Godzilla vs. Biolantte

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Today’s film is my favorite Godzilla movie. This is the film I have watched over and over to the point that my VHS copy of the film will probably burst into flames if I watch it again. This is the film that I push every time I run a Godzilla panel because I want everyone to see it. If its not obvious already, I love this movie.

After the events of The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985 as it was called in America) the world has begun to rebuild and prepare for Godzilla’s returns. With the formation of the special task force, G-Force to combat the King of the Monster, new methods of attack are investigated. To this end Dr. Shiragami, a reclusive scientist is recruited to work on the weapon. Dr. Shiragami has his own plans and tries to use the cells to revive a plant he believes has the spirit of his dead daughter. The results is a monstrous rose known as Biollante. As Godzilla appears he makes a beeline to the new creation and battle ensues.

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One of the most appealing elements of this movie is the world building. The lack of knowledge or feel over the fact that humans live in a world where giant monsters could appear at a moment’s notice always annoyed me. Putting measures and procedures into place for such an attack should just be a way of life. This film opens with the different levels of the Godzilla appearance scale. There are buildings dedicated to those that were lost in the last Godzilla attack. This is a world that experienced a monster attack and is ready for when the next one takes place. Also, there is the subplot of people who are intentionally using Godzilla’s cells as a means to get a leg up in the energy race across the globe. Again, this is a world that definitely feels like its feeling the impact of giant mutated dinosaurs stomping around and causing havoc.

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This film introduces us to Miki Saegusa the one character that we will observe and follow the rest of the Heisei era films. Here she starts as a young girl with psychic abilities working at a center for people who have special talents. We also watch her become contracted by G-Force for her abilities. This is not the last time she will be asked to use her gifts to take on Godzilla. Truth be told, she was my first movie character crush.

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Biollante is unique and I meant that in a very good way. Other than Destroyah, she is the only monster that is original in the Heisei era. All others are based off or modified monsters that we saw previously in the Showa Era films. She definitely leaves an impression with her tentacles and her acid spitting abilities. Sadly she is still a plant and is very vulnerable to Godzilla’s radioactive blast and thereby easier to kill.

Basically if I have not gushed enough I will say it again “Go see this film!” This is the movie that I keep coming back to every now and again to remind myself just how much I enjoy Kaiju films. My only wish is that other films of the Heisei era stuck with this level of intensity and awesomeness. Sadly, its a bumpy ride from here. If you don’t believe me check through the archives for my review of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Compared to this, the rating went down considerable.

Rating: A

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Pacific Rim

bg_0There are times when you see a trailer to movie that just speaks to you. You watch it, are utterly memorized, and say “I am there” to the person sitting next to you. When the time comes and find out the movie did fulfill its promises you feel even more satisfied that the film was exactly what you hoped it would be. This is the exact scenario I experienced with Pacific Rim, a film that was precisely what I wanted and more.

After a dimensional rift opens in the ocean and starts releasing giant monsters called Kaiju humanity is on the verge of being wiped out. In response, the world builds Jaegers, giant robots to fight them. Raleigh Becket is a former Jaeger pilot who wasn’t able to fighter again after losing his brother. Now as the Jaeger program is being forced into retirement, Raleigh is called back into service to fight one last battle: to deliver a bomb into the rift and kill the monsters on the other side. With the help of Mako Mori, a woman with a past deeply connected to the Kaiju, Raleigh will fight against the Kaiju and cancel the apocalypse. pacific-rim-jaeger-controls

Director Guillermo Del Toro delivered the ultimate love letter to fans of giants monsters and robots with this film. From the rocket punches to the Serizawa factor used to grade the Kaiju, this film was almost tailor made to be reviewed by a Giant Monster/Mecha fanatic such as myself. I’ve yet to see a movie that the director has made that I haven’t enjoyed immensely.

The monsters and robots are the real draw of this film. The monsters all look menacing and towering over every opponent they they take on. My personal favorite would have to be Otachi because of his ability to fly and spit acid at the same time. You would think that my favorite robot would be Gypsy Danger as its the main machine in the movie but I have a soft spot for Eureka Striker. Don’t know what it is about but it just calls to me. Really need to grab a figure of that character to add to my collection.

The characters are very interesting to say the least even though some might say they fit into such familiar categories. Raleigh is the guy brought by for one more mission. Mako is the newbie with a twinkle in her eye that’s eager to prove herself. Idris is the hardened commander that won’t put up with no back talk. Of course balancing out this ensemble are unique characters like Dr. Newton Geiszler who is a Kaiju fanatic and Hannibal Chau, who has a found a way to profit off the dead Kaiju corpses. All together they form a cast that is fantastic to watch over and over again.

