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)

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

Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Pacific-Rim-Poster Before jumping into my review of Pacific Rim, I want to talk about two things running through my mind as I was heading into the theater Saturday evening. First off, I’d been reading a lot that week about how this movie was going to tank. That’s one of the downsides to having a gig in the entertainment industry, you’re constantly inundated with the business-y side of Hollywood, the kind of stuff most people don’t really care about. The problem, though, is that sometimes the projections about how well a movie is going to do leading up to its release wind up poisoning the well a bit for the people who do pay attention to these things. “It’s not going to do well? I’m not gonna go.” I don’t have a solution for those aside, but the news bummed me out. Did it have something to do with Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2 doing better over the weekend at the box office? Maybe. Then again, those more family friendly movies were going to be big no matter what.

The other thing rolling through my head was, “THIS is going to be what I always wanted from a Godzilla movie.” As a kid, I loved the bits and pieces of giant moster flicks I’d catch on TV, but when I finally turned 16 and started getting tapes by the backpack-full from Family Video I discovered something rather unsettling: a lot of those movies (like Gamer vs. Viras) are super boring. All you really want is guys in rubber suits fighting over a cardboard city with toy tanks shooting at them, but what you get is a little bit of that with a lot of scientists talking about how to stop the monster. Yawn.

I figured that a director like Guillermo del Toro would be able to figure out a way to balance the giant action with the smaller character moments and that’s what Pacific Rim delivered as far as I’m concerned. The story takes place on an Earth in which an inter-dimensional portal has opened up in the ocean. Said portal spits out giant monsters — dubbed kaiju — that humanity has to fight. The human race took on the first one with conventional weapons, but eventually built gigantic robots called jaegers to handle the menace. The jaegers are so big, though, that you’ve got to meld two minds to run them. Two pilots — usually relatives — literally link minds to drive these things and fight the baddies. Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket is a one-time jaeger pilot who winds up working for his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try and put a stop to this nearly decade-long menace once and for all. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on, of course, but I don’t want to get too spoilery (yet).

Guys, I loved this movie. It delivered exactly what I wanted and even a little more. The robots versus monsters scenes were fantastic with everything from spinning blades and swords to battleships coming into play. But there’s also a real sense of menace to the film. They got pretty good at taking on the kaiju for a while as Becket tells us in the opening monologue, but then things got crazier with bigger, more dangerous monsters attacking. A pair of scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are doing their best to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime you get the sense that the world is hanging in the balance. Some politicians have decided to bury their heads in the sand and try a fairly foolish means of defense (which might seem a little insane, but I bought it enough), but luckily for earth there are some very brave men and women from all over the globe working together to put a stop to it.

As a kid I always wanted to cut out all the boring stuff with people and just watch the fights, but in this one, I thought there was a good deal of humanity interspersed throughout. Sure, a lot of it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. A leader who considers his image more important than his well-being, a cocky fighter unsure of why the hasbeen and rookie have been brought in, a person who hates the kaiju for destroying their family (that flashback scene kicked me in the gut, I’m such a wuss when it comes to kids in films these days). But when those characters are played well — and I thought they were for the most part — a bit of new life is breathed in. Plus, even if you don’t dig the, you wait a little bit and a robot rips a monster’s tongue out, so it’s cool.

pacific rim gipsy danger poster

There were a few elements of the film that didn’t sit particularly well with me. Minor SPOILERS follow. I enjoyed Hunnam’s performance, but the way he spoke was kind of distracting. The actor is from England, but he sports one of those accents that doesn’t sound like it truly belongs on either side of the pond. I had a similar complaint regarding Freddie Highmore’s performance in the first episode of Bates Motel. I’m not sure if this is just how he talks or how he was directed to speak, but it was distracting. I also wondered why the manner of defense against the kaiju was so segregated. You’ve basically got the jaegers and a giant wall, but the two are almost completely unrelated. Wouldn’t it make sense to have cannons that can do the same thing that Gipsy Danger’s fists can? They’ve been fighting these monsters for 6 or 7 years and no one thought of building up the borders in a different way?

