Film Review: All Monsters Attack (1969)

Also known as: Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki, lit. Godzilla’s Revenge (Japan)
Release Date: December 20th, 1969 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Kunio Miyauchi
Cast: Tomonori Yazaki, Kenji Sahara, Machiko Naka

Toho, 69 Minutes

Review:

All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge is a film that a lot of people hate. And I’m not talking just people… I’m talking about actual fans of Godzilla. I guess because the film is just some little boy’s fantasy and most of the action is comprised of stock footage from the battles that took place in earlier films. Whatever, I still like this picture and I’ll explain why.

First of all, it’s a f’n Godzilla movie in an era where the franchise was the most magical and fun. Secondly, it’s about a bullied kid trying to work out his problems for himself, even if he becomes a bit of a dick at the end. Thirdly, the film is the boy’s fantasy but what young fan of the “King of Monsters” didn’t fantasize about the monster? Fourthly, aren’t all the Godzilla films just someone else’s fantasy, anyway? Fifthly, maybe the stock footage used in the boy’s fantasies is really just his memories of the battles he’s already witnessed, as we the audience have?

But I guess people hate Godzilla’s son Minya too but I’ve never figured out why. Sure, he’s goofy and odd. He looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy sans hat and covered in sculptor’s clay. But to a person that experienced the Godzilla franchise as a kid, he sort of represented all of us because which kid din’t want to go into battle alongside Godzilla? And if he wasn’t bizarre enough to begin with, he actually shrinks down to human boy size and talks with the kid in this movie. In fact, they become quick chums, as both are trying to deal with their own bully.

This is also one of those Godzilla island movies, which are some of my favorite because I’ve always loved the style and culture of the Pacific Islands and the Tiki aesthetic overall. Sure, these films were done in this style for budgetary reasons, as crushing giant cities in every movie became really expensive, but the style of these pictures has always worked for me and made them more fantastical.

This is a silly movie but that’s okay. The Godzilla films weren’t all that serious after the first one, anyway. This is also a really short picture at a meager 70 minutes. But it packs in a lot of action, has the kid foil the plot of bank robbers and overcome his bully nemesis.

Now I can’t say that this is a great movie or even a very good one but I enjoy it almost because of its cheapness, its flaws and its oddness. I can see why people dismiss this film but I like feel good stories and I’ve watched all of these films so many times that the stock footage bits sort of just happen without it really pulling me out of the story. And with all of this happening within a little boy’s imagination, actually makes the stock footage material work.

Film Review: A Straightforward Boy (1929)

Also known as: Tokkan kozô (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 24th, 1929
Directed by: Yasujirô Ozu
Written by: Tadao Ikeda, Chuji Nozu
Based on: The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
Cast: Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Takeshi Sakamoto

Shochiku Kinema (Kamata), Asakusa Teikokukan, 14 Minutes (extant fragments), 38 Minutes (original length)

Review:

Yasujirô Ozu was one of the most prolific film directors in Japan for his time. He started by making comedy shorts in the silent era. He would later go on to make more technically savvy films once he started directing “talkies”. This is one of his earlier films, however.

A Straightforward Boy was once a 38 minute picture. A lot of it has gone missing or been damaged and the print that has been reconstructed and digitally archived is only 14 minutes. However, one can still get the gist and spirit of the story in the 14 minutes that survived to give us the cut of the film that exists now.

When I was researching this, I saw that one reviewer on IMDb referred to this as the Japanese Dennis the Menace. That’s really not a stretch, as the story follows a boy that is kidnapped and ends up being such a handful that the kidnappers return him, only to have the tables then turned again, as the kid continues to terrorize the main kidnapper’s lackey.

This isn’t an exceptional film but it is really cool seeing Japanese culture come to life in the pre-WWII era. If you like Japanese humor, you’ll probably be amused by this, especially the physical humor, as it couldn’t rely on sound. It’s not quite slapstick but it is very physical and entertaining.

Tomio Aoki, the boy who plays Tetsubo, the menace, did a really fine job. The comedic timing of Tatsuo Saitô and Takeshi Sakamoto enhanced Aoki’s performance as their reactions to him were great.

This is absolutely something that fans of Ozu’s work should check out. At least, I always enjoy checking out the early works of top filmmakers, especially when they are still experimenting with style and narrative; it helps you see how they evolved and sometimes gives their later work deeper meaning and substance. For the layman, this is probably not too exciting and there isn’t a lot to walk away with, other than it being a quick short about a funny prankster kid.

Film Review: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)

Also known as: Gojira: Kaijū Wakusei (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 17th, 2017 (Japan)
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yūki Kaji

Toho, 88 Minutes

Review:

While I have been anticipating this since its announcement some time ago, I didn’t have extremely high hopes for it, as there hasn’t really been a Japanese produced Godzilla animated feature before. I’m also not a huge fan of anime but I do regularly return to some of the classics, from time to time. For example, Robotech is one of my most loved things ever.