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This film is epic, plain and simple. I am so glad that so many others found it to be just as amazing and we are eventually going to get a sequel to this film. I promise I’ll be there as soon as it opens to write up another review for others out there who are fans of Giant Robots using rocket elbows to deliver punches into the face of a Kaiju.

Also, they had a “Make a Jaeger” game on a website sponsored by the movie. I decided to make it the defender of my home state of Michigan. I present, Metro Renaissance.metro2

Rating: A

 

Rodan

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When I was a kid Rodan freaked me out and made me not want to watch Giant Monster movies ever again. Lucky for me I eventually recovered from the experience and stayed true to the genre even to this day. It wasn’t because of terrible quality or because I came to the insane belief that Kaiju films was not worth my time. It was because Rodan and War of the Gargantuas (which I watched on the same day, but I’ll get to that review another day) showed me the first scenes in a film of someone drowning. I know for most people, the first drowning scenes they seen in cinema were from Jaws, but for me Rodan was my Jaws.

6a00d8341bfb8d53ef00e553d0741a8834-800wiWhen miners start to go missing in a small town, Shigeru, the head of security for the mine starts to become worried, especially once his fiancee’s brother disappears. As he starts to investigates the strange appearances he soon discovers large insects called Meganula are to blame for the miners’ disappearances. As Shigeru takes a team to seal up with the mine and kill the insects he becomes trapped himself. As strange phenomenon in the sky start to be reported, Shigeru returns, without his memory and near catatonic over what he saw in the mine. As he starts to recover, he reveals that he has seen the birth of a monster that consumed the Meganula as it awoke as food and my just threaten to devour all mankind.

This was the only film to start Rodan exclusively and sadly the only time when he has something of a unique theme associated with him. While Godzilla is a force of nature, Gamera a friend to the children, and Mothra is a being of peace, this first interpretation of Rodan is something else all together. The two monsters that appear are the last of their kind and trying to cut out a place from themselves in this new world. Unfortunately, cutting out a place for themselves results in an insane amount of property damage. They are just trying to build a nest and start a life together as two last of their kind species would do. Sadly, they never addressed this idea again with the monster. More on that later.

This is movie tackles an idea we don’t usually see in movies, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Shigeru comes back from seeing Rodan’s birth and is utterly traumatized by the incident. He has to take time to adjust to the terror of what he saw, considering the larger than a man sized Meganula were already scary enough but to see a creature even larger use them as food was too much for him to bear. Realistically, Rodan would probably be able to eat several humans as if they were bird seed. Luckily he has of those Meganula to munch on.

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It’s a shame we never seen Rodan like this ever again. For the rest his movie career he would be recast as Godzillas friend/foe and never once would his name be prominently displayed on the title for the films where he was cast. Not once has any attempt ever been made to try and retell the story of the two of its kind maintaining a nest, that unfortunately leads to them destroying humanity as they try to maintain a place for themselves. Instead of holding onto the theme that was presented for him in the first movie, the studio would forever abandon it in favor of Rodan being a creature that could show up in a film, kick some butt, and fly away into the horizon when he wasn’t needed anymore. Truly a shame they his humanizing role would be his first compared to his fellow giant monsters who have had multiple movies where they have been allowed to shine as individuals.

Rating: A-

Rebirth of Mothra

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When Godzilla made first appearance in America the throne for the king of the monsters became empty. Two different contenders stepped up in an effort to prove their greatness by releasing trilogies. These two enormous titans were Gamera and Mothra. I have already reviewed the Gamera trilogy and how exceptional those three movies were but what about Mothra?

Picking up after Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Mothra has presumably saved the world from an asteroid that would have wiped out all life and has since returned to his island and laid a new egg. Elsewhere a construction company is tricked by a mischievous fairy named Belvera into released the ancient evil known as Death Ghidorah (I’m aware wikipedia has it named differently but that’s the name the version I saw used and I think it sounds better than Desghidorah). Working to stop Belvera plans is the twin guardians, Moll and Lora who summon Mothra to fight against this reborn terror. As the new born larva hatches he has no choice but to fight along side of its weakened mother to stop Death Ghidora from destroying all mankind.

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The characters for this outing are a mixed bag. I don’t really remember anything that stands out in the human characters of Taiki and Wakaba and are really only there so the Moll and Lora have someone that doesn’t know what’s happening to explain the situation to. The three Elias sister though definitely stand out. I’m glad that they didn’t have Moll and Lora talk in unison. That would have really gotten old fast. The fact that the two of them have to watch their sister, Belvera try to take down humanity and stop them is very touching to watch. I’d be willing to go to bat with other Kaiju fans to say that are the top runners for the best priestess Mothra has ever had.

