Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchû: Ôgon no me (original Japanese title), Booted Babe, Busted Boss, Ironfinger Strikes Back (alternative titles) Release Date: March 16th, 1968 (Japan) Directed by: Jun Fukuda Written by: Jun Fukuda, Ei Ogawa, Michio Tsuzuki Music by: Masaru Sato Cast: Akira Takarada, Beverly Maeda, Tomomi Sawa, Andrew Hughes, Makoto Sato, Yoshio Tsuchiya
Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes
Since I thought Jun Fukuda’s Ironfinger was a pretty solid spy comedy, I wanted to give its sequel a watch, as well.
Fukuda is mostly known, at least in the States, for being one of the two most prominent directors of classic Godzilla pictures. While he doesn’t seem to be held in the same regard as Ishiro Honda, I always saw the two directors as fairly equal. Honda, however, did more of the earlier Godzilla films, where Fukuda did more of the later ones, which some fans like less due to them becoming more and more kid friendly as the franchise rolled on.
Fukuda did lots of other pictures over his career, though, especially for Toho, who loved pumping out quick sci-fi/tokusatsu fare. But between those movies, Toho also had Fukuda do these cool, ’60s spy flicks.
It’s obvious that these films are inspired by the James Bond movies of the era, as well as other spy flicks. At the time, there were many spy comedies like this, which sort of parody the genre but don’t completely deconstruct it like the Austin Powers movies would do later on.
This one pretty much follows the beats and tone of its predecessor but I didn’t enjoy it as much. There are some insanely goofy moments and some of the more over-the-top antics felt like they were too hammy.
For instance, there’s a gunfight scene where the heroes throw two assault rifles closer to the baddies and then shoot the rifles with their own guns, lifting them into the air from bullet ricochets where they fire and kill the villains. It’s f’n ridiculous and while it’s funny, it’s a “jump the shark” moment that happens pretty early into the film.
Still, I did enjoy Akira Takarada in this, as the spy hero. He’s just a good, fun actor and he was in dozens of Toho pictures and also worked with Jun Fukuda quite a bit.
Now I did miss Mie Hama in this one but since these movies are essentially ripping off James Bond, we can’t have the same chick in both films.
In the end, this isn’t as good as Ironfinger but it’s still cool and enjoyable if you like ’60s spy comedies.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: its predecessor, Ironfinger, as well as other ’60s spy comedies.
Also known as: Ganheddo (original Japanese title), Robot War (Germany), Killer Tank (Philippines) Release Date: July 22nd, 1989 (Japan) Directed by: Masato Harada Written by: Masato Harada, James Bannon Music by: Toshiyuki Honda Cast: Masahiro Takashima, Brenda Bakke, Yujin Harada, Kaori Mizushima
3D, Bandai Entertainment Inc., Graphical Corporation Crowd Inc., Nippon Sunrise, Kadokawa, Imagica, Toho Co. Ltd., 100 Minutes
Gunhed is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch since first seeing a trailer for it on a VHS tape I rented in the early ’90s. None of my local video stores ended up getting a copy and once I got a job at one of those stores, I wasn’t able to order it because, by then, it was out of print.
It also never saw print in the US after that, as far as I know. I would’ve bought it on DVD but I never came across one.
However, I finally stumbled across this streaming on an old movie archive site. So without hesitation, I figured I should watch it while I had the opportunity because who knows how long it could last there before being pulled down.
Gunhed not only piqued my interest with its trailer about thirty years ago but I had heard James Cameron mention that it was a favorite movie of his. Being that he was once one of my favorite directors, especially in the era that this film came out in, made me want to check it out even more.
Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations but looking at it through rose-colored glasses for three decades probably didn’t do it any favors.
That being said, I did still like it and thought it was a cool flick with pretty solid special effects, considering the budget and the era in which it was made.
I mostly liked the characters but I was distracted by how bad the dubbing was in the version that I watched. Honestly, it might have not been perfectly synched due to it being uploaded in mediocre quality.
The film is also a bit slow, at times. However, the big action sequences do pay off and if you dig cyberpunk shit, you’ll probably enjoy the high points of this movie.
This was cool and interesting enough that it probably could’ve been adapted into a manga series or an anime film or show. Then again, there are already a lot of cyberpunk options in those mediums. Plus, super tanks and mecha are a dime a dozen in late ’80s/early ’90s Japanese fiction.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other cyberpunk films from the ’80s and ’90s, specifically those from Japan whether live-action or anime.
