Wednesday, May 28, 2014

So I finally watched The Dark Crystal

Every so often I like to dig up some piece of pop culture that for whatever reason has eluded me. Sometimes I walk away from the experience feeling positive that I've witnessed something important. Other times I marvel at humanities ability to over hype some real crap. Tonight it was finally time to watch The Dark Crystal, that's an early 80's fantasy puppet flick for anyone who doesn't know. Flicks like this one add an extra layer of difficulty it that they appeal mainly to people who saw it as kids. Watching it as an adult always snatches away a little charm. It doesn't mean a movie will suck, it's just harder to get into the spirit of things. I've dealt with this kind of thing watching Monster Squad when I was like 22 and Labyrinth when I was around...24 or 5. Adding to the pressure, this one, like Labyrinth is a big favorite for some of my friends who don't understand my hated of the magic dance. So the question I like it? Let's find out.
We open in fairly standard fashion for an 80's fantasy flick. Dark clouds, large vistas, and a disembodied deep voice delivering the backstory. Many a moon ago, some asshole broke a big crystal which ended up spawning two separate species. The Skeksis are some sort of lizard/bird/rat hybrid who indulge in pretty much any and all nasty behavior from soul sucking to generally bad table manners. The other species are the mystics. Lumbering multi-armed dudes who perform some sort of magic throat fart every so often. I took this all in stride. Sure it's a little cliched but nothing bad. Then I caught sight of something I didn't expect. A goddamn naked puppet.
Turns out this budding sex offender is our hero. A young lad by the name of Jen....really? We couldn't use a guys name? Alright so Jen here seems to be the last of his kind since the Skeksis went all genocidal on his people to prevent a prophecy that one of them would repair the crystal. Of course his teacher/adoptive father happens to be dying that day and finally decides to let him know that saving the world is completely on his shoulders. Guess you wouldn't want to give him a complex by telling him too early. Before ya know it the kids off on a journey while the emperor of the skeksis also kicks the bucket which leads to a battle for the throne and, you guessed it, more puppet nudity!
I was approaching this one with an open mind but found it a tad off that the only themes in place by the 20 minute mark where deathbeds and birthday suits. Oh and then these dick bushels showed up.
Jen finds an old wise woman who reminds me of the crypt keeper in drag. She gives him the shard he requires for his quest before they all get attacked by big ass beetle people. Not joking when I tell ya that these are an inspired creation. They wouldn't be at all out of place smacking down with Godzilla. They're just some good old fashioned nightmare fuel for the kids.
So far I was enjoying myself. Things were moving along, and Jen comes to find out that he's still got a chance to bone up and repopulate his race when he meets Kira. However; the second third of the story really slows down to an unnecessary degree. This left me to ponder the issues with the movie. One is that there are several scenes that have little to no point. For instance the skeksis dinner scene eventually has a point to it, but not before we're subjected to a good 3-4 minutes of how glutinous they are. It seems a moot point to show them as disgusting and cruel when we already know they're the villains. Also I started to take up a big issue with Jen. Fantasy stories have a long history of dull/lifeless heroes but this kid take the crown. Seriously! He's a walking sleeping pill. Plus he's damn near useless. He talks about how his master taught him about words and math but this knowledge comes in handy all of one time.
I liked this part better when it was rainbow connection.
Once our heroes arrive at the dark palace things start to pick up again with fighting and backstabbing. Yes I mean that, someone actually gets stabbed in the back. A few threatened character deaths and some mysticism, and before you know it the crystal is repaired causing the two separate species to merge into floating heads of cauliflower. These guys then report that in a moment of arrogance they broke the crystal, which caused them to split into the two different creatures. Now hold up! Everybody makes mistakes sure, but how many of those lead to a thousand years of misery and genocide? Ya can't just say “opps, sorry bout that” and then fly away. Anyway, Jen gets his lady love back from the brink of death, the land is green and fertile again, it's over. Spoiler alert?
I may sound like I didn't enjoy myself but I really did. Like other movies of this type I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more as a kid but it was decent entertainment. The production is great, there's good art design all around, and it's a pleasure to see something like this made entirely out of physical effects. I do wish I'd watched it when I had a little more energy cause it is kind of a sleepy movie. It's not going to join my collection anytime soon but at least I know it's a decent little flick. Honest recommendation is check it out, preferably with someone who really enjoys it since their enthusiasm might rub off on ya.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Godzilla All in a Row part 3

Another stretch of busy days has gone by only to now leave me stuck indoors thanks to some of the most lame ass weather I can imagine. Seriously, Michigan either storm or don't. This constant piddle fest is annoying as fuck. Still; I have a big reward coming my way as my friends & I prepare to take on the latest adventure from our favorite emerald city stomper. With that in mind let's get on to the third and final installment in our Godzilla recap series. Get your popcorn ready and settle in for the big finale.

