Monday, December 26, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)

Gamera 3 is everything you could want from a Gamera movie and much much more. I'm once again forced to hammer home the point, that it's movies like this that make me incredibly harsh towards things like Godzilla. The fact that an underbudgeted film coming from a franchise that's often mocked for being a knockoff, can pull off so much more than any Godzilla film has from any era, is a real testament to Gamera and these films he put out in the late 90's.  You heard that right. This film is superior to almost every single Godzilla film out there. It tops Destoroyah, it tops Giant Monsters All Out Attack, it tops Tokyo S.O.S., really the only film I can't see it topping is the original 1954 film,  and I'll go ahead and say I do enjoy the 2014 Godzilla a bit more, but I don't like comparing Japanese and American filmmaking...too much. With all this said, is Revenge of Iris perfect? No. It's got flaws, but it did take some notes from the shortcomings of Legion, and did improve the story.

Iris gives us a much darker tone of any Gamera movie. Before this film, Gamera had always been looked at as this hero of a monster. During the Showa, he and Godzilla shared many common traits in these films, but during the Heisei era, Godzilla turned more back into that enemy he's commonly known as. Gamera wasn't exactly a hero persay in the Heisei era, but he was no enemy of humanity. He fought and defended them, but humanity still had contingencies for Gamera. Well, here they nearly completely drop the hero side of Gamera, and the result is easily the darkest Gamera film you'll ever watch to date. Here, Gamera is responsible for a lot of destruction, and death, and it results in a child growing up with a huge grudge against the Guardian, and bonding with a monster that nearly kills him. This take on Gamera is so unique, so unthinkable, a child hating Gamera, that it's just...wonderful to watch.

Now it should be said that the story isn't perfect, but again, it does improve on the last film. One thing I found disappointing was that despite Gyaos having a bit of a roll in this film, there's not too much action involving Gyaos here.  Which is a damn shame because Gyaos looks absolutely...wonderful in this film. The effects crew need to be credited with this film, because the effects aren't as dated as previous Gamera films, and they look just...wonderful. more on this shortly though. They manage to have some fun with the story, and their characters. Almost to the point of it being ridiculously silly. I had a small laugh at the family who apparently guards this tomb which houses the monster Iris. The thing is they barely do anything in the movie, and the only one that does contribute to the plot, in the form of a decent love interest, is always getting thrown around. I'm surprised he lived in this movie honestly. Yeah the family of Guardians does a pretty lousy job in this film, but they're still likable. We also get the returning characters like Asagi in this movie, and they do have a better role than in the pervious film. They help flesh Gamera out more in this film, and explain a bit more about how things are with him better than in the previous films. 

Are there forgettable characters? Oh absolutely. There are some characters in this movie that I found entertainingly bad. Like this one weirdo who keeps on claiming that the end of humanity is near and whatnot. He always has this weird smile glued to his face, like someone in the Purge movies might have. And he has the most laughable last words ever. The ceiling of a train station is coming down on him, and his last words are along the lines of "Oh my! This is indeed very scary!" I had a good laugh at that. There's also this girl who...honestly I can't even remember, but she dies after trting to pray all the evil away or something, and crazy guy just kinda laughs as she dies. You also got the family of the girl who hates Gamera...who dies, except for her kid brother, who's barely in the movie anyway, and so on and so forth. The characters are strong, but not all of them are exactly memorable or serve purpose to the overall story.

But my God, you just don't care when you see the monsters on screen. The action in this movie is absolutely phenomenal. EASILY the best I've seen from any Japanese monster film. It's quick, it's destructive, it's intense, even intimidating. It's kinda scary to see Gamera bring so much death upon humans. One might think it something that doesn't work, but I believe it strangely only strengthens this story out. Whenever Gamera is on screen, which ironically isn't much in this movie now that I think about it, you're going to have a lot of fun watching. But even when he's not, when we're getting introduced to Iris, or whatnot, there's something in this movie that holds everything together with little effort. Now I will day that I still kinda think Legion is the better monster compared to Iris, but Iris is still one of those really fun monsters that Godzilla just can't seem to create nowadays. Intimidating, cool origins, powerful, and unique. It just continues to up the ante against Godzilla. And needless to say, the fight Gamera has with Iris is absolutely stellar. Again, no monster fight in Japan has ever looked so damn good. 

If you're reading these, and are a fan of Godzilla, a lot of you may not have liked my stance on these films. Me claiming how a vast majority of them are so damn superior to Godzilla films. And this is coming from a guy who grew up with Godzilla, and still loves the big guy. Well I hope I've at least made you think a bit about why I'm so harsh towards a lot of Godzilla films now. With Gamera pulling what it did, there's no reason Godzilla films should be so...I hate saying this, but...half-assed as a lot of them are. There are way too many sequels in that franchise that completely disregard the film they're following. There are way too many plot devices, and "because movie" moments in those films. There are way too many absolutely forgettable characters, and story arcs that go nowhere. And again, there's no excuse for it. None. Not when you have a trilogy like this come and just do so much right, give a solid and satisfying beginning, middle, and end, and rise up on top when it didn't have nearly as much success or resources as Godzilla did. If you think there is an excuse, I'll be waiting to hear one. But so far, most Godzilla fans I've talked with on this matter are pretty damn stumped. I hope Toho will one day take some serious notes from this trilogy. Godzilla could be so much more than what it is right now, and while I'm thankful we did get a boost in quality in the early millennium, it still doesn't really match this trilogy. And after Godzilla Resurgence...well you all know how I feel about that film. 

So with that rant out of the way, what do I think of this third Gamera film? 

