Top 5 Films of 2016 (It’s Been A Funny Year)

11 01 2017

godzilla-resurgence (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

Since a very young age, I have been a fan of the Two Ronnies. It’s a comedy love that I still carry to this day and continue to enjoy looking back on every now and then. But despite this love for two comedy greats, I have always struggled with Ronnie Barker’s sitcoms. I have seen numerous episodes of Porridge and Open All Hours, but in all honesty have never found them to be all that funny. I have watched plenty of episodes; maybe an odd wisp of laughter here and there, but on the whole, just did not get them. If anything, the only thing that would get a faint pant of air from my lungs would be the spring-loaded till in Open All Hours. Despite this lack of understanding on my part, one thing though that has shined on to me in a way is how sometimes on occasion, I cannot help but at the end of the day say; “It’s been a funny day”. Well, looking back on the movies of 2016, I now cannot help but say “It’s been a funny year”.

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A Funny year is indeed how I feel this year has gone by in terms of movie releases. There have been several high-profile and low profile releases that have caught the eyes of myself and many other movie goers. We have seen live action remakes of animated classics, rebirths of classic comedy, and revolutionary new ideas in already popular genres as well as the usual treasure trove of sequels and heart-warmers. For me personally it’s been a weird one, with a lot of films that I wanted to see being released in the first half of the year, with the second half being a collection of films that I was wavering watching or not. Quite a few of these films were pretty fun and are included in this list, but there have been one or two disappointments. Firstly I did not get to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Kung Fu Panda 3 (not forgetting the new Japanese Godzilla film which nobody considers releasing for people living in the UK!), but the big disappointment for me had to be Dad’s Army. It was funny in places; but everything else was just boring by comparison with an acting pool not living up to their own acclaim and a story that was not worth bothering with!

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There have been some high’s thankfully, some of which are unable to be featured in this list and just want to give a quick shout out to (in no particular order): Allegiant, X-Men: Apocalypse, Eddie The Eagle, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But now the main event; as per usual: films will be rated in ascending order with Number 1 being my favourite and 5 being not as much my favourite but still a good film, and as always, the list applies to films that were released and shown on the big screen between the traditional 12 month period of January to December. So without dragging this on any further, here are my Top Five Favourite Films of the year (yes, this year it is actually 5).

ethel-and-ernest (Cloth Cat Animation - 2016)

5. Ethel & Ernest – Based on the Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name, Ethel and Ernest is about the life of Briggs’s own parents as they meet, date, marry and live their lives through the changing face of Great Britain. Originally meant to be shown on TV during Christmas 2016, special big screen showings were done in places around the country including at The Dukes in Lancaster. Before seeing this film I had no idea what it was about, thinking it was When The Wind Blows by mistake (having forgotten what that was called), then my Mam told me differently; a little unsure but still interested I decided to go see it, and really enjoyed it. I liked how it was less a film, more an animated slide show of the lives of an incredible couple living through the hardships of London life during WWII, to raising a son, to a new way of life compared to their own upbringing. I especially enjoyed the shots of WWII city life as most documentaries I have seen have mostly focused on evacuations and the front line, but this instead showed what life was like in a major city. Overall I enjoyed this film a great deal, from its unique form of storytelling to its charming and colourful animation style.

10-cloverfield-lane (Bad Robot Productions - 2016)

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – If you are like me, then over the last few years you will have been calling out for a Cloverfield sequel since Cloverfield’s original released in 2008. For years I have kept tabs on it to see if such a film was going to happen or not, and so far no official sequel has appeared; a spiritual successor has though. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different film to the original Cloverfield. Whilst the first film was a found footage drama about a group of people trying to survive a monster attack on New York City; 10 Cloverfield Lane is about a young lady (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who finds herself in a bomb shelter with two other people, and begins to get cold feet surrounding the older of the two (John Goodman). The film in essence is both a psychological and science fiction horror as for the first good half you get the feeling that something is going on above ground as the characters get used to a new life underground, until the main character finds evidence that suggests that everything underground isn’t groovy either, eventually leading to a tense situation that culminates in a giant twist that makes you rethink everything you have just seen. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a one-of-a-kind film that makes you want to feel out for your Teddy Bear and grip it tight.

Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox - 2016)

3. Independence Day: Resurgence – Much like number four on this list, if you are like me and absolutely love the Roland Emmerich science fiction film Independence Day, you will have also been hoping that maybe one day there might be a sequel to it; well (two decades later), one has indeed been released. Twenty years after the events of the first film, humanity has used the technology scrounged from the remains of the alien fleet to upgrade their own technology and bolster up defences of planet Earth. This however has not turned out to be all that fruitful however, as the once defeated alien empire has decided to enact a counter attack by sending in a much bigger force than the last one. The first film’s core cast (minus an obvious one) have returned to fight alongside a new cast of characters including (but not limited to); Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher and Maika Monroe. The film itself was once again packed with a jaw dropping cavalcade of special effects that once again bring the awe and fascination that the first film did so well, but does not content itself by making a simple remake, but a strong sequel that does things a little bit differently and contains several other genres, not just the basic few. Overall I was mightily pleased with the end result.

your-name (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2016)

2. Your Name. – If you look through the prolific catalogue of films produced by Studio Ghibli, there are many highlighted classics. Having recently become a major fan of the studio’s works, I am always on the lookout for new films to watch to add to my growing collection. Some of the films on show though that do not necessarily grab my attention however are the convoy of teen based romantic dramas. In most cases I actually try to avoid them as they don’t really appeal to me. Well this year, I saw a film which was along those lines (not released by Studio Ghibli) while also entwined with a Science Fiction enhanced story that within an instant became one of my favourite films this year. Your Name. is a Japanese Anime film directed by (Makoto Shinkai), which tells the tales of a boy and girl who have never met and live in completely opposite locations miles apart from each other, but for some reason get connected, as when they sleep, they dream the lives of the other, not realizing at first, that in reality they have in fact changed bodies. It is a strange film to begin with that leads to some really funny situations, but things take a sudden turn which causes one character to search out the other and come across a grim reality that makes them attempt to change the course of history. I must say I actually really enjoyed it. I was put off at first by its romantic idea, but upon finishing wanted to give it a standing ovation. It was so different, yet so unique that I was left gobsmacked for one that I enjoyed such a film that I would have normally tried so hard to put off. By failing to look round that I did not properly foresee the science fiction elements that I just so love and the two together created a potent mix that made me leave the cinema with a smile across my face. I absolutely enjoyed this film to its absolute core and it has made me rethink my earlier stance on romantic teen anime films.

deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

1. Deadpool – Just bear with me for a moment as I get my head in the right frame of mind for this one…

With all the super hero related movies that are getting released these days, I think it’s good that we have at least one film that we as an audience can actually connect with. Saving the world is good and all, but what about when you return home and find out that some maniac has kidnapped your girlfriend, I think we can all agree that that is probably far more important! Deadpool is the next major spin-off in the X-Men Film Series and stars everyone’s loud mouthed mercenary as he sets out not to save the world, but rescue his girlfriend and hope he can receive some good plastic surgery in the process. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, backed up with the talents of Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin in what has to be one of the strangest films of all time. Deadpool is not your run of the mill superhero movie, as Deadpool isn’t really a superhero, more just someone rather deadly you don’t want to offend. Deadpool comes wrapped in a neat pile of action, guns, violence, comedy, sexual antics and fourth wall breaking moments to create a truly incredible experience that will have other superhero movies (and super heroes) taking notice. Altogether this film creates a matchless form of cinematic awesomeness becoming not just the most standout film of this year, but also my absolute favourite film of 2016.

GENEPOOL (what was your favourite film of 2016?).