“Every creature, however unappealing, fights to the last to survive. Humanity as well.” – Mayumi Nagamine
This is the last of the awesome trilogy of Gamera films directed by Shusuke Kaneko. With that, this also concludes the storyline of his reoccurring characters and brings to a close this version of Gamera canon.
I’ve got to say, though, Kaneko went out with a bang and this isn’t just my favorite Gamera film of his trilogy but it is my favorite Gamera film of them all!
This one took a longer break from its predecessor and with that, I think they had more time to fine tune it and refine it from a story and script standpoint to working out some of the special effects kinks.
The end result is a film that looks better and plays better than any of its predecessors.
I enjoy the story in this a lot and even if it doesn’t come across as wholly original (it feels like something lifted from an Ultraman episode), it still works for this film series and provides Gamera fans with a neat, energetic conclusion to possibly the best version of the property.
Furthermore, the enemy monster in this is really damn cool and it’s an unfortunate creature with a personal grudge against Gamera. Basically, the monster Gamera fights isn’t simply evil and its reason for fighting Gamera is pretty damn justified.
That being said, the third act of this movie is really f’n good. If you’re already a kaiju or tokusatsu fan, you should really dig it. The final battle is the best in the series and the final moments of the film are pretty heavy and emotional.
If Daiei really wanted to take Gamera seriously and give fans something great, this is where they truly succeeded. The two films before this one really set the ground work and built a solid foundation but this shows that their efforts paid off and the studio and director delivered.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.
Also known as: Gamera 2: Region shurai (original Japanese title), Gamera 2: Advent of Legion, Gamera 2: Assault of the Legion (alternative titles) Release Date: July 13th, 1996 (Japan) Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko Written by: Kazunori Ito Music by: Kow Otani Cast: Maki Mizuno, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Tamotsu Ishibashi
The second of the three Heisei era Gamera films is pretty good. While I think it’s predecessor is a bit better, these movies are really consistent and much better than the original, really hokey Gamera movies from the Showa era.
Now while I like the first one more, this picture does have one of the best looking kaiju villains in motion picture history.
I love Legion, even if the monster is a sort of mishmash ripoff of Biolante and Destroyah from the Heisei era Godzilla movies.
Since Gamera, himself, was Daiei’s attempt at ripping off Godzilla in the ’60s, “borrowing” heavily from a more popular franchise isn’t really anything new for this series. Besides, we’ve had some pretty original and cool monsters in the Gamera franchise and even some of them were ripped off for other films: most notably Guiron was used as “inspiration” for Knifehead in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.
This film picks up a year or so after the events of the previous movie, which saw Gamera destroy a bunch of Gaos. Here, he returns to fight what is the biggest threat he’s ever faced in the franchise. Since this era is a reboot of the franchise, those older movies don’t really exist in the same canon but Gamera’s challenge in this chapter, is still his greatest.
This employs pretty good practical special effects for the time. As I said with the previous review, these ’90s Gamera films are good enough to rival the ’90s Godzilla movies.
Now I don’t like this as much as the 1995 reboot but it’s still a fun, solid, “giant monsters smashing everything” flick. Plus, the villain is cooler than Gaos, which might sound like sacrilege to some diehard, old school Gamera fans but sorry, Legion is just a cool f’n monster that was well-designed and looked really intimidating.
Overall, this is pretty satisfying. If Gamera films are your thing, this era provided the best of the lot and they’re all damn consistent.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.
Also known as: Gamera daikaijû kuchu kessen (original Japanese title), Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Showdown (Japanese English title) Release Date: March 11th, 1995 (Japan) Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko Written by: Kazunori Ito Music by: Kow Otani Cast: Shinobu Nakayama, Ayako Fujitani, Yukijiro Hotaru
Daiei Studios, Hakuhodo, NTV Network, Toho Co. Ltd., 96 Minutes
Gamera movies are a lot of fun for hardcore fans of kaiju and tokusatsu flicks that want to go deeper than just the regular Godzilla films.
However, they were always sort of shit. That is, until this movie came out in 1995 and gave the world a Gamera picture that was taken really seriously and may actually be as good as the ’90s Godzilla movies. Hell, I’d say this is even better than some of them.
This has a darker tone than the jovial kids movies of the original run of films. Also, this has a harder edge and the monsters are more played up for scares than slapstick comic relief.
I like that the studio stuck to using actors in monster suits, as well as great miniature sets for them to wreck while duking it out over the course of the story.
In fact, the special effects for the time and budget are exceptionally good. Quality-wise, this is one of the best looking kaiju movies of the Heisei era.
