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My Year with Godzilla
BONUS: 'The Host' [2006]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: South Korean kaiju
Sub or Dub? Sub

The US military dump formaldehyde into the Han river, later causing a large and ferocious mutation. This giant amphibious fish begins eating and storing away the local population, while the government investigate claims of a resulting virus infecting those who cross its path and otherwise survive. The film follows the trials of a dysfunctional family as they try to evade the government and rescue their youngest relation.

This film was a pleasant surprise, expertly mixing various genres in its circuitous plot. 'The Host' is more of a family drama at heart than a full-on kaiju film, though it ably succeeds as one. The effects are superb. The CGI creature lollops and pivots with realistic weight and movement, interacting with backgrounds and actors seamlessly. Yet it is the plight of the family, notably Song Kang-ho as the adrift father, that holds the film together. He is pathetic yet poignant. You're not sure whether you want to shake him or hug him.

There are brief comic moments, which don't feel out of place, as the story evolves. The film touches on a number of different themes - the dehumanization of people, both by a scared populace and its government; the militarization and dominance of super powers over other nations. It's not always certain what target it is aiming for, as it sometimes uses a blunderbuss rather than a laser, but it's an enjoyable ride nonetheless. Even if you're no fan of monster-slash-horror films, and can't stand reading subtitles, you should check this out. It is that good.
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 42: 'Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.' [2003]
Is Godzilla in it?  Yes
Sub or Dub?  Sub

'Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.' follows on from the previous year's (superior) 'Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla'. Here we have a badly damaged 'Mecha G' (as it is fondly called) and a MIA Godzilla. Thrown into the mix is Mothra and the obligatory twin fairies, who plead for the bones of Gojira - now the skeleton of Mecha G - to be tossed into the ocean. Remembering Mothra's previous destruction of Tokyo decades hence, the government is somewhat wary. When twin Mothra larvae hatch, the kaijus assemble for battle.

There are undoubtedly some nice touches to be found here, but overall this is a disappointing sequel. Hiroshi Koizumi reprises his role from the original 1961 'Mothra', and fans of the kaiju bug will probably enjoy this more than I did. The usual Mothra staples are on display - the fairies, the larvae, the song and the enveloping a monster in silk. (Tokyo Tower comes in for another beating, of course.) The effects, though, looked cheap, and the human story was dull. The inclusion of an obscure kaiju from 'Space Amoeba' - Kamoebas - was a brief highlight for me, but I have already forgotten most of this film. The post-credits sequence was intriguing though I don't believe it was ever capitalized upon. All-in-all, this should have been so much better.
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 the Brave' [2006]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Daiei's answer to Godzilla
Sub or Dub? Sub

Japan is free of monsters. It's been 33 years since Gamera blew himself up to destroy three Gyaos, and the government has decided to pull the plug on the Giant Monster Force. Bad timing, considering that ships are mysteriously disappearing in the Pacific. Meanwhile, a young boy, grieving the death of his mother in a car accident, befriends a baby turtle he names Toto. The turtle begins to grow at an alarming rate and exhibits magical powers. Is Toto really a new Gamera and, if so, can he defeat Zedus, the ship-destroying kaiju?

This 2006 reboot of the Gamera franchise is a gentler entry, following the Heisei trilogy of the late 90s. It's not as cheesy as the 60s/70s originals but is still mostly a kids film. Although the kaiju effects are very good - Zedus especially - the film is more about how a young boy learns to deal with grief with the help of his new turtle friend. In that sense, it reminded me of 'The Water Horse' which dealt with similar themes the following year. Ryo Tomioka is excellent as Toru, the young boy, and ably supports the whole film in a role that is never mawkish.

There are some impressive suits here, though Gamera is too 'cutesy' and never looks like he's a credible match for Zedus. The animatronics are also strong and CGI appears to have been used sparingly, which is just as well as it's not so great. The battle, when it comes, works well, and the maxim that Gamera is a friend to all children is flipped; here, it seems that all children are a friend to Gamera. There are a couple of brief blood-thirsty moments that might prove too strong for small children, but otherwise it's not a bad way to spend some time with your family.
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 43: 'Godzilla: Final Wars' [2004]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes
Sub or Dub? Sub

But wait! Order now and we'll throw in this kitchen sink absolutely free!