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The Entire World Is Waiting For The Power Of Steam – Steamboy

16 11 2016

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In 2013, animation Director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli; Hayao Miyazaki created a film which he announced was going to be the last before he retired. The film was called The Wind Rises, and it was a film that followed a young man who dreamt of designing the ultimate aircraft, and so the story took us on a history of his young life, career, romantic relation, and a retrospective history of his country, eventually leading the young man to his pivotal moment designing the aircraft of his dreams. There is one slight issue however with the company he works for, being the ones to foot the bills; the only option is to design it to the benefit of a company contract, and at that time in Japan’s history the only contract work for airplane manufacturers (or at least those shown in the film) is to build them for the sake of war. So while the young man does get to design his dream plane, he has to come to the eventual realization of what the plane’s purpose is to be. It is a very interesting idea for a story, looking at great inventors, the things they do; but also what they have to do in order for them to be allowed to build such things!

The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli - 2013)

Released in 2004 by Toho, produced by Sunrise and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo; Steamboy is a Steampunk animated action film set in the UK and follows the adventure of a young inventor who has to come to terms with the realities of the world of inventions and of course save the day from threats very close to home. Touted at the time of release as being the most expensive Japanese animated film of all time, Steamboy took 10 years to produce, and is only the second major animated release for Otomo following his milestone film Akira in 1988.

Akira (Toho 1988)

In 1863 in Russian Alaska, inventor Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) and his son Eddie (Alfred Molina) have discovered a pure mineral water, which they believe they can turn into a powerful steam based energy source. During an experiment however, everything goes wrong with Eddie being engulfed in freezing gases, but leaves a strange spherical object being created. Three years later, in Manchester England, great-grandson of Lloyd: Ray Steam (Anna Paquin), a young inventing prodigy receives a strange parcel containing the spherical object plus some designs relating to it. Two men then show up called Alfred (Mark Bramhall) and Jason (David S. Lee) claiming to be from something called the Foundation and who want the ball. Ray refuses to give it to them, and is surprised to see the arrival of his grandfather. Ray makes a run for it, and is eventually chased by a strange steam automotive vehicle, making his escape on his own Monocycle. The chase leads them onto the railway tracks, with the automotive being pushed into a river, and Ray being rescued by Robert Stephenson (Oliver Cotton) and his assistant David (Robin Atkin Downes). Things don’t last long however, as while the train is en route to London, Ray is kidnapped by the Foundation thanks to their Zeppelin.

Ray finds himself in a dining hall, and being introduced to members of the O’Hara Foundation which includes Scarlett O’Hara (Kari Wahlgren), the spoiled granddaughter of the foundation’s chairman, and Archibald Simon (Rick Zieff), a company executive. Ray then meets his father Eddie whose head has been greatly altered by the accident, now with only a few strands of hair and a helmet covering one half of his head, as well as other metal components all along his body. Ray and Scarlett are taken on a tour of the facility dubbed The Steam Castle by Eddie who says he wants to use it to enlighten mankind’s vision of science. Ray is recruited by his father to help finish it off, but when asked to help in assisting to turn off a valve, Ray finds his Grandfather trying to sabotage the whole thing. He tells Ray that the purpose of the castle and the O’Hara’s foundation is to sell weapons to Britain’s enemies at the Great Exhibition the following day and shows Ray evidence of this. The two eventually reach the core of the castle, and pry away a steam ball, one of three used to power the castle, but they are then surrounded. Ray makes an escape but Lloyd is recaptured. Ray manages to run into Robert Stephenson telling him about his father and the steam castle, and hands him the Ball thinking Stephenson can be trusted, but discovers that Stephenson’s motives are near the same; to build an army for the purpose of keeping Britain Great.

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At the Great Exhibition, the O’Hara foundation shows off their weapons to generals from around the world, exhibiting their steam-powered soldiers, miniature aircraft and submersible men. At this moment, Stephenson launches an attack on the foundation using his steam battle tanks. With the exhibition now a war zone, Ray steals the ball back from David, and rigs it up to use it as a sort of jet pack. In the foundation’s control room, Eddie, straps himself into the machine and while under powered orders for the castle to launch. The building sheds its skin to show a great behemoth like structure, a big black floating castle, which then engulfs the city of London in a big freeze. The royal navy in vain try to shoot it down, while Stephenson attempts to pull it down with his trains. Ray manages to get on board the castle reuniting with his father and Scarlett, but is too late to stop Lloyd from shooting Eddie. With Eddie having disappeared into the machine, Ray and Scarlett assist Lloyd in getting the castle back over the Thames as the machine is too unstable and likely to explode. At the last-minute, Eddie having deflected the bullet with his metal body decides to lend a hand, revealing Lloyd’s original intention for the Steam Castle: to be used as a giant theme park. Ordered by his family to save Scarlett and leave, Ray makes his way back to the control room, straps on a jet pack and leaves the castle just as it explodes, sparing most of London in the process.

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Can a film justify its release if it does not have much of a plot? Steamboy is an interesting film; on the one side it’s very well researched, and is somewhat surprising to see a Japanese animated film set in 19th century England and feature locations such as Manchester and (‘of course’) London, as well as feature great moments of a country’s history such as the Great Exhibition and famous faces like Railway Engineer Robert Stephenson. I am not saying this can’t be done, I am just saying how well and detailed it all is but you would not exactly expect for a film from Japan to be set in this country during that period. Of course, this film does also have big outstanding and unbelievable moments, interesting characters and great themes; much like you would expect from the man who made Akira: or should you? That’s the point though of seeing it isn’t it, or at least most might think so, that because this man-made an iconic film from the 1980’s, one of cinema’s all-time great animated films, that is why we should see it; no other reason right? This film is of course heavily touted for being from Katsuhiro Otomo, the same director of Akira; but is that the reason why we should see this film, or should it be that it’s a happy coincidence, and that this film should really be its own thing. I think that is where this film sort of collapses. There are some good things about this film: It does feature big moments of disbelief, and it features themes and ideas as well as argues the differences between progress and greed as well as the blessings of science, but only a little bit really, as all that gets entrenched in delivering the Akira experience, with big moments, wonders of awe and nothing else really. It has it’s moments, moments of philosophy that intrigue that inspire, and the story develops this a little bit; but possibly under the belief that he had to deliver a 19th century version of Akira rather than explore these ideas and create something that was its own identity, Otomo just sort of skipped all that. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Akira, I would just rather watch Akira rather than something that is not a near carbon copy of it (Force Awakens).

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The film’s characters are a real odd bunch and (international released version) are played by some top-notch quality actors. Much like what was stated above, some characters are minor-ly developed and are actually going in the right direction but are lost in what is a rather convoluted and unused plot. The issue that this film has with its characters is that it’s hard at any one point to actually know who is good and who is bad. Ray Steam is obviously the hero of the story, but it’s just obvious if somewhat boring. The character is nicely set up and has reason to explore and discover as he is lost without his heritage and is in a world that he would rather be doing something else in, but other than that there is no real reason for him. He tries to be brave and do the right thing, he is just not a decent enough character to really get behind or enjoy. Someone like Scarlett is a lot more interesting. She actually develops over the film’s timeline, going from a toffee nosed brat to a proper hero and someone worth rooting for. Yes she starts off in a situation where she is horrid and someone you have no affection for, but as the film develops she becomes a good character, so why she couldn’t be the protagonist is beyond me. That is the thing though with this film, there are two solid female characters, Scarlett and Emma (Paula J. Newman), but Emma gets 3 minutes of fame and is never seen again, but she was interesting compared to Ray who is just useless. The issues with good guy bad guy just continue throughout. Yes, the henchmen are bad, but that is their point and Archibald Simon on the other hand is just a pleasant annoyance who can’t stop talking. Robert Stephenson is nicely done, but it’s sad that someone who should be a sort of helper, a guide or assistance in times of such peril turns out just to be as horrid and bad as the somewhat…..Supposed to be…..villains. His assistant David pretty much covers this role with ease, and it would have been more interesting if David per say was the villain out of the two and was something of a manipulator, and so Stephenson could then be the helper, with a villain by his side that needed defeating. Lloyd is of course a good guy but the story does the right thing of teasing his intentions and asking if he is bad or good, and then reveals his intentions correctly and stays that way, I just don’t think the mad professor look really does him any favours. Eddie meanwhile is of course the big bad villain and is voiced brilliantly, and much like Lloyd is teased into his role, but he just keeps changing his mind. His intentions and motives are there as to why he is who he is, but why would the villain suddenly change sides like that at the end. He should be a boss to fight, a hindrance to overcome, not someone who is like: “Oh well, let me give you a hand!”