Well, I’m going to be blunt: this was terrible. It’s slow, it’s boring, everyone in it is extremely unlikable and it has a giant plot hole large enough to suck Godzilla in.

The plot hole made the film pretty unwatchable. I couldn’t just ignore it and it was a testament to how awful the writing was. You see, humans escaped Earth, which has been overrun by kaiju with Godzilla as their king. For decades, the human race has pushed out further and further into the cosmos and in that time, food and oxygen became scarce. People started dying, some committed suicide and most of the humans that fled Earth are already dead at the start of this movie. So, afraid that they’ll never get to the planets that they set out for, an angry kid decides that going back to Earth to fight Godzilla is the best course of action for survival. The humans then use a warp drive to get back to Earth in literally one second. So, all these people died over the course of decades for a trip that took one second with warp drive? And why not then just use the warp drive to get you to your far off destination? At this point, I was already over this stupid fucking movie.

Then there is everything else wrong with it.

The main character is such an unlikable brat you just want to punch him in the dick. I fucking hated this character and wanted him to die as soon as possible. He doesn’t die by the way, the film ends with a moment that tells you that this screaming emo douche will be back, front and center, in this film’s sequel because I guess this is the start of a trilogy.

Another problem is that I (and I’m sure many people) only watched this for Godzilla. You don’t really get to see him, other than quick flashbacks, until the last third of the film. He also looks an awful lot like the most recent American version of Godzilla, as opposed to the dozens or so Japanese versions. Everything up until Godzilla shows up is just drawn out and boring as hell. This just isn’t an exciting movie and once it should be exciting, you don’t care about any of the characters because they all suck. The terrible characters make it so that the action scenes lack any sort of emotion. This is a soulless, terrible, cookie cutter, basic bitch, anime shitshow.

In regards to the animation, I didn’t like the Godzilla character design. Also, the action stuff is a combination of traditional animation and CGI, which seems to be the norm in anime these days and I don’t like it. What I did like about anime, when I was younger, was the talent of the people who drew these films and shows. It’s similar to how I love classic Disney animation but don’t really give a shit about Pixar, even if the stories are good. But just like I prefer practical effects over a ton of unnecessary CGI, I feel the same way with animation. Yes, that’s my personal preference but I know I’m not alone here.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters isn’t anything I ever asked for and now having seen it, it isn’t anything that I want. I’ll probably watch the sequels because they are Godzilla movies but I doubt that anything will happen in this series that will make me appreciate them.

This just barely escapes the mechanical maw of the Cinespiria Shitometer. Just barely.

Film Review: Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Also known as: Gojira tai Kingu Gidora (original Japanese title)
Release Date: December 14th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuki Ōmori
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Kōsuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akiji Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Robert Scott Field

Toho, 103 Minutes, 88 Minutes (Chinese cut)

Review:

“You say that you feel Godzilla?” – Kenichiro Terasawa, “Yes whenever I close my eyes, I see him as clearly as if he was walking right in front of me.” – Miki Saegusa

While I wanted to revisit Godzilla Vs. Biollante before revisiting this picture, that movie is a hard one to track down nowadays. This is the direct sequel to it and the third film in the Heisei era of Godzilla movies. I’ll have to circle back to it though when I can find it streaming or if it is ever re-released on Blu-ray in the States.

This film sort of re-imagines the iconic kaiju monster and top Godzilla villain King Ghidorah. In this version, he is a monster created by evil humans from the future, as opposed to just being an alien that showed up one day and was later controlled by an evil alien race. In this, he evolved from three cute little creatures called Dorats. While most fans of the series hate the Dorats for being cute little monsters, I always kind of liked them, even if I’m not a fan of the way in which Ghidorah comes to be in this era of the Godzilla franchise.

The plot is about how these future Earthlings go back in time in an effort to stop Godzilla from ever existing but they are actually trying to get Godzilla out of the way for King Ghidorah. Once Ghidorah is established, he can destroy Japan and prevent it from becoming its future empire. There’s a lot of over the top “Japan is the greatest” propaganda in the movie but I loved it since just about every American action film wants to paint the United States as the savior of the universe.

The film gives us one of the coolest kaiju monster variants of all-time when the big final battle brings in Mecha-King Ghidorah. This plot point would also lead to a future sequel, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which would come out just after the next film in the series, Godzilla vs. Mothra.

It is interesting to see how much gore is in this movie. There are several shots of kaiju getting assaulted in really violent ways. There are kaiju chunks blown off, kaiju blood and just a lot of brutality that wasn’t really seen in the original Shōwa era.

