Film Review: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Also known as: Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan, lit. Earth Assault Order: Godzilla vs. Gigan (Japan), Extermination 2025 (France), Godzilla on Monster Island (US alternate title), Frankensteins Höllenbrut (Germany)
Release Date: March 12th, 1972 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube, Kunio Miyauchi
Cast: Hiroshi Ishikawa, Tomoko Umeda, Yuriko Hishimi, Minoru Takashima, Zan Fujita, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Kunio Murai

Toho, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Two monsters… One of them is Ghidorah. The other one is new. A completely new sound.” – Commander of Defense Forces

I’m just going to put it out there, this chapter in the Godzilla franchise is going to get a high rating from me. I know that it isn’t anywhere near the best that the franchise has to offer but it has always been a Godzilla film that I have loved and it features my two favorite Godzilla villains of all-time: the debuting Gigan and the always badass King Ghidorah.

Plus, this deals with an alien race of cockroach people that have a sinister plan that involves building a Godzilla branded theme park where their headquarters is actually a big building made to look like Godzilla himself. It’s crazy and bizarre and really encompasses all the things I love about ’70s Godzilla and Jun Fukuda’s run on the series.

On top of that, this teams Godzilla up with his oldest enemy, now ally, Anguirus.

This film is just incredibly bizarre but in a great way. Of course, you have to be a fan of kaiju movies and classic tokusatsu to truly embrace the madness but this really is a tokusatsu epic for its time. And ’70s Godzilla films almost feel like Ultraman episodes without Ultraman in them.

The weirdest thing about this picture is where Godzilla and Anguirus talk to each other. These bits work better in the original Japanese language version of the film. In the English dubbed version, which I grew up with, their voices are hilarious and it’s impossible not to laugh at it. It’s absurd but it’s enjoyably absurd and strangely enchanting.

I think I always connected to this chapter because the main character is a manga artist. When I was a kid, I was an aspiring comic book artist, so I always thought this part of the film was really cool. Plus, you get to see the inner workings of a manga company when this character makes his first appearance.

Another big plus about this film is that it has a ton of action. The big tag team battle royale seems to go on forever and it is actually a bloody affair, as Gigan literally has a buzzsaw for a stomach and the filmmakers had to emphasize the danger of that by cutting into the heroes.

Gigan is just a fantastic monster: one of the best kaiju ever created, hands down. He’s bizarre, deadly as hell and not a friggin’ pushover by any means. Granted, Gigan and King Ghidorah flee the scene like two little bitches at the end of the movie but the showdown between these beasts is incredible if you are a fan of classic kaiju battles.

I love this film. Always have. Always will. It’s not my favorite but it is the best from its decade.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Godzilla movies from the ’70s: Godzilla vs. MegalonGodzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Era (2006-2010)

Original Run: April 15th, 2006 – January 1st, 2010
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Catherine Tate, Bernard Cribbins, Elisabeth Sladen, John Simm, Kylie Minogue, David Morrissey, Michelle Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, Noel Clarke

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

David Tennant is considered by most to be the best Doctor of all-time. He’s my second favorite after Tom Baker but his accolades and admiration are definitely deserved, as he took what Christopher Eccleston walked away from and turned it into something that was very much his and better than anything the franchise had done since the high point of the Tom Baker era, which ended in 1981.

The Tennant era of Who is the best era of the modern incarnation of the franchise. Sure, I love all the Doctors in different ways but this was the real peak for me since the show relaunched in 2005. Russell T. Davies just had a certain magic that Stephen Moffat, who took over with the Matt Smith era, could emulate and build from but had a much harder time at maintaining it and being consistent.

I just love this era of the show. It isn’t perfect, by any means and has a few hiccups, but overall, this was a great thing to experience. For other lovers of this franchise, this span in the show’s history is almost like a love letter to you. It taps into the spirit of the original shows much better than the Eccleston stuff and it brings back some key elements that were missing in the first season, most notably the Master and some of the more famous alien villains.

Furthermore, Tennant has great chemistry with every single person that they paired him with. His relationship with Rose got heavier and more intimate than it did when Eccleston was in the role. His time with Martha was great and you hurt for her and for him, as he continued to mourn the great loss he felt with Rose. The Tennant team up with Catherine Tate as Donna Noble was the best part of the show but once that relationship extends into the Doctor also having a bond with her grandfather, Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott, it got even better. You also got to see Tennant work well with David Morrissey (the future Governor from The Walking Dead), Kylie Minogue, the former Tom Baker companion Sarah Jane (played by Elisabeth Sladen, once again), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and a slew of others. But it’s his chemistry with the John Simm version of the Master that really showcased how good both men are.

