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My Year with Godzilla

Garp

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BONUS: 'Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend' [2009]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Another from the Ultraman franchise, from Eiji Tsuburaya
Sub or Dub? Sub

Several iterations of Ultramen take on the evil Belial and his endless supply of monsters in this ultimate Ultraman cross-over.

I wish I knew and liked the Ultraman franchise a bit more, as this seemed to be pure fan service from beginning to end. Just when you thought one Ultraman was defeated, another would pop-up, probably to cheers in cinemas across Japan. The story is very simple - an evil Ultraman has frozen the Ultra Planet (NB. Not its real name) and various teams try to overthrow him. This is a green-screen-heavy film, with the planet existing only in CGI, looking how the Fortress of Solitude would if it were to become gentrified.

There are so many Ultramen here, mostly masked, and I had trouble keeping track of them, especially as a lot had capes that seemed to get in the way frequently (it was pretty distracting). Some original actors came back to reprise their roles, which was a nice touch, and there are battles galore. If you came for monsters, you would not be disappointed in the quantity, but perhaps in the quality. Until the final Boss Monster (NB. Not its real name) they all looked ragged and cartoony but, to be fair, there must have been a few dozen suits to make.

The unmasked heroes had perfected the overly-dramatic speeches followed by a smoldering look. It was all very silly but fit with the overall vibe; this is not a film to take in the least bit seriously. It was made by Ultraman fans for Ultraman fans and succeeded in its mission - to cram as many references, cameos, monsters and frenzied battles into one film as is humanly possible. If you go in expecting a nuanced plot, deep characterization and anything meaningful for a female character to do, you have stumbled onto the wrong film. If you want to turn off your brain, eat popcorn and dial your adrenaline up to 11, you'll probably have a lot of fun. Especially if Ultraman (all of them) is your thing.
 

Garp

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BONUS: 'Rampage' [2018]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Features large monsters

Evil corporation's experiments lead to three unfortunate animals being infected with a anonymous green vapour capable of mutating them and increasing their size. One is a friendly albino gorilla called George, cared for by unlikely zoologist Dwayne Johnson; the others are a wild wolf and an alligator. When Evil Corporation decide to lure the monsters to Chicago to more easily capture their DNA, only The Rock can save the Windy City...

This film has no pretensions whatsoever, as far as I could see. It knows what it is and delivers it in spades. It's a Big Special Effects film. It wisely casts Dwayne Johnson as the main lead, doing what he does best - utilising his onscreen charisma, showing off his body and strength, beating bad guys and saving the world, or part of it.

Johnson has some good to fair back-up here - Naomi Harris has a passable yet still distracting American accent, and Malin Ackerman chews the scenery as the villain (when the scenery isn't chewing her). Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks like he's having the most fun, though, sneering throughout, keeping the audience guessing whose side he's really on. The real stars, though, are the creatures. George comes off best, both as a lovable victim (the relationship, developed early on in the film, between the ape and Johnson is very well done) and a building-bashing monster. Why George seems to be the only one not mutating (the wolf develops spines and can fly; the gator appears to be part Zilla) is either not explained or my brain had already switched off by then and I missed it.

'Rampage' isn't a great film, of course, but it's a fun one, held up with the ample arms of Dwayne Johnson, his natural charm and some excellent CGI. Worth a peek.
 

jrWHAG42

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I've been waiting for a Rampage movie for years, as a fan of the old games. The movie was pretty good, though I have some fundamental problems with it. Some video game movies don't need to be changed to be serious and have realism, I wish it kept the ridiculous story of a corporation making a soda that transforms people into monsters. The games were silly, the movie was a bit too serious. I'd rather the monsters consciously try to conquer the world and look at the camera. Maybe make it a Jekyll and Hyde thing where the monsters keep transforming back and forth, build off of the plot of the games rather than make up shit.
But I shouldn't expect so much.
 

Garp

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I went in with zero expectations as I have somehow managed to avoid ever playing 'Rampage', thus having no frame of reference. I thought it succeeded as a Destroy-Stuff movie but, yeah, maybe it failed as a Rampage-Game movie, I dunno. *shrug*
 

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Week 52: 'Godzilla, King of the Monsters' [2019]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes

The monsters are among us. Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has invented a device known as the Orca to communicate with the Titans, but is kidnapped along with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and the device on its trial run. Her ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) is enlisted to help rescue them. But when the monsters start emerging from their slumbers, it becomes unclear whose side some people are really on...

'Godzilla, King of the Monsters' is a follow-up to 2014's 'Godzilla', with added kaiju and fan service. The filmmakers have artfully combined both Toho Kaiju lore with a premise that works for more sophisticated 21st century audiences. The upshot is that you don't have to understand all the references, but it's an enriching experience if you do.