Once again we witness a Mothra death scene but this one is probably one of the most tear jerking of them all. His Showa era death was pretty memorable with the Mother Mothra sacrificing itself to protect her egg but in this film we witness as the baby Mothra can do nothing to save its mother who is too weak to return home and collapses into the sea from exhaustion. It definitely is one of the most heart breaking scenes of the Heisei era of monsters.

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One minor strike I can’t help but note against this series is Mothra’s genre. The movie makes it a point to express that the Mothra that is the center point for this trilogy is distinctly male, even given the name Mothra Leo once it hatches from its cocoon. What did they not think that a female monster would be able to carry the entire series. Come on Japan, that’s old school thinking.

The Rebirth of Mothra trilogy comes out swinging and delivers one of the Kaijus most action packed and heart felt outings. It also possesses my favorite version of Mothra, complete with lasers coming out of every possible surface. Unfortunately it’s all downhill from here. Unlike the Gamera where all three movies maintain a high level of quality through the series, the next two films are not as entertaining as this one. My advice is to just watch this one and walk away. Stay tuned for later posts where I will describe in detail how those movies don’t stack up.

Rating: B+

Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster

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This is going to be a first on this blog. You see I have seen every Godzilla movie ever. Some more than others with how much I enjoy them. Today though I’m revisiting one of the films I have only seen once to see if a second viewing can change my mind about it. I didn’t enjoy Ghidora the three headed monster the first time I saw it. Let’s see if it can score any higher in my book.

After a foreign princess survives a plane crash, she appears before the world insist that she is a Martian and death and doom are coming. Meanwhile the Fairy companions of Mothra hear of the girls prediction and go to meet with her. They soon find that she is right and that the mysterious meteor in he mountains was in fact King Ghidorah the monster that destroyed Mars many years earlier. Realizing that he cannot fight such a creature alone, Mothra calls for the help of Godzilla and Rodan to stop the menacing Ghidorah or watch the rest of the world be a barren wasteland like Mars.

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Few things. What happened to the other Mothra larva? Did it die? How did a television station get the fairies without Mothra coming to tear the city apart to look for them? Why did only one Rodan survive the volcanic eruption? Why do they insist on having Godzilla blow steam the entire time? That last one was a point that I found myself having trouble getting over. I have seen footage of him using the steam breath at other times where it doesn’t bother me as much but when they happened I actually saw that the attack did any damage. Here he uses it on Rodan several times and without any type of effect. Castrating Godzilla’s signature power was a lot to get over.

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Still on the rewatch I was able to find some new aspects about the movie that I found entertaining. Watching Mothra attempt to play with the big boys, was entertaining. He was only a little larva but still found a way of two of offering his aid. When the three come together that they are able to succeed and it really is fun to watch them all fight a common foe. Later films would perfect the style of the monster team up to fight a greater monster, but this was the first time so we have to give it some slack.

The human aspect of this film is also quite interesting drawing aspects from a spy movie. Shindo the police detective trying to protect the possesses princess Saino is very moving. This is especially true as Saino seems hellbent on only spreading the message that Ghidorah is coming. Speaking of hellbent what about her assassins. You would think they would just leave her to get destroyed by the monsters that are lumbering towards the city but no, they are dead set on making sure that the princess is dead this time around. I would also be in the wrong if I didn’t mention the Fairies, who are doing all they can to help mankind despite their previous negative experiences with us. If it weren’t for their efforts, the attack against Ghidorah would never get off the ground.

So a revisit to this film did indeed help me to appreciate it a bit more. I wish I could to this with more films, but I can only do so much. I assure you though the different Godzilla and Gamera films I have reviewed so far on the blog I have seen countless times before. I have lost count of the number of times I rewatched the Gamera trilogy. Still, in the future if someone suggests watching Ghidorah, the three headed monster I won’t be so quick to shutter at the idea.

Rating: D (first time)/ B-(after watch)

Ultraman


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Like I said previously I have weaknesses when it comes to the Giant Monster Fandom. Old school giant monster moves took the number three spot on that list and I decided to keep the train going. The second weakest area of GMF (giant monster fandom) is with Ultraman.

A special division of the government, the Science Special Search Patrol (Mostly referred in the series as the Science Patrol) is tasked to investigate weird disturbances around the world. As they go to investigate a crashed meteor, one of there members, Shin Hayata collides with a secondary meteor and almost dies but it turns out that the meteor was in fact a being an energy being who wishes to help to defend the earth. Giving him the Beta Capsule, Shin is able to transform into Ultraman and defend the earth from evil monsters.