I adore the Tennant years on Doctor Who. It is the best run of the modern era… period. Although, Matt Smith’s run after this was pretty darn good too and even if I didn’t like a lot of the Peter Capaldi stuff, I did love Capaldi’s Doctor. But David Tennant’s run will be a near impossible feat to try and top.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth and Eleventh Doctors’ runs.

Film Review: Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

Also known as: A Night on the Town (Australia)
Release Date: June 19th, 1987 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: David Simkins
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, Maia Brewton, Penelope Ann Miller, Bradley Whitford, Calvin Levels, George Newbern, Vincent D’Onofrio, Albert Collins (cameo)

Rose Productions, Silver Screen Partners III, Touchstone Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Lords of Hell!” – Gang Leader, “[Chris picks up the knife and shoves it in the gang leader’s face] Don’t fuck with the babysitter!” – Chris

Adventures In Babysitting was one of those movies I watched a heck of a lot as a kid in the ’80s. It was just a cool movie and being that I was around the same age as the youngest kid in the film, who was also a massive Thor fan, it was easy to relate to the characters. Plus, my family are all originally from Chicago and I used to go up there all the time in my youth. I love that city and this really captures it in a very ’80s way, which was also how I first experienced Chicago.

I think the real glue of this picture is Elisabeth Shue. She was perfect as the lead and believable in the situations she found herself in. I guess the studio wanted Molly Ringwald or Valerie Bertinelli but Shue landed the role and I can’t quite see how this movie would work the same way with those other actresses. The character of Chris felt very much like Shue.

The kids in the film were also well cast. You had Keith Coogan and Anthony Rapp, both at the beginning of their careers, and Maia Brewton, who was solid and the most fun and energetic character in the movie. I also love all the bits Penelope Ann Miller did at the bus station, even though she was on her own and separated from the other kids throughout the vast majority of the picture. And even though he’s only in two scenes, Bradley Whitford played his ’80s douchebag role to perfection in this.

The premise sees these kids go into Chicago to pick up Chris’ friend, who has run away from home and is stranded at an inner city bus station. On their way into downtown Chicago, they blow out their tire. They get saved by a nice tow truck driver but then things go absolutely nuts and the kids get mixed up with an auto theft ring ran by some shady dudes. The rest of the film sees them running through Chicago, dodging the gangsters and constantly getting into wild situations. It almost plays like an urban Goonies without treasure. Additionally, the end has the kids racing home to beat the parents in a similar fashion to Ferris Beuller but without the cool musical montage of Ferris running through people’s yards and houses.

This was also the first film directed by Chris Columbus, who had written some very successful films before landing this gig.

Like all ’80s teen films, this is certainly dated. However, it hasn’t lost its charm or any of the excitement. It has held up really well and isn’t just good when seen through nostalgic eyes, it is just a film that works and is still a blast.

Plus, it had a friggin’ awesome movie poster in a time when there were still friggin’ awesome movie posters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: For an Elisabeth Shue pairing, watch The Karate Kid. For Keith Coogan and a babysitting theme, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. If you want to see more of Bradley Whitford being an ’80s prick, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise.

TV Review: Cobra Kai (2018- )

Original Run: April, 2018 (Tribeca Film Festival) – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters created by Robert Mark Kamen
Music by: Leo Birenberg, Zach Robinson
Cast: William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Mary Mouser, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Mariduena, Tanner Buchanan, Jacob Bertrand

Hurwitz & Schlossberg Productions, Overbrook Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television, YouTube Red, 10 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I went to the theatrical premiere of this streaming television series. The premiere consisted of just the first two episodes, so that is all I have to go on for this review. I’ll probably update this and adjust the rating after I’ve seen the completion of the first season.

For those that don’t know, this series takes place now, in 2018. It follows Johnny Lawrence, the main bad guy from the original Karate Kid movie. He’s having a hard time in his fifties and really has nothing going right in his life. He runs into Daniel Larusso a.k.a. Daniel-san and the encounter inspires Johnny to reform the Cobra Kai, because he yearns for his glory days in a typical “peaked in high school” sort of way.