The story isn't exactly original - there's the Orca-MacGuffin that both the good guys and bad guys are after, and the ex-husband drafted in to save his erstwhile wife is a very tired plotline by now. Still, there's some interesting twists along the way to keep things moving nicely. No major stand-outs for me in terms of the acting, though it's always fun to watch Bradley Whitford.

So, what about them monsters, eh? The effects are excellent but also succeed in capturing their characters as well. Godzilla is sufficiently sympathetic; Mothra the healer; Ghidorah the destroyer., etc. It's obvious everyone behind this film knows and loves the Toho films that have gone before, inserting many nice little touches. We get a silk-spitting larvae, Mothra's theme tune, the twins and her 'magic' dust. Ghidorah is a space monster still and is nicknamed Monster Zero. Rodan is born from a volcano and, yes, has his supersonic flypasts. When Godzilla and Ghidorah battle, we get both the 70s wrestling fights and the 90s beam-wars. There's even an Oxygen Destroyer! It's all incredibly well done.

There are some niggling points. Madison's actions, necessary to further the plot, seem too easy to achieve, and the aforementioned MacGuffin is clunky. The film also suffers from its predecessors dark palette on occasions, though not to such a great extent, and there is some dodgy dialogue throughout. But I was too busy trying to catch as many Easter eggs as I could (I'm sure I missed most) to prevent these from ruining my enjoyment.

The ending teases a possible return of a couple of the kaiju, as well as blatantly setting up 2020's 'Godzilla vs Kong'. The only way I could have had more fun watching this film is if they had included a love triangle, a brother sabotaging his sister's relationship or a monster destroying a dam. But I can wait until next year for those.
 

Garp

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Final Thoughts:

I started this year-long project knowing very little about Godzilla or the kaiju genre overall. Godzilla movies weren't a Saturday morning staple in the UK in the 70s, as they seem to have been here in the US. I knew Godzilla, of course - he's immediately identifiable and I must have absorbed him by osmosis. If I thought about Godzilla films at all, they were silly, campy kid's stuff, so badly dubbed as to be humorous. But after a year spent watching, dissecting and reviewing all of Hitchcock's films (plus sequels and remakes), I was looking for some lighter fare. It honestly didn't occur to me that I would become a kaiju fan.

I've now seen more rubber-suited actors smashing tiny cardboard buildings than I ever imagined. Some of the films have been excellent; many have been atrocious. I've seen Godzilla as an analogy for nuclear war, ecological foreboding, bullying, governmental ineptitude, natural disasters and probably more I've forgotten. Godzilla has been a force of nature, a hero, anti-hero, kung-fu master, dancer, absent father and mutated iguana (if that counts). I've read books on Godzilla and kaiju films in general, ordered magazines, watched documentaries and literally bought the T-shirt; I'm seriously considering attending a G-Fest convention too.

After viewing all of Hitchcock's films last year, I noted that it had given me a better sense of cinema, that it had changed the way I watched films. I noticed things more - editing, camera angles, shadows, foreboding, use of sound, etc. I'd like to say that my Year with Godzilla has provoked something similar. It has, but understandably not quite so profound.

Yes, the films are largely ridiculous, but the imagination that has gone into making them is incredible. You know that Godzilla is just a man in a suit, but Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya (and their successors) made you suspend your disbelief. Their work creating earthquakes, crumbling buildings, cracking dams, monsters with many heads and everything in-between is amazing. Their best work still surpasses today's worst CGI. That imagination has sparked something in many other filmmakers. It may sound trite, but I believe these kaiju films have elevated sci-fi and fantasy films today. I will never make a film, but I hope to bring some of that imagination mixed with realism into my own writing.

There are some films I know I will return to often ('Gojira', 'King Kong vs Godzilla', 'Destroy all monsters'), some I won't ('Son of Godzilla', any of the 90s 'Mothra' films) and some I may have to see again just to relive the madness ('Godzilla ve. Hedorah', 'Final Wars'). It's been tiring sometimes, watching another bad Godzilla rip-off, yet there have been more gems than turds - at least, I think so.

I'm taking a year off from anything quite so time-consuming (my 'Bonus' films kept expanding this year, to the extent that some weeks they took up all of my evenings), but I plan to have several mini-projects throughout 2020, and review them here. Thanks to those of you who have followed this thread, liked the reviews and left comments throughout this year; it's meant a lot. Have a great New Year's Eve and see you on the other side.

Steve
 

Neglify

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Bravo for getting through all those. Your reviews were a pleasure to read. Sorry I ditched the party so early.
 

