Monday, August 23, 2010

Color me bad: Rebirth Of Mothra 2(1997)

So I decided, and totally at random, to sit down tonight and watch Rebirth Of Mothra 2, the second Heisei Mothra film originally released to theaters in Japan back in late 1997. Like its predecessor "Rebirth Of Mothra" this second installment is a vibrantly colorful film with special effects that, directed by Koichi Kawakita, are quite good at times. I didn't like the score as much as I did for the '96 ROM film but this score is suitable. The second installment also features children prominently in the storyline as we are introduced to a new enemy monster(Dagarah), an aquatic beast capable of polluting the entire planet with toxic, starfish shaped creatures called "barem". Of course it's up to the fairies(the good fairies that is) and Mothra to stop the monster. Unlike the '96 ROM movie there are a few sequences of city destruction. Some observations of this film, some positive and some negative:

What I liked:

1. the rendering of Dagarah: the aquatic monster is well designed and, generally reptilian in appearance, also possesses a menacing, guttural roar which has an almost bear-like quality to it.

2. the battles between Mothra and Dagarah: I believe there's overuse of beams(both kaiju employ a variety of them on each other) but there's also some limited physical battling as well. I also liked the manner in which Mothra attacked Dagarah under water in the final battle(no spoilers)

3. the skirmishes between Moll/Lora and Belvera: rather than find these sequences a distraction I actually believe the conflict between evil Belvera and her good sisters Moll and Lora adds a little tension to the film's story

4. the overall special effects: short of some shaky matte shots and water tank shots that looked too much like a water tank the overall effects are fairly decent. I spotted overhead wires only once while watching the DVD of this movie.

5. the scenes of city destruction were a welcome addition. These were absent from the '96 film where only acres of forest were incinerated(and one dam destroyed) as the monsters battled it out. The JSDF was curiously absent from Dagarah's landfall and brief rampage inland...which was probably a cost cutting measure by Toho.

What I didn't like:

1. the inclusion of the two bumbling thieves in the film's storyline. The trio of children were quite enough for me to tolerate watching this movie without having to also stomach the shenanigans of the pair of cowardly, nefarious buffoons who attempt to repeatedly steal the water spirit creature "Gogo" from the kids.

2. the rendering of the water spirit "Gogo": I wasn't expecting to see much here but I was expecting more than a furry, animatronic creature with no mouth and feet resembling those of a chicken. In the English dubbed version of this film the creature is referred to as "Gorgo", also something I'm not enamored with seeing that this is also the name of a giant monster in a 1961 King Brothers produced film.

2. the interior of the resurrected temple, which has risen up from the depths. The inside of this gigantic temple looked like the inside of a five star hotel with shiny floors and walls...odd considering it has been, according to the film's storyline, submerged for thousands of years.

Overall, well worth a DVD investment. I need to buy the Region 2 DVD(from Yesasia) of this movie. I'll likely do that in early 2011 or whenever money starts growing on trees...whichever is sooner.

The film's original trailer(in Japanese language only):

Monday, August 9, 2010

Coming loose at the seams: Prophecies Of Nostradamus(1974) aka "The Last Days Of Planet Earth"

Yesterday I retrieved a DVD-R off one of my DVD racks, a Toho produced disaster film called Prophecies Of Nostradamus(1974), also known by its American title as The Last Days Of Planet Earth. My DVD-R is the UPA, English dubbed version in full screen(1:33.1). I could swear that I've seen this relatively obscure Toho made disaster movie make the rounds on AMC(as the UPA version) but obviously not recently. I bought a DVD-R of this movie about six years ago. It has a haunting score and includes some marvelous special effects work by Teruyoshi Nakano, including giant bats and slugs, irradiated humanoid mutants, weird atmospheric disturbances and plenty of explosions. The movie is dreary in tone, as I would imagine it should be. The acting is serviceable though I believe Tetsuro Tamba's performance stands out. Any fan of Toho sci-fi and sci-fi in general should try and get their hands on this film(by VHS or DVD-R) as it's absolutely worth a look!

Here's a trailer I found on YouTube:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The creatures walk among us: Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: All Out Monsters Attack(2001) re-visited

I recently decided to re-watch all the Godzilla films that have been made thus far. This evening I sat down and watched Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: All Out Monsters Attack(2001), a movie originally released theatrically in Japan back in December, 2001 and directed by Shusuke Kaneko, who also directed the trilogy of "Gamera" films released between 1995-1999.

This movie is easily my favorite of the "Millennium" Godzilla films, that is those made between 1999 and 2004. As always I submit these observations, some made previously and perhaps some that haven't, for the inspection(and dissection) of the members of this online community -

What I liked:

-Chiharu Niiyama, who played BS Digital Q reporter "Yuri Tachibana". She took a lot of chances in this film in her pursuit(often literally) to cover Godzilla's rampage and the monster's subsequent battles with the guardian monsters. She's brave to the point of insanity and is IMO perhaps the most beautiful Japanese actress I've ever seen not named Yumiko Shaku

-Commander Tachibana, Yuri's father: a tough, no-nonsense type who shows phenomenal bravery near the end of the film in using the mini-sub to try and stop Godzilla

-the special effects and overall pyrotechnic effects in GMK are marvelous. They aren't perfect: some matte shots and CGI look a little too much like, well matte shots and CGI but are minor quibbles for me. The effects used during the monster battles and the destruction caused by the monsters look terrific overall

-Godzilla's appearance: with bulky legs, a thick neck, jaws full of sharp teeth and milky white, pupil-less eyes, Godzilla's look in this movie suits his role as lumbering, malevolent and unstoppable juggernaut quite effectively

-there were several one liners in the English subtitled version of the film I thought were amusing, particularly one from a soldier on the ground who, first observing Mothra flying overhead remarks, "That's one hell of a bug!"

-the black irony and humor in this film: the sequence where the man, relieving himself at the urinal, opens the nearby window to discover he's about to be trampled by Godzilla. In the other scene the injured woman in the hospital who believes she has dodged death again at the hands of the monster...only to be proven wrong a moment later.

-a movie such as this always needs IMO at least one scene of comic relief and we get it courtesy of the police officer who, seeing Baragon out of the ground for the first time by the police station, and believing his revolver might somehow scare the monster back below the ground, opens fire with his pea shooter at the huge creature

-Baragon: though I didn't care much for the monster's new roar, I did like the look of the creature and give it credit for attacking Godzilla in earnest despite the fact it was about half the size of Godzilla...and possessed no special weapon of any kind(beam or otherwise)

What I didn't like:

-the sequence(s) where Yuri Tachibana tracks Godzilla's movements while on a bicycle. I doubt even Lance Armstrong could keep up with the movements of the monster by bike and being asked to believe that a female reporter could do likewise is IMO assinine

-the young hoodlum on the motorcycle who decides to take it upon himself to drown the dog near the beginning of the movie. Thankfully the dog survived

-the absence of Baragon from the final battle: I still would have liked seeing all the guardian monsters in an all out battle against Godzilla

It remains my supreme hope that when Toho decides to do another Godzilla film Shusuke Kaneko is in the director's chair.

A short trailer for the film: