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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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