Saturday, April 27, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla - Final Wars (2004)

Watched:  04/26/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Fourth?
Director:  Ryuhei Kitamura
Selection:  Me

It's been over a decade since I'd rewatched Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).  Because of the *when* of its release date, it was also one of the first Godzilla movies I saw when I re-engaged with Godzilla at the start of the 21st Century.  Back then, Godzilla movies were kind of hard to come by so a new one was a welcome thing.

For those of you who aren't wasting your life with Godzilla minutia:  this is/was the 50th Anniversary offering from Toho, as Gojira had debuted in 1954.  It is also Toho's final man-in-suit kaiju feature film (they have continued to make shorts and commercials, etc... starring a man-in-suit).  Following this movie, Toho put G on ice, renting him to Legendary pictures, who released Godzilla in 2014 until Toho finally made a new Godzilla movie with Shin Godzilla, released in 2016.  

Most of the post 1998 American Godzilla movies made by Toho had their own shared continuity separate from the Showa and Heisei era films, but Godzilla: Final Wars is probably not directly associated with Godzilla 2000, Megaguirus, Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Against Mechagodzilla or Tokyo S.O.S.  And good luck figuring out the continuity of those movies, tbh.  So it is *odd* that the final movie from Toho (and they really did think they were done, at least for a while) wasn't a conclusion to those movies as much as a conclusion to the concept of Godzilla as much as anything.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Horror Watch: Late Night With The Devil (2023)

Watched:  04/25/2024
Format:  AMC+/ Shudder on Amazon (free trial)
Viewing:  First
Director:  Cameron Cairnes/ Colin Cairnes

When I saw the trailer for Late Night With The Devil (2023) I was pretty jazzed, or as jazzed as I get about trailers for horror films.  Most horror trailers just look to me like "here are people who are in a place where they do not feel safe, and, indeed, they will now be murdered, but the good part is how and why".  And I could not be more bored seeing a group of people trapped and about to be murdered.  Unless it is death by angry animal.

But the trailer for Late Night With the Devil was something novel - a period piece about a latenight talk show and then stuff gets out of control because they are messing with forces they do not understand.  On TV.

So, two things struck me before the movie began.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sci-Fi Watch: "The Expanse" Rewatch, Season 3

One of the curious things that the showrunners of The Expanse did was break things up somewhat by books, but not exactly.  Season 3, however, contains the back half of the second book and the events of the third (a quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that quite a bit was changed from the novels).  

Our crew has escaped Ganymede, and the Protomolecule hybrid.  But Chrisjen is still in space aboard Mao's ship.  Errinwright thinks he's free of Chrisjen, and is able to maneuver the UN Secretary General into war, but the Secretary General brings in an old colleague, Methodist Minister Anna Volovodov to help him write his speech for declaration of war.  

The third season includes events on Io, the Mars/ Earth near all-out-war, as well as the evolution of the crashed Eros station on Venus as scientists try to sort it out - and the eventual escape of the structure built by the protomolecule, forming the ring on the edge of the solar system.  They've also brought along a scientist from Ganymede, Prax, seeking his daughter who seems to have been kidnapped by her doctor.

The evidence of Errinwright's machinations makes it's way to the UN, ending the war.  

With the Mars/ Earth war completed, and with peace a fragile thing, six months in, a convoy of Martian, Earth and Belter ships all head to The Ring - Earth sending civilians.  

Of the many, many things The Expanse does well, it's very aware that not everyone in the future will be a rocket scientist, and we're going to still have our candidates for FailArmy out there (sorry, Star Trek) - a rocket-racing Belter deciding to be the first to race through The Ring on the promise of sex.  And absolutely pancaking against an invisible wall of force.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Franken Watch: Lisa Frankenstein (2024)

Watched:  04/23/2024
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Zelda Williams
Selection:  Joint household

First, it was someone on social media who pointed out the title to Lisa Frankenstein (2024) is less random than it appears and is maybe a reference to Lisa Frank products, and I think it's great, and maybe part of the winky "we're not going to explain everything to you dummies" vibe this movie has.

One thing social media has accomplished is that you've shoved generations of people together who normally would not have opportunity to speak to one another about pop culture minutia.  And through this, I've become acutely aware of how media and a few other artifacts can give a very peculiar idea to subsequent generations about what things were really like.

As someone born squarely in the mid-70's, the 1980's loom large in my head.  And of the things made in the years since the 1980's that tried to recall that era - this one may have actually stuck the landing in ways that I have to assume were incredibly off-putting to The Kids(tm).  This is not their dad making them watch their greatest hits of the 1980's.  

The movie is hovering in the mid-40's on Metacritic and over at RT a 51% critical score, with a 42% with top critics.  I'm not exactly sure how or why, but the people giving this movie bad reviews kind of uniformly seem to have missed the gag of 1980's trash/ underground cinema.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Adventure Watch: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Watched:  04/22/2024
Format:  Fox Movies
Viewing:  First
Director:  Henry Levin

I've not read the original novel of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and until viewing this movie, I'd never felt particularly guilty about that or questioned it, but it's kind of kooky that I had not read it.  I'm a fan of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and have been since I was a small kid - whether you mean the Disney film, the book, or what my mother reports was likely a kid's adaptation she read me when I was 5 or 6 that she even recently was relating to me how enthused I was about the book.