In the future, mutants emerge and become a kind of Super Soldier Force. Giant monsters also emerge and start randomly destroying major cities around the world. Then the aliens turn up. And a planet is headed on a collision course with Earth. Boy, the world sure is a crazy place in the future. Who to trust? The unblinking aliens with rubber disguises, or Godzilla, known scourge of bridges and tall buildings everywhere? 

'Godzilla: Final Wars' may be the greatest Godzilla movie of them all. I don't think it is, but I could easily understand why someone would argue that. My counter-argument would be necessarily feeble. There is so much to digest here - so many monsters, so many callbacks to previous films, so much Matrix fanlove - that it almost seems impossible it's crammed into a 2 hour film. I'm not sure where to start...

Let's begin with the kaiju: Godzilla, Rodan, Anguirus, Zilla, King Caesar, Kamacuras, Kumonga, Manda, Ebirah, Gigan, Mothra, Minilla, Hedorah, 'Monster X'... not counting the stock footage kaiju too. Too many? You decide. Most get more than just a quick nod on screen, (though Zilla famously is dispatched swiftly - possibly the best sequence and throwaway line in the film). The suits look good, though the overall effects are a bit off - the mix of practical and CGI effects don't gel and it ends up looking a tad video-gamey.

Who is this film aimed at? Hardcore G-Fans would relish the myriad of references here (Gorath! Gotengo! Xilians!) but no doubt turn their noses up at the MTV-style edits, tone and slickness. Action fans would probably enjoy the flash-bang this film dishes out in spades but be lost with what is an -ahem - 'ambitious' plot. Still, if they liked 'The Matrix', they'd find enough eye-candy here too, as 'Final Wars' is heavily indebted to that franchise.

I cannot lie: I was entertained. (I watched it over two nights. This film is relentless and I can't take that level of stimulation in one go at my age.) Like 'Godzilla vs. Hedorah', I won't forget it, but I can't quite decide whether that's because it's awesome or awful. Maybe both, depending on your mood at the time. There have been several boring Godzilla films I know I'll never bother with again. 'Final Wars' is not in that category. I don't know how soon I'll rewatch it, but it's coming, you can count on that.
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: 'Big Man Japan' [2007]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Mockumentary kaiju film
Sub or Dub? Sub

This quirky mockumentary follows the mundane existence of Masaru Daisato, a man with an extraordinary hereditary condition - the ability to grow to giant size when zapped with electricity. He is employed by the Japanese government to battle various kaiju that randomly show up, the battles then televised for an increasingly disinterested audience. The film focuses more on his rather pathetic life - being fleeced by a sponsor-grabbing agent, having strained relations with an almost-ex-wife and his daughter - than the actual battles, we being as complicit in our indifference as the TV viewers.

It's an odd film with mostly gentle humour rather than big belly-laughs (no pun intended), although his encounter with the 'Stink Monster' is hilarious. The CGI for the monsters and for Big Man Japan himself looks too smooth, like a Wii game, but it fits the unreal aspect of the situation. The film takes an odd turn towards the end, and it will take another viewing for me to try and get what the director-writer-actor (Hitoshi Matsumoto in a triple role) was getting at. At nearly two hours, the joke wears thin but it's still 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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BONUS: 'Geharha: The Dark and Long-Haired Monster' [2009]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Homage to kaiju films
Sub or Dub: Sub

