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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: GODZILLA (2014)

In July, my son and I made a list of kaiju and other monster movies to watch before Godzilla.  Now we're at the end of our big list, all ninety movies of it.  You can see the list and read our many reviews HERE.

The final film is, of course, Godzilla (2014).

Spoiler-free review?  We both loved it.

Get the details in the JUMP ...

Friday, May 16, 2014

"GODZILLA" is open!

And it's great.  Go see it.

My son and I will be posting our review early next week.  You know, after we've seen it a couple more times.


One last documentary ... the penultimate entry on THE BIG LIST my son and I compiled last year.

Today's is PBS' Frontline: Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown (2012).

My son will go first:
Well, this one is the last movie. This movie inspired the New Godzilla movie because the radiation suits, the nuclear power plant destruction and the damage looks like the Trailers.  I knew about the earthquake and tsunami, but I didn't know about the nuclear power plant or the radiation.  It was interesting and I liked it. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.6 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!! 
My turn:
As James said, in the opening several minutes, we are hit with a lot of imagery.  Imagery that Godzilla's filmmakers obviously cribbed from for the new film (and I'm going by what we've seen in the trailers). 
Obviously, Fukushima's relation to the new movie has inspired art, too: 
As for the story itself, I was familiar with the vast majority of it but I was very surprised to hear just how much Tepco (the company that operates the plant) covered up and withheld from Japan's PM even as the danger was unfolding.  Staggering stuff. 
It's well done and there is some human interest included, primarily with one man searching for his wife and child despite radiation warnings around the plant.  The bravery on display is amazing, as we often see in stories like this.  I don't know if it's Frontline's laid-back style, but the magnitude of the bravery didn't seem to come through for me.  (I comprehend it, but I didn't feel it in my gut.) 
Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown ... very influential, I'm sure, as we'll see.  3.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's a link to the entire documentary.

Up next, yes.  The time has arrived.  Godzilla (2014).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: GOJIRA (1954)

Full circle, baby.  On July 21, I originally posted THE BIG LIST.  Over the ensuing months, we added more than thirty other films to it, making it ninety movies long.  We've reviewed them all ... except for the new one.

Today's movie is, one last time, Gojira (1954).

I'll go first:
I won't go through the plot again or do a full-blown review.  We did that once before.
Instead, I'll focus on the viewing experience after our recent run through the "Inspiration List."  Documentaries about the history of Japan and their experience in WWII, the atomic testing ... it fixes this movie in a very particular point in time. 
Think about it.  This was released just nine years after the end of the war.  Nine years.  Think about the imagery in this film and its relation to the atomic bombings.  The closest analogue we have today are collapsing buildings, billowing dust clouds, office papers fluttering over the street, the sound of firefighters' personal alarms wailing over the din ... and these have been used in films since 9/11 (CloverfieldWar of the Worlds, etc.) 
The panning shots of buildings reduced to kindling.  Flames engulfing whole city blocks or, occasionally, spots of fire in the debris.  The shockwaves of buildings collapsing.  The radiation effects on people, ticking the Geiger counters.  References to "atomic tuna" and strained diplomatic relations.  The fishing boats destroyed ... in fact, the opening scene played out very much like the Lucky Dragon 5 incident as described in the last doc we watched.   
Once again, I'm reminded of how deadly serious this movie is.  There are sweeping shots of despair and we see hundreds of people suffering in Godzilla's wake.  The scene with the mournful choir as Serizawa wrestles with his conscience choked me up even more this time around.  In reading a brief review of the new movie (no spoilers), it mentioned how serious the new film is.  Well, it would be hard pressed to top this one. 
Also mentioned in that review is the apparently limited screen time of Godzilla in the new film.  Well, I paid attention and the Big Guy isn't in the original movie so much, either.  There are a few sparse teases in the opening half hour or so, then his first big attack.  A breather for a little bit and then he attacks again.  Then it's a long dissection of the people impacted by the attack and the decisions over what to do about the monster.  Then the attack on him with the Oxygen Destroyer.   
The limited screen time actually helps in this case because Toho hadn't quite gotten the special effects down just yet.  Godzilla moves too quickly in many shots, especially when he's a puppet.  (The puppet doesn't hold up too well ... I half expected it to yell "Cookie!" on one occasion.) 
Gojira ... re-evaluating my score thanks to the documentaries we watched beforehand.  4.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's my son, James:
Well, this is my favorite monster movie. This move is related to the documentaries and the scenes in the movie are related to actual history.  It made me sad to see them because I remembered this was based on real life. the movie is great and this is the last (Monster) movie on the list 
The things I like about it is that they aimed it so right so that Godzilla looks big. The thing i don't like is that's this could have been in color, but this is 1954. 
So rating wise, i'll say 5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!! 
Next, one last documentary before the new movie, Frontline: Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown (2011).