When it came to the novel of Journey, I had the basic gist down from a lifetime of absorbing pop culture.  Science folk find a hole, wander about, figure out there's all sorts of crazy stuff under the surface, like an ocean and dinosaurs.  Which should sound real familiar-like to fans of Legendary's Monsterverse franchise/ the latest Kong and Godzilla team-up film.  So, yeah, hope you're enjoying a fresh, new 160 year old concept.  

Anyway, that guilt about my poor reading habits seeped in about five minutes after starting the film of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), and I got a taste of the ol' adventure-spirit that could fill a splashy all-ages sci-fi movie in 1959.  But I also remembered how much I enjoyed the book of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and, anyway.  I'll give it time and then read the book.

First:  This thing looks insanely expensive for 1959.  Massive sets, period setting, maybe 1/3rd of the movie on the surface before we see any caves, and lots of matte and other visual FX.  Plus, James Mason as the lead, Pat Boone(!) as the young scientist/ admirer of Mason's daughter, and Ms. Arlene Dahl playing about ten years older than she was at the time of shooting.  Some scenes have boat-loads of extras. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Toho Watch: The War of the Gargantuas (1966)

Watched:  04/21/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ishiro Honda

Not as well remembered as the Godzilla movies from Toho, the same studio also made a few "Frankenstein" movies.  If, by Frankenstein, you mean "here's a giant, sort of stupid looking guy in a furry outfit and hideous mask".  I, of course, didn't look up what order to watch these in, so this is the second one, and I have not yet seen the first.  

However, I'm a clever fellow, and I am pretty sure I followed along.

The War of the Gargantuas (1966) follows the tale of a "Frankenstein" appearing in Japan after they believed the Frankenstein they'd previously dealt with in Frankenstein vs. Baragon was killed.  Well, apparently Frank was dropping cells that grew into new monsters, also called Frankensteins, because sure.

The first on to appear is green, and alternately referred to as "Gaira" or "The Green One", because he is green.  And comes from the sea.  And he hates lounge singers.  And the Japanese Self Defense Force.  A second Frankenstein comes down out of the mountains, and is dubbed "Sanda" (and is usually actually just called "The Brown One").  

The two fight while, per usual, the guys in military uniforms and stern men in gray suits ponder what they should do, while our hero seems to know what to do.  Now, weirdly, our hero is Russ Fucking Tamblyn.  And he is having an absolute blast.  

The best part of the movie is that is also has Kumi Mizuno, who has a large role, partnering with Tamblyn as his feisty sidekick.

You can also count on seeing several other players from the Toho company.  Man, getting in with them must have been an okay gig for a bunch of years there.

Somehow more so than other Toho kaiju films, this one really is just two monsters shrieking and fighting for about 50 of the 90 minutes of the movie.  Tamblyn and Mizuno run around behind them for a while, but eventually they get sidelined.  And you will get very, very tired of what seems like a loop of shrieking monsters and buildings crumbling.  THAT SAID, the sets are pretty great on this one, and they came up with interesting set pieces - maybe because the actors are confined within the same amount of kooky latex needed to make Godzilla happen.  

All I can say is, I saw it, I was glad for Russ Tamblyn, and Kumi Mizuno should be in everything.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

70's Sci-FI Watch: Rollerball (1975)

the image that looked back at you from every video rental shop in America in the 1980's

Watched:  04/20/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Norman Jewison
Selection:  Me

I very much recall the 1980's and wandering the sci-fi aisles of video rental stores where we never, ever rented Rollerball (1975).  When you'd bring up the movie with someone of age to have seen it in theaters, mostly they hadn't.  So all we had to go on was a box which was Jimmy Caan with a spiked glove.  And if we wanted movies about sci-fi athletes, which we really didn't, we'd watch Solarbabies.  It was a different and stupid time.

But, yeah, we just never picked it up, even when the film was remade in 2002 by John McTiernan (from my reading, the remake is more or less a completely different movie that happens to include the same sport).  

Parts of the movie are exactly what I'd expect.  It's sort of The Kansas City Bomber, but they added a whole bunch of kooky stuff to Roller Derby to make it violent.  Motorcycles, a big metal ball, spiked gloves... stuff like that.  The game is played in a future world where the corporations have taken over, completely.  Cities now exist to serve specific corporate interests.  

Example:  the team we're following is Houston, which is an Energy town, and, man, is that uncomfortably close to the truth.

It's not dissimilar to plenty of other sci-fi set-ups, where a wealthy elite sit at the top pulling the strings, and everyone else is happy with the world they're in, but our hero stumbles onto the plan/ evil machinations of the elite.  The problem with Rollerderby is that, actually, aside from our lead character's life, everyone else seems fine?  I mean, I don't love the world they present, and people are dying playing this goofy game, but...  literally everyone else in this movie is playing along.  There's no Fahrenheit 451 group of folks quietly or loudly resisting.  There's no masses starving and miserable like Soylent Green.  I don't like the idea of a corporation providing me with a new girlfriend every six months, but no one seems pretty bent out of shape with it, no matter how weird or dehumanizing.