzilla is back and freed of the continuity that helped make the Heisei series great and the Showa series (usually) fun.  In this film, Godzilla simply exists and just attacks from time to time (there's no indication that this is Godzilla Jr. from before or that this carries on from any specific film in the series' past).   
This introduces us to a group of Godzilla "storm chasers" ... G-Chasers?  Whatever.  It's a cool idea and I like the thought of "civilians" tracking Godzilla.  Likewise, there's a government group led by a gruff scientist tasked with killing Godzilla. 
In the meantime, an ancient meteorite found on the ocean floor is raised (tantalizingly reminding me of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe) and begins flying around before zapping Godzilla.  We later find out that this alien craft (straight outta Flight of the Navigator) is looking for a lifeform's regenerative properties so it can reconstitute the aliens themselves.  They find Godzilla.   
There's not much new in the storyline.  Chasing Godzilla, aliens.  There are new things, though.  New Godzilla design, for one.  I'm not really a fan, but it's certainly well made.   
Not so well done?  The computer generated visual effects.  Ouch. 
I know 1999 was still, technically, the early days of CGI in films, but c'mon.  So much of it is so poorly done.  But I can forgive most of that. 
The digital compositing, though, is truly horrible.  This is noticeable especially in the daylight attack scenes.  Godzilla seems to have excessive film grain and he wobbles in the water as the camera moves around.  The tanks shift around on the shore, also with a poor-quality sheen, and lousily rendered CG helicopters sweep into the shot.  I'm all for using real cities and landscapes in shots like these ... it helps expand the scope of the film, but if you're going to do that, make sure it looks good.  The Gamera trilogy did it from time to time and it did look good.  This doesn't. 
Plus, there's an over-reliance on greenscreen.  People in offices are obviously walking in front of greenscreens.  Guys standing on top of tanks, walking on beaches ... There's so much obvious greenscreen work when there didn't have to be.  It's distracting. 
The big opponent this time around is the creation of the aliens, thanks to the Godzilla regeneration factor.  Orga looks like a massive hulk with a cool shoulder cannon.  Though each of Godzilla's breath blasts take out a chunk of Orga, he regrows it pretty quickly.  After he tries to suck the life essence out of Godzilla (via some more poorly done CGI), Godzilla decides to climb into Orga's mouth vagina: 

Apparently, blowing Orga up from the inside prevents the regeneration factor from working again. 
Then it ends with Godzilla killing the a-hole government guy.  For some reason. 
The day effects were crap but the night effects were good.  The characters were (mostly) developed.  The plot was familiar.  But it's Godzilla and that's good.
Godzilla 2000 ... nothing special but still enjoyable.  3 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this one is a normal reboot. the story is that a asteroid falls to earth, Godzilla fights the asteroid, but the asteroid is actually a UFO. The UFO turns into a thing that tries to turn into Godzilla 2000 by eating him, but as we learned in Godzilla vs Biollante, there are consequences to eating Godzilla. Godzilla kills clone thing, done. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.7 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
Here's the trailer:

Up next, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.

(GIFs from DestructionMode)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: THE MAGIC SERPENT (1966)

A quick rewind in our progress on the BIG LIST.  Every once in a while, I come across another film that should be on the list that I missed when I made it last year.

So, this film is The Magic Serpent (1966).

My 11-year-old son, James, goes first:
Well, this one is one of the most horrible movies, they copied from Daimajin, but that's not it, one of the main characters gets his head chopped off and then he's the headless magic man and picks up his head.  And one of the kaiju is a frog? Seriously?
So, rating wise, i'll say 0.888856 out of 5 Atomic Farts of Awfulness!
My turn:
As stated in our reviews for the Daimajin trilogy, I'm a sucker for samurai-style pictures, particularly of the Kurosawa variety.  So I enjoy feudal era tales. 
Just like two-thirds of the Daimajin films (which came out the same year ... hmmmmm), this one involves a benevolent lord who is betrayed.  The son is on the run and grows up in exile.  Then he returns and exacts some measure of revenge. 
That's the basic framework.  Throw in some wizards and ninjas and you've got Magic Serpent.  Like the equally unfortunate Orochi, The Eight-Headed Dragon, this film is based on a famous tale from Japanese history.  It earns its place on the list thanks to the presence of guys in suits fighting the battles. 
The lead bad guy is the dragon and the main protagonist is the giant horned frog (seen above).  They are goofy.  Beyond goofy.  To top it all off, the sound effects for the giant animals are reuses of Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan sounds. 
The model work is pretty good, even if the suits aren't.  The acting is ... there.  The music is often unnecessarily audacious.  The hair: just look at the poster. 
All of that plus some proto-Crouching Tiger wire-fu fight scenes and you've got yourself a movie. 
The Magic Serpent ... it's goofy, but not much fun.  1.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
No trailer, but here's the fight scene between the frog and the titular dragon:

Up next, Godzilla 2000, for real.