(GIF from ronaldcmerchant )

Reviews: HIROSHIMA (2005) and THE UNLUCKIEST DRAGON (2011)

Not long now.  THE BIG LIST is done, but we're doing an "Inspiration List," too.  Watching a couple of films and documentaries that gave us Godzilla.

Today's documentary is the BBC doc Hiroshima (2005).

I'll go first:
This was a late addition.  After two previous documentaries (Rise & Fall of the Japanese Empire and Trinity & Beyond) failed to delve into the actual bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I felt like we needed to see something else. 
Well, this documentary gave a much-needed humanity to our documentary proceedings thus far.  Depressingly so.  Not that I was expecting sunshine and lollipops, of course. 
There is some archival footage, but most of the doc is compromised of interviews with survivors and dramatizations of their recollections.  It's difficult to not get choked up as you hear the pain in their voices and see the tears well in their eyes.  The horror of that day is very well presented. 
It's not solely from the perspective of the Japanese that this film unfolds.  We also get some of the thoughts behind the decision to drop the bombs in the first place, the devastating invasion plans that were being considered, the warnings given to the Japanese leadership that were ignored, etc.  Though the intention is objectivity, it's hard for the American side of things to hold a candle to the raw emotion and visceral imagery on display in Japan. 
Watching this, I kept an eye out for details in the attack.  Details that may show up in 1954's Gojira.  I wasn't disappointed. 
Hiroshima ... fun side note: young Gareth Edwards worked on the visual effects for this.  4 out of five ... stars.  ("Atomic breath blasts" seems inappropriate.)
My son's turn:
Well, this one is a big downer because it's about people in the bomb attack and what the radiation effects are on humans. the reason this is important is because Godzilla's attack on Japan is like the atomic bombs. 
So rating wise, i'll say 2.6 out of 5 Atomic Gulps of Guilt! :(  
Here's a trailer:


Another documentary, this is a short one.

The Unluckiest Dragon (2011).

My son James will go first:
Well, the reason we are watching this is because this inspired Godzilla to be made. So this one is about a ship called The Lucky Dragon that got attacked by a Hydrogen bomb.  It feels familiar. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.4 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Inspiration!!
My turn:
An audio essay with accompanying photos, Dragon tells the story of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 and their encounter with the Castle Bravo Hydrogen Bomb Test of January 1954. 
Though they were several miles away, the crew encountered fallout.  Then the United States encountered fallout of a different sort.  The world was outraged and relations between Japan and the US were strained more than before.   
In the end, the "essay" is a little too short to feel like a full meal, but honestly, I don't know what more could be said. 
The Unluckiest Dragon ... the connections to Gojira will be more than a little obvious.  3 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the whole thing:

Up next, Gojira (1954).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)

Last summer, my son, James, and I compiled a list of kaiju and kaiju-inspired movies to watch before the new Godzilla opens on May 16.  By the end, THE BIG LIST was nearly ninety films long.  Here, in the final days, we've rewound a bit to watch the films that influenced the original Gojira, and we're watching a few documentaries to better inform us of their mindset (we're calling that the "Inspiration List").

Today's movie is The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

My eleven-year-old son will go first:
This is the first monster that was created/waken by radiation, the second is Godzilla. The name of the dinosaur in the movie is Rhedosaurus, the parts I like is when he destroys stuff. The reason this inspired Godzilla is because giant fire-breathing invincible Dino-lizards are very cool, but Godzilla is the coolest. 
So. rating wise, i'll say 4.5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!
My turn:
Ah, Ray Harryhausen.  That's a name I've known all of my life.  It's a name I've made sure my son knew, too. 
As we were watching the movie and the atomic testing scenes unfolded in the opening scenes, James asked, "Is this the first movie that had the atom bomb wake up or make a monster?"  I thought for a few and then looked it up.  As far as I can tell, the answer is "yes." 
With that in mind, Beast is even more remarkable.  It sets up the structure and tropes for almost every atomic-age monster movie to follow: atomic detonation, monster awakens, rampage, radiation effects on people, military fights futilely, search for a solution (possibly also radiation related), monster stopped by science. 
The story is simple enough, and nearly outlined in the last paragraph.  The only thing to add is that our main character is a scientist who spotted the titular dinosaur after an arctic detonation and was deemed crazy by everyone around him.  Only after consulting with a paleontologist's lovely assistant and finding another of the animal's victims does anyone believe him. 
The dinosaur in question is the fictional Rhedosaurus, one of Harryhausen's most famous creations.  There are some truly iconic scenes in this film, including the police officer's demise above, the beast's demise in the burning roller coaster and, of course, the toppling of a lighthouse: 
The effects work is impeccable, as one would expect.  Use of the monster, though, is fairly sparse in the first two-thirds of the film.  The actors aren't so bad, either.  Certainly not the overly false style that taints King Kong (1933) in my mind.   
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ... obviously VERY influential on Gojira.  3.75 out of five Atomic Breath Blasts.
Here's the original trailer:

Up next, Hiroshima (documentary; 2005).