This short film must have been a labour of love for the filmmakers. It mixes the long-haired Japanese horror tradition with the kaiju genre, resulting in a pitch-perfect parody/homage to 70s era Godzilla flicks. They capture so much of the earnest silliness in those 20 minutes with easily identifiable tropes - the ultra-serious scientist, the plucky reporter, the obligatory Westerner and, best of all, the tacked-on eco message. Just when it seems to be over, the film turns up the craziness, adding another layer of 70s cheese. We're also treated to a preview of a sequel (either seriously considered or just another part of the joke, I'm not sure) which I would honestly stop everything and watch right now if it existed. If you have even a passing interest in the kaiju genre, you should check this out. It will give you a warm feeling and put a huge smile on your face.
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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^ Dear god, it's beautiful.
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Week 44: 'Godzilla 2000: Millennium' [1999]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes
Sub or Dub? Sub

Godzilla vs. The Flying Saucer

In yet another alternative universe, Godzilla is the sole rampaging monster, his movements being tracked by the small-time Godzilla Prediction Network. Meanwhile, the larger corporation - Crisis Control Intelligence - have discovered a mysterious rock deep on the ocean floor. As they try to recover this enigma, it takes off, revealing itself to be a UFO! When UFO and Godzilla meet, more science ensues.

'Godzilla 2000' was the first of the Millennium era, albeit a lacklustre beginning. There isn't anything majorly wrong with the film, but it's not particularly interesting either. The film suffers from early CGI not playing nice with the practical effects; the UFO, when it appears, looks like a metallic bicycle saddle. The suits and the miniatures come off far better, and indeed Godzilla has one of the best introductions in any of his films here - eye level with a lighthouse, boat in mouth.

The humans are fine, though the daughter skirts the edge of annoying on occasions. Honestly, this film is almost immediately forgettable. It doesn't offer anything new, Godzilla is absent for too long, and I just wasn't interested in him battling a CGI saddle, nor any of its [spoiler alert] iterations. Perhaps the shorter, less serious American cut is more entertaining, but I really can't be bothered to find out.
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: 'Death Kappa' [2010]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Features kaiju
Sub or Dub? Sub

There's a local bar called Wolski's that hands out bumper stickers stating 'I closed Wolski's' if you stay until they have to kick you out. If you've ever driven around Milwaukee, you've probably seen of few of them on the car in front. I feel that this film should do something similar if you manage to watch it until the end: 'I sat through the whole 90 minutes of Death Kappa'. Though this should be written on a $100 bill, not just a bumper sticker.

'Death Kappa' is a parody?homage? to old kaiju films. Maybe. Or maybe they just really didn't have any budget and it ended up looking like that so they just went with it. I suspect the latter. This is a really bad film. Really, really bad.

The story revolves around a Kappa, a frog/turtle/goblin kaiju who eats cucumbers. (This is based on real Japanese folklore, so I'll give them a pass here.) There's also some weird experiments, another giant kaiju, a failed pop singer and please don't ask me to recall anymore, I'm trying to erase it from my memory.

The Good: The battle between the kaijus was OK. The costumes are bad, the miniatures are bad, the effects are bad, but it was a tiny gold leaf on a turd.

The Bad: Everything else. At some point, I suspect the filmmakers thought they had a funny script, but they were sorely mistaken. The acting is atrocious. There's a hugely annoying song that gets played repeatedly (the kappa loves it, and dances). If this was a film made by High School students in their off-hours, I could be more forgiving. But it's not. This is a real film studio that put this out. They made a blu-ray. And I bought it! And watched all of it! Where's my $100?

I feel such intense dislike for this film that I'm not sure it can remain in my house. I don't wish to inflict in on anyone having an otherwise enjoyable shopping experience at Goodwill, so it may have to be burned. Trust me, I'm doing mankind a service.
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: 'Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo' [2012]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Features kaiju
Sub or Dub?  Sub

This 10 minute live action film, produced by Studio Ghibli, features some good-to-excellent merging of CGI with modern day Tokyo. The film is narrated as a flashback by an unseen young woman, inter-cut with the written dialogue of her similarly unseen brother. (This effect no doubt works better in the original Japanese rather than via subtitles.) The story relates the apocalypse, in all its fiery and incomprehensible glory. It is dark and depressing, viewed on an equally dark and depressing Halloween. It is well done, though I wouldn't say it is enjoyable.
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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