Have You Ever Killed Your Best Friend? – BATTLE ROYALE

24 06 2013

BATTLE ROYALE

Imagine the scene, you are on an island, and it is your life or theirs, only one of you can survive. You may ask why, well because the Government said so. You may also ask why to that statement also, well it’s because you have been naughty, so you have been forced to kill each other. You might not like the idea, well who does, but it’s tough, it’s how the world is these days. Ok not yet, but it could happen, how do I know that? Because a film was produced about it – its name is BATTLE ROYALE.

Battle Royale Class

Now before all the younger people get high on themselves and think this film sounds like a rip-off of The Hunger Games, it’s not. Battle Royale is a Japanese film that was released in 2000 Adapted from a book that was released in 1999 (nine years before The Hunger Games book was released) by Japanese Author Koushun Takami. But before anyone starts going off at The Hunger Games being a possible rip-off of Battle Royale, we can do that later, right now we are talking about Battle Royale the film and not it’s relation to a similar film that was released a year ago.

Battle Royale (Koushun Takami - 1999)

Based on what is possibly the most controversial book of the 20th century (as the trailer states) Battle Royale is a film about a group of High School Students who are put on an island and forced to kill each other. Yes we can’t really scoot round the controversial subject but despite the films setting, I think this film is one of the most Beautiful films produced to date. As implied in the last paragraph the film is an adaptation of a book by Koushun Takami which went on to become a best seller and was later published worldwide. I myself have not read the book but after watching the film, I really want to. The film upon release was banned in several countries because of its content; this however did not stop it from becoming one of Japan’s top ten highest grossing films. The film itself was directed by Legendary Japanese Director Kinji Fukasaku whose other film credits include Battles Without Honor and Humanity and Graveyard of Honor.

Kinji Fukasaku

The film opens up with a quick brief synopsis of the setting – “At the dawn of the Millennium, the nation (Japan) collapsed. At 15% Employment, 10 million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The Adults lost confidence and fearing the youth eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act. AKA: The BR Act.”. On a remote unknown island off the coast of Japan a TV Report is talking about an annual event and what happened before spotting a little girl covered in blood in a military jeep………smiling. The film’s opening continues with a quick dialogue from the films protagonist Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who comes home on his first day of 7th grade to find that his father has hung himself leaving a note that says “Go Shuya, you can do it Shuya”. At the school, another pupil by the name of Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda) arrives late for class to discover her teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) in the room by himself with a note from the rest of the class stating they are taking the lesson off. Kitano leaves the room only to be attacked by one of the students. About a year later the class goes on a school trip with their new teacher. Noriko gives some cookies to Shuya and his friend Yoshitoki Kuninobu (the one who attacked Kitano). After entering a tunnel, Shuya wakes up on the bus to discover everyone is asleep only to be knocked out by one of the people on the bus.

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The Class wakes up in a dark class room with strange metal collars around their necks along with two other people they had not seen before. They look out the window and see soldiers and a helicopter coming in to land. Then to their surprise their old teacher Kitano arrives with the soldiers. The children are ordered to sit down and listen. Kitano introduces the two new comers as Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) and Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando). Kitano explains that because the country is no good anymore, the government passed a law known as Battle Royale and tells the class that they all have to kill each other until only one of them is left standing. He then plays a video which explains what is going on. The class have been brought to a deserted island and have three days to kill each other. If after three days more than one person is still alive, they all die thanks to the collars around their necks which are packed with explosives. During the video Kitano kills one of the students for whispering and demonstrates the collars explosive properties on Yoshitoki Kuninobu. The class are also warned about Danger zones which will cause the explosives in their collars to explode if they enter those areas. The class leaves the school one by one as the game begins, each receiving a bag with food, water, a map, compass and a random weapon. Noriko and Nanahara run to a seaside cave. Within the first few hours, the realization of what is happening to them sets in for the class with eight of them being killed by fellow students and four of them commit suicide. During the violence Kiriyama and Mitsuko (Kō Shibasaki) show themselves as the most dangerous in the game.

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The following morning Kitano announces where the Danger zones are and who died during the night. Nanahara promises to keep Noriko safe for Kuninobu who had a crush on her. Other students have their own plans of survival. Nanahara has an encounter with a fellow student who is accidently killed with an axe to the head, before encountering Kawada who does not appear to be a killer. However two girls try to make peace with everyone only to be killed by Kiriyama. Noriko and Nanahara continue to explore the island. Several other students have their own plans of survival. Mimura (Takashi Tsukamoto) tries to hack into the military computers and destroy the system, Hiroki (Sousuke Takaoka) tries to look for his best friend Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama) as well as Kotohiki (Takayo Mimura) who he has a crush on. Chigusa meanwhile kills one of the students who tries to force himself upon her only to be gunned down shortly after by Mitsuko. After sometime exploring the island, Noriko collapses. Nanahara takes her to the island clinic where Kawada tries to make her better and cooks rice for all of them. While there, Kawada mentions that he has been in the game before and tells them the story of how he survived. Kawada says he knows how to get off the island but before he can explain, the group are attacked by Kiriyama. Nanahara gets split up from Noriko and Kawada as he is attacked by Kiriyama. Hiroki comes in to save the day and both he and Nanahara manage to escape.

