Film Review: Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Also known as: Gojira vs. Biorante (original Japanese title), Godzilla 1990 (South Korea)
Release Date: December 16th, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuki Ōmori
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori, Shinichirō Kobayashi
Music by: Koichi Sugiyama
Cast: Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yoshiko Kuga, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Kōji Takahashi

Toho Co. Ltd., 104 Minutes, 83 Minutes (VHS screener cut)

Review:

“Godzilla and Biollante aren’t monsters. It’s the unscrupulous scientists who create them that are monsters.” – Dr. Shiragami

This is the hardest of all Godzilla movies to track down if you didn’t actually buy the VHS, DVD or Blu-ray when they came out. It’s been out of print for years and if you want a copy, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, I had a hook up because I was too poor to buy this way back when it came out and as much as I love the movie, I’m not going to pay nearly $100 for a copy now.

Anyway, we never got a real sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah due to Toho hating it when it came out in 1971. However, this is a sort of spiritual sequel to it in that it pits Godzilla against another environmental threat… or in this case, a biological one.

After the lukewarm reception to The Return of Godzilla and the complete failure of the United States’ King Kong Lives, Toho was really cautious about rushing out another kaiju sequel. Although, the success of The Little Shop of Horrors remake got their attention and I’d have to assume that the plant monster designed for this film was somewhat inspired by the plant monster from that picture.

Although, Toho did hold a writing contest to see if fans could come up with a great Godzilla story worth telling. So I’m not sure how much of this came from fan input or from Toho’s writers trying to emulate The Little Shop of Horrors.

Needless to say, the studio was looking for a new kind of threat for Godzilla to fight and they wanted something fresh that was born out of science run amok. Where Godzilla was born out of man experimenting with atomic energy, Biollante was born out of man experimenting with biological engineering.

The end result is one of the coolest kaiju ever created, as well as one of the greatest threats Godzilla ever faced. Additionally, the monster, like Hedorah before her, had different stages of evolution throughout the movie. This would also go on to start a trend that saw Godzilla fight monsters that would evolve into more dangerous versions of themselves as movies progressed.

Godzilla vs. Biollante is one of my favorite films in the Heisei era and honestly, one of my favorite, overall. It just looks fantastic, I love the monsters and the effects and this boasts some of the best kaiju on kaiju violence in the franchise. Between the early fight where Godzilla fights Biollante in her flower form to the big, grand finale, everything in regards to the kaiju action is tremendous!

I also really like the story, I thought the actors were better than average for these sort of pictures and this movie has pretty solid cinematography for something from the tokusatsu genre.

Plus, this movie just has an epic feel to it that builds off of the spectacle of its predecessor in a great way.

This is one of the best looking and most interesting chapters in the long running franchise.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Heisei era Godzilla films, as well as Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Film Review: The Way of the Dragon (1972)

Also known as: Fury of the Dragon (European English title), Revenge of the Dragon (US cable TV title), Return of the Dragon (US dubbed version)
Release Date: June 1st, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Bruce Lee
Written by: Bruce Lee
Music by: Joseph Ko
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Paul Wei, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Chuck Norris, Malisa Longo, Robert Wall, Hwang In-shik, Jon T. Benn 

Golden Harvest Films, Concord Productions, 99 Minutes, 133 Minutes (extended cut), 86 Minutes (censored cut)

Review:

“Let him know. If I ever see him here again… he won’t leave alive!” – Tang Lung

While this is my least favorite of the trilogy of martial arts films that Bruce Lee made before the legendary Enter the Dragon, this one does have the best finale of the three, as it pits Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris and then shows him kick the f’n shit out a bunch of gangsters.

The story takes place in what was modern 1970s Rome. Lee and his family’s restaurant is terrorized by local mafiosos, so he takes it upon himself to beat them all to a bloody pulp for 99 minutes.

The plot is fairly weak and generic but I like most of the characters from Lee’s family to the evil mob boss to Chuck Norris’ Colt.

If one were to pull the action sequences from this film, it’d be dreadfully dull. However, the action and Lee’s presence keep the film afloat.

In fact, the fight choreography in this movie is stunning but that should probably go without saying, as Lee never disappointed in that regard. Adding Chuck Norris to the mix only maximizes the awesome action sequences.

Ultimately, this is a pretty fun movie to watch for its high points but it still pales in comparison to Enter the Dragon, which followed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Bruce Lee martial arts films of the ’70s.

Film Review: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Also known as: Night Without Sleep, Mischief (working titles)
Release Date: July 18th, 1952 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Daniel Taradash
Based on: Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong
Music by: Lionel Newman
Cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus, Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton

20th Century Fox, 76 Minutes

Review:

“You smell like a cooch dancer!” – Eddie Forbes

This is a really interesting film about mental illness. It came out in the 1950s when there wasn’t as much knowledge about the subject but compared to other films from the time, this one is actually really respectful towards mental health. Honestly, Don’t Bother to Knock is probably one of the best movies of its era to actually try and tackle the issue, as it doesn’t make the character struggling with it into a psychotic nutjob.

