torsdagen den 24:e april 2014

50 years of Godzilla - Part 2. The Heisei years.

16. Gojira 84 aka Godzilla 85 (1984)

The rebirth of Godzilla in this direct sequel to the original is not entirely succesful, at least as far as actually being a sequel. It does not have the same darkness and the pathos for the creature sometimes borders on the ridiculous, a lot thanks to the bombastic score. It worked better when Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear destruction, that point doesn't really come across here other than a slight nudge to the cold war and the fear of total nuclear war.

But still, it is one hell of a comeback after all the lame movies that fukuda directed when Godzilla was nothing more than Ultraman with a tail. There is plenty of mass destruction here and the special effects are excellent. It it quite refreshing to watch Godzilla cause massive mayhem, something we really havent seen since maybe Destroy all monsters.

Godzilla vs Biollante is quite an oddity. To call the plot outlandish is truly an understatement and certain parts of it are goofy beyond belief, the whole bit about the soul of a dead girl in a rose is just wow, what the hell were you thinking. It is also pretty damn slow to begin with and filled with typically awful nonjapanese actors that have worse understanding of the english language than most japanese. Then there is the score, taken straight out of a Steven Spielberg movie and totally unsuitable for this movie, apart from the damn ending with Biollantes final scenes for which it is perfect (not a particulary good thing).

But enough complaining now. Godzilla vs Biollante is much more than that. As soon as Godzilla enters the scene we get a fine piece of engaging Kaiju with a lot of excellent special effects and a short but sweet final showdown between the title beasties. Biollante might have an exceptionally silly backstory but as a creature she is awesome, a giant heap of teeth and tentacles that should have had more screentime than it got. Just get past the really dull first forty minutes and you are in for one fine treat.

Another solid entry in the Godzilla saga, this one has a pretty damn overcomplicated and still incredibly silly plot featuring timetravel and androids. But who cares really, Godzilla is in great shape trashing a lot of buildings and even better, we get King Ghidorah transformed into Mecha-King Ghidorah! YEAH, MECHA-KING GHIDORAH! Woohoo!!

19. Gojira tai Mosura aka Godzilla vs Mothra (1992)

Godzilla vs Mothra tries very hard with its ultracheesy plot about the earth fighting back against pollution with Mothra and Battra being opposite sides of it and Godzilla, uh, caught in the middle. It kinda works but you do vomit in your mouth a little when the leads little daughter gets involved and gets to cheer for Mothra. Still, far from the vile, sickening cuteness of Minya.

But, as it always is, everything comes down to the special effects and monsters and G vs M does contain a lot of Godzilla on building related violence. The final thirty minutes are pretty damn cool actually and though the movie is a bit too long it is a fun watch.

I'm not sure that introducing Baby Godzilla was such a good idea but it sure as hell isn't as hateworthy a character as Minya. Fortunately the movie that spawned it is an excellent one with some pretty damn sweet fights with lots of cool destruction. The new Mechagodzilla is fricking great and Akira Fukubes score is awesome, bringing back a lot of themes (and goosebumps) from the past.

And it's always nice to have Rodan back, at least for a while.

The story in this one is just as insane as Godzilla vs Biollante, with cells from Godzilla ending up in space and sucked into a black hole, thus creating Space Godzilla. Uh, sure. Ok. There is even more silliness involving Baby Godzilla and the first half is pretty dull with several characters whose motivations seems to have been forgotten in the editing room.

BUT, and this is a big one, the last half is basically a fifty minute long fight between Godzilla, Space Godzilla and new robot Moguera. And it's just plain awesome. Space Godzilla, however silly its origin story may be, is one hell of a creature and if you get past the first half you will be rewarded with plenty of rubbermonstergoodness.