(GIFs from televandalist)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


We're not far away now ... the "Inspiration List" is almost done.

Today's documentary is Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995).

I'll go first:
Trinity is thorough, going through seemingly every stage of America's nuclear testing program and almost every device detonated.  We're bombarded with codenames and operational codenames and dates.  In large part, this documentary feels like William Shatner is reading the text of a timeline or a series of footnotes from a large term paper on the Cold War.  The information we're given is straight outta Dragnet: "Just the facts, ma'am." 
The footage, however, is amazing.  Some of it we've seen thousands of times (like the GIF above) but here, we're given context and the purpose behind such tests as well as the preparations for tests to study how buildings hold up to blasts.  (You've seen that footage a bunch, too.) 
Despite a couple of interviews, Trinity feels cold.  The music is overly bombastic but the narration certainly isn't.  The details are thick and the footage jawdropping ... but that's it.  There's only the briefest mention of direct impact of the testing (and, coincidentally, it's about the Japanese fishing boat incident that inspired Gojira).  There's a scene featuring a guy talking about radiation and the impact on people ... but even that is clinical.  Nothing at all about the aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There's no attempt at heart at all and that's a disappointment. 
Trinity and Beyond ... interesting to watch but don't expect to really feel anything.  2.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this is interesting. The documentery is about code names, destroying things, and Atomic Bombs. So i thought that there so many code names, Too much destruction, and BIG bombs. I think you can blow up the bad guys enough now so STOP MAKING THEM BIGGER!! 
So, rating wise, i'll say 2.3 out of 5 Atomic Bombs of Destruction!!!
Here's the trailer:

Here's a video showing us every nuclear test detonation ever:

Holy crap.

Next up, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

(GIF from skinthiscat)


Continuing with the so-called "Inspiration" portion of our BIG LIST ...

Today's film is the documentary The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire (2011; part one above, part two here).

I'll go first:
Altogether, this doc is about ninety minutes long.  That's not a lot of time to compress centuries of history and decades of war into.  Still, we get broad strokes. 
Centuries of honor and isolation boil forth after a few short decades of contact with the West and advancement.  The higher classes like the Western style of life but the country as a whole finds itself shunned by the United States and other nations.  Resource poor, Japan lashes out, justifying their invasions of China and Korea as a "liberation" of Asia. 
The Great Depression is a worldwide event.  With the Depression comes desperation.  At home and at the warfront, honor seems to vanish as prisoners are no longer treated respectfully, just to name one example.  And then the beginning of World War II arrives after the retaliatory ABCD Embargoes.  Secret police enforce adherence to the emperor's and the military's ways.  Discipline is enforced in every walk of life.  In time, their early victories turn to defeat and the Empire's leaders are shown to be fallible after all. 
The documentary is entirely made up of archival footage, some of it from the late 1800s.  The narration is broken up with readings of letters from Japanese soldiers and civilians. 
It's full of information, that's for sure.  I learned some new things and I'm sure my son did, too, though a great deal of it probably went over his head. 
Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire ... gets the basic job done in a short amount of time.  3.25 out of five atomic breath blasts.
James' turn (sort of):
It was interesting, but I don't have much to say about it. I know it was the history of Japan but I don't understand how it all fits with Gojira yet.
I'm working on that, son.

Up next, Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: KING KONG (1933)

My son and I recently finished up the list of nearly 90 movies on our BIG LIST and are now working on the "Inspiration List" ... the inspiration for Godzilla, of course.

Today's movie is King Kong (1933).

