Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: GODZILLA (2014)

In July, my son and I made a list of kaiju and other monster movies to watch before Godzilla.  Now we're at the end of our big list, all ninety movies of it.  You can see the list and read our many reviews HERE.

The final film is, of course, Godzilla (2014).

Spoiler-free review?  We both loved it.

Get the details in the JUMP ...

Friday, May 16, 2014

"GODZILLA" is open!

And it's great.  Go see it.

My son and I will be posting our review early next week.  You know, after we've seen it a couple more times.


One last documentary ... the penultimate entry on THE BIG LIST my son and I compiled last year.

Today's is PBS' Frontline: Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown (2012).

My son will go first:
Well, this one is the last movie. This movie inspired the New Godzilla movie because the radiation suits, the nuclear power plant destruction and the damage looks like the Trailers.  I knew about the earthquake and tsunami, but I didn't know about the nuclear power plant or the radiation.  It was interesting and I liked it. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.6 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!! 
My turn:
As James said, in the opening several minutes, we are hit with a lot of imagery.  Imagery that Godzilla's filmmakers obviously cribbed from for the new film (and I'm going by what we've seen in the trailers). 
Obviously, Fukushima's relation to the new movie has inspired art, too: 
As for the story itself, I was familiar with the vast majority of it but I was very surprised to hear just how much Tepco (the company that operates the plant) covered up and withheld from Japan's PM even as the danger was unfolding.  Staggering stuff. 
It's well done and there is some human interest included, primarily with one man searching for his wife and child despite radiation warnings around the plant.  The bravery on display is amazing, as we often see in stories like this.  I don't know if it's Frontline's laid-back style, but the magnitude of the bravery didn't seem to come through for me.  (I comprehend it, but I didn't feel it in my gut.) 
Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown ... very influential, I'm sure, as we'll see.  3.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's a link to the entire documentary.

Up next, yes.  The time has arrived.  Godzilla (2014).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: GOJIRA (1954)

Full circle, baby.  On July 21, I originally posted THE BIG LIST.  Over the ensuing months, we added more than thirty other films to it, making it ninety movies long.  We've reviewed them all ... except for the new one.

Today's movie is, one last time, Gojira (1954).

I'll go first:
I won't go through the plot again or do a full-blown review.  We did that once before.
Instead, I'll focus on the viewing experience after our recent run through the "Inspiration List."  Documentaries about the history of Japan and their experience in WWII, the atomic testing ... it fixes this movie in a very particular point in time. 
Think about it.  This was released just nine years after the end of the war.  Nine years.  Think about the imagery in this film and its relation to the atomic bombings.  The closest analogue we have today are collapsing buildings, billowing dust clouds, office papers fluttering over the street, the sound of firefighters' personal alarms wailing over the din ... and these have been used in films since 9/11 (CloverfieldWar of the Worlds, etc.) 
The panning shots of buildings reduced to kindling.  Flames engulfing whole city blocks or, occasionally, spots of fire in the debris.  The shockwaves of buildings collapsing.  The radiation effects on people, ticking the Geiger counters.  References to "atomic tuna" and strained diplomatic relations.  The fishing boats destroyed ... in fact, the opening scene played out very much like the Lucky Dragon 5 incident as described in the last doc we watched.   
Once again, I'm reminded of how deadly serious this movie is.  There are sweeping shots of despair and we see hundreds of people suffering in Godzilla's wake.  The scene with the mournful choir as Serizawa wrestles with his conscience choked me up even more this time around.  In reading a brief review of the new movie (no spoilers), it mentioned how serious the new film is.  Well, it would be hard pressed to top this one. 
Also mentioned in that review is the apparently limited screen time of Godzilla in the new film.  Well, I paid attention and the Big Guy isn't in the original movie so much, either.  There are a few sparse teases in the opening half hour or so, then his first big attack.  A breather for a little bit and then he attacks again.  Then it's a long dissection of the people impacted by the attack and the decisions over what to do about the monster.  Then the attack on him with the Oxygen Destroyer.   
The limited screen time actually helps in this case because Toho hadn't quite gotten the special effects down just yet.  Godzilla moves too quickly in many shots, especially when he's a puppet.  (The puppet doesn't hold up too well ... I half expected it to yell "Cookie!" on one occasion.) 
Gojira ... re-evaluating my score thanks to the documentaries we watched beforehand.  4.75 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's my son, James:
Well, this is my favorite monster movie. This move is related to the documentaries and the scenes in the movie are related to actual history.  It made me sad to see them because I remembered this was based on real life. the movie is great and this is the last (Monster) movie on the list 
The things I like about it is that they aimed it so right so that Godzilla looks big. The thing i don't like is that's this could have been in color, but this is 1954. 
So rating wise, i'll say 5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!! 
Next, one last documentary before the new movie, Frontline: Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown (2011).

(GIF from ronaldcmerchant )

Reviews: HIROSHIMA (2005) and THE UNLUCKIEST DRAGON (2011)

Not long now.  THE BIG LIST is done, but we're doing an "Inspiration List," too.  Watching a couple of films and documentaries that gave us Godzilla.

Today's documentary is the BBC doc Hiroshima (2005).

I'll go first:
This was a late addition.  After two previous documentaries (Rise & Fall of the Japanese Empire and Trinity & Beyond) failed to delve into the actual bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I felt like we needed to see something else. 
Well, this documentary gave a much-needed humanity to our documentary proceedings thus far.  Depressingly so.  Not that I was expecting sunshine and lollipops, of course. 
There is some archival footage, but most of the doc is compromised of interviews with survivors and dramatizations of their recollections.  It's difficult to not get choked up as you hear the pain in their voices and see the tears well in their eyes.  The horror of that day is very well presented. 
It's not solely from the perspective of the Japanese that this film unfolds.  We also get some of the thoughts behind the decision to drop the bombs in the first place, the devastating invasion plans that were being considered, the warnings given to the Japanese leadership that were ignored, etc.  Though the intention is objectivity, it's hard for the American side of things to hold a candle to the raw emotion and visceral imagery on display in Japan. 
Watching this, I kept an eye out for details in the attack.  Details that may show up in 1954's Gojira.  I wasn't disappointed. 
Hiroshima ... fun side note: young Gareth Edwards worked on the visual effects for this.  4 out of five ... stars.  ("Atomic breath blasts" seems inappropriate.)
My son's turn:
Well, this one is a big downer because it's about people in the bomb attack and what the radiation effects are on humans. the reason this is important is because Godzilla's attack on Japan is like the atomic bombs. 
So rating wise, i'll say 2.6 out of 5 Atomic Gulps of Guilt! :(  
Here's a trailer:


Another documentary, this is a short one.

The Unluckiest Dragon (2011).

My son James will go first:
Well, the reason we are watching this is because this inspired Godzilla to be made. So this one is about a ship called The Lucky Dragon that got attacked by a Hydrogen bomb.  It feels familiar. 
So, rating wise, i'll say 3.4 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Inspiration!!
My turn:
An audio essay with accompanying photos, Dragon tells the story of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 and their encounter with the Castle Bravo Hydrogen Bomb Test of January 1954. 
Though they were several miles away, the crew encountered fallout.  Then the United States encountered fallout of a different sort.  The world was outraged and relations between Japan and the US were strained more than before.   
In the end, the "essay" is a little too short to feel like a full meal, but honestly, I don't know what more could be said. 
The Unluckiest Dragon ... the connections to Gojira will be more than a little obvious.  3 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the whole thing:

Up next, Gojira (1954).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)

Last summer, my son, James, and I compiled a list of kaiju and kaiju-inspired movies to watch before the new Godzilla opens on May 16.  By the end, THE BIG LIST was nearly ninety films long.  Here, in the final days, we've rewound a bit to watch the films that influenced the original Gojira, and we're watching a few documentaries to better inform us of their mindset (we're calling that the "Inspiration List").

Today's movie is The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

My eleven-year-old son will go first:
This is the first monster that was created/waken by radiation, the second is Godzilla. The name of the dinosaur in the movie is Rhedosaurus, the parts I like is when he destroys stuff. The reason this inspired Godzilla is because giant fire-breathing invincible Dino-lizards are very cool, but Godzilla is the coolest. 
So. rating wise, i'll say 4.5 out of 5 Atomic Breaths of Awesomeness!!
My turn:
Ah, Ray Harryhausen.  That's a name I've known all of my life.  It's a name I've made sure my son knew, too. 
As we were watching the movie and the atomic testing scenes unfolded in the opening scenes, James asked, "Is this the first movie that had the atom bomb wake up or make a monster?"  I thought for a few and then looked it up.  As far as I can tell, the answer is "yes." 
With that in mind, Beast is even more remarkable.  It sets up the structure and tropes for almost every atomic-age monster movie to follow: atomic detonation, monster awakens, rampage, radiation effects on people, military fights futilely, search for a solution (possibly also radiation related), monster stopped by science. 
The story is simple enough, and nearly outlined in the last paragraph.  The only thing to add is that our main character is a scientist who spotted the titular dinosaur after an arctic detonation and was deemed crazy by everyone around him.  Only after consulting with a paleontologist's lovely assistant and finding another of the animal's victims does anyone believe him. 
The dinosaur in question is the fictional Rhedosaurus, one of Harryhausen's most famous creations.  There are some truly iconic scenes in this film, including the police officer's demise above, the beast's demise in the burning roller coaster and, of course, the toppling of a lighthouse: 
The effects work is impeccable, as one would expect.  Use of the monster, though, is fairly sparse in the first two-thirds of the film.  The actors aren't so bad, either.  Certainly not the overly false style that taints King Kong (1933) in my mind.   
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ... obviously VERY influential on Gojira.  3.75 out of five Atomic Breath Blasts.
Here's the original trailer:

Up next, Hiroshima (documentary; 2005).

(GIFs from televandalist)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


We're not far away now ... the "Inspiration List" is almost done.

Today's documentary is Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995).

I'll go first:
Trinity is thorough, going through seemingly every stage of America's nuclear testing program and almost every device detonated.  We're bombarded with codenames and operational codenames and dates.  In large part, this documentary feels like William Shatner is reading the text of a timeline or a series of footnotes from a large term paper on the Cold War.  The information we're given is straight outta Dragnet: "Just the facts, ma'am." 
The footage, however, is amazing.  Some of it we've seen thousands of times (like the GIF above) but here, we're given context and the purpose behind such tests as well as the preparations for tests to study how buildings hold up to blasts.  (You've seen that footage a bunch, too.) 
Despite a couple of interviews, Trinity feels cold.  The music is overly bombastic but the narration certainly isn't.  The details are thick and the footage jawdropping ... but that's it.  There's only the briefest mention of direct impact of the testing (and, coincidentally, it's about the Japanese fishing boat incident that inspired Gojira).  There's a scene featuring a guy talking about radiation and the impact on people ... but even that is clinical.  Nothing at all about the aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There's no attempt at heart at all and that's a disappointment. 
Trinity and Beyond ... interesting to watch but don't expect to really feel anything.  2.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
My son's turn:
Well, this is interesting. The documentery is about code names, destroying things, and Atomic Bombs. So i thought that there so many code names, Too much destruction, and BIG bombs. I think you can blow up the bad guys enough now so STOP MAKING THEM BIGGER!! 
So, rating wise, i'll say 2.3 out of 5 Atomic Bombs of Destruction!!!
Here's the trailer:

Here's a video showing us every nuclear test detonation ever:

Holy crap.

Next up, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

(GIF from skinthiscat)