Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela)
Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief
Based on: Silent Hill by Konami
Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland

Silent Hill DCP Inc., Davis-Films, TriStar Pictures, 125 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Special Edition Blu-ray, Canada only)

Review:

“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa

When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.

The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.

In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.

I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.

Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.

The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.

I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.

My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.

However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.

Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.

Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.

The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.

Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.

I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.

The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.

Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Film Review: Malcolm X (1992)

Also known as: X (poster title)
Release Date: November 18th, 1992
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Arnold Perl, Spike Lee
Based on: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Music by: Terence Blanchard
Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Christopher Plummer, Lonette McKee, Giancarlo Esposito, Wendell Pierce, Roger Guenveur Smith, Debi Mazar, Karen Allen, Peter Boyle, David Patrick Kelly, Mary Alice, Nicholas Turturro, Michael Imperioli, John David Washington, Ossie Davis

Largo International, JVC Entertainment Networks, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Warner Bros., 202 Minutes

Review:

“[Witnessing Malcolm’s control over a mob] That’s too much power for one man to have.” – Captain Green

Every great director has their magnum opus and this is Spike Lee’s.

Malcolm X is pretty perfect from top-to-bottom and for a film that is nearly three and a half hours, it mostly moves at a really good pace. I thought that the first act was too drawn out but it takes up less than an hour of running time and the film really finds its groove once Malcolm goes to prison and first encounters the lessons and ideas around The Nation of Islam.

From that point forward, this is a truly exceptional motion picture that is bolstered by the legendary performance of Denzel Washington. In fact, despite him winning the Academy Award for Training Day, I would say that this is the best performance of his career.

Beyond Washington, everyone else in this film is superb from the smallest parts to the largest. There really isn’t a weak link in the entire cast and Lee did a phenomenal job in picking who he did for each role.

This also boasts the best cinematography out of all of Spike Lee’s movies. Sure, he has a stupendous eye and employs wonderful visuals in every film but this felt so genuine and rich. It was like a true time capsule back to the 1940s through 1960s and nothing about it felt staged or inauthentic.

Having read the book, years ago, I’ve always seen this as the most perfect interpretation of it. In fact, if anyone were to try and attempt a Malcolm X biopic in the future, I don’t know how they could really make anything better or even as close to great as this is. As far as I know, it’s never been attempted and frankly, it shouldn’t be.

Watching this, it was hard not having my mind try to compare the incidents and the social climate in the 1960s to today. A lot of people love quoting Malcom X and for good reason. However, I think that a lot of people who cite him don’t fully grasp the context and cherry pick what fits their narrative. I think it’s important to understand the man’s full journey and to see what he went through, what he learned and how he applied all of that to his actions and his message.

Unfortunately, Malcolm was gunned down in the prime of his life and we never got to see how he would’ve continue to evolve and how he would’ve worked together with other black leaders and leaders of all races in the following decades.

Malcolm’s death was an absolute tragedy but his life is certainly worth knowing and celebrating. With that, this film is really special in how it captured the man, his personal struggles and growth. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington made a biographical picture that is as good as they get.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Spike Lee’s other films of the late ’80s and into the ’90s.

Film Review: A Colt Is My Passport (1967)

Release Date: February 4th, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Takashi Nomura
Written by: Shūichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada
Based on: a novel by Shinji Fujiwara
Music by: Harumi Ibe
Cast: Joe Shishido, Jerry Fujio, Chitose Kobayashi, Ryōtarō Sugi

Nikkatsu, 84 Minutes

Review:

Japan really made some visually stellar and interesting motion pictures in the 1960s. This one takes its inspiration from classic film noir, French New Wave and the spaghetti westerns of its time.

In fact, despite being a simple Yakuza crime flick, this has a score very similar to the ones you’d hear in Sergio Leone’s western movies.

Beyond that, this feels similar to Seijun Suzuki’s crime movies from the same decade. Although, this one is less stylized and surreal.

Director Takashi Nomura’s work here is incredible and since I’ve never seen any of his work before this, I kind of want to check out what else he’s done based off of how enjoyable, artistic and technically savvy this film is.

It’s also pretty well acted from top-to-bottom and features characters you’ll like and despise.

One thing that really stands out about this movie is the energy of it. The big finale is absolutely incredible and way ahead of its time in how it was shot, executed and presented.

Additionally, the cinematography is beautiful and it truly embraces the best parts of the classic film-noir aesthetic with a high contrast visual style and the clever use of shadow and light.

While I hold the Seijun Suzuki and Akira Kurosawa Yakuza films in very high regard, this lesser known film by the uber talented Takashi Nomura deserves to be in the same circle as those other amazing and game changing pictures.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other neo-noir styled Yakuza movies, such as some of the ’60s films of Seijun Suzuki.

Film Review: Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Also known as: Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira: Tôkyô S.O.S. (original Japanese title), Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Battle for Tokyo (US complete title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2003 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Masaaki Tezuka
Written by: Masaaki Tezuka, Masahiro Yokotani
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Cast: Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Mitsuki Koga, Masami Nagasawa, Chihiro Otsuka, Kou Takasugi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Akira Nakao

Toho Co. Ltd., 91 Minutes

Review:

This is actually the last Godzilla film I had left to review. Sadly, it kind of sucks that I saved this one for last because it’s from the Millennium era and is kind of drab.

I think the big reason for this one not being that enjoyable is that it’s the umpteenth time we’ve seen Mothra and it’s about the sixth time we’ve had a version of Mechagodzilla.

Also, this picks up where the previous film left off but it’s more of the same and done about half as well.

I watched it just to complete my mission of reviewing every Godzilla film ever made. That mission is accomplished and I can rest now.

Honestly, though, this just reinforced my opinion on the Millennium era being the worst series of Japanese Godzilla movies.

It has the worst the effects, the worst soundtracks and plots that feel like they should’ve been thrown in the shredder.

This was hard to sit through and it just made me wish that I had closed out this kaiju-sized task by saving something from the Shōwa era for the grand finale.

I guess this era does have its fans but there are also people that think jenkem is a good time.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films of the Millennium era.

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.