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Nanahara wakes up bandaged in the island lighthouse with Utsumi (Eri Ishikawa) watching over him who explains what has happened over the last 14 hours. Utsumi is one of many in the lighthouse who are preparing to eat some pasta. However one of them tries to poison Nanahara’s food because she saw him kill someone and does not trust him. This backfires however with one of the girls eating Nanahara’s food and dying. The Girls, now paranoid kill each other off except the one who poisoned the food who commits suicide instead. Nanahara eventually returns to Noriko and Kawada. Hiroki manages to find Kotohiki who panics and shoots him, Kotohiki is then killed by Mitsuko who is then killed by Kiriyama. Meanwhile Mimura successfully attacks the military computer and is about to blow the school when Kiriyama attacks and kills his friends. Mimura then detonates the explosives hoping to kill Kiriyama. Kawada, Nanahara and Noriko arrive and manage to kill Kiriyama. Now the only three people left alive, Kawada seemingly turns on the other two. The shots are heard and Kitano decrees that the game is over.

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The soldiers leave the island as Kitano is left on the island all alone. He meets Kawada and works out that he deactivated his collar and is about to kill him when Noriko and Nanahara arrive. Kitano shows off a painting he has been doing which shows everyone dead on the island except Noriko. Noriko holds a gun up to him but is unable to pull the trigger, but Nanahara does remembering what his father said. The trio leaves the island with Kawada succumbing to his wounds and Nanahara and Noriko returning to the mainland before going on the run from the authorities.

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It is incredible how much depth this film goes into, particularly with the characters. Every character has a back story, emotions, ideas everything. Even if the character is only on-screen for a few minutes or is one of the first to die, the level of depth in that character is fantastic. Of course other characters go more in-depth as they have more of a showing in the film. Not only that but the film uses a lot of flashbacks and previous quotes used by the characters as a method of feeding the audience with the back story. Some of these flashbacks even occur in the game itself, like Chigusa who is seen running in her sports gear before realizing that she is still in the game. Nanahara remembering the last meal he had with his father, Noriko remembering the treatment she got from the other pupils. But don’t forget that these are still children and the attitudes and behaviour of the children also come out as well.

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In terms of the cast, some of the minor characters such as Utsumi, Chigusa and Mimura are played excellently and while they may only appear for a short time, those scenes are brilliant. Mimura in particular shows how inventive they can be when facing a major challenge.

Chigusa, Mimura and Utsumi

Mitsuko on the other hand is a Great psychopath. Pretty much from the start she is revealing how nasty she is. Her weapon is a sign of this as it is a sharp weapon and can only be used in a certain way, but there is a level of childishness in her, particularly in the form of a teenager when it is revealed what she got up to at school. Kiriyama is an excellent character to tie in with this as he is merciless and psychotic too and joins in the game more to have fun and be twisted rather than being in it for another reason. Kawada meanwhile appears to be more dangerous than the previous two as he shows some skill in everything he does. Yet he appears to be somewhat haunted by his past and in some sense wants to be on the island as he is very casual with what is happening and going on. His protective side shows though that he, like many on the island is a caring person.

Mitsuko, Kiriyama and Kawada

The main members of the cast though are Noriko, Nanahara and Kitano. Takeshi Kitano (The same Takeshi from Takeshi’s Castle) plays the somewhat twisted head of the program; he announces the Danger zones and is happy with all he does. He does though show some regret with what is happening around him concerning Noriko. There appears to be some form of friendship between the two as he is a teacher just trying to do his job and Noriko appears to be an actually good student compared to the rest of his class. This may show why he painted the picture with Noriko surviving as he may be stating that she is the only one who deserves to live. Noriko meanwhile, during the films exploits appears to play a typical love interest but not a damsel in distress and shows some strengths, including pointing the Gun at Kitano in the end. She is an extremely good friend to those around her and cares a lot about them. Nanahara on the other hand is an increasingly strong character throughout who seems close to unstoppable as his injuries progress but he keeps going. However he does still have emotional issues with the suicide of his father and finds it tough to keep going, but he does so for the sake of both his friend Kuninobu and Noriko.

Kitano, Nanahara and Noriko

Of course one thing that can’t be overlooked is the blood splatter which is used regularly in the film in several ways with the most frequent being guns. The extreme graphics of these scenes may appear to be gruesome but in some way they are necessary in order to show the seriousness of the situation. The film also has its own little charms of trying to get the best out of a horrible situation, the main example of this being the instruction video (WARNING: May Not Be Suitable Viewing for a Younger Audience, much like the entire film).

