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My Year with Godzilla
BONUS: 'Zarkorr! The Invader' [1996]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: US Suitmation kaiju film

As I watched 'Zarkorr' last night, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to take from it. Is it a comedy? A parody? A warm-hearted homage to the kaiju genre? I'm still not sure, to be honest. Perhaps a mix of all three.

'Zarkorr' has a very simple premise. The titular monster bursts from a mountain in California and begins, as to be expected, to wreak havoc. Meanwhile in New Jersey, an average (in fact, very average - exactly in the middle-range of the population, we are told) postal employee is visited by a tiny alien girl, a manifestation being beamed directly into his brain. She imparts that he is the sole member of the human race who can stop Zarkorr. With the help of a cryptozoologist he sees on TV and a X-Files-type-fan cop, our hero lumbers across the US to battle the beast. Low budget shenanigans ensue.

If you came for the acting, you'll be disappointed. This is small town amateur dramatics stuff here. The film looks cheap, sounds cheap, is cheap. Zarkorr, on the other hand, doesn't come across quite so badly. Some effort - perhaps the only effort - was put into its design, and although its city-crushing antics are subpar, they are the highlights of this film.

Hero and Beast don't meet until the final few - anti-climatic - minutes of the film. In the meantime, this film drags. The ensuing scenarios may be intended to be funny; if so, they fail. At the beginning, I thought that the film was headed into a "this was all an hallucination" direction; the hero certainly played it like a schizophrenic episode as he literally kidnaps the TV expert. But no. Despite how cliched that storyline might have been, what we ended up with was just as dumb. Perhaps some entertainment could be derived from this film with friends mocking it. For me, I snoozed instead.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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Yuko Shimizu's artwork for the new Criterion boxset looks stunning: http://yukoart.com/news/criterion-announ...a-box-set/
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BONUS: 'Kraa! The Sea Monster' [1998]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: US Suitmation kaiju movie

Full Moon Studios return to the suitmation kaiju genre with this follow-up to 'Zarkorr'. This one has more of a sci-fi flair, with a masked alien overlord attempting to conquer Earth using a sea monster. On Earth's side we have some kind of attractive teenage space patrol, a puppet alien with an outrageous Italian accent and a waitress and some dude. 

This was forgettable as I was watching it, so trying to come up with anything to write about three days later is tough. I remember thinking that Kraa wasn't quite as impressive a costume as Zarkorr and that the Italian alien was painfully unfunny. The acting did have some stand-outs, surprisingly - Teal Marchande as the waitress deserved better than this dross, and Alison Lohman seems to have gone on to bigger things after this somewhat promising start. Otherwise, not worth my time, either watching it or writing about it. Sorry.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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BONUS: 'Gamera: Guardian of the Universe' [1995]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Daiei's answer to Godzilla, distributed by Toho
Sub or Dub? Sub

A plutonium-laden ship runs aground upon a mysterious floating atoll; giant birds attack scientists exploring an island. As the mystery unfolds, and an ancient prophesy from a long-lost civilization is revealed, the kaiju Gamera and Gyaos square off in this 1995 reboot of the franchise.

This film takes place in a previously Gamera-less universe, allowing the audience much greater knowledge to what is going on than the characters. We know, of course, that the turtle-shaped atoll is, yes, actually a turtle. When both kaiju finally emerge, we are not confused as to who is friend or foe, despite Gamera's heavy-handed attitude towards downtown Tokyo. Otherwise, this is a standard Gamera film - albeit a very high standard - with recognisable tropes.

Gamera has always been decidedly hit or miss, with some very camp and/or downright weird iterations over the years. Kudos to all involved in this reboot for treating it with respect without becoming poe-faced. This is a fun fantasy film, with excellent effects and decent acting (Akira Onodera as the weary lead scientist, trying to unravel the mystery and to keep his daughter safe, is particularly good). The origins of both kaiju are changed here, which may upset purists, but it was an interesting enough idea. The Gyaos birds (there are more than one) are especially violent, reminiscent of the dinosaurs from 'Jurassic Park' in certain sequences.

Strangely, after not being a fan of much of the 1970s Gamera films, I missed a little of the cheesiness and camp factor here, but it is a small niggle. This is a strong effort, surpassing much of Godzilla's Heisei features. I'm feeling optimistic about the remaining two films in the trilogy.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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Week 35: 'Rebirth of Mothra' [1996]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Mothra and Ghidorah, sort of.
Sub or Dub? Sub

Like 'Gamera: Guardian of the Universe' before it, 'Rebirth of Mothra' is a reboot set in a world where Mothra has not previously existed. As such, Toho gets to play around a little with the mythology, but a lot of the staples are in place.

Loggers uncover a tomb, unwittingly unleashing Desghidorah - second cousin, perhaps to King Ghidorah. The Twin Fairies Mona & Lora (who aren't actually twins here, nor supposed to be) summon Mothra. Kids get involved. Save the Planet messages abound.

'Rebirth of Mothra' is very much a children's fantasy film; thus, I had a hard time with this one. The child actors aren't anything special, and too many of the set pieces drag on too long - the mini-battle in the house scene between rival fairies seemed to take up a third of the film. I was constantly pausing this film, aghast and despondent over how much time was left.

Mothra has never been a favourite of mine, and she didn't look noticeably better here. Desghidorah may have been OK, if we were allowed to see it properly through the haze of pyrotechnics on display. If you like explosions and fireworks, 'Rebirth of Mothra' may be your new go-to title. Destruction is minimal, though there is a scene where Desghidorah gets to destroy a kaiju's second favourite target after a bridge - a dam - which looked good.

For Mothra purists, there's the usual multi-coloured egg, the larvae (like a slithering turd in this one) and the well-known Mothra song (one of 3 (!) songs we're subjected to). Still, it felt like a cash-in to sell merchandise, especially as the mini-Mothra (called 'Fairy', confusingly) looks like a toy and is actually mistaken for a toy at one point.

Kids may get a kick out of this but, honestly, be a good parent and give them something better to watch.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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Week 36: 'Rebirth of Mothra II' [1997]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Mothra
Sub or Dub: Sub

Can I legitimately say that I "watched" a film if I slept through half of it? Does the fact that the film frequently put me to sleep count as part of the review? I don't know. Either way, this isn't going to take too long.

Pollution - that bugbear for many a kaiju film - has caused starfish like creatures to appear in the ocean and, for all I know, the main kaiju foe in this movie, Daghara. (Like I said, I wasn't really keeping up). At the same time, a weird hairy goblin called Gorgo appears, gets befriended by kids, then Mothra turns up, and then... well, things get a little hazy for me.

Even if I wasn't tired last night, I still doubt I would have enjoyed this one. It's another kid's fantasy film featuring Mothra, my least favourite Toho kaiju. The film has a lot going on, with jarring, rapid edits, but none of it kept my interest (hence the napping). The kid actors were better than those in 'Rebirth I', and some of the sets and effects weren't half bad. The plot, as I could discern it, borrowed liberally from other films - 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' gets an obvious nod.

Yeah, this wasn't for me. I still have 'Rebirth III' to endure. Ho hum.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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BONUS: 'Gamera 2: Attack of Legion' [1996]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Daiei's answer to Godzilla, distributed by Toho
Sub or Dub? Sub

Meteorites are falling to Earth, unleashing alien bugs. Gamera returns to take on these extraterrestrial vermin and their giant Queen in this fun sequel.

'Gamera 2' follows the continuity set in the previous film but takes a slightly different path. Although Gamera may well still be a friend to all children, this is not a little kids' movie. Indeed, the first third of this film has effective horror sequences, complete with blood splatters and jump scares. The alien bugs (the 'Legion') look good, on the whole, and move well, and the Queen and her 'pods' are particularly noteworthy. Gamera himself is equally impressive, showing lots of detail in close-up. The effects overall surpass anything seen in previous Gamera films by far, adding greatly to the entertainment factor.

It has its flaws but nothing that completely derails it: it suffers from the 'Daimajin' syndrome, by not having anything for the main character to do for too long of the runtime; the acting isn't anything special; and there are too many scenes attempting to explain the 'science' behind some of the actions of the aliens, which are unnecessary and ridiculous. The films soars, though, when the two foes meet and have at it. Well worth your time.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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That actually sounds really neat. I haven't read all of your Gamera reviews, would you say this is the best one so far?
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(09-09-2019, 11:59 AM)jrWHAG42 Wrote: That actually sounds really neat. I haven't read all of your Gamera reviews, would you say this is the best one so far?

Of the newer ones, so far, yes. The last in the trilogy is supposed to be excellent, so I would recommend watching all three, if you have the chance. I have the trilogy on blu-ray but it must be out of print as it's extraordinarily expensive now, though buying them separately (1 & 2 are a double feature) is doable.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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Week 37: "Rebirth of Mothra III' [1998]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Mothra & King Ghidorah
Sub or Dub? Sub

Many, many years ago, King Ghidorah came for the dinosaurs. Now, he's come back for the children in this final part of the 'Rebirth of Mothra' trilogy. Mothra travels back in time to battle prehistoric Ghidorah with Courage, Wisdom, Love and glitter. Dodgy CGI shenanigans ensue.

The three year torment that is the 'Rebirth of Mothra' trilogy comes to thankful end with a not-nearly-so-bad film. Of course, as the other two are terrible, that's faint praise. The time travel element of the film adds a spark to an otherwise ho-hum plot, but unfortunately the budget just wasn't there to make it work. The Ghidorah vs Dinosaurs sequences weren't far removed from the 'Godzilla Island' TV show utilising plastic toys. It didn't look good.

The main child actor in this film isn't the usual over-eager, annoying type; in fact, he's largely comatose, barely there. It's not bad, just different and therefore a little refreshing. His arc - from being so sensitive that his parents don't even make him go to school to being the main hero - works somewhat. The mini-sisters return and sing obligatory songs, of course, but no one else here stands out.

Mothra gets a good stomping and roasting more than once, and Ghidorah comes across OK. Some of the CGI hasn't fared so well, unfortunately, and the effects overall are so-so. On a plus side, I only fell asleep twice. If you absolutely had to watch a 'Rebirth of Mothra' film, I would recommend this one - not the entire trilogy; dear god, don't do that to yourself, please - but ultimately I wouldn't suggest bothering with any of them. Frankly, these last few weeks have been a chore I wouldn't wish on anyone.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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