Film Review: Godzilla (1954)

Also known as: Gojira (original Japanes title), Godzilla: King of Monsters! (US version)
Release Date: November 3rd, 1954 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shigeru Kayama, Takeo Murata, Ishirō Honda
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Kenji Sahara, Raymond Burr (US version)

Toho, 96 Minutes (original), 80 Minutes (US version)

Review:

“I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.” – Kyohei Yamane-hakase

There are two different versions of this film: the original Japanese version, which was released to theaters in 1954, as well as the English language American version from 1956 that featured new scenes starring Raymond Burr.

This is primarily a review of the original Japanese version of the film, as it is the superior version, in my opinion. Also, the American version loses some of the context and political themes within the picture.

Out of all the Godzilla movies ever made, there are now over thirty, this one is still the best of the lot. It’s just got such a dark and brooding nature that the tone is vastly different than the more kid friendly entries that would follow it. And I’m not saying that I don’t love kid friendly Godzilla, because that’s the Godzilla I fell in love with, but this is a film that had a deeper and more meaningful purpose than just counting kaiju sized piles of cash.

Godzilla makes a very bold statement, a statement that can still be felt today and it is still very relevant.

For those who might not know, Godzilla was created as a commentary on the horrors of nuclear bombs and their side effects. Coming out less than a decade after Japan was bombed by the United States to end World War II, the Japanese were certainly justified in making an artistic condemnation of nuclear technology. Plus, mass destruction was something that everyone in Japan had already lived through and it was still very fresh in their memories.

While the film gives us mass destruction in a different way, Godzilla, the monster, is unleashed on Japan due to the use of nuclear bombs and his rampage throughout the film is just as catastrophic. But at least with the monster in the movie, the Japanese people were able to find a way to defend themselves and bring the horror to an end on their own terms. That’s not to say that another Godzilla doesn’t show up later but within this movie, Japan perseveres, even if it comes at a great cost.

The special effects in this are dynamite, especially considering that this came out in 1954 and was made by a country that didn’t have the resources of a big budget American studio. Eiji Tsuburaya was the man behind the effects and his work here created a whole new genre, which would make his career, as he would go on to do many kaiju films for Toho, as well as creating his own studio, Tsuburaya Productions. Tsuburaya would later create the Ultraman franchise and other famous franchises beloved by the Japanese and fans of kaiju and tokusatsu films and television.

This was director Ishirō Honda’s big break and doing this film would pave the way for the rest of his career, as well. He ended up directing a ton of Godzilla movies, as well as other kaiju and tokusatsu pictures for Toho. In fact, he was pretty much the godfather of the two, overlapping genres.

Godzilla is a chilling film. The monster is truly a monster, which fans of the later films might be shocked by. It is this film that had the greatest impact on moviegoers upon its release, however, and it is why every single Godzilla reboot goes back to this well and presents the title character as a true harbinger of doom.

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

Film Review: Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

Also known as: Q (original title), Serpent, The Winged Serpent (working titles), American Monster (Germany)
Release Date: September 8th, 1982 (France)
Directed by: Larry Cohen
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Robert O. Ragland
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree

United Film Distribution, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Stick it in your brain. Your tiny little brain!” – Jimmy Quinn

This was originally added to the lineup for the first season of Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In on Shudder. However, it was bumped up in the lineup after the passing of Larry Cohen, the man behind this film, as well as so many other great pictures from a multitude of genres but mostly all fitting under the exploitation, grindhouse or horror umbrellas.

Larry Cohen was one of those guys that video store junkies fell in love with. Me, being a video store junkie, saw most of his films multiple times. But strangely, this is one picture that had eluded me until now. Which is made even stranger due to my love of giant monster movies.

What’s unique about this film is that it was filmed on location in the real Chrysler Building. Cohen went into areas of the building he wasn’t supposed to go but he shot this almost guerilla style while the building’s security weren’t paying enough attention. He went into attics, had actors hanging out of holes in the top and even had them firing off rounds, as shotgun shells rained all over pedestrians on the street 77 stories below.

Unfortunately, the story of this film being made is more exciting than the movie itself. I still like the picture but it’s very slow moving and pretty dry. It’s real saving grace is Michael Moriarty, who Cohen also used in his cult classic The Stuff. Moriarty gives such a powerful, over the top and charismatic performance that I don’t know how the heat he brought to the set didn’t melt the damn celluloid. And that’s not an overstatement. He brought the fire and man, he owns absolutely every scene that he’s in.

The film also stars two greats: David Carradine and Richard Roundtree. But even their natural charisma pales in comparison to Moriarty’s.

I liked the monster part of the story but I think that the monster really just comes off as a very generic winged serpent. I felt like Cohen could have come up with something more creative in the creature’s overall design. But really, it still works and this was a film on a scant budget, which was Cohen’s modus operandi.

In the end, this is an entertaining picture if you are familiar with Cohen’s work and have become a fan of it. Plus, if you love giant monster movies, here’s one more to add to your kaiju spank bank.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Godzilla 1985, The Stuff and It’s Alive.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias

Published: July 4th, 2012 – March 13th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: John Higgins, Jae Lee
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I have been loving this Before Watchmen series. I previously read the Comedian and Rorschach stories, so this one is my third installment.