My son will go first:
(NOTE: The first version I saw was an edited version where the movie starts when the boat is at sea and near the island, but the King Kong original movie is the one we saw today, so then I got real sad because I thought the edited one was better) 
The reason we're watching this now is because this inspired the movie Gojira, one of my favorites. The story is a movie director want an outstanding movie with an island and a cute lady. The only bad part is that the island has mad islanders, Dinosaurs, A mountain of a skull, and a Gigantic Gorilla named King Kong, they capture King Kong and put him in a theater and he breaks out.   
I love everything about this movie. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.6 out of 5 Atomic Edits of Brutalness!!
My turn:
Well, first I guess I should explain why James saw an edited version for most of his life.
When he was four, he loved King Kong, but he was bored by the first half-hour of the film (you know, the talky bits).  So I edited it so the movie began with the Venture emerging from that confounded fog.  And I edited out some of the so-called romance between Jack and Ann.  And some of the tribal talk.  Oh, and then I edited in the "Spider Pit Sequence" as recreated by Peter Jackson and WETA.  It was a cool edit. 
On to the movie. 
It's a classic.  I mean ... like Citizen Kane, it established many basics of filmmaking.  (For Kane, it established basics for just about any genre of film, whereas Kong did so for monster and action films.)  Kane is an interesting intellectual exercise to watch, understanding how influential it was.  But I wouldn't say I enjoy watching it.  Kong, though, I do enjoy. 
That's not to say it's without faults. 
People, mostly. 
Look, I understand that acting was a very different profession back then, but I can't stand it.  Dramatically speaking, I can't get invested in a character fully when they are so obviously fake.  The captain, Englehorn, feels real enough, but he's not in the film often.  Denham comes off as hammy but largely unconcerned with what's going on thanks to his greed.  Then there's the relic-of-his-time Jack Driscoll who, apparently, hates women yet somehow falls in love with a dame after a few short weeks.   
And Fay Wray.  She's easy on the eyes and can scream to beat the band, but that's it.  I've seen interviews with her later in life and she was a sparkplug of energy.  The script here doesn't tap into that.  I'm going to chalk it up to it being the way of the world then.  Ladies were supposed to be pretty and needed saving.  That's all. 
I'll just ignore the "natives" and move on.  OK? 
The title character himself, in mechanical form, isn't so hot.  Sure, for 1933, it was staggering, but it differed from the stop-animated models used elsewhere so very much. 
Even though these models, too, differed from each other depending on what scene they were in, it's very easy to see that the best actor in this movie is Willis O'Brien. 
Without him and his skill, King Kong would just be a dumb puppet.  A fur-covered toy holding up a tiny blonde doll on a cardboard building. 
Kong emotes and not in a painfully over-the-top manner.  He is intrigued by Ann (even to the point of drawing censors' ire in 1938).  He is angered by the Tyrannosaurus rex and yet still concerned about Ann.  He looks down at his bullet wounds and is bewildered by the pain and the blood.  Simply put, this is the first time an animated character has been realized in a movie alongside living humans and held his own.  In this case, the character surpasses everyone else on screen. 
O'Brien's skill shines in the action scenes, too.  Anytime you see a dinosaur or monster enter a scene and scratch the side of his head, thank Willis O'Brien.  There's a viciousness to the Tyrannosaurus attack that you don't often see in monster movies, and that's only partially because of the way Kong dispatches his foe. 
It's easy to see how influential Kong was.  Not just on Godzilla, either.  It created a subgenre of so-called "jungle movies": expeditions into the unknown where something magical or monstrous was found and then brought back to the "civilized world" only to have the primitive thing wreak havoc one way or another.  (It's funny to type "civilized" after hearing and watching these Westerners interact with the natives on Kong's island.  I don't know if there was any irony in the writers' minds when they wrote it, but ... oof.)  One of the latest and best movies to copy the basic premise is Ray Harryhausen's The Valley of Gwangi.  But I digress. 
King Kong ... a rightfully influential classic, despite the humans involved.  4 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

If you get the disc, you HAVE to watch the special features showing how Willis O'Brien did most of the visual effects.  And here's the recreation of the lost "Spider Pit Sequence" by Peter Jackson and crew:

Here's a fun song by Jimmy Castor:

Up next, a documentary, Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire.

(GIFs from astairewaytoheaven, vousvoulez and wunderbarkino)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: PACIFIC RIM (2013)

After several months and almost ninety movies, we've come to the end of THE BIG LIST.  (There are a few more to watch and review before Godzilla, but more on that later.)

Today's film is Pacific Rim (2013).

My son will go first:
Well, this one is so good. The reason people either hate Pacific Rim or they hate the new Godzilla movie is because one is backing up the other, but that's not why I like it. I like it because it's a kid's dream come true (Giant Monster vs Giant human-like robots). My dad and me went to see this in the theater three times because it was so good.
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.3 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
My turn:
It feels strange to review this movie less than a year after it came out.  I feel like I've reviewed it already. 
Pacific Rim is gigantic, action-packed fun.  So there. 
The visual effects are some of the most amazing ever made and it's a damned crime the movie wasn't nominated for an effects Oscar. 