The final movie of the Heisei series is one hell of a finale with one of the best plots of the series, with Godzillas heart (a nuclear reactor) going into meltdown while creatures spawned by new experiments on the Oxygen destroyer is wreaking havoc on Tokyo. The message might be a bit heavyhanded (lots of somber speeches on mans folly) and there is a little less giant monster action than in the previous movies but it's all forgiven when we come to the slam bang finale which features some of the best monster on monster action of the entire run but is also both sad and powerful.

The Heisei series is probably the most consistent of the three different series, all of the movies are more than decent kaiju although they do tend to be a bit too long.

onsdagen den 23:e april 2014

50 years of Godzilla - Part 1. The Showa years.

Godzilla has been a big part of my life for the last thirty years, ever since walking out of the videostore with a vhstape of Rymdmonstren anfaller (Invasion of the astromonsters aka Godzilla vs Monster Zero) and I was hooked instantly. It is now sixty years since the first Godzilla appeared in Japanese cinema and burst forth as a true monster icon. 28 movies has been made so far (I do not count the American edits of Gojira and Gojira 84 or that Emmerich monstrosity) and this seemed like a good time to watch every single one of them in order. So here is the first part, the Showa years.

1. Gojira (1954)

It is truly amazing that the original Godzilla turns sixty this year and still packs quite a punch thanks to its not so subtle Hiroshima and Nagasaki metaphor. Yes, you can bitch and whine how much you want about it being just a silly monstermovie with a goofy puppet and a man in a suit destroying toy buildings but then I'm pretty damn sure you haven't actually seen the original movie, just some of the not so serious movies that followed in the wake of its success. This is dark, bleak stuff with children being terminally radiated and toddlers crying over the loss of their mothers. The scenes of mass destruction still hold up incredibly well and while obvious miniatures they are staged and shot with total perfection. The only flaw that the movie has is the ending. While somber and suitably dark it still comes off a bit anticlimactic, especially after the supreme carnage that came before it. A masterpiece and an iconic monster, it's no wonder it got twenty-seven sequels.

2. Gojira no Gyakushū’aka Godzilla raids again (1955)

Watching this one straight after the wonderful original was not a good thing. It is so much more strangely lightweight and silly, with the overcranked fightscenes not helping at all. With that said I would lie if I told you it was a boring movie, on the contrary. As far as kaiju goes this is a fun flick with a lot of rubbersuited action, its just lacks the superb mood of the original.

3. Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira aka King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

With King Kong vs Godzilla the series goes into full cheese mode and I really don't see any point opposing that, the entertainment value is enormous. There is a lot of cool footage of nice miniatures being smashed to pieces and the sight of King Kong trying to ram a tree down Godzillas throat is hilarious. You really can't hate this.

And that apesuit? God damn it's ugly. It looks fermented. I bet it smelled like Hákarl, that Icelandic rotten shark dish.

4. Mosura tai Gojira aka Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)

I've always had the opinion that I didn't like Mothra that much. I mean, who wants a "good" monster?! But after rewatching Mothra vs Godzilla I realize that I have been wrong all this time. Mothra is an excellent adversary to Godzilla (back in the days when Godzilla still was a force of destruction) and Mothra vs Godzilla is a damn fine piece of Kaiju. Heck, even the Peanuts are cute and belong in the plot. There is a lot of excellent special effects and the Godzilla suit is at its prime. I'm getting that incarnation as a tattoo as soon as I get around to it, probably never.

5. San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen aka Ghidrah the threeheaded monster (1964)

This has always been a favorite of mine, with Ghidrah being a cool foe and the ongoing fight between Godzilla and Rodan pretty damn hilarious. The special effects are top notch and the whole enterprise is just so much fun!

6. Kaijū Daisensō aka Godzilla Vs Monster Zero (1965)

This was the first Godzillamovie I saw, renting it on vhs back in the days and it's no wonder I was hooked, it is truly a scorcher of a kaijumovie. We have everything we need, silly aliens with antennas controlling monsters to take over the earth with tons of great special effects. Actually, there is surprisingly little monsteraction with most of it confined to the last twenty minutes but there is so much fun watching Nick Adams and Akira Takarada hamming it up while the evil Xians try to destroy Earth. Apart from the original, this is the Kaiju you need to see.

7. Gojira, Ebira, Mosura: Nankai no Daikettō aka Godzilla vs the Sea monster (1966)

And here is where everything began to go sour. Jun Fukudas first Godzillamovie is just too plain silly and goofy and taking Godzilla away from Tokyo is a really bad thing. Sure, there is some enjoyment out of watching Godzilla play ball with a giant lobster and the surfmusic on the soundtrack as Big G is attacked by jetplanes is quite an eyeopener but this is so far from the original darkness of the original and the quirky scififantasy of the ones before this that it becomes a chore to watch at times. At least I wasn't bored.

8. Kaijūtō no Kessen: Gojira no Musuko aka Son of Godzilla (1967)

This is just plain awful. Seriously, what the hell were they thinking? Every single scene with Godzilla fathering Minya is just cringeworthy beyond belief and the Godzilla suit looks more like the cookie monster than the mighty being he used to be. The low point of the series.

9. Kaijū Sōshingeki aka Destroy all monsters (1968)

Destroy all monsters should be so much better than it is. Sure, it is one hell of a movie compared to the previous one, the awful Son of Godzilla but it had so much potential, especially since it was directed by the master: Ishiro Honda. The problem is not with the story, it has aliens and monsters galore in a classic Evil aliens wants to take over earth using Godzilla which worked so wonderful in Godzilla vs Monster Zero. There is nary a shot without some kind of model or monster suit. And here is the problem. All the special effects and scenes of mass destruction aren't shot particulary well, you almost get the feeling that it's leftovers from a cheapo Ultraman ripoff. The cinematography is dull and everyone is dressed in yellow or silver, like someone is channeling Mario Bava on heroin and it looks just bad. The tone of the movie is pretty strange too, one second a narrator is overexplaining the plot as if telling it to a five year old and moments later someone is shot in the head. And then there is Minya. I hate Minya.

With all of that said, I don't hate the movie. There is plenty of monsters and mass destruction and the plot moves like a steamtrain, never a dull moment. There are far worse Godzillamovies, it's just that this one had so much potential.

10. Gojira, Minira, Gabara: Ōru Kaijū Daishingeki aka Godzilla's revenge (1969)

Things I learned from this movie:

Don't worry if you are bullied, dad will beat the crap out of the bully.

To gain respect you must beat the crap out of the bully

As a Kaiju flick this is pretty awful, most of it is stockfootage from earlier Godzillas apart from the silly scenes with Minya facing up to his bully, Gabara. I hate Minya. The rest of it though isn't actually that bad as a kids movie with a little kid dreaming of going to Monster island as he is by himself when his parents are working overtime. It does end on a strange note with the kid saying to his mom that they should work as much as possible so they can have a good life. Yeah kid, that helped you a lot when those criminals came around when you were by yourself. In another movie your mutilated corpse would have been dumped in a hole in that abandoned factory you like to play in all the time.

An oddity for sure but it sure as hell is about a million times better than Son of Godzilla.

11. Gojira tai Hedora aka Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)

This is just one big incoherent lsd-trip full of Kaiju, melting people, ecological messages and strange animated interludes. I love it.

12. Chikyū Kogeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan aka Godzilla vs Gigan (1972)

Godzilla vs Gigan looks nice on paper, an alien race trying to conquer earth using Ghidrah and a new and fairly cool/silly monster, Gigan. Unfortunately it just isn't much fun. A lot of the mass destruction is footage from earlier movies, something that is pretty easy to spot since there us a big difference in quality, the footage shot for this movie is not as detailed and shot mostly in closeups. It takes forever to get to the action and when you finally get there you've already grown tired of the annoying cast and the fact that Godzilla and Angillus speak to each other using speech bubbles (though it's even worse in the english dub where they actually have voices). It's not a completely worthless movie, there is some fun to be had watching the final fight and it doesn't have Minya but it's still one of the lesser Big G movies.

13. Gojira tai Megaro aka Godzilla vs Megalon (1973)

This was actually much better than I remembered it, G vs Megalon might not be that good but it's pretty damn entertaining. The plot is cheesy as hell as the people of Seatopia wants to destroy humanity using Megalon and the incredibly silly looking Jet Jaguar but of course Godzilla comes to the rescue when there is seventeen minutes left of the movie. There is a lot of stock footage (though not as much as in Godzilla vs Gigan) but the long fight in the end is fun in a pro wrestling kinda way. It's all simple fun with a funky typical seventies score and garish clothes.

I remember having some sort o discussion about Terror of mechagodzilla being the only Godzillamovie to feature nudity but G vs Megalon actually has that too, in the form of a pinup in the back of a truck. Ah, the seventies...

14. Gojira tai Mekagojira aka Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)

Jun Fukudas final Godzillamovie is his best, no doubt about that. It suffers a bit from the same syndrome as most of his movies - never really having any major mass destruction taking place in a city and it focuses too much on Godzilla as a slightly goofy force of good bit other than that it is a fine piece of kaiju. The special effects are excellent, it seems a little more money than usual was spent on them and Mecha Godzilla is one of the best baddies ever made from the series. And King Seesar? Well, maybe the idea was better than its goofy execution but he still works. Good, clean kaiju fun.

15. Mekagojira no Gyakushū aka Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Ishiro Hondas final Gojira is a solid piece of kaiju when you consider that Godzilla vs Megalon was just a few years earlier. It is also surprisingly violent and is the only Gojiramovie to feature nudity. A cool and silly plot along with a lot of mass destruction makes this a must watch for kaiju fans.

So, in short, the Showa era is filled with excellent kaiju madness though it also has some of the worst of the series. It is the most inconsistent period (the later got a lot more even, for good and bad) but also has some of the possibly best ones. Tune in for the Heisei period in the near future.

tisdagen den 22:e april 2014

Ozombie (2012)

I bet the creators of this movie sat in a bar somewhere discussing this movie, probably just having decided to make it based on the title and giggling a lot over the fact that they came up with it after four Pabst blue ribbon and a couple of shots. I have no problem with that, movies have been made for far more worse reasons.

Ozombie is one of those movies that aren't exactly bad or boring but just so average that while keeping you entertained you have to fight hard to keep your attention to it, it's oh so easy to wander off in your thoughts forgetting that you are watching a movie. It has scene upon scene of generic, unmemorable characters walking around shooting zombies in the head (a very pictueresque Utah doing a not so good job standing in for Afghanistan) while looking for zombiefied Osama Bin Ladin and that is really all there is to it. There is A LOT of zombies getting their rotten brains blown out, I swear to Godzilla that I have never seen so many headshots outside a Call of duty game. It's all cgi but actually some of the best cgiblood I have ever seen, I was actually quite impressed.

So, if you like seeing zombies being shot in the head, this is the movie for you. It's far from the best zombieflick ever made but it's technically competent with some pretty stunning cinematography and a lot of splats. It's a shame about the exceptionally bland script.

torsdagen den 10:e april 2014

El vampiro de la autopista (1970)

Let us examine the english title of this movie, Horrible sexy vampire.

Horrible, yes. An invisible vampire kills people randomly in a small german town. Why invisible? I have no idea. What I do know is that this movie has some of the worst dialogue known to man. I saw the english version and it feels like the dubbing was made up on the spot by people who had no idea of what the movie was about.

Sexy. Well, yes. The vampire mostly kills nude women after we are treated to loong scenes of undressing. Almost like a long commercial for lingerie.

Vampire. Yes, there is a vampire walking around in a typical vampire cape while not invisible (which is most of the time). He doesn't even bite his victims, he strangles them.

