Film Review: Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)

Also known as: Gojira X Mekagojira (original Japanese title), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 3 (alternative English title)
Release Date: November 2nd, 2002 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Masaaki Tezuka
Written by: Wataru Mimura
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Cast: Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma, Kou Takasugi, Yuusuke Tomoi, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Nakao

Toho Co. Ltd., 88 Minutes

Review:

“You gave me strength. So did the others. No life is worthless. I believe you now.” – Akane Yashiro

The Millennium Era of the Godzilla franchise is definitely my least favorite. However, the films aren’t bad, they’re just kind of meh, overall.

While people seem to really like this film’s direct predecessor, I actually liked this one a wee bit more. I think it had a lot to do with feeling less convoluted and not bogged down by so much fantastical mysticism.

This is just a sci-fi action flick with a giant beast and a giant robot. Even though the Mechagodzilla gimmick had already been done to death, by this point, this version of that type of story felt like it worked. I also love the redesigned version of the robot, now called Kiryu.

The plot also feels like it was lifted from an Ultraman series more than it feels like a rehash of previous Godzilla plots. Although, the duo of Mechagodzilla films from the Heisei Era had similar plot setups.

The reason I liken this to Ultraman is that it features a government task force that is fighting the kaiju threat. Instead of calling on Ultraman and various suped-up vehicles, the ace pilot in this story controls Mechagodzilla (or Kiryu).

The human elements of the story are pretty boring, though. The action scenes and monster battles are good, however.

But if I am being honest, this is almost completely forgettable in the grand kaiju-sized scheme of Godzilla things. Honestly, this whole era, other than the series’ finale, Final Wars, is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films of the Millennium era.

Film Review: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Also known as: Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijū Sōkōgeki (original Japanese title), GMK (abbreviated title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2001 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Keiichi Hasegawa, Masahiro Yokotani, Shusuke Kaneko
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Chiharu Niiyama, Ryudo Uzaki, Masahiro Kobayashi, Shiro Sano, Takashi Nishina, Kaho Minami, Shinya Owada, Kunio Murai, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Shingo Katsurayama, Takeo Nakahara, Toshikazu Fukawa, Hideyo Amamoto

Toho Co. Ltd., 105 Minutes, 89 Minutes (US TV version)

Review:

“[recalling his encounter as a child with Godzilla in 1954] The sky was blood red and filled with smoke. And through it a devil appeared, its face was twisted with rage and hatred. When it was over my parents were gone. I will never forget the wretched cries of the dead…” – Adm. Tachinaba

This is the one Godzilla film that many fans seem to love the most from the Millennium era. I disagree with that but it’s still okay and features some of the franchise’s most iconic monsters. Although, I don’t like how it sort of reinvents them.

Essentially, this is another reboot that ignores all of the films except for the 1954 original. It tried to introduce new concepts and play around with the mythos but it doesn’t work for me.

Honestly, my favorite thing about the picture is the inclusion of Baragon, a long-time favorite kaiju monster of mine but one that is rarely used and underappreciated.

Outside of the Baragon stuff, my brain starts to check out.

Sure, there’s kaiju action but this spends more time than necessary on human characters and new concepts than it does just trying to give us a massive kaiju battle royale. But I guess that’s why I like Final Wars so much, as it has the human element and story but it mainly features monsters fighting.

GMK is just boring to me, bogged down by too much fluff and experimentation. It loses sight of what a Godzilla movie should be and tries to take itself too seriously while also failing at that.

Maybe the more serious reinvention Shin Godzilla was so great because it was bare bones, simple and not overly complex.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla movies from the Millennium era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Also known as: Last Godzilla (India)
Release Date: December 9th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Kazuki Omori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Takuro Tatsumi, Yōko Ishino, Yasufumi Hayashi, Sayaka Osawa, Megumi Odaka, Masahiro Takashima, Momoko Kochi, Akira Nakao, Shigeru Kamiyama, Saburo Shinoda

Toho Co. Ltd., 103 Minutes

Review:

“There’s only one solution. We must kill him, the way we killed the first Godzilla.” – Kenichi Yamane

Well, this is the big finale to the Heisei era of the Toho Godzilla franchise.