Out of the three I have read, this is my least favorite. But it’s still damn good and really captures the spirit of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s original Watchmen series. All the ones I’ve read thus far have also been written by top notch writers, however.

This volume really works well for the Ozymandias character. Len Wein understands him, his motivations and does a fine job of painting a vivid picture of what made Ozymandias into the man he became, a true villain but one with noble intentions willing to cross the line in order to mold the world into what he perceives as something better.

John Higgins does some of the art and his work in other Before Watchmen books has been great. The bulk of the art here is done by the great Jae Lee, though. Lee is a guy that never gets the credit and props he deserves, in my opinion, and he did such a fine job with the art here that this is one of my favorite pieces of work he’s created.

This story also sees other Watchmen characters show up, where the Comedian and Rorschach volumes mostly just focused solely on them. Here, we see Ozymandias’ first encounters with the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl. We even get a very brief Rorschach cameo.

Overall, this was a really good read and it just increased my interest in the expanded Watchmen universe. Something I wasn’t too keen on when first hearing about it but have started to accept and have surprisingly enjoyed. But I give credit to the fact that DC Comics put their best people on these stories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Film Review: Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018)

Also known as: Gojira: Hoshi Wo Kû Mono (original Japanese title), Godzilla Part 3: The Planet Eater (full title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2018 (TIFF)
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuki Kaji

Toho, 90 Minutes

Review:

Well, I wasn’t too keen on the first two chapters in the Godzilla anime trilogy but I watched those pictures, so I thought I should watch the finale in an effort to see if this brought all of the movies together in a meaningful way.

Sadly, this was pretty much as dull as the other two.

I still can’t get behind the animation and how it is a mish mash of traditional hand drawn animation and CGI. The mix of the two never works for me. I get why they do this but it just makes a project feel rushed and cheap. Sure, the CGI is of good quality but it is still cheaper than having skilled animators draw out every frame of the more ambitious action sequences.

Also, maybe they had to rush this because they thought people would lose interest if it took Toho ten years to put out a solid hand drawn trilogy. But with that being said, people can’t lose interest in something if the first release doesn’t generate any interest to begin with.

I’m not saying that these films don’t have their fans, they do. What I’m saying is that they could have had more and these films could have been something exceptional with the time and care put into them.

Now having seen the complete body of work, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that this is just a superficial project used to capitalize off of an existing (and lucrative) IP that will just waste away on Netflix without much real fanfare. Other than having the distinction of being the first official Godzilla anime in history, this is pretty damn forgettable.

I’m a massive Godzilla fan. I love old school tokusatsu and kaiju franchises pretty immensely. But I don’t think that I’ll ever have the urge to revisit any of these ever again.

But I also can’t ignore the skill and craftsmanship that went into this, even if it wasn’t created in the way that I would have preferred.

Also, the villain monster was pretty cool and creative but that doesn’t carry the film.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of this trilogy, as well as Netflix’s Knights of Sedonia.

Comic Review: Jawbreakers – Lost Souls

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Jon Malin, Brett R. Smith, Eric Weathers, Simon Bennett (Book One), Kelsey Shannon (Book Two), Ethan Van Sciver (cover), Kyle Ritter (cover)

Splatto Comics, 120 Pages

Review:

Well, after a very long wait, Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers – Lost Souls has finally arrived. It took awhile to come out but Meyer has kept people clued in every step of the way due to all the roadblocks and challenges that popped up during this comic’s creation to it finally getting in the consumers’ hands.

I’m glad that I finally got it, as I’ve wanted to review it for a long time.

Full disclosure, I’m not a Comicsgater but I get lumped into that label by people who don’t like those of us who question things or criticize the comic book industry. Also, when I reviewed Meyer’s Iron Sights, I upset a lot of those who lean in a direction opposite of Meyer and most of his supporters. But I liked Iron Sights, despite its issues, and gave that one a 6.75 out of 10.

That being said, Jawbreakers is a step up from Iron Sights but I still have some issues with it, overall.

For the most part, the art in the Lost Souls story is pretty good. Jon Malin is talented but I’m not always a fan of his characters. Everything looks very sleek and his characters seem a bit slender and elongated in certain poses. Still, he’s much better than the average bear and he’s only getting better with more high profile projects under his belt. I’m pretty excited about his Graveyard Shift comic, which are now hitting mailboxes.

Brett R. Smith’s colors are absolutely fantastic though. I also love the cover by Ethan Van Sciver and Kyle Ritter.

This release also features two “remastered” versions of older Jawbreakers stories. One is drawn by Simon Bennett while the other is done by Kelsey Shannon, who also did the Iron Sights cover. These two additions to this release don’t look as good as Malin’s work. Bennett’s parts need more refinement. Shannon’s are better but I’m not a huge fan of the style he uses here and it’s not as polished as his Iron Sights cover, which was actually stunning.

