Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fool's Views (2/21 - 2/27)

Howdy, troops!

Apologies in advance, as these are going to be the mini-views version, being that I’m a month behind schedule and my to-do list is filling up like a hot blonde’s dance card. And with February coming to an end, I had to shoehorn in my usual Netflix load, along with the Kitley’s Army assignment, a goodly amount of G-fest, and a few civilian flicks to keep myself regular.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Pontypool (2008)
(2nd viewing) d. MacDonald, Bruce
Watched this with the femalien, who was once again in need of reassurance that I wasn’t completely rotting my brain with all this horror nonsense. Being that this is one of the smartest zombie/plague/infection movies out there, along with sporting Stephen McHattie’s top-flight performance as a golden-throated shock-jock, we’re good to go for at least another year or so.

Die Sister, Die! (1972) (1st viewing) d. Hood, Randall
But it’s a good thing she didn’t watch this snoozefest about a bickering, inheritance-hungry family with more than a few skeletons in the closet…

Track of the Moon Beast (1976) (1st viewing) d. Ashe, Richard
…or this off-the-charts wacko-fest about an asteroid landing which causes Jekyll/Hyde tendencies after it embeds a shard of itself in the skull of hunky young fella Chase Cordell. Said “Hyde” persona being that of a strange reptilian/simian/WTF-ian creature. And it’s all served up with some of the worst acting, dialogue and day-for-night sequences on record. No wonder why it currently sits at #26 on the IMDb Bottom 100, which is not to say it isn’t entertaining when viewed in the right state of mind and in the right company.

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
(2nd viewing) d. Ohmori, Kazuki
After the debacle that was Godzilla 1985, the Heisei series rebounded with one of the more intriguing entries which also featured one of Big G’s most unique foes: Biollante, a rosebush genetically spliced with Godzilla cells, creating a botanical beast armed with rows and rows of teeth. This episode also introduced the character of Miki Saegusa (played over the next five films by Megumi Odaka), who has a psychic connection to everyone’s favorite fire-spewing stomping machine.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) (2nd viewing) d. Ohmori, Kazuki
Easily one of the finest chapters in the entire G-catalog, combining stellar effects (really!) with an imaginative storyline in which space aliens convince Earth’s scientists to travel back in time to Godzilla’s original emergence and erase him from history. Which sounds fine on the surface, but we all know that from these flicks, you can never trust a space alien. Before you know it, that triple-headed threat Ghidorah is back in the mix and Tokyo is trembling in its collective boots.

Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992)
(2nd viewing) d. Okawara, Takao
Our winged friend Mothra returns to the fray, looking pretty stunning in her latest incarnation. In previous appearances, the giant moth was always a little clunky-looking, but thanks to a combo of improved wire-work and suit design, she’s much more nimble and effective. Also included is duplicitious doppelganger Battra, a black moth who shoots laser beams out of its head. Solid monster mashing ensues.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) (2nd viewing) d. Okawara, Takao
On a roll, Toho decided to bring back not only their bionic version of Godzilla (here culled from the remains of Mechaghidorah in the 1991 film), but also revive Rodan and Godzilla’s offspring, known here as (sigh) “Baby Godzilla.” (I guess the upside is that he’s a lot cuter than the Showa series version, and much less obnoxious. Still, things do get a bit cute at times.) Rodan looks pretty wicked though, and there are also intriguing plot elements such as monster energy transference and secondary monster brains.

Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
(2nd viewing) d. Yamashita, Kensho
The first time I saw this, I really disliked it. Upon revisiting, I’m not sure what my issues were. I think I was probably annoyed by the return of Godzilla’s child (now called “Little Godzilla”), and the fact that Big G was fighting a clone of himself, one with giant stalagmites sticking out of its shoulders. Both of these elements seemed really goofy to me at the time – however, having just recently sat through 20 other Godzilla films, the term "goofy" loses its meaning. Bottom line: I liked it, especially its sly reintroduction of giant robot Moguera from the 1957 non-Godzilla film The Mysterians.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) (2nd viewing) d. Okawara, Takao
Probably the most emotionally wrenching of any of the Godzilla films, in that it intentionally sets out to lay the series to rest. Godzilla’s nuclear reactor of a heart is, in essence, melting down and as a result, there is a tension present throughout the entire feature. Godzilla’s offspring is on hand, but for the first time, it actually *looks* like a miniature version of its father – what took so long for them to figure that out??? The G-family’s foe is a shapeshifting beast, spawned from the Oxygen Destroyer used in the original 1954 film, and it’s a doozy. I defy any true G-fan to keep a dry eye during the final reel.

Godzilla 2000 (1999)
(2nd viewing) d. Okawara, Takao
In 1998, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin loosed the abominable Tri-Star/U.S. remake of Godzilla upon us all; the result being much critical bashing and G-fan teeth gnashing. In response, Toho took back the reins and served up the first of its “Millennium Series” offerings, with the Big Green Guy (True! He’s actually green from here on out, as opposed to the black/gray/bluish hues of old) tackling a CGI spaceship and a DNA-siphoning monster named Orga. Not 100% as a feature, but it was enough to get the kaiju machine rolling again, with a new G-flick unveiled every year until 2004.

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) (2nd viewing) d. Tezuka, Masaaki
Another so-so effort, with lots of CGI dragonflies menacing Godzilla and Tokyo throughout the first half, while the humans attempt to utilize a new weapon that manufactures artificial black holes (the plan is to zap Godzilla outa the picture – when will they learn that in spite of the plummeting real estate values, the big guy tends to come in handy from time to time?) When the full-on Megaguirus beast shows up, it and G wrassle and blast everything to pieces, but it takes a while to get there.

Return of the Ape Man (1944)
(1st viewing) d. Rosen, Phil
Black Sleep, The (1956) (1st viewing) d. Le Borg, Reginald
Oddly enough, both these Carradine flicks feature 1) mad scientists messing about with people's brains, 2) JC not being the one holding the scalpel, and 3) Bela Lugosi in a co-starring role. In APE MAN, Carradine plays Lugosi's research associate, first working with Dr. Bela as they seek to discover a frozen specimen of prehistoric homo sapiens, then working against him when it becomes clear that Bela's perfectly happy dicing up some poor schmuck's brain to inject a bit into his new hairy buddy. In BLACK SLEEP, you've got Basil Rathbone peeling back the grey matter, with Carradine stuck in chains and a giant beard down in the basement holding area for previous "not-quite-successful" experiments. While Lugosi is given a rather docile role as a mute manservant cowering in the background, Lon Chaney Jr. puts in a lively performance as a former colleague of Rathbone's now gone stark raving. A great double feature, with Carradine articulate and dignified in the former and then off his nut, bellowing to the heavens in the latter.

Pretty Baby (1978)
(1st viewing) d. Malle, Louis
Being that this prominently features a nude 13-year-old, in a sexual capacity no less, it’s kind of astonishing to imagine such a film being made today. But made it was, and its saucy subject matter of a New Orleans bordello after the turn of the 20th century is handled so maturely by Malle, screenwriter Polly Platt, cinematographer Sven Nyquist and the sterling ensemble that one never feels a flicker of indignation. Quite an accomplishment. Starring Brooke Shields (yes, she’s the naked youngster), Susan Sarandon (who also reveals her god-given assets) and Keith Carradine.

Interview, The (1998
) (1st viewing) d. Monahan, Craig
Smashing little Aussie thriller featuring a post-Priscilla/pre-Matrix Hugo Weaving dragged into police headquarters as a suspect in a series of brutal murders. Great performances all around, though logic gets a little stretchy at times.

Interview (2007) (1st viewing) d. Buscemi, Steve
Not content with directing and co-starring, Buscemi also takes a hand in adapting the script with David Schecter and Theodor Holman. He plays a political reporter, assigned to write a fluff piece on Sienna Miller’s seemingly flighty blonde WB-type actress. It’s clear that this is designed to be a two-hander showcase, dissecting preconceived notions about celebrities and the media, and on that level it succeeds; both characters travel wide emotional arcs and the performers flex their worthy chops. But it all feels like an acting stunt rather than a legit dramatic piece, complete with its duh-duh-dun “twist ending.”