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The voice acting works in some of the film’s favour, and boasts acting talent like Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and Alfred Molina, but it’s not fully utilised I feel. Scarlett is voiced nicely and actually sounds and feels real, compared to Anna Paquin whom does a good job in a male voice role, but in the form of the voice that most people believe how British people speak. Speaking as a British person, I do not speak like that, I have actually yet to meet someone who does. Both Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart are British; and they don’t speak like that; and they’re in this film! It becomes near offensive the more it gets touted. Maybe instead of hiring people to create a generic voice that does not actually exist, maybe they should hire British actors to do the job, because then it would be a lot more realistic (and less offensive). When it comes to the voice overs in this film the only ones that really do anything I feel are those of Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina. Patrick Stewart’s character is not seen much of to truly enjoy, but it’s still good when he is on-screen, although possibly a bit loopy and mad. Alfred Molina though I feel really carries this film. It’s a voice of reason and passion, and although the character struggles to really find his place in this film, the voice over does the character tremendous and enjoyable levels of entertainment and justice. It’s just a shame about everyone else really.

The film does have its recovery sections, it’s not all collapsing. The animation is nicely done and works well to really capture the beauty and spectacle of 19th century England, especially London. The fleet of vessels on the Thames, the beauty of the city’s iconic buildings and structures, to the animated engineering of its own infrastructure. Add to this the machines and contraptions of the story’s fictional contents like the steam-powered soldiers, the monocycle, and of course the mighty Steam Castle in all its forms and you have this well-made world which has added benefits. I do think the animation style and colouring loses a bit in comparison to the film’s contemporise like the recent works of Studio Ghibli for example, but when close up the details are superb. The film’s soundtrack Composed by Steve Jablonsky) is an additional benefit too as it creates mostly sounds and ambiance rather than pieces of music. The music does have its moments of grandeur like the launch of the steam castle or the chase within, to moments of peace too like Ray’s theme, Scarlett’s theme, and of course the music behind the blessings of science monologue. Now while not insinuated within the soundtrack itself, there is one piece of music though that does come out in relation to the film: That of its theme from the trailer: Full Force; the adventure and steam-driven music that creates and encapsulates moments of awe and wonder, but creates a level of seriousness and tension to shine out loudly.  Although the film does tout some of that wonderful adventure but still steam punk driven piece of music here or there, it’s this piece of music which shines out for the film’s soundtrack, even though it is really non-existent, but it’s iconic and memorable enough for you to remember it in conjunction with this film.

Generally it feels like something of a shame altogether, because I was expecting more. Steamboy has its likable moments and bits to enjoy, but the story is so convoluted and makes more room for big moments rather than a properly developed plot. It’s one of those occasions where the trailer delivers more than the film. Steamboy is something of a quick storyteller; it just dashes from one thing to another, not developing nor explaining, creating interesting moments but not diving into them sacrificing its potential in the process for something else, but no reveal as to what. It comes with great voice talent but does not really use it effectively, it has interesting characters in the wrong roles and it has spectacular ideas that are just ignored. On the plus side the animation is delightfully detailed, and has music that has its occasions which are used well. Yes it has its big moments which are nicely done and very creative, but a film like this should be more than that. It should not be living in the shadow of its legendary predecessor and working hard to live up to be like its bigger brother. It should be blossoming like a flower, being independent and making its own path, then and only then can it have a chance to be on an equal footing and be appreciated the same way, rather than just being a clone in a different setting.

GENEPOOL





Top 10 Godzilla Films

29 06 2016

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It should come as no surprise that my favourite film series is of course Godzilla. I don’t know how many times I must have mentioned it to people I know, people passing by, or the number of posts I have written on the subject on this very blog that you are reading now (speaking of which, did you know this is my 500th post?). Yes, I love Godzilla movies! Ever since I was a young boy to right now and probably beyond, I have had a craving fascination for a film series starring a Giant Nuclear Irradiated Japanese Monster. While there are a lot of really great movies out there not including/starring Godzilla, it should come as no surprise that my Top 10 absolute favourite films are all Godzilla films. But which ones though? You see back in 2014, after the release of the 2014 Godzilla film, I thought I would finally work it out. What do I mean by that, well, you see the thing is that for many years I had always said which ones were likely and which ones would be high up but I never actually had a defined list of which were my top 10 favourites, just an idea. So with the 2014 film out of the way and to sort of celebrate I thought I would work it out.

Godzilla 2016

To zone in and find for definite which ones are my favourite and then order them was always going to be trivial. How I actually did it was like this:

  1. I ordered the films in order of when they were released starting from the original 1954 film, to the 2014 film.
  2. I then picked out the ones I thought were terrible (and there are 3 I can think of) and deleted them off the sheet.
  3. Even after cycling through some bad ones, I still had near 25 to choose from, so I just worked through them from there, picking out ones I did not feel strongly for until I get to a more definitive list (between 15 and 20) to then think more carefully about.
  4. As the process continued, some of the remaining films became obvious as to being ones I absolutely loved, so I then began to order those ones around a little.
  5. From there it became a process of difficult elimination as I analysed the films in my head and said to myself; “Is that one better than that one?”
  6. In the end it came down to 12 films and a difficult choice to get to specifically 10, so I worked hard and finally whittled it down to just 10 films.
  7. I then repeated step 5 to put the surviving 10 in order from 10 to 1.

Making this list was actually rather fun and interesting experience, and one I look forward to doing again in the future, but to which series I do not know (probably Studio Ghibli once I get more head on into it). There is a little bit of an issue with the choosing process, and that is I have not actually seen Invasion of Astro-Monster or Son of Godzilla. Invasion of Astro-Monster is on my shelf, and just haven’t got round to watching it yet, whilst I do remember seeing something of Son of Godzilla from when I was about 4 years old, but as I cannot currently get a copy of it, I am pretty much stuck. If anything, the only other one I have not seen is Godzilla Resurgence…..which has not been released yet. As this list goes though, there are still plenty of surprises…possibly. Some surprises for me as some films I was sure of being on here are not, and some surprises for you my wonderful readers as to where some films have been placed, however, being the Godzilla fan that I am, I will not have put it in that position unless I thought that it deserves to not only be on this list, but also in that position. Anyway, introduction’s over, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I have enjoyed working it all out. So sit back, relax (not unless you are like me and have to lean in on a computer to read something), and find out what my Top 10 Favourite Godzilla films are.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1974)

10. Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla – An Ancient prophecy begins to come to fruition when a dark cloud in the shape of Mount Fuji appears in the sky. The prophecy states that a Giant Monster will come along to destroy the land. Things take a confusing turn however when the Monster that appears turns out to be Godzilla. Things take an even bigger twist when another monster, who also looks a lot like Godzilla appears also. With everyone by this point really confused, the first one decides to shed its skin and reveals itself to be a cybernetic clone.

Mechagodzilla

The 1970’s were not a great time for the Godzilla series. From the start of the decade the series was already beginning to slump with the mediocre release of Godzilla vs Hedorah. Things then got even worse as the two films that followed were mostly made up of Stock Footage and very little were actually filmed. This landslide from Great films to terrible films appeared to be unending, until veteran director Jun Fukuda returned. Having previously done three Godzilla films in the past, and being one of the most important directors in the series, it came down to him to turn Godzilla’s fortune’s around; which he did spectacularly. Out with the stock footage; back in with actual film making. This film in the series was also made up with a lot of firsts: While Godzilla and Anguirus make an appearance in the film, both King Caesar and the now legendary MechaGodzilla both made their debut in this film. The film manages to cram a lot of human story and character elements into it also, with the characters having to help the Monsters as best they can; because otherwise, the green-skinned ape aliens would win. With a very jazzy soundtrack from Masaru Sato and also showing how fun a night time chase around a ferry cruise could be, Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla remains one of the series most stand out and thoroughly enjoyable entries into the series.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2002)

9. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla – In 1954, the monster simply called Godzilla attacked Japan and left Tokyo in ruins. Over the next 40+ years; several more Giant Monsters including Gaira, Mothra and a monster that looks a lot like Godzilla attack the nation. Having had enough, the country of Japan launches a new weapons program to build a machine specifically designed to defend themselves from these attacks. The machine code-named Kiryu is built on the fossilized skeleton of the original Godzilla. When Godzilla suddenly reappears, Kiryu is sent into action. After hardly any battle, Godzilla leaves, but Kiryu runs amok in Tokyo, but why?

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Since the release of Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, MechaGodzilla has been redeployed in a film sense on several occasions. But the 2 times between this and the original did not fare so well and did not impact all that greatly. By the Millennium, and with the new series in full swing, Toho brought MechaGodzilla back, and created one of the Millennium Series most stand out films. In comparison to the above mentioned film, this one is not crammed full of characters, with instead only 3 really appearing as leads; but in this instance they are worked on in a great deal. The story and setting produce an initially terrifying but also heart-warming story telling of the connection between man and machine while also creating an initial yet terrifying plot twist, with not Godzilla necessarily running amok, but the weapon. Still providing the best in monster mash-ups, and up to date special effects as well as terrific pieces by Michiru Oshima for an unforgettable main movie theme, Against is an absolutely superb film and is easily Mechagodzilla’s best film appearance to date (not unless Legendary have plans).

Godzilla (Legendary

8. Godzilla 2014 – In 1954; something is discovered by the American navy; this thing is quickly covered up and supposedly destroyed. Nearly 50 years later, a nuclear power plant is destroyed supposedly in an earthquake. Sometime later, the husband of a scientist who died in the power plant goes mad trying to prove it wasn’t an accident, and he was right, as inside the power plant is a Giant Monster which escapes it’s confines and goes on the rampage.

Godzilla Beach

In 2010, Legendary Pictures announced it was going to make a brand new American Godzilla film, even though in the end we had to wait 4 years for it to be released. I went to see it on opening night, and absolutely loved it. It was near perfect, Godzilla himself was perfect, and the new MUTO’s were amazing creatures, all combined into a very human story (that seemed strangely similar to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe) supported by a terrific selection of cast, special effects and heart pounding music (composed by Alexandre Desplat), all brought together by Director Gareth Edwards. I enjoyed it so much that I went to see it another two times at the cinema. But for me, the real proof of the pudding came the Saturday after it was released. I had the night off, and really wanted to watch a Godzilla film for some reason, so I watched Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, one of my favourite Showa films and one I have always enjoyed. But right there and then, I was struggling to enjoy it as much as I used to…..I wonder why?

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1966)

7. Ebirah: Horror of the Deep – A young man who is looking for his brother lost at sea, finds a couple of people at a dance contest who take him to see some boats. They go aboard one, and the following morning the young man steals it, which ironically has already been stolen. After several days at sea, they get caught in a storm and the boat is destroyed by a giant claw. They all wash up on shore and discover that the giant claw belongs to a giant Lobster called Ebirah. Yet more nightmares are to be realised however as the island is the base for a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo, and the island boasts yet another secret.

Ebirah

With the Godzilla film series now in full swing, directing duties were handed over to hot up and coming director Jun Fukuda. Most of his previous work involved comedy and mystery, but in all fairness, Ebirah wasn’t any normal Godzilla film. It was originally intended to be made as a King Kong film, but Toho decided to make it a Godzilla film instead; such is why Godzilla does not smash-up a city, as well as show off several un-Godzilla like traits including attacking Mothra after supposedly now being friends. Any who; as a young boy, this one stood out for me a lot as for quite a while it was the only Godzilla film I had VHS access to, until the collection grew. As time has passed and other films have come that I prefer to it, this remains one of the films I have enjoyed the most. It’s not just a connection to my youth, but also a film that I have come to love with a great deal of memory and passion with many scenes, quotes and a heart thrilling caper like soundtrack being many a highlight. It’s place on this list always a guarantee; more than any other Godzilla film, it’s possibly the most enduring and one that I have conceivably the most memories of just watching it over and over again, even remembering specific times and days of watching it.

The Return of Godzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1984)

6. The Return of Godzilla – In 1984, it’s been 30 years since Godzilla attacked Japan, but has not been since. His presence has still cast a shadow over the nation even as it progresses into a modern high-tech future. Out at sea, a fishing boat is discovered where only one member of its crew survived. He talks about seeing a Monster and as time passes, more incidents get reported, and it’s all revealed to be true, that Godzilla has indeed returned.

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After nearly a decade since Godzilla’s last movie appearance (Terror of Mechagodzilla), Toho finally decided to bring the monster back during the ever-growing tensions of the cold war. It was perfect, with the monster having lost his terrifying persona over 20 years of film making, they brought him back to his terrifying self in a movie that ignored all events of the films in between this and the original. This was also only the second time in the series that Godzilla attacked a city and did not fight another monster. Yes, while we all love a good fight, Toho showcased how terrifying, realistic and enjoyable a Godzilla film could be when he is not surrounded by other Monsters. This film would go on to kick-start the best era of Godzilla movies to date: the Heisei series; and while Godzilla the hero would come out to play a couple more times, the producers worked really hard to maintain Godzilla’s terrifying position and persona throughout. More than any film, this one ensured Godzilla’s long lasting cinema presence, one that is still being seen to this day.

Destroy All Monsters (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1968)

5. Destroy All Monsters – The year is 1999 (hypothetically), and all the monsters of the world have been collected and made to live together on an island decidedly called Monster Land. All of a sudden communications with the control station nearby is lost, and the supposedly ‘contained’ monsters all start attacking the Major Cities of the world, all except Tokyo?

Mothra, Gorosaurus, Rodan, Kumonga, Anguirus, King Ghidorah, Varan, Godzilla, Manda, Baragon, Minilla

What was originally intended to be the final Godzilla film, and as such was given a much bigger budget, remains one of the most popular in the series. Having just done some research, I have discovered that this is one of only a few Japanese Godzilla films to have a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, for about 11 years, this was my favourite film. What sets this film apart from others is its large cast of Monsters. Loads of Monsters appear in this film, some remaining real favourites and some of the most endearing monsters in the series. Plenty of city destruction takes place, with others than Tokyo being hit for once, all the while setting the early instigations into an alien conspiracy. Expect some of the most memorable pieces of music, and some of the best military vs monster scenes to date as Godzilla leads the charge of the Monsters (which includes but is not limited to: Gorosaurus, Rodan, Varan, Manda and Baragon).