I wanted to give this film the fullest rating I could. I really did. But there are those minor annoyances that do hold it back just barely. Still, I'm giving Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris a solid three and a half star rating out of four. It is my favorite of the Gamera films, it outdoes it's predecessors at almost every turn, it ties in nicely to the previous two films of this trilogy, and concludes it wonderfully. In fact, the ending of this movie is easily one of the coolest endings of any monster movie you'll ever see. I won't dare spoil it. It's one you need to see for yourself. And it only makes me that much sadder that this is pretty much the only thing Gamera has been up to lately. While we had a new Gamera movie in the early millennium with Gamera the Brave, I've yet to see it, and have heard it does fall short of the Heisei trilogy, and there's not been much since then. And I'm a bit sad that with the fiftieth anniversary of Gamera having come and gone, not a lot was done to celebrate the Guardian of the Universe. We got a short film that many confused as a film trailer, including new, which looked incredible, but that's about it. With Godzilla now on the big screen again, I for one hope the Guardian makes his return again. He is gaining my respect more and more, and if Godzilla continues on the path he's treading...Gamera may just take his place on my list of favorite monsters out there. Time will tell. 

But that's my views on the Gamera Heisei trilogy. And with this being the last Kaiju review of the 2016's time to get myself mentally prepared for the Kong-a-thon...I hope you'll join me then as I get us ready for Kong: Skull Island. Until that time, please feel free to voice your own thoughts on your own views of this movie, leave a comment requesting a film you'd like to see me look at, and as always, thanks for reading. 

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

REVIEW: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I'm so bummed that Gareth Edwards left Godzilla. Like so much. I really like his direction and ideas of how to shoot a film. So...yeah, I was really pleased to see his concepts and ideas put to work in Rogue One. There are times where his ideas of shooting the action from a human perspective are absolutely gorgeous in this film, especially in that final act, but I can't help but feel that there's just a little something missing in the opening act of this film.  But I will say that compared to last years Star Wars project, I do believe that Disney is getting better in their Star Wars ambitions. While I thoroughly enjoyed last years film, I can't help but feel in my excitement of seeing it, that certain things escaped my critique. There were a lot of unanswered questions. If I we're to rate that film again right now, I'd probably score it a 3, as compared to my original 3.5 rating out of four. However, with Rogue One, Star Wars remains in somewhat safer territory, telling a story in the universe we already know. That's what this is, a Star Wars Story. A story about the first major victory that's talked about in the opening scroll of the very first Star Wars film we ever saw. And it's as enjoyable as ever.

But despite this, I cannot help but feel there is something missing from this film. Particularly in the first half. I couldn't make connections to many characters, I didn't really care about any of the conflicts being presented, and I just couldn't get invested in a lot of what was going on. They try to blur the lines as they so often try to do with this universe with the line of good and evil, and honestly...that's just not really possible in this universe. Star Wars has the most obvious villains, and the most obvious heroes. So when I see the films primary antagonist at the beginning of this film tackling about the extreme that will ensure peace, you have no reason to side with him...because you know what they're talking about. In fact, I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that from the very beginning, you'll know how the film will end. So I am kinda left with this underwhelming feeling that can come from the prequel films, knowing how things will end. But unlike the prequel films, this film actually tries to have a decent plot without so many obvious plot holes, and that's the strength of this film for me.

Right off the bat, I was a bit surprised actually at the lack the the traditional opening scroll. This film instead just kinda gets the ball rolling, and I didn't mind that too much. The visuals are all wonderfully done, all to a musical score that might as well have come from John Williams himself. I'm telling you all, Michael Giacchino is your go to guy right now. I wish he would have taken a few more risks with the score to give it his own personal touch and whatnot, but he does the music proud in this film, and they could not have had a better substitute. Yes right off the bat, the film does its job of looking and sounding like a Star Wars movie, but whether a different writing team may have been needed or not, the film takes its time in getting the ball rolling.

The characters are characters that I really really REALLY want to like. In ways they remind me a bit of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but they're not that interesting, they're not really fleshed out as other characters in this universe are when we first see them, and I just couldn't make the connections I wanted to make. The Force Awakens on the other hand did an incredible job of introducing us to new characters. Despite knowing so little about her, we have made so many connections to Rey, and there are God knows how many theories regarding just who she is. And Finn is fleshed or wonderfully in that movie, and it easily makes one of my favorite characters in this entire franchise. I don't get any of that here. And I'm sad to say that this was one of the same problems that the Gareth film Godzilla (2014) faced. While I like that movie a lot, our main protagonist in Ford Brody really just wasn't as interesting as his father Joe, who's killed 30 minutes in. I want to lime these characters, I think they're all really unique, really fun characters that with proper development, really would have made me enjoy this film so much more. The blind force worshiper, and his gunner Guardian, the reprogrammed imperial Droid  (which my friend actually made a character like in this tabletop game we play), the imperial pilot, they're all TONS more interesting than our leading roles in Jyn and Cassian! I want to learn more about THEM!

We also get our fair share of cameos from the original film itself, my favorite being Grand Moff Tarkin. Thought I was gonna say Vader, didn't you? Don't lie. Tarkin to me was the one antagonist I always wanted to see more of. I hated that he was killed off so soon. So seeing him play a decently central role in this film was a huge treat to me, but I gotta address the elephant in the room here, because the CGI they use on his face stands damn much. I didn't want to focus so much on this, but there were times I thought his cheek had a mind of its own. His face just doesn't look that convincing. I loved his role, but they probably should have gone the makeup route. And yes, without spoiling anything, you'll get your taste of Vader, and the taste is good. Though I'll say certain cameos were completely unnecessary, I also loved the minor cameo appearances of the Red and Gold leaders of the first film. And let me tell you, THEY looked really convincing.

