Saturday, May 31, 2014

Random Movie Report: The Manster

Manster DVD cover

The story of Jekyll and Hyde is one of the classic horror tales, one of hubris and the inescapable animalistic nature lurking in the calmest of men. There have been many attempts at this material, but only one quite so bold as to set the whole thing in Japan and posit Mr. Hyde as a second head growing out of Jekyll's shoulders. Hence The Manster, a gleefully insane, sometimes weirdly adult, and generally not-ineffective take on the classic story. Of the many monster movies pervading American drive-ins and matinees in the late 50s, this has a distinctive character, which carries it through its slower moments.

Random Movie Report: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah poster

In some ways Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a return to tradition for the series. After Godzilla vs. Biollante failed at the box office, Toho decided that their next Godzilla movie needed to pit the monster against a classic enemy with name recognition of his own; hence, four-time Godzilla opponent King Ghidorah returned to continue the pair's epic rivalry. But this is pretty much where tradition ends, as King Ghidorah is one of the most radical and unusual entries in the series, featuring geopolitical subtext, a downright loopy take on time travel, and a surprisingly long dearth of Godzilla himself. It's the Godzilla film that got mentioned on The McLaughlin Group, and watching it is like taking a trip back to a time when Japan seemed poised to conquer the world.

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Theaters: Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla poster

Godzilla is a film that feels well overdue. There was, of course, one past attempt at making an American take on the character, and while I'll always have a soft spot for it, the filmmakers basically dodged a lot of the inherent challenge by making their monster less grandiose, less powerful, and theoretically more plausible as a result. After that didn't quite work, Toho brought back the "proper" Godzilla for a series of films that, while sometimes good, never had much of a reason for being other than reasserting tradition. Godzilla has been dormant for ten years, falling out of favor even in his native Japan, and so making a true, traditional Godzilla film for American audiences used to seeing him as a camp figure seemed like a long shot.

Gareth Edwards, director of Monsters, is at the helm for what turns out to be a slow, methodical burn of a monster movie. Godzilla eases the audience into the concept of a giant radioactive dinosaur who fights other giant radioactive monsters, knocking over skyscrapers in the process. People have complained that the King of the Monsters doesn't get enough screentime, and to be sure there's a lot of teasing involved, but the payoff is worth it. It's both a fantastic reintroduction to the kaiju eiga genre, and a film about reckoning with forces greater than ourselves.