gwalla: (ornament)
Another quickie movie review! This is the latest by Aardman Animation, the people who brought you Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, though this one is CGI and not stop motion. Santa Claus is a hereditary position, passed down from father to son since the days of St. Nicholas himself. Everybody at the North Pole expects the current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) to retire soon, especially the heir apparent, his overachieving son Steve (Hugh Laurie), who is already basically in charge of gift-giving operations and has organized it into an incredibly efficient system. Santa's other son Arthur (Jim McEvoy), on the other hand, has been relegated to a small office where he answers letters children have written to Santa. He's clumsy, a bit obtuse, and afraid of heights and speed, but good-hearted and upbeat. When it turns out after "Christmas Accomplished" has been declared that a child has been overlooked and her gift was never delivered, Steve attempts to sweep the news under the rug while insisting that it's too late to go back, and what does one child out of millions matter? Arthur, though, informs crotchety old Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), who pulls him along to deliver the package with the aid of his old sleigh and the reindeer ("Dasher and Dancer and...Bambi and John...and you and you and you and you") and, yes, save Christmas. But it's been a while since Grandsanta has delivered any gifts, and the old sleigh doesn't have the radar blocking and cloaking features of Steve's high-tech S-1 aircraft...

This movie is a ton of fun. It's a roller coaster ride featuring the trademark Aardman wackiness, with a bit of modern satirical edge without descending into cynicism. There's something fun to see in just about every frame, and no filler. Also, the 3D is well done and well utilized. Highly recommended.

The only downside, though, is that to get to the movie you have to sit through a video of Justin Bieber massacring "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (did that song really need the addition of the line "Shake it, shake it baby"?), which BTW I think marks the definitive end of the steampunk fad.

  • The Adventures of Tintin - Looks like it could be a lot of fun. The story seems to be mostly adapted from the two-parter The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure (though the treasure in those was gold & jewels, while in this it's described as "something that could have changed the course of history") with some parts pulled in from The Crab with the Golden Claws (the story that introduces Captain Haddock). There's also a scene where Snowy must recover a ring of keys from a sleeping guard but is distracted by a sandwich, which I swear is from another story but I can't remember which. A (very cool) image of a ship crashing through sand dunes that turn into waves may be a replacement for the "uncorking" dream from Crab. There's also a scene with a dam and a rocket launcher that appears to be original, and a chase scene where Tintin crashes a motorcycle and goes flying only to use the front part as an improvised zip-line pulley on an overhead wire, a superhuman feat that he was never shown as capable of in the comics. Oddly, the Thompson twins don't appear at all in the trailer despite playing important roles in all of the stories this draws from, which makes me wonder if they've been excised.
  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - This looks like a pile. Apparently a sequel to that dire 3D Journey to the Center of the Earth movie starring Brendan Fraser some years ago, this has a teenage boy and The Rock in search of the eponymous Mysterious Island of Verne's novel, which the boy believes his grandfather has found. To get there they hire a helicopter pilot played by Luis Guzman along with his cute teenage daughter, and of course they crash there. The island is a sort of lost world featuring dinosaurs, giant insects, and miniature pachyderms, all rendered in the fakest looking CG I've seen in years, and the boy's grandfather, played by Michael Caine, who must owe a lot of back taxes or something if he's taking parts in crap like this.
  • Pirates: Band of Misfits - The next Aardman stop-motion feature, with the voice of Hugh Grant as an incompetent pirate captain looking to win the Pirate of the Year award. Lots of madcap action and some great visual gags ("I'm here for your treasure!" "No treasure here, sir. This is a leper ship." *arm falls off* "See?" "Gah!"). Looking forward to this one.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
Dance numbers, rampant silliness, Chris Cooper rapping, "This is taking too long. How about we pick up the rest via a montage?", Eighties Robot, musical puns, traveling by map, "Now you know how we've felt for the last 4o years! OH HO HO HO HO", muppet ninjutsu, snark with heart, and gratuitous Jack Black abuse. Two felt appendages up!

It's a big ol' slice of nostalgia. A lot of it you won't really get if you didn't grow up with the Muppet Show and the movies, but from the sound of it that didn't bother the kids in the audience, for whom the general mayhem was enough. As a bonus, you also get a fun new Toy Story short (if only Happy Meal toys were really that creative. I kinda want a DJ Blue J).