Godzilla vs Space Godzilla
Total disclaimer here: The common point of view is that this is a terrible movie but I honestly liked it. Some of the G-cells that were scattered into space from the battles with Biollante and Mothra merge with a being to create Space Godzilla who makes a beeline for Earth so he can absorb the planets energy. Meanwhile the government has employed the psychic girl Miki ( a recurring character since Biollante) to attempt mind control over Godzilla. Ohh, and I can't forget that the defense force also replaces the destroyed Mechagodzilla with a new robotic warrior named Moguera. This feels like it was meant to close out this second sequence of films with all the references to past outings and the increased threat level that Space Godzilla presents. Even using Miki as the main character after several movies with her just offering support feels like the final chapter of a bigger story. Lots of good action and an eventual understanding between atomic monster and psychic girl make for what I consider to be a superior adventure.

Godzilla vs Destoroya
If Space Godzilla was the final part of the second series, this was made to be the proper ending to the franchise as a whole. Godzilla is dying a slow and violent death. His atomic core is overheating and soon he'll explode in a catastrophic disaster. While this is going on, the weapon called the oxygen destroyer that was used to kill our favorite monster in the first movie has been rediscovered and it's melded with tiny microbe organisms. These critters evolve, growing larger in both size and number, eventually merging into one giant bastard. Godzilla's condition changes so that he might meltdown into the core of the earth, thous destroying the whole planet. Everyone decides that the only way to stop doomsday is to let Destoroya finish off our favorite monster in the hopes of preventing the meltdown. By this point, Baby has evolved basically into a teenage zilla and gets dragged into the fight, seemingly dying before his fathers eyes. A combination of Godzilla's rage and human ingenuity wipes out Destoroya before our big guy finally bites the big one. Before he died he was able to pass on enough energy to his son to fully revive and mature the young monster, giving us hope of one day seeing tokyo getting squashed again. Another entry that is more action than story, it's still a fine time. Give it a shot.

Godzilla (1998)
Toho put the big dude back into retirement after the last flick which allowed Hollywood it's chance to take a shot at Kaiju flicks. In pure American blockbuster fashion, we fucking blew it! Instead of giving us the more serious style of the original film or the joyous monster battles the franchise had earned a reputation for, we got a big hermaphroditic iguana battling Ferris Bueler while Leon the professional complains about American coffee. A horrid pile of shit that's made all the worse once a stockpile of zilla eggs hatch, releasing the laziest batch of Jurassic Park rejects you've ever seen. Keep far away from this stinker.
Godzilla Millennium (AKA Godzilla 2000)
After witnessing America absolutely bomb at its efforts, Toho decided it was time to bring the big green bastard back for a third series. Yet again we're following up from the very first movie and ignoring everything else that had been produced. For his return we're given a very straightforward and basic tale about an old UFO that steels the big mans genes to become Orga. That's about it. This is both the movie's greatest weakness and strength. Sure it's simple and predictable but it's also comforting like a blanket. Maybe give it a shot.....or don't. Doesn't really matter.

Godzilla vs Megaguirus
Not really sure if this one is supposed to be following the events of Millennium or not. It's another fairly light story about the government trying to make a black hole weapon to destroy Godzilla. In the process they mutate a bug into a giant flying menace. In truth this wouldn't be that bad an entry but the special effects and monster battles are really lazy for some reason and it robs the movie of a lot of fun. There are a few nice touches here and there but nothing that can save this one from being anything other than plan old dull.

Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Now this is more like it! Once again using only the first film for background we find a revived Godzilla that is possessed by the spirits of all the soldiers that died during World War II. Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon (who got left out of the title) are ancient guardians summoned to protect Japan from this supernatural beast. There's a ton of story and good characters lifting this one up to some real heights. Sending it over the top are some truly excellent battles and miniature effects. Seeing some of the old ideas get changed up also makes for a good deal of fun. I mean, no one expected to ever see Ghidorah as a hero. Despite the weirdness of the whole dead soldier spirits thing this is the benchmark for Godzilla who is in fine form as a full-on villain once again. A true must see for anyone interested in these movies.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
With Another series comes yet another Mechagodzilla, this time known as Kiryu. Yet again we are meant to ignore all other sequels for this story of a girl hellbent on revenge. She becomes a pilot of Kiryu which is actually built around the bones of the original Godzilla. Of course that's a terrible idea and before you know it, the soul of the long dead beast is reawakkend inside the robotic shell. There's some effort at being a character study but it never really pans out. In fact the whole movie sort of sputters to a close without really finishing anything up. Plus the fights are a bit on the boring side. A middle to lower teir flick for only the more hardcore fans.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
Following up on the previous amth-up we switch focus to one of Kiryu's mechanics who is warned by the Mothra twins that Godzilla keeps coming back to attack Japan because they used the bones of the older one to build their dumb robot. Instead of dealing with a flimsy revenge story we get something that's more about a slacker who finally gets his chance to shine. Combo that with some very nice monster fights and you get some fine entertainment. The biggest accomplishment here may be Mothra and her larve actually being kinda cool for once. Upper level flick that makes for a decent night of entertainment.

Godzilla: Final Wars
The 50th anniversary of Godzilla was fast approaching and the producers saw that as the perfect opportunity to give him one super-sized birthday party before sending him back into retirement. There's a huge cross sampling of nasty beasts from the franchise scattered throughout this adventure including big name favorites like Rodan down to low rent baddies like Kumonga the giant spider. Best of all, the American imposter from 98 shows up only to get his ass laid out in record time. Lots of folks complain that this one just doesn't feel like a proper Godzilla movie and to some extent that's true. Overall this is just a really over the top action movie that rips off bits from other flicks without an ounce of shame. Even so it's an awesome time with cool action and doofy overacting that provides a great deal of fun. Most importantly it shows Godzilla as a total bad ass who never takes more than a few minutes to waste his enemies. Lots of fun and a solid entry for anyone who wants to cradle their head and laugh at the onscreen madness.

Godzilla (2014)
More than likely I'll give this one a proper post of its own once I check it out. Most of the early press is good though my sister caught an early screening and claims its awful. We shall see, Kimmy, we shall see.

And there it is folks. Hopefully all three parts of this handy guide will help you pick out a few special entries to boost your monster movie lexicon.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Godzilla All in a Row Part 2

Phew (wipes brow). It's been a decent bit, hasn't it? Yes indeed, kiddies I have been busy of late. Within the past few days I have accomplished over half of my goals for the entire month of may. Not to mention possibly getting a job and having some fine times with friends & family. I hope you'll forgive my bragging. Honestly it's a rare treat in life to be this satisfied with ones own progress and personal standing and I'd feel remiss not to give that feeling a shout-out.
Of course what most likely brought any of you here was a shoddy web search for monster movie information and I have no intention of disappointing you with my own personal details. So pop a squat and join me for another wave of Giant lizard mayhem.

Godzilla vs Hedorah
After the abomination that was All Monsters Attack there was a severe need for a fresh perspective. As luck would have it, a new director was brought into the franchise who spiced up the sagging series with one of the wildest entries around. From psychedelic musical numbers to hippie camp outs and even multiple animated sequences this one never fails to surprise. Chief among its triumphs is Hedorah himself. Made entirely out of pollution and mock this is possibly the most evil son bitch to ever face off against the big G. Hedorah kills people by the score, never lets up, and proves to be a nasty adversary. He's such a nuisance that Godzilla actually resorts to tearing the evil bastards balls out. Absolutely nuts and a fine adventure that any giant monster fan should check out. Two bits of trivia on this one. It is the only film in which Godzilla can fly. Also it's director, Yoshimitsu Banno was reprimanded by the producers and told that he would never direct for Toho again, let alone touch Godzilla. Banno is now the producer of the new movie so I'd call that a win.

Godzilla vs Gigan
This one attempts to follow in the wild style of its predecessor but just doesn't have the strength to pull it off. The plot revolves around a Manga artist and his karate kickin girlfriend as they try to stop a mysterious group from overtaking the world with their evil theme park built around a laser blasting zilla statue. Sounds like it should be fun right? Well sometimes it is, just not enough of the time. Lots of monster footage is recycled from earlier films (a practice that had begun a few entries before) and there's a general lack of energy. One standout bit is the part where the bad guys are revealed to be giant cockroaches from outer space. Even that isn't enough to save this from being totally skipable.