So at least the title is correct, it doesn't lie. It would have lied if it had been called Entertaining horrible sexy vampire or Horrible sexy vampire movie worth watching. Let's focus on the Horrible part and warn all our friends from watching this (unless they are like me and has to watch every damn spanish 70s horrormovie that exists). Sometimes my hobby is a curse. And I would buy it on a proper release.

onsdagen den 2:e april 2014

Cabin fever: Patient zero (2013)

I never saw the point of Cabin fever, it had a nice concept but the movie itself was pretty bland, going out of its way to promote itself that it was the ultimate goremovie when it was nowhere near that (see the pattern here? Eli Roths next movie was the similarily overrated Hostel). Cabin fever 2 upped the gorequota severely bur it didn't really help when it turned out to be one of the worst sequels ever made. Seriously, I get angry just thinking about the fact that I spent money on that piece of totally unwatchable crap.

And here we are now at part three, which to my pleasant surprise somehow manages to be the best of the lot! Samwise Gamgee, I mean Sean Astin, is Patient zero - the only human being immune to the flesheating disease and is being held against his will at a small lab on a caribbean island and is notably upset of being experimented on. In the meantime a group of youth are heading out for a party - on that very island. A lot of melting, flesh-ripping and skull-crushing with dildo ensues.

No, no wheels are re-invented here. The youths are as annoying as ever and the plot won't win any awards, it's your basic infected people at a remote location thingie but the movie is well shot with some pretty stunning cinematography and the flesheating disease is a nasty thing indeed. The makeup sfx are nicely yucky and the gorehounds will love this.

This means I'm actually looking forward to the next part. Wow. Who would have thought that?

fredagen den 21:e mars 2014

Exit humanity (2011)

I've said it before, a subgenre that needs to expand is the horrorwestern. There is so much potential in stories that take place in the unexplored wilds of the old west and there should be more movies like The Burrowers, Eyes of fire and Deadbirds. That is why I had at least some expectations on Exit humanity and unfortunately I was quite disappointed.

The movie had some potential in the shape of a great premise, a man travelling through the zombieinfested wilds of America after the civil war. It also looks good, well shot on what was obviously really limited resources. Any major setpieces are shown with simple yet good looking animated sequences. The actors are doing a decent job as well though some are better than others with the drawling accents.

The major flaw comes from another direction and is way more fatal to the movie than anything else - storytelling. John Geddes, writer and director, does not tell a good story, it's as simple as that. Exit humanity is divided into a number of chapters that might be connected to the major plotline but never gel into a satisfying experience. Everything feels fragmented and it does not help that it is at least half an hour too long, at 113 minutes it becomes a chore to watch at times. It is also told with an very overbearing, bombastic style that is even worse when everything is hammered home with an overdetailed and pompous narration by Brian Cox.

No, this was a disappointment. It's not outright bad, just flawed to a point where I would not recommend it.

tisdagen den 18:e mars 2014

Up from the depths (1979)

I recently became the father of a girl after four years of trying and failing. In the end science came to our rescue and Adèle arrived in August last year through the magic that is called In vitro fertilization. It might come as no surprise that this little lady is infinitely cherished, we went through quite a few hard times before finally arriving at the point where we are now and I'm fully aware that this girl will be spoiled rotten to the core and beyond. I accept that and I will face all the consequences of my actions.

So what the hell does this have to do with Roger Corman and Cirio H Santiagos cheap and incredibly dull Jaws clone Up from the depths?

I had my at the time of writing seven month old daughter squirming away in my lap while watching this movie, spending most of the time trying to keep her occupied. I told her "I love you as much as this movie is boring". I love my daughter a lot.

And if she misbehaves in the future I'll force her to watch this over and over again. I think more parents would be helped by this. Though if I'm lucky/unlucky she will actually like it, which means I have raised her right. Or wrong. What the hell am I doing? I have no idea.