The film is beautifully shot. Many scenes show the great expanse of the island and in some scenes it is hard to see it as an island but the areas of the island kind of tell the story of the island, what kind of place it was once like to live on before it was turned into an island of death. The film’s camera work also makes great use of weather and horizons with the colour in some scenes showing what time of day it is and it is through this that the film shows the timescale of the event. The use of rain also has its uses for representing low mood scenes and scenes of happiness too, something that doesn’t usually occur in rain scenes. But possibly the films best shots are at the end of the film when the game is over. Kitano exercising outside the school, on the boat, the view of the island and Noriko and Nanahara running away through the streets of Tokyo. It brings a calm essence to the end of what is a horrible event in the lives of those who have lived it.

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The film’s soundtrack is another major element of this film. While most of the film’s soundtrack was produced by Masamichi Amano, the film uses a great amount of work from accomplished composers and is used frequently in the film. The film’s main theme is Verdi’s Requiem which is used as the title music and the music on the trailer. It shows a great amount of impact in the scenes that it is used in and also signifies how bad things are probably going to become. Other pieces of music include Radetzky March (composed by Johann Strauss), The Blue Danube (by Johann Strauss II), Auf dem Wasser zu singen (by Franz Schubert) and Air on the G String (by Johann Sebastian Bach). Most of these are used for the announcement parts of the film from Kitano but they do add a sense of scale and announcement to the scene and are some of my Favourite parts of the film, the temptation to stand up and wave my hands round like a conductor is hard to suppress. The pieces produced by Masamichi Amano offer a sense of something different and add a bit more culture to the music.

The general soundtrack as a whole is brilliant from the beginning. The general soundtrack offers many variations depending on the scene particularly towards the end where the soundtrack, like the scenes do offer some contemplation to what has happened.

While the plot of the film maybe controversial in what it is doing, it is an incredible film. It has several scenes where there are nice happy things going on, people trying to make the best out of what time they have left. While some fight to survive, some of them are doing it because they have something to fight for. But when it comes to some flashback scenes as well as some of the other nice happy scenes, it shows there is more to this film than meets the eye. While many will say that this film is nothing more than a gore fest with lots of blood; those who have seen it can say more than that. Yes it may be more of a horror film than anything else, but this film does represent how important life is, it represents the strong fight for survival against those who seek to take it away and represents how powerful the human spirit can be and also shows how important friendship is.

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While many will probably avoid watching this film due to its setting as well as its content; I am exceedingly happy that I have seen this film. While the battle will probably rage on about what being a rip off of what, to me this will remain one of the Best Films I have seen. It has a great story, brilliant scenes, wonderful character, amazing effects and fantastic ideas. In cinema there are very few times when a film comes out which touches your heart in such a way that makes you happy, but every once in a while one is produced, and Battle Royale is one of those times. I can say with pride and much happiness how much I have enjoyed the experience. Thank you Koushun Takami, Thank you Kinji Fukasaku, Thank you for BATTLE ROYALE.

GENEPOOL

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Godzilla vs The Original Godzilla – Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla

17 06 2013

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2002)

Back in 2011 I wanted to do a review of the original 1974 Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla, but at the time of writing it, Japan had been hit by a huge tsunami, so I decided to leave it. But now MechaGodzilla finally arrives as I bring you one of the best films from the series, and one of my ultimate Favourite films. To date, Godzilla has fought about 22 Monsters (not including variations), but the Big G has not really fought himself before. Most times he has appeared to fight himself have mostly been in the form of a robotic version of himself (including a disguise used by MechaGodzilla in  the original Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla) not to mention the Space version of himself in the 1995 film; Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla. However in 2002 Godzilla would indeed fight against himself (well, more like his ancestor), and would do so while also fighting his main rival. No, not King Ghidorah, MechaGodzilla.

MechaGodzilla: Showa, Hesei and Millenium

The film begins in 1999 with a military operation in action at a port. By night a typhoon arrives and reporters are reporting what is happening. Behind them a large waves hits the shore and a rather familiar monster begins to rise out of the sea. The Anti-Megalosaurs Force (AMF) goes into action with several tanks and maser weapons en-route to attack the monster, now smashing small local villages. The AMF begin their attack but are unsuccessful. The maser weapons have a bit more luck but as the monster gets closer, an accident occurs where a small jeep falls off a cliff only to be trampled by the Monsters foot. The following day, the maser tanks driver Lt. Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) is made a scapegoat for the incident and is given a job in data resources.

GAMG Akane

The Prime Minister (Kumi Mizuno) of Japan recounts previous monster incidents in Japan’s history including the rampage by the original Godzilla as well as attacks by Mothra and Gaira and how these attacks were suppressed by new weapons developed. Now with the confirmation that the Monster from the previous night’s attack was indeed Godzilla, the country needs a new weapon. A scientist at a University named Tokumitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma) is contacted by Government Agents. He is taken to a science centre where, along with other top scientists are shown the bone remains of the original 1954 Godzilla. The plan by the government is to use the bones to build the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon. After some persuasion from his daughter Sara (Kana Onodera), Yuhara joins the team in building the weapon. Four years later, the Prime Minister has stepped down and has handed her position over to Hayato Igarashi (Akira Nakao). The weapon is complete and is named Kiryu, A special unit is created whose job it is to control Kiryu and is led by Colonel Togashi (Kou Takasugi), Akane is asked to join the group, she accepts, however one person from the group disagrees to this as his brother was in the jeep that was trampled by Godzilla in 1999.