The film gives top billing to Richard Widmark but the real star of the picture is Marilyn Monroe, who plays a babysitter that mentally breaks down as the story rolls on. I’ve absolutely got to give Monroe props in this role, as she truly comes across as believable and makes you feel for her on a pretty deep level.

In fact, this is one movie that you can point to when people claim that Monroe was just a pretty face. She handled the material with a sort of grace and respect that transcends the picture. And if I’m being straight here, I’ve never been a massive Monroe fan. But her ability to act in this picture was stupendous and it kind of makes me want to reexamine her other roles.

Additionally, Widmark is superb in his role, as are Anne Bancroft, who I wish had more screen time, and the always entertaining character actor Elisha Cook Jr.

This is a sympathetic and intelligently handled picture where the cast figures out something is off with this girl but they ultimately rally around her to give her the help she desperately needs. It’s hard to say what happens to her after the film but you do leave with the feeling that the core characters in this story will be there to help her heal, as opposed to just sending her to an asylum and being done with her uncontrollable antics.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who would go on to do a lot of horror and sci-fi pictures, the film is well shot and it shows that the guy had a real skill that his later work might not have showcased nearly as well. While I enjoy the work he did for Hammer and Amicus, the two horror giants of the UK, this may be the best film of his that I’ve seen from an artistic and technical standpoint.

Don’t Bother to Knock has been a film that has been in my Prime Video queue for a long time. I’m glad that I finally got around to giving it a shot, as I was pleasantly surprised by it on just about every level.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other early ’50s film-noir, as well as other early Marilyn Monroe movies.

Film Review: Another 48 Hrs. (1990)

Release Date: June 8th, 1990
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: John Fasano, Jeb Stuart, Larry Gross, Fred Braughton
Based on: characters by Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Brion James, Ed O’Ross, Andrew Divoff, Kevin Tighe, Bernie Casey, Tisha Campbell, Frank McRae

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you something, Jack. If shit was worth something, poor people would be born with no asshole.” – Reggie Hammond

This was a film that was most likely wrecked by post-production issues. Mainly, it had about 40 minutes of its running time chopped off. In fact, actor Brion James once said that he was really the third major star of the movie but a lot of his bigger scenes got cut. Which kind of sucks, as he’s a solid character actor and an integral part of so many movies I love.

Considering that the film really lacked a coherent plot, the massive edits could’ve really fucked the whole thing up. Sure, there’s a chance that the whole film was an incoherent mess and the edits actually helped it but it does feel like there is a lot of context missing. Maybe I can compare the script with the final film one of these days, assuming the script is online somewhere.

Looking at this as a complete and final body of work, though, means that I have to be honest and say that the film is a real disappointment.

On the positive side, Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte are great, once again, as are Brion James, Ed O’Ross, Kevin Tighe and Tisha Campbell, whose role was way too small and makes me think that she had a lot of material cut from the final edit.

I kind of liked the villains, as well, but they pale in comparison to how great James Remar and Sonny Landham were in the first movie.

And since I am speaking about things that pale in comparison, I also have to point out that the action in this chapter is weak and underwhelming. The first movie was mostly a non-stop ride of great action sequences, broken up with comedic scenes in-between. While this film has action, other than the prison bus sequence and the final showdown, it’s all pretty forgettable.

That being said, this movie just feels like director Walter Hill either had his hands tied or he was betrayed by his own studio, who potentially butchered his work in the editing room. The is the least Walter Hill feeling movie out of all his action heavy pictures.

At the end of the day, though, this is still watchable and amusing. If you like these characters and their bond in the first movie, you’ll probably like seeing them again. Unfortunately, everything around them kind of sucks.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon movies.

Film Review: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero (alternative US titles), Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Planet X, The Great Monster War (alternative Yugoslavian titles)
Release Date: December 19th, 1965 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes, 74 Minutes (re-issue)

Review:

“[about the victory over King Ghidorah, while Godzilla is outside dancing] A happy moment.” – Controller of Planet X

This is the last Godzilla film of the Shōwa era that I had left to review. While I didn’t watch the movies in order, I did save one of my favorites for last. But honestly, I like all these movies and don’t think there is a bad one in the bunch. Nope, not even All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge.

What I liked about this film is that it is a true follow up to its predecessor Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and also features the same lineup of monsters, minus Mothra. This also introduces the Xiliens from Planet X, who were (and still are) the best alien villains in Godzilla lore. In fact, they should’ve been regular antagonists throughout the Shōwa pictures but Toho decided to introduce new hostile aliens with almost every movie after this one. Although, I did like the ape and the cockroach aliens, somewhat. But leaving the Xiliens behind, after this film, was a mistake.

