Posts Tagged ‘Kaiju’

Toho Collection

There really hasn’t been a better time to be a Godzilla fan for home video collectors. With the release of the American remake, a couple of different companies have unleashed quite a barrage of classic Godzilla movies. Sony’s Toho Godzilla Collection is series of double features totaling 8 of the more modern features of everyone’s favorite giant lizard.

I’ve often enjoyed many of the more classic Godzilla movies, but quite honestly, a lot of these movies from the 80s, 90s and 21st century had evaded me. When I saw these double features, I knew they would be mine. Oh yes, they would be mine (and now they are). So, without further ado, let’s dig into each release:

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah / Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991):
When a mysterious U.F.O. is seen flying over Tokyo, tension mounts, until the craft’s occupants reveal themselves to be friendly time travelers from the 23rd century who have come to warn mankind that Godzilla will soon awaken and wreak havoc upon Japan unless he is destroyed. Meanwhile, a double threat arrives in the form of King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s flying three-headed archrival and an evil and all-powerful android. The suspense builds to terrifying levels as the time travelers’ sinister mission on Earth is gradually revealed and Godzilla must wage a solo battle against these evil forces who want to destroy mankind.
[UR] Directed by Kuzuki Omori. Running time: 101 mins.

Thoughts: It’s not uncommon for U.F.O.s to weave their way into Godzilla’s filmography, and King Ghidorah is no different, except this time, it’s not aliens, but visitors from the future. As part of their warning of Godzilla destroying Japan, we also learn that Godzilla is really a mutated T-Rex!

A team is quickly assembled to go back in time and prevent Godzilla’s mutation, but when you change the past, there are always unintended consequences. This time, King Ghidorah takes Godzilla’s place, working to destroy all of Japan.

This one isn’t one of my favorite Kaiju flicks. It takes over an hour before we see any significant monster action and there are some really terrible FX shots. There is an android from the future that has super human speed, and when it’s time for him to use that speed, the results are laughable.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah isn’t totally devoid of goodness though. The last 40 minutes or so are vintage Godzilla, with him going toe-to-toe against King Ghidorah, not just once, but twice. The second time around, Ghidorah is equipped with technical upgrades including a robotic head.

Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992):
After a series of earthquakes unearth a gigantic orb, a trio of Japanese explorers are dispatched to the mysterious Infant Island to investigate. There they discover the island’s sole inhabitants, miniature twin women whose duty is to protect the mammoth ball, the egg of Mothra! When the explorers attempt to bring the egg back to the mainland, a furious Godzilla awakens from the depths and attacks the party, causing the egg to hatch and forcing its newborn larva to fend off the gigantic monster. The humongous worm holds its own until a new threat arrives in the form of Battra. When Mothra and Battra metamorphose into flying monster moths, the battle rages on land and in the sky. With two powerful foes to reckon with, has Godzilla finally met his match?
[UR] Directed by Takao Okawara. Running Time 102 mins.

Thoughts: This is one of the more heavy handed environmental messages in the Godzilla pantheon. It has the only appearance of Battra, the physical embodiment of Earth’s anger, a creature that is a lot like Mothra. Battra battles Mothra, and then Godzilla, only to be saved by Mothra. It gets a bit confusing, but it’s all for the sake of saving the Earth.

This is actually one of the highest grossing movies in Japan history, which boggles my mind. It’s not a bad Kaiju flick, but for my money, there are more entertaining ones. It was likely due to the return of Mothra, easily the second most popular Kaiju in Japan behind Godzilla.

Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla II / Godzilla vs Space Godzilla

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (1993):
Synopsis for sony.com: Mechagodzilla is the ultimate Godzilla-busting weapon! Fueled by a nuclear reactor, the mammoth metal robot is Japan’s greatest hope for ending Godzilla’s reign of terror. Meanwhile, on a remote island polluted by nuclear waste, a team of scientists discover a giant egg in a Pteranodon nest, and bring it to their lab for study. Baby Godzilla hatches and Godzilla returns to claim the cuddly infant as his own.
[PG] Directed by Takao Okawara. Running time: 105 mins.

Thoughts: MechaGodzilla, built by mankind to stand up to, and ultimately destroy Godzilla has always been one of my favorite “monsters” in the Toho Kaiju universe. It’s really the best of both worlds, a giant robot that looks like a monster, fighting other monsters.

There are also running themes in most Godzilla movies, and MechaGodzilla II plays on the parental instincts of not only Godzilla, but guest Kaiju Rodan! One of the things I love about the Toho Universe is that you never know what monster is going to show up. It’s a lot like reading comic books in that there is a lot of creative license to who shows up.