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After months of training Yuhara and his daughter meet Akane who takes an interest in Sara’s sleeping grass plant. Yuhara tries to ask Akane on a date, but is unsuccessful. Kiryu is revealed to the world and its abilities are demonstrated, including its main weapon, the Absolute Zero Cannon. During this presentation Godzilla is spotted heading for Japan, Kiryu is ordered to deploy. Godzilla arrives in Tokyo near an aquarium, wrecking it in the process. Kiryu is deployed and the two monsters stare at each other. Kiryu launches several missile attacks on Godzilla which don’t seem to have much success, but when Godzilla roars, Kiryu appears to recognize it. Akane, who is tasked with piloting Kiryu, tries to activate the Absolute Zero Cannon and kill Godzilla, but it fails. Godzilla retreats into the sea. Kiryu is about to be picked up by special aircraft when it mysteriously attacks the aircraft. Kiryu then goes on a rampage of downtown Tokyo. Akane’s rival’s plane crashes and Akane rescues him before his plane explodes. Kiryu’s rampage continues until his energy levels drop completely running out of power in the process and coming to a complete halt.

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Kiryu is repaired as questions of what happened begin to arise. Akane’s rival is seemingly unhappy about being rescued, while the rest of the Kiryu squad seem to be thankful for what she did and give her a warm round of applause and properly welcome her into the group. She however still feels alone despite Sara trying to reach out to her. Yuhara works out that the DNA of the original Godzilla caused the issue, recognizing the roar of the new Godzilla. Yuhara continues to attempt to spring up romance with Akane while Sara becomes upset with the Idea that Kiryu should be made to fight Godzilla instead of being friends with him.

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Godzilla reappears and the Prime Minister makes the decision to allow Kiryu to fight despite the possible risk. Kiryu goes on the attack and quickly gets an upper hand but soon runs out of weaponry and gets heavily damaged by Godzilla. Akane then shows off what Kiryu can do by having Kiryu fight in hand to hand combat. This initially works and so the Absolute Zero Canon is prepared to fire. Then Godzilla pulls off an advantage by making Kiryu fall backwards destroying three tall buildings with the Absolute Zero Canon instead. This heavily damages Kiryu and so Akane goes down onto the ground to enter and control Kiryu internally rather than remotely. The Japanese Defence Force deploys to distract Godzilla while this is going on. Akane manages to Get Kiryu working again but Kiryu needs power, so the electric companies cause a Mass Blackout across Tokyo. Kiryu gets back up only to be blasted by Godzilla. Akane is injured but gets strength to continue fighting by memories of Sara telling her how precious life is. Kiryu gets back up ready to fight, Akane’s rival flies his plane into Godzilla’s mouth to prevent him firing his atomic breath at Kiryu again.

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Akane, prepares to fire the Absolute Zero Canon at Godzilla, but holds it as it would potentially kill her rival if she fired it, instead she moves Kiryu into Godzilla, grabs his mouth then throws her rivals plane away before picking up Godzilla and flying him into the sea. The sea freezes as she flies Kiryu into it. Godzilla rises out of the sea with a chest wound, he moves in an opposite direction to Tokyo as Kiryu rises out of the sea. Akane stands on Kiryu’s shoulder and watches Godzilla go out to sea. In a post credits scene, Akane meets up with Sara and Yuhara and thanks Sara for giving her strength. She states that the battle was a draw and invites Yuhara and Sara out for dinner before looking up at Kiryu and Saluting.

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I do have the distinct feeling that the Director Masaaki Tezuka and TOHO have wanted to do a film along the lines of the plot of this film for a long time now. If you were to watch an episode of the 1990’s cartoon series there is a plot of some episodes which are along the same lines as this one. As well as that, there was also an unused plot idea in the 1990’s where Godzilla would fight the Ghost from the 1954 film. It is interesting to note how the plot of this film works. For the most part it is a film about a country building a weapon to defend itself from a recurring threat, while also being a film that has essences of philosophy such as the value of life as well as parts about friendship and love which is mostly made up of the growing friendship between Sara and Akane and the possible romance between Akane and Yuhara. These three parts don’t take a side stance either; they are present throughout the film as more of a second plot device. That is interesting in contrast to other Godzilla films which may hint at those possibilities while this one shows it more directly. I also like how the films story mentions other TOHO films like Mothra and The War of the Gargantuas.

