Posts Tagged ‘Kaiju’

Cloverfield (2008)

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Movie Review
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Cloverfield (2008)

Directed By: Matt Reeves

Starring: Michael Stahk-David, Mike Vogel, TJ Miller, Odette Yustman, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan

Subgenre: Creature Feature


Synopsis: A gigantic monster attacks New York City and a group of young party-goers attempts to rescue a friend amidst the carnage.

Thoughts: I admit I was hooked by Cloverfield well before ever seeing the movie.  JJ Abrams put together one of the best viral marketing campaign ever leading up to the release of Cloverfield, utilizing the Internet, social networking and word of mouth. 

Cloverfield is often looked at as a Godzilla rip-off, which probably has some merit, but Cloverfield focuses on the characters more so than the monster.  Another stark difference is that Cloverfield utilizes a documentary style with a handheld camera, which was used to great effect in The Blair Witch Project.  The camerawork is so frenetic, that as a viewer, I often found myself disoriented and dizzy trying to follow it.  I am generally a fan of this sort of camera work, but it was a little tough to follow in Cloverfield.

As I said, the characters are the focus of the movie, and for me, are one of the weak points.  I wasn’t really a fan of the characters and never really found myself caring for them.  I get what they were trying to do with Hud, making him the lovable idiot, but I just found him to be annoying.  That’s not to say that the actors did a poor job, but I just didn’t like the characters they portrayed.

The monster was pretty great, and I loved that it took some time to get a good look at the entire beast. The idea to add the spider creatures as an added threat was a good move, as it helped keep the tension within the movie.  The FX were solid and not intrusive.  My favorite scene, and really one of my favorites from the last couple of years, is when the head of the Statue of Liberty lands on the street.  At that point, you knew you were in for a pretty wild ride.

I am a fan of Cloverfield and had a great time seeing it in the theatre.  For me, the replay value isn’t great, but I think that has to do with my general dislike for the characters.  The shaky cam isn’t for everyone either, but this is still worth checking out for fans of the giant monster genre.

Rodan (1956)

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Movie Review
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Rodan (1956)
{Sora no Daikaijū Radon}

Directed By: Ishirō Honda

Starring: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa

Subgenre: Kaiju

Synopsis: Miners are disappearing in a small village and it is soon discovered that giant prehistoric insects are to blame.  Shortly after Shigeru (Sahara) and his team eradicate the insects, they discover a gigantic egg.  The egg hatches to reveal a large flying reptile, called Rodan.  Rodan begins attacking humans and is soon joined by another Rodan and the two of them battle the military.

Thoughts: This is another seminal Kaiju movie, as it was the first appearance of Rodan and the first Kaiju film that Toho produced in color.  Rodan would go on to appear in several more Kaiju films including Ghidora, the Three-Headed Monster, Destroy all Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars. 

Personally, this is not one of my favorites.  The story is a little choppy with the introduction of the insects to begin with, and it never seems like the pacing is right.  I find this to be true in a lot of the early Kaiju flicks.  My favorites tend to come a little later in the genre.

It should be noted that there are two distinct versions of this movie, as a lot of changes were made for its US release, most of which are editing decisions or the addition of stock footage.

This is a movie that Kaiju fans should check out, mostly because of its importance to the genre, but I find some of the later entries to be more fun.

Godzilla vs Mothra (1964)

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Movie Review
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Godzilla vs Mothra (1964)
Godzilla vs the Thing
{Mosura tai Gojira}

Directed By: Ishirō Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yu Fujiki, Emi Itō, Yumi Itō

Subgenre: Kaiju

Synopsis: A gigantic egg is found on the shores of Japan shortly after a typhoon.  We soon discover the egg belongs to Mothra and will soon hatch, unleashing a monster attack on the country.  To further complicate matters, Godzilla shows up as well.  This sets up a showdown of epic proportions.

Thoughts: This is not one of my favorite Godzilla movies, it doesn’t flow well.  When it comes to these movies, the more monsters, the better they are.  Unfortunately, the larvae that hatch from the eggs just don’t cut it as cool monsters.  Godzilla is great as always and I even dig Mothra, but the little cocoon spewing slugs are just ridiculous.

The other aspect of the movie that annoyed me was those annoying damn fairies from the island.  I kept hoping someone would step on them.  I’m here to see some giant monsters stomp a city, not watch little fairies sing and warn people of impending doom. 

The marketing, especially in the US was very interesting, as the movie was known over here as Godzilla vs the Thing.  No one knew what “The Thing” was supposed to be.  Was it the larvae creatures?  Was it Mothra?  I created a lot of confusion with the intial viewers and the journalists that reviewed the movie.

Even though this isn’t on my list of favorite Godzilla movies, it is still a pretty important one in the pantheon.  Mothra ranks pretty high on the list of iconic Kaiju.  Completists should check it out, or hardcore Godzilla fans, but casual fans could probably skip it.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)

Directed By: Ishirō Honda, Terry Morse

Starring: Takashi Shimura, Akira Takarada, Raymond Burr, Frank Iwanaga, Momoko Kouchi

Subgenre: Kaiju

Synopsis: American Journalist Steve Martin finds himself in Tokyo with rumors of a “Monster God” destroying ships in the Sea of Japan.  Sure enough a giant monster soon appears hell bent on destroying Tokyo.  The monster is known in Japan as Gojira, but American audiences know him as GODZILLA!

Thoughts: First off, this is merely an Americanized version of Gojira, the original Godzilla movie, which was released in 1954.  New footage was shot and spliced in with Raymond Burr, among others.  I would probably never have watched this version if it were not for my Son’s love for old monster flicks.  The first time we watched this, he couldn’t read, so subtitles were out of the question.

The reediting process was fairly intricate for its time.  Several scenes were shot with Raymond Burr and spliced in to appear as if Burr was interacting with the original cuts.  Stand-ins were used for the original actors in some scenes as well, they were just shot from behind so it was difficult to tell it was not the original actor or actress.

The movie plays out much the same, with Godzilla eventually rising from the sea, stomping through scenery and causing all sorts of chaos.  I don’t know what it is that is so appealing about a guy in a rubber monster suit stomping on miniatures, but it sure as hell works.

There is no mistaking the similarity between Tokyo’s destruction by Godzilla and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Godzilla is a very political movie on one hand, condemning the use and development of weapons of mass destruction, but on the other, it is a great monster flick.  Take it for what you will.  As far as I am concerned, I tend to forget the political message and just enjoy watching Godzilla stomp some miniature landscape into the ground.