MechaGodzilla II is a very solid entry into the Godzilla mythology and is a pretty fun watch. Not only do you get MechaGodzilla, but he gets upgraded to “Super” Mechagodzilla! Check it out and have a blast.

Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (1994):
Synopsis for sony.com: Cells extracted from Godzilla are brought into space by Biollante and Mothra are exposed to intense radiation from a black hole. This celestial fission creates a highly aggressive extraterrestrial beast named Space Godzilla. Space Godzilla heads to Earth to confront Godzilla, Junior Godzilla, and the new G-Force robot, Mogera.
[NR] Directed by Kensho Yamashita. Running time: 106 mins.

Thoughts: This was the first time I’d seen, or really ever heard of Space Godzilla. The science behind it is a little crazy, but hey, we are talking about giant monsters, so what the hell, just roll with it. The result of Space Godzilla coming to Earth to smash cities are some very good monster show-downs, which is really what we are here for.

Space Godzilla doesn’t feature a who’s who of monsters, nor does it feature a great story, but I still had fun watching this one. Space Godzilla looks really good and the fights are pretty damn entertaining.

Godzilla vs Destroyah / Godzilla vs Megaguiras

Godzilla vs Destroyah (1995)
Synopsis for sony.com: With a super-charged blast from his nuclear past, a new Godzilla emerges from his own ashes, radioactive and ready to take on Tokyo! The great monster’s nuclear energy is increasing by the minute, and a monster meltdown threatens to vaporize the planet. But when mutant micro-organisms unleash a plague of destruction they become Godzilla’s deadliest challenge yet: Destoroyah. And with Godzilla Junior pulled into the ring, only the Super XIII can put the deep freeze on this three-way monster melee.
[UR] Directed by Takao Okawara. Running time 103 mins.

Thoughts: Godzilla has always been a nuclear fueled powerhouse, so it’s kind of surprising that the angle of a Godzilla meltdown hadn’t been used before 1995. It’s one of the more intriguing stories in the entire Toho Collection.

We all know that a good storyline isn’t what make a Godzilla movie tick. It’s essential to have some great monster action and Destroyah delivers that as well. Destroyah is one of my new favorite Kaiju. He looks like he may have inspired some Power Rangers villians, but really works in the Godzilla Universe. I highly suggest checking this one out!

Godzilla vs Megaguiras (200)
Synopsis for sony.com:
Five years after Godzilla terrorized the city of Osaka, Japanese scientists have developed a sure-fire way to finally destroy Japan’s monster nemesis. They have created the world’s first man-made black hole, which will trap Godzilla for eternity! But during a testing of this new Dimension Tide, a prehistoric insect is released from another dimension, producing gargantuan eggs that give birth to a new menace: giant dragonfly monsters called Meganula. The Meganula queen, the 50-meter Megaguirus, is also on a hunt for Godzilla, needing to steal his energy to survive. From the sky down to the depths of a city’s underground sewer tunnels, Megaguirus, Godzilla, and humankind battle for supremacy.
[UR] Directed by Masaaki Tekuza. Running Time 106 mins

Thoughts: Sometimes, mankind is their own worst enemy. When scientists decide to generate a black hole to get rid of Godzilla, an insect from another dimension makes its way to Earth, giving birth to new enemies for humanity and Godzilla. Throughout the history of Godzilla, mankind has always been the true enemy in the movies, whether it was through nuclear testing, pollution or the creation of black holes. The movies remain enjoyable because they are not too heavy handed in their message and focus on giant monsters destroying models of cities.

Megaguiras is a pretty average Kaiju, being generated from an extra-dimensional insect, it just didn’t seem to have any personality. Still, this was a pretty good entry, not mind blowing, but I also didn’t fall asleep watching it.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. / Godzilla: Final Wars

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Mechagodzilla, the superior-armed, state-of-the-art, all-robot version of Godzilla, is undergoing repairs after his devastating battle against the King of the Monsters. Twin tiny women appear and warn scientists to stop rebuilding Mechagodzilla but their warning goes unheeded. As the great robot nears completion, Godzilla awakens and unleashes a reign of terror against Tokyo. Mothra appears to oppose him and Japan’s desperate Prime Minister has no choice but to launch the unfinished Mechagodzilla to assist Mothra against Godzilla. But in the end — will the survivor be monster, robot or man?
[PG] Directed by Masaaki Tekuza

Tokyo SOS features MechaGodzilla, a favorite of mine, so I was really looking forward to this one. I wasn’t disappointed as Mecha had to go toe-to-toe with not only Godzilla, but also Mothra. It’s always a bonus when there are multiple Kaiju!