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The films cast are a nice range of characters with actors that suit them. Characters like Yuhara, Togashi and Prime Minister Igarashi make up the backbone of the film’s acting. Yuhara is the single father who has two main jobs, looking after his daughter, and his work on Kiryu and so is able to balance the two only just, but the flaw in his character is revealed when it is revealed he is not very good at chatting to women and so becomes a bit of a comedy character, but not too much though and so does not ruin the character. It is nice to see Kumi Mizuno return to the Godzilla series as the short lived Prime Minister of Japan before Akira Nakao steps in.  Togashi meanwhile is a strong leader character who has affections to Akane in some form, we don’t know what but they are strong enough to remember her and think about her when the project he is leading needs good soldiers. Igarashi only makes a few appearances but is played excellently by series regular Akira Nakao who plays leaders very well in my opinion, I look forward to his parts as he is an amazing actor in those positions, a lot like Koji Yakusho in some respects. The character of Sara meanwhile is one that is almost like a storyteller in the respects that she is guiding the story along between Akane and her father and also helps Akane to come to terms with herself and her place in the world. She is almost a philosopher as well as she continually asks questions about everything around her that she does not understand but still has an answer for them too.

Cast

The real heavyweight of the film’s acting though (other than the two Giant Monsters) is Yumiko Shaku playing the part of Akane. She is the main lead human of the film and while Sara could be seen as the film’s story teller, Akane is the story’s director. The during the construction of Kiryu as well as the incident at the beginning and the end, you are very much focused on her throughout the film. For most of the early part she does not do much talking but her expressions pretty much do more than speaking would do. She has the look of someone who is holding in something about herself and so buries herself into both her training and work to distract herself from these things, it is not until the story begins to unfold that these things come to light. The friendship she strikes up with Sara and Yuhara (and in some cases Kiryu) is a sign of these things getting better but she still feels alone, even with the help and acceptance of those working with her after saving her rival’s life. As the film comes to a close, it is here that she realizes that life is worth living and that people do care about her even after everything that has happened. The character of Akane is one of the series best female characters by far and I do hope that in the future Yumiko Shaku returns to the series in a similar (or better role, maybe a higher position in the military or government position perhaps) role in the future.

Yumiko Shaku

Now we move onto the Monsters, the real stars of the film. Kiryu is my Favourite version of MechaGodzilla to date. His design is spectacular and looks both nasty and terrifying. The effects used for him are some of the best in the series.  His appearance has the scary terrifying look of the original Godzilla but his design is more similar to the 1995 MechaGodzilla thanks to such additions as the jetpack thing on his back and the variety of weapons. He is more of a weapons platform of devastating weapons than being an entire weapon. He is however better than previous versions of himself by one major difference, he has an identity. In the past he has either been just another monster or a weapon. Because of the machine being built around the bones of a former Godzilla and by being in-touch with that monster he has more of a personality, his rampage early on in the film represents this by taking control of himself rather than be directed or controlled and therefore giving him more of a part in the film. It is also Great to see a MechaGodzilla that is more in league with the times, his construction is well documented which gives a nice touch to the story and his character but his construction is not limited to the use of Aliens or people from the future, he is built by the present times due to a need for him to be built.

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Godzilla meanwhile makes one of his best appearances in his film career. He is much larger and taller in this film compared to the previous film and several shots are used to show this with great effect. Like all but one film in the millennium series, his introduction is that he has not been seen since the original 1954 film, but instead of becoming a folk tale, his presence is still felt thanks to appearances from other monsters. Some CGI is used in this film for Godzilla’s part but these are really only for the shots from the original film. His strength and power is used to great effect in this film showing that even if a weapon is built that can go toe to toe with him, it is still only just, and on several occasions this is proven. Godzilla’s design is also magnificent and really matches his size also, and the way his eyes sometimes look astonished at what he sees and other times where his eyes make him look really sinister add more flavour to his character, possibly due to the characteristics his eyes brought in the previous film.

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Most of the films main special effects are used in the military scenes. While the use of miniatures is till apparent, something that is a regular feature throughout the series; more uses of actual, real life weapons are used in the film also. Things such as tank and vehicle close-ups are filmed brilliantly with some shots taking place inside the vehicles. Not only that, but close-ups on a human level when using a giant miniature in the background made things that are not real, real. The battle sequences in this film are some of the best to date, not just the fight sequences between the monsters but also the occasions when weapons are used against the monsters and the use of close-ups help this also. But not just that, the weapons used by Kiryu look superb, weapons including the mouth laser, missiles and the Absolute Zero Cannon too, and when it is used, the effect of the weapon is Fantastic.

Type 90 Maser Cannon

Other notable uses of special effects are the early scenes of Godzilla rising out of the sea, his rampage through small villages. The weather plays an important part the weather in some shots might of course be the real thing, but those scenes are beautiful. The detail of the special effects is incredible and this comes to great use when looking at the systems and buildings used for the construction of Kiryu as well as the testing ground, the vehicles used for transportation, the interiors, everything. But one of the best special effects of this film is the Giant Skeleton of the original Godzilla. The large sea tank that the skeleton is kept in, the people swimming around it. It is only seen for one scene, but it is terrific.

