The last US Godzilla remake was severely criticised for its concentration on a human character thereby limiting Godzilla's screen time, which is historically an unfair criticism. Godzilla movies are always a bit of a mixed bag. There's always a mix of city-stomping action and boring people being boring. As such, this criticism of the US Godzilla is unfair – though the criticism that maybe the human it should have been following was Brian Cranston has a little more merit.

The most recent Japanese Godzilla movie is also a mix of dull humans and the city-stomping star of the show and it gets the mix even worse than the American version. It follows the worst of the American remake's example and goes for a somewhat dour movie. Shin Godzilla is clearly an attempt to get back to basics and recapture the spirit of 1954's original Godzilla with its serious tone and clear-cut message, and to leave out the outrageous silliness of the later Godzilla films.

The result is, frankly, slow and dull. While the effects on the new Godzilla monster itself are excellent, the film is mostly concerned with Japanese politicians and bureaucrats organising the fight against the monster. You remember how in the old-time Godzilla movies there would always be a scene where our heroes have a conversation in front of a bunch of non-speaking extras in suits and uniforms who are meant to represent the Japanese government? Well, imagine an entire film about those non-speaking extras, and you basically have Shin Godzilla.

There are a couple of interesting points here. A couple. They touch on constitutional issues, like 'does a kaiju count as an aggressor nation for purposes of mobilising the Self Defence Force'? Trouble is, while a question like that might be an interesting exercise for some Japanese legal students down at the pub, it's kind of pointless in a Godzilla movie, because of course they're going to call out the SDF. And there's a serious plot line involving the Japanese defenders trying to find a way to defeat Godzilla before the Americans nuke him. Again, of course the Americans won't actually be allowed to nuke Tokyo, even if the writers have to find the most unlikely way to halt Godzilla's rampage for long enough for a realistic non-nuclear option to be discovered.

Other than that, it hits so many problems with gritty reboots. In attempting to shear Godzilla franchise of its glorious nonsense it ends up dour and colourless but ultimately fails to actually get rid of all the nonsense. In spite of all the obvious thought that has gone into this movie, I think I'd rather have just rewatched 1969's Destroy All Monsters again.

Even if it did have Minilla in it. Ugh, Minilla

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In this series we've seen episodes on Bigfoot, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle. This week we look at: Michael Rockefeller.

That's a little underwhelming, isn't it?

Some nice woodwork. That's not a joke or anything. It really is.
Some nice woodwork. That's not a joke or anything. It really is.

One quick look at Wikipedia later: Michael Rockefeller was a member of the wealthy and politically connected Rockefeller family. I know that the conspiracy minded make a big deal of them in general, but I'm guessing Michael is interesting because he vanished in 1961 in what's now part of Indonesia. Wikipedia suggests that he probably drowned, but his body was never recovered.

Let's see what In Search Of… makes of this. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E06 Michael Rockefeller"

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In 1970, Elvis Presley met Richard Nixon. He arranged this simply by turning up and asking to see the president and by basically, you know, being Elvis.

Elvis and Nixon is an enjoyable, low key historical comedy/drama, documenting Elvis' campaign to get into the Oval Office and speculating on what passed between the President and the King. (Nixon had not yet begun recording his meetings, so there's no actual record of what was said.) The handwritten letter that Elvis wrote to Nixon is still around, and we know that Elvis basically wanted to be made a secret Federal Agent so as to save America from hippies.

No, really.

The film works mainly because of excellent performances by the two main actors, Michael Shannon playing Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. These are damn tricky performances. After all, Elvis and Nixon have to me two of the most imitated men of their time, and yet Shannon and Spacey avoid doing straight out imitation. Yes they keep some of the mannerisms but they're more interested in getting to the humanity of their respective characters. This is very important, because the gap between the public and private faces of celebrities is a key theme of the movie.

It's also a hugely funny movie. It's not a comedy in the sense of being about set-ups and jokes, but about the basic absurdity of the entire situation. Some of the humour comes from the weird way in which two very different and yet very similar forms of power interact, overlap and contradict. Some of the other laughs come from the specific characters of Elvis and Nixon and the different ways in which these two leaders keep their subordinates in line.

Elvis and Nixon is an unusual thing in an American historical movie, steering away from the huge issues and explosions, working on a small scale. Taking place on one day in a handful of locations it nonetheless has an awful lot to say about an event which was not particularly important, and yet which manages to be deeply telling.

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We open on one of the Hammer Frankenstein series' most enduring symbols – the guillotine. A prisoner is being lead to his death, drunken and defiant. He seems fearless and utterly unashamed of whatever act has lead him here – until he sees that his young son Hans is watching. He dies, quiet and glum.

Years later Hans (Robert Morris), now grown up, passes the guillotine on his way to his work. He is assisting the kindly, Gepeto-like Dr Hertz (Thorley Walters) with an experiment. Hertz' partner Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) has frozen himself to see if he can be revived. He's duly thawed and shocked back into life.

I'm alive. Alive!
I'm alive. Alive!

This is what he's up to, now. Finding ways of improving surgical survival rates. The Baron's work has taken a somewhat mystical tern. He's concerned with keeping the soul – keeping it in the body, it seems. ...continue reading "Frankenstein Created Woman – 1967"

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Christian had not been at work the day the meteor struck. He was glad of that. He worried every time the glass skull picked up a spot of dirt, and the thought of a scratch terrified him beyond belief. The whole Handy Pavilion shaking at the impact… that might have given him a heart attack, straight up.

Now he stood behind the power tools counter, polishing the skull with a soft cloth as Belinda told him about the incident. Buck Dusty had already told him, but since all the laconic cowboy had said was, "Reckon that was a bad'n," Christian was a little short on details.

"So was it an alien, or something?" Christian said once she got up to the part with the monster. He held the skull up to the light. Ostensibly this was to check his polishing, but even after all this time he was hoping he could see his mistress the Phantasm in there. As usual, he could not. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 40 – Belinda is Helpful"

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