Tokusatsu Theater: Godzilla 2000 (1999)

Earlier this year, I became semi obsessed with getting my hands on tokusatsu shows and films. I did that part pretty well, but then haven’t watched many of them. So, when we recently cut the cable cord and I saw that Hulu had a BUNCH of Godzilla movies, I thought it seemed like the prefect time to jump back in.

I started with Godzilla 2000 because…well, I can’t remember. Maybe because it was newer and I was curious what that might look like? After a bit of reading, I came to understand that this film marked the beginning of the Millennium Period, the third line of ‘Zilla flicks. And after watching this Takao Okawara-directed film, I’m not really sure how I feel about this era that I’ve had relatively little experience with.

Continue reading Tokusatsu Theater: Godzilla 2000 (1999)

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Disaster Double Feature: Godzilla & San Andreas

I realized somewhat recently that I don’t write about big time, blockbuster type movies on here very much. Partially, that’s because I haven’t been writing about much of anything, but also because I sometimes don’t feel like I have a lot to say about films of that ilk. For me, this blog doubles as a kind of digital, poorly edited external hard drive for the things I’ve watched or read, but it’s also a way to tip people off to things that are fun. Considering the latter, it might not seem like Godzilla and San Andreas need a signal boost from a guy without a lot of readers, but I really enjoyed both films, so what the heck?! Continue reading Disaster Double Feature: Godzilla & San Andreas

My Favorite Things This Week: Tokusatsu, That 70s Show & Pure Cinema

This week I find myself captivated by a Japanese genre from the 60s, a sitcom set in the 70s and a podcast that spans all decades to bring listeners a variety of must-see films. That’s right, this week I’m obsessed with tokusatsu, That 70s Show and the Pure Cinema Podcast! Continue reading My Favorite Things This Week: Tokusatsu, That 70s Show & Pure Cinema

Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray

buffy season 8 volume 1 the long way home

It’s vampire week here on UnitedMonkee! Let’s kick things off with one of their all-time biggest enemies, Buffy The Vampire Slayer! Like most of the internet, I loved the series (yes, even the first season). Even so, when Dark Horse first announced they were continuing the show’s adventures with Season 8, I was a bit skeptical, even though series creator Joss Whedon was acting as executive producer of the whole thing. See, back in the day, I bought a ton of Buffy comics from Dark Horse until I realized that they were just kind of filling in holes and playing with the mostly un-chronicled summers. Later on I picked up the Buffy Omnibus volumes and read in the intro that that was part of the whole deal because they didn’t want the comics to step on the toes of the show. As a reader, though, I got a bit bored reading about Season Three characters when Season Four was in full swing, but that’s old water under an old, far more crankier bridge.

The timing thing was obviously no longer an issue with the show being off the air. And, adding to the “good” column, Whedon would have an unlimited budget to work with and some of the best names in comics, TV and film like Brian K. Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson and Karl Moline.

Really, there was no chance I wasn’t going to start reading this book because I was working at Wizard at the time and free comics were everywhere. Like my fellow Buffy fans in the office, we got to reading and really enjoyed it. I might have been a little taken aback by the whole idea of this army of Slayers working around the world S.H.I.E.L.D.-style, but once I got used to it, I was all in. Continue reading Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray

Paul Pope Trade Post: Battling Boy & The Rise Aurora West

battling boy Battling Boy (First Second)
Written & drawn by Paul Pope

I’m not nearly as familiar with Paul Pope’s work as I’d like to be. I know I read either 100% or Heavy Liquid while at Wizard, but can’t remember exactly which one. I do know that he blew me away with Batman: Year 100 and loved staring at his Adam Strange installments in Wednesday Comics. So, when I heard that he had a superhero-esque graphic novel coming out and that our library had it in the system, I was very excited to finally give the results a read.

Battling Boy is set in a world where extra-dimensional beings head to other planes of existence to prove themselves when they reach a certain age. The title character is one such kid whose Thor-like dad drops him off in a monster-ridden world with a series of power-infused T-shirts and a cape. It’s good timing because the place’s science hero Haggard West has just been dispatched leaving his daughter Aurora to pick up the slack. I don’t want to get into too many details because that’s all part of the fun, but our hero, while super powerful, does deal with a lot of more common questions like “Should I just have my dad take care of things?” and “Should I tell these people I have no idea what I’m doing?”

This first volume sets up a really interesting world that I’m psyched to return to, especially because Pope’s artwork is just so…Popian? Papal? This guy’s style is so much his and a part of him that I’m down for reading anything he puts out.

Battling Boy Rise of Aurora WestThe Rise of Aurora West (First Second)
Written by Paul Pope & JT Petty, drawn by David Rubin

When I first got The Rise Of The Aurora West from the library, I was surprised for a few reasons. First, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t a pure Pope effort and second, I was unaware it’s a black and white manga-esque offering. After just a few pages, though, I didn’t mind either perceived problem. Rubin’s art is very much in line with Pope’s, so it feels like it’s all part of the same thing even sans color.

This story actually takes place before the events of Battling Boy, chronicling the adventures of Aurora and her attempts to figure out what happened to her deceased mother and what it may or may not have to do with her imaginary friend.