Garp

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No worries, mate. It was quite an undertaking. Your reviews were a riot to read. All the best to you for the 20s.
 

jrWHAG42

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I've had a great time reading your reviews. They've been insightful and amusing at times. Definitely given me lots of ideas for things to watch. I'm going to miss this thread.
 

ray

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Been reading through this & I love it!
I'm a big G Fan & reading a first-timer's reactions is always interesting.
 

ray

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Garp said:
Week 16: 'The War of the Gargantuas' [1966]

...The highlight - as it is so bizarre - is the musical number sung in English, a horrendous yet catchy Burt Bacharach-like song called "The words get stuck in my throat". It's almost worth seeing this film just to hear it.

Bonus trivia!
Devo used to end their shows with this song.
Brad Pitt has listed this as his favorite film.
 

Garp

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ray said:
Garp said:
Week 16: 'The War of the Gargantuas' [1966]

...The highlight - as it is so bizarre - is the musical number sung in English, a horrendous yet catchy Burt Bacharach-like song called "The words get stuck in my throat". It's almost worth seeing this film just to hear it.

Bonus trivia!
Devo used to end their shows with this song.
Brad Pitt has listed this as his favorite film.

I remember seeing it on a Scooby-Doo show, too. It gets stuck in your head, as well - it is very catchy.
 

Garp

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BONUS: 'Space Battleship Yamato' [2010]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Battleship Yamato features in the kaiju film 'Deep Sea Monster Reigo'
Sub or Dub: Feeling lazy so dub

I took a brief wander back into pseudo-kaiju territory last night and watched 'Space Battleship Yamato', a live-action film from the large Yamato franchise (of which I have seen little). Earth has become inhabitable and the world's population are sheltering underground. Aliens are attacking, intent on making our home their own. Other aliens claim to be able to provide us with a device to eradicate the radiation and save Earth, so long as we can hop over to their planet and pick it up. The old Space Battleship Yamato is pressed back into service, with its ragtag crew.

First off, the CGI is rather impressive in this film, the alien spaceships particularly, and the battle scenes are very well done. It doesn't rival bigger-budgeted Hollywood fare, but it's certainly watchable. The plot is far from original and there are several well-worn tropes on show - the I-hate-you/I-can't live-without-you love interest, the cocky hero with a grudge, the captain's last mission, etc. It also lacks a much needed light touch - it is very earnest throughout, and several scenes drag on too long and wallow in melodrama. In fact, at 137 mins, it's overlong in general, I'd argue.

However, it is entertaining. The film does a good job characterizing each crew member, giving it a 'Star Trek' feel, which is necessary as almost the whole film is based onboard. It ends with the obligatory soft rock ballad (sung by Steven Tyler), by which time it had won me over and I didn't even cringe. I'm tempted to seek out the anime, although it seems that's a project all on its own.
 

jrWHAG42

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All I know about Yamato is that one of the animated movies for it is the longest animated movie of all time. I've been tempted to watch the show just so that I could watch that long movie.
 

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Garp, thought you and others might like this latest little effort from Godzilla:King of the Monsters director Michael Dougherty -

 

Garp

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'Godzilla vs Kong' [2021]

The Monsterverse continues with Kong and Godzilla finally getting a rematch after 59 years. The story carries on from previous instalments, with a couple of familiar faces for continuity. Godzilla has been doing his thing, keeping the Titans in check, it seems, but Kong has been separated from him inside a huge biodome. Will the stars align and allow our massive CGI creations the opportunity to duke it out..?

I rewatched 'Skull Island', 'Godzilla' and 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' first to refresh my memory, and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed them all still. So I went into 'Godzilla vs Kong' with some high hopes. I can't say they were completely dashed, but I was left disappointed.

There is obviously a huge suspension of disbelief involved when you're watching a film featuring mammoth monsters. Even so, I felt that the previous films at least tried to ground themselves with a semblance of reality. Here. though, anything approaching logic or plausibility is thrown out the window. Both previous Godzilla films had a host of characters making life and death decisions, with a feeling that there were even more people behind the scenes involved too. Yet when it's necessary to remove Kong from his safe environment for the sake of plot, this momentous decision is agreed to by a couple of people with a shrug within seconds. Later, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown reviving her character from G:KOTM) and her comic relief sidekicks wander unchecked through several top secret locations without anyone batting an eyelid. OK, OK, it's not supposed to be Ingmar Bergman here, but it also doesn't have to be so, well, dumb.

Whereas G:KOTM wove lots of aspects from original Toho kaiju films into their still impressive movie, GvK opts for some of worst sci-fi aspects from the later series. Characters zip around within the Hollow Earth (a mix of Pandora and 'Journey to the Center of the Earth') in what are spaceships in all but name. (And did you notice that one of them was destroyed? No one else did, apparently, and the explorers are smiling at the pretty scenery within a few seconds after their colleagues plummet to their fiery doom.)

Alright. Maybe I'm being too harsh. It's a popcorn flick. I get it. The CGI looks good, as it should by now, and the inevitable battles are fun to watch. But after three decent-to-great films as a set-up, I was expecting something more.
 
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