Monthly Archives: June 2012

Invasion of the Astro Monster (aka Godzilla vs Monster Zero) 1965

This film was released in 1965 in Japan but not released in the US until 1970 where it played in many drive-in theaters on a double bill with War of the Gargantuas. 9My very favorite non-Godzilla monster movie that I will review after all the Godzilla movies are done). One of the rare hallmarks of this film was that it is the only Godzilla film co-produced between the Japanese company Toho, and Henry G. Saperstein’s American company UPA. Invasion of the Astro Monster was once again directed by Ishirō Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Although Raymond Burr was edited into the first Godzilla film, this movie marks the first time a Hollywood actor, Nick Adams, was part of the Japanese production. The main Japanese actors Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno and Akira Kubo. In an odd way of filming Adams spoke his lines in English and the rest of the actors spoke their lines in Japanese. For the Japanese release Adam’s lines were dubbed in Japanese. The previous movie, Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, featured the first reference to aliens. In this film alien invaders are featured for the first time. One of the things I like about this aspect of the plot is that it combines two of my favorite science fiction genres: giant monster movies and alien invasion movies.

The movie is set in the late 1960s where a Japanese and American astronauts, Fuji and Glenn, fly a spaceship to explore the new mysterious Planet X that maintains its position behind Jupiter. Um, wouldn’t that qualify it to be a moon of Jupiter? Anyway, once on the planet Fuji & Glenn and their spaceship are taken underground where they encounter the planets inhabitants called the Xians. They show Fuji & Glenn that their planet is being harassed by King Ghidorah whom the Xians call Monster Zero. The Xians offer a deal. If they can take Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X to defeat Monster Zero they will give people of earth a drug that can cure all diseases (in the Japanese version this drug cures cancer). Fuji & Glenn return home with the Xian’s perposal.

There is also a subplot involving some romantic relationships and crazy inventions. Fuji’s sister, , is in love with an inventor, Tetsuo, who has invented a device that makes an extremely loud noise and was made for women that are being attacked. Fuji does not like Tetsuo nor does he approve of his sister’s relationship. Glenn is dating a Miss Namikawa whose company is interested in Tetsuo’s device, however they want to destroy it.

After Fuji & Glenn tell the government about the Xian’s proposal scientists begin searching for Godzilla and Rodan. Suddenly three Xian spaceships arise out of the lake and aides in the search for Godzilla and Rodan. The Controller, leader of the Xians, apologizes for hiding in the lake. Once the monsters are captured Fuji and Glenn accompany the Xians and the monsters back to Planet X. While on the planet Godzilla and Rodan confront King Ghidorah and as the defeated monster flies away Godzilla does his happy dance!

Despite being suspicious of the Xians Fuji & Glenn return to earth with the tapes containing the formula for the miracle drug (who would have thunk that such an advanced civilization was still using reel-to-reel analog tape?). But things were too good to be true! On the tape the Controller of the Xians gives Earth an ultimatum; surrender to Planet X or be destroyed by King Ghidorah, Godzilla & Rodan. The Earth refuses to surrender and the Xians unleash the three monsters on the Earth.

Tetsuo tries to find out why Miss Namikawa has not placed his product on the market, (really at a time like this!!) and is captured by the Xians and thrown into a cell. Glenn also discovers that all the Xian female look like Miss Namikawa and he is captured and put into a cell with Tetsuo. The two manage to escape and Glenn runs into Miss Namikawa who gives him a letter telling him of the Xians weaknesses then the Xians disintegrate Miss Namikawa.

The weakness the Xians have is that they are immobilized by extreme loud noises such as the device made by Tetsuo who still has the prototype. The Government mobilizes and broadcasts the signal which disables the Xians which causes them to destroy their spaceships. With their destruction the monsters are no longer in their control and Godzilla and Rodan turn on King Ghidorah. The three monsters battle which ends up with them all tumbling into the sea and King Ghidorah flies off once more into outer space (didn’t we just see this?). As the Government officials, Glenn, Fuji and his sister with Tetsuo watch Godzilla and Rodan defeat King Ghidorah; Fuji accepts the relationship between his sister and Tetsuo while Glenn and Fuji are appointed as the new ambassadors to Planet X.