In a lot of ways, this book actually felt a little more focused and on-point than the previous book which had a kind of fever dream quality to it not uncommon in Pope’s work. Part of that might be that I’m just used to what this world is about and part is because this book focuses solely on Earth and not the extra-reality zones Battling Boy is from. I also appreciated that, after being introduced to these characters and this place in the first volume, I got to learn even more about what happened to this world. There are still plenty of more mysteries to be had, which is why I’m excited to keep reading whatever else comes out in this series.

Q: The Winged Serpent Is Awesome

Q The Winged Serpent Last fall a buddy of mine sent a few Blu-rays he got through his work my way. I’m always super appreciative when people do nice things like this because, unless I hit a really good sale, I’m probably not going to get my hands on a great many things. In that package was a little movie called Q: The Winged Serpent directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) and starring Michael Moriarty (Troll), Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and David Carradine (Kill Bill). I was sold solely on Moriarty’s involvement who I had just seen in The Stuff and, as it just so happens, that film was also directed by Cohen, so I guess they bring out the best in each other because I love both of these movies, like hard.

Here’s the basics, as best I can remember them. People in New York City are dying and going missing. The police don’t know why, but it’s because there’s a giant flying monster eating them. Moriarty plays a wheelman dragged into pulling a jewelry heist that goes south. On the run, he winds up in the top Chrysler Building  which just so happens to be the monster’s nest. Meawhile detectives played by Roundtree and Carradine are trying to figure out what’s going on. In the process, Carradine becomes convinced that it’s not only a big monster, but also the reincarnation of the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl.

One of the many elements I love about this film is the fact that Moriarty’s character is so important to how this story plays out. This isn’t the story of a down on his luck hero finding the threat to the city and bringing it to the attention of the authorities. Instead, Moriarty uses the monster to take care of two guys trying to shake him down and he only tells anyone in the local government about what’s going on until after he’s made a deal to get a huge pile of money and pardons for all crimes, even the ones the NYPD might not know about (a “Nixon-like pardon” he says). Since he’s a sneaky, shifty dude, the movie goes places it wouldn’t if this were a more typical Hollywood tale.

For his part, Moriarty really carries this movie. He pulls off this oddly alluring synthesis of charming, down-on-his-luck and  bad that works so damn well. You might like him because he can play the piano so causally, but then you hate how he treats his long-suffering girlfriend. Then, at just the right point, he reveals a piece of his personal history that doesn’t excuse his behavior, but might explain it. That’s another major plus for this film, Cohen reveals bits and pieces of Moriarty’s character when they’re necessary, not before. In that way, it’s a really great example of delving out information at just the right time.

It might sound like I’m going overboard about this strange monster movie from the early 80s and maybe I am, but I still think it’s got a lot of greatness held within. However, it’s not perfect. The special effects don’t look so hot these days. From animated shadows to poorly composited images, there’s a lot for the modern eye to pick apart, but for me that was all part of the film’s charm. It did the best it could at the time and probably looked pretty darn impressive in 1982. I thought the actual Q monster looked pretty solid when it was on screen and there were plenty of dizzying aerial shots of NYC (maybe too many) that acted as monster perspective shots.

Now that I think about it, I think I might like this movie because it’s a combination of two of my favorite films without directly ripping them off. On one hand, all the perspective stuff reflect’s John Carpenter’s Halloween where he puts us in the killer’s perspective for chunks of time. Since we’re dealing with POV on a completely different level, it doesn’t feel like a direct lift. On the other hand, there’s a lot of “you don’t get to see the monster JUST yet” elements taken from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Around the time I watched Q, I heard a lot of people saying that the latest Godzilla  was like Jaws in the city, but it’s a dynamic that worked well given the setting and time of this film.

Also, like both of those admittedly much better films, Q also makes the locale a huge part of the film. Cohen and company made such good use of the Big Apple that it practically oozes all over ever frame. Obviously, the Chrysler Building plays a huge part in the proceedings, though how accurate the film is or whether they actually filmed inside, I don’t know, but those swooping arial shots also firmly cement the fact that we’re dealing with NYC. There’s even a scene shot at Columbia which I only knew because I’m familiar with another film that made such good use of New York City, Ghostbusters.

At the end of the day, Q: The Winged Serpent benefits from a great many positive notes. Moriarty is stellar, Carradine and Roundtree are great, the setting is perfect, the story works specifically because of the characters involved, the monster looks pretty good and presents a definitely threat and it’s got a pretty well thought out mythology. For all those reasons and more, I fully recommend checking this movie out.

Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)

The Burning Scream Factory Halloween’s the best you guys! I’ve been able to watch more horror flicks than I expected considering our toddler staked her claim on the TV long ago. Still, I’ve been able to go back and watch some old favorites and also check out a few new films like the amazing Sinister.

A few weeks back, after earning a few extra bucks at NYCC, I decided to splurge on some Scream Factory Blu-rays. I snagged The Burning and From Beyond on sale. A subdivision of Shout Factory, Scream is a horror centric imprint that goes all out when it comes to special features, extras and great looking transfers. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)