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Archive for the ‘Monster’ Category

Mothra vs. Godzilla

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Godzilla picture #3, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, was such a hit in 1963 that Toho realized their boy really should have an ongoing series where he battles other behemoths, so director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube and effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya (plus Haruo Nakajima redonning the Godzilla suit) immediately got to work on the next one.

Getting the rights to another studio’s characters every time wasn’t gonna be sustainable (too bad – GODZILLA VS. CAT PEOPLE would’ve been cool), so this time they decided to pit the big guy against Mothra, the giant moth goddess from Honda’s own 1961 film. I’ve always associated Mothra with Godzilla, so it’s interesting to realize that they weren’t originally intended to cross paths or exist in the same world. In a way, MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA is like if M. Night Shyamalan had made SPLIT unconnected to UNBREAKABLE and then decided to combine them in GLASS. Or if James Cameron made AVATAR VS. THE ABYSS.

Another thing it’s easy to forget is that there was an entire decade where Godzilla was always the bad guy. Here he’s in his fourth movie and the guy is just a total dick still. Only in movie #2 could you argue he was kind of good, because the other guy was so aggressive. Otherwise he’s just causing problems for everybody. For this one he doesn’t show up until a half hour in (such a diva) so Mothra gets top billing. (read the rest of this shit…)

King Kong Escapes

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Since I dug revisiting the original 1963 version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA I decided to watch the one other time Toho used King Kong, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. I consider this to be Godzilla stepping aside to let his co-lead take the spotlight, but I suppose it’s possible that he just didn’t want to do another one and this is like Paul Walker doing 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS without Vin Diesel.

Like the original GOJIRA, plus KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and many other kaiju classics, KING KONG ESCAPES is directed by Ishiro Honda, with music by Akira Ifukube and effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. But it has a little different vibe, seemingly influenced by spy movies. Tsuburaya’s great model work is used to create lots of cool helicopters, hovercrafts, a submarine, and a structure to house a giant robot. There’s a colorful villain named Dr. Who (Hideyo Amamoto, YOJIMBO, THE SWORD OF DOOM) who wears a cape with a Dracula/Dr. Strange collar and he has a base at the North Pole and an army of employees in nehru suits, white Mickey Mouse gloves and construction helmets. In the American dub he’s voiced by Paul Frees, so you keep expecting him to ask “is this room actually stretching?” (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla vs. Kong

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

GODZILLA VS. KONG follows GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS as the fourth movie in the 21st Century American kaiju series known as The MonsterVerse. When it comes to the giant monsters, as I’ve told you before, I’m a Gamera guy. I’m not trying to be a hipster and choose the less popular thing to show off, it’s just a fact – he’s the Guardian of the Universe. But setting him aside, Godzilla and his Monster Island pals have always interested me more than the King Kong movies, as great as some of those are.

So hopefully that puts some weight behind me saying that this crossover – which stacks the cards for Kong by starting with him, spending much of the movie with him and treating him as the underdog hero – is easily the best of the series.

It got me instantly. Opening with Kong waking up to a perfect needle drop and a sunny day on Skull Island, he scratches his ass as he groggily stumbles to the waterfall for a shower. It’s just a great example of those times I love when monsters just get to live a normal life instead of always leaping through the air and roaring at the camera. (read the rest of this shit…)

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

I can’t see the new GODZILLA VS. KONG in a theater, because we still have the pandemic here (and apparently slower vaccine distribution than some other states). But I’m excited to at least get to watch it on TV tonight. I don’t know if it will live up to my hopes, but I’m glad it inspired me to rewatch the original East-meets-West giant monster mashup, 1963’s KING KONG VS. GODZILLA.

In my mind it seems like this current GODZILLA series rushed to the KING KONG crossover pretty fast, but not really. KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was only the third film in the GODZILLA series (though it also followed the American productions KING KONG and SON OF KONG, both from 1933). As discussed in yesterday’s review, the series started with GOJIRA in 1954, and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN six months later. It wasn’t exactly a smash, so seven years passed before they brought the big guy back. Think about that – seven years is almost as long as the gap between BATMAN & ROBIN and BATMAN BEGINS. Or FRIDAY THE 13TH and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII. About the same as the gaps between A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, or FREDDY VS. JASON and the ELM STREET remake.

So after that wait Toho brought back original director Ishiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube and effects director Eiji Tsuburaya (who held KING KONG dear since it had inspired his interest in effects) to revive Godzilla in this big crossover event that marked both monsters’ first appearances in color and in widescreen. Also their first movie that opens with a quote from Hamlet (at least in the American version, which I watched because I didn’t realize the original was hidden in the supplements of the Criterion box set). (read the rest of this shit…)

Godzilla Raids Again

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN seems like an important movie to me because I think it’s the first GODZILLA sequel. GOJIRA was made in response to the popularity of KING KONG and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, but it was a very somber and elegiac disaster movie intentionally using its monster attacks to mirror the bombing of Hiroshima (as well as an incident less known in the U.S. in which a Japanese fishing vessel was radiated by U.S. atomic bomb tests). Its hero was a scientist who sacrifices himself to stop Godzilla without letting his bomb technology to be replicated, and it climaxes with a choir of 200 women singing sadly over long shots of the ruins of Tokyo.