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1991)

4. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah – In 1992, over the sky of Tokyo, a UFO is spotted. It is eventually tracked, where it turns out not to be aliens, but people from the future. These people go on to talk about the future non-existence of Japan as a nation and that the country is to be finally destroyed by Godzilla. They send a team back in time to an island battlefield in World War Two, where the Dinosaur that would become Godzilla first appears; sending it to the bearing sea, preventing it from evolving into Godzilla. Returning to the present day, rumours of a new monster begin to circulate.

MOTHER

This film easily remains one of the most beloved films in the series by fans. After struggling to get Godzilla going with the release of Godzilla vs Biollante, it was decided that for their next film that Godzilla would fight his arch-nemesis for the first time in nearly 20 years: the three-headed golden dragon; King Ghidorah. This new film in essence is based on the popularity of the time travelling element in the recently released Back to the Future films while also combining it with a story that focusses on how Godzilla became Godzilla. Its story; while basic does achieve quite a bit, with the implication that with Godzilla removed from history, King Ghidorah takes his place and is under the control of people with vengeance on their mind, only for their plans to eventually backfire. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah in the process creates some terrific scenes of city destruction, as well as not one but two incredibly well fought battles as Godzilla goes one on one with his Greatest Nemesis, in a battle that leaves one monster horribly scarred for life.

Godzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1954)

3. Godzilla 1954 – Out at sea, several fishing boats are mysteriously destroyed. On a nearby island, the village is destroyed a few days later. A team is dispatched to investigate, and make a chilling discovery, one that will bring repercussions for the country of Japan for decades to come.

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1954 was a big year for Japanese cinema, especially more so for Toho. A few months earlier they released the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece Seven Samurai, but on set; apparently everyone was talking about something called Gojira. After trying to produce a film in Jakarta which ultimately fell through, Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka took two pieces of inspiration: the Lucky Dragon 5 fishing boat incident and the Ray Harryhausen film; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and in the process created Japan’s first movie Monster. Taking into account the destruction dealt upon Japan at the end of World War 2 by not one, but two Nuclear Bombs, Tanaka created a creature born of the forces of Nuclear Power and Nature’s answer to humanities destructive attitude and set this new monster loose in Japan’s Capital. Backed up with a terrifying soundtrack by composer Akira Ifukube, and the latest in Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, all under the direction of Ishirō Honda; I believe they say: “The rest is History!”

Godzilla vs Mothra (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1992)

2. Godzilla vs Mothra – Out in space, a meteor strikes earth, and a Typhoon ensues revealing a giant egg. A team is dispatched to investigate the island where they find the egg and are told a harrowing tale of how an ancient battle was fought between Earth’s guardian Mothra, and another monster similar in design called Battra, who might have reawakened.

Battra

For over 11 years or so, Destroy all Monsters was my favourite film, until by chance I was able to get a copy of this film, and within one showing I knew this was my new favourite film. What is basically a film telling something of a lesson of the importance of keeping earth clean, and what is renowned as being rather rushed, is also a fantastically enjoyable film. It is rife with elements of tension; lots of city based destruction, and so far the only film in the series to contain one of the series best creations, the creature known as Battra. Containing some great acting, a fully thriving in-depth story and some amazing Monster Powers to create a full on power play of a Monster Battle climax, Godzilla vs Mothra in sense recreates the story of Mothra vs Godzilla, but ultra-charges it into the early to mid-nineties, and in the process creates one of the series best films to date.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2001)

1. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack – Across Japan, several incidents take place, in each one a Monster being spotted. It has been nearly 50 years since Godzilla attacked and has not been seen since, and his print on Japan’s history is slowly being forgotten. Meanwhile a young Science Fiction TV Presenter goes on the trail of an ancient legend concerning the reawakening of several monsters, monsters determined to make sure Japan does not forget its history, but more importantly, make sure Japan is defended from the return of the King of the Monsters.

Baragon (2001)

During Christmas 2007 (I think it was 2007), I received a couple of Godzilla DVD’s from my parents. One of them was this, with the other being Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. I was certain that Tokyo S.O.S. was going to be the better of the two, boy was I wrong. I had no real clue as to what this film was going to be like, but boy did I enjoy it. Directed by the man behind the Gamera Heisei Trilogy: Shusuke Kaneko and including a mystical based soundtrack from Kow Otani, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack is a very different film to its predecessors. What we have here is less a modernistic take on Godzilla, but more one that relies on the myths and legends of Japan’s history and combining it with the terror that Godzilla should stand for; and that’s what we get. We get three Monsters teaming up to take on Godzilla which includes Baragon, while Godzilla himself shows off his real power. He has bare white eyes, and can create an atom bomb like explosion from the power of his atomic breath. The monsters are relatively smaller than before, but their power isn’t by far. Its story of a Mystical history is addictive, its cast is effective, its soundtrack is enchanting, its effects are magical and its ending is terrifying. I watched this film many a time before I finally realised that this was my favourite film, and my favourite film it remains. To me at least (how long this will last is yet to be seen, but for now), of this I am certain; this is the best of the best, My Favourite Godzilla Film.

GENEPOOL





The Giant Lizard And The Giant Plant – Godzilla vs Biollante

25 05 2016

Godzilla vs Biollante (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1989)

How much of a Gardener are you? Ok, weird question I know. I myself am not much of a gardener, I don’t know much about growing plants, last year I tried growing one in my room but due to the lack of an instruction booklet, I wasn’t very good. Not to mention my failures in the past trying to grow and look after Bonsai Trees. I am just generally bad at it; but how about you, what are you like? As I probably do not know who you are; you may have to just tell me in the comments, but if you are a talented gardener there are some kinds of plants you may want to avoid growing. Obviously there is such a thing as a Triffid; in which case you may want to give that one a miss. Though growing a Triffid is probably not all that a bad idea compared to growing a Biollante. Not there is anything bad in that either if you are talented enough to grow a Biollante; it’s just probably not a very good idea.

Red Rose

Released in 1989 by Toho, directed by Kazuki Omori and produced by Shogo Tomiyama; Godzilla vs Biollante is the 17th film in the Godzilla series and the second film in the Heisei series following directly on from The Return of Godzilla released in 1984.  This time around Godzilla returns to attack the good friendly people of Japan once again, this time however having his own body caught up in a large scientific conspiracy which ultimately leads onto the creation of a brand new and terrifying monster known as Biollante. This film is something of a one-off departure in the series as it refrains from the tried and tested but simple formula of Giant Monsters just fighting each other, and goes in to explore man’s desire to create and prolong life and what the consequences of such actions can be.

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Tokyo is in ruins in the wake of Godzilla’s attack in 1984. The city is near completely destroyed as crews commence the clean-up operation. On the site, a piece of Godzilla’s skin is discovered and stolen by a group of soldiers, who in turn are killed by an assassin known only as SSS9 (Brien Uhl). The assassin takes the skin sample to the Republic of Saradia, to deliver them to the institute of Science and Technology, whom the President wants to try and turn the country’s vast desert into greenery and end the Republic’s dependence on foreign imports. Dr. Genshiro Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) and his daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) are enlisted to work on the project, but the labs are bombed, and Erika is killed in the resulting explosion. 5 Years pass by; and the Volcano known as Mount Mihara begins to spew lava but not yet erupt. Young Psychic Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) and head of the ESP Institute Asuka Okochi (Yoshiko Tanaka) work with young children who all one night have a dream of Godzilla returning. Lieutenant Goro Gondo (Tôru Minegishi) and Scientist Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) head up a project to turn some Godzilla cells into Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, or ‘ANEB’; in the hope of having a weapon to fight Godzilla with should he return. Gondo and Kazuhito try to get Dr. Shiragami’s help who has since returned to Japan. He agrees only if he could have access to some of the Godzilla Cells before they begin work. One night, Shiragami merges cells of a rose with Erika’s DNA in it, with the Godzilla Cells. With other bio companies and the Republic of Saradia still wanting access to the cells, the bio company known as Bio-Major send two agents to Japan to steal them back, while SSS9 follows them. The three agents break into Shiragami’s lab and get into a fire fight, until suddenly, a giant vine attacks them, killing one of them before the other 2 agents flee the scene. Gondo and Kazuhito arrive to find out what happened and question Shiragami’s work there.