And speaking of Red and Gold leader, it's time to talk about the action, and it's this film that will slightly raise the bar for future Star Wars films. Gareth is absolutely phenomenal in directing action. He tends to shoot it at ground level as a person would see it happen a lot of the time, and it's absolutely phenomenal. The ground combat is some of the most enjoyable combat the franchise knows. I daresay it rivals the Battle of Hoth. The first time I saw those massive AT-AT walkers appearing in the smoke of battle, I got chills. And finally seeing some Space Combat in these new films, a trait absent in The Force Awakens, it really does show off just what the future can hold for this franchise under Disney. It's absolutely incredible to watch the first major victory of the Rebel Alliance unfolding before your eyes. It's full of tension, suspense, and a lot of the time, you really don't know what exactly is going to happen.

So while flawed, I'm giving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a three star rating out of four. It intrigued me once things began to get rolling. Does Gareth need to improve his lead roles? Yes he does. Let this film be a fair warning to him on that. I think he's a great director, but there is room for improvement. But what he gets right in this film, he does with flying colors. This film does a great job of adding just a bit more life into this beloved franchise, and yes....I may as well say it, it is my favorite prequel. I'm funny.

Please feel free to request any movie you'd like to see me tackle. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

Monday, December 19, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)

Gamera 2 continues the excellence I've come to expect from these films in more ways than one, but I will say that this film isn't as good as its predecessor. Despite some really awesome action, some really cool concepts, and one really really REALLY badass Kaiju, it does suffer a few problems that nagged at me, both in the film kaif, and technicals. But don't let that fool you into thinking I don't like this film, because nothing could be so very untrue. It does need to be said that much like its predecessor, this film does outshine a vast majority of the Godzilla films that came out during the Heisei era.

So what are my problems with the film then? If it's still impressing me in ways Godzilla failed to do, what is wrong with the film. The biggest issue that I can really say that nagged at me the most was the lack of a connection to mossy of the human characters here. Of the trilogy of Gamera during Heisei, I do remember this being the one film I just couldn't connect fully with. Granted, watching it just now, in my condition where I was a bit tired, and facing a little holiday exhaustion, I can't exactly say I was on the right mindset to watch this. If I were to watch it again, more relaxed and awake, I might be able to connect more. But despite everything, I just didn't feel much of a connection to our human characters of this film, so when they did things on screen, I didn't find myself caring too much for what they did, and whatnot. I'm thankful they didn't become Godzilla type of characters, characters so weak they may as well be cutouts in a film of the 40's, but they were missing something. I enjoyed watching the commanding officer in the army as he debated firing against Gamera, or supporting him, but not much else really stood out to me. Even the returning character from the previous film,  Asagi, didn't really have much of a role in this film. And pardon the minor spoiler here, but by the end of this film, she loses her spiritual connection to Gamera. But...didn't that happen last film? Am I missing something here?

And I gotta express my frustration at the subtitles of this movie. The DVD I own just....can't stop messing up. I'm sure the translations themselves are fine, but...why are they so delayed? I mean that too. Credit where credit is due, they did a better job translating out newspaper headlines and locations thankfully, but it's like the subtypes had to load or think about what was being said before displaying it. If I'm being unclear, I'll try my best to explain what I mean. One character is talking to another character, and he says a generic line like... "Gamera is on his way to Tokyo. Shall we intervene?" However he only says this in Japanese, and I get no translation for a second or two. Then character two starts talking,  and gives a generic line,  "Yes. Deploy all defensive units around Tokyo at once! We cannot take chances!" But by the time he saying this, the subtitles are translating out what the other character just said. This at times can get so annoying, so frustrating, and so confusing, that I had to finish the movie at home, because my Blu-ray of this film doesn't do such a God awful job of translating. Maybe it's just the company that did the dvd or collection or whatnot, but these subtitles are awful. Someone's they barely stayed on the screen for a second! They're subtitles! How hard can it be to get these things right???

Okay now that I got that out of my system, what is actually good about this movie? Well pretty much everything. I will say the story suffers a bit due to the weaker characters, but the concepts, the monsters, the action is all absolutely wonderful to behold. I don't wanna say this, but if Toho or any other film company in Japan wanted to remake the classic 1954 monster movie, Them!, this is a really good film to watch. There were a lot of times this film seemed to draw from that old film, and I love that. Them! I feel at times doesn't get enough credit for what it did to influence giant monster films. It's easily one of the best creature features I know.

The story centers on these mysterious alien life forms that fall to earth in a freak meteor shower. When it's discovered that these alien life forms invade planets by launching themselves into space, by means of building up oxygen in the atmosphere, the nation must rely on Gamera, as there's just so much oxygen around these plants that any attack from the military would be risky. While this is one of the more far fetched plots of Gamera, I do like how they flesh out this race of Monsters. No other Kaiju movie I know has put so much effort into gotta these things live, how they act, or whatnot. Even how they move! Not even Godzilla 2014 has done that, and they actually made an effort to flesh out their monsters and their origins. Most of the time Godzilla films hand-wave it away. STOP IT, TOHO! Make me interested in these many monsters you shove in my face!