I personally find this movie an improvement over the last movie. The previous movie, Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, was much more somber in tone than this movie. Invasion of the Astro-Monster is a lot of fun. Sure some of the plot points are contrived and Godzilla’s happy dance is funny and silly and aimed at delighting the kids, director Honda was against putting it in the movie. The special effects are good. Some of the scenes of Glenn and Fuji’s spaceship flying through space are still impressive today. I especially liked the design of the Xians flying saucers and the special effects of the three ships rising from the lake is pretty spectacular in my opinion. Also like the chemistry between Fuji and Glenn, it turns the movie into more of a buddy picture. The destructive battles between Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah are some of the best to date. These shots were so good many of them were used later as stock footage in other Godzilla movies.

I rate this movie A

 

How Tall was Godzilla?

Before I post this weeks Godzilla review I wanted to have a little fun. Godzilla was much smaller during the Showa series of films (54-75) and taller in the Hesei series (84-95). The increased height was due to the fact that in the later series the buildings in Tokyo were built so much taller that they would have dwarfed the first incarnation of the monster, so he had to be made larger. If you look in the left hand corner at the bottom of the picture you can see him in comparison with a person. 

(click on the picture to see the full picture)


What’s in the hopper?

Here is some more development news. Starship Troopers is being rebooted and there is some news on that movie. 

 Toby Jaffe mentions that the movie will not be as violent as the original. “The more expensive a film is, the harder it is now to make it that violent. With Recall in particular, we made a conscious choice to keep it tonally closer to something like Minority Report. It gives the studio, and us as producers, the opportunity to reintroduce it in a new way.”

Jaffe further mentions that the new Starship Troopers will be able to have the “jump suits” as featured in Robert Heinlein’s book. “Working in a visual-effects renaissance as we are, we have the ability to do so much more now. We can do the Jump Suits with armoured exoskeletons from Heinlein’s novel for example, which I don’t think they could have done before.”

Source: Empire Magazine. 

I really liked the original and it was a lot of fun. I don’t mind the fact that they’re rebooting the movie. Actually, the reboot of Total Recall (which has a new trailer up), gives me some hope that if Starship Troopers reboot is in the tone of the New Total Recall then I don’t have a thing to worry about. 

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/56645
http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=34402

Edit: I think what Toby Jaffe is saying that times have changed since the original Total Recall and Starship Troopers were released. Both movies had an R rating. Today the special effects to do those movies is very expensive and with an R rating they would not attract a large enough audience to justify the cost. I am actually fine with this. The original Starship Troopers showed a militaristic and authoritarian state. The violence was a part of that world but I always thought it was a bit gratuitous and was there for shock value more than anything else. What more modern stories have demonstrated, such as the Hunger Games and Prometheus (a prequel to the R rated Alien) is that they could still tell serious stories with a PG-13. rating. 

Today was the day…Back to the future.

When Doc Brown was setting the dates in the Delorean for time travel, just before the Lybian terrorists showed up, today’s date, June 27, 2012, was the date he first set!!!

Emi Itō 1941-2012

Emi Ito, one of the original twin fairies in the Mothra/Godzilla Franchise has passed away at the age of 71. 

Along with her twin sister, Yumi Itō, they formed the pop singing duo called Peanuts. 

Top 25 Favorite Science Fiction Movies

For the next 4 weeks on Wednesday I am going to list my top favorite movies from Science Fiction, Monster Movies, Superheroes and Fantasy genres. These are my personal subjective favorites.

It may surprise some readers not to see such well loved and respected movies as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner on my list, but I really do not care too much for the dystopian style of science fiction movies (with exceptions) and instead prefer a more fun and lighthearted version of science fiction. So here are the movies I like to frequently watch.

25. Demolition Man (1993)

This is a movie that knows when to be serious and when to lighten up. Set in the near future Demolition Man is a fun science fiction action movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Both are put in a state of suspended animation in the 80s and thawed out decades later. This Rip Van Winkle story has action, adventure, drama and humor. 

24. Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956)

Alien Invasion movies are my favorite from the Science Fiction genre. This is one of the better ones from the 50s when these movies were a symbol of the Cold War.