The film also has incredibly hokey effects. While that can and should be expected in any Japanese Godzilla movie that came out before 2016, some of the effects here are pretty good and some aren’t. There’s a large inconsistency with the quality of effects from scene to scene and from this and other Godzilla films from around the same time. While I’m okay with bad effects in these sort of pictures, the inconsistencies make them more noticeable.

Speaking of hokiness, the evil android character and everything about him and how his character worked on screen was terrible. The scene of him running like the Flash was cringe worthy and the fact that he is a future android with a head full of CDs was baffling. The Japanese are at the forefront of technology and CDs weren’t really something that they should envision to be inside of an android from 200-plus years into the future.

The time travel element was a big part of the story, as was the UFO that the Futurians arrived to present Earth in. The filmmakers sort of hammed it up and put what is assumed to be Steven Spielberg’s father in a scene, as well as a display in the time traveling ship that looks an awful like the one in the DeLorean of the Back to the Future movies. I did enjoy these little Easter eggs though.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah really takes some time before it gets going and it isn’t the best of its era but it is still packed of with some solid kaiju action, once Godzilla and King Ghidorah show up in the same place. I also liked the added mecha element to the film, which was a throwback to those ’70s films featuring Mechagodzilla and in some regard, that late ’60s King Kong picture with Mechani-Kong.

This is a fun and interesting picture within the Godzilla franchise. Far from perfect but also far from being a throwaway chapter.

 

Film Review: Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Also known as: Mekagojira no Gyakushū, lit. Counterattack of Mechagodzilla (Japan)
Release Date: March 15th, 1975 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Yukiko Takayama
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata, Katsumasa Uchida, Goro Mutsumi, Tadao Nakamaru, Toru Kawai, Kenji Sahara

Toho, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Wait till I really let Titanosaurus loose!” – Dr. Shinji Mafune

Well, this was the big sendoff for Godzilla in his Shōwa era of films, which stretch over fifteen movies from 1954’s Gojira to this 1975 conclusion that reunited original director Ishirō Honda and original music maestro Akira Ifukube.

Despite the talent working on this final chapter, it is fairly lackluster. I think the main reason is that it was a rehash of the Mechagodzilla story from the previous year’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Also, instead of featuring the awesome King Caesar, we are introduced to a new kaiju: Titanosaurus. Unfortunately, despite a new power, Titanosaurus was pretty lame. In fact, his power isn’t really that original as it is just wind gusts, which we got as far back as 1956’s Rodan. Rodan used his supersonic speed to create destructive wind gusts where Titanosaurus used his fan shaped tail. I know that Titanosaurus has his fans out there but I’m not one of them.

While I love Mechagodzilla, there just wasn’t much to separate this film from the previous one and everything that was actually different was a step down. Still, it is a Godzilla film from his best era and it is a fun time.

I think the problem with this movie, is that although Ishirō Honda is the superior Godzilla director, the ’70s Godzilla films really belonged to Jun Fukuda. He created the vibe that worked in the ’70s, as the character of Godzilla became more kid friendly and kind of goofy. Honda’s style wasn’t really effective when trying to make a direct sequel to Fukuda’s Mechagodzilla film. Godzilla was very different in 1975 than it was when Honda directed his near masterpiece Gojira in 1954.

Also, I need to point out something strange with my latest viewing of this movie. While it is rated G and categorized in places as a “family film”, this movie has boobies in it. Granted, they are fake cyborg boobies but they are nude breasties, nonetheless. Strangely, these ’70s boobies never existed in any version of the film that I have seen before. While I own this, I most recently watched it on the Starz app. So if you are using that and are showing these “G rated” Godzilla movies to some young ones, be forewarned that you might get a mammary surprise. But, as far as I know, this is the only Godzilla film with cyborg titties in it or any titties for that matter.

Titties aside, I do like this film even if it is in the lower rung of Shōwa era films. The main reason, is that I don’t dislike any Shōwa era film. Something about this heroic kaiju makes me smile, especially in the classic era of rubber suits, miniature sets and a sort of hokey magic that ties it all together. While many fans don’t like ’70s Godzilla, I always have, as it was the decade I felt more connected to when I discovered these movies as a kid in the ’80s.

Terror of Mechagodzilla isn’t a place that I would start, if introducing this great and massive film franchise to new generations, but it still works in spite of its flaws. Granted, most people probably won’t embrace this with the enthusiasm that I have but most people paid to see Transformers 5.

TV Review: Attack On Titan (2013- )

Original Run: April 7th, 2013 – current
Created by: Hajime Isayama
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Attack On Titan manga by Hajime Isayama
Music by: Hiroyuki Sawano

Wit Studio, Production I.G., Dentsu, 37 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2014.

I’m not what you would call a big anime fan. Well, at least not since I was a kid and a teenager in what I now consider to be the golden age of anime, which was the mid 80s through the 90s. As a kid I was captivated by Robotech and Akira. As a teenager, it was Ninja Scroll and Ghost In The Shell and really just about anything I could get my hands on before anime went really mainstream in the United States.