Speaking of the monsters, holy shit Legion is amazing. You can say what you want about the quality of Gamera films compared to Godzilla films (unless it's Heisei, because Gamera is superior there, period), but the Gamera films do know how to make some intimidating, unique, and really cool Kaiju. I thoroughly believe Gyaos is more intimidating than Rodan. I thoroughly believe that Knifehead from Pacific Rim was influenced by Guiron. And despite being in a shamefully horrible movie, Zigra is a really cool idea, and design that needs to be used again (minus the musical back because that was stupid). And Legion continues this awesome tradition of the very fun Kaiju that get so little attention. Why do we not have more swarm-like Kaiju? This is why I love Them! so much, the tight of hundreds of thousands of giant ants the size of cars is scary! Those things can lift 50 times their own body weight! How is that NOT intimidating? If the swarm factor isn't enough, just LOOK at Legion! Most of these monsters I can tell someone is just in some rubber suits. Legion? Not so much. All those limbs, the structure of the body it looks fantastic! And his abilities might even give GODZILLA a run for his money! Legion really is one of the coolest monsters I've seen in any Kaiju film, and he really does steal the show here.

Which brings me to the action, which is very similar to that seen in Godzilla VS Destoroyah. There's plenty of monster brawling, but there's also a lot of action involving humans, and it can get really gruesome. The opening scenes of this movie can be incredibly bloody. The fact that it's this series, originally a children's series, that continues to be the bloody mess of Kaiju films is something that continues to confuse me, but does show just how far this franchise has come. Even when it gets a little over the top, there's nothing that made me think of it being too stupid or whatnot. It's one big treat to my inner monster fan.

When all is said and done, I do enjoy this film in more ways than one, despite a few steps taken back from the previous film. But despite everything, it still stands in a league of its own compared to most of the other Godzilla films. I'm not joking when I say that Toho needs to start taking some serious notes for their future Godzilla movies. I'm sure they got most of Japan eating right out of their hands with their films right now, but me? I'll continue to ask for more from them, especially when severally inferior budgeted films like this one will leave Godzilla films in the dust.

Gamera 2: Attack of Legion earns a three star rating out of four. Despite the faults it has, it does still manage to be of enjoyable quality. Though I do understand why there might have been some debate in 1996 when this would go on to win the Nihon SF Taisho Award (the Japanese Nebula Award). It's got some really good material, but I'm sure that if I looked hard enough, there might have been a more deserving science fiction piece to get that award. But the fact that Gamera is getting awards at all in this point is a real statement to the quality of these films. If this doesn't convince some fans out there that these films are actually worth looking into, I don't know what will convince you.

Feel free to request any film you'd like me to have a look at. Leave a comment down below on your own thoughts of the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

Monday, December 12, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Gamera! Gamera!
Hirohito Gamera!
Hirohito Gamera!
Hirohito GAM-ER-AAAA!!!

I can never resist that silly song. Thank you for taking a lot at the start of my reviews of the Gamera Heisei trilogy, which will wrap up 2016! But before I get into Guardian of the Universe, I should probably just talk Gamera real quick. Unlike Godzilla, who I got into in elementary school, I wouldn't get into Gamera, or even hear about him for years to come. I estimate, high school years. Unlike Godzilla, which I can point to and say how I got into him, I cannot do the same with Gamera. Why? I guess mainly because sadly, Gamera has always been treated as a watered down version of Godzilla, and for a while, it really wasn't hard to see why. While my film critic side has seen worse movies, the Gamera movies of the Showa era were cheap, jumbled, flawed, ridiculous, and just...weird. And Japan can defend them as much as they want. They're pretty damn bad, and a number of them may even appear on my Top 25 Worst Big Monster movie list.

I don't exactly like saying this because I actually...really like the monster. As ridiculous as a giant flying fire breathing turtle sounds, I think he's one of the most unique monsters Japan ever conceived. Godzilla may be more iconic, but at the end of the day, we've seen giant dinosaur monsters before, some even predating the king of Monsters. While Gamera may have been created to try and compete with Godzilla, it's safe to say that there is nothing quite like Gamera, and there never will be. And so you can imagine my delights when I first watched his absolutely wonderful trilogy of the Heisei era. While not exactly perfect, these are the definitive Gamera films for me when it comes to the absolute best of the best...and even on a whole when it comes to giant monster films. I'm sure a lot of Godzilla diehards don't like admitting it, but this is one trilogy that I honestly believe can blow a lot of Godzilla films out of the water. Even when it comes to his absolute BEST films. Godzilla fans may not like admitting it, but...hard to say otherwise. Heck, some of you might recall how I said I kinda think Godzilla VS Destoroyah was as good as it was, because Gamera started his trilogy that year, and it kinda raised the bar. Godzilla had to take some notes. And it isn't exactly an implausible theory because guess who distributed this film, and the other two of this trilogy? guessed it. Toho. Who'd have thunk? Though I'm willing to bet even Toho lies to themselves on the existence of these films. 

If you can't already tell, I love this film. When I first watched it, I was actually shocked it was as good as it was. Like...does a Gamera film deserve to be so good? Because I hate saying this, but this one film, took almost everything I hated about the weaknesses of the Godzilla films of the Heisei...and just erased them from existence. The story is easy to follow, and interesting. The characters are ten times stronger than 90% of your average Godzilla films. And the action and effects, even if a few are a bit dated, do impress and coming from a Gamera film, a monster that's been brushed aside as a cheap Godzilla knockoff, to be accomplishing so much from one film alone? Let me tell you that there is absolutely NO excuse that Godzilla films don't meet this kind of excellence more often. And you just TRY and excuse it because of budgets. You compare the measly estimated budget of this film of only about five million yen, to a WHOPPING 12 million US dollar budget of Godzilla VS King Ghidorah and tell me that budget is an obstacle. Just you fucking try. And with the budgets of Godzilla films only getting larger, I don't buy it. Not for a second!