2011 totals to date: 100 films, 54 1st time views, 56 horror, 5 cinema


Archer – 5 episodes


  1. Ahhh, someone else who suffered through Track Of The Moon Beast. *mwauhauhauhauahuahuahauha*

  2. Thank god I had company. I think it might have killed me had I tried to watch it solo. Wowsers.

  3. TRACK OF THE MOONBEAST rules! Saw it for the first time on 16mm at a Wasteland show with all the boys way back when. Love that flick.

  4. I'm in a small, small minority of Godzilla fans that doesn't like Godzilla Vs. King Ghidora. I think the only thing I really like about it is that it sets up Godzilla vs. Mothra as a critical response that goes through point by point and repudiates GvKG's wrongheaded corporatist anti-environmentalism.

    I also kinda like Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, even though its monster mayhem is really lame. All Space Godzilla does is stand around in that immobile monster suit while the optical effects department goes nuts. Boring. The HUMAN story, though, is kinda cool, which is rare enough in Godzilla movies. It's Godzilla as Moby Dick.

    Goofy as Godzilla 2000 is, it has the line "Maybe because... Godzilla is inside each one of us!" It also doesn't end with G wading back out to sea or being otherwise ushered out of the picture. He ends it roasting cities with abandon. Great fun.

  5. Tom - that would have been the best way to see it! I did watch it with a like-minded soul, and we were laughing our heads off, but even so, that was a loooooong ride.

  6. Doc - what is it you don't like about GvKG? I really liked them bringing in the notion of Godzilla being a protector of the Japanese, even if it was inadvertent - that there was history there. And the final confrontation with the old soldier and Godzilla was priceless.

    The visuals with the crystal fortress from GvSG were much more impressive this time around. I think this may have been one my first "new Godzilla" viewings, as I did not watch them in succession my first time around. And as such, I probably didn't like a lot of things about it. This time around, it seemed to fit right in the mix. Overall, I'd say I much prefer the Heisei series to the Millennium outings.

    Godzilla IS inside each one of us.

  7. i was kinda "meh" about pontypool, but it's growing on me... never saw the poster before, but it is actually the saving grace for me... shut up or die... HAHAHAHAHA!!!

    you can NEVER go wrong with a godzilla flick.

  8. oh yeah, based onthe poster alone, i totally wanna see track of the moonbeast!

  9. The poster is probably the best thing about it. The movie itself is dreck. (And it's been in the IMDb's Bottom 100 since it was featured on MST3K. Before that I doubt many people knew about it.)

    "Moon rock. Oh, wow."

  10. Also, did anything in particular inspire you to watch Pretty Baby? I sought it out because Danny Peary wrote about it in one of his Cult Movies books and I'm on a quest to see as many of them as possible.

  11. Peary's book is probably where I heard about PB the first time, and I too have been working my way through the three CM books. Found some good stuff there. Have you read his Alternate Oscars book?

    PRETTY BABY was on Netflix streaming and its time was expiring, which is always a great motivator for me.

    I *wish* I would have had the 'bots helping me out with MOON BEAST. I haven't seen a lot of MST3K, so I didn't know they had given it the treatment.

  12. Coye! So sorry, my man. Missed your comment altogether (boy, am I going to hear about this...) I loved PONTYPOOL from the first - surprised you were indifferent to it.

    And as Craig said, do NOT be fooled by the poster art. That beast never shows up...ever.

    Godzilla is unquestionably wonderful - however, I might caution against such a high concentration of them in a limited time. The strangest thing was that I observed that contrary to popular opinion, the dubbing for the G-flicks is usually pretty darn good. The voice actors may get a little cartoony at times, but as far as matching lip movements to words, they are more or less aces.

  13. Alternative Oscars was my first exposure to Peary's occasionally idiosyncratic tastes. I was especially impressed by his championing of Brazil, which is my favorite film of all time. I wonder why we haven't seen any more film criticism out of him.