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I’ll be blunt. I found this series to be bit dull. This series did have some pretty good moments. The episode with the monster graveyard where the team shows respect for the fallen monsters they have fought and vanquished was actually moving. Unfortunately, this episode it comes after over thirty episodes of the usual formula of investigating a strange phenomenon, it turns out to be a monster, the Science Team tries to stop it but don’t succeed and Shin turns into Ultraman to defeat the monster. Yes there is the classic timer on Ultraman that reminds him he only has three minutes which should add tension to the story but personally I found that little “dinging” over and over again to be incredibly annoying and it comes at some point every episode.

I’m sure others will point out that I’m a big fan of Godzilla and Sentai why do I have such a problem with Ultraman. Most Sentai and Godzilla do have character development to the characters in the series and movies. Ultraman has the old school sitcom feel to it. There isn’t much change or growth in the characters as the series progresses. Things change but once in a great while and the biggest change I can remember is that the kid sidekick became a full fledged member of the Science Patrol.

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This is the only Ultraman series that I have watched all the way through. Its not to say that I will never watch an Ultraman series again or haven’t. I have tried to watch a few others but have yet to watch them to completion. The problem is that I haven’t found “My Ultraman” series. What do I mean about that? Allow me to explain. I’m a big fan of Kamen Rider and the first series I watched was Kamen Rider Blade and was and still is one of my favorite Kamen Rider Series. What I need to do is find an Ultraman series that I enjoy immensely and can look back at and remember “Keep going. The franchise can entertain you as much as I did. Don’t give up on us.” Once I find that series I’ll let you know and write up about it.

Well there you go the second of my weaknesses in the GMF. What’s my biggest weakness? Come back next week and find out.

Rating: B (the monster graveyard episode and Pigmon`s death episode)/ C+ (for the rest of the series)

Gamera: Revenge of Iris

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Rounding out a trilogy is a very hit or miss task. For every Return of the Jedi or Iron Man 3 there is X-Men: The Last Stand or Batman Forever to compare it to. After the first two movies were incredible there was a lot riding on the third film in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy to be just as impressive. So how does it stack up?

In a flashback, young Ayana watches helplessly as Gamersa destroys her family’s home with her parents inside during his battle with Gyaos in Tokyo. In the present a graveyard of Gamera’s bodies are found and while he attacks two Gyaos, Gamera ends up destroying Shibuya. Seeing this and still fueled by pain and loss Ayana discovers a baby monsters that she calls Iris. Soon little Iris grows big and is absorbing the blood out of helpless victims for nourishment. Meeting in Kyoto Gamera and Iris have an epic showdown but is the recently discovered grave site a bad omen for everyone’s favorite Guardian of the Universe? 968full-gamera-3--the-revenge-of-iris-screenshot

The world continues to spin in the Gamera trilogy and the effects of the previous two films catches up with our characters. Having absorbed Mana to defeat Legion has had devastating consequences causing Gyaos around the world to hatch. The world’s is now in chaos and Gamera is working his butt off trying to keep up. Helping him out we have the return of Dr. Nagamine (who is now a globe trotting Gyaos expert) and Asagi (Gamera’s former priestess and biggest fan). The two women work as a team helping to recruit allies and investigate the claims of a Gyaos mutation (Iris) in efforts to do all they can for Gamera. It’s this incredible attention to detail and world building that make me love the series so much.

A recent viewing of this film reminded me of the insane amount of detail they have done improving upon the characters from the first film. After watching this movie and rewatching a trailer for the first film, it was insane to see all the different changes that the characters went through. The damage the Gyaos go through (especially the one in Shibuya with its eye hanging out) and the more menacing and jagged look that Gamera sports in this film really help to accentuate the darkness and carnage that the film is trying to express. Still, despite his intense new look, Gamera is still trying to do all he can to stop the world from coming under Gyaos’ control. My only major problem is that I don’t get to see the epic fight scene between Gamera and the large flock of Gyaos descending on Japan. That would have been one of the coolest fight scenes ever. Still, I’ve grown comfortable with the way they cap off the story.

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If you can’t tell I love this film just as much as the other two and find the entire trilogy to be some of  the best giant monster action that came out of the 90s. The series gave a new sense of respect and power to a character that had been written off as a joke. Watching him especially defend the Universe from the likes of Gyaos, Legion, and Iris is a joy that I will gladly partake in at the drop of a hat. Again, if you haven’t taken the time to watch these films yet, stop depriving yourself. If you are reading this blog then I guarantee you that you will enjoy watching these three films. So ends my discussion of the Gamera Heisei trilogy. This won’t be the last of our green flying butt kicker though. I’ll eventually go back and review his past films and the one that followed this. Still, my fingers are crossed that the new film that will come out in the near future taps into the roots set forth by this trilogy.

RATING: A-