This first entry, marking Gamera's thirtieth anniversary, isn't a flawless product, but I'm sure that after years of the Showa nonsense, anyone watching would be pleasantly surprised. Here, they pretty much wipe the entire slate of Gamera clean. So unlike Godzilla in 1984, where they kept the original movie canon, the original movie here isn't in the same continuity. And I'm happy for that. Despite some pretty fun scenes and city destruction, that movie is rather ridiculous. Instead here, we are pretty much lead to believe that Gamera is the creation of an ancient society similar to that of Atlantis or whatnot, created when their failed creations in the Gyaos Birds destroyed their civilization. This is probably the one aspect of the story I didn't care too much for. The concept of a long lost and ancient civilization being so advanced to the point of actually being able to create Kaiju? It's just a bit much for me. As this story unfolds, you realize that though this movie is maturing and taking risks it's not done before, they do keep to the traditional Gamera sprit in multiple ways. From signature roars, to how Gamera looks when he flies, to having him in a connection of a sort with a young child. Only instead of the child being young, bratty, and annoying, we actually connect with her.

Yes it needs to be said that the characters aren't perfect, but I can tell you that I was thoroughly more interested in what any of them were doing in this movie than I was in most Godzilla films. The problem with characters in those movies is that they don't have a sense of purpose, or motivation. They're there because the script has them there. While development of the characters in this movie isn't perfect, nothing seems forced. One thing I despise about Godzilla's characters is that a lot of them in the movies get involved with each other romantically. I have nothing against this, but at times there is absolutely no development between them. A lot of the time, one character will straight up reject the other. But by the end, one is promising to show the other the world as they walk down a beach holding hands. Here, each character seemed to have a distinct purpose and role. It wasn't just some generic robot pilot, or some generic evil company owner. In fact, the humans here all worked together to fight Gyaos. Sure the military now and then opened fire on Gamera, but they still presented it in a very believable way. I think they may have even briefly mentioned the post WWII military restrictions just...barely. It's not as fleshed out as in Shin Gojira, but it's still pretty cool. And true to the Showa spirit, Gamera does form a bond with a young girl, but if you're worried about it being as stupid as the Showa series...well it's a hundred times better. Instead of Gamera just immediately becoming friends with some annoying child, there's more of a spiritual bond formed with one character, who kinda becomes this "priestess" in the story. Or something. Honestly it's not my favorite thing about the movie, seeing how they go the whole prophecy route, but it's still interestingly done.

The monsters? Intimidating, impressive, well executed, and even if I'm not completely on board with their origins, they're still given a reason to exist in this movie, aside from just having one monster fight another. I absolutely love how Gyaos is this predatory bird that preys on humans, even if at times I can't help but wonder if humans would really ever sate its appetite. Or if it would really abandon some much more meaty horses when it hears a boy on a bridge cry. And on a related note, the movie manages to put in its own little Jurassic Park "one big pile of shit" joke in there when they dig into the droppings of one and find human belongings. Ha ha movie... Oh well, it is still quite a monster to behold. And don't get me started on Gamera. His introduction scene is one of the best monster intro scenes I've ever seen (though I'll be honest the introduction of Godzilla 2014 will be very hard to top). Gamera when he first appears in this film, rises out of the bay, and immediately just slams this Gyaos bird into a power plant of a sort, in this fiery explosion, before letting out his signature roar. He just rises up, kicks ass, and takes names. Never seen Godzilla do that!

One thing I was pleasantly surprised to see was that I couldn't find ONE model in this film. While the cities are destroyed in the same ways that Godzilla films are, there was something more convincing about this film, and I don't know what. Because some of the effects are very much dated. I could also spot some unpolished areas (I'm unsure, but in one shot of a helicopter, I can't help but feel they forgot to add in the sky over a blue screen in the widow), and areas where corners were cut (they did reuse a shot if a guy rolling off the rocky alcove) and at times these effects can stand out, yet in the same way, I couldn't find ONE model tank, or model boat being destroyed. Granted they do use what appears to be stock footage of certain things in this area, but there was no obvious model destruction. And this was a trick that Godzilla was still pulling in this time! So...basically what this film has done is present a great story, with superior characters, badass monsters, and more convincing effects, whilst being severely outmatched as far as its budget is concerned??? DOES THIS MOVIE DESERVE TO BE SO DAMN GOOD???

How's the action? Why bother asking? We all know the answer, it's gruesome, it's violent, it's chaotic, it's fun, it's all one big sight to behold, even if at times there is little explanation to why things happen as they do. Like at the end, how does Gamera revive? No explanation. It just kinda happens. But for the ride I got going up to these few and far between moments of confusion, you can bet I'll be forgiving when it comes to criticism here. The fact that a Gamera movie, on a limited budget, during a time when Godzilla was dominating the Kaiju films, to just come, do its monster justice, keep the spirit of that monster in place, while giving us so much more to behold is just unheard of. I think Toho needs to watch this film again and start taking some serious notes.

My final complaint for this movie isn't so much the movies fault as it is the people who subtitled this movie. While all the dialogue is subtitled well, one thing I found myself annoyed with is the lack of a translation when it came to Japanese text. There's little blurbs and bits of text that can appear that have zero translation. Even the newspaper headlines they show don't have a translation. I'd attempt to translate myself, but haven't the slightest clue how to read Japanese. Instead i'm just left there wondering "where are we now" or what does the paper say? Mattress sale? Oh well, it's just one annoyance I have that I can't take out on the movie.