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The film’s soundtrack (provided by Michiru Oshima) is mostly made up if not completely made up of military style music. From the TOHO logo at the beginning of the film to the fantastic opening titles, and this is pretty much what it is like throughout with scenes including the first meet between Godzilla and Kiryu. Every now and again though there is something different in the music such as the skeleton reveal, Kiryu’s rampage and scenes between the three main human characters. The soundtrack gives a nice comparison when it is compared to the mystical themes provided by Kow Otani in the previous film but due to this film’s theme though, the military style soundtrack works extremely well where as a mystical theme would not.

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is an Amazing film. The film, like many in the millennium series has references to the original 1954 film but processes it in its own way, it even (well sort of) brings back the original monster into the film to meet his descendant in combat. The cast is a good mix with most credit going to Yumiko Shaku. The Monsters are brilliant and the action/fight sequences are terrific but does not rely on those and continues to amaze throughout in other forms too. The soundtrack has a nice military sense to it for a film that is made up of mostly military themes, and the special effects are Fantastic. It is a Great Triumph for Masaaki Tezuka after what happened with his previous attempt at a Godzilla Film and he can hold his head high, producing one of the Best Film’s in the entire series as well as one of my Favourite Films. And not only that, this film had a direct sequel the following year.

GENEPOOL





Jurassic Park Poetry – Celebrating 20 Years of Cloning Dinosaurs

13 06 2013

Jurassic Park 3D

This week it is the 20th Anniversary of one of the Greatest Films in the History of Cinema. A film that makes The Avengers look mild in comparison and whose Special Effects are more Magnificent than Avatar. One of the most Magical Experiences cinema has produced to date; Jurassic Park. So to mark the occasion, I thought I would do a quick piece of Poetry , much like I recently did for another Steven Spielberg Classic – Jaws. I may do a bigger post on Jurassic Park at some point, but right now, let us enjoy some Haiku poetry and celebrate one of Cinema’s Greatest Films.

1. The big steel cage

The creature trying to leave

And the feast it’s found.

2. Big heavy footprints

And the surprise of being

Back to life on earth.

3. A small little egg

The small innocent child

The future horror.

4. Poisonous no-show

The hiding king in his wood

And the sick giant.

5. And then came the rain

In the worst place possible

The king has arrived.

6. An idiot thief

With the poisonous no-show

Blinding him for now.

7. Escaped to a tree

With peace, harmony, now safe

With gentle giants.

8. Looking for rescue

From the forbidden island

The jungle can be cruel.

9. Beasts in the kitchen

Like a human wanting food

But wants human taste.

10. The Unlikely help

The escape from the island

Beautiful it was.

GENEPOOL (it was on Sky Movies earlier today, I really want to review this film).





The Tortoise And The Bird – Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe

10 06 2013

GGOTU1

In 1954, a Japanese film studio released a film that would change cinema. It would inspire many around the world and today its name still resonates through the minds of people all around the world. The film was called Gojira, later Americanised to Godzilla. The huge successes of the film led the film studio to create an entire series of Monster Movies starring the film’s central character. In 1965 a challenger to Godzilla’s throne emerged in the form of a Giant Turtle named Gamera. While he too would become a hit in Japan, particularly with children, he was not able to upset Godzilla’s position in the slightest. 30 Years later though (15 years after the last film); Gamera re-emerged in a film of truly magnificent proportions.

“Gamera finally has a film to rival Godzilla” – Popcorn Pictures

The above statement rings true on practically all levels throughout the film. The special effects, the soundtrack, the acting, the direction and most importantly, the story. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko (who later directed The Best Film In The World), this film is not just any Monster Movie, It is one of the Best Monster Movies as well as the first film in an incredible Trilogy.

Gamera Heisei 2

The film opens up with a tanker and patrol boat out at sea, the tanker reports running aground. After a quick inspection it turns out that it has been run aground on an atoll, which is moving. An inspection into the incident begins lead by Naoya Kusanagi (Akira Onodera) along with marine officer Yoshinari Yonemori (Tsuyoshi Ihara who would later star in 13 Assassins). Meanwhile on an island in the Goto Archipelago, a fisherman and a cop are running from some unknown attacker, they try to get off the island but are both unlucky. Ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is called to the island by a police Inspector Osako (Yukijiro Hotaru) after he received a call from someone from the island stating he was attacked by a Giant Bird. After a brief look at the damage, Nagamine believes the damage is of a man-made origin, this is however until a Giant Bird pellet is discovered and inside it contains an item belonging to a scientist friend of hers. After a brief search of the island the bird creature appears and looks more like a pterodactyl. It attacks and eats people on another island close by before being chased back to its own island by the air force, it is here that it is also revealed that there is more than one. A plan is put in motion to capture the creatures.