Plus, I like the cast in this a lot more than what’s typical in these sort of films. The core characters stand out, have purpose and make the human part of the story a worthwhile one, which can often times just get in the way of what audiences really want to see, which is giant monster mayhem.
This also sets up future films, which for this era in the Gamera franchise led to a pretty impressive trilogy.
From memory, I feel like each sequel improved upon its predecessor but since it’s been so long since I’ve watched these, I’ll refrain from actually stating that until I revisit and review them in the coming weeks.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.
Also known as: Daimajin gyakushû (original Japanese title), Daimajin Strikes Again, Majin Strikes Again, The Return of Giant Majin, Return of Majin (US alternative titles) Release Date: December 21st, 1966 (Japan) Directed by: Kazuo Mori Written by: Tetsuro Yoshida Music by: Akira Ifukube Cast: Hideki Ninomiya, Shinji Hori, Masahide Iizuka, Muneyuki Nagatomo, Junichiro Yamashita, Toru Abe, Takashi Nakamura, Hiroshi Nawa, Tanie Kitabayashi
Toho Co. Ltd., Daiei Studios, 87 Minutes
This is the third and final Daimajin film. These movies were all shot and released in the same year. Sadly, this great concept didn’t continue on like other kaiju and tokusatsu franchises but maybe that’s for the best as every Daimajin film has real quality.
From memory, this was my least favorite. However, seeing them all again after so long, I have to say that this one slightly edges out the other two. I think that the first one had the better story and the second one had the better finale. However, this one seems to be the most balanced, as its story rivals the first film, its action rivals the second while both of those things are really, really good.
This installment in the series is also carried by a group of child actors. This can often times be disastrous or just lack in quality but these kids were great and loveable.
I also really liked the three samurai that were trying to capture the runaway kids. They had good chemistry and they played off of the kids really well.
The story primarily follows these kids on a great journey across a region of feudal Japan. It draws allusions to The Fellowship of the Ring in that way, as they have to reach their objective over a long distance while being pursued by a great, deadly force.
In the end, we get to see the giant stone demon come back to life and crush vile tyrants. This is always the highlight of these films and it is used to great effect, here, even if some of the shots appeared to be reused from the previous films. This was pretty common in Japanese kaiju pictures, though, but at least it isn’t a technique that was as bastardized as it would become in the Gamera movies.
I love the hell out of this series. But what I love even more is that they don’t lose steam and that the series goes out on a bang.
That being said, I’m fine that there are only three of these and the short-lived franchise quit while it was ahead.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in the series, as well as other ’60s kaiju flicks.
Also known as: Daimajin ikaru (original title), The Return of Giant Majin (US TV title), Majin (Spain) Release Date: August 13th, 1966 (Japan) Directed by: Kenji Misumi Written by: Tetsuro Yoshida Music by: Akira Ifukube Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Taro Marui, Takashi Kanda
Toho Co. Ltd., Daiei Studios, 79 Minutes
Return of Daimajin was the second of three Daimajin movies, which were all filmed at the same time and were all released in Japan in the same year: 1966.
All the films have a very similar premise in that they see a giant, stone protector arrive to smash the hell out of tyrannical warlords who try to exploit the weak and the poor.
These are also period pieces and have the feel of a jidaigeki picture until the big demon monster shows up and essentially transforms these into kaiju movies in their third act.
Overall, I found this film’s story to be a bit weaker than the first picture but that was offset by the big finale, which I liked a lot more in this installment. I think a lot of that has to do with Daimajin literally parting the water like the Red Sea in the Bible and slowly walking towards the village full of tyrants, building tension and horror.
Also, the evil tyrant’s death was simply awesome.
I also thought that the special effects felt a bit more refined and perfected. The miniature work was solid and it holds up over fifty years later.
The action also played better and it was just cool seeing the big demon crush these scumbags while tearing down their town.
While at face value, this movie might just come across as “more of the same”, it’s the subtle differences that make it work. I guess it’s kind of like Friday the 13th movies where they follow a predictable formula in the same type of setting but if you’re a fan of the films, you don’t care and each one just has something special and unique within it.
Most people probably won’t dig these movies and that’s fine. However, for kaiju cinema fans that haven’t experienced any of these, you really should check them out.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in the series, as well as other ’60s kaiju flicks.