Anyway, the plot in this one is interesting, as it sees the Xiliens bring two Earth astronauts to their planet in an effort to get them to agree to let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan due to King Ghidorah being a major nuisance. It’s all a trap, however, as the aliens take control of Godzilla and Rodan and force them, along with Ghidorah, to attack Earth, leaving it defenseless. I guess King Kong, Mothra and Anguirus were taking naps on Monster Island.

Despite its hokiness, I really like the set designs and costumes in this chapter. Everything just looks really unique and seeing just one frame of this film lets avid Godzilla fans know which movie it is. Especially, in regards to any scenes involving Planet X or its people.

The special effects are great and consistent with the other films where Eiji Tsuburaya handled them.

All in all, this is just another really fun chapter in the franchise during its greatest run.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

 

Film Review: Jail Bait (1954)

Also known as: Hidden Face (alternative title)
Release Date: May 12th, 1954
Directed by: Ed Wood
Written by: Alex Gordon, Ed Wood
Music by: Hoyt Curtin (as Hoyt Kurtain)
Cast: Timothy Farrell, Dolores Fuller, Clancy Malone, Herbert Rawlinson, Steve Reeves, Lyle Talbot, Theodora Thurman, Bud Osborne, Conrad Brooks (uncredited), Ed Wood (voice, uncredited)

Howco Productions Inc., 71 Minutes

Review:

“Plastic surgery, at times, seems to me to be very, very complicated.” – Dr. Boris Gregor

While this isn’t as painfully dreadful as Glen or Glenda, it is still one of Ed Wood’s worst films.

Being a fan of the guy’s work, as bad as it typically is, as well as an avid film-noir buff, I couldn’t pass up seeing Ed Wood try to tackle the style. Granted, this is pretty much exactly what you would expect. However, it lacks the charm and spirit that is apparent in some of his better known cinematic duds.

The story is actually really similar to the blockbuster ’90s film Face/Off. It sees a criminal switch faces with someone else in an effort to avoid the authorities.

Granted, this came out more than 40 years earlier than Face/Off and the premise wasn’t believable in the ’90s, so the ’50s take on the gimmick is even wonkier.

The film, as should be expected, is terribly acted, terribly shot, poorly written and is littered with a dozen or so other problems.

The only actors of note are Ed Wood’s then girlfriend and frequent collaborator Dolores Fuller, his other friend and collaborator Conrad Brooks, as well as future Hercules Steve Reeves.

The movie is noir at its core but it dabbles into areas where Wood was more comfortable like science fiction, horror and exploitation. This was heavily inspired by the TV cop shows like Dragnet but it hardly even lives up to the worst episodes of ’50s cop dramas.

Still, it’s hard to truly hate on an Ed Wood film, as the guy truly believed in himself and tried his damnedest to become a serious filmmaker.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other Ed Wood films or low budget crime pictures of the ’50s.

Film Review: 48 Hrs. (1982)

Also known as: Forty Eight Hours, 48 Hours (alternative spellings)
Release Date: December 8th, 1982
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole, James Remar, Sonny Landham, David Patrick Kelly, Brion James, Frank McRae, Kerry Sherman, Jonathan Banks, Margot Rose, Denise Crosby, Peter Jason

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What are you smiling at, watermelon? Your big move just turned out to be shit.” – Jack

Being a fan of Walter Hill’s work, especially The Warriors and Streets of Fire, I figured that I should revisit 48 Hrs. as I like it a lot but haven’t watched it as regularly as those other two films.

This is the movie that made Eddie Murphy’s career and led to him getting his best gig, the lead in the Beverly Hills Cop film series. This is also one of Nick Nolte’s most memorable performances and the two men had some great chemistry in this and its sequel.

The film is a pretty balls out action flick with a good amount of comedy, courtesy of Murphy, but it also has the hard, gritty edge that Hill’s movies were known for.

On top of that, this also brings back a few of the actors from Hill’s The Warriors: James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, as well as Sonny Landham, who had a minor role in that previous film. This also features a brief scene featuring Marcelino Sánchez as a parking lot attendant. He previously played Rembrandt, a member of the Warriors gang.

One thing I forgot about this movie, as I hadn’t seen it in over a decade, was the strong racial undertones. I kind of remember some of it being there, like the scene with Murphy in the redneck bar, but I guess I had forgotten that Nolte’s Jack was a bigoted asshole in the first two acts of the film. The way it’s done in this film works and it certainly reflects the time but man, it would not fly today. But neither would shows like All In the Family, The Jeffersons or Good Times: all of which examined these issues within a comedic framework.

The thing that truly stands out in this film is the action. Those sequences are all really good and they’re pretty harsh in a way that makes the proceedings of this film feel more realistic and dangerous than Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop pictures. These scenes are also made better by just how good James Remar is as a total piece of violent shit. Sonny Landham is enjoyable to watch here too, as he plays a character that is just as tough but at the other end of the moral spectrum from his most famous role as Billy in the original Predator.

All in all, it was a pleasure to revisit this movie. It’s a solid film from top to bottom with great leads, good pacing and a real charm that is brought to life by Murphy and Nolte.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon movies.