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At Lake Ashinoko across from the Lab, a Giant plant emerges which Shiragami calls Biollante. He explains that the creature is made up from the Godzilla Cells, a Rose, and Erika’s Soul. Gondo and Kazuhito meanwhile receive word from the government that Bio Terrorists have placed explosives at the top of Mount Mihara, and will detonate them, thus releasing Godzilla unless the Godzilla cells are turned over to them. Kazuhito and Gondo head to the meeting point, but both them and the Bio-Major agents are interrupted by SSS9 who shoots the Bio Major agent and steals the Cells. Gondo and Kazuhito try to flick the switch to disarm the explosives, but the timer runs out, and Godzilla is freed. The army is called out, and the newly built Super-X2 is deployed to attack Godzilla directed by Major Sho Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima), but the attack is mostly a failure. Godzilla instinctively heads for Biollante, sensing something like him, and he quickly dispatches the creature. The military set up a plan to counter Godzilla, but accidently set up in a location opposite to where Godzilla decided to go. On his approach to Tsuruga, Miki; using her psychic powers gets up and close to him, successfully diverting him to Osaka instead. Another plan is launched to attack Godzilla with the ANEB. Gondo and his men deploy themselves inside Osaka’s Business district, while Major Sho leads the Super X2 in another confrontation. The attack is something of a success with some ANEB even getting inside Godzilla’s mouth, but Gondo is killed in the attack.

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Several hours pass by but Godzilla appears to be unaffected from the attack. Acknowledging that Godzilla might be a cold-blooded creature, Kazuhito decides that they should try to increase Godzilla’s temperature. Another attack plan is put in place to raise Godzilla’s body heat by using the M6000 T.C. System, a weaponised open air microwave like weapon. The plan doesn’t really appear to work, however suddenly; Biollante returns in a new form much larger than Godzilla and attacks him once again. After a prolonged battle, Godzilla is able to use his Deathray on Biollante once more, but then exhausted falls on the floor near the ocean. Biollante disintegrates and spores fly into space. Shiragami, watching the scene and having seen an image of Erika in the spores is shot dead by SSS9. Kazuhito chases after him, and after a small fight, SSS9 dies after stepping onto one of the microwave emitters from the M6000 T.C. System. Theorizing that everything is now OK, and that the ANEB has worked, Godzilla awakens, the sea water having cooled his body temperature down and then returns to the ocean.

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Godzilla vs Biollante does standout more than most Godzilla films when it comes to its narrative output as it tries to be different by sending more of a message out than simply putting monsters in a city sized wrestling ring. It’s a pity that such writing craftsman ship was sort of abandoned after Biollante because this films narrative makes the foundations for a classic piece of science fiction; in a literal form at least. The film begins with a reminder of what happened in the previous film and immediately turns to show the remaining devastation. It acts like not just a reminder but a tie-in and a clever opening as it uses this setting to begin what becomes one of the key plots; that of the Godzilla cells. This use of the opening though, allows the film to work and act as more of a direct sequel than just an ordinary singular sequel or spin-off. To this end we get a film that creates and carries on the themes and ideas it creates. It makes me think of the aftermath of the 911 attacks and the memorials built to remember what happened. In this case though (and about 12 years before the 911 attacks) we see how buildings destroyed and even imprinted by Godzilla are kept and turned into their own memorials. These scenes are very brief, but the idea and attention to detail in a fictional setting (especially after 911) is impressive and incredibly believable to say the least. This though acts as more of an introductory narrative to get the film started and set up the past for audience members. The real narrative begins during the post opening title credits as it starts the process of describing the benefits of the Godzilla Cells and then it evolves from there as to what they can do and how valuable they are.

The Return of Godzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1984)

Another narrative that is explored briefly is that of detecting Godzilla’s return and the departments involved. From here we get two viewpoints. One of the ESP institute, and that of a small department run by Gondo. These two pretty much work in tandem from the word go. This leads to a couple of funny scenes, well one scene and an idea. The scene takes place when the psychic children have a dream, and when asked to draw what was in the dream, it’s sort of a laugh out loud moment when they all hold up pictures prominently featuring an image of Godzilla in them. The build up to the scene is the suggestion that something has gone wrong, but the delivery is excellent, especially when the pictures reveal what the issue is, and the idea that all the children draw the same thing. The other scene (well, more like an idea) is that of a government department run by Gondo whose sole responsibility is the handling and planning of affairs including the preparation of defences in case Godzilla returns. For some (or at least me), it would be something of a dream job, but for Gondo however, it is more of a burden (or maybe even some form of punishment), as given the department’s sole purpose relies on Godzilla actually being around; it’s more boring than exciting as Godzilla is currently buried in a volcano, nor is a current threat. A further narrative asset on to this comes in the form of the Godzilla Warning system which helps drive the plot forward to Godzilla’s eventual rampage. The idea though of such a department’s existence is rather clever and fun and one am surprised that doesn’t come up more often. It’s sort of like: imagine a country like the UK, or USA, or Russia, China, or any other country’s ministry of defence having a small office run by no more than 2 or 3 blokes whose sole responsibility it is to watch and plan for attacks from Giant Monsters, despite the grand highly likely possibility that it will never happen……….but then it does.

Super-X2

These strong starting points help to deliver early on a very in-depth idea based plot; but where you find strengths, you are bound to find weaknesses. As the plot develops, there is constant mention of the country of Saradia. This works in tandem with the conspiracy and secret agent story about a terrorist Bio group who are the ones in the end who release Godzilla. That scene in the end is pretty fun and suggests more of an imagination from them in comparison to others in film. I mean what’s more creative than threatening a country with a Giant Monster? But the ever-increasing mentions of Saradia, plus the mingling with its agents (who sound more Greek than Middle Eastern if that was supposed to be the idea) is just silly. It does not really provide anything or benefit the film except for a minor piece of backstory. In the end, it simply provides a reason for the SSS9 agent to keep running around; who is somewhat of a good thing, I think. The thing is, this story gets a little tangled up within itself, and always finds a way to divert itself. It’s supposed to be about the ethics of biology and science, and how rare/valuable biological material can be used to great effect when used properly, but also how dangerous it can be when used wrongly, and the consequences of such actions. The main one being (or at least should be) Biollante. The Problem Biollante has is that despite being in the title, she is seen very little of. It’s similar to the argument ‘suggesting’ the lack of Godzilla in the 2014 film (although I disagree). In this case however I find the issue is that despite being on even terms with Godzilla in the film’s title; Biollante is not shown that often to really warrant her name in the title. In fairness though, her appearance is early on enough to really include her, but after a few short-lived scenes and a fight with Godzilla, she disappears for nearly an hour. From that point on it becomes more of a film about a nation’s attempts to defend itself from a fire breathing atomic tyrant. I’m not saying that is a bad thing necessarily. In fact given the lack of such content in comparison to other films in the series; this is a real standout: but it’s not what it’s supposed to be about! Eventually Biollante does return, but only engages Godzilla for less than 10 minutes, before disappearing and showing a rose in space; but what does this even mean? It’s pretty similar to both Godzilla vs Destoroyah and Godzilla vs Megaguirus in that both films, despite once again featuring in the title; both monsters are pretty much side-lined for an entirely different and possibly irrelevant plot and just become mentions: although this is not so much the case for Destoroyah as he has much greater part than the instances involving Biollante and Megaguirus. In the case of Biollante it feels more like there could have been more for and of her (in this film).