I never thought Gamera would have a film...let alone a TRILOGY of films that would rival anything Godzilla has. It seems unheard of! Yet it was, because I think the Godzilla franchise noticed it, and stepped up their game for Godzilla VS Destoroyah. While I enjoy the Heisei era of Godzilla, really there are only two films that go into the range of excellence in that film. The others can be underwhelming, nonsensical, or even just straight up...bad.   So for Gamerato just straight up surpass it on the first try? You can bet I'll be giving massive kudos to it, and you can bet I'll question if Toho has a bit of a grudge against this film...or even regrets distributing it. I don't know. I'm just happy Gamera kicks ass here.

I'm giving Gamera: Guardian of the Universe a solid three and a half star rating out of four. It's fun, it's glorious, it's thrilling, it's not perfect, but it doesn't need to be. It finally gave Gamera the justice he deserves, and it easily blows any of his Showa films out of the water, a hundred times over. It's no wonder this is often considered amongst the absolute best of Japanese daikaiju movies, and you can bet that I'm only more excited to see what part two has. But I can tell you it's still great. Let's go Gamera!

Please feel free to suggest any films you'd like to see me review. Leave a comment down below about your own thoughts to this movie and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Godzilla VS Destoroyah (1995)

Godzilla VS Destoroyah is Exhibit A when it comes to my expectations of a good Godzilla movie. Plain and simple, end of the sentence, class dismissed. This is one of the movies I look to when I set my expectations for new Godzilla movies. THIS one of the reasons I was as harsh as I was to films like Shin Gojira! Watching it again, I found myself even more surprised with certain things. The one thing on my mind right now is that I need to get myself in the Japanese cut of this film, because in Toho, this is one of the elite films of the Godzilla franchise. Is it perfect? No. It still has common flaws that plague other Godzilla films. But when putting into perspective the absolute best of the best, if this film isn't in your top five, then shame on you. And if you're wondering why I'm tackling this film this week? I got plans I want finished before January.

Watching this film, I can't help but wonder if the other five films in the Heisei era are even necessary. I mean sure, events in certain films do happen which carry over into this film, but watching this, I can't help but feel that I sat through five films of filler just to get to this film. Oh well, I'm not here to complain about the other films. Let me just say that it was well worth the wait to get to this monster of a film. So with it being as good as it is, I'll once again address my problems with it before I shower the praise. The first thing that comes to mind is the setup. I think the concept of Godzilla on a meltdown, which threatens the world is a really really cool idea, but it suffers in the way the Supernova does in the Star Trek reboot film of 2009. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, in that film, a highly unstable star explodes with such force that it threatens a good chunk of the Milky Way Galaxy. The thing is, had the comics not explained why the explosion was so powerful, you'd be left with a big sense of "bullshit". And again, you'd need to read the comics to understand that. However,  Godzilla doesn't have that kind of luxury, so we're left only with the suspense of disbelief, that Godzilla will reach a breaking point, explode/meltdown, and take the world with him. There's no explanation why. I would have liked one.

Another thing is that despite how incredibly awesome the climax is, I do feel that it is very underwhelming. In fact, it can be very deus ex machina in a way. I felt that the final killing blow of Destoroyah (pronounced Destroyer) was really not that impressive, and in a final film, that should have gotten me out of my seat cheering. I feel like we also get a bit of a forced happy ending, but I guess I'll talk a bit more about that shortly.

There is not a lot of room to complain here. I'm very impressed with this film. And I only own an English dub. Despite a few of the common flaws I've come across in all of these films, I loved the characters here, which branched from characters of the original film of 1954. You see Toho, this is one way of giving me a reason to care about your characters. That short explanation of Dr. Yamane having an adopted grandson who studies Godzilla often, and comes up with theories gives me a reason to care! Was he executed perfectly, no not at all, but I could follow him...even if he doesn't do much in this movie at times. The psychic characters, the pilots which remind me of Yuki from the last film, the scientist that invents that micro-oxygen, I feel these characters were all handled well, and contributed to the story. There is no dropped subplot, everything is here for a reason. And there was no forced romance! Thank you Toho. Now just remember how to make these characters so I can care about them again!

Another thing I'm giving props to strangely enough is the soundtrack. Despite having a lot of the common classic tracks that we've grown used to in these films (that make me glance over it most of the time), I do believe that more was done in this soundtrack to enhance it, and make it stand apart from other films. It made an impact almost immediately after it started playing, so Akira Ifukube gets some mad props from me for the kickass soundtrack here.

It doesn't take long to get the ball rolling in this film. In fact, right off the bat, Godzilla is rampaging in Hong Kong, and we see him scarred with that famous burning scar as we get that fun, but implausible end of the world threat. And we see a scientist conducting research in something eerily similar to Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer, used to kill Godzilla. This was something I actually kinda liked, despite knowing that all the work on that weapon was destroyed. And it doesn't just rehash that plot! It does give us something new, and something very intimidating I must say. The only criticism I have here is that for a bunch of people facing the end of the world, there is a lot of stubbornness. One of the older characters, I think she's also from the original movie, I guess doesn't want anything like the Oxygen Destroyer ever created...yet it's hinted at that this is the only way to save the world. And so this woman was pretty much willing to destroy the world so that the thing that could save the world, which was used to save Japan before, doesn't get made again...woman I see where you're coming from, but to quote Spock... "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." This is the end of the world we're talking about! Let them make the damn thing.

This whole thing sets in motion one of the coolest stories of the entire franchise, and builds up one of the coolest monsters Godzilla will ever fight. Destoroyah. What I like about this best is that he's not just a big monster to fight Godzilla. It's this plethora of creatures that tangles with soldiers, can swarm Godzilla, combine itself, and has some really awesome powers, Destoroyah is just a beast in this, and he looks badass. Godzilla? Why even bother talking about him? He's Godzilla.  His roar is fantastic, the burning is brutal...even Godzilla Junior was somewhat charming. Never thought I'd say that.