What makes this really damn cool and the only reason why this should have been made, is that it brings back both William Zabka and Ralph Macchio as Johnny and Daniel. And man, it was really cool seeing them on the screen together, once again.

I love the tone of this series. It is true to the tone of the original movies but is very different in that it is about those teenagers, thirty-four years later, as adults with adult problems and an event that changed both of them permanently, giving them different trajectories through life.

The show sort of does a bit of role reversal, as Johnny is teaching the young weak teen that is constantly bullied. In fact, Johnny kicks the crap out of the bullies in the same way Miyagi did in the original film where Johnny was one of those original bullies. But Johnny’s methods and agenda are very different than Miyagi’s. At least he’s not a psycho like John Kreese, the original Cobra Kai leader.

I really dig how this show examines these characters and their lives. Daniel has basically become the rich family dad living in the Hills, which is in stark contrast to where he was as a poor teenager trying to hook up with the rich girl. Johnny has gone from the top stud in high school to utter poverty.

This show works and it works well. I had some high expectations for this after I saw the first trailer but those expectations have been surpassed, at least with this small sample size. We’ll see how it goes as the show marches on.

For now, I’m definitely a fan of Cobra Kai and it may just make me subscribe to YouTube Red, at least just to watch this until the season one finale.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The original Karate Kid trilogy of movies, obviously.

Film Review: D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

Release Date: June 14th, 1985
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: David Ambrose, Allan Scott, Jeffrey Ellis
Music by: Marvin Hamlisch
Cast: Barret Oliver, Mary Beth Hurt, Michael McKean, Danny Corkill, Josef Sommer, David Wohl, Colleen Camp, Steve Ryan, Amy Linker, Kathryn Walker

Paramount Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“General, a machine becomes human when you can’t tell the difference anymore.” – Dr. Ellen Lamb

I used to love D.A.R.Y.L. when I was a kid. I think it is mostly because I liked the premise and I liked Barret Oliver after seeing him in The NeverEnding Story.

Watching it now, not through kid eyes, it is still heartwarming and you care for the characters but it is much blander than I remember. I wouldn’t call it boring but it lacks energy and isn’t exploding with ’80s style and charm like similar films.

The plot revolves around Daryl (or D.A.R.Y.L. a.k.a. Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform) and how he loses his memory, is found in the woods, given to a foster family, makes friends and is then whisked away back to a government lab. All he wants is to be close to his new family and friends but some douchey Army general has other plans. Eventually, Daryl steals an SR-71 spy plane in an effort to fly back to the home and people he yearns for.

Daryl isn’t really a robot per se. He is an organic lifeform like a normal human being, however his brain is a supercomputer. Most of the story deals with the morality of the situation. Is Daryl human? What kind of rights does he have? Is he life? Is he just government property that can be disposed of? Is killing him actually murder? This was all heavy stuff for my six or seven year-old brain back when I first saw this.

Surprisingly for a film about a “robot”, there isn’t much need for special effects. The only major effects shots are when Daryl is piloting the SR-71. The stuff that was shot was done very well and although you can see the flaws in it, due to its era, it has held up well.

Barret Oliver had to carry this whole picture, just as he did with the real world parts of The NeverEnding Story. He does a fine job and was a child actor with much more skill than most of his peers.

It’s a bit sad that this wasn’t as great as I remembered it but that happens a lot when revisiting ’80s pictures that one hasn’t seen for a few decades. I still liked it though and even if the writing is too convenient and simplistic, it has a satisfying ending.

I’m just still waiting for the sequel where the government discovers that he’s still alive and flips on his murder switch.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: WarGamesReal GeniusFlight of the Navigator and The Boy Who Could Fly.

Film Review: Earth to Echo (2014)

Also known as: Echo, Untitled Wolf Adventure (both working titles)
Release Date: June 14th, 2014 (Los Angeles Film Festival)
Directed by: Dave Green
Written by: Henry Gayden, Andrew Panay
Music by: Joseph Trapanese
Cast: Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese C. Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt

Panay Films, Walt Disney Pictures, Relativity Media, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t really know how to say goodbye, so I’m not gonna. And um… um, you’re my friend you know, and when I’m old, even when you think I’ve forgotten, I’m always gonna be there.” – Alex

*Written in 2014.

Earth to Echo currently has a 5.7 on IMDb. I think it is a better film than that, maybe around 6.5. I get the criticisms people have though but I think some of that criticism comes from a lack of deeper film knowledge. Let me explain.