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After an in-depth search, the atoll is found and is investigated. On the surface, several strange beads are discovered as well as a giant slab with some markings on it. After a closer inspection, the slab collapses and the atoll breaks apart. Several of the investigators fall into the water, including Yonemori, who sees a huge eye and tusk while underwater. Back in Fukuoka the plan to capture the birds begins. The birds are guided to the Fukuoka dome where they will be trapped by the closing roof and tranquilized. The plan is initially successful, however Yonemori turns up and reports that a 60 meter long creature is approaching the city, but no-one takes much notice. The plan is initially successful with two of the birds getting captured, the other one escapes towards the harbour before being destroyed by a Giant Turtle. The new monster goes on the rampage (not the only time in 1995 that Fukuoka was attacked) in the direction of the dome, when it reaches it, the two bird creatures manage to escape before they can be destroyed. The new monster ignites its jet boosters and flies off into the sky in pursuit.

GGOTU3 (The film is not in Black and White, it's just that this is a Good Picture)

Back at his house, Kusanagi reveals to Yonemori and his daughter Asagi (Ayako Fujitani) that the inscription on the slab reveals the names of the two monsters, the bird like creatures are called Gyaos and the Giant Turtle is named Gamera. Yonemori then gives Asagi one of the beads discovered on the atoll as a gift, which begins to glow in her hands. Kusanagi, Nagamine and Yonemori are called to an area of Kiso Mountain where a small village is being attacked by one of the Gyaos. Nagamine tries to rescue a little boy but collapses on a bridge, Yonemori goes to rescue them both while a Gyaos bird targets them as its next meal. Gamera then arrives and destroys the Gyaos. Another Gyaos then shows up and attacks the bridge, but Gamera places his hand over the group and gets his hand injured protecting them, he then flies off in pursuit of Gyaos.

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Asagi learns that Gamera is in the Area of Mount Fuji and goes to find him while nursing a strange wound on her hand. The army approach Gamera in preparation to attack and the attack begins just as Asagi arrives to watch. Gamera is then attacked by Gyaos and receives a mortal wound on his arm, at the same time that Asagi receives one too. Gamera manages to fly away. At a hospital later that night Kusanagi arrives to see his daughter who immediately falls asleep.

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Nagamine and Yonemori discover that the Gyaos was created by an Atlantean civilization to wipe out pollution, but the creatures became too powerful and so the civilization created the Gamera’s to destroy them, however the civilization could not repair itself and so preserved the final Gamera for future generations as a defence should the Gyaos reawaken. It is also revealed that the Gyaos only has one pair of chromosomes and is an almost perfect creature and did not evolve. It is also discovered that the creature can have offspring by itself. The final remaining Gyaos has increased in size and attacks Tokyo. The government finally decide to attack Gyaos instead of Gamera and put a plan into action to kill Gyaos. Nagamine and Yonemori try to persuade Kusanagi that the bead necklace that Asagi is wearing connects her to Gamera, which he dismisses until after a long slumber she finally wakes up.

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The following day Gyaos is attacked by a now fully revived Gamera. Kusanagi, Nagamine, Yonemori and Asagi go in pursuit. After a long fought battle, Gamera fights Gyaos in space, before Gyaos cuts its own leg off to survive. Gamera seemingly dies in a huge explosion caused by a power plant beneath him, but revives and fires a huge fire-ball from his mouth destroying Gamera. Using some of his remaining strength, Gamera heals Asagi’s wounds with some unknown power before heading back out to sea in Victory.

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The films cast and characters offer a range of people from the strong to the unique. Many of the main cast like Kusanagi and Yonemori offer a good supporting character as well as a strong main character when one is needed. Many other characters offer a good performance including those of government characters and military personnel. But all these characters are sort of shadowed as it were by the two real lead female characters in Nagamine and Asagi. Nagamine is an understandable person with not much in the way of Ego. She makes her point clear and stands by it despite huge opposition. Her expertise in her field also offer huge insight and guidance in any situation. Asagi meanwhile to me is the real human star. With Great acting from Ayako Fujitani (the daughter of Steven Seagal), she offers a different perspective in situations as a complete outsider only drawn into the situation by those around her. With her connection to Gamera she also offers support to the big turtle as well by being his connection to the human world. For the reasons of this film as well as the two sequels to this film, Fujitani is one of my Favourite Actresses.

Shinobu Nakayama and Ayako Fujitani

But the real stars of this film are of course the Big Monsters in Gamera and Gyaos. Gyaos is a very well designed creature with a personality (like all Good Movie Monsters). The idea that the creature eats people as well is a nice touch which brings the creature down to a more human level, something that is not done all that much in Monster films. Several scenes in the film also help Gyaos’s character by making Gyaos look not only dangerous, but also, incredibly sinister. Gyaos’s design is more of that of a Pterodactyl than a bird but this help with the terror of the creature. The creature’s reveal also helps out this terror by not showing until its second scene but have hints towards how terrifying it is during an early scene.