Sure, there are things I don't like.  Namely Charlie Hunnam.  He plays his role with his tongue in his cheek way too much.  And some elements of the script ... the quippiness during battle scenes, especially.  "Let's do it!  Together!"  No shit.  "You're in my head now."  Yes, you've told us a thousand times.  "Let's check for a pulse."  Ugh.  And young Hansen is too over-the-top pissed at Beckett for no good reason.  He's playing a role, though, in a very stylized film that seems to draw as much from Top Gun, in some places, as it does from Evangelion
Quibbles, though.  Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Ron Perlman are all top notch.  The story and pacing are exciting and enthralling.  The visual and sound effects are great.  (The Hong Kong sequence is some of the most thrilling cinema ever made.) 
Pacific Rim ... giant robots versus giant monsters.  What more could you want?  4 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Up next ... well, something a bit different.  We've created a short list I'm calling the "Inspiration List."  We'll be watching a couple of movies that directly inspired the original Godzilla, along with a couple of documentaries.

So, next up: King Kong (1933).

(GIFs from authorityalwayswins)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: MONSTERS (2010)

Another day, another film checked off the BIG LIST.

Today's movie is Monsters (2010).

I'll go first:
I've seen Monsters before, but this time, I was watching it with a predictive eye.  I was watching it fully cognizant that Gareth Edwards directed this and he's directed the new Godzilla, too.   
Understanding that Edwards had a bigger cast and a bigger budget at his disposal for Godzilla, my outlook for the new film is positive based almost solely on this movie.  (It was already positive thanks to all the awesome trailers, but, you know.) 
In the world of Monsters, a probe crashed to Earth six years prior, spreading spores over most of Mexico.  We follow a photographer, Andrew Kaulder, who's tasked with bringing his boss' daughter, Sam Wynden, back to the States after she was injured in an attack by the "creatures." 
Let's talk cast and characters.  Sam is likeable and sympathetic.  She's great.  Kaulder, however, is a moronic douche.  If it were a character trait, his douchebaggery would be annoying but acceptable.  But his moron tendencies defy logic.  It has to be a product of the script. 
He's a photographer in a virtual war zone and had been there for some time.  He doesn't speak a lick of Spanish.  That's OK.  Maybe he studied French in high school.  But he didn't study any before going to Central America?  Didn't pick up any while he was there?  Nor, apparently, did he get any pointers on avoiding the oldest trick in the book when it comes to robbery by prostitute (or strange women).   
Also, as they're strolling through the middle of the forbidden zone, he has the stupefying nerve to ask why his guides are carrying guns.  Even better, after witnessing the aftermath of American chemical weapon bombing, he asks why people are putting on gas masks.  It's ridiculous.  He should have died.  He annoyed me. 
Anyway.  The creatures themselves.  Very cool.  Yes, they look like glowy octopuses, but they also have smaller tentacles that tend to hover and wave in very disturbing ways.  Creepy.  Plus, they follow the Jaws method of ratcheting tension by not showing them too much.  (And knowing that Edwards did the special effects on his own makes them even more impressive.)
With an eye toward Godzilla, it's interesting to think about the story structure and how he balances the monster stuff with the human stuff (and with the "issue" stuff).   
"Issue" stuff?  Like the bombings by Americans and the use of chemical weapons (a la Agent Orange) to stop the alien spores from latching on to trees.  The issue is presented along with the impact, but we're not preached to on the subject.  I appreciate that. 
The monster stuff is well spaced out and, as previously mentioned, revealed in doses throughout the film.  They're properly scary at times, beautiful at other times, and there's some decent action glimpsed at ... a limitation of the small budget, I'm sure. 
The people stuff ... other than the aforementioned Kaulder, everyone's great.  Not just Sam, but all of the people they encounter on the way.  The people trying to eke out an existence as the world around them is attacked and falls apart.  It's well done, too. 
A couple of other things I've noticed, Edwards seems to like shots of glowing battle on the other side of mountains.  He also seems to like glowing things attached to other things: 

Monsters ... a good portent.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
James' turn:
Well, this one is special. This one is special because the same director is directing the new Godzilla movie. The only thing bad about this is that this was not a total monster movie for me because we rarely got to see them and there were other things going on. And when we did see two monsters together, they were having sex or something. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.35 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
Here's the trailer:

Up next, Pacific Rim.

(GIFs from speedrasir, virtuosovillain and digressiveblog)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: TROLLHUNTER (2010)

There aren't many films left on THE BIG LIST ...

Today's movie is Trollhunter (2010).