Trailers for Pixar's Brave (story seems a bit cliché, but the visuals look lovely) and Aardman Animation's next stop-motion feature, about pirates, which looks hilariously madcap.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
So last night I saw a couple of movies at the Symphony: the silent "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with John Barrymore and Buster Keaton's short "The Haunted House", with live accompaniment on pipe organ, percussion, and effects. The crowd was a mix: some just dressed up, some dressed "period" for the silent films, and a bunch just dressed in silly Halloween costumes. The organist was a total ham who came on stage in a cape and vampire mask, and started things rolling with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, which he credited with getting him interested in playing the organ (and called "a curse on organists everywhere"). He also announced the score: 4-0 Giants.

First up was the Keaton short, which was hilarious. Keaton plays a hapless bank clerk who, after a series of mishaps, finds himself framed by a crooked superior who is also head of a group of counterfeiters, and when on the run from the police takes refuge in a house that happens to be the counterfeiters' hideout, which they've rigged up to be "haunted" to scare people off. Meanwhile an incompetent opera company botches a performance of "Faust" and is chased off by the irate audience, only to take up residence, in costume, in the same house. In particular, the trick stairs running gag and the extended glue gag had me rolling. The wordplay in the title cards is fun too: "Wall Street: The palatial parking place of the Bear and the Bull--mostly the Bull."

After that, the feature film. When introducing the movie, the organist noted that Barrymore had played the role(s) live on Broadway, where his performances were such a big hit that they got the attention of the major film studios, and the film is essentially just the stage play with more and bigger sets. Since it was meant to be played live, Barrymore couldn't depend on special effects or elaborate makeup, and had to portray the transformation entirely through acting. He shows the whites of his eyes, looks down his nose, flares his nostrils, hunches his back, tenses his hands into claws, and assumes a lopsided sneer, and even without the long crusty fingernails and lumpy back of the head they give him in some scenes he looks like a completely different person. The only effects are a few fairly rudimentary dissolves. The camera also helps: as Jekyll, Barrymore is filmed mostly with his head turned fully to the side (his nickname was "The Profile" for a reason), while as Hyde he is shot mostly head-on.

There was an intermission in the middle of the film. I considered getting a shot at the lobby bar and then clutching my chest as in Jekyll's first transformation, but the line was too long to get a drink before they rang the bell. Before starting the second half, the organist announced that it was still 4-0, with two outs to go. Right before starting, they were interrupted by someone offstage, and the effects guy (who was using Buchla Lightning "wands" to trigger his sounds) relayed that the game was over and the Giants had won.

The film does not really follow the same structure as the original story. Since "Jekyll and Hyde" is such a well known trope now, it's easy to forget that in Stevenson's novella the connection between the two is a mystery that is revealed late as a shocking twist, and mostly follows the point of view of Jekyll's friend and lawyer Mr. Utterson. The film, on the other hand, mostly follows Jekyll, with Sir George's worldly temptations prompting Jekyll to find a way to separate out man's (and in particular his) evil impulses, and Hyde graduating from general douchebaggery (using and discarding the music hall dancer Gina), to callously injuring a child, to outright murder; Utterson is reduced to a minor character. Despite being melodramatic in a way not really seen anymore, the movie holds up very well.

Apparently back home there were a whole lot more trick-or-treaters than there had been in recent years. It was a great night for it, too: very clear and not too cold.

Altogether, a great Halloween.

Iron Man 2

May. 10th, 2010 12:17 am
gwalla: (Default)
...was surprisingly good. I'd say on par with the first one, which was a damn good movie. Most of what I'd heard about it boiled down to "entertaining, not enough action, too talky". I thought it had plenty of action, and was very well-paced. Robert Downey Jr. continues to own the character of Tony Stark. Don Cheadle did a great job with Rhodey (Terence who?). Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko/Whiplash* steals almost every scene he's in with quiet menace. He doesn't chew the scenery as much as you'd expect. Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer is annoying, but that's part of the point. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts gets some great talking-over-each-other banter with Stark. Scarlet Johansson doesn't really get much of an opportunity to build a character; as "Natalie"/Black Widow, she's really there to be beautiful and to kick a whole lot of ass in one scene. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is...Samuel L. Jackson. Gary Shandling, as a U.S. Senator, is only in a couple of scenes, but is a lot of fun in them.

Justin Hammer reminded me a lot of the younger executive from Robocop. He's the guy with money and power who thinks that means he's in control when dealing with a murderous psycho. Unfortunately for him, Vanko is the type to not really care what happens to him so long as he achieves his aim. He's not suicidal, just completely unconcerned with whether he lives or dies.

The weakest part of the movie was anything having to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury is basically a deus ex machina. Whenever Samuel L. Jackson appears on screen, you can be sure he'll deliver some random exposition to jumpstart the plot. The strings really show in these scenes. Pepper Potts is even more harried in this movie than in the first, and Paltrow projects being fed up with putting up with Tony's bullshit perhaps a little too well, since there's still supposed to be some attraction there. Black Widow is under an assumed identity for most of the movie and basically doesn't get to have a personality. Also, the actual final showdown with Whiplash was a bit short.

The action scenes were excellent. Only a few big ones, but they're placed just perfectly in the movie. Also, they managed to work in some great mid-fight quipping. Why couldn't they have done that in the Spider-Man movies? I liked Spider-Man 1 & 2 (didn't see 3), but I feel like they really missed an important part of Spidey by not letting him crack wise when in costume.

Trailer notes:
  • There is an explosion in the Robin Hood Dances With Gladiators trailer. WHY IS THERE AN EXPLOSION IN FUCKING ROBIN HOOD?!
  • The Last Airbender looks to be filmed entirely in slow motion.
  • Nothing else made much of an impression
  • EDIT: forgot I saw the trailer to The Sorceror's Apprentice, which should tell you how much of an impression it made on me. At least Nicholas Cage isn't running around with a flashlight in this one.

*nerd note: This character seems to be equal parts Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo.
gwalla: (king crimson finger)
The new expanded cut of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, with 25 minutes of previously lost footage restored, will be playing the Mayan Theater and Chez Artiste starting June 11.

Just thought you should know.
gwalla: (lon chaney)
Going to see Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" with live musical accompaniment at the SF Symphony on Friday evening. Then there's the SF Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend proper. I'll probably take my camera for that (though I still haven't posted the photos from my trip to Kyoto last year...)
gwalla: (buckaroo salute)
"What are the requirements for transforming a book or movie into a cult object? The work must be loved, obviously, but this is not enough. It must provide a completely furnished world so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were aspects of the fan’s private sectarian world, a world about which one can make up quizzes and play trivia games so that the adepts of the sect recognize through each other a shared expertise.... [A cult movie must be] ramshackle, rickety, unhinged in itself.... Only an unhinged movie survives as a disconnected series of images, of peaks, of visual icebergs. It should display not one central idea but many. It should not reveal a coherent philosophy of composition. It must live on, and because of, its glorious ricketiness."
—Umberto Eco, "'Casablanca': Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage" (1984)
gwalla: (Default)
It's looking more and more like the Wachowski Bros. got lucky once.

Just saw Ninja Assassin last night. It's worth it just for what must be the lamest ending theme ever. "Listen to the voice of Buddha", guys? Really?

Anyway, movie: dumb as hell but pretty fun. Almost as ridiculous as Kung Fu Zombie, though not nearly as insane. Certainly gorier, though the gore is so over-the-top that it becomes cartoonish, like Dead Alive. People in this movie spray gallons everywhere: cutting off a finger launches more blood than is actually present in a human body. And they love (read: overuse) the effect of blood splattering against the screen, though it has an orange-ish hue that makes it seem more like the result of getting a spastic kindergartener hopped up on Pixy Stix and letting him loose with a bucket of red tempura paint.

The ninja in this movie fail at stealth. They can do all of this cool disappearing-into-shadows stuff, but whenever a bunch of them were sneaking up on somebody in a group, they whisper a lot really loudly. Guys, people can hear you when you do that. And pretty much all stealth and secrecy goes out the window by the time ninjas are running all over the road and getting hit by cars.

The Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu in in full effect in this movie, though it's relative to the number of opponents. One ninja is a murder machine, and a group can take on an army, but that same group vs. one guy will have a hell of a time of it, and a zillion ninja at their home base drop like flies. You can even see it in effect in individual fights: in one fight Raizo takes on about six other ninja and totally slaughters them with nary a scratch until he's down to one, who's suddenly able to go toe to toe with him.

The movie bogged down whenever it paused the action for some plot or flashbacks (tons of flashbacks in this movie). The plot is pretty thin, and full of holes. It's not so much a case of Fridge Logic as reaching-for-the-Junior-Mints logic. How has a group that'll run out into busy traffic to catch a guy and pelt a car with shuriken* able to stay secret for thousands of years? How can a guy whose first attempt to assassinate some fat guy went horribly wrong and ended up with a brutal brawl (highly reminiscent of the opening of Casino Royale BTW) suddenly turn into Lord King Badass a few minutes later? How can an army with a bunch of APCs and Humvees sneak up on a mountain fortress that is clearly shown as being accessible only by a narrow path with cliffs on all sides? How can you not laugh when a character says in all seriousness to somebody trying to kill him, "Whatever they're paying you, I'll double it!"

The female lead is mostly ineffectual and not very interesting. It's really Raizo's movie, so during the early scenes that focus on her I found myself waiting for the movie to get going again. Her boss was kind of likeable at least.

On the other hand, Sho Motherfucking Kosugi, bitches! His lines were mostly hokey but he still came off as threatening. Also, he has Akuma's teleport dash from Street Fighter.

Quick trailer reviews: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus looks like it has a bunch of nifty visuals, and also Tom Waits as the Devil. Cool eye candy at the very least. Sherlock Holmes looks like it may rival Disney's Hunchback of Nortre Dame in terms of Hollywood completely missing the point. It does have a few amusing bits, though; it just has jack-all to do with Arthur Conan Doyle.

Incidentally, the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley (at least, the theater I was in) are now equipped with love seats instead of the usual theater seating, and bean bag chairs in the front. WTF? Not complaining, but, it's just weird. They had built-in cup holders and everything, so it's clearly not like how the Parkway has a bunch of old furniture: this stuff was made for theaters. Is this the new trend?

*BTW, is it just me or is shuriken a really terrible weapon for a group trying to keep people from finding out that they exist? It's highly distinctive, and you use it by throwing it away.
gwalla: (halloween)
gwalla: (Default)
Overall, pretty entertaining. Random thoughts, spoilers ahoy:

Dumbledore is a cockblocker. Couldn't recruiting Slughorn have waited?

Sure was nice of the Death Eaters to make sure all the muggles got off of that bridge before it collapsed.

I love Luna Lovegood. She's so completely out of it. She's probably my favorite character at this point. Also, those x-ray specs are stylin'.

Ron really was thick as a whale in this installment. Harry, too, seemed to have caught a severe case of the retarded when he ran after Bellatrix LeStrange when the Order of the Phoenix is right fucking there.

Speaking of Bellatrix, Helena Bonham Carter seemed to be channeling Johnny Depp channeling Keith Richards. She had the Captain Jack wobble down.

This was the druggiest installment yet, with two extended drug scenes: Ron drunk on love potion, and Harry after taking the cocaine luck potion. Harry's behavior on the potion was particularly funny. Harry with an excess of confidence is kind of a dick.

Definitely a feeling of middle-movie-itis this time around. Lots of setting stuff up, but not much in the way of a story arc for this specific film. Snape revealing that he's the "half-blood prince" feels like it was supposed to be climactic, except that mystery was pretty minor—the only reason it seemed like it should be at all relevant was the title—and had already been overshadowed by the showdown in the tower. "Yes, I am the half-blood prince!" "Um...okay. Good for you?"
gwalla: (Default)
  • Kyle Urban was perfect as McCoy. Quinto did an excellent job as Spock, but Urban was dead on in that part. More than an imitation, he really seemed like a younger version of the character, a lovable-humbug-in-training. His "Dammit, Jim"s felt natural, and not like the TOS callbacks they were. Of course, Kirk gave him plenty of opportunities to say it...
  • Kirk is the worst liar ever. He couldn't be more obvious about being responsible for the Kobayashi Maru test's "glitch" if he tried. And his "Huh. Strange." reaction to the future ship's greeting "Ambassador" Spock is like holding up a flashing sign saying "I know more than I'm willing to say".
  • Gaila was hot and I liked her. And Kirk's response to her saying she loved him was hilarious. I hope she lived.
  • I wish they'd given John Cho more to do as Sulu. After his big action scene on the drilling platform (which was cool), that's pretty much it for him. I think they should have had him try to pry Spock off of Kirk (after all, Kirk did jump off of the platform to save him), but that's fanwank territory. Cho did a good job with what he had.
  • Enterprise seems to have been retconned out completely. Good riddance.
  • Star Trek IV: Save the Whales The Voyage Home, though, is still in continuity, because the point of divergence for the new Trek timeline is well after the Enterprise crew prime visited San Francisco. Spock Prime still totally gave some punk on a Muni bus the Vulcan neck pinch, ha!
  • On the other hand, I'm not even going to try to reconcile the semi-elastic timeline of ST4 with the strictly diverging one from this movie. That way lies madness.
  • Simon Pegg's Scotty is pretty far from the original. I'll chalk that up to being exiled to an ice planet (which I assume never happened to the original) and going a little stir-crazy.
  • The joyride scene was pretty pointless. Sure, it was a parallel scene to Spock's academic childhood, but it didn't really add much to Kirk's characterization. And it went on too long. I'm nitpicking though.
  • Making Spock the Acting Captain made perfect sense. But why off Earth did Captain Pike promote Kirk to First Officer at the same time, when he was just this side of being a stowaway?
  • In hindsight, Nero was kind of a weird villain. I mean, he was just a miner. Yet somehow his future mining vessel is loaded for bear and fully capable of taking on Starfleet. Sure, he got the drop on them, but still.
  • I totally didn't recognize Winona Ryder.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It was a great, fun adventure flick. But one major element doesn't work for me: I just can't believe that new-timeline Kirk and Spock could really trust each other, despite Spock Prime's optimism. They just don't seem to be heading in that direction. Particularly from Spock's POV, Kirk has done almost nothing but antagonize him (to the point of making him actually lose his cool). Even after they beam onto Nero's ship together, Kirk is still obviously keeping things from Spock. Spock Prime's insistence that "oh, you're going to be bestest buds, I promise" seems pretty weak, especially when you consider that they're not really the same people as the originals: their life experiences are different and so is their behavior. I guess we have to trust in the power of nostalgia-fueled destiny.

Brief thoughts on trailers:
  • That caveman thing with Jack Black looks like an utter turd. Pass.
  • Transformers 2 looks like the action will be just as hard to follow as in the first one, and I don't care. CONSTRUCTICONS, mother fuckers! And it looks like they may be combiners! As long as a sufficient quantity of shit blows up while Shia LeBouf runs around in a panic, I will be happy.
  • I will only go see the movie of Land of the Lost if they have Dr. Steel's title song on the soundtrack. Nothing else will get me to sit through that much Will Ferrell and that many obvious jokes.
Finally, I leave you with a video on how to talk like William Shatner:
gwalla: (domoslide)
A coworker loaned me a Bollywood animated movie titled The Return of Hanuman a few days ago. I didn't know they made cartoon movies in India, although given the size of their film industry I really shouldn't be so surprised. She called it an "Indian anime", but stylistically it's pretty clearly based on Western models, particularly Don Bluth. The plot kinda wanders all over the place, but that seems to be the rule for all Bollywood movies, and it's more coherent than some (the opening sequence actually foreshadows the climax!). The animation quality is not great, and it has some sloppy-looking CG.

gwalla: (flabbergasted)
In 1978, French film director Claude Lelouch decided to make a short film about a driver racing through Paris at top speed in a single, unbroken first-person shot. He got together a fast car, a professional Formula One driver, and a camera mounted on the front of the car with a gyro stabilizer. He mapped out a course from Porte Dauphine, past the Arc de Triomphe, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. He applied for a permit to close the streets, but was turned down.

He filmed it anyway.

One hundred forty miles per hour through the center of Paris, baby!

Yes, those are real cars and pedestrians.

Lelouch showed the film publicly once. He was promptly arrested. The driver remains anonymous.


Mar. 26th, 2009 10:04 pm
gwalla: (quantum superstate)
I saw Watchmen in IMAX last night. Overall, I enjoyed it. As an adaptation, it didn't capture much of the nuance of the original, but it could hardly be expected to. It was a fairly shallow reading of the source material. However, plot-wise it was pretty faithful to the original, and overall it was an entertaining and well-made movie.

The opening fight in the Comedian's apartment was a bit overlong. But the movie swiftly go onto a better foot with the alternate-history montage showing the initial promise of the masked crimefighters and how things started to go very, very wrong. It was very effective.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was dead on as the Comedian, reprehensible yet magnetic. He was one of the best things about the movie, and I didn't mind at all that his part took up a greater proportion of the movie than it does in the book.

Jackie Earle Haley did a good job as Rorschach, too, although his performance was more emotional than how I interpret the character when reading: I "hear" his voice as an affectless gravelly monotone, and he only shows visible emotion in two instances in the comic. He comes across as more sympathetic in the movie, while in the comic he's essentially a sociopath, a serial killer who happens to kill criminals.

I was pleasantly surprised Patrick Wilson's Dan Dreiberg. The previews and costume design made it looks like they were going to make Nite Owl II more of a conventional action hero type, but they actually kept him a bit of a pudgy, out-of-shape nebbish. I was less impressed by Malin Akerman's Silk Spectre II. Some of her line readings were a bit flat.

Dr. Manhattan was fair. He came off as more just soft-spoken than out of touch. Also, I think they could have stood to put him a little deeper into the uncanny valley; despite the CGI, he mainly looked like a guy with blue makeup.

Ozymandias bugged me a bit. He had an unplaceable accent for some reason, which I found distracting. Obviously they played up the hint that he may be homosexual (with the Village People/Studio 54 bit in the montage, and the "boys" folder later), while in the comic it's only Rorschach's suspicion, mentioned offhand once.

Here be spoilers! for both comic and movie. If you haven't seen one or the other, but think you might, move along. )

Before the movie, they showed a Kid Rock "music video" slash recruiting ad for the National Guard, and it was absolutely the most redneck damn thing I've seen in a long while. I'd assumed that Kid Rock must have died of a meth overdose or something by now, but no, apparently the talentless bastard is still breathing and allowed near microphones. The video switched between shots of the National Guard doing guard stuff (mostly patrolling somewhere in Western Asia, but also fighting a fire) and scenes of NASCAR racing with Dale Earnhardt Jr., punctuated with Kid Rock "performing". Somehow I don't think they were trying to say that people should join the National Guard to dominate Arab countries so we can have plenty of oil for NASCAR, but....

Also, one of the lines in the chorus is "Freedom makes us free". Seriously.
gwalla: (godzilla got busy)
Remember how I posted a few weeks ago about having a craving for Godzilla movies? Well, I found out that one local rental place actually carries a bunch of giant monster flicks. So I've been renting and watching a couple of movies a week, limiting myself (so far) to Toho Studios daikaiju movies I haven't already seen. Unfortunately, it seems like several of the Heisei-era movies are not available in the U.S., or at least a lot harder to find.

I intended from the beginning to post reviews of what I've watched. Originally this was supposed to be a couple of short reviews a week at a time, but I kept putting it off. Now I've watched too many to review all in one post, so I'll just be going one at a time, in the order I watched them (roughly). Without further ado:

Godzilla Raids Again

This is the first of the many sequels to Godzilla, and the first appearance of Godzilla's "pal" Anguirus. The DVD actually had both the American and (subbed) Japanese versions, and I watched both. It's interesting seeing how much damage re-editing can do.

The plot )

The original Japanese version is not bad. Not spectacular, but decent, and entertaining in its own right. Of course, that's assuming that you can suspend disbelief for the rubber-suited monsters (it helps that, like in the original Godzilla, the Godzilla costume does not sport the cartoonish googly eyes it would in later, more child-oriented installments). The most awkward thing about it is the fact that the big showdown between Godzilla and Anguirus takes place in the second reel, rather than at the climax, leaving the movie a bit top-heavy in terms of action pacing. Toho Studios regular Takashi Shimura, perhaps best known for playing the leader of the Seven Samurai, reprises his role from the original Godzilla, but does little other than look dour and provide an infodump.

The American version's title card is replaced by a new still one with the title "Godzilla Raids Again" clearly added digitally, because the original American title was "Gigantis: the Fire Monster". Otherwise it's unchanged from the theatrical version, and Godzilla is referred to as Gigantis throughout. The American edition takes some serious liberties, beyond just the dubbing: the operating principles seemed to be (1) "We've got a bunch of stock footage, and it'd be a shame to let it go to waste" and (2) "We know American movie audiences are morons, so we need to explain everything in voice-over, and especially need to remind them at every opportunity that this is set in Japan or they'll probably forget". Also, since Kobayashi is a bit chubby and gets teased a few times, the U.S. producers apparently decided that he was the Big Dumb Comedy Relief, and dubbed him with an over-the-top doofus voice. The results made me glad I was watching it with my dad (who hadn't seen the Japanese version) so we could trade off riffing on it MST3K style (making fun of movies is way more fun with an audience).

The U.S. version starts with some stock footage of nuclear bomb tests and a generic voice-over about the destructive potential of nuclear power, before starting the movie proper. Tsukioka (dubbed by George Takei!) gets the voice-over for the rest of the movie. For the most part the voice-over just describes what's going on onscreen, like the redundant captions in Silver Age comics (in a panel showing a villain levitating a table to block some of Green Arrow's shots, "But the villain levitates a table, blocking Green Arrow's every shot!"), such as scouting for fish. The military's clip show from the original Godzilla gets particularly mangled, as by the magic of stock footage it's turned into a primer on the history of the dinosaurs, starting with the Big Bang and the creation of the Earth (I wonder how the army got footage of that!), then using a really hilarious clip from the Z-movie Unknown Island of a bunch of guys in "dinosaur" costumes wandering around in circles dumbly in the middle of the desert, before finally catching up and showing some Godzilla clips. My favorite edit, though, somes before the attack on Osaka. In the original, there is a scene change to a nightclub where Tsukioka is dancing with his fiancee when they hear that Godzilla has appeared, but in the U.S. version they add a voiceover "Everyone enjoyed their favorite entertainment", and cut from the nightclub to some stock footage of a bunch of women playing the samisen (wtf?!) before cutting back. The completely pointless, BY THE WAY THIS IS JAPAN GUYS DON'T FORGET stupidity of this edit just cracks me up. A subplot about Kobayashi looking for a wife is almost completely eliminated, a victim of replacing some plot-heavy lines with commentary on the scale of the destruction, and by the way we're in Japan.

Watched, to review: King Kong vs. Godzilla, Varan the Unbelievable, Godzilla vs. Desotoroyah, Rodan, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra, Frankenstein vs. Baragon, Godzilla vs. Hedorah

Rented, not yet watched: Terror of Mechagodzilla

*Spoilers if you haven't watched the original (which is actually a pretty good movie, I recommend it): Godzilla is killed at the end by an "oxygen-destroying bomb". The inventor of the oxygen destroyer, afraid that its destructive capacity will accelerate the global arms race and lead to a catstrophic war, burns his plans, and goes down into Tokyo Bay with the bomb so that the idea will die with him. The bomb not only skeletonizes Godzilla and kills its inventor, but destroys all life in Tokyo Bay. The Godzilla in later films of the original series are apparently another Godzilla. This plot point would form part of the premise of the later, Showa-era film Godzilla vs. Desotoroyah.
gwalla: (godzilla got busy)
Don't ask me why, but I have a major craving for Godzilla movies right now. Unfortunately, my local rental place doesn't carry any. I may end up breaking down and signing up for Netflix.

In the meantime, I'll be watching my taped-off-TV copy of the Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (featuring everybody's favorite giant crawdad, Ebirah!)
gwalla: (o blaarggag?)
Trailer for The Machine Girl (warning: bloody!):

Thank you, Japan!


gwalla: (Default)

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