The sequel came out only six months later and is the only other GODZILLA movie in black and white, but it’s the first one where Godzilla fights another monster, so it’s the first to resemble the specific type of fun we’re generally thinking of when we say we liked GODZILLA movies or kaiju movies.

Here’s one way it’s similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2: it’s not the same killer as in part 1. The first Godzilla was definitively killed by the oxygen destroyer, and when what appears to be the same creature is spotted, Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura, returning from the first film) is sure it’s not a resurrection, but another monster of the same species. Everybody still call him Godzilla like it’s his name, though. (read the rest of this shit…)

Beowulf

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

“The only thing that stops me from becoming evil, is fighting evil.”

You know how in HIGHLANDER Christopher Lambert said he had “a kind of magic” because he was an immortal? Well, being in that movie made him a kind of movie icon and imbued him with his own kind of magic. It’s the kind of magic where he can come into MORTAL KOMBAT wearing a robe, act mystical and say “I don’t THEENK so” and somehow seem more cool than laughable. It’s also the kind of magic where he can reunite with the producer of MORTAL KOMBAT and say “why don’t we do another one like that but instead of basing it on a popular video game we’ll use a thousand year old epic poem?”

So here we have a movie that has a KOMBAT-esque logo, a techno and industrial soundtrack (Front 242, Juno Reactor, KMFDM, Junkie XL, also Anthrax), a big climactic fight with a crude CGI monster, and yes, it is also a recognizable adaptation of the story of Beowulf (Lambert), the monster Grendel (uncredited Vincent Hammond, also a suit performer in FULL ECLIPSE, THE RELIC and SPECIES II) and the king Hrothgar (Oliver Cotton, FIREFOX, WONDER WOMAN 1984). (read the rest of this shit…)

Monster Hunter

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

As someone who finally got into Paul Wesley Snipes Anderson’s RESIDENT EVIL series pretty close to when it was finally wrapping up, I was thrilled to hear that the director and his wife/star Milla Jovovich (HELLBOY, not the Ron Perlman one) had purchased the film rights to a fresh new video game franchise copyright property trademark. Without any judgment on (or implied knowledge of) the respective video games, I feel that there is potential for a series called MONSTER HUNTER about monsters and hunters who hunt monsters to be better than one about zombies and umbrellas or whatever. And I loved that one!

So I had planned to see this Toho co-production based on the works of Capcom in the biggest, if emptiest theater in Seattle, until shit (the pandemic) happened and that was not possible for me. But as soon as they made it available for digital “purchase” I paid the four-or-five-dollars-more-than-the-movie-ticket-would’ve-cost and now that file access is MINE.

It begins in a world of fantasy. Pirate ships are sailing through sand. Ron Perlman (HELLBOY, the Ron Perlman one) is there. Tony Jaa (KILL ZONE 2) is there. Monsters attack. Tony gets knocked off the boat. It is sand, so he doesn’t drown, but he’s left behind.

Then we switch to a different desert, the type in our world, in our time. It even has latitude and longitude listed on screen. I think they might mention directions and clicks at some point if you want to check your map and follow along at home. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 3: Sentinel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Neither MIMIC or MIMIC 2 seemed to go over all that well, but that didn’t stop Dimension Films from releasing MIMIC 3: SENTINEL in 2003. This is probly my favorite of the three, and at the very least it deserves high marks for taking advantage of the pre-sold nature of the format to take a weird left turn, not at all the lower-budget-rehash approach of so many DTV sequels. It follows a drastically different template: the Hitchcockian voyeur thriller. It even uses a quasi-Saul Bass movie poster font for the title. But it doesn’t feel like they took an old suspense thriller script and grafted a bug man onto it, because it ties into and builds off of the world of MIMIC in smart and interesting ways.

This one is written and directed by J.T. Petty, whose THE BURROWERS I’ve been meaning to check out forever. He also did SOFT FOR DIGGING (a $5,000 student feature that I believe got him this gig), S&MANand HELLBENDERS. Here he’s made a movie that kind of feels like it comes out of the same school as early Soderbergh or Nolan – the hyper-intelligent indie guys that were more into old noirs than drive-in movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 2

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

It really didn’t occur to me, when I decided to finally rewatch MIMIC, that it was a movie about a pandemic. One of the main characters is the deputy director of the CDC! But it’s not at all similar to the pandemic we’re currently in – “Strickler’s Disease” seems to only affect children, putting them in comas. Because it’s spread by cockroaches, aforementioned CDC guy Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam, THE NET, AMISTAD, THE INVASION) recruits a brilliant entomologist, Dr. Susan Tyler (then-recent Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, between ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS), who comes up with a novel plan: she genetically engineers a new bug called the “Judas Breed” that infiltrates cockroach colonies and pukes up a bunch of enzymes that increase their metabolism so they starve to death. Give the roaches a disease to stop them from giving us one.

Three years later, Strickler’s disease has been wiped out, the two doctors are married, and everything seems fine, except weird shit is happening under Manhattan. A mysterious vagrant type guy drags a priest underground, and only an autistic kid named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) witnesses it. Chuy’s guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA) is a shoe shiner, so the kid has become affixed on people’s footwear, and for some reason he calls this attacker “Mr. Funny Shoes.” I don’t know why, but that’s one of my favorite details in the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)