My son, James, will go first:
Well, this one is awesome! The reason it's awesome is because the camera moves like the camera in Cloverfield and because the trolls are huge! And because the sun light kills them by making them either explode or  turning then into stone.  My favorite troll was the huge Jotnar one at the end.  Yes I had to look that up to spell it right. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.2 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!
My turn:
When we come by movies on the list that we haven't seen before, I get nervous.  I have good reason to.  In the past, those didn't go so well (DaigoroThe Magic Serpent, ...).  The Host was a great surprise.  Trollhunter was, too. 
From Norway, it's another found footage film.  I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but Cloverfield works and so does this.  A group of college students are trying to chase down a bear poacher and instead they find an embittered government worker. 
Yep, that's Hans. 
For decades, he has struggled, singlehandedly, to keep Norway's troll population in check and a secret.  Lately, something has been sending the creatures far afield of their usual stomping grounds and with deadly results.  Hans is tired of doing this dreadful work all alone and with no pay or respect, so he lets the college kids document his work.   
Once we get into Hans' world, there's a fantastic lived-in quality to the story.  That trolls exist, their classifications, how they turn to stone, the fact that there's government paperwork to be filled out when he kills one ... it adds layers of fun and authenticity. 
What about the special effects?  Well, the worst effects in the whole movie involve the fake dead bears you see near the beginning.  Beyond that, the trolls look great.  Really.  Very impressive stuff. 
The actors are likeable, but Hans definitely carries the film.  The pacing is pretty good, but the first half hour moves like a glacier through a fjord, it seems.  (After that, it's all good.)  The story is pretty thin, and I think that's a side effect of the found footage genre.  Whether by intention or not, the filmmaker doesn't have to fully give the viewer any meat on most of the characters or (as seen in this movie) a real ending. 
Trollhunter ... still fun.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Up next, Godzilla director Gareth Edwards' Monsters.

(GIFs from moviesludge)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: DEMEKING (2009)

My eleven-year-old son and I are still watching movies from THIS LIST.  Several dozen down; only a few to go.

Today's is Demeking (aka [inexplicably] Demeking the Sea Monster; 2009).

I'll go first:
Well ... huh. 
This isn't so much a monster movie as it is a movie about kids' difficulty in dealing with getting older. 
There's the twenty-ish Hachiya.  He's insular and doesn't really socialize.  He works at a theme park and later moves to Tokyo.  The whole time, his father is fed up with his dawdling and wants to know why he doesn't have any direction. 
Then there's the teen, Kame.  He doesn't socialize with kids his own age and prefers the company of three younger kids in an "Exploration Group" he started.   
To say the first hour of the film is slow would be an understatement.  The narrative picks up a bit, though, once Hachiya sets Kame and the kids on a scavenger hunt of sorts to learn about Demeking, the monster Hachiya aims to fight. 
After the kids find the final piece of Hachiya's "prophecy," stating that Demeking the SPACE monster will attack in 2019 (the film is set in 1970), Kame goes home and has a dream about Demeking's attack. 
The three-minute sequence is well done.  Primarily CGI, the invader resembles a large, fire-breathing snail.  The action is too brief to make up for the rest of the film's lugubrious pace.
Kame decides to write a book about Demeking and to base his lead character on Hachiya.  We get the impression later that he has abandoned this idea.  Meanwhile, Hachiya lives a shiftless existence in Tokyo. 
Despite the made-up nature of the monster in the film, the movie is bookended with shots of an asteroid in deep space hurtling toward ... somewhere. 
Demeking ... as a monster film, it's lousy.  As a coming-of-age drama, it's better.  2.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son, James, is next:
Well, this one is horrible. The reason it's horrible is because there wasn't any monster (The dream in the movie doesn't count) 
So, rating wise, i'll say 0.7 out of five Atomic Ughhhs of Boringness!!
Here's the trailer:

The next movie?  Trollhunter.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: CLOVERFIELD (2008)

If you're just tuning in, last summer, my eleven-year-old son, James, and I decided to watch as many kaiju movies as we could between then and the opening of the new Godzilla film on May 16.  So we compiled a LIST ... nearly ninety movies long.

And we're almost done.

Today's is Cloverfield (2008).

I'll let James go first:
Well, this is one of my favorites. Basically, a gigantic monster attacks manhatan with the help of some crab spiders. my favorite part is when Clover throws The Statue Of Liberty's Head and the crab spider's growl. The unique part about this movie is because the camera's moving like someone is holding it. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 4.7 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!   
My turn:
I remember the mystery surrounding this film when that first trailer debuted ... it was pretty incredible how far and wide that went online and even into real life.  I don't remember what I thought about it, other than, "OK.  I want to see that." 
It turned out to be a "found footage" movie.  (And one that nauseated my wife.  Motion sickness)  The concept wasn't played out yet.  Interestingly for kaiju films, I believe this was the first one to use that conceit.  It's also one of the very few to follow "normal" people around. Typically, the narrative remains with scientists, reporters and/or people in the military. 
After watching the movie yourself, I highly recommend watching the "making of" featurettes.  You'll be staggered at how the film was made.  The budget for the movie was $25 million, but they managed to make it look like so much more on screen. 