Once it became a big thing, I sort of checked out. At that point, the quality of what was successful paled in comparison to the earlier stuff that I loved. The fanboys who raved about how good everything was, even the shit, just irritated me and I had the attitude of, “Fuck you, I was here when all you knew was Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.”

Anyway, Attack On Titan is the first anime series that I have seen in years that not only kept my interest but also had me applauding its writing, its characters, its philosophy and its artistic execution. Other than Hellsing, I cannot think of another anime series in the last decade that had me so engaged from beginning to end. In fact, I am assuming that it is resonating with many others and sort of anticipate some English-speaking live-action crappy remake in the next few years – hopefully not starring Sam Worthington.

The premise of this tale is pretty compelling and is what initially hooked me. Essentially, it has been a hundred years since humanity has been decimated by a race of giants called “Titans”. In that time, they have built a wall around themselves in an effort to keep the Titans out. As the story starts, the Titans bring down the wall and our main hero sees his mother eaten by one of them – spurring his rage and his quest for vengeance.

What follows, one would assume would be pretty predictable: kid wants revenge for dead mother, kid becomes badass, kid kills evil, revenge accomplished. What you get however, is a story that is anything but predictable and in fact, takes several crazy turns throughout the series, always giving you something fresh and new. Roadblocks seemingly come from everywhere and no one ever feels like they’re safe.

Yes, it is a dark and intense show. While that seems to be a trend in entertainment lately, Attack On Titan doesn’t just use it in a generic typical way, they use it to motivate the characters and the plot in a pretty dynamic way. The characters constantly find themselves at odds with the awful cruel world that they live in and even though they must fight to survive in it, at the core, they strive for something better and refuse to accept their doomed apocalypse of a life.

The show presents a lot of questions and by the time you get to the end, many of those questions are left unanswered. This leaves me thinking that there is more to come. The show is over, at least this initial series but there are companion films being released and I anticipate a proper conclusion to the main protagonists story at some point.

Again, this is an amazing series and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting something different and refreshing to watch. I binged watched it in two sessions of about five-to-six hours each, so you can get through it fairly quickly. Check it out on Netflix. Also, it is not dubbed, it is subtitled. I really enjoyed being able to hear the traditional Japanese dialogue.

Film Review: Stray Dog (1949)

Also known as: Nora Inu (Japan)
Release Date: October 17th, 1949 (Japan)
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Written by: Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima
Music by: Fumio Hayasaka
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura

Shintoho, Film Art Association, Toho, 122 Minutes

Review:

“Bad luck either makes a man or destroys him. Are you gonna let it destroy you? Depending how you take it, bad luck can be a big break.” – Police Inspector Nakajima

I really liked Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel and it inspired me to look at more of his work that wasn’t specifically historical samurai films, also known as jidaigeki. I also picked this one, as it is essentially a Japanese film-noir. Plus, it stars Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, two of Kurosawa’s regulars.

In this tale, we are taken to post-WWII Tokyo during a summer heatwave. A rookie homicide detective named Murakami (Mifune) has his Colt pistol stolen while on a trolley ride. Not soon after, police forensics discovers that Murakami’s pistol was used in a crime. He then teams up with a veteran detective, Satō (Shimura), in an effort to track down his Colt and to stop the criminal responsible.

The story is pretty intriguing and it has been borrowed several times since it was first used here. At least, I have never seen an older version of this tale. Hell, an episode of Louis CK’s Louis was based off of this concept, when Louis’ idiot cop buddy (Michael Rappaport) loses his pistol and they have to try and track it down. Not to get sidetracked here, but I know a lot of people have probably seen that episode.

This film is an example of Kurosawa on the cusp of greatness. He already did the near perfect Drunken Angel but he hadn’t quite gotten into the high point of his oeuvre yet.

This is a gritty and real feeling film. It displays an era in Tokyo that most Western audiences haven’t really seen. It’s a genuine look into the blossoming of a modernized Japan. It even gives us a solid glimpse at old school Japanese baseball, which I just wish was featured in a lot more movies because I love the sport and have always loved the country.

What we also get with this film, is Mifune and Shimura kind of giving birth to the buddy cop formula. While it isn’t so much a comedy, it is a solid crime thriller, their camaraderie foreshadows a long lasting trope that would become a norm in police movies and television shows.

Additionally, this is also a precursor to the police procedural film. While this is a formula that started around the same time in film-noir, it didn’t truly become widespread in entertainment until police procedurals made their way onto television sets in the 1950s.

Stray Dog was a film that was just ahead of its time. Furthermore, it is well directed, well acted and has some great cinematography. The big finale is one of the best cop versus criminal showdowns in history. It almost has a western vibe to it, as both these men come face to face.

While this isn’t Kurosawa’s best, it is better than most directors can dream.