Looking at the full series, I like that it had a pretty tight, cohesive narrative and cared about its own canon. The Millennium series would get all wibbly, wobbly and weird but the Heisei era is the best period of Godzilla films, if you want to actually feel like you’re watching a series where each film builds off of the ones before it.

Sure, the Showa era did this too but it was really lax on being strict with the details and kind of just relied on throwing more and more monsters together over actual storytelling and trying to work towards making a bigger arc for the title character and some of the other reoccurring characters.

That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy the Heisei films on their own, you certainly can, but it feels more rewarding when watching them in order and seeing how things develop from The Return of Godzilla to this film, eleven years later.

It also features Burning Godzilla, one of the coolest forms the famous monster has ever taken, as he glows from the nuclear fire from within because he exists as a living time bomb on the verge of bringing nuclear meltdown to anything and everything around him.

Being that Godzilla has to face Destoroyah, hands down one of his toughest foes, the timing for his added nuclear power couldn’t have been better. Still, his fight in this would be one of the most brutal he’s ever faced but it just adds to the epic-ness of the whole encounter and frankly, this was one of the best finales in the entire franchise.

In a lot of ways, this is the perfect ending to the Heisei series, as well as a great send off for what was established in the original 1954 movie, which also exists in this canon, as 1984’s The Return of Godzilla was a reboot that started as an alternate version of a second film, as opposed to being a reboot of the original.

This film’s biggest nod to the ’54 film is in how it brings back that film’s superweapon, The Oxygen Destroyer. And it is the use of that weapon that created this film’s new monster.

All in all, this is just a solid ’90s era Godzilla flick and it’s one of the better ones in the entire franchise.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Godzilla films of the Heisei era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Release Date: December 10th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Kensho Yamashita
Written by: Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Megumi Odaka, Jun Hashizume, Zenkichi Yoneyama, Akira Emoto, Towako Yoshikawa, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Godzilla! I still have something to settle with you!” – Lt. Kiyoshi Sato

This was the second to last of the Heisei era Godzilla films and while they tried to up the ante and get really creative, it falls just short of the film before it: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

The story picks up the plot threads about Godzilla Junior and the psychic chick from the previous movie. However, it mainly focuses on the arrival of SpaceGodzilla, who basically looks like a larger Godzilla with giant crystals protruding from its body. The creature’s origin isn’t clear in the film but it’s been theorized that he was born from Godzilla’s cells that ended up in the cosmos by either Mothra or Biollante’s spores. It’s believed that the cells were mixed with black hole radiation.

Anyway, the film also features the return of Moguera to the big screen. While this giant robot was never used in a Godzilla film before, it first appeared in Toho’s 1957 film The Mysterians. Moguera had then been used in other Godzilla related media. In the US, the giant robot is probably most recognized as an early boss in the original Nintendo Godzilla game.

In this film, Moguera, now spelled M.O.G.U.E.R.A. is created from the left over tech and armor that was salvaged from Mechagodzilla after its defeat in the previous movie. Since Mechagodzilla was created from left over parts of Mecha-King Ghidorah, it ties all these films together. And frankly, I like that Toho was really trying to keep a tight continuity in this era unlike the Millennium era that followed a few years later.

For the most part, the movie is engaging and enjoyable and it fits well within this series. My only real complaint about it is that the effects feel like they’re a step down from the previous few films. Maybe it’s due to the weird environment changes, like seeing the kaiju battle in a city populated with giant crystals and smoke, as opposed to detailed metropolitan miniatures but it does feel like SpaceGodzilla was created just to find a way to cut the budget in regards to effects.

Also, the Godzilla Junior suit is hokey as hell after it looked really good in the previous chapter.