People-wise, the film is well serviced.  The main characters are likeable enough and Hud (the guy holding the camera) is funny.  Many of these movies have a hard time balancing humor and seriousness, but I felt this one did the job well. 
In the end, the movie is short.  The credits begin to roll after about an hour and ten minutes.  That's just right.  The energy of the movie can be draining and to make the action play out much longer would have been a bad move. 
Other tidbits: Lizzy Caplan's in it, which is never a bad thing.  ...  Michael Giacchino's "Roar" over the end credits is awesome.  ...  The louse crabby things make a funny little noise that I'm able to imitate, which tickles my son no end.  ...  I know there was a big online mystery about "Clover"'s origins and it's related to Slusho drinks and the satellite that crashed into the ocean at the end of Rob and Beth's Coney Island video. ...  Also, this monster is supposedly a baby.  How big is mom? 

Cloverfield ... a very enjoyable flick.  4 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the teaser trailer that captivated everyone's imagination for a little while:

Also, the Rifftrax guys did this movie, too:

Next, Demeking the Sea Monster.

(GIFs from stevesgifs and noticingtheunnoticed)

Monday, May 5, 2014


We're nearing the end of THE BIG LIST -- almost ninety films to watch before Godzilla opens in a few weeks.

Today's is The Monster X Strikes Back/Attack the G8 Summit (2008).

I'll go first:
Despite the name and the reused footage, this isn't really a sequel to the 1967 film on our list, The X from Outer Space.  It's definitely a satire, though; sending up a lot of things. 
For monster movies, the parodies are fairly obvious.  The music definitely imitates the styles of old school Akira Ifukube.  The intrepid reporter who has to get the scoop.  Even the annoying kid who is somehow in a meeting of the world's political and military leaders (I laughed hard when they kicked him out). 
There are political overtones, too.  With a subtitle like Attack the G8 Summit, you'd expect there to be.  But the digs don't go too deep.  The French president is a womanizer in the mode of Sarkozy.  The American president wants to fight the monster because of his ratings.  The British PM only cares about supporting his buddy, the American president.  The Japanese PM waffles and suffers a bout of diarrhea.   
I may as well talk about the actors here.  The reporter is fine.  Just about everyone else sucks hard.  Especially if they speak English.  The American president sounds Canadian and can barely get his lines out sometimes.  The UK PM has no British accent (I'm guessing Japanese audiences wouldn't notice that?) and, in fact, sounds American.  Beyond that, they can't act.  Oh, I already said that.   
The main plot involves Guilala coming to Earth and tearing things up near the G8 conference.  (Most of this includes footage from the 1967 film.)  The leaders stay and fight while a Japanese reporter tries to get the people of a nearby village to help by calling forth their god, Take-Majin. 
Meanwhile, the world's leaders try their dumbest (damnedest) to kill Guilala, including putting mind-control headphones on him ... 
That causes Guilala to really rampage, so the reporter and the village folk step up to the street, so to speak, and dance their hearts out for Take-Majin. 
You've gotta love a protective idol that carries a fire extinguisher and an umbrella. 
After some questionable choreography, Take-Majin appears just in time to stop a nuclear weapon that had been fired by Kim Jong Il.  How does he stop it?  By boofing it. 
Then he and Guilala fight.  The fight is often goofy, but then Take-Majin beheads Guilala in a swift and brutal move.  And the world leaders have a soak in the hot tub. 
Monster X Strikes Back ... I guess it's kind of like Airplane II; often funny but not quite good.  2.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My eleven-year-old son's turn:
Well this one isn't that awesome. This movie is made from film of the first one, so that makes it bad. But the thing that stops the Monster is a lord or something, but his normal attacks don't do much. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 2.1 out of 5 Atomic Copies of Lameness!!! 
Next up, Cloverfield.

(GIFs from monstersandmaniacs)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: D-WAR: DRAGON WARS (2007)

Another day, another film crossed off THE BIG LIST.

Today's is D-War (aka Dragon Wars, D-War: Dragon Wars; 2007)