Release Date: March 24th, 2021 (Asian markets) Directed by: Adam Wingard Written by: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields Based on:Godzilla by Toho, King Kong by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper Music by: Tom Holkenberg Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Lance Reddick, Zhang Ziyi (scenes cut), Jessica Henwick (scenes cut)
Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 113 Minutes
“The myths are real. There was a war. And they’re the last ones standing.” – Ilene Andrews
*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.
My review of the previous film in the MonsterVerse series ended with:
The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!
That still holds true for this movie but one half of the human story was really good and the best use of human characters, thus far, in this series, which has now made it four films deep.
This is also the best film out of the four, as it found a really good balance between action and storytelling and seemed to have fixed some of the biggest criticisms of the series. Well, except for the human characters but it did get that half right, as I already stated.
Looking at the human stories first, I’ll start with the bad.
This brings back the daughter and father of the family with all the drama from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. With that, it primarily focuses on Millie Bobby Brown’s character and just uses Kyle Chandler pretty sparingly. Honestly, it felt like Chandler probably filmed all of his scenes in a day or two. Also, this isn’t a knock against these actors, it’s just a knock against how they’re used, especially Brown.
In this movie, Brown’s Madison teams up with Julian Dennison, the fat kid from Deadpool 2, and Brian Tyree Henry, who plays a really annoying conspiracy theory podcaster that I can only describe as a male Leslie Jones. Basically, he’s loud, awkward and unfunny while trying so hard to be the comedic relief in a movie that doesn’t need any.
Anyway, this odd trio easily break into high tech, high security facilities and somehow end up in Hong Kong and just accidentally stumble upon MechaGodzilla. When it comes to them stepping up to the plate to save the day, they more or less fail, but then somehow short out an evil supercomputer with booze from a mini flask.
Needless to say, everything that happens around these characters is stupid, convenient and if they were completely edited out, it wouldn’t disrupt the main story and it’d actually be a much better movie.
Now on the flipside, we get the second group of human characters, who were f’n excellent! It’s almost like their scenes were written by someone else than the other group. The stark contrast between the quality of these two different human plot threads is kind of astounding and baffling.
This other group consists of Alexander Skarsgård, a guy I’ve always liked, as well as Rebecca Hall and the orphaned deaf girl she cares for, played by Kaylee Hottle, who ended up giving the best performance out of any human being in these movies.
Hottle’s Jia is a native of Skull Island and she’s the only person that Kong trusts, as they’ve developed a way of communicating with each other, secret from the adults on the island. Jia is the voice of Kong throughout the film and she is also his conscience at times. Frankly, it’s a really beautiful relationship that was crafted exceptionally well. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the emotion of their bond and the pain and love they share throughout the picture.
Additionally, Skarsgård and Hall are absolutely perfect in this and if any characters come back for future films again, I sincerely hope its these three.
Now on to the monsters!
As should be expected, both Godzilla and Kong were great in this. Every single battle was visually incredible and it far exceeds what has been done in the previous movies. Plus, we get to see MechaGodzilla show up to the fight in the last twenty minutes of the film.
The special effects in this are just superb. There were even moments where I almost thought that the CGI was a practical effect, that’s how good some shots were. The big final battle in Hong Kong is, hands down, the best action sequence that this film series has given us, thus far. Granted, I hope that now that they’ve really found their footing, it’s just a taste of what could come.
Something I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly impressed by was the Hollow Earth stuff. Kong and the humans I like in the movie return to Kong’s true home and Kong even sits on the throne of his long dead ancestors. This part of the film also shows us a lot of cool creatures and we see Kong mix it up with some of them.
As far as the story goes, it’s simple, pretty easy to follow but I felt like it left me with a lot of questions that I hope are Easter eggs to be answered in the future. Especially, in regards to the Hollow Earth stuff and the mythos around Kong’s ancestors and their seemingly advanced kingdom.
I honestly feel like this would’ve deserved an 8 out of 10 or possibly higher but that bad human subplot really takes you out of the film when it pops up. I honestly wish all that crap would’ve been wiped from the script and freed up more pages to develop the story and the good characters more. But I think that Brown and Chandler had contracts that had to be honored, regardless of what that meant for the total package of this motion picture.
Still, everything else is so good that I really, really enjoyed this movie. I just hope someone does an edit, removing the bad parts at some point because I’d like to see it and I think it’d make the plot flow better and wouldn’t detract from the movie’s strengths.
I know that nothing is currently announced, following this film, but Warner Bros. needs to get moving on a follow up. Honestly, this is really the only good thing the studio has going for them after they’ve squandered the DC film universe.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: the Legendary Pictures’ King Kong and Godzilla films before this, as well as the original Japanese films King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes.