About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: Firewall


Computer security wiz for a major bank (Harrison Ford) and his far too young family (Virginia Madsen, Carly Schroeder, and Jimmy Bennett) are targeted by nasty (but ever-so dapper) Paul Bettany and his equally revolting crew who want Ford to rob his bank of $100 million, or else wifey, kiddies, and the oh-so cute puppy will go bye-bye, permanently. Oh, and they seem to be very well-equipped technologically to quash every hero attempt Ford could possibly make, every call for help. Robert Forster is Ford’s ex-cop buddy, and Mary Lynn Rajskub essentially does her frowny-face, nerdy thing from “24” as Ford’s secretary. Alan Arkin and Robert Patrick make mere extended cameos as Ford’s old boss and his arrogant, antagonistic new boss (Ford’s company is merging with another).

 

A seriously miscast Harrison Ford isn’t the only fishy thing about this clichéd 2006 Richard Loncraine (“Wimbledon” and “Richard III” !) thriller. In fact, if it weren’t for a good (but mostly wasted) supporting cast and the sinister bad guy turn by a well-cast Bettany (he could’ve made a career out of bad guy roles if he wanted to), the film would be pretty awful. It’s all pretty much paint-by-numbers stuff, and although not technically horrible, it’s just mediocre, and one can’t praise a film for simply not sucking. Screenplay by Joe Forte (a debutant, who should perhaps have given it a few more polishes), there’s really not much else to say about such a bog standard techno thriller. Skip it.

 

Rating: C

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: The Girl Next Door


School is nearing its end, and somewhat average Emile Hirsch (who seemed a star on the rise here) has come to a realisation I myself came to nearing the end of my own studies; Trying to list a ‘memorable moment’, he draws a blank. Then, out of nowhere, a new neighbour moves in next door. She’s blonde hottie Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert- Where the hell is she now?), and Hirsch is caught perving on her undressing. Next thing, she’s showing up at his door, and soon telling him that it’s her turn to see him naked. None of this ever happened to me, I might add. Humiliation ensues, of course, but then Hirsch’s nerdy buddies Chris Marquette and Paul Dano uncover something about Danielle’s past…she’s a porn star! They demand that he absolutely must get her in the sack, meanwhile Danielle, actually not a bad person at all, seems to have found herself a nice safe haven and a ‘normal’ life. Then her wild-eyed, unpredictable producer ex-boyfriend Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) shows up, and everything goes to hell. In a small role, James Remar plays a slightly less nasty rival porn producer and Timothy Bottoms is equally wasted as Hirsch’s dad.

 

2004 Luke Greenfield (“The Animal”, “Let’s Be Cops”) teen comedy with questionable moral value is nonetheless funny and surprisingly endearing. It does have a habit of ripping off past teen movies like “Risky Business”, and how old is Cuthbert’s character anyway? I was never sure, and never sure I would’ve been entirely comfortable with the answer. Not too sure if Olyphant’s character needed to be that unhinged, either though he plays the character memorably. If you can get this initial borderline tastelessness out of your head, this is a reasonably smart, if somewhat unlikely (the strip club scene with the principal is wholly ridiculous, if hilarious), funny and well-acted film. Marquette (who I always thought was going to go somewhere) and Olyphant are especially impressive. The only real complaint? For all its teasing, we never actually see the yummy Cuthbert naked, not even topless! Not even a bum shot! Not even a diamond-encrusted nipple! Ugh! Given the cloud around her age that may be a good thing, but nudity is surely in the character’s job description.

 

Rating: B-

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: Snowden


The story of former CIA/NSA analyst Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who tells his story to some journos (played by Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, and Tom Wilkinson) and flashes back to important moments in his life between 2004-2013. We see his military training with the Marines, his recruitment by CIA boss Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans), his relationship with girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), and his growing discomfort with the surveillance tactics used by the CIA and NSA that he feels compelled to leak to the public at large. Timothy Olyphant and Nic Cage play a CIA agent and one of Snowden’s mentors in the agency, respectively.

 

If you genuinely are invested in the issues at hand or if are in the tank for Edward Snowden as director Oliver Stone (“Platoon”, “JFK”) and his co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald (who previously scripted Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman”)  appear to be, you may be utterly fascinated and impressed by this 2016 biopic. I’m not and was not. Playing at times like a re-enactment of the similarly tedious doco “Citizenfour”, I found this a mostly yawn-worthy re-tread of stuff I already knew and didn’t really care about. I get why Stone is a Snowden guy (both are essentially lefties, but rather critical/suspicious of all ‘big government’), but I don’t get why he thought Snowden or Snowden’s actual story were interesting enough for a feature film, especially when the story has mostly already been told. Like his surprising nerf gun approach towards George W. Bush in the flat biopic “W.”, Stone’s film is astonishingly uninvolving from a filmmaker who used to be, polarising or not, certainly a more interesting filmmaker than this. It’s shockingly dull, at least to me despite having some vintage Stone themes at play.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a pretty convincing (if schticky) vocal impersonation of the former CIA/NSA computer analyst turned whistle-blower. However, he doesn’t look remotely like Snowden (I don’t think they even got the hairstyle quite right nor the hair colour- it’s too dark!) and isn’t able to make the character terribly compelling. At best he’s good at playing a guy who isn’t easy to get a read on. There’s just not a lot there to latch onto character-wise, at least not a lot that is terribly sympathetic or interesting. That doesn’t make for much in the way of audience investment, I’m afraid. I find Snowden a boring narcissist to begin with (though like Julian Assange my disapproval of his actions is mild and bordering on complete disinterest), but the film simply paints him as boring, minus the narcissism. Remember the scene from “Citizenfour” with Snowden preening and styling his hair in the mirror for what seemed like an eternity? We don’t get that here, presumably because the film wants us to side entirely with Snowden and that scene makes him look like a bit of a dickhead. Although Zachary Quinto makes for an immediately credible Glenn Greenwald (He looks enough like him to be acceptable), early on you get the feeling that this is simply a fictionalised re-enactment of “Citizenfour”.

 

One early positive sign comes from an unlikely source: Nicolas Cage, who for once has decided to genuinely act instead of either wildly overacting or underplaying his way into a coma. He’s actually good here, and sadly mostly abandoned in the second half of the film. Timothy Olyphant and Melissa Leo are similarly wasted, presumably just wanting to be in an Oliver Stone film. The best performance by far comes from a rather creepy Rhys Ifans (an underrated actor), even if his character is overdone a tad by the oh-so subtle Mr. Stone. He may as well have been shot in shadowy menace from below like an apostle of Satan. As for Shailene Woodley, she yet again proves she doesn’t have the presence for cinema acting. Her performance is typically mediocre, and frankly she’s not very well cast as Snowden’s partner in life, a pole dancing instructor. She still looks and sounds like a weepy high school girl.

 

Aside from not actually being suitably cinematic material, the crux of my problem with the story of Snowden (and pretty much every other real-life story on the issue of government spying on citizens in recent years) is explained in a scene with Snowden and his girlfriend where she says she has nothing to hide so she doesn’t care that she’s potentially being spied on by the government. We are meant to agree with Snowden’s position that it’s a cop-out answer. The problem? I actually don’t agree with Snowden. At all. Many of you will vehemently disagree with me on that and call me naïve, but it’s honestly the way I feel. Meanwhile, Stone makes the dreadful decision to end the film on the real Snowden essentially acting…badly as himself. For a guy who always claimed he didn’t want to be the story, he sure seems to enjoy being an actor here. This guy’s ego seemingly knows no bounds, and it also serves to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance seem less convincing, especially in terms of his looks.

 

Slightly less tedious than “Citizenfour”, this is still “Citizenfour” re-enacted and showing us Shailene Woodley’s tits. A pretty large cast is mostly wasted in this surprisingly unenlightening effort. Joseph Gordon-Levitt tries hard but his primary achievement as Snowden is a more than decent vocal impersonation. I know I’m supposed to care about this subject, but I don’t and certainly not as presented here by Stone, who is far more impressed with Mr. Snowden than I am, it would appear. Sleep-inducing for the most part, but your mileage may be wildly different depending on your feelings towards the subject at hand.

 

Rating: D+

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: Kickboxer: Vengeance


Alain Moussi is Kurt Sloane, whose brother Eric (the late Darren Shahlavi) is killed in a Muay Thai fight by the fearsome, god-like Tong Po (David ‘Batista’ Bautista), champion of underground fights held at the latter’s temple/training compound in Thailand. Enraged, Kurt attempts to kill Tong Po in his sleep, but his assassination attempt is thwarted and he is kicked off the premises. Trying a different tact, Kurt decides to approach his brother’s trainer, Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in the hopes of getting him to train him so that he can defeat Tong Po in a fight to the death. Durand reasons that he doesn’t want to train another person to get killed by Tong Po, but eventually reluctantly agrees when he sees the kid is adamant. Meanwhile, Kurt develops a relationship with a local cop (Sara Malakul Lane) investigating the underground fight scene. Georges St. Pierre plays a fighter/doorman at the compound who may or may not be trustworthy, Gina Carano is a shonky fight promoter, a too highly billed Cain Velasquez plays a random fighter, and Sam Medina is Crawford, the emcee/Tong Po’s spokesman and all-round right-hand man.

 

Essentially a remake, I’m giving this 2016 John Stockwell (the very scenic “Into the Blue”) martial arts film a lesser score than the 1989 original, but make no mistake: They’re both pretty much of the same technical quality. It’s just that what one could accept from a martial arts film from 1989 (and let’s face it, “Kickboxer” always lagged behind “Bloodsport” and “Wrong Bet” anyway) is far less acceptable now. Also, the original had Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead role, which is more important than you might think.

 

Scripted by the duo of Dimitri Logothetis (EP of “Sleepwalkers” way back in 1992) and Jim McGrath (his screenwriting debut), this is pretty much your standard late 80s/early 90s martial arts movie and not only is it obviously not a good movie in the legit sense of the term, it’s also not as enjoyable as more recent fight movies like the “Undisputed” franchise, or some of JCVD’s more recent output. I was a little disappointed as I was expecting something a little slicker and with more charismatic actors in the lead roles. Instead it’s pretty rough around the edges, and only two or three supporting actors really stand out.

 

The scenery is stunning, but the editing is pretty horrendous, especially early on making the narrative somewhat wonky. The pacing is also a lot slower than it needed to be, with the running time being less than 90 minutes it really ought to have hurried up a bit more. It really amazes me that someone with big-screen directorial experience like Stockwell would come up with something so very direct-to-DVD, and that may be a bit insulting to direct-to-DVD action films if anything. He definitely needs to hire a more competent editor in future.

 

It’s a shame they didn’t get Scott Adkins for the lead role because Alain Moussi simply doesn’t cut it in the acting or charisma department (Apparently Adkins was offered and rightly declined the role of the brother, which I think is a pretty insulting offer). A real-life kickboxer, he can certainly spin-kick like a motherfucker, but Moussi is nowhere near a thespian. He’s dull, which is a real shame given it’s his shoulders the film must be carried on. Even worse is Sara Malakul Lane as his leading lady. The Guam-born English/Thai actress and model is truly awful. This was the late Darren Shahlavi’s final film if I’m not mistaken, and sadly he looks rather unwell and isn’t at his best. Gina Carano is getting better as an actress, but not enough for her to work in such a role as she has here, unfortunately. Fellow fighter Georges St. Pierre probably won’t have the most fruitful acting career on evidence here, he’s decidedly amateurish and his character incredibly irritating.

 

On the plus side, the performances by former wrestler Batista (AKA Dave Bautista), Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sam Medina work. Batista isn’t as bulked-up as he was in his wrestling days where he looked like his shoulders had muscles upon muscles, but I still found it a little hard at first to accept him as a kickboxer given how top-heavy he still is. Once you get past that and the fact that he’s clearly not Thai, he’s his usual bad arse self. Given his size and huge muscles, I have no problem believing he could beat the shit out of most people, so it’s not hard to get past. This time around Tong Po is no mere single-minded thug, but has his own training school/tournament, which is interesting. He’s not in the film nearly enough, but when he is you stand up and take notice. He certainly doesn’t need much dialogue, you know from looking at him that this Tong Po is a scary fucker. As for JCVD, this isn’t his best performance of late and it’s abundantly clear that his voice is looped in the final match, presumably because the Muscles from Brussels had exited stage left once the cameras stopped rolling (Weird given that he an Batista are EPs here). Still, playing the mentor role to the successor of his role in the original, he certainly looks to be in damn good condition. I mean, take a look at him here and then Sly Stallone of late and tell me Sly isn’t on HGH and/or something else. JCVD by contrast has a legit, muscular physique for someone now aged in his mid-50s. The dude clearly works out regularly and he makes for a tough bastard of a trainer not afraid to kick the shit out of his pupil. As for Sam Medina, he doesn’t have a lot of scenes either, but he steals every one of them as Tong Po’s chief associate. I liked that there’s lots of action in this, even if I think they wait too long to implement the ‘dipping wrapped hands in resin’ scene and could’ve done without the brief swordplay for fuck knows what reason it was there. The final fight was going really well up until that point, it’s so silly. Speaking of silly, by far the best thing in the entire film is the closing credits split-screen of Moussi re-creating JCVD’s infamously awful dance scene from the original. JCVD did it better, or at least much funnier. It’s hysterical.

 

Although it’s far from the worst martial arts movie out there, this film isn’t anywhere near the hype. It’s sloppily done, and some of the performances are terrible. Lively action, though. 

 

Rating: C+

Review: The Rocketeer


Set in the late 1930s, test pilot Bill Campbell comes into possession of a jet pack that is sought after by evil, swashbuckling movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) and the mobsters he’s in league with (led by Paul Sorvino), as well as Howard Hughes himself (played by Terry O’Quinn), who is working with the FBI, and who is the original owner of the rocket pack. Campbell, aided by his mechanic buddy Peevy (Alan Arkin) give the gizmo a test run. After a few joy rides, the press have gotten wind of this and dub Campbell ‘The Rocketeer’, alerting the attention of the baddies. When Campbell’s actress girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) gets mixed up with rapscallion Sinclair, The Rocketeer must fly into action. Tiny Ron turns up as an ugly, hulking henchman, and Ed Lauter is an FBI guy.

 

This 1991 Disney superhero effort from Joe Johnston (“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “Jumanji”) is the kind of likeable, cornball, Saturday matinee stuff that would remind the adults of 1991 of the adventures they read about in comics as kids. I was 11 at the time this was released, and whilst OK, it didn’t really grab me. I think its appeal to youngsters then and especially today in 2017 would be pretty limited, but no doubt there is an audience for it, just not as big as there is for say “Superman” (the greatest superhero/comic book film of all-time), “The Avengers”, and “Batman”. It’s not really my kind of comic book fare (the only similar film I’ve liked was “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”), and seems rather outdated and bland to be honest (Air shows? Really? Sorry, just not my kind of thing). Like “The Shadow” (and “The Phantom”, which was even more tepid), it’s a bit of an also-ran in the 70s-90s superhero stakes and already seemed a bit dated on release (It didn’t do much at the box-office).

 

I mean look at the title character. Now granted, I’m even less of a fan of the somewhat similar “Iron Man”, but a guy with a jetpack? That’s your superhero? Pretty lame in comparison to all the other superheroes out there, though the helmet is kinda cool. But that’s the problem with this film (and the “Iron Man” films too), it’s set in a more realistic world and thus the superhero has been toned down and more realistic. The plot of the film also isn’t of much interest to me, as it mixes “Dick Tracy” comic book gangster stuff (and I loathed Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy”) with real-life characters like Howard Hughes (you just know that the film’s climax will involve a blimp) and 1930s Hollywood stuff. The villain is a swashbuckling Hollywood movie star clearly modelled on Errol Flynn and played by Timothy Dalton! I’m a film buff, and perhaps that villain would work for a Sherlock Holmes villain, but a supervillain? Uh-uh. I’m sorry, but as much as Dalton gets the romantic and phony side of his character down pat and looks the part, he makes for an extremely feeble and fatuous villain. The role is just too silly for me (I don’t like Errol Flynn, either), and not really suitable for a superhero film. Dalton is never allowed to cut loose and get truly evil because for the most part his character is more romantic scoundrel than megalomaniac supervillain. The role lacks bite. The one bit of Hollywood I did like was when Dalton ran into ‘Clark Gable’, which is cute considering Dalton himself would go on to play Rhett Butler (badly, despite once again looking the part) a few years later in “Scarlett”. The W.C. Fields impersonator, however, was awful here. Howard Hughes (a character whose fascination with aviation at least makes his presence here somewhat warranted) is well-played by Terry O’Quinn, but in this film Hughes has to end up acting like J. Edgar Hoover and having ties with the Feds, due to the mix of “Dick Tracy” and Hollywood, which is just corny. I really dislike the “Dick Tracy” elements with the Feds, the gangsters like the one played by Paul Sorvino (who is fine, but typecast in a role unworthy of him), and especially the hulking henchman played by Tiny Ron (AKA Ronald Taylor). The crude makeup on this guy is awful and reminded me of the worst of “Dick Tracy”. Apparently he was meant to be modelled on an old Hollywood heavy named Rondo Hatton, but I’m not sure how closely he resembles him. All I know is that he just looked like a big dude with a really bad makeup job, and the Rondo Hatton thing just reinforces how old hat this whole thing is anyway (despite the original source only being 10 years old at the time). Weren’t Richard Kiel and Jack O’Halloran still alive at the time? Just cast one of them and forget about the makeup. Whether Tiny Ron looks like Rondo or not, it just didn’t work for me because the makeup was shite. By contrast, the blue screen FX for the Rocketeer flying scenes weren’t the worst of such FX you’ll see of this vintage (they’re not great, though).

 

Then we come to the film’s leading man, Bill Campbell. Christopher Reeve was never much of an actor, but damnit, he was Superman. He just fit that one (or dual?) role perfectly. Bill Campbell is not much of an actor either, but unlike Reeve, he doesn’t own this role one bit. He’s boring and nondescript, something no superhero actor should ever be. I mean, I know not everyone loved Michael Keaton as “Batman” (I did), but Keaton at least brought some mystery, dark intensity, and aloofness...some personality to his superhero. Even Reeve had some charm at the very least. Campbell has nothing and brings little, and Johnston’s obvious attempt at finding another Christopher Reeve is a big failure and crucial flaw in the film. Sorry Joe, but maybe you should’ve cast Bruce Campbell instead.

 

The film is somewhat watchable, let me reiterate. For instance, Jennifer Connelly (who probably doesn’t like this film much), is one of the very best things in the film. She has the perfect Golden Age ‘movie star’ look and vibe to her, and is drop dead gorgeous. Oh, and she’s an actress too, not that this is the best evidence of that. She also has great tits, something that really does deserve to be mentioned (Not that there’s nudity in this, you’d have to see the previous year’s “The Hot Spot” for that. Or see the screen caps on the Net). She has never ever looked lovelier or more beautiful on screen than she does here.

 

This may well have been the film that brought actor Alan Arkin back into the limelight, of sorts, and as the mentor/inventor he’s really good, as is a pitch-perfect Jon Polito in a small role as an air show promoter. The best thing about Arkin is that most of his scenes are with Campbell, and thus he’s able to pick up the lesser actor’s slack. The music score by James Horner (“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, “Battle Beyond the Stars”, “Aliens”) is pretty solid stuff, and the cinematography by Hiro Narita (“Never Cry Wolf”, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “Hocus Pocus”) also deserves a mention for a fine use of shadows at times.

 

This film is no stinker, but it’s not really my kind of thing and is pretty lightweight and forgettable for a superhero film. The screenplay is by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo (who both wrote “Trancers” AKA “Future Cop”), taken from a graphic novel by Dave Stevens.

 

Rating: C+

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: Half Nelson


Ryan Gosling plays a smart, idealistic young high school history teacher who is also addicted to crack, something one of his students (Shareeka Epps) discovers when she walks in on him, strung-out in the toilets one day. She has her own problems associating with dealer Anthony Mackie, for whom Epps’ brother took the rap and is currently serving time. Whilst he’s teaching the class about opposing forces that collide to form a change, he’s fighting over Epps (whom he develops an unusual friendship with) with Mackie, whom we just know has seedy plans for her. But is the troubled Gosling, teacher or not, someone Epps should be protected by or from?

 

Ugly-looking but well-acted 2006 Ryan Fleck (his debut) film kept me interested longer than a film about a drug addict normally would. Gosling’s excellent performance is the primary reason for this (and I’ve not always been a fan), but I also had a teacher in High School who was a bit like him, a fairly cool guy who related well to his students, but yes, had a drug problem and in my case, the teacher died. So there was a bit of a personal connection for me there. I’m no fan of shaky, grubby-looking hand-held filmmaking, but I can’t deny this film has something, even if it doesn’t really have an ending. However, Fleck should’ve really clearly defined the nature of the relationship between Gosling and Epps. It never enters paedophilia territory (at all, and that really must be stressed), but it is a little inappropriate and vaguely uncomfortable at least. Fleck’s film might’ve been a little better if he didn’t allow for even the thought of such a thing to enter into the audience’s minds, considering that it is definitely not the film’s agenda. But those feelings were there for me, and I think a little re-writing might have helped that. Then again, maybe some would feel the film too Hollywood if it were more blatant. I can only say that it bothered me a bit. Scripted by Fleck and his partner Anna Boden, with whom he would later make the disappointing “Mississippi Grind”. A solid film with a couple of reservations.

 

Rating: B-

Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Shin Godzilla


Japan is besieged by disaster believed by the PM to be the result of an underwater volcano, and the Government heads gather to debate an appropriate and hopefully swift response. And that’s when the bombshell is dropped: This isn’t any of the usual natural disasters, but the destruction caused by a radioactive giant lizard, something that nerdy Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroki Hasegawa was laughed at for initially suggesting. Apparently the Americans have known about the possibility of the creature’s existence for quite some time, and a special envoy is sent from America to help out. She’s Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara) Japanese-American daughter of a U.S. Senator. Anyhoo, the creature (dubbed ‘Godzilla’ by the Americans) keeps mutating and growing in size, breathing fire and shooting lasers from its eyes. And yet the politicians keep dithering. Japan is fucked, y’all.

 

Aside from the 1954 original “Gojira” and the classic all-star monster mash “Destroy All Monsters!” I probably wouldn’t give a wholeheartedly, non-ironic good grading to very many of the Godzilla series of kaiju films. Make no mistake though, aside from the tedious “King Kong vs. Godzilla”, Roland Emmerich’s nondescript “Godzilla”, and the cheapo “Godzilla 1985”, there’s not a film among them that isn’t worth watching at least once. I have a lot of affection for “Godzilla” films, especially the Toho flicks from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

 

Like the recent Western “Godzilla” however, this 2016 effort from writer-director Hideaki Anno is just shy of being a good movie for me and for somewhat similar reasons, actually. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s start at the beginning. Co-directed by Shinji Higuchi, this is a very different “Godzilla” (or “Gojira” if you’re pretentious like me) film than any other Toho have made since the 1954 original. In fact, this is pretty much the only one since that originator to have absolutely no connection to any other “Godzilla” film, not even bringing up the events of the first film as part of its lore. Our writer-director is starting from scratch, folks and it’s a ballsy approach. A minute in and we see that Toho Studios have discovered handheld cinematography as well. More startlingly, the film is mostly told in what could be described as docudrama fashion, albeit with an occasional sense of humour, equally as startling. At times it might remind you of the South Korean monster movie semi-spoof “The Host”. We get some really terrific destruction early on, and the filmmaker wisely adopts the “Jaws” strategy of slowly teasing the reveal of the monster. All the ministerial waffling was taking up significant time, but I can’t deny that some of it is hilarious. People keep interrupting ministerial procedures to supply information that contradicts what has just been said. Priceless. So I was actually really digging this. Then we get our first good glimpse at the central monster and…

 

It’s pathetic. I have a lot of fondness for the cheesy Toho monster suits of yore, but for a film from  2016 this just wasn’t acceptable to me. It looked like a Papier-mâché Chinese dragon float for a parade. Even Minya from “Son of Godzilla” looked more fearsome than this and Minya looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. This thing has buttons for eyes for fuck’s sake. I was completely shattered and disheartened, though in fairness ‘Zilla has a great roar in this. 47 minutes in and thankfully the real deal shows up in his more recognisable final form (albeit with a different tail and slowly mutating and enlarging), though by this point I had slowly started to write the film off a bit. The recent Westernised “Godzilla” was similarly disappointing in that it gave us a couple of secondary monsters first whom I mistakenly assumed were meant to be Godzilla so that by the time the real deal showed up, I was already in kind of a pissy mood. It was unnecessary confusion/complication.

 

Helping to put me in a better mood here was the unmistakable, inimitable strains of Akira Ifukube's unforgettable “Gojira” theme which sends chills down the spine even today. The entire music score by Shiro Sagisu is excellent, actually. Meanwhile one thing this film has over the 2014 Westernised film is the attractive cinematography by Kosuke Yamada, including some really nice sweeping aerial shots. Occasional shaky-cam or not, at least it’s not murky and incoherent. So when the real monster shows up, he looks awesome so long as you understand that the FX quality here is typical of post-70s “Godzilla” films, not great but certainly very decent for what it is. I mean, great FX would be kinda beside the point really, though I should point out that the film does use modern FX. Godzilla here is a CG/motion capture job, just not a Hollywood-grade one. So there’s no rubber suit there. The scenes of the monster breathing fire and some kind of purple emission are really incredible. I also have to admit that corny or not, there’s some real gravity here to the horrendous potential choice of dropping a thermonuclear device on the big radioactive monster. Then again, the monster is already radioactive so the situation is FUBAR to begin with I suppose. I really liked the attention given to outlining the problems with dealing with such an unheard of disaster in modern Japan, it’s the kind of thing no previous “Godzilla” film even tried to tackle in any kind of mature way. I must say though, as much as I kind of enjoyed the hopefully intentionally funny bureaucratic time-wasting, I do feel there are far too many names and faces to keep track of, especially when there’s not a whole lot of depth afforded to them. I also think if you’re going to feature a Japanese character who allegedly grew up in and lives in America (and is special envoy to the US President), it’s probably a good idea to cast an actress who isn’t clearly speaking English phonetically, and not terribly well at that. Poor Satomi Ishihara is gorgeous, but an ‘Ann Patterson’ she most certainly is not. Worse, her character drifts in and out of the film confusingly. Character depth isn’t the film’s strong suit.

 

Slow and overlong, but with an amusing black comedy meets docudrama approach unlike anything you’ve seen from Toho. Cut this film down to around 95 minutes by mostly excising the pre-final form monster stuff, and you’d actually have a terrific film that blends old with new. As is, it’s just shy of a good score, unfortunately. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look, it just means it could’ve been better than it is. Nice try and definitely worth a look, but frustrating. I get the feeling it won’t be too popular in America politically speaking, either.

 

Rating: C+