And if the monsters themselves weren't fun, the action...easily the best of the franchise. While I still think the overall effects look slightly better in Godzilla VS Mothra: Battle for Earth, the intensity, and gruesome atmosphere of these battles is on a whole other level than anything of the Heisei era. And I could be somewhat mistaken, but I do believe some of that success owes a thank you to a certain film which began its trilogy earlier that same know the one.  Regardless, each monster fight is an absolute treat to watch, and you will get your fair share of them, because it feels like the entire second half of this movie is pretty much a big monster fight. And it's not just monster fights. There is plenty of action that involves the humans, and it is all wonderful to watch. At times is actually downright intimidating. It's a fun cherry on top, even if the monster fights are the main spectacle here.  Of course by the end, I was slightly put off by the forced happy ending, and a little underwhelmed by the lack of showing us what exactly they were describing. What I mean by that is they pretty much declare Tokyo to be an uninhabitable wasteland, but they don't really show us anything of it. A little showing of the consequences after the fight would have been great. Then we get the forced happy ending with Godzilla Junior...suddenly alive as the new King of Monsters. No explanation, despite getting obliterated by Destoroyah, he's alive and well. And the fact that we only see a split second of it just kinda irritates me. A little more explanation as to what happened after Destoroyah is defeated and Godzilla melts down (spoiler) would have been very much appreciated, and we don't get that. And before anyone asks, no, I didn't cry at that scene. I doubt a Godzilla movie will ever make me cry.

Regardless of these few flaws, Godzilla VS Destoroyah is still among the absolute best of the best. I'm actually gonna put my foot down and I say that out of all the current films that have ended Godzilla eras, from Destroy All Monsters to Final Wars, this is the best of them. When I say I hold Togo to expectations of a Godzilla movie they actually try on, this is a perfect example. It's not a best picture, I'm not even sure I wanna call it the best Godzilla film. But I can tell that they tried harder here than they did with other Godzilla films that I've been harsh towards. The characters aren't perfect, but I still liked them. The story isn't flawless, but it's still exciting. And despite it being so  present in this film,  I don't just consider this to be some big monster brawl fest. It's a satisfying conclusion to one of the best series of films in this franchise, which isn't afraid to take a few risks, and even give us afew nostalgic moments here and there without leaning on it. 

It's my go to example of a proper story closing in this franchise, and therefore it easily gets one very solid three and a half star rating out of four. As much potential it did have to gain that full four star rating, there are flaws that do get at me that withhold it from that rating, but that should not matter to you because this film is amongst the best, if not the absolute best of the Heisei Era, maybe even topping Godzilla (1984). So don't question it, just watch it. It's awesome. It's spectacular. It's mind blowing.  A film I'm happy to end this marathon with. And I'd have it no other way.

And that's it! That's the final Heisei Godzilla film (even if technically Godzilla is still in the Heisei era)! I'm done, and I gotta say I'm kinda thankful. You might think watching a lot of Godzilla in consecutive weeks isn't that big a deal, but when you're 26, and have a hobby of film critique, let me tell you, even with the nostalgia goggles, Godzilla doesn't always leave a good taste in your mouth. And despite my love for the Big G...a lot of the time, his movies are really silly ludicrous. Even if the final film was wicked radical.  I need a beak from Godzilla. So....


Gamera! Gamera! Hirohito Gamera! Hirohito Gamera! Hirohito GAM-ER-AAAA!!!

See you all next week when I tackle the Heisei trilogy of everybody's favorite giant flying fire-breathing turtle monster. But until then, feel free to request any film you'd like to see me review, leave a comment down below explaining how you felt about this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Friday, December 2, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Critics log,  Stardate 11612.5. While on routine patrol, the Enterprise encountered a phenomenon in space in the form of a large crystal-like asteroid, whilst on my continuing mission to become a real authority figure in giant monster films.  Our sensors couldn't get a clear reading of the material of this strange bizarre asteroid, but our readings do indicate that there is one single life form within the Asteroid, with DNA readings remarkably similar to that of Godzilla. What's more, the Asteroid is on a direct collision path with Earth. Normally I'd advise a red alert, and warn  Earth of the danger, or advise the captain to fire a couple Quantum Torpedoes, and simply destroy the Asteroid (because I'm a man, and apparently all men think about is killing everything), but then I remembered two movies ago in which a meteor fell into the sea and nothing bad happened at all. I've decided to name this new life form SpaceGodzilla...because I have no originality in names. If it lands on Earth, let's hope Godzilla will wake up in a blaze of stock footage intros and fight off his biggest enemy yet...himself from space.

Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla is the Godzilla movie that made me realize one very important thing; Man...Godzilla is a terrible father. That and apparently all men are the same and just wanna kill all things we don't understand. (I think the writers needed to meet Gene Roddenberry...okay I'll try and ease up on the Star Trek references). So to be blunt,  Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla is honestly pretty harmless. Despite the silly characters, some mediocre action, and inclusion of Little Godzilla (I forgot he was here), the film is surprisingly entertaining. What's even more silly? Apparently this is one of the Godzilla films a lot of fans don't care for. So...if I'm getting this right, films I have problems with such as King Ghidorah and MechaGodzilla are loved by the fans. But films I'm okay with don't get much love from the fans? Am I missing something here?

Okay, so since this film is on my good side for the most part, I'll go ahead and address my problems firstly, and right off the bat, I'm kinda peeved that I feel this film does some slight false advertising. Look at the poster. Take a good long look at it. Notice something? Mothra is there. But in the film, Mothra barely has a role at all. In fact the ONLY time we see Mothra is where we saw her (him?) flying through space to go and destroy that meteor that's supposed to destroy the world in 1999. Why not make the SpaceGodzilla meteor the meteor in question, and give Mothra more of a role in this film? Nope, one shot of Mothra and two scenes with the Cosmos, and their only role in this film is to give physic character the "Game over, you won" message...great...TWO things I detest are in this movie.