In the end, though, I really like the baddie and seeing Moguera officially enter Godzilla cinematic canon was cool. But really, this is just more of the same when compared to the rest of the Heisei pictures.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Super-Mechagodzilla (alternative English title)
Release Date: December 11th, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Wataru Mimura
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Masahiro Takashima, Ryoko Sano, Megumi Odaka, Yusuke Kawazu, Daijiro Harada, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“The year is 1992 A.D… In order to try to counter the threat posed to the planet’s survival by Godzilla, Japan’s Counter-G Bureau recruited the most brilliant scientific brains in the world to build a fighting machine. The first machine was called Garuda, but its fighting capabilities were limited. A far more powerful machine was required. They salvaged a robot from the future, Mecha-King Ghidorah, in order to study its advanced technology. Its components were used to build a weapon to fight Godzilla. They called it Mechagodzilla.” – Narrator

I never disliked the Heisei era of Godzilla, although it’s never really hit the mark for me like the Showa stuff has. Although, revisiting these movies has been a fun experience and I think that their legacy has grown on me more over the years, as this film and the ones before it, were really exciting and really took this often times hokey franchise and made them edgier and darker without sacrificing the soul of the series.

These movies still feel like Godzilla movies in the best way but they feel a bit more grown up in how they don’t present the title character as a friendly monster looking out for Japan. They tap more into the sentiment of the original 1954 picture and keep him as a threat, even though he isn’t as bad as some of the more dangerous and deadly Heisei era kaiju.

In this tale, we see the Japanese government use the future tech left over from the defeated Mecha-King Ghidorah to create their own super powered, heavily armored defense kaiju: Mechagodzilla. I liked this approach to this era’s creation of the iconic monster and that it was cooler than just having Mechagodzilla being the superweapon of a hostile alien race. I also like that Kenji Sahara, a Toho legend, got to be in the cockpit of the mecha-kaiju.

This chapter in the Heisei universe also gives us its version of Rodan. I really love Rodan in this and not just because he’s one of my favorite monsters but because they make him so much more badass and dangerous. It also adds in an extra element, as this isn’t simply a Godzilla versus Mechahgodzilla film. It has more layers than that and the monsters and their own stories are well-balanced and come together wonderfully.

That being said, I actually got mad at how brutal Rodan’s defeat was. But it was effective in showing how powerful and dangerous that this version of Mechagodzilla is before the final showdown. And from the Mechagodzilla vs. Rodan fight to the Mechagodzilla vs. Godzilla finale, the last half hour or so of this movie was superb and featured some of the best kaiju footage of the entire film series.

We also get the introduction of Godzilla Junior, here, which thankfully, wasn’t a modernization of the Minya character. Instead, this monster was human-sized and had the general look of Godzilla, as opposed to resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy after a bad kitchen fire. Godzilla Junior would go on to be more important to the film series, as it rolled out its final two movies after this one.

All in all, this is a pretty awesome Godzilla flick with everything you’d probably want from one. Great action, decent acting, great effects for its time and it still has that Toho magic.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.

Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

Release Date: October 7th, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: James Marsh
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Based on: Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Stephen Hawking (computerized voice)

Working Title Films, Dentsu Motion Pictures, Fuji Television Network, 123 Minutes

Review:

“I have loved you.” – Jane Hawking

I really wanted to see this in the theater back when it came out. I missed it but then I had it in my queue on one of the streaming services where it eventually disappeared and then fell down my memory hole. But it popped back up on something recently, so I decided to give it a watch before the opportunity passed me by again.

I’ve always been a fan of Stephen Hawking and I read A Brief History of Time back when I was in middle school and probably not fully able to grasp it. However, I’ve read it multiple times since and he’s been one of my favorite science writers alongside Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene and Michio Kaku.

The film is adapted from Jane Hawking’s book about her life alongside Stephen. While they were married and she was by his side for years, things eventually dissolved but they remained close, trusted friends despite their marriage ending and both finding love in other people.

Honestly, this is a pretty beautiful story, even if it is romanticized for a film. But it does a good job of showing how love can evolve and change over time, as people grow through life and sometimes grow apart. And sometimes one type of love can turn into a different type. I really like how this film expresses these hard truths, shows us the pain of both characters at different points but allows you to remain hopeful, as neither are bad people, they just evolve into different people with different needs. And that doesn’t mean that they have to hate one another, they can continue to love each other even after letting one another go. It’s truly sad but there is a real positive lesson and worldview within that.

The acting in this film is absolutely incredible and I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, here. Everyone in this film brought their A-game and the performances greatly enhance the end result and made this somewhat exceptional in how it handled the emotionally difficult material. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were especially great and it’s hard to not love both of them.