23. Forbidden Planet (1956)

A classic from the 50s and one that inspired Star Trek. This film deals with psychological themes of power.

22. Starship Troopers (1997)

Many fans of the book complained that the movie wasn’t true to the book. Some say it was better. Either way this movie is roller coaster ride and a heck of a lot of fun. Co-ed showers and a war in space with giant bugs, what more could you want?

21. Total Recall (1990)

“Get your Ass to Mars.” The remake is coming out soon but it doesn’t have the Mars scenario. The remake looks good but the original is a thriller and I love ambiguous nature of the film..

20. I Robot (2004)

Another movie based on a series of books. This movie is based off of books written by the late great Issac Assimov. An enjoyable special effects extravaganza about robots run amok in the future.

19. The Terminator (1984)

The movie that made Arnold a star. This is one of the few movies with a dystopian view of the future that I enjoy. Mainly because at its heart it is more of an action-adventure film.

18. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

I think this movie has a lot of charm. Not a lot of action or special effects, this is s story that is carried by the relationships of the people. Still holds up well today.

17. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Steven Spielberg brings a sense of wonder to many of his movies. This movie has a sense of suspension and mystery too. A great first time visit for aliens.

16. Terminator 2. Judgment Day (1991)

Not as dark as the first movie but just as engaging. Great special effects and Arnold in classic form.

15. Avatar (2009)

This movie is pure Eye Candy. Giant Blue people living on a strange planet with strange creatures. While the story is not ground breaking the special effects are.

14. Contact (1997)

I miss the great mind of Carl Sagan. This is a good movie based on Sagan’s book, which touches on religious themes and the question “are we alone in the universe?” The fact that the alien Jodie Foster’s character encounters on her journey to Vega appears to her as her father is sentimentally appealing, given the nature of the father-daughter relationship depicted in the film; but in the end disappointing (I wanted a real alien) and the only negative in another wise engaging film.

13. Time Machine (1960)

Other than alien invasion movies, time travel is a fascinating subject in science fiction for me. This movie is a great adaptation of the HG Wells original classic. 

12. War of the Worlds (1953, 2005)

I must admit I like both the original and the sequel equally. Both tell the tale of alien invasions from different points of view and both have great special effects. The special effects of the original still are pretty good today while the special effects in the remake bring a sense of gritty realism. I like the design of the aliens in the newer version.

11. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

An action adventure time travel movie from the TNG crew. The best of their movies. Resistance is Futile!

10.  Independence Day (1996)

In some ways this is a remake or re-imagining of War of the Worlds…or any 50s alien invasion movies. I cannot count the times I have watched this movie. I love the fact that the flying saucers are now 15 miles wide and hell bent on destruction. Also the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously so it is a fun and enjoyable ride.

9. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (1980)

I am a Star Wars fan, but I like Trek better. 🙂 This was a very good sequel to the original and Darth Vader proclaiming he is Luke’s father is ingrained in our cultural consciousness.

8. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

I saw this in the theater in 1977 when I was 13. It still is amazing to this day. It tells a great story and has excellent characters, an Evil Dark lord, a farm boy turned warrior adventurer, a princess, a rouge hero and a wise mentor, all with great eye popping special effects. A true classic. 

7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

I love time travel stories and the Voyage Home delivers and enjoyable lighthearted time travel adventure.

6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

This is a movie Trek fans either love or hate. I love it. Sure it is saggy in the middle but the first part when the crew comes together, the reveal of the refitted Enterprise, Spock walking onto the bridge as if Superman had swooped in to save the day, still gives me goosebumps. The fact that V’ger was a Voyager probe is a nice twist to the story.

5. Jurassic Park 3 (2001)

This one is ..and I know I use the word often…FUN! It doesn’t have the grandiose wonder of the first movie but it does have a lot of great dino action.

4. Jurassic Park (1993)

This movie still awes and wows nearly 20years later. The scene where we see the giant Brachiosaurus for this first time still fills me with wonder. The T-Rex crashing through the fence is still pretty amazing. 

3. ET-The Extraterrestrial (1982)

As Dorthy said in the Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home.” ET proves that adage. As I view ET as a symbol of our lost inner child this movie brings me to tears every time.

2. Star Trek (2009)

I just love this movie. I grew up watching the original Trek in the early 70s as a kid and this movie really captures the wonder and magic I felt back then as I was discovering the Star Trek TV series for the first time. The new actors have captured the essence of the original characters and Leonard Nimoy playing his iconic character Spock once more brought great emotion to the movie. 

1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

An all time science fiction classic. Still good nearly 50 years later. I was never into the sequels like the original. The originals stands on its own. There are many themes dealt with in the movie. It is a time travel movie, it is a movie that looks at prejudice and fearing those that are different. It also examines the conflicts between religion and science. 

Wrath of the Titans on DVD Today!

On DVD & Blu-Ray today is Wrath of the Titans the sequel to the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. Clash of the Titans got mixed reviews and I actually liked the remake of Clash of the Titans better than the 1981 original. With apologies to Ray Harryhausen the special affects of the remake are better in my opinion. The remake also received mixed reviews but did pretty well at the box office garnering $301,940,426 worldwide. I have not seen the sequel yet and I will be picking it up very shortly. Here is the trailer for the film.

Since it will be a week or two before I review the film here is my review of the 2010 original Clash of the Titans.

Comparisons with the 1981 original are inevitable. I see this new version of the Clash of the Titans as more of a reimagining of the story than a remake of the original. This leaves us with two completely different stories that are each outstanding in their own right. Although the story is pretty straight forward it is told as an epic quest that the demigod Perseus experiences as he wrestles with his identity while battling fierce giant scorpions, the three witches, the Gorgon, Medusa, and the condemned Calibos culminating in a final showdown with the giant and terrifying Kraken, mythic sea creature set loose by the gods to destroy the city of Argos and the beautiful Andromeda who is being sacrificed to assuage the wrath of the gods. The motive for this epic quest is that the humans have rebelled against the gods and after killing Perseus’ earthly family Hades has used the human rebellion as a means to defeat his brother Zeus to become King of the gods but he must also contend with a vengeful Perseus.

Liam Neeson was an excellent choice as Zeus with his booming voice and commanding presence and Ralph Fiennes does a spectacular job as the deliciously evil Hades, king of the Underworld. Sam Worthington also does an excellent job as the hero Perseus whom he portrays as a smoldering angry warrior forced into circumstances beyond his control as he comes to terms with who he is. The special effects of the movie are equally spectacular and top notch and as a lover of giant monsters this version of the behemoth Kraken of the deep is worth the price of admission. I just wish he would have had more screen time. As an epic action adventure movie the Clash of the Titans delivers 2 hours of enjoyable fun and exciting entertainment.

Do you want to see a John Carter sequel?

It came to my attention this weekend that there is a movement to help get a John Carter sequel made. It did not do well at the box office but many attribute that to lousy marketing and not a lousy movie. I really liked the movie and would love to see the trilogy Disney originally planned come to fruition.

You can join the Facebook Page:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/backtobarsoom/

You can join the letter writing campaign and sign the petition on these pages.

http://johncartertwo.com/#/

http://backtobarsoom.com/john-carter-petition-page/

Anything you can do will be appreciated! 

Bill

Monday Box office review

Brave, Pixar’s 13th feature animated film opened this past Friday and took the number 1 spot at the box office. This is a movie I am very interested in seeing given my love for European Royalty. It also looks great and by all estimates is the best animation Pixar has done thus far. It took in an estimated  $66,739,000 in the domestic box office and $13, 500,000 in the foreign market for a grand total of $80,239,000. This is a very good opening weekend for a Pixar movie. The reviews for Brave are very good. 

Madagascar 3 which had been at number 1 the previous couple of weeks fell to number 2, which isn’t bad considering it beat out Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Madagascar 3 took in $20, 200, 000 million over the weekend for grand total of  $157,574,000 domestic, $208,400,000 over seas and $365,974,000  for a worldwide total. Madagascar 3 is doing very well.

The number 1 & 2 movies are animated movies! 

Poor Abe. I don’t think he’s doing so well. I have to admit it it is a very strange premise and the movie looks great but the opening weekend is a bit of a disappointment. Abe took in $16,500,000 domestically and only gathered a paltry $7, 800, 000 in the foreign market. I guess not many foreigners want to see the 16th American President battle the undead. I hope Abe can recover from this one. I will be watching! 

Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster 1964

Technically, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is the 5th film in the Godzilla franchise. It was filmed on the heels of previous movie, Mothra vs Godzilla, making Ghidorah the second Godzilla film produced that year, 1964. Veteran Godzilla director Ishirō Honda returned for this film and the special effects were done by Eiji Tsuburaya, and the film starred Yosuke Natsuki, Hiroshi Koizumi, and Akiko Wakabayashi. I say this movie is technically a Godzilla feature, although he is not mentioned in the title and he is also not the creature featured in the story. In other word,s he is not the star of the show. Personally, I view this as a movie that introduces Ghidorah but has other Toho monsters in a guest starring role. Along with Ghidorah and Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan are also in this movie. This movie also sees the beginning of changes to the series. This was the first film where Godzilla turns from villain to the hero, albeit rather unwillingly at first. Another first is the reference to aliens which would become a staple to many Godzilla movies.

This is a strange film but still enjoyable. The complex plot revolves around a detective, Shindo, who is assigned to guard Princess Selina Salno of Selgina (a mythical kingdom) while she is in Japan trying to escape an assassination plot in her homeland. Shindo is smitten with the princess from the photos he has seen of her. However, she never makes it to Japan as we see her plane explode but not before she is hypnotized and possessed by a light from Mars (Venus in the Japanese version) and heads out the door in midair! Also at this time a strange meteorite has struck the earth and scientists begin studying it.

Soon Selina Salno appears in Japan dressed in drab clothes and saying she is from Mars and begins making prophecies about monsters that are soon to appear. Her predictions come true and soon Godzilla and Rodan make an appearance and begin fighting one another. The twin fairies (Shobijin) from Infant Island are touring Japan it and soon their help is asked for by the Government to enlist Mothra in stopping Godzilla and Rodan. The last prediction by Selina Salno is of the appearance of Ghidorah where she tells people that Ghidorah once raised havoc and destruction on Mars. Shindo, fearing that Selina is freakin’ nuts has her committed to a psychiatric hospital for tests. Meanwhile amongst all this monster mayhem there is a subplot afoot which involves some bad guys still trying to assassinate Selina.

Some of the most comical monster fighting to date takes place between Godzilla and Rodan. The facial expressions and the eye rolls are a genuine hoot. At this point Mothra tries to convince Godzilla and Rodan to help mankind in defeating Ghidorah. At first they refuse, subtitles would have been good hear, I don’t speak monster. Mothra decides to attack Ghidorah herself and her courage sparks and impresses Godzilla and Rodan into aiding Mothra. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra commence their attack on Ghidorah in some pretty good and fun monster battles. Meanwhile as the monsters are fighting the plot to assassinate Selina is thwarted. Mothra, riding on the back of Rodan, covers Ghidorah in her silk (man that stuff is better than duct tape!) while Godzilla throws Ghidorah off a cliff. Defeated Ghidorah flies off into outer space. At this point Selina has regained her senses and returns to her Kingdom and the Shobijin and Mothra return to Infant Island.

There was a difference between the American and Japanese version mainly in the scenes were reordered. Also, in the English dubbing Ghidorah is called “Ghidrah” which is the name I always knew this monster by. It wasn’t until a few years ago and watching the newer Godzilla movies did I learn the real name. I guess the dubbed English versions of the later Godzilla movies called him buy his proper name.

I do enjoy this movie and it contains many of the elements that the Godzilla franchise is known for such as aliens and comical monster fights. The special effects are pretty good for the time and the Godzilla suit is basically the same one from the previous movie although they extended his tongue for this movie, although I do not know why. This movie does get lost in the jumble of 28 Godzilla movies. It is neither great nor embarrassingly bad. There are more numerable Godzilla movies and there are plot elements they used to tell a better story in other Godzilla movies. The acting is good and played straight and not for laughs so this movie doesn’t have the camp element to it which I think is good.

I rate this movie a C+