But those are fairly minor quibbles. On the whole, I thought the story had a lot of fun, new elements that made sense and also had fun with sci-fi elements. The mental handshake stuff was cool and how can you not love ridiculously gigantic robots being built in even bigger bunkers driven by two people? The basic concepts get thrown at you pretty early in the movie, so if you’re not on board with the movie science, then you might want to skip the whole thing altogether. As it is, I enjoyed seeing a big budget spectacle that wasn’t based on anything but writer Travis Beachum and del Toro’s imaginations. I was far from disappointed by this film and would recommend anyone who though the trailers looked cool to go check it out.

Okay, SUPER SPOILER TIME. This is so SPOILERY that I’m putting it after the jump if you happen to be reading this post on the main page. If not, you’ve been warned.  Continue reading Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Giant Monster Mash: Gamera Vs. Viras (1968)

I’ve got a real love/hate relationship with giant monster movies. I love the idea of them, gigantic monsters with weird powers wreaking havoc on a town or village only to become the lesser of two evils once another more dangerous monster comes along. However, I seem to hate most of the giant monster movies I see because they often spend an inordinate about of time showing me boring, uncharismatic scientists trying to either explain or worse stop the thing I want to see: giant monsters kicking the shit out of each other. That’s why we watch these movies right? To see tiny scared people running away from giant monsters and then one giant monster hit another.

So, with that in mind, I was pretty excited when I got sent two Gamera 2-packs from Shout Factory. The movie I’m talking about today is the second of a double feature on one disc that kicks off with Gamera Vs. Gyaos. Now, I know I watched that flick (from the previous year) but I couldn’t tell you whether it would fall into the category of giant monster success or failure. I can however judge Gamera Vs. Viras because it just finished and I remember every excruciating detail. This ones lands in the fail side of things.

We start off with a pretty cool looking space ship (I’m pretty sure it’s several ping pong balls on a structure with some mini antenna glued on, but it looks better than a lot of CGI space ships out there) fighting Gamera in space. Good start. But after that, we find ourselves following two little kids as they drive around the ocean in a minisub that brings them into contact with Gamera (if you’re not familiar, he’s basically Godzilla, but a giant turtle) who then finds himself caught in a force bubble created by the aliens he fought earlier (or some of their friends, I didn’t quite catch the difference).

As you might expect the aliens have a mad on for Gamera and want to kill him. So what do they do? Watch 15 minutes or so of footage from previous Gamera movies to see his weaknesses. The aliens then capture the children and use them to bribe Gamera into destroying buildings and cities (points for that). See, the aliens are looking for a planet to inhabit because theirs doesn’t work anymore. The aliens then try to bribe the government by saying they’ve got two little boys on board. Doesn’t seem like a very solid strategy to me. Two little kids for the safety of an entire planet? I wouldn’t like those odds if I was one of those little kids.

When the movie isn’t wasting time following children around or showing footage from previous installments of the series, it does sport some pretty good special effects. I’m a huge fan of the guy in a rubber suit crashing through a to-scale version of a city. In fact, I’ve often thought of building my own, putting on the monkey suit my mom made for me in college and filming it for funsies. I’ve already mentioned the spaceship, but the sets look pretty good and there’s even a weird squid thing that’s kind creepy. And Gamera looks great all around.

I’m wondering if these movies are actually aimed at kids. Like how Goonies was an action/adventure/treasure hunt movie for kids. The kids seem smarter and braver than all the adults around them and are deemed important enough by the aliens to be used as ransom. Heck, they even have the respect of a giant turtle. The whole thing feels a little bit like that old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Moby Dick where the two kids in SCUBA gear would get into adventures and then their giant whale friend would swoop in and save the day. I think I’ve got more respect for the movie if that really is the case and could see showing this one to my kids in the future because it’s not what I want in a giant action movie: intensity and brutal battles. Heck, he doesn’t even fight a brand new giant monster until the last 10 minutes!

For an adult, this movie makes no sense. It wastes huge amounts of times, somehow bribes a giant monster with two children (how are they even in contact with him?) plus they still thing they can control the big turtle after the boys are free. How does that make any sense? They try to salvage things at the end by having a regular sized squid monster decapitate five humans, spawn five more squid creatures out of their dead bodies and then absorb them to make a giant monster for Gamera to fight, but by then it’s too little too late. I don’t think even the most epic giant monster battle could save this flick which is not something to be worried about because there’s a lot of Gamera falling over and kids calling his name before he finally SPOILER wins.