My eleven-year-old son goes first:
Well, this is awesome. This is about 2 serpents fighting each other and the bad one is trying to kill a 20 year-old girl. My Favorite part is when the evil serpent attacks the army.  The end was boring though. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 2.8 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!! 
My turn:
From the maker of the execrable Yonggary remake, Reptilian, comes this movie, which is, admittedly, a lot more fun.  (Not good; just more fun.) 
Dark-haired and short Ashton Kutcher is apparently a reincarnated Korean warrior looking for his reincarnated love interest, mostly because it's been five hundred years and an evil dragon is trying to ascend to heaven. 
Yeah.  We get a lengthy flashback within a flashback to 1507 Korea and a war between the forces of good and the mythical forces of evil.  Like all of the action and effects in the film, this is some pretty good stuff.   
Unfortunately, the story is rock-stupid and the characters (and actors) aren't much better.  There are some exceptions, naturally, like Craig Robertson's buddy character.  But our leads are just tedious to watch and listen to. 
As for the aforementioned story and script, there are numerous attempts at humor and most of them fall flat.  Even more damning, the numerous attempts at seriousness are either funny or come off as apathetic.  That's not good. 
The special effects are, more often than not, top notch.  The ancient battle scene is well done as is the modern version when the antagonist serpent fights the US military.  Unfortunately (there's that word again), they are relied upon far too much in the last act of the movie.  We watch the evil dragon snake and a good dragon snake fight for what feels like forever before the good one eats a ball of light and gets a dragon upgrade.  I'm not kidding. 
And then the movie just kind of ends.  With our hero stranded in the middle of nowhere.  And without the girl. 
D-War: Dragon Wars ... big, dumb fun (mostly dumb).  2 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

A few years ago, Rifftrax (latter crew from MST3K) riffed the film.  Here are some highlights:

Next up, The Monster X Strikes Back.

(GIFs from neondragonfly and AstoundingBeyondBelief)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: BIG MAN JAPAN (2007)

Still making our way down the BIG LIST with less than ten movies to go.

Today's film is Big Man Japan (2007).

I'll go first:
Well.  This is an odd duck. 
Shot like a documentary, it follows Sato, the sixth in a line of Japanese heroes who grow to enormous height when electricity runs through them. 
His life isn't as cool as you might think.  He gets a monthly stipend from the government but he lives in near poverty.  His daughter is estranged from him.  His agent makes big bucks off him but doesn't seem to share the wealth.  The people aren't appreciative of his efforts to stop the invasions of incredibly bizarre monsters.  No, you don't understand.  INCREDIBLY bizarre. 
Combover Guy is the least of the weirdness.  There's a guy hopping around on one hand, a naked chicken with his eyeball on a lengthy tentacle, a giant Hellboy-like baby who kicks Sato's ass, a pair of "Stink Monsters" who mate ...  Maybe it's the fact that most of the monsters are flesh-toned.  And that they have human faces.  And that they get "beamed up" when they're defeated.  It makes it all feel so strange. 
Unfortunately, in between the various fights, there are lengthy sequences illustrating the mundanity of Sato's life.  While I get the point, they stretch on too long. 
It's a satire, for certain.  Of kaiju films, sure.  But of capitalism, commercialism, Japanese culture, a slipping hold on old rituals, ... a slew of things. 
The end scene (and the credits sequence) are stinking hilarious.  My son and I laughed the whole way through.  I won't spoil it.  It's too good.  (My son spoils it below, though.) 
Big Man Japan ... slow in parts, but often funny and damned weird.  3.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this one is weird and funny because at one scene big man japan meets Ultra Family (Ultra Man spin off)  and the words "baby or Die!!" Appear on the screen and then the mom gets the baby, puts her on the ground and then Ultra Dad kick her into the monster they're fighting.  
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.7 out of 5 Atomic Huh?s of Weirdness!! 
Here's the trailer:

Next, D-War: Dragon Wars (2007).

(GIF from stickyvalentine)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: THE HOST (2006)

As time passes by, so do films on THE LIST.

Today's is The Host ... no, not that one ... (aka Gwoemul; 2006).

My son, James, will go first:
Well, this one is pretty cool. The Host is about a mutant rampaging around killing people and viruses. It's creepy, it's cool, it's sad and it's plain awesomeness!!! I liked it because the monster is great, i don't like it because the monster isn't the main danger. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.9367 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!!
My turn:
Meet the Park family.  Granddad is a food stand operator.  He has a son who's a college grad and unemployed alcoholic, a daughter who is a hesitant, bronze-medal winning archer and another son who is dimwitted and father of the eager and bright schoolgirl, Hyun-Seo. 
They are dysfunctional, to say the least.  They are often funny.  By the end of the film, they are heartbreaking and they are badass. 
I don't want to ruin the film for anyone who hasn't seen it.  Watching it for this review was my first time and it was stellar. 
I'll say that the initial monster attack comes about fifteen minutes into the movie and it's downright harrowing.  Just great filmmaking on every level. 
The beauty of the movie is that there are many, many layers.  There is humor and horror, but there is satire and commentary, too.  I remember hearing about democracy protests in South Korea years ago, and that reverberates in this film.  As does some animosity toward American involvement in their own affairs. 
The Host ... really damn good, even though it took me a while to realize why it was called The Host.  4.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's a fan trailer that doesn't spoil some of the surprises (and you can hear some very Battlestar Galactica-like musical stings):

Next, Big Man Japan.

(GIFs from tibdfc and ScreencapsOfDoom)