Gyaos (1995)

Gamera is well presented; this is a character that has not had the best history when it came to Monster Movies. But many years later it turns its fortunes around in a fantastic way. The Atlantean origins give a good and understandable origin instead of the usual and gives Gamera more of a purpose than simply being a Giant turtle. The connection with Asagi is mysterious and reveals itself in time, and at the end of the film almost bonds like a friendship with Asagi by healing her wounds. Gamera does have a sort of super hero look and identity in this film but does not get silly with it and so therefore does not spoil the entertainment value of the film.

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The film’s special effects are fantastic. Many Japanese Monster movies, in particular Godzilla do involve a lot of work with miniatures and maybe some close ups for detail. Gamera on the other hand, it’s like the producers have really tried to stand up to Godzilla, to rival it and used mainly the real thing. There are several scenes in this film involving close-ups of army tanks moving across the landscapes, and they are real tanks too. How they did the shots is one question, but the effect works. When you use something real, it looks far better than trying to make something real with CGI. You can’t beat the real thing. Most of the vehicles used in this film for certain shots are the real thing, and it looks Fantastic. Scenes including the opening scene with the ships, the scene with the tanks amassing to attack Gamera, the Missile loading scene, scene involving helicopters with their lights on the Gyaos, It is very tempting to stick the film on just to watch those scenes again and when music is added, Its Fantastic. The only time that military equipment is not real is when missiles are fired and these scenes make great use of early but still magnificent CGI.

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The Monsters are magnificent. Compared to the effects used for the monsters when Gamera first appeared in the 1960’s, you could easily tell it was a suit and looked poor. The suits used in this film look real, as if a Giant Turtle was used to shoot those scenes. The Monster attack scenes on cities look terrific, and the fight scenes look intense and realistic. It is hard to really say how great the effects are without showing you. Not only did this film rival Godzilla in a story sense, but also a special effects sense, when you look at the Gamera scenes where he is either rampaging through a city or in a fight with Gyaos, it’s magnificent.  To me the effects beat those of several other monster films I can name including some Godzilla films. It’s not too much of an overstatement for me to say that the special effects used in this film, are some of the best I have seen in the whole of cinema, and some of the most realistic too.

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The film’s soundtrack (provided by Kow Otani)  is incredible; there is almost a piece of music for each scene. The opening scene has large parts where they help show the size of a scene, and possibly importance, while on the other hand there are great mystical sounds for the parts talking about the origins of the creatures depicted in the film. Some of my favourite pieces though are the military scenes as stated above. Scenes like when the tanks are amassing to attack Gamera or one scene where Gyaos is flying and the piece works well with the seriousness of the situation but adds tension. Gamera’s theme is good also as it depicts him not like a hero as such but as someone coming to save the day and so when he arrives or leaves the scene it sounds incredible. One thing of note to point out about the soundtrack is the sometimes apparent use of native Japanese instruments for some scenes, while the film does also use non-native equipment in its soundtrack; the use of them adds to the film culturally and also adds to the mystical properties of the films story too.

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On the whole, as you may be able to see, this film is incredible. Great Cast, Brilliant Story, Amazing Special Effects, Wonderful Music and Amazing Directing from Shusuke Kaneko to bring all this together and create one of the absolute Best Monster Movies to date. While I could go on some more, I don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. While this film may not be able to compete with some Godzilla films, I can think of some that this film easily beats. Whatever tastes in film you fancy there is something in this film for everyone, I guarantee it.  Godzilla finally had a rival, and what a rival he was.

GENEPOOL (To think that if this film did not happen or was not to achieve the success it gained, we wouldn’t have Gamera 3).





Announcement: June Reviews

6 06 2013

June Poster

Hello Everyone. As it is once again June, that means it is once again the biggest Film Review Month of the year for my Blog. I have had this one planned out for months with hope of reviewing five of the Greatest Japanese Films in Cinema history. Those films were going to be:

  • Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla – Godzilla meets both his rival and one of his Ancestors in one of the best films from the series.
  • Gamera Guardian of the Universe – The first in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy about the Giant Rocket Powered Turtle.
  • The Hidden Fortress – The Akira Kurosawa Classic which would later inspire George Lucas when he produced the original Star Wars.
  • 13 Assassins – The Best Period Piece since Seven Samurai directed by Takeshi Miike.
  • Battle Royale – The cult classic about children being forced to kill each other on a deserted island.

However, due to the timescale available to me I have only been able to review three of those films. Now I can just say what they are in bullet point format, but instead I am going to tell you what they are in Haiku format, try and work out which ones they are.

1. A Giant Turtle

A Great Supersonic Beast

Flying through the Sky.

2. The Monster Tyrant

His Ancestor now encased

In a Metal Shell.

3. A Class of the Dead

Brought to a long-lost Island

To kill each other.

Did you manage to work out what films they were? Still unsure, well I’ll tell you. The films (in review order) are:

1. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

2. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla

3. Battle Royale

So please return here every Monday in June to witness the reviews of three of the Greatest Japanese Films produced. Who knows, if you have not seen them, maybe you’ll be interested to see them. Enjoy.

GENEPOOL








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