In stories about love dissolving and changing, it’s really hard not to paint someone as the bad guy. In that regard, this film succeeds in making you care equally for both people and what it is that each one needs.

Apart from that, this film was good in every technical area. It’s well shot, perfectly edited and paced and boasts some incredible cinematography. The score was also quite great.

Overall, I like this movie a lot. I don’t consider it a classic or anything but it achieved what it set out to do and probably exceeded it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent biographical dramas.

Film Review: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Also known as: Tetsuo (original title), The Ironman (alternative English title)
Release Date: June, 1989 (Italy – Fantafestival)
Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Music by: Chu Ishikawa
Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto

Japan Home Video, K2 Spirit, Kaijyu Theater, 67 Minutes (cut down version), 69 Minutes, 77 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“Together, we can turn this fucking world to rust!” – Metals Fetishist

While there are some things I appreciate about this film, I actually hate it quite a bit.

It’s an absolute clusterfuck and while that’s what it set out to be, that doesn’t mean that putting the idea on celluloid is a good one.

This film looks like an industrial band’s music video from the late ’80s. And I’m not talking about a good industrial band on a major label, I’m talking about an unsigned band of college kids that have little to no talent that “borrowed” some film equipment for the weekend.

In fact, my only real experience in seeing any part of this film was when clips would be playing on screens in goth clubs in the late ’90s and early ’00s. In that setting with goth rock and industrial blaring through the club, it worked. As a film, not so much and in fact, not at all.

The only thing in this film I can really give props to is some of the special effects. While they’re not mind blowing by any stretch of the imagination, they are at least effective. The drill penis is a scary appendage no matter what side of it you’re on.

Apart from that, this is a shrill, spastic and seizure inducing fever dream. It’s really hard to watch and to digest, as none of it makes a lick of sense and it’s insane just for the hell of it because, you know… it’s fuckin’ art, maaan…

This is pretentious crap that gives films like Eraserhead some actual merit because at least there was something competent in that picture that allowed its director to grow into something better and more refined. Granted, I can’t say whether or not Shinya Tsukamoto actually got better, as I have no urge to delve deeper into his oeuvre after this unwatchable skull fuck.

If you have ever wanted to stare straight into the twitching eye of insanity while loaded up on a cocktail of uppers and hallucinogenics, than this might be your movie. But if it is, stay the fuck away from me, please.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: industrial music videos by bands that never got signed, as well as Japanese surrealist gore flicks.

Film Review: Lily C.A.T. (1987)

Also known as: LILY-C.A.T. (Japanese title)
Release Date: September 1st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hisayuki Toriumi
Written by: Hisayuki Toriumi
Music by: Akira Inoue

Victor Musical Industries, Studio Pierrot, Streamline Pictures, Discotek Media, 70 Minutes

Review:

“The wall – it ate the cat!” – Dülar Delcassé

Lily C.A.T. is a mostly forgettable anime OVA from the late ’80s but I still kind of like it. Sure, it’s a blatant ripoff of both Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing but that doesn’t make it a crappy film.

Quite the contrary, actually, as these two concepts work well together and shown through the anime medium, they work tremendously well. Really, this film is a visual feast, especially for fans of the ’80s anime style and anime horror.

But I have to call a spade a spade and this is really derivative and uninspiring beyond just the sweet visuals.

I like the story but I also already liked it when I saw it in the films it takes its plot from. There are certain points in the plot that are original but it does feel like most of the characters are basic archetypes. That makes it easy to follow, I guess, but it also makes it really predictable on top of how cookie cutter it already is, plot-wise.

I can’t really recommend this unless you like ’80s anime, sci-fi horror and a bit of the cyberpunk aesthetic thrown in.

Like I said, this is mostly forgettable but at least it’s fun, energetic, a bit badass and kind of cool despite its lack of originality. Plus, it’s a pretty short flick.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the two live-action movies it borrows heavily from Alien and The Thing, as well as other ’80s sci-fi and cyberpunk anime.

Film Review: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara
Music by: Vince DiCola
Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill

Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime

I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.

Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.

I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.

However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.

For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.

Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.

The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.

Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.

That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.

Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.