I also don't like the name SpaceGodzilla. I just think the name is lazy. Why not give him a bit of a more exotic name. I can think of a few right off the bat. NovaGodzilla, CrystalGodzilla (okay that one's still pretty silly but it at least fits a bit if you ask me), I honestly just think a name like SpaceGodzilla is silly. It's like calling MechaGodzilla, RobotGodzilla. Pretty lame, right? Space is full of wonders, and crazy terms. Experiment more.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually kinda like the characters of this film. I actually...get this...I actually REMEMBER some names. Yuki, Goji, Miki...though to be fair I remembered Yuki because I have a Japanese friend by that name, and Goji is just...way too easy to remember. Maybe it's Gojifan93? Wouldn't that be a riot. But regardless of me liking these characters, they still suffer from the common underdevelopment and cutout personalities that Toho has repeatedly given us. And will continue to give us. And it does need to be said that there are characters here that I never quite understood. Like the two soldier guys not including Yuki, who say they're working on Project T, yet continuously wanna aid Yuki in his quest to kill Godzilla (making Miki continuously whine about how men only wanna kill Godzilla and whatnot which is silly stupid)? Yuki hates Godzilla because I guess his brother died in Godzilla VS Biollante, and apparently all three of them are qualified pilots for the discount MechaGodzilla of this film. There's also the two generic love interests (okay seriously, Toho,  you're terrible at developing romance in these movies), and one's a psychic...allow me to take a small break here.

One thing I've been meaning to talk about in all these films is the presence of psychics. I wouldn't have a problem with it, if they were actually just used good. A lot of the time, they're just there for the sake of being there. Before now, no other psychic character in these films has had a purpose. So I was actually kinda interested in this physic character here, but despite the bigger role, the execution is just off. I laughed at one scene where the writers of this film just straight up gave her telekinesis without any explanation. She literally was like, "Yeah I never tried it until now." Beginners luck? Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Final Wars. "We escaped somehow!" Yeah the characters are no strongsuit of this film, and a lot of their subplots go nowhere. Like Project T, that thing they focus on so heavily in this film is kinda dropped and dead on arrival. It barely plays a part at all in this film, which is a shame, because I was actually really interested to see what they were doing with it. 

The story honestly gets jumbled in ways similar to Mechagodzilla II. It's thankfully easier to follow, even if some things are never explained or whatnot. The Cosmos warn Miki of SpaceGodzilla, and then SpaceGodzilla arrives, has a fight with Godzilla, then imprisons Little Godzilla. High five Spacey! Actually...I won't lie, I got some inner pleasure watching SpaceGoji brutally attacking little Godzilla. Hey, it just hammers home the fact that Godzilla is a terrible father. "Son, you stay on this island with this guy who wants to see me dead, while I go live in the sea. What could possibly go wrong? You know aside from tear gas mines and space Kaiju?"

As for the monsters themselves, I'm pleasantly surprised. Godzilla looked better than last film, and though his atomic breath wasn't as good looking as Mothra, it did look better than the previous film. The one thing I didn't like was that his high pitched roar was used...excessively. At times it didn't even make sense. I never liked his high pitched roar as I just feel it's bad sound editing, but beforehand, it was used mainly when he was suffering an attack. I could see why they used it. Here, they use it whenever he's on screen. Whether he's being attacked, or just walking on the beach. Heck, when he arrives in the city, I swear he roars high pitched. Did his threatening roar crack or something?  SpaceGodzilla also looks pretty fun honestly. I love the crystal design. And the roast which can mirror that of Biollante? It's a neat callback to what happened in that film. M.O.G.U.E.R.A. though I don't really care for. To have this be declared as the ultimate Godzilla weapon in a film after MechaGodzilla....kinda disappointing. Compare this to what they had last film and just try and tell me that it's a better weapon. Just try. More like a big robot turkey. 

And thankfully, the action is better than Mechagodzilla. The brutality is back. It was really cool to see the large crystal formations on SpaceGoji's back explode as they did. But in the same way, a lot of it is really stupid to the point of it being silly, and the scene that immediately comes to mind is the space battle between Moguera and SpaceGodzilla. It's one of the things that I can safely say is so bad, that it's good. Why? Because I'm wondering if they even tried with it. The environment, the's so hysterically fake. The asteroids are plastic, Moguera looks like a discount transformers toy...I had a good laugh. I also laughed at the absurdity of SpaceGoji's tail impaling Moguera, and actually being powerful enough to lift the thing and throw it across the city. PSYCHICS! It's the one blotch on some otherwise pretty decent action. And again...the Mini-zilla beating was fun.

Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla is getting a two and a half star rating out of four from me. I wanted to rate it a bit higher, five it that full three star rating, but I do believeit kinda misses that, just barely. Despite a lot if likable traits, the story just doesn't do it for me. In a film where the real strength is the characters, odd a Godzilla movie, I'm surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. I probably won't revisit it anytime soon, unless I get the original Japanese version of it (this did suffer from some funny English dubbing), but hey, it definitely wasn't as flawed as some other films I've seen in this series.

Feel free to request any films you'd like to see me take a look at. Leave a comment down below telling me of your own thoughts on this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 2.5/4

Hey...there's only one film in the Heisei Era left in Godzilla's lineup! Praise the Lord it's almost over! I'm almost free!!!