Godzilla vs Megalon
Ask as many Godzilla fans as you want and you'll get one of two answers about this one. A: It's the worst thing to ever feature our favorite emerald lizard. Or B: It's so amazingly stupid that it boarders on genius. I lean more towards the B camp overall. The story is about a subterranean race that releases their monster supreme, Megalon upon the surface dwellers...and I think they enlist Gigan somehow to back him up. Meanwhile a renowned scientist and his crew of flunkies find out about the evil plot from below and get drawn in along with their super robot, Jet Jaguar who is just a really creepy Ultraman knockoff. Lacking much in the way of subtlety or common sense this one drifts from one goofball moment to the next. I'd tell most of you out there to skip it unless you're in the mood for something so lame it's wonderful.
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla
You'll have to cut me some slack on this one as it is incredibly similar to the movie that follows which creates kind of a blending effect in my mind. After years of being a good guy, Godzilla suddenly takes up his old hobbies of murder and terror. People are in shock until another Godzilla shows up to fight the evil one which is revealed to be Mechagodzila. Ol Mecha was created by a race of space apes in order to overrun the earth. Of course those dumb monkeys don't plan on the original king of the monsters to enlist a little help from the mystical King Caesar. Can't say as I remember much but I know it was a good one. Good enough that this match-up ends up appearing multiple times over the history of these films. Wouldn't say you have to watch it but it couldn't hurt.

Terror of Mechagodzilla
A rematch so soon? Picking up right after the last one we have more monkey men working with a scientist to rebuild mechagodzilla while controlling new contender Titanosaurus. As I said before, this can blend with the previous one fairly easily so forgive me if I completely mix things up. From what I recall it is a bit better than the first match-up against the mechanical monstrosity thanks in part to a more emotional bent. Of course I could have some rose colored glasses thanks to this being the last one I had to watch in order to finish the franchise. The ending where Godzilla marches out to the ocean marked an accomplishment for me and the end of the original series. A solid adventure. Give it a shot.

The Return of Godzilla (AKA Godzilla 1985)
After almost a decade in exile Toho decided to return the big brute to his rightful place in the world. In a move that modern Hollywood would just love, this one is a direct continuation of the first film, ignoring all the sequels that came in between, thous beginning the Hesei series. Similar to the first flick there are no other monsters for the big guy to fight. It's just a simple classic giant monster slaps shit down event. Haven't watched it in years so what made it special is tough. Still; I remember it being good easily digestible fun that makes decent entertainment. Check it out if you can but be aware that it is extremely difficult to get your hands on, especially in it's proper Japanese form.

Godzilla vs Biollante
After letting a few years pass it was time to continue the big dudes new adventures and introduce some new threats. Biollante is a marvelous creature to behold. The product of supernaturally infused roses and Godzilla DNA known as G-Cells this towering she beast is downright freaky. The G-cells later become a recurring element to this second series as does a psychic girl who tries to connect to Godzilla. There's already a lot to like here thanks to all the new ideas but what really makes it shine is that the human story is truly entertaining to watch. There's international espionage, twisted experiments, and threats of mankind getting too big for its britches. An outstanding kaiju movie for anyone interested.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah
Ohhhh boy. As if the reset continuity from a few movies back wasn't bad enough, they bring in time travel to screw things up a little more. So some folks calling themselves the futurians show up with a plan to prevent Godzilla from ever existing. They take some of our people back in time to remove a dinosaur known as a Godzillasaurus from an island that was destroyed by an atomic blast. They also dump off a few lil creatures in his place. Arriving back in the present the futurians use King Ghidorah, who formed from the small critters. To subjugate Japan because it becomes too powerful in the future. Little do they know that the island they moved the dinosaur to was the resting place for an atomic sub so Godzilla still exists! Did I mention that King Ghidorah becomes Mecha at one point? Or the freaky android dude? Or how about the weird flirtatious relationship between a modern guy and a future girl who later reveals herself to be his granddaughter? Convoluted, messy, but still pretty fun. Maybe check it out if you have the time.

Godzilla and Mothra; The Battle for Earth
Keeping it simple......this movie sucks balls. Turns out there's another version of Mothra named Battra who chooses to destroy humanity because they've become too much of a threat to the Earth. That's about as in depth as the story gets. This thing is just boring and preachy with the soundtrack being it's only redeeming quality. I don't want any of you fine folks suffering through this dull excuse for a monster movie. Stay away!
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II
After the boring mess that was the battle for earth it was time to revisit a few more nasties. Rodan, Mechagodzilla, and even Manilla (now called baby) all return. There's lots of city crushing action but very little in the way of story. We do learn that the king of the monsters has a secondary brain in his that's something. A lot of folks consider this to be a superior entry in the series but I find the lack of a decent story makes for a lackluster time. You could check it out but I wouldn't recommend it.

That's it for the second part of our countdown. Come back next time for the end of the second series, all of the third, and the horrid All-American abomination sandwiched in between. Peace!