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Review: Shin Godzilla

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I finally saw Shin Godzilla, the new Japanese Godzilla film from Toho Studios. What follows is a review with minor spoilers.

This really is a very different Godzilla film! One could argue that there are many Godzilla films which are different from one another and you would have a valid point. In the case of Shin Godzilla you would have an even greater point for this movie is unlike any that have followed before it. To begin to understand this movie one needs to comprehend that this truly is a Japanese movie made for a Japanese audience to provide both commentary and satire unique to the Japanese culture. Having said that, it doesn’t mean these elements of the film are not beyond the reach of a non-Japanese audience.

If you have heard or read the rumor that this movie has many scenes where people are in government conferences as they debate and discuss what to do when this giant morphing creature threatens Japan. These rumors are true and therein lies the heart of this story which is commentary and satire focused at the government of Japan. If you think Godzilla is the central focus of this movie then you will miss that point and may not walk away with understanding this film. Although commentary and satire toward the Japanese government is the focus that doesn’t mean this movie lacks the proper elements that we Godzilla fans and fans of Kaiju movies.

Therefore, the simple plot of this movie is, after an unexplained creature attacks boats in Tokyo Bay the top government officials focus on military strategy and civilian safety, while Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi is put in charge of a task force to research the creature. Due to high radiation readings, the creature is theorized to be energized through nuclear fission. The US sends a special envoy, Kayoko Ann Patterson, who reveals that a disgraced zoology professor, Goro Maki, had been studying mutations due to radioactive contamination and theorized the appearance of the creature but the US covered it up. As the creature, The creature, now named Godzilla, reappears, now twice its original size, and makes landfall near Kamakura en route for Tokyo. The Japanese Self Defense Forces are mobilized, but their attacks have no effect on Godzilla and they suffer major casualties. Yaguchi’s team discovers that Godzilla’s fins and blood work as a cooling system, allowing them to theorize that through the use of a coagulating agent, they could trigger a reaction and cause Godzilla to freeze. 

Generally in my reviews I offer both the Pros and Cons of a film. For every film whether I enjoyed it or not will have varying degrees of Pros and Cons. In the case of this film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the Con are not outweighed by the Pros in the first place.

Pro: Great Monster destruction. Isn’t this what most Godzilla and Kaiju fans come to see? Gone are the model miniature sets..which is sad…but in its place is a real world setting and real world destruction with great CGI. Godzilla’s atomic breath just has to be seen and the amount of power and destruction it delivers is the best of the entire franchise in my opinion.

Godzilla’s three forms. I really enjoy the many different designs of Godzilla. While this Godzilla isn’t actually a traditional design it really works for this movie. This is the largest Godzilla ever seen!

Great depiction of scale and Size of Godzilla. Although I have always loved the man-in-the suit approach coupled with model building one never really did get a sense of size and scale in a Godzilla movie…until now. With Godzilla 2014 and Pacific Rim (Godzilla 1998 to some extent) those movie were able to really demonstrate the massive scale and size of the creatures within the movie. Shin Godzilla finally achieves that sense  massive scale and size and to me it is awesome!!

An interesting story. Once you understand what the movie is trying to say, it really becomes interesting to watch these government officials stumble and bumble their way through the bureaucracy until they reach  a point of action.

Con: An uninteresting story. I will contradict myself. Yes, I do like the story and I understand the commentary on the ineptitude of bureaucracy, however, there are times that it is too much and goes on a little too long.

Lumbering Godzilla…or shall I say… Zombie Godzilla? While I do like this design and despite the epic destruction this Godzilla brings, there are times when all he does is walk… very…very …slowly.

While Shin Godzilla will not go down as my very favorite it is up there in my top 10. Once the DVD/Blu-Ray comes out this film will have many viewings in my home. The destruction scenes alone are worth the price of admission. A very different and still enjoyable Godzilla film!

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Pacific Rim: My Review

First off, if you have been regularly following this blog you will know I just love giant monster movies. My DVD collection is stocked full with many Kaiju movies from every Godzilla movie, Cloverfield, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, War of the Gargantuas, Rodan, and on and on. I waited with anticipation to see Pacific Rim and I was not disappointed! This is a great Kaiju move and will hopefully be seen as a classic of the genre some day.

When the trailer first appeared I was a bit worried and disappointed. I was expecting a different tone to the film. I thought it was going to be more gritty and serious and at first glance it reminded me too much of the Transformers movies. (I do like the first and third Transformers movies). After the disappointment abated and I accepted the lighthearted touch, my anticipation for the movie grew. My reaction surprised me because I do prefer a lighter touch with many movies. I guess it was more about my expectations than my preferences.

In the end one of the things I liked most about the film was the tone it set. More and more I am seeing how important the tone of a film is. Pacific Rim strikes that perfect balance between seriousness and fun. There is very good drama with the characters and yet the monster attacks and battles are handled lightly with a good deal of fun. To operate these giant robots, called Jeagers, the human pilots are joined together via their minds. When one pilot loses his brother he is given the chance to join the Jeager team once more with a new co-pilot and she also has to over come her past to help defeat the Kaiju. There are also a couple of whacky scientists that are often at odds with one another and they too have to unite to help defeat these giant monsters. Ron Perlman as the Kaiju black marketeer even has to help out one of the scientists in the name of the cause.

The special effects are great and one of the benefits of modern CGI is seeing both the Jeagers and the Kaiju in their massive scale, Often in Godzilla films that was not an aspect they was always shown. This was one of the most impressive aspects of the film. Pacific Rim also does a good job in balancing human action with monster action. At its heart Pacific Rim is a story about teamwork and redemption. With interesting characters, great action and special effects and an interesting story Pacific Rim is a great addition to the Kaju genre. It has already received multiple viewings in my home and there will be many more to come.

Happy New Year! Year in Review!!

These are the Science Fiction/Fantasy films I saw this year. Here is a simple list of the ones that were my favorites and the ones that I enjoyed and the ones I was disappointed with. In the weeks to come I will review each of these films plus keep you updated with new science fiction and fantasy film news.

Pacific Rim
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
The Lone Ranger
Oblivion

Enjoyed:

After Earth
Olympus Has Fallen
G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Disappointment with:

White House Down
Oz the Great and Powerful
Iron Man 3

Jack the Giant Slayer

This is the End

Pacific Rim: My Expectations

I am going to start by copying the plot outline from Wikipedia. Forgive my slothfulness.

In the near future, giant monsters identified as “Kaiju” arise from a crevice in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a war which takes millions of lives and quickly consumes humanity’s resources. To combat this new threat, a special type of weapon is designed: massive robots, known as Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. As time passes, even the powerful Jaegers prove almost defenseless in the face of a relentless enemy. On its last stand and on the verge of defeat, the remaining defending forces of mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to pilot a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the early trials of the mechanical titans. Together, they must stand as the human race’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

I just love giant monster movies!! They are one of my all time favorite science-fiction subgenres. However, I must confess I was not always a fan of the giant robot theme in Kaiju films. I was about 11 when I saw Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974) and even at that age I found it to be, well, a bit too corny. Even at that young age I din’t want my monster movies that had a verisimilitude too far beyond the plausibility of real life experiences. In other words, I could accept giant monsters but not robots that looked like giant monsters. That seemed silly. Why create a giant robot that looked like Godzilla? In Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla the giant robot looked like Godzilla, actually was at first covered to look like Godzilla’s skin, was a ploy by aliens to fool people. But it still seemed silly. Well, that was my thoughts as a youth. I have come to have a greater appreciation, love and respect for the giant robot aspect of these films.

That brings me to Pacific Rim. Honestly, my expectations are not too different from my expectations for Godzilla 2014. I do expect to see great monster/robot action and destruction. I have heard director Guillermo del Toro say that Pacific Rim will have a different tone than Godzilla 2014. Both movies are being produced and distributed by Legendary Pictures. In light of del Toro’s statement then my expectations are for a more lighthearted action and adventure movie.

I was very excited when I heard about the premise when this movie was in pre-production. When I saw the very first trailer I was slightly disappointed. It had too much of a Transformer vibe too me. I don’t mind Transformers, although I hated the second installment, I was expecting a different tone to the film. However, upon seeing other trailers are other marketing materials for the film my hopes once again were raised.

Both the robots and the giant monsters are designed very well. The tone of the film does seem like a fun action and adventure movie with great special effects. The human aspect of the story, triumph in the face of great adversity, also looks to be very interesting. So I greatly expect that this will be a movie I love and it will have many viewings when it comes out on DVD.

Here come the Summer Blockbusters!!! Part 1

It is that time of year! Summer Blockbuster Season! The season begins in May so I would like to highlight the movies that I am interested in seeing. This first movie actually comes out April 19th! I will not be placing these movies in the order they are released, but more in the order of my interest.

 Man of Steel (June 14)

Superman, my all time favorite Superhero, is getting a new start in the theaters. I have been waiting for this for a long time! General Zod is the main villain and has not been seen in a major motion picture since Superman II over 30 years ago. Directed by Zack Snyder (of 300, Watchmen) and produced by Chrisopher Nolan of the Batman movies. Now I was fearful we would get a dark brooding Superman, but from all resports that is not how this movie will be played. It will be played like it is happning in the real world, but it will not be as dark as the Batman trilogy. Henry Cavill stars as Kal-El, Clark Kent, Superman, the Man of Steel.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17)

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are back as Kirk and Spock, but I am very excited to see if Benedict Cumberbatch can be evil enough on his own to become a legendary sci-fi villain. Rumors are still flying around the net to just who he is playing. As a HUGE Star Trek fan I cannot wait to see this new installment of the rebooted franchise. This movie looks to have more action and adventure than the 2009 Star Trek and I am fine with that!

Pacific Rim  (July 12)

This movie will have to tide me over until next year’s Godzilla comes out in May of 2014. “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!” Directed by Guillermo del Toro (of Cronos, Blade II, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) the movie features giant monsters (Kaiju) and human-driven robots to match them. This movie is Sci-fi as its best, and with the director being a fan of the giant monster genre he has crafted a movie with fantastic detail and designed to overwhelm our nerdy sci-fi expectations.

 Oblivion (April 19)

The second feature from sci-fi filmmaker Joe Kosinski (of Tron Legacy), this time envisioning a futuristic world where humans have been driven off Earth to space stations above a desolate planet. Tom Cruise stars with Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman. The special effects look stunning. There is still a lot about the story that is under wraps. Cruise and Freeman are two of my favorite actors so it will be very interesting to see them together. Although I often do not like depressing dystopian movies this one looks more like an action adventure with mystery thrown in.

Iron Man 3 (May 3)

The first Iron Man movie is one of the best Superhero movies ever made. (until I see Man of Steel) Yes, I enjoyed it more than Batman Begins which came out the same year, 2005. Iron Man 2 was a bit of a let down even though I still enjoyed the movie. If the trailer is any indication this looks to have upped the action. Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sir Ben Kinglsey round out this all star cast.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday!

An Open letter to JJ. Abrams & Matt Reeves

Dear JJ. Abrams & Matt Reeves,

It was 5 years ago today that the movie Cloverfield opened at the theaters. I am wondering where is the sequel? Will I ever see one? I loved the movie. I have been a fan of Godzilla and other giant monster movies since I was very young. With Pacific Rim coming out this summer and with Godzilla coming out in 2014 I think the time is right for a sequel.

Five years ago I accidentally stumbled across the initial teaser trailer on YouTube. I most have watched it a dozen times in one night. I heard it was about a giant monster attacking New York. I joined a message board dedicated solely for the movie and really got caught up with the viral marketing for that film. It was a lot of fun discussing the clues and searching for clues and wondering what the creature was going to look like. With each trailer people would post screen shorts as we tried to see more detail in the creature design. I applaud you for the viral marketing it really enhanced my anticipation and the enjoyment of the film.

I saw the movie 4 times in the theater and really enjoyed it. My only qualm and quibble with the film is I did not see the monster enough. A couple of more scenes showing the monster would have been appreciated. I really love the work of the extremely talent Neville Page and his marvelously rendered and designed creature needs to be seen…again and again!

I do want to thank you both for your work. I also, as a huge Star Trek fan, loved the 2009 movie and the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, looks like it may even be better than that one. I really think a sequel to Colverfield would be well accepted and hopefully I will get my wish and be able to view a Cloverfield sequel sometime soon.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bill Foley

What is coming in the new year??

Like last year there were many movies coming out that I was looking forward to and 2013 is no exception. Today I want to take a brief look at some of the movies I am looking forward to. One of the interesting aspects of following movies is that despite all my work some studios keep their movies close to the chest and I will not even hear about some of them until it is close to their release date. I will only highlight some of the movies I am looking forward to. If I talked about all of them this post would be book length!

Here are my top 3 that I am looking forward to.

1. The Man of Steel. Starring Henry Cavill as Superman and directed by Zac Snyder. I have been a fan of Superman since I was very small. He is by far my favorite Superhero. Christopher Nolan has been on board as a producer and he and Snyder want to bring a sense of realism to Superman. Some fans, like myself, do not want to see Superman being a dark and brooding character. He isn’t Batman after all. Despite that slight worry I am very optimistic about the movie. From the trailers I have seen I am almost giddy with anticipation.  I also really love the redesigned costume. This movie also features Zod as the villain who has not been seen since Superman II. Superman II has been my favorite Superman movie so far therefore I am happy to see Zod return. This movie is a reboot of the franchise and will have no relation to the Christopher Reeve Superman films. Sometimes I am not crazy about origin stories because it takes too long for the superhero to show up, but from the trailers I have seen it does seem like Superman will be seen a great deal of the movie.

2. Star Trek Into Darkness. I have been a fan of Star Trek since I saw the original series in syndication back in the early 70s. I have loved all of the movies, for the most part, and the other series in the franchise…except for DS9 which I could never get into. After the poor showing of Star Trek: Nemesis the Franchise was pretty much dead in the water…or should that be dead in space? Then along comes JJ. Abrams who reboots the original series characters and delivered a great movie that rescued the franchise from the abyss. A couple of trailers have been released and as much as I enjoyed the most recent movie this looks to top that one. A madman is on the loose (ok, that is nothing new) and Kirk looses his Captain’s chair due to being reckless and must find a way back to his proper place while saving the galaxy once again.

3. Pacific Rim. Giant Monsters rise from the Pacific via a dimensional portal and begins to destroy the earth. In a last-ditch attempt giant robots are formed to combat these giant beasts. I just love giant monster movies! The trailer to this does look pretty awesome. Yeah, the robots have a Transformers vibe to them but from what I have seen the movie looks like it will be great. I haven’t seen too many of the monsters and not sure much of the plot beyond the synopsis but giant monsters fighting giant robots?…how much more does a Nerd like myself want?

Godzilla comes out in 2014 and had it come out this year it would have been a trifecta for me. Superman, Star Trek and Godzilla was how my love for science fiction started when I was young.

There are many more movies coming out this year…that is the focus of this blog, to feature what is up and coming and also to look nostalgically at the past.

Keep checking back as I will feature more movies for the coming year!

Pacific Rim Synopsis.

This is the Synopsis for Pacific Rim. Copied from Wikipedia.

When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, start rising from the sea, a war begins that takes millions of lives and consumes humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon is devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers prove nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes – a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) – who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

Sounds like it has elements of the robot fighting movie, Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman. Reel Steel was another movie I liked.

 

 

 

 

The Trailer for Pacific Rim is up!!!

http://youtu.be/K-ZcqwvQbas

Today we are cancelling the apocalypse

The Trailer for Pacific Rim is up!!! Other than the Superman and Star Trek trailer this is the other one I am most anticipating (Godzilla is next!) It does have a Transromer vibe to it…but that is to be expected with giant robots. But these do not transform! They just battle giant monsters. This is closer to Mechagodzilla and Kiyru from the Heisei and Millennium series of Godzilla fims where the robots are piloted by humans.

I really am impressed and I do like the designs of the monsters, as far as we can see them. I will see this one in the theater!!

 

Pacific Rim Viral Marketing!

Just like Cloverfield Pacific Rim, also a movie featuring giant monsters, is beginning their viral marketing. I love giant monster movuies, Kaiju, is the correct term, and I am really looking forward to this movie!!! The movie is directed by  Guillermo del Toro the movie stomps into theaters on July 12, 2013.

No worries, the movie is not a found footage or shaky camera movie!

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/11/28/pacific-rim-or-cloverfield-2-you-decide/