I thought the story was decent, as it is similar to a G.I. Joe story with a kaiju thrown in. I love both of those things, so mixing them is a cool idea. However, this isn’t G.I. Joe. I’d say it’s better than what IDW Publishing has done with the actual G.I. Joe franchise in the years since Chuck Dixon stopped writing it but this feels a bit thin.

If I’m being honest, I need to know something about the characters’ backstories. Here they are thrown into a situation and you just go along for the ride. Meyer needs to develop these characters a bit more but since he has plans to use these characters in the future, maybe we’ll get to know them better. Right now, they feel like generic placeholders or those G.I. Joes that would pop up into a story because they had an action figure but they weren’t popular enough to get more than a minor cameo.

This might sound harsh and I don’t mean it to be but G.I. Joe had a lot of toy companies that knocked them off with toylines like The Corps! and X-Troop. Right now, this feels more like The Corps! than G.I. Joe. It is kind of generic but again, that’s probably because these characters need more depth. I need to care about them and I don’t just off of this story.

I do like that this just gets to the action and it’s pretty much balls to the wall from start to finish. But over time, we’ll need more than that. I can excuse the lack of depth being that this is, right now, a one-off action story.

Jawbreakers is a good start to something but it will take some time to turn it into a brand. The problem with that though, is that crowdfunded comics take a long time to create and distribute. This is one of my criticisms of doing comics this way when I’ve lived in a world where my favorite heroes and teams hit my pull box on a monthly basis. It is much easier finding yourself invested in characters and stories that come out with some regularity. I don’t know if crowdfunded comic franchises in the making can succeed in that way. Plus, people lose interest in things when there’s a long wait.

But for now, I did enjoy this. I certainly don’t have any sort of buyer’s remorse. This was a cool experiment and the end product mostly delivers.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Richard C. Meyer’s Iron Sights.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 2: Rise of V.E.N.O.M.

Published: December 13th, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton, David A. Rodriguez
Art by: Andrew Griffith, Drew Moss, Juan Samu
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 162 Pages

Review:

I really wanted this comic to be good, as I was a huge fan of the toyline when I was a young boy in the ’80s.

There are a few reasons as to why this just doesn’t cut the mustard but the biggest is that it doesn’t know what the hell it needs to be. This is the second and final volume in IDW’s run on the M.A.S.K. property but it sacrifices the property itself by wedging in G.I. Joe and Transformers characters, essentially being a crossover with those other Hasbro franchises.

And when it isn’t focused on other franchises, it just keeps giving us origin stories and nothing with any real meat to it. There is nothing here to make me care about M.A.S.K. on its own.

I feel as if IDW didn’t have any faith in M.A.S.K. and tried to draw more attention to it by throwing these characters into a G.I. Joe and Transformers story. It reminds me of when Marvel would have a new or struggling comic book in the ’90s so they had to throw Spider-Man in it and on the cover in an effort to generate more sales. It isn’t a tactic that worked a quarter of a century ago and it doesn’t work now.

The writing is a mess, the story is all over the place and then the art isn’t very good either. There just isn’t much here worth giving a crap about.

M.A.S.K. vs. G.I. Joe vs. Transformers story could be great but M.A.S.K. needs to swim on its own first.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Film Review: Legend of Dinosaurs & Monster Birds (1977)

Also known as: Kyōryū Kaichō no Densetsu, lit. Legend of Dinosaurs and Ominous Birds (Japan), The Legend of Dinosaurs (US alternate title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1977 (Japan)
Directed by: Junji Kurata
Written by: Masaru Igami, Isao Matsumoto, Ichirô Ôtsu
Music by: Masao Yagi
Cast: Tsunehiko Watase, Nobiko Sawa, Shotaro Hayashi

Toei Company, 94 Minutes

Review:

The trailer for this Toei picture is actually infinitely better looking than the film itself. Yes, the scenes from the trailer are in the film but the movie lacks energy and excitement and the action just seems pretty minuscule. Basically, this is a really boring movie and I’m a guy that loves kaiju and tokusatsu films.

While I have watched a lot of Toei pictures, this one eluded me until I found it at the end of the original first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was never brought back for the show’s nationally televised run unlike several of their first season features.

Considering the era in which this film was made, it was greatly inspired by Jaws and the Hollywood trend of having giant animals attack humans. Being that this is Japanese though, the animals here are much more fantastical than their more plausible American counterparts. This really is just a standard kaiju movie but one with generic looking monsters that lack the personality of Toho or Daiei’s more famous creatures.

This never got a theatrical release in the United States but it did appear on television in 1987 with a terrible dub track. In all honesty, the atrocious dubbing really hurts the picture and is probably a major reason as to why this plays so poorly. There isn’t a subtitled version of this that I have been able to track down.

If you like this style of film, there are so many that are much better. If you’re a kaiju completist though, you should probably check this out. I doubt it will wow you but at least you can check it off of your list.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Toei’s other kaiju and tokustatu stuff, as well as lower budget, more generic kaiju pictures that don’t feature famous monsters.