Like most Godzilla movies, there’s a message here as well, as MechaGodzilla was built using the bones of Godzilla (one of them anyways) as a framework, which angers not only the latest Godzilla, but also Mothra. It’s the Kaiju way of saying “don’t desecrate nature.”

Tokyo S.O.S. is one of my favorite entries in this series, and when paired with Final Wars (the other movie on this double feauture) it makes for one great afternoon of movie watching!

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Earth has been relatively peaceful since Godzilla was successfully buried deep in ice beneath the South Pole. Then — sometime a few years hence — several of his old nemeses return to wreak havoc on cities worldwide. A huge spaceship suddenly appears and neutralizes all the monsters in a blink. The visitors are “Xiliens,” who take human form and announce they would like to negotiate a peace treaty that would replace the United Nations with a “United Universe.” They are indeed too good to be true, however. It doesn’t take long before their nefarious real purpose is exposed — conquering Earth. Greatly outmatched, Earth officials decide to de-freeze Godzilla as man’s only hope to vanquish the invaders.
[PG-13] Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Running time 125 mins.

Thoughts: Last, but certainly not least is Final Wars, the Battle Royale of Kaiju movies in this set, featuring a jaw dropping 15 different Kaiju! On top of that are those pesky Aliens showing up to rile up the monsters with their nefarious plans to take over the Earth. The only hope is to unleash Godzilla and watch the fireworks.

I suggest you sit back and do the same. For my money, this is the centerpiece of the Toho Collection.

Overall Thoughts: These releases are a godsend for fans of Godzilla. They are inexpensive and easy to find and the picture quality is great. They lack in extras, with most of the discs only having theatrical trailers, but that is easy to overlook. Godzilla movies are meant for rainy weekend afternoons, watched in succession, and best enjoyed with friends. I fiercely defend watching foreign movies in their original language with subtitles, but with Godzilla, it just seems right to watch it dubbed to English.

While not all the movies are created equally, I suggest this entire series for fans of the big guy. My personal favorite was Final Wars, but there are some other great entries as well. It’s a very affordable way to build your Kaiju collection and a great way to spend a weekend!

Godzilla_2014

 

Directed By: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn

Synopsis: The government’s attempts at covering up the existence of giant monsters goes awry when they go public, smashing cities and creating all kinds of mayhem.

Thoughts:

The latest American reboot of Godzilla ignores all previous movies, only noting Godzilla’s first appearance in the ocean in 1954. From there, we learn that the governments of the world have been investigating another life form for the past couple of years. All hell breaks loose when the latest monsters hatch and Godzilla shows up to battle them.

This is the most serious Godzilla movie we’ve seen in quite some time. In fact, it may be the most serious since the original, which was an allegory on the atomic bomb and the dangers of man delving too far into science. There’s no humor here to break tension and there’s no silly monster antics that have been staples of the Kaiju genre for ages.

In order to pull off a serious movie, you really need to have a great script and accomplished actors. Godzilla has some solid supporting performances, highlighted by Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn. Watanabe’s character, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, is utterly shell shocked the entire movie after discovering what he had been chasing all his life. Watanabe always seems to deliver, whether he is leading or supporting, and Godzilla is no different. Strathairn plays Admiral Stenz, doing his best to attack the threat the only way he knows how, with weapons of mass destruction. I’ve always been a monumental fan of Strathairns. His stoic nature translates well to a military officer.

Bryan Cranston was really marketed as being a lead for Godzilla, but ultimately ended up in more of a supporting role as the movie went on. I wasn’t blown away by his performance when he was on screen. Some of his lines seemed wooden, while others felt overacted. I know Cranston is really a golden child in Hollywood right now, but I wasn’t all that impressed,

The true lead is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, of Kick-Ass fame (and soon to be Avengers fame as he is Quicksilver in the Avengers Universe). I felt Taylor-Johnson’s role as Ford Brody was the single weakest point of the whole movie. There was no emotion in his performance. In fact, he may be a robot. There is a lot of dialogue and character development in Godzilla, and when it centered on Brody, I was just wondering when Godzilla was going to come back on screen.

Another argument that I heard was that Godzilla and the other monsters just didn’t get enough screen time. I get that, but I think had the lead character been a bit more engaging, then it wouldn’t have been as noticeable. I always love to see the big guys battle or tear up cities in movies like this, but I think the formula was correct for this movie.

In the end, Godzilla is not a perfect movie, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. If you are in the mood to watch monsters fight, go back and check out Final Wars or Destroy All Monsters. Heck, even give Pacific Rim another spin. This movie is about Godzilla returning to his roots and developing a story to go along with the mayhem. I guess you can call it an attempt at Kaiju with a touch of class. I for one, am looking forward to potential franchise possibilities.

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

cloverfield

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.