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A point I feel brings us on quite nicely to talking about the film’s cast. Now I will attempt to do this bit quickly as I have still a lot more to talk about (not to mention a 100 metre tall lizard). The cast of characters is quite a nice build of memorable characters whether they be tertiary, secondary or primary, with all of them playing an interesting but still memorable parts, but of course you have some who are not as big as others. These are not necessarily bad or good, more like they have more a part compared to others, when you want them to have more of a part than others. Biollante does mark something of a start in the series for some tertiary characters who would become a mainstay for the series for many years to come, such as one Japanese Military official played by Koichi Ueda. These kinds of parts are usually tertiary, and even if portraying different characters in later films, they begin to get really recognisable due to the amount of times they are cast in small or even larger parts. Some of these occasions they can become rather annoying, but once in a while, they can do something better, sometimes perfectly. There are also other instances as well of characters from other films, mainly later in the series that turn up, and you instantly recognise them, as them. In this case we have one of the Super X2 pilots (Kosuke Toyohara) who would later appear in the lead human role in the film following on from this one (Godzilla vs King Ghidorah). Alongside him in the Super X2 role (sort of off the point topic I know), there is another character (Kyôka Suzuki), this time not a pilot, but featured well in the dynamic of the two roles being shown. Ok, they’re not shown in great depth compared to all the other characters, but they’re still memorable to the point they deserve a mention. There is also the case of a cameo appearance from Demon Kakka in a small role, but I had not heard of him until I had watched this film a few times, noticed him in a 10 second scene, and then looked him up. It’s a nice representation on modern culture of the time, but also a nice funny moment, especially given his appearance and what he says just after Godzilla is released. Now onto the primary cast. Kazuhito does have the sort of lead human role, but I find him rather bland and boring. Alright it’s not a great shout out to a strong cast, but I just have no feeling toward him or his character, and just feel like he is just in the way. On a similar case you have a character like Major Sho. He is presented like a sort of rogue or cool military commander, I just feel it doesn’t work. He has his moments and becomes something of a secondary hero saving Katsuhiro’s life at the end, plus his moments directing a counterattack are ok, plus the other moments where he is in more a professional capacity but still military, they are ok. I just don’t think he really delivers anything to benefit the film, he is less in the way than Katsuhiro, but I don’t get him.

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Next to them you then get leader characters, leaders and more mature characters like Gondo and Shiragami. Shiragami for instance plays something of a tragic version of Doctor Frankenstein. He creates a monster, but for a tragic reason, which then just causes more problems. It’s the sort of situation that is understandable, but goes against ethics. The character that loses someone, wants to bring them back and put things right, but does not have the skills. Is then given an opportunity but the end result is not what he really wanted, and chaos lets loose. He then becomes something of a standing assistant for the rest of the film, which is something of a shame, but he delivers it really strong, and in the end becomes the tragic sacrifice presenting something, presenting an idea. Maybe as to say as it started with him, it had to end with him, or that he succeeds in keeping his daughters soul, spirit alive, but he dies to accomplish it. I don’t really know, I am just guessing here, but something along those lines maybe. Despite his tragedy though, he is a nice enjoyable character and less of a scientific character that you usually get in monster films. Not of someone to explain what is going on, but maybe more like Serizawa from the 1954 film, someone who creates, does something else, but that something is questionable. On an opposite but equally enjoyable side we have someone like Gondo. Now I have already said a lot so I’ll (try to) keep it brief. He is a more witty character than a serious one in comparison to someone like Shiragami. He is in charge of a division of which he is the sole employee, he finds a way out and gets involved in a more important task with Katsuhiro and becomes a very respected and well thought about character. This level of development plus his level of character and on-screen time make his death more of a powerful one. It’s not just some character dying; it’s one you’ve come to care about. When he does die though, he goes in a great scene going near head to head with Godzilla, not many people can say they have done that.

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Asuka meanwhile who plays the female love interest to him is far more interesting and has real scene dynamic with all characters involved plus delivers power; providing reason to being in the scene. She is more of a leader than a supporter, and the film’s strongest form of human reasoning, even if she spends the third act as more of a questioner than an answerer. Her scenes with Miki (speaking of which) are a bonus. This is the first time Miki is seen in the film series, a character who would become the only mainstay of the Heisei series from this point on, and one of the longest running characters in the whole film series to date. This time around though, we finally get an introduction. Ok, I say finally, that is mostly due to how long it took fort me to see this film, due to release issues, but that time has passed so let’s move on. Now, she has reason and purpose rather than being someone included with no backstory until discovered, now she has been introduced. Miki this time is a very young girl, still touching teenage-hood, but her strength is already on show. She is mostly an informer to the situation and mostly works on a co-dynamic role assisting Asuka. There is actually more of Miki I feel in this film than others. Not in number of appearances, but more in who she is and what she can do. She plays more of an interesting part than being a background assist. It just feels like this was a film designed more for her character her role, and the others just included her, and it feels like something of a shame now, because it works.

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Right, I think that’s enough people talk, let’s talk MONSTERS! This film is one of those even rarer occurrences in recent films to feature new stuff, and in this case, we have a New Monster. Biollante (Masashi Takegumi) is very different to other Monsters, not saying that all monsters are the same. I meant more as in while all the others have something of a clean crisp look; Biollante is more of an abomination. Yes she is a plant, and begins looking like a giant rose with giant leaves and vines. Then transforms into something very large, even larger than Godzilla. Something with a huge crocodile like mouth and lots of sharp teeth (although those same teeth can be seen to appear in rose form, with is also very scary but still grotesque). Biollante is a scary creature, but her sweet cries, almost wisp sounds produce something else, suggesting something trapped inside the body of a monster. Suggesting possibly that Erika does live inside, but is crying for what has become of her, that she is no longer who she was. Biollante as a design is fantastic, and the concepts regarding her appearance and abilities including details such as spores, or the bodily moving mass despite the lack of Legs really produces a sight to behold. Here we have a creature that is more than a match for Godzilla, but not necessarily one you can use all the time. Biollante could make a return, but would require a well thought out plot like this to happen. For now at least, we have an incredible new monster on show, presented in a horrifyingly near realistic interpretation that will continue to scare and spook all those who want to give it a go, until we see her again.

Biollante

Which brings us nicely round to Godzilla. Yet another appearance for Godzilla (Kenpachirô Satsuma), but as that is who the films are about I suppose we can allow it. Godzilla is back in a similar role to those he had when he left in the 1970’s. Remembering of course that the previous film was more about him on the loose than fighting another monster, here he is back to fight monsters. This time though he is once again a (please excuse my language) ‘Badass Villain’. He is no longer out to save the world, but as the frightening force of nature who symbolises the destructive might of Nuclear Weapons on the world who made them, and as mother nature’s Punisher come to, well, punish. Yes, he is back and not happy. Setting up his role in the previous film and mentioning the previous film’s events, Godzilla of course starts off more as an idea, a non-existent threat, one who is there; but is not coming. This idea builds until his release from volcanic imprisonment. From there it is back to the city crushing, fire breathing leviathan we have all come to love so much. He maybe a baddy but we do love him in our own quirky way (right?). This time around though he has other quirky little bits we have not seen him do before, like get up close and personal with some characters, even to sneaking up on people like Gondo. Before he would never do something like that, just ignore it, but now, he is doing new scary things. His appearance has some issues I think, from an angle and to the sides he looks pretty good, like he used too, but now even more terrifying, but from the front, it sort of reminds me of King Kong vs Godzilla, where a direct front view looks rather flat, and like an entirely different monster. Apart from that though, it’s him. I don’t exactly know what to say other than to point out cool new traits in him that stands out more from what there are normally about him; I mentioned his look too, but other than that it’s the Godzilla we all love (again?).

Godzilla (Heisei)

Visually Striking! That is how I can best use to describe how this film is presented. The film contains a lot of visually striking moments, more than any other of the series films to date. Such scenes range from important narrative to just general background shots. Mount Mihara for instance features a lot early on in the film as that is where Godzilla is currently residing. Most of this coverage though is in the form of volcanic activity, but one sweet moment lies early on when Asuka and Kazuhito are talking in the foreground, and the active volcano of Mt. Mihara can be seen in the distance, a ring of red at the top, and the sound of the activity in the distance. I like that shot. But it’s not all reserved for Mount Mihara however.

GVB1

Other shots of spectacular note include the beautiful business centre of Osaka just before it gets pulverized, the area outside and inside Tower 2, the platform Miki stands on as well as when Godzilla is within reach, Godzilla’s lifeless carcass near the road, Godzilla sneaking up on Gondo, the many showcasing’s of digital battlefield mapping, the stormy weather near the film’s conclusion, the final battle seen on the hill-side, the military manoeuvres, the ruined remains of Tokyo after Godzilla’s rampage from the previous film and not forgetting of course, Godzilla’s glorious return from the Volcano he was put into, walking out in his own time to preserve the majesty of his reappearance. You see, I can talk about Special Effects, describing the uses of miniature sets and suits, but as we have already come to know these things, how am I supposed to rehash these every time and retain interest. On this occasion you see however, that it’s not the effects that stand out most here, but the visually striking shots of the world that becomes the battleground here, and those remain with me most than most things about this film. It is such a well-used piece of filmmaking, and those kinds of things should not be wasted by the audience, nor be forgotten in an analytic review.

GVB5

It’s not just the imagery that’s memorable either, as the soundtrack can say one or two things about that. Composed this time round by Koichi Sugiyama with his one and only entry into the Godzilla series; where he produces something that could be thought of as a black sheep to the soundtrack collection. Sugiyama produces a soundtrack that is a mix of the wonderful to the bizarre, the strange to the ridiculous, and the unique to the downright silly but overall has this relatively light feel to them. There is hardly a dark or heavy tune in there with the one main exception being the opening credits which is more of the original Dark Godzilla theme combined early on with this sort of repeating drum snare or even rasp that just captures your attention even before you see the head of the film’s lead Antagonist.

There is a feel of super hero type stuff in this soundtrack with those feelings coming out at times such as when the Super X2 comes out to play or when the countdown to Godzilla’s return comes to light. This piece in certain however also contains something of a possible trademark to his work on this film as it sort of diverts, changing feel and tune in a different direction. Yes this moment does sound a bit silly and a bit caper-y, but does ramp up the tension (although when it does change note it sounds very similar to the soundtrack for Airplane). Yes the soundtrack does have its silly points such as the Saradia theme tune, but generally, most of the soundtrack is rather fun and light and enjoyable to its overall core. Two pieces though that really stand out more than most are two points where the music is different, not just generally, but completely in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack. The first of these is the Bio Wars tune of which there are 2 versions. This I feel is like the filmmakers trying to include a sort of ultra-new wave Bond theme at a time when the Bond series was on Hiatus. It feels really sort of future spy like, I don’t know how best to describe that other than “listen to the guitar.” It’s a nice fun piece which adds a level of mystery and conspiracy, especially to scenes when including SSS9 in the middle and end.

The other occasion though has nothing to do with the composer. Much like the inclusion of a popular figure like Demon Kakka earlier on, the film tries to add a piece of popular music briefly. It adds a level of confusion as to what is going on, as it is used during one of the moments when you see through Godzilla’s eyes like you do in Jaws when he comes to the surface. It cuts in and plays. It’s different and rather fun, before getting cut off completely to feature a local rock concert being put on hold because of Godzilla being close by. It’s a nice fun little tune from Yuki Saito called Into A Dream. It’s similar I find to the inclusion of Claude Francois‘s Stop Au Nom De L’amour in X-Men: Days of Future Past as it enriches the film that little bit more in atmosphere, if only very briefly.

Godzilla vs Biollante is a very different film to the rest of the films in a series that is currently 30 strong (31 in July). It’s different in its presentation. It has great narratives relatively unexplored to this point and since. It features visually striking shots of what an Amazing country Japan is (one of which I still want and need to visit). It incorporates interesting characters, not forgetting terrific performances from both Godzilla and a brand new monster. It hosts a soundtrack that is relatively light, but also spectacularly fun to listen to. It is a very different film indeed; one made with such careful attention and craftsmanship and in the end produces one of the series most stand out and enjoyable films. While it may not be the strongest, most standout or best film in the series (depending on who you ask); what this film does provide is just a stellar excellence and an exceptional experience.

GENEPOOL





Godzilla News – Bad News

20 05 2016

Godzilla 2014 (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

In June last year, I put up a minor post that was just a teaser for Godzilla 2. I basically put up an old poster for the film and just said coming soon or something along those lines, and posted it for the same day as the planned release day for Godzilla 2 in 2018. Well, on Sunday evening I just went online to remember that day to possibly plan a new little teaser once again, and I got an immense shock!

Godzilla 2014 Nuclear

What I discovered is that Godzilla 2, which is still on course and is still going to be produced, has been pushed back. Not by a month or so, but to March 2019. Yes, the film has been moved back by nearly an entire year. The reason for this though was not apparent until I discovered another shock: that of the loss of the film’s Director; Gareth Edwards.

Gareth Edwards

To cut a long story short, back in 2014, after the release and success of Godzilla, Legendary Pictures announced plans to create a sequel, and possibly an entire trilogy starring the big nuclear Lizard. However, before they could sign him, Edwards signed a deal with LucasFilm to direct the first stand-alone Star Wars film. With Legendary wanting to keep the Director, they decided to give him some time to go away and make that ‘Space Movie’, and then once complete, for him to then start work on Godzilla 2. Now while this would mean a 4 year wait (again) for this next Godzilla film; I was sort of ok with waiting in the meantime as it would allow the studio to get the next one right, especially with the announcement of the possibility of Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah making an appearance in it. Anyway, it was announced that Edwards decided to split from the project to make his own smaller films after the release of Rogue One later this year.

Rogue One

This is a major loss for the studio and series as Edwards did a fabulous job and now with no current news of a director, it is going to be rough period as the studio goes looking for one. It makes sense in a way that the release be pushed back as a new director is found. In all honesty it’s rather more annoying than that. It means, that if Edwards had not signed on to do Godzilla 2, we could have had it by next year at the latest, but now we have to wait an agonising -3 more years for the new film. To be honest, part of me wondered if this might happen, if Edwards would be dropped, just so production could finally get going. To be honest, it’s also good news, in one respect. You see, last year, after the release of Jurassic World, a sequel to World was also announced, and the date was within the same month and same year as Godzilla 2. So, this sort of comes as good news for Godzilla 2 also as it does not have to compete alongside another movie involving big monsters.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

So far, the news is just shocking and sad. I am finding hard to cope, but will have to as it is not going to come any sooner. So far, still no news on how it is going to differ or connect as a sequel, and even more terrifying, no news as to whom will direct it either. Already I am having a few ideas, including Bong Joon-Ho, Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Vogt-Roberts. It’s yet another bad piece of news regarding the future of Monster Movies; especially more so after what is going on with Pacific Rim. Hopefully soon, things will happen, and in the end, I am sure I may be able to wait another 3 years. It could be an exciting time, who knows?

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

GENEPOOL








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