Let us start with the premise. The film follows three teen boys and later a girl that joins them, as they go on a quest to follow the map that they discovered. This is also their last adventure, as they are being forced to move out of their town. Already, this seems like it borrows heavily from The Goonies. It also involves finding a friendly alien, which expands the quest for the friends. Now they are on the run from government dudes and are trying desperately to get the alien back to his ship, so that he can go home. Now the film is borrowing a lot from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The alien itself is small and robotic and is reminiscent of the aliens from the ’80s film *batteries not included. The movie is also shot in a found footage style, which gives it parallels to a lot of other films.

You see, the criticism of this film typically comes from those who are pointing out that it is ripping off one or all of these things. Some people even consider it a rip off of Super 8. Apparently those people aren’t aware that Super 8 is essentially, to use their words “a rip off” of E.T.

Who really gives a crap about all of this, though? When I was a kid in the 1980s, there were multiple “rip offs” of E.T., as well as several other films and successful properties. For every Transformers, there was a GoBots. For every Conan, there was a Beastmaster. For every Ghostbusters, there was, well.. Ghostbusters. For every Alien, there was every sci-fi/horror film for the next decade after it.

The real question is whether or not this was a good film? And did it employ the themes it borrowed in an effective way? I say “yes” to both.

This was obviously an homage to a lot of great films that had some sort of impact on the director and the writers. When I was a kid of the ’80s, enjoying the films that Earth to Echo is an homage to, I also wanted to be a filmmaker. At least the director Dave Green followed through on his dream and found a way to pay respect to his powerful influences.

Nothing about this film treats the inspirational source material poorly. It brings the elements and concepts together and becomes its own thing.

The child actors in this film were all pretty great and not annoying. Were they as lovable as the kids Spielberg rounded up for E.T. and The Goonies? Not necessarily but I could see them fitting in with those groups pretty easily. Reese Hartwig who played the character of Munch did an exceptional job for a young actor.

No, this is not a perfect or flawless movie. For a kids’ sci-fi picture about friendship and doing the right thing, it is pretty good. For a guy in his mid-30s, this also felt really nostalgic. And truthfully, I prefer it to the more popular Super 8.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: All of its influences mentioned above, as well as Super 8.

Film Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Release Date: August 5th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terry Nation
Music by: Barry Gray, Bill McGuffie
Cast: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Jill Curzon, Roberta Tovey, Andrew Keir

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[over the radio] Surrender now and you will live. Resist and you will be exterminated. Show yourselves in the streets immediately and obey the orders of your masters, the Daleks!” – Dalek

I know that these non-canonical Doctor Who movies get a really bad wrap, as they exist in their own universe and ignore some of the established continuity of the television show, but I have always liked them for what they are, B-movie sci-fi adventures with hokey effects and the legendary Peter f’n Cushing as this version of The Doctor.

Like its predecessor, this theatrical and colorized Doctor Who adventure is a remake of a famous Dalek serial from the William Hartnel era of the television series. Where the first Cushing movie was a re-imagining of the first ever Dalek story, this picture is a re-imagining of the second Dalek story. Where the first film took place on the Dalek homeworld of Skaro, this one brings the Daleks to a future version of Earth, where they have invaded and conquered humanity. The Cushing Doctor and his companions have to outwit and outright battle the Daleks in an attempt to survive the proceedings and to return to a much safer place like the Earth of their present time.

One really cool thing about this movie is that it also stars Bernard Cribbins, who would go on to play the much beloved companion Wilfred Mott from the David Tennant era, some forty years later. In this film, Cribbins plays a beat cop that stumbles into the TARDIS and ends up in the future with the Doctor and his other companions: Louise, his neice, and his young granddaughter from the first movie, Susan.

This film has a larger budget than the first one and its apparent, even if this feels like an old B-movie. Where the first one was on closed sets in a bizarre forest and a Dalek fortress of boring corridors, this one took to the streets of London and felt much more like it was on location in the real world. Granted, I liked the vivid and otherworldly feel of the previous picture.

Still, this one is a bit better. It feels more refined and even though Cushing was ill during filming and it was rewritten to use his character less, the other characters held their own and made the film a worthwhile experience for fans of this sort of thing.

This was originally supposed to be the middle chapter in a trilogy of Dalek movies but it did not get a sequel and would be the last of the non-canonical Doctor Who stories.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Dr. Who and the Daleks and the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.